Well, I digress, for all I claim to
know about life and this great sport on ice, I’m not perfect (as if you didn’t
know already). Who knew after 10 straight years of playoff disappointment the
Ottawa Senators finally appear to have what it takes to go all the way (or so
they’d like everybody to believe)? Who expected the New York Rangers to
collapse so dramatically, when it appeared they had their series all but won?
How is it the San Jose Sharks went into the last two playoffs with such high
expectations, only to see their dreams shattered in a mere six games of the
second round – twice!? And how is Roberto Luongo feeling nowadays after
standing on his head for 12 games and coming up empty handed?
Most importantly – how did my sister,
who is six years younger than me, end up beating me to the altar?
What I do know is this – we’re in for
a great finish to the 2007 playoffs! Bring it on!!
2006-2007 Stanley Cup
#1 Buffalo Sabres (53-22-7 Season, 8-3 Playoffs) vs #4 Ottawa Senators (48-25-9
Season, 8-2 Playoffs) – Season Series: Advantage Ottawa 5-2-1
It seems very fitting we find
ourselves looking at this series as the defining moment of these playoffs. Here
we have a rivalry which continues to gain notoriety, the likes of which are only
witnessed when Ottawa meets Toronto.
The Sabres, right from the drop of
the puck, have been on a mission – redemption for last spring’s puck over the
glass delay of game penalty against Carolina which was instrumental to ending
their season. So far, they’ve been pretty convincing and virtually untouchable.
The Senators, similarly, are on a
mission of their own – to erase the disappointment of playoffs past.
So far – it’s mission accomplished on
both fronts. Now the fun begins.
Buffalo, for the most part, have made
it look easy all year long. They’ve yet to really face any real adversity.
Their regular season franchise record 53 wins are a testament to their game
which is speedy, crafty, brutally honest defensively, and backed up by a brick
wall in goal. Ryan Miller hasn’t had to be sensational, but has made the saves
he needs to at the right time. The defensive corps of Brian Campbell, Dmitri
Kalinin, Tony Lydman, Teppo Numminen and Jaroslav Spacek has been able to clear
the lanes of traffic and allow the goalie to see the shots. The usual suspects
of Daniel Briere, Chris Drury, Tomas Vanek and Maxim Afinogenov have been able
to get it done when it counts. Who knew acquiring Dainius Zubrus would wind up
being one of the best acquisitions of the year? He has 8 assists and is 3rd
in team scoring.
It hasn’t been so easy for Ottawa, as
they’ve had to overcome the adversity of being a mediocre .500 team at the
Christmas Break, and the over analyzed signing of goaltender Martin Gerber, who
has kept the bench warm for the better part of the season and playoffs. Ray
Emery has silenced his critics with the 5th best goals against
average in the playoffs, and has been a ½ save better than his opponents. While
Marc-Andre Fleury has a long way to go before he can lead Pittsburgh or any
other team to glory, Martin Brodeur is no slouch, yet for the second straight
playoff year bowed out in five games in the 2nd round. Chris
Phillips, Wade Redden, Anton Volchenkov and Andrej Meszaros continue to have the
uncanny ability to feed the puck to two lethal top scoring lines, and after two
rounds, the likes Dany Heatley, Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson are among the
league leaders in scoring. Gritty guys like Mike Comrie, Antoine Vermette and
Mike Fisher continue to win those corner battle and provide secondary scoring.
The difference in Ottawa this spring
has been the heart and desire the team has shown – the willingness to drop down
and block shots (I'm talking about Spezza here!), the willingness to crash the
net, the ability to get into the opposing goalie’s head and shoot from anywhere
- and score. It’s a formula lacking from previous playoff appearances. It’s
the old cliché about learning how to lose before learning how to win, and for
whatever reason, the Senators, this year more than any other, finally appear to
get it, as agonizing a process as it’s been.
It’s a crying shame Martin Biron was
traded to Philadelphia at the trading deadline – he, more than anybody, would
have looked forward to this series. While both teams are saying they’re not
looking for a repeat of the brawl which ensued after Chris Neil decked Chris
Drury, don’t think for one second the bad blood won’t boil over if things
escalate on the ice. Neil, quite frankly, better keep his head up.
