Hockey Headlines

Sunday, 31 May 2015

With An Asterisk

The HBIC Playoff Pool is, like the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs, one round from being complete! One player has led wire-to-wire thus far while no one has yet to throw caution to the wind and try to double-up a pile of points. This might be the round that someone does, though, as they look to get into the top-five point earners overall. After all, if this series goes seven games and one guesses all the goal-scorers correctly, one can only earn a maximum of 26 points. If you're more than 26 points out of the prizes, why not toss caution to the wind, right?

If you check the leaderboard, Andy S. still leads the pool in total points. There were some changes in the top-five, but there is an asterisk on that. One of the leaders in the previous round somehow corrupted his spreadsheet so that I cannot open it with multiple programs! I've sent an email back to him to find out if he can resend the spreadsheet, and I'll be looking at it with a very close microscope. Needless to say, if there are a lot more right than what we had discussed earlier in the round, that asterisk will certainly be enforced. Heavily.

Round Three was led by an impressive 19-point effort turned in by Matt H. Matt jumped back into the prizes with his outstanding round, but he was almost overtaken by Mike J. who turned in an 18-point third round. And the third entrant who gets a shout-out is Tyler J. who turned in a 17-point performance which pushed him back into the prizes. Well done, gentlemen, on a great third round!

Matt also was the only person who, had he risked the points, would have doubled those points risked as he called the New York-Tampa Bay series entirely correct. In saying that, he grabbed seven points in calling all seven games right, added another two points off the Tyler Johnson Game Two game-winner, and had the series correct for another five points. All totaled, Matt picked up 14 points in this series on his way to the top score in the round! Well done, Matt!

The Anaheim-Chicago series seemed to cause a number of entrants problems. Lots of people predicted the series would end in six games - a fair assessment - while no one had the alternating games trend in their predictions. In saying that, only one entrant hit double-digits in points in this round. Scott M. correctly called the winning team in Games Two, Five, and Seven for three points. He also called the Ryan Kesler game-winner in Game Five. And because he called Chicago in seven games, he added another five points. When the dust settled, Scott picked up a solid ten points in this series!

And so we're down to one series to settle everything. Do you risk a pile of points? Do you play it straight and hope to get into or stay in the top-five? Will anyone overtake Andy S. in the standings?

Round Four of the HBIC Playoff Pool is open! Download the spreadsheet here for Round Two! Fill it out and send it back to me WITH YOUR NAME AS THE NAME OF THE EXCEL DOCUMENT AND R3 AT THE END(ie. TeebzR4.xlsx) to this email address only!

Click here to download if you missed the link above.

You have until the puck drops series on Wednesday to fire in your picks. Determine whether or not you're going to risk it or not by checking the leaderboard to see where everything has settled!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 30 May 2015

The Final Is Set

The Coastal Final will not be played this year thanks to the Chicago Blackhawks' 5-3 victory in Game Seven over the Anaheim Ducks. While there was hope that the Beach Series would take place, pitting two recent expansion teams against one another, the Ducks didn't show up for the biggest game of the season until the game was two-thirds of the way done. It was almost anti-climactic in how they played for the first period and part of the second period, but they did score a few goals to make the score a little more respectable. In the end, though, Chicago took the game to the Ducks early on, got up a few goals, and rode their defensive game to another Finals berth.

Honestly, I think this series between the Lightning and Blackhawks, which starts Wednesday in Tampa Bay, has all the makings of a great series. Two vastly underrated goaltenders, a couple of elite defencemen, and a pile of offensive talent will congregate for four games or more in this Stanley Cup Final, and it has me thinking that a number of goals might be scored if both teams bring their offensive best.

I'm not going to break down this series, though. For three previous rounds, you've seen these two teams put on great offensive and defensive spectacles in getting to this point, and a number of players have raised their games on both sides. These two teams earned their way into this year's Stanley Cup Final and no one can take that away from them at this point nor does it need me to tell you who to watch for in this series. The usual suspects will all be on display: Stamkos, Johnson, Hedman, Bishop, Kucherov, Toews, Kane, Hossa, Keith, and Crawford.

Brad Richards, who won a Stanley Cup and the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2004 with the Lightning, will be on the other side this time, and it will be interesting to see how the Lightning fans treat their former hero. While I'm sure they won't be cheering for him, will he be booed? Will Lightning fans even care if Richards isn't an impact player in this series? Don't expect any MVP chants in the crowd when Richards touches the puck this time around.

Like Anton Stralman and Brian Boyle on the Lightning side who left through free agency, the Rangers cut Richards loose last summer when they bought out his contract. Becoming a free agent, he was able to sign with any team that wanted him, and the Blackhawks got him fairly cheap to be their second-line centerman. He's had a season of ups and downs, but he certainly wasn't the dynamic scorer he once was with the Lightning. He'll be relied up for his defensive game again in this series, and the Blackhawks are fine with that side of his skill set.

All-time, the Blackhawks hold a 16-10-10 record against the Lightning. They have 106 goals-for in that span versus 94 goals-against. These former Norris Division rivals have had a few battles in their times, but this one is literally for all the marbles. The Lightning are seeking their second Stanley Cup in franchise history while Chicago looks for its sixth Stanley Cup in its history, and third Stanley Cup in the last six years. Chicago is as close to a dynasty as the NHL has right now while it appears that the Lightning are on the verge of starting their own era of success.

For those of you in the HBIC Playoff Pool, I will post the Stanley Cup Final round spreadsheet tomorrow. I need to go through and total up everyone's round from Round Three, and we'll see if Andy S. is still leading after three rounds of hockey. Tune in tomorrow afternoon for that!

Wednesday night, the biggest games of the season start for two teams. Who's your champion?

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 29 May 2015

Down To Three

Game Seven tonight at Madison Square Garden appeared to be a defensive struggle as the two teams battled through two periods in a scoreless tie. A Scott Oake interview on CBC's Hockey Night in Canada during the second intermission with Steven Stamkos saw the Lightning captain suggest that more traffic would be needed if the Lightning were to beat Henrik Lundquist on this night. Twenty minutes later, Ben Bishop set an NHL record with his second shutout and second assist in two Game Sevens in the same playoff year, and the Lightning grabbed their ticket to the Stanley Cup Final with a 2-0 victory over the Rangers.

There were a lot of great performances in the Eastern Conference Championship, but the story should once again focus on Tampa Bay's second line where Nikita Kucherov, Ondrej Palat, and Tyler Johnson are carrying this team to new heights after having led the Norfolk Admirals to a Calder Cup three seasons ago in the AHL. These three players are the engine driving this team right now on the offensive side of the puck, and it's hard not to be impressed by the undrafted Johnson who was clutch in all three rounds.

Defensively, Anton Stralman and Victor Hedman were the foundation of a defence-by-committee approach the Lightning are using. Hedman really turned a corner in the 2013-14 season to become Tampa Bay's most reliable defenceman, and the second-overall pick in the 2009 draft is showing why the Lightning had faith in him before Steve Yzerman and Jon Cooper took over this team.

Stralman, meanwhile, is going back to the Stanley Cup Final after having played in them as a member of the New York Rangers last season. You have to wonder how a player of Stralman's strengths was traded twice in one summer from Toronto to Calgary to Columbus, but Stralman really hit his stride after leaving the Blue Jackets via free agency and joining the New York Rangers. He blocks shots, he's excellent defensively, and he compliments the offensive defencemen that the Lightning have by being responsible in both ends when defence is thrown to the wind.

As we've seen in these playoffs, the Lightning tend to play a little more high-risk than most teams, but they used this style all season in being the highest scoring team in the NHL. It can be argued that they should have focused more on defence as the playoffs opened, but they took down Detroit, Montreal, and, now, the New York Rangers where those three teams were certainly more defensive than the Lightning may ever be under Jon Cooper. This offensive-mindedness isn't a detriment, however, when you realize that after tomorrow, the Lightning will be one of two teams left standing after this season.

For the Rangers, there were calls for Nash and St. Louis to end their Alexei Yashin impressions and show up for the biggest game of the Rangers' season. The Rangers were getting contributions from their secondary scorers such as Derek Stepan, Chris Kreider, and Derick Brassard, but the two guys who are the biggest names on the roster who aren't Swedish were practically invisible in these playoffs. This is not an uncommon thing for Rick Nash, but Martin St. Louis has to be worried about his roster spot due to his age and playoff performance.

Changes will happen in New York. There is still a solid core of players in the Big Apple to keep the Rangers challenging next season and beyond, and they have some good players in Hartford like Oscar Lindberg, Ryan Haggerty, and Dylan McIlrath. They do need to start stockpiling some good young talent, though, and that will be Glen Sather's challenge going forward as the Rangers' roster ages and/or gets overpriced. Change, as they say, is good, though, and the Rangers might find themselves a solid diamond in the rough if they begin that stockpiling now.

