Saturday, April 26, 2008


As George Costanza once said "I am speechless. I have no speech."

I leave town for a couple of days to get a new job and come back to this? Really?

I’m not even sure how to logically respond to today’s thrashing of the Avalanche by the Red Wings. Going into the series I felt that for the Avs to have a shot against the Wings they needed to play near-perfect hockey. They needed to hit, score early and play defense. Pretty simple really, but beginning with Peter Forsberg’s groin injury before game 1, Scott Hannan taking a slapper off of his instep during game 1, and Jose Theodore apparently coming down with the kind of mystery illness that prevents him from stopping anything that is thrown at the net, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the red hot Wings sweep the Avs out of the playoffs.

All of a sudden the Avalanche are undermanned, playing undisciplined hockey, and coming apart at the seams.

If I had any hope going into the playoffs it was that this edition of the Avalanche, who I felt had very little chance of actually winning the Cup this season, would at least manage to fight hard, keep games tight, and in the event of elimination, at very least not embarrass Colorado hockey fans.

Well we can throw that out the window!

I have no idea what it is going to take for the Avalanche to get back into this series. At this point I’m just hoping there will be more white showing up in the crowd at the Can on Tuesday than red. Yet not even that seems to be feasible at this point.


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Analysis of the First Round

The first round, which featured two game-seven’s on the same night, is finished with yours truly in pretty darn good standing compared to some of the “experts” from major websites (I missed only two picks out of eight). Let us go down the list so that I can both gloat and chide myself on my picks. I’ve inserted my predictions from last round to act as a reference, and in my next article I will follow with my picks for the next round.


-Detroit vs Nashville
Detroit is Detroit and we hate them because they are Detroit. Even still, they are good and should cut through a soft Nashville team like (insert any scary 2008 skate related injury joke here)

Red Wings in 5

As it turns out I picked the winner here, but Nashville gave the Wings all they could handle…and Thomas Vokoun doesn’t even play for the Predators anymore! This is good news for the Avs, as they needed the Preds to beat up the Wings a bit. The shocker from this matchup came in the form of a brewing Detroit goalie controversy. Oh for the love of a goalie battle that doesn’t involve Peter Budaj for once!

San Jose vs Calgary
With the wildly overdue for a title Joe Thornton at the helm, towards the end of the season SJ looked like the team to beat in the West. Calgary has some punch because their coach is an old insane guy named "Iron" Mike Keenan. Jarome Iginla, who is the captain of the Flames WILL get into at least one fight in what will be a tighter series than expected. Fun should be had by all. There will be balloons for the kids.

Sharks in 6

Unfortunately Iginla didn’t get into a fight, bummer. But Mike Keenan started plenty of trouble with Flames fans after he pulled Miikka Kiprusoff half way into game seven. Most Sharks fans, as it turned out, don’t have much confidence in their team, even though they finally woke up and put Calgary down in the end.

My secret wish that a crazed and shirtless Keenan would be taken down in a hail of FBI tranquilizers after the series also failed to materialize. Double bummer.

Colorado vs Minnesota
Okay...what if you took two teams that almost played the same and put a healthy Peter Forsberg on one of them? That is how close this series will be. Forsberg has scored 11 points in his last 4 games and is once again THE GUY in Colorado. Avs pull the upset in this one because they have a better offense.

Avs in 7

My how things changed in a week! The player of the series turned out to be the much-maligned Jose Theodore, who has been playing stellar hockey since January. If it wasn’t for the good work of Theo (his 3-2, 40 save victory in game 5 was the stuff of legends) I believe the Avs, who were out-skated all series by a younger, faster Minnesota squad, would have lost. Leaving the rest of Colorado to act like they actually enjoy watching the Rockies and the perpetually underachieving Nuggets. As always, thank God for hockey!

Side note here: should you ever land 5th row tickets to a playoff game, bear in mind that there will be people who will show up to the Can some time during the 2nd period in suits and gowns and make it their mission to glare at you every time you yell “Derrick Boogaard eats children!” Because really, there’s nothing quite like pricing most of the die hard fans out of the lower bowl, and then turning it into a country club where showing passion for your team is borderline illegal…and some folks wonder why I hate rich people…

Anaheim vs Dallas
Last year's champion, the former Mighty Ducks of Anaheim will try to beat down a solid divisional foe in this round. Dallas is slumping and the Ducks play defense. Simple as that. Look for Ducks goalie, J.S. Giguere to find a way to cheat and wear even bigger pads during the playoffs, as he really isn't very good.

