Monday, June 9, 2008

The Final NHL Playoff Predictions Chart

Exactly two months ago tonight we kicked off the NHL 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs. 16 teams were still alive. Dominik Hasek was the starting goaltender for the Detroit Red Wings, the Montreal Canadiens looked to be a threat in the East, and murmurs of Marian Hossa being a career playoff "no-show" were haunting the thoughts of Penguins fans.

Since then ... well, you know the story. The fan bases of NHL franchises not named the Detroit Red Wings may be disappointed, but we were treated to one of the most exciting postseason in sometime.

Through each round of the playoffs at EFotG we had a handy little chart just to keep some prognosticators, myself included, in check. After round one we were all shocked by the domination of the sole robot in the race, the EA Sports NHL 08 Simulation. But making all it's picks prior to the postseason, instead of making them round by round like the rest of us, eventually caught up to the machine.

In the end SportsCenter anchor John Buccigross took our little pool by a pick, going and impressive 11-4. I myself fell one behind the pack, due mostly to a 1-2 performance in the Conference and Cup Finals. Overall it was a good time and a good showing by all, everyone staying over .500. Thanks to everyone who made predictions.

James Mirtle, Sean Leahy at Going Five Hole, Kevin at Barry Melrose Rocks, Jes Golbez at Hockey Rants, John Buccigross and Barry Melrose of ESPN, the Globe and Mail, and of course, the circuit boards of a Xbox 360 running EA Sports NHL 08.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Oh, This Is So Going In My Blog

With the Penguins season over, unfortunately without the Stanley Cup, Pens fans have spent the last few days celebrated the storied run by the promising franchise. To commemorate the amazing "called shot" by Petr Sykora one fan created a photoshop that through it's use on The Pens Blog, has made it's way all around Al Gore's internet. It's a nice little story, as reported by Pittsburgh's WPXI. Well, that is, except the fact WPXI ran the picture, extending a tip of the hat to neither The Pens Blog, nor the creator, John M.

If you'll recall, EFotG also ran this picture in the post following game 5, only with permission from it's creator. Which was actually quite easy to get, you know, beings as he owes me, I think I paid for Chick'fil-A last. Yes, this amazing photoshop was created in the post game five celebration across my television room by my very own older brother, the photoshop savvy John.

This whole internet is a crazy thing. You can pretty much do anything you want. Pretty much. But for as much as "established media" criticizes the practices of blogs and next generation mediums, you'd expect there to be a higher standard. Apparently not. And while John is quite pleased with the attention his piece of work is garnering, can't we just give the man some credit?

But no fear, TPB is prepared to hand down justice. You can't job jobbers. They gave WPXI a more than generous deadline of 6:00 PM. Which, at time of this posting, has past with no credit being extended. And TPB does not make empty threats. They have been through this before with WPXI. Ask John Fedko.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Penguins End Season 2 Games Short, Wings Lift 4th Cup in 11 Years

I can't say I was in much of hurry to get this recap posted, but I know I've got to get it done. So here it is.

First and foremost you have to give the Detroit Red Wings their incredibly deserved due. They were the best team in the regular season. They recovered from an early hiccup in the first round against the Nashville Predators and played solid in front of Osgood, who came in to replace Dominik Hasek. The Pittsburgh Penguins entered the Stanley Cup Finals the most dynamic offense in the league, and the talented Red Wings defense were able to shut them down. It's painfully tough to swallow, but they have earned it, the Detroit Red Wings are the 2008 Stanley Cup Champions.

As for the Penguins, they could have given up after the Wings shut them out in both games 1 and 2. But they battled back. Games 3 and 4 were hard fought, and entertaining games. Down 3-1 in the series and facing elimination the Penguins came back to win one of the most exciting games in the history of the Stanley Cup, tying it in under a minute, and winning it in the 3rd OT. The Penguins even took Game 6 down to the wire, pulling within one late in the 3rd and having multiple scoring opportunities in the final moments of the game.

In the end it was their performance in games 1 and 2 that did the Penguins in, but they showed what kind of team they were battling back. They have a talented young roster and should remain a Cup contender years down the line. The consensus says they will not be able to resign trade deadline acquisition Marian Hossa, but General Manager Ray Shero will remain busy through the off season trying to resign the other Penguins free agents [including: Ryan Malone, Gary Roberts, Pascal Dupuis, Brooks Orpik, and Ty Conklin].

All in all, it's been an incredible season, both for my Pittsburgh Penguins, and for the NHL on the whole. Both have showed growth over the past 8 months and hold incredible potential for the 2008-09 season.

But just because the season is now officially over, it doesn't mean Every Facet of the Game will fall silent. In a couple weeks we'll once again be back to the place where it all really starts, the NHL Entry Draft. Then one of my favorite holidays of the year, the 1st of July, free agency begins. And before you know it, in [if my count is correct] only 3 months, 4 weeks, and one day, the NHL will drop the puck on the 08-09 season with the Penguins and Senators in Sweden.

Until then I've got the Pirates [sigh].

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Stanley Cup Finals Game Six Live Blog

As I've been for the previous two games of the Stanley Cup Series, I'll be over at Greg Wyshynski's Puck Daddy Live Game Blog. Though I'll probably keep any commentary to the intermissions and commercial breaks, I don't need to tell anyone how important this game is and all of my attention will be on the television screen tonight.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


With the seconds ticking off in the last minute of Game 5 of the NHL Stanley Cup Finals, I stood only a few feet away from my television, quietly staring as the Detroit Red Wings were mere moments away from being inscribed as the 2008 Stanley Cup Champions.

The Pittsburgh Penguins 1st period 2-0 lead, along with their hopes of extending the series, had slowly deteriorated. Darren Helm first put the Wings on the board just shy of 3 minutes into the 2nd period when he took a feed from Maltby and threw a shot on net that deflected and beat Fleury short-side.

At the 13:17 mark of the 3rd the Red Wings took advantage of a Tyler Kennedy Hooking minor, tying the game with Datsyuk's five-hole deflection. Less than 3 minutes later Detroit took the lead when Brian Rafalski took a pass in the high slot and threw one passed Fleury.

And now with time dwindling away on their season, the Penguins pull goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who had been stellar throughout the game, for an extra attacker. I stood motionless. I'm not even sure if I'm breathing at this point. Chant's of "We Want the Cup" are echoing through the Joe Louis Arena.

The puck kicks to Crosby in the corner. Malkin is being tied up in the slot. Extra attacker Maxime Talbot gets himself to the side of the net. With under 40 seconds left in the game Crosby finds Talbot by the post. Wings tender Chris Osgood makes a pad save, but Talbot gets right back on the rebound. He makes another attempt at shuffling it by Osgood. I'm peering closely at the net. The revolution of the planet slows. Time is crawling. I've never wanted to see a red light so badly. Evgeni Malkin raises his arms towards the sky. Behind the net Talbot is celebrating. 3-3. Tie game. ESPN News would later report this as the latest game tying goal in a Stanley Cup elimination game, and I'm prone to believe them.

Throughout the game I had been posting to a Live Game Blog with a panel of other bloggers over at Greg Wysynski's Puck Daddy [which if you haven't noticed is becoming the best hockey blog on Al Gore's internet]. With the breath of life back in the lungs of the Penguins, the decidedly pro-Pittsburgh panel was reinvigorated. I didn't think Sean Leahy of Going Five Hole was going to make it through the night. At the beginning of the game I was hoping to offer impartial insightful commentary, by overtime I was posting a link to Kasparaitis's Game 7 OT goal against the Sabres in 2001.

