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Posts Tagged ‘Colorado Avalanche

2014 NHL Playoff Picks – First Round

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Something of an annual tradition around here: picks for each round of the NHL playoffs.

Eastern Conference

(1) Boston over (WC) Detroit in six

I’m still not quite used to Detroit being in the Eastern conference, so it’s a little weird to see them playing Boston in the first round. It’s actually the first time since 1957 they’ve played at all; back then, Boston won in five before getting trounced by Montreal in the final. And yes, the Leafs weren’t in the playoffs that year either. Funny how things change. Anyway: this year, I expect Boston to hold off the Red Wings. With Tukka Rask, they’ve got arguably the best goalie in the conference and Jerome Iginla’s had his best season in years.

(3) Montreal over (2) Tampa Bay in seven

This could be a close one. In four meetings this season, Montreal’s won just one but lost in overtime once and in a shootout twice. They’ve been outscored eight to five, their last meeting was the only one decided in regulation. I’m pulling for Montreal this postseason and I think they’re coming into the playoffs on a nice streak, winning eight of their last 11 games – although I should note Tampa’s won their last four. I expect a close series regardless, so I’m going with who I’d like to see move on.

(1) Pittsburgh over (WC) Columbus in four

I haven’t caught too many Pens games this year, but the game they played against Philadelphia last weekend was one of the best I saw this season. Sure, they lost, but they looked great. Columbus? I haven’t caught them once, but I feel confident writing them off: they’ve lost all five games against the Pens this year and were outscored seven to 16. Nobody dismantled them as thoroughly this year.

(4) Philadelphia over (3) New York Rangers in six

Again, could be a close one. They’ve split their four meetings this year, including two in March. I’m going to give the edge to Philly based on my limited exposure to them: I enjoyed the way they came back against the Penguins last weekend in particular. Either way, this will be a fun series. I bet NBC gets the best ratings of any series with this, too.

Western Conference

(1) Colorado over (WC) Minnesota in five

Remember when the Avalanche were a doormat? It doesn’t feel like that long ago. But then again, it doesn’t seem like that long ago when they were winning Cups with Patrick Roy, Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg. Maybe I’m getting old.  Coming into game one, the Avalanche look a little banged up – they’ve got four people listed as questionable – which might tip the scales a little. But I don’t think too much of that either. They’ve beat Minnesota four times this year and their lone loss came in a shootout. And Semyon Varlamov’s been nothing short of fantastic this year, too: a .927 save percentage, 2.41 GAA and 41 wins, if you’re into that sort of thing. This one could be over in a hurry.

 (3) Chicago over (2) St. Louis in six

There’s a part of me that doesn’t trust the Blues. They collapsed in the playoffs last year, blowing a two-game lead to the Kings and the year before lost in four straight, also to LA. I’m not sure what it is, but I don’t ever feel confident taking them in the postseason. But that’s just a gut feeling, so here’s some numbers: this season, the Blackhawks beat the Blues twice. Twice more, they took them to a shootout. They’ve outshot them four times, too. I’m sensing a trend here: usually the team who can regularly outshoot the other will win. That’s not a gut feeling, that’s called being a Leaf fan.

(1) Anaheim over (WC) Dallas in five

This is the first time since 2008 the Stars have been to the postseason, I believe, and with 91 points they’re also the worst. But somehow, they’ve managed a winning record against the Ducks: two wins, including a blowout 6-3 victory back in November. But they’re still the worst team in the playoffs and it’d be a big upset to upend the Ducks, who’ve won more than anyone in the West. I’ll hedge a little: the Stars will take a game, but probably not much more than that.

(3) Los Angeles over (2) San Jose in seven

There’s an ad on American TV where two people meet in a bar through some sports dating app and each is a fan of the above teams. In real life, I can’t imagine anyone resorting to online dating really gives a shit about who the other cheers for (I’d be happy they actually like hockey, myself) but maybe I’m a weirdo. After all, I didn’t know this was even a rivalry, really. And it’s a curious one: the Sharks have a better overall record, but the Kings have played them hard this season. In five meetings, the Sharks won just once in regulation, a 2-1 win in early April (they also won a shootout in November). And the one game where the Sharks outshot LA was a 1-0 Kings win. Confusing, eh? Last year, the series went seven games, the final two decided by a goal apiece. I’m willing to bet something similar happens this year and again, I like the Kings.

