Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Confessions Of An Idiot

Memorial Day is a day of remembering freedom comes at a cost, and those who have paid that price, we can never repay and are forever indebted. It's also a weekend of cookouts and conversations. If you want to talk hockey with me, I will oblige but you better know what your talking about or I lose interest quickly.

Anyway, I got into an semi-argument about why hockey will never take in America by a semi-drunk guy. He had obviously put some thought into his list of 5 reasons why ice hockey sucks and a waste of broadcast time. So I listened, just to see what he would say. I didn't respond to his reasons, just nodded my head as he spewed his ideas along with some bits of corn and BBQ ribs.

1. "Hockey is too complicated a sport for Americans to understand it. Have you seen the rule book, and what the hell is icing?"

2. "Hockey fans can't pronounce any of the names. When was the last time you saw an all American name like Robert or Kevin do anything in a hockey jersey? It's all Europeans. Like that Over-check-CAN."

3. "It's so boring to watch, dump and chase, dump and chase. They don't have any set plays."

4. "Who can think of hockey in June? It's baseball time."

5. "I bet you couldn't name me once player besides Over-check-CAN or Crosby in the league. Who are all these guys."

Needless to say, my conversation ended right there with him. Well, not quite. I did correct him on how to pronounce Ovechkin and mentioned there were a couple Americans on the Caps squad that represented USA at the World Championships. As far as his first comment, well that said it all for me about the validity of his arguments (he basically said Americans are too stupid to watch hockey). I asked him what the in-field fly rule was in baseball, and all I got was a blank stare.

I had to post, and see if there might be some consensus on his comments. Do Americans really think hockey will die a slow death in the States?

Monday, May 28, 2007

Bears Attempt To Repeat Starts Friday

The Hershey Bears are looking for another championship. And Friday, they get their chance. The Schedule looks like so:

1. HAM at HER Fri Jun 1 7:00 PM

2. HAM at HER Sat Jun 2 7:00 PM

3. HER at HAM Mon Jun 4 7:30 PM

4. HER at HAM Wed Jun 6 7:30 PM

5. HER at HAM Thu Jun 7 7:30 PM *

6. HAM at HER Tue Jun 12 7:00 PM *

7. HAM at HER Fri Jun 15 7:00 PM *
*if necessary

Good thing the Bears get home ice advantage, but will have to face a tough 3 game stretch in the middle of the series on the road. Caps fans can only hope that this translates to wins at the Verizon Center.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Bears Are At It Again

The Hershey Bears are looking for a repeat. They have already won the Eastern Conference title for a second year in a row, why not make the Calder Cup a repeat too.

The Bears advance past the Manchester Monarchs to face the Hamilton Bulldogs in the Calder Cup Finals in the AHL. The Bears were able to win on the road to close out their series beating the Monarchs 3-1. It complete a 4 game sweep.

Bear now go onto the Finals, no word if any of those games will be broadcast locally in D.C. (don't hold your breath). The series against the Bulldogs will feature two veteran goaltenders facing off against one another. Fredic Cassivi and Fred Brathwaite. For more...

Bring On The Cup '07 - Finals Predictions

The NHL is stewing, Kevin Lowe is celebrating, NBC is fiddling, Ottawa and Anaheim are prepairing, and Hockey Fans every where are watching. It's the Stanley Cup Finals, finally. NHL still would like to see it's bigger markets (NY, Det, Toronto, etc.) to make a finals, Kevin Lowe gets a first round pick from the Ducks for the next ten years, NBC will change the schedule at some point and I have a Hi-Def television and no Hi-Def service.

I didn't come close this year on picking a winner. I really thought Buffalo had a shot this year, but who would have guessed a hit on Chris Drury midway through the season would leave the Sabres gun shy. As far as Anaheim was concerned, I really thought that their goaltending was an issue. Instead, it's been a large plus when it was needed.

