Monday, June 15, 2009

Hockey Hockey Hockey

Entirely satisfying end to an excellent playoff year for the NHL, right down to the tradional shower of jeers raining down on Bettman and the whole mess in Phoenix which overshadowed everything, showing once again that the NHL cannot get anything right. Hockey is like Canada – its absolutely brilliant in spite of the people in charge. That’s not a jab at those presently in power, by the way; arrogance, dishonesty and sheer incompetence paint broad swaths across all party lines. And right into the offices of the NHL.

I called a Wings’ victory with the caveat that if Datsyuk or Lidstrom missed any significant parts of the series that the Pens might pull it off. (Who’s playing politics now?) Of course everyone is banged up by this point but Datsyuk really only had one game where he looked like Datsyuk and that likely cost the Wings the series. Zetterberg had to take more on and he wore down and Hossa missed his centreman and so it went.

No wonder Babcock groused about the short turnaround. The road through the Western Conference obviously took its toll on his club and while this series went the distance keep in mind that the Pens had awful puck luck in the first two games on top of everything. It might have been over pretty quickly.

For me the most enjoyable part of the whole ride is the final chapter when you see guys explode in joy as they raise the Cup and for sure the Pens had the better stories there. The Wings have all done it before with the exception of Hossa and a couple of kids but for the Pens it was nearly entirely new. And so a long list of veterans got to lift the Cup for the first time. Sergei Gonchar, a wonderful defenceman, who played through a badly injured knee and, in a sweet moment, reflected on the victory in the dressing room, alone but for his young daughter. The towering Hal Gill and his partner Rob Scuderi who held the fort in the final minute. Miro Satan, who must be a gigantic pussy considering how his teammates marvelled again and again at how he, wait for it, blocked a shot. The classy veterans Phillipe Boucher and Pascal Dupuis. The not so classy Matt Cooke. Mathieu Garon, rescued from a disaster in Edmonton. And two guys who have won it before, both former Oilers – Bill Guerin, picking up his second Cup 15 years after his first, and the wholly engaging Petr Sykora.

Great stuff, although I preferred it far more when the players actually skated around the rink then this ridiculous skate for ten feet and back set up.

Who would you rather be, Sidney Crosby or Eugene Malkin? An amazing moment to me was a shot of the Pens’ dressing room – Crosby being followed by a mob of reporters and cameras, Malkin sidestepping the rush and wandering, by himself, to the near end of the room. Gonchar wanders by, also unmolested by any media.

I think I’d prefer to be Malkin, even though it would mean trading in my handsome mug for that ogre face.

One has to like the Pens’ chances to return to the big stage a few times in the future. With their strength up the middle (so much for trading Staal I guess L ), a solid and relatively cheap blue, a quality young goalie and the ability to plug in cheap veterans on one year deals or from the trade deadline to fill out the roster and augment their younger muckers – the hero Talbot, the quality runt Kennedy and the versitile Adams – its hard to bet against a club that has come out of their conference two straight years and has nearly every important piece signed for the near future, at least.

As for the Wings, probably best not to bet against them yet. Their depth will take a hit this summer but I would bet that they find a way to sign Hossa. Guys like Stuart (man was he awful), Holmstrom, Samuelsson, Chelios and Maltby will be dumped and replaced by some of those prize kids and Hudler may also be moved as well. Shedding vets isn’t a good way to move forward but Lidstrom is not going to be around forever and this club has to figure out a way back to the top of the mountain. A little youthful enthusiasm, provided the kids can play, probably would help.

Plus they should probably dump Ty Conklin – your man has a little black cloud hovering over him.


What, if anything, can the Oilers learn from this year’s finallists?

Well first of all there is no substitute for good quality veterans who can play the game. The Pens especially had a long list of guys, most of them not making a ton of money, who could make the smart play, be hard on the puck, be relied on to get in front of the shot, be on the right side of their man, not make the rookie mistake. Crosby goes down and while Malkin and Staal took the brunt of it you could also see Adams and Talbot and Dupuis step up. Guys like Kunitz and Guerin didn’t score a lot but they kept the puck moving in the right direction against Zetterberg and his wingers. Fedotenko, who will be available again this summer if the Pens do not sign him, provided solid allround play.

And having said that you still need the kids – both of these clubs are loaded with homegrown players, drafted and developed. Lord knows I’ve raved enough about the Wings but the Pens have their kids too besides the big boys.

The Oilers have a long way to go though, that’s the sad thing. They have no goaltending, holes aplenty up front and far too many big contracts that give them not enough bang for their buck. Compare that situation to Pittsburgh and Detroit and ask yourself how it gets to that point. Not every team has a Crosby and a Malkin, sure, but there is no excuse for spending to the cap and not even making the playoffs.

Lowe's legacy is truly a poor one.
Edit - note the link to The Hockey Symposium on the right - Speeds always does terrific stuff and is a must read heading into the draft. Enjoy!


spOILer said...

Sheesh. Seemed like Stuart was on the ice for every goal against. Fedotenko had some real quality shifts in the final 7 games.

Lidstrom... is there anyone else you'd rather have taking the shot from point blank with seconds left? Maybe Niedermayer, but that's about it now that Bourque is retired. And Fleury saves it with his face, with bodies hitting the ice all around. That to me was the Finals in a nutshell.

I think you might have seen more around the rink tours if they had won at home, Pat.

That was the best playoffs from start to finish, I have watched for awhile. Nearly every series in the first two rounds was quality. OV's magic. The toughness of the Ducks. The surprise of the Canes over the Bruins. The New Hawks in their conference final debut. So many 7 game series, so many OTs. And the Finals had everything a guy could ask for (actually I was asking for triple OT in Game 7, but hey...).

Black Dog said...

Agreed, start to finish it was a terrific playoffs.

The whole short tour thing started a few years back though. I don't think it has anything to do with being home or away. I'm sure the Ducks did it and they won at home and I'm pretty sure the Canes did it too although I've blanked that one out pretty much.

I'm sure its for the media - keep everyone herded together in a tight area - but I liked when they did the laps, wherever they won it.

Brad said...

They couldn't do the lap - there were more GD people on the ice than in the stands about 7 minutes after the game ended.
I blame Bettman fully for this. Even if you win the cup as the Visitor, surely it's worth a trip around. I didn't even bother to see who won MVP. When they weren't skating with the cup, away I went.