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2012 NHL Playoffs Preview: Bruins vs. Capitals

April 13, 2012 3 comments

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

PART 2

by Peter Nygaard (follow him on Twitter)

Eastern Primary

Boston Bruins (2) vs. Washington Capitals (7)

[also see: New York Rangers vs. Ottawa SenatorsFlorida Panthers vs. New Jersey Devils,  & Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Philadelphia Flyers]

  • The Issues:
    The Incumbent — Last year, the Boston Bruins surprised many by advancing out of the Eastern Conference as the 3-seed and surprised even more by beating the President’s Trophy-winning Vancouver Canucks on their home ice. Perhaps you heard about it. The old adage is that the Stanley Cup is the hardest trophy in sports to defend, and rightfully so. The last team to repeat as Cup champions was the ‘97-98 Detroit Red Wings. Since then, only three teams have even made it back to the Finals to defend their championship. It will not be easy to repeat, but the Bruins know what it takes to win the Cup.
  • Bailout Plan — Watching Boston goalie Tim Thomas harks back to the days of Dominik Hasek, as Thomas employs the same unconventional what-ever-it-takes style as The Dominator did. It’s hard enough to get past a stellar Bruins blue-line led by the towering Zdeno Chara, but those who are lucky enough to get a one-on-one chance on Thomas will be hit with everything including the kitchen sink by the fearless goalie. As far as bailout options go, there aren’t many better than Timmy Thomas.
  • Political Dirt:
    Regardless of how November’s election plays out, Obama will still likely be in office for any post-Stanley Cup White House visits. Don’t think they’ve forgotten how Thomas publicly snubbed the event last year.
  • Campaign Promises:
    OW-AHH BAWSTON B’S WON’T LET THAT COMMIE PINKO WIN! OVIE WILL BE SHAKIN IN HIS BOOTS WHEN HE HEAHHS THA AWWSOME POWAH OF OW-AHH LEGENDARY BAWSTON FAITHFUL. THA ONLY THING WE AHH GONNA PROMISE IS THAT THA SO-CALLED LAHNG-SUFFAHING WAHHSHINGTON CAPITALS WILL BE GONE-AHS QUICKAH THAN THA GREAT WES WELKAH GETS AHF THA LINE AHH SCRIMMAGE. AND NOBODY GETS AHF THA LINE FASTAH THAN WELKAH!! NO ONE DENIES THIS!
  • The Issues:
    ‘Washington Capitals’ in name only — Forget everything you knew about the Washington Capitals. After the midseason firing of Bruce Boudreau and takeover of new coach Dale Hunter, the Capitals have undergone a transformation from a team that reigned supreme on highlight reels to what looks more like the core of a legitimate playoff contender. The Caps still have the same highlight-reel talent, but they’re no longer looking to blow the roof of with their goal-scoring. By instilling unconditional trust in his players, Hunter has overhauled the team into one that is no longer afraid to play ugly hockey. That may be the difference that puts the immensely talented Caps over the edge.
  • Energy Crisis — It’s hard to believe, but Washington actually finished the season with a negative goal-differential. Losing center Nicklas Backstrom for half the season did not help matters, but star winger Alex Ovechkin finished under 40 goals for the second straight season and posted a career-low 65 points. Left-winger Alexander Semin also experienced a drop-off in production, leaving many wondering if the Capitals are already on the decline.
  • Political Dirt:
    Who exactly is going to be on the ticket? The Caps have seen injuries to presumed missing-piece Tomas Vokoun and last year’s starter Michal Neuvirth, leaving rookie Braden Holtby as the Game 1 starter. Does Washington trust Holtby enough to give him veto power over Boston’s playoff hopes, or will he be relegated to a cabinet post when the others return?
  • Campaign Promises:
    If elected, the Capitals promise to stop jabbering on about regular season success until we actually win something of note in the playoffs. If our fans shut up, will you be willing to just sit back and enjoy some seriously fun-to-watch hockey? Please?
  • Vote For: Boston Bruins in 7

Firing Bruce Boudreau Wasn’t Washington’s Best Play

December 4, 2011 1 comment

[originally post for www.betonhockey.com on November 29/2011]

I don’t make a point of standing up for too many coaches, so hear me out.

Do the Capitals really think a major-junior coach (albeit former NHLer) ready to lead them to the Stanley Cup right off the hop? Because if Dale Hunter can’t do that, how long could he possibly last himself as Capitals head coach?

BetOnHockey_Boudreau_Jack_Adams_400x293.jpgUnder the four seasons of Boudreau’s watch, Washington won four division championships, a Presidents’ Trophy, an Eastern Conference title, the best regular season records in club  history, and a final record of 201-88-40. For you math wizards out there, that’s more than twice as many wins as losses. Boudreau himself won the Jack Adams Trophy in 07-08 as coach of the year, and holds the record for winning 200 games faster than any coach in NHL history. Apparently none of this was good enough to keep him gainfully employed in Washington.

This will be Dale Hunter’s first NHL season as a head coach. Or any level of NHL coach, for that matter. The only stat Hunter really has working in his favour is Capitals coaching history: when Boudreau took over the Capitals from Glen Hanlon in 2007, they had already played 21 games, and were doing poorly. The team is currently 22 games deep into the NHL season, and after Boudreau’s decrescendo, the Caps are once again doing poorly. This is the exact spot where Bruce took over and the team took off from four years ago, and it’s about the only thing I can see that Dale Hunter really has to cling to.

I can’t help but think that the players beat the coach here (or maybe the kids beat the parents, whichever way you want to look at it). It seems as though when Boudreau let the young squad off their leashes to run wild, score as many goals as possible and not play defence, the players were happy, but Boudreau was on the burner for not winning. Then he tried to round out the capabilities of the players by adding the defensive element to their game, but they wouldn’t have it. And they kept losing. More so than before, in fact. And Boudreau was in more trouble.

Washington Capitals General Manager George McPhee said he believed Boudreau had lost the team, and cited Washington’s Nov 26th 5-1 loss to Buffalo and recent string of losses as evidence. New Coach Dale Hunter is a self-proclaimed players’ coach, but qualifies that saying “but the players will know when I’m mad at them. I’m stern on them because that’s the way you have to be to win games. Everybody makes mistakes out there, but if they keep making the same mistakes there will be repercussions.”

