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My Annual “Canucks Choke” Post — 2012 Edition!

April 23, 2012 Leave a comment

It’s such a beautiful thing. And you can count on it like clockwork. The Canucks are gone — 2012 edition!

As far as I’m concerned, Jarret Stoll’s probably done nothin’ for nobody (probably not true), but after this goal, he need not do anything again. His one shot cashed the cheque the LA Kings’ twitter wrote on April 12, “To everyone in Canada outside of BC, you’re welcome.”

Let’s see that, just one more time:

So who’s fault is it this year?

For a more in-depth/objective analysis by me of the LA/VAN series, click here for my article at betonhockey.com

 

2012 NHL Playoffs Preview: Predators vs. Red Wings

April 14, 2012 1 comment

Canvassing the Caucuses: An Election-Style NHL Playoff Preview during Election Season

PART 8

by Peter Nygaard (follow him on Twitter)

We’ve already taken a look at the Eastern primaries, so now let’s examine the polls out West.

Western Primary

Nashville Predators (4) vs. Detroit Red Wings (5)

[also see: St.Louis Blues vs. San Jose Sharks, Phoenix Coyotes vs. Chicago Blackhawks,  & Vancouver Canucks vs. Los Angeles Kings]

  • The Issues:
  • Criminal Rehabilitation — NHL refs must love officiating games when the Preds come to town. When opposing teams take a penalty, Nashville is quick to show them the error of their ways. True to their name, the Predators take advantage of powerplay opportunities better than any team in the league, scoring on 21.6% of man-up situations. Simply put, if you’re going to take a dumb penalty against the Preds, you’re going to learn your lesson.
  • Foreign Diplomacy — Nashville became league laughingstock in 2008 when ‘04 first-round pick Alexander Radulov left while under contract with the Predators to go play in Russia’s KHL. Four years later, it’s the Preds who are laughing. Radulov’s return late in the season has given Nashville’s offense a dynamic talent and gifted scorer. Nashville GM David Poile has taken care to avoid superstar scorers for the virtually unaffordable price tags they command, but with Radulov, one may have fallen right into Nashville’s lap.
  • Political Dirt:
  • Rumors have been flying that if the Predators don’t make a deep run into the playoffs, star defenseman Shea Weber will walk, and defensive stud Ryan Suter is likely to follow. It is no exaggeration to say that the future of the Nashville Predators may hinge on how they do in this year’s playoffs.
  • Campaign Promises:
  • If elected, the Predators promise to continue their efforts to legitimize hockey in the Sun Belt. Southern cities love a winner, and attendance at Bridgestone Arena has steadily risen in the past few years. A deep run could have the Preds treading in unexplored waters: a season sellout.

  • The Issues:
  • Homeland Defense — The Red Wings were the NHL’s best team at home this year, posting a dominant 31-7-3 record at the Joe. That included a 23-game winning streak with only three of the wins coming via shootout. Detroit was in the hunt for home ice advantage in the first round heading into the season finale but was unable to get the job done. If the Wings steal one on the road, though, it will be tough for opposing teams to rally back.
  • Open Borders — Scanning the Red Wings’ roster, it’s easy to surmise where the team stands on immigration. Especially if the players are coming from Sweden. The Red Wings have 12 international (not from North America) players on the roster, including an eye-popping eight players from Scandinavia. And considering who some of those players are — ever heard of Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Nicklas Lidstrom and Johan Franzen? — it’s safe to say none of these were diversity hires.
  • Political Dirt:
    For all the class and good will the players have built up, it’s hard to root for a team that willingly employs Todd Bertuzzi. If you’re intentionally reading this, you know why. If you somehow stumbled upon this paragraph and have no idea what I’m talking about, well… here.
  • Campaign Promises:
  • If elected, the Red Wings promise to maintain the status quo and never ever change anything about themselves, not now, not never.

Vote For: Nashville Predators in 7

2012 NHL Playoffs Preview: Coyotes vs. Blackhawks

April 14, 2012 2 comments

Canvassing the Caucuses: An Election-Style NHL Playoff Preview during Election Season

PART 7

by Peter Nygaard (follow him on Twitter)

We’ve already taken a look at the Eastern primaries, so now let’s examine the polls out West.