Heading into overtime I knew the first few minutes would be dangerous. But after you get past a certain settling in period, both teams start playing for the long haul. In retrospect some of the people I've talked with have told me the Red Wings controlled play in the 1st OT. Others said the Penguins controlled the 2nd. I don't know, to me momentum seemed to be shifting ever possession, but everything has begun to blur together. This is probably because I was a ball of anxiety and not enough oxygen was getting to my brain [I held my breath every time the Red Wings possessed the puck in the Penguins zone].

One thing that is for sure, is that as one overtime became two, became three, it was clear that Marc-Andre Fleury was keeping the Penguins in the game. The young goaltender turned in a performance that will go down as one of the all-time greats in the Stanley Cup Finals, and made some saves that will live on forever or poor quality YouTube videos.

Towards the last few minutes of the 2nd OT period, Pittsburgh Penguins winger Petr Sykora caught the attention of Pierre McGuire, the NBC Commentator seated between the team benches. "I'm going to score." he said.

The Penguins caught a break in the 3rd OT when Jiri Hudler's stick caught Pittsburgh defenseman Rob Scuderi in the face. Scuderi never wanted to bleed so badly. They called the double minor and the Penguins had 4 minutes of power-play on the board.

Only a handful of seconds into the power-play Malkin settled down a errant shot behind the net. As he swung around the back of the net to Osgood's left the Red Wing's penalty killers collapsed ] in front of the net. Sneaking into the play, Petr Sykora set up in the left circle. Malkin's pass hit Sykora in stride, with plenty of room, and Sykora let a wrist shot go in the face of a Wing's player, sliding out to block the shot.

Once again time slowed. I'm searching for the puck with my eyes. I don't think it hit Osgood. I didn't hear it ring off the post. It wasn't wide. An eternity passes. Staring at the net, I see the puck falling to the ice. Game over. Jubilation ensues. Penguins win and stay alive to host Game 6 in Pittsburgh.

The game will go down as the 5th longest game in the history of the Stanley Cup Finals. Regardless of the outcome of the series, it will go down as one of the greatest games ever. Fleury's fifty-five saves. Talbot tying the game when the Wings could almost feel the Cup in their hands. Petr Sykora's called shot. Unbelievable.

You may have seen this picture on The Pens Blog. I'm also running it, with the permission of the creator, my clever and aptly skilled photoshop jobber brother John.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Penguins and Red Wings Look to Live Up to Spotlight in Game Four

After a three day layoff the puck will drop tonight on Game Four of the NHL Stanley Cup Finals. Should the Penguins triumph at home again, they will lock the series up at two apiece after being down 2-0. If the Wings can pick up the road victory they'll set themselves up to play for the Cup Monday night at home in Detriot's Joe Louis Arena.

After the one-sided loss of Game One by the Penguins, more than a few were running around calling game two a "must win" game for Pittsburgh. And while I laughed off calling any game two a must win game, after they once again were trounced pretty handily, Game three in Pittsburgh was looking pretty important. But when it came time, the Penguins did what they had to do. They won at home. If any Red Wings fans thought this series was over when the Wings took the first two, and started planning parades or something, they were vastly mistaken.

Game three was more the Penguins style of game, and home ice proved to be huge. And while the sellout crowd was absolutely riotous, spurring on the sensational play of Gary Roberts and in particular an incredible shift by Brooks Orpik, it was the last change that proved to be the Penguins greatest advantage. It's no secret that line match-ups have been a huge plot line in this series, and when Michel Therrien is able to respond to any teams line changes, the Penguins are nearly unbeatable. Likewise when the Wing's Mike Babcock is able to respond the other teams line changes, he can throw out a defensive match-up that can shut down just about anyone.

Though while the last change has been an important storyline in the series, perhaps the loudest story around those close to the game is the greatly increased amount of exposure this year's Cup is receiving. Across the boards ratings are up, and in some spots, up big. In a prime time duel that saw the Wings road game going head to head with the Detroit Pistons NBA Conference Finals road game, the Red Wings walked away winning in a big way. Detriot Neilson ratings saw the hockey game beating the basketball game 18.2 to 15.9.

The Cup series between Sidney Crosby and his Pittsburgh Penguins and the dominant Detroit Red Wings has the NHL looking to parlay the increased attention into reasserting themselves as one of the top sports in the US. And overall, mainstream media seems to be playing along. ESPN, long criticized by hockey fans for their decreasing coverage of the game following it's move to Versus, brought in none other than Hockey Night in Canada's Don Cherry to sit in on segments with Barry Melrose. As well, media credentials are up from 550 last season's finals to 700 this year. Which very well may be a shift in policy for many U.S-based newspapers that had refused to incur the cost of sending a writer to cover the Stanley Cup.

And while on the topic of the increased attention this finals has received, perhaps the greatest aspect of the third game of the series was the excitement it brought. The first two games in Detroit saw the Wings thoroughly dominant the Penguins scorers, and while the Red Wings defensive play may be an astonishing strategic feat, it is also about as exciting as tax season. Which is why those around the game are crossing their fingers hoping that regardless of the final on tonights game, and ultimately the series, the play lives up to the national spotlight the NHL has finally received.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Stanley Cup Game One: Detroit 4 - Penguins 0

Heading into Detroit for the first game in what's thought to be perhaps the most competitive Stanley Cup Finals since the New Jersey Devils took on the Red Wings in 1995, there was a slew of mutual appreciation from both parties. The two teams weren't very familiar with each other, having only played once in the past two years, but they had to respect what the other had done. In the aftermath of the Red Wings 4-0 victory, it's to be sure the Penguins have a much better idea of just why the Wings are to be respected.

After the long lay off, the Joe Louis Arena was buzzing for the puck to drop. A surprising number of Penguins fan secured tickets to the series opener, spotting the red crowd with black jerseys here and there. Enough Penguins fans to hear a slight "Ruu" cheer after Jarkko Ruutu laid now a huge shot block early in the game. But not one's to be outdone the Wings faithful rang down thunderous praises of "Ozzie" after early Penguins scoring chances were thwarted.

An early Red Wings goal was called off due to goaltender interference on Tomas Holmstrom. If you want to read the NHL rulebook word for word, Holmstrom interfered with Marc Andre Fleury by putting his stick in Fleury's equiptment prior to the shot. But if this guy's name is anything but Holmstrom it probably isn't called. That being said, I'm not sympathetic, he has been warned again and again. He's going to continue to do what he does best, but he can't be surprised when it lands him in the box for two.

If you want to point to one moment the Penguins could have stepped ahead, you have to look to the six-plus minutes on the power-play in the first period they came up empty on. The Wings shorthanded approach could not have been any better. They shut down the dynamic Penguins power-play by forcing the play to the perimeter, closing off in front of Osgood, and cutting down any cross ice passes.

Still scoreless in the 2nd period, I, along with about 15 thousand watching from the Mellon arena, and countless Penguins fans else where, let out an audible gasp when Brooks Orpik's stick was lifted in front of Fleury on an icing touch-up. Valtteri Filppula let a snap shot go off the hustle play, but Fleury came up with a big save to keep the Penguins in the scoreless game.

