Monthly Archives: May 2010

Blackhawks Down, Flyers Up

The race for the Stanley Cup has pitted two unlikely picks to move forward, but both teams have some super powers to unleash which will make this unique combination a great series. The Chicago Blackhawks are ready to get down to business and bring the Cup home. The Flyers are pumped up and ready to get things started. So who’s going to hoist it this year?

The Blackhawks have been building from a dusty past. The surge in strength skipped a generation and is now a rip-roaring party for the new generation of Blackhawks fans. Dustin Bfugylien is the most underrated player on the team. His name is mentioned as a great player, but in the past he’s been a hit or miss. Now, his contribution to the team can explode further as he lends might and confidence to the game.

Captain Jonathan Toews has created cohesion within the team. Each game holds a goal, an assist or a hit from any one of the guys. The unsung hero is Joel Quenneville leaving the basement Avs and culminating in a conference championship two years after taking over in Chicago. And he’s going to the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Good luck Chicago, who is the heavy favorite, but the Flyers will stick it to you. You can’t underestimate the talent that has been brewing in Philly either. With similar goaltending issues, the story is on the group dynamics. The Flyers have a cohesive team and good depth as any one of those guys could score at any time. I’m not making predictions, but I’m more interested in watching the Flyers play. I’m also rooting for University of Denver alum, Matt Carle. I watched him play at the Ritchie Center and have been following him San Jose to Philly.

When the series gets heated, look forward to some scrappiness from Bfugylien, Eager, Hartnell and Carcillo. Though the odds in Vegas scream Chicago, I’m not betting on anyone. The Blackhawks are not viewing this as a walk in the park either. A series win for Chicago would mean so much on so many levels. Philly can’t believe they are still playing this season. The expectations need to be put aside for now. It’s anyone’s game.

Crazy Cup Year

Three teams are out that no one thought would be out. The Presidents’ Trophy winners, the Washington Capitals; the reigning Stanley Cup champs, the Pittsburgh Penguins; and the iconic Detroit Red Wings will not grace the cover of magazines hoisting the Cup. This is the year of the crazy cup race.

The top two seeds in the Western Conference and the last two teams to get in for the Eastern Conference converge in a playoff series unlike most have ever seen. Emerging stars in the NHL are making a name for themselves this season, while old favorites are finally getting their due time.  Here are some notable personalities in this crazy cup race:

Michael Cammalleri- Montreal Canadiens

I’ve been following him since he played with the Los Angeles Kings. His injuries this season sidelined him for most of February, but returned just in time to push the Montreal Canadiens up the ladder to grab the last playoff spot. He has twelve goals in the playoffs matching records set by some of Montreal’s greatest players. Cammalleri deserves this fantastic trip he’s on always giving his all and it shows.

Joe Pavelski- San Jose Sharks

His name was flopped around fantasy leagues as a recommended pickup, but who knew this would be the year for Pavelski? He led the playoffs in scoring until Cammalleri broke the bank. Pavelski plays hard as if the other players are just minor inconveniences on his way to the net. Expect explosive plays from Pavelski.

Dan Boyle- San Jose Sharks

He’s had some hard luck in the series with the Avalanche, but rebounded with scoring. Boyle is also due some good karma. Praised as a top-five defenseman in the league, Boyle can electrify his way to the Cup. He’s a smart D-guy who’s always on the puck, but still minding his blueline.

Daniel Carcillo- Philadelphia Flyers

Nicknamed,” Car Bomb,” is no surprise. Fans don’t know if he’ll be scoring or getting a suspension. And the Flyers fans love that about him. He’s their secret weapon. Broad Street fans have a rousing number of tough guys to love with Scott Hartnell, and Arron Asham, but Carcillo brings a raw in-your-face attitude to the game. Some may criticize his penalties hurting the club, but sometimes the rebel rouser can get things fired up including scoring.

Dustin Byfuglien- Chicago Blackhawks

He’s been on fire in the playoffs! Super player, but lacked that spark all year. Buff is one of those all-around players whose contribution to the game may go unnoticed, but his skills lurk and emerge at just the right time. With a hat-trick against the Vancouver Canucks, expect him to play with heart against the Sharks. He’s my bet for the Blackhawks.

Evgeni Nabokov- San Jose Sharks

Yes, the San Jose Sharks have finally made it to the second round of the playoffs. There is hope for them to make it all the way, and Nabokov deserves a big round of applause for being one of the best goaltenders in the NHL. He’s absolutely the best heading into the battle for the Cup as his experience has lent him his composure and fortitude to be a champion.

