Friday, April 29, 2011

Looking at the prospects in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft

Let's take a brief break from the exciting NHL playoffs to take a look at some of the top prospects eligible for June's NHL draft. If you're a fan of the 22 teams who have been eliminated, you might already be looking ahead to it. I am one of those people. Fortunately, I have obtained valuable information that scouts have not released yet.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Scouts say he's the best available player in the 2011 NHL entry draft.  He could develop into a winning franchise player with his excellent playmaking abilities.  Unfortunately, he plays for a WHL team in Alberta, where he's not exposed to winning franchises.  Luckily, he was born in British he's never been exposed to winning franchises, at least Cup-winners.  Well, on the bright side, he's probably going to be drafted by one of those Alberta franchises...

Adam Larsson - Scouts say he's the best defenseman in this draft, which should come as no surprise since many compare him to Nicklas Lidstrom.  Actually, many believe that Larsson is a reincarnation of Lidstrom, which could mean we won't see Larsson in the NHL for a long time, since Lidstrom has pushed off retirement.  With any luck, he'll be in the NHL by the 2044-45 season.

Gabriel Landeskog - He's been a dynamic Swedish playmaking forward.  No, he doesn't have a twin, thus Brian Burke is not trying to trade with every team in the league to set himself up with two top-5 draft picks.  He may be drafted by the Florida Panthers, which is unfortunate, since you will probably never hear from him again once he's drafted.

Sean Couturier - Strangely, he was actually born in Arizona.  His father played for the Phoenix Roadrunners of the IHL.  Many think that he could be the best offensive player in the draft long-term.  Then again, if the Devils draft him, he'll be another two-way forward that suffers mightily when the Devils hire a rookie coach.

Jonathan Huberdeau - He's another talented center with strong playmaking abilities.  Many scouting reports say that he has all of the intangibles to make up an NHL player already, but all of those reports were written by Pierre McGuire.  He took speed-skating lessons when he was young, but always complained of finishing last.  What he didn't mention is that the guys who beat him were named Darren Helm and Michael Grabner.

Ryan Strome - He actually led all draft-eligible players in scoring this past season.  What will probably get him lots of attention, at least amongst the Canadian media, is his birth place.  After all, Don Cherry loves to talk about "the pride of Mississauga, Ontario."

Dougie Hamilton - He's got NHL-size, which means his height is somewhere between Nathan Gerbe and Zdeno Chara.  He's got good offensive skill, and he's a defenseman.  He's also put up strong numbers in the playoffs with Niagra in the OHL.  It's too bad he'll never get to show that, since he'll probably be drafted by the Islanders.

Ryan Murphy - Murphy was a guest on Coach's Corner, where Don Cherry proclaimed him to be one of his favorites.  That's always an honor, but many people compare him to Mike Green.  Whoever drafts him needs to get a player who could act as his personal bodyguard, since the Mike Green-type tend to be concussion-prone.  Plus, if he goes to a Canadian team, he might need a bodyguard for other reasons...

Duncan Siemens - Not many people are talking about this guy, and why should they?  He's an excellent stay-at-home defenseman with a big slapshot.  Many compare him to a Jay Bouwmeester-type of player, and let's face it, not many people are talking about him these days.  Plus, he could go to the Columbus Blue Jackets, where even fewer people will talk about him.  Maybe someday, he'll be the second best "Duncan" in the NHL.

Mika Zibanejad - Many feel that he could be the best Swedish forward in this draft, as he has Zetterburg-like skills.  He's supposedly the best-kept-secret in the draft this year, and for many reasons.  He probably doesn't speak English, and most scouts can't spell his name correctly.  Hey, there was probably a day when scouts couldn't spell names like Yonas Gustavson and Niklas Lidstrum, either.  Hopefully, they'll learn sooner or later...

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

DGA Special - VIDEO Chronicle of every overtime goal from the 2011 1st Round - NHL Playoffs

Even David Stern, the NBA commissioner, has tuned into watch the NHL playoffs this year.  Well, maybe not, but anyone you ask will tell you that this has been one of the greatest first rounds of any NHL playoff season ever.  Except for Stan Fischler, who will point to the 1947 playoffs.  Anyway, let's take a look at every one of the 14 goals that were scored in extra time, it's an overtime special on Down Goes Avery! *Videos from NHLVideo, NHLVids11 and bestdanghockeygoals on YouTube. If you wish to view all of the goals in a playlist, along with the CSN San Jose feed of Thornton's goal, view the last video, the playlist, on this post.

APRIL 14TH - Washington Capitals vs. New York Rangers Game 1: Alexander Semin

APRIL 15TH - San Jose Sharks vs. Los Angeles Kings Game 1: Joe Pavelski

APRIL 19TH - Los Angeles Kings vs. San Jose Sharks Game 3: Devin Setoguchi

APRIL 20TH - New York Rangers vs. Washington Capitals Game 4: Jason Chimera

APRIL 20TH - Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Pittsburgh Penguins Game 4: James Neal

APRIL 21ST - Montreal Canadiens vs. Boston Bruins Game 4: Michael Ryder

APRIL 22ND - Philadelphia Flyers vs. Buffalo Sabres Game 5: Tyler Ennis

APRIL 22ND - Anaheim Ducks vs. Nashville Predators Game 5: Jerred Smithson

APRIL 23RD - Boston Bruins vs. Montreal Canadiens Game 5: Nathan Horton

APRIL 24TH - Buffalo Sabres vs. Philadelphia Flyers Game 6: Ville Leino

APRIL 24TH - Chicago Blackhawks vs. Vancouver Canucks Game 6: Ben Smith

APRIL 25TH - San Jose Sharks vs. Los Angeles Kings Game 6: Joe Thornton

APRIL 26TH - Vancouver Canucks vs. Chicago Blackhawks Game 7: Alex Burrows

APRIL 27TH - Boston Bruins vs. Montreal Canadiens Game 7: Nathan Horton


I hope you enjoyed the first round as much as I did.  Thanks for viewing!