It will be interesting to see who their opponents are in the West. If Anaheim wins, Tampa Bay will fly to Anaheim for Game One on Wednesday. If Chicago wins, the Blackhawks will visit Tampa Bay to open the Stanley Cup Final. If we were judging this on uniforms alone, I'd be cheering for the Blackhawks to meet the Lightning, but the game isn't decided on a runway. Saturday night will be the final game in Western Conference Final to determine who meets the Lightning.

Who do you have in that game?

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 28 May 2015

The Hockey Show - Episode 141

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced hockey radio show, is back with a huge show tonight as we're proud, honoured, and privileged to welcome back two guests who appeared way back in Season One of The Hockey Show! Since that time, he's played in Russia and has established a new career in Denmark while she has continued her excellent freelancing work from all sorts of places across Europe as the pair traveled and found new locales! To say we've been excited for this show would be an understatement!

We've tried to keep our listeners up-to-date on what's happening with Brandon and Jessica through the last couple of years with our Russian Roundup pieces, but we'll get to hear from the two travelers today as they fill us in on the last couple of years of hockey, travel, moving, and life in foreign countries. If you've listened over the last couple of years, Brandon was playing in the KHL for CSKA Moscow last year before an injury made him reconsider his options. In his decision, he found a job coaching Vojens in Denmark, and things have gone pretty well for him! Jessica Scott-Reid has been writing up a storm for various publications including the National Post, VICE, CBC.ca, the Montreal Gazette, the Winnipeg Free Press, and Notable.ca! Needless to say, being a writer has allowed her to travel with Brandon while maintaining her position as a freelancer, and, from the amount of work she's doing, she's doing extremely well too!

Tonight on the The Hockey Show, we are proud to have the Reids back in the studio with us as we talk to them about life in Moscow and playing in the KHL, life in Vojens, becoming a coach and some of the transitions Brandon was forced to make going from player to coach, the return of the Manitoba Moose and whether or not Brandon and/or Jessica has approached them for a position, and we'll have a chat about the TV series Hockey Wives as both Brandon and Jessica are fans of the show! We may have to petition the W Network to follow Jessica next season as the first European hockey wife when she and Brandon return to Denmark!

We're super-excited to have the Reids back on the show tonight as we have lots of questions for them about how life is going for them. Join us tonight on 101.5 UMFM on your radio dial in the Winnipeg region or you can listen live between 5:30pm and 6:30pm CT on your web-enabled device at the UMFM webpage! You can tweet me anytime you like by hitting me up at @TeebzHBIC on Twitter. You can also post some stuff to Facebook if you use the "Like" feature, and I always have crazy stuff posted there that doesn't make it to the blog or show. The Manitoba Moose's seventh-overall scorer all-time and one of my favorite writers will be on the The Hockey Show tonight!

PODCAST: May 28, 2015: Episode 141

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Antler Banter: Season 1, Volume 4

The AHL Calder Cup Playoffs feature just four teams, and one of those teams is on the brink of going home this evening as Antler Banter is back again for the weekly look at the American Hockey League. One of the kids in Grand Rapids looks like he'll be a good fit there while he develops as the series between the Griffins and Utica Comets continues, and there has been little change on the newest old website as the Moose website has yet to be updated since the announcement of the return of the team to Winnipeg. I'm also happy to announce that, tomorrow on the radio show, we'll feature a guy who wore the old Moose colors for a while as a member of the Vancouver Canucks, and he's been doing a heckuva job over in Denmark as a coach. With that, Antler Banter is off and running for another week!

Monarchs Way Ahead

If you're a fan of the Hartford Wolfpack, you're hoping they can add their names to the history books starting tonight as they find themselves in a 3-0 hole to the Monarchs. Manchester has won games by one goals, two goals, and three goals, and they seem to be getting stronger as the series progresses. After posting a 3-2 win, they followed it up with 7-4 and 5-3 victories as Hartford has had no answer for the Monarchs' offence. Game Four is tonight, and the Wolfpack might be cleaning out their lockers after the game if they can't stop the bleeding in a hurry.

West Is All Square

The Grand Rapids Griffins and Utica Comets are tied up at 1-1 in their series with Game Three happening tomorrow night. Utica took Game One by a 2-1 score while the Griffins responded in Game Two with a 4-2 victory. 18 year-old Dylan Larkin, playing his second AHL game, had a pair of goals for the Griffins, and it appears that the Red Wings have another solid player in their pipeline to go along with some of the great talent on the Griffins.

I'm not anointing Larkin the next great thing, mind you, but the Griffins have some excellent talent on their roster right now. With Jeff Blashill having met with Ken Holland recently about the vacant head coaching job in Detroit, we could see a lot of roster turnover with Blashill knowing his team in Grand Rapids extremely well. While not everyone is ready to make the jump, Larkin included at this point, it looks like Detroit has another excellent wave of layers coming up thanks to the Griffins.

Thank Goodness He's Alright

Game One between the Griffins and Comets was marred by a rather brutal hit committed by Griffins centerman Louis-Marc Aubry on Comets defenceman Bobby Sanguinetti. This is rather hard to watch, so you've been warned, folks.
While the hit is rather brutal, referee TJ Luxmore, whose arm is raised and was watching the play, somehow only handed out a two-minute boarding penalty despite Sanguinetti being helped off the ice. Thankfully, Sanguinetti was cleared for Game Two and played in the contest, but one has to wonder how Aubry escaped a fine or suspension on that play. That was dangerous, folks, no matter how you watch it.

Looking For Updates

I totally get that there's not a lot of news coming out of the Manitoba Moose camp right now, but when websites aren't updated it's hard to get the excitement brewing in the community. How many season tickets have the Moose sold? How close to capacity are they with all the mini-packs sold? Are we going to see any promotional nights? Who is the radio partner?

Lots of questions, but there are little answers. I know they are still looking for a number of positions to be filled - including the Manager of Communications who would handle a large part of this - but there is literally four months before the Moose hit the ice for their first regular season game in Winnipeg in four years. It's time to get this groundswell moving!

Former Moose Returns

I am happy, honoured, privileged, and proud to announce that The Hockey Show on 101.5 UMFM will feature former Manitoba Moose Brandon Reid in-studio tomorrow night! Brandon and Jessica Reid will be stopping by the studio for the second time in our short history, and we're excited to get caught up with them! The last time we spoke to them, Brandon was preparing to join CSKA Moscow in the KHL two years ago. Since that time, he's retired, taken a coaching job in Denmark, and won a championship! Jessica, for her part, has found life in Moscow and Vojens to have its ups and downs, but she's always kept a smile on her face as she's captured some amazing pictures in her travels!

We'll talk to them tomorrow about a pile of stuff, but the one thing that they found they loved? The TV series Hockey Wives! I know I said I'm not interested in talking or watching the show, but Brandon and Jessica have forced me to brush up on the show's finer points, so we'll have a discussion about the show tomorrow night. It should be interesting!

That's all for tonight, kids. If you want to hear the interview tomorrow, hit up the UMFM website and listen online if you're outside the Winnipeg region! The podcast will go up after the show as well, so feel free to download that if you can't make it for the live broadcast!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Hold On Now, Bobby

Bobby Clarke is a polarizing figure in hockey. He's brash, he speaks his mind, he breaks the ankles of Soviets if asked, and he bleed the orange-and-black of the Philadelphia Flyers. He's proud of his career and legacy, and I see no reason why he shouldn't be. However, his track record in NHL management leaves a little to be desired after the problems he had with Eric Lindros amongst other slips. However, Clarke is still a respected hockey man, and it's always interesting when he has something to say. Like today, for example, he went off on teams that tank to improve.

In speaking with Sam Carchidi of The Inquirer of Philadelphia, Clarke states,
"We've been to the Finals so many times and played so good and so hard and didn't quite get it done. It [angers me] that teams try to lose continually to come up with the Crosbys... and Malkins."

"The Flyers have never intentionally tried to lose. That would put a foul taste in my mouth. Who wants to be a part of any organization like that? I wouldn't want to be."
I appreciate and understand his passion for keeping integrity of the game intact by not having teams tank. However, Clarke's history might be a little fuzzy since Pittsburgh wasn't tanking to get Malkin and certainly didn't tank to get Crosby. Let's take a quick peek at what led to the Penguins drafting those two players.

Malkin was drafted in 2004 by the Pittsburgh Penguins at second overall that year. Taken before him by the Washington Capitals was some guy by the name of Alexander Ovechkin, but he hasn't really done anything in the NHL yet (I kid, I kid). The Penguins, having spent freely in the 1990s to acquire and retain big-name talent, were in the midst of battling for their very survival after claiming Chapter 11 bankruptcy in November 1998.

To continue to tread water, the Penguins dealt away their high-priced talent such as Jaromir Jagr, Petr Nedved, Alexei Kovalev, Kevin Hatcher, and Tom Barrasso for lesser players who demanded much less in the way of salary. The Penguins were a shell of themselves by the time 2003-04 rolled around, and things got bleaker when Mario Lemieux suffered a season-ending hip injury that saw the team average the lowest attendance in the league at 11,877 fans per game. The Penguins, icing mostly an AHL team under the coaching of inexperienced Ed Olczyk, stumbled to the NHL's worst record at 23-47-8-4 and a goal differential of -113!

