Who is going to win the Stanley Cup?
Let me be the first to say “Damned if I know.”
This has been such a wild, weird and wacky tournament that to suddenly state I know what’s going to happen would be the height of folly.
But I will say with certainty that my good friend Frank Marrone and I will not be exchanging pleasantries for the next couple weeks.
Frank is a brilliant web producer I helped recruit to NHL.com years back. But at the time, I didn’t realize he bled purple (opps, back to black and white now) until I saw his cube all decked out in everything Kings. Strange choice for a died-in-the-wool New Yorker, but I suspect Frank is actually a wannbe rapper.
He isn’t going to be sending me any forget-me-nots either, knowing the admiration I have for Jacques Lemaire and all things New Jersey, which starts with Bruce Springsteen and then moves on to hockey.
Frank and I already have hurled a few verbal brickbats at one another via Facebook, but aside from that, I doubt either one of us really knows what’s going to happen. OK, Frank thinks it will be a sweep for the Kings. As for me, sorry, I got nothin’.
“This has spiraled from out of control to total chaos. Do we really need a player to die on the ice for this insanity to stop?”
—NHL player agent Allan Walsh’s Tweet after Raffi Torres’ hit on Marian Hossa
Forget for a moment that there is no way the NHL is going to win the public relations battle stemming from what we have seen thus far in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Hockey’s critics have more cannon fodder than could be hoped for to marginalize the sport once more.
Think back to the black eye the sport got after the Devils and Rangers opened a game with three inconsequential fights in a regular-season game. The sport took a beating over that. Now, we have seen real chaos in these playoffs from the Torres hit on Hossa to the ugliness of the entire Penguins-Flyers series to God knows how many others, take your pick. In Tuesday’s night’s New Jersey-Florida series, one that has actually been pretty tame, the Panthers’ Sean Bergenheim looked like your average pro wrestler when he took a hit from Anton Volchenkov and then bounced back off the boards to target the head of the Devils’ defenseman, who had fallen to the ice. Bergenheim got two minutes for roughing, a pretty light sentence when the intent was readily apparent.
Can’t say I remember as many intriguing first-round matchups for the Stanley Cup Playoffs as we are seeing this spring. By my count, there are four western Conference teams and five in the East who can make pretty good cases to enjoy a long spring this time around and some of the matchups are really pretty interesting to be sure.
Let’s start in the West.
Vancouver (1) vs. Los Angeles (8)—This is pretty short and sweet. Just don’t see the Canucks stumbling this early on. In many cases, it’s easy to say “throw out the regular season standings”, but here the numbers don’t lie. Canucks win this in a sweep.
St. Louis (2) vs. San Jose (7)—Always have been a Ken Hitchcock admirer and this may be his best coaching job in turning the Blues into a Western Conference power. Solid goaltending and attention to detail defensive detail still can take you a long way in the playoffs, and the Sharks just haven’t impressed me. Blues take this in six games
The news that George Malik posted on Gordie Howe Thursday was like a shock to the system. After all, we’re talking about “Mr. Hockey” here, a man who played into his 50s and who always was tough as nails. Talk about making the rest of us question our mortality! If something like dementia can impact Gordie Howe, cripes the rest of us are in sorry shape!
Over the course of my time spent as a newspaper, magazine and web site writer and editor, I was fortunate enough to spend some time with Gordie and Colleen Howe and it is no exaggeration to say I enjoyed every moment. When you spent some time with the Howes, you knew you were in the midst of hockey greatness, but what made it so special was there were no aires, no PR flaks pushing people away. You were with regular folks, and you always smiled.
Here are a couple of examples.
Look, goalies always have been a tad “different, so is it shocking that Tim Thomas opted not to visit the White House the other day with the Boston Bruins? No. And truth be told I could really care less if Thomas went or not. I’m fairly certain the rest of the Bruins players, coaches and staff enjoyed what had to be a special day. Regardless if you’re a Democrat, Republican, independent or whatever, it must be pretty cool to get a special tour of the White House and meet the President.
And I’m also pretty sure President Barack Obama didn’t give a tinker’s cuss if Tim Thomas was there or not. He has far bigger fish to fry than to worry about a recalcitrant goaltender.
But what happened to the concept of taking one for the team? And what of civility in general?
Thanks to freedom of speech in the United States, an awful lot of us have been able to make livings in journalism and everyone can make his or her opinion known. So I’m all for Thomas speaking his mind. And his thoughts about the government are not without merit or discussion. Here is his Facebook statement.
