Tuesday, April 09, 2019

National Hockey League Playoffs 2019 -

Well, it's that time of year again where we whittle down the remaining playoff teams to we get one night were hockey fans relentlessly boo Commissioner Bettman and envy the captain awarded the Stanley Cup.
Last year, I stopped doing the playoff beard, it resulted in the hometown team and 2x defending Stanley Cup winners losing in the second round. Sure enough, I think I need to do it again this year. IT WORKED!
In 2019 we have a bunch of teams that have never won the Stanley Cup versus a few teams that have won it in the past looking to build on a dynasty (like 80s Oilers and Islanders). It took a little more time for a couple of teams that have been trying for years to put the right combination of players together. Which team is built to go the long haul of 16 more wins and hoisting the Cup (and a future banner)? We'll examine which teams are likely to move on to the next round.
Western Conference

Nashville v. Dallas
Could this be the year of the Nashville Predators? "Smashville" as they are marketed as, don't have very many famous names on the roster (other than P.K. Subban). They are a defensive juggernaut where Pekka Rinne is the stalwart goaltender. I predict they will stop the Dallas Stars run into hockey relevance. It's been a while since we've seen the Dallas Stars in the post season. Even with a few appearances (2), the Dallas Stars have been post-seasonally struggling since 2007-08.
Prediction: Predators in 6

St. Louis v. Winnipeg
Is THIS the year that the St. Louis Blues finally make a run to the Stanley Cup finals? They are the Chicago Cubs of the NHL and the lovable losers. They seem to have stuck with this generation of players. From O'Rielly, Tarasenko, Peron, and Schenn and their goaltender Jake Allen. I don't know how the new "Finnish Flash" Patrik Laine will have an answer for all the experience. Outside of Little and Byfuglien, I don't see them holding off this kind of a challenge. It was just another unfortunate bad match-up for them. And once the Jets make the first run exit, look for Coach Maurice's firing.
Prediction: Blues in 5

Colorado v. Calgary
Who knew that the Colorado Avalanche were so good? They were the quiet team that hung in there and clawed their way overtop their Western rivals Ducks, Kings, BlackHawks. Look for McKinnon, Rantanen, and captain Landeskog to get more experience together in the playoffs and learn to win like so many other teams have grown into their playoff potentials. Calgary is another team that is in the trial and error period of gathering together a corps of young talent in the draft and pairing it with the right players to support them. Look for Giordano, Monahan, and Gaudreau to put it together and play well throughout the playoffs.
Prediction: Flames in 6

Vegas vs San Jose
The Vegas Golden Knights and their fans have never known what it's like to not be in the Playoffs. From their historical 1st run to today, they are certainly a force to be reckoned with. They will surely rival the "Shark tank" in Northern California as far as over-hyping of expectations. The Sharks were in the finals the year before Vegas and they know the grind is real. This might be the "leave it all on the table" before they have to tear it down for a major rebuilding process. Burns and Thorton and Pavelski are in their twilight years. Send them off with respect!

Prediction: Vegas in 6

Eastern Conference

Tampa Bay v. Columbus
The curse of the President's Trophy rests on the broad shoulders of the Tampa Bay Lightning. They've built their franchise from the doldrums of expansion teams to one of the best teams as a perennial playoff performer. You can thank the Columbus Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella for that. He raised the franchise's first Stanley Cup in 2004. They have come close a few more times since then, but it may very well be the last hurrah for Steven Stamkos as a number of injuries have stalled his career. Look for Tampa Bay to hand the baton of leadership to Kucherov, Hedman, and Point. I'm sorry for the Columbus Blue Jackets yet again finding a bad matchup opening round opponent. Unless the Blue Jackets play a defense-first strategy, I don't see them outscoring.
Prediction: Tampa Bay in 5

Toronto v. Boston
It always seems to be the bane of the Leaf Nation existence that they always run into the Boston Bruins. I can tell you that they are STILL not over the playoff collapses to the Bruins in recent years. So, it's been a trial and error to build a championship caliber team. The addition of "pajama boy" John Tavares, an Toronto area resident. While the Bruins have refreshed their roster of support pieces since they last met, Marchand and Bergeron, Rask, Chara, Krejci are all still there and know how to shut down the Maple Leafs attack. But is this the year that Toronto overcomes their "El Guapo"? All of those players are another year older and Toronto has the young fresh legs. Look for Marner, Matthews, and Tavares to start their first chapter in a long career of playoff game heroism.