To be fair, Washington's 23-46-10-3 record was only one-point better than the lowly Penguins, so "tanking" to finish with the worst record wasn't really something the Penguins were looking to achieve when icing a lineup that saw defenceman Dick Tarnstrom (!?!) lead the team with 52 points while posting a -37 and Ryan Malone leading the team in goals with 22. Rico Fata was fifth in team-scoring with 34 points while posting a -46 on the season. No Penguin who played more than 20 games that year finished on the plus side of the puck. Ric Jackman, who played 25 games that season, recorded 24 points and a -5. RIC JACKMAN!?! Oh, he was acquired from the Maple Leafs on February 11. That explains it.

The three goalies that season who saw the most rubber were Sebastien Caron, Jean-Sebastien Aubin, and Marc-Andre Fleury. Here are their stats from the season, and it's pretty apparent that the Penguins were awful. Not one goalie had a double-digit win total!
You could have leaned a stick against the crossbar and it would have had a better goals-against average than these three combined. If the Penguins were tanking, it would have happened at the management level, through the coaching staff, and right on down to the players with this kind of effort. I'm very sure that anyone who played on the Penguins during this time would have spoken up by now if they were told and coached to lose. Players have pride and no professional likes or enjoys losing. Especially if they're being told to lose on purpose.

On top of all this, the Penguins set an NHL record that year for the longest home losing streak at 14 losses on home ice, allowed the most power-play goals at 84 while finishing 30th-overall on the penalty kill at 77.24%, and allowed the most shorthanded goals in the NHL at 15. This team was absolutely terrible. They went an unfathomable 2-14-0 in January yet finished the season in March and April with a combined 10-4-3 record. That's not how one tanks whatsoever, but Mr. Clarke is welcome to his opinion.

Entering the summer, there were high hopes that the Penguins would win the lottery with their horrific season behind them, enabling them the privilege of drafting first-overall and the rights to Alexander Ovechkin. And things went off the rails once more when it was announced that their archrival, the Washington Capitals, had secured the first-overall pick via the lottery, pushing Pittsburgh to second-overall. Ovechkin went to Washington, and Pittsburgh selected Evgeni Malkin.

Now, one can make the case that the Penguins really didn't lose here with either of the top-two picks. However, it's pretty clear that, like Buffalo this year, the Penguins would have preferred the first-overall pick. After all, a first-overall pick doesn't always guarantee you a blue-chip prospect (Patrik Stefan? Alexandre Daigle?), but it's similar to the race between McDavid and Eichel this year: the team with the first-overall pick has the luxury of choosing which player they prefer. Fans can rationalize that getting Malkin really didn't hurt the Penguins, and that's true. But would Ovechkin have made them even better? That's something that we'll never know.

With the situation in Pittsburgh at an all-time low, Mario Lemieux explored the idea of relocating the team, meeting with officials in Kansas City to see if the team's finances could be resolved with a possible move to Missouri. Thankfully for fans in Pittsburgh, the lockout in 2005 was settled, a new arena deal was struck, and Mario Lemieux pledged to keep the team in the Steel City with things looking up. All they needed now was to ice a decent team.

The NHL Draft Lottery in 2005 was a little different than previous lotteries in that all 30 NHL teams had a short at the first-overall pick. Teams with multiple playoff appearances would receive less balls in the lottery pool than teams that had been struggling in the past three seasons, and those who had drafted higher would have less balls than those who drafted lower to balance out the shift. All teams would have between one and three balls in the lottery pool, and a team would draft at a position once all the balls in the lottery had been pulled.

Teams with three balls in the lottery were the Buffalo Sabres, the Columbus Blue Jackets, the New York Rangers, and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Teams with two balls in the lottery were the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, the Atlanta Thrashers, the Calgary Flames, the Carolina Hurricanes, the Chicago Blackhawks, the Edmonton Oilers, the Los Angeles Kings, the Minnesota Wild, the Nashville Predators, and the Phoenix Coyotes.

Teams with one ball in the lottery were the Boston Bruins, the Colorado Avalanche, the Dallas Stars, the Detroit Red Wings, the Florida Panthers, the Montreal Canadiens, the New Jersey Devils, the New York Islanders, the Ottawa Senators, the Philadelphia Flyers, the San Jose Sharks, the St. Louis Blues, the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Vancouver Canucks, and the Washington Capitals.

Thanks to their recent playoff success, the Flyers would have one ball in the lottery. They would be selected to draft 20th-overall, but had swapped their pick with the Florida Panthers so their first selection in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft would be at 29th-overall. The Penguins? Well, they won the lottery that year, finishing ahead of Anaheim and Carolina - two teams with two balls - and five picks better than Columbus who also had three balls.

With the first-overall pick that season based on the finishes of the previous three seasons and draft positions of the previous three seasons, the Pittsburgh Penguins would select Sidney Crosby. In other words, this tank job that Bobby Clarke is implyiong would have begun in 2002 with the management, coaches, and players knowing long before anyone else that a lockout would cancel the entire 2005 NHL season in order for them to plan a draft strategy to get Crosby. While Craig Patrick is a highly-respected hockey mind, I doubt that even he could pull off this kind of masterminding and predicting of future events.

Suggesting this kind of conspiracy is ludicrous. Bobby Clarke has to know that taking a shot at his in-state rivals is always good for business, but when it's a completely insane comment, the egg only ends up on his face. I completely respect the fact that he'd prefer that teams such as Edmonton, Arizona, and Buffalo played every minute like it was their last instead of aiming for the tank, but it's not like the Flyers escaped the same idealism this season as they missed the playoffs.

The same Sam Carchidi wrote on December 6, 2014, "There are legions of fans who want the Flyers to tank, want them to be in contention for the No. 1 draft pick and have a chance to select Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel, centers considered to be franchise cornerstones." However, he concluded that the Flyers' problem was "a messy cap situation and it's going to take a few years to get out of it" as he tried to divert the chatter away from a tank job. Again, I commend this point-of-view as I too believe that every NHL player should give it everything he has for every minute NHL players are paid. The Flyers seem to believe that as well, so they'll never get a thumbs-down from me for this attitude.

While I respect Bobby Clarke for speaking his mind on most subjects without a filter, aiming his crosshairs on the Penguins in terms of them tanking to get Malkin and Crosby isn't even close to being factual. Had he suggested the tank job the Penguins did in 1983-84 to get the rights to the first-overall selection and Mario Lemieux despite the New Jersey Devils clearly being the worst team that season, I'd give him credit for his comment since former Penguins coach Lou Angotti has admitted to tanking that season. But to suggest the Penguins tanked to select second-overall and first-overall when all teams had a shot at Crosby?

No tanks, Bobby.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 25 May 2015

Rockets Blast Oceanic

Two winless teams met in Quebec City at the Pepsi Colisée on Monday night as the WHL's Kelowna Rockets and the QMJHL's Rimouski Oceanic were looking to square their 0-1 records at the 2015 Mastercard Memorial Cup. Honestly, only one team really showed up for tonight's game as the country was able to see the impressive offensive array of talent that the Rockets have put together this season. This was the Rockets squad that hammered the Brandon Wheat Kings in four-straight games in the WHL Championship series. Rimouski, however, looked nothing like the confident group they were a week ago after winning the QMJHL Championship, and the wheels came off after the first intermission.

The Rockets jumped out to a 3-0 before the game was fifteen minutes old on the strength of goals by Nick Merkley 52 seconds in, Madison Bowie at the 6:16 mark, and Gage Quinney at 14:27. The Oceanic, however, would respond with a pair of goals in the final five minutes of the period when Christopher Clapperton and Michael Joly on the power-play cut the deficit to one goal. It was expected that the Western Hockey League team would be the more physical of the two, but the Oceanic really took the body to the Rockets.

The second period saw the Rockets double their total as Gage Quinney added the fourth goal on the power-play at 1:52, Nick Merkley added another at 10:42, and Leon Draisaitl netted the sixth Kelowna goal at 13:18 for the 6-2 lead. Rimouski goaltender Louis-Philip Guindon wouldn't see the Draisaitl goal from the blue paint, however, as head coach Serge Beausoleil got out the hook after the fifth Kelowna goal, replacing Guindon with Philippe Desrosiers. The second period was a lot more physical than the first period, and the penalties in that period were of the chippy variety: hooking, kneeing, interference, cross-checking, fighting, slashing, and roughing. Between the two teams, they were giving the rule book a workout!

The third period was a lot of "just wrap this up" hockey, but the teams traded special teams goals as Frédérik Gauthier notched a power-play goal for the Oceanic to make it 6-3 before Leon Draisaitl scored a pretty goal while shorthanded to make it 7-3 which is how the game finished. Draisaitl, Nick Merkley, and Gage Quinney each scored twice while Madison Bowie had the other Rockets goal to go along with a pair of assists. Chris Clapperton, Michael Joly and Frédérik Gauthier had the Oceanic goals.