The zero-zero deadlock was broken with 7 minutes left in the 2nd period on Mikael Samuelsson's wrap around goal. It unfolded like it was in slow motion. The Penguins dumped the puck for a line change, but it was intercepted in the neutral zone. I screamed at my television as 48, Tyler Kennedy, and 11, Jordan Staal, continued to glide toward the bench for a change. The play broke the other way and before long the puck was behind the sprawling Fleury.

When the Samuelsson picked up his second of the game early in the 3rd, depositing a bad clear by Fleury in the net from close range, the Wings fell back into their suffocating defensive play. Detroit allowed only 3 shots in the period, despite the Penguins desperate play that opened the game up for 2 insurance markings. One shorthanded on the rush by Dan Cleary, and the other with only seconds left in the game by Henrik Zetterberg on the powerplay.

For the Penguins they are faced with a list of things they must address in time for game two on Monday night. First and foremost is scoring first. They can not allow the Red Wings to settle into that dominant defensive role that they do so well with the lead. The one thing I won't call game two, though, is a "must win" game for the Penguins. It's an over used phrase and a cliche. The Red Wings have grabbed the early lead, but even with the dominant play I don't think anyone's backing away from their predictions of a long series.

You only have to look to the other playoffs going on in the sporting world right now in the NBA to see how the Boston Celtics have survived despite poor play on the road. When it comes to the first four games of a series, winning on the road is a luxury that ends things quicker. The only must win game is a home game.

Game One Recaps

The Pens Blog is ready to set up and rally the troops, something they haven't had to do all playoffs long. Remember when Rudy was so pumped he slammed his head off that brick wall, that's how I feel after this Pensblog.

One the Wings breaks down the victory and the solid Detroit play. It's insightful, and he's no fool. He knows it takes four wins, not just one.

Going Five Hole's Sean Leahy knows the Penguins haven't faced adversity like this all playoffs long, but it just might be the wake up call to light a fire under them.

Game Two is in Detroit, Monday night at 8 pm EST on Versus.

Stanley Cup Final Prediction

I could very well just tell you I'm getting this preview of the Stanley Cup Finals in at the very last minute because it's such a tough series to call. And really, it is. Neither team has felt much resistance as they blew threw the first three rounds. The Penguins dropped one to the Rangers and one to the Flyers, and are sitting at 12-2. The Red Wings dropped two consecutive games in the first round against the Nashville Predators, but then turned to backup goaltender Chris Osgood, who strung together 9 straight victories. Fighting off elimination, the Dallas Stars took a couple from the Detroit, but the Wings went down to Dallas to seal up the Campbell Conference Trophy in a decisive 4-1 victory.

However, this preview is being mailed in last minute because I spent yesterday afternoon, probably not unlike many players from the 28 teams that won't be suiting up tonight, on the golf course hitting triple bogeys. Anything to distract me from counting down the hours until the puck drops.

Every way you turn in this match-up you run into numbers that tell you this is a heavy weight match. The Penguins haven't lost at home since February 24th. Remember February? The last time the Penguins lost at home the New York Giants were still glowing from their Super Bowl victory and Mitt Romney still thought he had a chance at becoming the 44rd President of the United States. I'm just saying, that's a long time.

But, you know, the Red Wings haven't done too poorly for themselves either. I vaguely remember something about them winning the Presidents Trophy as the top team in the NHL regular season. The closest team was 7 points back. And all of that was before Osgood came onto the scene full time and started stopping everything thrown his way.

I'm not going to repeat the "storylines" to you, because if you're reading some obscure hockey blog, then I don't need to tell you about Sidney Crosby. You know Evgeni Malkin and Marc Andre Fleury. The Penguins are young, and they are good. Likewise you know about Nicklas Lindstrom, Tomas Holmstrom, and Johan Franzen. Detroit is old, er... I mean experienced, but they are practically "Team World". This is clearly the match-up everyone wanted to see, the meeting of the titans.

So I suppose I need to wrap this up with some sort of prediction, albeit, completely skewed and biased. You could say this series is going either way and I wouldn't argue with you, but I'm picking my Penguins. It'll be a test heading into Detroit for games 1 and 2, but if they can split them they'll be poised to jump ahead with 3 and 4 heading back to the 'burgh. And just as a recap: I am biased. This could go either way. But, Pittsburgh Penguins become the 2008 Stanley Cup Champions in front of the home crowd in Game 6.

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Fix Is In

Lately it’s been the belief of more than a handful of opinionated hockey fans that the National Hockey League has conspired to land Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins as the Eastern representatives in this year’s Stanley Cup finals. Although, it’s a bit of a paradox, as most are also of the opinion that Gary Bettman could not successful run a lemonade stand, let alone one of the largest sports leagues in the world.

Facing these two conflicting outlooks, I’ve carefully weighed all the evidence at hand and have come to the most logically and reasonable conclusion. Secretly Gary Bettman must be an evil genius who has concocted an elaborate scheme with a single goal in mind, getting the names of Sidney Crosby and the rest of the 2007-08 Pittsburgh Penguins etched on the Stanley Cup. His facade as an ignorant basketball fan that couldn’t set up a game of Mouse Trap, is just that, a cover. And behind it he’s put this wicked plan into action.

I can see him now, in his office high above the city of New York, sitting in a large leather chair. If my early research into the realm of evil geniuses is to be trusted, we can safely assume he has a large cat sitting on his lap, and he’s probably petting it as he manically laughs. From here he instructs the on-ice officials to give all the calls to the Penguins.

The only question is just how long this has been going on. Of course he fixed the 2005 Draft Lottery in the Penguins favor. That’s a given. And of course the 2004-05 NHL lockout was just all part of this scheme to send Crosby to Pittsburgh. But how far back does it really go? Are you a Hartford fan who lost their precious Whalers to North Carolina? Guess what? All to get the Penguins into the 2008 Stanley Cup. The attendance problems, leaving ESPN, Mighty Ducks 3, the canceling of Arrested Development. Yeah … to get the Penguins to the Cup. For the love of Buster Bluth, just how deep does this go?

Sure, with everyone so hot on the trail the past couple weeks Bettman has had to cool it off a bit. Throw a couple curveballs. He called for the War Room to disallow Crosby’s goal against the Flyers in the Semi-Finals, but I can see straight through that. What to the untrained eye may appear as stellar play of Evgeni Malkin and shutdown goaltending of Marc Andre Fleury is clear to me. I’ve got Bettman pegged behind the scenes playing puppet master. You can’t pull the wool over my eyes.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Penguins Advance to Cup Final With Only 2 Losses

With the Penguins wrapping up the Eastern Conference Finals with a dominant 6-0 shutout of the Flyers, the Penguins become the 5th team to reach the NHL Stanley Cup Finals with only two playoff losses.

The Ducks accomplished it in 2003, the Wings pulled it off in 1995, as did the Hawks in 1992. The Oilers did it in back to back years 1987-1988. The Penguins are the first team to accomplish it from the Eastern Conference.

Assuming the Red Wings bring home the Campbell Conference Trophy tonight, the two teams will meet with the lowest combined losses sine the 1995 between the Devils and Red Wings.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

NHL Playoffs Round 3 Chart

The Conference finals are in full swing, and everything appears to be in order. The Penguins are heading into Philadelphia up two games to none, and the Detroit Red Wings are a game away from running the table on the Dallas Stars. It is at this time that my pick of Dallas in seven games seems a little ill advised, but I guess that's the risk you run going out on a limb like that. With everyone else picking the Wings I would look like a genius if the Stars took this one, but that's looking a little unlikely.

