Category Archives: Stanley Cup Playoffs

2015 Stanley Cup Final Preview

Welcome Sports Fans!! It’s time for my annual Stanley Cup Final Preview.

It’s original six powerhouse Blackhawks – MY BOYS – versus that little yappy terrier you can’t stand, but can’t help but love Tampa Bay Lightning, in what should be a cracking showdown in the battle for Lord Stanley’s Cup.

How They Got Here

My Blackhawks have had an up and down journey to the Final. Finishing third in the Central division, they went on to face Nashville in the first round, defeating them in six games without home ice advantage. They swept Minnesota in the second round, before meeting Anaheim Ducks (basically not a real team) in the third round, eventually beating them in seven games and A LOT of overtime. Seriously, my heart.

The Tampa Bay Lightning finished second in the Atlantic Division meeting Detroit in the first round and beating them in seven. Props for that, I still have an irrational fear of that team. The second round was another tough battle for the Lightening, though they went on to eliminate Montreal in six games, sending them to a Conference Final against King Lundqvist and his New York Rangers who would have home Ice advantage. Against the odds, Tampa Bay took care of NYR at The Garden in Game 7, sending them to a Finals match up that totally ruined my Bracket and made my mate Maree all sad, which made me sad. Thanks, Rangers.

Who To Watch For

My boy, Duncan Keith has shown some type of crazy ass superhuman strength and endurance, averaging over 31 minutes of ice time per-game. A lot of which have been racked up after Michael Rozsvial’s horrific injury in game four against The Wild. And, Keithy has made amazing use of his time, racking up 18 points throughout the 17 games the Blackhawks have played this post season, sparking talk of Duncan Keith’s name on The Conn Smyth Trophy should the Hawks take win the Final. The First D-Man since 2007.

For the Lightning, Captain Steven Stamkos is touted as one of the best goal scorers of his generation, winning the Rocket Richard Trophy, for the League’s top goal scorer twice. Already, he has 7 goals and 10 assists in the Lightning’s finals run, and he is only getting better as the games go on. Keep an eye out for the Captain playing from the second line and will be pivotal if the Lightning want to hoist the Cup.

The Triplets. Hands up if you are sick of hearing this term to describe three guys that are obviously not related *raises hand*. Ugh. It’s annoying. That said, the Blackhawks will need to find a way to shut down the line of Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat, if they have any chance of taking the series. Their moniker may be fucking irritating, but they are bloody good players.

The Goalies. This is a problem. Both Corey Crawford of the Blackhawks and Ben Bishop of the Lightening are great Goal Tenders. But, when the Net Minders have a bad day, it tends to be a meltdown of epic proportions that sees them pulled from the game. There is no in between for these blokes.

Toews and Kane, Sharp, Hossa and Seabrook. Enough said. Dynasty right there. I’m expecting Brandon Saad to continue his wonderful form along with other fringe players like Vermette, Shaw and Teravainen.

So, Who Ya Got?

Have you even read this?? It’s so one sided. I obviously have the Blackhawks winning the Cup. But I’m not expecting the wins to come easily.

Chicago in seven.

2014 Stanley Cup Final preview

As far as I’m concerned we have already seen the two best teams in the NHL play in this year’s post season, so everything else from here on out is pretty much just a formality. The Blackhawks and Kings did not disappoint, totally epic series. In related news, fuck you LA Kings.

Unfortunately, despite my firm belief that all teams other than original six teams don’t actually exist, the final series for Lord Stanley’s cup will see the Western Conference Champion Los Angeles Kings take on the Eastern Conference Champion New York Rangers in what is bound to be a yawn fest of goalie v goalie.

How they got here

The LA Kings have had a finals run for the ages. No other team has ever played three game 7s to make it through to the final, all of which were road wins, the last of which came against my 2013 Stanley Cup Champion Blackhawks. The two prior series saw the Kings put away both San Jose and Anaheim in what were tough and physically demanding rounds against teams that were 5th and 2nd overall in the NHL at the end of the regular season.

The NY Rangers in comparison to the LA Kings have had a somewhat cruisy run to the final. The series versus the Flyers was as rough as everyone expected, the Pens suck, and Montreal seemed to just fall apart after their inspired win over the Bruins in the second round.

