May 182014
 

Round 2 of the 2014 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs was a barn burner all-round. Every series felt like a legitimate rivalry even though some of these teams, like the Anaheim Ducks and the LA Kings, had never met in the playoffs before. Here’s the best and worst of it.

Brendan Gallagher, Zdeno Chara

Best Series: Boston Bruins vs. Montreal Canadiens

Original Six. Longstanding rivals. Good versus evil. These games had everything – the good (Carey Price and PK Subban’s performances), the bad (Thornton spraying Subban with water mid-play), and the ugly (the racist rantings of some Bruins fans). In the end, the intensity elevated the Habs play and seemed to throw the Bruins off their game with their big lines doing much of nothing.

Worst Series: Pittsburgh Penguins vs. New York Rangers

This was bad because for some reason, after being up 3-1 in the series, the Pittsburgh Penguins checked out. For me, the best series are battle right to the end, and this is the only series that wasn’t that. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Chris Kunitz and all that undeniable talent were deniable after Game 3. This can’t be laid on their goalie this time. It was disappointing to watch therefore, worst series.

Milan Book

Biggest Loser: Milan Lucic

Lucic wins this award not because his team lost, but because of the way HE lost. His childish, unsportsmanlike antics – spearing guys, being a sore winner taunting the Habs when Bruins won, death threats in the handshake line – make him not just the biggest loser of Round 2 but a life loser in general. Lucic, I’m embarrassed that you’re from Vancouver and even from Canada. You have a lot of growing up to do, punk.

Biggest Hero: PK Subban

I didn’t like this guy until this series. Sure, I never disputed his talent, but I thought he was an overemotional, hot-headed punk. Not anymore. I don’t know exactly when PK Subban became a poised, confident player but the change was noticeable this series again Boston. PK didn’t let the racist taunts, the bully antics of Thornton or the death threats of Lucic throw him off his game. He didn’t escalate it in the media when he honestly had every right to. Instead, he seemed to channel it into improving his already stellar play. His offensive defence was a major factor in the Habs nabbing the series.

beardsR2

Best Beard: Jeff Carter

Blondes aren’t known for thick beards, but Carter grows a Grizzly Adams one in the blink of an eye. And it’s got ginger in it, which is hot. The man is already talented and gorgeous, the thick, full beard just adds to it. Now if only he had more teeth… thanks Duncan Keith.

 Worst Beard – Patrick Kane

Speaking of ginger – Kane’s seems super orange this year. Like he used Sun-In or something. And, yay, it’s fuller than previous years but it’s an unkempt mess. And then there’s the mullet… shudder.

May 012014
 

NHL_2014_StanleyCupPlayoffs

We have to admit, the first round of the 2014 NHL playoffs was pretty darn exciting. Let’s see how the second round stacks up.

Western Conference

Chicago Blackhawks vs. Minnesota Wild

Victoria: Blackhawks in 4. Hawks have had some rest. Wild fought tooth and nail for 7 games. Wild will be tired and aren’t as strong a force as the Hawks to begin with.

Matt: Blackhawks in 5. The Wild are simply outmatched and outclassed by the defending champions at every position. Ryan Suter will likely be matched against some combination of Jonathan Toews and/or Patrick Kane, but Chicago’s immense depth up front will allow them to break through the Minnesota defense.

Chris: Blackhawks in 4. While I got a few of the series wrong in the first round, there was no way on this green Earth that I thought the Wild would beat the Avs. Their luck will run out against a fired up Blackhawks squad.

J.J.: Blackhawks in 6. The Wild were a lot scrappier than expected in their first round series against the Avs. Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook will put an end to that.

Clay: Blackhawks in 5. They look unbeatable right now. But I’ll give the Wild one of their home games. Chicago is too talented top to bottom.

Delia: Blackhawks in 5. The Blackhawks have too much talent to fall to the Wild. They’ll definitely finish them off early.

Anaheim Ducks vs. Los Angeles Kings

Victoria: Kings in 6. Because once you reverse sweep, you can do anything.

Matt: Ducks in 7. The Kings are the hottest team in the league right now based off their four straight victories against the Sharks, but the Ducks are want to prove their the toast of California. I may be going out on a limb here, but I like the Anaheim forward unit better than the Los Angeles defence and goaltending.

Chris: Ducks in 6. Because Victoria says Kings in 6. On a more serious note, the Ducks showed what they needed to do to get the job done against a spunky Stars team. And while the Kings themselves faced adversity and beat the daylights out of it, it took some serious energy to do that.

J.J.: Kings in 7. I hate picking the Kings, but after starting the playoffs about a week later than everyone else (and spotting the Sharks a 3-0 series lead), they’re clicking right now.

