Category Archives: Teams

The Sporting Muse: The New Jersey Sports Fan Hits the Sh*t

The following  feature interview   originally appeared in the February 2013 issue of NJ Wag, published out of Red Bank, New Jersey- Monmouth County.

The Sporting Muse
The New Jersey Sports Fan Hits the Sh*t
by Heidi Pope Werner

Love the games, but hate the $10 dollar watered-down stadium beer? Been busted in a Tebow Jets jersey lately? The New Jersey Sports Fan feels your pain. Armed with attitude and comedic cracks at sports fans in the Garden State, this Jersey Shore native takes to the road to find the best and worst from Soho to Seaside.

Memorable games and plays remain in the history books, but who remembers the fans?  Enter The New Jersey Sports Fan, the man known for his love of New Jersey and the sports that go with the territory.

Armed with a video camera, sunglasses and a Jets hat, this crude and rude fan rants and raves on his days off about the love of his life- sports. Not much can tear him away from the field, the track or the arena.  This is the story of the guts and glory of the average hard-working Jersey guy.

Despite his busy shooting schedule, the Jersey Sports Fan took time out to sit down with NJ Wag to talk sports, celebrities and snacks:

So who are your teams?
JETS, METS, RANGERS, KNICKS

What do you have to say about your beloved Jets?

Ya know the worst storm in history hit the Jersey Shore and the Jets
have managed to be a bigger F-ing disaster.  This season made me sick.
Literally, week 13 I became very ill.  Pneumonia, shitting my pants,
the works. The doc said that I was suffering from emotional trauma.
It was true.  They did me in.  I’m glad to be into the winter.  I pray
the Knicks and Rangers make me forget the Fall.

Best game day munchies?

On a big game day I start with around 4-6 coffees and a porkroll egg
and cheese. Four hours before kick off, tipoff, puck drop, or first
pitch, I like to get into some cold ones, and I match the suds with a
few dogs.  I usually have 4 beverages for each tube steak.  I usually
do around 8 tube steaks before the game.  You do the math sweetheart.

What team do you hate the most?

I truly despise the Phillies.  One time I went to a Phillies/Mets
game down in Philly. It was when the Mets had Pedro Martinez.  He got
lit up in the first inning.  Naturally I was very upset and had some
choice words for Phillies fans around me.   Long story short those
Philly creeps put me in the hospital for 3 days just because I made a
comparison between their city and a toilet in an all you can eat
Chinese buffet.

Do you listen to sports radio?

Oh yea.  I’ve logged a lot of hours with Mike Francesa.  He can be
like a prophet at times.  Lately half of his commentary is just his
fat ass breathing heavily into the mic.  He’s a pig, but I still
listen.  I’ll always listen.

Best word of advice form a sports celeb?
Nothing gets the crowd going better than a good fight and beer.

Describe your perfect sports outing?

WOW that’s tough….It would probably start in a hot tub with some of
the girls that work at Fantasies out on 36.  Maybe catch a matinee at
the Garden and get a Jets playoff night game.  But Lord knows that
won’t happen.  I am sick of fantasizing about stuff like this.  All
I need is some wins and teams to be proud of.  Ya know being a Fan can
hurt.  It can hurt so bad you forget what it’s all about.   It’s about
drinking, screaming, and showing your kid how to act like a man at a
special event.  Maybe if you’re lucky you can beat up a Phillies fan
while you’re at it.

Are you married?

Married to what?  I am married to my teams.  I have found that
marriage and I don’t mix well.  I prefer to date dancers that don’t
ask many questions.

Best Bruce encounter?

One time I saw the boss late night in the Windmill.  He was solo so I
took a seat next to him.  I noticed he didn’t have Kraut on his dog.
This was upsetting for me because the Windmill has great kraut and his
dog looked naked without a kraut dress on it.  So I said to him “Let
me put some kraut on your dog for you” he said, “don’t touch my dog
man.” I said “trust me Bruce just trust me.” He said alright.  He
loved the dog dressed with kraut.   He still calls me when he is in town.
Love that guy.

