Friday, April 28, 2006

Tortorella's Comments Over The Line

In the Lightning/Senators series, I couldn’t just stand by and let Tampa Bay’s head coach John Tortorella throw goaltender John Grahame under the bus with his post-game comments. Tortorella ripped his goaltender a new one…

“’I thought we were playing very well and then three goals on four shots,’ Tortorella said. ‘That really deflates a hockey team there." … "A save would be nice, ‘Tortorella said. ‘They're a good hockey team. They've got quality players. It's just deflating to see 17 shots and four goals in the net, eh? Let's call a spade a spade. That's a tough thing.’ More Tortorella: ‘Again, we need an occasional save. Listen, Johnny [Grahame] is trying like hell, but four goals on 17 shots? I'm a little tired of the 25 percent rule.’” –St. Petes Times

Hey John, how about criticizing your defense, or the lack of an offense? Three of those 4 goals were off of defensive miscues that left Grahame high and dry. I thought Grahame was just as good as Ray Emery was in the Sens net.

I can understand Tortorella’s frustration, the Lightning are the defending Stanley Cup Champions. He at least wants to make the series interesting instead of letting the Senators walk all over his club. But if you’re going to express team, embarrassing your goaltender doesn’t really express a team feeling.

Now you create a situation where you question Grahame’s play and his loyalty. Who would want to come back and play for a coach after that? Hopefully the Sens end this quickly so both Tortorella and Grahame can just get a few months off to cool off.

In other news, the best series to watch thus far has been the Edmonton/Detroit match up. I was really surprised at the Oilers play, as are the Red Wings. But this series epitomizes the NHL playoffs. The hitting is hard and legal, the goals have been big, and it’s been the coaching chess match with the intensity of spontaneous play.

My wife doesn’t understand my late night vigils to watch this series, but this series has been anything but dull. I should have pick the Oilers in 7, but I still think Detroit will pull out a win.

On the flip side, the Rangers/Devils series is becoming quite the bore. With Jaromir Jagr taking a awkward jab at a Devil and possibly dislocating his shoulder (we have to guess because we won’t get a word about it from the Rangers training staff), the Devils have just steamrolled the Rangers.

It’s pretty much how I expected it to go, but I don’t feel the rivalry from these clubs that are just a short drive away from each other’s rink. I knew the Rangers weren’t going to make it past the Devils in this series, but I would figure they would put up some kind of fight. The honeymoon between New York and Jagr may be over.

Colorado is in a position tonight to eliminate Dallas which has also been a surprise considering how beat up the Aves are. Dallas just doesn’t look good. I actually think the Aves can wrap up this series at home and sweep the Stars.

Here’s the rest of the series breakdowns from Yahoo Sports:

Eastern Conference: Canadiens/Hurricanes, Flyers/Sabres

Western Conference: Ducks/Flames, Sharks/Predators

Friday, April 21, 2006

Bring On The Cup, Fearless Predictions Pt. 2

Yesterday I went through the Eastern Conference and surmised that Carolina would come out on top in the East. But now we turn our efforts into the Western Conference where Nashville made a lot of noise, but Detroit quietly became the league’s best winning the President’s Trophy.

So without further ado…

Western Conference Round 1

Edmonton at Detroit – The Oilers may have had delusions of grander at the beginning of the season, but now after squeeking into to the playoffs they settle for playing the power-house Red Wings. Edmonton makes a run at it but in the end, poor defense and questionable goaltending does the Oilers in.

Result: Detroit wins in 6 games.

Colorado at Dallas – The biggest rivalry in the west besides Detroit and Dallas maybe this one between the Aves and Stars. The Avalanche have been beaten up this season and made probably the worst trade ever for Jose Theodore. That aside, the rivalry of these two western giants will bring out the passion and emotion of playoff hockey in both of these clubs. I smell upset.

Result: Colorado wins in 7 games.

Anaheim at Calgary – I think if you asked Brian Burke, GM for the Ducks, that he would be battling for a playoff spot, he may have thought it a pipe dream. But the fact remains that Anaheim somehow found their way into the post season. I give Burke another year before they start doing damage for the Cup however.

Result: Calgary wins in 5 games.

San Jose at Nashville – 6 months ago you would have thought that the Predators were for real. That was until the west found ways to beat the upstart Preds. On the other side San Jose seemed to come out of no where and the Joe Thornton trade has made this team a contender. And with an injured Tomas Vokoun, Nashville won’t have much bite.

Result: San Jose wins in 5 games.

