Saturday, May 16, 2015

2015 Stanley Cup Playoff Predictions - Round 3

Well, at this point, my bracket is busted. I was counting on the Montreal Canadians to go to the Cup finals and finally silence the Canuckleheads who want to see the Stanley Cup be awarded to a Canadian team. It seems as if the NHL has gone unpredictable, well, at least for blog series like this one! Not sure if this is going to have a ripple effect on my credibility on future matters, but as far as predicting this year, it's not going according to [my] the script.

Could this be another year of an New York/LA-ish series were both coastal US cities will watch and reach the two biggest hockey markets? Is this the plan of the NHL to grow hockey in the United States for their NBC contract?

Put your thoughts below if your playoff bracket is busted all to heck or did you expect this conference finals round? Is this good for hockey or will the Canadians complain once again that they are also left out of rooting interest since 2011.

Western Conference

Anaheim v. Chicago

This series could go either way. It's as if the irresistible force (Ducks) are meeting up with the immovable object (BlackHawks). If you look at the league playoffs individual player standings, it's mostly all Ducks and Hawks players. I expect to see the Ducks wear down the Hawks with their defensive style attack. Perry/Getzlaf is still going strong.
Prediction: Ducks in 6

Eastern Conference

New York Rangers v. Tampa Bay

In a rematch of last year's Martin/Ryan trade drama, the Rangers aren't going to have to try as hard this year to keep the Lightning off the scoreboard. The Rangers have a playoff record for most consecutive 1 goal game wins. But if you ride the Lightning while the reverse sweep of the Montreal series, they find a way to win.
Prediction: Rangers in 6

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

2015 Stanley Cup Playoff Predictions - Round 2

So, already, my bracket is busted considering I thought that this was going to be St. Louis' year. I don't know what the Blues have to do with their roster to get over the hump and finally be in Cup contention. I had them going to the finals. Perhaps, they need to find an elite goaltender.

And for my hometown Penguins, it's quite an additional frustration to a team that had high expectations given that they have some of the best talent in the NHL. There is no excuses, but the consensus was that the injuries and lack of depth at the wing positions really hurt them.

So let's look at who's left in the NHL in their quest for hockey's greatest prize.

Western Conference

Anaheim v. Calgary

Calgary is an amazing Cinderella story - in Canada. I don't think anyone else quite cares about the Flames who've been flaming out for the past 7 years. But with the right match up, they can sure surprise people. "Johnny Hockey" Gaudreau needs to step up and grow to the next level of development. Anaheim Ducks are on a tear and looking like they are the biggest team in the West. They've swept the Jets. Now look for them to do the same to the Flames. But they could drop a game if the Flames get lucky. Look for the Getzlaf/Perry tandem to score goals.
Prediction: Ducks in 6

Chicago v. Minnesota

Chicago's veterans have to be getting tired eventually, right? The amount of games they play in one year is phenomenal. But it took a goalie controversy to find them back on track. Who goes for the second series? Crawford may have to be reaching his limits. But the Wild's Devan Dubnyk is the man their team has confidence in. They'll go as far in the tourney as he'll take them. But they also have a fantastic powerplay scoring at near 30%.

Prediction: Blackhawks in 5

Eastern Conference

Montreal v. Tampa Bay
Tampa Bay is the team that just doesn't say "die". They are the plucky team in the East conference that are fighting as underdogs to move on to round 2. Look for Tyler Johnson to take over the scoring for the bigger stars that seem to be slumping. Everyone is asking why Stamkos isn't scoring and shut out points wise. Perhaps the speculation would lean towards an injury? Montreal is looking really strong and got away with a few controversial moments. I was really appalled at the Subban ax chop that resulted in a game misconduct. Look for Price to be right again.
Prediction: Habs in 7

NY Rangers v. Washington

The Rangers are quietly struggling as the top NHL team from the regular season. Scoring is down or seemingly at a premium. Rick Nash has 1 assist coming out of the Pens series. Ovechkin for the Capitals is really soaring and enjoying a resurgence in his playoff career. Look for him to put a few more in past King Henrik. But eventually, I think the Rangers should wake up and expose the inexperience of the Capitals' goaltenders.
Prediction: Rangers in 6

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Why Is Darnell Nurse Still In the OHL?

Courtsey: Erie Times News
Darnell Nurse is a strong prospect for the Edmonton Oilers and currently plays defense in the OHL for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. I recently had an opportunity to take in a critical playoff game between them and the Erie Otters. If you talked to some experts and scouts, they'd probably tell you that Nurse had a few years to develop into the kind of player that they need. I've even heard a few hockey podcasts that suggest the Oilers should've called up Nurse for critical NHL experience and help them on the blueline. But the Greyhounds have also got the #1 offense in the league and I can understand if he either chose not to get called up to the majors or felt that he had a chance to do something special with his junior team. But it wasn't until a little bid later that I got clear evidence of just why Darnell Nurse isn't in the NHL.

While he was a dominant player out on the ice and a very vocal leader, Darnell Nurse seemed to have control of his emotions. His team was ahead early in the 3rd period with a 4-3 lead. Things had become really temperamental and many players were taking big hits. One Otters player had taken matters into his own hands and found an opportunity to submarine a Soo player in such a unique (and probably embarrassing) way that the Greyhounds teammate had been flipped into the air and rolled onto the ice a-la a pro wrestling maneuver "the back body drop".

It came upon team captain Darnell Nurse to render his own brand of justice. While the Otters player had been warned by the officials and other Soo teammates, Nurse bolted from his blueliner position and cross-checked the unsuspecting Otter player. It was clearly done in clear view of the referees. Nurse was then given a 2 minute penalty to which the Otters capitalized making the score 4-4. It was a huge momentum shift in the game. The Otters had found a surge goal-scoring run and even found a 5-4 lead.

Now, I had been sitting right behind the Soo bench. It had become apparent that Nurse had made a critical error and gave game four to the Otters. They could have had the series tied up to take game 5 back in Ontario, but instead the Otters were given the eventual 3-1 series lead. There was one more choice moment in time where Nurse wasn't as effective as he should have been. During a TV timeout, Nurse had chosen that moment to rally his fellow players. I watched his face yell and tried to read his lips. He threw out a few expletives. However, I doubted that his teammates even heard him. He was barely audible and no one on the bench even looked in his direction during that tirade. I couldn't tell you exactly what was said, but even if the players could hear him over the noisy EIA, they chose not to pay attention.

The Otters YouTube channel had captured all of the highlights if you'd like to watch them.
Now, I am not sure if this game could be keyed in to have exposed a character flaw or a moment. Nurse could have used more discretion on his part, but I would only wonder if things like this would eventually lead to criticisms of him not being mature enough for the NHL level.

What do you think? Will Nurse be an impact player for the Oilers in the future?

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.