Ducks in 6

Boy did I ever miss the boat on this pick! Fortunately the rest of hockey did as well. It turns out the Ducks used up all their street fighting tokens during their Cup run last year. This season their thuggery was finally deemed unacceptable, and Dallas was able to take advantage of an almost constant parade of Ducks to the penalty box. The only prediction I did get right from this matchup was that Anaheim goalie J.S. Giguere wasn’t very good. But that is more fact than theory.


Montreal vs Boston
Surprisingly these two teams did much better than expected this season. Boston was banged up since the first month and Montreal was mostly crappy. Yet both teams found quality play from unexpected sources and here we are, an Original Six matchup! Good times. Look for Montreal's strong second half play to continue in front of wunderkind goalie Carey Price and the resurgent Alex Kovalev.

Les Habitants in 5

This matchup ended up going the distance, as Boston discovered their will to win after they were on the edge of elimination, pushing the series to seven. This battle eventually led to a renewal of Montreal and Boston hostility, which poured onto the streets after games. In a classic display of angst-ridden Québécois virility a number of ornery Montreal youths overturned and burned police cars after the Habs secured game seven.

I’m supposed to write something here about how this is yet another sign of the fall of Western civilization, but really I was inspired by such a grand display of drunken and disorderly conduct after a FIRST ROUND contest. I’m not only a Habs bandwagon fan now; I’m almost demanding they win the Cup! If that were to happen I suspect the province of Quebec will burn throughout the summer, until the flames are doused by the snows of November.

Pittsburgh vs Ottawa
Ottawa, last season's Eastern Conference representative in the Cup final has been a mess since their back up goalie Ray emery flipped out and got their coach canned sometime around midseason. I would give you an exact date except I'm still laughing. Yet because the East is the weaker conference they have managed to hang in long enough that they should be soundly thrashed by the Pens in the first round.

Thanks for playing.

Penguins in 5

The Pens swept this series, and in a hilarious shift of loyalty many Senators fans are actually cheering for their team to be dismantled after the playoffs. I don’t even have a joke here. Some people in Ottawa are literally demanding that the team be disbanded! Can, um, the Avs have Dany Heatley if that happens? Please?

Washington vs Philadelphia
Alexander Ovechkin has been the best player in hockey this season, potting 65 goals, which is good. Yet aside from a couple other good up and coming players, and the addition of a starting goalie (Cristobal Huet) at the trade deadline in February they probably don't have a talent to win the conference.

Philly on the other hand is young, has star players (Daniel Briere, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter) and has no clue how to play defense...but they can beat people up! That's good...right?

This matchup gives me a headache.

Capitals in 6

The Capitals ended up losing to Philly in seven games despite the efforts of Ovechkin and up and comer Nicklas Backstrom. I’m kind of sad about this because we won’t get to see Alexander the Great will his team to more victories against disorganized clubs like Philly. I guess the only thing I can take from this is that there is still the potential for Philly defenseman Derian Hatcher to become the first hockey player to shed his boots during play and actually walk down the ice faster than he skates…dragging his mongoloid knuckles the whole way…I’m still not clear if he actually plays with a stick and he’s been playing for 15 years!

NY Rangers vs New Jersey
This is another rivalry matchup featuring some of the best players to ever play like Jaromir Jagr of the Rangers and Martin Brodeur of the Devils. The games will be intense and a few players may get their feelings hurt. Make sure your kids watch this matchup so they will know how to properly fight come high school. The Devils are slumping and the Rangers are heating up, so this will definitely be a close one.

Rangers in 7

Long story short: Pestilent Rangers moron Shawn Avery used to date actress Elisha Cuthbert, who is so bad at her profession that I couldn’t prevent myself from yelling at the television every time the first season of “24” came on. While she and Avery were dating, actually decided to give her a blog on their website for a full season.

She made it four postings, and none of the posts was anywhere near readable, grammatically correct, or at all intelligent.

During this time it finally dawned on me that not only was America accepting idiocy as its modicum for success, citizens were demanding it!

