Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Attention Rangers, Sharks and Avalanche:

American Golf Fan

I got a video for ya:

It might be time to change up your game plans.

Also, that is a pretty impressive sandtrap.

(You like how I'm tenuously clinging to the golf thing?)

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Bruins finish second.

American Golf Fan

I don't know about you, but I'm proud of them.

Not so sure how much longer I can keep this up.

I kinda want to watch tomorrow night's Stars/Sharks game.

So, you guys seen this yet?

It' a year old, but what the hell.

The thing I love about this is that at one point, Ovechkin starts yelling at the guys on the next tee that he got a hole in one. What's beautiful about that is it isn't necessarily clear to them that Ovechkin is either a professional athlete, or from Russia.

To those dudes, this might just be a the most talented golfer with downs syndrome on the planet.

Hooray, golf!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Our Exciting New Format

American Golf Fan

Well, it's official. All the favored teams of the staff here at American Hockey Fan are now out of the running for the Stanley Cup. Most recently the Bruins, the Devils before them, and the Sabres who, not unlike Jack and Jen themselves, disappeared long ago. Even our surrogate favorite team the Washington Capitals have called it a year after a valiant 7-game effort against the Flyers.

Dammit, there's just no one left to root for.

So, after some soul searching (and some head-scratching) we've decided to unveil the exciting new format you see in the header above. So keep us bookmarked, America - don't forget to check in for our thoughts on the Players Championship, the U.S. Open, and the John Deere Classic, as well as Ritch's special series on whether this Tiger Woods kid is the real deal.

That's right, it's American Golf Fan all summer long...or at least until we break down and tune back in to the playoffs. Or, failing that, September, when we start our annual complaining about whether or not pre-season hockey is worth watching.

American Golf Fan - get into the swing!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Eight is not enough.

Well the first round is over, and with it, my love affair with any of the remaining teams in contention for the Stanley Cup.

Thanks a lot Washington Capitals.

I mean, for Christ's sake, with the Bruins gone and the Cinderella Capitals season over, who in the hell am I supposed to root for now?

In the East, we have Montreal and Pittsburgh, two teams that I have been on record, over and over again, as hating. So the enemy of my enemy is my friend, right?

Well, sort of. I'm always happy to see the Habs and Pens lose, but there are some complications.

On the one hand, the Rangers are playing Pittsburgh, but they are captained by Jaromir Jagr, one of the chief architects of my hatred for the Pens to begin with. I can't get behind that guy winning another cup. I just can't. Plus, the other guys on that team that I could really root for, Drury and Shanahan, already have cups. And for my friends who are Ranger fans, 1994 isn't THAT far away. If you start to feel bad, pop this in the DVD player, and you'll buck right up. It's got 15 discs in it, for God's sake, that oughta get you through the summer. And I know, it'd be nice to see Lundquist win a cup, but not on Jagr's team. He's got some time.

On the other hand, you have Montreal playing Philly, and as fun as it will be to root against Montreal, can I really cheer on the thugs who ended the season of Patrice Bergeron?

In the West, which I'll admit I'm less familiar with, you have some options, but none of them great.

The Red Wings, Stars, and Avalanche have all had Stanley Cup wins in recent years, and while the Stars only have one cup, and I like Marty Turco, I just don't know that I can root for former Hab and habitual diver Mike Ribero, who I'm again on record as hoping he would get a testicle caught in a set of impact-tested accordian shutters.

Which leaves us with the Sharks.

Goddamnit, I like the Sharks. I like the way they play, I think their goaltender deserves the Vezina, I like watching Brian Campbell, it'd be nice to see Roenick get a cup after all these years, and I'm on record as saying that Patrick Marleau is both underrated and awesome.

It's just a Joe Thornton thing.

I like him.

I really do.

I think most Bruins fans wish the guy the best, but I'll tell ya, I'm not sure I'm ready to see another ex-Bruins captain lifting up the Stanley Cup. I mean, I'd feel good for the guy and everything, I'm just not sure I can do it. To see the guy who was the future of the Bruins lifting the cup over his head, I mean- I know, I know- I really like the guy, and on paper, go Joe.

