"It's time to put the kettle on and make a cup of your favourite hot brown drink and settle in for 40 minutes of uninterrupted Folk"
Chopper "Thumbs" McKinnon,
CKCU-FM at 10:00-12:00 EST, Saturdays
And then there were four.
Last year this time the weather was warming up and people were out sitting in the streets in t-shirts, tank-tops, shorts and sandals watching the big honking TV screens set-up in downtown Vancouver to cheer on the Canucks who had made it to the Western Final against San Jose Sharks.
Today, a year later, the weather is looking even better, the Canucks, ahem, not so much. Both fans and players are enjoying the sun and beaches together. Most will be lathering themselves with sun-screen and setting up the barbeque and the deck table or chairs. Though they may be having a few brewskies or other type of atelevision sets or checking their I-Pads or I-Podsto see who's winning the hockey game tonight between the Phoenix Coyotes and the Los Angeles Kings. Most people will be more concerned about the whereabouts of little Johnny and little Jenny and what's taking them so long to get the damn fly-swatter from behind the bushes.
Of course, a lot of Canadian hockey fans, even Canucks fans who have Alex Burrows to root for, might enjoy cheering for their country's young brigade at this year's World Championships in Finland and Sweden. I certainly encourage everyone to support our troops over seas, just don't send the bill to Peter MacKay.
In most of those tilts you know, the teams actually play hockey!
I have to say, I love the larger ice surface in Europe. It adds to the speed of the game while taking away the goonery.. for the most part. The skill-set of most all of the combatants is at a higher level than most NHLers crawling and cranking out about 4 minutes a game on a 4th line, while spending most of their time trying to keep their skate laces tied and their 'anger management' manuals close at hand.
Well, perhaps I will have more to say about the Worlds in the coming days as the tournament winds its way to the quarter-finals on Thursday.
Right now, duty calls for me to once again make disastrous predictions about the NHL Play-offs.
Going 2-6 in the Round One, I managed a split in Round Two, miscuing on The Flyers in the East - did some of their guys take too many happy pills after stomping on the Penguins? and Nashville where a new Cold War was started between the Yanks and the Rooskies, namely Ragulov and Kostitsin who may have had a few too many Smirnoff Ice after Game 2 and it was like the Cuban Missile Crisis deja vu, all over again. The Predators' unwavering belief in "there is no 'I' in team" suddenly found themselves battling on two fronts, like Hitler during Dubya Dubya Two. There were the well-hammered and deathly sickled Rooskies to their left, and Mike Smith , Phoenix goalie, on their right, centre, left, and behind. Not to mention, there was the whole pressure of one of their on-ice Generals, Mr. Suter, about to change uniforms in the off-season. Back in Philadelphia, many fans are likely wondering if "Breezy', that other enigmatic Rooskie, is a double-agent, or maybe has a better career on the stand-up comedy circuit.
Between you and I, and the KGB and CISC, I don't trust Vladimir Putin. Give me Pierre Poutine any day! Pierre may be a Robo-Caller but Vlad is a dangerous Super Supreme-O Robo-Cop. Anybody who jails a punk rock band called Pussy Riot for singing subversive lyrics in ad hoc street concerts might have enough clout to pay-off a few Rooskie hockey players to disrupt the centre of the country music universe in Nashville, Tennessee - ya can't get any more 'apple-pie and mom' than there! Holy crap! The Yankees there even fly American flags on their out-houses.
We'll leave to George McPhee, GM, Washington Capitals, to illuminate us on any subversive intentions by some of his Rooskie stars, and yes, we're talking to you Alex Semin and "The Great 8."
Ovie and Out.
Well maybe it's time now to celebrate the victors and see what might happen in Round 3.
New Jersey Devils vs New York Rangers
As I watched Game 7 last night, I thought "this game is not unlike last year's game seven between the Bruins and Tampa Bay for the Eastern Conference title". The Rangers looked a little more grittier than the Caps, while the latter seem to have more grace and skill, and more dangerous shooters, who couldn't find the back of the net. King Henry was terrific, has been since the first puck drop, and is turning in a play-off performance not unlike Tea Party Tim in Boston last year. I thought for the longest while, here's a game where one might be able to say "first shot wins!" Alas, after that first shot goal by Brad Richards, the teams did pop a few more before the final siren went off and the boys lined-up for the traditional post-series hand-shakes. I certainly enjoyed this series. Close games, great goal-tending; what's not to like!
Meanwhile, in the city of brotherly love, Devils' goalie Marty Brodeur opined "we were prepared for a seven game series". Didn't happen. New Jersey took down the Flyers in 5. The Flyers just never got out of the hanger. Where indeed was all that team speed and tenacious fore-checking that they showed against the Penguins? Did that first round series take its toll? Sure looked like it to me. To be fair, and to remind you, I did pick the Devils as my 'dark horse' in the East. I just didn't have much confidence in that horseshoe when I saw some of their series against the Panthers. Which Devils team will we get in Round 3?
One thing I did note about Tony Soprano's boys is their complete dedication to positioning. Every man is like a chess piece who stays in his area and moves as directed by the coaching staff. "You're a shining Knight in armor; take two strides forward then take a quick zag right or left and whack someone. You D-men are like Rooks - keep the King save and surround him.. block every shot that looks like it's catapulted puck.. and whack someone."
The Rangers aren't too dissimilar in make-up and strategy. They have a disturbing tendency to win games by using the ole Vince Lombardi motto that "offence wins games; defence wins championships". That has to be their motto.. cause they also show a disturbing lack in ability to score! They found a way to do enough of that during the regular season - they didn't win the East by fluke - and so far during two rounds of the play-offs.
