Archives for May 2013

Conference Finals Preview

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The battle for Lord Stanley’s cup resumes tomorrow night. It’s kind of amazing that the 4 teams that remain have all won the cup in the last 4 years. If you’re a fan of any of the teams that remain, you’re on a pretty good ride.

Boston vs Pittsburgh

These are the two teams that most of us were hoping would meet in the Eastern Conference Final. There’s a lot of bad blood between these teams. As a reminder, here are some of the reasons why:

  • Pittsburgh steals Jerome Iginla right from under the Boston Bruins at the trade deadline. We all thought Iginla was headed to Boston, as did Boston management.
  • Boston then made a trade to bring Jaromir Jagr, one of the most hated ex-Penguins, to Boston after the Iginla deal went south.
  • Ulf Samuelson ultimately ended Cam Neely’s career with a knee on knee check
  • Matt Cooke has appeared to have ended Marc Savard’s career with hit to the head.

This is a series that will feature a high-octane, up-tempo Pittsburgh squad against a very physical and aggressive Boston squad. On paper, this is going to be a great series. Both are coming off a semi-final series that was pretty much a piece of cake. Don’t expect this one to be.

If Pittsburgh is going to win this series, it’s going to be because of their speed and ability to score a lot. Malkin, Crosby, Kunitz, Neal, Iginla, Morrow and Dupuis give the Penguins A LOT of depth. Paul Martin has looked decent in the playoffs and the Kris Letang isn’t a Norris Trophy finalist by accident. Tough team to beat, especially since they are on a roll.

If Boston is going to win this series, they will do so because their 4 lines are going to wear down the Penguins. They come at you in many different ways and are relentless on the puck. The one thing we saw in the Rangers/Bruins series is that the Rangers defense NEVER got a rest because the Bruins had all 4 lines working. If they can do that against the Penguins, it could mean problems for the Penguins defense. While Vokoun was solid against the Senators (and the Islanders when he came in) I’m still not sold that the Penguins don’t have a goalie issue.

I don’t see this series being anything less than six games and I do think there will be some issues in goal for Pittsburgh (whether they are bad enough to make another change, I can’t predict) but I also believe that Pittsburgh’s quickness with the puck will keep Boston on its heels, much like Toronto did but the difference in this series is that Pittsburgh has a lot more skill than Toronto.

I pick Pittsburgh in 6 maybe even 7.

Chicago vs Los Angeles

The Blackhawks are coming off an emotional 7 game series against the Detroit Red Wings. Down 3-1 in the series, they battled back. The Kings are coming of a 7 game series against the San Jose Sharks but it wasn’t as emotional as the Hawks/Wings series.

The Hawks had an impressive regular season and pretty easy first round matchup against a very inexperienced Minnesota team but something is just missing for me when it comes to Chicago. They have a lot of depth but I haven’t felt that a lot of that depth is playing to its potential. Detroit wasn’t a very strong team on the blue line and the Hawks struggled against them.

If Chicago is going to win this series, then they are going to do so because they’ve figured out a way to solve Jonathan Quick (something that wasn’t done last year and so far this year.) Chicago has the depth to do it but Toews, Kane, Sharp and Hossa need to play like they did in the regular season.

If LA is going to win this series, they’ll do so by being great on the road and continuing to be great at home. Quick is no doubt the best player of the 4 remaining teams and as long as he continues to be that, LA will certainly have an advantage in this series.

I’m actually going to say that LA rolls right over the Hawks in this series. They are big, they are mean, they have excellent defense and goaltending and I see no reason why the Kings can’t win in 5 on their way to their second straight Stanley Cup Final.

Back From Vacation: Torts Out, Hawks Advance

So yeah, I spent a week in Disney World in the middle of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. I know, WHO DOES THAT RIGHT?? Well, I did but now I am back so let’s catch up on a lot of stuff. I did stay at the All-Star Movies resort and stayed in the Mighty Ducks rooms so I was close to hockey. Plus, I didn’t tune out from the playoffs, just the daily blogging of them.

Rangers Fire Tortorella – I completely agree with this move. Tortorella, during his tenure in NY seems to have been a Tortorella first guy and a team second guy. I never liked the way he conducted himself or seem to treat his players. Maybe it was different on the inside but from the outside it certainly appeared that he lost the respect of a player or two. Go back a few years ago and look at Sean Avery’s tenure. The whole league hated his bullshit but the Rangers always seemed to be a better team with him in the lineup because he got the other teams focused on his bullshit but Torts hated him and the room is split on whether or not maligning Sean Avery was the right thing to do. However, other names that you can add to the list that Torts alienated are: Wade Redden, Chris Drury, Scott Gomez, Brandon Dubinsky, Mats Zuccarello, Marion Gaborik,  Brad Richards, and even the untradeable Chris Kreider. It would appear that Henrik Lundqvist’s name may even be on that list.

