Tag Archives: nhl playoffs

Bruins Fans Go Too Far

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I am a black man. I love hockey. I hate the Bruins and the Capitals for different hockey reasons.

I hate the Bruins because I’m a New Yorker and hate anything Boston. I hate the Caps because they’ve bounced my Rangers in the last 2 years that they’ve played in the playoffs.

I don’t hate anyone person on each team. Sure I call Alex Ovechkin names, don’t like Tim Thomas for not seeing president Barack Obama and I think Caps fans are bums but that’s just me being a fan.

The reason for this politically correct explanation of my hockey allegiances is because after last nights racist twitter bashing of Capitals forward Joel Ward I feel like fans need to get a grip on reality.

In case you missed it Ward beat Boston with a rebound putback in overtime to lift the Caps to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Almost immeadiately after scoring his winning goal angry Bruins fans took to twitter to bash Ward and mainly used his skin color as a target.

The word nigger was spewed in more tweets than I would like to remember and once again put Boston’s race relations in a bad light.

Boston has long had a reputation of racism towards black athletes and last night Bruins fans did there best in bringing them back to life.

The tweets were a reminder of just how stupid something like racism is and how even more stupid it is in 2012 in Boston where it’s most notable athletes are Paul Pierce, David Ortiz and has hailed guys like Deion Branch and Pedro Martinez in the past, all of whom are dark skinned.

I understand the anger associated with watching your team lose in the playoffs. Last year I blasted any Caps fan I saw for not being real hockey fans and for the Caps being lucky.

But it’s a game. What do you get for taking your frustration out on a guy who was just doing his job and scored the biggest goal of his life?

Furthermore why is his race such a big deal?

What’s the satisfaction gained from sitting in front of your computer and calling Joel Ward the N bomb on twitter, Facebook or any other social network?

It’s degrading, despicable and gives hockey another unnecessary black eye.

Hockey has had the worst race relations due to its lack of ethnicity and much ballyhooed moments of ignorance (yeah I mean you the guy who threw a banana at Wayne Simmonds in London, Ontario back in October). I know hockey isn’t the only place where incidents involving race happens (go to a Utah Jazz game in the NBA and see for yourself) but because of its demographic and history it’s always magnified when things like this happens.

In the heat of the moment as fans we all lose our cool, but to degrade another man because of his skin and ethnicity is unacceptable and intolerable.

I hope that the people who wrote those things take a step back and realize how awful it was to put those things out to the public and do their best to not do it again.

Does it anger me as a black man? Yes it does. But it won’t deter me from watching a sport I love and follow immensely.

I’m a huge hockey fan and will continue to be one. Incidents like these are not reflective of the league. I know how great a sport it is for all cultures that participate in it and hope that people find different avenues to express their frustration.

I also hope that if the Caps play the Rangers again that we kick their tails up and down the ice and get revenge for our last two oustings.

It should be hatred of team in sports not hatred of race.


The NHL Playoffs Are Out Of Control

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Playoff time in the NHL is the greatest time of year in any sport.

The action gets so jacked up and intense that you would think that games 1-7 are life or death. Year after year players leave everything on the ice whether you are an 8 seed or a 1 seed in the name of Lord Stanley.

Injuries don’t matter, hits are harder, everyone gets in the way of slap shots… it’s a daily spectacle that leaves you on the edge of seat and wincing at every bone-crushing check and unbelievable save.

You know this going into the playoffs and you adjust accordingly as a player and as a fan… However, this year’s playoffs?

Man, no one was ready for this.

Virtually every series except New Jersey vs. Florida has been hate-filled and angry.

St. Louis hates San Jose, Ottawa wants revenge against New York, Phoenix and Chicago have traded blows… Then there’s been the Philly and Pittsburgh series, where do we begin there?

These playoffs are on steroids, everyone’s angry at everyone, violence has been kicked up several notches and Brendad Shanahan hasn’t had much time to make a sandwich because he’s too busy looking over tape of reckless hits.

What the hell is going on?

In the first round of this year’s playoffs there have been more match penalties, more suspensions and more game misconducts than in years past… AND THE PLAYOFFS ARE ONLY A WEEK OLD!!

Look at these occurances and consequences:

Shea Weber fined $2500 for throwing Henrik Zetterberg’s head into the boards

Carl Hagelin suspended three games for elbowing Daniel Alfredsson in the head an giving him a concussion

Aaron Asham suspended four games for trying to decapitate Braydon Schenn

Nicklas Backstrom suspended one game for cross checking Rich Peverly in the head

Michael Shaw suspended three games for knocking goalie Mike Smith in the head

James Neal suspended one game for blindsiding Claude Giroux

Raffi Torres suspended indefinitely for concussing Marian Hossa…

And let me reiterate that the playoffs are only a week old.

