Goodnight Sharks

The San Jose Sharks just choked. Bad. Like really bad. All I have to say is this:

+ Joe Thornton was worthless. This series actually made me dislike him. It's a shame really because the guy lights it up during the regular season. But until he figures out how to lock it up in playoffs, I don't want him on my team. I'd rather have guys like Max Talbot who bring even more to the table than just points.

+ The saddest thing is watching a team give up. That was San Jose in pretty much the entire third period (I didn't get to see the rest of the game due to VS screwing me out of it by playing a 'bonus' game). I truly do believe that anything can happen in the game of hockey. BU overcame a 3-1 deficit in 59 seconds. Carolina scored a winning goal with .2 seconds left. It was beyond possible for the Sharks to tie -- if not win -- that game. But they didn't believe it. And that's what hurt them the most. If you don't believe in yourself, how do you expect to get anything done?

+ Give me a break with the penalty with one second left. I don't care how obvious it was. So annoying.

+ I've never been a Jeremy Roenick fan, but my heart goes out to him. How can a guy retire after a team playoff performance like that? Stick it out one more year buddy. Hopefully San Jose will make some necessary "adjustments" and make it right next season.

+ Everyone will be pointing out how the Sharks blew it, but you have to give credit to the Ducks. More specifically you have to give credit to Jonas Hiller. One key ingredient to a successful playoff run is a hot goaltender. Hiller is the definition of that right now. I can't really even describe how well he played.

+ Would things be different if the Sharks PP showed up when the Ducks kept giving them chances? Well it certainly wouldn't have hurt.

+ All that regular season success isn't providing much comfort for the Sharks and their fans right now. Just goes to show facing some adversity during the regular season isn't such a bad thing.

Now back to rooting for Anaheim in the West. They've always been my second favorite (after Pittsburgh), but this series had me torn. The Sharks really grew on me this year. Their time will come. It just wasn't now.


Fail of the Week: San Jose Sharks

I've been staying up late this past week to watch San Jose's season slip away way earlier than anyone expected. They're down 3-1 even though the Ducks are right out tempting the Sharks to score by giving them an endless supply of power plays.

I'm really starting to see San Jose's problem. They're individuals. I have nothing but love for the Sharks, but they just don't have it this year. Sure they want to win the Stanley Cup -- but as a team or as individuals? A lot of those guys are playing to score goals for themselves, not for the team. I'm not saying every guy on that team is like that; but a handful who are can ruin it for everyone. Maybe the whole "best record during the regular season" thing got to their heads, but a regular season record is meaningless in the post-season.

This is one of the reasons why I love playoffs. They expose things like this and bring out the true teams. Playoffs are a time when you band together. There are no "core players." There is no leading scorer. There is no one person responsible for a win or a loss. There is a group of guys working, sweating and bleeding together as one unit to accomplish one goal: getting their hands on the Cup.

Unless Todd McLellan goes Herb Brooks on his boys, I think the Sharks are donezo. Even if a miracle happens and they make it out of this series, they will not win the Cup.

But hey, I'm open to be proven wrong.


Definition of Hot




It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I have found my favorite series of the first round:

Granted I've only seen Pitt/Philly, Boston/Montreal and Chicago/Calgary, but the Sharks/Ducks game last night made me eager to watch some more. I waited through the Hawks game (thank you for scoring 11 seconds in OT) for VS to jump in just in time for the second period. I stayed up until one in the morning to see the finish (yes, that's late for me when I have class in the AM).

Here's my game thoughts:

+ Hello hits. I felt sore just watching those two teams throw the bodies around. Ryane Clowe was an animal out there.
+ Anaheim is the better 'playoff' team. They just are. You know a playoff team when you see one. They just have all the elements needed -- like Boston. It goes beyond skill. A successful playoff team has a little of everything. Can SJ lock it up or will they choke? How they respond in Game 2 will say it all.
+ Ducks really need to cool their love for the penalty box. Took way too many penalties and fortunately San Jose's power play was completely ineffective. As I always say though, taking penalty after penalty will catch up with you.
+ Hiller. I hate to see Giguere sit because I have all the respect in the world for the guy, but Hiller is hot right now. So important for the postseason.
+ Anaheim held Thornton to one shot. No other words needed.
+ The only time I heard the Shark Tank get quiet was towards the very end. The rest of the time they were very loud. That's awesome, but clearly their team didn't respond. For a Sharks team that was so good on home ice, losing the first one when you have home ice advantage is not so good. Anaheim's already in a good spot coming out of NorCal with at least one win.
+ My team above anyone else is the Penguins, but I will openly admit that I love Western Conference hockey.

