Hockey Headlines

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Round One Honor Roll

while I am forced to use the non-Canadian spelling of the word "honour", there is certainly none taken away from the names that appear below as we examine who did well in each round of the HBIC Playoff Pool. Honestly, this part is the most fun for me because I like to see people do well and get a little recognition for their efforts. Not everyone can finish in first-place, but it's the little things like being recognized for an outstanding prediction on a series that makes the HBIC Playoff Pool fun for all. In saying that, let's take a look at who excelled in each series in the opening round.

CHICAGO-NASHVILLE: Let's be honest: no one called a sweep for the Predators and only slightly more had the Predators winning the series. Two people, however, managed to secure four points in this surprising series for top marks among all the competitors. Michael J. picked the Predators to win Games Two and Four, and added the Ryan Ellis game-winner in Game Two for his four-point effort. Peter S. also picked up four points in calling Nashville wins in Games One and Four, and he correctly picked Viktor Arvidsson's game-winner in Game One for four points. There were a lot of one- and two-point series here, but these two men topped them all. Congratulations, Michael and Peter!

MINNESOTA-ST. LOUIS: This was another series that not a lot of people saw ending early, and certainly fewer had St. Louis jumping out to a 3-0 series lead. However, like he did in the series above, Peter S. took first-place in this series by reading his crystal ball correctly. He called St. Louis wins in Games One, Three, and Five for three points, and had St. Louis taking the series in five games for another five points. Put it all together, and Peter picked up eight more points in his contest-leading opening round score! Congratulations, Peter!

ANAHEIM-CALGARY: Sweeps are an all-or-nothing adventure in this pool as those that pick them either pay off big or see their chances of earning points in a long series die quickly. There was exactly one person who called an Anaheim sweep over the Flames, and that person was Jay W. Four points for four games called correctly, and five more points for predicting the Ducks in a sweep sees Jay grab nine points on this series. Well done on calling the sweep here, Jay!

EDMONTON-SAN JOSE: There were lots of good predictions made in this series as a number of entrants had Edmonton winning in six games. One person, however, jumped ahead of all others thanks to picking a game-winning goal-scorer, and that entrant was Dave F. Dave correctly called the final four games of the series while predicting Edmonton winning in six games for a total of nine points. However, he also had the Joe Pavelski game-winner in that 7-0 blowout in Game Four to push him to eleven points in the series which was tops for all competitors! Well done, Dave!

MONTREAL-NY RANGERS: This series was all over the map when it came to predictions. Some had short series, some had this series going seven games, but only a handful picked the Rangers in six games. In one case, the entrant only had two games correctly called, but still came away with five points in calling the Rangers in six games! However, two people did slightly better as Dan F. and Neal L. both had the Rangers in six games for five points each. Where they differed, however, is that Dan called the right team to win in Games 1, 2, 4, and 6 while Neal correctly predicted Games 1, 2, 5, and 6. All that matters, though, is that they scored a series-best nine points each! Congratulations, Dan and Neal!

OTTAWA-BOSTON: Like the series just above, entries seemed split on who would win and how long this series would last. Surprisingly, a lot of people correctly predicted Boston winning Game One with Brad Marchand scoring the game-winner. In any case, only one entrant stood above all others when the dust settled as Justin S. racked up an impressive 13 points! How did he do it? Well, he correctly called all six games for six points, added Ottawa winning in six games to grab another five points, and then tacked on that Marchand game-winner for the another two points! With the 13 points he put up in this series, Justin also has dubious distinction of earning the most points in any series in the opening round! Well done, Justin!

WASHINGTON-TORONTO: It seems the Eastern Conference series generated more diversity in the predictions than the Western Conference. In any case, this diversity also allows more people to capitalize on some big scores, and we had three people tie for the highest score in this series: LJ S., Matt H., and Westin F. LJ correctly predicted the winners in Games 1, 3, 4, and 6, and had Washington winning in six games for the additional five points. Matt picked the winners in Games 1, 3, 5, and 6 with Wahsington winning in six games. And Westin ran with the same prediction as Matt to also earn himself a cool nine points. Well done, gentlemen!

PITTSBURGH-COLUMBUS: Like the Minnesota-St. Louis series, no one picked the Penguins to jump out to a 3-0 series lead. Two entrants, however, did pick Pittsburgh to oust the Blue Jackets in five games, and those two people would be Michael J. and Neal L., both of whom have already appeared on this list once! Michael and Neal both picked up the five points in calling the Penguins' victory in five games. Michael called wins in Games 1, 2, and 5 while Neal called wins in Games 1, 3, and 5. Eight points went to both men as the highest scorers in this series! Well done, Michael and Neal... again!

I do want to point out that we have a member of the fairer sex joining us on this adventure of a contest this season as Katie S. has thrown her caution to the wind... unless Katie is a guy and I'm totally putting my foot in my mouth. My assumption aside, it's funny how I almost never get women entering this pool despite the relative ease in entering and playing, but I'm glad to have Katie aboard. Give these guys hell, Katie. If you end up as one of the top-three when all is said and done, I'll even toss in something special for you for kicking the hell out these guys.

