Carolina Hurricanes

NHL butt-head delivers a head-butt

If you thought that head-butts were exclusive to WWE murdering psychopaths, idiotic foreign kids, Zinedine Zidane and tiny jockeys then you are sorely mistaken. Of course, you’re not as sore as Mike Fisher is after he took a few fists and a forehead to the face from the Hurricanes Scott Walker.

Nice technique. Walker must have been taking lessons from this guy.


[SLAM! Sports]: Canes’ head-butt `cheap’
[James Mirtle]: Walker’s headbutt

NHL General

Wrapping up the Stanley Cup

I’m not even going to discuss this game, because it was never in doubt. Honestly, these Cup Finals were pretty much never in doubt – once Buffalo got eliminated, I thought it was pretty much over; the Sabres had the best chance of rolling with these Ducks.

Here’s two things of a broader societal sports trend nature I’d like to bring up:

1. Southern California is, indeed, hot right now: Consider some examples. USC football – sure, they lost to UCLA last year and doomed their national title shot, but hell, they’ve been the best team in college sports the past half-decade (with 1, maybe 2, national titles). The Angels won it all in 2002, and are arguably the best team in the AL right now. The Lakers won three straight titles, and are probably 1 legitimate point guard away from being able to get back to the Western Finals at least. The Dodgers might be a sleeper candidate for the World Series. And hell, even the Clippers have a bunch of talent. Oh – don’t forget about USC (O.J. Mayo!) and UCLA hoops, and UCLA football. And now, the Ducks. Pardon the pun, but that area’s Cup runneth over.

2. The NHL needs to intervene; You have to figure Buffalo is knocking on the door, i.e. they might finally win a Cup next year. Pittsburgh, with Crosby and Malkin, isn’t far off. Anaheim will stay good. Detroit always has dudes, and I have to guess Colorado will rebuild as well. What do all these teams have in common? They don’t play in Canada. The last north of the border team to raise Lord Stanley happened in 1992-1993, which was almost a decade and a half ago. Bettman needs to do something completely illegal, and move Crosby to the Canadiens on some “home draft” principle he creates out of thin air, just to keep this sport moving in the right direction. If the Canucks (the people, not the team) get turned off on hockey because they keep getting trounced on its grandest stage, well, the sport is utterly doomed. I mean, your last three champions are now from SoCal (beach), North Carolina (college hoops and tobacco), Tampa Bay (slutty co-eds mingling around huge pirate ships), and New Jersey (industrial waste). I see nothing about snow and French-speaking people in there, do I?

One positive from all this: Pronger, Selanne, and Giguere now will have their name etched on the trophy. They all deserve it. Pronger has probably been the best defenseman in hockey since Scott Stevens; Selanne has been around forever and done some amazing things with the puck at the end of his stick; and Giguere is probably the best goalie in hockey at this moment, all things considered. I’m happy for all them.

That concludes our Stanley Cup series over at Sportscolumn. Give me a visit or a shout anytime at A Price Above Bip Roberts. I’ll be back here from time to time, but be sure to visit. I get lonely, and that’s not a good thing.

NHL General

2007 Stanley Cup Finals Game 4 Recap

Ducks 3, Senators 2
The central issue of this game going into it was the Chris Pronger suspension. For the second time this postseason, though, the Ducks won a game without their defensive leader. They now lead the series 3-1, with Game 5 slated for Wednesday night on the Pond (that’s Anaheim, although it’s really called “The Honda Center” now – damn corporate sponsorship).

It’d be easy to discuss the ramifications of the Pronger suspension, but the fact is: it didn’t matter. When you’ve got Jiggy between the pipes, I don’t care if you’ve got two acne-riddled teenagers who weigh 100 pounds soaking wet in front of him. If he’s in the zone, ain’t nothing gonna light the light.

It would also be easy to discuss Dustin Penner, who scored what ultimately proved to be the game-winner, but again, that’s just too easy.

The true story of this game was Andy McDonald. McDonald is the Ducks center, and he’s entirely too small to be playing that role in any type of competitive playoff series. If this dude was staring down Scott Stevens, Stevens might just start cackling. But there he was last night (McDonald, not Stevens – I need to work on my modifiers), deking and out-thinking cockroach-eating Ray Emery en route to two goals in the 2nd period. Once you give Giguere that kind of support, you’re winning the game. McDonald might be the Ducks’ Daniel Gibson for these playoffs, which is to say Dustin Penner might be Daniel Gibson, Giguere might be LeBron, Chris Pronger might be Z, and McDonald might be Larry Hughes. Heck, I’m just trying to make it relevant to a broader audience.

