The sky is not actually falling on the Oilers

Contrary to what you may be hearing on radio call in shows, reading on the internet, and hearing other people say, the Edmonton Oilers have not defended into a free fall and the season is not over…..

Sure, the Oilers are on a 3 game losing streak, where they didn't look particularly good in parts of those three games.  But those three games were the last 3 games of a 6 game, 11 day road trip, and those were 3 games in 4 nights.  The games were also against 3 of the last 4 stanley cup champions in Detroit, Boston, and Chicago.  I can name many teams in the NHL that could play those three teams in a row and lose all 3 games.

Can we also remember to sit back and realize that even with those 3 losses, the Oilers are still holding a record of 9-6-1.  I think that almost anyone who knows and follows the team will agree that if we could be 9-6-1 after 16 games, we would be very happy.

Does the team have problems?  Absolutely.  The early success we had was through exceptional goaltending and a defence that was playing a bit above their level.  The defence has started to become what we thought it would be, and for the goaltending, well Khabibulin had a save percentage and goals against average that were, frankly, too high to sustain.  The team desperately needs an upgrade on defence, especially since it has become clear that Ryan Whitney is not someone we can count on to be healthy for the majority of a hockey season, regardless of how good he is.  The offence was exposed pretty badly on the road trip when Renny couldn't protect Nugent-Hopkins and Hall from the opposition's checking lines, and our lack of secondary scoring, or any scoring from players not named Ryan, is starting to become an issue.

But before everyone calls for Tambillini to trade the whole team, remember that this is a team that is in a significantly better place than it was last year, and the arrows are (mostly) pointing in the right direction.  The kids will be alright, we can't panic at every hiccup.

Hockey's devastating summer

I don't even know where to begin.  If there has been a worse year for the hockey world, I don't want anyone to tell me about it; because after what has just happened I can't even imagine it.

This morning a plane crashed in Russia.  The plane was carrying Lokomotiv Yaroslavl of the KHL to Minsk for their first game of the year.  Virtually the entire roster of the team was killed in the crash, with only one player surviving.  Former NHL players on the team include Pavol Demitra, Ruslan Salei, and Josef Vasicek. All have been killed.

I'm not going to go more into it.  More up to date news is all over the internet, and this should be the last place you are looking for it.  But this brings to a close an absolutely tragic summer for the hockey world.  So far as I can tell, this is the single worst disaster to ever hit a sports team by the sheer number of casualties, and it happened to a hockey community already devastated by three other premature deaths.

Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien, and Wade Belak all died this summer, now this.  Hockey can't take any more of this kind of thing.  The season is just around the corner, and we are talking more about what and who has been lost instead of being excited for the coming season.  It is really hard to process the pain in the hockey community right now.  I can't even imagine it, and I hope that starting the season soon will help with the grieving process for players like Marian Gaborik, who has often said that Pavol Demitra and Derek Boogaard were among his closes friends.  Hopefully starting the season will be good for people like him, and help them with the grieving process.

I don't know what we did to anger the hockey gods, but it has to stop, and now. We can't take much more of this.  We need the season to start so we can focus on the good, which is watching the sport that we love.  It is what Boogaard, Rypien, Belak, and the players of Lokomotiv Yaroslavl would have wanted.

Game 7 - Stanley Cup Final

Tonight is Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final, and I can't wait.  Game 7 of the Cup final is one of the biggest stages in all of sport, and, as cliche as it may be, is a time when household heros are born.  Not only will this conclude the season, Game 7 of the final does not happen often, which makes this spectacle even more special.

Contrary to popular opinion, the Stanley Cup is not the hardest trophy in the world to win.  That distinction goes to the World Cup, but I do believe that the Stanley Cup is the hardest in North America by a wide margin.  This will be the 107th game for both Boston and Vancouver.  That is 107 games of hard, physical play.  Tonight, the season will come to an end, and one team will get their 16th win of the playoffs, and win the Stanley Cup, 8 1/2 months after the season began.  It is a grind like no other.  In something of a rarity, of the 40 active players that will likely play game 7, only 2 have won the stanley cup in the past.  That means that for both of these teams, it is their first, and possibly only chance, to win the Stanley Cup.  I hope the players recognize just how special and rare this chance is, and we get a fantastic game out of it tonight.