It's crunch time now, who lifts the Cup? Ottawa or Anaheim. Having some time to "research" (another way of saying falling asleep on the couch and forgetting to post), I have more of a feel for who might have the edge. One thing that makes this series tough to predict is that the Ducks and Senators don't have a history with one another for this season.

Some key players for Anaheim who have to preform well are J.S. Giguere and Teemu Selanne. Giguere will be playing against a much better offense than Detroit. Ottawa has the hottest offense on the ice right now thanks to Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza. Selanne has to carry this team by example. I would expect the Duck defense to be solid through out the series, with Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger manning the blue line.

For Ottawa, Ray Emery will be tested and Danny Heatley has to play like he has been in the previous series. For Emery there will be much bigger bodies in front of him, a quicker counter attack, and thunderous shots through traffic from the blue line. Heatley must also continue to be a good two way player for the Senators to have a chance. While the Ducks defense is tough, the Senators are a little smaller back there, and forwards back checking will decide Ottawa's fate.

I predict that the Ottawa Senators will lift the Cup and bring it back to Canada in 6 games.

Anaheim is a big, tough, physical team. But I also think they look for the hit more than the goal. They haven't faced a team this post season that can dish it as good as them, until now. Ottawa has the toughness and the size to play with Anaheim, plus this team is playing the best hockey of anyone who made the playoffs this year. I felt that Detroit's offense turned cold, and Anaheim basically pounded their way to a victory. They will not be able to do that with an Ottawa team that can match them for size and speed. Any way you chop it, I really like Ottawa in this fight.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Conference Finals Recap

Who could've predicted this? Well, not me. If you asked me that it would be Ducks and Senators in the Stanley Cup Finals, I would have said no way! Ray Emery would have to be the best goaltender in their previous series, as would J.S. Giguere. Both teams offenses would have to produce more than they have been. And both teams would have to face strong defensive teams and some all star goaltenders to make it to the end.

I guess all that happened.

Eastern Conference

I predicted, "Sabres in seven" Reality: Wrong! Senators in 5
The Senators did their job a few months earlier. It was a big hit on Chris Drury by Chris Neil. Buffalo just wasn't the same in the post season as they were in the regular season. They lost their swagger, they lost their mojo, they just lost. Ryan Miller was spectacular in net for them, what more could be said. They just stopped shooting the puck, they stop passing, they stopped playing. Now Buffalo faces an uncertain off seas son. The Senators were the better team. This team is playing really good hockey right now thanks to their captain, Daniel Alfredsson. They are back checking and scoring. This could be the year of the Senators.

Western Conference

Red Wings/Ducks
I predicted "Wings in 6 games" Reality: Wrong! Ducks in 6
Just when I was starting to like this team, becoming a closet Wing Nut fan, Detroit just couldn't play that rough style of hockey against the goons themselves play. And of course Giguere picked up his game. The Ducks were all about being the biggest bully on the playground. Detroit just couldn't get their offense to score at key times. The Red Wings had some unfortunate bounces and some untimely give aways, but this has been a much better team in years past. They just couldn't run with the Ducks in the end. Too much size, too much offense.

Ducks and Senators. Predictions coming soon.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Backstrom A Capital

So it's official. Nicklas Backstrom will be in a Capitals uniform for the '07-'08 season. Nick had some time to tour the city, go to a Mystics game and throw the first pitch at a Nationals game. I have lived in this city for years and have only done one of the three above (I have yet to attend a Mystics or a Nationals game).

Wash Post has good coverage of course, and other questions that were just dying to be asked were here.

The many bloggers have coverage of this day, which seems to be a start of a bright future for the Caps. The same could have been said when signing Alex Ovechkin too. Truthfully, I think that Caps fans may be more interested in what the new jerseys look like, than Backstrom's deal.

I did like the simple black tie and suit look (very MIB), although it looked like a kid's suit that Nick has had for a while. I am sure when he cashes his signing bonus check he will get clothes that fit better (OMG, did i just talk about Backstrom's fashion sense! When did I turn into a 17 year old girl? I better text this to my BFF Jill.).