I know that hockey is a violent sport and stuff like this happens, but not as frequent as this.

There has been more goonery than actually hockey it would seem to the casual hockey fan. In an interview Dan Boyle said that it seems like guys are just trying to start stuff on the ice. Jonathan Toews doesn’t know what to expect right now… Both guys aren’t alone in their feelings.

At first I was loving the hate being spread around the playoffs. It felt like old time hockey and was great for the game. Now it’s getting out of hand.

The Torres hit should be the last draw for Shanahan and the front offices in the league. They have to start hammering guys with longer suspensions to get their points across.

Shanahan has been criticized for being to lenient on more skilled players like Weber and Backstrom and hammering guys like Asham and Hagelin who are either too young or not as skilled.

He’s got to make things fair across the board. Like Colin Campbell did to Matt Cooke last year Shanahan has to start doing to these players.

Hockey is a self policing game, however when there needs to be stiffer policing from suits in the offices.

Shanahan has to suspend Torres for the rest of the playoffs and encourage referees to get tougher on the ice. Referees have to call these games tighter, which means more penalties and control these games before they continue to get out of hand.

Games like Sundays Flyers-Pens free for all are great once in a while but they’re happening every night in the playoffs. The league has to get this over excessive play under control before someone gets really injured out there.

The over aggressiveness has taken away from some great hockey as well. Jonathan Quick has been putting on a show in the Kings-Canucks series, the Predators-Red Wings matchup has been great with Pekka Rinne dominating the action and game 3 of the Rangers-Senators series was non stop up and down hockey with great goaltending from both teams.

The playoffs have been their normal unbeatable selves, however the action has to be placed back on the skillful play and not on the over excessive violence that has stolen the headlines.

I’m all for a few fights and scrums but this has been ridiculous.

Hopefully we can get back to the great hockey that’s been played so far and not have anymore Marian Hossa incidents.


Sharks Need To Match Eager

Ben Eager's antics were part of the reason the Sharks lost last night. But his ferocity needs to matched by his teammates.

Ben Eager was a maniac last night. He ran Daniel Sedin head first into the boards, he took more bad penalties than I can count on one hand, his yelled at the Vancouver Canucks bench, scored a goal and cursed out Roberto Luongo (by the way the Sharks were down 7-2 at that point) and start a brawl at the end of the game.

Overall Eager tallied 5 minor penalties, a game misconduct, did more harm than good for his team and for the most part looked like an idiot doing it…

And the rest of the San Jose Sharks need to get mean and angry like Eager if they want to come close to winning this series.

True, I didn’t like Eager’s antics one bit, however at least he showed some sort of caring on the ice last night while the rest of his teammates let the Canucks tap dance on their heads without any recourse. After a dead even first period Vancouver mauled San Jose over the last two periods.

The Canucks out shot them 25-18 outscored them 5-0 and forced six penalties that led to two power play goals and kept the Sharks on their heels for the rest of the night. What was worse was how the Sharks defense played. They were routinely out of position and the let Canuck forwards do whatever they wanted.

On Daniel Sedin’s goal that made it 5-2, he, brother Henrik and Alex Edler basically skated untouched in a 3-man weave behind the net while the Sharks defenders stood there and watched until Daniel Sedin knocked home a rebound from Henrik. The last two goals were virtual untested one-timers where Aaron Rome and Mason Raymond got open and had clear shots while San Jose’s defense was either shielding Antti Niemi or four feet away from the puck. It was embarrassing.

Antti Niemi would love some help right now.

In essence the Sharks are playing right into Vancouver’s hands with their style of play. The Canucks are a finesse team that relies on their forwards to handle the bulk of the work and always push the puck. The Sharks are the way except I think that it’s safe to say that Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton and Logan Couture are not the Sedin twins and Ryan Kesler.

What the Sharks have to do is get physical. They have to disrupt the Canucks offensive flow and knock around their top two lines. Ryan Clowe and Eager have to bruise these guys up if the Sharks want to advance to the Cup finals. As good as their offense is they cannot keep up with the Canucks and have to slow them down. That also means Dan Boyle, Ian White and company have to play better in front of Antti Niemi and keep pucks from going by them.

If not then the Sharks will be going home in four again just like last year.

(Not that it would surprise me at all. I told you that I never have and never will trust the Sharks in the playoffs until they actual win in a convincing and emphatic manner in the way that this team is built. It makes no sense that a team with this much offense, a good defense and good goaltending gets killed in the playoffs year after year.