So what will be the dividing line? Well, other than the refs - I hear that these teams do not like each other much; I also hear the coaches aren't too enamoured with each other either - perhaps the Rangers have a slight edge on defence, the Devils more pop on offence.
The Devils will be more rested. The Rangers have already had two pretty grueling hard-fought seven game series. Those wars eventually might catch-up with them. Alas, it didn't stop the Bruins last year... and the Rangers look a bit like Destiny's Child, as the Bruins did last year coming out of the East.
If Marty B is on his game - and why wouldn't he be - this will be even closer than Rangers-Caps, Rangers-Senators series, but it could get uglier. The five-on-five scoring? May as well video Hugh Hefner's mansion for that. Goals will be few and far between, and most if not all will be tallied on the Power Play. This series will be so low-scoring, it will resemble traditional soccer games, 1-nil and so forth.
So, get the kettle on, make a cup of your favourite hot brown drink.... and get ready for multiple OTs and 40 days of uninterrupted hockey. This series could go until September!
Only because they're my dark horse... and a little because the Rangers, currently 5-0, will eventually lose a game seven on home-ice.
New Jersey in 7.
Los Angeles Kings vs Phoenix Coyotes
I'm long gone from my play-off hockey pool.
My Final Four were Boston-Penguins, Canucks-Blackhawks. Well, I was right if we're talking golf or bridge matches.
A recent hockey pool update did report however that two people had actually picked Phoenix and New Jersey to be in the Final Four. There is no middle ground here folks. Either these two people know dudley-squat about hockey or I should get their earth-based station phone numbers and ask them how much they want for their Yoda-manufactured crystal balls.
"Blind we are, if creation of this clone army we could not see."
How do Phoenix do it? How do they do it under such upheaval re constant ownership questions, the threat of the franchise moving, the uncertainty of fan support for a team that might be playing its last game ever in Jingle Bells, or whatever the arena in Glendale is called.
JoBing-dot-Com Arena is the arenas real name. Not a bad moniker when ya think of it. The place has at the very least kept many a job afloat the last few years, while, hey, the NHL pays the salaries and other bills, while the search continues for someone with deep, stupidly rich pockets to buy the team and presumably keep it in Arizona.
Then again, the name might signify that we're being hosed again - "jobbed" as it were - by Betty and the Boys at head office, desperate to keep the franchise in Glendale, at almost any cost. The Little Twerp decided, out of self-interest one presumes, to announce, again, yet another possible buyer. The Little Twerp thought it'd be appropriate to announce that right in Phoenix, on the day of a crucial Game 5, for Nashville - who were facing elimination that night. Really Gary! How could you be so one-sided - you own the fucking team. You're supposed to be, as Commissioner, fair and neutral. Makes me wander into the desert of conspiracy theorists who often wonder, aloud, about how much direction comes from the top, on a nightly or even period-to-period basis, re the calling of penalties. I believe the prospective new owner was introduced at the game thus inflaming the fans to cheer on their gladiators even more than normal and Yotes knocked-off as well as knocked-out the Predators. Just saying.
Well, Don Maloney et al on management side, along with Dave Tippett, the coach, have simply put together a 'clone army' that resembles the recipe for a Stanley Cup banner and parade, somewhere, the arena being 12 and 1/2 miles from civilization and its citizenry.
Facing the Yotes... or as the team refers to itself "Coyote Ugly"; will be another upstart, the LA Kings, with the dynamic trio Dustin, Dustin, and Justin upfront and Kitty-bar-the-door 'flop-and-stop' goalie Jonathan Quick.
If last night's basketball match between the LA Lakers and Denver Nuggets gives any indication, the Hollywood Movie and Music hoi-polloi crowd will be out in force for the games played in Tinseltown.
I mean what could be a more fitting image here for this series than something akin to "Slickville vs Hickville". Uptown vs Out-of-Town! Or maybe, using movie titles to hype it: "All the Kings Men" verses "The Pawnbroker."
I have no idea who will win the series. It will be close and, like the East, come down to goaltending. In that regard, neither team might have gotten this far without the stellar play of Mike Smith and Johnny Quick.
I keep thinking that Phoenix has risen about as far as expected.. and they keep going higher. Few suspected the Kings would knock-off both the 1st and then the 2nd Place teams. What crisis then in facing Number 3.
It all depends on over whom the Good Witch of the North waves her magic wand and on whom she sprinkles her magic dust.
For Canadian interest, one pundit (Cam Cole) suggested that we should back Phoenix since the team had relocated from Winnipeg and were likely headed for Quebec City at seasons' end. He also cited old warrior Shane Doan, the Yotes Captain.. and well, there's Mike Smith and wily 40 yr old Ray Whitney.. and on and on it goes. Not a bad substitute for Canadians lamenting the demise of their hometown squadrons.
But isn't Los Angeles full of Canadians? As for the team, there's Richards, and Carter and Penner and Willie and Doughty.
No shame in cheering for them guys either... good old Canadian boys that they are!
Of course, Don Cherry will be going over all line-ups counting the number of Canadians vis-a-vis the number of Swedes and other immigrants... and how many of the former live in , or nearby Kingston, Ontario.
Well friends I like a little glitter and glamour with my morning coffee..so I'm traipsing down the red carpet with a Randy Newman song in my Toy Story heart ..... everybody sing... "You Got a Friend in Me".
I love L.A.
L.A. in 6
Have those kids not found that damn fly-swatter yet!!?
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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