The laughter and inspiration behind the videos are hidden gems of a satirical sideline fan and the frustrations most sports lovers face. Every video stems from a situation we all have found ourselves in at one time or another, and that’s what makes the viewpoint priceless.

In “Dreams Do Come True,” the New Jersey Sports Fan says it best, “Hello New Jersey, I feel much more comfortable,” as he heads to the Meadowlands with The Boss blaring on the radio.

Can’t get the Rangers game on TV?  NJ Sports Fan takes on the multi-million dollar renovation of Madison Square Garden in “MSG vs. Time Warner Cable.” He hits NJ Transit and lands at the Garden for an experimental field trip, because he can’t get the game on cable.  If you have an extra ticket to the game, please contact the New Jersey Sports Fan.

Ever thought of working in sports?  Yep, he has too. “Referee Replacement Rep Application” takes him to the field to get a fall gig in the NFL, a dream job he feels he is qualified to fill.  The wealth of material from experience, talent, and the dedication to take the hardcore to hilarious reminds us all to keep trying, even if it is painful, futile, but ultimately fun.

The videos stem from characters he and the crew grew up with around the neighborhood and eccentric fans he has met along the way. Everyone remembers the dad on the block who got mad at the lawn mower on a quiet Sunday afternoon, or the golfer with the brown and orange plaid pants, but New Jersey Sports Fan wants you to remember the classic characters we know and can’t forget because of their absurdity.

A must watch for any New Jerseyan is the now historical June 2011 stroll through Seaside Heights reminiscing about teenage dreams on the Jersey Shore in “Summer in Seaside.” The sights and sounds of the boardwalk and the commentary on the Bennies classify this as the real deal. Sports website, Bleacher Report, called this “A true classic.”

Closer to home, “Just in Time for Preakness,” takes the Jersey Sports Fan to Monmouth Park. Sporting the obligatory denim jacket over the tank-top, while smoking a stogie, he utters the words that best fit the moment “make me wiser my friend..be a buddy and bud me up.”

“Breaking the Barrier,” brings new meaning to women’s lib.  Explore how three dudes could portray a relationship faux paus not discussed in most circles, and simplify the message beyond expectations.  Share this video with someone you love.

Based out of Bernie Hatefield Productions, the crew of three takes their stories and love of sports to a new level of comedic bromance.  Every person, every place and every event is fair game to be reworked and remembered in the twisted viewpoints of some sports guys, but it’s truthfully local and contagiously continental.  Jersey jargon is included in the way only brash jersey boys can dish.

Follow the Jersey Sports fan and Bernie Hatefield productions on their website http://www.berniehatefield.com, Twitter https://twitter.com/BernieHatefield, Brobible.com and of course, You Tube.

Hey Hockey, What’s Up?

I’m really glad the NHL has returned. I missed the righteous slapshots of Pavel Datsyuk,the energy around Madison Square Garden on game day, the Enforcers, and my fellow fans- the best fans in sports.

Though I am wearing my Wings jersey, I really wanted to boycott the NHL and not watch a game. I don’t really care about all the past chaos, I’m just happy I can sit down and watch a game every night. All is forgiven. The lockout forced  me into a path that pays.

Blood, sweat and tears is the art of journalism. The drive is insatiable. No more up all night to hit the news wire, no more fantastic editors to work with….I’ve been so blessed, and no more play-by-play. I got a great marketing job, write for a local paper and get to interview people in sports, music and design….so, I think we’re okay.

I’ve covered the Colorado Avalanche, the Detroit Red Wings, the New York Rangers and will continue to follow. I’ve had the privilege to attend University of Denver Pioneers games, watching Matt Carle and Paul Stastny. Michigan hockey and the Detroit Red Wings have my allegiance. I can’t quit hockey.

Living on the east coast does provide the hockey fan with the best hockey coverage outside of Canada. Almost every night, I have a choice of watching a Devils, Rangers, or Islanders game. The only deprivation I face now is not getting enough Red Wings.

Fantasy hockey owners are scrambling to repair broken teams as players face injuries getting back on the ice. This is the time to watch out for the newbies on the roster. The fantasy hockey portion of my blog will be up next week.