Is it Todd McClellan? Do they need different pieces? Maybe they need to get tougher, add more physical pieces, more mentally tough players… something, anything, because I think I speak for most of the hockey fans in Northern California that this is starting to get old and something has to change and change quickly.)

Even though I think Ben Eager’s antics last night went beyond the antics of the average NHL goon, I think that the San Jose Sharks need to channel some of that anger and get tough to find a way back into this series. The Sharks are facing another disappointing ending to their season and with the way things are going it will end very soon.

Maybe that’s why Eager was so volatile, he sees it coming and wants to stop it at all costs.


World, Tyler Seguin. Tyler Seguin, World.

Tyler Seguin made his presence known in game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Meet Tyler Seguin. He was the second pick in the 2010 NHL Draft. He was thoroughly considered to be the possible number one overall pick ahead of Edmonton Oiler standout Taylor Hall. He was the main compensation in a trade that occurred with the Toronto Maple Leafs for Phil Kessel.

His first season was one filled with the pains that occur for every young player that enters professional sports. He struggled down along the boards and seemed to fear more physical competition. Critics labeled him cocky and their criticism was warranted as Seguin registered only one point in his last 23. His lack of physicality and experience and obvious youth concerns were reasons as to why the Bruins sat him down throughout the first two rounds of the playoffs. The last thing they needed was a young kid who wasn’t ready to contribute to a team that was making a run at the Stanley Cup.

Once the postseason started Boston’s offense struggled, mightily. In their series win versus Montreal, Boston went 0-28 on the power play. Yes that’s 0-28.  Even in their beat down of Philadelphia in round two, the power play was still brutal.

Then came a break both for Seguin and funny enough for the Bruins. Patrice Bergeron, who suffered a concussion versus the Flyers, was scratched for the first two games of this series. It was a huge loss because Bergeron was leading the B’s in scoring and was the main set up guy for players like Nathan Horton and Michael Ryder.

Enter Seguin who hadn’t played since the last game of the regular season, but came prepared with a fully-grown beard as if he was a ten-year vet rather than a 19-year-old kid. In a game 1 beat down at the hands of Tampa Bay, Seguin was the lone bright spot with two points including his first career playoff goal. He had the most energy of any Bruin on the ice and seemed unfazed by the moment.

Good for him, because game 2 was all about him.

With 4 points in game 2, Seguin has a reason to feel himself.

After Tampa took a 2-1 lead into the second period, Seguin went to work and showed all of us why he has a reason to be as cocky as scouts say he is. 48 seconds into the period Seguin beat Dwayne Roloson with a beautiful backhanded breakaway to tie the score and begin a huge period for the B’s.

After David Krejci put the Bruins up 3-2 Seguin took a set up from Horton and blasted past Roloson to put Boston up by 2. Then Seguin helped the power play finally get going by setting up Ryder for a 5-3 lead and then again to put Boston up 6-3.

To summarize: 5 goals for Boston, 4 points for Seguin and too big a hole for Tampa to climb out of. As Fabolous would say “NIIIIIIICCCEE!” Seguin showed poise, confidence and a sense of toughness the Boston was surely missing from their game 1 defeat. He was the best player on the ice in this game and had the best playoff performance thus far of any skater. Seguin’s breakout is huge for him as a player and for the Bruins who needed another scorer with Bergeron down and Milan Lucic struggling without any sign of relief.

For his efforts Seguin is now penciled in for game 3 in Tampa and possible for the rest of the series as Bergeron tries to come back from his concussion, and because the kid is a beast.

The same critics who said he was too cocky for his own good are now wondering where the hell Seguin has been and why hasn’t Boston been utilizing him? He’s being compared to Steven Stamkos, who coincidentally is Tampa’s number one goal scorer. They’re saying Seguin skates like Steve Yzerman and has a chance to be great player in the league in the near future, maybe better than Hall.

It’s funny because a week ago everyone had forgot about Seguin and didn’t know where he was.

Now you know, and you’ll be seeing more of him now and in the future.


And We’ve Only Just Begun

Alex Burrows series winner was one of the great moments from the first round of the NBA and NHL playoffs.

The first round of the playoffs are never interesting. There are your 1 versus 8 matchups that are usually over in a week, a slightly more interesting 2 vs. 7, a deceptively tough 3 vs. 6 matchup and the 4 vs. 5 is always the most evenly matched series but can swing either way.

All of the series normally run too long and in the past I’ve complained about how the playoffs need to be shortened. After the last two weeks, I’ve changed my mind at least for one year.

