Eye of the Hurricane

May 2, 2011

NHL Thinking of Retooling Playoffs?

Filed under: Uncategorized — eadeutsch @ 3:48 pm
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The National Hockey League has been attempting to re-brand itself and acquire a larger American audience ever since the lockout that saw the cancellation of the 2004-2005 NHL season.  When the league became active the next season, fans saw a number of changes that were meant to increase scoring and excitement in a league that was criticized for lacking in those departments in the years prior to the lockout.  No longer was the “two-line offside pass” rule enforced, there was a limited trapezoidal area behind each net that was the only location behind the goal that a goaltender could roam with the puck, and the fan favorite overtime shootout became a staple of the league

Still looking for excitement, the league has never been one to shun a suggestion, and this season’s All-Star Game was a perfect example of this.  The teams were split with captains–Eric Staal and Nicklas Lidstrom–picking their own teams in a Fantasy-draft style.  The NHL deemed this a success and we can count on seeing this next year, although probably tweaked.

The playoff system is one of my least favorite things about the NHL.  The two conferences are seeded just like basketball, 1-8, with the top three seeds going to the division leaders.  But instead of a simple bracket format throughout the conference playoffs, the teams are re-seeded after the first round to guarantee the greatest advantage to the top-seeded team, and make the road to the finals as challenging as possible for the lowest-seeded team.  So if the eighth-seeded team won an upset in the first round, they would go on to play the best remaining team in the second round.

Now, however, the NHL may be considering a static bracket format like basketball or the NCAA where the teams will play the winner of another series no matter what.  I like this idea, and I don’t know why it hasn’t been initiated since the lockout.

But as I said, the NHL is not going to ignore an idea–no matter how outlandish it may seem at first–and it is considering a 1-16 bracket that will include match-ups determined by conference standings.  The top eight teams from each conference would advance to the playoffs, but they would be matched up with a corresponding team–determined by regular season points–that will not necessarily be from their own conference.  It would be possible, then, for teams from the same conference to play each other in the Stanley Cup Finals.

As much as I don’t like this idea (travel would be strenuous and costly, bad match-ups between teams with no history would be costly in terms of fan excitement in the opening rounds), it might be a win for the NHL, who after all is looking out for its best interests.

No offense to my friends who root for the Marlins, but you can bet your house that the front office of Major League Baseball enjoyed the viewership and earnings from the epic seven-game ALCS between the Yankees and Red Sox more than they did the world series.

Likewise, the NHL commissioner and owners might enjoy a Capitals-Penguins Stanley Cup or a Red Wings-Canucks matchup.  The integrity of the NHL may be at stake, but in the meantime, several of the league’s franchises are threatened by financial struggles, and this might be just one way to increase viewership at a time that the NHL is desperately trying to stay relevant.

In the meantime, enjoy the Stanley Cup playoffs as they are.  The Capitals and Red Wings, both down 0-2, are fighting for their lives, while the Predators are attempting to stun the top-seeded Canucks in a series that’s tied 1-1.  The Bruins, up 1-0 in their series against the Flyers, host Philadelphia tonight.

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April 26, 2011

Tonight’s NHL Games

Filed under: Uncategorized — eadeutsch @ 4:44 pm
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This evening’s NHL playoff games are a smörgåsbord of thrilling match-ups featuring desperate teams from both conferences.

At 7:00, the Bruins visit the Canadiens.  The Bruins lead the series 3-2 and will look to close out the series in Montreal.  These teams genuinely dislike each other, and the series has been one of the tightest in this entertaining opening round.  The Canadiens bested the Bruins 4-2 in the regular season series, and hope to win two straight to oust their Northeast Division rivals.  I tend to favor the home team in tighter match-ups, particularly in this case because Montreal fans may be the most vocal in the league.

At 7:30, on Versus, the first of two game sevens will begin.  The Buffalo Sabres visit Philadelphia to see who will advance to the conference semifinals.  The last two games have gone to overtime, with the visiting team winning both times.  Brian Boucher is expected to start tonight for the Flyers, whose goaltending has revealed a significant weakness in the team.  Ryan Miller, on the other hand, has been consistently solid in net.  Tonight’s game will promise to be entertaining, and I would not be surprised to see the visiting team win tonight’s game.  Consider this: the visiting team has been 8-2 in NHL game sevens since 2009.

The other game seven tonight will feature the Blackhawks and the Canucks.  If Chicago wins, they will complete a historic comeback as the fourth team in NHL history to fight back from a 0-3 series deficit to win a seven game series.  The eighth-seeded Blackhawks are led by young players who have plenty of playoff experience (they won the Stanley Cup last season), and the top-seeded Canucks are led by the Swedish Sedin twins.  Once again, tonight’s game will most likely come down to goaltending.  Roberto Luongo has been struggling in this series, and Corey Crawford of the Blackhawks cannot afford to make mistakes tonight.  It would be exciting to see a Blackhawks victory tonight, and they would be a troubling match-up for any team going forward in the playoffs.

