Sunday, April 30, 2006


This Date in Battle of Alberta History

It was 20 years ago today...

The play began innocently enough, with Berezan dumping the puck into the Oilers' zone, then heading to the bench for a line change. As he reached the bench, the Northlands Coliseum suddenly became quiet. "I turned and I saw Lanny with his hands in the air," said Berezan. "I had to ask him what happened." McDonald told him. "Sometimes," said McDonald, "the good Lord smiles on you."
- from the 1986 book On Fire, by Eric Duhatschek and Steve Simmons.

With the Avalanche polishing off Dallas this afternoon, we are now one Oiler win and one Flames win from the first Battle of Alberta playoff series in 15 years. This needs to happen. It would please so many people...


Calamari anyone?

The rookie Winchester solves the Red Wings Octopus Voodoo by just taking the damn thing home with him. Why hasn't anyone ever thought of doing this before? I love Staois' face in that pic.


Flames-Ducks Game 5 review

Now that had all the elements of the '05/'06 Flames' home games that we've come to know and love.
I'm not going to belabour this very long, as he could always come back in Game 6 with a hat-trick or some damn thing, but I hope everyone has now clued in to which Huge Contract Superstar is dominating this series. For some reason after Game 4, watchers even in Calgary persisted in their comments that Scott Niedermayer was "controlling the game from back there", despite plenty of visual evidence to the contrary and a difference of six between his and Iginla's +/- rating.

Last night Jarome chalked up another 2G, +1 while Niedermatador went -1; the numbers alone may not have changed anyone's perspective, but Nied getting pylonned by Iginla in front of the net for a 3-0 score just may have.

If I could pick one defenseman in the league to retrieve a puck in my own end, under pressure, and get it out safely, I might well pick Niedermayer. The number of times he's confounded Flames forecheckers with a quick, accurate pass in an unexpected direction is pretty impressive. And, the offensive element to his game is clearly a big plus. But if I'm picking a defenseman to neutralize the other team's top line or top scorer, he's a long way down the list. There's four Flames D-men who have been doing it more impressively than him, this series.

Speaking of Selanne, how can anyone not be impressed with this guy? I admit it, I thought his career was dead. When Kariya and Selanne moved to the Avalanche before the '03/'04 season (prompting a few people to concede the Stanley Cup right there), I predicted correctly that they'd be ineffective. Usually when a guy like Selanne loses that step, it's gone forever, and furthermore, they can't usually adjust their game to compensate. But somehow he's fast again, and he's still opportunistic, and he might be tougher than he's ever been (leading to the outwardly absurd Kelly Hrudey statement that Regehr may have elbowed Selanne's head into the glass in self-defense).

Now that the game is over, I'm glad the Ducks came back to make the score close. I think that sometimes players have the same problem as fans and media; as a game recedes into the past and memories cloud, they confuse margin of victory with ease of victory. I'd much rather head into a tough road game coming off of a one-goal win than a three-goal win, because I think there's a much better chance that the players will be in the needed mindset.

Postscript: Odds are back at 40.8%. One more win each by the Flames, Oilers, and Avalanche, and we have ourselves a Round 2 Battle of Alberta (a.k.a. the Smythe Division Finals).


Orbs of Power Luminous

There are a couple of terrific stories to the Edmonton-Detroit matchup.

Orbs of Power - Mac-T and Babcock have been having a battle of words regarding who has been the Oilers' MVP in the series so far. Babcock says Rollie, Mac-T says Pronger. A case can definitely be made for both, but the Orbs have been absolutely huge. Before the series started, Wings fans were pretty much banking on "The Inevitable" (i.e., Pronger (Sasquatch) having a meltdown). Not only has he not melted down, he has a grand total of zero penalty minutes through 5 games. This would be remarkable for any top-2 d-man through any 5 game stretch, nevermind for a guy who has averaged over 34 minutes per game against Detroit's top line in a playoff series where the officials have called it absurdly tight, and where there has been almost an extra game worth of overtime. It is almost as if Pronger read the comments on the Wings message boards decided to intentionally stick it to them by going through this series unpenalized. On top of that, he has 2 goals and 5 assists to lead the team in playoff points.

Horcoff - that goofey-eyed son of a gun has arrived. Hrudey showed it perfectly during the Game 4 'Behind the Mask' segment. Everytime Horc gives up the puck he is moving and banging his stick asking for it back. He is second on the team in playoff scoring, and has the most shifts/game on the team outside of Orbs. Hrudey nailed it again after last night's game noting that Mac-T selected him to take the final face-off, which Horc capped off by diving face first in front of a Lidstrom slapper to take a frozen puck to the head. That play ensured that Horc will be worshiped by Oilers fans for life.

Roloson - When Rollie was traded here the mantra was "one more save". That's all that was needed. Even his biggest supporters, admitted the trade "came down to which old guy you liked" best and were hedging their bets by acknowledging that even average goaltending would vastly improve the team. I'm not sure too many people thought that 5 games into playoffs he would post a .931 SV% -- good for second best in the league despite facing almost twice as many shots as the top dog. Although I put up that photo of a guy standing on his head, it was mostly because I liked the image so damn much, not because Rollie has been playing crazy out of his tree good. Sure he has made a few spectacular diving saves, but for the most part he is just in solid position and is anticipating the play well.

Legace - I really don't think Legace has played all that bad, but he thinks he has played that bad, and that's all that matters. After the previous loss, Legace had this to say:
"It's the same replay from the last couple of years," goaltender Manny Legace said Wednesday."It's just the same old reel."
After last night's loss, he had this to say:
"I don't feel too good, to be honest with you," said Legace, who has allowed 14 goals in the series. "I feel like I'm sick. But that's the way the playoffs are . . . I'm not playing to the level of where I have to be to win games and win series for our team right now," said Legace, who is in his first full season as a No. 1 goaltender and has seemed more comfortable as a backup. "I'm just playing average. And average isn't good enough in the playoffs."
That's the way playoffs are? Sounds like this guy just isn't built for pressure situations. If the Oilers shooters didn't have confidence before, they sure will now. Alas, Osgood is hurt and I can't see Babcock putting in a minor-leaguer for a Game 6 on the road.

Lack of effort from the Wings - after Game 4 I was suprised at the lack of effort put in by the Wings in what was essentially a must win, and I said "if this was the best we can expect from the Wings, then the Oil are not out of this thing yet." Last night's game was even more surprising. After a good first period, the Wings just packed it in after the Oil scored the first goal. I wonder if Rollie is in their heads along with nightmares of Kipper and Giggy. So much for all that vaunted leadership and experience. I also wonder if the scheduling had anything to do with it. Who were the eggheads who gave the teams with the worst travel schedule two afternoon games? I'm not sure how it is in person, but on TV the crowds at those afternoon games in Detroit have sounded dead.