Western Conference Round 2

Colorado at Detroit – Oh baby, this is going to be good. Aves plus Wings equals carnage! The history of these two teams in the playoffs has been spectacular. But the Avalanche wasted all their energy fighting off Dallas. Look for them to just get beat up by the Red Wings. Too bad.

Result: Detroit wins in 4 games.

San Jose at Calgary – These teams will make the late games interesting in the second round. San Jose’s offense is hitting a groove, but Calgary is making more noise with goaltending than goals. If Calgary wants to move on, they will have to find a way to stop Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo and find their offense. I doubt they can do both.

Result: San Jose wins in 6 games.

Western Conference Final

San Jose at Detroit – Sharks fans will be happy to know that it isn’t always the best team on paper that is the “best”, but the team that has determination and great chemistry seems to go out on top. As much as the Red Wings look poised to win another Conference banner and fight for another Cup, San Jose will surprise the critics. I smell a major upset.

Result: San Jose wins in 7 games.

And know the moment your waiting for, my fearless prediction for the Stanley Cup winner…

Stanley Cup Final

San Jose at Carolina – Both these teams have had the highs and lows of a difficult season, but both are high on talent and determination. Goaltending will be the key to winning the Stanley Cup. Martin Gerber for Carolina must be playing his best if the Hurricanes are to win, and Evgeni Nabokov has to be no slouch either. The Sharks have come close to the finals only to fall due to injuries. Carolina has been the dance before, only to be upset by Detroit. Both teams know what it means to play for the Cup. But in the end the team with the most experience, and what I believe better coaching, will win.

Result: Carolina is your Stanley Cup Champion in 6 games.

So that’s your winner. I know there are a couple of eye openers in the western bracket, but I thought I needed to be true to what I know. Plus a little gut feeling doesn’t hurt either.

San Jose has been solid in their remaining games. They can catch teams off guard to make it to the Finals. Detroit fans well probably burn down my house, but over confidence has been a Cup killer for teams every year. Red Wings are the hands down favorite in the west, no question. But can they translate to what they have done during the season to success in the post season. That will be the real question.

In the East Ottawa could but a cog in my playoff machine if goaltending comes through. But Carolina just seems right to me. And Buffalo has to figure if they have come this far, they might as well be in the Conference finals. Another big threat that can figure into the east is New Jersey, with the most experienced goaltending in the post season.

I can see many of the series going to seven games than what I predicted here, and in that case most of those outcomes could be coin flips for the winners. I do think that every series will be exciting and special teams will be important as the League gives a stern warning to the officials to call the games like they did during the regular season. That means plenty of penalties.

Bring on the Cup, and may the best team win! Get excited and get loud. Even if your team isn’t there, you can’t help but pick a favorite. And why not? It’s playoff time!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Bring On The Cup, Fearless Predictions Pt. 1

It’s here! The Playoffs finally arrive. And I would have liked for the Capitals to make a sneak in the 8 spot in the east, I will have to settle for the Caps having the rookie of the year and possibly the League’s MVP.

So let’s break it down and get to the fearless predictions. Today I will go through the Eastern Conference winners right up to the Stanley Cup Finals, then tomorrow it’s the Western Conference picks including the Stanley Cup winner.

As always your input is welcomed.

Eastern Conference Round 1

Tampa Bay at Ottawa – Tampa Bay somehow backed their way into the playoffs only to face the League’s top offensive threat. The Lightning’s goaltending is absolute key for them to make any head way in this series, unfortunately for them John Grahame and Sean Burke have never done well in tournament games.

Result: Ottawa wins in 5 games.

Montreal at Carolina – The Canadiens have had a hot run winning 6 of their last ten while the Hurricanes slump into the post season. However, Carolina may have a more talented team and plenty of post season experience. Montreal will have to lean on their goaltending in this one if they think about moving into round 2.

Result: Carolina wins in 7 games.

New York Rangers at New Jersey – The Devils may have one of the hottest teams going into the playoffs. Coming into this series with 11 straight wins, the Devils have been a thorn in the side of the Rangers all season. Rookie goalie Henrik Lundqvist and Jaromir Jagr will have to be at the top of their games.

Result: New Jersey wins in 5 games.

Philadelphia at Buffalo – If there were ever a surprise team this year in the NHL it would be Buffalo. You tell them that, and they would just say that they always had a competitive team. The Flyers have some trouble on their hands if Peter Forsberg’s injuries don’t heal in time to make a difference. Chances are, he won’t.

Result: Buffalo wins in 6 games.

Eastern Conference Round 2

Buffalo at Ottawa – As much as I would like to see the Cup be lifted by the tallest hockey player ever, the Senators may have met their match. This will be a match-up of two exciting offenses. The Senators may be a duck out of water with a team that can match their goal scoring capabilities.