Clay: Kings in 7. The Kings are just as hot as the Blackhawks and have certainly been there before. The layoff likely helped Getzlaf heal a bit but it won’t be enough.

Delia: Ducks in 6. The Ducks finished the regular season with a 4-0-1 record against the Kings, and I’m sure they can keep their winning ways going during the playoffs.

*****

Eastern Conference

Boston Bruins vs. Montreal Canadiens

Victoria: Habs in 7. Because I have to believe that hard work and skilled players can trump bully tactics and cheap antics. I have to believe it.

Matt: Bruins in 6. Ah, rivalries renewed. There may not be a winner when the smoke clears in this one because the two teams are likely to kill each other, but the Canadiens have a little motivation and extra animosity working in their favour, enough to give the Bruins a bumpy ride at least.

Chris: Habs in 6. I picked Boston last round and there ain’t no way I’ll do it this time around. Some advice for Montreal though – Il ne faut pas vendre la peau de l’ours avant de l’avoir tué.

J.J.: Habs in 7. Buck Foston.

Clay: Bruins in 7.  Montreal is slowly gaining the country’s affection, and they can certainly win if 2 things happen: Price outplays Rask, and the Canadien forwards are able to escape pounding from the Bruins. Not sure if both of those things can happen over a 7-game series.

Delia: Bruins in 7. The Bruins are a strong and dangerous team. Sure the Canadiens have Price, but the Bruins have Rask, and in my opinion, Rask is by far the better goaltender.

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. New York Rangers

Victoria: Penguins in 7. Crosby, Malkin, Kunitz and Neal are a lot of fire power. Rangers have don’t have that depth of scoring. The only reason this will probably go 7 is because Marc Andre Fleury will screw up.

Matt: Penguins in 6. Once again, the Penguins chances hinge on the shaky shoulders of Marc-Andre Fleury, which will lead to their downfall in at least one game against the Rangers. But I don’t like New York’s chances of containing the Crosby-Malkin duo, which is on the verge of breaking out of their long funk.

Chris: Rangers in 6. The darkest timeline. THE DARKEST TIMELINE! And MAF. ’nuff said.

J.J.: Penguins in 7. One team has a lot of firepower up front, but has a goalie who seems to be having problems stopping the puck in the playoffs. The other team has a good goalie, but can’t score. It goes against conventional thinking, but I’m picking the team that can score.

Clay: Penguins in 6. I have a gut feeling that Fleury will have a strong series in trying to match the goalie at the other end. He’ll do enough to help the Penguins get through.

Delia: Rangers in 7. In my opinion, the Penguins are overrated. The Rangers are the more well-rounded team.

Apr 162014
 

NHL_2014_StanleyCupPlayoffs

With the puck ready to drop for the 2014 NHL playoffs, a few of us at CHB make our predictions for the first round.

At least with the Canucks not making it, we can make our picks with our brains, rather than our hearts. Well, mostly our brains. We flipped coins, drew straws and other things too.

Western Conference

Colorado Avalanche vs. Minnesota Wild

Victoria: Avalanche in 5. This prediction is based on the real fear that if Minnesota makes it too far in the playoffs we’ll all fall into a coma. Most boring hockey ever. So come on Avs, knock them out and save us all.

Matt: Avalanche in 5. This isn’t the same team that won the Nathan MacKinnon sweepstakes at this time last year. This is a ferocious, tenacious, deep team that has excelled under the marvelous coaching of Patrick Roy and is stable in goal thanks to the performance of Semyon Varlamov. Minnesota is good enough to perhaps steal a game, but a series? I’m not buying it.

Chris: Avalanche in 5. There is no reason to believe that Patrick Roy will tolerate the team losing to the Wild. Therefore, fear itself will propel the Avs through to the second round.

J.J.: Avalanche in 7. I’ve been waiting for the Avs to crash and burn all year, but they look like the real deal. Wild will give them some pushback, but I don’t think enough of one to take the series.

Clay: Avalanche in 5. Colorado is too young, too fast, and too skilled to lose to the Wild.

St. Louis Blues vs. Chicago Blackhawks

Victoria: Hawks in 6. As long as Toews and Kane are healthy, I see the Hawks rolling over the Blues fairly easily. They’re young, strong, talented and they’ve been here before and know how to win. Blues, not so much.

Matt: Hawks in 7. A first-round series that should really be worthy of a Conference Final, I’d hedge my bets on the defending champion over a team which – on paper – is built for the playoffs. This looks like it could be a physical series from start to finish, but again I believe the Blackhawks’ top guns will survive this war of attrition. How much they have left after this is another debate in itself.

