Or rather… You wouldn’t recognize the Devils. The New Jersey Devils are off to their worst start in 27 years. I’d never seen their defense look as horrible as I did two days in a row here in southern California. I’ve only been a hockey fan since the late 80’s, so I’d never seen the Devils look this bad. In Anaheim, it was like the Devils and Ducks were playing themselves. Both teams had been built on their strong defense and neither team has much of a defense this season. If their offenses were more in tune, I would have expected a much higher scoring game.
When the Devils signed (and later re-signed) Kovalchuk, they were indicating a commitment to being a more offensive team than defensive, but they haven’t followed through on that and their defense is definitely lacking. They don’t have Scott Stevens or Scott Niedermayer right now. Their current defense isn’t the same. They’re not as difficult to figure out and they handle pucks very poorly in their own end. The Devils are currently ranked last in the NHL again, which is really surprising to me. I didn’t expect them to be as good as they were last year and I figured they’d probably just squeak into the playoffs, but if anyone had told me they’d only win ¼ of their first 12 games, I would have thought they were nuts.
The makeup of the Devils’ team has really changed this season. I was talking to someone Friday night, who said it was strange, since most of the players he saw on the ice didn’t make him think of the Devils. Perhaps that identity crisis ad not knowing if they’re going to be an offensive or defensive team is what’s causing their poor performance.
The Kings are currently number one in the NHL…. It’s definitely good to be a King this season. They’re 4-0-0 at home (one of two teams with a perfect record at home – St. Louis is 5-0-0 at home) and even won their first game back from a long road trip last night. Most people I talked to seemed to think the Kings would be too lifeless in their first game back to even beat the tired Devils (they’d played the night before in Anaheim) who’ve been at or near the bottom of the NHL. I thought they’d pick themselves up to beat the Devils because of honoring Mattias Norstrom before the game and having some of the former players (including fan favorite Ian Laperriere) back for that. Rob Blake’s reception was actuallybetter than most of us expected. I’d say he was cheered by about 75% of the fans and only booed by 25% – it was nice to see that he got a better reception than usual in Staples Center.
The player Kings fans were determined to boo was Ilya Kovalchuk (clearly). Fans may not know the whole story (Kovalchuk himself is probably the only person who really could), but they do know that Kovalchuk chose not to play in their city. Oddly enough, I think the fans should probably be thanking Kovalchuk for not taking the outrageous contract the Kings offered him. It was more than Lombardi wanted to offer Kovalchuk. Lombardi was protecting the Kings’ future and their ability to re-sign the important franchise players like Drew Doughty (who looked good and said he’s feeling okay – he just can’t get up to full speed and still feel okay and the Kings are being careful to make sure he’s fully healthy before his return). Just as the Penguins probably couldn’t have won the Stanley Cup in 2009 with Marian Hossa, signing Kovalchuk would have probably done much more harm than good to the LA Kings who are in first place without Kovalchuk as the Devils sit in last place with him.
The Kings were determined to win again at home, in spite of how the first game back from a long road trip usually goes. Jonathan Quick continued to look great and in control tonight. He’s currently 4th in the NHL for save percentage, which is definitely a huge leap from his performance last season.
The Kings’ next game is Thursday as they host the Tampa Bay Lightning led by Steven Stamkos the number one offensive player in the NHL.
Tags: booing, Dean Lombardi, Devils, Drew Doughty, Ducks, fans, Hockey, Ian Laperriere, Ilya Kovalchuk, Jonathan Quick, Kings, Marian Hossa, Mattias Norstrom, NHL, Penguins, Rob Blake, Scott Niedermayer, Scott Stevens, Staples Center
The Chicago Blackhawks hadn’t won the Stanley Cup since 1961, though they’d been in the Finals 5 times since then. I predicted Blackhawks in 6, but had my doubts when the Flyers tied the game and took it into overtime. Patrick Kane scored the Stanley Cup winning goal in overtime of game six of the Stanley Cup Finals. He seemed to be the only one who knew the puck had gone into the goal. While watching it on TV (I’d even caught up to live), I thought it was a goal, but play kept going, so I figured I was mistaken. Then, we found out that the puck was caught in the net and Kane had scored the game and series winning goal.
