Thursday, June 30, 2016

Game of the Week - "Shark Week" 2016

It's that time of year where in the summer months, people relax on the beach, or stay at home and watch some hockey!

Shark Week is very popular in the American culture. Of course, I had to tie in a game with EA Sports' NHL 16 recently. Here is the results of that game! Instead of giving myself the obvious favorites to win, I handicapped myself with the intent to give a challenge.

The Cologne Sharks are in the German Elite League and the way the team is set up, it doesn't look promising. The starting goalie for the German Sharks has a 74 overall rating.

So, did I at least make a game out of it?

NOTE: I'll be changing the Game of the Week to Tuesdays this summer so that I can hopefully capture more people with it instead of a late Thursday night. Be sure to subscribe to my channel on twitch to get notifications when I go live streaming!

HockeyKnight1921 - Twitch.tv

Friday, May 13, 2016

2016 Stanley Cup Playoff Predictions - Round 3

I don't know if the Penguins are considered to be as a "shocking upset", but they did seem to upset a lot of Capitals fans and mainstream media personalities as well. It's amazing what the Penguins have been doing, because it's been without their top two stars. Crosby is 3g and 7a for 10p in 11 games played. Malkin is 3g and 6a for 9p in 10 games played. This is not going to get either of these players Conn Smythe considerations for playoff MVP. I don't think this is sustainable now that they've gone this deep into the tournament. We here are going to wait and see how the team adjusts to the next challenge.

As for the San Jose Sharks, It's Stanley Cup or bust with them. Their beards can't get any bigger than they are - or can they? Their elder statesmen have to ride off together because if they don't, then surely they are going to reconstruct the roster without them.

The excitement must be really huge in Southern California this year as well as the possibility of Blues fans seeing a Finals appearance in 49 years.

Let's break it down a little further below:


Western Conference


St. Louis v. San Jose
St. Louis now got it in their heads that they can be world beaters and fight off the best teams in the NHL. The Blues haven't been to the Stanley Cup finals, but they've gotten to the Conference finals back in the Gretzky days. I'd expect to see a real tired group of players with the Sharks and Blues to play a slow prodding Game 1. They've extended their playoff games to playing 14 games already. They're beat up. Both of them. I'd give the edge in goaltending with the Blues. Allen and Elliot are a great tandem, but just makes the old truism still relevant: "Having two starting goaltenders means you 'aint got one". Look for Thornton and Pavelski to cram a few goals out through their sheer force of beard will. I'm rooting for Jaden Schwartz to get to the finals considering all he has gone through.

Prediction: Blues in 5


Eastern Conference


Pittsburgh v. Tampa Bay

I'd say that the Lightning team is only the second team that truly threatens to derail the Pittsburgh Penguins hot playoff run. Matt Murray has been playing above his pay grade for months now in Fleury's absence. They've created somewhat of a controversy, but Coach Richards has indicated that he's going to go with the "hot hand". But then, when will Fleury get a chance knowing full well he's their number one guy and having not been in a game for months is not good. He could be very rusty the next time they need him. Tampa's goalie doesn't have this problem. Bishop is 8-2 with a .938 GAA. Look for Drouin to extend his desire to be the "next one" in Tampa. He wants to be treated like a franchise player, so NOW is the time to show it. I don't think the 'Bolts have the kind of depth that the Penguins have in Defense. Victor Hedman is their true #1, but other than that, they've got average NHL talent there. The Penguins will move the puck out of the zone quicker with Maatta, Letang, and Daley.

Prediction: Penguins in 6

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Coaching Carousel Creates Caustic Canadians Cantankerous Cacophony

It didn't take very long for the Ottawa Senators and the Minnesota Wild to find replacements to their underachieving former coaching staffs. But there is a few glaring things that the mainstream media isn't quite talking about (or find enough reason to bring up) is that these two coaches hired within days of one another are retreads from other NHL teams. And then there are the Montreal Canadians who sources tell me have fans that are quite tired of Michel Therrien's second tour of duty there. They demand a French-Canadian coach and two of them have just been gobbled up by other teams. And as a side note, Marc Crawford, who is assumed to, wants to get another kick at the can and getting an assistant job with the Senators.

Bruce Boudreau has come from successful teams with the Capitals and Ducks, however, both of those teams have underachieved mightily. He had plenty of success building teams in the ECHL and American Hockey League before getting the call up to Washington D.C. His system brought a new resurgence to the Capitals utilizing Ovechkin in more ways than one by making him more of a two-way player. But his welcome was worn out by mid-season of 2011. The Ducks were also in a state of disarray looking for some way to generate offense easier than the Randy Carlyle coaching style. But again, the same pattern emerged as Bruce's playoff impotence arose once again. I think the Minnesota Wild will have a new direction with Bruce, but once they get into playoff contention, are the Wild going to go home early in the playoffs too? They already have that now with the coaches they had. This is where the bigger complaint of more rehashing of coaches comes from in guys that never seem to win at the major league level. Will the Wild just use Bruce to get them into better shape and then promote someone else to take over from there? We'll keep an eye out on how this new hire in the Twin Lakes transpires.

