One nice thing about the Stanley Cup finals is that they give a chance for unsung players who have been playing well in relative anonymity a chance to get into the spotlight. The best example of that this season is Chicago Blackhawks defenceman Niklas Hjalmarsson. Hjalmarsson is a 22 year old Swede in his third year of his NHL career. In his first two, he shuttled between the AHL and NHL (spending more time in the AHL). This season he has established himself as a strong defensive presence on the Blackhawks. Fans have noticed him in the playoffs. He has seven points and a +7 +/- rating so far in the playoffs. He is currently third in playoff ice time on the Blackhawks. He looks like he should have a solid NHL career. It is nice to see that he is getting some publicity after a solid season.
The first game of the Stanley Cup playoffs was very sloppily played. There was enough poor goaltending and defensive gaffes to fill an entire series. It was the kind of game that drives coaches mad because their team didn’t execute the game plan.
Chicago won 6-5. It was the highest scoring Stanley Cup final game since 1992. It was a one goal game.
Gary Bettman has been trying to create a fanbase that wants high scoring close games without enough hockey knowledge to know or care if the hockey they are watching is actually well played (and judging by some of my past comments I think he is achieving his goal). This is a prototype game for that style. It was a one goal game. It was a high scoring game. It was a poorly played game.
Yesterday I wrote about why the Chicago Blackhawks are not an elite team. It is time to look at their Stanley Cup finals opponents, the Philadelphia Flyers.
It should be even more clear that the Flyers are not a historically elite team. They are not even one of the top teams in the 2009/10 season. They finished the season in 18th place and would not have qualified for the playoffs at all if they were not an East Conference team. Their regular season record had as many losses as wins (they were 41-41 with 6 losses counted as regulation ties). Their trip to the finals has come by playing the three lowest scoring teams that qualified for the playoffs in New Jersey, Boston and Montreal. Statistically, they are a clear example of a mid-level team that managed to fluke their way to the Stanley Cup finals.
With the Stanley Cup finals upon us, it is time to look at the two finalists. It is sad that neither team is a historically elite team that belongs in an argument about the best hockey teams in history. It takes away from the Stanley Cup finals prestige. Here is my finals prediction. I pick Chicago as the most likely winner, but they fall short as an elite team.
I argue that it is necessary, but not sufficient, for an elite team to have several (three or more) players on Hall of Fame career tracks and an elite goalie (who may be one of the hall of Fame track players), who is among the top five or so goalies in hockey. It is also necessary that this group of players play well as a team (hence the necessary but not sufficient condition). Any of the best teams in history (historical Stanley Cup winners) satisfy these conditions.
Hershey Bears defeat Manchester Monarchs four games to two Hershey is the minor league affiliate of the Washington Capitals and Manchester is that of the LA Kings. Hershey was led by its strong offence, which has been led by Chris Bourque, Alexandre Giroux and Keith Aucoin. Michal Neuvirth has provided goaltending. Lower scoring Manchester was led offensively by Bud Holloway and Gabe Gauthier. Their main strength has been goalie Jonathan Bernier who posted a .939 saves percentage in the playoffs.
Yesterday, the Tampa Bay Lightning announced the hiring of Steve Yzerman as general manager. Given the past craziness in the running of the organization, this cannot be considered a bad thing. It is a new start with a new general manager who has a good reputation around hockey.
Tampa has a strong group of frontline talent in Steve Stamkos, Martin St Louis, Vincent LeCavalier and Victor Hedman. Stopping the off ice distractions will go a long way to put this team on the right road and quite possibly into the playoffs.
My third round predictions did not go well as i was 0-2. When combined with my first round and second round predictions, this drops my record to 7-7. I have been as good as a fair coin in predicting the winners. When I look for other predictions on the internet, I find that I am not doing much worse (and in some cases am doing better) than anyone else is. Nobody has successfully predicted a large percentage of series this year as far as I can tell. Which is the way Gary Bettman wants it.
The Memorial Cup completed last night in Brandon, Manitoba. It is the Canadian Major Junior championship. Here are the round robin results. They left a semi-final between the Calgary Hitmen and the Brandon Wheat Kings and a final between the Windsor Spitfires and the semi-final winner.
Here are the results:
Czech Republic 2 Finland 1 (shootout) Petri Kontiola opened the game with a Finnish goal in the first minute. The Czechs finally tied it on a third period goal by Jakub Klepis. The game played to a tie as goaltenders Pekka Rinne and Tomas Vokoun were only beaten once each. Due to the need for a quick winner, some sort of skills competition was played with the Czechs winning.
The NHL has been without a full player transfer agreement with Russia since 2005. This is an agreement that governs players jumping from North American to Russian leagues and vice versa and sets fees for them doing so. This has led to several controvesies. the biggest of which was Alexander Radulov jumping from Saavat Yulaev from the Nashville Predators when he had a contract with Nashville.
Both sides have announced a “memorandum of understanding”. This is not a transfer agreement. it isn’t clear how much of an agreement it is at all. Here is the KHL announcement of the agreement. There is no big NHL announcement on the internet.
About The Puck Stops Here
Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.
Why am I blogging? I want to.
Why are you reading it? ???