Western Primary

Phoenix Coyotes (3) vs. Chicago Blackhawks (6)

[also see: St.Louis Blues vs. San Jose Sharks, Vancouver Canucks vs. Los Angeles Kings,  & Nashville Predators vs. Detroit Red Wings]

  • The Issues:
  • We Like Mike — Cast away by the Tampa Bay Lightning, Mike Smith has made his home as starting goaltender in Phoenix. After the irreverent but successful Bryzgalov left for greener pastures (and parks!), many doubted the Coyotes would find a suitable replacement. With a 2.21 GAA and a .930 save percentage, Smith has picked up where Bryz left off.
  • The Absentee Vote — The Coyotes play well enough at home. The Blackhawks play well enough at home. The real question is who will win the games in Quebec City if the Coyotes should happen to relocate midway through the first round.
  • Political Dirt:
  • The Coyotes don’t get a lot of press, mainly because they are utterly bereft of star power. Shane Doan has been holding down the captaincy for a long time, but he has gotten little help on offense from the front office. Ray Whitney led the team in points during the regular season. The question voters will need to ask themselves is whether they feel safe knowing the Coyotes may be one heartbeat away from asking Lauri Korpikoski to shoulder the load on offense.
  • Campaign Promises:
  • If elected, the Coyotes promise to look into this whole reversing-of-the-poles thing. If there is a climate shift, Phoenix may end up being the ideal place to house a hockey team.

  • The Issues:
  • The Land of Opportunity — Before joining Chicago, winger Marian Hossa signed one-year contracts with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings, only to somehow find himself on the wrong end of both Stanley Cup meetings between the two. A year later, he hitched his wagon to the Blackhawks for the long-term, inking a 12-year contract. Hossa was immediately rewarded, as the Blackhawks won their first Stanley Cup in almost 50 years that season.
  • Tripartisanship — The Blackhawks could not be led by a trio of players who were a bigger mismatch in personality. Offensively, the ‘Hawks have captain Jonathan Toews, whose unshakeable moniker is “Captain Serious.” He is flanked by dynamo right-winger and noted rascal Patrick Kane. Holding down the blue line is hulking defenseman Duncan Keith, who once lost seven teeth to an errant puck deflection and returned to the ice that period. Needless to say, Chicago is thrilled to have these three locked up for the foreseeable future.
  • Political Dirt:
  • An underrated storyline in this playoff season: How hard are Chicago’s role players going to try to win the Stanley Cup if they think they’re going to get discarded afterwards, just like the last group.
  • Campaign Promises:
  • If elected, the Blackhawks promise to continue making a run at becoming Chicago’s favorite team. With the hometown Bears playing in an increasingly tough division and the Cubs being the Cubs, the ‘Hawks only real intra-city competition is the team that shares the United Center: Da Bulls. If the Blackhawks can bring home the Stanley Cup a second time in three years and the Bulls continue to struggle to get past the Miami Heat, the winds of change may be blowing in Chicago.

Vote For: Chicago Blackhawks in 6

2012 NHL Playoffs Preview: Blues vs. Sharks

April 14, 2012 3 comments

Canvassing the Caucuses: An Election-Style NHL Playoff Preview during Election Season

PART 6

by Peter Nygaard (follow him on Twitter)

Western Primary

St. Louis Blues (2) vs. San Jose Sharks (7)

[also see: Vancouver Canucks vs. Los Angeles Kings, Phoenix Coyotes vs. Chicago Blackhawks,  & Nashville Predators vs. Detroit Red Wings]