Fast forward to troglodyte Shawn Avery against the Devils and his need to faceguard goalie and future Hall of Famer, Martin Brodeur. It was a tactic so classless and disrespectful that the NHL was forced to change its rules during the playoffs.

I’m not sure why Avery and Cuthbert aren’t dating anymore. They would have set a new standard for wealthy idiots everywhere, and possibly spawned a new generation of gas station register jockeys and adult film stars for all to behold.

The abstract lesson here is that no matter what, I hate the Rangers.

Breaking Down the Red Wings

I can’t help but get excited every time the Avalanche plays the Red Wings. Not just because the two teams involved have essentially owned hockey over the past decade, but that each time they have met the games have become a display of the best the game has to offer.

During decade-plus battle for Western Conference domination both teams have featured legendary talent the likes of whom measure up to any of the great teams of the past. Players like Sakic, Yzerman, Forsberg, Shanahan, Bourque, Coffey, Roy, Lidstrom, Foote, Chelios and many others.

This time around I am curious to see how the typically stout Red Wings adjust to handle an Avalanche team that they did not actually see during their regular season sweep of four games.

With the additions of Peter Forsberg, Adam Foote, and Ruslan Salei at the trade deadline, the Avalanche not only shored up a questionable defense, they brought back icons from the past. Add in the healthy Joe Sakic, Ryan Smyth and Paul Stastny, and the Avs have most definitely improved since their last meeting with the Wings in December.

Normally when it comes to breaking down a matchup I like to look at how one team counters the other team’s strengths while taking advantage of their weaknesses. In this matchup Detroit has weaknesses on which an underrated Avalanche squad must focus in order to come out ahead: physicality, goaltending and third line play.


After the December 27th loss, which was a physical battle, I noticed that when the Avalanche hit, the Red Wings ceased to function efficiently.

As it turns out, Nick Lidstrom is the lynchpin of the Detroit Red Wings. Whether this is Mike Babcock’s coaching strategy remains unclear, but traditionally when Lidstrom faces contact he plays passively, and by playing passively the Red Wing’s puck possession game is not as effective. Conversely, when Lidstrom is left to roam the Wing's usually meet with success.

Is this a coincidence?

Take for example the Wing's late-February swoon, which coincided with a Lidstrom injury. Lidstrom was out, and Detroit struggled to the point where it took a late season winning streak for them to secure the Presidents Trophy. More acutely, their goaltending struggled immensely during this period.

In the years of Detroit-Avalanche battles perhaps no single player has held such importance. To have a shot at success the Avs must take the body with Nick Lidstrom.


The Red Wings picked the wrong time of year to run into a goaltending controversy. Between the perpetually underachieving Chris Osgood and the showing-his-age Dominik Hasek, the Red Wing’s goaltending struggled at times against a vastly inferior Nashville team in the first round. What originally looked like an easy Detroit win instead turned into a battle of attrition due to periods of borderline incompetence between the pipes.

This season I felt the Red Wings goaltending was overrated simply because their superior defense kept the number of shots on goal down. Often in the Western Conference, goaltenders on great defensive teams benefit from inflated numbers because of the conference-wide insistence on playing the trap, and in this area the Wing’s goalies were no exception.

Should the Avlalanche somehow manage to keep the game low in the Detroit end for extended periods, I believe they will see a number of scoring opportunities against goaltenders who are not used to seeing an elevated number of shots, and become uncomfortable when placed under siege.

On the flip side, during the Avalanche series against the Wild, Jose Theodore saw less than 25 shots only once, as the Avs were out-skated by a younger, faster team. In fact, in every other game Theo saw over thirty shots, capping out at 40 during a legendary game five performance, when he stole the series from the Wild.

For the Avalanche to succeed they must master the difficult task of keeping the number of shots down in their own end, Theodore must continue his stellar play, and the offense must test the Detroit goaltenders early and often.

Third Line Play

Going into the playoffs it looked as if a healthy Ryan Smyth would regain his spot on one of the top two lines. Yet in a move that was mysterious to most Avalanche fans, Smyth was retained on the third line with David Jones. As it turns out this move by Joel Quenneville was brilliant, as it allowed the Avalanche to roll a gritty yet skilled “grind” line. By the end of the Wild series it was Smyth, not Sakic or Forsberg who came away with the winner in the final game.

It is well known that for a team to win in the playoffs it must be able to roll at minimum two solid production lines while gaining an advantage at the bottom end of the roster.