Actually, with everything unfolding pretty much exactly as was expected the big stories in hockey have been from matters outside of the playoffs. Well, except maybe Mike Ribeiro and Chris Osgood's attics following game two. Just recently the head coach of the San Jose Sharks Ron Wilson became the former head coach of the San Jose Sharks. This sets the score for an off-season that could be as much about signing free agents as it is about locking down a head coach. Along with the Sharks, the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Colorado Avalanche, and the Florida Panthers are looking for someone to fill that spot behind the players on the bench. Also the Thrashers have to be looking for a coach to take over for GM Don Waddell who has assumed the duties since Bob Hartley has fired early in the season.

In my preview for the Eastern Conference Finals I mentioned how I didn't think everyone realized how big of a deal Kimmo Timonen's absence would be. Fire that, sniffing out a juicy storyline the hockey media are now painting the 33 year old defenseman as if he is a first ballot hall-of-famer. The guy is solid, but Versus answer to every Penguins goal is to question what would have been differently had Timonen been in the lineup. I'd say it's about time for everyone to calm down, but with the puck dropping in Philadelphia later this evening, I think we all know there is little hope of that.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Eastern Conference Final Prediction: Pittsburgh Penguins (2) vs. Philadelphia Flyers (6)

It always takes me being backed up against a wall to get this series predictions done, and the puck drops in fifteen minutes, so it's probably time to get something here. Once again I'll preface this series by admitting the incredible self interest I have in it. However at the same time, these are probably the two teams I know more than any other in the league. As a Penguins fan I've been there all season long. As a relocated resident of the greater Philadelphia area, all my friends, my neighbors, my co-workers, if they carry any interest in hockey, are Flyers fans. When I'm talking hockey, it's usually about either the Penguins or the Flyers. Needless to say, there are a handful of people who I'll be temporarily falling out of communication with for the duration of the series.

As a Penguins fan, they are playing as well now as I've seen them play in years. Since landing Crosby they've gone through periods of putting up big numbers, but their defense hasn't been as solid as it is now in a very long time. Marc Andre Fleury post high ankle sprain injury has been impeccable. And the Penguins at home have been unbeatable , 13 straight home victories dating back to February 24th. Coming out of, perhaps, the most competitive division in hockey, the Atlantic, the Penguins may be the most dynamic team in the NHL.

For the Flyers, it's been more of an up and down season. They have struggled, but they've proven they are up to the task, always bouncing back. At one point late in the season it looked like the had fallen out of the playoff race. They lost 10 straight games in February, and they lost out on the Forsberg lottery (ultimately for the best) in which they were originally favored. However they finished out the season 12-4-4, beating the Penguins on the final day of the season to leap a few teams to the sixth spot. They went 7 games with the Capitals, winning the deciding game with all the momentum against them and on the road. In the second round they were matched up with the top team in the Eastern Conference, the Montreal Canadiens. After dropping game one in overtime, the Flyers bounced back, rattling young Canadien goaltender Carey Price, and winning the next four. Throughout the season they have been down, but they haven't been out.

It's been said again and again, but it can't be underrated, this is going to be an emotional series. Special teams will play a factor, no one can afford letting their emotions get the best of them. Losing Kimmo Timonen hurts Philadelphia more than people may think. Ultimately it comes down to who can win on the road. It shouldn't come as a surprise, but I've got the Penguins in 6.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Western Conference Final Prediction: Detroit Red Wings (1) vs. Dallas Stars (5)

It's no secret, my doubt in the Detroit Red Wings. If you'll recall my 2nd round predictions, while I did have the Wings getting through the Avalanche, I mentioned the possibility of them falling apart in the Western Finals. But then they came out and played so strong they had me choosing my words carefully as I recapped the 2nd round.

The Stars shocked us upsetting the Sharks in the 2nd round, especially myself. San Jose had been my Western Conference pick all season long. It was closely fought, with four games heading to overtime, including the deciding game which took 4 overtimes for the Stars to eliminate the Sharks.

This match-up is going to be all about who can enforce their style of play on the series. If the play is more open and higher scoring, the Red Wings are going to have the advantage. However if the Stars can muck it up a bit, slowing it down and making the game close, they've shown they can win those games. Thus far these playoffs the officials have shown that they are willing to let teams slow the games down, so I've got to believe when it matters in this series they'll keep their whistles in the their pockets. Marty Turco is a top five goaltender in the league. Osgood has been playing well, but I'm not sure he holds out. All in all, I imagine this one will be close, but I've got the Stars in 7.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Playoff Predictions Chart: Round 2 Recap

- update: turns out Barry Melrose did make second round predictions, though they hid in a corner of the internet. Fret no longer, they have been found. Pierre and Milbury are still MIA.

If the second round the NHL playoffs have proven anything, it is this: the Philadelphia Flyers will not yield to the robot invasion. And for that matter, neither will the Dallas Stars. Perhaps you remember that following the first round of the playoffs we all looked on in awe as the NHL 08 simulation went a perfect 8 for 8. In the second round? Penguins over New York Rangers. Called it. Detroit Red Wings over Colorado Avalanche. Called it. But as for the other two series, the mighty machine has faltered. I have a hard time celebrating the Dallas one though, as no one else from our chart called for the Stars to move on. However, notching one in our column, Jes Golbez of Hockey Rants did correctly surmise the outcome of the Canadiens v. Flyers series. It still holds a lead on the rest of us, but one thing has be proven: The machine can be beaten. In the words of my comrades from The Pens Blog: do it.

Looking at the second round, I finished 2 for 4. After rambling on how I was too biased to make an accurate prediction for my Penguins series against the New York Rangers, I not only called it, but made the correct games prediction, and correctly predicted which games both teams would win. I have no problem taking credit where credit is due, and I was on my game with that one. I also got the Red Wings vs. Avalanche series right, although I don't think anyone was too thrown off by what went down in that one. The Wings are rolling. Does that mean I'm taking back my doubt about them struggling in the Conference Finals? Well I haven't put my predictions in pen yet, but they've made a strong case.

Minus Golbez's call as stated above, we all dropped the ball when it came to the Canadiens vs. Flyers and Sharks vs. Starks match-ups. Not taking anything away from Philadelphia, but I think if Carey Price plays like he can in that series, Montreal isn't breaking out their golf clubs yet. As for the Sharks elimination, I'm genuinely surprised we all missed that one. I'm sticking to the excuse that I was merely staying true to my preseason Cup picks. What's your guys excuse?

Before I end this post, and we say goodnight to the second round of the playoffs, let me just repeat one thing. Neither Barry Melrose, nor Pierre Milbury made second round predictions. These are supposed to be the ambassadors of our sport. Anyone who has caught some playoff games knows one thing when it comes to the league and their voes. It's not the product. But maybe it's the packaging.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Impromptu Live Game Blog: Stars at Sharks Game 5

Well the week has finally ended and somehow I made it through alive. After focusing all my time and effort for the past week on completing the semester, it's time to celebrate the arrival of a lot of free time by an impromptu live game blog. There's only one game on tonight, so if you're watching hockey, it's the Sharks looking to stay alive with a game five win at home against the Dallas Stars. So with that, live game blog time:

1st OT [18:55]
Dallas 2 - Sharks 3 FINAL

It didn't take very long. A minute into overtime Pavelski circled the Stars zone and fired a high wrister sending the series to a game 6. Thats two straight for the Sharks, are we finally going to see an NHL team come back from a 3-0 series deficit? They'll meet again on Sunday night, Brendan Morrow will bide his time.