Prediction: Toronto in 7

Carolina v. Washington
Out of a renewed storm of interest in the hockey team, these "bunch of jerks" are facing the defending Stanley Cup champions. The "Ovi-train" Alex Ovechkin is going to be the "russian machine never breaks". I really don't have much to say here for this prediction other than I don't give much of a chance to the Hurricanes this year. The Capitals are still the strong team they always were the whole season, but this time, they have the defending championship pressures and fans with even higher expectations.

Prediction: Capitals in 4

Pittsburgh v. NY Islanders
The Penguins have been a streaky team this year, but when their backs are up against the wall, they find a way to come through in the clutch. Draw penalties, cycle in their offensive zone, and supporting their goalies with blocked shots. Those will be the key to victory. Malkin has been abused all year physically, but reached the milestone of 1,000 points in his career. He's already on record by hoping that he faces the Blues in the playoffs. The Islanders have found a very good defensive first system having hired Coach Trotz who figured them out as the Capitals coach. Look for a really really really crazy crowd on Long Island.

Prediction: Penguins in 7

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Confessions of a Hockey Fanatic Takes on NHL Trade Deadline Day 2017

This year's Trade deadline day started off in the wee hours of Tuesday Feb. 28th with the Canucks starting their sell-off by sending the Jannik Hansen to the San Jose Sharks. It's still pretty taboo among teams and general managers to trade within the division. This will come into play later on in the afternoon.

There were a few trades that happened before the last 24 hours window, I think that pretty much set the market as far as who could get moved.

There were only two transactions this year where salary had to be retained Jarome Iginlas' was one of those transactions. The Avalanche are going to retain 50% of his salary. Could it be the best last chance of the Iginla Cup-chasing dream? The Kings are hoping so - after all it is an odd numbered year.

Then a rather shocking development happened within the last hour of the trade deadline show. The local team Pittsburgh Penguins have made a bold move by turning the valued defenceman Mark Streit, who was constantly burning the rival teams with goals, into one of theirs by acquiring him from Tampa Bay. I don't know if this was planned by the Lightning and Penguins, but it sure messes with the Flyers who probably didn't want a player of that caliber on a rival team.

I made a video of the day's highlights because I expected a rather dull day with plenty of wasted minutes just waiting for the reports and the tweets to come through with the news.
So, what do you think about the Trade deals made today and this week? Let me know in the comment box below.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Game of the Week Season 3: Minnesota Wild vs Philadelphia Flyers

Well, this week I decided to put two teams that I don't normally use in this week's Game of the Week. They don't meet each other much in the regular season, but the Wild and Flyers seem like a good match up where the Broad St. Bullies may be able to slow down the Wild's momentum in real life? Could a simulated scenario work just the same?

I was intrigued by the way Coach Boudreau would help out a team that was building something special with a bunch of key free agent signings. Did they get everything to gel?

In Philly, I don't know if they are going to say they are in a rebuilding process. They are clearly middling with an underachieving roster and a young coach that doesn't get people that excited about the process. Should the Philly community "trust the process" with the team?
So, how did I do? Are you satisfied with this series? Are there two other teams that need featured in this Game of the Week series? Please tell me in the comments section below!
Do I need to use more junior teams or feature more teams from Europe? I don't quite know what you want from this series yet.

I don't think I do enough higher stakes games on the series. Perhaps I will do a Stanley Cup game between two random teams? So, make your predictions soon! What two teams will we see in the Stanley Cup finals this year? Pittsburgh versus Chicago?

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Toronto Hosts Centennial Classic in Memorable Style

The NHL really knows how to make a big production of a big event and there is nothing bigger than the Outdoor game kicking off the NHL's 100th anniversary season. Of course, the league put the game on in "hockey's Vatican" believing it to be the most traditional site for a game like this to celebrate the history of the league. Starting off on a delay, the league post-poned the time so that the sun wasn't glaring on the ice. From the start, it looked like a great day for a hockey game like this one. It wasn't snowing or it didn't have sub-zero temperatures, but the game was ideal for vision and television cameras.