Who to watch for

For me, I expected Marian Gaborik of the LA Kings to have much more of an impact against the Blackhawks, but found he was surprisingly quiet. I doubt we will see the same thing this series when he comes up against his former team who traded him to Columbus before he wound up with the kings, expect him to start racking up the goals early if only to rub it in the faces of his past teammates.

Also expect Conn Smyth favourite D-Man Drew Doughty and (hot) Center Anze Kopitar to continue being as dangerous as they have been pervious rounds.

Jonathan Quick is tricky, when he is good, he is very very good. But when he has a meltdown, it can be spectacular. If the Rangers manage to rattle his cage enough for a meltdown, they could get away with a couple of wins this series. Quick rarely has difficulties two games in a row though so I doubt he will be the deciding factor.

For NY, Martin St. Louis will remain stoic as he plays for the Cup with his recently passed Mother on his mind. St.Louis, who was acquired by the Rangers this year has been brilliant since the loss of his mother, and his teammates have rallied around him and shown what a close team they are throughout. I expect this will continue to have some impact during the final series as the Rangers know what we know – they are the underdog.

Rick Nash seems to have found form as the post season progresses, NY will need him to be physical and accurate if they are to stand a chance against the Kings.

King Lundqvist. Need I say more. The Rangers will only stand a chance if he is nothing short of a brick wall.

So who ya got?

It is no secret that the Western Conference is a much deeper Conference and that the Kings had a much tougher task to make it to the finals. Their physically demanding run to the finals will likely show, and I expect them to drop a game early.

The times the Kings looked most vulnerable against the Blackhawks were when the Hawks forced the play to be speedy. If the Rangers, who are a very fast team, can keep the game fast and physical, it would definitely be an advantage to them.

Nonetheless, I have the LA Kings in 6.

Stanley Cup final preview – Chicago Blackhawks v Boston Bruins

Stanley Cup finals are a pretty special sporting event on their own. Add two ‘Original Six’ teams who’ve both won the Stanley Cup in the last three years. Mix in the fact that they’ve not met in the playoffs since 1979 and you know this series is going to be bigger than Brad Marchand’s nose.

Get excited.

How they measure up……

The Chicago Blackhawks are the President’s Cup winners for being the best team in the NHL and the number 1 seeded team in the Western Conference. The Boston Bruins come in as the number 4 seeded team in the East.

The Blackhawks beat out the Philadelphia Flyers to win the Lord Stanley’s Cup in 2010, with the Bruins taking the title off their hands against the Vancouver Canucks the following year, in 2011.

The Bruins, fresh off a clean sweep of the number 1 seed in the East, the Pittsburgh Penguins will face off against the Blackhawks still reeling in the momentum of their double overtime series win over defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Los Angeles Kings.

Both the Blackhawks and the Bruins have played one seven game series in these playoffs. Chicago against Detroit in the second round, and Boston against Toronto in the first. Both teams were dominant in their other series.

The teams did not play each other during the 2012 – 2013 truncated season due to the lockout.

Forwards

Bryan Bickell has been the wildcard player the Blackhawks needed in their post season. Not simply for the fact that the guy can find the back of the net, but also due to his physicality. Being a big lad, he is able to get up close to the net, and hold his position.

Patrick Kane found form at the right time, scoring a game and series winning hat trick in Game 5 against the LA Kings, becoming the first player to reach that level of awesomeness since Wayne Gretzky in 1993. With his speed and puck handling ability, if his hot streak continues he will be a danger to Boston this series.

Marian Hossa has been consistently outstanding along with Blackhawks top goal scorer Patrick Sharp whilst Michael Frolik and Marcus Kruger have been fantastic fucking amazing on the penalty kill. Brandon Bollig has been added for Game 1 and will bring the brute to the fourth line.

The Bruins have two of the league’s top scorers in linemates, David Krejci and Nathan Horton with 21 points and 17 points respectively.