As noted yesterday, the Oil are 15-1 all time in playoff series when they have won Game 5. But they are clearly not out of the woods, yet. If this series has reminded me of anything, it would be just how difficult it is to win a 7 game series without home ice advantage. Lose the game on Monday and the Oil go back to Detroit for the deciding game. Based on the way the series has gone, home ice doesn't appear to be that big a deal, but I sure wouldn't want to be in Detroit for a do or die game.


Get your Free Flames Flag!

Turns out Molson is on the side of the Oilers, and they have surreptitiously handed out free voodoo flags.

Sure they look like Flames flags, but read the fine print . . .

Saturday, April 29, 2006


Flames Playoff Game Night

As Edmonton's utes are looting and turning over cars in Old Strathcona, the Flames are getting ready for a, uh, pretty big game.

I don't have much to say. I noted the importance, and benefit, of the Flames home-ice advantage before the series, and I still believe it unreservedly. The defensive errors in Game 2 were very unusual for a home game, and unlikely to be repeated. And finally, I'd say through 4 games we've now seen what each team can do, and the Flames' best looks better than the Ducks' best.

All that said, the longer you leave a series to chance, the more opportunity you give the hockey gods to mess with you. Tonight's prediction is Anaheim: 1, Calgary: More than 1. Go Flames.


Oilers Playoff Game #5


Way back on April 21st (gawd it feels like longer), I predicted:
Oilers in 7: split in Detroit, win Game 3 in Edmonton, lose Games 4&5, win back to back Games 6&7. Oh, and D-vo will score a lot of goals.
So far the plan is working perfectly. Even Dvorak's lack of goals indicate that my predictive powers are still going strong since he hasn't scored a goal this year when predicted to do so.
He is, if you will, my anti-prediction, the yang to the rest of my predictive ying.

But, if the fellas want to accelerate the plan by beating Detroit this afternoon (1pm MDT), I'm all for it. Apparently, history is on our side:

In past NHL best-of-seven series, the team that loses Game 1, wins Game 2 and 3 but loses Game 4 has an all-time series record of 34-29 (.540). That number improves to 15-9 (.625) when only considering the opening round.
And once winning Game 5? "Edmonton's all-time series record when winning Game 5 is 15-1. "

Sacamano's Keys to the Game:

I haven't heard about lineups yet. Is Tarnstrom back? Ullie in for Green? LeGG in for Harvey/the Gem?

Go Oil!

Friday, April 28, 2006


Friday Stats Watch

Just so anyone who wants to discuss Playoff Stats knows what they're talking about:
If there's one figure in there that really surprises me, it's the increase in PP Success, not only over the '04 Playoffs, but over the regular season (where the PP was 17.7%). Even if you subtract out the additional 5-on-3 goals, it's still well above the regular season number, and well well above the '04 playoffs number.

One other set of numbers for you:
There's a set of numbers I don't have at my fingertips, which is the average number of minutes in a regular season game (roughly 61-62) and in a playoff game (roughly 64-66). If I had them, I'd tell you what those two comparisons mean on a per-minute basis. (That is, clearly penalties were called less frequently in the '04 playoffs than in the regular season since more minutes were played; I just can't quantify it.) It's quite possible that the 12% increase in PPOpps/gm in the playoffs is entirely due to a 12% increase in Duration of Game. Based on the chat around the campfire this morning, if that is in fact the case, then if I were Gary Bettman I'd be sending out that press release, and stat. (Referees Show Perfect Consistency! I Intimidated Them Into Doing Their Jobs, Not Into Calling Phantom Stick Fouls To Keep Their Numbers High!)


String 'em up

Last comment on the officiating of last night's game.

First, just so Babcock doesn't get confused, the refs didn't cost Edmonton the game.

Second, it is nice to see that Red Wings fans and media were just as critical, if not harder, on the officiating than the Edmonton guys.

Red Wings television analyst Mickey Redmond called the officiating “a disgrace to the National Hockey League.”“It was pretty bad,” he said on Fox Sports Net Detroit. “The guys (referees Dean Warren and Marc Joanette) won’t be doing many (more) games.”
Not to get all Tom Benjamin on you, but two questions need answering:
  1. How many fans didn't enjoy NHL playoffs in the past?
  2. How many fans (of both teams) didn't enjoy the game last night?
If the answer to #2 is greater than the answer to #1, we have a problem.

At some level it is even tough to blame the refs -- I guess they are just doing their job as defined by the league; but Warren and Joanette seem to have taken to it a little more than others. It's like they have changed from thinking officials to unthinking robots with an utter lack of hockey sense.

I put this in a comment to a previous thread in response to a point by Saler :
I think what really pissed Mac-T off, though, was that a situation should ever arise when a stand-up guy like Stoll, who has never taken anything remotely like a dive as an Oiler, would think it is better to go down easily than to fight through some incidental contact. Same with Shanahan checking himself to the ice to avoid contact with Pronger in the third period, as [Brian List] noted in a post over at your place. Those types of decisions have to be seen as a result of the way the game was officiated.
Again, the refs didn't cost the Oilers the game. Edmonton's lack of discipline cost the Oilers the game; but the refs might have cost a few fans some enjoyment.

Thursday, April 27, 2006


Yes, Ugh

Like my old pal Sacamano, I don't usually like to talk about the refs either, for the same reason. (I've brought up officiating and the standards many times, but for philosophical discussions.)

But that high-sticking call on Yelle was a killer. He got it with 30 seconds left in regulation, and the Ducks scored just after it expired in OT. But it's not a penalty. Rule 61, here's the first words following the image at the left:

A "high stick" is one which is carried above the height of the opponent's shoulders. A player is permitted accidental contact on an opponent if the act is committed as a normal windup or follow through of a shooting motion.

Anyway, Yelle caught McDonald on the side of the head on his follow-through from clearing the puck out of the Flames zone. There's not all that many things that are noted specifically in the rulebook as Not A Penalty, so it's pretty disappointing to get a penalty for one of those things.

I don't know what to think now about Phaneuf. I'd say he and Ference have undergone some sort of strange, Freaky Friday/18 Again/Vice Versa switch, except that Ference used to be a good 6th defenseman and is now playing like a top pair guy, whereas Phaneuf used to play like a top pair guy, and is now playing like a pretty crappy 6th defenseman. Last time this happened, he got home and took charge again; let's hope history repeats itself.

The plus side, at least for my peeps out in Cranbrook, is that he's taking attention away from Scott Niedermatador's performance. Here's the status of the Jarome Iginla Shutdown Watch through 4 games:
The best part tonight was when Andy Murray rolled tape on (I quote from memory) "Iginla's terrific move off the boards" to create a nice scoring chance in the 1st; the name of the D-man left standing there like he had been touched in Frozen Tag was never mentioned, for some reason...

I feel about as optimistic as I think is non-insane for a 3-game series with Anaheim. See you tomorrow!



I don't usually like to talk about the refs because in the grand scheme of things everything tends to even out in the wash; but that missed pick call on the 5 on 3 was a back-breaker.