There's something to be said about Leon Draisaitl as it appears that having the Oilers send him back to junior is paying off for his career. He's scoring goals that are NHL-like in his driving to the net and his willingness to go to the high-traffic areas. He's playing extremely well without the puck, and has made his mark playing shorthanded as he killed Brandon with his shorthanded markers and is now doing the same in the Memorial Cup.

It's a little scary to think that Connor McDavid could play between Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle next season while the improved Draisaitl could find a home on the second line with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and possibly one of Anton Landon, Matt Hendricks, Benoit Pouliot, Teddy Purcell, or Nail Yakupov. Granted, the styles of those wingers may not fit with Nugent-Hopkins and Draisaitl who both have exceptional scoring touches, but Todd McLellan will have the final say there. Regardless of the decisions made, having McDavid and Draisaitl playing with confidence right out of training camp is a massive upgrade compared to last season.

Adding to Draisaitl's value in Edmonton will be his penalty-killing skills. Finding skilled guys who kill penalties as well as Draisaitl has in junior hockey is rare, and the Oilers should be putting that skill set higher than most others. While I'm not suggesting he'll be the next Jordan Staal or Patrice Bergeron, Draisaitl's ability to drive the net and score goals while shorthanded is something the Oilers desperately need. After all, the opposition can't score when it's fishing the puck out of the back of its own net. It was an effective strategy in the WHL, and I suspect that the Oilers may want to look at deploying this strategy once Draisaitl matures a little more physically.

It's almost as if - stop me if this has come up before - the Oilers are building their forward ranks as they did in the early 1980s with a young, dynamic superstar playmaker and goal-scorer followed by a big-bodied, bruising second-line centerman who can score goals and set up plays. While the Gretzky-Messier comparisons are entirely unfair at this point in their careers, the Oilers seemingly are getting two players who fit that mold once more. It's kind of exciting to think where the oilers may be in three or four years if the trajectory of McDavid and Draisaitl play out as expected.

Right now, though, only Draisaitl is playing hockey and if you're not watching the Mastercard Memorial Cup, you're missing out on a special player. While I wouldn't categorize him as a "generational talent" or any of those other cliché terms, he's vitally important to Kelowna's success at the Memorial Cup and he proved again tonight why he was the WHL's Playoff MVP.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 24 May 2015

TBC: He Shoots... He Skewers!

I've been negligent in posting a few reviews of some excellent books, so I plan on posting a few of these over the next week or two. I have to say that today's book featured on Teebz's Book Club is one that I haven't seen in my neck of the woods, and it was found by my mom who spent some time in Ottawa recently. Teebz's Book Club is proud to present He Shoots... He Skewers!, written and illustrated by Randy Duncan and published by Summit Studios. While there aren't many books of cartoons, comics, or caricatures of hockey, He Shoots... He Skewers! is a pile of caricatures of some of the more recognizable faces and people in hockey in various situations that may be a little outside their normal hockey lives. Nonetheless, Mr. Duncan's artistry blends well with the funny situations he puts NHL players in via these caricatures.

Paring down the biography on the Summit Studios site, Randy Duncan grew up on a farm near Ormstown, Quebec. When his parents weren't driving him to minor league hockey games he was playing hockey on the iced-over fields and creeks, or watching Les Habitants work their magic on the television screen. Duncan discovered at a young age that drawing big heads on small bodies was quite humorous, and later went on to study Fine Arts at Champlain College and graphic design at Concordia University. He's had his caricatures published across the country in newspapers such as the Montreal Gazette, the Winnipeg Free Press, the Edmonton Sun, and the Ottawa Citizen. Ultimately it was these cartoons that provided inspiration for the recently released book of hockey caricatures, He Shoots... He Skewers!

He Shoots... He Skewers! was actually published in 2009 so some of the caricatures are a little dated in terms of players having switched teams, but it doesn't detract from Mr. Duncan's excellent artistry and funny comments.

The problem with a book of pictures? The thousand words won't do the caricatures justice. Instead, Summit Studios has some examples up on their site, and I'll post one here so you can have an idea as to why these are so good.
As you can see, Mr. Duncan's caricatures are very accurate in the portrayal of various NHL players, and he inserts them into situations that are quite funny like the handshake incident that went on between the Penguins and Red Wings in 2009. I'm not sure I'd shake Kris Draper's hand if it was presented as Mr. Duncan has drawn either.

There are lots of caricatures over the 160 pages in He Shoots... He Skewers! and no one is safe from Mr. Duncan's pencil and paper. Gretzky, Lemieux, Orr, Tretiak, Bettman, the Staals, Mats Sundin, Roberto Luongo, and so many more players are included in a pile of humorous images that were spawned from the mind of Randy Duncan. They're pretty funny and the caricatures are done exceptionally well. I thoroughly enjoyed flipping through the pages of He Shoots... He Skewers! and chuckling at Mr. Duncan's twisted realities for some NHL players, and I think you'd enjoy it too. Because he's an amazing artist and combines his artistry with some great humour, He Shoots... He Skewers! absolutely deserves the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval!

You may have to search a number of places to find He Shoots... He Skewers!, but the bigger stores such as Chapters should be able to order it in at the very least. Otherwise, order it from the Summit Studios site!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Did They Overpay?

This was the moment just before the celebration tonight in double-overtime. Antoine Vermette was in the right place to find a sliver of room past Simon Despres' sprawl and Fredrik Andersen's out-streched glove to even the series between the Anaheim Ducks and Chicago Blackhawks at 2-2. Vermette has been a healthy scratch in a few contests in this year's Stanley Cup Playoffs, and there have been some who have whispered that the Blackhawks overpaid to get him if he's watching from the press box despite tonight's heroics. So I'll ask the question: did they?

The Blackhawks were looking to solve a few salary cap issues for next season with the new deals for Toews and Kane ready to take effect, so they needed to get some expiring contracts on the books. Vermette's contract was expiring, and Arizona was looking to build for the future. Chicago saw an opportunity to get a veteran centerman who wins face-offs and is solid defensively whose contract was expiring, so they swung a deal with Arizona.
You can understand trading a somewhat-decent young player for a rental player if you need him. However, that first-round pick in this year's NHL Entry Draft seems like a hefty add-on in a deal for a guy Chicago almost certainly won't be re-signing. While there are some who feel that Chicago wasn't interested in picking in the bottom-third of the draft, you have to think that Arizona was more than thrilled to get back another first-round selection in what seems to be a decent draft year.

Did they overpay?

The 32-year-old Vermette had 194 NHL goals and 430 points at the time of the deal. It was thought he would slot into the third-line centerman position if Toews and Brad Richards held the top-two centerman positions. He is considered more of a defensive forward with the ability to win face-offs, so this would be an ideal fit for the veteran. However, in 19 games with the Blackhawks, Vermette didn't look comfortable in his role as he picked up just three assists.

Chicago, though, wasn't worried about the regular season. They were built for another deep playoff run. Vermette's value would be seen there, it was postulated. He would be counted on to play hard against the Predators and win key face-offs while chipping in timely points in a defensive effort. He'll show up, it was said, when it mattered most.

Except that he started the series in the press box, watching from above as the Blackhawks and Predators battled. Head coach Joel Quenneville spoke honestly when he said that the reason for the benching was based on performance. "Certainly, if I would have been better 'Q' and the coaching staff would evaluate my play better and it would be a different situation," Vermette told Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune. "I can control what I can control and that's exactly what I'll try to do. I'm sure I'm going to get a chance at some point here and I'll make myself ready regardless of what happened before."

Vermette would be re-inserted into the lineup for the next ten games played by the Blackhawks, and he recorded a goal and an assist before he found himself sitting in Game Three against the Anaheim Ducks after the four-overtime marathon in Game Two. Understandably, he wasn't happy. "I thought I had a good game," Vermette told Mark Potash of the Chicago Sun-Times. "I was playing well. So it came as a surprise and disappointment. I'm not going to lie — I was not happy with that. But my job is to be ready whenever I have a chance to be in the lineup — and that's what I'm going to do."

He did return for Game Four, scoring one of the biggest goals for the Blackhawks this postseason.

Scratched in Game Three, hero in Game Four.

So did they overpay?

Vermette has two goals and an assist while sitting with a +4. His face-off percentage has been outstanding, winning 60.3% of the time at the face-off dot. He's sat three times, though, after Joel Quenneville found his play to be unacceptable in terms of what he wants out of Vermette. There's a yin and yang to the Vermette situation as he wins face-offs and chips in where he can, but he's not doing all that his head coach wants out of him.

If the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup, I don't think the Blackhawks will miss the 30th-overall pick in the draft in exchange for having Vermette winning one of the key games in their Stanley Cup run. While draft picks are vitally important in today's NHL, winning a Stanley Cup still brings a caché that helps attract talent and free agents that can offset the loss of a first-round pick. Picking at 30th-overall may not bring a blue-chip prospect either.

