Saturday, April 28, 2012

PREVIEW: #5 Flyers vs. #6 Devils - Eastern Conference Semifinals

Seriously, how could I not make this the cover picture for the series?

Here’s the beauty of the playoffs: both the Devils and the Flyers are coming off emotional, physical and at times crazy series (for many different reasons), but it’s time to quickly forget the past and get ready for the next series.  Of course, these two division rivals know each other very well, and they’re about to get even more familiar with each other.  It’s the #5 Flyers and the #6 Devils, and the winner will reach the Eastern Conference Finals.

First of all, let’s quickly recap what happened between the Devils and Panthers.  Many people thought this would be a quick series and that the more skilled Devils would blow by the Panthers.  I picked the Devils to win in 5, but everyone who knows either team knew that it would be a tough series, and it was just that.  The Florida Panthers’ first trip to the playoffs since 2000 was a very competitive series.  They gave the Devils everything they could handle, and were one goal in double-overtime of Game 7 away from knocking off the Devils.

The Devils played one of the best periods of hockey you’ll ever see in Game 1 against Florida.  They scored three times, had 26 shots on goal and established themselves as a true force in the series.  While they didn’t score after the first period of Game 1, they held on to win 3-2 and took the lead in the series.  They played a bit of a lackadaisical Game 2 until the third period, when they attempted to overcome a 3-0 deficit with two quick goals early in the third, but fell short, 4-2.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A fan's guide to dealing with elimination

Pictured: Marc-Andre Fleury's 5-hole in NYC.  Or maybe that's the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel.  They're the same size...

For 29 NHL fan bases every season, dealing with elimination is a reality.  As much as we dread our team's last game of the season, it's very likely going to happen each year.  For some fan bases, that time has already come, and by this time next week, even more fan bases will be left wondering what went wrong.  But cheer up, because I've provided a coping method.  Here's how you deal with elimination and what to do when it happens.

Why did your team get eliminated?
a) Our goaltender's five-hole makes Michael Leighton's five-hole look microscopic.  Plus, we had so many injuries, and we're obviously the only team that had injuries all season and the refs screwed us over like a million times!  The league hates us!  It's a conspiracy!
b) We got trapped!  And that team won't even be in that city next year...
c) We choked because our superstar players disappear in the playoffs every year!
d) We ran into a really good goalie.  Dammit, I'm going to riot now.
e) We actually have no talent, so we didn't expect to go far.

How would you assess your regular season?
a) We had a good year, but we obviously would have been the best team in the league if we had all of our players healthy...
b) Aside from that one time when we lost like a million games in a row and that other time that we blew that lead, it was pretty good.
c) It was so good that our players got so into games that they were helping out from the bench and everything!
d) You know, I think the President's Trophy is prettier than the Stanley Cup, anyway.
e) We were so bad that even I could crack the lineup...

Saturday, April 21, 2012

How are the Red Wings the first team to be knocked out?

Shea Weber's contract: $7.5 million.  Punching Henrik Zetterberg repeatedly: $2,500.  Beating the Red Wings in 5 games: Priceless.

Two things are certain in the playoffs: someone will lift the Stanley Cup in mid-June and the Red Wings will be in it.  For the first time since 2006, the Red Wings have been bumped out of the playoffs in the opening round.  Speculation about Nicklas Lidstrom's future and potential free agents that might sign with Detroit have already begun, but let's take a look at how the Red Wings season ended early, at the hands of the Nashville Predators.

  • Late in Game 3 in Detroit, the Red Wings players skated to center ice and raised their arms, but as it turns out, it wasn't because they won, but because of a bad call by an official.
  • Coach Mike Babcock had to scold his team multiple times after they repeatedly kept looking around at the suites in Nashville.
  • Red Wings players were confused as to why Mike Babcock's lineup sheet included "Parise" and "Suter" and not Jiri Hudler or Nicklas Lidstrom.
  • According to Don Cherry, the only reason Detroit lost is because they don't have any goons that could have taken on Shea Weber after Game 1.
  • The Red Wings are now planning to suspend Pavel Datsyuk for the next four years and then bring him up so they can draw more media attention, and Jiri Hudler seems offended for some reason.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

PREVIEW: #3 Florida Panthers vs. #6 New Jersey Devils

So...are there any story-lines heading into this series?