Here's the description of Rule 67 (Note 4)*:

(NOTE 4) Pick:
A "pick" is the action of a player who checks an opponent who is not in possession of the puck and is unaware of the impending check/hit. A player who is aware of an impending hit, not deemed to be a legal "battle for the puck", may not be interfered with by a player delivering a "pick". A player delivering a "pick" is one who moves into an opponent's path without initially having body position, thereby taking him out of the play. When this is done, an interference penalty shall be assessed.

Yep, that sounds about right to me, although Stoll probably could have fought through it a little harder, which would have made the call easier than simply flopping after the contact.

[UPDATE 1]: I just saw a clip of Stoll saying that he was definitely clipped, but admitting that he went down too easily basically looking for the call. Bad move by Stoll. Mac-T also said that he thought Stoll flopped a bit and didn't look all that pleased about it. Not as displeased as Tortorella about TB's goaltending, but unhappy nonetheless. It has to be seen as a symptom of how the game was called as a whole. If you are going to call every little ticky tack thing (on both sides) you have to expect that people will try to draw those kind of calls.

Anyway, there were about 10 other penalty calls on the Oilers that were deserved, and Edmonton did have two 5 on 3's that they failed to convert. Terrible discipline. Hemsky was quite simply, awful tonight. In addition, like the other loss, the Oilers had zero 5 on 5 production -- not that there was a heckuva lot of 5 on 5 play.

[UPDATE 2]: Mac-T was pretty good in the post-game interview. He mentioned that he wasn't a big fan of the two refs, but that he knew it was going to be tightly called before the game, tried to warn the players about it, and they just didn't adjust as well as Detroit's players did. In other words, while not liking the way the game was called, he put the blame squarely on the Oilers players rather than the refs, which sounds about right to me. Babcock completely missed this distinction, and made some snide comment about how he didn't go whining about the refs when Detroit lost the last game.

The bad news, of course, is that it is now a best of three series with home ice advantage going to the President's Trophy winners. Somewhat daunting to say the least.

The good news is that if this was the best we can expect from the Wings, then the Oil are not out of this thing yet. The other good news is that the Oil will not win the series in 5, meaning that they get another home date and the associated revenue.

*Note: Fenwick was the first to put up the graphic and link to the rule book. I thought it looked so darn good in his entry, that I updated mine. In other words, although it looks like my entry was earlier, I totally ripped him off.


Flames Game Night

Oh, my - what to expect... will the Flames head to Game 5 with a chance to eliminate the Ducks on home ice, or will it be stomach-churning 2004 territory (when all of their series were tied 2-2 thru four)?

Two themes are common in today's radio chatter. The first I agree with: that it'll be a Kipper night. If the Flames win, I expect that he'll be the 1st star. They could have won Game 3 with Boucher (or hell, Conkannen) in net; the Ducks will no doubt be better tonight, which means that Kipper will have to stop some good scoring chances.

The second I disagree with: that Giguere returning to the net is good for the Flames. No, he's not a Top 5 NHL goalie anymore, but it's not like he was bad (a la Theodore) this season, and he's a frickin' Conn Smythe winner. He can win a game. He'll no doubt be better tonight too; McCarty can probably toss any thoughts of scoring another goal like Game 3.

My mindset going into this game is "Boy, it would be awfully nice to win this one, and it would sure make things a lot easier, but at least we're not screwed if we lose". I sincerely hope that the players are not equally philosophical about things.

3-2 Final, and I think Jarome gets the winner. Go Flames.


Beat that horse!

I know we have been through all of this before, and because I really liked Cross I hate to do it again, but, I just can't let this one go.

Cory Cross was just described as "fast". I kid you not. And, for good measure, Jason Wooley was also described as "one of the smartest players on the roster."

Oh mercy, please make it stop.



Looks like everyone has confidence in Manny Legace except Manny Legace:

"It's the same replay from the last couple of years," goaltender Manny Legace said Wednesday."It's just the same old reel."

In fact, it sounds like he is more on suicide watch than anything else:

"Talked to him last night," Draper said. "We're going to hang with him all day.

Patrick Roy must have loved Tuesday's game winner given that he was the one who originated the Assume I Have the Puck in my Glove and Pose move to let Shanahan pot the game winner in Game 5 of the 2002 WCF. Sweet justice, eh Patty?


Oilers Playoff Game #4 [updated]


It's tough to beat any team 3 in a row in playoffs, nevermind the President's Trophy winner. I wonder what the historical stats on this are -- has the PT winner ever lost three in a row?

Having said that, it is definitely nut-cuttin' time for the Wings. As such, I'm fully expecting them to come out flying. Tonight's game should be the best of the series. Babcock has all but guaranteed a Wings victory.

The preview linked above claims that Roloson has been "good and lucky"? Lucky? 4 of Detroit's first 6 goals were flukes. And I'm not sure how Williams disallowed goal makes Rollie lucky -- he gave Williams nothing to shoot at and it snuck under the side of the net -- this is lucky? Whatever.

Pronger has been a horse, and Detroit fans are still coming to terms with the fact that he just might not meltdown this time. So far, he has a grand total of zero penalty minutes through three games.

The two Wings who have looked most dangerous are Zetterberg--who has improved every game--and Yzerman. Stevie-Y is geriatric and wobbles around the ice on two reconstructed knees -- and when I say reconstructed I'm talking about doctors sawing his bones apart so that they could insert wedges to realign the joints. Yeesh. The good news for Oilers fans is that it sounds like he is not going to be able to go tonight (although I'll believe it when I see it). That is actually a shame, I've always liked Yzerman and if Edmonton does pull this series out, it would be kinda sad if Stevie's last(?) playoff series ended in injury.

For the Oilers, it sounds like LeGG might get another shot as Harvey suffered a mid-upper-lower body injury with flu like symptoms.

Sacamano's Keys to the Game:
"Metz said he may take a reading in Joe Louis Arena in Detroit for Game 5 Saturday to get a comparison.
But what he'd love to do is have a Calgary-Edmonton series up next. Then theBattle of Alberta could be a battle of sound as well.
"It would be interesting to take the readings in both buildings if we get that series."

[UPDATE]: Chopper is back, baby! Look for him to score a shortie.

Go Oil!



Some good laffs:



So, Willie Mitchell accidentally kicked it into his own net last night, which means that Colorado has taken a 3-0 lead in the series, which means they're probably going to win, which means...

...that on Cosh's Big Spreadsheet, the likelihood of a Battle of Alberta is now up to 37.1%. As I noted Tuesday, a Colorado series win means CGY & EDM advancing = CGY & EDM facing each other.

[Sidebar: the 37.1% is a function of three inputs, right: the likelihoods that CGY, EDM, and COL will each win. You may have noted that the B.S. still gives Dallas a 20.6% chance of winning their series. The spreadsheet is what it is; it uses some things and ignores others, as Cosh explains in the methodology. Obviously, a human would peg that percentage lower, since coming back from 3-0 down has only ever happened twice in NHL history (and never in basketball, and the notable once in baseball).