If the Blackhawks don't win the Stanley Cup, though, there's a good chance that they overpaid. Vermette was supposed to be that piece acquired at the deadline that made the Blackhawks three-lines deep, and it could be argued that he hasn't done that yet outside of Game Four in the Western Conference Final. With the series against the Ducks being a best-of-three after Vermette's big goal, he'll need to show up a few more times for people to forget about the first-round pick and it would be helpful if he did it sooner rather than later.

Did they overpay? We'll know in three games or less.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 22 May 2015

Quebec Does It Classy

The final four teams in the Canadian Hockey League have been determined as the Memorial Cup starts tonight. The WHL is represented by the Kelowna Rockets, the OHL is represented by the Oshawa Generals, and the QMJHL has the Rimouski Oceanic as their representative. The final team is the host team, and that would the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL. As part of the tradition of hosting, the Remparts debuted their Memorial Cup jerseys that honour the sacrifice made by the young men and women so many years ago. And like the many host teams who have carried on this tradition before them, the Remparts did an excellent job on their special one-game uniforms.

I am lucky enough to own one of the Remparts' cream-colored jerseys, but those are worn on the road and the Remparts were designated as the home team in the opening game of the 2015 Mastercard Memorial Cup against the WHL's Kelowna Rockets. That means they'd be wearing red as they do at home, leaving me with concerns that the red poppy patch worn on the jerseys might lose its pop on a red background.

Here's the graphic they published in announcing the Memorial Cup uniforms. Again, note the poppy.
The uniforms are simple and clean. I like them, and the white outline on the poppy keeps it from bleeding into the surrounding red jersey. However, this graphic is just the blueprint. After all, seeing them in action could be an entirely different story if CCM, not Reebok, can't make them work. However, I do have faith in CCM, so let's see what they looked like tonight.
Wow. They look phenomenal! The poppies really do jump off the uniform with that white outline. The crest, while harder to see, really accentuates the maple leaf while the three soldiers of the branches of the Canadian military, inspired by the National War Memorial, are prominently featured on the maple leaf. The jerseys, in the red and white, really feel more like Canada jerseys as opposed to Remparts jerseys, so I'd say they hit the mark in a big way. They also are styled in the same design as the old Remparts uniforms when the team played from 1969-1985 in Quebec City.

The best part is that these jerseys will be auctioned off after the game with the proceeds of the auction going to Quebec military veterans. That's one of the greatest things that the Memorial Cup does every year, and I totally would buy one of these jerseys each and every year if I could afford it. Military veterans deserve the help for providing up the freedoms we have, so get over to the auction and bid on one if you can afford it.

Well done, Quebec. Very classy jerseys.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 21 May 2015

The Hockey Show - Episode 140

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced hockey radio show, is back tonight with an examination into nine years of hockey action! You might ask why nine years and not a decade, but there's a reason for that. The California Seals, aka the Oakland Seals and California Golden Seals, existed for that span of time and their existence was the stuff of legend. From the innovations to the downright stupidity, the Seals have a unique history, and we'll speak with a man who is making the history of the Seals his business!

This is Mr. Mark Greczmiel! Mark is a writer and producer of documentaries, and he's been a TV producer for a number of outlets including NBC and E! Entertainment. Needless to say, he's an experienced producer when it comes to good TV. He also is a transplanted Canadian living in the Bay Area who grew up watching the Seals as a kid, and that's from where his love of the Seals stems! Mark is currently running an IndieGoGo campaign to help fund the costs of producing this documentary, and he needs your help! Only eight days remain on the campaign and he's a wee bit short! Click on and see if you can help his cause in telling the story about the Seals!

We'll talk to him about the 1967 NHL expansion, the Seals' myriad of owners over the years, the on-ice and off-ice problems that plagued this team, Charles Finley, and some of the innovations that the Seals used that were adopted by the NHL! Honestly, how many of you know anything about the Seals because I learned a ton of stuff in researching this topic! We'll also talk about the IndieGoGo campaign and where the progress is in Mr. Greczmiel's documentary!

We're super-excited to have Mr. Greczmiel on the show tonight as we have lots of questions for him about the Seals and their short existence of big ideas and somewhat questionable business practices. Join us tonight on 101.5 UMFM on your radio dial in the Winnipeg region or you can listen live between 5:30pm and 6:30pm CT on your web-enabled device at the UMFM webpage! You can tweet me anytime you like by hitting me up at @TeebzHBIC on Twitter. You can also post some stuff to Facebook if you use the "Like" feature, and I always have crazy stuff posted there that doesn't make it to the blog or show. It's a hockey history show tonight as we look at the California Seals on The Hockey Show!

PODCAST: May 21, 2015: Episode 140

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Antler Banter: Season 1, Volume 3

Well, the AHL will certainly look a little different going forward. There was a major coaching change in the NHL today that we'll touch on as I'm certain there will be AHL ramifications, and the second round of the AHL Calder Cup Playoffs have been decided. There are four more teams going home with no prize to their names while four teams remain in the tournament. Who are they? We'll discuss who is playing whom as the playoffs continue. We'll also take a quick look at a certain player mentioned last week who seems to be on no team's radar right now and we'll chat about players who will be in Moose colors next season. Let's get the banter rolling!

Babcock Walks

Mike Babcock, perhaps this summer's most coveted free agent, made his decision today, and it has left two teams reeling in the wake of his decision. If you haven't heard, Babcock opted to sign on as the new head coach for the Toronto Maple Leafs, leaving vacancies in Detroit and Buffalo to fill after he apparently had been talking with both clubs. We'll talk about Buffalo in a second, but Detroit has a rather unique situation on their hands.

I have made the case that Jeff Blashill should be promoted after his tireless work in the AHL with the Grand Rapids Griffins and his work with the various young players who have been promoted to NHL jobs. He once again has the Griffins in the Western Conference Final of the Calder Cup Playoffs, and he continually proves he's an extremely effective and competent coach.

If he doesn't get the job, I would guess that Blashill walks. But Ken Holland isn't that dumb. Once the Griffins are done playing hockey this season, I expect an announcement from the Red Wings within days of the end of the Griffins' season where Jeff Blashill will be the new head coach of the Red Wings. It's the easiest decision that Holland will have this off-season.

The tougher decision? Who replaces Blashill?

Buffalo Is On Fire

The Buffalo Sabres are furious regarding Babcock's decision in that they felt they had reached a verbal agreement with the coach. With Babcock now in Toronto, they still need to fill their coaching vacancy, and I'm certain Tim Murray will run home to momma if given the opportunity.

Luke Richardson currently coaches the Binghamton Senators. He and Tim Murray worked together with the Ottawa Senators, so there's a connection. Richardson's work at Binghamton has seen him go 122-82-24 in three seasons behind the bench, and he's seen 12 players make the jump to the Senators to become full-time players. Needless to say, his hockey acumen can't be ignored.

The other aspect? Family. Morgan, his daughter, attends Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. His wife, Stephanie, and he like the area. Moving to Buffalo is a little further from Ithaca than Binghamton is, but he's still easily within a drive of a few hours.

While this might be a little tougher than Holland's decision, Luke Richardson in Buffalo almost seems like a perfect fit.

Calder Cuppers

The Manchester Monarchs advanced to the Eastern Conference Final after downing the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 4-1 in their semifinal series. Three games were decided by one goal and two others were 5-2 decisions, but the Monarchs were far too much for the Penguins to handle in this series.

The Hartford Wolfpack, like their NHL affiliate, downed the Hershey Bears to advance to the Eastern Conference Final. Hartford won both overtime games at Hersey in the series, and they say that if you win on the road, the series is yours. Hershey led the series 2-1 before Hartford rattled off three straight wins to take the series 4-2.

Grand Rapids, as mentioned above, is in the Western Conference Final after they sent the Rockford IceHogs packing in a 4-1 series win. Grand Rapids won both games on home before dropping Game Three in Rockford by a 4-1 score, but took the next two games in the series including Game Four in overtime. They had a pile of time to rest as well as they prepared for their next opponents who went the distance in their series.

The Utica Comets, after seven hard-fought games, will advance to their first Western Conference Final to play the Griffins after ending Oklahoma City's run in the playoffs and in the AHL. This was like watching two heavyweights throwing punches at one another as they went back and forth in this series: OKC in four overtime periods, Utica in OT, Utica, OKC, Utica, OKC, Utica. Five of the seven games were decided by a goal including Game Seven's 1-0 victory for Utica. Needless to say, Utica can use the break between series because they're probably exhausted.

What About Jaff?

Despite the public desire to see Jason Jaffray come back to Winnipeg to play with the Moose, it appears True North Sports and Entertainment will go in a different direction after they informed the 33 year-old veteran he will not be offered a contract to join the Moose.

