“Looks like we need a couple more TV screens in the PUCK HCKY HQ!!”
We are a few days into the tour supporting our brothers in Nonpoint and it’s been incredible so far. Starting the tour around Minnesota, Illinois and North Dakota has not sucked at all, with all the hockey history in these states. It’s been easy to brush up and catch as many games as desired.
There is something I had been meaning to add to the column for a couple weeks now and it’s a piece I read by a friend and a man that has inspired so many. Not only does this story about New Jersey Devil Scott Gomez’s career resonate about the “never give in” attitude he possesses, you don’t even have to play hockey for the story to inspire you in your life. So I am attaching it to uplift your spirits as it did mine in a manor you may not expect.
Let’s drop the puck, shall we?!
The NCAA tourney is off and running and watching college hockey on the main stage is just badass! I kicked off Saturday watching the Boston College-UMD game and it was a banger! The top-seeded Terriers took care of business in Manchester, N.H, on Saturday, earning a dramatic 3-2 win over the University of Minnesota-Duluth in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Division I men’s hockey tournament to advance to their first Frozen Four since 2009. The semifinals and finals will be held at TD Garden on April 9, not their home barn but the Bruins house will be just as fitting for the hometown boys to win the ‘ship!
Getting back to the NHL, I can’t help but cover the Minnesota Wild! Watching them handle the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday and Toronto a couple days before, it is obvious most teams will dread meeting them in the first round. Back on January 27, The Wild were buried in 12th place and 16 points behind the Chicago Blackhawks. This morning, at least for one day, The Wild kicked the Blackhawks into a wild-card spot, leapfrogged the star-studded rival for third-place in the Central Division, and put itself in terrific mathematical position to make the playoffs for a third consecutive season.
With six games left in the regular season, that is quite an achievement, when one considers how down and out this team was before Devan Dubnyk came to the rescue January 14. In the past nine weeks, The Wild is an NHL-best 24-5-1 to become the elite of the NHL. It hasn’t lost by more than a goal since January 19 and hasn’t lost consecutive games since January 19-20 or consecutive games in regulation in 34 starts by Dubnyk (26-6-2). Pretty damn impressive!
The “Fight of the Week” goes to Clayton Stoner of the Anaheim Ducks and Jared Boll of the Columbus Blue Jackets… two scrappy kids who threw some considerable haymakers. Winner goes to Boll, who has a few more fights under his belt and delivered a devastating upper cut to send Stoner to the ice. Well done, boys!
Topics for the Week:
1) Playoff Races are winding down…or are they? In the Eastern Conference, just when it looks like the Sens are going to make a push they go and lose some valuable points, including two to the team that’s right behind them in the standings, which would be those pesky Florida Panthers on Sunday. The ageless wonder himself—that’d be Jaromir Jagr—had two goals and looked like he CAN play until he’s 50. Essentially, it looks like we have three teams battling for the final wild-card spot in the East. Florida (85 points), Ottawa (86 points), and Boston (89 points) all have a shot here. Florida and Boston have each played 76 games, while Ottawa has only played 75. That “game in hand” Ottawa holds may prove to be the determining factor in who does or does not make it. Just above these 3 teams are the Washington Caps and Detroit Red Wings, each with 92 points. While it appears these two teams will make the playoffs, they certainly could find themselves on the outside looking in if they don’t secure more points in their remaining games. Speaking of the Red Wings… can anyone figure out what is going on in goal? Both Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek have taken turns getting schooled lately, seemingly neither one capable of making key saves at key times. Very strange indeed. On an interesting note, the Red Wings play BOTH Ottawa (Tuesday) and Boston (Thursday) in what should be a couple of “playoff style” games that could go a long way in determining these teams playoff fate. Also in an Atlantic division battle this evening (Monday), the Tampa Bay Lightning and Montreal Canadiens play at 7:30pm EST. These are the top two teams in the division so it should be a great physical game. Be sure to tune in.
Over in the Western Conference, nothing is settled yet either!! Believe it or not, the Chicago Black Hawks could wind up being a Wild Card team, depending on how hard the Minnesota Wild and Winnipeg Jets push ‘em. In Chicago, it’s clear that they really, really miss Patrick Kane, who wouldn’t!!, and his offense, so this can still get very interesting for Chicago. Speaking of Chicago…a pretty big NCAA free-agent signing to note: Kyle Baun from Colgate University has signed with the Hawks. Baun (6-2, 205lbs) is a prototype power forward, and happens to be the grandson of Bobby Baun (look it up if you don’t know). Look for Baun to get some game action as the Hawks are bringing him right to Chicago!! OK, as of this morning, the LA Kings are NOT in the Top 8, which is still strange to see, but they are merely one point behind Calgary and just three back of Vancouver, so other than Anaheim, the Pacific division is totally up for grabs. The way the West is playing out its definitely going to come down to the final day of the season before we know who makes the playoffs and the seedings. If you take a realistic look at the conference, beyond Anaheim, Nashville and St. Louis, there are six teams that need to fill only five spots. There is going to be a pretty good team finding themselves going golfing way sooner than they thought! Be sure to tune in tonight, cuz there are three HUGE games!! Vancouver vs St. Louis at 8:00 EST, LA vs Chicago (!!) at 8:30 EST and Calgary vs Dallas also at 8:30 EST. Looks like we need a couple more TV screens in the PUCK HCKY HQ !!