  • The Issues:
  • Pro-Choice — Generally speaking, having a goalie controversy entering the playoffs can be an easy way for a team to punch a one-way ticket to the nearest golf course. But when you have the kind of problems the St. Louis Blues have in net… life is good. The Blues enter the postseason with a timeshare in the crease, split between the NHL’s goals-against average leader, Brian Elliott, and No. 4 in that same category, Jaroslav Halak. Halak, best known for his impressive playoff debut with the Canadiens in 2010, earned the majority of the starts, but Elliott finished the season on a stronger note, posting three straight shutouts to bring his season total to 9. Together, the two ran away with the William M. Jennings Trophy for lowest team GAA. But in the playoffs, presumably only one will get the chance to play. According to reports, Halak will start Game 1, but if he starts to struggle, coach Ken Hitchcock won’t hesitate to pull the plug. Elliott has not been to the playoffs since he also made his debut in 2010, getting shelled in three games against the Penguins before giving way to Pascal Leclaire.
  • Experience (Or lack thereof) — The biggest question St. Louis has faced all year is “Who exactly are these guys?” The Blues have positioned themselves just outside of the playoff bubble in recent years, but few anticipated how quickly they would rise to the Western Conference elite. Hitchcock has managed his share of high-profile campaigns, but he has not yet been able to re-capture the magic he had in Dallas. Perhaps last year’s loss to the Boston Bruins was a wakeup call to the Western Conference that the old guard is no longer going to get it done. The Blues may not have much experience outside of veteran Cup-winners Jason Arnott and Jamie Langenbrunner, but they do have a lot of young talent and depth. Combine that with hope, and maybe… just maybe, change is on the horizon.
  • Political Dirt:
  • America is never going to elect the St. Louis Blues without seeing a few birth certificates first. This “T.J. Oshie” doesn’t sound like he was born in America… and how can we be sure that “Andy McDonald” even exists?
  • Campaign Promises:
  • If elected, the Blues promise to never miss the playoffs again. One thing that few remember was lost during the canceled season was St. Louis’ streak of 25 consecutive playoff appearances. When the NHL returned to action, the Blues missed the postseason for the first time since Jimmy Carter was in office. After only one appearance in the last six years, this season may mark the beginning of a new streak.

  • The Issues:
  • Flip-Flopping — The Sharks have been considered Cup contenders for the last four years but have heretofore disappointed. This year, they looked like they were going to finish on the outside looking in before making a late push for the playoffs. After years of serving as the disappointing juggernaut in the West, the Sharks are now trying to convince us that they’re plucky underdogs just because it’s a more advantageous position come election time.
  • Joe the Plumber — San Jose boasts a pair of not-so-average Joes in team captain Joe Thornton and rising star Joe Pavelski. Thornton quieted many of his critics in last year’s playoffs, tallying 17 points in 18 games and leading the Sharks to the Western Conference Finals. Conversely, Pavelski established a big game reputation in the 2010 playoffs but was nowhere to be found last year. If the two can put it together in the same year, the Sharks will be a dangerous squad.
  • Political Dirt:
  • The Sharks and Blues met four times during the regular season, and St. Louis won all of them. San Jose couldn’t beat the Blues even once in four tries. How are they going to take four out of seven
  • Campaign Promises:
  • If elected, the Sharks promise to deliver the unpredictability that makes playoff hockey so great. The Sharks have the talent and experience to go all the way. That hasn’t stopped them from tripping over their own skates in the past. This year presents an interesting conundrum. Will a stint as the underdog be what finally puts the scent of blood in the water, or are the Sharks simply slipping?

Vote For: San Jose Sharks in 6

2012 NHL Playoffs Preview: Canucks vs. Kings

April 14, 2012 3 comments

Canvassing the Caucuses: An Election-Style NHL Playoff Preview during Election Season

PART 5

by Peter Nygaard (follow him on Twitter)

We’ve already taken a look at the Eastern primaries, so now let’s examine the polls out West.

Western Primary

Vancouver Canucks (1) vs. Los Angeles Kings (8)

[also see: St.Louis Blues vs. San Jose Sharks, Phoenix Coyotes vs. Chicago Blackhawks,  & Nashville Predators vs. Detroit Red Wings]