[Ted Bauer will be covering the NHL playoffs for us this year. You can find more of Ted’s work at A Price Above Bip Roberts.]

NHL General

2007 Stanley Cup Finals Game 1 Review

Ducks 1, Senators 0
To be perfectly honest, I didn’t actually watch this game, because I was at a coffee bar in Hartford, CT trying to pick up some foxy ladies. It’s a good thing, too – not that I failed miserably in trying to get girls (that’s bad), but that I didn’t watch it – because me, not being a hockey purist, probably wouldn’t have appreciated this see-saw battle.

The only goal came from Samuel Pahlsson, interesting in the sense that Sami’s main role in this series was supposed to be checking the hell out of good, scoring-centric Sens players. Now, for two consecutive games – that being 1 and 2, for those of you in the know – an Anaheim player mostly responsible for checking (Travis Moen in Game 1) has scored the essential goal for the Ducks, in the process giving them a 2-0 advantage and helping them to retain home ice advantage.

As we said earlier, no Canadian team has actually hoisted Lord Stanley’s chalice since 1992, when the Montreal Canadiens did it. That’s 15 years, which seems like an egregiously long period of time considering that Canada is probably the No. 1 thing you associate with hockey, at least in a geographic sense. For the Sens to make this interesting, here’s what has to happen:

1. Emery has to enter complete lockdown mode, like Giguere was in last night. No mental mistakes.

2. Their first line – Heatley, Alfredsson, and Spezza – has to start lighting the red light frequently.

3. They have to take the Ducks checking lines and let them hit ’em, but don’t let those guys get open looks at the net.

4. They have to somehow imagine the Ducks are, in fact, the Buffalo Sabres.

Brett Hull predicted this series would be over in five games. One win in Ottawa, and I’ll go with him. Every Cup Finals since ’01 with just one exception has gone seven games. I’d love to see this one join it, so long as we can get a few 5-4, 2OT finals in there as well.

NHL General

2007 Stanley Cup Finals Game 1 Review

Ducks 3, Senators 2
In many respects, the key to the 2007 Stanley Cup Finals is probably going to be Anaheim’s checking line. See, if and when they match up with Ottawa’s first line – easily the best line in this entire series, with no disrespect to Anaheim intended – they need to hold their own against the Alfredsson, Heatley, Spezza dynamic, because those boys can go off at any time.

It was interesting, then, that Anaheim’s checking line did play a key role in Game 1, but not – ahem – for checking. Rather, Travis Moen of that line scored the game-winner to help the Ducks hold home-ice advantage after a hot Senators start (they scored maybe 1 minute into the game, immediately followed by a Versus interview of Cuba Gooding Jr in the stands, a guy who knows way more about hockey than you might assume).

Moen’s Wikipedia page makes a big deal for no apparent reason (read: the editor is from Calgary) over the fact that he was drafted by the Flames, but never played for them. The Flames can’t be happy. Maybe if they had Moen in ’04, they woulda been able to win one of those close games in the Finals against the Lightning, and the Red Mile would still be celebrating.

For now, though, “Quack Attack” or whatever the bars in Anaheim call themselves when people get sloppy and celebrate the Ducks, is rolling. Game 2 could be more of the same: if Giguere stays his sharp self, Pronger and Niedermayer get even more uncorked and just go around nailing people, and Ray Emery has a couple of mental mis-steps on the Canadian side, well… it could be 2-0 series wise pretty quickly. The last time a team from north of Michigan hoisted the Lord’s goblet was 1992 and the Montreal Canadiens. C’mon, Ottawa. Get after this. (Also, since the NBA playoffs have been yawn-inducing, we need this puppy to go 7, and then 3OT).

[Ted Bauer will be covering the NHL playoffs for us this year. You can find more of Ted’s work at A Price Above Bip Roberts.]

Anaheim Ducks

And your NHL Finals are set

Ducks 4, Red Wings 3
That sound you hear right now is Dominik Hasek’s slinky spine crumbling to dust.

See, Jean Sebastian Giguere had a rough final period – allowing three red light specials to the Wings – but he was stone cold lights out for the first two periods, when nothing got past him. Hasek was pretty much the reverse, but in the end, the Ducks still won (with help from a Samuel Pahlsson goal). Whether or not this means the adage “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish” is something that’s complete bollox, I’m not ready to say just yet.