But I'm just not sure my heart will follow my head.

Not when the Bruins haven't won a cup since the goddamned Nixon administration.

I don't know- is there a storyline out there I'm missing?

A feel good reason for me to root for one of these teams that I don't know about?

Lemme know, cause I'm all ears, and I'm told the Celtics are pretty good this year.

PLease, don't make me go there.

Cause I really don't know shit about Basketball.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Adieu to the Bruins

I know.

I should be happy for these Bruins.

And on paper, I am.

There is an awful lot to love about this young team, and going into next year, there is a tremendous amount to build on.

And we'll always have game six.

But ultimately, right now, I guess the reason that I'm really disappointed is that, much like the team itself, I believed in these Bruins. And their post game comments bear out that even if very few others did, they believed in themselves:

(Quotes from the Boston Globe)

Zdeno Chara: "In the end, you feel so empty. We really thought we were going to the next round. We believed we were going to get it done."

Tim Thomas: "I don't think anybody in this locker room thought we'd be done tonight. The belief was there. It was on my part. It was on everybody's part that we would keep this thing going."

Marc Savard: "It's tough because guys battled hard. We really believed as a group that we could go on."

Claude Julien: "I think we all believed we could get to the next round of the playoffs...our expectations were high...and rightfully so."

This team exceeded expectations, battled through injuries, fought down the stretch, and earned their way into the playoffs by refusing to quit, even after losing their top defenseman (Chara) and leading scorer (Savard) for key periods at the end of the season.

Then, in much the same way as Ben described the Devils this season, the playoffs were, for the Bruins, a microcosm of the regular season.

Both the regular season and the playoffs started with virtually no one giving the Bruins a chance, and that was before they faced serious adversity. In the regular season, the prognosticators had them finishing in the basement even before they lost Bergeron and Alberts, and in the playoffs even Bruins boosters like John Buccigross opined that the best the Bruins could possibly hope for was to win a single home game.

After they dropped the first two in Montreal, thanks to an unstoppable opening charge by the Habs (and their fans) in game one, and a referee's whistle in game two, the B's were counted out and in a deep hole.

Then, in both the regular season, and the playoffs, they battled back, played with their hearts, and played their game. And like their heroic effort to fight to the finish and make the playoffs, forcing game seven became a major victory in itself. While forcing a game seven against anybody after being down 3-1 would have been impressive, doing so against the Canadiens got a monkey off their back that they could finally beat a team that had bested them all season. That game six victory was not only the best Bruins game that I've seen in years, but it did wonders for winning back hockey fans in the Hub, reminding the folks who have been content to ride happily along for the winning ways of the Patriots, Celtics, and Red Sox that hockey deserves it's place in, and perhaps one day again, atop, the "big four."

So I know- I should be happy.

And I will be again, with some time. Basically, this game, like all game sevens, was a game of inches, and if that first Montreal goal doesn't bounce in off a stick, who knows?

If Murray buries that picture perfect pass from Savard before crashing into the boards and ending his season, (and maybe his career with the Bruins?), who knows?

And, goddamnit, when at the 14 minute mark of the first period, when Chara gambled to chip it in at the blueline, and Kessel made a great play, whirling his body outside the zone, barely keeping the puck inside, and delivering a laser of a pass to Sturm who shot it with Krejci on the doorstep... who knows?

OK- now I'm just pouring salt on the wound.

But, that's the game of hockey, and the Bruins showed a ton of heart, guts and fight this year. Through it all, they were fun to watch. Add to the equation that next year, we'll have a healthy Patrice Bergeron, a ton of talented rookies and the confidence that they can compete in the playoffs.

But allow me to be bummed out for today.

I mean, you know ... I really believed.

Monday, April 21, 2008

I bet Tim Russert woulda known who he was.

Here ya go, hockey fans-

Just go ahead and listen up through the 2:30 mark or so.

Thanks to the Fanhouse and The Sidney Crosby Show for the find.