Monday, April 25, 2011

How to overcome and blow a 3-0 series deficit in the NHL playoffs

Just twice in NHL history had a team lost the first three games of a playoff series and managed to win the next four.  Then, last year, the Boston Bruins went up 3-0 on the Philadelphia Flyers, but dropped the next four and Philly became the third team to pull off the unlikely feat.  Now, one year later, the Vancouver Canucks have gone up 3-0 on the Chicago Blackhawks, but three straight wins by Chicago have that series heading back to Vancouver for a Game 7.  So how does a team come back from such a massive deficit?  Well, take a look:

How to overcome a 3-0 deficit: Get a player back in your lineup that scored 15 goals in the regular season and rally around him as he turns himself into a hero.
How to blow a 3-0 lead: Have a player who has scored 14 goals during the regular season become a goon and randomly start to distribute dirty hits after being suspended to have the opposing team rally around him and turning him into a hero.

Overcome: Remind your goalie that Chelsea Dagger only plays when the home team scores...effective Game 4.
Blow: Remind your goalie that even though Chelsea Dagger is about to play for the 8th time that night as the home team wins Game 4, 7-2, it's only one game.

Overcome: Kindly remind the opposing team that even though you are the 8th seed, their season has ended two straight years at your hands.
Blow: Confuse two of your star forwards as each other, and watch as they become invisible offensively.

Overcome: Place a picture of a taxi driver in the back of the net and hope Patrick Kane can take off its head.
Blow: Place a picture of a taxi driver in the back of your own net.

Overcome: Request that Stephane Auger be a referee for Game 7.
Blow: Double-shift Alexandre Burrows for Game 7 with Auger as the referee.

Overcome: Don't take any stupid penalties that could result in momentum changes and/or suspensions.
Blow: Double-shift Raffi Torres.

Blow: Trip Michael Frolik on a breakaway in order to make Cory Schneider do his Rick DiPietro impression, forcing Roberto Luongo into a game...a close game.
Overcome: Shoot the puck.  One (or five) are bound to go in.

Overcome: Tell Marian Hossa that it's not actually the playoffs.
Blow: Tell Roberto Luongo that it is the playoffs.

Overcome: Have role players chip in offensively (translated: Ben Smith is Luongo's worst nightmare).
Blow: Have a 41-goal scorer replace Manny Malhotra's role.

Overcome: Remind Duncan Keith that he's still better than Brett Lebda and that he is allowed to score.
Blow: Allow Sami Salo to be hit.  Anywhere.

Overcome: Swap Antti Niemi and Corey Crawford and watch as Niemi secretly helps the Blackhawks get back in the series and Crawford allow 3 goals on 4 shots to Los Angeles.
Blow: Pretend that you start each game automatically losing by 5 goals, or in some cases, you won't have to pretend for long.

Overcome: Win Game 7.
Blow: Lose Game 7.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Why you should love the Stanley Cup Playoffs

It's safe to say that if you're reading this, you've watched at least one minute of one period of one game of one series of the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs, and if you haven't, we're probably not more than a few hours away from the start of the next one.  It's also safe to say that many of you have probably watched at least a portion of an NBA Playoff game this year, too.  I am proud to say that I have not given into that.  But why should you love the Stanley Cup Playoffs, especially this year?  I've come up with a list of reasons.

***WARNING: This most may be considered offensive to some as it does not contain content involving the Oilers, Maple Leafs or Panthers.

  • For the first time ever, the Nashville Predators are on national TV and not completely ignored due to an exciting young team that would go on to win the Stanley Cup.
  • The above has absolutely nothing to do with the arrival of Carrie Underwood's husband to Nashville, thus giving Carrie air-time.  I think...
  • Teams may be less likely to sit back and trap after watching the LA Kings and NY Rangers fail miserably at doing so and blowing large leads.
  • You can't avoid him, it's only a matter of time.  You're going to see Pierre McGuire and his mouth full of words that don't make sense to the common person.
  • The refs don't cut overtime short after 5 minutes and randomly award both teams three penalty shots that don't count towards anyone's stats.
  • No matter who your favorite team is playing, you don't have to look at the hideous moustache of Trevor Gillies, since his team won't be a part of these annual festivities.
  • If your team has been unfortunate enough to miss the playoffs, or was swept out in the first round, you can keep telling yourself, "They'll be here next year."
  • If that last one applies to you and you're a Phoenix Coyotes fan, well...I'm sorry.
  • If you happen to be watching the Philadelphia Flyers, you can make some quick money by betting a friend that goaltender currently playing for the Flyers won't be in the NHL next season.
  • You can also make some money by betting that the Chicago goaltender will have the same number of points as Joe Thornton in the first round (which is currently true).
  • If your team has a russian goalie, chances are he won't be returning to the NHL next season.  Although in some cases, he may be claimed by the Islanders...which is worse.
  • Assuming his team is losing, asking a player what they need to do better in order to win will result in the same answer, "We need to get pucks deep."  This doesn't apply to the Canadiens.
  • If you're wondering why Roberto Luongo had the best goals against average throughout the playoffs after two games, remember, the law of averages will play out to normalcy...very quickly.
  • If you're wondering why the New Jersey Devils aren't in the playoffs this year, you might recall that this is their year to miss the playoffs, as they traditionally do every 14 years.
  • If you love Octupi, go to Detroit.  They'll be on sale since nobody in Detroit can throw them onto the ice anymore.
  • Why should you love the playoffs?  Because players who don't normally play defense may actually try and end up failing and giving the other team an empty net in double-overtime.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Top 10 Special - Devils' first career goals in 2010-11

The 2010-11 New Jersey Devils' season was not one to remember in general, but there were bright spots, particularly the Devils' nine rookies who scored their first career goals in the NHL this season. Sit back, relax and enjoy the sixth Top 10 Special in DGA history, first Top 9 ever. *Note: You can watch the videos in countdown order or simply view it as a rolling playlist at the bottom of this post.

