My Two Cents for June 9th:
Hawks Dethrone The Kings- Patrick Kane's third goal of the game in the second overtime of Game 5 gave the Chicago Blackhawks a 4-3 win over the Los Angeles Kings, sending the Blackhawks to their second finals appearance in four years. Kane's hat trick overcame the Blackhawks giving up an earlier huge shorthanded goal, plus a game tying goal by the Kings in the game's final nine seconds of regulation time. The Blackhawks took down the defending champion Kings in five games however Los Angeles would not go quietly and battled throughout the series. The Blackhawks earned their spot in the finals though some tough battles with Detroit as well as the Kings. Chicago had to rally from a 3-1 deficit in their series against the Red Wings who missed their chance to advance to the West Finals. Chicago however was still ready for battle and showed no early signs of ware against the Kings, who had their own hands full with a tough seven game series against the San Jose Sharks.
Chicago's Corey Crawford may or may not have been the best goalie on the ice in the series with the Kings however he made enough clutch saves in Game 1 and Game 5 to advance the Blackhawks to the position they are in now. Along side Kane, Marian Hossa has come up with some clutch scoring plays as well. However, the one key to the Blackhawks success this post season has not been the household names as so much as the names that you didn't hear nearly as often. Players such as Bryan Bickell, Andrew Shaw, Michael Frolik, Brent Seabrook, Marcus Kruger, Niklas Hjalmarsson, and even ex-Shark Michael Handzus have done much of the heavy lifting for the Blackhawks this post-season. Although players such as Kane and Jonathan Toews have hit some dry spots during the post season, the anticipation is that they will come on strong soon enough. If Kane, Toews and Hossa start clicking, Chicago can very well be looking at their second Stanley Cup in four years after breaking a 49 season drought in 2010.
Boston Bruins Strong- The Boston Bruins spent this past week battling the Pittsburgh Penguins in an Eastern Conference Finals in a match-up most thought would be a close tilt that could go the distance. Some, me included thought the Penguins would have multiple "Go To Guys" that would give the Bruins and their goalie Tuuska Rask a tall order to deal with. With a line up that included Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, you had to figure the Penguins were going to net enough goals to give the Bruins a run for their money. Six days and four games after their series began, the only thing that got ran was the Penguins (as in getting run out of their own rink). And that was just the first two games. The next two games Boston rode Rask's red hot goal tending and a strong defense to shock the Penguins and take the Eastern Conference Finals in a mere four games. Pittsburgh's best and likely only chance to get back into the series came in Game 3. However several hit posts and some missed opportunities later it became apparent that it was not meant to be for the men from the Steel City. The Bruins outscored (by a composite 12-2 margin), outplayed, outlasted and perhaps even outsmarted the Penguins.
In every way the Boston Bruins showed why they are clearly the best team to come out of the Eastern Conference and could emerge as the overall team to beat. They always played together as a 25-man unit. Each player on the Bruins played an important roll and no player was bigger that the other. The Bruins all played together as one. The co-MVP of the Eastern Conference Final for me (along side of Rask, ofcourse) is Gregory Campbell. Not because his leg broke during a penalty kill in Game 3. Campbell is the co-MVP because of the courage he showed and refusing to leave the ice and staying out for a full minute before the shift had finally ended. Campbell showed what toughness and playing for the name in front of the sweater is all about. Campbell obviously wont be available for the Stanley Cup Finals however his spirit and courage that he showed will make Boston a very tough opponent to play against. The Bruins are seeking their second Stanley Cup in three seasons and right now they are a hard team to bet against.
The Bruins, led by David Krejci, Nathan Horton, Brad Marchand, Milan Lucic, Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, and a host of of others have led a team that came within 51 seconds of elimination in Round One versus the Toronto Maple Leafs, to a team that is now four wins away from the Stanley Cup. In the first two games versus the Penguins they simply took the fight to Pittsburgh. The turning point of the series was Game 2 when the Bruins scored four goals in the first period and won rather convincingly and very easily. There was no way Pittsburgh was going to recover from Game 2 despite their best efforts in Game 3. Rask had the games of his life and the Penguins caught the Bruins at the absolutely worst time when Boston was starting to play their best hockey. The Bruins will be a tough team to stop just based on what determination they've shown. They may not be the highest scoring team and may not even play at times the most exciting of games. All that really matters is that it is a winning formula. The Bruins will be a team that will be ready for the Stanley Cup Finals and all that comes along with it. The majority of the team that defeated Vancouver in the finals two years ago is still in tact and will have a great deal of experience to offer. The Bruins are a team that is well equipped to get the job done and it would not be a surprise if they are the ones carrying the cup around the ice within the next two weeks.
Picking The Finals- In the conference finals in did pick the Blackhawks to beat the Kings in the Western Conference. However, I was one of those who thought the Penguins would outlast the Bruins so I have to own that one. And no, my picking the Penguins had nothing to do with Douglas Murray either. As far as for who's going to be spending the summer with Lord Stanley, you can make equally convincing arguments for either Boston or Chicago and have may valid reasons as to why they should win the Cup. It's hard to argue against the Boston Bruins. It's equally hard to argue against the Chicago Blackhawks. I am not rooting for or against either one of these teams since either one will be a great champion and both teams will put on a great show starting this coming Wednesday Night with Game One of the Finals. That said, I am taking the Boston Bruins to win the 2012-13 Stanley Cup title and to do so in seven games. Chicago is a strong team and absolutely has what it takes to win the cup. However I'm looking at the series a little differently. The Bruins are the one team in the entire post season that has played with total ice in their veins. The Bruins if you recall were on eliminations doorstep against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round of these playoffs. Trailing 4-1 in the third period of Game 7 at home, the Bruins pulled off probably one of the biggest and most memorable comebacks seen in at least a generation. Boston scored three times to tie the game, with two of the three goals coming in the final 1:22 of regulation (the game tying goal came with just 51 seconds remaining in regulation). The Bruins as a team came together in those moments and went on to win the game six minutes into the first overtime period. Boston has had an emotional roller coaster ride through the season and in the first round of the playoffs which galvanized them as a team. This does not mean the Blackhawks won't be difficult because they certainly will be. However, there is something about this Bruins team that just tells me they are not going to be denied. What I hope for mostly is a good solid display of hockey that will be exciting, fun to watch, goes seven games and maybe put the bad memory of this past fall's lockout to rest.