Puck drops for Game Seven of Bruins/Habs in 30 minutes.

Anaheim Duck Soup

Well, the formerly mighty Stanley Cup Champion Anaheim Ducks have been eliminated from the playoffs by the Dallas Stars, and I say good riddance.

At least now Scott Neidermeyer and Teemu Selanne won't have to play any more of those hockey games they seemed to find so inconvenient to show up for during the first 2/3rds of the season.

Oh, and I know I probably shouldn't embed this, but why the hell not?

It's probably better than anything else you'd watch on the internet this morning:

Sorry, Defending Stanley Cup Champion Anaheim Ducks, but it's time to leave. You can leave in a taxi. If you can't get in a taxi, you can leave in a huff. If that's too soon you can leave in a minute and a huff.

Don't look now, defending Stanley Cup Champion Anaheim Ducks, but there is one hockey team too many in this room, and I think it's you.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

What a Game.


What can you say?

This is why you watch the playoffs.

Games like these.

That was the most thrilling Bruins game I've seen since before Ray Bourque left town.


I'll say it again.

I. Like. Our. Chances.

Defending Marty

Somebody's gotta do it - if not on the ice, then off.

I can't really say much in defense of the Devils' performance this post-season other than that it was a microcosm of most of their regular season, which consisted of them being almost good enough to get the job done, but not quite. Their regular MO seemed to be:

  1. Dig an enormous hole.

  2. Climb almost all the way out of it.

  3. Don't.

They went 4-7 in October, then clawed back, spending much of the season at the top of their division. They lost that position, but had multiple chances to regain it in the waning weeks of the season. And they were almost good enough to do it...but not quite.

And again in the playoffs. They were almost good enough to beat the Rangers - three of the four losses included empty net goals, and the one that didn't was a 2-1 final that even the most die-hard Ranger fan would have to admit was decided by the officials. And they mounted a heroic (though admittedly flukey) comeback in Game 5. In each case, almost good enough, but not quite.

So that's that. The Rangers were the better team this year, and while that hurts to say, it can't really be disputed.

What can be disputed was that Sean Avery deserved a handshake out of all this.

Regular readers of this blog know Ritch to be a huge traditionalist and lover of the history of the sport. So as soon as I saw Marty and Avery skate past each other without shaking, I knew Ritch was going to flip. I mean, he was on record as looking forward to it, for God's sake.

But Ritch, you're wrong on this one.

First of all, watch the end of the game. They skated past EACH OTHER. It's not like Avery had his hand out and got it slapped away or ignored. During the media tongue-bath after the game, he was quick to point out that oh, of course, he would've shaken Marty's hand. And yet Avery's hand was not out. Shocking.

But that's a minor point, really. I submit that what is great about the tradition of the handshake is not the physical act itself, but the respect that it signifies for a hard-fought battle on the ice. If that respect is not earned or given, the handshake is meaningless. And I believe traditions should be more than empty gestures.

I think we all agree that playoff hockey is a battle, emotions run high, and so forth. But after a two-year campaign of trashing Marty in the media, running him over and playing innocent, and saying God knows what in his ear when they were face to face in a pile (though he probably didn't get the opportunity to haul out any of his racial or cancer material), what did Avery expect?

He reminds me of Karl Rove, in that his reputation is more impressive than the man himself. Both guys have above-average ability, but enjoy greater success than that ability merits simply because they're willing to sink lower than any opponent they face. Does it work? Obviously. Does it merit a handshake? Not a chance.

So I'll watch while the hockey media (with a few notable exceptions) continues to pile on Brodeur and the Devils, their favorite whipping boys. But I promise you it'll be a different story once Avery starts running Carey Price, or calling out Sidney Crosby for whining - and fans of the sport will start to wonder if they spent this week throwing the right guy under the bus.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Holy Shit! (Literally)

So I'm sitting here on a lovely afternoon in Manhattan, watching the Caps battle the Flyers for their playoff lives, in an entertaining tilt on NBC, broadcast in beautiful high definition.

As much as I like watching hockey in HD, I was curious about this afternoon's game and what would happen if it were to go to overtime, a possibility given these two teams recent double OT thriller.