Chris: Hawks in 7. I’ll be honest, I flipped a coin to determine who wins in 7 games. These two teams will beat the living daylights out of each other.

J.J.: Hawks in 6. The Blues are hurt and slumping; the Hawks are about to get Kane and Toews back. Unless Ryan Miller turns into a money goalie overnight – the eye test says he hasn’t had the impact the Blues had hoped for – Chicago gets this one.

Clay: Hawks in 7.  One of the most intriguing first-round series. It sounds like Chicago is healthy, while St. Louis is everything but.

Anaheim Ducks vs. Dallas Stars

Victoria: Ducks in 5. Teemu wants one last Cup and he’s gonna steamroll Seguin, Benn and the Stars to get there. I’m hoping, because I am not a Ducks fan at all, that eventually they run out of steam, but it won’t be in this round.

Matt: Ducks in 4. The Ducks, who finished first in the West, look like a team that has been in cruise control the last couple weeks. But they appear motivated by what I’d like to call the Teemu Factor. Selanne, who looks like he knows this will be his final season, wants another Stanley Cup ring and I like the Ducks to play hard for the best player the franchise has ever known. Dallas is a team just happy to be here.

Chris: Ducks in 5. May the power Wild Wing compel you. Seriously… is anyone taking Dallas?

J.J.: Ducks in 6. How the Ducks keep winning hockey games with one good line and a (relatively) no-name goalie baffles me.

Clay: Ducks in 5. The Stars might get one, but that’s it. Look for some of Anaheim’s younger players (Bonino, Fowler) to shine.

San Jose Sharks vs. Los Angeles Kings

Victoria: Kings in 7. Because they can. With the addition of Gaborik to their already stacked scoring line-up – Carter, Kopitar, Doughty, etc. – they’ve got the advantage. Also, history dictates Sharks never win it all. This year will be no different and the Kings will put them out of their misery early.

Matt: Kings in 7. I know we say this almost every year, but the Sharks always look like a team that thrives in the regular season only to come up short in the playoffs. Los Angeles is a team that has struggled to find consistency on offense, but their club has a history of flipping the switch when it matters most. I’ll take SoCal over NorCal, yet again.

Chris: Kings in 6. Another series that will serve as a knock-down, drag-out brawl where only one team will survive. At least until round two.

J.J.: Sharks in 7. Jonathan Quick has been good, but the guys in front of him have had trouble scoring all year. This should be a familiar script for Canucks fans.

Clay: Sharks in 6. In this battle of teams that like to pound the Canucks, I like the Sharks’ firepower up front with Pavelski, Marleau, Thornton, Couture, Burns, and Hertl.

*****

Eastern Conference

Boston Bruins vs. Detroit Red Wings

Victoria: Wings in 7. Because the Wings are like the Goonies, they never say die. And because good should always triumph over evil.

Matt: Wings in 7. My upset special for the first round. Detroit has been ravaged by injuries all season, but their kids (Tatar, Nyquist, etc.) have helped fill in the holes quite admirably. With Henrik Zetterberg practicing and potentially nearing a return, things are looking up on the injury front. The same can’t be said for Boston, who’s already without some key bottom six forwards in Chris Kelly and Dan Paille, not to mention the questionable status of Patrice Bergeron.

Chris: I’m cheering for Motor City and wish them all the best in a long and glorious cup run. Bruins in 6.

J.J.: Wings in 6. I had a late pick in my playoff pool and lost out on all the Bruins who went early in the draft. I hope Datsyuk and Nyquist both have a big series.

Clay: Bruins in 6. They are hungry and right now the class of the East. Can’t believe I used the word class in describing these goofballs.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Montreal Canadiens

Victoria: Habs in 6. Sure they’ve got Steven Stamkos, but Habs have Pacioretty and most importantly Price. If he can channel his Olympic mojo, Bolts don’t stand a chance.

Matt: Habs in 7. My early nomination for the toughest series to call. The Bolts have been bolstered with the return of Steven Stamkos (11 goals in 20 games since his return), and provided goaltender Ben Bishop and forwards Valtteri Filppula and Ondrej Palat return for Game 1, should make for a tough test. Montreal is always a motivated club in the postseason, and Carey Price should have extra incentive after claiming the gold in Sochi.

Chris: Habs in 7. Il faut battre le fer pendant qu’il est chaud.

J.J.: Habs in 6. Ca-rey, Ca-rey, Ca-rey! PK and the Vanek-Desharnais-Pacioretty line aren’t bad either.

Clay: Habs in 7. The longer Bishop stays out, the better for Montreal of course. Intrigued by the young Palat and Johnson on Tampa Bay, but I think Montreal is deeper throughout the line-up.