But once the introductions and pre-game festivities got underway, I got a little bored as the player introductions to the top 100 players of all time lagged on and on and on. Yes, every single player represented by their family member deserved their moment, after a while the need to get the game underway was palpable not only in my living room, but hopefully on the stadium. Then, the Anthems were sung with a total opposite production. The Star Spangled banner was loud and drawn out which makes a lot of Americans cringe. Anthem singers are supposed to be required to sing the song respectfully and not give their own stylistic interpretation. The Canadian anthem was the opposite who sung in a low subdued key. The fly-by of the jet was cool to look at as it soared through the city.

Then there was Wayne. Gretzky had just been in St. Louis for a hockey alumni game and now going through all the ordeals with the press and photo-ops in Toronto today. I wondered what time did he get to rest? Amazing at how much he just does what he's asked to do and no complaints later. By then, the Leafs and Wings were being brought out from the locker rooms. Breaking from the tradition of outdoor games bringing the teams to the rink, instead, they came out to theme music one at a time. With me in my old KOHO TML jersey, I saw how amazing the new Leafs centennial alternates look like in action. I think I want one now. Beauts! Both teams look impeccable with their jerseys this afternoon. And lets also give a lot of credit to the host BMO field, the now multi-purpose soccer pitch that looks majestic leaving nothing in the States to compare it to. This is what a stadium should look like. the 100 mold on the field was also a very nice touch.

The first period ended in a 0-0 snorefest, but there was some great quality chances interspersed with video highlight packages. Of course, Mr. and Mrs. Matthews were also in the crowd to talk about their son Auston.

In the first intermission we get treated to some Bryan Adams playing his hits and the audience singing along to Summer of 69.

The second period the NBC crew doubles down on trying to identify players for fans to keep an eye on. I can tell they want MI favored son Dylan Larkin to become a future leader on the Wings. But it was legacy NHL player Anthony Mantha to get the Wings on the scoreboard first. The other notable things from this period was the momentum swinging too-many-men penalty that the Leafs took while they were supposed to be on the PP. It's the kind of mental mistakes that wreck a growing team like the Leafs. And there was also the brief interview taken by a young leafs fan with a Matthews jersey. He looked really awkward standing in Jeremy Roenick's shadow.

More Matthews and Larkin profiles.

The third period started off with a rush of blue jerseys and "Uncle Leo" Komarov picking up a goal standing right in front of the net. But that wasn't the only thing that riled up the Leafs in front of their host crowd in the Stadium - a Matt Martin vs Steve Ott heavyweight bout put some energy into the game that has been mostly a defensive grinding affair. This turned into a Leafs scoring blitz by Brown, Matthews and Marner until a Jonathan Ericsson goal made things a little more interesting with 5 minutes left in the game. It's certainly turning into a Classic game to remember with the Toronto crowd getting their money's worth. Then Larkin, the kid the've been hyping the whole game, makes a great little flip over Andersen's right shoulder to bring it within one goal. 4-3 Leafs.

With the goalie pulled and prior to no time remaining on the clock, the Red Wings find the puck and shovel it in through a pile of bodies taking up the crease. And after a lengthy review, the game went to OT.

The overtime flow of a 3-on-3 game brought scoring chances to both teams, but it was Auston Matthews backhanding the puck over the Detroit goalie's shoulder.

As the game came to a close, I am at a loss for any answer that could suggest a game better than the one I just saw. The game turned out to be all it was hyped to be and leaves a follow up classic in St. Louis to try and match the same kind of drama and entertainment.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas 2016

In 2016, I had to overcome a larger role of my private family life as well as continued searching for more personal income. But my continued perseverance towards the Confessions of a Hockey Fanatic blog remain undaunted.
So, this year, in light of my continued struggles, I've decided to go minimalist towards my Christmas decorations. But while I do this, I hope you're all enjoying the holiday season, I hope you're enjoying all the hockey season as well!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving (American) Tournament Tradition

In the short holiday time that the kids get a break from school, those who choose to pursue their hockey goals and

stuff.....