The Tampa Bay Lightning were the first to advance to conference finals tonight. I expected them to beat the Capitals, but I thought it would be a fairly close series and it would take them six games. The teams I wanted to win most in the first round didn’t do well, but at least the team I’ve decided will be my backup’s backup team for the playoffs swept the Capitals and await the outcome of the Bruins/Flyers series. Right now, the Bruins lead that series 3-0. Who would have thought after a few game sevens in round one that round two would be so boring in the eastern conference? One team swept and the Bruins have a chance to do the same Friday night.
The Sharks are leading their series 2-0 against Detroit and are playing the Red Wings in the first game of the series in Detroit now. At least the Predators/Canucks series has been interesting. It’s had two games end in overtime (one in the second OT) and has actually had both teams in the series win at least one game (Vancouver’s leading the series 2-1).
Hopefully, this round will get a bit more interesting soon. Some of the individual games have been pretty interesting, but sweeps are never very entertaining overall.
Tags: Bruins, Canucks, Capitals, Flyers, Hockey, Lightning, NHL, overtime, playoffs, Predators, Red Wings, Sharks, sweep
The Kings broke a four game home losing streak tonight in LA when they won in the shootout… again. The Kings are tied with the New York Rangers for the best shootout record (8-2). The Flames have also won 8 shootouts, but they’ve lost 7. The only problem with being so good in the shootout this year is that players might hang back in the overtime, realizing that their goalie Jonathan Quick can get them the win in the shootout more times than not and if they’re tied with another team in points this season, they lose the first tie breaker. The Kings have 41 wins this season, but only 33 of those came in regulation or overtime and the first tie breaker this year only includes regulation and overtime wins. I’ve never been a fan of deciding a sport of any kind by a skills competition and if they think the shootout shouldn’t count maybe they should just get rid shootouts and go back to ties if there is no score in the five minute overtime period. I doubt this will happen, since it’s all about ratings and fans seem more likely to watch if the game could end in a shootout, so I’m sure it’s here to stay.
All other teams fighting for a spot in the western conference were surely annoyed by another three point game in the conference. There always seem to be more three point games near the end of the season when so many teams are desperate to secure their place in the playoffs. The only truly secure teams in the western conference are the Vancouver Canucks, though the Detroit Red Wings and San Jose Sharks are pretty sure of their spots, too. I suppose the Edmonton Oilers and Colorado Avalanche are fairly securely out of the playoffs, but that’s not something anyone wants to admit until they’re officially mathematically eliminated and that hasn’t happened yet.
Tonight’s game was intense and definitely a nail biter for fans of both teams. There was no scoring until just under 6 minutes remained in regulation, then there were two goals within a little over a minute leading to a tie at one goal, which they maintained until they got to the shootout. Though the Flames were the first to score on the shootout, Stoll and Kopitar scored for the Kings and the Kings won the shootout and the game 2-1.
When asked about what makes him so successful in the shootout, a typically humble Quick threw the attention right back to his teammates saying, “I gotta give a lot of credit to the guys shooting the puck for us… when you score two out of three, I think we’re gonna win more times than not.”
I thought one of the best signs for the Kings fans tonight (other than a much needed win at home in front of the fans, which was a nice change from the last four home games) was that the Kings had one really amazing power play in the second period. They didn’t score, but they did everything correctly. During the second intermission, I was talking to some of my friends in the press box about that power play and mentioned that I thought it was the Kings’ best all year. Terry Murray brought up that same power play in the press conference, saying, “You know the power play we had in the second period. We didn’t score. You know the one I’m talking about? That was the best power play we’ve had this year. That is exactly what we’ve been talking about – what we need to see on a regular basis.” The trick, of course, is to somehow make that something the Kings can do on a regular basis and clearly if Murray had the solution to that the Kings would have the best power play in the NHL instead of the 19th (their rank before tonight’s game).
The Kings will be home again on Thursday hosting the division leading San Jose Sharks and what’s sure to be an excited Staples Center sellout crowd as the regular season winds down and Kings fans prepare to see some more playoff hockey in Los Angeles.
