“Its the most wonderful time of the year”….sorry to kick this off with some Andy Williams Xmas song lyrics, but for hockey fans THIS IS the most friggin’ awesome time of the year!!!
The tour stop in Los Angeles @ House of Blues on Sunset always brings me back to the Flyers – Penquins series a few years back. There was a journalist scheduled to interview me right at the start of the 3rd and the game was tied 2-2. I could hear the guy behind me asking if anyone knew where to find Brock. I cringed in my seat and hoped he wouldn’t see me or be directed to where I was watching the game. I then hear my TM at the time Dooger intervene with his East coast attitude, “what can I help you with?” The journalist explains he has a scheduled interview with Brock and it was to begin now. Dooger, God love him, immediately informs the man that this is playoff hockey and nothing is more important to Brock and the boys for the next 45 minutes or so, so go ahead and take a seat over there!
The silence from the guy who really couldn’t understand the importance of a game was deafening, as we caught eyes, I gave him a smirk and I stayed put to watch my boys go on to close out the series. It’s a memory that always makes me smile and to this day I thank Doogs whenever I see him. Well, last night I got to the hotel for my day off in Houston , Texas just in time to catch the Caps -Isles game kick off. My overall impression of the game was that the Islanders are no joke! But to further my assessment is to give a bit of a tongue lashing to one of the league’s most deadly players, Alex Ovechkin. He plays one way hockey, and it’s gotta deflate his team when all he does is circle around in the neutral until the puck comes his way, he rarely gets back on D and just looks lazy out there. Sorry Caps fans your guy should be better than that.
I was channeling back and forth through the other games and it was great to see Patty Kane back in the line up for the Blackhawks. Huge win in OT for those boys!
The Vancouver series with Calgary makes me happy! Why you ask? I think it’s great for the game to have this many Canadian NHL teams in the playoffs number 1. Number 2: my boy Stokesy from the killer band All Hail The Yeti, is just pumped for his ‘Nucks to be rollin into the playoffs and I root for Stokes every time! Calgary looks good and they ended up taking game one but this series will go deep as both teams are pretty even in my opinion.
I’m looking forward to the start of the Rangers – Pens series today. My detest for both teams has never been hidden and my boys that love these teams individually are just loving that my Flyers are on the golf course but whatever I still can’t wait to watch one of these teams take a first round exit!
My fight of the week segments will likely be hard to find now as the playoffs tighten & the fisticuffs lessen. My partner Matt has the stat game locked down so it’s been really fun collaborating with him and the Merch stuff that’s coming is pretty damn slick!
Let’s drop the puck on this mutha…..
“Its the most wonderful time of the year”….sorry to kick this off with some Andy Williams Xmas song lyrics, but for hockey fans THIS IS the most friggin’ awesome time of the year!!! Unless of course your team did not qualify for the two-month playoff battle that will eventually lead to the Stanley Cup winner in June. The parity among the 16 teams that have qualified is unmatched in hockey history, which should lead to some thrilling games and unpredictable series outcomes.
1) Let’s cover the NCAA Frozen Four Tourney. OK…for those that didn’t watch the National Championship game live, see the highlights or hear through the grapevine about it, there was a CRAZY turn of events that took place. And I do mean CRAZY. Let me quickly set the stage for you. Boston University was beating the Friars of Providence 3-2 with about 9 minutes left in the game. On what appeared to be nothing more than an ordinary flip-in of the puck into the BU zone, Terriers goalie (and rumored HOT NHL prospect) Matt O’Connor went to catch the high-lofted disc…..well this is where it all goes wrong!! Watch the video!
You gotta feel for O’Connor for sure, but how on earth did that happen? Could he have lost the puck in the lights? Perhaps he just took his eye off the puck for a split-second? Whatever the reason for the gaffe, obviously momentum instantly turned in the Friars direction and of course within a few minutes Brandon Tanev scored the game and Championship winning goal. So there you have it…..the NCAA National Championship game decided on a crazy, crazy play. Not to call out the level of high-quality writing here at Snipe City or anything…..but we did mention at the start of the NCAA Tourney to make sure and tune in because SOMETHING crazy always happens. I think we were right!!!