Welcome back hockey fans!

New Year, New Deal

This has been a dreary year for hockey lovers. Visiting my family in the Ann Arbor/Detroit area, the absence of hockey was noticeable. Some people don’t realize that entire communities rely on the business and traffic from hockey. Michigan is such a state.

The NHL lockout has sent fans back to their origins of college and junior hockey. That movement has been great for the base of hockey. Just like the holidays, the lockout has given fans a glimpse of what really matters…the game. Unfortunately, the NHL and this lockout nonsense reflects poorly on all those associated with such shenanigans. Benefits of the lockout have freed the players to donate their time for more charity games. Grass roots at its finest.

The University of Michigan Men’s ice hockey team has done well taking third place in the Great Lakes Invitational. Represented by colleges from Western Michigan to Michigan Tech, this college hockey expo draws a crowd at Joe Louis Arena in downtown Detroit. Good news for Detroit is that Windsor, Ontario is mere minutes over the bridge and brings NHL fans to town, so now long-term damage is expected. Hockey has survived, yet the identity of the Detroit Metro-Area is securely poised as the most successful sports franchise, the Detroit Red Wings.

Every year I haul Red Wings gear home. This year I hauled Michigan gear home. I even scored a Grand Valley State hoodie for those diehards. While it is great to add some more depth to my athletic collection, the Red Wings are not just shirts and key chains. There was little talk of NHL hockey. Fans in my home state have plenty of other options, because that’s how hockey is lived in the frozen earth that is Michigan.

You haven’t really felt cold unless you’ve stood outside in almost any town in the Wolverine State. Canada has bragging rights to the pain that is the cold, but we’re neighbors and feel their pain. Now living in southern New Jersey, I didn’t realize that 40 degrees is balmy. But when you are standing on ice most of the time, it’s natural to want to skate on it and live your life on it.

Despite the 13 degree temps, my sister and I went out Christmas night and took pictures on the streets of Ann Arbor. Michigan Stadium stood tall and proud ready for 2014 and the Winter Classic featuring the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs. Standing at the Big House is a monumental feeling. The Winter classic on this grad scale will bring a misty moment for hockey fans.

The Big House Xmas night….the site of the Winter Classic 2014

The New Year should bring a new deal, but let’s start all over again next year.

Fighting Ends with NHL Lockout

The Ontario Hockey League(OHL) refuses to justify fighting and won’t allow it, and they’re fighting back. The NHL is listening and may follow the call.

“For years, Campbell and his staff in Toronto have chewed on the subject. The Rangers-Devils game last season, where three staged fights broke at the drop of the puck, was a black eye for the league and certainly caused some in-house deliberation at the NHL office.”

The influential intolerance of violence is trending as the NHL lockout lingers. Fighting is a problem in hockey, but just how much fighting is really happening?

Brandon Prust and Shawn Thornton are the two grinders who have racked up the most majors in the league. Prust, formerly of the New York Rangers, accrued 156 penalty minutes. Shawn Thornton of the Boston Bruins racked 154 minutes of bad behaviour. Not all penalty minutes are for fighting, rather diving, tripping, misconduct, slashing, boarding, and high-sticking (which can rip open a lip, eye or nose).

Is this the death of the doomed fighting controvrsy to make way for a kinder, gentler hockey agenda? The lockout may be a contributing factor for initiatives to curb relentless fighting in the NHL. Players do not make a habit of fighting and the enforcer role has diminshed on every roster. With the NHL work stoppage, fans may expect to see a stoppage of the bloodbaths on the ice when the season returns.

Can hockey survive a cultural shift so great to adapt to the new culture?

Fans have many options to watch hockey for less expense and travel time. This may be good for hockey overall to take us back to our roots in local ice arenas. The mention of the delapedated concrete building that house large ice rinks and skates, brings joy. It’s the environment where every hockey fan got the itch. It’s the same traits that bring fans to other arenas. It’s a hockey culture where your neighbors are enchanted with the scraping of skates, the whoosh of the ice, the cold, and the fortitude to watch every last minute.

