Blog Archives

LUONGO SHOWS NO CONSISTENCY

As soon as Roberto Luongo walked into the dressing room, he was surrounded; swarmed, really.  The reporters were on all sides, overflowing out the door and into the hallway.  Voice recorders pressed inches from his lips.  Boom mics almost brushed the bill of his cap.  TV cameras and spotlights pointed at his face, held high by men on stepstools, hoping to get a clear angle above the horde.  Luongo spoke for about three minutes.  He actually asked the key question.

“I’ve got to believe in myself, right?” he said.

Right there is the heart of this enigma; the Jekyll and Hyde of elite goaltenders; the guy who can get pulled and then pitch a shutout and then get pulled again in the Stanley Cup Final.  After another Luongo meltdown Monday night and a 5-2 loss to the Boston Bruins, the Canucks’ dream season has been reduced to a Game 7 on Wednesday night in Vancouver.  It hinges on somebody who has bounced back before but always leaves you wondering if he can bounce back again and why he has to keep bouncing back like this at all.

As for the Canucks,  they are standing by their man.  Everyone from coach Alain Vigneault to backup goaltender Cory Schneider believes Roberto Luongo will deliver a Game 7 performance that is good enough to win them the Stanley Cup.  The No. 1 goaltender has bounced between great and gruesome in the championship series, surrendering three early goals before getting pulled in Monday’s 5-2 loss to the Boston Bruins in Game 6.  Vigneault was quick to end any debate about who would get the start on Wednesday’s do-or-die game at Rogers Arena.

“I haven’t talked to him,” said Vigneault. “He knows he’s going back in next game. He’s going to be real good.”

“Probably the biggest pressure game he played all year was Game 7 against Chicago (in the first round),” said Schneider. “He had a lot riding on that game and he stepped up in the biggest way possible. He’s won a gold medal there, he’s won a lot of one-and-done games in that building and that means a lot.  We’re confident he’ll be there for us.”

In Luongo you have an Olympic gold medalist, a finalist for the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s best goaltender. When he is good, he’s among the best. In three home games in this series, he is 3-0 with a .979 save percentage and two shutouts.  Unfortunately Luongo has been terrible at times. He invites self-doubt and doubters, and when he self-destructs, he’s spectacular. In three road games in this series, he is 0-3 with a .773 save percentage and has been pulled twice.

Game 7 could be a defining moment for Luongo, but you wonder whether he has already defined himself, no matter what he does now.

Sources:  TSN, Yahoo Sports

Until the next puck drops,

Nick

CANUCKS QUEST

The Canucks sit one win away from their first Stanley Cup in franchise history.  Now all they have to do is figure out a way to win in Boston and the silverware will return to Canada for the first time since 1993.  The problem is, the Canucks have been terrible away from home so far in the Stanley Cup Final.  So, which Canucks team will emerge once the puck drops at TD Garden in Boston tonight for Game 6?  The Canucks have been dynamite at home, playing tight, defensive hockey and winning all three games by one-goal margins. The problem, however, is that the Bruins have had their way with them on home ice, outscoring the Canucks 12-1 in Games 3 and 4.  So, with the home team unbeaten so far in the final, will the Canucks be able to put up a fight in Beantown?  The Canucks are hoping they’ll be able to rebound and exorcise the demons of Games 3 and 4. They’ll try to look back to the killer instinct that allowed them to bury San Jose and Nashville with games to spare and do their best to get the job done in six.  Otherwise, they will allow Boston back into this series for a one-game playoff on Wednesday in Vancouver.  Consider this: the Canucks are 3-4 in potential series-winning games so far in these playoffs and have been outscored 24-15 in those games. The Canucks are 5-5 on the road so far, including the three road wins they garnered in Nashville.  The Bruins, meanwhile, are 2-2 in Games 6 and 7 in the post-season, with an even score line of 10-10 in those four games. They have not won a Game 6 yet in the playoffs, though both were played on the road. The Bruins are 9-3 at home in the playoffs, including dropping their first two games of the playoffs at home to the Canadiens.  So, can this Canucks team finally close out a series on its first opportunity? Or, will they be forced to go the distance and hope they can grind out a series victory in Game 7 like they did in Chicago in the first round?  Both teams have played a vastly different game at home than they have on the road. With the Cup on the line, which Vancouver team will show up?  The answer comes to you 8 p.m. tonight.

Sources:  TSN

Until the next puck drops,

Nick

OFFSIDE, PLAYOFF THOUGHTS

Well the refs really blew it now.  They were terrible with offside calls all game but this non-call really was costly.  The Boston overtime winner should never had counted.  They were offside as pointed out in the replay by CBC.  I know the game moves fast and mistakes can be made, but they really need to be careful when the game is on the line.  Not calling that play offside affected the outcome; it cost Montreal even more than a bad line change which is what led to the goal.  Not to take anything away from the Bruins effort; they overcame numerous deficits to win this game, coming back from two goals down in the second period and then down by a goal with less than seven minutes left they tied it again.  The problem is instead of a game which should have continued, you have a series tied at 2 games each.  It has been a great series so far, living up to all the hype, I just would have liked to have seen a legitimate goal win last night’s game.