Yes, Torts won a cup once but this shot blocking, rely on defense to grind out wins isn’t the style the New York Rangers play with. You have guys like Richards, Gaborik, Nash, Callahan, etc. and they finished 15th in scoring? In fact, the Rangers have never done better in that a 2.7% in Goals For under Tortorella. That’s not Rangers hockey, not a team that once had Messier, Graves, Leetch, Gretzky, and Duguay in their history.

I do believe it was Henrik Lundqvist that put the final nail in the Torts coffin. His exit interview made it sound like he was done with the Rangers and done with Torts. I also believe that if it wasn’t Lundqvist it was the Brad Richards healthy scratch that did him in. Despite his poor play, you don’t bench a former Conn Smythe winner in an elimination game. That does nothing but send the wrong message to your players.

The Rangers are FAR from a Stanley Cup contender in my opinion but firing Torts is a step in the right direction.

Chicago Blackhawks – That certainly was some series against the Red Wings. A fitting end to the Chicago/Detroit rivalry. Maybe one day we will get a Cup Final with these two but for now, the rivalry is done. I do believe that every cup winner needs a scare in the playoffs and if Chicago proves to be the cup winner, this series will have easily been that scare. It’s hard to believe that both Chicago let the series get to a 3-1 lead in favor of Detroit and Detroit failed to close out a 3-1 series lead but bravo to one great series. Had Chicago lost, I have no doubt in my mind that there would be another coach firing to talk about.

Los Angeles Kings – Right now are my favorite to win this…AGAIN. This team is rolling and playing some great hockey behind Jonathan Quick who might just be the best player in the playoffs…AGAIN. I wouldn’t be surprised to watch the Kings just roll over the Hawks on their way to the Finals. Having watched both series in Round 2, the Kings just seem like the better team.

That’s it for now. Sorry for the silence for the week but as I said in the beginning of this post, I was in Disney for a week and there wasn’t a lot of time to post about hockey!! I will be posting both the Eastern and Western Conference Final Previews tomorrow.

The Red Wings Continue To Surprise Us

I love playoff hockey and right now, the Detroit Red Wings are a prime example as to why I love it so much. When there were only a handful of regular season games remaining, you really couldn’t browse hockey web sites and forums without seeing the discussion about the possibility of the Red Wings playoff streak coming to an end. But then, this team went on a tear, winning their last 4 games of the regular season and outscoring their opponents 15-3 in those 4 games, which secured them a spot in the post-season. Streak still intact and now Detroit looking to turn some heads but no one really gave them a chance, yours truly included.

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In Case You Didn’t Tune In: Rangers v Bruins – Game 1

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Sometimes when you have kids that have their own sports activities, you don’t get to sit down and watch as many playoff hockey games as you would like but for Game 1 of the Rangers and Bruins, the kids were in bed, the wife was at a friend’s house putting the final touches on a school fair she’s helped organize, so that meant it was me, the TV and some playoff hockey.

This is the one series that I am just so unsure about. For this series, I expect low scoring games, huge hitting and grinding it out in the corners. Both the Rangers and Bruins play similar hockey so it should be a very entertaining series and one that expect to go long. Besides, its the Rangers, win or lose they don’t seem to know how to do that very quickly.

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Playoff Hockey = Raffi Torres Being an Idiot

Here we go again. Stop me if you heard this one because it’s a familiar story that I am getting tired of reading about. The NHL will be having a disciplinary hearing with Raffi Torres.

Seriously?? Again!!!

In case you missed it, As LA Kings Forward Jarret Stoll is playing the puck, Torres decides to put a hit on Stoll. That hit, that decision was Torres impacting Stoll in the side of his head and shoulder simultaneously.

So is it a dirty hit? Well, if I look back to the last round of the playoffs and the NHL decided that the Eric Gryba hit on Lars Eller was illegal, then this one has to be as well. I’d say 4 or 5 games for Raffi Torres because he’s a repeat offender. I’m just tired of it. What’s this, the third year in a row that Torres is making a questionable hit in the playoffs? Seabrook in 11, Hossa in 12 and now Stoll in 13? At what point do they just tell this clown to go away? Is the hit 100% dirty? No, it isn’t but Stoll was in a vulnerable position and Torres took advantage of it once again and makes contact with the head. He doesn’t learn from his past. He said he had learned when trying to get a reduction in his suspension for the hit on Hossa last year but clearly he doesn’t get it.

