[NHL] On The Blue Line

Hollywood, California:

After starting up my VCR (Yes, not TiVo!), listening to the fans in Carolina sing “O, Canada” and “The Star Bangled Banner” then watching the Canes score at a little over a minute into the game and making sure that several friends were aware that Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals was now on the air, I was off to what I thought would be my own battle with traffic on the 101 North (or the Hollywood Freeway, excuse me) on a Monday afternoon. To my surprise and delight, it ends up that most everyone in Los Angeles was sitting at home watching the game as well because I arrived to my destination without any problems. That’s not counting the ridiculous heat and the three goons moving along at about 50 mph in the fastlane AND one of the vents in my car refusing to stay in position as I had the A/C on. Wait, everyone was watching the game, right? Or was everyone in Los Angeles tuned into ‘I Love Lucy’ as they were during Game 6?

I sat at the bar as another dull intermission report was killing valuable hockey time and started things off with a Heff. Would have been Newcastle had the tap been working properly. Soon, my buddy arrives and we’re off as the second period is underway as is a second beer (Newcastle). We order some dinner and chat it up with our bartender as Carolina continues to control the pace of the game and Emrick and Davidson continue to talk about the disallowed goal by Carolina at the end of the first period. By the way, it’s great to have Doc Emrick back in a prominent role for NHL broadcasting. Not that there was anything wrong with Gary Thorne at all and listening to Thorne do play by play for anything other than hockey sounds odd, but it’s been a long time since Doc was given another shot at being the main voice on a national level. He hasn’t lost a beat. As for John Davidson, he can go ahead and take that front office job.

My european style sandwich arrived just in time for Carolina’s second goal which was a clear point shot by Frantisek Kaberle that deflected off an Edmonton player sliding down to block the shot and through Markkanen’s legs. 2-0 Carolina and a small debate over whether having Edmonton score would be good or bad. If they score, we have a game on our hands, if they don’t, then the fan favorite Hurricanes will clearly win the Cup tonight. Now it starts to look like Edmonton will score as they have almost 2 minutes to work with a 5 on 3 power play which starts off rather well and then Ryan Smyth takes a penalty for hooking and the PP is done less than a minute after it started. The second period ends and it’s time for another drink and a bathroom break. Meanwhile, Clement and Ferraro probably had to deal with Eddie Olzcyk talking about the Hurricanes being grizzly bears and how a person can’t stop fighting a grizzly when he’s tired but has to stop fighting the grizzly bear when the bear gets tired….or some crap.

The Oilers eventually do score a goal early in the third period to make 2-1 thanks to, once again, Fernando Pisani who drove hard to the net and chipped the puck over Cam Ward who had just left two fat rebounds, the second one resulted in Pisani’s goal. At this point, the beers have been going down pretty good and more people have entered and crowded around the bar to ask if the Yankees are still playing. All I could think was “Get them away from me, please.”

The Hurricanes continue to control the game and MacTavish calls his timeout with a little over 3:00 minutes to play. Edmonton doesn’t do much more than stay in the Canes zone for small intervals with not much going on but flashbacks to their series against Dallas in which the Oilers scored twice in less than 30 seconds to tie the game. Oiler fans, help me out, did that happen in the first round in 2002?

Eventually Justin Williams scores an empty net goal for Carolina and the fans start going crazy as time runs out and the Carolina Hurricanes are the new Stanley Cup Champions. High fives all around me, joy for Carolina and a ton of respect out to Edmonton.

As far as Game 7’s go, it’s always tough to top the NYR/Vancouver game and the Colorado Vs New Jersey game 7 from 2001 was pretty good, too but this game was certainly better than the Devils drubbing of the Ducks and a bit more exciting than the Tampa Bay/Calgary finale. I’d have to say that the NHL can be proud of the final game and the final series that they were able to present…even if harldy anyone was watching. Game 7 on Monday drew a 3.3 rating and 6 share on NBC, which is down from ABC’s 4.2 and 7 share for Game 7 in 2004. But let’s face it, ABC threw in a little more effort than NBC has. NBC Sports has been a joke for years.

Meanwhile

Joe Sakic has signed a one year contract with the Colorado Avalanche worth $5.75 million. This will be Sakic’s 18th season with Colorado/Quebec and that deserves some semblance of credit as guys these days are looking to bolt for a better deal or a better chance at winning the Cup. For the Avalanche it was a no-brainer and now we’ll see how focused they are on re-signing Rob Blake and how much they offer Jose Theodore or if they offer him to someone else.

Here’s a quick e-mail:

“Vezina Trophy: Give me a break. Marty is out, we cannot keep rewarding for reputation. He only played okay this year. These predications are non rewarding an not based on this season’s merit as should be. Kipper is clearly the most outstanding and hardworking goalie this season”

By you saying ‘predictions’, I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt and I’ll say that you meant ‘nominations’ because my predictions are based on the nominations, which I happen to have no say in, by the way.

So, after having cleared that up for you, I’d have to say that yeah, the NHL finalists tend not to change very much at all. The Jack Adams Trophy for coach of the year is the one award that has THREE new nominees every year….when you don’t count the Calder, of course, smart asses. A case can be made for the Hart Trophy as well. The Norris and the Vezina will have a player or two who are there despite only having an “okay” season on top of being who they are. As for Brodeur, specifically, he and the Devils finished up the season strong and came all the way back to win their division. Kipper winning the Vezina would be a nice chage of pace, but Brodeur might end up winning it anyhow.

Talk is still going on about the NHL increasing the salary cap to $44 million for next season but that won’t be set until the end of the month. Until then, we have the NHL draft this Saturday in Vancouver and the free agency period begins in July.

With Carolina winning the Stanley Cup the NHL season is now over and it was quite a comeback for hockey. Toss out the Olympic nonsense and it could have been a perfect season (Especially for pretty boy Teemu Selanne). It’s going to be a busy summer and training camp starts in less than 3 months where I’ll be covering pre-season ‘action’ live from Las Vegas, Anaheim, Los Angeles and possibly Phoenix. Until then, I’ll be here to round up all sorts of random news and notes, such as Daniel Briere being made a qualifying offer by the Buffalo Sabres.

I suggest you head on over and read what Patrick N. has to say about stuff. The only thing holding that guy back from online superstardom is his lack of acknowledging MY greatness. There’s potential here, though.

Tom Gibutsi and The Weekly Sports Pulse reside here

And of course, we’ve got Steve Price with a more than proper salute to the new Cup Champs

Good night, everybody!