April 25, 2011

Blackhawks force Game 7

Filed under: Uncategorized — eadeutsch @ 8:33 pm
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Michael Frolik beats Cory Schneider on a penalty shot in the third period

The 2010 Bruins were up 3-0 in last year’s conference semifinals against the Philadelphia Flyers.  Then

the nightmare: four unanswered Flyers’ wins for the Philadelphia team that ultimately found itself in the Stanley Cup finals.

The team the Flyers lost to?  The Chicago Blackhawks, who found themselves in the same predicament as the Flyers in their opening series against the top-seeded team in the West, and the points leading team in the NHL, the Vancouver Canucks.

After Sunday’s dramatic overtime win in Chicago, the Blackhawks and Canucks will return to Vancouver on Tuesday night for a surprise game seven.

Corey Crawford had 32 saves for the Blackhawks

Sunday’s hero was Ben Smith, the 22-year old rookie who attended Boston College.  Smith’s overtime

winner was his third goal of the playoffs and sealed the Blackhawks 4-3 victory.

Roberto Luongo did not start game six due to struggling in the last few games, but replaced Cory Schneider in the third period and did not allow a goal until 15 minutes into the overtime period.

Chicago’s Michael Frolik tied the game at three in the third period on a penalty shot.  The Blackhawks only registered three shots in the third period.

Play was physical in Sunday's game

The overtime period was played at a frantic pace, with Vancouver taking 12 shots and Chicago shooting 11 times–more than their totals from any individual period in regulation.

Daniel Sedin had his fifth goal of the series, but his effort has not been enough to seal the series for the West’s top team.

Will the Blackhawks be the fourth team in NHL history to win a series after being down 0-3?  We’ll find out tomorrow night at 10pm on Versus.

[images:ESPN]

April 20, 2011

Post-Dodgers Takeover: A Look at League Owned Franchises

Following Bud Selig’s announcement that the MLB will take over day-to-day operations of the LA Dodgers, I decided to take a look at the owners of various teams in the four major professional sports leagues. After scrolling through a list of NBA, NFL, NHL, and MLB teams the only other teams currently owned by the leagues themselves are the New Orleans Hornets and the Phoenix Coyotes.

The Hornets previous owners, Gary Chouest and George Shinn, supposedly had an arrangement planned where Chouest would buy out Shinn’s contract and become sole owner. However, the deal fell through and when finances became a question, the NBA bought out the team in December 2010.

The Coyotes situation is a bit more difficult. The NHL took over for the Coyotes approximately two years ago when the team went bankrupt under former owner Jerry Moyes. Since then, various parties expressed interest in owning the franchise. Each time, talks fell through. The NHL fought in the interest of Glendale, Arizona, home of the Jobing.com Arena.

But now it’s becoming a bigger question of what actually is better for the city: Would keeping the Coyotes be economically viable? Or, with new giveback fees acting as terms of keeping the team in Glendale, is it becoming too much of a hassle? Here’s a good read where ESPN columnist Scott Burnside tries to sort through all the financial and now political woes battling the city of Glendale.

Other times that pro sports leagues seized ownership of its teams were the MLB with the Washington Nationals (2002-06) and the NHL with the Buffalo Sabres (2002-03) and Pittsburgh Penguins (1975).

Western Playoffs Get Interesting

Filed under: Uncategorized — eadeutsch @ 12:53 pm
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The Canucks, who had been feasting on opportunities against the Blackhawks, failed to complete the sweep against the defending Stanley Cup Champions last night and were routed in Chicago 7-2.

Roberto Luongo wasn't himself on Tuesday night

Roberto Luongo, one of the best goaltenders in the league, was embarrassed at the United Center and let in six goals of the 28 shots he faced in just over two periods of play.  Cory Schneider took over in net for the Canucks and allowed one goal in the seven shots he faced.  Vancouver would love never to see him again, and instead rely on Luongo to be consistently solid throughout the playoffs.

Corey Crawford for the Blackhawks played well enough, making 21 saves in the win.

The game was tied 1-1 going into the second period, when Brian Campbell and Duncan Keith scored within 17 seconds of each other to give the Blackhawks a 3-1 lead.  After four more consecutive goals for Chicago, and dozens of penalty minutes handed out to the frustrated teams in the third period, the game was beyond over.

Tuesday's game featured six game misconducts

The Canucks are up 3-1 in the series and the series returns to Vancouver on Thursday for Game 5.  If the Blackhawks show up with as much fire as they did on Tuesday, the series could become a fight until the end.  The Canucks, however, remain the Stanley Cup favorites after running away with the Presidents’ Cup this regular season.