The NHL and NBA playoffs first round action was so compelling that it was hard to keep up with every series even though I tried my hardest. If Alex Semin wasn’t scoring in overtime to save the Capitals in game 1 versus the Rangers it was Derrick Rose carrying a sloth-like Bulls team to a come from behind victory against Indiana. If Chris Paul didn’t have a throwback game 1 against the Lakers, then Teemu Selanne looked a 24 year old instead of a 40 year old versus Nashville.

There were so many ridiculous occurrences that it made my head spin. Here I am at Eddie George’s trying to watch the Yankees-Orioles game and Lou Williams and Jrue Holiday are knocking down huge threes to keep the 76ers alive versus Miami, and as soon as I turn my head Daniel Briere and Ville Leino are forcing a game 7 versus Buffalo after scoring late goals to keep the Flyers alive.

It’s like the NHL and NBA are trying to one up each other… I like it.

Think about each series for a minute. Let’s subtract the Red Wings-Coyotes series and the Orlando-Atlanta series because Detroit dominated the Coyotes and no one cares about either Orlando or Atlanta.

After this first round exit, Dwight Howard's future in Orlando is now in question.

(Actually I lied. There is an interesting dynamic from the Orlando series; Dwight Howard won’t be playing for the Magic much longer. I can’t envision him staying with a team with no backup big man; a roster of shook players and no real consistent shooters around him. This series loss was almost the last draw for Dwight because when he played well he lost and when he played terrible the magic won, which I can’t understand at all. Dwight is probably sick of being in Orlando and hearing Stan Van Gundy in ear every two seconds and being ripped by everyone for not exceeding his talent level. Picture Dwight in L.A. or New York or maybe even Boston in a year or two. Yikes.)

Starting in both Eastern Conference matchups, The Bulls-Indiana series should’ve been a washout. Instead Darren Collison and company put heavy pressure on the Bulls for 4 of the 5 games and could’ve easily won the series as they lost it.

Why didn’t they? Derrick Rose.

To hell with PER rating and things like that, Rose was the best player on the floor at all times and packed the Bulls on his back leading them to victory in the first three games of the series. His acrobatics and constant driving to the hole was amazing. He was undaunted, vicious and would not lose. If you had doubts on the MVP then you didn’t after this series.

Miami versus Philly was mostly a wash except for game 4 when Philly had one last gasp and the Wells Fargo Arena went nuts thanks to Williams and Holiday’s heroics… and LeBron’s inability to close again.

LeBron James could’ve easily beaten the 76ers with a drive to the rim late in the game, but he stopped short, threw up a bad shot and Philly escaped. Thanks for the new material LeBron. We’ll be watching you closely throughout the playoffs again. And I have a feeling that you might be screwing up again.

The Celtics-Knicks series should’ve gone 7 games, if: Amar’e Stoudemire got the ball in the last 5 minutes of game 1, Carmelo Anthony got any help in game 2, and if the Knicks had any reliable players besides those two at all.

Truth be told the Celtics were only impressive in game 3 when they crushed the Knicks at The Garden. However, in the other 3 games they looked terrible. Sure the Big 4 lead them to victory by taking turns in handling the majority of the scoring, but they cant come out cold like they did in games 1 & 2 and they cant give up a huge lead like they did in game 4. If they do then Miami will eat them for lunch, unless LeBron has the ball late.

Derrick Rose's acrobatics put the Bulls in the second round of the playoffs.

In the NHL the Caps-Rangers series could’ve went both ways. The Rangers could’ve won games 1 & 4 if not for a late goal by Alex Ovechkin in a hard-fought game 1 and if they didn’t choke away game 4.

The Caps fans had to be thinking “here we go again” as the third period of game 4 started and they were down 3-0. Another Washington collapse after they had an early 2-0 series lead had to be in the back of their minds . Then Alex Semin and Marcus Johansson led a charge that sent the game into overtime where Jason Chimera effectively ended the series with a fluke goal that gave them a 4-3 win.

Instead of concerns of another early exit, the caps pulled it together and won the series in 5.

The Sabres and Flyers series was fun and head scratching at the same time. The Sabres chased a Flyers goalie in 3 of the games in the series, had a 3-1 lead in game 6 at home and had the series in their hand… and lost.

Philly’s goaltending has been bad since Bernie Parent retires it seems, but in this series it was a cluster****. If not for Daniel Briere’s timely offense and Ryan Miller’s ineffectiveness in net for Buffalo then the Flyers would’ve been toast. Instead they move on and Buffalo has another postseason horror story.