MATT TAORMINA - Oct. 15th vs. Colorado

BRAD MILLS - Nov. 3rd at Chicago

ALEXANDER VASYUNOV - Nov. 12th vs. Edmonton

MATTIAS TEDENBY - Nov. 12th vs. Edmonton

MARK FAYNE - Dec. 17th vs. Phoenix

NICK PALMIERI - Jan. 9th vs. Tampa Bay

VLADIMIR ZHARKOV - Jan. 17th at NY Islanders

JACOB JOSEFSON - March 12th vs. NY Islanders

ALEXANDER URBOM - April 10th vs. Boston

Entire playlist (not in order):

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

What Does the NHL's New TV Contract Mean?

First of all, the following may seem offensive to anyone who is affiliated with NBC.  Well, it's not meant to.  There's no denying that ESPN is the be-all and end-all of sports in the United States, whether you want to believe that or not.  Look, I know they suck, but when someone wants to watch up on their sports news, they tune into SportsCenter.  Not MLB Tonight.  Not NFL Total Access.  Not NHL On the Fly.  Not whatever the hell they show on the NBA Channel or FSN Final Score or any of that.  They tune in to SportsCenter.  The following is my way of viewing the failure of the NHL in reaching a TV agreement with the Worldwide Leader in [All] Sports [Not Named Hockey].  So, let's take a look at the article found on about the deal and analyze what it means...or translate it into plain English.

The National Hockey League is remaining with NBC and its networks for at least the next 10 years as its U.S. media partners, the league and the network announced Tuesday.
  • Occasionally, you might see the Blackhawks or Capitals or Penguins on real, live, NBC on Sunday afternoons while NASCAR on FOX and poker on ESPN continue to rake in the big ratings.

The deal, which is reportedly worth $2 billion and extends through the 2020-21 season, includes exclusive rights for NBC's networks, including Versus, to the Stanley Cup playoffs.
  • They may say it's worth $2 billion, but that's only if NBC agrees to exercise a 50-year option in 2021. 

The Associated Press reported that all Stanley Cup playoff games will air on one of the NBC Sports Group's channels. It includes 100 regular-season games per season on NBC Sports Group networks, as well as a national NBC game on Thanksgiving Friday.
  • "One" means MSNBC or CNBC or one of those channels that nobody was able to find during the Vancouver Olympics.
  • Wait, did that say "national NBC game on Thanksgiving Friday?"  So...Black Friday?  319 million Americans will be stampeding into Wal-Mart and the few survivors will be watching hockey?  Got it.

The agreement also includes digital rights across all media platforms for games NBC Sports Group televises.
The NHL has aired on the two networks for the past six seasons.
  •  For the past six years, rednecks trying to watch fishing and hunting are forced to watch a couple hours of hockey...and Pierre McGuire's head.

NBC will continue to broadcast a national regular game of the week, as well as the Winter Classic. Versus -- which NBC Sports Group chairman Dick Ebersol hinted will soon be getting a new identity -- will also continue to broadcast a game of the week, as well as the league's annual All-Star Game and any future Heritage Classic outdoor games held in Canada.
  • Great, Outdoor Network, then Versus, then what?  ESPN Junior?
  • The NHL has an All-Star Game?  I thought they had that draft thing where Phil Kessel annually wins a car...
"This is the most significant U.S. media rights partnership in the league's history," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said.
  • "I didn't know America had media...that would be willing to actually televise hockey games.  That makes this [more] significant."

ESPN, which previously carried NHL games, also sought the league's broadcast and media rights. Turner and Fox Sports were also interested.
  • Back in the old days, ESPN used to air hockey games...well, air ice hockey games.
  • Turner expressed interest in the NHL as a backup, backup, backup emergency plan in case the NBA locks out and NCAA Lacrosse and Swimming didn't work out.

"We had constructive conversations with the NHL and wish the league continued success," ESPN said in a statement.
  •  "We'll talk to the guys at SportsCenter and give the NHL a special 2-minute segment all about hockey.  Weekly."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
  • Umm, actually that's just a disclaimer saying that ESPN stole the article from The Associated Press and changed a few words to get away with it.
So, umm, who needs ESPN anyway?!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Making fun of Gary Bettman, part 87 (okay, not really...)

This is the time of year to be a hockey fan.  Well, unless you root for the Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Islanders, Florida Panthers, Ottawa Senators, Edmonton know, teams that aren't necessarily playoff "regulars."  But playoff hockey is fun for everyone.  Everyone except Gary Bettman.  Let's take a look at some dialogue between NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and ESPN President George Bodenheimer, as the two sides discuss a potential TV deal.

George Bodenheimer (calls Gary Bettman): Hello, Mr. Bettman.

Gary Bettman: Umm, good evening.

George Bodenheimer: It's 9 AM...

Gary Bettman: Oh.  I apologize.

George Bodenheimer: Anyway, I'm sure you know why I'm calling you--

Gary Bettman: Ah, yes, is it that time again?

George Bodenheimer: Yes, Mr. Bettman sir, I think it's time that we negotiate a new TV contract with the National Hockey League.  Your on-ice product is at a premium right now, and we feel that we can provide proper marketing to your players and teams.

Gary Bettman: Oh that?  I thought you were going to say that it's time for the NBA playoffs...