That said, the DAL/COL series is as good a candidate as I can imagine for the big reversal, and the B.S. gives the biggest clue why: that Theodore is probably unsound. Add on that the Stars were the better team in every interval you could choose over the season, and I personally would give the 3-0 comeback at least a 5% or maybe a 10% chance of happening.]

Wednesday, April 26, 2006


Wednesday Morning Coming Down

I'm a bit late with my thoughts on the game, and I really don't have much more to add that hasn't already been covered by Cosh, CinO, the Calculator (hattip Mirtle), IOF, LT, BDHS, A2Y, Saler and Christy.

In sum, I thought that the Oil controlled the play for most of the regular time, but Detroit controlled the last 10 mins of the third and the OT's. If I can take anything from last night's game, it is that Edmonton really can win playing a number of styles. The first part of the game certainly wasn't trappish hockey, and it wasn't until they started really playing trappish hockey that Detroit got back in the game. I take great comfort in that.

One thing is certain, I think I'm starting to agree with A2Y about Oilers fans. I live in the same Old Strathcona neighbourhood as Pleasure Motors (heck, we might live in the same building), two blocks away from Hooligan Alley. Last night one of those drunken fools snapped the Oilers flag off my car. Thankfully, the window was intact. I swear if it was you, Grabia, heads are gonna roll.

Anyway, the other reason I'm so slow with this update is that the game almost killed me. Mirtle guessed that it must have been a rollercoaster of emotions for Oilers fans. I don't know, I've never felt as sick on a rollercoaster as I was feeling in the second OT. I was having a heckuva time until the two quick ones by Detroit in the third; but, I can't say I really enjoyed myself during the OTs. Even the winning goal was more of a relief than anything else. I came home totally exhausted and spent most of today recovering. Oh, and there was a tiny little twerp in the seat next to me who honestly wanted to fight me. I guess that's what happens when you get tickets through a bar. One of his buddies slept through the first OT (in the bathroom?), but found his wind for the second OT enough to spill his beer all over the people in front of him. Good times.

Anyway, I think I'll let the video evidence speak for me. The game was loud. Really loud. I was happy to see Paul singing the anthems, but I couldn't hear him at all. Nobody could hear him, and the crowd kept getting ahead of him in the singing. Finally, the video guy got the bright idea of putting him up on the jumbotron so that we could at least read his lips and keep the tempo. I actually couldn't hear myself when the Oilers hit the ice for the first time. Of course, during the second OT when I was in a fetal position whispering "please, please, please" I could only hear myself.

As a couple of folks noted, the best part about the crowd last night was the huge love they gave the Oil after Detroit tied it up in the third. It was definitely inspiring.



If there's one thing I've enjoyed in the past couple of weeks (besides the whole general Playoffs! thing), it's been watching Oilers fans co-opt everything they used to hack on Flames fans about. Let's run down the list of criticisms to which Flames fans are now entirely immune coming from Oil fans:
Did I miss any?


Rules Bleg

One for the next season of "You Make The Call" happened in the 1st period of last night's Flames game. I think we're all clear on the gist of Rule 51 this year:
When any player, while in his defending zone, shoots the puck directly (non-deflected) out of the playing surface, except where there is no glass, a penalty shall be assessed for delaying the game.

Late in the first, Huselius whacked the puck over the glass, no deflection, and was assessed a penalty. Just right, I'd say, but then we saw Iginla and Sutter arguing about it. What they were saying was that the puck was in the air when Huselius hit it (which it was, roughly 2 feet above the ice).

The opening sentence of Rule 51 uses shooting and batting the puck interchangeably, so I assume that also applies to the 2005-06 Addition: accident or not, bat the puck out of play and you've got yourself a minor penalty.

Except, like I say, the Flames were arguing. And I'm pretty sure I know why this is; it's because in a game late this season (I forget who the opponent was, but John Garrett was the colour guy) someone on the other team batted a puck at roughly head-height straight out of play, and there was no call. And it's not because the refs missed it; there was a discussion, and the result was, no penalty.

Can anyone tell me what the correct ruling is here? Is it possible that swiping your stick at eye-level (i.e. above the shoulders/crossbar) and batting a puck out of play is not a penalty, but doing the same at knee-level is? Your help is urgently requested, friend.


Flames-Ducks Game 3 review

Boy, not much to complain about from that effort. The Flames turned in a simply dominating performance on both ends for their 5-2 victory.

I blabbed way back at the beginning of the season that good penalty killing is not all that separable from defensive effort/success as a whole; for the most part, the things you do to kill penalties well are the same things you do to defend 5-on-5 well.

Last night was a great example of how you can say the same thing about the offensive end. If you're dominating the puck and creating good 5-on-5 chances, the powerplay suddenly looks like a piece of cake.

The Flames outplayed the Ducks for the majority of the first, and got their first PP 13 minutes in. It took a whole 29 seconds to score. They got their 2nd PP a minute into the 2nd period; this time it took a whole 33 seconds to score.

Huselius was just fantastic. He's always a good puckhandler, but last night, his legs were moving too, and he looked really serious about not giving up possession. It truly looked like he had the puck on a string.

I'm not sure what Randy Carlyle's next move is. Selanne, if not McDonald, is playing well, and Scott Niedermayer is doing what he does. The Ducks need to play with a lot more fire than that to win another game, let alone the series, but the value of the ol' dressing room tongue-lashing is questionable.

The exception might be Ryan Getzlaf, who at this point needs someone loudly in his face, probably spraying spittle. He's 20 years old and had a two-stride lead on 34-year-old speedster Chris Simon in a tie game, yet somehow managed to lose a race to the puck and allow Simon to make a sweet pass into the slot to Kobasew, for the goal that turned out to be the game winner.

Getzlaf's critics, when he was whackin' it with the Hitmen last season, claimed that he lacked the maturity to be a good NHL player. He's got a lot of years ahead of him, but last night, his critics looked 100% right.

CBC Notes:
Don Wittman is starting to wear. I enjoyed him the 1st couple of games, as his cliches are a nice break from the cliches of the regular guys (he hasn't used the word "footrace" once). But he uses the stats off the game sheet as a crutch, and how many frickin' times in a game can you refer to Randy Carlyle's comments at the morning skate! (I lost count. I do, however, know how many times he referred to Gary Bettman's presence at the game: it was 16, once for every minor penalty the refs whistled.)

Andy Murray might have had the crack of the year, demonstrating some actual humility, not the phony "Ha Ha I Was a Sieve" humility of Garrett/Millen. McCarty took a penalty late in the 2nd period, and the Ducks had Getzlaf out there with Niedermayer on the PP point, despite the fact that Francois "Bob" Beauchemin already had two goals from that very position. Murray:

"This is their normal #1 unit out there, but I'm surprised that Beauchemin isn't back out there... [very brief pause] ... that's why Randy Carlyle is in the playoffs, and I'm sitting here..."

