Behind Enemy Lines – For Life.

Courtesy of Fotografix Studios

I often tell people I am in a “mixed marriage” because in my eyes I am. Of course when they see my husband – blonde hair, blue eyes, Caucasian – and they look at me (brown hair, green eyed, Caucasian) they think I’m a mental moron. But as far as I am concerned when one person loves one hockey franchise and the other person loves the other – THAT is a form of a mixed marriage.

Simply put, my husband is a life-long Montreal Canadiens supporter. I am a die-hard Vancouver Canucks supporter. As if this wasn’t enough of a hurdle, my husband is also a hardcore, full-on Canucks HATER. He despises them. Need proof? This die-hard, life-long Canadiens supporter actually started cheering for the Boston Bruins during the Stanley Cup Final. Something he fully admits he would have never considered if they were playing anyone other than the Canucks. He hates my team THAT much. Continue reading

2010-2011 Playoff Predictions

Okay, this is it. I’ve consulted my tarot cards, my magic eight ball, my lucky Chihuahua foot and sacrificed a goat (don’t worry San Fermin friends, it’s not the goat from Pamplona).

And here it is. My predictions for the 2010-2011 NHL Season.

EASTERN DIVISION FINAL CONFERENCE STANDINGS
New Jersey Devils
Washington Capitals
Pittsburgh Penguins
Buffalo Sabres
Florida Panthers
Boston Bruins
New York Rangers
Toronto Maple Leafs
Philadelphia Flyers
Montreal Canadiens
Ottawa Senators
Tampa Bay Lightning
Atlanta Thrashers
New York Islanders
Carolina Hurricanes

RATIONALE:
I know, I love to watch them fail too, but the Toronto Maple Leafs are actually going to see the benefits of Brian Burke’s hard, smart work this year. A full season with JS Giguere will help as will the addition of Phaneuf and Versteeg. The Rangers will make the cut this year, as long as Gaborik isn’t sidelined by injuries. The Pens will continue rely on the Russian Frankenstein, Evgeni Malkin and the Canada’s Golden Child (and my not-so secret crush) Sidney Crosby. The Devils will be the only surprise here. They’ll not only do well (they always do well) but this year they’ll take top honours with the help of Kovalchuk, Jason Arnott, Patrick Elias and Olympic Silver medallist Zach Parise. In not surprising news, Pierre Gauthier’s gamble on Price won’t payoff. Despite the best efforts of Gionta, Gomez and the gang, the Canadiens won’t come close to the playoffs this year.

WESTERN DIVISION FINAL CONFERENCE STANDINGS
Detroit Red Wings
Vancouver Canucks
Chicago Blackhawks
San Jose Sharks
Los Angeles Kings
St. Louis Blues
Phoenix Coyotes
Calgary Flames

Anaheim Ducks
Minnesota Wild
Colorado Avalanche
Nashville Predators
Columbus Blue Jackets
Edmonton Oilers
Dallas Stars

RATIONALE:
Shocked? I know a lot of people think the Bad News Bears story of the Phoenix Coyotes last year was a One Hit Wonder thing but I disagree. Maybe the limbo state of their club gives them a chance to focus more on hockey and less on hockey politics. Whatever the reason they work harder than most and it will pay off again. Vancouver’s acquisition of Malholtra will be a key in their success and I see Torres also making a big positive impact. The Flames are angry about last season and that’ll be enough to push them into playoff ranks. The Kings young, fresh line up will only be made stronger by vetran Willie Mitchell, if he stays healthy, and they have 2 solid goaltenders in Joanathan Quick and Jonathan Bernier.

ROUND ONE EAST:
Devils over Leafs – this will be easy.
Capitals over Rangers – not as easy but still not hard
Penguins over Bruins – quick and easy.
Panthers over Sabres – the upset.

ROUND ONE WEST:
Wings over Flames – but Calgary puts up a fight.
Canucks over Coyotes – I see this being easy.
Hawks over Blues – Halak won’t be able to do it all himself this year.
Kings over Sharks – the biggest surprise and longest fight of the round.

SEMI FINALS EAST:
Devils over Panthers – not a hard series.
Penguins over Capitals – It’s a simple case of good over evil. Superman over Lex Luthor. Hot over Ugly. Crosby over Ovehckin.

SEMI FINALS WEST:
Wings over Kings – It won’t be easy though.
Canucks over Hawks – FINALLY! With the C off Luongo’s back – and Dustin Byfuglien out of his playoff crease he’s bound to finally live up to his hype – and paycheck.

