Yo!

This summer I’m looking for a few guest writers. Anyone launching a new hockey blog or with a current one is welcome. Ideally I’m looking for a three to four posts per person between June and September. Any level of hockey, in North America, Europe, or elsewhere. English only, sorry I’d hate to have content on my blog I couldn’t read.

Also:

@DominicTiano does not have enough followers. Fix that.

He’s one of my go to sources for OHL player info and the NHL entry draft, a great follow and unlike someone I could name doesn’t tweet a hundred times a day

Truth #1

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had no business being in the NHL this season.

As everyone with a functioning frontal lobe knew he had the skill to be in the NHL, but not the body. His two separate injuries are ample proof of this. Twenty games missed, and now a  shoulder that is likely to become a recurring injury. What good did his being in the NHL do the Oilers this season? They were still a lottery team. The Oilers burnt a year of his entry level contract to no long term gain for the organization. The development of Magnus Paaravi and other prospects was pushed back as well. Instead of rushing Nugent-Hopkins to the NHL, the Oilers “leadership” should have taken the long view and had him on a strong conditioning stint that would have packed some muscle onto his frame. While no hockey player needs to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger circa 1980,  a lot of winning faceoffs is muscle, and his 37.5% win percentage added to the injuries, and the eyeball test speak volumes.

Truth #2

The on ice #NHLOfficials and Brendan Shanahan’s Department of Player Safety Propaganda have done such a marvelous job over the last seven or eight months that no one knows what a penalty short of the Raffi Torres late-leap-headshot actually is. This is like the courts tossing out every fourth case short of murder and alternating twenty year sentences and community service for all other charges regardless of if they were property damage, manslaughter or jay walking. Most fans, and many players who have played close attention all year long are no closer to a definitive understanding what exactly is a clip, a late hit, or a charge today than in the Campbell era. We have learned however that headshot’s really aren’t a priority. When clipping and boarding calls get harsher suspensions, the handwriting is on the walls and superimposed on the image of every NHL broadcast.

Not that I’m a bitter Bruins fan but I’d like to thank the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins for a memorable night of hockey Saturday that came at the expense of the Washington Capitals.

The baby Pens defeated Washington’s American Hockey League affiliate, the Hershey Bears, in a thrilling series-clinching game 5 at Mohegan Sun Arena in Wikes-Barre, Pa. last night. The Penguins scored two second period goals and survived a furious third period rally by the Bears to win 2-1, and advance to the second round of the AHL’s Calder Cup playoffs.

Last night was quite the experience for this Bruin fan in Penguin territory. Given the circumstances, a winner-takes-the series game 5 between two regional rivals, of course last night was going to be intense.

I’ve attended AHL games in seven cities and there’s no question, Wilkes-Barre has the loudest and most passionate fan base that I’ve encountered. [Insert complaints here.]

For nearly two periods I listened to anxious Pens fans scream and mutter under their breaths and squirm as the first round’s final game inched forward without a goal. It’s cliché but yes, the tension was palpable.

Penguins forward Cal O’Reilly scored at 17:31 of the second and the arena exploded. We were still celebrating when Zach Sill scored a softie seven seconds later on Bears goalie Dany Sabourin, a former Providence Bruin and WBS Penguin who backed up Braden Holtby early in the Bs/Caps series.

Ecstasy.

The Penguins handed out glossy paper (about letter size) that was folded-up like a fan and pounded constantly during the game. The paper was sturdy but many ended up in shreds as Pens fans nervously clutched them, slapped them against seats and the glass and tore them at game’s end.

You want passionate? Their mascot, Tux, sported a black leather vest that looks like something he stole from a Hells Angels biker. Like all good mascots, Tux does his usual zany things but there was almost something menacing in how badly he beat on a stuffed bear and how much the crowd enjoyed it. Tux also wasn’t bashful about driving an off road utility vehicle to center ice between periods and doing a bunch of donuts.

They also pass around a wooden or plastic garbage-can sized Penguin during games, which is an arena tradition that further fires up the crowd.

Surprisingly, the Penguins rank in the bottom third of AHL playoff attendance this year (averaging 3,501 per game compared to a league average of 4,845). It was noticed as there was a three-seat gap between me and a super fan to my left in the lower bowl.

Even with the empty seats, last night was beyond expectation. Loud. Fun even for a diehard Bruins fan. A compelling AHL playoff game.