George Bodenheimer: That, too.  Mr. Bettman, I'm sure that we can get an agreement done to put pro-hockey back on ESPN.

Gary Bettman: But what about poker?

George Bodenheimer: Well, let's just say poker ratings haven't exactly been that great.  Hell, even hockey in America might be able to draw a larger audience.  Now, Mr. Bettman, let's talk about the game so that I can become a more educated hockey...person.

Gary Bettman: Sure!  What can I help you with?

George Bodenheimer: Okay, something I've always wondered: when a player skates into the zone ahead of the player with the puck and the referee blows the play dead...what's that called?

Gary Bettman: It's called "Dammit, Michael Grabner, you're too damn fast, slow the hell down and stop going off-side."

George Bodenheimer: Oh, so it's called off-side?

Gary Bettman: I'm not sure.  Icing, penalty, power-play, boarding, goal, one of them...

George Bodenheimer: Mr. Bettman, please work with me here.  I'm trying to get the NHL back on ESPN.  Now what would you say are the three best rivalries in hockey right now?

Gary Bettman: Me versus Lou Lamoriello...oh, I'm sorry.  Pittsburgh/Washington, Pittsburgh/Chicago, Chicago/Washington.  Basically, the whole league.

George Bodenheimer: Ah, I see.  Your league is wise to consist of few teams.  I mean, honestly, how absolutely stupid would it be if the National Hockey League expanded to 30 teams and had teams in inadequate markets in the southern United States?!

Gary Bettman: Ha, yes, that would be dumb...oh, excuse me, I'm getting another call. / Hello?

Jamie Davis (Versus/Comcast President): Good evening, Mr. Bettman.

Gary Bettman: It's morning...anyway, Mr. Davis, I presume you've called to talk about a new TV deal.  Well guess what?  I'm on the phone with--

Jamie Davis: 5-years/$100,000.

Gary Bettman: Done!  We did it!  A new TV deal that will allow the NHL to prosper and grow to new heights!

Jamie Davis: Umm, you do know that this is the President of Versus, right?

Gary Bettman: You're not from ESPN?

Jamie Davis: No...

Gary Bettman: Crap.  (hangs up on both of them)

Colin Campbell: So, Gary, did you sign a contract with ESPN?

Gary Bettman: No...

Colin Campbell: Matt! (A raging Matt Cooke enters and elbows Bettman in the face)  Gary, I think you need some time in the quiet room!

Matt Cooke: Eh, we'll call him back in before the Celtics/Knicks game starts (both Campbell and Cooke leave the room).

George Bodenheimer: Hmm, I have been hung up on.  Alright, we'll put poker back on ESPN.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Tom Stivali's 2011 NJ Devils Awards...Jersey Shore Style

Tom Stivali writes for In Lou We Trust, the SB Nation page for the New Jersey Devils (during games, you can often find me commenting on their game threads).  He's also on Twitter (@TStivali), where he sarcastically listed his 2011 Devils "Award" winners one night last week.  I was amused by this (although I do not follow "Jersey Shore" regularly), and asked him if he wouldn't mind writing it up in blog-form and being the first-ever guest writer for Down Goes Avery.  He obliged, and well, here you have it, the first guest writer on DGA.

* * * * *

It’s hard to give out team awards to a group that didn’t make the playoffs.  In order to have a little bit of fun with things I thought utilizing everyone’s favorite show (or at least my favorite show) in providing some superlative awards to the New Jersey Devils this year.  Jersey Shore has become a cultural phenomenon over the past two years.  Love it or hate it, the show has provided us with a number of personalities that will be around for a long time.  Without further delay, my 2011 New Jersey Devils Year End Awards….Jersey Shore Style.

The Deena Nicole Cortese Meatball Award: David Clarkson and Nick Palmieri tie for the award given to the players who fall down entirely too much.  On the bright side neither Clarkson nor Palmieri performed the ‘Jersey Turnpike’ on any players in the locker room.

The Angelina Pivarnick Award: Jason Arnott is given the award for the player it seemed like a great idea to bring back for a second go around.  Angelina’s return in the second season started off well, but quickly devolved to her just being a nuisance to everyone in the house.  While Arnott was never a nuisance to the Devils he was clearly miscast as a second line center. 

The DJ Pauly D/Vinny Bromance Award: Zajac/Parise. No explanation needed.

The Ronnie Ortiz-Magro Roid Rage Award: Pierre-Luc Letourneau-LeBlond (PL3) for snapping and attacking a Capital leading to his suspension/banishment to Albany.  I enjoy playing ‘What point of his cycle do you think he is on?’ as I watch.  I also enjoy the fact that he destroyed Sammi’s entire room and the other guys were too scared of him to say that he went too far. 

PL3’s suspension was extremely costly for the Devils.  They were under major salary cap constraints and could not bring up anyone else to fill his roster spot.  This momentary lapse in judgment led to his playing out the year in the AHL, where he managed to score 8 goals. 

Danny T-Shirt Guy Award: John MacLean.  Danny owns the t-shirt shop where the cast members are forced to work during the season.  Danny was able to manage the cast when they were young and had not yet seen success (MacLean in the AHL), but was a disaster when trying to manage them the following year (MacLean in the NHL). 

The Ryder Award: Johan Hedberg.  For those of you who do not watch the show Ryder is Snooki’s friend from home who pops in and visits Snooki during the season.  She’s the perfect backup Jersey Shore cast member.  She’s not good enough to be a regular cast member, but good enough to fill in once and awhile to give the cast a spark. 

The Situation Award: Vladimir Zharkov wins the award given to the player who takes tons and tons of shots, but who you never see score.  Honorable Mention:  David Clarkson.