When we get to this time of year, it
goes without saying, the best players need to be at their best, and need to be
patient and stay disciplined. A parade to the penalty box won’t help either
team, as the opposition on both sides have the weapons and ability to make the
What remains to be seen is which of
these two teams have what it takes to take their game to the next level? As
simple as it sounds, can Ottawa avenge three previous playoff failures at the
hands of Buffalo, or will they prevail and make their first trip to the finals?
How will either team react if they face adversity in the form of a loss or a
series deficit? Can Buffalo beat the curse which has haunted this city’s
professional sports teams for many decades and finally deliver a championship?
I've been picking them all season long, and as much as I like Ottawa, I'm
sticking with my predictions from the very beginning. If I'm wrong, then
all bets are off for the finals!
Queue up the movie soundtrack for
“Rocky Balboa” and let’s get this party started! Don’t miss a second of this
series, it promises to be a dandy!
Prediction: Sabres in 7
#1 Detroit Red Wings (50-19-13 Season, 8-4 Playoffs) vs #2 Anaheim Ducks
(48-20-14 Season, 8-2 Playoffs) – Season Series: Even 2-2
Thanks to yet another six game second
round meltdown by San Jose, we won’t enjoy the privilege of witnessing a
Southern California Western Conference Final series. What we have, instead, is
the top two teams in the conference going head to head for the right to do
Detroit has survived the opening two
rounds but with a price – they’ve lost the likes of defensemen Niklas Kronwall
and Matthieu Schneider. So far it hasn’t seem to have phased them. Thankfully,
Tomas Holmstrom returned to the lineup after taking a cut near the eye in the
first round, but he’s only a forward.
Anaheim, on the other hand, with the
exception of some cuts and bruises, have managed to make it here virtually
unscathed. It really shouldn’t surprise anybody to see this series come to
fruition given the regular season records of both teams.
Given how good the Ducks have been
throughout the season and playoffs, one glaring concern of one head coach Randy
Carlyle has been their inability to stay out of the penalty box.
"My highest concern right now are the number of
penalties we are taking," Carlyle said yesterday. "We can't keep taking them at
this rate because teams are going to make you pay."
"During the season we had a lot of fighting
majors which is reflected in our penalty minute totals. Now, in the playoffs,
there have been less fisticuffs and more minors. Continue to do that, and
the puck will end up in our net."
If it’s true what they say, meaning your best penalty killer is your goalie,
it has definitely helped to have Jean Sebastien Giguere in goal – he only has
the best goals against average of any goaltender still in the playoffs, a meager
One of my lasting memories of this
playoff run is the sight of Teemu Selanne taking one for the team - cut wide
open in the face, yet remaining on the ice to chip in anywhere he can. When
asked about it, his response was a simple question – When is the next game?
Two players who’ve fully met all
expectations – the Niedermayer brothers. With Scott averaging 25 minutes a
game, and defense partner Chris Pronger another 27-30 minutes per game, there
isn’t much room out there. With Rob throwing his weight around, add Selanne,
Ryan Getzlaf and Samuel Pahlsson to the mix, and it’s no wonder the Ducks have
only needed 10 games to get to this point.
Dominik Hasek matches up well against
Giguere, but he isn’t getting any younger. He does have a record of six
straight playoff series wins going for him, but with a weakened defense, the Red
Wings better be wary of the Ducks’ potent attack. Nicklas Lidstrom needs to
keep doing what he’s been doing so well for so many years – defend and put up
points. Robert Lang, Todd Bertuzzi and 1st round hero Johan Franzen
need to provide more production to support Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg.
If they can’t, I can’t see how the aging defense can keep up with the slick
style of the Ducks.
The Red Wings have fought adversity
and two very good goaltenders in two playoff series to get here, while the Ducks
haven’t really had to deal with being behind in any series they’ve been in. The
last time these two teams met in the playoffs, it was a 4 game sweep by an
upstart Ducks team who wasn’t expected to go anywhere. Now they’re a much
better team and expectations have never been higher. Both teams were able to
win on home ice during the regular season and are even against each other.