Guy Boucher on the other hand is another familiar face. Besides being a stand-in for a 007 villain, Boucher has been in a few teams before getting fired and winding up coaching in Switzerland. He's another guy similar to Boudreau in that he's been successful in the American Hockey League and the Quebec Major Junior League. He developed players for the Canadians in Hamilton, expecting to be called up eventually. But the Canadians went another way retreading Therrien and Boucher took the Tampa Bay Lightning job. He didn't last long in Tampa only fighting through some lean years and eventually getting fired in his third year of a four year contract. Again, I don't understand how Boucher could do better than what Ottawa had given that his past track record in the NHL isn't a great resume.
Senators general manager Pierre Dorion said they interviewed "just under 10" candidates to be their new coach.
The CBC article doesn't list the rest of the names they spoke to, but I wonder how many new names that could've gotten a chance to coach at the NHL level.

The "Rooney Rule" in the NFL is supposed to bring about changes in their coaching world exposing new candidates instead of rehashing familiar faces. It could very well work out for both Boudreau and Boucher in their respective teams, but once they get to a certain point, is it going to be another trip to the chopping block?

[Via:FOX Sports and CBC News]

Monday, May 02, 2016

To Err Is Human, To Forgive is Divine...

There was no further need to accelerate the vitriolic hate that permeates the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals rivalry. In this series, a new chapter to the Pens/Caps rivalry is written with many players switching teams. Capitals with 4 former Penguins while Pittsburgh has one key ex-Capital.

During game two, a face familiar to both teams had thrust himself into the national spotlight as Brooks Orpik had laid out young Finnish defenseman Olli Maatta. My first thoughts weren't of anger initially, but immediate concern for Maatta's well-being. Then the play was stopped as the NBC broadcast camera starts to pan in towards rubbery Maatta laying prone on the ice. He was KO'd before he even hit the ice surface. Once the whistle had sounded, I looked and expected the referee to motion towards the guilty forty-four for a long stay in the penalty box. None were forthcoming.

I guess once the initial shock had worn off, disappointment and disbelief arrived to find that a once respected hero athlete who wore the black & gold for many seasons delivered a vicious hit to a former teammate. People still wear Orpik's jersey to games and never quit mentioning the trivial origins of his first name as connections to a legendary Penguins coach. Orpik is remembered fondly in Pittsburgh as a rough and tough player who leveled Red Wings players with heavy bodychecks when appropriate. Now that he wears the enemy's colors, are Penguins fans forced to condemn and make hyperbolic statements about him? 

I could wildly speculate a little deeper to what might Orpik had been thinking. He had been playing Maatta closely, but swoops back in toward to set a huge hit well after the puck sailed far away. Did Orpik target Maatta knowing that he was made expendable in the Penguins organization? Was revenge on his mind? Or was there clearly no thought process at all?

Today, Orpik owned up to his actions while making a classy statement:
Orpik accepted responsibility for the head hit he delivered that injured Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta, saying his three-game suspension was “fair” and that he made a “pretty bad mistake.”
He then went on in reports to explain that he told the Capitals that the Penguins would buckle under the pressure if they played a strong body checking game. He'd seen it happen before.

But now that I've heard his reactions to the steep 3 playoff game suspension, I've settled with Orpik emotionally. I can't ever condone what he did to the young Penguins player who had already been beset with injuries, but the matter is settled and closure is achieved. I forgive Orpik's reckless play.

However...

It still leaves a few other directions to channel my disgust and anger. The referees who didn't call a penalty on Orpik and towards the Barry Trotz who suggested that the Penguins got preferential favoritism when the suspension was handed out. Trotz must have been channeling his inner- Stan Van Gundy. I recall Van Gundy tried to win "the war" of public opinion in the press by claiming that superstars always get the in-favor bias with the front office and officials.

The sensible thing would be that the inflammatory rhetoric Trotz used in his vague allegations would be laughed off, but in this case, he's looking to further incidents like this one in hopes that pressure might sway things back in their hands.

The referees made a mistake by not awarding this disastrous hit a 5-minute major penalty. At worst it's a match penalty. Did the referees decide or expect the Penguins to retaliate with hits of their own targeting their former player? Would justice be served by allowing Orpik to skate freely with a perennial target on his back? The more I think about the mistake the referees made, the angrier I get at surely having to listen to know-it-all pundits who feast on verbally pummeling the NHL for not taking better care of their players and doling out stricter penalties.