It was on my mind particularly based on NBC's horrible decision last season to cut away from the Sabres/Senators playoff game to show the pregame show of a goddamn horserace.

When that happened last year, I was pissed.

So this year, I checked ahead and saw that the programming NBC has planned directly after NHL hockey is the following:

"The Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am Golf Tournament."

While Golf gets good rating and all, that sounded to me like programming that is, well- pre-emptable.


So this afternoon, I settled in behind my TV, assured in my knowledge that playoff OT, should it happen, is in my future.

Then, just now, to my horror, a "weather alert" type blue bar starts scrolling across the bottom of my TV, announcing that the Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am Golf Tournament will be seen on the following channels to make room for coverage of the Papal visit."


Now- it's not time to panic yet, but rest assured- if I can't watch playoff overtime in the Stanley Cup finals in high definition, I'd really appreciate a better reason than a parade for an Ex-Nazi who flew in to apologize for decades of unpunished, institutionalized child rape.

Oh, I'm sorry, I mean "spreading a message of peace."

I mean, OK- whatever, some people want to watch the Pope, I get it.

But c'mon, do you really need the HD feed for that? I've seen what old people look like in HD and trust me, hockey looks better.

I'm just saying, if the Flyers scrape out a goal in the third here and force some OT, I'm gonna be missing the HD broadcast of Alexander Ovechkin playing for his post-season life.

And in the Catholic Church, isn't "life" the most important thing?

You know, while the NHL is in the business of making up unsportsmanslike conduct penalties-

-How about one for Marty Brodeur?

Sure, Avery was a huge pain in the ass, and caught the attention of the league for his antics in this series, but you know what?

They worked.

And I hate to say it, but I think Marty Brodeur should be fined, penalized or generally shamed in some way for refusing to shake Avery's hand.

The handshake line at the end of a playoff series is one of the NHL's greatest traditions, and it shows a lack of class on Brodeur's part. You don't have to like it, but you have to do it.

That said, I'm two for three so far on my series predictions, with the Rangers and Penguins both advancing.I'm still waiting on the Bruins. That being said, I'm a little bummed out by the fact that the Devils are done, especially seeing as playoff tickets at MSG are harder to come by than stubs for the Rock.

Good night of hockey tonight, with a fun night at the Ziegfeld Theater to watch the Rangers clinch, and wrapped up just now watching the Ducks stay alive with a dominating 3rd period.

Oh, and Kudos to Time Warner cable for finally adding Versus/Golf in HD!

Now I can finally see the startling horror that is Brian Engblom's hair in crystal clear high definition. Seriously, that dude looks like the rape-baby of Luke Skywalker and the crow from the Secret of NIMH.

OK- I'm a little tired.

If you have a better "that dude's hair looks like" joke, I'm all ears.

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Great Ziegfeld!

Hey, hockey fans-

Wanna go to a movie?

No, I'm not talking about the Academy Award winning Best Picture of 1936, I'm talking about watching a playoff hockey game at Manhattan's famous Ziegfeld Theater, arguably the best place to watch a movie on the planet. The Ziegfeld is the place you want to go for the debut of any big budget, big screen blockbuster, for the best sound and biggest picture in the world. It seats just under 1200 people, and until recently was showing that Scorcese /Rolling Stones documentary, "Shine a Light,"which I haven't seen, mainly because I'm a little bit over the recent fad of Zombie flicks.

The New York Rangers and the MSG network have taken over the Ziegfeld for game five of their first round matchup with the Devils,
and if they prevail, I'll be watching the most jaw dropping thing I've seen on that huge screen since I first saw Trinity whipping ass at the opening of the first Matrix movie.

That's right, Sean Avery shaking hands with Marty Brodeur.

But even though the Rangers have the edge right now, I like the Devils chances tonight. I stand by my predicition that the Rangers will win this series, but my gut tells me it's not the Rangers night.

We'll see.