Tags: Anze Kopitar, Avalanche, Canucks, Flames, Hockey, Jarret Stoll, Jonathan Quick, Kings, NHL, Oilers, overtime, playoffs, power play, Rangers, Red Wings, Sharks, shootout, standings, Staples Center, Terry Murray, tie breaker
Before I get into the Penguins game tonight, I have to mention that the Penguins really did an amazing job when they built the CONSOL Energy Center. I enjoyed it as a fan when I was there for the first two games in October (in spite of the outcome) and can’t say enough about what they did with the press box. Though I know it’s a new arena, even Anaheim doesn’t have as many staff members who seem willing to show you the way and make sure you know where you’re going (and the Honda Center employees are BEYOND friendly, for those of you who haven’t been). They seem to have thought of everything – even a shelf behind the seats for your laptop case, camera equipment, whatever… One thing I hadn’t noticed the first couple times I visited CONSOL is that they have about double the recycling cans as they do trash cans, which I think is really great. I was surprised to see more recycling than trash, but it’s great, since most of the stuff one has there is recyclable.
As everyone knows, Sidney Crosby has been on fire. Tonight, he extended his point streak to 25 games and his goal streak to 5 games. He’s leading the NHL in points by over ten and is in the goal lead, too. He’s even near the top of the +/- stats. Between his performance and Fleury’s bounce-back to above average in save percentage and goals against average, it’s no wonder the Pens are number one in the NHL at the moment. (They have played more games than many other teams in the NHL, but they’re clearly in a good position regardless of that fact.)
The Thrashers managed to score against the Penguins’ #1 penalty kill, though the Pens got a shorthanded goal later in the game. The Penguins’ fairly low (22) power play scored against the Thrashers. The Penguins and Thrashers didn’t have a major fight tonight, but other than that there’s not much tonight’s game in Pittsburgh was lacking. Penguins fans were happily cheering as they left the CONSOL Energy Center for their cars or the local bars.
Getting to watch Crosby in person really is a treat that most living in southern California get to have too rarely. Seeing the greatest players live is never something we should take for granted. The current NHL schedule has teams in the NHL playing every team at least once, but only some teams from the other conference at home and away each season. It’s a shame, since Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin, Anze Kopitar of the LA Kings (who passed the puck OVER an opponent last night to set up Dustin Brown’s goal), and other super stars in the NHL aren’t seen often in cities of the other conference’s teams. We should all get to see these players every year – even if it means we have to watch our teams get roughed up a bit by some of the best in the league.
Since the weather was nothing like the forecast said it would be on Christmas Day in Pittsburgh, I’m still assuming that New Year’s Day will work out wonderfully for the Winter Classic. I remember that there were concerns last year for Boston’s Winter Classic and that went well in the end. I’m hoping all this worrying and preparation will be in vain, since the game will work well on New Year’s Day. Preparing for the worst can’t hurt, but I’m certainly hoping for the best. I’d hate for so many people to either have to miss the Winter Classic or spend a lot of money changing flights around, rearranging travel and hotel plans, etc. Especially when they still wouldn’t be positive the game would be played on the 2nd. I think even if there’s a delay the NHL has to somehow have the game on the 1st if it doesn’t rain non-stop. Moving the game by more than a few hours could be really bad for the league’s goal of trying to increase viewers and have one game every year outside on New Year’s Day. Of course, I personally believe that the Winter Classic could be the only NHL game played on New Year’s Day, but no one asked my opinion when they planned the schedule. Delaying the game could also have bad effects for where the game will be aired, since we know that NBC doesn’t have the NHL as a priority (we’ve seen that in the past with playoff hockey going into overtime and NBC airing pre-race information on horse racing instead of the end of the game). It’s also clear that many people in the US still don’t get Versus and if they do, many of them don’t know where they can find it or that they have it. It’s certainly a lot less likely that someone flipping by the channel will randomly stop on an outdoor NHL game, like friends I know who don’t watch hockey have in the past. *fingers crossed* that it works out for a 1pm game with decent weather for all the fans Saturday…
Tags: Alex Ovechkin, Anze Kopitar, CONSOL Energy Center, Hockey, Marc-Andre Fleury, NBC, New Year's Day, NHL, overtime, penalty kill, Penguins, playoffs, power play, Sidney Crosby, Thrashers, Versus, Winter Classic
The Kings definitely don’t feel lucky right now, but given the circumstances of tonight’s game, I think they’re lucky to get a point for the overtime loss to the Wild. Quick (who could have easily been given credit for assisting the two regulation goals by the Minnesota Wild) made a couple bad mistakes that cost the Kings easy goals. The referees made a lot of bad calls (the first goal the Kings scored being disallowed, interference being called later when the player was no where near the goalie, high sticking calls missed, etc.) tonight in LA. They made bad calls both ways, but it seemed the key bad calls went against the home team. Add that to the play by Quick, which would have caused many people to pull him from the game (or at least seriously consider it) and the Kings’ horrible power play and the Kings fans should be relieved that their team got something out of the last home game their team plays until December 23rd.