Speaking of fans saying “Oh no not again” how do you think Boston Bruins fans felt after losing the first two games of their series at home after the playoff collapse to the Flyers last year?

Boston showed incredible resilience by taking the next two games in Montreal before winning a pair of overtime games at home, including a raucous game 7, to win the series.

It was a classic rivalry that seesawed between both sides and was a thrill to watch (even though the Spurs were clinging to their lives versus Memphis. More on that later.)

Finally Tampa Bay continued its revival of a season by coming back from 3-1 down to Pittsburgh to win in 7 games.

First off this wasn’t a collapse. The fact that Pittsburgh was almost in the second round without Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin is a shock to me. What else was a shock was how dominant Tampa looked in games 5,6 & 7.

Nathan Horton and the B's finally got rid of the Habs.

They were a different team from the first 4 games. They were flying around without a care and just took it to the Penguins. Steven Stamkos and company looked like a Stanley Cup contender than a team in the middle of a grand rebuilding plan that took a huge leap this year. There 1-0 game 7 victory was even more impressive because of their defensive play that they hadn’t had all year.  Are they for real? Maybe, but it’ll be fun to watch it play out.

(Ok, halftime. I told you these playoffs were nuts. And we’re not even into the West yet. Ready and break.)

Now the Western Conference where arguably the best series in each sport took place.

The Thunder vs. Nuggets was interesting for one reason and one reason only, the possible alpha-dog fight between Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant.

Let’s be clear about this… THE OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER ARE KEVIN DURANT’S TEAM PERIOD!

Yet in game 4 Westbrook took it upon himself to take every big shot when the game got down to the wire and he also made every big mistake. It was like watching a train wreck. Westbrook chucking up bad shot after bad shot while Durant just stood there calling for the ball and not getting it.

In the end the Thunder lost and Westbrook took 30 shots to Durant’s 18. Scott Brooks probably wanted to ether Westbrook on the spot.

Sad part is that it was in the process of happening again in game 5. Westbrook was making more bad plays late in the game and was putting the Thunder behind the eight ball again. Then Durant said enough.

With the Thunder down 9 with 4 minutes left, Durant hadn’t yet scored in the quarter. Once he got the ball that changed. In an instant the lead for Denver went from 9 to 7 to 5 to 3 to 1 and then OKC was up. Durant had a Jordan blackout moment. No one could stop him at all. He drove to the lane, hit from three, from 18 feet, hit floaters, right-handed and left-handed. He was unstoppable and led the Thunder to victory.

I run OKC... got it?

Hopefully Westbrook learned his lesson but I don’t know. This is going interesting to watch over the next few weeks.

Dallas had a message for everyone that picked Portland in their series, kick rocks, barefoot.

Despite Brandon Roy’s heroics in two wild games in Portland, Dirk Nowitzki guided Dallas to Victory in a series that no one had them picked to win. At this point in his tenure in Dallas the Mavs are more than ever Dirk Nowitzki and a bunch of parts. His 28 a game and 33 in the clincher paced the Mavs and his cool demeanor weathered any storm that Portland gathered up for Dallas and led them to an impressive series win.

The Lakers-Hornets series was a throwback series. We saw glimpses of the greatness of Chris Paul’s past with his 33/17 performance, we saw how Andrew Bynum can alter the play of any game when he’s healthy, and we saw Kobe go HAM with a dunk over Emeka Okafor that brought us back to when Kobe had all of his hops 5 years ago.

It also showed that the team to beat is still the L.A. Lakers. Despite the problems of game 1 the Lakers dominated 4 of the next 5 with their size and defense even without a dominant offensive output from Kobe or anyone. The West is still theirs especially now that…

…San Antonio is gone thanks to the 8th seeded Memphis Grizzlies. How great was this series as a fan?

Memphis didn’t even have Rudy Gay, arguably their best player, and still mashed on San Antonio like they were ants. Zach Randolph has gone from an NBA outcast to the leader of a team of young lions that are making lots of noise and looking for respect.

The Grizzlies were animals in this series. Tony Allen brought some of that Boston toughness out, Mike Conley looked like an all world point guard and Marc Gasol looked like the Gasol that plays in L.A. only a lot tougher.

Zach Randolph and The Grizzlies are having a good time in these playoffs

They pounded the smaller and older Spurs and except for an aberration of game 5 where Gary Neal hit a game tying 3 with no time left, the Grizzlies were the better team all series long.

As great as the Grizzlies and their crowd were, you have to wonder about the future of the Spurs.

This has to be the end of a great run form one the leagues best franchises of the last 12 years. Tim Duncan is getting older, Manu Ginobli is breaking down and the Spurs have no real front line depth to battle with any team in the Western Conference. This might have been the last of the Spurs dynasty and if so then the shift of power in the Western Conference has already begun to shift.