A large part of that willingness, for hockey fans like myself, was the promise of a scrap or two. That culture is dying for the sake of a new breed of hockey player. They’re faster, analytical, and avoid roadblocks like a Prust or Thornton. The new skater must be keen and lean.

Growing up with the Detroit Red Wings, you knew that the Wings represented wth wheels of speed and innovation. Players like Steve Yzerman modeled the quiet, calm leader with the intelligence to create. The Wings moved like a machine. The story of the  tragedy and triumph of the Wings was your story too.

Now, living in New York, the glory of the New York Rangers is quickly falling. Talented players are exiting to play the game they love, and who can blame them? While most fans realize these players enjoy their job, they are men who have families to support. An energized city, an energized Madison Square Garden has dimmed for the Rangers fans this October.

The NHL has shut down neighborhoods.  Hockey fans are resourceful enough to know how to handle their hockey fix. “Run for the exits” is what the NHL has done to the fans.

I really don’t want to start a fight, so perhaps we will see you in the near future. I’m working on locating a KHL channel.

 

National Hockey Lockout

Award for lameness. The lockout will have reverberations in varied degrees depending on its duration. If players are bailing immediately, the fans are sure to follow. Maintaining a billion dollar industry with no provider and no customer won’t hold back a backlash.

NCAA and AHL hockey will see a profit, and those neighbordhood junior leagues will benefit from new spectators. The fans want hockey. The game of hockey is why fans pay to see the game,  not to buy a pretzel and a key chain. Going to a game, supporting your team is tradition for most recalling classic memories. If food and trinkets call you to the game, then you really are not a hockey fan.

This work stoppage has sent Evgeny Malkin and Sergei Gonchar packing for home signing deals with Mettalurg of the Kontinental Hockey League. The Pittsburgh Penguins roster got lighter as Sidney Crosby’s agent made an inquiry to the KHL so Sid the Kid won’t hit a skid this season. Yannick Weber and Mark Streit sign in Switzerland, Christian Ehrhoff heads to Germany, so who will next to send a message to the NHL?  Pavel Datsyuk and Alex Ovechkin, that’s who. Patrick Berglund will play for free in Sweden and the exodus continues.

Shane Doan’s contract was wrapped up with a 4-year deal in Phoenix as the Coyotes arena deal looked positive and possible. Now, that’s all gone for those few fans who eagerly anticipated the return of their desert dogs.

The owners are the only people who really want this lockout. They lose money but hope to gain. This tactic is a way to keep the lid on grandstanding in the future with ludicrous multi-year contracts that escalate as the player deflates. Even NHL players are expendable. Perhaps this is a passive technique to rid the tough guy world of whiners and embellish-makers.

It’s a bittersweet farewell to NHL veterans Teemu Selanne and Daniel Alfredsson who will not get a grand farewell if the season isn’t salvaged.

We’ll all laugh about this went the lockout gives way by November, right? We’ll all be cautious and snagging some of those promotional tickets the NHL teams will have to fork over to win back the loyal.

The lockout is lame because it’s the same issue in any workplace- administration vs. staff. Rarely do the two sides ever see the same problem or the same solution. Negotiation must end on a win-win, and that is not happening soon at any percentage rate.

Gary Bettman and Bill Daly will forego salaries this season, and the NHL employees will go to a 4-day work week to save money. The Florida Panthers let go of their mascot and the damages to the profits continue. What was the point of all of this again?

Remember these great moments?

or this great moment for the Rangers/Devils fans?


National Hockey Lame. Positives in all of this: no Paulina Gretzky and Nickelback.

Hockey Chutzpah and the Looney Lockout

Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin and Gary Bettman have infringed on the end of summer and there’s no end in sight. Summer isn’t over, yet hockey fans are wondering if they should pack up the sunscreen and swimsuits just yet for skates and snow gear. Training camp is just weeks away, or is it?

Kudos for  the Russian hockey “activist” Alex Ovechkin for making efforts to save the 2012-13 season and a chance to rebound. Representing the modern hockey god, Sidney Crosby has also put his actions to save the careers of many of his colleagues. Depending on Crosby’s medical clearance, he may not see much of a season despite his efforts.