Good stuff coach. Anyway, the Flames are suddenly back in the driver's seat. They played tremendously in a game they really needed, when the doubts were creeping in: they've done that all year. Next, they need to show some killer instinct, and kick someone when they're down: they haven't done that all year. Show it to me!!!


1:00 am

I am emotionally spent. More tomorrow. If I wake up.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006


Victory Open Thread

I'd like to dedicate this post to Andrew Ference. He's been excellent these first 3 playoff games.

If Winbister can engineer a win for the North Team as well, Oil fans are welcome to join in.


Kill two birds . . . [update]

Wow! As if beating Detroit wasn't gratification enough. While Red Wings fans just seem confused by it all, it seems that the Oilers' success is causing Canucklehead Fans some serious mental anguish.


[Update]: Wings fans rebut. They're not confused, they're indignant.


Oilers Season Review Video

Someone has put together a sweet little video recap of the Oil's season (plus a few vintage clips for good measure). I had totally forgotten about that wicked 2.2 second finish against Phoenix.


Flames Game Day

I'm nervous! What a strange feeling... kind of like my first quart of Johnnie Walker.

The Flames need to get home-ice advantage back. The 4 GA and multiple odd-man rushes against from Game 2 was an anomaly that's not likely to reoccur. But, for that to matter, they need to win one on the road here. A victory tonight would put the Ducks in the unhappy position of absolutely needing to win Game 4, and you never know how a team will respond in that situation.

I haven't yet heard what Sutter is doing with the lineup tonight. Game 2 saw Mike Leclerc, C.F.H. and Craig Macdonald inserted in the place of Lundmark and Simon. Leclerc had a dodgy start but was actually pretty terrific for the rest of the game. (The letters behind his name, btw, stand for Can't Find the Handle -- I'll need to add that to the Glossary). Craig Macdonald was fast, but didn't offer much else.

Considering that two of Calgary's five best scoring chances in Game 1 were excellent passes by Simon, I think he has to draw back in there. I doubt Lundmark gets back in tonight unless it's in the place of Lombardi, which I would find unfortunate -- I think Flames Cup-winning scenarios involve Lombardi at the top of his game, so Sutter needs to give him a chance to find it.

The absolute last thing I'm concerned about is that the Flames have only won 1 of their last 13 in Anaheim. Anything before last season is ancient history. In the past two seasons, then, they're 1-3. Two of the losses were Game 82 of the respective seasons, when Calgary's playoff seeding was locked-in. Past that, we have a 5-1 Flames win in January '04, and a 4-1 loss in October of this year: it was a 2-1 game with 3 minutes left in regulation, and the Ducks scored a pair of late PP goals to seal the deal. Pond bugaboo? Not so much.

Matt's Key to the Game: can the Flames continue to shut down Selanne and McDonald without the ability to set the line matchups? Matt's Prediction: almost. One goal from those guys, none from the rest of the team. And two from the good guys, to put the big pressure onto Anaheim going into Game 4. Go Flames.


Oilers Playoff Game #3 - I have tix division


The Oilers have put themselves in a heckuva position to take control of this series.

I like the way the Oil responded in Game #2, and especially how they adjusted their non-trap. Horcoff says it all:

We did a better job of getting in on the forecheck a little more," Shawn Horcoff said of adding more pressure to the neutral-zone trap the Oilers employed in the series opener.
I think in Game 1 we tried to sit back a little bit too much, and that's not really our game. That's not what we're trying to do.
The only time we want to sit back is in the neutral zone.
If the Oil can continue to mix it up -- forecheck aggressively when it is possible (i.e., against the Wings 3rd and 4th lines) and play conservatively against the top two lines, they stand a good chance of winning.

Sacamano's Keys to the Game:
Given that I'll be up in the gallery losing my voice, I will not be able to chime in during the game -- but I'll have a bird's eye report for tomorrow.

Go Oil!



Eric Francis finally gets one right:

Make no mistake, the Calgary Flames are in trouble.
Outplayed at home the first two games of the playoffs by an Anaheim squad that force-fed the hosts a heaping helping of their own medicine, the Flames now head to a building where they've won once in the last seven seasons.
While the first two games were close enough to go either way, the most casual of observers can see the Flames have been slightly out-chanced and out-skated by a young, feisty bunch that has done the unthinkable -- beat Calgary at its own game.



This business of Colorado beating Dallas twice at home is quite something, and has one important implication you should be clear about:

Colorado Win + Calgary Win + Edmonton Win = Battle of Alberta in Round 2.

I'm not cheering for the Oilers until the final seconds tick off of both the Avs' and Flames' 4th victories, but it could happen. (The B.S. has the odds of a (2nd or 3rd Rd) EDM-CGY matchup at 14.9%, up from 7.9% just before the playoffs started.)

Monday, April 24, 2006


Old Bull and Young Bull

The Edmonton-Detroit series has just entered rarified air. To describe Pronger's leadership and spectacular play, Mac-T just pulled out the ole "Old Bull-Young Bull" story:

An Old Bull and a Young Bull were standing at the top of a hill overlooking a large meadow full of cows. The Young Bull says excitedly, "Let's run down there and f**k us a cow!"
"No, son", says the Old Bull, "let's walk down there and f**k them all."

You don't know how happy this makes me.


Solving the Mac-T Bone

I'm not sure whether the Oiler's non-trap has gotten into the heads of the Detroit players, but it sure is messing up the Wings Fans.

Top 2 Red Wings Fans' solutions to solving the Oilers:

  1. Shoot the puck at Pronger's face everytime the Oilers try to trap.

  2. Dress Cory Cross
    1. Matt at On the Wings said: "Also, the consensus seems to be that the Wings ought to dress Cory Cross tomorrow night. I agree. . . the Wings need to be able to match up better physically with Edmonton at the moment. Cory would be fired up to play in the playoffs in Edmonton, I'm sure."
    2. megan in the comments to Matt's post: " I agree with dressing Cross. He's been the closest thing we've had to tough all year."
Now don't get me wrong, I liked Cross almost as much as Cosh did, but if he is the key to beating the Oilers, it's a pretty weak lock indeed. Sure he is physical, but was there a worse Edmonton defenseman for throwing bad passes through the neutral zone against trapping teams than Cross?


Flames-Ducks Game 2 review

It was a very disappointing result.

I don't have a ton to say about the edge in play. Yes, Anaheim deserved to win, but I think you can make too much of these vague things like "winning the 1-on-1 battles" and so forth. The fact is that Anaheim scored once on a breakaway and twice on 2-on-1 rushes, and these are things you just don't expect to see from the Flames at home. If you showed me a random game sheet where Matthew Lombardi was -4, I'd just about bet the farm that it was from a road game. [Disclaimer: I do not own a farm]. The positives, as I see them:
Sacamano and I both mentioned Hrudey (glowingly) earlier; he had a good bit during the OTT-TB game showing Spezza making unnecessary/dumb moves with the puck. Well, I saw Scott Niedermayer doing the same things in both games.