There are the honourees of the opening round of the HBIC Playoff Pool. The new spreadsheet is up on the Leaderboard page, so get your Round Two entries in before puck-drop tomorrow!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 24 April 2017

The Leaderboard

While the Pac-Man high score screen was always a delight to add my name to, the reality is that the HBIC Playoff Pool leaderboard requires much more skill than just sending a pixelated yellow character around a screen eating pixelated while balls. There's real science and decisions to be made here, and the leaderboard will show you who has made wise choices when it comes to their prognostications thus far. As you scroll down the list to find your name, there may be some disappointment or sadness, but you still have seven series left in which to improve your standing! Let's see who charged out of the gates in this contest, who had solid first rounds, and who certainly needs to do a little studying of the season series for each series in the next round!

You'll want to refer back to this page for the point totals as we move through the playoffs. This is where all future points updates will happen. I have listed the names below in alphabetical order as per your submitted first name, so scroll through and find your name and point total.

Because of the scheduling for second round, if you want to gamble some points in the "Risk It!" option at this time, send me an email indicating that. Again, you must call the series perfectly to get the gambled points doubled. If you're wrong, you won't lose points, but you also won't receive any points for that series. In other words, don't gamble on EVERY series unless you absolutely have to do so!

Here are the current standings after Round One!

HBIC PLAYOFF POOL LEADERBOARD
Name Tie-Breaker Points Rank
Andy S.
Washington
27 n/a
Casey H.
NO TEAM!
30 n/a
Chris C.
Anaheim
20 n/a
Cole V.
Minnesota
34 3rd
Dan F.
Washington
21 n/a
Dave F.
Washington
24 n/a
Jackson N.
Edmonton
21 n/a
Jared R.
Chicago
27 n/a
Jay W.
Chicago
31 n/a
John M.
Pittsburgh
34 3rd
Justin S.
Washington
35 2nd
Katie S.
Anaheim
29 n/a
LJ S.
Pittsburgh
27 n/a
Matt H.
Washington
33 n/a
Michael J.
Washington
34 3rd
Neal L.
NO TEAM!
34 3rd
Peter S.
MONTREAL
41 1st
Ted A.
Pittsburgh
19 n/a
Tony T.
Chicago
24 n/a
Tyler D.
Edmonton
20 n/a
Westin F.
Washington
33 3rd
Zeke P.
Chicago
24 n/a

As you can see, the highlighted names occupt first-place, second-place, and third-place as it stands after one round, but don't think those spots are stationary. Those are the people you're hunting down in this quest for some free gear. As you can see, some are closer than others, but no one is truly out of this contest until the Stanley Cup has been awarded. If you want to risk a few points on a series or two, that's at your discretion, but it could get you back into the race very quickly.

Secondly, due to the number of entrants, I will be awarding three prizes to this year's contestants. As you may be aware, there are a number of people who drop out over the course of the playoffs, so your odds will likely get better as the playoffs go on AS LONG AS YOU CONTINUE TO PLAY. As you can see above, six names are in yellow, tie-breakers may factor in once the dust has settled, and the top-three spots are there for the taking to those who can predict the next seven series correctly!

Here is the next spreadsheet for the contest.

Good luck, everyone, and congratulations to our leaders!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 23 April 2017

The Math Begins

With the Marcus Johansson goal in Toronto tonight, that will end the opening round of the rather surprising NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. If one was a betting person, I'm not certain that anyone would have predicted the Nashville Predators sweeping the Chicago Blackhawks or the Anaheim Ducks sweeping the Calgary Flames, but the bigger surprise to me were the 18 overtime games we saw! If Gary Bettman wanted parity, those 18 games of extra time might be a prime example of that. In any case, the HBIC Playoff Pool leaderboard will go up tomorrow and we'll see who had themselves a solid first round of predictions!

I'll have the next spreadsheet posted at the bottom of the leaderboard, and you may want to note the URL or make it a favorite to check the leaderboard after each round. With no hockey until Wednesday, you'll have lots of time to check and recheck your next round of entries, and I'll post the honorable mentions on Tuesday in giving some kudos to those who did well in each opening round series. Be prepared to see your names in lights... potentially!

With everyone's brackets busted - thanks, Chicago! - from what I've read on Twitter, I'm quite certain everyone will adjust their picks to reflect a Washington-Anaheim Stanley Cup Final since they are the best teams left. If you learned anything from the opening round, though, it might not be such a wise plan to count out Nashville who seemed to enjoy handing the Blackhawks some early tee times. I'm not saying that St. Louis will be as much of a pushover, but Nashville has had a lot of preparation time for their next opponent.

On the other side, the Ottawa-New York Rangers series will be interesting in that Mike Zibanejad and Derrick Brassard will face their old teams and try to make those respective GMs regret that trade. If New York happens to get past the Senators, there will be all-Metropolitan Division Eastern Conference Final which is appropriate considering how good that division was this season. I'm not saying one should count on this result, though, as the Senators somehow found their defibrillation machine and re-energized Bobby Ryan.