As we shift to the NHL and the Nashville and Anaheim series there were three things about this series I hated. 1. I was thinking that these two would meet in the West Finals because no one team could stop the Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan and Ryan Getzlaf line, 2. Because no one was going to score on Pekka Rinne and 3. Because they were the two hottest teams going into the playoffs.

And of course I loved the series, well, except Bobby Ryan trying cut someone’s foot in half with his skate.

It was a seesaw battle that showed the each team’s strength at its best form, and that every game was intriguing.

The MVP’s of the series were Jordin Tootoo for the Preds who was a monster by setting up the game-winning goals in games 5 & 6 and by just being a pest and getting under Anaheim’s skin all series long, and Teemu Selanne who scored 6 goals and kept Anaheim in each game if the series… and he’s 40.

(Side note: people think I’m crazy for picking Nashville to go to the Stanley Cup Finals but why not? They have arguably the best goaltender in the playoffs in Rinne, the best defense lead by Shea Weber, and even though they don’t score a lot of goals they score them when they need to. I’ve seen weirder things happen, but a hockey team from Nashville in the Stanley Cup Finals? It could happen.)

The Predators in the Finals... why not?

If you want another reason as to why I still will never pick the San Jose Sharks to win a Stanley Cup then look at their series versus the L.A. Kings:

Game 1: back and forth battle between two very good teams ending with Joe Pavelski winning the game for the Sharks in OT.

Game 2: L.A. embarrasses them 4-0. Unacceptable.

Game 3: L.A. jumps out to another 4-0 lead, Antti Niemi gets pulled, L.A. has the win in the bag and somehow San Jose ties it at 5 at the end of the second period and win 6-5 in OT. Gutsy but still, how do give up 8 straight goals in the playoffs?

Game 4: they dominate the Kings and roll 6-3. Impressive.

Game 5: Kings jump out to a 3-0 lead in the first period on the road and win 3-1. Terrible.

Game 6: The Sharks overcome a raucous crowd and another OT to win in L.A. and clinch the series.

You call them gutsy I call them soft. Until the Sharks consistently beat teams in the manner that they should I will not take them seriously as a Cup contender. Period.

But none of these series NHL or NBA matched the Vancouver Canucks-Chicago Blackhawks. Vancouver was the leagues best team in the regular season with the leagues top offense and was a favorite to win the Stanley Cup. However in the last two postseason’s the Blackhawks owned them in the playoffs.

This was Vancouver’s main nemesis, the number one roadblock to the Cup even though it was a first round matchup. The Canucks had to slay this dragon to reach its destination and through three games it looked like it was easy as 1,2,3.

Then game 4 happened, 7-2 Blackhawks. Ok no problem. They don’t want to lose at home, sort of a last gasp effort no biggie. Then game 5 happened, 5-0 Hawks… in Vancouver. Uh-oh.

Panic spread, Alain Vineault sat Roberto Luongo for game 6 in Chicago, which was the biggest knee jerk reaction I had ever seen a coach make to two bad losses. I mean the guy won you 38 games during the season, why pull him just because of two games?

Game 6 was played on pins and needled by the Canucks. Sure they led 2-1 and 3-2 but they looked tense all game long. It seemed like the pressure to close out was getting to them. Then when Cory Schneider injured his groin during Michael Frolik’s game-tying penalty shot things got real tense. Luongo came in and did a decent job in relief… until overtime when he allowed Ben Smith to grab a rebound off of a Marian Hossa shot to send the series to a game 7.

Put Vancouver on a suicide watch at that point.

Vancouver-Chicago might’ve been the greatest game 7 in the early stage of the playoffs ever. It was fast paced throughout with Luongo (hey! He’s starting again) and Blackhawks rookie Corey Crawford standing on their head throughout the game. The series looked like it was in the bag for Vancouver as Duncan Keith hooked Alex Burrows for a power play that was surely then end of Chicago’s season. Until Hossa had another shot at Luongo that just missed, but it came right to Jonathan Toews who had a Canuck on his back while he was falling down, and he still put it past Luongo to tie the game.

I still dont believe in San Jose, no matter how mentally tough Joe Thornton and company seem.

Rogers Arena was ghostly quiet. I mean like someone died quiet.

Another overtime, more anxiety and the possibility for more heartbreak. When Burrows took a penalty for holding Keith you could see the Canucks fans beside themselves. Could it really end like this? Could we really lose to this team again and in this manner? Burrows himself must’ve been losing his mind in the penalty box. When that penalty ended you could hear a collective sigh of relief from the 20,000 in attendance.