Patrice Bergaron is the epitome of a clutch player, and one of the best defensive forwards getting around. Not to mention his linemate Brad Marchand, the little guy who quite literally packs a big punch. Marchand frustrated the hell out of Sidney Crosby in the previous series, making him ineffective. Look for Johnny Toews to have his back checked more times this series than Amanda Bynes has been checked for STDs in the last month.

D-Men

Both Chicago and Boston have strong defence, and both have defenders that contribute offensively as well.

For Chicago, Duncan Keith has been invaluable, especially since being reunited with his bash brother Brent Seabrook in Game 5 of the Detroit series. Both are in great form these playoffs, and neither mind scoring goals.

Niklas Hjarlmasson in my opinion is totally underrated. He was fantastic last series, and isn’t afraid to put his body on the line to defend the net. Line mate Johnny Oduya is great in defence and great at getting up close to the net setting up scoring opportunities. These two legends have been killing penalties like bosses.

For Boston, Zdeno Chara was brilliant against Pittsburgh, and is arguably one of the best D-Men in the NHL. He was instrumental in the shut down of Evgeni Malkin in the Eastern Conference Final where the Penguins were held to just 2 goals.

For me though, he is the only stand out. His line mate Dennis Seidenberg is consistently good along with other defencemen Johnny Boychuck and Adam McQuaid.

Goaltenders

Corey Crawford for the Blackhawks has been wonderful for the Blackhawks. Crawford hasn’t won any games for the Hawks, but he hasn’t really been tested either. The Crow has a save percentage these playoffs of .935%.

Tukka Rask for the Bruins was phenomenal in their series against Pittsburgh, where the Pens were shut out in 2 of the 4 games. Rask stopped 134 of 136 shots on goal in the series and has a save percentage these playoffs of .934%.

Rask has faced 53 more shots these playoffs than Crawford.

So who ya got?

Due to the lockout, there were no crossover games for these teams at all, which of course means there is no basis for comparing these teams outside of statistics. In fact, the last time these teams met was in 2011. On paper, they appear to be fairly evenly matched, although Chicago have a slight defensive edge.

The Boston Bruins are a far more physical team than the Chicago Blackhawks and will use their size and strength in an attempt to neutralize the Hawks. I see them going WWE on Toews and Kane much the same way as the Detroit Redwings did in the second round. The Blackhawks figured out how to handle the Redwings then, and I’m confident they will do the same with Boston.

For the Blackhawks, the fact Patrick Kane seems to have found playoff form and is dangerous almost every time he has the puck in the offensive zone coupled with the fact that they have the home ice advantage and are virtually unbeatable in the Madhouse make them my favourite to win the Cup.

If Toews can keep his cool this finals series, and their defence holds, Blackhawks will win it in 6.

Game 1 is Wednesday at the United Center in Chicago 8pm ET (Thursday 10am AEST)

Susannah Collins’ Freudian slip gets her sacked.

Now this is just sad.

CSN Chicago Correspondent, Susannah Collins has been sacked after one of the best live blunders ever. While reporting on the Blackhawks’ win against the Minnesota Wild in the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs, an obviously excited Susannah remarked that the Blackhawks had enjoyed a “tremendous amount of sex”. She had meant to say success, not sex.

Whilst her initial observation may in fact be correct (lucky buggers), the word sex is apparently not television friendly, and poor Susannah was sacked as a result of the Freudian slip. Frankly, I thought it was awesome, she handled it well and the fun police just need to relax.

Follow me on Instagram and Twitter @jaimelouisegray

I like my hockey rough, but that was ridiculous!

236.

That is the number of combined penalty minutes earned by the Ottawa Senators and the Montreal Canadiens in game 3 of the first round of The Stanley Cup playoffs. 236. That shit cray.

The third period of Sunday night’s game was so violent, I questioned how it was allowed to continue. There was a full line brawl and players punching on at every opportunity.

Of course, the center ice war today stems from the controversial hit on Canadien Lars Eller in game 1. Eric Gryba who laid the hit on Eller was subsequently suspended for 2 games, but the escalation of bad blood today shows that the incident has not been forgotten. Hold on to your hats people. This series is wild.

The penalty minutes in the third quarter went like this…..