BetOnHockey_Boudreau_Bench_400x293.jpgDid Dale not see the HBO 24/7 special on the Caps/Pens 2010 Winter Classic showdown? In the history of the NHL, you’d be hard pressed to find evidence of a coach who hurled more sternly-laced expletives at the Capitals roster than Bruce Boudreau did. He even benched the team’s star players to try to get a message across. We saw what happened when Bruce tried to get tough – they players put their tails between their legs and started laying eggs on the ice. I’m not sure that Hunter is prepared for what kind of reception his “bad cop” routine is going to get from the Washington Capitals locker room. And surely to the ire of Washington’s (supposedly) gifted offensive core, Hunter was also quoted as saying, “I don’t believe in run-and-gun hockey,” So much for going back to open season on cherry-picking slap-bombs, it seems.

And at what point do the Capitals’ franchise players finally look in the mirror and pose the question to themselves, “what if it was us all along?” How many times can Alex Ovechkin change gear companies, agents, and other variables before he decides to simply pull his socks up, dig the old Ovie out of the dress-up closet, and play some elite level hockey again? If the players truly decided that they weren’t going to put all their effort into games anymore in protest of their coach, then this team is dysfunctional on a level that people can’t even comprehend. If that sort of internally destructive behaviour is actually occurring, then this team will never win anything together, no matter who’s wearing shoes instead of skates behind the bench.

From the owners’ stand-point, I know it’s a good business decision to keep exciting players on your roster – especially ones locked into long-term contracts. But this is one instance where it should be the child getting spanked for being bad, not the dad. At the end of the game, it had to have been the players on the ice that performed, that onus is not ultimately on the coach. It’s going to take some growing up from the Capitals’ players before this team turns the corner on this forgettable season.

[update: Boudreau was hired only days later by the Anaheim Ducks to replace fired Randy Carlyle. As of December 4th/2011, the Ducks are 1-2 with Boudreau aboard. Washington is 1-2 from the same time with Dale Hunter]

[update 2: this video seems to accompany my article perfectly:backhand-shelf-bloge-salming-present-coach-killer]

Are Ovechkin’s Best Days Behind Him?

November 13, 2011 Leave a comment

 

[originally post for www.betonhockey.com on November 8, 2011]

Is it possible that Alex Ovechkin’s best and most productive days of hockey are behind him?

Probably not, but let’s speculate some evidence of why they might be, if indeed they are.

Last year, in the first ever fantasy hockey pool that I paid money to take part in, I somehow lucked out and drew the first overall pick.  At the time, it was a no-brainer and generally assumed that your first pick would be either Ovechkin or Crosby.  I picked Ovie.  Mainly because in his past 4 of 5 seasons, he had 100 or more points, and seemed like he could score whenever he wanted to.  He was just always dangerous if he had the puck.  The guy scored a goal sliding on his back on the ice while doing a barrel-roll for crying out loud.  Now, you may argue that I did get the better choice of the two considering Crosby’s season-ending injury, and that Alex finished ahead of Crosby in points.  But, for the guy that was supposed to finish first overall in scoring, instead he placed seventh, and scored 24 fewer points than he did the season before.  I made an early exit out of the fantasy pool and lost all my money.  **Screams in my best Captain Kirk/George Costanza Wrath of Khan reference impression** OOOOOOVVVVVVIEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!

We’ve since learned that he was injured – as he took 10 games off before the playoffs, and has eluded in interviews to rehabbing over the summer during his training.  Whatever was bothering him then, may continue to linger.  When an injury site is vaguely referred to as an upper or lower body injury, it’s hard to speculate the possible extent and long term effects on the injury.  BUT, from experience, between a torn ACL in my knee, broken collar-bones, pulled groins, and minor neck, back, and shoulder issues, they all had range-of-motion limiting effects on me, though I eventually healed and played through them all.  Wayne Gretzky’s back injury in 1991 was one that had lasting effects on his career and offensive productivity until he retired.  As of this post, Ovechkin’s sitting at #39 in league scoring, averaging less than a point a game, and sitting at -1.  For him, that’s unheard of.  Since 2008, his point totals have been slowly diminishing, and so have his shots on goal (you know, scoring chances).  In 2008, he took 528 shots.  The following years, he only took 368, then 367 shots.  And with those lowered totals have also come less wild, pre-meditated stick-burning goal celebrations.  While he’s still excited when he scores, his reactions are noticeably subdued, for him anyways.

He’s changed his gear this year too, switching from CCM to Bauer.  Hockey players are very particular with their gear, and once a player finds a setup they like and seems help put pucks in the net for them, they’ll quite often remain loyal to that brand forever.  This move may be purely monetary, but it may also indicate that Ovechkin’s lost confidence in his previous equipment to help him score goals.  And further, it may have damaged his confidence in himself to score goals.  You could always tell in Ovie’s goals, skating speed, interviews, and off-ice antics, that confidence has never been an issue for him.  When you’re a player of Alex Ovechkin’s caliber, you can’t afford to have anything get you “in the head” if you hope to score torrentially like you once did.

And further on confidence, even his coach, Bruce Boudreau has shown lower confidence in him; benching him on November 1st, in favour of other players.  Boudreau was quoted as saying, “I thought other guys were better than him …I’ve got to put out the guys that I think are going to score … I just didn’t think Alex was going to score.”  Moments after Boudreau cold-shouldered him, Ovechkin was cussing like a sailor at the snubbing.  Ovechkin’s used to being the go-to guy when the team needs a goal, and in these key situations, he’s starting to not be the guy Boudreau taps on the shoulder first anymore.  That can’t be good for the ol’ ego.

And further still, Ovechkin’s the Capitals captain.  What are other players supposed to think of their leader when they see him not chosen to lead them?  The C may simply be too much responsibility for him, ala Mike Modano, Brett Hull, or any other former NHL captains that have either surrendered their C, or had it taken away by their coach/team management.

Boudreau’s not exactly innocent of blame here either.  He’s spent so much time trying to change Ovechkin and the Capitals’ overly offensive playing style over the last couple of seasons that Ovie couldn’t even be his old-self if he tried.  His most effective style – the kamikaze-bull-in-a-china-shop-shoot-and-score-from-anywhere-blow-guys-up-and-there’s-no-need-for-defence- style – has been rendered obsolete.  Bruce, you seriously want an offensive juggernaut to turn in his guns and become a 2-way, defence-first, responsible, playmaker instead?  Has anyone told you who plays for your team, and what they do best?  Sure, balance out weaknesses, but come on, no other team has the scoring personnel that Washington does.  Last I checked, you still have to score more goals than the other team to win a hockey game, right?

