Friday, May 13, 2011
Went splitsies on my predictions last round. Eight and four now. Had an inkling about Tampa but really did not expect them to win. Absolutely thought Detroit would knock off San Jose but they ran out of bodies. This team is getting old. They're still fantastic but Holland is going to have to do some fancy juggling to make sure they don't fade back into the pack now that it looks like the Lidstrom era is winding down. Way too many guys on the wrong side of thirty.
Of course when one of those guys is Pavel Datsyuk perhaps its not so bad after all. A couple of weeks ago Tom Benjamin was musing about the Selke nominees, stating that he's take that lot (Datsyuk, Towes, Kesler) over the Hart nominees (Perry, St. Louis, D. Sedin) any day. No disagreement from this corner.
I was indisposed for most of the second round, really missing the meat of the matter and so take the comments that follow with a grain (ok larger than normal grain) of salt.
I find the whole idea of players being clutch or chokers to be, well, not entirely untrue but certainly extremely iffy. Its all a narrative of course and the media feed the beast. I thought Joe Thornton played a great game last night but I have found that for at least the last two playoff seasons he has been topnotch. If San Jose had lost he would have been gutted by the media but they won and so the monkey is off his back. No word on what will happen if they lose to the Canucks. As for Patty Marleau he went from being gutless to being the hero all in the time it takes to tap one in. Marleau strikes me as the quiet type and he's streaky and like most streaky scorers he can either look great or terrible. He actually scores a lot of goals in the playoffs, though apparently not in games six or seven until last night. So he scores and now he is no longer a choker, he has guts and heart and all that good stuff. Until the next round.
Its all part of the mythology surrounding the game. The funny thing of course is how so many of the great clutch players just happen to be amongst the greatest players of all time. Facing tighter checking and better clubs did not stop the likes of Gretzky, Orr, Richard, Messier, Mario Lemieux, Sakic, Yzerman, Esposito, Forsberg and so on because they are the pantheon by which everyone else is measured. One other thing - they all won. Patrick Roy's playoff gaffes, and he had a few, are forgotten because of the Stanley Cup rings blocking his ears. Marty Brodeur too.
As for your lesser lights well you have interesting cases. I'm not talking about your Fernando Pisanis and John Druces, your Bergenheims and Wards, guys who suddenly go on a tear. I'm talking about Kesler and the Sedins and our friends in San Jose, the guys just down the ladder from the superstars.
If you have the rep you have to do one of two things. Win or produce other worldly numbers. Marian Hossa's numbers in the playoffs ranged from good to terrific in his five playoff years before last season. When he played with the Pens he had twenty six points in twenty games. Or well, maybe you just have to win if you're certain players because until last year Hossa had that rep. Poor playoff performer. After a season where he averaged over a point per game. Tough crowd if you're European I think. And then he won that Cup and now its ok.
Jonathan Toews had no goals last year in the Finals. Of course he had that World Juniors' gold and that Olympic gold but winning the Cup? Well those zero goals are forgotten.
(By the way I have absolutely no explanation for Claude Lemieux. He was a good player but in the playoffs he was all world. An outlier I guess? Anyone?)
So for Kesler and the Sedins, Thornton, Marleau and Heatley there is a lot riding on the next two weeks. For Kesler, who singlehandedly trashed Nashville, there is less at stake, but for the others this series might make or break their reputations, at least until next season. Vancouver goes to the final and the Sedins make a lot of noise? They're looking good. Another series where they do little? You can bet there will be calls for their heads. A San Jose win and Thornton would be vindicated. Marleau too probably. Heatley, he who scores all of his goals against the Latvias and Japans and Frances of the world, is so thoroughly unlikeable, would have to go on a tear to erase his noshows in 2007, the Olympics of 2006 and 2010, his disappearing act every year when the going gets tough.
And of course in my own little way I just revealed another contributor to all of this. Heatley, being a douchebag, gets no rope at all. I may not believe in choking except when it comes to the shrivelled little ballsack between the legs of number fifteen. Then its all true, every last bit of it. ;)
So who will go to the Finals? Well for my pool I need the Canucks and Bruins to win. I'm a strong third and still have eight of ten players left. Ideally the Bruins would sweep and the Canucks would win in six or seven. Probably be all set then.
But ... while that is also the final I would like to see (I would like to see Boston win and I do not want Heatley anywhere near raising the Cup) I'm thinking its not going to work out that way.
In the East I would pick Boston if Bergeron is healthy and so that is my caveat - if he plays every game this series then I'll go with the Bruins. Without him though, well that's a huge loss. Only Chara would be bigger imo. They are deep up front, yes, and of course they have the big man on the back end, but I think Bergeron's loss might tip it in Tampa's direction. Roloson is playing superbly and Yzerman has just loaded this club with solid veteran players - Kubina, Gagne, Moore, Bergenheim, Brett Clark, Brewer. Just a long list of professional players and what appears to be a terrific young coach. Of course if Chara can shut down St. Louis, well then ....
Damnit I don't know. OK I'll go with my gut. Tampa in seven. Sadly.
As for the west I like Vancouver's D a lot more but San Jose has the edge up front. The Sharks have talisman Antii Niemi between the pipes and like last year when he looks shitty he really looks shitty but when he looks good he's damn good. A very small part of me would like to see San Jose win because I like the whole Niemi story. Wins the Cup, gets dumped, goes to arch rival, struggles, finds his game, has new club on a roll. I don't blame Chicago, I think Crawford is actually probably a better goalie. But I like Niemi. He's a Finlander after all.
Like the eastern series this is a pick em to me. I look at the Canucks and I see the Sedins doing fuck all and I think they can't do it but then again San Jose is San Jose. They can't win, right? Right? They barely beat a Wings' team that was old and broken down. Plus they have Heatley and Ian White. Fucking assholes.
Ok Canucks in seven although its a tossup. In the end I think San Jose's backend is just too iffy and the Sedins are too good to not come through.
And if they don't?
Posted by Black Dog at 3:20 PM