Tagged with "nhl"
And Away We Go --- Again
Category: FEATURED
Tags: NHL playoffs

 

Well, that's over with. The quarterfinals, that is. Was it good for you? I freely admit that I've had better sports moments, but despite a lot of bogus officiating (Isn't it funny how the more we demand  safety, the more rigged our lives get? Where are you when we need you, Ben Franklin?), somehow the right outcomes were achieved. I think.

A lot of chokers got exposed. A lot of weaknesses that seemed insignificant during the regular season suddenly became glaring. And four presumably good teams got to the Cup semifinals. The West now clearly has back the Cup advantage it had at the beginning of the season before Boston ran roughshod through the Western Conference and finished with the best record.

How did all that happen, quickly?

MTL 4 BOS 3:

Montreal had an advantage on Boston in their few regular season matchups, but that wasn't significant. Their win was capsule-summarized by some as speed being Boston's Achilles Heel. But everyone knew they had speed. That wasn't it. Subban got a lot of ink and played well, but even he wasn't it, and was largely neutralized in later games. Price was great in goal, but you expected that too. And Montreal played up to their best abilities. So what? Everybody's supposed to do that in the playoffs.

The truly significant things were mostly on the Bruins. In no particular order:

Item 1: Boston's star players choked. David Krejci didn't score a goal. Sometimes that happens. What doesn't usually happen is that he also gets almost no assists. That speaks not only to him but to Milan Lucic and Jerome Iginla, who failed to put the puck in the net. Tukka Rask was exposed as a non-top-tier goalie despite his shining stats. He always is by Montreal. Brad Marchand spent the entire playoffs missing wide open nets. Too much more on this topic to treat here.

Item 2: Claude Julien failed to get his team properly prepared. The Bruins were capable of storming Montreal, as they did in game 1 (to great futility thanks to Price). But they didn't keep the pressure on, and allowed themselves to get frustrated by ill fortune (of which they had plenty). Their discipline broke down at all the key moments even when they had a huge advantage in puck control.

Item 3: Despite all this, they did, as alluded, have a lot of plain bad luck. They hit posts left and right. It wasn't because Price made them do it. Add to that total their misses of open nets, and about a dozen goals were left off the scoreboard. But the misses aren't anyone's fault but their own. The clangs? Some bad luck, some also just bad shooting. And the national announcing crew bemoaned their total lack of 'puck luck'. It was true, but you have to fight your way out of those situations. It ain't always handed to you.

Item 4: When Denis Seidenberg went down for the season, a collective groan went up. But at the time the Bruins weren't playing all that well, and their finishing streak put consistent weaknesses shown by some of their young defensemen on the back burner. It came back to haunt them big time. No one watching the first minutes of the final two games could possibly have missed it, as absurd miscues by the defense (and by Rask) led to quick Montreal leads that they would never relinquish. Even Chara got in the act, permitting Pacioretty to slide by him while Rask did his impersonation of a hypnosis subject. There was no defensive communication, at least none that showed, during those situations. Why Boston went out of its way to get Mezaros to shore up the D late in the season, then sat him in favor of the embattled Bartkowski, is a question mark only Julien can straighten up.

But, despite all the analysis paralysis, the series went to Montreal because they played better clutch hockey. And they clearly tried harder. That almost always wins in the postseason, even against the President's Cup winners.

NYR 4 PIT 3:

It's a little hard to remember Pittsburgh having a 3-1 lead in this series, with sages in sports/politics rags like SI showing smiling Crosbys and Malkins all over (when they were showing hockey at all) and claiming they were just too much.

Too much for what? Yes, New York seemed to get an infusion of purpose from Martin St. Louis' family loss (should have been from the coach, one would think) and fight back with heretofore unseen persistence and intensity, but the series was in Pitt's back pocket. That New York should play harder didn't seem to be enough. Dan Bylsma lost again, and probably lost his job too, but he wasn't outcoached. Neither coach seemed to provide much inspiration.

Item 1: For the first several game of the series Pittsburgh was all over Lunqvist, and King Henrik looked like he was about to be deposed. Meanwhile, the Penguins' weak link in goal, Marc-Andre Fleury, was outplaying the King. That all turned around. Lundqvist began to nip Pittsburgh rallies in the bud with the sort of play he's known for, and Fleury largely reverted to form under added Ranger pressure.

