Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend's events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.
If the past week of Puck Daddying (Puck Fathering? I don't know) has proven nothing else, it's that people love a good fan reaction shot.
Gloating Bruins Fan -- the Elvis Presley, Beatles and possibly Backstreet Boys of such shots -- earned universal acclaim; and has, if he knows of his stardom on the Information Superhighway, surely told his friends that he, "Ree-uhl populah on tha Innernet now."
And rightly so. I mean, gaze upon at this guy for the millionth time:
(Ed. Note: Contest winner, and gallery, on Tuesday.)
The top sports headlines of the day
You cannot get sick of him. It's an impossibility. The man's a winner for sure. And perhaps the best part is examining is thoughts at that moment. Is he thinking, "AAAAAAAAAWWWWWW YEEEEEEAAAAAH!" Is he thinking, "IN YAW FACE STAAL AND WAHD YOU LOOZIZ!" Or is he thinking, "Only the act of sticking out my tongue will properly convey my level of excitement for my dear Bruins and, simultaneously, contempt for the pitiable Hurricanes, of whom I have a low opinion."
Impossible to say. Probably because it's more likely he wasn't thinking anything at all.
But why should GBF get all the attention? There are lots of hilarious fan-shots if you just meander through a news photo aggregator, typing in team names. And, as with the much-beloved GBF, it's always fun to laugh at random strangers captured at some extremely emotional moment in their lives.
(Coming Up: The redonkulous Cam Ward(notes) in the playoffs; Brooks Orpik(notes) gets to know the Hurricanes again; the Blackhawks' Game 1 flop; the Red Wings' pounding guys; a mind-numbing Boston Bruins trade proposal; and introducing Balsillie and Bettman's Trash Talk Corner.)
There's Jubilant Canucks Fan:
Then you have Classy Wings Fans:
Detroit fans are definitely the best in the league. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
We'd be remiss to not include Dejected Devs Fans:
On the down side: Those towels have to smell a lot like disappointment.
On the up side: They might not smell like Newark.
And what of Sad Caps Kid?
Hat-wearing Sharks Guy.
Now, this one is a real puzzler. I mean, the guy in the hat is what, like 45 or 50 years old? Let's say I'm about right with that estimate. I now have a million questions, some of which include:
• What was this middle-aged man thinking when he bought this awful, embarrassing hat?
• What was the Official Team Store employee thinking when he rang up an adult-sized Shark hat?
• Why did he not go through a TERRIBLE case of buyer's remorse?
• What was this man's wife, assuming he's married -- not a totally reasonable assumption, mind you -- thinking when she let him leave the house?
• How does this man feel that some kid in Northern California has to see this picture and go, "Is that my dad?"
What We Learned
(WWL will, for the remainder of the postseason, only cover the teams still playing hockey. Any news of note involving the other teams will be dealt with below in Loserwatch ‘09.)
Carolina Hurricanes: It's getting kind of crazy if you think about it. Cam Ward has played in six playoff series in his NHL career, and won them all. You probably knew that, but it's still pretty good, no? But even more impressive is the fact that he's played in FOUR Game 7s. And has been ridiculous in them.
In the hustle and bustle of Rod Brind'Amour(notes) scoring the Hurricanes' first goal before leaving the game in overtime after getting hit in the face with a puck on the bench, and Sergei Samsonov(notes) scoring against his former team, and, oh yeah, Scott Walker(notes) of all people scoring to eliminate the Bruins, it's easy to overlook Cam Ward.
Now 4-0 in Game 7s after stopping eight shots in overtime, including a nasty shot from Chuck Kobasew(notes) on the right wing, and 34 of 36 on the night, Ward's play in the postseason has been near impeccable. The next playoff series he loses will be his first.
"We just completely take him for granted," Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice said, intending it as the highest of compliments.