2) OK on to the NHL playoffs!!! This playoff season promises to be an amazing run to crown a champion in June. The match-ups from top to bottom in both conferences are stellar and will lead to some incredible games. Lets take a quick look at each series, as well as give an in site as to which teams the “experts” have picked to advance out of the first round. PUCK HCKY has already submitted our choices to advance, as well as which team we think will win the Stanley Cup. Where are these picks? Glad you asked…we actually have a league set up at NHL.COM. To join our league and make your own playoff picks go to: NHL.COM/bracket, then click LEAGUES, enter PUCK HCKY in the search box, click on it, join and make those picks!!! We will be giving away some cool stuff for the top point-getters!!
Western Conference Match-Ups:
Anaheim Ducks vs Winnipeg Jets- What a dynamite series this is going to be! We cant wait to watch these two teams battle it out. Both are big & tough and feature some star talent throughout the line-ups. The goaltending decision for Anaheim has been made an easy one as John Gibson injured his hand in practice this week, thus giving the starting nod for game 1 to Freddie Andersen. Pretty sure it was going to be Andersen anyway, but now its his net to defend for sure. In the Jets net it will be Ondrej Pavelec to start game 1, with Mike Hutchinson backing him up.
Special Teams: Winnipeg
Experts Pick: 8 of 10 picked Anaheim
St. Louis Blues vs Minnesota Wild- This will prove to be a good series too. We feel this series is going to be very close with (of course) goaltending playing a major factor. Can Devon Dubnyk continue his amazing run as the starting goalie for the Wild after being claimed off the waiver wire earlier this season? Who will the Blues start in goal game 1? Elliot or Allen? Very interesting indeed. In terms of Special Teams, the match-up between the St. Louis powerplay and the Wilds’ top-ranked penalty kill could have a very large factor in the outcome of the series. If the Wild can continue to have a spectacular PK, they very well could mount an upset here. Both teams have good depth on offense & defense, but Minnesota needs to keep a close watch on Vlad Tarasenko who has victimized many goalies this season to the tune of 37 goals.
Offense: St. Louis (slight)
Defense: St. Louis (even more slight)
Special Teams: Even
Experts Pick: 6 of 10 picked St. Louis
Nashville Predators vs Chicago Black Hawks- STOP THE PRESSES!!! Prior to today, this series was tilting in favor of the Preds…but today breaking news has come to PUCK HCKY that said Patrick Kane has been cleared for contact and is expected to play in game 1. This is HUGE news for the Hawks, and suddenly the tilt has moved back towards Chicago. As everyone knows, Kane steps his game up BIGTIME in the playoffs, so we expect the same phenomenon to occur this series…and playoff season. Both teams have amazing depth at all positions, with the Preds being a bit scrappier, more “workman-like” team while the Hawks boast a very high-end array of talent that play a bit more of a puck-control game. Don’t be fooled though, the Hawks have plenty of toughness and will not be pushed around nor intimidated by the Predators.
Special Teams: Chicago
Experts Pick: 9 out of 10 (!!!) picked Chicago
Vancouver Canucks vs Calgary Flames- Now this is awesome! Two Western Canadian teams playing each other in the first-round!! How cool is that? What a great testament to the play of both of these teams, as they have each suffered MAJOR injury setbacks, but were able to persevere and make the playoffs. Who here (raise your hand) thought the Flames had a chance in Hell of making the playoffs after Captain Mark Giordano went down for the season? We can be honest…not us. Ditto when Miller went down for Vancouver. This series is just too tough to call, with the only advantage we see for either team being the tremendous work ethic of the Flames! That could be the difference maker here…although the Canucks do sport the second-best penalty kill in the NHL and home-ice advantage. The fact that these teams are so evenly matched sets up to be a very hard-fought series so don’t overlook it when making viewing choices.
Goaltending: Even..for the time being.
Special Teams: Vancouver
Experts Pick: DEAD EVEN! 5 picked VAN, 5 picked CGY Go figure!