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Columbus Blue Jackets

Victoria: Penguins in 4. Fleury has learned his lesson and won’t meltdown… at least not this soon. And Crosby, Neal, Kuntiz and Malkin will make quick work of….of…. whoever plays on Lumbus.

Matt: Penguins in 6. Every NHL postseason, there seems to be that one scrappy, annoying team that defies all odds and just doesn’t seem to go down without a big fight. The Blue Jackets reek of a team that is – perhaps foolishly – motivated to show the rest of the NHL that they’re worth being called a playoff team. The franchise hasn’t won a playoff game before, and the feisty Jackets should be able to embarrass Marc-Andre Fleury for at least a game or two.

Chris: Penguins in 4. Have to feel good for the Blue Jackets for givin’ ‘er a good effort. Pens already have the brooms.

J.J.: Penguins in 5. The Blue Jackets couldn’t beat the Penguins in the regular season; unless playoff-mode Fleury makes an appearance, I really don’t think they’ll beat them in the playoffs either.

Clay: Penguins in 5. Too much firepower up front for Pittsburgh. Plus that Crosby guy.

New York Rangers vs. Philadelphia Flyers

Victoria: Flyers in 7. This, kids, will be the series to watch. It will be long and scrappy in my opinion. AV has the ability to guide a team through the playoffs, but the Rangers have the history of failing early. Flyers have something to prove after a really crappy start to the season. If Giroux can stop with the stupid hits he’s got a history of in playoffs, then Philly will scrape through.

Matt: Rangers in 7. Long live the King. Henrik Lundqvist has been sensational down the stretch, scraping together a .949 save percentage in his final five games and looking as good as he’s ever been. The Rangers’ success hinges largely on his shoulders, but something should be said about New York’s 25 road wins, which are best in the Eastern Conference. It’s hard to see the Rangers not stealing a game on the road.

Chris: Rangers in 6. Because you know the darkest timeline has AV leading the Rangers to the Cup, right?

J.J.: Rangers in 7. Only because it would be so Canuck-y for AV’s new team to have some post-season success immediately after being fired by the Canucks.

Clay: Rangers in 7. Better goaltending. ‘Nuff said.

Jan 082014
 

Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s admirable that the Canucks fought back from a 2-goal deficit against the high-powered Pittsburgh Penguins. It’s likewise impressive that they scored 4 consecutive goals, the last 2 within a 17-second span in the third period to take a 2-goal lead of their own. What sucks is that they blew a lead late – again. They allowed the Pens to tie the game late – 2 goals in 16 seconds with a minute left in the third period to be precise – and proceeded to lose 5-4 in the shootout.

The Canucks have now lost 5 consecutive games. In 4 of those games, they carried a lead into the third period. In 3 of those games, they had the lead with less than 2 minutes left.

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

Jan 072014
 

185352910_slide
(source: nhl.com)

Vancouver Canucks (23-13-8)

Pittsburgh Penguins (31-12-1)

By giving up the game-winning goal with 0.6 1.3 seconds left in OT to the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday, the Vancouver Canucks extended their winless streak to 4 games. And it doesn’t get any easier tonight as they face the Pittsburgh Penguins, who lead the NHL’s Metropolitan Division by 17 – yes, 17 – points and have won 15 of their last 18 games.

Oh yeah, and the Penguins just got Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang back from injury.

Tonight’s game marks the first of the Canucks short, two-game home stand before going back on the road for 4 of their 5 games. It is the second and final regular season meeting between the Canucks and Penguins. The Penguins won the first their first meeting in Pittsburgh in the shootout by a 4-3 score.

Who’s Hot

Daniel Sedin assisted on all 3 Canucks goals against the Ducks, and now has 6 points (1 goal, 5 assists) in his last 5 games.

Ryan Kesler has scored a powerplay goals in each of the last 2 games.

Unsurprising given their record, a few Penguins are on hot streaks right now. James Neal has 12 points (6 goals, 6 assists) in his last 5 games. Sidney Crosby is on a 5-game point streak with and has 9 points (3 goals, 6 assists) in that span. Malkin, who has been out since December 14th, scored twice and added an assist in his first game back on Sunday against the Jets.

Who’s Out

Injuries and injuries and injuries for both teams.

Luongo (ankle) remains day-to-day for the Vancouver Canucks along with forwards Chris Higgins (flu-like symptoms) and Zack Kassian, who got injured on Sunday against the Ducks when Tom Sestito accidentally got his skate up to his face. Defensemen Andrew Alberts (concussion), Alex Edler (lower body) and Ryan Stanton (ankle), and forwards Jordan Schroeder (ankle) and Alex Burrows (jaw) are on injured reserve.