"I was surprised and yes, I was a little bit hurt," Jaffray said to The Compass' Brendan McCarthy last Thursday. "It's not a great feeling when anybody tells you they don't want you for their team anymore. It's definitely a shot to the ego, but I still have confidence I can play."

I'm shocked that they aren't bringing the veteran back, but GM Craig Heisinger has stated that the Moose will be a developmental team first. Personally, that kind of sucks as I was always a Jaffray fan, and I hope he doesn't come back to haunt the Moose when they meet where ever he lands. He's a class act and a great guy, and I wish him nothing but the best in his future hockey endeavours.

How About That Hellebuyck Guy?

Connor Hellebuyck spent the last couple of weeks making Jets fans salivate as he posted crazy numbers at the IIHF World Championship. The 22 year-old went into the tournament looking to make a good impression, and left the tournament with a bronze medal on the strength of his 7-1 record, 2 shutouts, 1.37 GAA, and .947 save percentage. Gaudy numbers for the youngster!

Ondrej Pavelec is signed for two more years, but Hellebuyck's progression has been nothing short of impressive as he's climbed the depth chart to establish himself as arguably Winnipeg's most important blue-chip prospect. Don't think goaltending is important? Rinne, Price, Lundqvist, and Quick have proven that great goalies can carry teams far.

Connor Hellebuyck isn't on those goalies' levels yet, but he's on his way.

Memorial Cup Watching

The Jets will have eyes on the Memorial Cup where they have two defencemen play key roles on two teams at the tournament. Josh Morrissey is a major cog in the Kelowna Rockets' success while Jan Kostalek has been nothing short of spectacular in Rimouski's run to the President's Cup in the QMJHL.

I expect Kostalek to play a more offensive role than Morrissey based on the style of play from the two teams, but it will be interesting to see these two highly-skilled defencemen play through the Memorial Cup competition.

Kostalek was named as the best defenceman in the QMJHL this season on the strength of seven goals and 43 points in 57 games, but he showed up when it mattered most as he notched eight goals and 21 points in 20 playoff games. Morrissey, on the other hand, had two goals and 13 points in 10 playoff games to go along with 13 goals and 25 assists in 47 games with Prince Albert and Kelowna.

If I'm the Jets and Moose, I cant wait for these two offensive dynamos to roll into town.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Susan Sarandon: Rangers Fan

There's a certain respectability that NHL teams take when they find out that they have a celebrity fan. You expect it in Los Angeles. Nashville's another great place to see country music stars. New York has its fair share of fans as well. For a long time, though, Academy Award winner Susan Sarandon has been a fan of the Rangers. She goes to games when her schedule allows, and she's enthusiastic about cheering on the Blueshirts. And yes, that is Matthew Modine in front of her. However, is she a true fan who shows her support elsewhere in the public eye?

Actually, yes. If you followed hockey during last season's Stanley Cup Playoffs, you know that Jimmy Fallon celebrated the success of the New York Rangers in a big way, especially as he and Jimmy Kimmel went head-to-head as the Rangers and Los Angeles Kings met in the Stanley Cup Final.

Well, last night on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, Hugh Jackman was on and they played a game of Password. Mr. Jackman was lucky enough to get Nick Offerman as a partner, but Jimmy introduced Susan Sarandon as his partner. And what as she wearing?
As you can hear, Jimmy is pretty stoked and even drops a "Go Rangers" into the conversation. Sarandon bringing the fanaticism to The Tonight Show!

I guess when you have your own Rangers jersey, you can be counted as a fan as well. Outside of musicians who get them for showing up at an arena, I haven't seen a lot of celebrities with their own personalized Rangers jersey. Yes, I realize she wasn't wearing it at the Fallon taping which happened before Game Two yesterday, but it's still pretty cool to know that she has both a home and road Rangers jersey.

If she dropped a Lady Liberty in there, Susan Sarandon might just be the coolest celebrity fan, like, ever!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 18 May 2015

RBC Cup: Biggest Fight In The Dogs

I didn't post the semifinal games from the RBC Cup with the IIHF World Championship Final taking place on Sunday, but the image to the left should tell you who won. There were four teams vying for the right to hoist the trophy and only one team would remain at the conclusion of Sunday night's final. Needless to say, a great week of hockey was seen by the thousands of people who filled PCU Centre, and all of them can say they were witness to one of the greatest tournaments in recent history!

I'm going to HBIC Correspondent and friend Jeremie Gauvin handle the semifinal info. He was out there in Portage la Prairie all week as a linesman working the event, and he's did an outstanding job in this writer's view. I'll post the goal-scorers after the wrap-up because they deserve a little recognition, but I'll save my comments for the championship game.

vs.

The first semi-final kicked off with the Penticton Vees and the Carleton Place Canadians. In the first period, you could tell that both teams were very nervous and scared to make a mistake. When the first period ended, the game was scoreless. In the second period, the same type of play continued as both teams looked hesitant to take a risk. It wasn't until 6:06 into the second, on a delayed penalty, that the Vees would open the scoring. CPC wasn't going to roll over and give up, though, as they would strike with 2:05 remaining left in the second to tie the game at 1-1. In the third, the pace picked up and you could tell both teams were hungry to get to the gold-medal game on Sunday. When the horn sounded at the end of the third, we remained knotted up at 1-1. Off to overtime we went and both teams had many chances, notably having Penticton non the power-play twice. I was starting to think that we might be in for a long game after the two teams played through one extra frame. The second overtime began and, at the 3:43 into the period, CPC would win the game with a chip shot over the Vees goalie's pad. CPC returns to the Gold Medal game for the second time in back to back years.

Goal-scorers included Penticton's Tyson Jost at 6:06 and and Carleton Place's Stephen Baylis at 2:05 of the second period. The overtime winner was scored by Jordan Larson. Guillaume Therien made 36 of 37 saves in his 83:43 of work in the win while Hunter Miska stopped 38 of 40 shots he faced in the double-overtime loss.

vs.

With CPC punching their ticket to Sunday, the Portage Terriers and Melfort Mustangs were looking to do the same. The sold-out PCU center was nervous when Melfort would open the scoring at 3:53 of the 2nd period. That lead was short lived when the Terriers would tie things up at the 7:09 mark. Portage would not look back and kept their foot on the gas, striking again at the 8:19 mark and at the 14:50 mark while being shorthanded. Portage had a commanding 3-1 lead going into the intermission, and in the third period we would see a lot more of the same from the Terriers. It was at the 8:44 mark that the Terriers would strike again on the power-play to take a 4-1 lead. Portage would go ahead 5-1 when they would score again at the 9:22 mark on the power play once again. The final nail in the coffin would take place at the 16:31 mark when the Terriers would put one into the empty net. Portage would go on to win the game by a final score of 6-1 and punch their ticket to the final on Sunday evening against the Carleton Place Canadians.

Melfort's lone goal-scorer would be David Heath at the 3:53 mark of the second period. From there, it was all Terriers. In order, they went Garick Gray (7:09 - 2nd), Taylor Friesen (8:19 - 2nd), Brett Orr (SHG 14:50 - 2nd), Zack Waldvogel (PPG 8:44 - 3rd), Jordyn Boyd (PPG 9:22 - 3rd), and Boyd again (ENG 16:31 - 3rd). Zac Roubidoux made 12 saves on 13 shots in the win while Richard Palmer stopped 24 of 29 shots he faced in the loss.

vs.

And then there were two. The Carleton Place Canadians endured a double-overtime game against Penticton, scoring in the fifth period to get to Sunday night. The Portage Terriers fell behind against Melfort, but then applied wave after wave of offensive pressure against the Mustangs to claim their place in the final. Only one team will celebrate. Which would it be?

You know what? Let's go to the video. TSN owns the rights to this video of the game, and this video compilation was uploaded to YouTube. I claim no rights on this, but I feel the players deserve more than some writer's words on this one. To the video!
Brian Munz, former voice of the Moose and Jets, was calling the action, and Craig Button was the color man on the TSN broadcast. They did a great job on the broadcast. Kudos to them.

Despite a rather ugly incident at the end of the game committed by one Carleton Place player, both of these teams should be proud of their efforts. However, as the video showed, the MJHL's Portage Terriers won the RBC Cup by a 5-2 score in the gold-medal game, snapping a 41-year drought for the MJHL with their first RBC Cup victory! They also became the first host team to win the RBC Cup since 2007!

For the people of Portage la Prairie, you guys did an awesome job as hosts. Give yourselves a pat on the back because you showed everyone how important hockey is in your community. To the five teams of the RBC Cup, congratulations on amazing seasons and representing your region proudly in the Junior-A National Championship! And to the host Portage Terriers, to the victors go the spoils, so celebrate proudly for being the best Junior-A team across this great nation!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 17 May 2015

How Sweet It Is

I'm not sure anyone expected that. I'm entirely sure that the Russians both on the ice and back in Russia never saw it coming. The reality is, however, that the Canadians are the IIHF World Champions once again after a dominating performance both in today's game and throughout the tournament. Some can say that this team was stacked from the start, but it's not like Russia came into the game with unknown names and little talent.