Ovie could be just plain distracted too.  He’s doing endorsements and/or commercials for Bauer, Nike, Mr. Big, Eastern Motors, ESPN, and probably forty companies based in Russia.  Maybe making money’s beginning to take mental precedence over being a dominant hockey player every year?

Some speculative conspiracy:  George Laraque recently wrote in his book regarding steroids in the NHL, saying that,

“I can give you some clues here that will help you identify the ones using steroids, if you really feel like it. First, you just have to notice how some talented players will experience an efficiency loss as well as a weight loss every four years, those years being the ones where the Winter Olympics are held. In the following season they make a strong comeback; they manage a mysterious return to form.”

I’m not going to say Ovechkin was/is on PED’s, but his production did begin to decline post 2010 Olympics. Heck, even during the Olympics.  Ovie’s former other-worldly talent, speed, and scoring ability suddenly turned suspiciously average.  Like Tiger Woods, but without the TMZ scandal.

And finally, the guy just can’t seem to win the big one.  Besides the 2008 World Championship tournament that’s attended by a fraction of the best players in the world, the Stanley Cup, and the Olympic gold medal (the real world championship in my view) continue to elude him.  Could frustration over continual early playoff exits, and Crosby’s ongoing trumping of him be wearing him down too?  Is it possible he’s become complacent with just being really good and making a lot of money?  Is it feasible that with Sidney Crosby sidelined, Alex doesn’t have the competitive drive to try and be better than Sid, his arch-nemesis, the player he’s most often compared to?

I love watching Alexander Ovechkin, and I truly hope he gets back to form and proves all of this wrong.  He’s been the face of the league since he’s been around, and if he can get his act together, there’s no reason why he can’t continue to be.  But the question is, will he?

 

[Guest Post] 2011 Round 2 NHL Playoff Drinking Games: 2nd Round’s On Me

April 29, 2011 2 comments

Hi Folks, Sorry for the hiatus.  My wife, mother-in-law, sister-in-law, niece, and nephew and I all took off to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, for a little Easter vacay.  After being removed from all english-speaking media for nearly a week, I came back to see that my LA Kings got bounced, Vancouver nearly blew their 3 game lead and went to 7 with the Hawks, somehow the Predators are in the 2nd round, and I think some other stuff happened too.  A lot can happen in 7 days I suppose.  Big shout-out to the hotel bar for getting SkySports and showing a few select playoff games.  Other than that, it was surprisingly easy to be cut off from my phone, computer, email, facebook, twitter, blog, etc for a week.  I suggest everyone give it a try sometime.

MOVING ON…. I’m pleased to bring back guest poster, Peter Nygaard (aka @RetepAdam on Twitter) for 4 playoff series’ worth of suggested supplementary drink-along material for you to enjoy the second round with, after the popularity of his first installment.  Continue to, or begin to Follow Peter on Twitter for coverage, analysis and whatever else throughout the Stanley Cup playoffs.  He occasionally tweets for @FVSports , so pop by there too.

Enjoy!

-SDC

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Well, that was quite a first round. Between the 14 overtime games, bitter rivalries and countless subplots, the most exciting aspect of the first round was that it was once again a scoretacular affair. For the second straight year, goals came at a clip of nearly six per game in the first round, and there were nearly twice as many games that featured 7+ goals as there were games with less than three. In the context of this column, what that means is that everybody who participated in the First Round Drinking Games got schwasted. 

Yet, somewhere amidst the belligerent stupor, I discovered a newfound ability. My knack for predicting events such as Alexandre Burrows’ series-winner has become so apparent that I’m going to go ahead and say that it borders on precognition.

That’s right. I’m saying I’m psychic.

But I’m not going to lure you in with claims of knowing how the future will unfold, only to turn on you, my loyal reader, and demand a sum fee for a display of my powers. No, I will be giving away these babies for free. So, throw out your Magic 8 Ball. Make chai out of your tea leaves. Sit back and enjoy as I give you a little glimpse of the future.

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(1) Washington Capitals vs. (5) Tampa Bay Lightning

Rules:

-Drink 2 seconds for every penalty, 5 seconds for every fight and finish your drink for every goal.

-If the announcer mentions Alexander Ovechkin and Steven Stamkos in the same sentence, take a drink.

-If the fact that the Tampa Bay Lightning have won a Stanley Cup while the Washington Capitals remain Cupless makes you laugh, take a drink.

-If that same fact makes you cry on the inside, finish your drink.

-If somebody in the room mentions Dwayne Roloson’s name, “The Rock Rule” goes into effect. The first person to successfully pull of an “IT DOESN’T MATTER” doesn’t have to drink while all other players must finish their drinks.

-If Sidney Crosby’s name is mentioned for no apparent reason (i.e. in any context other than discussing Tampa Bay’s first round series), take a drink.

-If the Lightning make some sort of weak pun on their team name as part of a home crowd motivator, take a drink.

-If Mike Green makes an excellent defensive play, pour a drink into your gaping, wide-open mouth.

-If you’re listening to the game at such a high volume level that Washington’s home goal siren causes your neighbors to call the cops on you, finish your drinks on the go.

What the Future Holds…

-After two years of Bruce Boudreau not following John Tortorella’s lead, Capitals alternate captain Mike Knuble will finally take matters into his own hands by skating up to Ovechkin during a break in the action, ripping the ‘C’ off his jersey and placing it on his own.

-“Seen Stamkos?” is no longer used mockingly to refer to the Tampa Bay star’s scoring drought, after he breaks out with a multiple goals in the first three games of the series, and reverts to its original meaning of asking Tampa Bay citizens whether they’ve seen him play. The answer remains a resounding “No.”

-Versus and NBC take every opportunity to show the Flyers-Bruins series instead of this one, leading most fans to not really have more than a vague idea of the series score, just like both of the teams’ first round series.

Prediction: Capitals in 6; Toasted in 4

 

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(2) Philadelphia Flyers vs. (3) Boston Bruins

Rules:

-Drink 2 seconds for every penalty, 5 seconds for every fight and finish your drink for every goal

-Returning favorite: If the Philly crowd boos (or cheers for Boucher in its own particular… idiom), take a drink.