Result: Buffalo wins in 6 games.

New Jersey at Carolina – So I got to stand up with my Southeastern Division representation. That would be Carolina. Even though New Jersey won their tussle with the Rangers, it will be an emotional series that will drain the tanks of the Devils. Carolina will be solid in this series and will keep to the basics.

Result: Carolina wins in 5 games.

Eastern Conference Final

Buffalo at Carolina – I have been given this playoff run some thought and I believe it could be Buffalo’s Eastern Championship to lose. But if Carolina has made it thus far, most likely they are in their groove. Sorry Buffalo fans, it’s been a good run.

Result: Carolina wins in 7 games.

Tomorrow I will review the Western Conference where we will see who I believe will be playing Carolina for the Stanley Cup including who will be lifting the hardware. I know I will have to be doing some research as I haven’t stayed up to catch the late games.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Pencils Down, Times Up

Capitals 4, Lightning 1

Caps end the season on a hot streak. Not only did the Caps win 4 of the last 5 of their games of the season, they did it in convincing fashion against divisional rivals. Wins against one team in the playoffs, one team trying to make the playoffs and one team that have give the Caps fits all season.

Overall Grade: B+

Wash Post will have a better view of the season ender, and why Olie Kolzig was a no show in Tampa Bay. Brent Johnson was absolutely fantastic in this game stopping 42 shots on net.

How did the Capitals end up?

The Caps finish with a 29-41-12 record and 70 points. They finish last in the Southeast Division, and 14th in the Eastern Conference. The Caps were only 5 points behind Florida but 12 points ahead of the Conference worst Pittsburgh Penguins.

Four players finished with 20 goals or more, Alex Ovechkin (52), Dainius Zubrus (23), Chris Clark (20) and Matt Pettinger (20). Four players finished with 40 points or more, Ovechkin (106), Zubrus (57), Jeff Halpern (44) and Brian Willsie (41).

The Capitals were ranked 7 in the shoot-out with seven wins and six loses. With 230 goals for the Caps were ranked 23rd in the league, but were 29th in goals against with 300 slipping past the Caps goalies. Overall, the Capitals finished 27th in the league ahead of Chicago, Pittsburgh and St. Louis.

As much as the Caps did not have a story book season, their future is something that going to be exciting to watch. The bright spot for the Caps this season is Alex Ovechkin whose size, speed, and offensive explosiveness made the Caps exciting to watch this season.

What the Caps must do is accent that talent from Ovechkin. Some key off season pick-ups for the Caps must include a more dependable defensive core. A nice free agent signing may be Hal Gill from Boston who becomes unrestrictive free agent this summer. A good stay at home defensemen that may help out in front of Kolzig.

A player to lose this off season is Ivan Majesky. Even though his size is intimidating, his lacks speed and can be out of position at the wrong time.

The key to this off season will be what management can do to improve the team to give them a fighting chance for seasons to come.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Saying Good-Bye To The Home Crowd

Capitals 6, Thrashers 4

The Caps finally get to play the role of spoiler as they dashed the hopes of the Atlanta Thrashers’ playoff dreams. And the Capitals did it with some flair. Matt Pettinger gets his 20th goal, Rico Fata scores his first at the Verizon Center, and the stands actually had people in their seats.

In a must win game for the Thrashers, the Caps came out and played their aggressive forecheck and maybe relied a bit too much on veteran goaltending from Olie Kolzig. When the Caps face big games, they seem to show up. And what a win against the Thrashers that pretty much owned the Capitals this season.

The Capitals seemed to have trouble taking Division points from their rivals this season. Lately the Caps have been more up to the challenge against their Southeast foes. In this game there was a “never say die” feel to the Caps play. They were already down one goal in the first 11 seconds, but kept coming back in a game that saw its share of goals.

Peter Bondra looked to have the Thrashers up for good in the second after a strong move to the net that beat Kolzig. But the Caps didn’t panic and even killed off a few penalties before Alex Ovechkin tied the game in the third with a yawning open net shot for his 52nd goal of the year.

Dainius Zubrus probably played one of his most physical games I have seen. He got into good scraps and wasn’t afraid to assert his position. Zubrus has really come out of a shell this season playing wing with Ovechkin and even though his goal numbers are low, his play has been really impressive. Both Zubrus and Ovechkin have shown they have good chemistry this year that I am sure will spill into next year.

Overall Grade: B+

Last home game, and the Capitals club honored Ovechkin both before the game and after. Wash Post gets the inside story of the night. And if you were curious also check out the Atlanta’s Journal Constitution take on the Thrashers quest for a playoff spot was crushed over a “struggling Dunham.”

