Tag Archives: dallas stars

Jets Step Up in Game 1 of Crucial Homestand

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Evander Kane Scores.

TAMPA — There are nights when it’s simply a pleasure to watch the Winnipeg Jets. Even when you’re miles away from the rink and TSN Jets TV is your only link to the MTS Centre, the Jets can look like Stanley Cup contenders.

It’s true. There are nights when the Jets look like they can beat anybody in the league. Those are the nights when you realize that if they don’t figure out a way to win on the road, they aren’t going to get a sniff of the playoffs, let alone the Cup and yet you know they can play with any team in the NHL — as long as that loud, proud seventh-man is screaming in the background.

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Jets Score Again

Wednesday night back in Winnipeg, the Jets did just everything a team needs to do, especially against a red-hot team like the Dallas Stars. The Jets checked hard and hit early. They scored the first goal, went crazy in the second period with four more, got solid goaltending and then held on to improve to 33-29-8.

First star Andrew Ladd scored his 22nd and 23rd goals of the year as The Captain was outstanding. Evander Kane scored his 28th of the season, Nik Antropov fired his 11th and Eric Fehr scored his second as the Jets halted a two-game losing streak and stopped Dallas’s six-game winning streak. Thanks to that convincing 5-2 win, the Jets pulled to within one point of ninth-place Buffalo in the Eastern Conference. The 10th-place Jets are now just four points back of eighth-place Washington in the East and five back of first-place Florida in the race for first in the Southeast Division.

The Jets will now meet the Washington Capitals in a potential four-point game tomorrow night and then will wrap up this stunningly important three-game homestand on Sunday against Carolina. If the Jets expect to make the playoffs, they’re going to need to win the next two at home because they play seven of the last 10 on the road and we all know what that means. The Jets are 11-19-4 on the road this season and just lost two straight in Vancouver and Calgary.

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Ovie Comes to Winnipeg on Friday.

Jets coach Claude Noel knows that the real task now is to win against Washington. For the Jets, Friday night’s game is no different than a playoff game

“That’s going to be the task now,” Noel said, referring to Friday night’s game with Washington. “It becomes a huge game. We’ll look forward to that. We’ll go at it tomorrow and look forward to Friday. It should be beautiful.”

Beautiful? What a wonderful statement. And it comes from the only coach in the NHL who would actually use that term. If the Jets win Game 2 of this three-game homestand, it will, indeed, be beautiful.

Of course, if they play against Washington as they did against Dallas, their chances to get to the post-season will be more beautiful than Coach Noel knows.



Jets Must Get Six Points At Home This Week

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Claude Noel

The Winnipeg Jets will play three straight games at home this week. They must win all three.

They open up Wednesday against a pretty good Dallas Stars team, play a huge four-point game against the Washington Capitals  on Friday night and then finish it up with a game next Sunday, the 18th, against the 13th-place Carolina Hurricanes.

Based on how things look today (Sunday, March 11), the Jets will need to win all three if they expect to be playing after April 7. It’s not an impossible task, especially with that huge seventh-man behind them at MTS Centre, but it will be a test. Dallas is no pushover and Washington is playing better hockey these days.

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Jets lose to Calgary

The problem of course, is that the Jets have just come off a terrible western road swing. They needed a split and they got bupkis. A tough 3-2 loss at Vancouver last Thursday and then a 5-3 loss in Calgary on Friday was hugely disappointing for everyone in Winnipeg, but in fairness, the loss to Calgary did result in one of the great responses to any reporter’s question in hockey history.

After the loss on Friday night, Jets coach Claude Noel was asked how disappointed he was about losing two straight games on the road. (Yes, I know, it’s a dumb question, but it’s asked more often than you might think.)

Noel responded to the Calgary Herald with this gem: “How would you like me to answer that? Do you want me to say medium, large? How would you like me to say that? How disappointed are you? Is there a level there? Is it a 10 out of 10? Would you like to say six out of 10? I mean how disappointed do you need to be?”

Dumb questions deserve dumb answers. The trouble with that answer is that it was absolutely brilliant. How do you feel? How disappointed are you? On a scale of 1-10? Those are questions asked by reporters who really didn’t have any idea what they were watching.

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Jets will need to win without Chris Thorburn.