EAST CON FINALS:
Devils over Penguins – I heart you Sid, but this isn’t going to be your year (again).

WEST CON FINALS:
Canucks over Wings – 7 nailbiting games but Vancouver will prevail.

STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS:
Canucks over Devils.

Canuck’s goalie bailed out Team Canada when the Devil’s goalie melted down. Brodeur is on his last legs. With the “C” off Luongo’s back, he’s bound to finally fully live up to his hype – and paycheck. And after 40 years of failure…. Vancouver will finally do it.

Please keep in mind that I’m a Canucks-Habs fan so for me to predict anyone else would be ridiculous. The Habs made moves so stupid even I can’t pretend they’ll succeed this year, but Vancouver – even with the GM from Hell, Mike Gillis – are making smarter moves. They’ve kept a core of solid performers together and added Torres, Malholtra and Schneider is ready to be a solid back-up goalie. If we don’t have it this year, it’ll be another 40 years.

Habs Drop Halak – And All Common Sense

I have 2 other blogs written I have been sitting on – unable to post because of work priorities – but now…. NOTHING takes priority over a catastrophic hockey blunder. One from my hometown team none the less!

Today the Montreal Canadiens traded their hottest player, their strongest player, their best shot at a solid future.

Premium goaltender, Jaroslav Halak is now a member of the St. Louis Blues.

I feel like I just found out about an unexpected death. A suicide, actually. And in a way, I did. Because any hope that Habs fans had of a repeat of the glorious, underdog, inspiring playoff run – or a Stanley cup in the near future – is now unabashedly, undeniably DEAD.

In this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs, Halak won two intense Game 7s. He was the undisputable, number one reason Montreal – the Eastern Conference’s eighth seed – knocked out the number one seed Capitals and heavily favoured Penguins (Ovechkin and Crosby respectively).

Now fans and sports writers alike knew that the goaltending line-up in Montreal would not remain the same for next year. Both Price and Halak become free agents July 1st. And keeping them both is an impossibility due mostly to salary cap limitations. Montreal has danced around officially naming a number one goalie. They spent most of the season shuffling Price and Halak. But the playoffs showed Halak deserves the number one spot. And finicky, sometimes vicious Montreal fans (an important part of hockey, especially in Montreal where the sport is a religion and the team, something to be worshipped) proclaimed Halak their Messiah. The fact the he was just traded away is…… well there are no words.

Toronto Star columnist Damien Cox said today that Habs GM Pierre Gauthier “probably made the hardest choice by moving Halak” which I whole heartedly disagree with. He made the dumbest choice, not the hardest. There was no hard choice, only an easy one – get rid of Price.

When interviewed by TSN, Pierre Gauthier seemed to focus mostly on age. “Carey Price is young…. He’s a young man that could be very successful in the league.”

Yeah Price could be, but yet he IS NOT. Price, who was 13-20-5 with a 2.77 average and a .912 save percentage, has struggled to find consistency at the NHL level. Furthermore, the only thing Price has been consistent about is meltingdown. Carey Price lost his temper (after letting in too many easy goals), and started hurling the pucks at the backs of celebrating Penguins players. During the playoffs. Not once, but TWICE. This garnered an unsportsmalike penalty.

Canadiens GM Gauthier thinks we should have THAT over a Halak who stopped 131 shots out of 134 that came his way by the number 1 team in the league. WTF?!

Halak was ranked fourth in the NHL in save percentage (.940), ninth in goals against average (2.40) and was tied for fifth with five shutouts. He was traded away for two players – Lars Eller and Ian Schultz – who’ve played mostly in the minors for the last year. But, shockingly, Gauthier happily refers to them as “young” and, according to Damien Cox, “cheap talent”.

The biggest victim in all this is Montreal fans who – as stated earlier – have, with this trade, lost all real hope at regaining the dynasty they once had. But the second biggest victim is Carey Price. Because he’s going to be the recipient of all the fans’ fierce anger. He’ll step out on that ice next season and the boos and jeers may actually crumble the Bell Centre. This won’t be coming from me though, because my Habs jersey – circa 1988 with Stephane Richer’s name and number – is now heading for the attic. I will not, cannot, flatout REFUSE to further support a team that makes such an unfathomable, insane decisions.