  • The Issues:
    Family Values — In the 1999 NHL Draft, Vancouver held the second and third picks in the first round. After drafting left-winger Daniel Sedin, the Canucks opted to use the third pick on his twin brother, center Henrik Sedin. The Canucks have played them almost exclusively on the same line throughout their entire collective career. When Henrik won the Hart Memorial Trophy as the league’s most valuable player in 2009-10, he was even considerate enough to get injured the next year, giving Daniel a chance to showcase his skills.
  • Health and Fitness — Nobody asked to see Ryan Kesler buck naked in this year’s Sports Illustrated “Body Issue,” but that having been said, you can’t deny that the dude’s in good shape.
  • Political Dirt:
    The Canucks enjoy tremendous depth. Some teams have gone as far as accusing Vancouver of stealing its players when they were turned around. The NHL has yet to file a formal inquiry.
  • Campaign Promises:
    If elected, the Canucks promise not to riot. Seriously, we only riot when we lose in Game 7 of the Cup Finals. Or when we get to the Cup Finals. Or when we beat the Blackhawks. Promise. :o)

  • The Issues:
    American Exceptionalism — Team captain Dustin Brown and starting goalie Jonathan Quick are two prominent members of the Team USA hockey club. They are also prominent reasons why the Kings are where they are. Quick posted a Vezina-worthy season, winning way too many 2-1 and 1-0 games for a goalie’s comfort, while Brown led all L.A. forwards in plus-minus, while dealing with the responsibilities that come with wearing the ‘C’.
  • A Winning Combination — Less than a season after the Flyers took such great care in breaking up forwards Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, the two were reunited when Carter was traded to the Kings for defenseman Jack Johnson. The Flyers soured on the perceived immaturity displayed by the talented twosome, but they both played key roles in Philly’s run to the Cup Finals in 2011.
  • Kingdom Confidence — according to the LA’s Twitter, the Kings are playing for every Canadian that does not reside in British Columbia.
  • Political Dirt:
    The Kings are the second-lowest scoring team in the NHL and score less than all of their playoff peers. Can such a chaste team rally support in Hollywoodland? The Kings score less than A.C. Green.
  • Campaign Promises:
    If elected, the Kings promise to make hockey relevant again in the City of Angels. L.A. was rabid about the Kings in the Gretzky days. It’s a stretch to say they’ll become that popular again, but a playoff run would certainly be a start.

Vote For: Vancouver Canucks in 7

[editors note: SDC has LA winning the series]

2012 NHL Playoffs Preview: Penguins vs. Flyers

April 13, 2012 3 comments

Canvassing the Caucuses: An Election-Style NHL Playoff Preview during Election Season

PART 4

by Peter Nygaard (follow him on Twitter)

Eastern Primary

Pittsburgh Penguins (4) vs. Philadelphia Flyers (5)

[also see: Boston Bruins vs. Washington CapitalsFlorida Panthers vs. New Jersey Devils,  & New York Rangers vs. Ottawa Senators]

  • The Issues:
    No Kid Left Behind — After taking an elbow to the head from David Krejci, Sidney Crosby looked like he might never return to the Sid “the in-his-mid-20s Kid” we had seen earn the title of best hockey player in the world. However, since returning on the ides of March, Crosby has returned to form, tallying 25 points in 14 games. With Crosby sidelined, the Penguins were still one of the better teams in the NHL. With a healthy Crosby and the NHL’s leading scorer Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh is downright terrifying.
  • Socialized Healthcare — The Penguins were among the NHL leaders in man games lost to injury. Crosby’s 60-game absence was the most notable, but the Penguins missed Jordan Staal, Kris Letang, Tyler Kennedy and Zbynek Michalek for a combined 93 games as well. All five will be healthy for the series opener.
  • Political Dirt:
    Arguably the NHL’s most reviled player for the past few years, Matt Cooke spent the offseason working with coach Dan Bylsma trying to ‘reform’ his game. Surprisingly, Cooke has drastically cut down on his penalty minutes and was even Pittsburgh’s nominee for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy. Sounds a little too good to be true, right?
  • Campaign Promises:
    If elected, the Penguins promise to drum up more fan interest and vitriol than any other team in the NHL. Pittsburgh isn’t a big market, but ask any casual fan who Sidney Crosby is, and you’re unlikely to get a blank stare. You may hate to see them succeed, but it’s good for the game.
  • The Issues:
    Russian Diplomacy — When the Flyers inked Ilya Bryzgalov to a nine-year contract, they hoped he would be the $51 million answer to their long-standing goaltending question. Instead, Bryz has only made the situation murkier. The enigmatic Russian’s performance level has dipped up and down, while backup Sergei Bobrovsky has had his moments but struggled with consistency as well. With so much money invested in Bryzgalov, it will be tough to give him the hook, but coach Peter Laviolette won a Stanley Cup in Carolina after dropping the veteran starter for a younger, less-experienced netminder.
  • Space ExplorationTake it away, Ilya.
  • Political Dirt:
    When a team trades away its entire leadership core to bring in a guy who played his way onto the bench during the regular season, it’s usually time to cash out.
  • Campaign Promises:
    If elected, the Flyers plan to do what they do best in the playoffs and serve as foil for somebody else’s run to the Stanley Cup. “Ever the bridesmaids, never the brides” seems to be the mantra for this organization.