The fact is, Noel was extremely disappointed. After all, those two road losses put the Jets behind the eight-ball. Heading into Sunday night’s slate of 11 NHL games, the Jets are in ninth place, deadlocked with the Buffalo Sabres at 32-29-8 (72 points). They are two points behind eighth-place Washington (the Caps have a game in hand) and they are now third in the Southeast Division, three points back of first-place Florida, two back of second-place Washington and the Panthers have two games in hand.

If Florida beats Carolina at home on Sunday night and Washington beats Toronto (both teams should win), the Jets will need all three victories this week just to keep pace.

Considering Winnipeg, which is now  11-19-4 on the road this season, will play seven of their last 10 on the road after this three-game homestand, three victories are almost imperative. And they will have to do it without hard-checking Chris Thorburn.

History says the Jets need 92 points to make the playoffs. If they add six points this week, they’ll need 14 out of a possible 20 with seven games on the road down the stretch.

It’s not going to be easy.



Chasing the Circus Trucks…

Like a puppy, it’s always fun to chase a circus wagon, just in case something pops out.

This week, all sorts of things have been popping out…

1) Check out http://tgcts.blogspot.com/

Great post, but in many ways, it’s sad but true.

2) The folks I know who attended Sunday night’s final of the Memorial Cup hockey tournament tell me it was one of the great experiences of their lives.

Terrific, now that we have that out of the way, let’s get to the ugly truth. Any tournament, in any sport, that sets up so a championship game can finish with a lopsided 9-1 score is a bad tournament.

The Canadian Major Junior Hockey League needs to quit being so greedy and play a true national final. Just like the Stanley Cup, find two good teams in the East and two good teams in the West (or four and four) and play best-of-seven series to determine a winner.

A four-team tournament in which one finalist can play on Tuesday and not play again until Sunday is stoo-pid.

3) So LeBron James quits and head coach Mike Brown gets fired. No wonder the Cleveland Cavaliers will NEVER win an NBA championship.

4) There was a time when I thought Texas Rangers/Dallas Stars owner Tom Hicks was an over-leveraged fraud. He had a pile of money on paper, but not enough of the real stuff and he was running around signing hockey players like Mike Modano and Brett Hull to ridiculous contracts. Meanwhile, he was signing baseball players to contracts that made absolutely no sense. Unless, of course, you were the player in question.

Not surprisingly, Hicks had a real supporter in a former Winnipegger who moved to Dallas and used to write me the nastiest e-mails defending Hicks as a wonderful owner who knew how to treat players and fans. My e-mail pen-pal didn’t think idiot owners were pricing pro sports out of the realm of the average fan. He thought owners had every right to overpay players and then overcharge the fans. And so what if ridiculously high contracts meant that small-market teams in places like Winnipeg and Quebec City would have to re-locate? Just the cost of doing business.

Well, the recession came and, of course, a paper tiger like Hicks went broke. As many fans know, Hicks has been trying to sell the Rangers to a group headed by Nolan Ryan, but the sale has stalled and yesterday, Hicks had to put the Rangers into Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

In a 21-page filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Fort Worth yesterday, the top 30 unsecured creditors were listed. Included on the list were a number of Rangers players who were all paid w-a-a-a-y too much. According to the list, Alex Rodriguez is still owed $24.9 million in deferred compensation, six years after he was traded to the Yankees. The next five people on the unsecured creditors list are also current or former players: Kevin Millwood ($12.9 million), Michael Young ($3.9 million), Vicente Padilla ($1.7 million), Mickey Tettleton ($1.4 million) and Mark McLemore ($970,000).

Wonder if the Stars will be next? Bet Gary Bettman, who just finished with the bankruptcy of the Phoenix Coyotes, is looking forward to that prospect.



Should There Be More Teams in the Stanley Cup Playoffs?

TAMPA, Fla. — Dallas Stars scouting director, Les Jackson, believes the National Hockey League needs to add more teams to the post-season. Not necessarily for the sake of competition as much as for the sake of the business.

Friday night I was sitting with Jackson, an old friend from way back in the days when he coached the Brandon Wheat Kings, at the Lightning-Rangers game in Tampa and he asked an interesting question: “Why wouldn’t the NHL want to add eight more teams to the playoffs every year? Why wouldn’t the league want to do everything to help its members make some money?”