Ryan White (MTL) 17 minutes, P.K Subban (MTL) 17 minutes, Colby Armstrong (MTL) 15 minutes, Jared Cowen (OTT) 15 minutes, Matt Kassian (OTT) 15 minutes, Francis Bouillon (MTL) 15 minutes, Chris Neil (OTT) 15 minutes, Travis Moen (MTL) 15 minutes, Chris Phillips (OTT) 15 minutes, Zack Smith (OTT) 15 minutes,  Jarred Tinordi (MTL) 15 minutes, Cory Conacher (OTT) 9 minutes, Rene Bourque (MTL) 8 minutes, Brendan Gallagher (MTL) 5 minutes, Kyle Turris (OTT) 5 minutes,  Brandon Prust (MTL) 4 minutes, Tomas Plekanec (MTL) 2 minutes, Sergei Gonchar (OTT) 2 minutes, Jean-Gabriel Pageau (OTT) 2 minutes.

Yeah. That happened.

Follow me on Instagram and Twitter @jaimelouisegray

Have you met the Minnesota Wild’s gun Goaltender?

So, I discovered something this morning, and I have a feeling I am very (very) slow on this. Still, I think it is worth mentioning since it is likely to be THE best story to come out of the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs.

Minnesota Wild v Chicago Blackhawks. Game 1. The Minnesota Wild lose regular starting goaltender Niklas Backstrom to injury…..during warm-up. Bring on back up goaltender, Josh Harding, (who had only played in 5 games this season) just minutes before the opening game of the playoffs.

The Blackhawks admitted they knew very little about Josh Harding. When asked if the Blackhawks had spent much time before the series examining Harding, Patrick Kane said “No”.

Stopping a remarkable 35 shots during the game, Blackhawks Captain Jonathan Toews commented post match that Harding’s effort was “nothing short of amazing”.

The Blackhawks came away with the win 2-1 in overtime. But without the exceptional goaltending of Josh Harding, the score line could have been much greater.

The most impressive part of this story, is that Josh Harding suffers from Multiple Sclerosis (MS), an auto-immune disease which affects the central nervous system. Symptoms include muscle weakness, spasm, fatigue and cognitive impairment. Harding publicly announced his condition during the lockout to avoid distracting saying:

It would make me happy to overcome this……..to really succeed with it. I don’t want people treating me different.

Phenomenal.

The only thing that bothers me about this is Harding’s failure to acknowledge his disease post-match. On one hand I understand that he didn’t want the whole sympathy thing to overshadow his brilliant performance, he wants to be seen as a hockey player, not a victim and when questioned post-match about the MS, he responded with “No comment”. However, on the other hand it would have been nice to allow himself to be the inspiration everybody is writing him up to be despite his protests. If you are going to be hailed as an inspiration, own it.

Regardless, the publicity generated by Harding’s performance coupled with fact that he suffers MS, can only be seen as positive for the cause. So a job well done to him whether he owns it or not.

I’m pretty sure we will all be cheering for him to continue his good form. Well, maybe not us Blackhawks fans (we’ll be doing it quietly).

 

2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs – Chicago Blackhawks v Minnesota Wild

With 10 minutes to go until game 1, I figured people would be dying to know who I had for this series. I’m going to go out on a limb here, and say Blackhawks in 5. Luckily, the limb I went out on is sturdy, and I’m not too worried about it breaking, thus making me look the fool.

On paper, the Minnesota Wild don’t stand a chance. They enter the playoffs as eigth seed and lost 9 games in April alone. The Blackhawks have lost 12 games – this season.

The Blackhawks are superior in almost every aspect of the game. With right wing Devin Setoguchi for the Wild finding form of late, Minnesota will be competitive in the forwards. However, the Blackhawks have Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Brandon Saad and Jonathan Toews. Must I say more? Two of those guys look like they may be up for the Hart Trophy, another for the Calder Trophy and the last guy is just a weapon.

It isn’t fair to write the Wild off, they have had a decent showing against the Blackhawks this season, it is just hard to look past the Hawks. They have Offense, Defence and Goaltending sorted even with Ray Emery’s absence. Blackhawks have it, but I doubt the Wild will go down easily.

Follow me on Instagram & Twitter @jaimelouisegray