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June 11, 2012

11:56 PM: Final score was 6-1, not really indicative of how the 3rd period and rest of the game went, one of them was into an empty net - Devils gambled by pulling Brodeur with just over 4 minutes left, and like many folks who have ever visited Atlantic City, they lost...would have been a real story, though, had they actually scored one or a couple...but as they say in the casinos - it wasn't in the cards...but what a run...

So many players to feel happy for in this run - Kings win the Cup with a 16-4 record...with 2 former stars from the 2010 Eastern Conference champion Philadelphia Flyers, four former Oilers, two of them champs for the 2nd time (Penner/Fraser), the coach Sutter, GM Dean Lombardi, and yes, even Luc Robitaille brought down the house when he hoisted the cup...

No matter who wins it, it never gets old watching players lift the 35 pound silver mug above their head...never...

And never gets old watching who the captain hands the Cup to first...Dustin Brown, of Ithaca, New York - first player to touch the Cup after him - Willie Mitchell...it had to either be him, or Conn Smythe winner Jonathan Quick...Simon Gagne, Mike Richards or Jeff Carter would have been good choices too...but they all got to lift it eventually...

Kind of feel bad for Marty Brodeur, whose team showed a lot of heart coming back to make a series out of it, and could have very easily forced a Game 7 had it not been for the questionable officiating in the first period...but you kind of knew it was over when the Kings put that 3rd goal in the net on that five minute major...

Well it's like they say...no shame in losing to the Champs...

So much to think about and wrap up - definitely one of the most memorable playoffs in recent memory, just for the way it played out...

Season and Playoff post mortem sometime this week - after I have time to digest what just happened...you won't want to miss this...stay tuned...

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10:01 PM: Devils got one before the period was out...Henrique...4-1...

They'll carry all but 17 seconds of a power play into the 3rd...they've got 20 minutes to either prolong this game into another period or to win it outright and force Game 7...otherwise, Mr. Bettman is on hand to present the Cup to the Kings...again, they hold the dreaded 3 goal lead...

As Darryl Reaugh used to say in NHL 97, "this should be a great finish"...

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9:35 PM: And they killed it off...is this the momentum swing New Jersey is looking for?

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9:31 PM: 4 minute double minor for Bryce Salvador...the Devils are, to put it lightly, unglued...like Pittsburgh Penguins unglued...yeah, that bad...if the Kings score here we might see The Moose...certainly not the way Brodeur envisioned this game...

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9:22 PM: Ouch!  Jeff Carter...4-0, Kings...beat Brodeur over the left shoulder...the Devils' net minder looks stunned, as does the entire team...

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9:20 PM: Post for Patrik Elias late in the 1st...unfortunately those don't count...

And we start the 2nd period with L.A. nursing the most dangerous lead in hockey...Drew Doughty could be heard telling his team mates, it's still 0-0...

Adding insult to injury - Rob Scuderi is back...

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8:59 PM: Oh, to be a fly on the wall in the Devils dressing room when the 1st period ends...

When are teams going to learn that when you catch a team sleeping, you let them sleep?!  Steve Bernier is not feeling very good about himself right about now...put a hard hit on Rob Scuderi in the L.A. end boards - in all fairness, Scuderi turned at the last second to avoid the hit, but he still ended up being worse for wear...which is big, because Scuderi is not known for being a guy who goes down easily...

Peter DeBoer will argue Jarrett Stoll should have got a penalty for running Stephen Gionta into the bench, but at the end of it all, Bernier gets the five minute major and the game misconduct...Kings would score not once, not twice, but three times on the 5 minute power play...Dustin Brown with 2, Trevor Lewis with the other...

It's 3-0 Kings with about a minute left in the 1st...still plenty of time for New Jersey to get back in it...they cannot let in the next one...

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5:34 PM: So, for the 3rd straight game, we ask the rhetorical question - Is tonight the night?!

At this stage of the game - who knows?!!?

And why not give us a 7th game in a series that started out 3-0 for Los Angeles?...the previous three rounds were as unpredictable...why not cap it all off with the comeback to end all comebacks...it would only be the fourth time in NHL history that it's happened...but the 2nd time in three years, and 3rd straight time in 3 years that a team down 0-3 forced a Game 7...

But...before I get ahead of myself...