Item 2: The vaunted Pittsburgh stars choked. Crosby, the supposed 'best player in the world', stunk. There was no excuse. He's not even the best player in the NHL East. In this series, he wasn't even the 10th best player on the ice. No real superstar goes underground like that. His vaunted teammates didn't do much better.

Item 3: As mentioned, neither coach seemed to have motivated his troops. What did motivate one team was a set of extenuating circumstances. Apparently it was enough. We saw a series between two teams that were not exactly what you would call self-starters.

CHI 4 MIN 2: 

For a while there it seemed the energetic Wild Stars (bear with me) had enough juice to simply wear out a somewhat worn-looking set of Black Hawks. Despite having a coach who looks like a Professor of Geekology, Minny (the name I will use for the rest of this segment) was running all over the ice and generating havoc. It seemed the series would certainly go 7 games. Why didn't it?

Item 1: The Champs got the calls when they needed them. It ain't much, but it tipped a series that was so evenly played it's hard to fathom how it ended in six games.

Item 2: Chicago may not have matched Minny's speed, but when game 6 went to the late moments, Chicago's passes were still accurate and their puckhandling still effective. Minny was still skating at 100mph, but their passing accuracy collapsed and their ability to handle hard passes when they got them deteriorated also. Bad passing and stickhandling led to fairly consistent Black Hawk pressure.

Item 3: Crawford isn't generally considered a top-tier goalie in the NHL, but he played like one. Conversely his counterpart Bryzgalov, who played well, wasn't quite up to Crawford's heroics.

Item 4: Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. Minny has a ton of fine players, but nobody truly in these guys' class.

LA 4 ANA 3:

Somehow this series didn't seem very close in the end, with LA turning on the jets. The Ducks resiliantly climbed from an 0-2 hole (both losses on home ice) to a 3-2 series lead. How did they let it slip away? Was it a case of LA just turning it on when they had to? Perhaps. But there was more to it.

Item 1: Like Boston, Anaheim failed to put its best foot forward in the clutch, while its dutiful opponent did. There's probably no way LA should have won the series with the pressure Anaheim could bring to bear when they turned it on, and with LA behind 3-2 to boot. Problem is, they didn't turn it on often enough when it really counted. LA did. Their performance to open the seventh game was clearly the deciding factor.

Item 2: The series began with Anaheim in a goalie controversy. Not good. John Gibson, a highly regarded rookie but a rook nonetheless, was brilliant in the Anaheim comeback run, outplaying his highly regarded rival Jonathan Quick. That evaporated a bit in game six, and disappeared totally in game seven. He had been the third goalie Anaheim played in three games. He's a kid. His mental stamina likely wore out.

Item 3: LA has Cup pedigree, and in this series it showed.


So where do we go from here? It's easy to summarize the important factors in each quarterfinal series.

1. Better goaltending won the day every time.
2. Lack of performance from star players was a decisive factor in several series.
3. Coaching made a difference sometimes.

Sounds like every year. Let's put on our turbans and try to predict what we'll see in the two series that follow.

NYR vs. MTL:

First the pre-series logic. Price is a good goalie and can be great. His opposite number is already considered great. New York plays a soft-hitting, cycling, skating and passing game. Montreal plays a defensive, hitting game and relies on fast-break hockey when the opponents are stuck in the Montreal end.

It looks like the perfect setup for Montreal. The caveats are that
1. the Rangers have good speed, and 
2. the Rangers have King Henrik.

But it's hard to pick a team that seemingly needed to draw inspiration from a teammate's loss against a team that drew its inspiration from playing its opponent. A question is whether Montreal will either be spent from their effort against Boston or suffer a letdown when they see the comparatively innocuous Blueshirts across the ice.

I don't think anyone else could have beaten Boston. Montreal was my clear pick until I saw game one. Now I don't know what to think, but I'll have a good idea after games 2 and 3.

I do have a theory on the back burner that the Habs were built, like the NY Jets, for one purpose... to beat the leviathan in their own division. That would be the Bruins for Montreal, and the Patriots for the Jets. Sometimes that works too well. Game one is giving that theory some practice.

CHI vs. LA: 

This is a heck of a matchup. Both teams have some star power, both have recent Cups (2 for Chicago), and both have had great goaltending.

It's as hard to pick against Chicago's Toews-Kane-Hossa troika. It's hard to pick against Quick, Kopitar, Doughty et al.

I have no idea who wins this, so I have to go with home ice. And home refs. Chicago.