It was a nell of a question. According to Jackson, if more teams made the playoffs fewer would lose big money. It makes overwhelming sense and, with some thought, it could be practical, too.

“Back in the glory days of the six-team NHL, four of six teams made the playoffs. If you carried that on to today, it means the league should have 20 teams in the playoffs. So why not 24? Why not give the teams that are in tough hockey markets a chance to sell the game in the post-season? Everybody loves the playoffs. Why not let more teams have the chance to enjoy the playoffs?”

It would be easy to say, “We don’t want more teams in the playoffs because it makes the regular season less important,” but I understand what Jackson means even from the competitive standpoint. This year, a team that’s 10 games above .500 (Calgary) might miss the playoffs and two teams that are seven games above .500 (Anaheim and St. Louis) WILL miss the playoffs. Right now, seven teams with better than .500 records will miss the post-season.

If we were talking about crappy teams without a hope, I could understand why fans wouldn’t want to add any more teams. But this year, a load of teams that will miss the playoffs are probably good enough to challenge more than half the teams that make it. The competition would not suffer.

Jackson is right. The NHL should add at least four and maybe eight more teams to the post-season. It wouldn’t hurt the competition and it would definitely improve the business.



Preds in Trouble. That Makes Five Admissions. Time to Give an NHL Franchise to Winnipeg.

TAMPA — It’s one thing to be in trouble. It’s another thing to admit it.

In the National Hockey League, there are more admissions every day.

The New York Islanders, Columbus Blue Jackets, Florida Panthers, Atlanta Thrashers and the Phoenix Coyotes have all admitted that they are having financial problems in their markets. The Tampa Bay Lightning have admitted ownership troubles and the Dallas Stars will likely have to be sold because of the recession’s effects on owner Tom Hicks’ fortune. Hockey is in trouble in many U.S. markets and. of course, Winnipeg sits patiently and waits for the NHL to decide its own future.

This week, members of Nashville’s Metro Sports Authority admitted they were worried about the future of the Preds at Nashville’s Sommet Centre.

“We are sort of hostage to somebody that comes along and makes a better deal in terms of another city,” Sports Authority member Steve North told Nate Rau of the Tennessean.

The source of the worry began when it was revealed that Preds majority owner David Freeman has a personal $3.5 million tax lien against him.

According to Rau, the lien against Freeman was the latest development in a series of financial bombshells. Last month the team filed suit against the Sommet Group to terminate the naming rights agreement at the downtown arena. Six weeks ago, CIT Group, which lent the local ownership group $85 million, filed for bankruptcy protection. And, of course, there is William (Bootsie) Del Biaggio , a minority owner, who filed for bankruptcy after he was jailed for fraud. His 27 percent stake in the franchise is now tied up in bankruptcy court.

Meanwhile, if the Predators show a $20 million cumulative loss (beginning in 2007) and if attendance falls below an average of 14,000 paid per game, the owners can exercise an opt-out clause from their lease beginning on May 1, 2010. That would allow the team to leave Nashville.

So now, with Phoenix, Columbus, Nashville and Atlanta officially in trouble, there is a good chance Winnipeg will be in line for an existing team soon.

In fact, the sooner it happens, the better off the NHL will be.



Could the Dominoes Start Falling?

There is a fear among North America’s major sports leagues. It’s a fear we’ve discussed before at rivercitysportsblog.com. If Gary Battman and the National Hockey League lose in court this month and if the Phoenix Coyotes are allowed to re-locate to Hamilton, Ont., the dominoes will start to fall.

And every other major sports league knows it.

For if the Coyotes’ owner, Jerry Moyes, is allowed to sell his team to the highest bidder in order for that bidder to move the franchise without the permission of the league, struggling franchises all over pro sports will just get in line.

In hockey, that could mean the Islanders, Florida, Tampa, Atlanta, Nashville, Columbus or even Dallas.

And that’s why the NBA, Major League Baseball and the NFL filed a joint court document on Friday warning that by allowing Moyes to do what’s right — get the most money possible for his asset in order to pay off the debts on a failed business — “it has the potential to undermine the business of professional hockey and other major league sports.”