-If the Flyers blow a lead of any sort (game, series, whatever), take a drink.

-If you’re watching on NESN and the announcers homer up the Bruins, take a drink.

-If the Stanley Cup is mentioned, drink two seconds if you’re rooting for the Flyers; drink three seconds if you’re rooting for the Bruins. One second for each decade since either team has won it.

-To counteract the media hype for this series, after the clinching game, finish an additional drink for every game short of 7 that this series ends.

 

What the Future Holds…

-Every journeyman goalie ever will watch this series and daydream about what might have been.

-Fed up with Tim Thomas’ continued resurgence, Tuukka Rask will convince team brass to trade Thomas to Philadelphia in exchange for Keith Van Horn.

-After the series ends, Chris Pronger will tearfully reveal his puck-collecting addiction on the most-watched episode of Hoarders to date.

 

Prediction: Bruins in 5; Friggin’ hammahed in 2

 

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(1) Vancouver Canucks vs. (5) Nashville Predators

Rules:

-Drink 2 seconds for every penalty, 5 seconds for every fight and finish your drink for every goal

-If “Alex Burrows” and “hero” are said in the same sentence, take a drink.

-If it even appears like Alain Vigneault is considering replacing Roberto Luongo in net with Cory Schneider, take a drink.

-If a Preds player complains about the lack of focus placed on them this series, take a drink.

-If a Canucks player isn’t exactly sure where Nashville is, finish your drink.

-If a game in Nashville gets canceled due to inclement weather, develop a greater understanding of what living here’s been like for the past year and change — and finish two drinks.

-If, by contrast, Vancouver seems like the nicest place in all of North America to live, take a drink. (Note: Having been there, it does.)

-If you live in an area where Versus isn’t part of the television package (for instance, the Vanderbilt campus), drink until the Grizzlies game looks like the Preds game.

 

What the Future Holds…

-The losing goalie in this series will not win the Vezina Trophy. Also, the winning goalie in this series will not win the Vezina Trophy.

-After struggling to hold Hart Trophy frontrunner Corey Perry in check last series, Nashville captain Shea Weber will have an equally difficult time stopping Daniel Sedin, to the point where after the series ends, he will swear that there are “two of him out there.”

-After reading that last joke — another one in the tired series of twin jokes — you will probably just skim the next section and scroll down the pick.

 

Prediction: Canucks in 5; Iced in 5

 

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(2) San Jose Sharks vs. (3) Detroit Red Wings

Rules:

-Drink 2 seconds for every penalty, 5 seconds for every fight and finish your drink for every goal

-If the Sharks miss Evgeni Nabokov, take a drink.

-If the Red Wings miss every playoff goalie they’ve had in the past decade not named Jimmy Howard, take a drink.

-If San Jose fans take a page out of the Detroit playbook and throw a shark on the ice for good luck… that’s freakin’ awesome.

-If Detroit is a man down, drink for every second Darren Helm holds the puck.

-If a member of your viewing party is named Joe, he must be referred to as “Little Joe” for the rest of the series, as “Big” and “Jumbo” are already taken.

-If San Jose’s home goal song gives you the urge to break out your old Super NES, take a drink.

-If Detroit’s home goal song gives you the urge to break out your old Jock Jams mix, take a drink.

 

What the Future Holds…

-With yet another impressive playoff performance, Johan Franzen overtakes Ray Finkle as the most famous athlete to be nicknamed “The Mule.”

-Joe Thornton will rest on his laurels as playoff hero and not even bother to show up for the rest of the series for fear of diminishing that reputation.

-After making this series pick, I will proceed to be sick with myself.

 

Prediction: Red Wings in 6; Regretting it by tomorrow

[Guest Post] 2011 First Round NHL Playoff Drinking Games

April 12, 2011 2 comments

Hi Folks,

I’m pleased to bring you our first guest poster here at The SDC Blogs.  Peter Nygaard (aka @RetepAdam on Twitter) of New Jersey has 8 series’ worth of suggested supplementary drink-along material for you to enjoy the first round with.  I’m sure we’ll be checking back in with Pete for the following rounds as well.  For those of you who may not be so enthused with me promoting alcoholic consumption, please, relax.  Enjoy the humor, and substitute any beverage you feel to be more suitable.  It’s all in good fun!  I think the post is hilarious.  Follow Peter on Twitter for coverage, analysis and whatever else throughout the Stanley Cup playoffs.  He will also be occasionally tweeting for @FVSports if you really can’t have enough.

Enjoy!

-SDC

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In case you live under a rock or in a television market that doesn’t get Versus (looking at you, TeleVU), you’re probably already aware that the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs begin Wednesday.

In the meantime, the procession of predictions and prognostications has begun. Every network has five analysts debating the mettle of each of the sixteen teams, poking and prodding at their cracks and stating without a shadow of a doubt that each series will play out this way or that way. TSN even has a trained monkey that they trot out every now and then to offer up its picks. But enough about Pierre McGuire (zing!); I digress.

In lieu of a traditional playoff preview with positional breakdowns, analysis and insight, I’ve decided to go in a different direction: Drinking Games. Because what’s better than kicking back and watching playoff hockey while enjoying an adult beverage?

That was rhetorical. The answer is “Nothing.”

So, without further delay, here is your guide to getting an early start on your team’s celebration — or drowning your sorrows after an agonizing defeat— series by series.

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(1) Washington Capitals vs. (8) New York Rangers

Rules:

-Drink 2 seconds for every penalty, 5 seconds for every fight and finish your drink for every goal.

-If the announcers mention the Capitals’ playoff woes, take a drink.

-If footage is shown of the Capitals’ playoff woes, drink for three seconds — one for every series Washington has lost as a higher seed under Bruce Boudreau.

-If you think Boudreau is probably dropping an ‘F’ bomb, take a drink. (Note: For health reasons, do not include intermissions)

-If Boudreau is actually shown dropping an ‘F’ bomb on live air, finish your drink.

-If the Rangers score a powerplay goal, in your best Sam Rosen expression, shout “That’s a powerplay goal!” and finish your drink.

-If the Capitals change goalies sometime during the series, finish your drink and change drinks for the rest of the series.

-If the Rangers change goalies sometime during the series, whack your TV as hard as you can to fix the colors — then finish your drink and change drinks for the rest of the series.

