Wednesday, April 15, 2015

2015 Stanley Cup Playoff Predictions - Round 1

This season the NHL has shown that the league is creeping even closer to their competitive balance goals - which can be a podcast or vlog topic for another day. There were 3 open playoff berths still available on the last day (day 82) of the regular season. I was reading on twitter that there were a little "hater" grumblings that suggested that certain teams squeaked in for ratings and popularity. But regardless of how or when they got in, hopefully each team appreciates their chance for hockey's greatest prize. Lets take a look at round one and hope that the quality of hockey continues to ramp up.

Western Conference

Anaheim v.Winnipeg
Winnipeg makes their return to the NHL playoffs for the first time since leaving. And that was 20 years ago. The keys to this matchup is weather the Jets acquired enough players with playoff experience. Dustin "Buff" and Andrew Ladd are the Jets with the most achievements, but eyes will also be on Myers and Stafford to see if their acquisitions were worth it. Anaheim, despite their goaltending lack of depth, have made it to the top spot on the Western conference. Look for Kestler, Perry, and Getzlaf to have the deeper pool of playoff experience.
Prediction: Ducks in 6

St. Louis v. Minnesota
Minnesota's struggles throughout the middle of the season may have made them a better team now. They went on a really incredible run with the trade deadline acquisition of Devan Dubnyk. But this might be the year that St. Louis gets it together and makes a deep run through the west. They are the gateway after all! Look for Tarasenko to be the big hero and supporting with Oshie.
Prediction: Blues in 5

Vancouver v. Calgary
Calgary Flames have been this anomalous team that went from being one of the worst (statistically) to one of the more respectable and competitive teams in playoff contention. They were a quiet team, but notably they have "Johnny Hockey" Gaudreau to continue on his young career. Vancouver's window from their Finals success is quickly closing as the roster is turning. Ryan Miller may not be strong enough to carry them past the first round having been injured most of the season.
Prediction: Flames in 6

Nashville vs Chicago
The Predators have the worst luck in the history of the NHL to always get ousted by stronger teams in the first round. It took them the realization to move on and find a more balanced scoring attack with an offensive minded coach. Laviolette has his name on the Cup and will know how to take the Predators over the hump. Chicago is just a juggernaut encased in a powerhouse wrapped in a barrage. But this might be the year that the core players will start to show some serious wear and tear having played so many more games than the rest of the league.
Prediction: Predators in7

Eastern Conference

Montreal v. Ottawa
The Canadians have the most to prove to their fans and the biggest disappointment to their fans if they fail. Carey Price is playing like he wants to be the first Hart and Vezina trophy winner in the same year since Jose Theodore in 02. There could be a lot of hardware handed out to other players at the end of the season. But Ottawa is the fighting chippy never say die teams that could surprise people.
Prediction: Habs in 5

Detroit v. Tampa Bay
The story here is having one of the most revered players in Detroit's recent history as the GM for the opposing team. Has Stevey Y's Tampa Bay team developed into a deep playoff contender? Ben Bishop is a giant among men in goal and may stand tall for the entire series. But as you know that the Red Wings have been built to be in the playoffs for 24 straight years.
Prediction: Bolts in 6

NY Islanders v. Washington
The Islanders are celebrating their last year on the Island with a playoff appearance that marks the first payoff for the rebuilding years. Captain John Tavares has a great crew built around him and they've played with each other and developed next to one another in the minors. Look for Isles goalie Halak to be motivated for revenge against his former teammates. The Capitals have Ovechkin and his scoring skills to carry them through the next round. They've finally figured out the balance between forwards and defensemen on their roster. Orpik and Niskanen were great pick-ups in Free Agency. And Joel Ward will somehow be a game hero once more during the playoffs.
Prediction: Capitals in 5

Pittsburgh v. NY Rangers
The New York Rangers are this year's Presidents trophy winners and carry with them that curse. Could they be too overconfident? Crosby and Malkin know how to get to the promised land but have been playing hurt the past few years. They can't get any scoring consistency or linemates. It took them several tries to get into the post season. But this year, they might go out ready to heal up for a better run in next season. Every Pens fan I talk to have no hope for them.
Prediction: Rangers in 4

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Sabres and Jets Starts The Trade Season