This is about money, isn’t it? Yes, yes, it is.

Fans have been raging over ticket prices for years. Average Joe attends AHL or college games. Average Joe does not enjoy sitting in the rafters at Joe Louis Arena or Madison Square Garden. Really, they don’t. The real competition is the affiliates and training/development programs that feed into the NHL that will benefit from a lockout.

Let’s not even talk about the KHL or European leagues where many snubbed NHL players are making their livelihood.

The proposal is to spread the wealth. Successful teams needs to help the fledglings so the money is created equal. Slashing salaries of the players and limits to contracts still does not resolve the high cost of being an NHL fan.

As a hockey writer, the lockout will impede the progress made under the direction of…em…Bettman in the media. Tormented and despised, his tactics grew the sport’s popularity and TV deals proving the strategy is working. Authority figures ruining everything is not a new concept, but it’s not the coaches, announcers, trainers or any of the staff who have crippled the season. Ownership and investment calls all the shots and signs the paychecks.

All this is important to hometown hockey hooligans who cannot imagine life without hockey, but they will if a deal cannot be met by Sept. 15.

Let’s Talk…..

The heat is on. Enter the Collective Bargaining Agreement to shake up your summer. The same waiting game on the CBA is exactly what was experienced by New Jersey Devils fans as captain Zach Parise’s fate was out of their hands. Let’s hope the hands holding the CBA’s fate ends in a positive outcome.

This summer Rick Nash, Bobby Ryan, Alex Semin and Shane Doan will decide what to do with their 2012-13 season, depending on if there is a season. With the continual rise of hockey’s popularity, this lockout would change the momentum of the entire game, the NHL and its players. Fans are holding their breath.

The snubbing of New Jersey by Zach Parise was a shock. It shouldn’t have been. Parise voiced his displeasure over the course of several seasons. The Devils were never seen as contenders without Parise. Now, without Parise, the team rebuilds with alum Scott Stevens returning as an assistant coach. Fans had faith that Parise would return….supposedly, he was a fan of the Shore. Career moves are nothing personal in the NHL, but those moves are taken personally by the fans.

Shane Doan’s fate in Phoenix is another conundrum. Doan has taken that community and ran with it. Doan and his family have been supporters of charitable organizations in the desert for some time. The impact of a Doan loss could cause a ripple effect on the deal to keep the team in Glendale. Fans are loyal but moody on attending games. Very few fans wait after morning skates to get a glimpse of their favorite ‘Yote. Doan may be contemplating the move for a last push on his career since the Coyotes did remarkably well in the playoffs.

Shane Doan after Morning Skate in Glendale (HPWerner)

Bobby Ryan, Alex Semin and Rick Nash just want to move on and feel appreciated. Semin needs a boost to his game and a new team may solve the problem. Ryan isn’t seen as a valuable asset as he once was in Anaheim, so off he goes to some lucky team (Let’s Go Rangers). Ryan is fresh, young and has the skill for a team to build upon.

And who can blame Rick Nash for wanting a change of venue in Columbus? Nash is an island in Columbus. Unfortunately, he’s the face of the Jackets and his departure will be felt heavily. GM Howson can’t replace Nash with another big name, rather a few newbies who will take time to grow. With a rejected trade offer from the Detroit Red Wings, it’s apparently clear that Howson doesn’t want to deal Nash to division rivals or western rivals. The San Jose Sharks, who are also in the Nash lottery, probably won’t land him either.

The CBA talks now coincide with TV deals and those logistics. Hockey writers shiver when the lockout is mentioned. It is debatable whether the strength of the current NHL will withstand the blow and recover. Let the GM’s do the talking until they’re blue in the face. This summer, patience is the new sunblock. Don’t get burned is the name of the game.

Relax, it’s Summer…Let the GMs do the Work

Hockey fanatics everywhere can’t let go just yet. Too many deals, trades and speculations are in works that leave the hockey community a little uneasy. The NHL Entry Draft, the July 1 free agent scurry, and the Collective Bargaining Agreement looming have descended upon backyard barbeques and the beach.