On the bright side, the Kings got seven out of eight possible points so far in December. The down side is that the Kings head on a road trip starting in Detroit on Monday now. They’re hoping to bounce back from this overtime loss, be glad that they got a point, and move on to playing hard against Detroit.
Though Terry Murray admitted that the Kings’ power play and penalty killing didn’t do the job for his team tonight, he was fast to point out “those are not fluke plays… those are giveaways. That’s a puck on your stick, that’s concentration, that’s making the right play – the right decision with the puck” when asked about the regulation goals against Quick tonight. In spite of this, Murray answered with a very quick “No” when asked if he thought of pulling Quick. Clearly, he made a good decision there, since Quick buckled down after that and didn’t allow another goal until the Wild had a 4 on 3 power play in overtime.
This is the Kings’ first overtime loss this season. They won one game in overtime (against Detroit at home earlier this month) and three in shootouts (all on the road). Now that the Kings have lost in overtime, only one team remains who hasn’t lost once they get past regulation – the Florida Panthers.
It’s early to think of standings, but the Kings are still in good shape there, in spite of being how it looks at first glance (with the Kings in 10th). Though the Kings are 2 spots out of the playoff standings, They’re only one point behind the Coyotes, Predators, Avalanche, Sharks, & Ducks in 5-9 places and have 2-5 games in hand on those teams. Just one win in those extra games puts the Kings right in the playoff mix. The Pacific division is only separated by 3 points and has teams in 2, 5, 8, 9, & 10 right now. It’s clearly going to be a hard fought division title this season.
In other news, most Kings fans know about the deal the Kings made for Marco Sturm earlier today. Dean Lombardi was very clear about the deal being dependent on the physical, which is typical. In this case, Sturm’s physical on Monday will definitely focus on his knees a bit more than usual. The Kings have been burned before with injured players, though they seem to be doing something right in that area the last few years (*knock on wood*). Will Sturm be the piece the Kings are missing? Time will tell. Lombardi pointed out that the deal for Sturm leaves him room to possibly make a deal before the trade deadline if he thinks that’s necessary. It’s clear that he’ll be doing his best to make sure the Kings get far in the playoffs this season. Getting kicked out in the first round after six games is not going to be acceptable this season.
Tags: bad calls, Dean Lombardi, goaltender interference, Hockey, Jonathan Quick, Kings, Marco Sturm, NHL, overtime, Panthers, penalties, penalty kill, power play, referees, Terry Murray, Wild
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
I haven’t heard anyone predicting that the Hurricanes win the series with the Bruins yet. I’m sure there are some. Finding people who thought the Ducks were going to beat the Sharks was almost impossible and I talked to members of the media and fans in Anaheim. Since I haven’t been to Carolina in years, I’m sure I could find some people there who truly thought the Hurricanes would win the series against the Bruins before this round of the playoffs started. If most people had been told that the Hurricanes would be up 2-1 in a series with the Bruins, they probably would have believed it about as much as most people would have if you told them the Ducks would have been leading the series with the Sharks 2-0 to start.
Two overtime games in one day again and the Penguins and the Hurricanes were a part of the madness this round, too. Thankfully, my DVR from hell (made by Motorola and supplied by the horrible Orange County Cox Cable company) worked and I got to see both games today (the Devils/Hurricanes game recorded, but the DVR couldn’t play it – so sad!). It’s interesting to me that both times there were two OT games in the playoffs this year on the same day they involved the only two teams who were in both rounds of the playoffs. Incidentally, the team who won the OT game in question won the series and went on to the next round of the playoffs. Wonder if that’ll happen this time, too.