Officially, the three other leagues joined in an “amici curiae” brief in U.S. Bankruptcy Court supporting, “the NHL’s right to determine where a team is located and who owns it.” But if Moyes has his ownership stripped, his ability to do with his business what he feels he must and to receive a $212.5 million offer instead of an alleged $130 million offer from a very reluctant suitor (there is still no reason to believe that the NHL has an actual buyer), then anyone who would enter into an agreement with the NHL’s cartel, is always in a position whereby he could lose every penny he’s ever had.

Just ask one of the men who purchased the Winnipeg Jets, Steven Gluckstern. Gluckstern is said to have lost half his personal fortune on ownership gambles with Phoenix and the Islanders. Hockey is a pretty questionable investment.

The judge in this case, Mr. Redfield Baum, set a deadline of midnight last night for the filing of all briefs in the distpute between the NHL and Moyes. Moyes wants to sell his team to RIM CEO and boring Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie (Did you hear that speech in Winnipeg? ZZZZZZZZ!), who wants to buy the bankrupt Coyotes (although the NHL says they aren’t bankrupt) for US$212.5 million and move them to Hamilton.

Now, according to tsn.ca, the NHL has blamed the Coyotes’ financial problems on a lack of success on the ice and believes that with a new lease agreement and solid management a franchise in Arizona still could be successful. If that’s true, why would ANYONE want to be involved with the NHL?

The National Hockey League has said — legally and on the record, no less — that one of it’s most popular spokespersons, Wayne Gretzky, is an incompetent boob who has driven one of its precious franchises into bankruptcy. It’s also claimed that President Doug Moss and a handful of GMs are idiots who couldn’t run a one-car funeral.

And into all of that, Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz told our Shaw Channel 9 TV audience, between innings of a Winnipeg Goldeyes-Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks game on Friday night, that it would be possible to have the NHL return to Winnipeg in “two-to-five years.”

“It’s possible,” Katz said, “but I believe it isn’t imminent, it’s down the road.”

When asked, “How far down the road?” Katz repsonded, “I believe it’s possible that it could happen in between two and five years.

“It would take an available team (and there will be available teams if Phoenix is allowed to move), and an owner who wants to risk the losses to bring a team here, plus the involvement of Mark Chipman and the people who own the MTS Centre. It’s complicated and it will be a difficult negotiation, but it’s possible.”

If Winnipeg gets a team, I wonder who would want to run it? If he’s working for Gary Bettman and the current cartel, he’d better have a thick skin. After all, these guys aren’t afraid to blame Wayne Gretzky for their problems — and then publicly call the Great One an idiot.



Random thoughts: Three things on my mind after a day of football and a week of hockey.

Just some random activity in my grey matter…

No. 1…

 

As the Boston Bruins remain among the Top 3 teams in the National Hockey League, it’s been fun to watch the brilliant play of 33-year-old Shane Hnidy of Neepawa, Mb.

 

Here’s a guy who has bounced around the NHL for about eight seasons. He made it to the big time after toiling in the East Coast League and the American League. He’s been in Detroit (although he never actually played in Detroit), Ottawa, Nashville, Atlanta, Anaheim and Boston and now, he’s finally found a home — on the Bruins defence. 

 

And now that he’s averaging 20 minutes a game on a terrific team, it’s a good home, too.

 

No. 2…

 

Sean Avery is no longer a member of the Dallas Stars. The tough guy with the crazy mouth who made disparaging public comments about two ex-girlfriends has been dumped by Dallas.

 

Most hockey fans figured it was coming, but there is something just a tad disturbing about it. 

 

Frankly, it makes Dallas GM Brett Hull look really bad. In fact, it makes you wonder if Hull and the people around him have paid any attention to anything at all. Did they not know what they were getting when they signed Avery?

 

And No. 3…

 

I wonder how these big time mainstream media folks in Winnipeg, the one or two who clearly suggested the Minnesota Vikings were on the right track — and a better team — when Gus Frerotte took over as the team’s quarterback, feel about their ridiculous statements today?

 

Yesterday in Glendale, Arizona, Tarvaris Jackson pitched an almost perfect game for the Vikes – 11-for-17 for 163 yards four touchdowns, no interceptions and a 135.5 passer’s rating. He also turned and handed the ball to Adrian Peterson enough times so that Peterson could run for 165 yards on 28 carries.