I will grant the Russians a little credit in that the opening ten minutes of the game were played at a frantic pace. Both teams had chances early, but it was Canada who would score first. And second. And third, fourth, fifth, and sixth in the game before Sergei Mozyakin put Russia on the board midway through the third period.

I'm not sure anyone expected that.

With Canada's recent victories in the World Junior Championship, the Olympics, and now the World Championship, there will be obvious movement in the country rankings. I expect that Canada should be at the top of the list in 2015, but it will be interesting to see how the rest of the field is organized. Russia could be as high as second or possibly third with their recent showing. Sweden, who finished in fifth-place at these World Championships, will most likely fall while Finland, who finished in sixth-place, will fall as well. The US, who had another strong showing, should move up a spot or two as well.

Next year's IIHF World Championship will take place in Russia, so there will be a lot of pressure on them to avenge this loss to Canada by winning gold next year in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Group A will consist of Canada, Finland, USA, Slovakia, Belarus, France, Germany, and Hungary who were promoted from the Division-I World Championship. Group B features Russia, Sweden, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Latvia, Norway, Denmark, and newly-promoted Kazakhstan.

That Group B pool could be called the Red Pool since all but Sweden and Kazakhstan wear red. In any case, it will be interesting to see who goes to play for which teams next season when the NHL season ends. If Russia has its way, it may conscript all its Russian-born NHL players this summer in preparation for the World Championship next year.

Losing like they did to Canada today won't go over well again. Especially after their performance in Sochi on home soil as well.
Coongratulations to Team Canada: WORLD CHAMPIONS!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Canada Versus Republic Of Putin

Well, we're back to this old dance with these two teams. Not surprisingly, the teams with the most marketable NHL stars and the biggest stars in the Czech Republic not named Jagr will play for the IIHF World Championship gold medal. Russia, boasting stars like Ovechkin, Malkin, Kovalchuk, and Tarasenko, will meet the undefeated Canadians who feature Crosby, Giroux, Seguin, and tournament leading-scorer Jason Spezza. While I jokingly call Russia the "Republic of Putin", you have to think that this tournament means a great deal to the Russians who could repeat as gold medalists if they can down Canada. Is Russia becoming a gold-or-nothing country once more?

For the first time since 2010, these old foes will meet in a gold medal final. Canada hasn't won a gold medal since 2007 and hasn't medalled since 2009. Russia, as stated above, is looking to repeat as the top team in the IIHF tournament. Canada boasts the top-four scorers in the tournament - Spezza, Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, and Matt Duchene - while the Russians are seeing players like Malkin heating up as the biggest game looms. While Canada has been the best offensive team in the tournament by a large margin, Russia can score in bunches very quickly as they did against the Americans in the semifinal.

Russia, outside of the World Championship, hasn't fared well when it comes to their national program. They stumbled in both Vancouver and Sochi at the Olympics where Canada succeeded. While the word "hatred" isn't quite accurate, there is still some dislike over those results towards Canada, and part of it comes from an internal desire to win. While Canada showed at the Olympics that they can win with nearly flawless defence, the Russians loaded up with offence and failed. Twice. These two teams last met in 2010 in Vancouver with Canada recording a 7-3 Olympic quarterfinal rout over Russia. Russia tagged the Canadians for a 5-2 loss last year in the quarterfinals at the World Championship, but they haven't had a showdown with the stars like have on their rosters now.

Yevgeni Medvedev and Yevgeni Biryukov, two key defencemen for the Russians, aren't playing in the final due to injury, leaving just six defencemen on the roster to suit up, two of which weren't supposed to be playing. While Russia has adapted well, they have yet to run into a juggernaut like the Canadians. This may factor in. Russia has loaded up on the offence again, and it's carried them to the final but will it be enough when missing two regular defencemen against the Canadian stars?

While there are a number of NHL stars on the Russian squad, there is a still a little resentment from Russia against Canada politically over sanctions imposed on Russia for their annexing of Crimea in Ukraine. I'm not sure that this will factor in whatsoever, but you know that Vladimir Putin's government may want the Russian national program to start exacting a little revenge on the ice for previous losses and the political chess match they seem to have lost with Canada.

Politics aside, I'm quite certain that Putin will be watching the game after confirming his interest in the final. Stephen Harper? Maybe. I do know I will be watching it from a remote location in Canada with several friends, and we'll have the adult beverages flowing and the patriotism bubbling. As Russian defenceman Dmitri Kulikov stated, "Every game we’ve played up to now counts for nothing. This is the only game that matters for us", the same holds true for Canada.

All of Canada.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 15 May 2015

RBC Cup - Setting Up Saturday

After taking a couple of days off from RBC Cup coverage, we're back with more. It appears our correspondent, Mr. Jeremie Gauvin, is taking his time out in Portage la Prairie seriously as his missing coverage was due to him having a few adult beverages with his officiating pals as well as enjoying the local golf courses out and around Portage. I'll grant him this leeway - he's a good dude for providing any coverage. However, the tournament pushes on, so we'll look at the games from Wednesday and Thursday as we set up the playoff round beginning on Saturday!


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Because we're running a little behind, I'm just going to run through the scorers quickly. Wednesday's lone game featured the Carleton Place Canadians against the Melfort Mustangs, so let's get rolling on this.

The first period saw Adam Fauchoux open the scoring for Melfort with his second goal of the tournament off a feed from Regan Wilton for the 1-0 lead at 12:17. It would last through 18 minutes when the Canadians would strike back as Andrew Dodson scored his first goal of the tournament at 18:29 while shorthanded. However, Melfort would take the lead into the intermission when Travis Mayan responded 1:12 later just 19 seconds before the horn.

The Canadians would notch the only goal of the second period as Adam Lloyd found some room past Richard Palmer to even the score at 2-2 with his marker at 6:13.

The third period saw Carleton Place take their first lead of the game at 13:32 when Ryker Killins sniped his first goal of the tournament for the 3-2 lead. However, Melfort would square things up once more when Adam Fauchoux scored his second of the game at the 15:57 mark, and this game would need extra time to sort things out.

It wouldn't take long for this game to find a winner as Cole Hyrsky of the Melfort Mustangs would fire one past Guillaume Therien for the 4-3 overtime victory! Goaltender Richard Palmer made 24 of 27 saves in the victory while Therien would stop 46 of 50 shots sent his way.

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This game, unfortunately, meant little to the Soo Thunderbirds as they can't make the playoffs, so they were looking to play spoilers against the Penticton Vees. The Vees needed to win for a chance to win the pool or, at worst, finish second in the pool based on later results.

The two teams felt one another out in the opening frame, but Penticton would grab a lead at the 7:28 mark when Steen Cooper beat Mario Culina. The Vees would carry the 1-0 lead into the intermission.

Penticton would double the lead just 1:29 into the second period when Patrick Newell added another tally for the 2-0 lead. The bleeding wouldn't stop for the Thunderbirds, though, as Newell scored his second of the game on the power-play at 6:23 for the 3-0 lead. Sensing that his team may need a boost and to give his backup netminder a little more ice time, head coach Jordan Smith opted to change the goalies as Mario Culina, who had a fantastic tournament despite the losses, gave way to backup Brian Kment for the remaining 29:11 of the game. And it seemd to work as the Thunderbirds scored just a couple of minutes later when Brett Jeffries snapped Hunter Miska's shutout to make it a 3-1 game!

Jeffries would strike again just 1:28 into the third period to make it a 3-2 game as he beats Miska again to make things interesting. However, Penticton would respond 2:37 later on the power-play as Tyson Jost fired one past Kment for the 4-2 lead. With 3:15 remaining, Dakota Conroy closed the book on this game with his goal as Patrick Newell finished the night with two goals and two assists! Hunter Miska made 20 saves on 22 shots. Mario Culina finished the game with 20 saves on 23 shots through 30:49 while Brian Kment stopped 17 of the 19 shots he faced in his 29:11 of work.

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Lots of scenarios could play out depending on how this game finished. If Portage wins outright, though, they would be the top team in the tournament standings based on the tie-breaker with Penticton, so that was the goal of the Terriers on this night. And if Melfort lost in regulation, these two teams would meet up on Saturday once more with a berth to the finals on the line. Needless to say, this game had serious ramifications on the standings based on the outcome.

The host team decided to get the fans into the game midway through the period as Brad Bowles snapped a puck past Richard Palmer at 12:01, and the Terriers grabbed a 1-0 lead. It looked like these two teams would be content with the back-and-forth action through to the horn, but Portage tripled their lead in 47 seconds. First, Landon Peel scored at 18:43 and then Shawn Bowles notched a goal at 19:30 for the 3-0 first-period lead.

Melfort came out firing on all cylinders in the second period as they threw a ton of shots at Justin LaForest, but nothing was getting through early. They would finally crack the goose egg at the 16:20 mark when Travis Mayan scored on the power-play while Portage's Zack Waldvogel watched from the penalty box after a high-sticking call. The 3-1 score would hold true through 40 minutes.

