Caps Choked Talk Will now Commence

I’m no longer a betting man, but if I were I know I would have put money on the Capitals winning Game 7 against the Canadiens in D.C. I couldn’t have been more wrong. With a 2-1 win in Game 7, the Habs became the first 8th seeded team to come back from down 3-1 in a seven game series to beat the top seeded team. Yes, the Caps blew a 3-1 series lead becoming the third Presidents’ Trophy winning team to lose in the first-round of the Stanley Cup playoffs since ’06. Even more befuddling is that they were the best home team in the regular season yet they lost three home games to the Canadiens. Go figure. Without a doubt, all the “Caps choked” and “Alex Ovechkin is not a winner” talk will begin. I definitely disagree with the latter statement.

The reality with this series is that Jaroslav Halak got hot and took over for Montreal. Halak stopped 131 of 134 shots he faced over the last three games. I don’t know which numbers is more ridiculous: the Caps taking 134 shots in three games or Halak stopping all but three of them. Even though the Caps had three chances to close out the series, I put the Game 1 loss partially on coach Bruce Boudreau for starting Jose Theodore in goal instead of Semyon Varlamov who became their man the rest of the series. At the same time, the Habs gave the Caps a break starting Carey Price in net for Game 4.

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Marian Hossa Avoids Suspension for Hit

It was a wild finish in Game 5 of the Blackhawks/Predators series on Saturday. Down 4-3 in the final few minutes, Chicago pulled its goalie but lost its man advantage when Marian Hossa was sent to the box for pushing Dan Hamhuis into the boards. The play was reminiscent of Alex Ovechkin’s push of Brian Campbell that LBS writer Erin Redmond termed dirty. I didn’t think there was anything wrong with Ovechkin’s hit and the result of Campbell’s play confirms my initial belief — Hossa was called for a five minute major for boarding.

NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell decided no suspension was necessary for Hossa despite giving Alex Ovechkin a two-game suspension based on the “repeat offender” concept. Going back to the crazy finish in Chicago, Hossa’s penalty took away the Blackhawks’ man advantage when they pulled their goalie. Despite playing five-on-five hockey, Patrick Kane put in a rebound to tie the game at 4 with 13.6 seconds left. Just over four minutes into overtime, Hossa came out of the penalty box and poked a deflected puck into the net for the game-winner making it 3-2 Chicago in the series. Here’s the infamous video of Marian Hossa’s hit on Dan Hamhuis to see for yourself:

Hawks’ Hossa avoids NHL Suspension [AP/Sporting News]

NHL Playoff Overtimes Should be Capped, Shootout Added

Thursday night, I had the pleasure of watching NHL playoff hockey featuring the Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators. The Pens/Sens game was fun and all, but it was a disappointment for me; I was expecting to see the Sharks and Avalanche game. Why was the problem? Oh yeah, the Pittsburgh game went into triple overtime. Granted, it wasn’t the longest overtime in the history of the Stanley Cup playoffs, but still triple O.T. is a bit much.

I don’t really understand why we can’t see a shootout in playoff hockey. They are always exciting, fast-paced, and they get the crowd going. In an instant it can be all over for a team and yeah that part sucks, but that can happen during the overtime period too. These numerous overtimes are resulting in players becoming worn out. That to me leads to boring hockey, and for what purpose?  Why do we change the rules once we enter playoff play?

I do understand that the shootout sort of resembles the whole “one and done” deal of the field goal to win a game in O.T. in NFL games, but before you can get to a shootout during the regular season in the NHL, you have to play a period of overtime first. That seems pretty fair to me. If neither team can score during the extra 20 minutes they are allowed, then let them take it to a shootout. No one knows what the outcome of a shootout will be. The Penguins could have advanced to the conference semis had a shootout been an option, or the hands of fate could have still let the Sens win. This year, the Stanley Cup can really go to anyone. Either way, I think this whole unlimited overtime stuff has to go.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Sharks’ Dan Boyle Scores Goal on Own Team in Overtime

Usually I’m taking up for the NHL and hoping their popularity grows. Tonight, I’m relieved hockey’s not as big in the U.S. as some other sports. Had hockey been more popular nationwide, Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle might have befallen the same fate as Andres Escobar. Dan Boyle was trying to clear a puck about a minute into overtime of Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinal matchup between the Sharks and Avalanche. Unfortunately Boyle cleared the puck straight into his own net, past goalie Evgeni Nabokov. Here’s the video of Dan Boyle’s goal scored on his own net against the Avalanche. Just skip ahead about a minute.