The Buffalo Sabres attempts at earning the number one overall pick became even more obvious and the Winnipeg Jets have found the solution to the Evander Kane distraction by arriving at a stunning trade in anticipation of the NHL Trade deadline season. It's sure to provide talk for days as the hockey world of analysts have been discussing the back story and setting up the drama. Kane wanted out of Manitoba and the Sabres wanted to get even worse than they are this year.
To Jets:
  1. Tyler Myers
  2. Drew Stafford
  3. Joel Armia
  4. Brendan Lemieux
  5. (Draft Pick)
To Sabres:
  1. Zach Bogosian
  2. Evander Kane
  3. Jason Kasdorf

The Winnipeg Jets have made the better of the deal as it stands right now. They've gobbled up two of the highly sought after defencemen before any other contending team has. Myers, having the potential to grow into the spotlight as one of the biggest defencemen after Chara, brings the Jets to a playoff push. They've currently fought for the 1st wild card position and increasing their defence with both Myers and forward Stafford. It gives them more depth on the roster and continues the turnover from the remaining Thrashers roster. The prospects work great to again add depth to the Jets minor league development system.

Now, Evander Kane is the other side of the coin and it's the part that gets the most attention - mainly because the drama surrounding the Kane career in Winnipeg. When Kane isn't on his social media accounts doing push-ups with stacks of cash on his back or suffering one injury after another (or also allegedly hiding more recent injuries), being late to team meetings and subsequently hazed by his teammates, or allegedly skipping out on dinner tabs, It was a clear thing that the controversial player had worn out his welcome and become a distraction to the Jets. It's almost like a karmic sense of justice that he goes to the worst team (statistically) in the NHL and forced to watch them from the press box. Kane does have scoring talent with 109 goals and 113 assists in 361 games.

On a side note, the Sabres had also made a deal to toss their goalie Jhonas Enroth to Dallas for Anders Lindback. It doesn't seem like this is that big of a deal other than Lindback has the edge as a big body listed as 6ft 6in. tall.

Friday, February 06, 2015

Save Our Otters with Hashtag #YouOtterStayHere

First, I would like to thank all of the Erie Community and bloggers who have already taken up the struggle to maintain the Otters team. I've told my audience a number of times just how much the city of Erie has been my home away from home. But now, as a hockey fan, I am to hold back the tide along with the thousands of Erie and junior hockey fans. I am keeping a close eye on the Otters situation and have seen them during their peak at their OHL Cup run of '02, to their lows of seasons with many losses, to the memories of the Pucks on Presque Isle event, to the current run with a great group of superstar development.

It would make the most sense of the Erie Community to come together and support this effort because they had just re-built up the Tullio Arena and found a great local sponsor in the Erie Insurance Company. Without the Otters as a lease tenant, the building will be risking financial troubles to pay back all of the renovation costs. True, the EIA does have the BayHawks and Explosion to fall back on, but the Otters are the more historic franchise and more likely has the main lease status.

The Erie Otters have also been a very cooperative part of the Erie SeaWolves. As I was an eye witness to the next-to-last season game they were in attendance at Jerry Uht Park. Since the first couple of NHL stars that the Erie Otters have developed, it's proof that the community should support a franchise that has paid off with those same players playing at the next professional level. What future players will see their number in the rafters or between the luxury boxes at EIA. Boyes, Rupp, Colaiacovo, to Brown, McKegg, et al to the sure #1 overall pick McDavid, we are all seeing the fruits of the Erie community.

What is frustrating enough is that the underlining situation can be pulled out from under the Erie community like a tablecloth at a dinner table. The ongoing legal battles with the current ownership has put the team in a delicate position. Lets all hope that Mr. Sherry Bassin can do the right thing and find other alternative owners that can keep the team in Erie who are also willing to pay a little more than top price. I'd step in, but I'd have to win the lottery first.

But the effort to get out the word is not without it's deepest challenges. Erie is a economically depressed region with the infrastructure going crumbling and unused. The stores that I used to go to with my family are no longer there, the dive bars I visited when my fellow college students up there aren't around, the beaches of Lake Erie have struggled as far as tourist attractions go.

If you are reading this.. then take up our struggle. There is plenty more hockey to be played. You can keep track of the team's progress at their rally Facebook page as well as using the twitter hashtag #YouOtterStayHere.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas 2014

Merry Christmas from Confessions of a Hockey Fanatic.