Apparently, the third time is the charm. Marian Hossa is the only player in the NHL to ever play in the Stanley Cup Finals three years in a row with three different teams. He lost with the first two teams (the Penguins & Red Wings), but this year he was on the right team and was the second player (after Jonathan Toews, Captain and Conn Smythe Trophy winner for playoff MVP) to hoist the Cup this year.
Blackhawks fans will surely be celebrating for a long time. Many of them weren’t alive the last time the Stanley Cup was won in their city and the parade will certainly be a sight to behold. I hope I’ll be able to watch it online as I did the Penguins’ parade last year. Enjoy the party, Blackhawks fans!
Tags: Blackhawks, Conn Smythe Trophy, Flyers, Hockey, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, NHL, overtime, Patrick Kane, Penguins, Red Wings, Stanley Cup, Stanley Cup Finals
The Sharks may have had home ice advantage in their first conference finals since 2004, but that didn’t matter to the determined Chicago Blackhawks. The Sharks took the early lead and even went so far as to lead game four 2-0, but the Blackhawks came back to take the only lead that mattered – the one that ended the game. Chicago is the only team that swept a series in the 2010 playoffs and for a third year in a row Marian Hossa will be playing in the Stanley Cup Finals. Is the third time the charm for him? Will he finally be on the happy side of the handshake when the Finals finish, or will he be on the losing end of the Finals for a third year in a row?
San Jose really can’t seem to succeed in the post season. They did better this year than they had in a while, but they can’t ever seem to live up to their regular season drive. The Sharks make the regular season look easy and win the west (and sometimes even the Presidents’ Trophy), but they can’t seem to get to the Stanley Cup Finals. Since their start in 1991, they’ve gotten to the conference finals twice (including this year). However, they can’t seem to make it past that point. This year, they didn’t even win a game of the conference finals, leaving them with a record of 8-2 in the conference finals and sending them home before the Finals again.
The Blackhawks will most likely face the Philadelphia Flyers in the Stanley Cup Finals, but the Montreal Canadiens want to change that. They’ve come back from a 3-1 deficit in a series twice already in the 2010 playoffs, so they may surprise everyone again. Either way, the Blackhawks were the first to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals and are certainly happy to get back to the Finals for the first time since 1992 when they lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins as they won their second Cup in a row. This year, they’ve got a young team excited to be in the Finals for the first time.
Tags: Blackhawks, Canadiens, Flyers, Hockey, Marian Hossa, NHL, Penguins, playoffs, Sharks, Stanley Cup, Stanley Cup Finals, sweep
It’s very different to attend a game as a fan. The last NHL game I had attended as a fan was game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals in Pittsburgh last year (May 31st, almost exactly a year ago). Same teams, same venue and also the only games I attended as a fan last season. Though I was kicking myself a little for not trying to get credentials worked out in case I could afford the flight back to Pittsburgh for the finals, a large part of me is glad. There’s something about being able to get your face painted and jump up and down and lose your voice cheering for your team. It’s a lot of fun. I’m not saying I don’t have a blast as a member of the media. I do. I’m very thankful for the access I have and really appreciate all the Kings, Ducks, Eklund, and many others have done for me in that area.
I traveled all day to get to game 3 of the finals in Pittsburgh. (I left my house around 5 my time and had gotten very little sleep last night.) So, I’m not completely coherent, but we had a great time at the game tonight. My sister’s favorite player is Maxime Talbot. She predicted that he’d get a goal early and he scored within a minute or so of that comment. Naturally, she was totally thrilled that he got (and deserved) the number one star of the game. Not only did he get half of the goals the Pens scored tonight (true, one was an empty netter, but what a decisive empty net goal), but Talbot created a lot of other opportunities and hit the post once.
It was nice to see that there were fewer blatant missed calls in tonight’s game. With any luck, that will continue.
Jordan Staal had a very good game in spite of being absent from the score sheet. He did have 3 blocked shots. Evgeni Malkin increased his scoring lead from 2 to 4 points with his three assists (Sidney Crosby only had one tonight). I may not have a voice and my throat is definitely sore, but it was great to scream like crazy. I have a whole day to recover before I really need my voice again.