Ward's stats for Game 7s, all-time: 110 saves on 118 shots (.932 save percentage) and a goals-against average of 1.86. Carolina may be a fairly mediocre team, if we're being honest with each other, but they do have a hell of a difference-maker in Ward.
So yeah, new plan for the Penguins: Don't let it get to Game 7.
Khabibulin making tons of great saves. Three of the four goals he let in were flukey. The bad turnover that led to Cleary's opener. Franzen's goofy wrap around from another turnover. The Cleary deflection that went up. I'll take an effort from Khabi like this every game, because the flukey goals won't always be there.
Really, only one of those goals can be considered "flukey," that being Cleary's, but this is where the problem lies, isn't it?
Detroit has like six guys that go to the front of the net and deflect the puck for goals. In fact, Detroit's two biggest contributors from the outside (for forwards at least) are Henrik Zetterberg(notes) and Pavel Datsyuk(notes), who didn't score yesterday. Instead, Chicago's defense had what I'm going to ballpark at 1.3 trillion own-zone turnovers, only one of which led to a goal, luckily for them.
But if you're going to define goals that result from careless puck possession as flukes, then yes, fluke goals WILL always be there if the defense continues to play this way. Frankly, the score flattered the Blackhawks yesterday. Had it not been for Khabibulin, who made 38 freaking saves, the ice would have looked like the aftermath of the drug deal in "No Country for Old Men." No sign of el ultimo hombre, though.
Detroit Red Wings: What, at first blush, seemed to be an innocuous Detroit Free Press story about Brad Stuart(notes) and Niklas Kronwall's(notes) proclivity for crushing opponents quickly devolved into a series of quotes that, out of context, are more than a bit disquieting. Observe.
Stuart and Kronwall are Detroit's fiercest hitters, though their styles differ: Stuart crushes people into the boards; Kronwall upends them on open ice.
"Stuie is one of those guys that -- just shift after shift after shift -- keeps pounding guys," Kronwall said. "His big behind has done some damage. I'm more looking for the opportunity on open ice. With Johnny, it's only a matter of time before he also steps it up with the hitting part. By next year, he'll be good to go."
Stuart said he has "enjoyed hitting ever since I was growing up." In fact, it's so second nature he sometimes forgets when to curb his enthusiasm.
There have to be better ways of saying that. It's like Tobias Fünke wrote this article.
That doesn't mean passions won't rise quickly -- with sticks and elbows to follow -- once the series begins. For now, though, emotions haven't been rubbed raw and the teams are lobbing nothing more nasty than compliments at one another.
The sneers and slurs will have to wait a while.
"We had a couple of good competitive games with them during the regular season," Penguins defenseman Rob Scuderi(notes) said. "But certainly, it's not the natural hatred you have for some of the other teams."
That's unfortunate, I think. As the article points out, the only thing close to a storyline is that Brooks Orpik broke a few vertebrae in Erik Cole's(notes) back like 12 years ago or something (and let he who has never cracked someone's spine in several places cast the first stone), but neither guy seems to care that much about it any more.
"It's all behind me," sayeth Orpik. "I don't know if it's all behind him."
Thus spake Cole: "I'm always going to have thoughts about it, for sure. But I don't think that it's something consciously during the game I think about. There are other things to worry about; you don't need to focus on the past."
One thing for which we can all hope: Scott Walker will sucker punch Hal Gill(notes) in the eye during his first shift in Game 1, not get suspended for it, and everybody's dander will get up nice and early.
(News and notes from some of the teams that couldn't be bothered to make or stay in the playoffs.)
Know whose fault the Bruins loss was? Steve Montador and, by extension, Peter Chiarelli. ... Puck Prospectus, a site more of you should read, seems to be hearing that the Isles will take Hedman, which does two things: 1) Moves Brian Burke ever closer to acquiring his soulmate, John Tavares, and 2) makes Tavaresfan a sad, sad man. ... The NHL sure is getting younger. ... Brent Sutter will probably be back with the New Jersey Devils next year. ... Steven Stamkos(notes) is really feelin' hisself now that Rick Tocchet's running things officially. ... I so love the Kurtenblog's Friday chat feature (THEY TALK HOW I TALK!). But this week's chat about Roberto Luongo, Pete Rose and Keyboard Cat was one of my favorites in a while.