Never let it be said that John Tortorella sugar-coats anything. The New York Rangers’ coach has his way of doings things and the rest of us can damn well love it or lump it.
Gotta love someone with the courage of his convictions in a world loaded with political correctness. And Tortorella put his convictions right out there for all to see Tuesday night after the Rangers blanked the Nashville Predators.
Madison Square Garden Chairman James Dolan made a very, very rare appearance among the media hordes after the game to praise GM Glen Sather and proclaim the Rangers “pretty close” to winning a Stanley Cup.
For the edgy Tortorella, this was not the message he wanted his players to hear. He preaches a day-by-day, game-by-game approach and doesn’t need his players resting easy knowing the big boss thinks things are hunky dory.
So, as Dolan left the podium after sharing some wisdom, Tortorella didn’t waste any time basking in the glow of the chairman’s words.
“Right now, up to this point we’ve done a pretty good job — we just have to go about our business,” Tortorella said.“Like I have my owner up here talking about a Stanley Cup. That’s a bunch of bullshit. We need to take one game at a time.”
Get that, Dolan?
A little advice to those who get upset about the NHL All-Star Game and its
B) Selection process
C) Lack of competition
Relax! Take a deep breath. It’s all good. really, it is. During a lifetime spent either watching or working in hockey, I always enjoyed All-Star Weekend. It marked the chance to meet a lot of players you didn’t normally get to talk to in a relaxed environment and the inclusion of either former NHL greats or top rookies also added a dimension that I enjoyed.
Yes, I know, the vast majority of hockey fans weren’t “on the inside” and able to speak to players and the like. Very true. But that still doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the skills on display. Passing is often overlooked during the course of a game and in a free-flowing, offensive game like the All-Star Game, there is some sick passing going on. Enjoy it. Skating also is overlooked as an art form when cheering for your team, but watching the All-Stars, you get to appreciate how these guys make a skill that caused me countless bumps and bruises without any degree of success, look so damn easy.
Since the 2010-11 season ended, 11 NHL coaches have lost their jobs, with Terry Murray the unlucky 11th, getting the news that the Los Angeles Kings had changed the locks in the offices Monday.
When the news came down, you heard the usual platitudes tossed around when a respected professional like Murray takes the fall.
“It’s not his fault.”
“You can’t fire the players.”
“More was expected of the team.”
But the bottom line is—deserved or not—Murray paid the price for a disappointing season in Los Angeles, where the Kings’ offense has sputtered and the clubs sits at a pedestrian 13-12-4 record. But consider that the Kings hadn’t been to the playoffs for eight seasons before Murray took over and got Los Angeles into the postseason the last two seasons.Murray’s winning percentage with the Kings was .560.Overall, Murray was 139-106-30 with the Kings after taking over in 2008. The Kings won 46 games in each of the last two seasons, but also were ousted in the first round of the playoffs. Murray needed just one more win to 500 in his career, but Lombardi figured that milestone wasn’t going to come with the Kings anytime soon.
Are Bruce Boudreau and Paul Maurice any worse as coaches today than at this time last season or the season before?
So why were both dismissed Monday by the Washington Capitals and Carolina Hurricanes respectively?
The players had turned a deaf ear, something that happens to all coaches in all sports. And it’s something they all know is coming. It just becomes a matter of racing against time to get out on your own or face the axe. At the end of his first tenure with the New Jersey Devils, Jacques Lemaire realized this and resigned before it was necessary to fire him. Ditto in Minnesota. So coaches know when the message isn’t getting across.
Sidney Crosby has enjoyed better games, but none were more important than Monday’s 5-0 win over the New York Islanders.
Back in the lineup for the first time in 10 months, Crosby scored twice and assisted on two more goals in his first game back from a concussion suffered last season. No doubt it was a triumphant return. But now Crosby faces the daunting task of getting ready to do it again, remaining healthy and returning to the rarified air atop the hockey talent pool.
“I expect to be back there eventually,” Crosby told Sam Kasan of the team’s web site before the game. “I don’t know how long it’s going to take. I think the main thing is to get more and more comfortable each game. If I do that then I think I can get back there.”
But those issues will be addressed in the days to come. Monday night, Crosby, the Pens and their fans got to enjoy it all again.
About Iced Coffey
Phil Coffey has covered the NHL since 1981, most recently as the Senior Editorial Director of NHL.com. He spent over 11 years there.