2) NCAA Frozen Four Tourney! Wow…what a great weekend of action. Pretty much every game was super fun to watch! We most certainly had some pretty big upsets, some controversy and a couple of stellar games by a couple goalies. In the Midwest region, did anyone (outside of Nebraska) predict the Mavericks of UNO (University of Nebraska-Omaha) would make the Frozen Four? Well, they did. In beating RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology) 4-0 in the regional final, UNO advances to the Frozen Four for the first time ever. To say that UNO goalie Ryan Massa had a great game is a huge understatement. Massa made 40 saves for the shutout! In the East region, we had a major upset, along with a bit of controversy! Again, who predicted the Providence Friars would advance out of the region? In upsetting both Miami of Ohio first , then annual powerhouse Denver in the regional final, the Friars have done it. Some are questioning the penalty that was assessed to Denver for a “head-shot.” It seemed like a good call, if you saw it what did you think? This is the first trip to the Frozen Four since 1985 for the Friars. So, with these 2 teams, we have one (UNO) with its first trip ever, and the other (Providence) with its first Frozen Four appearance since 1985. These two teams square off on April 9 at 5:00 EST.
While we have relative “newbies” to the Frozen Four on one bracket side, the other side features the polar-opposite in Boston University and North Dakota. This is polar-opposite: Boston U – 22 Frozen four appearances and UND-21 Frozen Four appearances. These are definitely 2 of the most accomplished programs in NCAA history. This sets up to be a very compelling game on many levels, and will take place on April 9 at 8:30 EST. Evan Rodrigues led the way this weekend for BU with a clutch two-goal performance in the regional final against Minnesota-Duluth, finishing the weekend with three goals and an assist for four points. For UND, goalie Zane McIntyre made 19 saves in the West regional final against St. Cloud State to move on to the Frozen Four. This semi-final game is going to be war!! Make sure you watch this game if NCAA hockey is of any interest to you. This could truly be a game for the ages.
Also, the National Championship game is on April 11. Time: TBD
Matt Marini from PUCK HCKY Weekly Top 5 Power Ranking:
1) Anaheim Ducks. What a difference a week makes!! Last week both Freddie Andersen and John Gibson were struggling in goal, then this week both (!!) guys had super solid outings! Freddie led the way with a spectacular win over the New York Islanders, including a second period that was one of the single best individual efforts we’ve seen this season. Yes, it was that good…watch the replay if you don’t believe us. Gibby then followed with a 2-1 win over the NJ Devils on Sunday, just nearly missing a shutout by about four minutes. If these guys continue to play well…look out. Also, in an embarrassment of (defenseman) riches, the Ducks have been able to scratch a different guy each game, and STILL have a solid six NHL-level defensive corp each game. Keep in mind these are guys that would ALL play on any other team in the league. CRAZY!!
2) New York Rangers. The only reason they dropped is due to the return of King Henrik not being very good! While I’m sure he just needs a bit of time to get back to form, the fact that he struggled coupled with the Anaheim goalies finding their game(s) resulted in the drop. This team is FAST!!!!!
3) Nashville Predators. Not sure why, but I have a feeling the Preds are gonna make a serious run this year. They have depth all over at every position on the ice. Take a glance at the team scoring when you get a chance…you will find eight guys with 15 or more goals. I cant remember a Nashville team with this kind of offensive capability…ever. Also Pekka Rinne.
4) Montreal Canadiens. These guys just keep getting points. Hmmmm I wonder if it has anything to do with the fact they’ve only given up 169 goals in 76 games!!!! Are you kidding? That’s just 2.22 goals a game. Thanks Carey Price! This team also has solid depth all over the ice… BUT they do have trouble scoring on occasion so that could be an issue in the playoffs. Should be a fun spring in Montreal. Also Montreal Smoked Meat; look it up…trust me!
5) TIE!!! Tampa Bay Lightning and St. Louis Blues. These two teams are soooo close its crazy. While I give a slight edge to Tampa Bay offensively, I have to give the nod to the Blues on the defensive side. The goaltending is a total toss-up, with each teams’ tenders able to rise up and win a series. This honestly could be a Stanley Cup Final match-up between these teams…which would be pretty good. Each team still has the chance of finishing first in their respective divisions. St. Louis is just 3 points behind Nashville AND they have two games in hand on the Preds, and the Lightning are only 3 points behind Montreal with a huge match-up tonight between TB and Montreal.
OK, that’s it for this week!! Stay tuned next week when we will be debuting the 36 Crazyfists x PUCK HCKY apparel collection. I’ve seen the stuff so far and it RULES !!! If you are a 36CF fan, you will love this stuff so watch out!!! Go to www.36crazyfists.net and check the tour dates. Come see me at the shows and let’s talk hockey. I’ve been really loving talking about the greatest game on earth at the gigs! See you next week and as always
Keep your head up,
Brock & Matt
Snipe City is a weekly hockey column by 36 Crazyfists vocalist Brock Lindow and PUCKHCKY founder Matt Marini.