So… my last words to the organization I have cheered for the last 24 years…

Dear Pierre Gauthier, you can take your “young” goalie and your “cheap talent” and shove it up your Molson-drinking arse. I hope you choke on your poutine. I am done with you and your organization. J’ai juste une chose a dire maitenant – GO BLUES!!!

Round 2 Recap & Round 3 Predictions

Another round… another blog.

Best Series
Once again the Montreal Canadiens proved to be the most entertaining team. The Bad News Bears solidified their name as Giant Killers by taking down last year’s Stanley Cup winners. The young rookie PK Subban became Sidney Crosby’s worst nightmare. Halak was an impenetrable force once again. And Mike Cammalleri got the puck where it needed to go. It took 7 games like I had predicted (yes, I’m bragging) but it was 7 exciting, unpredictable games.

Biggest Disappointment
Do I even need to tell you? I live in Vancouver and the Canucks going down to the Chicago Blackhawks is a loss I am still recovering from. The Blackhawks clearly have no problem going as low as necessary (elbows to Roberto Luongo’s head, ripping open Shane O’Brien’s newly stitched head) and the Canucks acted like bullied 6 year olds on a playground. They’ll be a separate blog about the failure (consistent now at round 2 exits) of the Canucks and what needs to change. So for now I’ll just say they had the talent, they couldn’t pull it together and it sucked.
Biggest Surprise
Philadelphia refusing to go away and beating Boston in game 7 after coming back from not only a 3 game deficit but also a 3 goal gap in the game itself. I have no words.

Best Kept Secret
Well he’s no secret but he did really start to shine in round 2. Mike Cammalleri! He’s been a scoring machine and he’s been disciplined. That’s important for a team that, in my opinion, still take too many stupid penalties (I’m looking at you Hal “Giraffe” Gill). Coach’s Corner showed a clip of Cammalleri sitting on the bench before a game against the Penguins focusing and visualizing and it clearly pays off.

Worst Injury
If it’s true, it’s got to be Sami Salo’s ruptured testicle. Although I am fairly certain that no dude with a burst nut would be able to stand up let alone play hockey 2 days later. But whatever the degree of the injury if it involved a ball (which so far every agreed it did) he wins… and I don’t think there’s a boy out there that would stop wincing long enough to disagree.

Worst Playoff Beard
Although he’s the only member of the Chicago Blackhawks I don’t dislike immensely, his playoff beard is craptastic. Jonathan Toews. If you look at him, his whole face is clear of whiskers but he’s got these bad-ass sideburn/chops thing going. It makes him look like a pizza delivery guy in a ‘70s porno.

Best Playoff Beard
Big bad Joe Thornton has a beard that would rival that of last round’s Worst Beard Winner Todd Bertuzzi. The reason that it lands Joe on the best beard list is because Joe’s is blond and groomed. It’s big but it’s not bad!

CONFERENCE FINAL PREDICTIONS
Since there is only 2 games to predict I’m tacking it on to this blog rather than writing a whole other one.

San Jose Sharks vs Chicago Blackhawks
This series presents a moral dilemma – do I want my archenemy the Hawks (with By-Fugli-en and TwennyCent Kane) to win or the team with the murderer (Heatley).
Honestly, I think I would pick the murderer over the Dirty Birdy Hawks. But this isn’t about my personal preference, it’s about who will win. Sadly San Jose relies on its goal scoring ability more than it’s size and defensive strength. That’s why I think the Hawks and their dirty tactics will school the San Jose Sharks like they did Vancouver.
Puck Bunny Prediction: Chicago in 6.

Philadelphia Flyers vs Montreal Canadiens
This is the worst possible match up for both the Habs fans and the Flyers fans. Because both teams weren’t supposed to here. Both teams have momentum on their side, but the Flyers probably have a wee bit more. That said, Montreal has history, Tradition and now expectation (which could work for or against them). The big factor in this is goaltending and Halak will stop Philly’s momentum easy-peasy.
Puck Bunny Prediction: Montreal win in 6.

