I'm flat on the floor with my head down low. Where the sky can't rain on me anymore. Don't knock on my door cause I won't come. I'm hiding from the storm till the damage gets done
Carrie Underwood, "Flat on the Floor"
Looks like we made it. Look how far we've come my baby. We mighta took the long way. We knew we'd get there someday.
Ain't nothin' better. We beat the odds together. I'm glad we didn't listen. Look at what we would be missin'. They said, 'I bet they'll never make it, but just look at us holding on. We're still together still going strong."
Shania Twain, "You're Still the One"
Okay, let's get this out of the way off the top. Let's all agree that the refereeing in the first round was inconsistent at best and atrocious at worst. There are many themes afoot in these play-offs but they are all over-shadowed by the refereeing. Does anyone - anyone, including the guys who wrote them, understand the rules about head hits, boarding, charging, interference etc?
Yesterday I read a web-posting by ex-ref Kerry Fraser trying to explain the rules and the difference between the hits/penalties assessed the night before re Milan Luic's hit on Spojeck and Danny Briere's hit on Neidermeyer. Not to diss Mr. Fraser but I would have a better chance of understanding the Magna Carta written in Swahili.
The refs are, under the 'rules' given a lot of discretion on these plays. To be fair, it is a fast game where things happen in an instant. We have the benefit of seeing every play, for the most part, from the same angle, looking down, and with a greater view of the whole ice surface. We also can benefit from instant replays which can be slowed down to less than a slug's pace. Even then, listen-up, even then, there is great discrepancy in the views of the various panel pundits and other commentators.
I do not wish to condone/forgive their behaviour in every instant but if the rules are foggy, the interpretation and administering of said rules on a night-to-night, within game basis, are not going to satisfy every fan. What every coach and player will tell you is that all they expect is that any particular game be called consistently throughout, for both teams.
In that regard, the refereeing in some games, like game 6 in Chicago, was so appallingly one-sided, and like the missed calls in the officiating of say the Montreal-Boston games so disturbing, led to, as it always the case, year after friggin' year, a ground-swell of Canadian hockey fans suggesting that the league is out to get us.
Let me clear. I think that kind of thinking is juvenile and no longer worthy of comment. Please refrain from such remarks hockey fans until you can actually prove that to be the case. Do you think the people in Buffalo think they got a fair shake against the Flyers? If the league has favourites, why hasn't LA, a huge market, ever won a Stanley Cup? Why did Edmonton and Calgary make it to the Cup Finals?
Do the refs even it up over a night? Do they call make-up calls for previous missed or bad calls? That I would say a definitive yes to. That is part of the problem. That is a league-instituted 'code'.
Did the refs put their whistles up their whistlers the other night in Vancouver cause of the flak they took for the one-sided affair in Hawk town the game before? Absolutely. That my friends is also part of the problem.
Should the war room in Toronto have less powers or more powers in ruling on video replays? What should be reviewed? Well, a lot of things. The basic problem at heart is that there are too many chefs in the kitchen. Somebody needs to name somebody to tell somebody what the rules should be. If they don't work, change them!! If they still don't work, change the someones!
If I'm the 'someone', the first thing I would scream is "drop the fucking puck". This constant sending of guys out of the face-off circle is a plague.... and arguably could have cost Montreal's loss last night to Boston, or at least contributed to it. The calls are seemingly endless so are consistent on that rule. And, knowing all that, Boston can't be faulted for having better face-off men.
One thing we can be thankful for is that Collie Campbell was not responsible for the procedural protocol at the Royal Wedding or Lady Gaga would be marrying Prince Phillip.
Okay. let's move on. Hopefully, with fewer teams in the mix now the quality of the refereeing should improve with less of them to be among the chosen ones.
NASHVILLE PREDATORS vs VANCOUVER CANUCKS
The singing of the National anthems is one of the more entertaining sideshows of the play-offs now. It's a competition on its own. If your gal or guy mucks up, it could set the tone for the night... and the series. And every year ya just know they'll be singing God Bless America in Philadelphia,with or without the long-departed Kate Reid on the jumbo screen. Some of these singers are gaining international reputations. On that score however I must confide that while the anthem sung at the Madhouse on Madison is stirring, the singer is seldom on pitch. In any case, it's turned into "American Idol" or even "Survivor". In Vancouver it might be called "Two and Half Men"! We have two guys singing when there's two anthems to sing..... and the crowd takes over the middle section of "O Canada". But I digress.
Well, notwithstanding my long held view that one anthem, the host country's, should suffice, I'm kinda hoping that we have a battle of the country stars doing the anthems in this series. Shania vs Carrie.
This will be a fun series! The Nashville game coverage guys came into town yesterday and offered to buy dinner for anyone who met them! That's good ole southern hospitality. Get out the grits! Get out them burgers on the BBQ!
Lattes and sushi versus Jack Daniels and mamma's homemade pie.
More succinctly, it's The Twins vs Twang and Twine.
Will Alexandre put a Burr in Fish's saddle?