What I am ready to say is this: the Cup Finals are set, and it’s Anaheim vs. Ottawa. Anaheim was here four years ago, when they lost to the Devs in seven. Ottawa has never been here, at least not in their present, since-1992 version.

The series is boring for this reason: small markets. Anaheim is 10th in the state of CA alone, and Ottawa is 4th in Canada. People will consistently use that argument to prove no one cares (meanwhile, if Cleveland somehow stuns Detroit, the NBA Finals would pit Cleveland against San Antonio, which has to be equivalently disastrous markets).

The series is interesting for this reason: Ottawa’s first line has been incredible during these playoffs. Hell, it’s been just about the only thing Ottawa is doing really well (besides Ray Emery). Anaheim has the personnel to really rumble with that line, and maybe even create a few fights in the process. That’s going to be the Ducks’ big advantage; dudes like Pronger might just level dudes like Spezza as the series winds on.

Depending on how you view the Angels of baseball geographically, you might think that neither Anaheim or Ottawa has had a major sports championship in quite some time. It’s also interesting for that reason: two “fringe” sports communities battling for arguably sports’ most renowned hardware. Y’all ready for this? We’ll be back Thursday with a detailed preview and prediction in this very spot.

Ottawa Senators

Another stupid song takes a city by storm

Every time the playoffs come rolling around in any sport, it can only mean one thing: it’s time for some opportunistic musician to exploit the occasion by making a crummy song about some team that attempts to unify a city’s dreams. In Ottawa that opportunistic musician is local rapper Belly and that crummy song is cleverly entitled “Go Sens Go.”

I’m a Sens fan like everybody else,” Belly says. “I just wanted to get the team hyped every time they got out on the ice.

We don’t know if the song is actually hyping up the players necessarily since it has only been played inside the arena once, which was during Monday night’s win in Ottawa that gave the team a 3-0 lead in the East finals, but it certainly appears to be mesmerizing the locals. Since debuting the song last Thursday, as many as 50 calls per hour have been flooding the Hot 89.9 station. So, without further ado, we give to you “Go Sens Go;” crappy voiceover by Ray Emery at the beginning and all.

Did we just see Snoop sporting a Senators jersey? Damn, talk about a jumping on the bandwagon! Last month Snoopy was rooting for the Ducks and now this. And what ever happened to being purple and gold through and through? This guy jumped on The City’s postseason wagon as well. What’s next? Are we going to start seeing The Dogfather in the stands in Salt Lake City during the West finals?


[]: Rapper psyched for Sens

NHL General

Friday Morning NHL Roundup

Senators 5, Sabres 2
I’d like to think this series right here might “save hockey,” in the sense of giving it a broader cultural relevance again. If Game 1 is any indication, I’m sorely mistaken. Here’s the problem: Buffalo had a lead, then squandered it (I’m not sure what else the city of Buffalo does, athletically), and the Senators ultimately won by three goals. This game, mind you, was in Buffalo, thus shifting home-ice advantage. The Sabres dropped a game at home to the Islanders in Round 1, but that’s The Islanders, and this is The Senators, and there’s a big difference aside from quality of generic nickname.

Since I didn’t write up my Eastern Conference Preview yesterday (sue me; I was at Spider Man 3), I’ll offer it up now, by way of a story from the way back. When the Red Wings and Avalanche were predominant, year-in-and-year-out rivals, they were playing in (I believe) the Western Conference Finals in the late 1990s or early 2000s. In one game, Claude Lemieux laid an absolutely disgusting hit into the boards on Kris Draper. Gary Thorne, calling the game, said (with limited emotion, which is odd for him calling hockey): “Far boards. Draper. (Pause) Draper’s hurt. (Pause) Oh, Draper’s hurt. He was leveled by Claude Lemieux.” It’s funny if you hear it, and also if you see it, because the ref just grabs Lemieux and shoves him towards the penalty box.

The relevance of that story is simple: every time I think about this series, I can hear Thorne in my head saying: “It wasn’t blood. It was paint.” No, no, that’s not it. I can hear him saying: “Far boards. Drury. Drury’s hurt.” Chris Drury, the lifeblood of the Sabres in many respects (notably being a guy consistently associated with winning, which they aren’t), is going to get absolutely leveled by someone in this series, and that’s gonna cause another brawl the size of the one they had in February. As Lindy Ruff screamed at Bryan Murray during a recent meeting between those teams, “Do that (expletive) to some hack. Don’t go after our (expletive) captain.”