Caps have one more game before they call the season quits and hit the links. They face Tampa Bay on the road. The Caps won’t play spoiler anymore as Tampa Bay looks to comfortable back into the playoffs this year. However, the Caps must again send a signal to its divisional foes that next season the Caps will not be a push over.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Caps Try Not Playing Defense

Capitals 0, Islanders 5

In the series of “nobody cares” and “whose watching anyway” between the Islanders and the Capitals, the Caps drop one to the Islanders and piling up the minuses in the process.

I suppose you want me to talk about something positive about this game. Hmm … Glen Hanlon’s tie was very nice. How’s that?

Two defensemen I would send on the next bus to Hershey, and maybe farther down. Ivan Majesky played probably the worst game of hockey I have ever seen. Well I thought that at first then I saw Nolan Yonkman try to handle the puck.

A complete break down in special teams gave the Islanders all they needed to bury the Capitals in their own farm system. You could say all the bounces went New York’s way, you could say the Islanders were on top of their game. But I would say that it’s getting harder to see why I even cheer for the Capitals.

I thought of a letter I would write to George McPhee about his general manger skills. I think it would go something like this:

Dear George,

Are the goons you hired to man the blue line getting you down? Are you ashamed that you’re the only general manager in the National Hockey League that thought slow dumb defensemen who shouldn’t be handling the puck up ice were going to be the popular choice? Cheer up George because the season is almost over. Soon you can sip pina coladas on a beach somewhere during the off season and ponder more fantastic trades like Alex Ovechkin for a photo of Mike Bossy, two rolls of clothed tape in shiny sapphire blue and conditional draft pick in the 2060 draft. Take a hint and go for some defense.

Garrett aka “Puckhead”

Overall Grade: D-

Wash Post tells you a stirring tale of the valleys and peaks of this game. Read it. Meanwhile I will have to sit down and give some serious thought about the playoffs and make some bold predictions. Stay tuned, ‘cause no one else seems to be tuning into the rest of the Caps season.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Caps Keep Going, Season's Not Over Yet!

I know what you are saying, “He can’t even up keep his own blog!” It’s getting to be ridiculous trying to find a job and keep my sanity at the same time. So I need to blow some steam and sit down and write. And what a time to be keeping an eye on the Capitals.

The Caps finish their road swing of seven games with a 3-1-3 record. I enjoy the symmetry of the effort, and am actually seeing more progress now than during the long stretches of the season with less than par attempts at winning.

The Capitals were able to stay in every game they played in over their road trip. When the Caps won, they did it in convincing wins. When they loss it was to one point games. It was the best showing this team has had for the year.

The Caps attitude has a lot to do with it. They may be out of the playoffs, but they are taking the opportunity to make the games they have left count. To learn to win against teams that are playoff bound are huge for the Caps.

In the Southeast Division, the Capitals are starting to make stands against their rivals. There is a never say die that was never in the Caps vocabulary in the middle stretch of the season. Now teams look at their calendars and know they have to come prepared against the Caps. A team they must play well against that isn’t even going to the playoffs. That says something about the future of this club.

Congrats to Rico Fata for scoring his first two of the year in the Carolina game. Not only were they his firsts with the Washington, but they were big, game changing goals. His speed is going to help the Caps a great deal as they perfect their aggressive style of forecheck.

As for little ole unemployed me, I will try to be a better blogger and get on more and get my thoughts up.

-- Around the NHL --

  • The New York Rangers were able to clinch tonight a playoff spot. Jaromir Jagr is racking up the record point totals for a season as a Ranger. Now I hate the bastard even more. Trust me, as soon as the media turns on him, he will curl up in a little ball and refuse to play at any kind of level. Sadly Rangers won’t make it to round two.

  • Former Capital turned Nashville Predator Brendan Witt was suspended by the league for a knee on knee hit against a Blue Jacket player. If any Nashville fans can clue me in on Witter, is he helping or hurting? I guess it remains to be seen.

  • Colorado Avalanche’s new goaltender, Jose Theodore, was able to practice for the first time with the team today. Colorado made probably the worst goaltender trade of all time (in my opinion), when they sent David Aebischer to Montreal for the hairless Theodore. Patrick Roy he is not, I will tell you right now.

So no fearless predictions on if Florida has a chance to make the playoffs (which they won’t), or if Anaheim is really worth its weight in feathers come Stanley time (I have faith in the Burke though). But I will sit down and plan out the playoff picture as the teams jockey for position. And if your company is hiring, don’t be shy and drop me a line, I just love to get paychecks.