He's very calm back there for sure, and yes, the man can skate (so can Ference). But he's not perfect. He makes mistakes that the Flames can, and I'm sure will, take advantage of. And the talk of him taking on Jarome Iginla man-to-man is frankly an insult to guys who have actually done that in the past (I'm thinking of Mattias Ohlund in particular). He'll continue to be out there against Iginla most of the time, I'm sure, but it's as the Ducks' best defenseman, to defend against Calgary's most dangerous line. But when this series is over, neither he nor Iginla will have the bruises and scars to show for constant confrontation.

Phaneuf had a terrible game last night, but I think both he and Regehr are better players than Niedermayer. We'll see what happens.

Beating the Ducks on the road will be a different challenge than at home. The Flames aren't going to get the matchups they want on the Selanne line; the Lombardi line is going to have to play a lot better, if they stay together, which I don't think they will. It's unlikely that they'll continue to shut out the Ducks PP, or get more opportunities than the Ducks.

The upside is, their forecheck should be a little less tentative in Game 3. Iginla has come to play. Regehr is doing a hell of a job putting the body on Selanne; Warrener or Dion/Hammer will have to pick that up on the Pond. And, after the lovin'.... we've got Kipper. Back tomorrow with Game Night.


Monday Fun Fact

As we all know, 16 Wins is the goal of every playoff team. With yesterday's huge victory, the Oilers now have 16 playoff victories... since 1992.

Here's hoping these next 14 years are as fruitful as the last 14.


Oil Drips

Well, well, well.

The Oilers and Flames both split their first two games. The difference? The Flames have lost home ice advantage, and the Oil have stolen it. This should be particularly worrisome for Flames fans given that Calgary lost 61% of their games away from Pengrowth. Oh sure, you can point to Edmonton's poor home recod--which still wasn't as bad as Calgary's road record--but let's face it, home-ice in playoffs is a different beast. Rexall will be rocking on Tuesday. Did I mention I have tickets?

Eric Francis blames, in part, "overzealous officiating" for the Flames' loss.

Thanks to the type of overzealous officiating fans feared most when the 'new' NHL promised to be extended into the spring, the only flow in last night's game came courtesy of Scott Niedermayer's mullet.

And in the midst of a steady parade to the penalty box, during which 19 minors were handed out, the Ducks broke the game open by converting four of the type of turnovers the defence-first Flames rarely commit.
This paragraph is laughable. Despite the clear implication that Anaheim scored on the powerplay, they in fact went 0-6. Calgary, on the other hand, converted 2-12. I suppose Francis must be blaming the refs for giving Calgary so many more powerplay opportunities than Anaheim, which then allowed Niedermayer the chance to score a shortie. Aw, to be fair, he does place most of the blame on the Flames' D. Strange that he didn't mention Kipper giving up 3 goals on the first 5 shots.

Looks like Sutter's abuse of Phaneuf in the media two days ago really paid off, too. Way to instill confidence in those youngsters, sir. Hey, maybe you can also run him out of town.

Enough Flames talk

The Oil are coming home with a split in Detroit, which is pretty much what everyone in Edmonton wanted. There is now, predictably, a debate going on at the watercoolers between those people who would 'rather lose playing Oilers hockey than win playing the trap' and those people who are not complete idiots.

You have to think tha the ole 'here we go again' must be creeping into the minds of Detroitonians (Detroiters?)? Afterall, Edmonton was one double-OT flukey goal (or 4) away from being up two games to zip. The fact that there are articles in the Detroit Press entitled "Panic in Detroit?A2Y)" tells you all you need to know. I also love how that article pretends that Rollie is an unknown quantity. Do we need to compare the post-season records of Roloson and Legace, again?

At what point does "playoff experience" become a liability? I'm thinking, in particular, of those Detroit old-timers who know that this is very likely their last kick at the can and so try to do too much, inadvertently sabotaging their own team. I haven't seen it by yet, but it is something to keep an eye on -- especially if Edmonton wins on Tuesday.

Quick Hits:


"Case of the Mondays", indeed..

Since I haven't quite gotten my thoughts together yet on the state of the Flames-Ducks series, I'll throw out a few notes on the broadcast and the officiating. [Loud disclaimer for the thickest of you: I'm not "blaming" the officiating, or the obstruction standards, or the CBC for that matter, for anything. This is discussion.] As it happens, there's a fair bit of crossover between the two items, namely:

**The Corpse still hasn't quite gotten their technical ship together. One glaring error is still that the out-of-town scoreboard is frequently stretched out horizontally, with the left half being cut off of the screen. More irritating to me yesterday, though, was their errors (at least two in the Flames game) in showing the actual infraction on penalty replays. I know it's tougher these days (see Al Trautwig's comments), but it's still fairly straightforward to watch when the ref's hand goes up, then check what he was watching at the time.

Fr'instance, Todd Fedoruk took a tripping penalty late in the 1st last night. He got tied up with a Flame (Phaneuf, I think) twice in succession. The first was (rightly) not a penalty, and the second was: a pretty by-the-book call. The CBC replayed the first tie-up, with Andy Murray commenting on "a pretty soft call". Well, yeah. They also replayed Vishnevski cracking Sandbox in the head, late in the 3rd, as the reason why Salei went off for tripping. Someone wasn't thinking too clearly.

I don't know about a backlash, and there's no consensus whatsoever, but we are definitely starting to hear some strong and unapologetic opinions from people who do not like what they are seeing. Jenna Holbrooke, co-hosting on the FAN960 this morning: "I hate it." -- quote/unquote. And Chris Selley had a good little bit yesterday, concluding like so:
...with every horseshit phantom tripping and hooking call, [the NHL is] abandoning the playoffs — the single greatest test in pro sports and the NHL's single greatest asset — to the exact same sort of randomness the shootout represents. It's nothing to celebrate.

**Andy Murray again: I'm still giving him a thumbs-up on the whole, and the chalk talk stuff is welcome relief from the same old cliches, but Hey -- right now, you're a broadcaster, not a coach!

In other words Andy, when you're commenting on penalty replays, I can see why a coach would say things like "the stick above the waist will draw a whistle more often than not", or, "you have to watch out for hands up in the head area": you're instructing your players how not to get called for penalties that they're not committing. But surely, in your role as colour-guy, you have a moment to point out that "hands up in the head area" is not actually a penalty. Phaneuf got called for Roughing in the 3rd last night where no question, it looked at full speed like he shoved or elbowed Corey Perry's head into the glass. On the replay though, it was equally clear that he didn't touch Perry's head, and Perry's head didn't touch the glass.

Those of us who are uncomfortable with the penalty parade are much happier being reminded that refs are fallible and the game is fast than being reminded that if it simply looks like a penalty, that's good enough. And even if Murray (and the rest of them) have been sternly warned not to criticize "the crackdown"--and I don't know that they have--it serves no one's interests to shrug off phantom calls as a consequence thereof.