Round 1 Recap

At the end of every round I’ll do a Bests & Worsts type of thing. Ready…. set…. go…

Best Series
This could also be called Biggest Upset and Most Tencious Team or Biggest Tank. There is not one sane hockey fan that would give Best Series to anyone other than The Montreal Canadiens and the Washington Capitals.
I don’t know 1 single person, expert or otherwise that said Montreal would win a game. not a single game. CBC announcer Mike Milbury said that if Washington could sweep in 3, they would. I said they would be out in 4. But as soon as they won the first game – I changed my tune.
My fiance, who has been a Habs fan since birth – literally birth - gave up when they fell behind 3 to 1. But I didn’t. I knew after that first win they could take this to game 7. But nobody – not even me and all my French Canadian blind faith – thought they would WIN in 7. And what a spectacular last game. It was an edge-of-your-seat, nailbiter right till the end!

Best Kept Secret
Steve Bernier – where the hell have you been all season?! Bernier stepped up his game in the playoffs and became a point earner, which the Canucks definitely need going in against Chicago now. Especially if Alex Burrows doesn’t find his legs… err shots… now that he’s off the Sedins’ line.

Best Comeback
A year ago, while playing for the Vancouver Canucks, Taylor Pyatt earned the nickname Taylor Pylon. Well, at least the male fans called him that. The female ones just stared into his pretty blue eyes and didn’t care what his name was. Taylor was a slow, sluggish and couldn’t make a play or get a point. But when he left Vancouver, he left the Pylon behind. In Phoenix Pyatt was a faster, smarter player who could score. When you look at his performance this time last year versus this year – Pyatt is the comeback kid.

Best Goalie
All hail Saint-Halak! Let’s face it every goalie had some stellar and devastating games (well, except Brodeur who had one decent moment and the rest was epic fail). But Halak kept the Canadiens alive – the 19th placed team – against Ovechkin, Semin and the rest of the 1st place team in the league. In the last 3 games of the Washington-Montreal series, Halak stopped 131 of 134 shots! And Semin, a scoring machine, did not get one goal on Jaroslav Halak even though he took over 30 good shots.

Worst Reffing Calls
There are 3 here that deserve mention;
3) the disallowed goal in the Vancouver-Los Angeles series where Daniel Sedin was accused of kicking it in. There was 0 kicking motion.
2) The penalty against a Coyote after Holmstrom grabbed the Phoenix player and pulled him down on top of him. Also, NOT calling Zetterberg “accidentally” knocking the net off to keep Phoenix from scoring.
1) Not kicking Marion Hossa out of the game after his boarding/hit from behind on a Nashville Predator. RIDICULOUS. He was totally channeling Ovechkin who had not only got kicked from a regular season game but also a 2 game suspension. Hossa should have been booted – and because he wasn’t he went on to score and dash Nashville’s hopes unfairly.

Best Reffing Calls
Disallowing the Ovechkin goal in game 7 against the Canadiens.
Disallowing the Canadiens goal in game 7 against the Capitals.
Both of these were clearly goalie interference but it takes a good eye to catch it and balls to call it in a game 7 game.

Worst Playoff Beards
It pains me to say this because everything else about him (his looks, his attitude, his game) is perfect but… Pittsburgh Penguins’ Sidney Crosby. Also Chicago Blackhawks’ Patrick Kane. It’s Crosby’s third playoff run and after 6 games he still has less hair on his face than a hippie’s armpit. Kane’s hair growth is even more pathetic resembling that of a 12 year old boy. The difference is that everything about Patrick Kane – his weight, his face, his emotional state (if you ask cab drivers, anyway) – resembles a 12 year-old boy so at least he’s consistent. Crosby. on the other hand, has manly looks, body, attitude but not facial hair.
Best Playoff Beards
Another tie – this time between Vancouver Canucks Kevin Bieksa and Montreal Canadiens’ Brian Gionta. Bieksa’s is the perfect amount of growth for a Round 1 beard. On top of that it’s well groomed and evenly distributed. Not to mention it only draws more attention to his pretty blue eyes and full lips (are any dudes still reading this…? Whatever. I don’t care).
Brian Gionta is used to facial hair, having a form of it through most of the regular season. But he, just like Kevin, has managed to keep the playoff beard nicely groomed and it gives him a rough but sexy look. Good job Gionta!
Scariest Playoff Beard
The only thing I like about the Detroit Red Wings is Todd Bertuzzi. I don’t want the Wings to make it past the Sharks but if they do make it to the Stanley Cup final Todd Bertuzzi may have to watch from the bench. It would be hard to play with a playoff beard tangled in your skate blades. Seriously – Todd grew a Grizzly Adams-worthy beard about 15 hours after they snagged a playoff spot. It’s crazy. Someone needs to get Bertuzzi a grooming kit stat!