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.