It's been a real fun time being a hockey fan this year. There have been really significant gains in popularity and the transitions to a more skilled game. It's made for great hockey to watch and this year the rivalries are as strong as ever in the NHL.
I don't know if you have any Christmas hockey traditions or not, but here's my annual Christmas greeting.
I truly hope that in these times, the spirit of human generosity finds you tonight and throughout the next year.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Project For Awesome 2014 - USA Hockey Foundation "It Starts With A Stick"

For this giving season's featured charity video in the ongoing project #P4A Project for Awesome, I wanted to call to attention a little funding project initiative for USA Hockey. Their latest program to grow the game of hockey to future generations of kids as well as needier kids is called "It Starts with A Stick". Click on the links at the Project for Awesome 2014 page and the the official USA Hockey Foundation page can take you to a donation page. 
The USA Hockey Foundation’s goal is to get 12,000 sticks into the hands of the next generation of hockey stars during February’s Hockey Weekend Across America.

To do this, and to provide an opportunity for thousands of kids to fall in love with the game, we need to raise $150,000 in the month of December.
I, of course, have given several times to the project as a gift donation in my friends names. You can check out the video featured right here. Even though I don't really get into the specifics of the plan in the video - you can see them here in the blog.

Unfortunately, there is no PayPal link to help people who aren't as adept at giving credit card numbers or those who want the extra security that PayPal provides. I'll have to let them know in future projects.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving 2014

It's the time of year again where many school kids (mites) are out of their curriculum routine and on to the holiday vacation. Those who are serious about their hockey training take part in the annual tradition of traveling to Thanksgiving tournaments all over the States.

My favorite tournament in the States has got to be featured here as one of the oldest traditions on Confessions of a Hockey Fanatic. Sharing the creative logo of the The Pond Arena in Delaware, I hope that it fits in the holiday and the hockey theme at the same time. You can check out the rest of the scheduled tournaments at this link here as well as find information about registering your teams in time. 2014-15 Pond Tourney list.

Lets take a look at this year's logo:
The logo is still a cartoon anthropomorphic, but with a more detailed facial and neck features. But the pose is almost like the one they used last year. The colors are still in the familiar autumn shades. The font is different in that they put the year off into the corner, but used the text title to focus on. The leaves are a nice touch.

Who knows,.. maybe after years and years of promoting this thing, I'd actually play in it someday.

Monday, September 29, 2014

St. Michael's Day 2014

St. Michael's College in Colchester, VT
We no longer have St Michael's Majors to cheer for since their move to Mississauga and renamed the Steelheads. So, we begin again another year in the annual tradition of updating hockey fans of the St. Michael's College on this particular day. In future years, I would like to update this annual tradition and include other schools or other teams honoring St. Michael, but for now, I have only the Men's and Women's respective organizations to introduce to my readers.

St. Michael's College is a catholic liberal arts university in Vermont. According to their website, 25% of the student body are active varsity athletes while another 40% are in recreational programs. But, appropriate that according to 2,000 enrolled students according to their facebook page, that must mean it's a campus full of jocks. The sports team mascot is a Purple Knight (as seen in the upper left). They play their home games in Cairns Arena in Burlington, TV.

I've critiqued their jerseys before, and I'm still waiting to see if I could ever add one to my hockey sweater collection.

Men's Program

Courtesy: Saint Michael's College
The men's program is coming off of a great season last year by comparative standards. They found themselves competing for the New England 10 championship against University of New Hampshire, but fell short to lose 4-1. They "shocked the world" defeating the number 1 overall seeded team Stonehill to get there. That is something to be proud of considering they went 7-17-3 overall in the season. From the news website they went down to the wire only being down by a goal (2-1) with under a minute to play.

They are going to have to do something about their defense. Overall, they've been outscored on by their opponents with a 74-105 margin.

But as determined as they are on the ice to win, they have been developing great students as well off the ice. Back in March, they announced that 7 players achieved All-academic honors in the ECAC.

Their first game of the 2014-15 season is a rematch of last year's season finale to be played on on All Saint's Day Nov. 1st against Southern New Hampshire at home. Good luck, guys!

Women's Program

The women's team is struggling these past couple of years. Their final record last year was 3-19-4. Disappointing doesn't begin to describe that.One of the telling reasons is that they went
34-86 in goals for and goals against respectively. That's almost 40% more being scored on than scoring goals themselves and the biggest loss was 0-9 at Norwich on November 8th 2013.

When they aren't doing well on the ice, at least they are doing well in the classroom. St. Michael's College lead the ECAC East in All-Academic with 12 players. Which makes it 2 years in a row.

Courtesy: Saint Michael's College
But one of the better signs of a developing hockey program is not only the academic achievements, but also how well regarded the alumni are of it. Back in April, the Lady Purple Knights held a reunion game with 20 players returning to play. I think that takes a real commitment to the 6 seniors who also played in the game.

Their first game of the new season starts on "All Hallows Eve" October 31st 2014 at home against the University of New England. Good luck, ladies.