Melfort would make things interesting when Cole Hyrsky scored at 7:11 of the third period to make it a 3-2 game. There were chances at both ends of the ice in the final frame, but when the final horn sounded the Portage Terriers held on by that 3-2 score to win the game. LaForest made 26 saves on 28 shots for the victory while Palmer stopped 27 of 30 shots in the loss, and these two teams will see one another in the playoff round in two days.

Playoff Matchups

With the preliminary round complete, the standings have the Portage Terriers sitting atop the standings at 3-1 despite being tied with Penticton. With Portage having beat the Vees in the prelims, they take top spot while Penticton moves to second-place. The Carleton Place Canadians finish in third-place at 2-1-0-1 (W-L-OTW-OTL) and Melfort finished fourth with a 1-2-1-0 record. The Soo Thunderbirds went 0-4 in their games, and will begin to make their way back to Sault Ste. Marie after this week's action.

The early game in Portage on Saturday will see the Penticton Vees as the home team against the Carleton Place Canadians. Penticton handed the Canadians their regulation loss on Tuesday with a 4-3 final, and will be looking to replicate that effort in this game. The late game will see Portage and Melfort rekindle their affair from Thursday night after Portage downed Melfort 3-2. I'll try to post a full report on Saturday after the semifinals are played, and make sure you tune into TSN for the RBC Cup Final on Sunday!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 14 May 2015

The Hockey Show - Episode 139

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced hockey radio show, is going to do something a little different tonight. We're still going to be on the air at 5:30pm CT as always, but we're pre-recording this show. GASP! I know that seems a little strange for a weekly hockey talk show, but there are a few things that have come up that Beans and I have to attend to and require our presence between the times of 5:30 and 6:30 on a Thursday evening in May. Therefore, we're pre-recording tonight before coming back with a couple of phenomenal shows in the coming weeks. Deal? Deal.

It's been a heck of a roller coaster ride in the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs as we've seen more ups and downs and highs and lows through the first two rounds. Beans and I will look at Round Two and see if we can predict Round Three's results on tonight's show. We'll also chat about the Moose and their new divisional rivals, the Brandon Wheat Kings and their run in the WHL Playoffs that ended last night, the RBC Cup happening in Portage la Prairie right now, and anything else we can fit into the hour of hockey chatter. There will probably be tangents that we'll follow off these main themes, so we'll tackle those as we hit them.

As stated above, we're pre-recording this episode, so the phones will be closed tonight. You can listen in on 101.5 UMFM on your radio dial in the Winnipeg region or you can listen live between 5:30pm and 6:30pm CT on your web-enabled device at the UMFM webpage! You can tweet me anytime you like by hitting me up at @TeebzHBIC on Twitter. You can also post some stuff to Facebook if you use the "Like" feature, and I always have crazy stuff posted there that doesn't make it to the blog or show.

Next week, we have a special guest coming on the show, and we'll have guests in-studio in two weeks. You'll want to listen in to tonight's show to hear who is scheduled to appear in the next couple of weeks because we're thoroughly excited to welcome these guests to The Hockey Show!

PODCAST: May 14, 2015: Episode 139

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Antler Banter: Season 1, Volume 2

Antler Banter is back today with a look at the AHL Calder Cup Playoffs situation, but I'm going to add a key piece of business at the bottom as the HBIC Playoff Pool has finished another round so there's a new spreadsheet to be posted. I would like to point out that the series between the Rockford IceHogs and the Grand Rapids Griffins - two of the teams in Manitoba's division next season - has featured some epic off-ice awesomeness between the two teams' Twitter accounts as well as providing excellent on-ice action. We'll look at these new divisions that the AHL has set for next season, what implications it has on specific teams, and how the Moose factor in. I'll also post a bit of a request that seems to be gaining a groundswell in Manitoba as the Moose look to start building a roster for next season! Antler Banter is off and running for another week!

Calder Cup Stuff

One series is already done, another has a team on the edge of elimination, and the other two series are playing out. It's kind of fuunny to think that one series is done while another has only played three games, but that's the AHL's Calder Cup Playoffs for you. Nothing like a few scheduling quirks in minor-pro hockey to keep things off-balance, right?

Manchester has already booked their ticket for the Eastern Conference Final after dispatching the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in five games. The Monarchs are in a precarious situation as they won't play as an AHL team next season with the Los Angeles Kings moving their AHL affiliation to Ontario, California, so the players in Manchester are giving their fans a season to remember. Would it be embarrassing for the AHL to relocate the reigning Calder Cup champions? Has this situation ever happened in sports before? We might find out if the Monarchs continue to win.

The Hartford Wolfpack and Hershey Bears are going toe-to-toe in their series, and the Rangers' affiliate has jumped out to a 3-2 lead as the Bears are on the brink of elimination. Hartford has won a pair of overtime games in the series which is very un-Hershey-like. Hershey was nearly automatic a few years ago in the playoffs and in overtime, but their fate may change with Washington being eliminated tonight. The Bears could get a few players back from Washington that could change the dynamics of this series dramatically. Keep your eyes on this series as Game Six goes Friday night in Hershey. The Bears could have a completely different lineup.

Utica and Oklahoma City are battling in their series, and are currently knotted up at 2-2. Like the Monarchs, the Barons won't in Oklahoma City next season, so they're trying to make a deep run in the playoffs for their fans after it was announced they would fold operations as the Oilers move their AHL affiliation to Bakersfield, California next season. They still have to down Utica to make things interesting, but could the AHL have the first official "Last Year Final" between two teams that are relocating? I'm actually kind of rooting for Oklahoma City and Manchester to make the Calder Cup Final just to see if the AHL wears the egg on its face proudly.

In the fourth series that is ongoing, Grand Rapids jumped out to a 2-0 series lead before Rockford cut the deficit to one game on home ice. Teemu Pulkkinen has six goals and an assist in the three games thus far, but he had the only goal in Rockford for the Griffins thus far. Home-ice advantage in terms of getting the matchups the coaches want is certainly on display in this series. Game Four goes tomorrow, so tune in if you can. This series looks to be a beauty. And if you can't tune in, hit up Twitter. Why? Well...

Winning On Twitter

The IceHogs have gone above and beyond with their latest video. Check out this beauty.
Nothing like having a little fun with your opponents, right? Honestly, the IceHogs have one of the greatest Twitter accounts on the platform, so I highly encourage you to give them a follow if you have an account. They do Twitter well.

On the flip side, the Griffins have done their fair share of hilarious work on Twitter as these two teams make the Calder Cup Playoffs infinitely more entertaining via social media. Grand Rapids has asked honest questions like...
Again, if you're a Twitter person, follow these two accounts. You won't be disappointed.

Divisional Buddies

The Manitoba Moose will join forces in the newly-created Central Division in the Western Conference with the IceHogs and Griffins, but an old foe will jump to the Eastern Conference. The new realignment puts some strain on the Texas teams and the Charlotte Checkers in terms of in-division travel, but there are always growing pains in these sorts of changes. Here is the new alignment for the AHL.
The Moose will see less of their Canadian counterparts in the Eastern Conference-based Toronto Marlies and St. John's IceCaps, but they'll see the five new California teams a little more. The Moose will get to rekindle their IHL rivalries with the Chicago Wolves, Grand Rapids Griffins, and Milwaukee Admirals, so bring the hate for these teams that have a long history with the Moose.

All in all, the changes aren't that bad, but expect the AHL to look at ways to help the Checkers, Stars, and Rampage save a little cash in upcoming seasons regarding travel. There's a great distance between Texas and California, and even more between Manitoba and North Carolina.

Bring Back Jaff

While I have zero influence on the Moose and have no direct line to GM Craig Heisinger's desk, I think it should be fairly obvious that Moose fans, like their Jets counterparts, want to have a familiar face back in town. He was always a fan favorite here, and is approaching legendary status alongside players like Mike Keane and Jimmy Roy, so it should be elementary in having the Moose bring Jason Jaffray back to town.
The 33 year-old trails only Brett Hauer in a Moose jersey for points as a Moose, and that's not counting his time with the IceCaps. He was the team's captain in St. John's, and he definitely would look good with the "C" on here in Manitoba. Let's make that happen, Moose.

HBIC Playoff Pool

Round Three of the HBIC Playoff Pool is open! Download the spreadsheet here for Round Two! Fill it out and send it back to me WITH YOUR NAME AS THE NAME OF THE EXCEL DOCUMENT AND R3 AT THE END(ie. TeebzR2.xlsx) to this email address only!

Click here to download if you missed the link above.

You have until the puck drops on the Rangers-Lightning series on Saturday to fire in your picks. I will have the updated point totals posted tomorrow so you can determine whether the "RISK IT!" option is right for you. I just need to go through and ensure that I got things right like points earned, addition of numbers, and ensuring series points are added in. I'd say everything will be updated by noon tomorrow, so check back in on the leaderboard to see where everything has settled!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!