Meanwhile, the Sharks scored five goals in the second period to overcome a 4-0 deficit, and ultimately beat the Los Angeles Kings in overtime on a goal by Devin Setoguchi.  The Sharks now lead this closely fought series 2-1.  Both of the Sharks’ wins have been in overtime games, and being able to grind out wins is important in the playoffs.

The Sharks’ Antti Niemi was pulled after the first period in which he made only six saves out of the ten shots he faced.  Antero Niittymaki finished the game allowing one goal the rest of the way.  Los Angeles’ goalie, Jonathan Quick, had an uncharacteristic game in which he allowed all six of the Sharks’ goals, and was never replaced.  The coach must be second-guessed about the decision to leave Quick in the game–although he did have a perfect third period.  The series continues Thursday night at Staples Center.

Meanwhile, the Ducks play the Predators in Nashville tonight.  The Predators currently lead the series 2-1 and are looking to wrap up the opening round at home.  The Predators’ Mike Fisher has been the key to their success thus far.

The Red Wings will attempt to close out their own series against the Coyotes tonight in Phoenix.  The usual suspects of Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen, Nicklas Lidstrom, and goalie Jimmy Howard, will present a challenge to any challenger going forward.  Expect the sweep tonight.

NHL and NBC Renew Deal

Filed under: Uncategorized — eadeutsch @ 12:26 pm
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The National Hockey League is surely breathing a sigh of relief this afternoon, after a press conference was held in which NBC and the league signed a contract that extended their exclusive network coverage through the 2020-2021 season.

This agreement, unprecedented in the NHL, reflects on the above-expected viewership of the opening playoff games that have aired both on Versus–which will remain the NHL’s exclusive cable carrier during the agreed time–and on NBC.

Viewers will be seeing more of this logo over the next decade.

Also included in the deal is a stipulation that NBC will carry 100 regular-season games beginning next season.  They only carried around four-dozen this year.

This is good news for the league and hopefully the NHL is able to thrive and breathe easier knowing that it has an assured spot on a big network.

February 26, 2011

Another Panthers Captain Gone

Filed under: Uncategorized — eadeutsch @ 10:36 pm
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With the trade of Brian McCabe to the New York Rangers for Tim Kennedy and a third-round pick, the Panthers more or less officially give up on another season and go into sale mode.

More significant than this trade is what it continues to symbolize, which is an organization that does not value the players it anoints with the emblematic “C” on the jersey.

Here is a list of every Florida Panther Captain and their fate:

  • Brian Skrudland, the team’s first Captain, was released in 1997.
  • Scott Mellanby was traded to the St. Louis Blues in 2001.
  • Pavel Bure was traded to the New York Rangers in 2002.
  • Olli Jokinen–the longest tenured captain–was traded to Phoenix in 2008.
  • Brian McCabe traded to the New York Rangers in 2011.

Tim Kennedy has now been with three teams in less than a year.  He was with the Rangers’ minor league team this season.

The Panthers sit in twelfth place in the Eastern Conference, eight points beneath eighth place Carolina, and with the loss of a major defensive force and the team’s leader, Florida can count another season of irrelevance.  They have not been in the playoffs since the 1999-2000 season.

February 14, 2011

Fighting in Hockey

Filed under: Uncategorized — eadeutsch @ 6:31 pm
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On the heels of the Friday night Islanders-Penguins game which ended in almost 350 penalty minutes, suspensions, and fines, there are renewed questions on the place of fighting in hockey.

Here is the (lengthy) video compiling the night’s events.


Mario Lemieux, the GM of the Pittsburgh Penguins, came out with an emotional and poignant response.

What does everybody think about fighting in hockey? Does it have a place in the game? Do harsher penalties need to occur after fights or specific occurrences? How does the NHL balance player safety with aggression and tradition?

May 6, 2010

Boys of summer

Dodger Stadium // Photo by Christina De Nicola

As the semester comes to a close and I type this final blog post, I sit back and wonder where all the time has gone.

Did “Lost” steal it for its impending finale?

Did LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers take it to reach ever closer toward a championship for a city that needs it?

Did the exhilarating NHL playoffs decide that three periods wasn’t enough and that the new unwritten rule was overtime all the time?

Whether any of the above suspects actually come clean, there’s one thing for certain: When basketball and hockey are done and football is still a few months away, baseball will be the only source of entertainment aside from blockbuster summer movies.

There won’t be favorite TV shows every Tuesday and Thursday until the fall (that is, until “Mad Men” starts up again).

But it also means embracing the Tampa Bay Rays for their amazing start.

Or Roy Halladay for his dominance. Dontrelle Willis for his rebirth.

Many story lines will develop over the hot and humid months to catch the attention of both the fans and media.

The boys of summer are back, and I can’t wait to see what real drama and action they bring.