Vancouver fans are really starting to get nervous now.  After a 3-0 series lead, the Canucks have been blown out by a combined score of 12-2 the last two games.  They have played terrible and are in real danger of Chicago taking this series away.  If this happens it would be the second time in as many years a team has come back down 3-0.  This has never happened before and though is supposed to be unlikely, after the last two games, it seems very possible unless Vancouver smartens up and fixes their game.  You have to give credit to Chicago though, they’ve played really well the last two games.  Vancouver had better finish this series in game 6 otherwise I’m predicting they will be eliminated in game 7 and we will see a repeat of last years Philadelphia / Boston series.

Until the next puck drops,

Nick

PLAYOFF PREDICTIONS

Right now every hockey fan, writer and analyst is putting together their N.H.L. playoff predictions.  Who will win the Stanley Cup this year?  Click on the link for my predictions.  I think you’ll be surprised at some of my picks.

2011 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF PREDICTIONS

Until the next puck drops,

Nick

CAMPBELL SHOULD BE COOKED

How is it that someone with only a high school diploma, is the Senior Vice President and Director of Hockey Operations for the National Hockey League?  It is clearly evident through his actions recently, he is not qualified and should be let go.  He has shown favouritism to certain clubs, like the Boston Bruins, over the years.  How he has lasted nearly 13 years is beyond me.

On November 15, 2010, TSN and various other media outlets reported on a string of emails from Colin Campbell. The e-mail correspondence became a matter of public record in the wrongful dismissal case of referee Dean Warren against the N.H.L. and the emails were entered into evidence in the case, although specific references to names and dates were blacked out.  In these emails, Campbell calls Boston Bruins centre Marc Savard a “little fake artist” after Warren assessed Colin Campbell’s son, Gregory Campbell, a high-sticking minor on Savard and sending further emails to director of officiating Stephen Walkom complaining about the work of referees who gave Gregory a late-game penalty that resulted in a tying goal.  It’s funny how he considers Marc Savard a “little fake artist” when Savard’s career has been ruined with several concussions, the last coming from an illegal hit by Matt Cooke.  That’s the mark of a great VP; criticize a good hockey player who was hurt by his own son.

Campbell dropped the ball again with his “expertise” in the Zdeno Chara ruling with Mike Murphy nearly two weeks ago, which saw Chara get away with an illegal hit to Max Pacioretty; a hit still talked about today.  Now again he had another chance to right the ship.  Though I still believe Campbell is not fully qualified to be in the position he’s in, at least he handed out a pretty severe suspension to Cooke today.  The incident with Cooke occurred less than five minutes into the third period of Sunday’s Rangers and Penguins game, when Cooke went high and landed an elbow on Ryan McDonagh‘s jaw.  McDonagh had his back turned to the Penguins forward, and was in the process of shooting the puck into the offensive zone.

“Mr. Cooke, a repeat offender, directly and unnecessarily targeted the head of an opponent who was in an unsuspecting and vulnerable position,” said Campbell. “This isn’t the first time this season that we have had to address dangerous behavior on the ice by Mr. Cooke, and his conduct requires an appropriately harsh response.”

Matt Cooke represents everything that’s wrong with this league.  He’s injured so many with his illegal hits and it’s time the league does something about it.  Enough is enough with this guy!  If it were up to me, I would banish him from the league!  I don’t think 14 games is enough of a suspension.  He’s already been suspended for minimal time and no progress has ever been made.  Simply put, Cooke hits to injure.  He’ll deny it but the evidence is all over.  So many injuries have come at Cooke’s expense, so why is he still allowed to play?  At least Campbell should have suspended him for the rest of the season with a hearing scheduled at a later date to discuss if Cooke should be allowed to play again.

If I were Pittsburgh Penguins owner Mario Lemieux, I would release him.  I wouldn’t want him playing for my team or any association with him whatsoever.  Lemieux expressed his disgust with the punishment of the New York Islanders after a fight-filled game February 11, 2011 against Pittsburgh.  Lemieux called the game a travesty, said the N.H.L.’s suspensions of two New York players did not send a strong enough message to deter on-ice violence, and he implored the league to do more to protect player safety.  Well take a stand Mario; fine your player for his behavior!  If Lemieux does nothing, he’ll just be joining the list of the hypocrites running the N.H.L.

It’ll be interesting to see what the reactions, if any,  from Lemieux are and the response from Campbell’s decision.