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Sweden-Born Players In Caps Colors

You may have heard of Bengt Gustafsson or Calle Johansson but what about Peter Andersson, Rolf Edberg, Andreas Salomonsson, or even Jonas Johansson. They all have something in common, they have all worn a Capitals sweater and they are all born in Sweden.

The Washington Capitals will hold a press conference on Monday signing Nicklas Backstrom to a three year, entry level contract to play in the NHL. But the Capitals have had many Swedish players of note that have donned the Caps sweater.

Who could not think of Calle Johansson on the Capitals blue line or of Michael Nylander's brief stay, now of recent New York Ranger fame helping the Rangers reach round 2 in the Playoffs this year. And of course Bengt Gustafsson, second only to Calle Johansson in number of games played by Swedish players for the Caps, he was the head coach for Sweden at the World Championships and maybe even convinced the teenager Backstrom to play in the States next year. The Capitals have had some of Sweden’s best play for them.

Then there are less know players like Leif Svensson who played two seasons and recorded 40 assists, or Rolf Edberg who had 103 points in 3 seasons for the Capitals. Many Caps’ fans will know of Josef Boumedienne, with a name like Boumedienne how could you not. But the last Sweden player was a not very well known; Johas Johansson who played one game in the ’05-’06 season.

Some really good Swedish players have gone through the Caps’ clubhouse and that won’t seem to change with Backstrom signing for next year. He is highly touted as the best player to come from Sweden since Peter Forsberg. Some of those reports out of Sweden state that he may even be better. There was concern that Nicklas would stay in Sweden for yet another season.

Swedish Players in a Capitals' Uniform:

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Backstrom's On His Way

Nicklas Backstrom will be a Capital next season. Thankfully. The Caps signed a three year entry level contract with the 19 year old draft pick from a year ago. While the Caps' organization would rather have had the young phenom in the states last season, they will get the center for next. Backstrom will mostly likely spend time with Alex Ovechkin as a set up man.

Backstrom is also coming to league that may see less Swedish players like Peter Forsberg and Mats Sundin who both are mulling over returning to the Sweden to play in the Elite league. No word yet if either will be leaving to play at home.

In the mean time it is good to see the Caps finally getting some help.

Caps' Mike Vogel's story

Sunday, May 13, 2007

O' Canada

Canada romped the Finns 4-2 for gold in the IIHF's World Championship winning their 24th gold medal overall in hockey. It ends two weeks of relatively obscure hockey across the pond in Moscow. Russia holds on to win in the Bronze Medal Game beating Sweden 3-1. If you are wondering how our Capitals did, well wonder no more. I did all the stat digging for you. I am sure the boys over at On Frozen Blog who were there have a better scoop than me.

Alex Ovechkin
Ovie finished with just one goal and two assists. He was a +1, and assessed 29 PIM. Not his best work. He might have been a little shaken up though after a shocking hit on a Swiss player after stepping out of the penalty box. The player hit left the game with a concussion.

Although he didn't have the numbers, he was a very potent offensive threat for Russia. He always seemed to be on the ice for a Russian goal, but also on the ice for goals against Russia. Ovie had 3 points, but 14 other Russian players matched that or were better. The numbers just weren't there for Ovechkin.

Chris Clark
He captained the U.S. squad and had a great start to the tournament, only to lose his scoring touch late in the tournament. Clark finished with 2 goals and one assist. He was USA's grinder in this tournament, always in front of the net and mixing it up along the boards.

The Americans gave a much better performance than in the Olympics in Turin. But their medal hopes were dashed after a shoot out loss against Finland. The Finns went on to beat Russia and lose to Canada in the gold medal game.

Brian Potheir
Not a huge stand out on the American squad, Potheir did make a difference on speeding up the defensemen for this tournament. Potheir never produced any offense other than one assist but while Team USA's defensemen of the past were big bruisers Potheir added speed and offensive threat that the Americans have a hard time producing.