 

That’s how the Vikings win (they won 35-14 in Arizona yesterday)  and that’s why T-Jack is the Vikings one and only quarterback. At least he’s the one and only quarterback if the Vikings expect to win in the post-season.



NHL free agency 2008: Perhaps this will end all the talk about Winnipeg and Quebec City. Of course, it might also ring the death knell for South Florida, Atlanta, Nashville and Phoenix.

It’s free agent time in the NHL and the money spent this week bordered on the obscene. On Day 1, Tuesday  — Canada Day in Canada — the NHL spent about $400 million. On Day 2, it was closer to $150 million, but then, some of the signings were downright crazy.  If anybody continues to believe that Winnipeg or even Quebec City can play in this game, I would think they’re delusional. Even marginal players are getting gigantic contracts now that teams have a $56.7 million salary cap (and a $40.1 million floor).

Let’s look at some highlights: 

Marian Hossa signed with the Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings. One year $7.4 million. And apparently, he turned down larger offers from other teams.

 

The Pittsburgh Penguins signed Evgeni Malkin to a five-year contract extension worth $43.5 million. The Pens also signed Brooks Orpik (Brooks freakin’ Orpik) to a six-year deal worth $22.5 million.

 

Dallas signed forward Sean Avery to a four-year, $15.5 million deal. Was that for the hockey skill or the comic relief.

 

Atlanta signed free agent defenceman Ron Hainsey — who!? — to a five year $22.5 million deal.

 

The Columbus Blue Jackets signed Kristian Huselius away from Calgary. Four years, $19 million.

 

Defenceman Brian Campbell signed an eight-year deal with the Chicago Blackhawks which will pay him $7.1 million per season.

 

Anaheim signed restricted free agent Corey Perry to a five-year, $26.625 million deal and the Brian Burke blamed Edmonton GM Kevin Lowe for making the Ducks pay Perry that much money.

 

Washington re-signed star defenceman Mike Green, four years, $21 million.

 

Colorado signed unrestricted free agent forward Darcy Tucker to a two-year $4.2 million contract;

 

The Leafs signed Colorado free-agent defenceman Jeff Finger, four years $14 million and Dallas Stars’ free-agent defenecman Niklas Hagman, four-years $12 million. 

 

The Boston Bruins signed Michael Ryder and his 12 goals to a three year, $12 million contract.

 

New Jersey got Brian Rolston, four-years, $20.25 million.

 

The New York Islanders paid Montreal Canadiens unrestricted free agent Mark Streit, $20.5 million for five years. Huh???

 

And the New York Rangers signed defenceman Wade Redden away from Ottawa, six years, $39 million.

 

It was also reported that the Vancouver Canucks have free agent, ex-Leafs captain, Mats Sundin, a two-year contract worth $20 million. He turned it down. If he did, he’s completely insane so that offer probably wasn’t really on the table.

 

Some of these guys deserve big money. Ron Hainsey? Jeff Finger? Michael Ryder? My goodness gracious.

 

Hockey’s true financial armageddon is right around the corner. We should start a pool as to when the next team slips into bankruptcy. It hasn’t been that long since Pittsburgh was in court in 1998. 

 

This week’s spending spree made the lockout season look like one giant lie. You have to hope that after the sub-prime mortgage crisis, the rising food and gas prices, the War in Iraq and the slow, ugly death — read: outsourcing — of the U.S. industrial and manufacturing sectors, there will be money left to buy hockey tickets.

 

Funny, but I wouldn’t necessarily count on it.  



Stamkos goes No. 1. Will he be the answer in Tampa?

I like Steven Stamkos. He’s an extremely fine young man. I met him last winter when I did the Scott Oake/Elliotte Friedman between-periods thing for Shaw TV’s Soo Greyhounds Hockey telecasts  in Sault Ste., Marie Ontario.

 

Stamkos and the Sarnia Sting were playing the Greyhounds back on February 16 and while Stamkos did pick up an assist in a 6-3 loss to the Soo, he was minus-2 and for 55 minutes that big Soo defence turned him into the Invisible Man. Honestly, you could not find him on the ice with a GPS.

 

Two weeks earlier, we did a Soo-Guelph Storm game from the Steelback Centre and the most impressive hockey player I saw all winter (wearing a uniform other than Sault Ste. Marie’s) was Storm defenceman  Drew Doughty. Doughty was big, at 6-foot-1, 215-pounds, strong on his skates and he moved the puck quickly. He was smart and demonstrated leadership abilities that belied his age. Friday night, he led the Storm to a 4-3 win.