Of course, Anaheim and Edmonton will throw haymakers at one another as these two heavyweights in the Pacific Division renew acquaintances. Anaheim is faster and slightly bigger than San Jose, but certainly less skilled on paper. Edmonton is faster and more skilled than Anaheim, but there will be questions on how much punishment that their forwards can take. Personally, I see this series going six or seven games with the winner of Game Five taking the series.

Finally, the annual meeting between the two Metropolitan Division foes in the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins happens in Round Two, and this might be the series that defines Alex Ovechkin's career. It's almost certain that this Capitals team will be broken up due to salary cap concerns at the end of this season with players like TJ Oshie, Karl Alzner, Justin Williams, and Kevin Shattenkirk all facing unrestricted free agency. They will be the favorites against Pittsburgh despite everything that's happened in the past, so it will be interesting to see how they approach this series knowing that the Penguins basically have been awaiting this opportunity since the trade deadline.

If the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs was exciting, this upcoming round could be very interesting with the storylines developing. If you're part of the HBIC Playoff Pool, you certainly have a lot to think about when it comes to how these series may play out and whether or not you want to risk any points in the "RISK IT" option.

Until tomorrow's leaderboard is tabulated, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Real Contempt

I really tire of those people preaching how the current format of the NHL's Stanley Cup Playoffs have ruined any chance of the best two teams in each conference reaching the conference finals. This isn't something new, folks. The Smythe Division had the same problem in the 1980s. The Adams and Patrick Divisions faced the same problems in the early-1990s. Just be thankful it's nothing like what the ECHL puts its teams through when it comes to the number of times the teams see one another over the season. That's where real contempt for one another is found.

When the dust settled on the ECHL season this year, the Kelly Cup Playoffs pitted the top-ranked Florida Everblades against the Orlando Solar Bears in the opening round. These two teams had already met TWELVE TIMES this season with Florida holding a 10-2 advantage in the season series, including the final game of where the Blades hung ten goals on netminder Mitch Gillam. I'm pretty certain that's an ingredient in the contempt these two teams may have for one another.

But, as they say, the postseason wipes the slate clean and everyone starts with the same record. Where there might be lingering hatred and a feeling of vengeance, those feelings are replaced by efforts on the ice where revenge is best served up on the scoreboard. Orlando certainly believes in that mantra as they claimed Games One and Two in this series to go up 2-0 in the series, equaling their total wins versus Florida in twelve attempts this season. Florida won Game Three by a 5-4 score to make it a 2-1 series in favour of the Solar Bears, but tonight's game was off the charts when it came to entertainment value.

With Ryan Massa looking to post his third win and the Solar Bears leading 3-0 late in Game Four, we took a wee break from the hockey action to bring you that hatred and contempt. Jump to the 3:30 mark to see the fun!

Wowzers. Not only did we get a full line brawl, but both Ryan Massa and Alex Nedeljkovic engaged in the all-too-rare goaltender fight! Both Massa and Nedeljkovic were given game misconducts, but it's pretty clear that the Florida Everblades weren't very happy being pushed to the brink of elimination in this series after dominating the Orlando Solar Bears all season. Needless to say, this rivalry just moved to a different level for the remainder of the Kelly Cup series.

11 misconducts. A goalie fight. And they do it all over again tomorrow at 4pm. Yeah, playoff hockey is pretty darn awesome!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 21 April 2017

No Jackets Required

This is a personal post by all means, but I am thoroughly happy that the Penguins have ousted the Columbus Blue Jackets in five games. They await the winner of the Capitals and Maple Leafs, but the Penguins showed a lot of the same traits in this series that they did last season in winning the Stanley Cup. You heard commentators mention goaltending and special teams as key factors in this series, and the only difference in this series compared to last season is the fact that Marc-Andre Fleury put in a Matt Murray-like effort in these five games. The Penguins will now await the NHL's best team or the team that may surprise everyone in the opening round.

The Penguins used team speed, getting pucks to the net, and all of their supporting cast to get past the Blue Jackets when you consider that Jake Guentzel has been one of the best players on the ice. This is a team that hasn't had Chris Kunitz or Kris Letang in the opening round, yet they adapted well and made adjustments to advance just as they did when Trevor Daley went down in the playoffs last season. You can question this team's resiliency and supporting cast all you want, but they got incredible efforts from the aforementioned Guentzel, Bryan Rust, and Ron Hainsey to complement the efforts from Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Phil Kessel.

The second-round match-up for the Penguins will probably be this year's most difficult series for the Penguins based on how the Capitals and Leafs are playing in their own series. While the New York Rangers, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, and Boston Bruins are still lurking in these playoffs in the Atlantic Division, none of those teams should really scare the Penguins. It will be the Round Two series that may determine who represents the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup Final this season, and you probably already know who I'll be cheering for when this series begins next season.

Let's go, Pens!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!