3rd Period [00:21]
With only seconds left in regulation Brendan Morrow looks to end it all for the Sharks, but is driven into the net. No call. Morrow is all business. He is channeling just a bit of Gary Robert tonight.

The scoreboard all zeros and it's still all tied up. For the first time in the series the Sharks decide to play some 3rd period hockey. Once again a game from this series is heading to overtime to find a winner. The Stars won games 1 and 3 in extra time. The Sharks are looking to stay alive and force a game 6 Sunday night in Dallas.

3rd Period [8;53]
Dallas 2 - Sharks 2

Speaking of San Jose getting to it, and of the resurgence of JR, Roenick just sent a beauty of a neutral ice pass to the tape of Brian Campbell. Campbell sent a laser of a shot a quarter inch below the crossbar, beating Turco. It hit the back crossbar and came right back out, but the goal light judge is on his game. Tie game.

3rd Period [12:21]
Dallas heading back to the powerplay after Ribiero was pulled down from behind. After selecting the text color for the last goal I am reminded that the San Jose Sharks wear teal. This is completely unacceptable.

San Jose kills the penalty and nearly has a breakaway for a chance to tie the game, but it's called off-sides. The clocks ticking for the Sharks, time to get to it.

3rd Period [13:40]
Dallas 2 - Sharks 1

Michalek takes a pass from Thornton and finally solves Turco. Somehow, only a goal down, the Sharks are still in this game. No much debate on the issue, Thornton is the best passer in the NHL.

3rd Period [16:03]
Christian Ernhoff takes another penalty. This time tripping, Dallas heading to the power-play. A goal here could almost put it away. GOAL! Wait . . . . . NO GOAL! They are saying Morrow threw this one off his glove. They are going upstairs once again to the War Room, but the early review looks to agree with the man in stripes. Morrow was trying to knock down the puck to shoot it in, but he never got wood on it.

The War Room knows was good for them and they agree with me. Morrow's put three pucks in the net tonight, but only one's counted.

2nd Intermission

Keith Jones as a colorman is great, Keith Jones as an analysis is laughable. I love his stories, but when he tries to act like he knows what he's talking about everything falls apart. During the break he made the argument that the goal shouldn't of counted, without really giving any reason why. He just said "distinct kicking motion" about five times during an incoherent ramble. I like Jonesy, so I'm just gonna chalk this up to the guys behind the scenes telling the guys at the table to debate whether it was a goal or not, and Jones got the bad end. That's what we call the commercial bias.

Much like my hatred for the "delay of game" penalty, I'm not that fond of the whole no kicking business. I just don't see the purpose of it. Are they afraid that if they allowed it everyone drop those pesky sticks and try to use their CCMs to beat the tenders?

2nd Period [0:55]
Dallas Goal
Dallas 2 - Sharks 0

I'm pretty sure this one counts, guys. But I'm 0 for 1 on the evening, so what do I know? Morrow made sure to let the refs know once again how he felt about them calling his last goal off after putting the Stars up by 2 (again). Bad angle shot, that one's all on Nabokov.

End of 2. Dallas has scored three, two have counted. San Jose only 20 minutes away from tee times. Time to grab another slice of pizza, get ready to bunker in for the final period. Sharks have to throw everything at the Stars here in the 3rd.

2nd Period [4:29]

Dallas Goal
Dallas 2 - Sharks 0

Well it's looking more and more bleak for the Sharks. Brendan Morrow just put one behind Nabokov, although it looks like they are taking it to the War Room in Toronto to make sure everything is on the level. Looks like it went off the skate, but doesn't look like any sort of kicking motion. Every Fact of the Game says it's good, fall in line War Room.

Dallas is jobbed like nobody's business. If that is a distinct kicking motion than I am Mickey Mouse. How dare he.

2nd Period [9:56]
After the Stars nearly made it a two goal lead, save for the post, the Sharks lead a rush up the ice that resulted in Dallas taking a penalty. Let's just pause and reflect on something for a second, Jeremy Roenick is at the moment, it's 2008 let me add, playing for a chance to be in the Western Conference finals. Jeremy Roenick. Sure, he isn't the oldest guy in the league. And I really don't like him thanks to being berraged by an onslaught of commercials when he was in Philly. But has anyone resurrected their career more like JR has? When he was in Phoenix it looked like his career was over.

Sharks powerplay over, nothing doing.

2nd Period [13:46]
Power-Play Goal
Dallas 1 - Sharks 0

Stars make good on the powerplay chance and break the deadlock. It's a dumb penalty, but if you are the Sharks in the situation to be eliminated, you just can't take something like that. Dallas wasted little time, Zubov found Lehtinen in front of the net and he took Nabokov five-hole. Time for the Sharks to respond.

2nd Period [15:21]
Still score-less in San Jose. Both these teams are smart defensively and have amazing goalies backing them up. The Stars failed to cash in on their first opportunity on the power-play, but they've got another one thanks to a Sharks "Delay of Game" penalty. Man I hate that call. Tell me how a guy throwing the puck over the glass in the defensive zone is any different then an icing? Put the faceoff back in the zone and don't let them change.

1st Intermission
Taking advantage of the break to get some food. A little Digiorno pizza, nothing but the best, after all my body is my temple. Dallas is starting of the 2nd with about a minute of carry-over man advantage.

One of the funniest things about watching games from teams all over the country and Canada is eyeing the on-ice and board advertisements. In San Jose, is all tech related. Playstaion, San Disk, SeaGate, HP, Best Buy. At the same time in Pittsburgh it's blue collar. Car dealerships, trade schools, and the like.

1st Period [00:56]
The Stars get an opportunity on the power play themselves to finish out the first period.

Scoreless through one. If you're the Sharks, you're probably looking to get on the board in a big way sometime in the 2nd period. The 3rd hasn't been friendly to the Sharks. Their season hangs in the balance.

1st Period [4:00]
Dallas takes another penalty, holding, Sharks looking to get something done on the power-play. They set up some possession time in the offensive zone, but few chances. The best chance probably went to Dallas with a nice little shorthanded play.

1st Period [6:39]
We're more than ten minute deep into the opening period, and thus far, nothing. Perhaps had I put some time thinking into this I would have put some time into picking a game that would prove to be a little more exciting, but I guess that's the fun of the impromptu blog.

1st Period [20:00]
Alright, since this was impromptu (very impromptu I just got up from a nap a couple minutes ago) I started throwing this blog together just as the game was starting, but fear not, it's been rather uneventful so far.

The Sharks just dinked one of the crossbar in the dying seconds of a power-play. If the Sharks want to keep their season going they are going to have to cash in on the chances when Turco is out of position.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Round 2 Prediction Chart

Don't be surprised if the following week is rather silent here at EFotG, as I'll be preoccupied with the regular end of semester hodge podge of presentations, exams, papers and the like. However before I concede my week to scholarly pursuits it's my duty to get the 2nd round prediction chart up. It's been a bit problematic putting it together because it seems as if some of the "NHL experts" have elected not to post 2nd round predictions. As for the bloggers, those guys actually have their stuff together. Once again we've got the prognostications of Sean Leahy from Going Five Hole and the Yahoo! NHL experts blog, Kevin from Barry Melrose Rocks and NHL Fanhouse, Jes Golbez from Hockey Rants and, also, NHL Fanhouse, as well as Dr. Hockey himself, Mr. James Mirtle of his self-entitled blog and the Globe and Mail.