Sources:  TSN, Wikipedia, National Post, Toronto Star

Until the next puck drops,

Nick

THE PRICE IS RIGHT

Boy oh boy this kid is playing phenomenal!  Carey Price is going to be 24 this year and already looks like he is one of the best goalies in the N.H.L.  In a big game against the Boston Bruins this week, he was as sharp as ever stopping 30 of 31 shots.  He continued his success Saturday night with a 26 save shutout against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

He’s been sharp all season with flashes of greatness.  He leads the N.H.L. in wins, games played and minutes.  He is second in shutouts with eight and is in the top 10 in nearly every other meaningful category for goalies.  He is definitely a strong candidate for the Vezina Trophy.  When you think of all the ups and downs he’s gone through over the last 3 years, and especially in the hockey mad city of Montreal, it’s truly remarkable how he’s responded this season.  We’re talking about a city where hockey is life and some players choose not to play there because of the immense pressure.  Price lives on and is beginning to fulfill his destiny as a franchise goalie and dare I say world class goalie.  He is adored by the fans now and could potentially “steal” a few rounds in the playoffs.

When you look back at his brief career so far only one saying comes to mind, “What doesn’t break you only makes you stronger”.  Well that is definitely the case here.  He’s gone from being cheered in 2008 to being booed in 2009 and replaced with Jaroslav Halak in early 2010.

Halak, who was a key part in the Montreal Canadiens reaching the Eastern Conference Final in the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs, was traded in the summer of 2010.  Many Canadiens fans were outraged over the deal and showed their displeasure while booing Price after a poor performance in an exhibition game this season.  I, for one, had never lost faith in Price.  I was and am happy they chose him over Halak even if Halak won the first meeting of the two Thursday night.  The Canadiens chose to keep the right goalie.  In my opinion, all he needed was a veteran presence to learn from, which he wasn’t getting with Halak.  Alex Auld has been that great influence on Price.

Now the chants of “Carey” in the Bell Centre are deafening and will continue throughout the playoffs should the Canadiens go on another run like last spring.

Until the next puck drops,

Nick

WHAT HAPPENED TO ACCOUNTABILITY?

Tuesday night  I, along with many others, watched as Zdeno Chara‘s hit sent  Max Pacioretty‘s head into a glass stanchion, knocking Pacioretty out cold.  I watched as he laid motionless for several minutes.  I watched as he was taken out on a stretcher and sent to the hospital.  According to Montreal coach Jacques Martin, Pacioretty, 22, suffered a severe concussion and a fracture of the 4th cervical vertebrae when Chara ran him into the end of the glass that divides the players’ benches, late in the second period at Montreal’s Bell Centre.  It was an unfortunate play which very well may end Pacioretty’s N.H.L. career, which is a shame since he had been playing so well for the Canadiens.  Chara received a penalty for the interference and a game misconduct with a ruling set for Wednesday.  Many sports writers were certain Chara would be suspended, some even condemning his actions .

Cam Cole of the Vancouver Sun wrote “Did Chara know the support post was there?   Almost certainly.   It was right beside the Bruins’ bench, past which both players were skating when he began to shove Pacioretty.  Did he maliciously push Pacioretty into the post?  Speculative, but not out of the question.  The two had clashed when Pacioretty scored the winning goal in a January game, and shoved Chara in the back afterward, as he celebrated.  But now, the league is into mind-reading, trying to put itself into Chara’s head and determine whether he meant to cause serious injury.  And it just doesn’t matter.  He did.”

There has to be a level of accountability when it comes to the players and their actions especially when it is perceived to be an “accident”.  I am in total agreement with Cam Cole’s statement.  Even though Pacioretty should have been more aware of where he was, I’m sure he didn’t expect to have his head shoved into the stanchion.  I just don’t buy into the ridiculous idea “it’s part of the game”.  I understand that it’s a rough sport, but when it comes to situations like this, when is the N.H.L. going to take a stand and hold players more accountable for their actions?  They had the chance Wednesday and they blew it.  They didn’t suspend Chara at all which is an outrage.

NHL senior vice-president of hockey operations Mike Murphy said in a news release.  “This hit resulted from a play that evolved and then happened very quickly — with both players skating in the same direction and with Chara attempting to angle his opponent into the boards.  I could not find any evidence to suggest that, beyond this being a correct call for interference, that Chara targeted the head of his opponent, left his feet or delivered the check in any other manner that could be deemed to be dangerous.”

When is enough, enough?  What’s it going to take to get through to these people?  Does a player have to die to get through to them?  I’m sure Mike Murphy would think differently if it were his son or Colin Campbell‘s son.  Wait, Colin’s son does play and what a coincidence, he plays for the Boston Bruins same as Chara.  Barely three years in, Pacioretty may be forced to retire because of this unfortunate incident where a player was not mindful of his surroundings!  That’s what it all comes down to, being mindful of your surroundings.  Had Chara paid attention to where he was, he most certainly would not have driven Pacioretty’s head into the glass stanchion!  So where’s the accountability?

Bottom line, the hit was late; it was interference; it caused injury and while the design of the boards and glass were largely to blame for the severity of the injury, the responsibility is still with the hitter.  Chara should have been suspended, even if for a measly two games, though I think he deserved more.  To those reporters who agreed with the N.H.L.’s decision, I ask this:  Where is your humanity?

Sources:  Vancouver Sun and TSN

Until the next puck drops,

Nick