In what should be a tight checking, low-scoring series the third line is where the Avs have a clear advantage. The first two Avalanche lines will see the brunt of the Detroit defense. So the third line should be able to chip in while the likes of Lidstrom and Rafalaski are taking a breather on the bench. In the playoffs there is never a shortage of irony, coincidence, or lucky bounces, and any Avalanche success may rest on the shoulders of David Jones and Captain Canada.

Ultimately for the Avalanche to win against a talented and confident Detroit squad it must play hard, sacrifice and get a little lucky. The level of play in the second round is elevated, and Detroit series’ especially are long, brutal affairs that are won with the help of huge swings in momentum.

If the Avalanche can use Detroit's unfamiliarity with the current composition of the Avs against them they should gain a slight advantage. And hopefully this time around the Avalanche will be able to needle Detroit's weaknesses, and along with their underrated stature gain the upper hand on the Red Wings.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Making Something out of Nothing

"I am taking break after the Wild series." I told myself this. Many times. It is difficult to write about hockey while doing 100 other things at the same time and keep it interesting. I was exhausted. Literally I was at the point of considering hitting my knee with a ball peen hammer just to check my toughness.

My favorite pre-lockout Avs commercials used to state "the more hockey you watch, the tougher you get". They would feature bits involving a guy slowly pulling out his nose hairs, or getting nailed by a car door as he rolled by on a moped. They were possibly the best spots-related commericals I have ever seen.

You know the kinds of commercials that are actually good and you kind of miss them when they go away. Those were them.

I needed to shape up.

Before the playoffs I had managed to pare down the number of times I wrote to three times a week, and YOU my readers seemed to be falling into step. We had a good rhythm going. Then the playoffs started and the Avalanche came together to beat the Wild in what was the most captivating series of the first round, and I started writing every day.(I still cannot put words to how well Jose Theodore played. Literally, that was the greatest series I've ever seen from a Colorado goaltender. Roy had his moments, but the opposing teams were always afraid of him. In Theo's case, the Wild barely even respected the man!)

I've had a fun playoffs so far. I landed in the Can for two games. The first time I was five rows up with the upper class and the Avs lost. For game six I was pressed up against the top row in corner with the electricians and plumbers. Care to guess which game was more fun for me to attend?

Here's a note: The big mystery of whether or not the upper deck of the Can is up to code was finally solved at game six. Building code states that the tread of a step must be at it's absolute minimum 10-11 inches from the lip of the step to the rise of the next step, with most treads kept at eleven inches.

The treads on the upper deck? 8 inches at best.

Yes Avalanche fans, YOU the paying customer in the upper deck are sitting in an area that violates building code. I'm wondering how much Kroenke had to shell out to the city inspector to get that little oversight passed. Next time I'm bringing a harness and ropes, because one of these days I may end up as "that guy" who falls off the upper deck.

Anyways, I was enjoying the sunny day today after a weekend of playoff hockey success and hiking when I came across this little diddy by Bill Simmons at Ahhh sweet motivation.

I have ranted before about Bill and his unique ability to crap on hockey, and here we are again. How much you wanna bet the higher-ups at the "Worldwide Leader in Sports" thought that it would be neat if their star writer crapped out a hockey article, considering it is the playoffs and all...

Here's the thing, Simmon's leap onto the Bruins bandwagon was entirely predictable. Even people who don't pay any attention to hockey, i.e. Broncos and Rockies fans, find themselves incapable of ignoring playoff hockey. Simply, it is too irresistible to avoid the greatest tournament in sports.

It isn't like I'm blaming Simmons for jumping back into hockey writing, and assuredly he'll go back to crapping on hockey as soon at the Bruins are eliminated. But what I'm trying to reconcile is my normally acute dislike of bandwagon sports fans in general.

Sure, we all have lives. But really, nothing stinks worse than when your team is doing well and suddenly everyone turns into an expert. It was this notion that drove me to know everything about hockey all the time. I didn't want to be one of "those guys". You know, one of those people who still talk about the Chris Drury trade, even though that was SEVEN YEARS AGO, but couldn't name a single player on the current Avs third line?

In my opinion bandwagoneers eat up tickets and screw over the die hards who are practically owed seats at important sporting events.