Milan Jurcina
I didn't see a whole lot of Jurcina, but I heard he had quite the tournament. He had a goal and an assist and was a +6. He played well against some top lines and always seemed ready to help produce.

In big game situations, Jurcina responded well. Staying defensively sound and helping his team score in clutch situations. He is certainly coming into his own as a defensemen, and hopefully that can translate into next season rewards.

Nicklas Backstrom (future Capital)
So he is not a Capital yet. And I am not going to count my chickens before they hatch. Backstrom's father promised his boy would be in a Capitals' uniform next season, but other sources say he may stay in Sweden for another year.

That being said, Nick had an okay tournament. Although his team Sweden did not medal, they did play well. Backstrom finished with 1 goal and 5 assists, proving he is a set up man, and most likely will play that role on the Capitals squad. Backstrom held his own against some NHL Caliber teams and his feisty attitude should fit in with a scrapper of a club like the Caps.

All in all it was a pretty good tournament, Canada can breath a collective sigh of relief now that the gold is in their pocket and USA Hockey looks pretty good considering they went with a younger squad. Maybe one of these days they will broadcast the Championships next time here, but don't hold your breath.

By the way, we could be looking at the opening lineup for the '07-'08 season.

Hershey Bears Win, Caps Struggle

After a huge overtime win against the Baby Penguins in W-B, the Hershey Bears are on their way again to an Eastern Conference Final to face either the Providence Bruins or the Manchester Monarchs. It appears the Bears are a tough team to play in the AHL. What's more exciting is this experience should translate to more wins in the NHL.

Just how soon remains to be seen. Capitals fans are turning impatient, the club is losing money and the owner is looking for change not just in jersey color. The Caps could lose a few develop players to trades if they decide the free agent route isn't working. But there has to be a point where the Caps stop trading talent and look towards the future.

What bothers me more than any of that drama is Alex Ovechkin's play of late. We haven't seen those streaks of brilliance we witness in his rookie season. It seems teams have sort of figured Ovie out. And it's just going to get harder.

Ovie only scored one goal and two assists for Team Russia in the IIHF World Championship. Nine other Russians had more points than Alex Ovechkin. If that is his experience in games that have a playoff type atmosphere, the Caps may have more to worry about than finding free agents.

So while Hershey waits for it's next opponents, Caps' fans wait for a team that can pull it together again, for a season like the one in '98.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Bring On The Cup '07 - Fearless Predictions Conf. Finals

This looks familiar, Anaheim and Buffalo both in the Conference Finals for a second year in a row. The two now have the possibility to play in the "what could have been" series from a season ago. But of course the two face some pretty mighty opponents before that ship has sailed.

Eastern Conference

Ottawa Senators at Buffalo Sabres

The Sabres have sort of plodded along this post season. At the beginning of the year they seemed unstoppable. They were run and gun. They enjoyed a speedy game and loved the open ice. The Senators on the other hand were picked apart by free agency over the summer. The looked less like a team that could go to the playoffs, let alone the Eastern Conference Finals. These two have attacked the post season in some pretty different ways. But the result has been the same.

For Buffalo to win, they have to shed this funk they are in. Lindy Ruff has them playing a more defensive role in the post season, and that may play into the hands of a team that has beaten a defensive orientated team. Ottawa just needs to keep its scoring machine oiled and ready to go again. For the goaltenders, this should be the ultimate test. Ray Emery must be solid in the net against one of the most potent offenses in the league. Ryan Miller will have to deal with the most potent offense in the post season.

Sabres wins series in 7 games

Western Conference

Detroit Red Wings at Anaheim Ducks

This is why you get Todd Bertuzzi. This is why you traded your number one draft pick and a rookie for brute strength. To face Anaheim. The Ducks are mean, they are big, they are tough, and they will hurt your line up. Detroit has found their post season offense finally, and aren't afraid to mix it up a little themselves. And Todd Bertuzzi is Detroit's key.