Two minutes later you could hear joy from those same fans. When Chicago’s Chris Campoli tried to clear the puck form his zone, Burrows pounced on it, moved in and fired a rocket past Crawford that gave Vancouver a 2-1 win and sent Rogers Arena into a frenzy.

The Canucks mobbed Burrows and it looked like they won the Stanley Cup. The demons were gone, the suicide watch was over, Vancouver had finally beaten Chicago.

What a series, what a first round. Can it get any better than this? Can Dallas-L.A., Miami-Boston, Boston-Philadelphia and Detroit-San Jose match the craziness of what we saw in the last two weeks of April?

Hopefully so. As great as round one was, I have a feeling that we haven’t seen the best that these playoffs have to offer just yet.


Ryan Miller Has To Step It Up For The Sabres

Ryan Miller's performance yesterday overshadowed Philadelphia's own goaltending problems.

Ok, so the Philadelphia Flyers goaltending has been terrible for the last 5 of the 6 games in this series versus the Buffalo Sabres (okay it’s been bad for the last 16 years. Sorry, but I was trying to think in terms of this series.). Whether it’s Sergei Bobrovski, Brian Boucher or Michael Leighton the Flyers have allowed the Sabres to score some ridiculously bad goals and because of that the series will enter a game 7 on Tuesday night.

However, as bad as the Flyers have been Ryan Miller has been the most disappointing goaltender in this series.

Now you’re probably saying um, Kevin… he has two shut outs in the series. Well to you I say I know and thank you for such an astute observation. However, have you also not seen him allow 4 goals in the series 3 times, almost give back game 5 after the Sabres jumped out to a 3-0 lead and watch him not control any of the rebounds that led to 3 of the Flyers goals last night?

In his defense, Tyler Myers and the Sabres defense did little to nothing to help clear the front of the net for Miller and it led to 2 goals that Miller just couldn’t see.

With that said, Miller’s performance in this series has not been indicative of who he is a goaltender and it’s the reason why the Sabres are going back to Philadelphia for game 7 instead of getting ready for the Capitals.

Miller has looked skittish at time in the series, even scared. There were times yesterday when he looked like he didn’t want to be on the ice at all. This is not the same goalie that carried Team USA to the Gold Medal Game last February, or the one that carried the Sabres to the playoffs at the end of the regular season.

Miller has allowed too many rebounds to get by him in this series.

One cause for his off and on play this series could be that he’s still feeling the effects of an injury that he suffered against the Maple Leafs in late March.

Miller took a puck off of his chest and mask and missed the rest of the regular season to recover from what may have been a concussion. Yet in game 1 he was ready to go and showed no effects… until these last 5 games.

He’s been in position for most of the Flyers goals but just hasn’t made the plays to stop them from scoring. Danny Briere has scored 4 goals in the series all off of rebounds that Miller couldn’t control. Guys like Claude Giroux have taken clear view shots that haven’t too hard to stop, but Miller has let them through.

As bad as the Sabres goals have been that the Flyers have allowed Miller has allowed some that have been just as questionable.

So would I pull Miller at this point? No I wouldn’t because he’s the guy that got you here and why put a little used backup like Jonas Enroth in net, which would put doubt in your starter (hi, Alain Vigneault)?

But I would be concerned. If Miller isn’t on his game for game 7 then the Sabres are done. Sure Myers and the defense have to play better and Thomas Vanek has to keep up his scoring output that he’s done over the course of this series, but this team falls if Miller isn’t the Vezina winning goalie that he has been.

So while the Flyers goaltending remains an issue going into tomorrow, don’t think that the Sabres shouldn’t be concerned about theirs either.


The Rangers And Knicks Are Killing Themselves

Henrik Lundquist cant believe how these playoffs have played out so far for the Rangers

Jared Jeffries’s turnover, Marian Gaborik’s tip away, Ray Allen’s three, Alex Semin’s Goal, two blown halftime leads, two blown leads late in the third period… the last week in New York playoff sports have been a nightmare (and don’t get me started on the Yankees pitching woes either.).

This has been about as depressing as it gets. Watching the Rangers and Knicks blow leads to two teams that they’re not better than, but had outplayed in the majority of the games that they played.

The Rangers should be up 3-1, the Knicks should be up 2-0, and the reasons that they’re not are maddening.

