Wednesday, May 14, 2014
I'm not one to have regrets or to think that the good old days were the greatest days because these days are quite excellent thank you very much but when we came back to Toronto something had stirred me, maybe it was just the beauty of the day but I thought back to when I was a young man and how each summer day was glory, I'd work outside all day for good money and then the evenings and weekends laid out before me, no cares, no obligations, no aches or burdens, just a young man getting his drink on, all small but wiry grinning endless libido.
Was in New York a few weeks ago and found a little joint around the corner from the tiny apartment we were staying in on the Lower East Side, Molly's was the name, an old Irish saloon with banged up tables and sawdust on the floor. I walked in one morning at 11 while Jenn was out running and our traveling companions slept in and I sat at the bar and ordered a Murphys and then I ordered another and one of the best burgers I have ever had and then as I prepared to settle up your man brought me a third pint on the house to apologize for how the new equipment they had just adjusted had meant that my pints had poured slower than what was acceptable whatever that meant but a free pint is a free pint. The upshot was that just past noon I was three pints in and enjoying a sunny day walking through Manhattan with that easy beer buzz haze that envelops you when you're day drinking. Nice and steady drinking all day, first at another pub for a pint a while later than to Jimmy's in midtown, an old school New York dive bar pointed to me on Twitter, a good old long grungy place with a jukebox, an ancient bartender and four dollar pints of Sam Adams (!) with the Blackhawks and Blues on a little TV in the corner while Jenn and the girls shopped. Seabrook knocked out Backes and the Blues scored with seconds left and then it was off to another pub for dinner and then a cab back down to where we were staying and then pint after pint in pub after pub, never getting too carried away but oh it was a fine time.
Highly recommend Jimmy's. Total dive but not in a stabby way. Go and thank me later.
So it may have been the recent memory of that or the coming of summer or both but I thought of those days quite a bit the other day and then last night one of my old running mates from those days called me out of the blue and we're out for drinks in a few weeks from now.
Should be good, it should be very good.
As round two winds up a few thoughts, for a while there it looked like the entire general consensus might be turned upside down. With Chicago and the Rangers through it looks like the final four may still be what we expected it to be as long as the Bruins and Kings hold up their end of the bargain but of course this remains to be seen.
Someone on the HNIC broadcast last night said that the expectation was that the Pens would be back in the Final, I'm not sure who it was, either Millen or Galley I guess, I don't really pay much attention to who is talking much anymore as the commentary is generally very poor. This was certainly a case in point as nobody I know of other than a couple of old timer sports hacks called the Pens to go to the Final. Iffy goaltending and blueline, poor forward depth, some guy named Gibbons (?) playing on Crosby's wing. Oh yes it screams Stanley Cup contender. The Rangers screwed themselves on the schedule but they were superior at every position and once they got their legs it was going to take some awful luck for them not to move on.
Now talk in Pittsburgh is that heads are going to roll and Bylsma is probably the first to go which means that someone is going to end up with a really good coach and very soon. Shero is the guy who deserves to go, he's never been able to replicate the rosters he put together originally, a nice mix of kids and vets who could play surrounding his superstars. Like all champs the Pens' depth bled away but poor drafting meant there was no stream of replacements and Shero failed to pick up any cheap options at the deadline. Gaborik, Vanek, Hemsky, Cammellari, Moulson, the one thing that was available this deadline was top six talent and the asking price was cheap and still Crosby played game seven with just some guy on his wing. Not really excusable.
Crosby had one goal in thirteen games, same as a stretch Toews had last year despite playing with Marian Hossa for the most part but narratives say that somehow Sid lacks something and Toews is captain clutch but we've discussed this here, narrative run wild, the same playoff junk that proclaims Shawn Thornton is relevant. (Hint, he is not).
With all of that said Crosby is not one to make excuses but if you WATCH THE GAMES NERD it was obvious that he's not right. Malkin was terrifying, well at least if you were a Ranger fan or lived in a small Balkan village in the shadow of a dark forboding forest but Crosby, well Crosby was not Crosby (Crosby) and so when he says he was healthy methinks he's subscribing to that old timey hockey ethos - no excuses!
Hilariously for the Pens this may end up in a major overhaul when the reality is they need minor surgery, well at least everywhere but in net where Fleury was not abysmal but was below average again. Fleury always skates mostly because he has a cheerful grin but until they get rid of him (they can get better goaltending for a fraction of the cost) then they are probably not going anywhere, especially when the Rangers, the Bruins, the Habs, the Jackets, Tampa, Florida and on and on all have better options in net than Pittsburgh does.
