Archive for the ‘Playoffs!’ Category

165544597 - Steve Babineau

(Steve Babineau, Getty Images)

Post-season narratives are fascinating. Teams don’t win because they’re better than their opponents or even more lucky; they win because they “want it more.” If a goaltender goes on a hot streak in the playoffs, it’s not actually a hot streak; instead, he’s “clutch.” And forwards who go on a scoring tear in the playoffs are said to have an “extra gear” and tend to be highly coveted in free agency (just look at Ville Leino and Joel Ward in recent years).

There are a few players who seem to have stepped up their game in the playoffs this year. Derrick Brassard has a career-high of 47 points, though he scored at a higher rate this season, but now has 10 points in 10 playoff games. Kyle Turris has underwhelmed so far in his career, but 5 goals in 9 playoff games will certainly catch your attention. And Pascal Dupuis certainly scored a lot of goals this season, but 7 in 10 playoff games is something else entirely.

But then there are three players who, unexpectedly, have no goals in the playoffs. Tyler Seguin, Jonathan Toews, and Jaromir Jagr are all very talented players at different stages of their careers. They combined for 55 goals during the regular season, but have yet to find the back of the net in the post-season. Clearly, they must be choke artists who can’t handle the pressure of the playoffs.

Read the rest of this entry »

(Jonathan Daniel, Getty Images)

(Jonathan Daniel, Getty Images)

Throughout the playoffs, the NHL has been parcelling out announcements of the post-season award nominees. This has led to the usual debates: did Player X get snubbed for Award Y? Should the Hart be for the player most valuable to his team or for just the best player in the league? Do purely offensive defencemen belong in the discussion for the Norris trophy?

For some fans whose teams didn’t make the playoffs or got bounced in the first round, these arguments can be a welcome distraction, if they still want to think about hockey at all.

But what I find interesting is that the Selke award is the only one that still has all three nominees in the playoffs. At least one nominee for all the other major awards either didn’t make the playoffs or got knocked out in the first round.

Read the rest of this entry »

A bloodied but awake Lars Eller leaves the Bell Centre via stretcher

A bloodied Lars Eller leaves the Bell Centre via stretcher

 

The first round of the playoffs are grinding along towards completion, and already there are more players done for the season than you can count on one hand. A lot of these aren’t your typical playoff injuries either – this year isn’t the usual rash of “Oh he’s so brave, he played through a broken finger/sore back/whatever!” This year we’ve got broken faces, missing teeth, and starting goaltenders done for the duration. And there’s still three more rounds to go. For some teams, anyway.

Read the rest of this entry »

(Bruce Bennett, Getty Images)

(Bruce Bennett, Getty Images)

One of the most stunning stories from the first round of the playoffs has been the performance of the New York Islanders, who tied up their series with the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday with a 6-4 win. The Penguins were the prohibitive favourites to come out of the East this season after loading up at the trade deadline, adding Brendan Morrow and Jarome Iginla to an already stacked forward corps and beefing up their defence with the hulking Douglas Murray.

Meanwhile, you would think the Islanders would just be happy to be in the playoffs at all, having missed the playoffs for five straight seasons, finishing fifth in the Atlantic Division each time. Very few people even gave the Islanders a chance in this series, with most predicting that the Penguins would win in five games, since predicting a sweep is a little too bold.

But the Islanders have done more than just show up. They’ve surprised the Penguins with their speed and tenacity and reminded everyone why there are still question marks surrounding Marc-Andre Fleury. It’s the classic tale of David versus Goliath, if Goliath had awful goaltending.

What fascinates me is how these Islanders were constructed. They’re a team full of cast-offs and misfits cobbled together by a general manager under extremely limiting financial constraints.

Read the rest of this entry »

April is the Cruelest Month

One of the high priests of the Cult of Anaheim engaging in a propitary pre-game ritual.

One of the high priests of the Cult of Anaheim engaging in a propitary pre-game ritual.

I woke up late on Sunday morning, and the first thing I did- before even the shower, the coffee, the slow migration to the couch for a day of under-18s and the very last game of the regular season- was put on my talisman. It’s not much, as talismans go, a single silver charm in the shape of a C with an H inside, but it won’t leave my wrist until the Canadiens leave the postseason. A small, feminine token, maybe, but it’s the only one I have. None of my attempts to grow a playoff beard have ever succeeded.

Around the NHL, Sunday and Monday and yesterday and today, fans are commencing their little rituals. Lucky socks are being dug out of drawers and lucky underwear pulled on, to be worn every day for weeks, or at least until the luck goes bad. Jerseys are being customized to read STANLEY 13 and posters are being painted LEAFS SUCK. Thousands of mock Cups are being made, out of duct tape and tin foil, cake and yarn. Thousands of patches of stubble are being tended. Somewhere out there, a man has a sacrificial octopus in his freezer.

The media will interpret all these rites as indicators of excitement. They’ll film themselves standing in front of screaming hordes painted blue and say, “Bob, spirits are high today in _______ as hockey fans get geared up for the Stanley Cup Playoffs,” and the horde will wave their foam idols high until the final “Back to you” sends the broadcast away to the studio. There will be articles written about how very happy all the fans are that the halcyon days of real hockey competition have at long last arrived.

Bullshit. The rituals and talismans aren’t about excitement. They’re not effusions of pure happiness made flesh and facial hair. They’re wards and protections and sacrifices, and they don’t come from joy. They come from fear.

Read the rest of this entry »

(Andrew D. Bernstein/Paul Bereswill, Getty Images)

Before the Stanley Cup was even brought onto the ice in Los Angeles, Jonathan Quick was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the 2012 postseason. Less than a week from now, the NHL will have their awards show in Las Vegas and the NHL’s stars will humbly accept the league’s top honours. Also, someone will shamefacedly accept the Mark Messier Award for Leadership somewhere far away from the stage where real awards are given out.

Prior to that, however, there’s an even less real award to present: the Dino Ciccarelli Award for the best performance by a rookie in the playoffs. It’s not a real award because I made it up about a month ago, but I think it should exist. So now, at least in the hockey blogosphere, it does.

I had 4 nominees and 3 honourable mentions in my original post, but it became a two-horse race by the end of the playoffs. Your winner of the 2012 Dino Ciccarelli Award is…

Read the rest of this entry »

The final horn sounded and the Los Angeles Kings rushed towards Jonathan Quick. First in was Drew Doughty, who dropped his stick before time even ran out, but waited for the clock to hit zero before dropping his gloves and embracing Quick. Next was Colin Fraser, who threw his arms around both of them before they were swarmed by the rest of the team.

The throng of celebrating Kings grew bigger and bigger: a little too big, actually. There were just a few too many Kings in the crowd and when a third goaltender came skating out to join them, it was clear what was happening. The healthy scratches and some of the Black Aces were fully dressed in their equipment and Kings sweaters to be a part of the celebration.

It wasn’t surprising to see a couple of them on the ice. Brad Richardson, for example, played in 13 playoff games, and Kyle Clifford played in all but one of the Kings’ regular season games and dressed for 3 playoff games. Some of the players who joined in, however, are not eligible to have their name on the Stanley Cup, but they were all considered to be part of the team and the team included them in the best way possible: they were dressed like they had played.

Read the rest of this entry »