So, it’s finally that time of year.  It’s time for the Stanley Cup playoffs.  As a Devils fan, I’m both excited and nervous at the same time.  The Devils might only be the 6th seed in the Eastern Conference, but they won 48 regular season games and picked up 102 points along the way.  I realize that this might be Martin Brodeur’s last shot at a fourth Stanley Cup Championship.  Even if Marty does play next season, there’s no guarantee that he’ll be able to carry a team through the playoffs.  He can do that this year, and hopefully the Devils will benefit from that.
Yet at the same time, we can’t help but remember the past and the failures of the Devils since the Prudential Center opened in the fall of 2007.  In the spring of 2008, the Devils were the #4 seed, but won just one of eight meetings against their eventual first round opponent, the New York Rangers, and that win came in a shootout.  The Devils lasted just five games that spring.  In the spring of ’09, as the 3rd seed, the Devils played the series from hell against the Hurricanes, but were only 1-3 against Carolina that season.  As the 2nd seed in 2010, they faced the Flyers, who they were 1-5 against, and lost to them.  This season, there are no excuses.  This is a very good Devils team, and they’re facing, well, let’s be honest: the worst team in the playoffs.
Before I talk about any negative stats regarding the Panthers, I think congratulations are in order.  After over a decade of failure and losing, the Panthers finally made it back to the playoffs and won their first-ever division title in the process.  They didn’t make life easy for their fans, but they definitely took a step in the right direction this season, even if they lose to the Devils in round one of the playoffs.
Now, let’s look at the raw numbers: the Florida Panthers won just 38 of 82 games.  They lost 18 games in overtime/shootout this season.  That essentially is like winning 9 extra games (in terms of points).  The Panthers are limping into the playoffs.  Despite their season finale, a 4-1 win over Carolina, they went just 2-3-5 in their last 10 games.  Their goal differential is a miserable minus-24 (203 goals for, 227 goals against).
But that doesn’t mean this won’t be a tough series for the Devils.  Make no mistake: it will be a very difficult series.  First of all, the Devils had just one “ROW” (regulation/overtime wins) over Florida in the regular season.  They lost two and won the other in a shootout.  Their most recent matchup was a 3-1 loss on February 11th, a game in which the Panthers led for most of the game, and simply trapped the Devils to sleep.  They can clog the neutral zone, force turnovers and score off their turnovers.

Ilya Kovalchuk drills Keaton Ellerby.  1 of 6 hits #17 on 12/13/11.

There will be several keys to this series.  First of all, the Devils will need to be patient.  They can’t get frustrated with the Panthers’ defense.  They’ll need to be smart, and not force the issue with the trap, because when you do that, you turn the puck over and you fall right into the…well, trap that the opposition is trying to frustrate you into.  If the Devils play smart and dump the puck in when the Panthers have the neutral zone clogged up, they’ll find success, because the Devils can play the dump-and-chase game.  They’re not the 1995 Red Wings, who had absolutely no answer to the trap.
The second key to the game will be to contain the Panthers’ top line.  Let’s face it: the Panthers’ fate will be determined by how their top line of Fleischmann-Weiss-Versteeg plays.  That line had success against the Devils in the regular season, so they’ll have to find an answer for them in the playoffs.  Pete DeBoer has several options.  He can try to match offense for offense, and play Zajac’s line against Weiss’ line and simply trade scoring chances with them; he can match Elias’ line, with veteran experience and Elias’ two-way ability; or he could even match the third line, with Ponikarovsky-Henrique-Clarkson as a “checking” line to try to shut down the Weiss line.  DeBoer has tried different things throughout the season.  Sometimes he matches top line against top line and sometimes he tries to shut down the opposition.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Re-living the Devils' Cup run in 1995, Part 2

This is the second of six installments of DGA's "Re-living the Cup" blog series leading up to the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs.  This installment features recaps of the third round of the Devils' path to the Cup in 1995, which was a defeat of Philadelphia in the conference final.

PART TWO: Conference Finals of 1995

Following defeats of Boston and Pittsburgh, each in five games, the Devils travelled down the Turnpike to Philadelphia for a showdown with the rival Flyers.  The Flyers had yet to lose a playoff game at home in 1995, but Martin Brodeur and the Devils were determined to change that.  As they did against the Bruins in round one, the Devils struck early and often in Game 1 and Brodeur allowed nothing to the Flyers.  Bill Guerin scored a pair of goals, and the Devils were up 3-0 after two periods.  Martin Brodeur was less than two minutes away from his fourth shutout of the playoffs when Craig MacTavish broke the goose egg, but the Devils held on easily to win 4-1.