First the Rangers ills have been not being able to close out an opponent (much like how they weren’t able to close out a playoff spot in the regular season). In game 1 against the Capitals they led 1-0 late in the third thanks to great goaltending by Henrik Lundquist and the defensive work of Marc Stall and company. Then in an instant Alex Ovechkin ties the game thanks to a fluke tip in where Derek Stepan, Staal, and Lundquist all couldn’t get a stick on the puck even though it was there in front of them.

The overtime goal was even worse as Staal seemed to nonchalantly make a clearing pass out of the zone that ended up on Jason Arnott’s stick, then Semin’s, then the back of the net. Defeat from the jaws of victory.

Then came last night. Not even 24 hours after the Los Angeles Kings blew a 4-0 lead in two periods, the Rangers upped them by doing it in ten minutes. After two periods of Rangers domination where the Rangers and the crowd was bullying the Capitals (last time Bruce Boudreau ever comments about crowd noise), the crowd stood in shock as Semin knocked in a loose puck that Lundquist lost track of, then after Marcus Johansson scored on a tip-in to make it 3-2 he scored on a lucky bounce off of a Karl Alzner slap shot to make it 3 all.

The worst of all came in double OT as Jason Chimera had his shot blocked and it looked like Lundquist was going to cover it up for a faceoff in his zone. For some reason Gaborik decided to knock the puck away from Lundquist right as he reached for it and it landed right on Chimera’s stick and the comeback was complete.

Carmelo and the Knicks are on the brink thanks to lackluster play from his teammates.

Three fluke goals, three to one deficit, the Rangers have redefined the stomach punch loss.

(Side note: Marian Gaborik has been a disaster the second half of this year. That boneheaded play combined with his lackluster offensive production has me and other Rangers fans doubting where his head is right now. If he can’t score goals and is causing some to go in then why is he on the ice? Last night the Rangers went 0-7 on the power play and are 1-234 in the series. Actual stat. That is Gaborik’s bread and butter and he’s not delivering. If this keeps up then next year he’ll be with Wade Redden in Connecticut.)

If that wasn’t enough, it came after the New York Knicks snatched defeat from victory in two straight games.

The Knicks had outplayed the Celtics and were in prime position to win both games even with Carmelo Anthony playing poorly in game one and without Amar’e Stoudemire and Chauncey Billups in game 2.

In game 1 the Knicks led by 12 at the half and Stoudemire was destroying Kevin Garnett and company on the inside. Then somehow in the last 5 minutes of the game he doesn’t get one touch. Yeah Melo went 1-11 in the second half but the fact that Amar’e doesn’t get the ball that late in the game when he had dominated throughout was horrible.

The shot selection by Melo, Toney Douglas and others was typical Mike D’Antoni offense. If Amar’e gets the ball the Knicks win by 10, since he didn’t, and D’Antoni didn’t stress that in the huddle, the Knicks lost.

Game 2 may have been the nail in the coffin though. After losing Amar’e to back spasms Anthony took all of New York on his back with his 42 point, 17 rebound, 6 assist performance where he was the only Knick to shoot anywhere near 50% as Bill Walker shot 0-11 and Douglas went 5-16 (two things on Douglas real quick. 1. There is no way that Douglas should ever be allowed to take 16 shots in a playoff game, EVER. 2. Douglas ‘s poor shot selection at times is the reason that the Knicks need to actively look for a point guard this offseason. He’s not capable of carrying a second unit and keeping the Knicks in front or in the game.).

Marian Gaborik hasnt been helping the Rangers much this postseason.

With 12 seconds left Melo got an inbounds past where he was immediately double-teamed and Melo through a strike to a cutting Jeffries who had a good look at the rim… if he would’ve turned in the right direction and not directly into Kevin Garnett. Melo got criticized for passing the ball in that situation but that was his best option. He couldn’t hoist a bad three over two defenders and his pass to Jeffries was on point. The real issue was that Jeffries made a bad play on the ball (really Jared Jeffries? No.) and couldn’t finish.

The Knicks main issue is there lack of reliable role players. Walker, Douglas and Jeffries aren’t able to play big in these situations and that, combined with the lack of big men, are the reason that they’re down 2-0.

With the Knicks heading home in a rut down in a series they enter the a depressed Madison Square Garden after the Rangers put themselves on the brink with a terrible game 4 loss.

After this weekend both teams will be done. Both the Rangers and Knicks are a year away from being serious contenders and it couldn’t be more apparent.

The Rangers need to learn how to close, the Knicks need the players to close. The Rangers need to get better offensively, the Knicks need to get better defensively. Both teams’ big time players need to play big, and both teams need to learn how to protect leads.

It’s been a frustrating week for New York fans in the Garden watching these two teams fall apart fortunately it’ll all be over sooner than later.