For Anaheim, if it ain't broke, run it in to the boards until some thing does. They have to remain a physical team and wear down Detroit. But beware, go out of you way to knock a block off, and you will be sitting with San Jose and Calgary scratching your head. J.S. Gigere has been okay, this post season. He will have to be spectacular if the Ducks wish to advance. Detroit's game has been simplified. Play tough, go to the net, score. It's worked. Pavel Datsyuk must be a threat again and the Red Wings must stay healthy. Dominik Hasek is Hasek. He is going to let in a couple of softies, but he stays focused, Detroit will be singing a Stanley Cup tune.

Red Wings wins series in 6 games

How's that for a shocker. Anaheim, in my opinion, has face two relative easy teams in the post season. They have yet to face a worthy challenge. The Red Wings will be ready to take them on and test them out. It's a question of who is more battle ready. The Sabres will make their series interesting, maybe dropping a couple key games. But Lindy will be there to set the boys straight. Only one round away from crowning a champ.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Conference Semis Recap

Okay, Detroit is serious. And while the NHL might be disappointed that the Broadway Blue Shirts are out of the playoffs, they have to be excited that Detroit is still there. I am a bit disappointed though than none of this round's series made it to seven games. It seemed that teams that had the opportunity to put their opponent away, they did so.

Western Conference

Sharks/Red Wings
I predicted "San Jose wins in 7 games" - Reality: Way off, Detroit wins in 6
The Red Wings got a little lucky, then they got offense when they needed it. Pavel Datsyuk has no trouble scoring anymore in the playoffs, instead he is blooming in the post season. Another important element that Detroit had over San Jose was the ability to stay healthy. With Todd Bertuzzi hitting everything in sight and Chris Chelios playing like it's the end of his career, this is a very, very dangerous team right now. My Series MVP: Pavel Datsyuk

I predicted "Ducks wins in 6 games" - Reality: A game off, Ducks win in 5
The Vancouver Canucks just didn't have enough offense to match up with Anaheim. Although I was pulling for them, the Canucks could do little against a much bigger tougher team. Roberto Luongo was fantastic in this series, like he was in the series before. They just don't have the tools in front of them to push Vancouver over the edge. My Series MVP: Roberto Luongo

Eastern Conference

I predicted "Buffalo wins in 5 games" - Reality: Sabres win in 6
The Rangers couldn't beat this team if it got into a up-and-down-the-ice shoot out, so the beared down and basically focused on defense. It worked for a couple of games, until game 5. With a tying goal seven seconds left in regulation, and a shocker winner in overtime, the Rangers folded and Buffalo found its scoring touch again. I am surprised that the Rangers got a were even able to win a game, clearly Buffalo was the better team. No matter what Jaromir Jagr says. My Series MVP: Chris Druuuuuuuuuuuury

I predicted "Ottawa wins in 5 games" - Reality: Dead on, Senators win in 5
I always get one prediction head on, and then I feel that I am a big know it all. Ottawa is playing crazy good hockey right now, and wouldn't be surprised if this team has the gumption to go the distance. Although New Jersey was an easy opponent, having no real offensive threat that materialized and a Marty Broduer that looked a little shakey in net. My Series MVP: Daniel Alferdsson

3 out 4, not bad. Now it gets serious, Conference Finals. Who has the right to play for the Cup? Ottawa or Buffalo? Detroit or Anaheim? Fearless Predictions to follow.


  • Buffalo Sabres Fans, who were little on taunting and more on celebrating. There had to be about four thousand tin foil Stanley Cups in the crowd. Not much to do up in Buffalo, I guess.
  • Roberto Loungo, who now has a job in net for Vancouver for years to come. Still a myster or not if there will be a team good enough in front of him to win in the playoffs.
  • The Senators, getting that playoff upset monkey off their back. But now their fans will just want more.