As a Penguins fan, the Penguins game drove me nuts. The Capitals’ late tying goal and all the chances and the way the Pens were skating initially and… I could go on forever about the gut-wrenching experience I know most Penguins fans went through tonight. I think we can all agree that the comeback the Red Sox made against the Yankees a few years ago is too rare to hope for it and that if the Penguins had lost tonight at home it would have been the end of their 2009 playoff run. Fortunately for Pens fans everywhere, Pittsburgh won game 3 and the Penguins are now only behind 2-1 in the series to the Capitals.
Apparently, the Penguins want to play in the first back-to-back games of the 2009 playoffs. Personally, I think back-to-back games should never happen in the playoffs. I realize that arenas have schedules to work around, but think they should figure something out to avoid back-to-back games. On the bright side, of course, both teams have exactly the same recover time. On the down side, this is the playoffs. To me playoff hockey means teams at their best and the Penguins and Capitals will not be at their best when they played the day before. As another point, this is the playoffs – I know, it seems like the same point as my first, but bear with me. Since this is the playoffs, game 4 of the Pens/Caps series in Pittsburgh Friday could last until sometime Saturday morning. I know the players’ contracts have rules about game turnaround time; I’m guessing these restrictions are waived for the playoffs. However, think about how horrible and boring the Pens/Caps game could be on Saturday if the game Friday goes into triple overtime (or longer). Don’t the fans deserve more during the playoffs – especially for a weekend game? I think they do. Too bad Gary Bettman disagrees with me.
Tags: back-to-back games, Bruins, Capitals, Cox Cable, Ducks, DVR, fans, Gary Bettman, Hockey, Hurricanes, Motorola, NHL, overtime, Penguins, playoffs, Red Sox, Sharks, Yankees
The NHL couldn’t have scripted last night’s game with Crosby vs. Ovechkin better (though I’d bet they would have picked Pittsburgh to win, since they want the series to go to 7 games). In spite of the fact that Malkin won the NHL scoring title this year and until last night had more points than Sid in the playoffs, all the buzz has been about Sidney Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin. Alexander Semin had more points than Alex Ovechkin until last night, too. Now, advertising Sid vs. Alex seems to make sense. Crosby stands alone in 2nd place (behind Ryan Getzlaf and no one is going to talk about him – he’s from a southern California team that people still seem to think is lucky for having beaten the Sharks). Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin are tied for 3rd with 11 points, though Malkin’s 1.38 points per game beats Ovechkin’s 1.22. At least now they’re talking about the top scoring player on each team, which they weren’t before last night’s hat tricks.
Who would have ever guessed that Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin would both get their first playoff hat tricks in the same game? The league really couldn’t have planned it better unless it was in game 7 of the conference finals. That would be a bit better. Otherwise, it was perfect. The two players the NHL cares to market both got their first playoff hat tricks in the same game. Alex’s third goal in his hat trick was the game winning goal. It really was perfect.
The only problem is that the NHL has no clue how to market itself. Drive around and look at the billboards in any major city and you’ll see ads for the MLB, NBA, NFL – I’ve even seen one for tennis. I’ve never seen a billboard with NHL stars telling me I should watch the NHL. Watch the NHL on NBC and you’ll see ads (I stopped fast forwarding to watch it, since it looked interesting) for watching poker. They even have a hockey themed ad for poker explaining how the games are similar and why those watching the NHL game should stay tuned and watch the poker tournament that follows. Conversely, if you watch the poker tournament or baseball or anything other than the NHL on any channel other than Versus, you’ll never see the NHL playoff ads. The NHL could really use a better marketing director.