 

Owner of a Broken Heart?
Category: Daily Blog 2.0
Tags: NBA NHL Playoffs

Elimination week...teams in both the NHL and the NBA were shown the door in Game 6's or Game 7's this week.  That leaves us fans in one of two states:  elation or despair  (or for the athletes, "the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat").  Reflecting on this situation from the fan perspective, I have come to realize that despair is far more likely than elation since only 1 team per sport wins the ultimate prize.  The second element to the losing fan, especially to a losing team this week since they were "close" is that it is a full 12 months before the team can be in this position again.  It seems like such a long wait.

A third element to the ending playoff game is frustration - and how that must be to the fans of so many NBA teams.  Do you realize that half of the league - yes half - have never even played for a title?  Or that a handful of teams (Lakers, Celtics, Spurs, Bulls & now the Heat) have won over 60% of the titles?  The average time between titles for teams not in that group is over 30 years!  So as a Wizards advocate, as promising as this playoff run was, (1) it is a long wait for another shot at the ring, (2) chances of breaking through in the NBA are small and (3) free agency may take the team apart before it has even had a chance to figure out if its any good.   Such is the life of the fan of a losing team.

So the NBA finished its quarterfinals with the Heat & Pacers in the East and the Spurs & Thunder in the West...The top seed plays the #2 seed in the NBA...is that the way it should be or is that why no young and upcoming team can break through?  To contrast that with the NHL....

Now, I know there are some broken hearts on this board with the outcome of the Bruins - Canadiens' series.  It was a tough, hard fought, mean spirited battle between two long time, bitter rivals.  It was a classic matchup that deserved a Game 7 and a game that played out to the last seconds.  Also, there is both jubilation for the Rangers and heartbreak for Penguins fans (no sympathy from me on the Pens, though) in another classic series.  So now we have 3 Original 6 in the Final 4 with Chicago playing the Kings (an Original 12 club...I trademark that phrase).  Pity poor Bruce B & the "Mighty" Ducks...looked to be in control of another series and then collapsed in the ultimate series game.

So the NHL, in contrast to the NBA has a much more diverse dynamic in their playoffs...#5 & #6 seeds play for the conference championships here.  So for the NHL is the regular season goal just to "get in" while in the NBA, the regular season goal is to "Win it all?"  By contrast, the NHL has excellent variety in its champions even with the occasional dynasty sprinkled in for the challenge.  Which is better?   For me, I prefer variety but I will take a home town dynasty!

Overall, I have to wonder if being a fan isn't generally an exercise in masochism.  The chances of success in any given sport are so small - we should know going into the season that our chances of ending happy are small, yet every new season, hope springs eternal.  I, for one, am really looking forward to the NFL season and see how my 3-13 Skins recover and head to the Super Bowl behind RGIII!!  Or how the Nationals...a team that has not won a championship since the 1930's...will sweep the World Series.   Oh, how we love to be a fan!

Have a great Saturday!

Sports Friday with Hal: NFL (Because the NHL Doesn't Exist)
Category: FEATURED
Tags: NFL Football Free agency draft news notes NHL Playoffs

Play that funky music right!

Happy Friday, everyone!

 

Hockey? Never heard of it.

NHL? What does that stand for?  

Bruins? Are you talking UCLA?

Stanley what?

 

I don’t know what this hockey thing is that everyone is talking about.  Quite odd. Anyway, time for football.

 

The final result is in for the Robert Griffin III trade between the St. Louis Rams and the Washington Redskins.  Like the famous Herschel Walker Minnesota Vikings and Dallas Cowboys trade in the 1980s this is as one-sided as it gets. For the Redskins they got a dynamic quarterback who had a horrible second season as he was rushed back from a knee injury and this year is a huge turning point in his career.

 

For the Rams, this is the final haul:

DT Michael Brockers

CB Janoris Jenkins

RB Isaiah Pead

G Rokevious Watkins

LB Alec Ogletree

WR Stedman Bailey

RB Zac Stacy

OT Greg Robinson

 

That is not just a haul, it is just plain highway robbery.  The Redskins traded up for RG3 (three first round picks and a second round pick) which St. Louis turned into eight players and five picked in the top fifty picks. While running back Isaiah Pead is the weak link of the deal, Zac Stacy looks like a steal in the sixth round of the 2013 NFL Draft.  It was a great deal for St. Louis even if they did nothing with the picks and just stayed put. The NFL Draft at the end of the day is about maximizing the picks and the Rams are back in the NFC West race with San Francisco and Seattle thanks to the Redskins.