Monday, April 9, 2012

2012 NHL Playoff Bracket

I worked this out several different ways.  Boston-Nashville kept turning out to be the Stanley Cup Finals.

It's mid-April.  The NHL playoffs are about to start, and 16 fan bases are optimistic that this could be their team's year to win the Stanley Cup!  The horrible truth to this is that most of us will be let down and our teams will be knocked out of the playoffs earlier than we had originally hoped.  So now that I've depressed you a bit, it's time for the second installment (here's last year's bracket, in case for some bizarre reason, you'd like to see it) of my playoff bracket.

*All NHL logos were

Eastern Conference (I start with the East because of East Coast Bias)

#1 New York Rangers vs. #8 Ottawa Senators
Series slogan: What goes first?  Paul MacLean's 'stache or John Tortorella's temper?

I'm used to seeing the Rangers in the 1/8 matchup, but not as the #1 seed.  Both of these teams would be considered "over-achievers" this season.  A lot has to go right for Ottawa to win the series, and although I'm not crazy about giving goalies all the credit in the world, but this series will come down to goaltending.  Craig Anderson has seen this before: his Colorado Avalanche were the 8th seed in the spring of 2010, and he stole a pair of games for the Avs before losing in six to San Jose.  This series will be similar, although this Senators team is a much more offensively skilled team.  Ottawa will need to be very patient in this series, because the Rangers not only love to collapse in the neutral zone, but they collapse around the net and will make it difficult for Erik Karlsson and the Sens' defense to get their point shots through to Henrik Lundqvist.  Lundqvist, by the way, had a save percentage of .895 in March and April, so he'll need to be much better than that, or his Rangers could be heading home early again.

My pick: Rangers in 6.
Confidence in my pick: 9/10

#2 Boston Bruins vs. #7 Washington Capitals
Series slogan: Tim Thomas can ship up to Boston, but he'll have to be in the city of the White House too

It's been an inconsistently brilliant season for the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins, but when they're on, they are the best team in the NHL.  They have a dynamic, yet balanced attack, which compliments Zdeno Chara, the world's best defenseman, and Tim Thomas, an elite NHL goaltender, very well.  The Capitals, meanwhile, had a very disappointing season and almost missed the playoffs, yet here they are, playing very well lately, as they've won four of five games heading into the playoffs.  If they had a consistent and healthy goaltender, I would pick this as the upset, since Washington is far overdue to make a long playoff run, but they don't, so it'll be another early exit for the Caps, even with Nicklas Backstrom healthy.  But hey, at least they fired Bruce Boudreau, riiight?!

My pick: Bruins in 6.
Confidence in my pick: 5/10

#3 Florida Panthers vs. #6 New Jersey Devils
Series slogan: If a playoff series was buried off NBC's networks and nobody saw it, did it really happen?

(I'll have a more detailed preview of this series during the week) It's been a long time coming since the Florida Panthers made the playoffs, but finally, the Panthers are the latest Miami team to take advantage of free agency to improve their team.  And the Panthers didn't sign LeBron James or Jose Reyes, so you don't have to hate on them.  The Panthers have their "Big 3," though, as Fleischmann, Weiss and Versteeg make up a very dangerous scoring line.  Meanwhile, it's been a huge bounce-back season for the Devils under yet another new coach, Pete DeBoer.  They won 48 games and picked up 102 points after missing the playoffs for just the second time in 22 seasons.  The Devils are no longer the old trap Devils, in fact, they're one of the East's most up-tempo and deep offensive teams.  That will be why the Devils win this series.  They have depth, as good of a defense as any New Jersey blue line since the lockout and Martin Brodeur has been playing very well since the All-Star Break.  Plus, DeBoer would love to beat the team that fired him.  If the Devils play a disciplined and smart game, which they'll have to against Florida, this won't be a very long series.

My pick: Devils in 5.
Confidence in my pick: 9/10

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Hockey experts sound off on Tortorella and Clowe

I don't read minds, but if I had to guess, I'd say he's not very happy there.  Or ever.