Jarret Stoll didn’t return for the third period due to “upper body issues” which is a playoff hockey term for “hurt my brain.”

Penguins-Senators Series Preview

Near the end of the regular season, it looked like the Senators were going to plummet all the way into the 8th spot so this was a matchup I thought we’d be seeing in the first round. They stopped at 7 but never-the-less, we get the match up in the second round.

I don’t really know if Ottawa was impressive in the first round of if the Canadiens just fizzled. I’ll go with my gut feeling and that feeling is that none of the teams in the Eastern Conference thrilled me through the first round so I guess Montreal just fizzled. Pittsburgh made a lot of mistakes against the Islanders and the Senators are a well-coached team.(Shouldn’t Paul MacLean be a slam dunk for the Jack Adams Award?) If Pittsburgh continues to make those mistakes in this round, the Senators might just eat them up. MIGHT!!!

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Sharks-Kings Series Preview

This is the series I am most looking forward to. These don’t appear to be the San Jose Sharks we are used to. By that I mean it’s no longer a team that hinges on the success of Joe Thorton and Patrick Marleau. Sure, they still play an important role on this team but I look at the Sharks as a team that now belongs to Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture. The Sharks easily handled the Vancouver Canucks in round one and head into the Conference Semi-Finals a well-rested and confident bunch.

Let’s not give the Sharks $200 for passing “Go” just yet. These are the Kings, the king of all Kings if you will, the defending Stanley Cup Champion. Throw out the first two games against the Blues in the first round and you could say the Kings handled the Blues pretty easily as well. After a little bump in the road to get things started, the Kings rattled off 4 straight wins to send St. Louis home….again.

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Hawks-Wings Series Preview

This is a match up that very few saw happening a few weeks ago but a very welcomed match up since the upcoming re-alignment will put an end to this rivalry. Let’s be honest for a moment, this isn’t the deepest or most talented team or even the most experience team that Detroit has put on the ice over the last 20+ years but the growth that they’ve shown over the last month has been very impressive.

Just a few short weeks ago, the Red Wings were being inserted into the conversation about the draft lottery, not about making a run in the playoffs. Yet here they are, one of the final 8 teams to remain in the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs and they are coming off an impressive series win against the #2 Anaheim Ducks. They’ve managed to go further into the playoffs than the 2012 Red Wings, a team that put together a league record 23 game home winning streak. The Red Wings have come a long way but now, they face an enormous task, the rival Chicago Blackhawks.

It’s no surprise that the President’s Trophy winning Chicago Blackhawks are still around. They are a team loaded with guys that know how to score, defensemen that know how to minimize the opposition’s opportunities and a goalie that cleans up after those rare mistakes are made.

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The Rebirth of 2MA

“Back like Jordan, wearin’ the 4-5”

Yes, I know, that’s a basketball reference and this is a hockey blog but I couldn’t come up with an NHL player that fit that line. Plenty of guys have left the NHL for a bit and returned but I couldn’t think of one that returned to the game wearing a different number and was as dominate to the NHL as Michael Jordon was to the NBA. Somehow, “Back like Mario wearin’ the 6-6” didn’t convey the right message. I guess I could have referenced a Phoenix rising from the ashes but the words “Phoenix” and “hockey” don’t seem to go well together.

So what is this all about? This is the return of 2ManAdvantage.com … sort of. Once upon a time for a very brief amount of time, I was pegged by Patty to help write on this site. Of course real life got in the way then and I couldn’t find the right balance between life, a job, a family and a blog. Since that time, I’ve learned how to juggle everything so I sent the powers that be a message and said I wanted to revive 2MA but changes were going to be made as well.

I’m a Devils fan before anything but I am also a hockey fan so while 2MA might still focus on the Devils at times, it’s really going to turn into a general hockey blog. I have a lot of ideas in the hopper that will hopefully come to life over the next few months. Sadly, I didn’t get to revive this blog in time for the 1st round of the NHL playoffs but there is still plenty of hockey to be played which means there will be plenty of hockey to talk about, which is what I will be doing right here.

Hopefully you will come back regularly because 2MA, while serving up some different content than what has been done in the past, will be talking about hockey on a regular basis.