This series has been too close to call...three of the five games ended 2-1...well, technically four of the five, since the 3-1 New Jersey win had an empty netter (Ilya Kovalchuk's only contribution to this series so far)...you could even argue the Game 3 4-0 L.A. win was a close one until the 3rd period power play explosion from the Kings...

So last game, it was more or less the Martin Brodeur show...at 40, he's still getting it done...and he'll need to if the Devils have any hope...

Anybody got Bryce Salvador in their playoff pool?!?!

All I know is if the Devils force a Game 7, all bets are off!!!  One has to think if the Kings pull this off tonight, Jonathan Quick will be a safe bet for the Conn Smythe...but I leave you with this to consider just hours before puck drop on Game 6...if New Jersey pulls off the comeback and wins the Stanley Cup - who do you name as MVP?  Brodeur?  Henrique?  Parise?  Salvador?  Kovalchuk?...well, maybe not unless he explodes in the next couple of games...or, player to be named later?  Tough one, isn't it?!

I mean, in a year where "I'll Have Another" ended up not even racing the 3rd "leg" of the Triple Crown due to injury...and in a year where Miami and Oklahoma are facing each other in the NBA finals (and where the Boston Celtics pushed the Heat farther than perhaps they should have been able to), who the hell knows what's going to happen?!?

Face off at about 5:15 PM, Pacific Time...be there...

 

June 6, 2012

11:08 PM: Well, the Devils have never been swept in a playoff series, and they weren't about to make tonight a first...

Teams were dead even 0-0 through 40 minutes, a couple of posts on either side...only needed to see the 3rd period of Game 4 to get the whole story...New Jersey finally got to Jonathan Quick, a gentle nudge by Patrik Elias, and then he got a gift in the crease...the 1-0 lead lasted 58 seconds...pretty weak boarding call on David Clarkson, and 6 seconds later Drew Doughty shot a 140 km/h puck through the five hole...well, actually, I think it deflected off the Devil defense and in...determined not to spend the rest of his summer at the tobacco farm, yet...Adam Henrique scored to put his team ahead for good, late...if Quick has a weakness, it's the blocker side, and teams have found if they exploit that side, they can score on him...Ilya Kovalchuk added an empty netter, and this series lives for a Game 5, Saturday night...one thing for sure, no matter if this series ends in 5, 6 or 7 games, the next one will be the last Saturday night HNIC telecast this season...

I still think there's something to the "in 6" prediction...can't see the Devils losing three straight at home in the final...they've never done that either...

"I'll Have Another"...say the Devils, and at the same time, we'll see if the horse can clinch the triple crown at the Belmont Stakes...

Talk to you Saturday...or sooner...

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Big news out of Montreal yesterday - they got their bilingual coach...and it is one they are familiar with - Michel Therrien, who for the past few seasons since being let go by Pittsburgh has been an analyst on RDS...obviously mixed feelings and reviews on this, as many thought Marc Bergevin would go the route most teams have gone in recent years - either bring up a guy from the minors, or somebody other than a has been coach for the team...to hear some fans yesterday, they are livid...but, then again - maybe Bergevin is seeing what Darryl Sutter has been able to do in L.A., and combined with the foundation he laid in Pittsburgh before Dan Bylsma's arrival, and maybe, just maybe...quite frankly, I don't know if it would matter even if they would rehire Jacques Martin...they need to get that team bigger, stronger, and meaner...that's the only way they're going to make some noise...say what you will about Sutter - but the Kings are big and strong...that's what they need in Montreal...and no, I don't care what any of the Montreal fans and members of the media say - Patrick Roy is not the answer behind the bench...not yet, anyway...

As for another Canadian team coaching change - I am not understanding Bob Hartley in Calgary...not in the least...especially if they do nothing to their lineup...the guy's a good coach, but he can't perform miracles, as evidenced by his time in Atlanta...although I'm guessing this is what the team brass is hoping, a change behind the bench might light a fire under the seat of the pants of some of the personnel there...

And here I am anxiously awaiting an announcement from Edmonton as to who they are going to replace Tom Renney with...

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2:52 PM: So in case you didn't notice...during the finals I've been doing my best to be a bystander, taking it all in stride, and talking about it post mortem...

Depending on what happens tonight, I may be live, I may be Memorex...nonetheless, the Stanley Cup will be in the building at Staples Center, just in case the Kings pull off, at this point, what seems inevitable - another win...

Rewind back to Monday night, and the Devils had to have had a big chip on their shoulder, having, for the most part, outplayed the L.A. Kings in Game 2, only to once again give up the winner in OT...