Vote For: Pittsburgh Penguins in 7

2012 NHL Playoffs Preview: Panthers vs. Devils

April 13, 2012 3 comments

Canvassing the Caucuses: An Election-Style NHL Playoff Preview during Election Season

PART 3

by Peter Nygaard (follow him on Twitter)

Eastern Primary

Florida Panthers (3) vs. New Jersey Devils (6)

[also see: Boston Bruins vs. Washington CapitalsNew York Rangers vs. Ottawa Senators,  & Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Philadelphia Flyers]

  • The Issues:
    Cronyism — Forgive Panthers’ GM Dale Tallon if his team looks a little familiar. Tallon was known as the architect of the Chicago Blackhawks’ remarkable turnaround, so when he joined the Florida Panthers organization, he made a point to bring in several guys from the Blackhawks’ Cup winning team. The Panthers have also established themselves as consistent trade partners with the Vancouver Canucks. There are worse teams to be doing your dealings with if you’re trying to build up a contender.
  • Read my lips: No new rebuilds — After spending the entirety of the Bush administration and the majority of Obama’s first term in a perpetual state of rebuilding, the Panthers finally appeared primed to enjoy some long-term success. Leading the defense has been the re-emerging Brian Campbell, who is playing his finest hockey yet. On offense, the team has been supported by a platoon of new acquisitions — Tomas Fleischmann, Kris Versteeg and Tomas Kopecky — and a familiar face in Stephen Weiss. All that’s left is finding the goaltender of the future. Jacob Markstrom may be that guy, but for now, the Panthers will be rolling out veterans Jose Theodore and Scott Clemmenson.
  • Political Dirt:
    The Panthers looked to be a sure thing to make the playoffs after a five-game winning streak in mid-March. But the market turned, and Florida lost eight of its last 10 games and did not clinch the Southeast Division until the last day of the season. Granted, four of those 10 games ended in shootouts, so the mark very well may have turned out to be 5-5 under playoff conditions, but you really don’t want to be in a position to make excuses heading into the playoffs. The Panthers need to refocus.
  • Campaign Promises:
    If elected, the Panthers will seriously try to get people in Miami to like hockey. Remember how cool that ‘rats’ thing was in ’96? If our team does really well, I’m sure Miami fans will show up to—why are you laughing?
  • The Issues:
    Veterans Jobs — Commend the Devils for spending their free time doing community service by working with the elderly. The Devils have created jobs for 35-and-older players Patrik Elias, Eric Boulton, Petr Sykora, Bryce Salvador and Marek Zidlicky. Goaltenders Martin Brodeur and Johan Hedberg are both older than the New Jersey Devils franchise, and that’s including the team’s years as the Kansas City Scouts and Colorado Rockies.
  • Equal Pay — New Jersey has a steep disparity in pay between the top three forwards — Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise and Elias — and everyone else. The top-paid trio earns significantly more than the rest of the forwards combined. Most notable is the Devil-for-life contract that Kovalchuk notoriously signed in 2010. Kovalchuk’s annual salary? $6,666,667.
  • Political Dirt:
    New Jersey head man Peter DeBoer took over the Devils’ coaching job after three years at the helm of the Florida Panthers. Conspiracy theorists wonder whether the Panthers were playing some sort of a long game when they fired him, knowing that he’d turn up with the Devils just in time for a first-round matchup with the Panthers.
  • Campaign Promises:
    If elected, the Devils promise to tell you where Jimmy Hoffa is really buried.

Vote For: Florida Panthers in 6

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