-If Mike Green is shown driving a moped, finish your drink as fast as you can. The last player to finish must finish another drink.

Penalties:

The Sean Avery Rule: If a player obstructs any other player’s view of the TV by waving his/her arms, the offending player will have to go get the next drink for the obstructed player.

The Tortorella Rule: If a player sprays his/her drink at another player or strikes another player with a bottle, the offending player will be suspended for the duration of one game.

The Alexander Semin Rule: If a member of your playoff viewing party disappears for an extended length of time, you may heckle him/her relentlessly unless he/she returns for the rest of the series.

Prediction: Capitals in 7; Buzzed in 3

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(2) Philadelphia Flyers vs. (7) Buffalo Sabres

Rules:

-Drink 2 seconds for every penalty, 5 seconds for every fight and finish your drink for every goal.

-If the Philly crowd boos, take a drink.

-If they return from commercial for games in Buffalo without showing the soul-crushingly bleak surroundings at the HSBC Arena, take a drink.

-That should pretty much do it, in all honesty.

Penalties:

The Pronger Rule: After finishing a drink, do not let another player take your drink for any reason (disposal/refill/etc.). If your empty falls into possession of another player, you must finish his/her current drink.

The Nick Bakay Rule: If the camera crew spotlights a celebrity in the stands of a game in Buffalo, shout “Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo,” run a lap around the room and finish your drink.  (Note: This will probably never happen, so just don’t worry about this one.)

The “Amurrica” Rule: If Ryan Miller makes an incredible save and you are drinking an import, just leave the room.

Prediction: Sabres in 6; Tanked in 1

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(3) Boston Bruins vs. (6) Montreal Canadiens

Rules:

-Drink 2 seconds for every penalty, 5 seconds for every fight, 10 seconds for every fight in the stands and finish your drink for every goal.

-If either crowd boos the opposing team’s national anthem, take a drink.

-If either crowd sarcastically cheers the opposing team’s national anthem, finish your drink.

-If Milan Lucic breaks a pane of glass, finish your drink and switch to bottles. If you’re using bottles, switch to glasses.

-Any mention of Benoit Pouliot’s name immediately triggers a game. If the announcer says “Benoit,” players must respond “Balls.” The last to do so drinks. If the announcer says “Pouliot,” players must responds “Pooli-oolio.” The last to do so drinks.

-If the series does not go to seven games, continue drinking on the scheduled dates for the unnecessary games as though it did.

Penalties:

The Zdeno Chara Rule: When Boston is at home, the tallest player in the room is allowed to introduce any set of rules he/she wants into the game.

The Brian Gionta Rule: When Montreal is at home, the shortest player in the room is allowed to introduce any set of rules he/she wants into the game.

Prediction: Bruins in 7; Rioting in both cities

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(4) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (5) Tampa Bay Lightning

Rules:

-Drink 2 seconds for every penalty, 5 seconds for every fight and finish your drink for every goal.

-If the camera crew shows Sidney Crosby watching the game, take a drink.

-If the announcers compare Steve Yzerman to Mario Lemieux for no apparent reason, finish your drink.

-If a Penguins fan uses the words “if,” “but” or “injury,” take a drink.

-If someone in the room wonders aloud why Tampa Bay has a hockey team, take a drink.

Penalties:

The Dwayne Roloson Rule: In complete disregard to the laws of nature, the oldest player in the room must be depended upon to drink twice for every instance of drinking.

The Crosby Rule: If a player loses consciousness, drop everything to discuss how soon he/she will return to action.

Prediction: Lightning in 6; Lingering headaches the day after

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(1) Vancouver Canucks vs. (8) Chicago Blackhawks

Rules:

-Drink 2 seconds for every penalty, 5 seconds for every fight and finish your drink for every goal.

-If the announcers mention a member of last year’s Blackhawks squad who is no longer with the team, take a drink.

-If the announcers mention the Canucks’ playoff history with the Blackhawks, take a drink.

-If Jonathan Toews’ sideburns connect to his chinstrap, finish your drink the first time they show him onscreen.

-If Vancouver wins the series — and you are a Vancouver fan — finish your drink and run outside to join the mini-riot that will likely follow the clinching game.

-If Vancouver wins the series — and you are a Chicago fan — finish your drink and calmly flip back to the Bulls game.

Penalties:

The Sedin Rule: If a player can successfully switch drinks with another player and get that player to drink from it, the player must finish both drinks.

The Patrick Kane Rule: If a player mentions the word “taxi,” he/she must pay for the next round. Exact change.

Prediction: Canucks in 6; Drunk in 5

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(2) San Jose Sharks  vs. (7) Los Angeles Kings

Rules:

-Drink 2 seconds for every penalty, 5 seconds for every fight and finish your drink for every goal.

-If San Jose’s goal horn gives you the urge to break out Super NES, take a drink.

-If the announcers say the words “California,” “Golden State” or “Bay Area,” take a drink.

-If Ryan Smyth does a hair flip with his mullet, take a drink.

-If the announcers make an awful pun on Jonathan Quick’s name, take a drink.

-If you hear the name “Joe,” take a drink.

-If the announcers say the word “Finland,” take a drink. If they say the word “Finnish,” listen to the man.

-If Dan Boyle shoots the puck into his own goal, finish two drinks.

Penalties:

The California Rule: If nobody watches you finish your drink, it doesn’t really count.

The Sharks Postseason Rule: If someone should start choking, give him/her the Heimlich Maneuver, but also reflect on the irony of the situation.

Prediction: Sharks in 5; Shwasted in 2

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(3) Detroit Red Wings vs. (6) Phoenix Coyotes

Rules:

-Drink 2 seconds for every penalty, 5 seconds for every fight and finish your drink for every goal.

-If the announcers refer to last year’s series, take a drink.

-If Phoenix has a sellout crowd, finish your drink.

-If Detroit does not have a sellout crowd, finish your drink.

-If you see an octopus — real or plastic — take a drink.

-If the announcers mention any city in Canada, take a drink.

Penalties:

The Shane Doan Rule: If a player uses a French word during a game in Phoenix, all other players should ignore him/her for the rest of the period.  (Note: This includes all references to “Belanger” and “LaBarbera,” but “Bissonnette” may still be referred to as “Biz Nasty.”)

The Hakan Andersson Rule: If any player has Scandinavian heritage, he/she is to be praised relentlessly throughout each game in Detroit.