  • Anaheim Camera operators, are you kidding me? It's like sitting through a 5 year old's attempt at finding where's waldo. I was suffering from dementia after watching a game in Anaheim. The worst camera work since NYPD Blue.
  • Sean Avery's comments before the Buffalo series, don't say it unless you mean it, and don't say unless your team is good enough to win. Avery, a Messier you are not.
  • NBC scheduling monster, for making life hard on everyone just because you're NBC. Forcing game changes and trying to make games end on their time. Stay out of it NBC, just broadcast the games.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Which Was Easier?

Anaheim's win over Vancouver or Ottawa's win over New Jersey?

Keep in mind, both the Canucks and the Devils have arguably the best goaltenders in the league. Saying it's tougher to go against either Marty Brodeur or Roberto Louongo is a chintzy way to avoid the answer.

Ottawa's chemistry seems to be reaching a peak at the right time while Anaheim is just overpowering opponents. Could winning early be a bad thing for either one of these teams?

I guess the question could be who was the more pathetic loser, Vancouver or New Jersey?

Personally I believe the Anaheim Ducks had an easier time against the Canucks. Roberto Luongo played his best hockey of the year, but it was the boys in front of him that let him down. Scoring all but disappeared for the the Vancouver squad and a couple of key injuries on the Canuck defense made for an easy Duck victory. Plus, who could defend against the "flying V"?

Ottawa could have easily fallen hard after a hard loss against the Devils in game two. But home ice proved helpful and Ottawa had to break the trap and make the Devils do something they find hard to do this season, score.

In both series, only one game was decided by more than two goals. The rest were one goal games.

Friday, May 04, 2007

USA Earns Respect With Win

Team USA is looking a lot better than a little over a year ago. In Turin Italy, they just couldn't gel, couldn't get going. At the World Championship, it has been a different story. That might be held to the fact that this is a younger and grittier team than during the Olympics. With a win over the Slovaks in the qualifying round, the Americans are showing that they can contend for top spot.

Although Capitals' Cris Clark and Brian Potheir did not contribute, Milan Jurcina did get an assist for the Slovakian team. Phil Kessel did get on the scoreboard for Team USA as did Andrew Hutchinson, Brandon Boschenski and David Backes.

On this continent, Vancouver's season ended strangely after Roberto Luongo broke concentration raising his arm after a heavy Anaheim hit along the boards in second overtime led to a easy Duck tally that ended the series. Anaheim is the first team to survive the Conference Semifinals, finding themselves in the Western Conference Final for a second consecutive year.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Americans Can't Rally - Sans Internet

I broke my internet. So posting will be harder for me to do for the next week or so until they fix it. It kind of a bummer to not be able to check email, post on here, or find out what the heck is going on in Moscow.

Last I heard, Team USA couldn't get past the Czechs, losing 4-3 after a late rally. Details are here.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Insulted French Canadians

Canadian Parliament is at it again. What's the issue? Taxes? Healthcare? Turning water into wine? No. The number one problem on Canadian minds is whether or not Shane Doan should have a "C" on his chest at the IIHF World Championship. This is why no one likes the French Canadians very much.

Apparently Doan said something dumb about the officiating during a Coyotes/Canadiens game, and maybe something about French Canadians. Since the Alberta born forward Doan was named Captain of Team Canada, the Canadian Parliament found it necessary to take up taxpayer time and money to discuss the issue.

Some had cooler heads:
"It's not a government decision," said Secretary of State for Sport Helena Guergis to repeated questions in the House of Commons.

Some are not and speak with a heavy French accent:
"I cannot understand why the government wouldn't put out a single comment to say that this is disrespectful to French Canadians," [Gilles] Duceppe said.

I guess all Canadian teams from now on must clear all player movement through committee. But at least the drugs are cheap. Canada just barely squeezed by Norway, 4-2 yesterday and will be welcoming Dion Phaneuf who will be joining the team shortly.

Soon to be Capital Nick Backstrom scored in the first 28 seconds and Sweden never looked back crushing Latvia 8-2 (he had an assist too). Team USA will play the Czechs to find whose is number one in Group B noon today (Tues. 4/1).