I really like that they had a special moment to thank Versus for allowing the Penguins to show the game outside on their big screen in front of TONS of fans. NBC is not allowing them to do that (not even for the finals) and I think it’s a very sad statement. Personally, I think Gary Bettman should have tried to iron that one out. I understand that it’s in NBC’s contract, but the NHL keeps talking about trying to expand the game and gain fans. The party atmosphere OUTSIDE the Mellon Arena for the game looks amazing (if the pre-game atmosphere was any indictaion). The fans are great and that’s what it’s all about. The Pens aren’t charging for the service, so I don’t understand NBC’s issue. If I were a Pens fan who wanted to do that, I would make sure everyone I knew did NOT watch at home, so I could lower the ratings as much as possible. I’d tell everyone to go to one location (a bar that would have it on anyway – Pittsburgh doesn’t have an NBA team, the only thing people care about around here is the NHL Finals – talk about a switch from southern California where it’s all about the Lakers) to watch the game and fight the urge to record. I know many people (like me) even record the games they attend, so they can watch certain plays again when they get home.
The Red Wings still lead the series, but the Penguins have definitely shown that they have life and I’m sure most Penguins fans are happy with the way the tide has changed a bit in Pittsburgh. Needless to say, Hossa got booed pretty much every time he touched the puck. I’m sure you could hear it on TV at times. Fans here in Pittsburgh have good reason for booing him and I’m not really against booing when it’s the other team’s player and with a good reason. (As many of you know, I always frown on booing a player on your own team.)
I hope you’re all enjoying the finals as much as I am.
Tags: booing, Evgeni Malkin, fans, fighting, Gary Bettman, Hockey, Jordan Staal, Marian Hossa, Maxime Talbot, Mellon Arena, NBC, NHL, Penguins, Red Wings, Sidney Crosby, Stanley Cup Finals, Versus
I’m sure many will think my picking the Penguins to beat the Red Wings in 6 indicates that I’m biased by the fact that I’ve been a Penguins fan as long as I’ve been a fan of hockey (probably even longer, initially I was just a Penguins fan and I grew to love the game because of them). I maintain that I would pick the team that lost in this situation all the time (regardless of the team) even if they hadn’t been playing very well in the previous rounds of the playoffs. I think the team that lost the year before has a lot more motivation to win the Cup this year. The only member of the Red Wings who wants the Cup as badly as most of the Penguins do right now is Marian Hossa. Hossa and his comments might actually be extra motivation to the Penguins, but I won’t get into that whole mess.
When examining how the Penguins and Red Wings have played in the playoffs this year, I think it’s clear that the Penguins are more driven. They want the Cup and they’re determined to get there. They have the top two scorers in the playoffs (Crosby & Malkin are tied with 28 points, 1.65 per game). Their defense has been far from perfect, but the same can be said of the Penguins in the 90s when they won their last two Cups. They’re more likely to win 7-5 than they are 1-0, but as long as they win does it really matter?
Watching the Pens play the Hurricanes, it was clear that they are focused on their goal of winning the Stanley Cup. Losing it last year hurt and they don’t want to go through that again. They’re determined to win this year. The Penguins know what it takes. They’re not the same kids who lost to Detroit in the finals last year. They’re not going to be stunned when they go into Detroit and see the sea of red in the stands and the amazing fan support the Red Wings have. This year, the Pens started two of their first three rounds of the playoffs on the road, so they’re used to starting in enemy territory and they know they can win in spite of not starting in front of their home crowd.
I really would pick any team who fought back to make it to the finals after losing the finals the year before. I think that team has to be more excited about winning the Cup than any team they would face. Historically, the team that makes it back to the finals is more likely to lose than win. However, as with all things, history doesn’t change the odds. It’s just like playing roulette. The odds of hitting any number are always exactly the same. They don’t change based on the pattern preceding it. The Penguins have the same odds of winning the finals this year as they would if they hadn’t been in the finals last year; though, I think they are more driven because of losing, which gives them a bit more of an edge. I don’t think it will be an easy battle, but I definitely think the Pens will persevere and beat the Red Wings this year to become the 2009 Stanley Cup Champions.
Tags: Evgeni Malkin, Hockey, Hurricanes, Marian Hossa, NHL, Penguins, Red Wings, Sidney Crosby, Stanley Cup Finals