The Darren Helm Rule: The player who finishes his/her drinks the fastest shall not be rewarded in any way, shape or form.

Prediction: Red Wings in 6; Relocating in a week

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(4) Anaheim Ducks vs. (5) Nashville Predators

Rules:

-Drink 2 seconds for every penalty, 5 seconds for every fight and finish your drink for every goal.

-If anybody on TV or in the room says the word “Mighty,” take a drink.

-If Ray Emery gets in a fight, drink for 10 seconds.

-If Teemu Selanne gets in a fight, finish your drink.

-If the announcers use the words “Vezina” or “Hart,” take a drink.

-On Nashville goals, each player must yell out “Sheeee-yooooot!” The last player to do so must finish his/her drink.

-On Anaheim goals, each player must yell out “Emiiiilllliiiiooooo” The last player to do so must finish with “The Mighty Duck man” or finish his/her drink. (Note: If the last player does say “The Mighty Duck man,” see Rule 2.)

-If any Anaheim player uses a triple deke or the Knucklepuck, or if Anaheim as a team goes into “Flying V” formation, finish your drink.

-Lastly and most importantly, if any player can identify me in the crowd at a game in Nashville, he/she may dole out as many seconds as he/she pleases.

Penalties:

The Jonas Hiller Rule: If a player loses his/her balance, he/she must remain on the floor for the remainder of the period.

The Nashville Rule: The player with the fewest teeth may introduce any rule he/she chooses during games in Nashville.

The #DanEllisProblems Rule: The player with the most money in his/her wallet at the start of each game may sit in the worst seat available.

Prediction: Ducks in 7; Blackout in Nashville

==============================================================

Hockey Talkie: Brodeur, Byfuglien for Norris, HBO 24/7, Sutters, Spengler, Waffles, & The DiPietro Deficiency.

December 29, 2010 15 comments

Could the New Jersey Devils’ situation be any worse? Dead last in the entire league (as of Dec 28/10), their bazillion-dollar signee, Ilya Kovalchuk sucks, and their former best-goalie-in-the-world is anything but, often injured lately, and having a tough time doing the most important thing about the goaltending position job description – stopping pucks. You gotta think Martin Brodeur is, at least, contemplating retirement at this point. No disrespect to him, but I mean he’s won everything for a goalie to win (3 Stanley Cups, Olympic Gold twice, 4 Vezina’s, multiple All-Star selections; holds 20 NHL records, including most wins, shutouts, most games and minutes played, even scored a game-winning goal).  But really, at this point, what is the purpose in him hanging around, especially when he’s  now playing for the worst team in the league? After all his accomplishments, it’d be a shame to see him fizzle out and get Chelios’ed in his remaining time.

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secretly, NYI owner Charles Wang was trying to get the NHL to outlaw outlandish contracts all along.

Speaking of bad teams, how many more stints on the IR for Rick DiPietro until the New York Islanders decide buying out the remaining 11 years on his contract is actually the better option?  Tough for the Isles to get the most bang for their $67 million bucks out of a constantly injured goalie who hasn’t played an entire season since around the time he signed that contract. 

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Dustin Byfuglien’s the early favourite for the Norris Trophy, no? He’s 13th in league scoring as I write this, and there is not another defenceman on the list until Nicklas Lidstrom at 26th. He’s even got more points than Ryan Getzlaf, Eric Staal, Alexander Semin, Jarome Iginla, Jonathan Toews, Dany Heatley, Evgeni Malkin, Teemu Selanne, Joe Thornton, Martin Havlat, Rick Nash, and Patrick Kane, to name a few. To be fair, he is currently 65th in +/- rankings, which may or may not be a more important measure of a defenceman’s worth, depending on who you are. He’s still got my vote, for now.

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Like many of you hockey folks, I’m loving the HBO 24/7 Penguins/Capitals Road To The Winter Classic miniseries. I know lots of people are talking about it, so I’ll try to raise a few points that aren’t being beat to death, too badly.

One – Bruce Boudreau has been getting a lot of heat for his constant cussing in the dressing room and on the bench. My response to this is that the only people balking at this have to be people who are either over-sensitive, or just have never been in a hockey dressing room before; because, and I hate to break it to the weak at heart, but that’s exactly the way hockey dressing rooms and coaches are during the game. They get frustrated when things don’t go right, and when you’re as emotionally invested in the game and the success of the team as a coach has to be, f-bombs begin to flourish, especially in a slumping team situation. Personally, I love the fact that he’s not pulling any punches or walking on egg-shells just because there’s cameras around him all the time.

Two – I love seeing that NHL players are pretty much like every other hockey player that plays on every other team in the world and every other level (minus the skill level and multi-million dollar contracts, of course). It should be pretty obvious, since they all came up through all the same developmental leagues that all other players do to get where they are, but there’s something humanizing about seeing a teammates pulling hotel pranks on each other during road-trips, coaches telling players to “pack up your stuff so we can get the f— outta here” after a road loss, generally being jokers off the ice, and then really dialling in their serious side when it’s time to perform on the ice.

Three – as cool as this build-up to the Winter Classic has been, and as amazing as that game will be, this kind of TV series is tailor-made to a Stanley Cup Finals showdown, is it not? I know the big sell is the Crosby-Ovechkin matchup for American viewers by the networks, but isn’t the confrontation for the Cup, aka the biggest prize in the sport, even easier for fans to invest their advertisement-susceptible eyes to, compared to a gimmicky mid-season outdoor game?

And further, isn’t it a testimony to how unnecessary it is to advertise hockey in Canada that, compared to the Winter Classic media blitzkrieg, there has barely been a mention of the upcoming Heritage Classic outdoor game between Calgary and Montreal? You mean to tell me the mention of Jarome Iginla vs Josh Gorges isn’t enough to put butts in seats, and eyes on TV’s?

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Even though I’m an avid Calgary Flames hater, it’s unfortunate to see Darryl Sutter “resign” as team GM, after team CEO Ken King asked him too.  Seems like an either-quit-or-you’re-fired face-saving situation for Sutter; which, if you’re going to publicly announce that you ask a guy to quit, you might as well just fire him.  I don’t support Flames success, but I have to admit, Sutter has been the only guy to get any out of that organization in recent history, including brother/head coach  Brent, who barely batted an eyelash at the situation, citing his family’s unparalleled ability to separate family from business.  Man, that’s got to be an awkward family to be around at Christmas.