Other series Notes

+ The Bruins & Canadiens are a close second for my favorite series. The score was tight up until the end. Gotta give one huge shout-out to my most hated player in the NHL, Josh Gorges, for taking a penalty and costing his team the game. Nice job bud! You're a winner.

Photo Credit: Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images


AHL = Fail.

Just took a look at different play-off schedules when I noticed how ridiculous the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins' schedule is. Check it out:

Fri 4/17 @ Bridgeport (Played in Long Island)
Sat 4/18 @ Bridgeport (Played in Long Island)
Sun 4/19 @ WBS
Wed 4/22 @ Bridgeport
Fri 4/24 @ WBS (if necessary)
Sat 4/25 @ WBS (if necessary)
Sun 4/26 @ Bridgeport (if necessary)

Where do I even start? For one thing, you have them playing the first three games in three nights AND the last three games in three nights. So much for rest. I understand this is the minor leagues, but no other series in the AHL has to do this twice. Hershey/Philly is the only other series that does it once. Peoria & Houston might end up with one but apparently they don't know when half of their games are going to be played so it's still up in the air.

Secondly, they play THREE of the first FOUR in Bridgeport. Technically the first two aren't "in" Bridgeport -- they're in Long Island. So I don't know if they're taking that into consideration along with scheduling or what? It just doesn't seem too fair. At least do the 2-3-2 format if you have to.

I guess we'll see. Nothing you can do about it now. I like seeing the Pens play on April 25; they have very good play-off history on that date -- including the Game 7 OT thriller vs. Bridgeport where they came back being down 3-1 in the series and the triple OT game vs. first place Binghamton the following year.


And They Lived Happily Ever After


I'm still in disbelief at what I saw last night in the NCAA Frozen Four championship game between Miami and BU.

It's really hard to put into words. It's one of those things you just have to see. You won't believe it if you read it.

The game last night was one of the best hockey games I've ever seen. One of the tons of writers who covered the game said it was one of the best moments in Boston sports history and compared it to the Red Sox being down 3-0 in the series and coming back to beat the Yankees. It was THAT good.

The game was incredibly fast paced. I've never seen end-to-end action like there was between these two teams. I was practically out of breath watching them. BU got on the board first, but Miami tied it up in the second. The RedHawks shut down BU for pretty much the entire second half of the game. The Terriers just couldn't get any chances in. That's a huge credit to Miami. They played the type of hockey they needed to, and they were physical and very fast while doing so. With 7:30 to go in the third, Miami scored; they notched another one with 4:08 left to make it 3-1.

I'm not going to lie. At that point my confidence was shot. I've seen strange things happen in hockey games, but BU was just not getting any chances to begin with. And here they found themselves down two goals with four minutes left?

I clasped my hands together and just waited. Jack Parker decided to pull Kieran Millan with 3:32 to go. A bold move, but what did they have to lose? The clock kept ticking down ...

And then came the miracles.

BU scored with 59.5 seconds left. It was 3-2. And then with 17.4 seconds remaining, they tied the game.

See? I told you you wouldn't believe it. It was the most incredible final minute of hockey I've ever seen and probably will ever see. It's been BU's story throughout the play-offs: last minute heroics. They found a way to do it against UNH, Vermont and now Miami. You can credit it to talent or skill or whatever you want -- but there is an astounding amount of resilience in those boys that enables them to do this. Any team could easily give up being down 3-1 with four to go. But they didn't. And they were rewarded for it.

It might sound weird to say this, but OT was nothing compared to that final 60 seconds. Kind of like the 1980 Olympic team -- their big moment was against Russia, but they still had to go on and win the gold medal. BU played very well in OT and got the winning goal in a similar fashion as how they got key goals in the past two games -- off an opponent. Colby Cohen shot a puck that went off of a diving Miami player's shoulder and strangely into the net. Looking at the replay, it had to be fate that it was going in.

And that was that. The Boston University Dream Team were officially the 2009 National Champions.

Some other things I'd like to point out about the game:

+ BU should be thanking their lucky stars -- or everyone on their penalty kill unit -- for that game. They've had a problem with discipline all year, and they took seven of them last night. Way too many considering they were only give two power plays. I have to question a referee calling a late-game slash on a team he called six other times and is down 2-1 with a championship on the line, but that's another story. If Miami didn't go 0-for-7 on the PP, the game could have been completely different.