Now as for those other guys, I've looked high and low and it appears as if neither Barry Melrsoe, nor Pierre McGuire, nor Mike Milbury have made 2nd round predictions. How this is possible, I have no idea. Perhaps they are out there and I just couldn't find them. If not, though, this is definitely not acceptable behavior from those who are supposed to be the ambassadors of our sport. For shame.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Round 2 Predictions: San Jose Sharks (2) vs. Dallas Stars (6)

In the opening round the Stars coasted through a easy series against the defending champions, the Anaheim Ducks. The Sharks found themselves in a tough battle with the Calgary Flames that went 7 games. When they meet in the second round it'll be interesting to see how the teams show up. While the Sharks have already been through a war, the Stars barely broke a sweat. Back in my season preview I called for the Sharks to emerge from the West, and I'm sticking with them. San Jose in 7.

Round 2 Predictions: Pittsburgh Penguins (2) vs. New York Rangers (5)

Now comes the pick for the series I have so much of a self interest in I can't possibly be expected to make an accurate prediction. Right now I'm thinking the Penguins are playing as well as they have all season. I called for the sweep of the Senators, and it's taking everything in me to not predict another. Home ice is big, and I don't see them losing in either game one or two. They haven't lost at the Mellon Arena since February 24th. But I think the Rangers could steal a game or two in this series, merely because they are the kind of team that can put up 5 or 6 goals. But I don't see the Penguins losing this series. Maybe it's just the complete homer in me, but I'm calling this for the Penguins in 5. Fleury will be key, I think the long break is probably hard on the goalies, we'll see how they settle in. One thing that will happen without a doubt, former Pittsburgh Penguin Jarmoir Jagr will hear the boos tonight.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Round 2 Predictions: Detroit Red Wings (1) vs. Colorado Avalanche (6)

For the past ten years the Detroit Red Wings and the Colorado Avalanche have had one of the most heated rivalries in hockey. And although in recent years they have taken back seat to the Pittsburgh-Philadelphia battles, this playoff match-up may just be the spark to reignite the ill will. Colorado advanced after getting past the Minnesota Wild in just six games. The Red Wings looked to be in trouble when Nashville came back from being down 2 games, winning games 3 and 4. However with the switch in net, Hasek out, Osgood in, the wheels are once again moving in the playoff machine. The Wings finished with a league best record, but after some disappointing playoff showings over the past few years, there is definitely a cautious approach to this post-season.

Colorado became real contenders in the West when they scored Peter Forsberg in February. They are sending a better team to the ice than their record may suggest. However I think they Red Wings will be able to ride Osgood and their solid defense through another round. Though they aren't clicking like clockwork right now, and in less they get things together I have a hard time seeing them in the Stanley Cup series. But that's later. Now the Wings will take the Avalanche in 5.

Round 2 Predictions: Montreal Canadiens (1) vs. Philadelphia Flyers (6)

With both the Flyers and Canadiens advancing to the second round on the back of game 7 victories, neither team has had much of a break, nor have they had a very impressive showing. Montreal might have celebrated like they won the cup after squeaking through the first round, but they still have a long road ahead of them if they really want to hoist the cup. The games are only going to get harder, and they are playing in front of goaltender that was manning the crease for the WHL Tri-City Americans last season. Carey Price is talented and is the goaltender of the future, but his lack of experience is worrisome.

The Philadelphia Flyers overcame a rough stretch in February, dropping ten straight games, to lock up the 6th seed int East. Against Alexander Ovechkin's Washington Capitals in the first round the Flyers were enigmatic. They lost game 1 after leading by 2 goals in the 3rd period. They recovered to take games 2, 3, and 4. But with the Capitals on the verge of elimination the Flyers allowed them to creep back into the series in games 5 and 6. In the pivotal game 7 Joffrey Lupul won the game and the series for the Flyers in overtime.

Neither series was that pretty, but both teams are still alive. It remains to be seen who will take the opening round as a wake up call. I haven't bought completely in on Carey Price yet, but I don't think the Flyers will be able to overcome their inconsistency. This season wasn't their year anyways, they were aiming to return to respectability. Next year the Flyers will be a bigger factor. Right now, though, I've got the Canadiens in 6.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Machine One, Man Nothing

With the first round of the playoffs wrapping up with last night’s game sevens one thing has become apparent, the computer invasion is upon us. With as many hours as I’ve invested in playing NHL 08, with all the times I’ve cursed it and it’s rewarding of “non hockey plays”, with all those face-offs I lost, certain the opposing player was using classic controls, I never thought it had it in it to go a perfect 8-0 in the first round. Clearly we have underrated the seriousness of just about every science fiction movie that has come out over the past 45 years. The robot invasion is upon us. Who would have thought they would start with our playoff pools. If that isn’t sacred to those ones and zeros, then what is?

My own playoff picks didn’t fare half bad either. The picks I’m most proud of are, of course, the Penguins sweep of the Senators and the Stars eliminating the Ducks. While everyone had the Penguins moving on, I went a little out on a limb and successfully called the sweep. And besides the omnipotent circuit board, I was the only one to pick the Stars. Calling it in 6 games was just gravy.

But enough of that, it’s time to see what I screwed up. Devils in 7 games? How about the Rangers taking them to town without even breaking a sweat. The Wild let me down as well. Marion Gaborik only has two settings, and he was just gliding around this series. Avalanche move on.

There is only a half second before the second round kicks off, so I once again have to sit down and put all my hockey knowledge to use, maybe flip a couple coins and play inny-minny-miny-moe and make second round selections. Look for those tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Classy Caps Fans Aren't That Big on Jeff Carter

I'm sure not all of the Washington Capitals fans are classless idiots. But each and every team has their fair share. A handful of Canadien fans last night showed that even our friendly neighbors from the north have a few that get out of hand after they themselves have had a few. And in DC tonight following Joffrey Lupul's series winning overtime goal the hometown fans were somewhat discontent. Looking to channel this discontent into something positive, they littered their home ice with trash and beer bottles. Apparently they aren't big Earth Day fans.

During a post-game interview Philadelphia Flyer Jeff Carter became the target of one of these upright citizens. I'm sure someone else will get a decent copy of the video up, but for now all I've got for you is this. A masterpiece shot from my Treo camcorder and uploaded to the very sketchy Blogger video. [alright, YouTube should be a little better.] [Someone got up a better version, not only with audio, but with a nice zoom on the classy gentleman]

Often I say no one hates the Flyers more than myself. I've personally sat in the Wachovia Center and received the verbal barbs of the Philadelphia faithful. But it guess it's apparent that while no one wants to see the Flyers lose as much as myself, there are plenty of idiots out there that harbor ill will that I simply can't match.

Everything being said, and assuming that this guy was at least somewhat sauced, you have to admit it's a pretty impressive shot. If the Wizards could shoot like that they probably wouldn't be down two games to nil in the first round of the NBA playoffs.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Story of the Sweep

When the games start getting important, without a doubt at some point the "momentum versus rest" debate will take place. The guy on the right side of your screen will argue that the season is long and tiring, and the players could use the rest. Of course the guy on the left of your screen will disagree and argue that the extended break will halt the teams momentum. More than anything this disagreement takes place because ESPN, along with CNN and about a hundred other media outlets, are obsessed with a good ol' polarized spitting contest. God forbid two human beings agree with each other because that isn't "good television".