Relax, enjoy the summer and let the GMS, agents and players worry about the outlook for the 2012-13 season.

If you are a New York Rangers fan, then you have plenty to talk about as the Rick Nash acquisition conjures up “what could’ve been and what could be” talk. Scoring is needed for New York to move past their demons, but at what cost? Fans may have to bid adieu to Brandon Dubinsky, Derek Stepan, rookie Chris Kreider and Michael Del Zotto if they want the big name to save the day. Get ready to rock New York, because the shift is coming. New York has too many solid players and potential to go unnoticed.

In Detroit, it feels like when Steve Yzerman left the organization. with the retirement of Nicklas Lidstrom, Hockeytown is without another legend. A new arena and a new captain will recharge the Wings for years to come. The Red Wings will always be a constant influence in the hockey community, but now will have to rebuild mentally and physically.

If any fans are breathing a sigh of relief, it’s the Los Angeles Kings fans who are sitting at the beach. Congrats to a job well done. The Kings have been proactive in bringing their story and talent to the forefront. GM Dean Lombardi turned a dream into a reality. Jonathan Quick as MVP brought home the contributions of the goaltender back in vogue.

Dreams in New Jersey are still alive. Next up for GM Lou Lamoriello is to secure Zach Parise for another Cup run, if Parise isn’t snatched away. Parise has registered for many as a better deal than Rick Nash. As an unrestricted fee agent this summer, Parise will be able to pick his destination.

And then there is Shea Weber, Ryan Suter, Bobby Ryan and Ryan Getzlaf who are in the mix. Around, around, nobody knows, where any one of these will go. Keep your hockey news source close at hand on the boat, at the barbeque, at the beach or at the ballpark. This summer will be a hot one.

How West Coast Hockey has Won

Beach leagues and desert dreams have put the Los Angeles Kings and the Phoenix Coyotes in a Western Conference final worth the wait. Making deals and trades to acquire players who are now showing their worth creates a must series to watch whether a west coast fan or not. Goaltenders Jonathan Quick and Mike Smith have dazzled and proven that the goaltender isn’t out of style in the playoffs.

Vezina finalist, Jonathan Quick, has been the backbone of the Kings all season. With the addition of Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, the chemistry of the duo have raised hope in raising the Stanley Cup in LaLa Land. The Kings are stacked with Stanley Cup winners and playoff veterans.

The Kings arrived at the final with huge upsets the No. 1-seeded Vancouver Canucks and No.-2 seeded St. Louis Blues. Only captain Dustin Brown, Jonathan Quick, Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty hadn’t won a playoff series. Jarret Stoll and Matt Greene lost in the Cup final with Edmonton in 2006 and Mike Richards and Jeff Carter lost with Philadelphia in 2010. Dustin Penner also won a Cup with the Anaheim Ducks in 2007.

Justin Williams has emerged as a scoring threat in the playoff run, as he did with the Carolina Hurricanes in defeating the Edmonton Oilers in the 2006 Cup finals. Oilers at the time, Stoll and Greene are happy to be on his side of the fence for this run. Expect Williams to be a factor in the win.

Rob Scuderi was a “piece” of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 2009 triumph. He got the nickname “piece” after he misspoke while intending to say he was just “one piece” of the team. Colin Fraser played three games of the Chicago Blackhawks’ 2010 Cup run, but what a run to be in.

The Kings have creativity and confidence on their side.

The Phoenix Coyotes have Mike Smith, a Vezina snub, to tackle the goals that the Kings will be tossing his way. Phoenix has battled ownership issues, dismal fan attendance, and a captain who didn’t have the best few seasons, until now. Forwards Radim Vrbata, Antoine Vermette and veteran Ray Whitney are solid, but the defensive talents of Keith Yandle and Oliver Ekman-Larsson are holding the ‘Yotes together. The Coyotes beat Nashville and Chicago to move on, but they didn’t sweep like the Kings.

Finally, better-than-good hockey has arrived in the west. The Western Conference has been plagued with underachievement for years and not being taken seriously. Kudos to those players who stuck with their teams, and congrats to the fans who have supported the beach and desert teams.