Jaroslav Halak- Montreal Canadiens

This kid has proven himself, despite several setbacks. He’s beet hot, then not, then benched, and now playing for a chance at the coveted Stanley Cup. The miraculous Montreal Canadiens are a talented group of players, so you have to give it up for Halak making saves on Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby, not to mention all the other superstars pummeling the puck Halak’s way.

Hats off to all the great players who have advanced toward Lord Stanley’s Cup. It’s been an amazing playoff run with some unexpected moments that will carry in to the remaining games. Taking the tiger by its tail seems to be the call for this season’s run, as it could be anyone’s game. All the predictions were so far off, and the reluctance to pick the Sharks has been an advantage for San Jose. If the Montreal Canadiens, as the eighth seed, can beat the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Capitals, then the Stanley Cup champs, who’s to say they can’t win the whole enchilada?  I’d like to see them try to get past the San Jose Sharks who are chomping at the bit for their turn to hoist the Stanley Cup in the Shark Tank.

Down in Detroit

Red Wings fans are in mourning. It’s not just a hockey game; it’s out existence. Detroit isn’t really known for our football, a tad for our baseball, but moreover the depressive state of our city. Detroit was named the murder capital for numerous years, but that had been replaced with the title of Stanley Cup champs. So now what do we do?

If you’ve never been to Detroit, you’ll be taken aback by the ghostly streets and boarded up buildings. When you walk from the Ren Cen to Joe Louis Arena, it reminds you of a movie set.  Some great horror and actions films could be filmed there immediately. Detroit’s own Mitch Albom, Jeff Daniels and others have talked about refurbishing the city into Hollywood East.

Detroit has one of the best art museums, some great Greek and Middle Eastern food, and Canada just over the border. But what the Red Wings fans will do now is go boating, hit one of the many beaches and sing Kid Rock songs all summer long.

The series between San Jose and most likely Chicago will be a good one, but I’m looking to the Eastern Conference. If I can’t see the Canucks move on, I’m supporting my Boston Bruins friends. I’m also supporting Zdeno Chara. Boston has done a remarkable job making the playoffs and taking control over the Flyers.

Pittsburgh was always one of my favorite teams, until last year when the Pens snubbed the Wings at the Stanley Cup celebration. Good sportsmanship is still one aspect I admire in a team. I can make a case for the Canadiens, who are the Cinderella team in the playoffs, but my Boston friends will not have that.

The good news for the Wings is that Jiri Hudler will return, there are plans for a new arena, and Jimmy Howard will be an attack dog next year. I’m watching hockey for the love of the game and the playoff run.

Franzen keeps Red Wings alive

Who said the Red Wings were finished? San Jose knew there was a spark left, but few knew that the spark came in the form of Johan Franzen. The fans at Joe Louis Arena witnessed a scoring frenzy by Franzen, who scored four goals on five shots in span of 5:36 in the first period for the win over the Sharks, 7-1.

The Mule stepped up and sent a clear message that the Red Wings would not go down in disgrace. Franzen was offered a 12-year contract that many questioned.  The Wings organization knew what talent they had in Franzen. Plagued with an injury for most of the season, Franzen was able to rally back and provide the type of scoring he is so well known for.

It was a seven-point night for Franzen, who set a new record of six points in a playoff game, four goals and two power-play assists. He tied the record for Red Wings goals in a playoff game, matching Carl Liscombe in 1945 and Ted Lindsay in 1955.

With three playoff goals in one period Franzen joins a venerable club of Ted Lindsay in 1955 against Montreal in the second period, Darren McCarty in 2002 with Colorado in the third period, and Pittsburgh’s Mario Lemieux who was the last to score four goals in a postseason period, which culminated to an NHL-playoff record five in 1989, against Philadelphia.

The Sharks, Evgeni Nabokov, was pulled after stopping only 4 of 9 shots. Back-up goalie Thomas Greiss got the thrill of his life facing a Detroit team who was on a warpath, rebuking 26 of 28 shots.

The series heads back to San Jose with the Sharks up 3-1. Detroit faces elimination if they can’t rebound in the series. Teams coming from a 3-1 deficit to win the series had occurred during this season’s playoffs with the Montreal Canadiens coming from behind to put the skids on the Washington Capitals bid for the Stanley Cup.