+ Millan looked a little nervous again tonight. I don't blame him. He's 19 years-old playing in his first year in a national championship game. Both teams had freshman goaltenders, but Cody Reichard is 22 years-old.

+ I didn't buy into the whole "Miami is such an underdog" story. It was way overplayed, and the RedHawks showed that last night. They looked extremely good out there -- better than BU for half the game. People kept pointing out how they had never played in a championship game ... but none of the players on the BU roster had either. I understand the history is deeper, but history is history. Now is now. Miami has played over .500 hockey since 2005-06. They made it to the tournament last year; BU didn't. I understand the Terriers were ranked number one for a large part of the season, but I wasn't at all surprised to see Miami in the final alongside them. They're a good hockey club. Their head coach even pointed out how their senior class has won more games in the past four years than any other.

So there it is. I woke up this morning and realized it wasn't just a dream. I've been watching hockey for quite awhile now, and I have never seen a team like this. I don't know that I ever will again. In any league. From the chemistry right down the pure skill. Is this what it's like to be a Detroit Red Wings fan?

BU is a big school. This isn't BC. It's not a closely-knit campus with pretty buildings and grassy areas. It's a busy city street with an extremely diverse culture where everyone has something different going on. It's not easy to bring everyone here together. But this game did. I saw kids who don't even know what hockey is cheering them on. Students who had never seen a hockey game in their lives. It was the one time I've seen this stretch of Commonwealth Avenue united. People were cheering in the streets. The T was honking down Comm Ave. This is Boston's school.

The only sad part about this whole thing is that it's over. I came to school at BU in the fall of 2006. Chris Higgins, Jason Lawrence, Matt Gilroy, John McCarthy, Brandon Yip ... they were all sophomores back then. To see what they've developed into three years later is awesome. BU loses a huge crop of talent including Colin Wilson. He will be in the NHL next year. He's ready. We'll miss all of them. But they have very bright futures ahead of them. Each one. (And I'm hoping Pittsburgh grabs a few. They have a knack for Boston boys)

Maybe we should say a quiet thank you to Jack Falla, the hockey loving author, BU professor and Sports Illustrated writer who passed away unexpectedly in September, or Meryl Starr Herman, an avid supporter of BU hockey who died that same month. It certainly seemed throughout the entire season that they had a little extra help from someone up there.

2009-2010 will certainly be a little bit of a transition year. The good thing is, they have a great freshman class right now with guys like Millan, Dave Warsofsky and Vinny Saponari. You'll get another year out of Cohen and Kevin Shattenkirk (maybe two more), and hopefully Brian Strait will stick around too. There is a lot to look forward too. But why even bother looking to then. What happened last night was one of the greatest games in hockey. It took 59 seconds to teach everyone the important lesson of not giving up. I'm going to enjoy for a long, long time. What a season.

Burn the boats, boys.

For more recaps, photos and video visit: USCHO, College Hockey News, Terrier Hockey Blog.

Photo Credit.


Do You Believe in Miracles?

If you saw the last minute of regulation of the 2009 NCAA National Championship game, you sure do believe.

Recap coming tomorrow. I'm still in shock.

Photo Credit.


One More To Go

The Boston University Terriers have a knack for finding ways to win. They did against Maine in Game 1 of the first round of the Hockey East tournament. They did so against UNH in the Northeast Regional final. And they did so last night in the Frozen Four semi-final game against Vermont.

And here I was getting nervous because they were losing with eight minutes to go. What was I thinking?

BU scored two goals in the final seven minutes to beat UVM 5-4 and proceed to the National Championship game. It was a fast-paced game that saw the momentum swing from team-to-team. BU kicked things off early, scoring two in the first, but Vermont came back with three unanswered goals in the second period. It was only the second game of the year where I saw Kieran Millan off his game. He probably wants two or three of the goals he let in back. Maybe it was nerves. Who knows. Whatever it was, hopefully he shakes it off for the next game.

Parker called a time out after UVM's third goal, and whatever he said sparked the Terriers because they played an awesome next few minutes. It eventually paid off when they made it 3-3 before the end of the second. Vermont scored the go-ahead goal with about ten minutes remaining in the third. Then the late-game heroics came out as BU tied it with a goal off of a UVM stick and the game winner with about five minutes left. Amazing.

I can't believe six months after the season started, I'm saying the Terriers are going to play for the championship. It's surreal. I feel sorry for all the students out there who missed out on this team. You won't see another one like it anytime soon. As Northeastern coach, Greg Cronin, said "They're the best professional team in college hockey."