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I love the Spengler Cup.  I wish it could be rescheduled so it actually got some coverage, instead of being overshadowed by the WJC.  With personnel like Mark Messier coaching, Hockey Canada obviously supports the team; why aren’t they allowed to sport the official Hockey Canada jerseys like every other legit Canadian team representing Canada in international play?  Surely HC just doesn’t want to desecrate the uniform with all those euro ads, right?

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a little suspicious that this rink guy has an entire box of Eggo’s….

And finally, I’m loving the waffles being thrown on the ice at Toronto Maple Leafs games. It’s just such an amusing item to throw. It causes a delay of the game, bla bla… some one could get hurt, yadda yadda… let’s be honest, if the Leafs keep sucking, and Kessel keeps not scoring, they’ll be thanking their lucky lifetime season-ticket holders that something as soft (and delicious) as waffles is all that’s being thrown on the ice.

The Hockey Tryout: Even The Best In The Game Still Have To Prove Their Worth (And advice for keeping your sanity through hockey’s trial period).

September 30, 2010 8 comments

 

With the opening of the 2010-11 NHL season looming, fake-meaningless tease pre-season hockey is all us stick-and-puck fans have to tide us over until that first puck drops.  We’ve endured baseball highlights on Sportscentre for long enough, it’s time to get some real sports going!

Yeah hi Bill, so camp registration fee is $250, and make sure the form is signed by a parent of legal guardian and returned by Aug 1. Good luck!

One interesting notable for me looking at the pre-season has been the boggling number of established NHL veterans still looking for a job – and their only option, seemingly, is to “tryout” for an NHL team.  Good luck trying to get Stanley Cup champ and former NHL All-Star Bill Guerin to fill out and mail in his registration form and camp fee in a self-addressed, stamped return envelope, in exchange for a free camp jersey and four guaranteed ice-times.

I count upwards of 20 NHL vets now fighting for their right to stay active in the world’s best hockey league:

Anaheim — Joe DiPenta (1 Cup), Stephane Veilleux; Atlanta – Enver Lisin, Kyle McLaren; Boston — Brian McGrattan; Columbus – Dan Fritsche; Dallas – Jonathan Cheechoo (All-Star, Rocket Richard Trophy); Florida — Tyler Arnason; New Jersey — Marcus Nilsson; N.Y. Rangers — Garnet Exelby, Ruslan Fedotenko (2 Cups, Olympian), Alexei Semenov; Philadelphia — Bill Guerin (2 Cups, All-Star, Olympian); Phoenix — Shane Hnidy, Kyle Wellwood; San Jose — Andreas Lilja (1 Cup); Tampa – Eric Perrin (1 Cup); Vancouver — Brendan Morrison, Peter Schaefer; Washington — Matt Hendricks.  ( from TSN.ca )

Fist pumping because he thinks he nailed the audition, or slipping on a banana peel back to reality?

I just gotta wonder what the real likelihood of these guys making these teams really is (see: Theo Fleury, Flames tryout).  I mean, it’s not like they’re new players that no one’s had a chance to see because they’ve been playing in an obscure minor league and there are only a handful of youtube videos on them.  These guys have all been around the league, and coaches and scouts already know what they’re all about.

And in reality, that’s the shitty thing about trying out for ANY team at ANY level.  In most cases, teams are already all but finalized before you show up at camp.  Guys have been committed to in the off-season, or re-signed from last year.  With only a few spots open from trades, injuries, or releases, if your resume isn’t already speaking for you, your only hope is to be so awesome that you out-perform a seasoned veteran, or that a vet gets hurt and you’ve looked good enough to be a lock for a call-up spot.  And that’s just the honest truth.

Do yourself a favor and at least look the part. If you show up wearing one of these, kindly show yourself out the door.

Too many young, good hockey players have had their hockey dreams dashed at an early or mid-point level because a team apparently already committed a starting spot and full PP/PK time to a player; who then walks out of camp a week later headed back on the 12-hour long bus to the team he was playing for before because things “didn’t work out” the way he was told they were going to at their tryout.  To be fair though, the onus is on the player to perform; if he can’t do that during that evaluation period, then the chances of that player being a team fixture do fade, no matter how highly touted or decorated they are.  As a coach now myself, I’ve had to weigh-in on some tough (and not so tough) decisions about who will play for our team.  While it’s easy to strike a guy off on paper, no one wants to be the guy who has to tell the player that he’s not we’re looking for.  It’s easy to tell that a guy wants to make the team, but it’s unfortunate when that’s just not a realistic possibility.  I’m sure many teams don’t mind collecting those “camp fees” to pad their team’s budget for the year though.

And that’s where hockey, more so at the minor-pro level, can really get quite exploitive.  Hockey is a game that players are passionate about.  I mean, blindingly passionate about.  So much so that they’ll jump at any chance to play for any team, anywhere.  From Northern Saskatchewan to Southern Alabama, if you’ve got a team and a training camp, chances are there are players willing to un-bank their life savings and drive to your hole-in-the-wall town from the exact opposite point on the continent for that one chance to be part of the team and to seek their fame and glory.  And chances are also that that team is probably full, despite their advertising to “leave no stone unturned” in hopes of finding talent.

Free-agent camps are tricky too, because they’ll mention how many coaches, scouts, and GM’s will be watching you, and how many were signed out of last year’s camp; and when you show up, there’s only one scout (maybe just a guy wearing a team jacket) from a crappy team that only sticks around for 1 period (this happened to a player I know this past summer) and doesn’t give anyone a fair look.

The third axis is the agent.  Many free agents will seek a player agent to represent them in pursuit of a contract.  The first tip-off here is the player pursuing the agent, not the agent pursuing the player.  If players are not careful, they can get mixed up with people/con-men who will take their money in exchange for promises of placement, and then never hear from the agent again, see their money again, or sign a contract (happened to me).  There are lots of good, credible agents and agencies out there, but you really gotta be careful, that’s all.  And again, it’s tough because players want to play so bad because of their love for the game and their emotional attachment to it; that pursuit and their trustworthiness is easily abused when it aligns with a person or team who doesn’t mind separating you from your money in exchange only for false hope and promises.

So, aspiring players who have not had the luxury of being drafted and/or a phenom from a young age, here’s your tryout camp mental checklist to review before filling out that form and sending in your cheque:

1)     Are you good enough?