The Clogged Toilet Award:  The New Jersey Devils PSE&G Powerless Play.  During this past season, the cast dealt with a clogged toilet for the majority of the time they were in the house.  No one could figure out what was wrong.  If that doesn’t describe the Devils horrific power play, I don’t know what does.

The Aarvin Award:  This is a tie between Stephen Gionta and Olivier Magnan for the award given to the player that made you scratch your head as you pondered why he was being given any ice time.  (Hat tip to David Sarch and Matt Ventolo for the help here.)

DGA edit: umm, Adam Mair?!

The Sammi ‘Sweetheart’ Giancola Award:  Jamie Langenbrunner.  Much like Sammi, Langenbrunner’s cranky attitude/misery did its best to destroy the season.  Let’s not blame Langenbrunner 100% because ‘it’ was in the room.  'It’ seemed to follow Langenbrunner to Dallas, similar to the demon that follows that girl from Paranormal Activity around.

The JWOWW Award:  This award goes to Brian Rolston for starting out poorly and then re-inventing himself mid-season.  You can easily parallel the JWOWW/Rolston resurgences with the dumping of Tom/MacLean.  So Roger is Jacques Lemaire...

The DJ Pauly D Award: Jacques Lemaire. Jacques wins this award for saving the respectability of the franchise, having great one liners and for loving to tan (c’mon, we all know that is why Jacques likes Florida).  Also, this award forces its winner to yell: IT’S T-SHIRT TIIIIIIME!

The Vinny G Award:  Travis Zajac.  Solid, unspectacular but always gets the job done.  Like Vinny, Zajac is more than willing to do the ugly things to make sure his team scores.


The ‘Suck It’ Award:  This award goes to all the print media, bloggers, Bobby Holik and the 42 Los Angeles Kings bloggers/fans (I think the Kings have more bloggers than fans) who claimed throughout the fall that the Kovalchuk signing was terrible  He’s a force of nature and the Devils are lucky to have him for the next 14 years. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

DGA's Playoff Bracket

First of all, I must give credit where credit is due.  Every logo you see is courtesy of Chris Creamer's Sports Logos (  The template is courtesy of  The official 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs logo was taken from

So, it's that time of year again.  No, not Opening Day for baseball or the NCAA March Madness or the NBA Playoffs, it's hockey time and it's time for the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs.  This was one of the toughest brackets I've done for hockey.  Usually, I feel confident with all of my picks, but this season, I could literally make a case for any of the 16 teams winning a round.  With that said, here are my picks:


#1 Washington Capitals vs. #8 New York Rangers
There's storylines heading into this series.  The Rangers have battled through injuries all season and Marian Gaborik has a terrific, injury-free season.  Umm, okay, maybe not, but they got lucky getting into the playoffs, as Carolina lost on home ice and blew a chance to get in.  The Caps are a much more defensively-aware team, translated: they don't score like they used to.  In fact, neither team was particularly strong offensively this season.  The difference in this series (ugh, here we go again) will be goaltending.  Henrik Lundqvist is leaps and bounds stronger than any of the Caps' young goaltenders, and he will be able to lead the Rangers past Washington.  It won't be easy, but I don't think this is the season Washington gets over their playoff struggles.  With that said, if the Caps get by the Rangers, they could be on their way to the Finals, but I'm not sure they will.

DGA Prediction - Rangers in 7.

#2 Philadelphia Flyers vs. #7 Buffalo Sabres
I might sound hypocritical here.  I just rambled on and on about goaltending, yet I am predicting the city of revolving goalies, Philly, to knock off one of the world's greatest goalies, Ryan Miller and the new-look Sabres.  This isn't going to be an easy series, either, but I think the Flyers will wake up and win the series, although I'm not terribly confident in my pick here.  I think the Flyers have enough depth at forward to beat the Sabres and, oh crap, is that Michael Leighton I see???

DGA Prediction - Flyers in 6.

#3 Boston Bruins vs. #6 Montreal Canadiens
That's odd, I sense tension between these two teams coming into the series.  I'm probably wrong.  I'm pretty confident with this pick, however.  I don't really think the Canadiens are going to go on a long playoff run this season.  I think Boston is a deeper and more talented team in every category, including in net.  I would actually be surprised if Montreal wins this series, contrary to most of the other series, where any team could realistically win.  The silver lining for Montreal: they won't get swept.

DGA Prediction - Bruins in 5.

#4 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. #5 Tampa Bay Lightning
Let's see, the Penguins are better defensively and probably in goal as well, but the Lightning are stronger offensively.  However, it is easy to overlook two important factors: Steven Stamkos cooled off faster than a piece of burned toast sitting on an iceberg in the season's second half and apparently, the Penguins are close to getting a really, really, really good player back from injury.  Hypothetically, this player could help Pittsburgh, and I believe they will win this series.

DGA Prediction - Penguins in 6.


#1 Vancouver Canucks vs. #8 Chicago Blackhawks
I can almost guarantee you that nobody in Vancouver is singing "Chelsea Dagger" right now, and if they are, it's giving them nightmares.  But have no fear, British Columbia, these Blackhawks are not the Hawks of the past two seasons, and this Canucks team is much more talented and deeper.  Obviously, there could be a mental aspect of this series, but assuming the Canucks can overcome that, they'll win this series.  This isn't the Canucks' year to win the Cup, but they'll make a run.

DGA Prediction - Canucks in 7.

#2 San Jose Sharks vs. #7 Los Angeles Kings
The Kings really do nothing for me in the impressive department.  The Sharks, however, have quietly had a very strong season.  Here's another rare series that I would be surprised if a certain team won, and I think San Jose will come out of this series, relatively easily.  The Kings are not as talented, and their injuries will catch up to them and ultimately knock them out of the playoffs.  I know the subject has been beaten to death, worse than baseball fans in San Fransisco (I do wish the injured in that incident all the best), but L.A. needs scoring, and it won't happen this season.