**If I was going to pick one replay to show Here's What I Hope Doesn't Get Called in the Playoffs, it'd be Regehr's interference penalty on Selanne. The puck wasn't visible on the replay, and it might well have been an infraction strictly speaking, but yikes: it's two guys skating next to each other and bumping. This is still hockey, right? And I know my examples haven't reflected this, but the Ducks got whistled for some bogus calls too. Rob Niedermayer certainly didn't obstruct Leopold, and I don't even think he actually held his stick, but off he went. Vishnevski's hooking penalty in the 3rd was crap too, I thought.

**General complimentary note: Kelly Hrudey is terrific. He's probably better now than he's ever been. It's been years since I've made a point of catching the studio chatter on anyone's broadcast (in any sport!), but Hrudey has made me reschedule (and compress) my breaks from the TV. Well done, sir.

Sunday, April 23, 2006


Flames Playoff Game Night

Game 2 of Flames vs. Ducks goes tonight at the Dome, 7PM MDT. Still no word on who will be starting in goal for the Ducks. Here's J-S Giguere in the LAT:
"My whole game is about my lower body," he said. "If any part of my leg is not good, it can be troublesome. You can't afford to be 95% in the type of game I want to play. You have to be 100%."

Way to give it away, buddy. The Ducks had your injury categorized perfectly blandly as a "lower body" thing, and then you just blurt out that it's about your leg. What if the Flames weren't sure, and were going to try to go after his toes - or his nads?

Related, here's a little anatomical diagram I cooked up to help the uninitiated identify playoff injuries:

The sense seems to be that Giguere has some ham soreness, though I suspect a lack of bacon has something to do with it (or maybe he's just screwed in the headcheese).

Does it matter? Who knows. McCarty had a lot of net to shoot at on his OT winner, but I don't know that this means Bryzgalov was either slow or out of position.

The game should be interesting. I guess I couldn't scoff at anyone who though the Ducks carried the play for long stretches on Friday, but I still think they were only dangerous for a total of about 3 minutes (the beginning of OT), plus their 5-on-3 time obviously. Other than that, I didn't think they had many chances to score on Kipper, the two italicized words being an important distinction.

I dunno. I'll give the Ducks one PP goal tonight, but I'm guessing they'll be hapless otherwise, in about a 4-1 Final (goals by Iginla, Donovan, Langkow, and Hamrlik). Go Flames.


Oilers Playoff Game #2


Let the record show, that I blame the loss squarely on Lowetide and his "Possible Oiler Drafts" post. I mean, really, who posts about the Oilers upcoming draft on the eve of a playoff game? He claims it wasn't defeatest but . . .

Delma Huddle will be back in the line-up tonight, but Chopper will not. As A2Y notes, this makes Mac-T's job a bit tougher as he will not be able to smother Zetterberg as consistently.

It sounds like Mac-T will, again, be running some sort of trap; but I'm guessing that the forwards will be a little bit more aggressive than last game. At least I sure as hell hope so. It is one thing to adjust your game to suit the opponent, it is quite another to completely abandon your own team's greatest strengths.

Terrific insight is not required: if the Oil don't win today, the series is all but over. Prongs played a whopping 38 mins in the first game, and with the quick turnaround afternoon game, it might become an issue. Of course, it might be more of an issue for those old-timers in red. Again, staying out of the box is required, and let's hope the refs actually call a decent game today.

Finally, it is helpful(?) to note that in 1987 the Oil lost Game 1 to Detroit and went on to win the series 4-1.

Go Oil!

Saturday, April 22, 2006


Oil Drips

I'm going to break with general consensus, here, and say that the Oil played a helluva lot better than the shot count would suggest.

In fact, for much of the game I was pretty happy with the way they played. It seems that most folks were pretty disgusted with the lack of demon forechecking "Oilers Hockey"; but I actually thought that Mac-T was pretty tricky starting the game in the trap. He mixed it up a bit too, starting the second period with some aggressive forechecking before sitting back again.

And you know what? It worked. For the first part of the game, Detroit didn't have a whole lot of quality opportunities, and the crowd was completely out of the game. When Edmonton was up 2-1, the boring style of play continued to work. Detroit was getting lots of shots, but not that many were truly dangerous. It was only when Detroit tied it up that the wheels fell off the bus a little bit.

Also, a few folks definitely looked a bit nervous--especially Torres and Horcoff.

Rollie, as predicted, was dynamite.

Tomorrow's game will say it all. The Oil have two choices. Come out pissed that they lost a game the could (should?) have won. Or come out questioning themselves and fritter away the playoff series.

Oh, and the CBC nonsense not only caused me mental anguish (where was the powerplay time clock), but when it cut away to the Calgary game in OT, I jumped up to flip on the radio, crunched my foot against my desk, and broke my pinky toe. It is purple and swollen today, and I have a distinct limp. Thanks a lot Hockey Night in Canada.


Odds & sods from Playoff Night #1

**I figured before the games yesterday that the hottest topic this morning would be reffing, but no: looks like it's the CBC. There was a host of technical glitches, some of which I caught myself, but their biggest sin was certainly buggering up their regional feeds.

I had to catch the first 3 minutes of the Flames/Ducks game on the radio, wondering why CBC Calgary hadn't switched over from the Oiler game yet; apparently when the CBC A/V Squad finally did get the Flames game going, they switched the whole damn country over, including Edmonton.

A sincere suggestion for Oiler fans: even without Centre Ice, you may be able to get the Detroit broadcast of the game. Most satellite and digital cable packages carry the Fox affiliate out of Detroit, which is carrying the games. It's Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond with the call; they're pretty good, and this also solves the Mark Lee problem described hilariously (in part) here:
Usually it takes a couple rounds for an intelligent colour man like John Garrett to lose his temper at a bungling booth colleague, but Garrett flipped out briefly in the second period when Lee described a negligible Detroit shot from a bad angle as "dangerous." [...] The Prime Minister is said to be a hockey fanatic, so I'd like to personally appeal to him to order the Corporation to re-hire Chris Cuthbert and send Lee out to cover Taiwanese jai-alai. (If they don't play jai-alai in Taiwan, so much the better.)

(Read the whole thing for the Fake-but-Accurate transcript of Lee's play-by-play.) The Prime Minister is known to be a Calgarian, so I'd like to personally appeal to him to order the CBC to send Garrett to the Ottawa series, and put Millen with Lee -- together at last!

**I was pretty happy with the officiating in the Flames/Ducks game. Until OT at least, it resembled what I've seen most of the year (except for the odd game where it seemed like any kind of contact was a penalty).

I'll be interested to see if Dan O'Halloran and Mike Hasenfratz get into any more games, though, and how soon. Scott Niedermayer took out Langkow in OT with a move that could pretty easily have been called a penalty in previous years, but was a black letter obstruction interference call now. DL moved the puck around the boards, then took off in pursuit; a couple of seconds later, Nied hits him, then gets his stick in DL's belly and holds him onto the boards, then upends Langkow with the stick.