First Trade of the Season (of note)- Though much of the off season trading usually does not start until the Stanley Cup Finals are concluded, the Ottawa Senators and Dallas Stars got a head start on their off seasons. The Senators have traded the rights to defenseman Sergei Gonchar to the Dallas Stars in exchange for a conditional sixth-round pick in this year's draft. Gonchar who is 39 played three seasons with Ottawa. Prior to that he was a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins where he was a part of their Cup winning team in the 2008-09 season. Gonchar has played 1,177 career NHL games in 18 seasons, and was a first round draft pick for the Washington Capitals in 1992.
Dallas Stars Going Green- This past week the Dallas Stars changed the look of their uniforms and to a small degree their team colors. The Stars have done away with the home black jersey's which had the block "DALLAS" lettering across the front. The Stars went with a slicker looking different tone of green that is a departure from the green they had on their uniforms back when the franchise was the Minnesota North Stars. The road white uniform will also no long have the block "DALLAS" across the front or the third uniform which has a star in the center. The crest of the team has a star with a large block "D" in the center. Though as a rival of the Sharks I don't usually give the Stars much in the way of praise however I do feel they did an excellent job in redesigning their uniform. More than anything else it's just nice to not see those black sweaters any longer as they were not the best.
Hoping This Was Just a Formality- As many probably know by now the HP Pavilion is about the be no more. Sharks Majority Owner Hasso Plattner's Corporation, SAP is about to officially become the official named sponsor of "The Shark Tank". HP CEO Meg Whitman has expressed a desire to have her company's naming rights of the arena terminated. Plattner just became the Sharks Majority Owner in January. The City of San Jose as well as the Sharks have signed off on this deal which is expected to be a five year agreement.
This move does not come as a surprise to most. However, at the same time let's just all hope that this was just a mere formality and not Plattner's first official off season act as Sharks Majority Owner. The reason is that the Sharks franchise has more pressing needs than the name or sponsor of the arena, whether it's the SAP Center, HP Pavilion, or Bill's Bail Bonds. Most fans are going to refer to the arena as "The Shark Tank" anyway. Plattner as the new majority owner needs to address his season ticket holders (aka share holders) and make a declaration of what his mission is as the top dog. It just seems it would be good business sense for him to assure his paying customers that he appreciates their continued business and support of the Sharks franchise and will do all he can to see that they can compete for the Stanley Cup each season. I am not asking Plattner to be a meddling owner, I just want him as the owner to put the team and their season ticket holders first when it comes to any issues involving the San Jose Sharks franchise. The season ticket holders are the ones who pay the freight just as much as anyone else and I want Plattner to recognize it. Being that be bought the majority stake in the franchise, he no doubt should know this comes with the territory.
Again, I am not critical of the Downtown San Jose arena being named the SAP Center. I am just hoping this wasn't the top priority on Hasso Plattner's list when he became the majority owner. Hockey is not his only business. However that said, Plattner is in the business of NHL professional hockey and with that comes with the understanding that you are in the business of winning the Stanley Cup regardless of how hard it may seem. Nobody is expecting miracles from Mr Plattner, just a steady hand at the Owner's desk. This also means having the goals of doing the right things to keep this franchise competitive throughout the years of his stewardship.
Sharks Sign Tomas Hertl- This week the Sharks signed Tomas Hertl who was their first round draft pick and 17th player taken overall in the 2012 draft. Hertl, 19, signed an entry level contract yet many in the organization believe he has the tools to one day be a very successful NHL player. Hertl last season spent the year with HC Slavia Praha where he netted 18 goals while tacking on 12 assist. Hertl also played for the Czech Republic during the 2013 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championships in May. Sharks GM Doug Wilson spoke very highly of Hertl to Sharks.com and the NHL Network. “Tomas has the tools and skill set to be an impactful player for our organization,” said Wilson. “He has been a dominant player at every level he has played at in his career thus far, including playing against players older and more physically mature than him. We are tremendously excited to have Tomas come to training camp this fall and compete for a spot on our roster.”**
Hertl may need some seasoning as he may be just a little green for the NHL. However, if Hertl comes to camp in good shape this September and impresses both coaches and teammates, it would not come as a shock if you saw Hertl in a team teal uniform next spring during the season.
Sharks Season Farwell Video- In a very brief one minute video the Sharks released this week, team teal players Patrick Marleau, Logan Couture, as well as Head Coach Todd McLellan and General Manager Doug Wilson thanked the fans for their loyal support and in making "The Shark Tank" one of the toughest arenas to play in for any opponent. The video is short, sweet, and to the point...
Very classy gesture to the fans who this season endured excitement, heartbreak and a lockout thrown in. The bright side of all of this is that four months from around this date the Sharks will be skating again in their 23rd season and continuing their quest for the franchises first Stanley Cup title.
Just My Two Cents...
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