 

*

 

The best part of the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement has been the elimination of the rookie holdouts (for the most part).  With cutting another two weeks off the rookie playbook learning and coaching time to have the NFL Draft on during primetime during sweeps week to increase revenue for NFL Network and the 4-Letter Network, holdouts take on more of a sense of urgency to get to work. It is nice to see that many first, second, third, etc round picks are already signing.  There really is not anything to negotiate, so these kids can get into the facility and get learning ASAP.

 

*

 

Greg Little, Andrew Hawkins, Nate Burleson, Travis Benjamin, and Miles Austin.  What is missing? Cleveland star receiver Josh Gordon.  With the news leaked he is potentially up for a one year suspension (what an idiot!) Cleveland is back to “Droppy”, “Ordinary”, “No Speedy”, “Punt Returny”, and now they brought in “Injury-Proney”.  Somehow that does not do much to inspire the masses in Cleveland as they try to replace Gordon, aka the best receiver (ok, Detroit, maybe second best) in the NFL.

 

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The NFL Draft was also historic as it had the most special seventh round draft pick in defensive end Michael Sam who was drafted by Rams. Sam--as most all of the country now knows--is the first openly homosexual player to be drafted in the NFL.  For Sam, I said good for him for being comfortable enough with himself to come out to his teammates. Now can we just move on and get to football?

 

*

Former New England tight end Aaron Hernandez is back in the news being indicted for killing two men prior to his current alleged murder incarceration.  While it may help keep him off the streets (which is good) if his high-priced legal team finds a technicality to exploit, it is no help for the Patriots salary cap.  Mike Florio indicates over at NBC Sports that had the Patriots made the league suspend Hernandez and did not cut him they could recoup the money.

 

I remember writing about it at the time somewhere, but I still agree with the Patriots decision cut him.  For a team to do the morally wrong thing to save money on the cap is so wrong. The Patriots made a statement about their organization’s moral code and actually put their money where their mouth was so to speak. The team could have kept him on the team suspended, but they did the right thing...they got rid of a mistake.

 

*

 

Speaking of the Patriots, there was a brief period of time this week where social media blew up because there was a rumor Houston was looking to trade wide receiver Andre Johnson (or, more likely he was upset about being on a rebuilding team.  For Houston (and first year coach Bill O’Brien) they have no reason to trade Johnson. They added no one. he is cheap this year (under $7 million cap charge, and they have a chance to bounce right back and challenge the Colts.

 

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One last Patriots note: former receiver in 2006 Reche “Catch the Damn Ball in the AFC Championship and its New England beating the crap out of the Bears in the Super Bowl” Caldwell was arrested for the second time this year. This week was possession of a controlled substance (amazed he retained possession since he DROPPED THE DAMN BALL WHEN WIDE OPEN!) and earlier this year he was arrested for running an illegal gambling option (shocking since he was such a poor GAMBLE in 2006!).  Wow, lot of set-up for just releasing some pent-up rage that was almost a decade old.

 

* * *

 

OK, that’s all for this week. Thanks as always for stopping by and have a super weekend!

 
O H Thursday
Category: FEATURED
Tags: NFL NHL MLB NBA

Mothers Day was a great time in the Harry family and lived up to expectations.

With the NFL draft finally out of the way all of our favorite teams can move on getting the wraps on the off season and free agent signings and start preparing for their training camps.

The NHL playoffs continue into the next round, some exciting games as the best of the best rise to the occasion

Montreal eliminated Boston 4 games to 3 with a seventh game win in Boston. I hate the Habs and can only say…

“C’mon Rangers you can do it.”

The NY Rangers eliminated the Pittsburgh Penguins 4 games to 3

LA forced a game seven with Anaheim

And Chicago eliminated  Minnesota 4 games to 2

 

The MLB season moves into mid May with the top five looking like this:

1. Detroit

2. San Francisco

3. Oakland

4. Milwaukee

5. Atlanta

 

The NBA playoffs continued last night with:

Miami eliminating  Brooklyn

San Antonio ending  Portland’s season

 

It’s grilling season and I’m out at the oldharry outdoor kitchen nearly every evening.

My #3 son installed a mini fridge under the bar within a quick step of the grill and I’m in my “serenity now” space.

My sons and I are planning a pergola on the patio for my wife. The grape vines need more room to roam and that seems like the logical solution.

The local deer population has boomed since our city put in the “no local hunting” laws.