Perhaps the NHL will prove me wrong this time, but I’d be completely stunned. They don’t seem to realize that advertising during a hockey game for a hockey game is pretty pointless. I’m already watching. Heck, knowing what channel Versus is on my DVR is a huge step – it’s something your average person on the street wouldn’t know. Ask them where they find ESPN, though, and I’d bet you get a much higher percentage of correct answers and 0% of the people going “What’s that?” Somehow, I think if you polled people on a street corner asking where they can find Versus on their cable or satellite, you’d get a lot of puzzled looks and people saying they’re not sure if they get that channel – and they might not. Versus is a part of my sports package, though ESPN & ESPN2 are both standard. Those of us who are already watching Versus don’t need to be convinced. We watched Sid and Alex both get their first playoff hat tricks last night, but non-hockey fans could have been won over last night. A lot of hockey fans who don’t normally watch other team’s games got sucked into the Ducks/Red Wings game Sunday, since it was exciting. A game going into 3OT where there is one winner and one loser (and no point for losing in overtime) is exciting – especially when it’s a fast-paced game like hockey. Since that game was on NBC, perhaps a few people who don’t normally watch hockey did stumble upon it and get sucked into the action, but without a better marketing strategy I don’t see how the NHL can improve their ratings.
Of course, some cities are better at advertising than others. This may be where some of the people saying that southern California shouldn’t have NHL teams get the support for their argument. In Pittsburgh, during the playoffs, there are banners all over. I drove through Anaheim Saturday night and there was no way anyone could possibly tell that just a few blocks away was the home of the Ducks – in round 2 of the Stanley Cup playoffs. I don’t have experience with the surrounding areas of most teams in the playoffs, but I know that in Pittsburgh stores have signs in their windows and are happy about the Penguins being in the playoffs. That doesn’t happen around here and without the NHL having billboards or any other advertising to let people know, it’s no wonder people only care about the NBA playoffs. If you live in the US and haven’t seen a TNT billboard for the NBA, I’d be pretty surprised. I haven’t watched a playoff NBA game since Rick Fox played for the Lakers, but I know what channel it’s on if someone asked me in random conversation. It just goes to show you that the NBA knows how to advertise. I have a DVR and don’t even watch most games live, but I see ads in magazines and billboards. It would be nice if someday the random person on the street could tell me where you could find the NHL playoffs, just as someone who doesn’t care about the NBA playoffs still knows where to find them.
Tags: Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, Capitals, Ducks, ESPN, Evgen, fans, hat trick, Hockey, MLB, NBA, NBC, NFL, NHL, overtime, Penguins, playoffs, Red Wings, Ryan Getzlaf, Sidney Crosby, TNT, Versus
Game one in Detroit was very close and if it weren’t for the Red Wings’ goal in the last minute of the 3rd, it would have gone into overtime. The Ducks knocked the Presidents’ Trophy winning Sharks out of the playoffs. Still, everyone seemed to be acting like it was surprising and the Ducks didn’t really belong. After today’s win in Detroit in the 3rd overtime, will the Ducks be treated like they belong? There has been a lot of talk about Osgood not getting the respect he deserves. That may have been true in many past playoffs, but this season he was near the bottom in save percentage and goals against average. Sure, he won a lot of games, but that was because of the team in front of him, for the most part. The idea that the Ducks aren’t getting enough respect doesn’t even seem to cross the minds of those broadcasting the NHL playoffs nationally. My guess is that this is because of the fact that the Ducks are on the west coast, so they’re still an enigma. Most east coast broadcasters don’t seem to watch the Ducks’ regular season games (in spite of the fact that they’re not always at night on the west coast. They won the Stanley Cup two years ago, but still get very little credit I don’t think beating the Red Wings in game 2 will change that, but perhaps some will start to realize that the Ducks’ knocking the Sharks out wasn’t a fluke and didn’t surprise those of us who saw both teams a lot in April.
I expected this series to be one of the best (if not the best) in round 2 and that’s definitely proven to be the case so far. The first game was decided by one goal in the last minute of the game and the second was decided in the 3rd overtime. If you haven’t been paying attention to this series, you might want to start.
In other great news, NBC did NOT kick the game off the network (as it did for horse racing a couple years ago). The entire game aired on NBC. It’s good that the first 3OT game of the playoffs this year was for a morning game. That would have been a late night if it had been game 3.
The series is tied as the Ducks head home to Anaheim for game 3 on Tuesday. FSN is airing the game in HD, so Ducks’ fans unable to make it to the game will still be able to see it in high quality.
Tags: Chris Osgood, Ducks, fans, FSN, HD, Hockey, Jonas Hiller, NBC, overtime, playoffs, Presidents' Trophy, Red Wings, reporters, Sharks