So, the Pens/Caps rivalry has yet another chapter forged between them in history. It's not like the playoffs weren't already raised up. But the rage-filled debate will yet again. For that, I can't tolerate another hit like Orpik's.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

2016 Stanley Cup Playoff Predictions - Round 2


Thank you, St. Louis Blues, for ruining my Stanley Cup predictions bracket for the second year in a row! Last year, I'd thought that it was finally going to be the Blues' year to get over the playoff hump and contend for further play. I'd even advised others on the Blues potential with the confidence of selecting them in my playoff brackets. They "screwed" me. This year, I was determined not to be fooled again by the Blues' chances. Thanks for the bittersweet job you did against the Hawks in the first round and eliminating them. So to the second round, we all go with plenty of new faces to talk about. Will there be a "shocking upset" in this round?


Western Conference


St. Louis v. Dallas
St. Louis is certainly playing inspired hockey as they've just taken down a perennial Cup contender in the Hawks. I was really glad to see that Jaden Schwartz has a point-per-game pace with 7 points in the playoffs. His late sister would've been proud of him, I'm sure. But the Stars are on a real resurgence behind their captain Benn. Look for him to add to his scoring totals. But in the end, I think the Blues goaltender Allen will hold up his part of the bargain and keep them in most all games this series.

Prediction: Blues in 5

Nashville v. San Jose
Here's another series with two more teams that can't seem to move on and underachieve in the playoffs. This might be the last ride for the Sharks as currently constructed. Their aging vets Thorton, Pavelski, and Marleau are plodding along with fan favorite Brent Burns and all his woolly hair are making their mark on the NHL leader boards so far. As for Nashville, their success rides on their goalie Pekka Rinne. But beyond Weber and Neal, I don't think they have enough depth to survive another series with a team that desperately wants to win.

Prediction: Sharks in 6



Eastern Conference


New York Islanders v. Tampa Bay
This is going to be a really interesting series with these two teams. Even though I was leaning towards an upset from the Panthers, the now veteran Islanders will have to continue their good luck with the Lightning team that's the defending Conference champs. I expect Ben Bishop to earn more respect with his recent Vezina trophy nomination. Also, the 'Bolts young star Drouin has to earn his playing time and prove to the owners that he belongs on the ice at the major league level. Tavares needs this win big if he is going to earn elite superstar status that was once expected of him.

Prediction: Lightning in 6

Washington v. Pittsburgh
The mainstream media have already picked sides and promote their agendas to get further attention to this playoff series. It's at least prevalent to me in both US and Canadian broadcasts. But there's also an underpinning of regret that this series isn't for the Stanley Cup because of the unpopular changes proposed to the playoff seeding years ago suggesting that the Conference finals could be wiped out. They just had to get around the fact that Ovechkin and Crosby compete in the same division/conference. I believe with time to heal on the first round and time to re-align the linemates for this series, the Penguins can run all over the Capitals. Look for Fleury to return in net at some point during the series.

Prediction: Penguins in 7

Friday, March 25, 2016

Frozen Four Pick Em 2016

I recently read that the odds of picking a perfect bracket in the other sport is the virtually impossible one in 9.2 Quintilian. I would like to re-introduce you to the nation-wide phenomenon of prognosticating the tournament winners in this year's Frozen Four tournament aka the NCAA Division 1 Ice Hockey Championships.

Confessions of a Hockey Fanatic Official Bracket for 2016

Above is the bracket that I carefully picked based upon the college hockey that I've been steadily increasing in watching now that the major 24/7 sports cable networks have been airing them. Of course, I'm a little disappointed to see my alma mater not on that bracket just yet. But I'm still giving them time to grow the program and develop some cache credibility.

But based upon the actual teams listed on this tournament, I feel that it's a real exciting opening first round as many of these schools have been visited the last four remaining in prior championship runs.

The biggest first round game standing out has to be the Notre Dame and Michigan game. With the recent news that Notre Dame will be joining the Big Ten (B10) next season, this is a measuring stick for Notre Dame against one of the biggest teams in college hockey and will be facing them on a regular basis. Michigan has clearly benefited from the area willing to make a big spectacle. They've been playing outdoor games and I'm sure a lot of the top quality kids who want to play NCAA level want to play in Michigan just for that experience alone.

I'm giving the more dominant Michigan Wolverines the benefit of the doubt to take their dominate Big 10 (B10) run and take care of the Hockey East conference teams.

Tampa Bay will return to be the host city of the NCAA Frozen Four since they last hosted it in 2012.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas 2015

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays in 2015!

Thank you very much for reading and watching my video blogs over the past year. I've been spending a lot of time planning new and innovative ways to express my brand of hockey blogging across the internet in 2015 and hopefully you've enjoyed it.
I'm going to continue a lot of more "Game of the Week" episodes as well as more cutting edge internet blogging for 2016.

Stay Tuned!!