So what does this all mean to me? Absolutely frigging nothing. Well, that is until my Pittsburgh Penguins swept the Ottawa Senators in the opening round of the NHL playoffs and faced at least a week long break. Personally agreeing more with the guy on the right side of the TV screen, I welcomed the break. The players could use it. Gary Roberts missed games 3 and 4 with a tweaked groin injury. Sidney Crosby missed an extended period of time in the later part of the season with a high ankle sprain, and secretly we all know he isn't 100%. And the everyone else could use the break, right? Surely some time off wouldn't hurt us in round 2.

Looking for some numbers to back me up I turned to recent NHL playoff past. And, well, it wasn't exactly reassuring.

In the last 10 NHL post seasons there have been 17 sweeps. And throwing out the Red Wings sweep of the Capitals in the 1998 Stanley Cup Finals, the sweeping teams have had a woeful 6-10 record. In fact since the lockout 3 years ago all 3 teams who have swept a series fell in the following round.

Maybe that guy on the left side of the screen had some valid points.

It's not all gloom and doom though. Of the 6 teams that won the round after their sweep, all of them made it to the Stanley Cup finals, and 4 of them took home the Cup.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Full and Heartfelt Sympathy of the Y Chromosome Population

We’re only a handful of days into the 2008 Stanley Cup playoffs, but the drama is flowing early. Flyer’s defenseman Patrick Thorensen took a shot to the, ah, lower abdominal region and was hospitalized. Early fears were that he would have to have a testical removed, but it looks like he’s going to make it through this intact. Listen, I’m a Penguins fan, and as one there is no one I loathe more than just about anyone wearing a Flyers jersey. But even I felt for the guy on this one. A shot to the groin is hilarious when Bob Saget is narrating it on America’s Funniest Home Videos. But when actually damage is done down there, I think you get the full and heartfelt sympathy of the half of the population with a Y chromosome.

And as a Penguins fan, obviously I’ve been relishing the playoffs thus far. Doing well in the playoffs is great; shutting down the team that eliminated you last postseason is Barney Stinson legendary. But the Senators aren’t the only team that hasn’t showed up in the first round. Someone might want to send a Ducks a text or something just to make sure they know what’s going on. They have the same look I’ve got when I’m wandering down the grocery store isle. I know they have pudding somewhere in there, I just can’t ever remember where.

As he tends to do, Sean Avery sent the hockey world abuzz with his screening/taunting of Martin Brodeur Sunday night. I don’t know, it’s one part, just another classless act of Avery, but also another part, pure genius. Everyone agrees it’s completely tasteless and over the line, but no one’s really been able to point to text in the rulebook that prohibits it. I’ve got money saying that some big guys in the league office are going to make this a top priority, and if Avery reenacts it Wednesday night he’ll be called for something. If not, you have to imagine Marty shows up at the door of league office with the fury of Martin Luther at the door of Wittenberg Castle Church. Brodeur threw a tantrum when Ovechkin first began sporting the mirror visor in the NHL. He went to the director of hockey affairs complaining about shooters coming into contact with goalies during shootouts. For Avery’s shenanigans he will know no boundaries/shame.

Our handy-dandy first round predictions chart is due for a bit of an update, as I’ve gather a few more picks, including those from Hockey Rants and AOL Fanhouse’s Jes Golbez. Also it has received the approval of Kevin from Melrose Rocks. Which, you know, is rad. But for now I have to head off to my Human Communications class in which I will sit for 90 minutes starring directly ahead and dream of a 4 game sweep of the Senators

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Man vs, Machine: 1st Round Playoff Picks

I've kept to my word a put together a nice little graphic to compare the playoff picks from a handful of places. The other blogs are, of course, Barry Melrose Rocks and Going Five Hole. Then I threw up the picks of the almighty James Mirtle, ESPN's mullet wearing Barry Melrose, and John Buccigross. I think I'll probably add a few more in the future. I wanted to get The Pens Blog picks up here, but all their contributors made different picks and I don't think they picked the amount of games. Either way, I figure I'll get around to tracking down some more commentators picks*, suggestions are welcome.

Matched up against the commentators and bloggers, in a real battle of man versus machine, is the official EA Sports NHL '08 simulations. This is the real test, the day a robot predicts the playoffs more accurately than our favorite hockey media figures is the day the robot invasion officially begins. That's reserved for cute fuzzy monkeys.

And just so I'm not stealing all these peoples picks without giving proper linkage:

Barry Melrose Rocks
Going Five Hole
NHL 08
James Mirtle
Barry Melrose and John Buccigross

* Because were all dying to know who a bunch of guys who have been fired from their NHL jobs think about the first round match-ups.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

April 9th

It snuck up on me. I have been so busy with those meaningless things I do in between hockey games I completely forgot that tonight is it. Wednesday. Wednesday the 9th. The first night of the NHL Playoffs. It's tonight. Enough to make any fan excited. But more than excited, nervous. Nervous as hell. Where's the Pepto-Bismol?

Whether your showing off that Bruins jacket autographed by the entire 71-72 Stanley Cup winning roster* or contemplating just how to inconspicuously get an 8 pound octopus into your local arena, it means one glorious thing. Playoffs hockey. To hell with shootouts. Everyone bid adieu to the Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs, and the other dozen teams that will get getting an early start on their golf game.

Every hockey fans first stop on the interwebs,, even unleashed a new site design for the playoffs. According to an email I received from them it's both bold and fresh. Just like a newly opened bottle of BBQ sauce. However our crack team couldn't help but notice the similiarity to TSN's American affiliate, Though to be fair the video player doesn't autostart when you visit the page, and it's almost guaranteed to never assault you with videos of either Woody Paige or Skip Bayless. Gotta love that.

And with the new TSN design is a whole section devote to, of course, the playoff prognostication. If you even utter a sentence about hockey all season long, making playoff picks is a must. I mean, come on, everyone's doing it. Melrose is doing, and so is Melrose Rocks. John Buccigross might even mention something about his picks if he's got any free time with his full time job impersonating an indie music hipster**.

Here at EFotG it's no different. Well, it's very different, but at least in this fashion its not. I haven't updated in a couple months, but I believe I'm legally obligated to post playoff predictions. It was in the small print of the NHL Center Ice TV package contract I think. I'm also gonna try to keep a close eye on the picks of everyone else. Mostly because my March Madness bracket was torn to hell by the Sweet 16 and Kevin over at Melrose Rocks eliminated me from our fantasy hockey leagues Semi-Finals thanks to me not meeting the minimum requirement for goaltender starts [FRICK!]. As soon as I compile everyone's picks I throw together some sort of chart or something.

Tonight I'll be weighing the odds, closely dissecting each playoff team's strengthens and weaknesses, and flipping some coins. All in all the predictions will be forthcoming. Four series are kicking off tonight. The Penguins v. Sabres and Rangers v. Devils at 7. The Avalanche v. Wild at 9. Flames v. Sharks at 10. Sit back, enjoy, and if you have a team in the running, have some tums within reach.

*Amazingly YouTube let me down here, I just couldn't find it, but you know what I'm talking about.