Eastern Conference Match-Ups:
New York Rangers vs Pittsburgh Penguins- OK…lets be real here. The Rangers are an amazing team with no real weaknesses. They played a long stretch minus starting goalie Henrik Lundqvist and didn’t skip a beat…not even a tiny one. The Pens on the other kind of cruised into the playoffs, and have a lot of injured players right now. On paper it looks like a short playoff for the Pens, but any team with Crosby & Malkin has at least a chance right? OK, maybe you don’t agree, and with the lineup the Rangers will ice, we don’t blame you. The Rangers have the deepest blue-line in the league, an all-world goalie in Lundqvist and offensive depth that features 42-goal scorer Rick Nash. Good luck with all that Pittsburgh. These teams have a history of playing interesting games, so this will not be quite as easy for the Rangers as everyone seems to think it will be.
Special Teams:Pittsburgh (slight)
Experts Pick: 9 out of 10 picked NYR
Montreal Canadiens vs Ottawa Senators- Oh Boy !!! This is gonna be a HOT series. As we said before, if the Sens get in the playoffs NO ONE will want to face them in the first round….this includes the Habs. Montreal does indeed have Vezina candidate Carey Price in goal, and baby are they gonna need him! The Sens have been playing “playoff” style hockey for the last 20 games of the regular season, and we all know how well the Hamburglar (Andrew Hammond) has played during that stretch. Can he keep it up in the playoffs? Big question. With a final week of the season injury to Max Pacioretty (leading goal & point getter) the Habs hope he will be able to play in game 1. Without Max the Habs may struggle offensively at times, so I’m sure every finger in Quebec is crossed today! Ottawa is going to trot out the right-handed clones on forward, led by crazy-hot rookie Mark Stone so Price needs to be on his game. This series has the makings of what legends are made of. Cant wait to watch this. Also: Canadian rivals.
Defense: Montreal (slight)
Special Teams: Even
Experts Pick: 6 out of 10 picked Montreal
Tampa Bay Lightning vs Detroit Red Wings- Whew..this series is either gonna be really short, or really long. It truly depends on which Red Wings team shows up. As we all know, the talk in Hockeytown has been centered around the great starting goalie controversy (what else is new?), is it Howard or Mrazek? Well for game 1 at least its Petr Mrazek. The Bolts can score a ton of goals, so look out! Tampa may be short 1 or 2 regular defensemen to start the series (Garrison & Sustr) but could have them both back at some point. For the Wings to have any chance in this series, the powerplay needs to be really good, and a more consistent penalty kill effort will be needed. Putting Stamkos on the PP is not really the best idea…in fact it may be the worst. So, if the Wings get some goaltending long series, if not…short series. Simple.
Offense: Tampa Bay
Defense: Tampa Bay (slight)
Goaltending: Tampa Bay
Special Teams: Detroit
Experts Pick: 10 out of 10 (you read that right) picked Tampa Bay
Washington Capitals vs New York Islanders- Strap on those helmets guys!! Oh man is this gonna be a hard-fought, physical series! In fact this may be the most physical of ALL the first-round series. Both teams play “heavy” & both teams are fast. The Caps (under Trotz) have transformed into a very tough team to play against, while the Isle sport the single most physical line in the league (Cizikas, Martin, Clutterbuck) that loves to hit. In goal, Braden Holtby of Washington is on a roll….like bigtime. He is playing as well as we’ve ever seen, so Halak is going to need to be spectacular in the Isles net if they stand a chance of winning the series. There is no shortage of offensive superstar talent in this series, so don’t be surprised if these games range from low-scoring and tight defense, to high-scoring and free-wheeling offense. Could go either way.
Experts Pick: 7 out of 10 picked Washington
So there you have it!! Each series broken down in quick fashion, with the “experts” picks.
Go join our league now and submit your picks! www.NHL.com/bracket (use puck hcky for the league)
Have fun watching the action, and be sure to look out for our news announcement introducing our PUCK HCKY x 36 Crazyfist “Loud as Puck” merchandise collaboration next week.
So that’s it for this week friends, it’s the best time of the year no doubt!!!! Have fun watching and talkin shit with your friends, there is nothing better 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.