2)     Ask yourself again, no really, are you good enough to make this team?

3)     Are you willing to endure failure and rejection, and self-improvement for what might be years until you do make this or another team?

4)     Can you fiscally, and mentally, afford it?

5)     Are you willing to live and play in the middle of no-where for an extended period of time, for next to no money?

6)     What is your goal is hockey?  Will you settle for anything below the NHL in the end?

7)     Do the rewards that come with being a hockey player outweigh the benefits to you?

8)     If you’re not single, what does your significant other think of all this?

I’m sure I could think of more, but if you’ve answered yes to all the above questions, then you should pursue your hockey dreams, no matter what they are, and no matter what they call for.  If you’re hesitant, then you may want to re-evaluate your path in the game.  But when it comes to camp time, always do your homework on the team, and be realistic (even if your realism would be described as crazy by others).  Other than that, let your heart and passion for the game, combined with your abilities and talents take you as far as they will lead; just don’t be afraid to follow them!  Being able to play the game of hockey is a very temporary privilege that only a very small percentage of people will ever have the opportunity to do at any level, so don’t take your remaining time in the game for granted.  If opportunity knocks, open the door; just make sure you let the right people in.

 

Sid Vs Ovie 2010: No Hockey Rivalry Rivals the Crosby-Ovechkin Battle.

February 24, 2010 Leave a comment

 

***Heading into their Olympic quarter-final showdown both touted as their respective country’s top players, I thought I’d relaunch my Sid vs. Ovie blog that I previously posted for another site.  While the latest chapter may not be have the gold medal on the line, for Canadian fans, it might as well be in the “do or die” situation we’ve found ourselves in.  Enjoy!*** -SDC

There are battles of Alberta, Summit Series’, and “Magnificence” vs “Greatness”; but is there an NHL rivalry greater than the current individualistic battle between Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin?

The two phenoms entered the league as at least respectful rivals of each other. Prior to their simultaneous NHL arrivals, they had only ever competed against each other on the international stage, playing for Canada and Russia, respectively.  With cameras and tape recorders rolling, making campy NHL commercials and delivering birthday cakes at the NHL All-Star game together slowly morphed into on-ice physicality and off-ice verbal sparring.  Welcome to the business of “selling” the new NHL to the American market.

It’s a protagonist-antagonist scenario that seems to be inspired by Vince McMahon himself.  In one corner, you have the abrasive, exciting, inimical Ovechkin; equipped with infinite energy and a talent level he must have exchanged his soul for, hailing from Mother Russia, a country that, according to Hollywood, produces more bad guys than perogies.  His opposition, the humble, hard-working, and traditional Crosby; hailing from Canada, playing and interviewing the way the Canadian hockey heroes of the past did before him.  Of course, as the NHL panders to the North American market, it’s easy to portray Crosby as the “good guy”, though Ovechkin, Federov, and every other Russian NHL star has been adorned in their homeland.  Most Canadian fans would likely admit that there’s Russian NHL’ers that are better than Canadian NHL’ers, but they’d feel like they were betraying their country if they ever uttered it publicly.

Forget all the media hoopla; shouldn’t the NHL be sending royalties to the parents of Sidney and Alexander for deciding to have children that grew up to capture the attention of their entire audience?  In the ongoing battle to

Happy Birthday, Shanny!

procure American advertisers and cable network broadcasters, the NHL can count on at least Penguins and Capitals games as easy ratings sells; providing that Crosby and Ovechkin are in the lineup.  Did anyone care about the Capitals before Alexander the Great?  A team with no Stanley Cups, and nothing more than a conference championship in 1997-98, former Hart and Art Ross Trophy Winner Jaromir Jagr couldn’t even make hockey exciting in Washington.  All of a sudden, the Verizon Center has sell-out crowds, and the team is a contender.  Ovechkin plays with a wreckless abandon that has resulted in a kneeing suspension, but what is coach Bruce Boudreau going to do with his star, bench him?  Tell him to ease up?  Come on.  The Penguins at least got to pair Lemieux and Crosby together in 2006, but the Steel-Town had been pretty dismal since the back-to-back Stanley Cup championships in 1990-92.  Sure hockey’s a team game, but to suggest that the individual ability and rivalry of Crosby and Ovechkin isn’t largely responsible for the teams’ success and the league’s rising interest, is naive.

The 2008-09 playoffs were an absolute treat to watch, and many people would point to the Pens/Caps Eastern Conference showdown as a highlight, as well as an indication of who would/did become the eventual Cup winner.  Fans got to see Sid and Ovie go at each other for seven consecutive games rather than once a season, and they got to see both players at the top of their respective games; Game 2 featured both players notching hat tricks, and Sid’s 13 series’ points and Ovie’s 14 equaled the highest single-series point total since the 1995 NHL playoffs.  It was awesome.

Penguins win the series 4-3, and the “evil” Ovechkin, was banished back to Russia (well, Washington), screaming promises of revenge (actually he wished that the Pens win the Cup, but just work with me) while he was being dragged away. Meanwhile, the “heroic” Crosby was adorned on a mountain top, cape waving, a dark curl dangling from mid-brow (just above his perv-stache), all while giving an interview where he characteristically puts over his opponents, commenting on how well they played, and not giving himself any selfish credit. Wouldn’t it have been great/justified if he had finally just snapped, either after that series or after winning the Cup, and said, “YOU SEE?!?! I AM BETTER THAN HIM!!”

Ovechkin wins rookie of the year, Sid’s named the youngest captain in history.  Sid wins the Art Ross and the Hart, Ovie wins the Richard and Pearson awards.  And so they dance.  We’re still waiting to see what Ovechkin’s equal to Sid’s Cup win will be.  Alexander’s pursuit of a championship, Sidney’s defence of his, and their continued rivalry will continually be fun to watch, and is easily the best rivalry in the NHL today.  It’s Canada vs. Russia, tradition vs. new school, team vs. team, and man vs. man, all wrapped into one ongoing showdown.  Their 2010 Olympic showdown will be the latest chapter, and perhaps the most exciting for fans thus far.  It’s one thing to have the hopes of a whole city on your back in the case of an NHL team, but entire countries?  If the NHL can’t sell that to Americans, then tearing fans away from the baseball diamond and football field for the hockey rink is a fruitless endeavor anyways.

 

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