The worst instance of bandwagon-like behavior was when the Rockies went to the World Series. I've never seen anything come close. The Rockies stunk for years because of terrible ownership, and might not see the Series again until the Monfort brothers die off. But last October it was like the entire state came together and said "screw it".

I watched. I got excited. I turned down World Series tickets.

Yep. I turned down World Series game tickets. Why? I'm not really a Rockies fan. I felt my ticket should go to someone who managed to watch more than 10 games all season.
Sorry gang, I have respect for the dedicated. And besides, I grew up a Twins fan and never changed my affiliation.

This is why Simmons' article and how he mentions that hockey needs to attract casual fans ultimately rings cheap and lame, even after I consider his point of view.

Hockey is and will always be, a die hard sport. Same as baseball. You can't waltz into a concert during final song and act like you've been a fan of the band the whole time, and the same rings true for hockey.

Sure, Avs tickets are expensive. But as fans we are treated to possibly the greatest two-team television network in sports- Altitude. There is simply no excuse for anyone to start paying attention during the playoffs.

Maybe it is because I live in what is widely considered to be a "bandwagon state". Maybe outside of DU and CC hockey will never rival the popularity of the Broncos. But really, if you are a casual fan with a ticket, do me a favor this playoff season and pass it on to your "hockey friend". He or she will be more appreciative than you could ever know.

Especially during this playoffs, when a team that was left for dead by most of the state in January (hell, lets be realisitic: after the lockout) is finally coming together for a serious run.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Dear State of Minnesota

I know that this letter comes a bit early in the morning for you, as you are probably hungover after last night’s loss to the Avalanche. It’s okay, I’m a bit headachy too. Yelling from the top row of the Pepsi Center will do that. So please accept my apologies if I’m coming across as a bit crass at this early hour.

I understand that you felt that this year’s version of the Wild were the team that would go deep into the playoffs. Everyone up north seemed so excited! There was Gabby setting a team record for goals and points. Nick Backstrom and the defense were rock solid. And the team finally had enough muscle to beat up the more physical teams in the league.

I’ll tell you what. It was certainly one of the more physical series’ I’ve seen in a long time, and today I’m sure everyone on both teams is pretty sore. Especially Jose Theodore who once again saw a ton of shots. I bet you are pretty angry at Jose today, huh? I mean, where did he come from? He was supposed to be crappy.

I’m not sure if I can totally answer that question myself. I guess sometimes, some players turn it on for the playoffs. For example, Jose Theodore and Joe Sakic- on. Marian Gaborik and Pavol Demitra-off. It’s got to be frustrating when your star players get shut down by what you and many others felt was an inferior Avalanche hockey team. I mean come on, right!

I’m sure you are saying to yourself things like “the people of Colorado don’t deserve this!” and “Seriously. They don’t! Most of them are fair weather fans, with the only people who really pay attention coming in the form of insane University of Denver students!”

I get it. I know. You have a tough time with winning at sports. The Vikings have lost four Superbowls. Carl Polhad is the anti-Christ. Kevin McHale is an idiot and couldn’t build a team around Kevin Garnett. And now the Wild can’t even beat an old, lesser conditioned team from Colorado in the first round. I swear, I feel your pain. Outside of Philadelphia I’m not sure if there is a place that has a worse time winning at sports.

At least the summer softball leagues are starting up soon…right?

And there are many festivals to look forward too once the weather gets warmer.

Shoot, you even have the Republican convention this year…even though I’m pretty sure there are only about seven people there who are actually Republican. It’s unusual, I know. I think the Republicans might be trying to send some kind of message like they support the American working man or something. It’s pretty silly. I know. I’m just trying to make jokes to make you feel better.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that you shouldn’t get too down. There are always things to look forward to, even after the Wild lost a great series to the Avs 4-2. For example, you could always look at moving to Colorado. Many of your people have already done that and for the most part I’ve found them to be pleasant and witty, and they seem to like it here too. It’s something to think about. I have some friends you can stay with to make the transition easier. They are from somewhere around Edina. Nice folks.

Other than that, just try and keep your head up and realize that there is always next year. And while you’re at it, you might want to look at making a coaching change for the Wild. Jacques Lemaire seems nice and all, but he just doesn’t coach the type of game that will win the State of Hockey it’s first Stanley Cup.

Again, it’s something to think about.

Hang in there buddy!

The State of Colorado