We have at least 3 herds of at least 8 deer roaming the neighborhood. The boys were harvesting at least 2 young bucks (6 point) every year and occasionally a doe when permitted. They are cute but very destructive. My hedge row made of twenty four arborvitae has been reduced to what mrsharry calls asparagus.

One of my neighbors, who by the way, objects to our deer hoist

on the back of the shed, said it was justice served. While we are out in the woods killing the deer they are right in our backyard killing our trees.

However you want to look at the situation is fine with me. The coyote, and fisher cat populations are up as well now that there are deer starving to death because of lack of food or getting hit by vehicles because they have to travel into the neighborhoods from the woods to eat.

Deer hunting is good for the overall population health and the meat is fat free and delicious. If you are an extremist environmentalist or a vegetarian and I offended you by my comments please accept my apology for your being offended.

or you could eat fish...

See you next week gabbers

Talking Sports
Category: Daily Blog 2.0
Tags: NHL MLB NFL

Sometimes a hot goalie is all it takes to advance as did the Montreal Canadiens as they stole game 1 at the TD North Garden and they didn’t again in Game &. The story of these playoffs is the team that scores first wins. The Canadiens did three minutes in the game. Boston had their chances and many chances at that they just couldn’t put one home on Carey Price until late in the second period but that would be all .

The Bruins will clean out their lockers tomorrow and will be on a golf course Friday. The team that one the Presidents Cup, couldn’t take advantage of having two games to put this series away. Game 6 they were shut out and in Game 7 They did everything they could except point a second one by Carey Price. A late interference call with under 5 minutes left on Johnny Boychuck didn’t help the Bruins cause. They let up a power play goal and that ended the season and their hope for revenge on the Chicago Blackhawks who dispensed with the Wild quickly.

The Eastern Conference Finals will be the Rouge, Blanc and Bleu of the Canadiens against the Red , White , and Blue of the New York Rangers. The Rangers took care of the Black and Gold of the Pittsburgh Penguins again riding the hot goalie in Henrick Lundqvist. He was phenomenal in that series. It will be a pair of original six teams both for the Eastern Conference finals.

This was a tough why to go down for the Black and Gold of the Boston Bruins. They had a few factors they really didn’t execute and play Bruins Hockey for major chunks of this series that physical for lines kind of beat you up and tire you out type hockey. They just couldn’t score lots of hit posts ,hit crossbars . Third they were almost forced to skate with the Canadiens who play more of physical game than most people give them credit. Tuuka Rask played ok but not his usual stop everything style. He will again shoulder more of th blame than he shoul. It was a good season for the Bruins they just didn’t have enough to get to the next level.

MLB

David Ortiz has been on a tier he broke up Yu Davishes No Hitter over the weekend with a second with two down in the ninth . Then went 4 for 5 with a poair of dingers last night although the Red Sox did find away to loose. Ortiz is beloved here in Boston but not so much by this scribe. I think the guy whines to much. I will give him credit the guy can hit when he is hot.

 

Patriots

I have to say it and I think B.O.B.here at the gab said it earlier this week. What the hell were they thinking? The only picked I liked was the 4th round Center from FSU. You pick a dented can in first round in Damain Easley. I know they went through his medical records but ACL injuries in both legs a giant red flag jut surfaces add a few more games and a lot more speed and bigger quicker offensive lineman it’s a recipe for disaster.

Who the F$%K is Jimmy Grappolo wasn’t his sister a comedian fron Saturday Night live. A 5’6 receiver geez don’t we already have Danny Amendolla. Shouldn’t they have got an I don’t know a 6’3 guy who can run remember how Randy Moss and TB set all kinds of records even when Randy took plays off he made plays and he took a lot of them off.

Just call me confused

Dedication in Sports

Tuesday night I was coaching my SrLeague(aka Fancy Name for Babe Ruth Baseball Team) We played at the High School Field. There is a track met going on across the street at the Oval behind the High School. So my starting Centerfielder in about the second inning pops his head in the dugout window.(we have these nice new brick dugouts with a couple open framed windows for ventilation(no glass). He says coach I may not make the game I’m running the mile in a half hour. I tell him good luck. Meanwhile a kid on the other team is telling the other coach his event is coming up. I look over in the Bottom of the 5th the kid is in full uniform ready to go. The kid on the other team was ready to go in the top of the 5th. Both kids got in the game. The kid on the other team got a nice hit and ended up scoring. The kid on my team made a nice long running catch in centerfield . I figured you would all enjoy the story,

That’s all I have I’m going to wallow the Bruins Loss for the rest of the night

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