Balsillie and Bettman's Trash Talk Corner
(In which a damning piece of news from the ongoing Hamilton Coyotes saga is taken out of context and has its hurtfulness rated.)
From the Globe and Mail:
"The NHL's current position proves the fraudulent inducement claim," Moyes alleged in one court filing.
5 /5 Bettmans. If the owner of the Coyotes is basically saying that the NHL operated illegally in its takeover of the club, the gloves really are off for serious. Gary Bettman, I think, can consider himself served.
Play of the Weekend
Wow, so many garbage goals from which to choose. I guess Dan Cleary's snipe to open the scoring was nice, if you're into that sort of thing. I'm not not into it, so it goes here.
Gold Star Award
Slim pickin' this week, eh? I have one game to pick from. So really, you could have looked at last night's Three Stars and gleaned which player I was going to pick. So here is Danny Cleary, even if he did miss the net on a breakaway when he could have had a hat trick, just like you'd expect Danny Cleary to do.
On the other hand, Cleary had two goals in the playoffs prior to Game 7 of the Ducks series and now has five. So I guess that's not bad at all.
Minus of the Weekend
Hmm, I'm reading all these game stories about yesterday, I don't think I saw either Jonathan Toews(notes) or Patrick Kane(notes) come up once. Odd, that. Maybe if I open-Apple+F for them... Nothing? How strange. Maybe neither of them played? Well actually here's a picture from the game featuring both of them.
I dunno then, that's weird. Oh, here's something about them from Twitter:
hosea24hours Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane were both minus-3 today.
Next week's game I'm totally going to watch
on Center Ice if I'm home
All of them, now. In honor of the conference semifinals starting, the NHL is making it almost-easy to see all their games. "No more games starting an hour apart for us even though there are only two on the schedule, pissed-off national television audience and the dream of remaining a gate driven league forever be damned," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman would have said if he were smart.
Event that should replace the shootout and would be just as relevant to hockey skill
Thing of the Week
(Owing to the popularity of last week's YouTube hit starring Keyboard Cat and that crying Sharks fan, the "Movie of the Week" will be replaced by "Thing of the Week" an indeterminate something that I liked quite a bit.)
I don't know if this commercial played nationally, but here in Boston, the NBC game ran this commercial for Just for Men, which I had never seen before. It's two little girls using a hair dye to find a new mommy since their biological mother died (I'm assuming). It was so oddly adorable that I had to go find it on YouTube.
Who pitches this campaign? What is their angle?
Perfect HFBoards trade proposal of the week
This time of year, HFBoards posters are very concerned with "salary dumps." I kind of understand why, but this proposal from user "SufferingCatFan" is, umm, outstanding.
The Bruins need to clear cap space in the worst way in order to-resign Krejci and Kessel. This trade involving Patrice Bergeron for Brett McLean(notes) is a pure salary dump and is based, upon the assumption, that the Bruins need to clear salary and would rather dump Bergeron due to his injury history, than Savard. Bergeron is signed at $4.75 million through 2010-11. McLean is signed through 2009-2010 at $1.7 million, which is reduced to a $850,000 cap hit, if Boston waives McLean in the off season. This trade for Boston, thus, would clear $3.9 million in cap space in '09 (assuming McLean is waived) and $4.75 in '10. Bergeron, though undoubtedly talented, is a serious injury risk due to concession problems the past 2 seasons, and Boston can easily afford to lose him due to the its depth at center. The Panthers need a talented center in the worst way and, given their lack of depth at the position, should be willing to gamble on Bergeron's return to health.