Watching the Penguins defeat Washington’s AHL affiliate brought a small measure of satisfaction, though I am still stinging from my NHL team’s premature playoff defeat.

Regardless of your rooting interests, if you’re a serious hockey fan and you pass through Pennsylvania, then a stop in Wilkes-Barre is a must.

BIO- Justin Walden blogs about the business of minor league and college hockey at https://shootingfortheshow.wordpress.com. Follow him on Twitter, @justwalden.

Break out the tissues, get ready for a good cry, its time for another Atlantic Division love fest. The kindest crew in the Quaker State are getting ready to embrace their diamond in the rough bosom buddies the New Jersey Devils. To get here both teams had to step over the bodies of foes they slaughtered lovers they loved too much. The Devils took seven games to wine and dine the Florida Panthers into a replete exhaustion.  The Flyers exchanged deep,meaningful glances, enthusiastic embraces and heartfelt conversation with their cross state rivals until the Penguins were only capable of declaring the extent to which the gentle clenches had left them feeling completed by the honest love.

We can only hope this series lives up to the first two. Goaltending is still really a question for both teams. While Brodeur turned in his best goaltending performance in seemingly forever, the Flyers possess a touch more in the way of high end offensive talent than did the Panthers. You also have to remember he’s not getting any younger. Devils fans will hold out hope the .922sv% holds out, but it is above his career average.

Ilya Bryzgalov hopes to be spared bear costumes in the stands and the largely absentee defense that typified the first round series. Working in his favor are three major factors. The first is that in terms of save percentage the first round against the Penguins was his worst as an NHL goaltender.  The second is that while the snipers on the Devils can certainly end a game, including countryman Kovalchuk, the talent isn’t as deep up front for the Devils as for the Penguins. The third is the glaringly obvious fact that the Devils don’t get blind eyes turned to their diving and antics at the same rate as other Atlantic division teams one could name.

Special teams:

  • The Flyers powerplay was completely absurd going 52.2% against the amazing and elite goaltending of Marc-Andre Fleury.
  • The Devils had a merely impressive 20% success rate with the man advantage.
  • On the penalty kill the Flyer’s went 69% and potted three goals while down a man.
  • For the Devils, a 66.7% effective kill was a let down from the regular season.

Don’t expect as high scoring a series as the Philadelphia vs Pittsburgh or as congenial a series as the Devils vs Panthers. Neither teams blueline is stocked with elite talent, on paper the Flyers have most of the advantages except in goal. They split the season series.

The Flyers can’t have a let down from Giroux, and need a lot more from their defense to win this series. The Devils need MB30 to play well the first two tames, and get in the heads of the Flyers, and for Hart Trophy snub Kovalchuk to break out and dominate this round, he didn’t have an awful first round but he’s one of the two or three best skaters left in the playoffs and he needs to show it.

This is going to be a series that comes down to two major elements. The first is going to be the harder to gauge, and that’s coaching. On one side you have the seeming Jack Adams Award winner behind the Blues bench, on the other you have the guy who took an undermanned often dinged up squad and let them to within a win of the division title despite a woeful lack of scoring ability. How these coaches peel through each others systems will be monumental. Ice time, matchups and well timed tantrums will be needed to win this series.

The second element will be on display from puck drop of game one right through to the end of the series. Heart, or will to win. The LA Kings came off a win against arch rivals the Vancouver Canucks where they stuffed a highly potent offense into a locker filled with old jock straps and three year old lunches. They know what good offense looks like, they know how to break it’s spirit. They haven’t been to the second round in a long time and you have to wonder if there will be any let down for them.

The St Louis Blues got to the second dance of the playoffs simply by being a better team. They have also spent the bulk of the year, and certainly the first round with the best goaltending at hand. That may not be true in this round. Quick has to be the considered the front runner for the starting job in the Russian Olympics and has put together a simply phenomenal campaign this season. The regular season tale of the tape also gives the nod in special teams to the LA Kings in both categories. What they do have is more offensive depth, if with less bonafied offensive studs.