This will be an exciting series, but the Kings will win in 5.

Follow me on The Hockey Writers for analysis, predictions and commentary on the  Eastern Conference Final between the New York Rangers and the New Jersey Devils.

Stanley Cup Playoffs Round 2- Breaking New Ground

New teams  have graced this run for the Cup. Unexpected losses and battles in overtime have created a fresh group of teams who have finally broken hallowed ground. No. 1 seeded Vancouver could not make the case against the surging Los Angeles Kings and the defending Stanley Cup Bruins were eliminated at the hands of Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals. What to expect in the Round 2 is more of the unexpected.

The Pittsburgh Penguins and the Detroit Red Wings saw their dreams dashed, while the Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues have had dream seasons. This season launched a new generation of players and teams turning the tide on the old favorites and diminishing  dynasties.

Eastern Conference:

(1) New York Rangers vs. (7) Washington Capitals-
We’ve been here before. In 2009, the Rangers blew a 3-1 series lead and lost in seven, then last season the No. 1-seeded Caps smoked the eighth-seeded Rangers in five games. This season, The Rangers were caught off quard by the Ottawa Senators in Round 1 but found their style and won. The Caps will have an opportunity for Ovechkin to take control of his destiny and emerge as the elite player he knows he can be. Goaltending is the test. New York’s Henrik Lundqvist, finalist for the Vezina, is no doubt a Stanley Cup goaltender. Hank epitomizes what the best of the best can be. Braden Holtby has soared. His performance to beat Tim Thomas is enough to lift the Caps, but can he sustain?
This will be a tight race: Rangers in 7.

(5) Philadelphia Flyers vs. (6) New Jersey Devils-
The Devils will not be able to stop Philly’s Claude Giroux. While the Devils impressed in their win over the Florida Panthers, it was luck. Yes, Adam Henrique  is good, Marty Brodeur is a legendary goalie and so on….but it’s not their year. The Flyers are too good to lose this round. Philly’s only weak spot is the goaltending. Bryzgalov needs to stay healthy and on top of his game, because he was brought to the Flyers to win the Cup.
Flyers will prove in 5.

Eastern Final: Rangers vs. Flyers- Flyers in 7

Western Conference:

(3) Phoenix Coyotes vs. (4) Nashville Predators-
Nashville beat Detroit finally getting over the hump that has haunted their playoff run. Pekka Rinne is a Vezina finalist and deservedly so. Barry Trotz is one of the best coaches in the NHL and will take his team far. The Coyotes can brag about Dave Tippett and his fabulous coaching. Goaltender Mike Smith was a snub for the Vezina. Smith’s season was incredible and he could use this to deflect goals from the Kostitsyn boys and Shea Weber. While Nashville has greater player depth, the Coyotes will not go down without a fight.
Nashville in 6.

(2) St. Louis Blues vs. (8) Los Angeles Kings-
Two Cinderella teams and the best game going in this round. Blues have an amazing crew of players with depth and determination. Goaltending is solid with Brian Elliott in for Jaroslav Halak, but it’s not what Quick can bring. It’s tough to not pick the Blues, but their campaign for the President’s Trophy ran aground. The Kings have Jeff Carter and Mike Richards united to win a Cup, throw in Anze Kopitar and you have an offensive power that even Alex Pietrangelo can’t contain. The Kings have Vezina finalist Jonathan Quick, who could be better than Rinne or Lundqvist in the end. LaLa Land has produced a star studded No. 8 seed. Bad news for the Kings is that no eighth-seeded team has ever won a Cup, so the odds are stacked against them. They’ll put up a fight.
Blues in 6.

Western Final: Blues vs. Preds- Blues in 6

Wow, what an opportunity for these teams to have made it over the hump of the Detroit Red Wings, the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Vancouver Canucks. The passionate play of the finals will slow down, particulary in the Western Conference. The Eastern Conference may put up the dukes often if the Flyers and Rangers square off. The discipline hasn’t hindered the culture hockey completely, so don’t expect the professionalism and courtesy to suddenly appear.