DGA Prediction - Sharks in 5.

#3 Detroit Red Wings vs. #6 Phoenix Coyotes
If you're a new hockey fan, you might not be aware of the existance of a hockey team in Arizona, but trust me, there is one.  They're quite strong, too.  Phoenix isn't getting as much attention as they did last season, but this is still a solid team.  The problem is, they're playing a much more experienced, mightier Red Wings team, and Detroit will repeat their efforts from last season's playoffs and eliminate the Coyotes again.  I am fairly confident in this pick, but Detroit's inconsistencies in goal are scary.

DGA Prediction - Red Wings in 6.

#4 Anaheim Ducks vs. #5 Nashville Predators
The Anaheim Ducks are an exciting offensive team, and they've made a strong run into the playoffs, but they're not deep enough to beat the Predators' strong defense.  Nashville's star defensemen (and maybe their star female celebrity country singer, too) will shut down the big offensive power of the Ducks.  Besides, if they don't, the Finnish Giant, Pekka Rinne, will clean up their breakdowns.  This isn't Anaheim's year, but next season, they'll be very strong if Teemu Selanne comes back.  Cam Fowler is going to be a star defensemen.  This season will be Nashville's first series win.

DGA Prediction - Predators in 6.

So, there you have it, my semi-conservative, not-too-confident playoff predictions for round one.  You can see my predictions for the remainder of the playoffs in the bracket above.  I think Pittsburgh will be able to claw their way to the Stanley Cup Finals, but they'll be topped by a very strong Sharks team.  As I sat in the stands of the Sharks-Devils game in February, I thought to myself, this team is going to the Finals (not the Devils...), and I'm sticking with that pick.

I think Vancouver will be able to make it to the conference finals, but again, San Jose will be able to get by them.  As for the East, Philly will edged by Pittsburgh in a long, tough, physical series.

So what do you think?  Am I a complete idiot or is there a method to my madness?  Take a minute to leave a comment and share your thoughts. 

Monday, April 11, 2011

Top 10 Special - Ilya Kovalchuk's Game Winning Goals 2010-2011

Conveniently, Ilya Kovalchuk has collected 10 game-winning goals from the time of his trade to New Jersey, in February 2010, through the end of the 2010-11 season. Why is that convenient? Well, it takes 10 parts of something to do a top-10 Down Goes Avery special, so here goes: Part 5 in the Top-10 series: Ilya Kovalchuk Game Winning goals. To enjoy them properly, we'll go in chronological order.

10. His first goal as a New Jersey Devil, #17, Ilya Kovalchuk!
Predators at Devils - 2/12/10

9. First win of the 2010-11 season with a snipe.
Devils at Sabres - 10/13/10

8. Rink-long celebration for the first home win of 2010-11.
Oilers at Devils - 11/11/10

7. First two-goal game as a Devil.
Coyotes at Devils - 12/15/10

6. Kovy gets two, but neither were shots on goal.
Devils at Canadiens - 2/6/11

5. End-to-end in Toronto
Devils at Maple Leafs - 2/10/11

4. Seeing eye wrister the next night
Sharks at Devils - 2/11/11

3. Extra horsepower breakaway
Rangers at Devils - 2/18/11

2. Defying laws of gravity
Lightning at Devils - 3/2/11

1. Koval-clutch wins another in OT
Penguins at Devils - 3/4/11

Kovalchuk now has 50 career game-winning goals, 13 of which have come in overtime during the regular season. Oh yeah, and he's only 28 years old. The 2010-11 season did not result in a playoff berth for the Devils, but is it too early to think about next season?!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Tweeting with NHL General Managers before the playoffs

As you know, the only NHL GM with a real Twitter account is Vancouver Canucks GM Mike Gillis, so don't take any of this seriously...not like you ever take me seriously... Anyway, as the playoffs approach, let's take a look at what NHL GMs have been tweeting to their followers and fans in a non-serious sort of way.  Ignore the 140 character limit...

StillNoCupsSinceColorTV @BurkeysLeafs: Hey, Brian, just wanted to know what you think about next year, and the year after, and the year after now that we're done this year.

BurkeysLeafs @StillNoCupsSinceColorTV: We're very (VERY) optimistic about our organization moving forward.  We have young talent that will propel into the promised land.  Of course, we're still trying to find out what the promised land is...

RozysRangers @DontBlameMeGlen: I'm a little concerned.  We haven't signed a big, expensive FA since '09 and we won't have cap space to sign Richards AND keep Anisimov, Boyle, Callahan and Dubinsky.

DontBlameMeGlen @RozysRangers: Don't worry about the salary cap, I'll get everything under control.  I'll just trade all those guys for Recchi or some other washed up player.

LeafsSuck67 @GauthierNotMcGuire: Hi, Pierre, just wanted to know what you're planning to do once we get killed in the first round.

GauthierNotMcGuire @LeafsSuck67: Riot in the streets, of course!  Just kidding, probably nothing.

IH8Steckel @EastSideMarios: Mr. Shero: Is Sidney Crosby going to be ready for the playoffs?

EastSideMarios @IH8Steckel: If be "playoffs," you mean Stanley Cup Finals Game 7, you're absolutely right.

MiamiFanoftheHeat @ITakeMyJobSeriously: Umm, someone told me there's a hockey team in Miami, so umm, how would I get tickets to such a game?

ITakeMyJobSeriously @MiamiFanoftheHeat: Good question.  Go to Philly.  We have special ticket offers for them there.

Kovaltron17 @JellyJarLou: Lou, have you talked with Zach Parise about a contract extension?

JellyJarLou @Kovaltron17: Everything with Zach is status quo.