The first 6 games of this series hasn't been as good as you would initially think.  Yes, each team has won 3 games to get us here, but it hasn't actually been that good.  The games in Vancouver have all been 1 goal games, with one being decided in overtime, and another with 19 seconds left.  Either team could have easily won those games if not for stellar goaltending in both nets.  In Boston, there simply has been no series.  Boston outscored Vancouver 17-3 in 3 games, and Vancouver looked like a team that had no business being in the playoffs, never mind the Cup final.  In each game, the team who has scored first has won, and there has only been one lead change during a game, in Game 2 when Boston took a 2-1 lead after Vancouver scored first.  Tim Thomas has easily been the best player in this series.  At home, he has posted a .982 save percentage, which is almost impossible.  Even in Vancouver, in 3 losses he has a .945 save percentage, a level most goalies can only dream of.  If Boston loses this series, it will be solely because Boston was unable to score in Vancouver.  Krecji, Seguin, Chara, Bergeron, and Seidenberg are all players who are capable of playing at another level. If even one or two of them can elevate their game tonight, Boston will win.

That being said, Vancouver has earned home ice in Game 7, and with that, anything is possible.  A Stanley Cup Final Game 7 has not happened in Canada since 1987 when the Oilers beat the Flyers at the then Northlands Coliseum.  That makes this game even more speical and rare, if that's even possible.  Vancouver does have their work cut out for them though  The Sedin twins have been non existent, Kesler is playing hurt, and the defence, while being very good in shutting down Boston's offence while at home, has contributed very little offensively.  If the Sedin twins can actually show up, Vancouver has a very good chance of winning.

I know that many of you reading this will be watching the game later.  16.2 million people watched at least part of Game 6 on CBC on Monday, averaging 6.6 million. Who knows how many more were watching on NBC like I was.  I will be watching at home, enjoying the biggest spectacle this great sport has to offer.  It is Hockey Night in Canada.

I said on twitter before the series that I thought Boston would win in 7.  I'm going to stick to that.  Boston, 2-1, in overtime.  The only thing we don't know, is who the hero will be.

Stanley cup playoffs–Round 2

First off, my picks from the first round:

Chicago in 7 – Actual Result: Vancouver in 7

San Jose in 6 – Actual result: San Jose in 6

Phoenix in 6 – Actual result : Detroit in 4

Anaheim in 7 – Actual Result: Nashville in 6

Washington in 5 – Actual Result: Washington in 5

Philadelphia in 5 - Actual Result: Philadelphia in 7

Boston in 6 – Actual Result: Boston in 7

Tampa Bay in 5 – Actual Result: Tampa Bay in 7

Overall I picked 5 of the 8 series winners correctly, and even got the number of games right twice.  The only series I completely missed was Detroit and Phoenix, I really thought Phoenix would play better, and that Detroit’s injuries would catch up to them. I am not surprised in Nashville winning, in fact, I’m more surprised on how poorly Anaheim played, though their goaltending may have cost them the series.  Vancouver And Chicago was everything we thought it would be, and then some.  I’m very sad at the result, but the series was fun to watch.

In round two we have Washington/Tampa Bay, Philadelphia/Boston, Vancouver/Nashville, and San Jose/Detroit.  I am very much looking forward to Philly/Boston and San Jose/Detroit.  They should be amazing series, and I’m super excited for them. But, the predictions:

Washington in 6 – Tampa is good, but does have holes, and Washington is playing the best hockey I’ve seen the team play since Ovechkin arrived

Boston in 6 – Goaltending decides this series, and on paper, that is no contest here

Nashville in 7 – Nashville is probably the best team no one knows anything about.  All they’ve done is win a lot of gams in a very difficult division. Watch out for them.

Detroit in 6 – Detroit is probably going to be the healthiest and most rested they’ve been all season. Look out for this team.