Around the League – Playoff Edition – wk 4

I love the scrutiny, passion, analysis and most of all the emotion that we experience during the NHL playoffs. The hockey is awesome even though Albertans had to enjoy it all on TV, and now Canuck fans are feeling like Sami Salo in game five, but this postseason is still the most riveting I’m witnessed in years.

The Canadiens’ run, which irks me because I hate the Habs, has been great and I’ve watched every one of their games. There is something about the underdog that makes sports great. Very few, except the diehard Habs fans, thought the Rouge and Bleu could win a series never mind take the defending champs to game seven, yet they did. And with each win their story becomes more intriguing.

Every game at the Bell Centre has had an electric atmosphere that you could feel through the TV screen. (They sold tickets for $7.50 last night and they sold out the Bell Centre, that’s impressive). I might not like Habs fans, but I have the utmost respect for their fan’s passion and that passion makes the games more exciting to watch. Of course the losers who had to cover up their face and loot the downtown core last night aren’t real fans, and hopefully their actions won’t damper an electric atmosphere.

Every Canadian city that has a team go deep in the playoffs generates the same type of passion we’re witnessing in Montreal. In 2004, the Red Mile unified a city that hadn’t seen the playoffs in seven years. In 2006, every Oiler fan under the age of 30 got to experience their first real playoff run, and it was invigorating.

In 2007, the normally subdued Senators fans came alive while watching their team finally live up to their talent. The past two years in Vancouver the fans have become more vocal and the Green Guys became a unique part of the in-game experience. I applaud the original Green Guys for coming up with a unique idea that gave the building extra life throughout the games. The problem is the copy cats.

Only the original guys should don the Green attire.

Hell it’s not just Canadian cities that are enjoying the playoffs. Chicago has come alive the past few years, and the Western Conference Final between the Hawks and Sharks should be outstanding. Even fans in San Jose are starting to believe their team isn’t a bunch of soft, underachieving players. It’s hard not to follow a Sharks’ series, because you do so waiting for them to stumble. Not necessarily because you want them to, but because of their previous letdowns you just can’t help but wait for the other shoe to drop.

And now we are the brink of witnessing something that has only happened twice in the history of the game; a team coming back from a 3-0 series deficit and winning the series. The 1942 Leafs came back to defeat the Wings to win the Cup, and the 1975 Islanders rallied to defeat the Penguins. The Islanders nearly did it again in their next series, rallying from another 3–0 deficit to force a seventh game against the defending Stanley Cup champion Philadelphia Flyers before the Flyers took the decisive seventh game at home and went on to win their second consecutive Stanley Cup.

How can you not watch game seven Friday night from Boston?

ICE WOMEN OF THE WEEK

We’ve said goodbye to the ladies of playoff losers the past few weeks, but today we’ll focus on a winner. The Ice Crew from Chicago, who have helped cheer the Hawks to the 3rd round. You need four wins in a series, and the Hawks have won twice so these four packs are fitting.

And I love action shots that catch guys in our most natural forum; admiring the beauty of women. And it’s even better when another women takes a quick peak as well.

Random thoughts

  • Former NHL tough guy, Warren Rychel, is co-owner and GM of the Windsor Spitfires and he’s seen Taylor Hall up close for three years. He had an honest answer when I asked him if Taylor Hall needs to keep his head up more.

    “I haven’t seen a player over the last three years get hit more than him, harder more than him. He doesn’t get hit a lot because he is shifty and his speed, but sometimes he gets cleaned really hard and it’s amazing he gets up. Nothing seems to bother him.

    “He’s taken some big hits right back to the Ryan Wilson hit three years ago, the Pietrangelo hit last series v. Barrie; lots of guys have really cranked him. He’s in great shape and he keeps going. But he’ll have to keep his head up in the NHL where defenceman are a lot more privy to knowing when a guy has his head down than they do in junior.

    “That’s something he’ll have to watch out for, but he’s already made an adjustment and when he does get cranked I think he won’t do it again.”

    It clearly is a concern, but like Rychel said hopefully if Hall gets his bell rung once, he’ll adapt.

  • Many are wondering if Crosby will get scrutinized the same way Alex Ovechkin did now that the Pens lost to the Canadiens, but he won’t. Crosby’s team has been to back-to-back Stanley Cup finals, so he doesn’t have the same underachieving title to defend like Ovechkin. The fact is great players rarely lead their team to the Cup finals three years in a row. Gretzky did it once in his career. Mario Lemieux, Steve Yzerman, Joe Sakic, Jaromir Jagr, Mark Messier, Nick Lidstrom never did it once. The Pens loss to the Habs doesn’t look good, but Crosby’s track record proves he can win, and to date Ovechkin hasn’t.
  • I wrote in March that Mike Gillis would regret doing nothing to bolster his blueline at the trade deadline, and it was obvious v. the Hawks that the Canucks backend wasn’t deep enough. Gillis should be kicking himself all summer wondering why he thought Andrew Alberts would make them better.
  • I wonder if Darryl Sutter realizes you need more than one forward to win? Watching Mike Cammalleri lead the league with 12 playoff goals must be killing him and Flames’ fans.
  • If Canada gets another hockey team I don’t think Winnipeg is at the top of the list. The only reason they are in the conversation is because they have a rink, but the NHL would rather go to Southern Ontario and Quebec City first. Of course Winnipeg deserves a team, but can they sustain one long-term: Doubtful.
  • If we planned a trip to the draft in LA that included going to the draft Friday night and Saturday morning, two Yankees/Dodgers games and a night out in LA would that interest you? If so, fire me an email, gregor@theteam1260.com.
  • Cool piece of analysis from Warren Rychel. Kudos to Jason for picking that up.

    At this point, I’m thinking that the Oilers (if they haven’t already made up their minds), will make up their minds based on what they get out of the interviews and the visits to the families’ homes and the prospect visits to Edmonton and the other “off-ice” stuff.

    I mean, sure, they’re going to get one more long look at Hall during the Memorial Cup, but I’m thinking they’re down to the short-strokes now. It’ll come down to character and attitude.

  • Hall’s habit of getting crunched does worry me. I mean, look at the injuries the Oilers have sustained over the past few seasons, does not help. Hall will have to learn quickly he can’t leave himself unprotected in the NHL. I feel this is a factor to take in account when looking at him vs Seguin. Obviously only one of many, but something to keep in mind.