Point is, this series will get personal. Once it does, I think the Sabres can show enough fire to get themselves back to a Cup – hell, they need this more than any sporting city needs anything right now, I’d argue – and contend with whoever I think is winning the West, which you’ll learn tomorrow. I’d say it takes ’em 7, and hopefully Game 7 is epic, and blood is all over the ice. Then we know hockey’s back.

[Ted Bauer will be covering the NHL playoffs for us this year. You can find more of Ted’s work at A Price Above Bip Roberts.]

NHL General

Monday Morning NHL Roundup

Sabres 5, Rangers 4
First, because – in the words of Fiddy – this is “how I do,” here’s a personal anecdote from this game: I had just played a spirited contest of touch football, and after said game, I had returned to the same house at which I imbibed on Cinco De Mayo. We still had a large quantity of beer and some meats to grill, so we got all tossed up on a Sunday afternoon for no reason. The boyfriend of the hostess, an amiable young Rangers fan, kept departing for long stretches of time. Finally, as the event was nearing its conclusion anyway, he came outside to the back – where I was polishing off my fourth Harpoon – and said, “Yo, last 2 minutes. Come check this out.”

Sure enough, the Rangers were down 1 at The Garden – the same place where so much magic has happened, and yet, so much defeat has been wrought – and across the final 2 minutes, they got about 9 looks at Ryan Miller. The problem was, none of the looks was actually legitimate; he stoned them on every ill-conceived shot along the way. However, with about five seconds left – as my friend’s boyfriend screamed “This is it, gentleman! This is your season!” – Miller was sweating profusely, reminding me of Game 7 of the Eastern Finals last year.

Speaking of the Eastern Finals, this year’s edition has a chance to be the series that “saves hockey,” in much the same way that De La Hoya vs. Mayweather was supposed to “save boxing,” or this past weekend’s Nationals vs. Cubs series could have “saved Washington, DC sports.” Uh, scratch that last one. The Senators and Sabres friggin’ hate each other. This series will go seven – mark my words – and there’s a good chance Chris Drury, the Golden Boy of the entire thing, may not make it through unscathed. These two teams had the most epic NHL brawl of the past five years in February of this season, and Lindy Ruff – who is certifiably insane – has delivered so much venom at the Senators in post-game pressers over the years, you’d think a holy war was about to break out. Also, the fact that it’s two cities a geography major might not be able to explain the relevance of makes it even more interesting; it’s literally a battle for redemption, and there’s gonna be a lot of red on that ice.

NHL General

Thursday Morning NHL Roundup

Senators 3, Devils 2
As the Senators take a 3-1 lead in this series en route to their likely bloodbath with Buffalo in the Conference Finals, I don’t think the whole “What’s happening to Martin Brodeur?” point can be belabored enough. He won his first-round series against the Lightning, sure; but Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier pretty much scored on him at will; the only reason Tampa didn’t win that series is because no one else could score (kinda reminds me of how the Houston Rockets play sometimes, no?). Last night he got smoked again by a team of very quick shooting attackmen, and the Devils are on the brink, much like Tony Soprano in his final season. I’m not entirely sure what that means, but it sounded kinda cool.

Red Wings 3, Sharks 2
Two games, one night, one identical final. Spooky. But – they were quite different. See, I was at a bar last night (uh..), and right before I looked up, and Whoopi Goldberg was, for some reason, being interviewed by Michael Kay. Regardless of that image, the ticker on YES revealed Sharks 2, Red Wings 1 with about 17:00 left. I felt confident in that outcome – and the more pressing game in front of me, Phoenix vs. LA in hoops, wasn’t over yet, so I had to get home to watch that one. I wake up this morning, and what to my puck wondering eyes should appear but this outcome. Apparently, the Wings scored with 33 seconds left in regulation, then in OT to win this puppy. Series is 2-2, headed back to “The Joe” on Saturday. Remember when Hogan vs. Flair headlined Halloween Havoc ’94 at The Joe? I do. Hogan vs. Flair is, in many ways, an apt analogy for this series – both these squads have been around the block a few times postseason-wise. Hogan is probably the Wings – more glory in the past in the form of “world titles.” While Flair actually had more titles than Hogan, no one really gave a crap about that Crockett promotion, so his victories – like the Sharks’ – seemed less significant. If you’re scoring at home, please note I spent 3/4 of this post discussing MLB (Kay), NBA (Suns), and WWF/WCW, and about 1/4 discussing hockey. It’s a good thing Sportscolumn isn’t paying me.

[Ted Bauer will be covering the NHL playoffs for us this year. You can find more of Ted’s work at A Price Above Bip Roberts.]