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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

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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

GO HABS GO

This weekend my family and I went on a trip to Montreal.  While there we visited family, went on a few tours and watched the Canadiens play the Washington Capitals.  I have been a Canadiens fan for nearly 22 years and had only been to one game, back in 1998, until now.  My brother, who came with me, became a Habs fan over the last 3 years.
It was a true honour to see the statues of the Habs greats outside the Bell Centre; players like Richard, Beliveau and Lafleur stood tall as I photographed each of them.  As I walked inside the Bell Centre, I felt like I was an 18 year old seeing the place for the first time again.  It was absolutely an amazing experience looking up at the rafters seeing all the retired numbers and Stanley Cup banners.  It didn’t hurt that we were 6 rows from the ice, near the centre.  The atmosphere inside was electric; chants of “Go Habs Go” and “Carey, Carey, Carey” echoed throughout the building.
The actual game itself wasn’t so great.  The Canadiens were sleeping from start to finish.  Only Carey Price was on his game stopping 31 of 33 shots in a 2-0 loss where Montreal was outshot 33-18.  It’s the third straight shutout loss for a Canadiens team struggling to stay in the playoffs.  Their playoff future seems secured but if they continue playing like this, it is possible they won’t make it.  They need to wake up and start playing better.
At the end of the game, Price was named the first star and as he came out he was tossing souvenirs to the crowd.

Overall in spite of the loss, it was a great experience and I can’t wait to go back.

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