 

During the winter, I had the pleasure of interviewing both young men and they were both impressive. Smart, confident, they carried themselves like professional adults, not like cocky kids. All of the people working the broadcast on those nights thought they’d be great young pros.

 

I bring this up because this past Friday night, Stamkos was chosen No. 1 overall by Tampa in the NHL draft while Doughty went No. 2. to Los Angeles.

 

Stamkos, a guy I watched disappear in front of a hard-ass crowd, in a very tough building after a long bus trip against a big, intimidating defence, has been sold as the saviour of the last-place Tampa Bay Lightning, even though he’s going to be a second line centre behind the great Vincent Lecavalier.  

 

Doughty, on the other hand, is considered a tremendous prospect by the Los Angeles Kings, a bad team that is trying to rebuild from the ground up. He’s not considered a saviour, but a kid who can help the process in a market that has not been successful for many years. In fact, when the Kings traded to get the 13th pick and selected Colton Teubert, another defenceman, from the Regina Pats, TSN’s Pierre McGuire gushed: “This is such a good pick. Put that pick with Drew Doughty on defence and you’ve really got something in Los Angeles. He’s physical and he loves to get after people. The Kings are building the smart way — strength on the back end, just like Detroit.”

 

Pierre McGuire is dead right. A lot of people might not like McGuire’s style on television, but he knows the game and the things he says are almost always correct and insightful. 

 

In the first round of the draft, L.A. was a real winner. Both Doughty and Teubert will help make the Kings a better team. They won’t save the franchise but they’ll make the Kings a better team and that’s what the draft was meant to accomplish Frankly, the same goes for Stamkos.

 

Steven Stamkos is a terrific young man who will help the Tampa Bay Lightning improve, but unless Mike Smith turns out to be the goaltender they need — the goaltender that warranted sending Brad Richards to Dallas (and believe me Steven Stamkos is NOT as good as Brad Richards, at least not yet) — the Tampa Bay Lightning will be back at next year’s draft picking first again.

 

NOTE: We’ll analyze the entire 2008 draft tomorrow. 

 



The best of the best on display. The 2008 Stanley Cup final.

Finally. After a couple of days of annoyance, the Detroit Red Wings finally disposed of the upstart Dallas Stars and will now meet the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup final.

 

Monday night in Dallas, the Red Wings blasted the Stars 4-1 as former Winnipeg Jet, Dallas Drake, had a goal and an assist. Detroit took out the Stars in six games and now the Stanley Cup final will begin this Saturday night at Joe Louis Arena (all games are in the evening and all games will be on CBC).

 

For a Winnipegger, the Wings-Dallas series was kind of eerie. Back in 1996, the Jets played the Red Wings in what turned out to be Jets’ final playoff series in the NHL.

 

In Game 5 of that year, the Jets went into Detroit trailing three-games-to-one and goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin stood on his head to send the series back to Winnipeg for Game 6. In Game 6, Detroit shredded the Jets, beat them 4-1 and ended the series — and the Jets NHL tenure — in six games.  

 

So what happens in 2008? Trailing 3-1, Marty Turco goes back into Detroit, stands on his head and forces a Game 6. In Game 6, Detroit shreds the Stars, wins 4-1 and closes out the series in six games. And 39-year-old Dallas Drake, who was on the ice for the Jets in 1996, scores a goal and adds an assist for the Red Wings.

 

Oh, what could have been (if Gary Filmon’s P.C. government of the day had a collective brain bigger than a walnut).

 

As it is, there is something special on the horizon. 

 

Granted, it took a bit longer than we anticipated, but the Stanley Cup final is perfect. Wings-Penguins is just as it should be.

These are the two best teams in hockey. The Red Wings are the President’s Trophy winners and the Penguins have required only 14 games to go three rounds in the playoffs in order to reach the final. This is Crosby, Malkin, Staal, Gonchar and Hossa against Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Holmstrom, Lidstrom and, hopefully, Franzen. This is hockey.

We’ll talk more about these two teams this week. The final doesn’t start until Saturday. But make no mistake, this is the best final fans could have anticipated. In fact, it just might be the best final in decades.