I wrote about this event last year, but heard about it late, and wasn't able to go. As I write this, the Rangers organization tells me that over 1000 people have already bought tickets (yours truly included) and they are expecting a sellout. I just went to the website, and it appears tickets are still available, there will be free popcorn and soda and they will be selling beer.


I make that clear, simply because playoff hockey without beer is like fresh Maine lobster without butter: Still awesome, but somehow lacking.

Also, Adam Graves and Ron Duguay will be on hand, giving out prizes and greeting fans. This will be good for me, since I seem to be the only hockey fan in the Tri-State area who hasn't yet met Adam Graves, and as for Duguay, well- I'm pretty curious to see how old number 10 looks in his Sassoon's these days:

The troubling thing is that each and every one of the men in that ad could easily kick my ass.

Oo la la, indeed.

I. Like. Our. Chances.


I'll admit it.

I was wrong.

I picked the Boston Bruins to win their series against the Montreal Canadiens in six games.

Clearly, this will not happen.

That being said, I like their chances in seven.

They were knocked on their heels on game one.
A referee's whistle stole game two.
They won in OT in game three.
They lost a coin flip of a game in game four.
They got in Carey Price's head in game five.

So, the way I see it, each team has a blowout, and each team has a coin flip of a one goal win, and the difference is another one goal game that the referees handed to the Habs.

Going into Boston tomorrow, I like our chances.

I quote myself:

Despite the fact that the Bruins didn't score in game four, they were for much of the game the better team, and now they have the chance to go back to Montreal, and face that crowd again. My guess is they rise to the challenge. Obviously, being down 3-1, it's easy to say that the Bruins can't lose another game. But if they had won last night, would the situation be any different? Could they afford to go back to Montreal and lose, hope to win in Boston and then head back to the building that they never won a game in for game seven?

No matter what happened last night, they would need a win in Montreal in game 5.

And if they can do this, they will build on the confidence that they have started building in game two, and add to it the knowledge that they can beat them in their own barn. With that kind of momentum, I really like their chances back in Boston for game six, and in game seven, anything can happen.

I like our chances.

And I know I don't spend a lot of time talking about the west, but how about that Marty Turco?

Look out for that guy.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

New York Post Hockey Columnist Larry Brooks: Genius or Thief?!!

Anybody whose anybody knows that the New York Post's Larry Brooks is pretty much one of the finest hockey journalists in the tri-state area, if not the nation.

Along with the Boston Globe's Kevin Paul Dupont, he is one of the grand old men of hockey writers, and if he isn't in the hall of fame already, he should be.

He's great.

So I was shocked, SHOCKED to read the beginning of his most recent column which featured the following passage:

April 16, 2008 - LISTEN, I didn't particularly like it, either, for after Sean Avery went Reggie Dunlop in the crease against Martin Brodeur on Sunday night ("Hey Hanrahan...") I was waiting for Brendan Shanahan to ease into the Ned Braden role and do a striptease while taking a lap around the Garden ice.

Anybody note the date on that?

April 16th?

Now perchance, did anybody peruse on April 15th?

Now you tell me- is Larry Brooks a genius, or a thief?!

Oh, and yes- if someone independently comes up with the same idea as I did, I am considering that as evidence of their genius. Either way, I'm getting sick and tired of the New York Hockey media ripping off American Hockey Fan.

Deb Kaufman still owes me a goddamn beer, by the way.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Nice job, Habs-

-you made that child cry.

You sicken me, to my very core you French bastards.

Still, all is not lost for the Boston Bruins.

The Bruins played a great hockey game last night. The only thing you can really fault them for was a lackluster start of the second period, and not being able to generate enough shots (were there any?) on Price in the last seven minutes. Keep in mind, the Canadiens started icing the puck and playing kitty bar the door for almost a full seven minutes at the end of the game, and that's a real bad sign for Montreal. The Bruins had a nice passing play in the final seconds, but just didn't get the job done.

Still, being down 3-1 against the Canadiens is bad. If you look at it as having to win three straight games against a team you've beaten once in your last 14 meetings, it's very bad. But there is reason to look at it differently.