Don’t expect much to change in this series as both can play a patient style.
It’s a long road to the finals, and
this series, like the Eastern Conference, will be one for the ages. Pick your
poison, Roasted duck or Broiled octopus. In the end, I say it’s no contest.
Prediction: Ducks in 6
MIND YOUR OWN BEESWAX
I wrote about
this in my Blog recently, and it deserves
repeating here because my blood continues to boil at the very thought of it.
Just in case
you haven’t been paying attention to how Canada's tax dollars are being spent
nowadays, here's a suggestion for Parliament and in particular Ian Brodie and
Gilles Duceppe - mind your own beeswax and do some work for a change, rather
than criticizing the Canadian National Hockey Team for naming Shane Doan
comforted to know that rather than addressing the real issues in this country,
they actually are taking time to put their 2 cents worth in on something they
have no business even talking about - who's running the team here anyway, Hockey
Canada or the Government of Canada? I mean, I can't even renew my passport
without a song and a dance, now they want to interfere with my favorite sport
The sad part
here is Doan, being the classy guy that he is, is the type of guy who would step
aside if this continues to make headlines. As far as I'm concerned the right
move would be for him, captain or not, to hold his head up high and lead the
team to a World Championship. As of this writing, Canada is a perfect 6-0 and
headed to the quarterfinals, on the strength of a hat trick performance from
Doan not even 48 hours after this went down in the House of Commons.
The whole controversy
is over a cultural slur uttered by one of
Shane's Phoenix team mates in 2005 during a game between the Habs and Coyotes.
What was the slur, you ask? What else? Something to the effect of a French
Canadian referee being called an "F-'in Frenchman". When Parliament reconvened,
Bob Nicholson stepped up to the plate and told everybody present it wasn't even
Doan's fault, comments which obviously fell on deaf ears as Duceppe just won't
let it go. In the Bloc Quebecois leader's words, Doan was compared to the likes
of a Bank Robber. "When somebody robs a bank, he's presumed innocent until
proven guilty, but I don't know many people who'd name them bank manager while
the trial's still on".
Now I'm always
one to give somebody the benefit of the doubt regardless of creed, color, race
or place of origin, but I must ask - do I really honestly live in a country
where people are so shallow?!? If the answer is yes, is it any wonder we're the
laughing stock of almost anybody you talk to south of the border? This of
course in an age where the U.S. President is subject to an equal amount of
mockery on a daily basis by the same people who elected him – case in point, the
white tie affair with Queen Elizabeth – now there’s a story for another day!
Let's put it this way,
the NHL investigated and considered the issue
closed more than 2 years ago - so too should the federal government. The report
I read from Sportsnet.ca made reference to the issue being discussed under a
solemn picture of the Fathers of Confederation - all I know (if my history is
correct) is if this would have happened back in the day the picture was taken,
all of these politicians with all this free time on their hands would have been
dragged kicking and screaming without warning into Supreme Court and tried for
I can't refuse to pay taxes on my paycheck, my
groceries, my house, or my utilities - perhaps I should have the right to decide
what a fair percentage would be. For the number of days' waste of time I should
at the very least be allowed to do my shopping tax free, as by now this has been
talked about on the news and at the water cooler for about a week.
NHL should intervene here and threaten to move the Habs to Las Vegas...how do
you like them apples Mr. Duceppe?!
if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go now and enjoy the Conference Finals, but be
sure and meet me back here as always for more analysis when we know who’s going
to play for the Stanley Cup. God I love this game!
Before I go,
a huge heartfelt congratulations are in order to my aforementioned sister Jenn
and her new husband Timm, who right around the time you read this will be
exchanging their vows somewhere on a bright pink sandy beach in Bermuda. I'm
sorry guys, for not being there, but I will make it up to both of you somehow,
and that’s a promise. By the time they get back, Timm, who is a huge Senators
fan, may be in for one hell of a surprise. Go easy on him Sis’ – it's the
and Go Canada Go!
More Puckin' Around...