TheGr8Eight @GeorgeMcFreeDC: Some of my friends are Penguins fans and they keep talking about winning the Stanley Cup.  Why am I not familiar with this concept?

GeorgeMcFreeDC @TheGr8Eight: Well, you have to win four rounds of the playoffs to do that.  Maybe someday, we'll get there, but first, we have to win one.

BrdStrBullies @AlwaysSunnyinPhilly: Hello, Mr. Holmgren, I was wondering if you could update me on Chris Pronger's status?

AlwaysSunnyinPhilly @BrdStrBullies: Well, he's under investigation as a suspect for stealing 20 pucks from Flyers practice this morning.

LightSabres30 @DarcyfromBuffalo How do you decide which players to keep and which players to let go?

DarcyfromBuffalo @LightSabres30: Well, there's a very detailed formula I use, it's called the How-Crazy-Of-A-Goal-Call-Can-Rick-Jeanneret-Pull-Off-When-He-Scores formula.

RaysBoltsBucs @YzermanRedWings: Who do you think is a better player, Steven Stamkos or Corey Perry?

YzermanRedWings @RaysBoltsBucs: I picked Corey for the Olympic team last year, but the truth is, I've never picked Steven for any of my teams before.

HollywoodHockey @LAmbardi: Dean, since Kopitar and Williams are hurt, how are we going to win in the playoffs???

LAmbardi @HollywoodHockey: Well, there's all those superstars I signed last summer, oh wait, crap, that was NHL 11.


DarrylSutter @BrentSutter: Brent, I left the #Flames, therefore, I don't respond to questions about which player I'm going to sign this summer.

WereStillMighty @BMurray: Who do you think is the best playoff opponent for the #Ducks in the first round?

BMurray @WereStillMighty: I think you confused me with @BobMurray.  I'm the #Sens GM, so the playoffs don't apply to me.

MattCooke24 @BostonPeteParty: Hey, since I'm getting suspended for the first round of the playoffs, I thought I'd watch some #Bruins hockey.  Just saying!

TwitterAlerts @MattCooke24: We're sorry, but @BostonPeteParty has blocked you and does not wish to receive tweets from you.

DonMaloney @BESTNHLCommish: Gary, I put in the deposit for my apartment in Winnipeg.  Keep me posted on the ownership situation.

BESTNHLCommish @DonMaloney: We will not give up on a great hockey market such as the one in Phoenix! 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Major storylines heading into the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs

As the calendar turns to April, there are several major sporting events occurring, such as the NCAA College Basketball tournament, NBA playoffs and the start of another MLB season.  If I didn't know better, I might think there was another event starting this month.  Luckily for some Americans, ESPN doesn't acknowledge any other events, however for those of us who do care, the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs also begin this month.  As you might expect, there are some pretty significant story lines heading into the playoffs.  Let's take a look at some of them:

Sidney Crosby's concussion - Sidney Crosby hasn't played in a game since early January, yet the Penguins are still right in the Flyers' rear view mirrors, and will likely have home ice advantage for the first round of the playoffs.  The bad news: as of right now, it is still mathematically possible for the Penguins to draw Montreal in the first round of the playoffs.

No New Jersey Devils in the playoffs - Since the early 1990s, it was pretty much assumed that if there were playoffs, there were Devils in the playoffs.  This season, however, for the first time since 1996 and just the second time in 21 seasons, the Devils will be outside the East's top-8.  Once May rolls around, however, you probably wouldn't notice, since by that point, the Devils are usually eliminated already.

New York Rangers' resurrgence - Shockingly, the Rangers did not sign the biggest free agent last summer, and even more shockingly, their prized signing from the summer before, Marian Gaborik, has been nothing more than a detail for most of this season.  The key to the Rangers' resurrgence, likely back to the playoffs, is centered around home-grown talent.  Glen Sather seems puzzled by this concept, but since it's too late to self-destruct by trading everyone away at the deadline, he'll have to wait for the off-season.

Tampa Bay is relevant again - It wasn't long ago that the Lightning were the laughing stock of the NHL.  Aside from the Oilers and Islanders, of course.  It wasn't long ago that they drafted Steven Stamkos and signed him.  Don't credit Steve Yzerman for that, however, as not only did he not select Stamkos for his NHL team, but he didn't select Stamkos for his Canadian Olympic team either in 2010.  Let's see if the ageless wonder one of the many old guys still around can keep it going in the playoffs, Dwayne Roloson.

The Islanders are not in the playoffs - Again.

The Maple Leafs are not in the playoffs - Again, even though they made their usual late surge...

Is this the year that a Canadian team finally wins a Cup? - Since the lockout, the President's Trophy winner has been knocked out in the first round of the playoffs three times in five seasons.  One lost in the conference finals, and the 2008 Red Wings won the Stanley Cup.  Most analysts believe that these Canucks are not going to be the fourth time in six seasons that the best regular season team fails in the first round, but the casual fan can point to the standings and note Vancouver's current matchup: Chicago.  Maybe next year, Canada, maybe next year...

The Phoenix Coyotes might sell out a game - Okay, just kidding.  The Coyotes are safely in the playoffs right now, ranked 4th in the Western Conference.  The thing is, nobody is talking about them.  Usually, that is an expression used to say that the national media is overlooking them, but trust me when I say nobody is talking about them, including people in Arizona.  Still, they're probably going to draw either the Kings or Predators, and I'm sure Coyotes ownership -- or Gary Bettman -- or both -- would rather see the Kings play Phoenix, since at least 50 or 60 Kings fans might head down to Phoenix.  It is a great hockey market, though.