Yesterday may have been Good Friday, but the hockey world has seen some not-so-good action over the last week.  First, Rangers coach John Tortorella ripped the Penguins organization and blasted Brooks Orpik for his knee-on-knee hit on Derek Stepan.  That cost "Torts" $20,000.  San Jose's Ryane Clowe, meanwhile, cheated a bit against the Los Angeles Kings.  No, he wasn't paid to injure anyone, but that doesn't make him a Saint.  He reached over the boards and played the puck from the bench.  Here's the reaction that wasn't from hockey experts (please note: this is not real).

Pierre McGuire

On Tortorella - John is one of the best coaches in the league, he's so good with his team.  He should at least be one of the top two or three or twenty finalists for the Jack Adams Trophy.  He's so smart with his team, Doc.
On Clowe - Ryane Clowe is an excellent player.  He's a gritty player and I think every team in the league could use someone like him, but that's just uncalled for.  He should know better than that, but Ryane Clowe is still an exceptional hockey player, Doc.

Mike Milbury

On Tortorella - Well finally someone spoke the truth!  I mean, when was someone gonna man up and tell it like it is?  I love John Tortorella.  The fact that the NHL fined him is stupid and completely idiotic.
On Clowe - There is absolutely nothing wrong with players being a little creative out there.  He helped his team, and if the refs aren't looking, hey, why not?  I wish I had told my players to do that more on Long Island.

Don Cherry


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

DGA's Devils Team Awards

"Hey, Boulton, we shoot at THAT net this period..."

This afternoon, the Devils held their annual team awards, which as always, was rigged.  Zach Parise won team MVP (umm...), Adam Henrique and Bryce Salvador tied for unsung hero and Johan Hedberg won the Player's Player award for the 179th straight year.  So I'm here to fix all this rigging nonsense.  Here's the uncensored version of the Devils' 2011-12 team awards.

Team MVP Candidates:

Peter Harrold - Without him, the Devils would have to let Adam Larsson play, and according to Pete DeBoer, that's a bad thing.  Plus, Peter (Harrold) has so much experience winning in Los Angeles.

Mattias Tedenby - While he only lasted 43 games this season, he managed to pick up a rating (not golf score).  The Devils' shortest player's lack of offensive production made sure that the Devils didn't have a third line that could score until the All-Star break.

Kurtis Foster - Although he was terrible in his own end, the Devils' power play's best stretch of the season came with Foster at the point, which according to someone, somewhere, makes him better than Marek Zidlicky.

Winner: Harrold.  Why?  Well, for starters, he's the only one of the three left on the Devils' NHL roster...

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Remembering the 2011-12 regular season

The next GM of the Montreal Canadiens...very hard at work.

For 14 of the NHL's 30 teams, this is the final week of their season.  After this week, they'll all go
their separate ways for the summer.  In other words, they'll all go to various golf courses until September, apparently.  So let's take a look at the teams that will not be taking part in the playoffs, and remember each of their seasons.

Montreal Canadiens - This season has been "├ęchec" in Montreal, or as Randy Cunneyworth likes to say: failure.  But hey, at least they got their money's worth out of Scott Gomez this season!

New York Islanders - The Long Island rebuild continues.  Or maybe it hasn't started yet, since Nassau Coliseum is unfortunately still standing.  With their young talent, they should be good in the near future.  Maybe...

Columbus Blue Jackets - This season was the beginning and end of Jeff Carter's career in Columbus.  What's quite unfortunate is that if Rick Nash gets traded, the Jackets might have to force Steve Mason into the All-Star Game in their own building next season.

Tampa Bay Lightning - Guy Boucher gave up on the 1-3-1 midway through the season, but those five minutes of stalemate in the Flyers game easily cost Steven Stamkos two or three goals.

Monday, April 2, 2012


The best "pranks" or "practical jokes" are ones that don't physically hurt anyone, but make people either laugh or get very, very confused.  Well, I don't know if anyone laughed, but I do know that @DownGoesSpezza and I confused a lot of people on April 1st, 2012.  In case you didn't realize what happened, we switched everything for the day: avatars, Twitter handles, background pictures, descriptions, etc.  Both of us lost several followers of our fan bases (I lost many Devils fan followers, he lost many Flyers fan followers), but hey, I thought it was worth it. Here's some of the best reaction we got.