For the Penguins, Chuck Kobasew (lower body) is day-to-day for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Goalie Tomas Vokoun (blood clot), defenseman Paul Martin (leg), and forwards Beau Bennett (wrist), Andrew Ebbett (ankle), Jayson Megna (lower body), Pascal Dupuis (knee) and Chris Conner (hand) are on injured reserve

Oct 202013
 

The Vancouver Canucks played the Pittsburgh Penguins in an early morning match-up so we get a dose of Sidney Crosby with our eggs and coffee.

And that’s not even the best part.

See, after globetrotting over the last few months, Lizz Moffat is back. And so is The Game According to Twitter.

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

Sep 302013
 

On the eve of the start of the 2013/2014 NHL regular season, I preview the 30 teams, one division at a time.

Rangers vs Islanders

Photo credit: MLB

Carolina Hurricanes

The Good

The top-line of Eric Staal, Alex Semin and Jiri Tlusty was one of the highest-scoring lines in the NHL last season, but the Canes have little scoring depth after that. Adding Jordan Staal last season helped address this, but at this point, Tuomo Ruutu and Jeff Skinner can’t reliably be counted on to stay healthy.

The Bad

I think it says enough when the addition of Mike Komisarek on defense is considered an upgrade.

The Outlook

Things won’t be rocking like a Hurricane in Carolina this season.

*****

Columbus Blue Jackets

The Good

If Marion Gaborik, Nathan Horton, Artem Anisimov and Brandon Dubinsky can ever stay healthy, the Blue Jackets may actually boast some scoring punch on its top two lines. They still do have a lot of ifs, but there’s no denying GM John Davidson has the team moving along the right path.

The Bad

Like the Canes, the Blue Jackets don’t have a lot of team depth.

The Outlook

Columbus was built to bump and grind it out with the best of them, which, playing in the old Central Division, almost won them a playoff spot last season. The East is a different beast, however, and being in the same division as the Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals, Philadelphia Flyers and New York Islanders will force them to play a more wide-open game than they’d like.

*****

New Jersey Devils

The Good

With Hall of Famer, Martin Brodeur, already in the lineup, goaltending was never an issue in Newark. But now, they also have ex-Canuck, Cory Schneider, to take over when Brodeur decides to hang them up.

The Bad

After losing Zach Parise, the Devils finished 28th in goals per game in 2012/2013. Now, they’ve also lost their leading goal scorer, David Clarkson (Toronto), and 2nd-leading scorer, Ilya Kovalchuk (KHL).

The Outlook

While Brodeur and Schneider can keep the Devils close in games, regardless of how the team is playing in front of them, I’m not convinced UFA signings, Michael Ryder, Jaromir Jagr and Ryane Clowe can adequately replace the loss of Parise, Kovalchuk and Clarkson.

*****

New York Islanders

The Good

With John Tavares and Matt Moulson leading the way, the Islanders finished the 2012/2013 season with the 7th-ranked offense in the NHL. Now, it looks like Josh Bailey and Kyle Okposo are poised to take another step in their development and help out. Ex-Canuck, Michael Grabner, can also be counted on to score about 20+ goals.

The Bad

The Isles don’t have much back on d. Yes, they’ll score a lot. But they’ll also let in a lot of goals.

The Outlook

If another youngster or two – maybe a Griffin Reinhart – then the Isles may very well compete for one of the last playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.

*****

New York Rangers

The Good

The Rangers may very well benefit from a gentler, calmer, kinder (sometimes too kind) voice behind the bench in former Canucks coach, Alain Vigneault. But also, AV will also benefit from having an elite goaltender in Henrik Lundqvist, a deep group down the middle (Brad Richards, Derek Stepan, Derrick Brassard and Brian Boyle), some solid players on the wings (Rick Nash, Ryan Callahan), and some good, young players stepping in (Carl Hagelin, Mats Zucarello and JT Miller).

The Bad

The Rangers’ special teams weren’t exactly special last season – their PP was in the bottom-third of the league and their PK was merely average – and they didn’t add anyone specifically to address them.

The Outlook

After the Penguins and the Capitals, the Rangers should take one of the divisional playoff spots. How far they go will depend largely on how AV can motivate a group that seemed to get stale last season.

*****

Philadelphia Flyers

The Good

On paper, the Flyers seem to always boast one of the strongest, most balanced teams in the league, and this season is no different. Up front, they already had Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn, Scott Hartnell, Sean Couturier and Matt Read in their top-nine. And then they added Vincent Lecavalier during free agency. In the back, they added offensive defenseman, Mark Streit, to a group that already included Kimmo Timonen, Braydon Coburn, Nicklas Grossman and Luke Schenn.

