It is one of my favorite times of the year: playoff hockey. Thanks to cutting the cable cord and the NHL’s lack of vision in building an ad-based online streaming network I was stuck with highlights the next day. Now I get to watch most of the series.*
Note the the NHL, make sure all 7 games are on network TV from here on out. Versus gets two games? Really?
I never thought I would be so happy to see Pierre Maguire and his dancing hands of doom.
The Stanley Cup Finals
The Vancouver Canucks vs. The Boston Bruins
I hate the Bruins. As I wrote last time Boston sports fans have been hopelessly spoiled the last decade. I would love for them to be knocked off of their lofty perch.
But I am very nervous.
The Bruins play good defensive hockey and that is a huge part of winning in the playoffs. The other part, a healthy power play; that has been absent so far. And that is what has me nervous. They are overdue and I think that will factor in this series.
Mark my words Bruins fans: Tomas Kaberle will come to play this round and he will help make this a series.
But I do not think it will be enough.
The Canucks have two solid scoring lines including the incredible Ryan Kesler. They are also getting back Manny Maholtra, who can can tip a series with his face off and defensive abilities. If Roberto Luongo can keep he solid play from the Western Conference Finals going the Canucks win this one easy.
How I see it:
Luongo will have some rough games and I think the B’s power play wakes up, at least for a few games. With Tim Thomas standing tall the Bruins make a series of it. But in the end the city of Vancouver will celebrate win a game 7 win. The ghosts of 1994 will be shooed away. Thankfully the Boston fans will have at least one long championship-less streak to lament.
In any event I see I nice competitive series, which is what I want more than anything. Lord Stanley’s Cup deserves nothing less.
Canucks in 7.
“Mark it dude”
Yesterday I felt off.
I was tired, no different than any other Thursday. Working the late night shift and getting up to take my daughter to school after 3-4 hours of sleep wears on me. Add to that the fact that I ran another 14 miles this past week. At 37 years old it takes a lot out of me.
This was something else.
“American Idol” played on the television as I edited my letter to President Obama. It was not until I went to check on my “Streak For the Cash” at ESPN.com that I realized the game was on.
The Sabres were playing Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the still hated Philadelphia Flyers. Once upon a time, pre-Pegula, this event would have been the cornerstone of the Kotaska family week. Pizza would have been ordered, the fridge stocked and anti-Flyers vitriolic venom would have been locked and loaded.
I clicked on the link to see what was happening. The disconnect of the past few months was still there. But so is the longing for a time when it felt natural and good to root for the Sabres. The Stanley Cup Playoffs are a special time, an Advent for hockey fans. Unlike Christmas only one group of fans end up happy on the big day, but what a present they get. And I felt out of the loop in spite of my new team affiliation.
I watched the Game 1 Ducks- Preds highlights on NHL.com the next day…thrilling to be sure. I followed the Preds game online at ESPN.com late Wednesday/Early Thursday and sadly there was that disconnect again. This time it was impeding my participation in my yearly ritual of hope and heartbreak and the growth of a love for a team that can only happen when you hold your breath at each moment of a team’s Quest for the Cup.
How I wish that Bettman and his stooges in New York and Toronto would get that they should stream the games live online for free. It would grow the game as well as my connection to my new team, the Predators.
During the rough endings of the playoff runs in 06 and 07 I thought to myself that it must be easier not to care about a team. Now that I am in a Stanley Cup Black Hole I feel once again the truth in Alfred Lord Tennyson’s words:
I hold it true, whate’er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
‘Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.
What I would not give right now to be able to feel the hope and heartbreak that comes with each shot, save…each sudden death session. What I would not give to feel like a true Preds fan.
For what it is worth: Go Preds!
I am not saying I will ever be a Nashville super-fan. Those days are likely over. You only have one first love, especially in hockey. The Sabres and Mr. Pegula, they broke my hockey loving heart and it will never be the same again.
But that is over, well documented, time to move on.
After months of mental and emotional hand-wringing I found my new NHL team: The Nashville Predators. Why the Predators? I can tell you it is not for the nickname or the logo, that is for sure.
I guess I feel comfortable with the way that they are run. They have had the same GM and coach for 13 years despite limited playoff success, even less than I am used to. I like that continuity. You don’t find that very often in hockey, where a bench boss is often toast with a sub-par year even if he delivered the Cup only a few seasons before.
In the time since Barry Trotz was hired as coach in 1998 there have been over 140 coaching changes in the NHL. As noted Nashville has only been moderately successful over Trotz’s tenure having missed the playoffs in 6 of his 11 seasons before this year. In fact the team missed out on participating in the Quest for Lord Stanley’s Cup the first five years they were in existence.