As for the Rangers well I picked them to beat the Pens and we're getting to the point where we might wonder why not them? They have the goaltending and McDonaugh looks to be healthier and Staal is a bit more himself and they have the depth which to me is everything, its why they beat the Pens. Cam Thomson (RiversQ to us oldtimers) said today that while the West has to be considered the best still and the favourites in any matchup the reality is that with Lundqvist and Price or Rask being the remaining goalies standing after tonight any Eastern team will have a shot. I would bet the Rangers are hoping for the Habs tonight though they would never say so of course, I think they can beat the Habs. The Bruins on the other hand ....
The Habs have been lucky and Carey Price has been very good and the two together (Bruins have hit seven posts, Habs have hit one, thanks Jonathan Willis!) mean its game seven and of course anything can happen. My guess is the Bruins win it, they are the better team and they are at home and the refs are going to put the whistles away which works in Boston's favour but ... but ...
Its been a fantastic series, the best one this round, so entertaining. The teams hate each other's guts and the Bruins, well you may loathe them but they put on a good show with larger than life characters here there and everywhere and of course the Habs have PK Subban who is pushing up the ranks of my favourite players. Hossa and Chara won't play forever after all and Subban, well, he could win this by himself. What a fantastic player. Unreal.
I figured the Bruins out of the east all the way, same as nearly everyone else, so its not like I'm going out on a limb there but if they go down it really blows the tournament open. If I am a Bruins' fan I'm pretty happy with the kids on defence, they have been pretty good. If I'm a Bruins' fan then I'm worried because Chara is starting to look human. That breakaway Pacioretty scored on? He had him. He could have leaned into him or used his stick and instead he just stopped skating. To me that's a sign of a tired dude and last spring against Chicago we saw what happens when Chara gets tired. It gets ugly.
If the last few years, well, if hockey history has told us anything, its that to win the Cup you need a stud on the blue line and up the middle. The odd time you might sneak through without one or the other but there's a reason every team in the league is looking for a true number one centre and a thirty minute a night Dman. How do you think Randy Carlyle won a Cup anyhow? He had three of the latter, well close to it anyhow.
Dougie Hamilton might be a star, its early, but if Chara is crumbling then the Bruins window is closing and soon.
The Hawks were ... lucky. Yes, lucky. Well, Crawford was great is what happened but the Wild announced that they are coming and coming hard and wow the west never gets easier does it? Vancouver starts to fall off and here come Dallas and Minnesota and Colorado all rising, brimming with young talent. Wow are the Oilers ever fucked.
James Mirtle told me that the Wild had started the year as a possession team but injuries forced them into a bit of a more chip and chase style until recently. Bryzgalov was great and it was nice to see him have a good series, he's a bit of a weirdo but an endearing one. The Wild were fast as hell, they made a few Hawks look plodding and their depth actually exposed Chicago a few times. With Frolik, Bolland and Stallberg gone, Shaw out and Handzus losing whatever step he had suddenly Chicago didn't look like a four line team anymore as other than Ben Smith the replacements offered little help. What the hell happened to Kris Versteeg anyhow?
The problem for Chicago is that fact. Also Leddy is struggling and Roscival too, replaced by Brookbank. Every shift that guy takes I can see how the Blues need to revamp their offence. He was in the lineup three games and they couldn't beat Chicago? Seriously!
Anyhow with their depth getting pummeled the end result is the top four spent shift after shift defending and all of the offence falls on the big guys and at some point that is going to dry up probably. So they need Shaw to get back and be effective and Quenneville to figure out some sort of bottom six that can hold its own or there may be no repeat (although if I were a betting man I would still be betting on Chicago.)
And down the road? How does Bowman get Toews and Kane under contract without becoming the Pens? At least the Hawks can draft but what a challenge that is going to be.
I have little to say about the Ducks and Kings except its outstanding hockey and the Ducks have done a lot better than I expected. Mitchell being out hurts the Kings I think. And I have no idea what happened to Mike Richards. Done.
Its been close enough that the Kings winning the next two games would be no biggie but the Ducks, well it looks like they are for real after all. Speed man. Speed kills. Its a new game. Speed has always mattered of course but now so more than ever and players like Murray and his ilk are disappearing.
Posted by Black Dog at 3:56 PM