The Bad

The Flyers’ playoff hopes hang on Ray Emery, who hasn’t been a no. 1 goalie since the 2006/2007 season, and Steve Mason, whose last good year as a no. 1 goalie was his rookie year in the 2008/2009 season.

The Outlook

As their goaltending go, the Flyers will go. But hey, it wouldn’t be Philadelphia-like any other way.

*****

Pittsburgh Penguins

The Good

Where to start? Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, James Neal and Chris Kunitz highlight the attack, and Pascal Dupuis, Brandon Sutter and Jussi Jokinen provide more than adequate support. 21-year old Beau Bennett looks good too.

The Bad

Marc-Andre Fleury is still the Pens’ starting goaltender while Tomas Vokoun is out indefinitely.

The Outlook

The Pens should make the playoffs on the strength of their lineup alone. After that, all bets are off.

*****

Washington Capitals

The Good

Simply, the Caps’ offense. Alex Ovechkin is back. And so is Mike Green. Nicklas Backstrom scored at a point-a-game pace. Marcus Johansson and Troy Brouwer also improved. And while the league’s 5th-ranked offense and top-ranked power play lost second-line center, Mike Ribeiro, the Caps did replace him with Mikhail Grabovski.

The Bad

The defense is razor-thin. Green, fellow offensive defenseman, John Carlson, and defensive defenseman, Karl Alzner, head the group, but after that consists of some guys I’ve never heard of.

The Outlook

The Caps will make the playoffs, but will need some help in the back end to make any sort of an extended playoff run.

Jun 012013
 

Credit: NHL.com

The NHL’s Final Four starts today with the star-laden Penguins taking on the big, bad Bruins in the East.  In the West, it’s the talented Blackhawks against the defending champ Kings.

It’s very possible that many hockey fans – Vancouver Canucks hockey fans that is – are still undecided as to who to cheer for.  Thus, we here at CHB wanted to provide you with some suggestions.

Chicago Blackhawks

Recent History

The Chicago Blackhawks ousted the Vancouver Canucks in the second-round of the playoffs in both 2009 and 2010 before the Canucks got some revenge in the spring of 2011 in a thrilling seven-game first-round series.  Then in March 2012, just a few weeks before the start of the playoffs, Duncan Keith took out Daniel Sedin with a vicious elbow in the neutral zone, effectively leading to the Canucks’ disappointing first-round exit.

What’s to Like

Jonathan Toews, despite the occasional tantrum, is still a great leader and one of the hardest-working players in the league.  Patrick Kane has cleaned off his off-ice shenanigans and is very exciting to watch.  Patrick Sharp is one of the best snipers in the NHL.  Overall, the team plays an exciting brand of hockey led by their creative forwards.  And Brent Seabrook was born in Richmond if that makes a difference to you.

What’s not to Like

Duncan Keith.  Whether it’s concussing a Sedin or getting into it with a female reporter, the guy simply isn’t that likable.   As well, many Canucks fans still can’t get over those back-to-back playoff losses a few years ago.

Likability Score:  2.5/5

 

Los Angeles Kings

Recent History

The Canucks disposed of the Kings in six games in the 2010 playoffs.  Then, we all know what happened last year.  The Kings dominated the Canucks in the 2012 playoffs, much like they dominated every team they faced on their way to winning the Stanley Cup.  The Kings proved to be a very deep and rugged team, and goaltender Jonathan Quick was extremely strong.

What’s to Like

Jonathan Quick for one.  He is extremely athletic and absolutely never gives up on the play.  It’s very possible he could win back to back Conn Smythe awards.  Jeff Carter and Mike Richards are fun to watch (mostly) and are clean players (although David Booth might disagree).  Drew Doughty is an exciting player when he’s on his game.   Darryl Sutter is growing on me albeit very slowly.  And Willie Mitchell is still there.

What’s not to Like

Captain Dustin Brown has developed a reputation of being a diver, so much so that there are numerous YouTube “tribute” videos dedicated to his mastery of the craft.  It’s too bad, because at his best he’s a talented, scrappy player.

Likability Score: 3/5

 

Pittsburgh Penguins

Recent History

There’s hardly any to write of.  The Canucks didn’t play the Penguins in this lockout-shortened season, and prior to that they’ve only played once in a year. The games have ranged from the relatively-forgettable to the extremely-memorable (anyone remember Luongo’s overtime penalty shot save on Crosby at GM Place in December 2007)?  I must admit that I’ve been a Crosby fan ever since he scored the golden goal here in February 2010.