That play is a microcosm of San Jose’s playoff struggles. Despite putting together strong regular seasons, the Sharks have tended to disappoint in the playoffs the last five seasons. Back in ’03-’04 the Sharks actually made the Western Conference Finals before losing to the Flames. The following three years they lost in the Western Conference Semis. Last year marked the ultimate disappointment when the Sharks won the Presidents’ Trophy but lost in the first round to the Ducks. They’re the top seed in the conference for the second straight year and in danger of losing in the first round once again thanks to this blunder. Making matters worse is the Sharks absolutely dominated this game but couldn’t put it away. I’m just happy hockey isn’t more popular otherwise Boyle would be completely ostracized.

First Day Upsets Prove the Stanley Cup Is Truly Up for Grabs

On Wednesday night the NHL playoffs got underway (I hope you’ve got your playoff beard started). It’s always exciting to see playoff hockey action and it’s even more exciting when the upsets start and the underdogs begin winning games. Ah yes, the toothless grins were shining bright last night, ladies and gentlemen, and don’t expect that to stop anytime soon.

Let’s start with the biggest upset of the evening — the eighth seeded Colorado Avalanche knocking off the top-seeded San Jose Sharks. It appeared that these two teams were heading for overtime when a shot by Chris Stewart of Colorado bounced off the skates of Sharks captain Rob Blake and into the goal to give the the Avalanche a 2-1 victory. Next, the reigning champs and Eastern Conference’s four seed, the Pittsburgh Penguins, were looking to prove that they could repeat as champs, starting off by beating the five seed Ottawa Senators. Well, it didn’t quite happen that way as the Penguins feel to the Sens 5-4.

I don’t mean to recap the nights events for you — if you want to know all the scores knock yourself out. My point is that the Avalanche and Senators were not favored to go very far in this postseason but all it takes is one upset to build momentum.  There are a lot of great teams in the playoffs this year and as of right now, it’s hard to say who will be hoisting that cup in a few weeks. If pressed for a prediction, I’ll go with the Blackhawks not just because I’m from Chicago, but because they were the underdogs last year and I don’t think they will let it get away again this year. This is a young team that’s hungry to bring the cup back to Chicago.

Stanley Cup Playoffs Underway Tonight

Yes, there are too many teams and too many games in the NHL and NBA Playoffs.  These NHL playoffs aren’t nearly as exciting as the NFL’s one-and-done system, nor MLB’s four teams from each league setup.  But maybe we don’t appreciate hockey as much as the other major sports in America.  Heck, I know some genuine sports fans who can’t name half the teams that made the postseason.  Whatever the case, it can’t hurt to try and get involved.  Growing a playoff beard is a great way to start getting in the spirit of things.  Another thing to keep in mind is that from a player’s standpoint, these games matter a whole heck of a lot more than the 82 games before them did.  That means the plays get more spectacular and, most importantly, the hits get harder.  So let’s do the best we can to get in the playoff hockey spirit.  After all, most of us don’t want to see another lockout. Here are some of the highlights from the regular season to get you warmed up for the postseason:

Video Source: YouTube

Recommended Playoff Beard Etiquette

The NHL playoffs begin Wednesday and the NBA playoffs start a few days after that. What does that mean? It’s time to start thinking about playoff beards! You know those hairy, unshaven neck beards that develop this time of year in hopes that your team will make it all the way? So gentlemen (and hormonally unbalanced females) let’s talk about what to do with your face fuzz.

1. Get started now. The playoffs will be here before you know it and if your team has made it, it’s time to start that beard. This is your chance as a fan to share something in common with your favorite players; you will both be sporting a grizzly mess on your face as a sign of your dedication to winning.

2. Throw away your razors. Don’t let that silver temptress get to you. You need to stick to your guns on this one, mister. As itchy and unattractive as your face and neck get, don’t you dare shave that thing. As much as your wife/girlfriend, co-workers and others close to you complain about how you are beginning to resemble a mountain man, you must sport that thing with pride.

3. Buy a beard guard. Part of the joy of sporting the playoff beard is the way that it gets to run wild on your face. Don’t you dare wash your manly mane. In doing so, you may just wash away the magic that has nestled itself inside of your facial hair. So go out and invest in a beard guard because I’m not telling you not to shower, but how badly would you feel if you ruined your team’ss chances of advancing in the postseason because your chin felt a little gross?

So that’s it fellas.  Fans and players unite in growing those lovely, grizzly, itchy playoff beards that we all love so much. And feel free to send me a picture of your progress. Larry has even tracked his playoff beard progress in the past, why not join the tradition?

The great unwashed [Canada.com]