BU plays Miami-Ohio (who sadly beat the Bemidji Cinderellas 4-1 yesterday) in the final game. It will be on ESPN at 7 pm. Make sure to check it out.

Also: The Hobey Baker presentation begins in about four minutes at 7pm on ESPNU. GILROY GILROY GILROY.

Photo Credit.


Frozen Four Eve

The Frozen Four is upon us ... and I am nervous. I know I predicted BU making the FF at the beginning of the year, but it's still surreal to see them there. They have a legit chance of winning this thing, but their match-up against Vermont tomorrow is going to be far from easy.

I remember too well the back-to-back losses Vermont handed the Terriers in the fall at Agganis. It was their first two home losses, and they dropped to 8th in the nation after that. The Catamounts play the type of hockey that can stifle BU's offense. They block shots, they play the trap ... they just get in the way to the point of where it's frustrating. But that's what they should do. That's what they will do tomorrow night, and BU will have to find a way to solve it. The Terriers are going to have to get as many shots on net as possible. Being physical will help too. Throw some hits out.

Goaltending is going to be huge in this game as well. Rob Madore is awesome; I credited him as one of the main reasons Vermont won those games. On the other side of it, Kieran Millan just came off an unbelievable game against UNH.

This game is worth watching, so make sure you turn on ESPN2 at 8:30 to catch it. BU is the favorite in the Frozen Four, but I'm telling you anything can happen. If BU shows up, gets in a flow and does their thing, they will win. But we saw them fail in doing just that against Vermont twice this year.

Some quotes regarding tomorrow's game:

"The senior class, we just took a little bit of extra time in the locker room to be sure that talking to the younger guys, you know, you don’t take this for granted. You might not get this chance again, so definitely bring your A-game."

- John McCarthy

"When you’re the No. 1 team during the regular season, you can get the other teams jacked up that you’re playing. There’s the immediate gratification of, ‘Hey, we knocked off the No. 1 team in the nation.’ I don’t think that has anything to do with this tournament, because nobody’s trying to knock off the No. 1 team. Everybody’s trying to become the No. 1 team. There’s no advantage to being the underdog, because it’s more important to be the champion."
- Jack Parker

Fingers crossed.

As for the other game of the evening, I'm going with Bemidji State over Miami. The Bemidji Cinderellas are on fire right now. When you get on a streak like that in the play-offs, you don't stop. That game will be on ESPN2 at 5:30.



The Penguins <3 Hockey East Goalies

Pittsburgh signed Northeastern's Brad Thiessen to a two-year contract today. I didn't really see this one coming, but as a Pens fan, I support it. I've mentioned how much I like Thiessen numerous times. He stood out from the first time I saw him play three years ago. The Hobey Baker finalist's career stats as a Husky were 52-46-12 with a 2.40 GAA, a .922 save percentage and eight shut-outs. I'm really interested to see how his play translates into the pros. To be honest, I don't think finishing his senior year would have hurt him. I don't think he'll have a major problem transitioning, but goalies always take a little more time to mature. One more year would have only helped him develop more.

Northeastern takes a big loss with this signing. I really feel they owed a lot of this season's success to him.

Thiessen will join former Hockey East goaltender, John Curry, in Wilkes-Barre. Does this mean Curry might end up as Pittsburgh's number two next season? Could be. Some scouts in the Pitt system have said he's ready a number of times. Curry played well in the NHL action he saw this season, so maybe it is possible. If not, he could end up mentoring Thiessen in WBS.

And is it just me, or does Pittsburgh just love signing goaltenders as much as possible?

Photo Credit.


Hobey Baker Watch

Just a quick blip here today --

The Hobey Baker Hat Trick finalists were announced today, and BU has two guys in the final three: Matt Gilroy and Colin Wilson. Northeastern's Brad Thiessen is the third. All Hockey East boys -- another thing pointing to how strong HE is in the NCAA.

I vote for Matt Gilroy to get this award. He has a great story -- from losing two younger brothers, to barely making the Terrier squad and now being one of the best players in college hockey (check out the NYTimes piece on him here). He does so much for BU both on and off the ice. Any professional team will be lucky to have him. That's not to take away from Colin Wilson who was arguably the best player in the league this year. There's just something about Gilroy though. It belongs to him.

Brad Thiessen is a viable candidate as well. He's done a lot for Northeastern, and I think the program owes him a lot. He's unbelievable. Looking at the three finalists though, I just don't think this is his year.

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