What’s to Like

If you’re a fan of offensive hockey, then Pittsburgh is your team.  Their forward depth is unbelievable with Crosby, Malkin, Neal, Iginla, Dupuis, Kunitz, Morrow, Jokinen, etc and they often need to outscore their goaltending.  Kris Letang is a stud back on the blue line, and you have ex-Canucks Tanner Glass and Matt Cooke (more on him below).

What’s not to Like

Much like some fans vehemently oppose Lebron James and his cast of superfriends on the Miami Heat in the NBA, there could be some who want to see the Penguins fail after loading up at the trade deadline.  As well, Matt Cooke is extremely polarizing, despite being an ex-Canuck.

Likeability Score:  4/5

 

Boston Bruins

Recent History

As if you need me to actually type anything here…haha.  The Bruins beat the Canucks in the Stanley Cup final in 2011 in a spirited and emotional series.  Their January 2012 regular season meeting in Boston (an intense game that Vancouver won 4-3) is regularly cited as the start of the Canucks’ downfall last year.

What’s to Like

My parents taught me that if I didn’t have anything nice to say to not say anything at all.

What’s Not to Like

Marchand.  Lucic.  Paille. Horton. Thornton. Chara. Julien.  And Tim Thomas….oh wait….

Likability Score:  0/5

May 312013
 

Of the four remaining teams in the NHL playoffs, three of them – the Chicago Blackhawks, the Boston Bruins and the Los Angeles Kings – are teams that beat the Canucks in the last 3 seasons en route to winning the Stanley Cup.

Go Penguins.

Here are our round three picks:

Western Conference

(1) Chicago Blackhawks vs. (5) Los Angeles Kings

Clay: Blackhawks in 7. This series will be an interesting clash of styles. Chicago is playing with some great confidence right now, having won three straight against Detroit. If the Hawks’ skill players can outplay the Kings’ skill players, then Chicago will win. While not as big and tough as the Kings, I think they can play tough enough to keep up. And Crawford shouldn’t worry about having to match Quick save for save; but he will have to avoid letting in a bad goal.

Victoria: Kings in 6. The Kings thrive at being the underdog without home ice. Also with two teams this closely matched in youth and Stanley Cup experience, goalies will matter most. Corey Crawford will crumble before Jonathan Quick does.

@cherry_grant: ‘Hawks in 7. Eff those guys, but ‘Hawks in 7. Gahhh, I’m getting tired of having to say nice things about Chicago, or at least saying not horrible things about those jerks! Go Blackhawks. *shiver*

J.J.: Blackhawks in 6. The ‘Hawks are a good team. Now only if the officials will let them showcase that skill.

Matt: Kings in 6. It pains me to write this, because it’s like trying to pick between which of the problem children you’d like to babysit at your house for another month. The fact is, Los Angeles is the more consistent team right now, whereas Chicago seemingly can’t be bothered to play their best hockey until they absolutely have to. This series will be a treat I’m sure, but I like the Kings’ chances of stealing a game on the road and holding serve at home more than the Blackhawks.

Eastern Conference

(1) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (4) Boston Bruins

Clay: Penguins in 6. The Penguins have been relatively untested so far in the playoffs so I’m intrigued as to how they will fare against the big, bad Bruins. I think that Pittsburgh will continue to outscore any goaltending issues they may have although Vokoun has been pretty solid (but not spectacular). In the end, I don’t see a team with Crosby, Malkin, Neal, Iginla, and Letang being denied.

Victoria: Penguins in 5. Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned from watching superhero movies, it’s good always triumphs over evil. And the Bruins are evil. The end.

@cherry_grant: Penguins in 7. AS IF I’m going to pick Boston this time. I hope Pittsburgh and the mighty Iginla hand their asses to them, then hoist the cup, preferably with misty eyes and exploding with well-justified pride. that said, I don’t think it’ll be easy.

J.J.: Penguins in 5. I mean, how much longer can the green Boston defense play as well as they have?

Matt: Penguins in 7. This matchup may even be sexier than the other series. But I like a stacked Pittsburgh forwards group against a Boston defense which has been beset by injury. That isn’t to say the Bruins kids (Torey Krug, Matt Bartkowski and the like) have not filled in admirably, but they’re not matching up against Ryan Callahan or Nazem Kadri anymore; these are tried and true bonafide superstars they will need to hold off. The one X-Factor could be the physicality of this series; if the Bruins can pulverize the Penguins, it may swing the series in Boston’s favour.

May 142013
 

With the first round of the 2013 NHL playoffs behind us, it’s time to talk about more important things, like who’s leading the CHB playoffs prediction pool – that would be the Victoria, who correctly predicted 5 of the series winners.