Leaving off the goaltenders who shouldn’t have to be mentioned or even introduced, the key players for each side will need to stand up and be counted. For the Blues, Andy McDonald will need to continue his first round wizardry, Norris nomination snub Alex Pietrangelo will need to be the best defensemen on either team. The LA Kings will need bigger contributions from Jeff Carter up front and Rob Scuderi will need to recapture the magic he had in the Pittsburgh Penguins run to the Cup a few years back and hope he can share some with Drew Doughty. If ever there was a series with the potential to go seven games with seven goals, this could be it. Don’t for a second believe that if that happens it won’t still be one hard hitting, close checking, series with spectacular saves happening every other shift.

Two old familiar foes square off for a slot in the eastern conference finals, and bragging rights. Never forget the bragging rights. The two teams are pretty similar, both have coaches with a rather pugnacious and bellicose attitude. Both have top forwards who were next to invisible in the first round, both have failed to capture a Stanley Cup in recent years.

The Rangers again draw a team that had their number in the regular season. They will need Henrik Lundqvist to continue the best post season of his career. The will also need Brandon Dubinsky to come out of his season long funk. Having Gaborik stand up and be counted, and Hagelin avoid getting suspended would be really nice too.

The Capitals come off a series win against an injured, depleted, and under-motivated team to go face a team that consistently stifled opponents all season long. They will be facing better goaltending, better defensive depth, harder hitting players, larger forwards and a team desperate for attention. They need to do everything possible to protect Holtby if they want the series to see five games. Key components Semin, Johansson and Wideman will need to be better defensively.

In the regular season the Rangers had a slight edge in total goals, while the Capitals had the edge 5on5. Defensively the Capitals gave up about half a goal more per game over the first 82, the Rangers had the better penalty kill, and the Capitals claimed the better powerplay.

Goaltending wins championships.  Both teams have championship worthy goaltenders this season. The difference will come from the rosters between the masked men in this matchup. The two teams are quite similar. Both are built from the back out with the blueline and net minders making up the highest profile players. No one should expect this series to end early.

The Coyotes find themselves in highly unfamiliar territory. Not just in the second round for the first time since the franchise made tracks out of the great white north. But they are hosting a playoff series for the second time. While doubting the nerve of Doan is probably not the smartest bet, you have to wonder if the pressure will begin telling on young gun Oliver Ekman-Larsson, or if Mike Smith’s phenomenal run will come to an end.

The Nashville Predators revamped their lineup and altered their team chemistry hugely around the deadline. They brought back a KHL escape artist, a well traveled defensive guru, and the brother of a player. They had a stumble or two, but managed to finish off the shaky road warrior Red Wings. The Predators hope Gabriel Bourque can continue making hunting down goals, but will need Erat and Fisher to not merely step onto the ice but take it.

The Predators have a bit more depth, but the two teams finished very close in goal differential on the season with the Coyotes getting the nod although both special teams categories belong to the Predators.  Fun series in the offing.

 

10: They wouldn’t like”overhyped” stars like Crosby or Ovechkin on their team.

9: As many teams are actually losing money as the media reports.

8: Ovechkin was in good shape at any point this season.

7: All fans from any city are X.

6.87 (Well except Pittsburgh they are all whiny pinkhats with no real knowledge of the sport.)

6: Tony Marinaro, Damon Cox, Kevin Paul Dupont, Tony Gallagher, Adam Proteau, I mean seriously these guys would have you believe that this:

is worse than this:

or this:

and that the NHL is “going backwards” in protecting players.
5: That the NHL is cracking down on head shots because they think its anything other than a way to stave off player lawsuits just like what’s happening in the NFL.
4: That Hart Trophy is a scoring award.
3: That a guy with one of the highest offensive zone starts in the NHL should even be nominated for the Norris,

2: That guys like Subban and Simmonds get booed mostly for being black and not because they are occasionally dicks and playing in the wrong jersey.

1: That the NHL conspires to promote any team, after all a conspiracy needs intelligence, consistency, and believability.

 

 

I’m a little confused. None of these fans picked out of the pictures I took at camp last fall, and at the parade in about 45 seconds seem harried or worried. I’ve been going to Bruins games since before Roltson’s first stop in the Hub and never encountered a single problem. Not at games. Not at bars in the area. Not on the T before or after games. Not even from the always charming visiting fans from Montreal and Philadelphia. Was something inappropriate said? Possible, how many of those were real fans of the team or even people who live in the area? How many of those social media accounts were created by other fan bases specifically to stir up trouble? Non story, move on.