What went wrong – 2010 NHL playoff recap and picks (Western Confe

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If you haven’t read it yet, part one of my recaps and picks (all on the Eastern Conference) is over here. This piece will cover the Western Conference, recapping the first round and making some predictions for the second.

Craig Anderson’s shutout, the best baseball game ever, TSN2 and more – collected notes from the weekend

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Certainly a great weekend for sports. The opening rounds of both the NBA and NHL playoffs, two classic baseball games and a fun media meltdown – not to mention the NFL draft, too. Good times all around.

Rather then pump out some Simmon-derived column thats 23,000 words and much longer then anything I expect anybody to read, here’s some loose thoughts on the weekend that was.

– Text from my friend Katy on Saturday night: “This is the best game ever.”

My goodness, was that Mets/Cards marathon on Saturday something. 20 innings, pitching by an outfielder, no scoring for over six hours and all on national TV. Awesome stuff.

I think it was Chuck Klosterman who wrote that baseball’s appeal is how it disregards time and goes at it’s own pace. That match – marathon seems like an apt description – certainly did. An obvious point – at 20 innings, it was more then two full games of baseball, being played in April, before the games really matter a whole lot. Seeing a game last seven hours in the playoffs is one thing – my dad still talks about watching the entirety of a four-overtime Islanders/Captials game in the late 80s – but in a regular season game this early in the season? You gotta love baseball.

You have to love just how they handle extra innings, the pure simplicity of how they just keep going until something happens. It’s not like it is in basketball, where the flow and ebb does it’s best to force the game to conclude, or in football or hockey, where a single misstep can cause something to end. It’s awesome. Saturday’s game was a blast to watch.

– While I’m on the topic of extra time (and miscues), Sunday’s game between the Colorado Avalanche and the San Jose Sharks was also something. Let me dust off some cliches to describe Avalanche goalie Craig Anderson‘s shutout: he stood on his head; he was unconscious; you couldn’t shoot it past him with a cannon. Those aren’t just empty words, though.

For what seemed like the vast majority of the third period, Anderson was the focal point of the night. The puck, the Sharks and the TV cameras all seemed to be to in his end, right in front of his crease. He was pounded by shots, probably far more then the 51 saves he was credited with, thanks to a great defence in front of him; there was more then a few times where he was out of position and somebody got down to block the shot, or knocked a loose puck away.

A shutout is almost of the same streak of luck as a no-hitter. A pitcher can dominate and strike out 15, 16 batters, come away with a win but still give up a hit here and there. The rest of the team pitches in too, making a key play here or there. Anderson got some of that help, some of that luck.

In a way, the Sharks constant forechecking helped him out too. While the play was focused in his end, it didn’t seem like a constant attack on him; the Sharks took a shot here, maybe a rebound and the Avs would clear down the ice and it would begin again. He wasn’t constantly being tested, making great saves all the time, just having to make a few here and there.

It also helped the Avs offence, too. Nabakov, in net for the Sharks, seemingly left all by his lonesome, went cold. Half of the time the puck was cleared, it seemed, it went right at Nabakov, who had a hell of a time controlling the puck. When he did get shot at by Colorado, he would give up big rebounds and seemed a step slow. The winning goal, scored on a bizzare clearing attempt, was an ideal example of the Sharks play.

Somebody likened the game to Ali/Foreman. I disagreed at the time, but I can kind of see it now. The Sharks, with thei constant presence on offence, might not have wore themselves out, but frustrated themselves. They couldn’t score, couldn’t solve Anderson and started making frustrated moves. One of the first things I remember being taught in house league hockey was never to put the puck in front of your own net. Why Dan Boyle threw the puck in the direction of his own net, I’ll never know. But a fair guess is that he wasn’t thinking. Frustration tends to do that.