Corey Perry and the Anaheim Ducks - If anyone is going to score 50 goals in the NHL this season, it's probably going to be Corey Perry.  Not Crosby, not Ovechkin, not Colton Orr (don't know how that got there...), but Corey Perry.  Anaheim needs goaltending, however, but remember, all goalies are created equal.  Anaheim has five players with 60 points or more: Perry, Ryan, Getzlaf, Visnovsky, Selanne (the ageless wonder, or at least one of them).

The Detroit Red Wings are still a top team - Despite their annual injury plague, Detroit is once again atop their division heading into the post-season.  Nicklas Lidstrom is having a tremendous season, making him the ageless wonder (I feel like I've said that before...).  The only knock against Detroit right now is their goaltending situation, but we all know how I feel about goaltending...

Did Joe Nieuwendyk screw up royally? - At this season's trade deadline, it appeared that the Dallas Stars' general manager made the right decision when he did not move Brad Richards.  Dallas was the West's 3rd best team during the first half of the season, but now loom in 10th, and a playoff push would have to be miraculous at this point.  Considering Glen Sather hasn't made a stupid signing in over a year, expect him to throw a hefty offer Richards' way.  Like 17-years/$102 million.  Something radical and outrageous.

Colorado and Edmonton in the basement - The Oilers in the basement isn't really much of a story, but both the Avalanche and Oilers had exciting, young teams entering this season, and neither team is even close to being relevant right now.  There's no need to fear, though, because both teams will be relevant in late the NHL Entry Draft.

DGA's official Stanley Cup Finals prediction: I expect a highly entertaining playoff season with many, long series, especially for the Washington Capitals...except for the series part.  I think the Penguins and Bruins are legitimate threats to go all the way through to the Finals, except if the Bruins do make it, they'll need to avoid leading games or series, 3-0, because as recently as last night, they have proven themselves inept to hold onto those leafs.  San Jose looks good this season, but hey, they're San Jose.  For their sake, let's hope last season was no fluke.  Vancouver is scary good, but seriously, can they get through the Blackhawks?

  • As of right now, I do think any of the top-3 teams in the West can make it to the Finals, although Detroit's goaltending and age worries me. 
  • I think the Flyers, Penguins and Bruins are obviously the best of the East (wow, that took a lot of insight, huh?), but Boston worries me, too.
I can't bring myself to pick an actual Finals matchup, but if I had to pick, I'd go Celtics-Lakers...I mean Sharks-Flyers.  Whew, the ESPN influence...

Friday, April 1, 2011

Practical April Fools Jokes Around the NHL

In case you haven't heard, Michael Grabner's April Fools joke to his agent was telling him that he found an offer in the KHL that he couldn't refuse.  He tweeted that, but the funnier jokes are the jokes that don't get published...until now.

  • Gary Bettman called Lou Lamoriello to inform him that the NHL has approved Ilya Kovalchuk's contract and that he wishes the Devils best of luck next season.
  • Slowly but surely, pucks began to disappear from Flyers' practice this morning.  Peter Laviolette began to inspect players' bags, and shockingly, Chris Pronger stuffed 44 pucks in his bag.
  • Stephane Auger called Alex Burrows this morning telling him that he appreciates Burrows' integrity and honesty on the ice.
  • Glen Sather found a note on his desk this morning from James Dolan telling him not to sign any free agent for more than $4.5 million per season.
  • Don Maloney thought tonight's Avs/Coyotes game was sold out, since all of the tickets were gone.  As it turns out, Paul Bissonnette ran out of playing cards, so he used the back of "spare" tickets.
  • Tim Murray, Sens GM Bryan's nephew, informed Bryan of Adam Larsson's season-ending knee injury.  Bryan is now recovering in a nearby Ottawa hospital from his heart attack.
  • Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula promised Lindy Ruff that he would make sure the Sabres win a Stanley Cup.  A timeframe was not provided.  The laughter in Buffalo could not be contained.
  • Doug Wilson thought he was leaving Dany Heatley a message at 4:30 AM, but since Heatley was still awake, he informed Heatley of a trade to Edmonton.  The joke lasted 9 seconds, before Heatley realized the trade deadline passed.
  • Joe Nieuwendyk re-assured Brad Richards that he intends to have him re-signed.  Richards laughed for a moment, but then realized Nieuwendyk was serious.
  • Brian Burke mentioned something about the "playoffs" to his players this morning.  Not aware that such a thing exists in the NHL, most Leafs don't feel the Blue Jays are that good...
  • Terry Murray told Dean Lombardi that he is confident Lombardi will bring a superstar to the L.A. Kings this off-season.  Lombardi didn't see the humor in that.
  • Bruce Boudreau planned out how the Capitals will try to knock the Sabres or Rangers out, and which games to lose.  Some players noted that not all series go to 7 games.  Boudreau thought that was particularly funny.
  • Gary Bettman replied to many complaints from team managers about referee bias, stating that the NHL refs are all 100% impartial.
  • Pierre Gauthier's voice mail included one caller wishing him luck when his team re-locates to Mexico City.  Gauthier shrugged, not doing anything.
  • Alex Kovalev got nominated for the Selke Trophy by his teammate, Jordan Staal.
  • Claude Julien ordered a miniature cardboard cut-out of Zdeno Chara for the Bruins' locker room, but it wouldn't fit standing upright.
  • Brian Engblom hates his new wig so much that he left it on Pierre McGuire's desk.  That's actually the end of the joke...
  • Peter Laviolette promised Nikolai Zherdev about twenty minutes of ice time during the playoffs.  That's an absolute maximum of five minutes per game if the Flyers get swept out of the first round.
  • Teemu Selanne informed his teammates that he would be retiring after this season.  He's now working on a 7-year extension with Anaheim.
  • The Canadiens' locker room staff re-arranged everyone's personal lockers so that Hal Gill has a bottom locker and everyone else has a top locker.  Things aren't working out so far.