They would come out of Game 3 dwelling on two plays - the winning goal for L.A., and the 2nd L.A. goal...first of all, before they dwell on what went wrong, they should concentrate more on missed opportunities - a full minute 5 on 3 advantage that they couldn't score on late in the first, could have completely changed the landscape of the game, and this series...but instead, it was 0-0 after 1...then in period two, a scramble for the puck and about umptillion whacks at the puck before Alec Martinez finally put it past Brodeur for the 1-0 lead...argument was the ref lost sight of the puck and should have blown the play dead...not sure if all the people saying this were watching the same game as me...the ref was to the right of Brodeur and probably had the best view in the house...

The next one, however, as beautiful as a play as it was for Anze Kopitar's 8th, replay shows a hand pass in the Kings end - that should have been a stoppage in play right there...but it didn't happen - Kings rushed up ice, Kopitar won the one on one battle with Zach Parise, and converted on a perfect on the tape pass from Dustin Brown...if that wasn't game over, then the Kings burying one on a power play in the 3rd certainly was...Devils went 0 for 6 with the man advantage, including the aforementioned 2 man advantage, Kings were 2 for 2...do the math - take the two controversial goals away, and the Kings still win...

By the way - great to see Simon Gagne get in a game...pretty sure that was to ensure his name gets engraved on the Cup, because quite frankly, I didn't see him much...seemed to get better as the game went along...saw more ice time in the 3rd...

So tonight, Game 4 - Kings with a win will sweep and will hoist the Cup for the first time in franchise history...so many firsts for this team - first time in franchise history they've swept a playoff series, potentially a second time coming up...first time in the 1 vs 8 conference alignment that an 8th seed could win the Cup...first time any team in any format has won the first 3 games of every playoff series they've played in a postseason...but I digress...it's not over yet...and with all due respect to New Jersey, you have to bet your bottom dollar we will see the Devils' best game...because for them, there is no tomorrow...

Because, it's the Cup...and as much as I'd like to see Brodeur go out on top, unless his supporting cast do something really special, doesn't look like it's going to happen...but, as I've often said - stranger things have happened...but it has to start with Parise, Kovalchuk (who looks hurt again), and the rest of the folks who got them here...can't hang it all on Brodeur...not anymore...I understand Petr Sykora will draw back in, and Henrik Tallinder will make his Devils playoff debut...Peter Harrold and Jacob Josefson will be healthy scratches...still don't know why they don't bring in Cam Janssen for a little grit...

As for Conan O'Brien - somebody tell him to shut his pie hole...was making fun of the Kings' run and what their fans look like...but I bet you the minute they win it all, he'll have Dustin Brown and the Cup on the show...

Be there tonight, at 8 PM...if the Kings win and you miss it, there's no hockey until October...

 

June 3, 2012

6:34 PM: Game 2 of the Final played out almost as a carbon copy of Game 1...difference was, the feeling out process was complete and both teams simply went for it...well, somewhat...at this stage it almost seems like Los Angeles wants it more...New Jersey was tentative, at times...and aren't getting the production from their top players like they have the entire playoffs...Zach Parise can be excused for not producing as he was knocked out of the game but he would return...Ilya Kovalchuk seems to be just going through the motions, as much as he says he wants to win, he isn't throwing his weight around like he was in the Rangers series...the only New Jersey goal was Ryan Carter with his 5th of the playoffs...who saw that coming at the beginning?

Anyhow...same score, 2-1, needed overtime again, and this time Jeff Carter was the hero...Kings are getting it done the same way they have all playoffs, by committee...and now they head back home to Staples Center in a familiar position, up 2-0 in the series...this time, for the Cup...

Drew Doughty didn't get caught with an illegal stick like Marty McSorley did back in the day, but he did go end to end in a Bobby Orr-like play that got the Kings on the board first...

Still plenty of series left, but the door is already half closed for the Devils...by the same token, however, the Kings, like the Canucks last year, should know this is far from over...

Game 3 Monday night...hard to believe exactly one year ago I was sailing out of New York heading to Bermuda...looking at the weather outside right now, wish I was doing it all over again...because it doesn't get any bigger than this...

OK, I know...that was cheesy...;)

Tonight - check out "Inside The Cup", where CBC plays their hand and following around the teams that made it to the Final four, kind of like their own version of HBO's 24-7...don't know if the hour is all we get or if it's part one...

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