– Speaking of frustration, I’m finding that finding the NBA playoffs is a frustrating experience. Thanks to the second TSN and Raptors TV having a fair share of opening round games and Rogers Sportsnet ceasing coverage a couple seasons ago, a bunch of games are on channels that I don’t get. Nitpicky, I know.

But it represents where sports television seems to be going. An all-encompassing network like TSN seems to be going away slowly, as they start to move to the bigger draws. I once wrote, tongue in cheek, that TSN2 would kill basketball in Canada. It’s probably going to be it’s salvation, actually.

If TSN continues to use it’s two networks to specialize, it can cease being a general network and move to being something that caters to certain audiences. Think of how MSNBC and FOX each report on the same basis events, but do it in ways that two different groups want to see. Think of how CNN tries to be impartcial and has it’s ratings slowly falling. I’d argue it’s the same with sports television, too.

The Score has made a name for itself as a basketball network (and if you think otherwise, you’re kidding yourself). They show two, three games a week, plus Court Surfing on Tuesdays (and sometimes Wednesdays). They have slowly moved from other sports – I remember them airing hockey and baseball at one point – to this; it’s certainly worked for them.

TSN and TSN2 might be going the same way. TSN is the home of hockey, offering national broadcasts almost every weeknight, a move that devotes itself to fans of the most popular sport in Canada. This, combined with it’s strong news and opinion offerings of SportsCentre, Off the Record and American imports PTI and Around the Horn, has assured it the highest spot in Canadian sports TV.

But TSN2 has quickly made a name for itself by catering to a small, niche audience with it’s broadcasts of NBA basketball, NCAA sports and out of market NHL teams. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re cultivating a small but loyal audience of hardcore sports fans, the ones who wanted to see these events on Canadian TV. The numbers may not be outstanding, but I’d argue they’re not going away, either.

Ultimately, I’d like to see TSN2 be used as more then a clearinghouse for stuff TSN can’t fit on it’s own network – a good way to show that would be to create some original content for the network – but for what it is now, it’s looking like a bigger step then I certainly thought it would be.

– The West always seems to have the best playoffs. Not sure why. I’m really liking three of the four NHL series in the West (Detroit/Phoenix, San Jose/Colorado and Vancouver/LA), and what I’ve seen of the NBA’s (Utah/Denver and LA/Oklahoma City), but both leagues Eastern Conference series just aren’t doing the same for me.

Montreal is quickly looking like they’re going to get dwarfed by Alexander Ovechkin and the Capitals. I fully expect Ottawa to be out of the playoffs by the end of the week. And I can’t get into New Jersey/Philly. The NBA is doing the same thing: the only series I’m finding myself really getting into is Boston/Miami.

Part of this has to do with parity, I’m sure. The Cavs are so much better then the Bulls, I don’t expect much drama from that series. I think the Magic are tens of times better then the Bobcats. If Bogut hadn’t been hurt, the Atlanta/Milwaukee series would be way more compelling.

Again, I’m being nitpicky. Excellence is it’s own reward; I really should enjoy watching LeBron James (who had a few great moments on the weekend) because he’s so good, not because of some drama involving two teams I ultimately don’t cheer for. I should enjoy watching Dwight Howard because he’s so good on both ends of the floor. I should enjoy watching Brandon Jennings try and shoulder the load.

The storylines are there, I’m just too lazy to read them. This one is wholly on me.

Written by M.

April 20, 2010 at 1:33 pm

Joe Sakic, the Nordique: 1987-2009

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With the retirement of Joe Sakic today, I felt that reposting this was prudent. It’s a 2005 post about Sakic, back when my prose was a lot more Hunter-informed and not as good. Needless to say, people didn’t exactly read my stuff then.

Maybe later I’ll write something more up-to-date on his legacy.

Written by M.

July 8, 2009 at 11:01 pm