If that stuff is not going to be called, again, I'm happy (at the moment, I was actually happy that there was no call, as I'd rather have the "credit" in the bank against a cheap touch foul than I would the PP opportunity).

**Andy Murray = pretty good. Once the Corpse gets their Level 1 technical problems worked out, maybe they could get him a telestrator pen. We've been hearing for years that Murray is a great preparer and a great Xs & Os guy -- let's learn something then, shall we?

**Boy, Nashville is dead already: San Jose is so hot, and how are you supposed to stop Thornton and Cheechoo? OOPS, how'd that old take (circa Thursday) from every single NHL expert get in there?

**My favourite item in the game stories was that last night was the first time the Flames opened the playoffs with a win since 1988. Man, would I ever love stress-free advancement into the 2nd round.

More later, maybe.

Friday, April 21, 2006


Just 16 more wins, Oil fans...

How many times this year, I wonder, have I heard one of these variations on a theme:

Five, as in Cups, is the only number that matters... division titles are meaningless... 5 Cups... losing Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals constitutes a "choke"... 5-1!!!... the Clarence Campbell Bowl is a consolation prize... five cups... jeez that Western Conference Championship banner is garish... 5, 5, 5, etc. etc.

Well, fine. Oiler fans are apparently so sophisticated (or is it spoiled by success?) that mere playoff game or series victories are not legitimate cause for enthusiasm. Fair enough. I guess I'll hear from you either in about 8 weeks, or sooner for the annual discussion of which alumni should be hired/fired by the organization.

For Calgary fans: it's Game Night! Things shape up well for the home team. I'm thinking an early goal by Anaheim, then two for the Flames (Langkow and Amonte), and one into the empty net for good measure. 3-1 Final. Enjoy - and Go Flames.


Growing Optimism

The Oilers playoff preview pointed out that in"[Roloson's] last eight games, he had a 1.75 goals-against average and .931 save percentage."

1.75 GAA and .931 SV%

And people are worried that Manny freaking Legace is going to outplay Rollie? Puh-leez.

And don't forget, the Wings have both Cory Cross and Dan Cleary on their payroll. Is it possible to lose to a team featuring Dan Cleary?


The problem with Planned Economies, Pt. 874,869

Mudcrutch notes that the Flames are opening a new "world class restaurant, bar and hybrid entertainment facility in the heart of downtown Calgary." I'm sure he's right that the venue's revenues are non-hockey-related, meaning the players will not (nay, cannot) receive any benefit.

And that's still probably better than the converse: if the club had to accept all the risk firing up this venture, knowing that a good chunk of the revenues and/or profits from the thing would automatically go to the players or weaker NHL franchises (none of whom are accepting any risk), it wouldn't happen at all.

The cherry on top of this delightful tale is that this will probably be the only joint in town where the proprietors can't give Flames players a free steak. If the NHL's CBA is as much like the NFL's as I understand, then all compensation -- salary, bonuses, incentives, etc. -- are subject to the salary cap, meaning that the team, joint ventures involving the team, and people involved with the team just can't go around giving stuff to the players. Laughing? Don't forget that a couple of years ago, Dick Vermeil had to welch on a promise to Morten Andersen on NFL say-so: Vermeil had offered Andersen a nice bottle of wine (from his own cellar) if he made a game-winning kick; Andersen made it; and the league reminded Vermeil that uncontracted bonuses were a strict no-no -- sorry Morten.

Good! I mean, what kind of a level playing field would it be if one wine-loving coach could go around giving away free bottles for this and that. chat transcript where Gary Bettman uses the word "partnership" 9 times here.

Now, where were we again? Oh, yeah: F**KING PLAYOFFS!!!


Western Alienation!

I see that someone residing in Toronto is representing Canada West. I thought Harper was supposed to end that sort of nonsense.

Joking, of course. Well done, Tyler.


Flames vs. Ducks: Go time

I'll get this out of the way right off the bat: I'm picking the Flames over the Ducks in 5. I expect Calgary to win both of the first two games; one of two in Anaheim; and Game 5 at home.

I make this prediction with as much confidence as I can muster, given the nature of the Stanley Cup playoffs (the Red Wings, a legitimate clear favourite, are barely a 1-in-5 shot to actually win the big trophy). And I don't particularly care if the Flames win in 4, 5, 6, or 7: certainly my joy at seeing a Game 7 victory would far outweigh any embarrassment caused by my prediction (or what follows...).

I think the Flames are the better team, but specifically, I just don't think Anaheim will beat Calgary at home. I'll confess that generally come playoff time, I'm wary of teams with great home records and weak road records like the Flames. First of all, there's the fairly uncontroversial idea that the "adrenalin advantage" of the home team is somewhat neutralized in the playoffs; the road team tends to match the homer's intensity, whether that's because It's The Playoffs, or because the loud home crowd actually gives a jolt to both teams.

But I also have this notion, not supported by statistics (or contradicted by them as far as I know), that this advantage (that is neutralized in the playoffs) applies mainly to the offensive end. I don't want to go into much more detail on this, mainly because I've essentially pulled it out of my rear, but think about every regular season game you've attended: the crowd gets more excited during a 2-on-1 for than one against.

Which is a long way of bringing up these numbers:
Calgary's Home Goals Against numbers are unbelievable, both the raw number (which amounts to 1.71 GA/gm, and an even lower GAA/60min) and as it relates to their road number. You'll also note that their scoring is the same both home and away.

All this together makes me believe that their Home Ice Advantage is less a matter of attitude (or intensity, or comfort, or crowd noise) than it is a structural advantage, for lack of a better term. In short, as good defensively as Calgary is overall, I think getting the matchups they want, especially against the other team's top scoring line, really cinches it.

In 41 home games this season, the Flames allowed 42 even-strength goals. That is crazy good. And if you check out the Ducks +/- stats on the year, you'll see that the Selanne/ McDonald/ Kunitz line is waaay out in front of the rest of the forwards; the next highest forwards are Getzlaf and Fedoruk at +6.

The Flames need to shut that line down in Calgary, and I think they can. Past that, it's a question of whether the Flames (or hell, just Kipper) can play well enough in Anaheim to take one there. The answer to that is Yes. Get 'er done, boys.


Oilers Playoff Game #1


This is it, folks. Let's get it on.

Since my predictions have been pretty much flawless all season, I'll continue to make the tough calls. Oilers in 7: split in Detroit, win Game 3 in Edmonton, lose Games 4&5, win back to back Games 6&7. Oh, and D-vo will score a lot of goals.

Sacamano's Keys to the Series:
Injury Report


Thursday, April 20, 2006


I hear Twilight Zone music...

Hmmm... how prophetic was my choice of post title for my playoff predictions?

I have TSN on in the background, and Maggie the Monkey has done her Eastern Conference predictions. We're in complete agreement... (and you too, Winters!)

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