Here are our round two picks:

Western Conference

(1) Chicago Blackhawks vs. (7) Detroit Red Wings

Clay: Chicago in 6. The Blackhawks have too much firepower and their forwards will overwhelm the Red Wings’ defence. Chicago may come out a bit rusty (given the 6 days between games) but they will shake it off quickly.

Victoria: Chicago in 7. It’ll go to 7 games because Jimmy Howard is the better goalie, but he’s not good enough to steal a series from a bunch of younger, hungrier Hawks.

@cherry_grant: I want to say Wings in 7, but I will instead say ‘Hawks in 6. Part of me hopes the Kings and the Wings win their series and eventually have to face off just for rhyme’s sake.

J.J.: Chicago in 5. I should know better than to underestimate the Wings, especially Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg in the playoffs, but the Blackhawks just have way too much depth and firepower.

Matt: Chicago in 6. Three of Detroit’s wins over Anaheim came via OT. What does that tell you? It could be that this is a team that never gives up, but it can also tell you the Wings are a team that just barely made it to the second round. They’ll put up a good fight but this is the end of the road for Detroit.

(4) Los Angeles Kings vs. (6) San Jose Sharks

Clay: Kings in 6. While the Sharks dispatched the Canucks quickly, the Kings had a tougher first-round series yet also won four straight games. The Kings will be able to match the Sharks’ depth at forward and they have a stronger blue line. Look for the Kings to exert their will over the Sharks in this battle of California.

Victoria: Kings in 6. I’ve been attending a lot of Kings games and really can’t say enough how focused and calm they’ve been playing. Canucks laid down and gave up. Kings will not.

@cherry_grant: Kings. With genuinely no bitterness from being swept in the first round by the stinkin’ Sharks (okay, maybe a tiny bit of bitterness). I would rather see the Sharks win over the Kings (I think), but I just don’t see it, even though my last batch of picks proved my lack of psychic ability. (I won’t be sad to be wrong here.)

J.J.: Kings in 7. Kings started playing better as the playoffs rolled on. Who’ll dive more – Joe Thornton, Tommy Wingels or Dustin Brown?

Matt: San Jose in 7. My gut tells me that this is essentially a coin flip. Jonathan Quick has reemerged as the best goaltender in the playoffs after a woeful first two games, but this is a San Jose team that dispatched a bad Vancouver club with depth and terrific defense. Sound familiar?

Eastern Conference

(1) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (7) Ottawa Senators

Clay: I mentioned in the last round that Marc-Andre Fleury didn’t have to be awesome; he just had to be good. Well, it seems like he might not even be good enough to start this series. Regardless, the Penguins have too much firepower for the Senators and they will dispatch of the lone Canadian team left.

Victoria: Pittsburgh in 4. Pittsburgh in 4. The Senators just don’t have the talent depth of the Penguins. And also Gary Bettman will want to get rid of that last Canadian team quickly. ;)

@cherry_grant: Pittsburgh in 5. I feel like a traitor going against the Canadian team, but not QUITE enough to not go against the Canadian team. Pens > Sens.

J.J.: Pittsburgh in 6. I would love it if Ottawa made it through, and if Fleury was still in net for the Pens, I totally would have picked the Sens. As it stands, the Pens have gotten enough good goaltending from their backup, Tomas Vokoun, to allow the Pens’ offense to do their thing.

Matt: Pittsburgh in 7. I want badly to say the Senators can win this series, but unless the duo of Tomas Vokoun and Marc Andre Fleury have a meltdown between the pipes, I can’t see even this gutsy Sens team overcoming the Penguins’ power up front. It’ll be a war though.

(4) Boston Bruins vs. (6) New York Rangers

Clay: Rangers in 7. The Rangers are playing good hockey right now while the Bruins had to squeak into the second round. The Bruins’ blueline is beat up, and I expect this to be a low-scoring series, with Henrik Lundqvist out-dueling Tukka Rask in the end.

Victoria: Rangers in 6. My call here is based on the fact that Lundqvist is better than Rask, and the fact that I hate the Boston Bruins more than anything else in the universe.

@cherry_grant: Bruins in 6. I hope they pound each other terribly and the winner of this series gets swept in the next round. Just kidding. Ok, no I’m not. I’m still picking the Bruins.

J.J.: Rangers in 6. Hmmm… to pick the team that beat the Canucks in the 1994 Stanley Cup Finals or the team that beat the Canucks in the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals? In the first round, the Rangers showed they have some damn good balance throughout their lineup; meanwhile, the Bruins got a bit beat up, especially back on d.

Matt: Rangers in 7. Boston should’ve handled the Leafs in five or six games but took all seven plus a miraculous comeback to put them to rest. New York is riding strong defense and hot goaltending and if that trend continues, the Rangers have reason to be optimistic.

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