First off, despite what the Canadian hockey press is attempting to foist on us, Carey Price is no Patrick Roy and/or Ken Dryden. Not yet, and not from what he's showed us thus far in the series.

-His goals against is good, yes, but he's playing the Bruins, a team that has scored fewer goals than almost anybody in the playoffs. Remember that if the Habs advance to play either the Devils or Rangers, the East's other two other low scoring teams that can win, before you allow the media to prematurely put a crown on this kid's head for his GAA.

-27 saves is not really a lot of shots in an NHL shutout. Yes, he got the job done, and the Bruins didn't score last night. He made a few nice saves (Murray in the slot from a Savard feed, and getting a piece of that Sturm shorthanded chance when he was out of position) but for my money, the best save of the series is still Thomas in OT of game 3. Price has been solid, no question, but he hasn't yet made THAT save, the save he has no business making.

For a team that is up 3-1, the Canadiens are nothing close to dominant, with the explosive performance of game one a distant memory. Sure, they may win this series, especially seeing as the last three games have been one goal squeakers, but while the Bruins didn't win last night, they did come away with confidence. They can beat this team, and if not for a referee's whistle in game two, the series is tied.

And confidence is the key factor right now, as it's exactly what the Bruins didn't have coming into Montreal in game one. They hadn't beaten this team all year, were afraid to play physical because of Montreal's dominant power play, and had a large portion of their team making their playoff debuts, including their starting goaltender and leading scorer, the latter who also had a very sore back. So they got jumped on by both the Habs and their building in game one, and lost their confidence.

But now they have it back.

Despite the fact that the Bruins didn't score in game four, they were for much of the game the better team, and now they have the chance to go back to Montreal, and face that crowd again. My guess is they rise to the challenge. Obviously, being down 3-1, it's easy to say that the Bruins can't lose another game. But if they had won last night, would the situation be any different? Could they afford to go back to Montreal and lose, hope to win in Boston and then head back to the building that they never won a game in for game seven?

No matter what happened last night, they would need a win in Montreal in game 5.

And if they can do this, they will build on the confidence that they have started building in game two, and add to it the knowledge that they can beat them in their own barn. With that kind of momentum, I really like their chances back in Boston for game six, and in game seven, anything can happen.

How ya feeling, Patrice?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Let's Go Bruins!

If the Canadiens win tonight, this child will cry.

My thoughts on Sean Avery-

- good for him.


I know they are talking about making what he did a penalty, and maybe they should, but, I mean- there wasn't a rule against it when he did it, right?

And it was entertaining, and it did lead to them getting a goal, I guess.

Cause I'm looking in the rulebook now, and here's what I don't see:

Penalty Rule: #358

"Being a little bitch."

When screening the goaltender, it is inadvisable to face the goaltender, not look at the play, and wave your hands and stick around like a little bitch. If someone in fact decides to act like a little bitch, he will be penalized for two minutes, or if his little bitchiness ends up in the opposition somehow bleeding, a double minor of four minutes for, and I quote, "being a tremendously annoying little bitch."

I mean, fuck- I don't know- if there isn't a rule against it, I say, go ahead and be an entertaining little bitch!

It's not like there isn't any precedent for it in hockey:

Sure, it might not have been pretty, but the Chiefs won that game, right?

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Hey Washington!

Take it easy.


We get it.

You're on fire right now and you won't be denied.

You know, it's possible to assert your dominance without devastating the opponent's testicles.

I mean, Jesus.

We all love Ovechkin.

Agreed- we get it. He's awesome.

Now lay off the testicles.


We said it.


Did that do it?

Can you lay off the nuts?

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Predictions: Pittsburgh Versus Ottawa

Well, I'm not even going to waste my time on this one.

I hate the Penguins.

Always have, probably always will.

I say probably, because you never know- maybe one day Sidney Crosby and Mario Lemieux will step away from hockey and create a foundation that discovers the cures for AIDS, Cancer, and Ice Cream headaches. They will team up and use their remarkable skills of ceaselessly bitching and whining to officials to harang the higher ups of the World Health Organization to finally cure these awful diseases.