Ex-Pred Dan Hamhuis goes up against ex_Cancuk Shane O'Brien.
Two Vezina trophy nominees face each other down.
The Preds finally are in the second round. Will they be content with that? The Canucks, in a mythical game for the ages, finally dispensed with the Great Satan, the Blackhawks. How will that effect their psyche? People are already commenting that Roberto looks like a new man since the evil spirits have been exorcised from his soul. But, the Canucks can not rest on the fact that they've knocked-off the champs. If they think it is clear sailing now to the Western final, give your heads a shake boys!
The season series was 2-2 and low-scoring. Daniel Sedin was our leading 'scorer' with four points. Kesler had no points and the Selke Trophy nominee was minus 5! The Preds did show their defensive upside against the Ducks but more so their offensive spark, based on tenacious forechecking. (The Preds are tied with Philly for most goals scored in first round.) Jordan Tootoo was the hero in that department. What a nice story that is folks. This play-off year is full of mythical resurrections and exiling demons.
The Canucks seemed to have got it all together in their last two games against the Hawks. I'm sure there will be an emotional let-down and tonight they may want to start some guys that haven't played much or at all. Jeff Tambellini for example. The one concern is the lack of rest time after an emotional series with Chicago, but that's not Nashville's fault. I suspect the TV guys are responsible for this game being tonight and not Friday or Saturday. We are the sacrificial lamb in the ongoing saga of bowing to the TV networks and not having a night where no games are played. But... I digress again.
In my hockey pool I have Vancouver in 5. Now that we're here is that a solid prediction! As good as Nashville can be, I do still believe the Canucks have too much, too often. Eventually it WAS four lines at full speed 24/7 that got them past the Hawks. The Preds are pretty good in that department as well but the Canucks should prevail. Vancouver in 6.
DETROIT RED WINGS vs SAN JOSE SHARKS
In the other western semi-final, we have a re-match from last year.... which many may forget the Sharks won. This year may be different for several reasons. Last year Phoenix took Detroit to seven games and lost on home ice. Detroit was completely fatigued after that long series. This year, facing the same team, same prospect, they dispensed with the Yotes in four games, which even surprised the Clobber who had the Red Wings in five. They also did this with Zetterbug out of the line-up. Phoenix probably froze-up at the prospect of having to move to Winterpeg. Whatever, the Red Wings crowned them and are well rested.
The Sharks, as usual, scared the shite out of their fans and had more than they could handle in a feisty LA squad who seemed to be on the verge of an upset. The Sharkies survived despite some shoddy goaltending, a shellacking at home in Game 2, and falling behind in another game 4-0 before they stormed back to win it in OT. From there on it was only a matter of time but it did take them six games, longer than most predicted.
Niemi will have to be better and the big guns for SJ will have to contribute a bit more if the Sharks want to win this series. I do have them doing that in my hockey pool but... this time I'm going to change horses in mid-stream. Detroit rested is a scary thought. They will know the way to San Jose and thru their porous defence. This could be ugly. Detroit in 5.
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING vs WASHINGTON CAPITOLS
May the best defence win. Both TB and Washington were probably the two teams going into the dance who had questions marks surrounding their ability to provide good defence. Both teams more than met that challenge in the first round. That said TB did not have to face STK and Gino. They will now face Ovie and the Caps' vaunted offence.
Rolie the Goalie, at age 41, surpassed my expectations, playing every game and doing so in a stellar performance. Washington played only one of their three goaltenders, Neuvirth, who was terrific against the Rangers. But the same can be said here. The Bolts have more offensive threats than the Rangers could muster. This will be a more severe test for him this round.
The Caps will be more rested but TB has 'the big mo' coming back from a 3-1 deficit to win three games in a row against the Pens.
Is this another coin toss series? The Bolts have a lot of experience. The Caps have yet to prove their for real as a SC contender. TB had a great series from their third line. They will need the same performance in this series. Alas, I think Washington is just too strong offensively over-all.
Washington in 6.
BOSTON BRUINS vs PHILADELPHIA FLYERS
To quote Bob Cole "whoa baby!" Hold onto your seats folks this could be a donny-brook. Will the last man standing please turn out the lights.
This one on paper is a coin toss. It could go seven games.. seven long games be cause there will be standing room only in the penalty box. Boston will want to avenge their collapse of last year to this Flyer team. The Flyers will want to prove their comeback last year was no fluke. One thing Boston must do to win is score on the power play, the most anemic in the history of sport! These teams are fairly evenly matched in all departments except one - the ole bugaboo for Philly, in nets. On the other hand, Boston looks very very tired, especially Chara. Boston will have to split the first two games to have any hope of surviving. I believe the Flyers will take advantage of Bostons' fatigue and sloppy play. Unless the Bruins steal a game early...
Philadelphia in 5.
Enjoy the wedding and don't forget to vote!!!
Clobber Samson is a highly opinionated sports commentator, especially when it comes to Vancouver "Canucks," of the National Hockey League. Expect no balance in his columns. This is good.
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