It may just be the Buffalo in me, but I respect that level of trust, as misplaced as it might seem to some. Trotz turned it around and the club has qualified for the tourney 5 of the last 6 seasons. They have yet to win a series, but perhaps this can be the year.
So the team fits the mold that they should not have a Cup or be overly successful, that would feel like cheating. Check.
The final step of discovery was electronic age old hat: I played with Nashville in NHL 11 on my Xbox 360 to get familiar with the roster. I wanted to root for a team with promise. First off, I love Shea Weber and Ryan Suter, as hockey players that is. The Preds also have a boatload of young talent that is not quite there, but close. I think that will be part of the fun, following the development of Blake Geoffrion, Cal O’Reilly,and Colin Wilson among others.
The final piece of the roster puzzle that got me to sign on was veteran Matthew Lombardi. He was a member of my favorite non-Sabres playoff team of all time (until this year, hopefully), the 2004 Calgary Flames. He is out for the year with a concussion, but perhaps he can help rally the boys from the sidelines. The NHL really needs to get this head injury issue sorted out.
The next step is to get some gear. Looking through the site I saw some nice stuff. I want to start small, a T-Shirt perhaps. I am looking at this one:
This has not been an easy process, there have been moments I wanted to turn back. But after finding Nashville it just seems right. I look forward to following them the best I can. Until then I will be trying to virtually earn the Cup for the people of Nashville on my 360. Go Preds!
*Another small reason to like the team, their play-by-play voice is former Buffalonian Pete Weber. I always liked the guy. Not the most exciting call, but he gets it right most of the time.
Although I no longer actively follow the Buffalo Sabres, I am still a die hard hockey fan. One of the most exciting days on the hockey calendar the past decade plus has been trade deadline day. It is a day when you teams fortunes can shift mid-season from pretender to contender.
I was lucky in the late nineties and mid-aughts to have the day have extra meaning as my team was in the thick of it all; any move could have pushed my former beloved closer to Lord Stanley’s Cup.
That of course never happened, but the trade deadline is never fully about what ends up happening. I is more about the tantalizing tidbits of rumor mixed with a dash of fact that fuel the hopes and dreams of fans across North America for a 12 to 24 hour period in late February. (It used to be later. I like the shift, it keeps more teams in the hunt for longer. It was easier to abandon the chase when the deadline was in mid-March.)
This year there was a lot of noise that there would be a flurry of moves. Word of a milquetoast 2011 NHL Entry draft coupled with an unimpressive slate of pending unrestricted free agents had every pundit from those on TSN to the bloggers at HockeyBuzz.com calling for this to be a huge year on the trade front.
Of course there were self interests in those declarations as every one was followed with some form of, “and stick around here for the latest news and rumors…” In the end there was more of the latter than the former.
But as I said it is all about the possibilities. It will almost always be disappointing and anti-climactic. You can pray for Ron Francis, sometimes all you get in reality is Joey Juneau. For those not familiar with hockey that is a significant downgrade.
That was the reality that I had dealt to me after the 1998 trade deadline when the Sabres scored Juneau rather than Hall of Famer Ronny Francis. I still feel betrayed by Sabres Management on that one. I think the then-Goatheads get past the Caps in the
Wales Eastern Conference Finals with Francis on board. What could have been…even 13 years later.
This year I decided to listen to the HockeyBuzz.com podcast while straightening the house…I know how Hazel of me; “I already dusted the blinds Mr. B.”
I have to say this about HockeyBuzz.com: based on the podcast they seem to rely way too much on Twitter as a source. They seem to make phone calls and have contacts that give information in increments of larger than 140 characters, but if I was about to lose my non-tweeting mind if I heard the source as being Twitter one more time. Sadly based on reports from other outlets it sounded like they were not the only ones manning the keyboard and monitor in favor of good old fashioned hitting the smart phone.
Is this were we are headed? The main source will be limited to 140 characters? It sure feels that way, and what a shame. Twitter is a nice ancillary tool, but if it becomes to the go to source for information then the dumbing down of America, and in this case North America, just got accelerated.
Today I wasted ten minutes that I know I am going to want back on my death bed listening to hockey journalists discuss a tweet from a fake Nick Kypreos Twitter account. What a perfect punctuation to a perfectly disappointing NHL Trade Deadline.
What added to my feeling of malaise in regard to today is that I no longer have a horse in this race. I really need to get on picking that new team to follow. Without some to root for, even in a much paler version love and attention that I gave the Blue & Gold, there is no dreaming. And without a dream, deadline day is just not the same.