**Seriously, I finish his column and I can't even remember what it had to do with the Shark post-season chances, I just know that he really wants me to listen to The Editors.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

It's That Time of the Season Again

February brings a lot of things for a lot of different people. Some are openly prepared to severely overrate the weather forecasting abilities of a groundhog. Others will spend entirely too much on candies and cards to celebrate a Hallmark holiday. But for the select few that call themselves general managers in the National Hockey League, February means trade deadline rumors. Those teams in the mix for a playoff spot are looking for the added push that they hope will turn them into playoff contenders. For those falling out of the playoff race, they'll be looking to get the most out of the market, especially shedding players that they expect won't be returning to their rosters next season. i.e. potential free agents.

For all the players being rumored to be available, and there are plenty, we still look to be a week or two away from a major move because outside of Los Angeles, no one is quite ready to give up on the season yet. However as we see that February 26th deadline approaching teams will be forced to make the decision, are they buyers or are they sellers. But some simple facts like that have never stopped the rampant sports media from speculating on who is going to end up where. Why, I've been nearly assured of a dozen deals that "very close" or that have "just fallen through", and that's just in Toronto.

So with the trade season upon us, lets look at some of the names more likely to be sprawled across the headlines of your local newspapers sports section in the coming months.

Arguably the biggest name available is that of Atlanta Thrasher's forward Marian Hossa. With 46 points (22 goals, 24 assists) through 50 games, Hossa is the first line player that could prove to be the offensive shot in the arm to sustain a playoff drive. The Thrashers are in the dismal South East Division, and thus not out of the running for a playoff spot, but it appears that extension talks with Hossa have stalled. With unrestricted free agent status coming this summer, the Thrashers should be looking to get what they can from him before the deadline. Ideally they'd be expecting something more immediate in return, though it's not clear how much they can get from what appears to be a rent-a-player situation. Last year the Philadelphia Flyers benefited from multiple bidders raising the price for Peter Forsberg, and we could very likely see a similar situation. But then again, we all remember how the Nashville Predators faired last post-season.

The most desired defenseman appears to be Los Angeles Kings veteran Rob Blake. Much like Hossa, with free agency looming any move for Blake would be a rent-a-player situation. With Blakes relationships in the Kings franchise it would not be surprising to see him dealt, but ultimately resigning with LA in the summer. Of all the potential deals, a Blake trade appears the most likely in the coming weeks. The Kings are clearly out of the playoff picture and many teams might want to strike while the irons hot and avoid the deadline rush. The Detroit Red Wings, San Jose Sharks, New York Rangers, and Ottawa Senators are all interested in Blake's services.

Now outside those top two it begins to get a little dicey. The Calgary Flame's Alex Tanguay became the fodder of many trade discussions in the past weeks after TSN's Pierre McGuire reported Tanguay had waived his no-trade clause. However Tanguay has disputed this claim, and while head coach Darryl Sutter has not outright denied the possibility, he has worked to squelch any rumors of an impending deal.

The Columbus Blue Jackets are walking the fine line of being a playoff team in the Western Conference, but if they cannot put together some wins in the coming month a handful of players could find themselves on the league trading block. Veteran forward Sergei Fedorov, for one, has been gaining some interest from playoff bound clubs, including the Ottawa Senators. David Vyborny has also garnered some attention, especially from some within the Rangers organization. Vyborny is set to become a free agent and is thought to be looking to return to the Czech Republic after this season, but the Rangers could maybe make another year in the NHL worth his while if they put him on a line with fellow Czech Jaromir Jagr.

Adam Foote's name has also been thrown around the deadline circles, but even with the prospect of missing the postseason Columbus would probably favor resigning their captain for a few more seasons in service with the Blue Jackets.

Another potential dealer could be the struggling Tampa Bay Lightning. With GM Jay Feaster shouldering the blame for this seasons failure, he may look to pull some eye raising deals that would hopefully return the Lightning to contenders in the next few years.Rumors of a deal sending Martin St. Louis to Dallas for goaltender Marty Turco surface in the past few weeks, but the Stars have denied this as a possibility. One thing for certain is that the Lightning will be looking for goaltending, if not during the trade deadline, than in the off-season. However St. Louis's cap hit, $5.25 million, makes him a tough move. Dan Boyle on the other hand could be a solid pick up for any team looking to bolster their defense. He becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer, and he has missed a good portion of the season nursing an ankle injury, but since returning on January 24th he has 4 points in 2 games.

The New York Rangers have been shopping troubled defenseman Marek Malik, apparently looking for a top 4 defenseman in return. Malik becomes a free agent this summer and has run into issues in New York, including getting benched after refusing to shake head coach Tom Renney's hand in the locker room following a victory. Despite his troubles franchises around the league appear willing to give the 2004 Plus/Minus Award winner another chance, perhaps hoping a change of scenery from the intense NY spotlight might do him well.

In a similar case Ottawa Senators goaltender Ray Emery has been the talk of trade rumors stemming from altercations with the team coaching staff. Earlier in the season he lost his starting position to Martin Gerber, and since he has been late for team practice twice. The first time he was asked to leave the practice, and following a tantrum that saw him break his stick and throw it into the stands, he obliged. The second time he was fined $15 thousand by the franchise. This type of behavior is sure to draw trade talk, but with the current low demand for goaltenders, and the Senators leading the Easter Conference, it looks as if Emery may be around for at least the rest of the season in Ottawa.

Toronto's Mats Sundin has the attention of numerous teams, including the Vancouver Canucks, Detroit Red Wings and Anaheim Ducks, but the long time Leaf is not likely to waive his no-movement clause to facilitate a deal.

Florida Panther's Olli Jokinen has denied demand a deal, and the Panthers have denied making him available, but that hasn't stopped many from speculating about a possible reunion with his former GM Mike Keenan, who is head coach in Calgary.

Other names flying around this tangled mess we call the trade deadline include: John-Michael Liles, Erik Christensen, J.P. Dumont, Ed Jovanovski, Brad Stuart, Vaclav Prospal, Steve Staios, and Brian Campbell.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Did Derian Hatcher Bite Travis Zajac?

I can't even believe that I'm going to write this next sentence. But according to New Jersey Devils Travis Zajac, Derian Hatcher of the Philadelphia Flyers bit Zajac's finger during a scrum in front of the net last night.

In the AP game recap Zajac gave his interpretation of the incident.
"I guess I got close to him and he bit me," said Zajac, who wore a splint on the middle finger of his left hand. "I felt pain, I saw blood and then got stitched up and went back out."
But, not surprisingly, Derian Hatcher has a different take on exactly what went down.

"If he's cut, good. But I didn't bite him," Hatcher said. "I didn't think anything of it until someone mentioned it to me. He went like that (face wash) right across my face.

"He got his glove on my tooth, almost pulled it out. It's all sore."

I can't say I really expect anything to actually come out of this situation. This sounds more like the job of a preschool teacher than that of the leagues disciplinary office.

But the greatest part about the whole thing, the pleasure that Hatcher takes out of the fact that Zajac got his finger cut. I've had a sore tooth before, and I know those things can be a monster.

[AP: Martin Broduer posts 96 career shutout as Devils beat Flyers 3-0]

Thursday, January 3, 2008

"He asked for it ... and he got it"

Pittsburgh Penguin's irritant Jarkko Ruutu and the Toronto Maple Leafs Darcy Tucker went a couple rounds in this evenings game. Now a certain poorly dressed ignorant Canadian broadcaster can shut his trap. The good news for him is that he can now allot further time to complaining about the instigator penalty, Andrew Ference's environmentally conscious lifestyle, players who wear visors, or just pimping Quizno's.