Actually, they could do that, and while I might have a higher opinion of them as citizens of the world, I'd still hate the Penguins. Even after all of that, I'd have a bunch of unprotected sex with strangers, shoot a little heroin with the shared needles of drug addicts, smoke a carton of cigarettes, and eat an entire tub of Breyers Mint Chocolate chip ice cream in 2 minutes flat, all without risk to my heath or well being, and have absolutely no problem whatsoever sitting down in front of the TV and LOVING watching the Penguins lose.

Jesus, I hate that team.

Either way, the Sens are damaged goods, and the Ottawa coach is rallying the troops by claiming that the Penguins threw their last game in order to face them.

Nice strategy dude.

Not only will publicly demeaning your team not really work to rally your guys, but it's probably 100 percent true, which makes it worse. Either way, it doesn't change the fact that even with a healthy Daniel Alfredsson, that team would be fucked. And they don't have Daniel Alfredsson.

I'm no happier about it than you are, but it is what it is.

I mean, Christ.

You know I'm right about this.

Pittsburgh in 5

Predictions: New York vs New Jersey.

Out of all the first round contests in the East- this one is the toughest to call.

Here is what the Rangers and Devils have in common, aside from the strong team defense, and anemic offense.

World class goaltending:

Marty Brodeur and Henrik Lundquist. I'd be inclined to give the advantage to Marty here, just on resumes and playoff experience, but I actually attended the Devils/Rangers game at the Garden last March 27th, and what I saw were two evenly matched goalies at the top of their games. While there are certainly going to be some sparkling saves on both sides in this one, I can't give either team the edge, at least between the pipes.

Czech Superstars who might show up to play:

Patrick Elias and Jaromir Jagr.

Both these guys, at different times of their careers have had the ability to almost singlehandledly provide the offense that their teams have needed to win games. (Granted, the Devils usually needed a little bit less to get the W.) Still, here you have two guys, who if they decide to play up to their skill set, that could be a factor in this series. Remember,when the Rangers played the Devils in the first playoff series after the lockout, the Rangers had built a core of young Czech players around Jagr, and achieved something The Blueshirts hadn't seen since the mid-nineties: chemistry. Elias heard the hype, and after coming back from a season half-lost to Hepatitis, made sure everyone knew who best Czech on the ice was in that series, leading New Jersey to a sweep. But will either Jagr or Elias step it up? I'm thinking that if one of them does, the other one might rise to the challenge. But neither does initially, don't expect one of them to step up unprompted. Either way, it's another wash.

Clutch Performers:

Chris Drury and Jamie Langenbrunner
Who do you like better?

This guy:

Or this guy:

I won't lie to you, I fucking love them both. Thank God I don't don't have to take sides. Either way, it's another wash.

Ultimately, there is one factor and one factor alone that I don't think the Devils can match up with, and it's why I'm picking the Rangers.

Scott Gomez.

He struggled down the stretch a little bit this season, but found his game, and when playing against his former team, he seems to hear those boos and just turn it up a notch. To quote the New York Times:

Gomez led the Rangers this season with 54 assists. He was second on the team in points, with 70, one behind Jaromir Jagr. In eight games against the Devils, he had a goal and six assists. Perhaps most memorably, he came back after missing a game with bruised ribs to lead the Rangers with two assists in a crucial 3-2 victory over the Devils on March 27 at Madison Square Garden.
It's a slim X factor, but I think no matter how much you like or don't like the Rangers to win this, when you base your calculations on how the Gomez played in the regular season, and how he played against his former team in the regular season, you see a different Scott Gomez. I think he's the difference maker.

