Thursday, April 17, 2008

Stevie Nicks’ Fajita Roundup

Today I thought I’d throw out, as Jim Armstrong of the Denver Post would say, some “thoughts, myths and half-truths” about the goings on in hockey that don’t involve Ian Laperriere either being put on a pedestal or demonized as a coward. As Dave Foley once said in the Kids in the Hall movie “Brain Candy” Ian is “just a guy”.

It isn’t Lappy’s fault that most of the Minnesota Wild lost control in the last game and essentially put another black eye on the sport. Fortunately most of America was busy watching Master’s highlights…sometimes my country’s utter ignorance of hockey works in positive ways, so that was a close call.

Okay, on with The Show...

-It never ceases to bother me when a goalie gets hit in the head, as happened to Marty Brodeur last night against the Rangers when Jaromir Jagr skated into the future hall of famer. As a goalie myself I know that very few keepers actually keep their helmets tight to their heads. It allows you to move your head more freely, as well as prop the facemask on your forehead during water breaks. I have been kicked in the head a few times myself while playing and at no time did it ever feel good. Most of the time what happens is you end up with a twisted neck, and the tightness and pain can take months to go away. Even though things look grim for the Devils in the first round, I’m hoping that Marty woke up today able to turn his head.

-This Sean Avery faceguarding thing has taken on a life of its own, as the NHL revised their rules to disallow a player to face a goalie while blocking the keeper’s vision by putting their stick in the goalie’s line of sight. Leave it to Avery to do something cheap and disrespectful that leads to a rules change DURING the playoffs.

If I change the rules in my fantasy hockey league during the season, even to correct a minor discrepancy, I’m usually met with the wrath of nine other people even if the rules change is a good thing. In this case I fully agree with the NHL.

My solution to the Avery problem would have been to dig into the Patrick Roy book of taming forwards and cup checked Avery more than a few times when he wasn’t looking. Note to young keepers everywhere, if a forward does things like faceguarding or slashing you, keep in mind that you are not in a great position to defend yourself every time, and the referees almost never look out for you. So the next time some punk forward decides it would be cool to mess with you in the crease, take matters into your own hands and work over that sucker’s family jewels like they owe you money.

In Avery’s case I doubt many people would be disappointed if he weren’t able to spawn little Sean’s.

-Nashville is all tied up with Detroit, which is making mine and many other writers first round predictions look like bupkis. The Predators, once left for dead by pretty much everyone in hockey this season have shown great resilience, and last night out-skated the Red Wings to make things even at two games apiece. If the Preds are able to bring down the mighty, mighty Red Wings, the only thing that would be better would be an Avalanche trip to the Finals.

-Am I the only one who finds it hilarious that most people in and out of Ottawa are thrilled that the Penguins swept the Sens? Talk about embarrassing. Ray Emery really did a number on that team this season, as Ottawa was many an expert’s pick to again go to the Finals out of the East.

On the flip side the Penguins come out of the series with a ton of momentum and a confident goalie in Marc-Andre Fleury. I hate to say it, but outside of the every-other-day street fighting Avs and Wild, the Pens are my favorite team to watch this postseason. They are fast, feisty, and aside from Gary Roberts, young. Unless something happens to slow them down, it would be great to see a Pens-Habs Eastern Conference Final. If the West continues to beat itself up, don’t be surprised if the Penguins dynasty gets an early start.

-Even though this is kind of old news, last night I spent some time staring at, trying to make some sense of long term contracts, as Paul Stastny and others on the Avalanche are due big contracts in the next couple of years.

I found that some long-term contracts like Rick DiPietro’s actually make sense when you stare at them on paper (4.5 mil a year until the year 3000) and some don’t, like Alex Ovechkin’s contract (9 mil a year until the sun goes nova).

At 4.5 million a year, DiPietro’s contract leaves the Isles with a bunch of flexibility in future seasons to build a better team, even if DiPi doesn’t pan out. So that was a good deal, even if at the time everyone thought it was insane. But at 9 million a year, Ovechkin’s contract will essentially take up one-fifth of the Capitals cap room, which will hamstring them for years and make it difficult to build a champion. By signing such a huge contract Alex may have condemned himself to a career in purgatory unless the Caps are able to become better at drafting and attracting free agents who are willing to take cut in pay.

In the case of Stats and the crew in Denver, the conclusion that I have come to is that taking the hit last year and missing the playoffs in order to save some cash may have been the best long term move of any Western Conference team. Especially when you consider the organization's ability to draft solid players in later rounds.

-Tonight’s game between the Avalanche and Wild will be starting at 9pm Eastern, which is a more reasonable time to begin a hockey game. My problem is that major sports sources continue in their belief that the Mountain Time Zone doesn’t exist. East Coast networks think we are all hicks in this part of the country, but that doesn’t mean that they couldn’t pay us the courtesy of simply typing “7pm MST”.

The last time I checked, “flyover country” was responsible for electing a corrupt moron for a president simply because he paid us the courtesy of at least acting like he appreciates this portion of the nation. So one would think that at some point the right side of the country would give us a bit more respect and post start times in MST or MDT depending on the time of year.

-Finally, I do expect a bit more civility out of the Wild tonight, as they did manage to thoroughly embarrass their home crowd in the last game. It isn’t a good thing when your squad gets blown out, and racks up a team record for penalty minutes. Not surprisingly no suspensions were handed out, so Frenchy Veilleux gets off easy, although it would be nice if justice were served on the ice. I’m not asking that Frenchy get boarded, but I wouldn’t be saddened if he ends up bleeding.

Outside of that I think the simple fact that the Wild lost it’s cool is telling in who will win the series. Surely the Wild are well conditioned, and their depleted defense got an extra day of rest. But the hockey gods will not look kindly upon that squad when it comes time to advance. The Avalanche should come out motivated and once again take an early lead. This time around I expect them to hold on for the win.

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