Rangers in 7

(Note: Ben might take issue with this)

Predictions: Boston Versus Montreal

OK- let me start by saying that every hockey writer on the planet is picking Montreal to win this series. And why not? They have a potentially sensational rookie goaltender in Carey Price, a lethal powerplay led by a rejuvenated Alexei Kovalev, and an overwhelming 13 straight victories against the Bruins. Also, they are the Canadiens, which historically have owned the Bruins in the playoffs (24-5 all time.) Now, here's why they won't this time:

1)Tim Thomas has consistently, over the past three seasons, been told that he is not good enough, will be the backup, won't make the team, or is the stopgap goaltender "for now". He has responded, time and time again, with excellent, clutch play. So now THIS rookie goaltender is going to outplay him? Why exactly? Because he played well in juniors? Tell that to "goalies of the future" Andrew Raycroft, Tukka Rask and Hannu Toivenen. And if you think that he's destined for greatness because Patrick Roy and Ken Dryden both won cups as rookies and he- um, wears the same color sweater? Well, you know what they didn't have? An over-the-top 24 hour internet, print and television media in Montreal telling them that they were the third coming of Christ. Yeah, I'm sure that's GREAT for a young goaltender's nerves. Edge, Tim Thomas.

2) If Alexei Kovalev is my primary offensive weapon in the playoffs, I'd be worried. A lot is made about the fact that Kovalev won a cup, and has that experience, but first of all, that was under the captaincy of Mark Messier is 1994. Montreal's captain Saku Koivu, (while very inspirational when returning from cancer,) is and was no 1994 Mark Messier. Also, his foot is broken and he may not play. I'm not saying that Kovalev wasn't lethal this season. But over a seven game series, I question his character.

3) OK- the Canadiens have won the last 13 games. That sounds bad for the Bruins. But first of all, let's go ahead and wipe away the 5 games that fell at the tail end of last season, which at that point in a devastated season was primarily a chance for the Bruins to give Mark Stuart some NHL icetime. So the Bruins went 0-8 this season. OK, that still still sounds bad, but it bears mentioning that the Bruins success down the playoff stretch was sparked by the shootout loss to the Canadiens on March 22. Sure, that was a loss, and the prognosticators can crow about how the Habs cemented their perfect record against the Bruins, but the Bruins lost their leading scorer in Marc Savard, and the Bruin rookies stepped it up, [particulary David Krejci.) The Bruins went on to take points in every single meaningful game down the stretch, and gave Krejci the confidence that he can play in this league as a #1 centerman. Now, Savard is skating. Patrice Bergeron is cleared for contact. With David Krejci, Glen Metropolit and Phil Kessel, the Bruins can all of a sudden roll 4 lines. Granted, this is based on Bergeron and Savard coming on strong, but it's the NHL playoffs, and these are two All Stars who are really hungry for playoff action, Savard having never played in the postseason, and Bergeron getting his feet wet once, against- who else? Montreal.

Bruins in 6

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

So if you're home late at night over the next month-

Flip on Versus.

Cause you never know-

There might be a GREAT hockey game on.

Jesus, I love the playoffs.

Monday, April 07, 2008

I take full credit for this

Obviously, I'm kidding. There's no way the league read my post two weeks ago, and as a result, decided to launch a new video portal catering to the fan, along with an upcoming overhaul of to include more user-generated content.

Or did they?

Saturday, April 05, 2008

3 Cheers for Alex Auld

Last night, the Boston Bruins celebrated clinching a playoff spot for the first time since the lockout, and wrap up the season tonight against the Buffalo Sabres, who will be celebrating, well, Yo-mamma-ween.

Many people counted the Bruins out this season, (although I wasn't among them) but while tremendous credit will be given where it's due (The superb Bruin coaching staff, the emergence of rookie talent, the ability to battle through injuries, Tim Thomas stepping up to the plate, career year in goals for Chara etc) I'd like to give a tip of the hat to a man who will likely be making his last start of the year tonight, backup goaltender Alex Auld.

After Thomas went down with a midseason injury in a game against New Jersey, the Bruins learned that prospect Tukka Rask was not yet read for prime time. So they picked up Alex Auld, and while he has had soe bad luck in shootouts, has played about as well as anyone could have expected.

In a season where you don't clinch a playoff spot until the second to last day of the season, the 23 points he got for this team (9 wins, 5 OT losses, 2 shutouts) loom LARGE.

So hats off to all of the Bruins today, and particularly to Alex Auld.