Snipe City is a weekly hockey column by 36 Crazyfists vocalist Brock Lindow and PUCKHCKY founder Matt Marini.
The tour with Nonpoint ended in Jacksonville, Florida the other evening and we played an outside venue right on the waterfront. From the left side of the stage was Hooters and I could see the Rangers -Pens game on. There I was , Trying to belt it out and catch the score at the same time, it was pretty comical. The playoffs have been one incredible game after the next and the sweep of the Jets by Anaheim was the perfect scenario for my brother Nate Thompson of Anaheim to continue to heal up his shoulder and prepare to get back into the line up for the next series. I’m pullin’ for Nate and the boys to bring Lord Stanley  back to AK for some hoistin’!
OK…lets drop the puck on the mutha….
So the opening round of the playoffs were badass to say the least, unless you’re a Jets fan.
This, of course, is the main focus of Snipe City this week, but we absolutely MUST touch on another little item that took place this past weekend….. the NHL Draft Lottery & the ridiculously good fortune that has somehow found its way to Alberta yet AGAIN.
1) All right then…. I’ll bite. Whats up Edmonton? Whats your secret to getting the 1st pick overall in the upcoming Connor McDavid sweepstakes, otherwise known as the 2015 NHL Draft? In case you didn’t know, there happens to be two “generational” talents (think Gretzky, Crosby, etc) in the upcoming draft: Connor McDavid & Jack Eichel. People have literally been talking about this draft for YEARS, anticipating the arrival of both players to the NHL. In order to determine the draft selection order, the NHL has a lottery featuring the 14 teams that did not qualify for the current playoffs, and based on just how poorly each team finished overall they are assigned a percentage chance of getting the 1st overall selection.
As it turns out the Buffalo Sabres (who really, really tried!) finished last overall, followed by the Arizona Coyotes, and then the Oilers from Edmonton. Soooo, the Sabres had the best shot at getting the 1st overall pick….which meant McDavid would be wearing blue and gold right? WRONG! Looks more like blue and orange will be in his future, as the Oilers were able to leapfrog both Arizona and Buffalo and capture the top selection. With the lottery rules dictating that no team can fall back farther than one selection spot, this bumped Buffalo back to number two & Arizona back to number three. So stay with me here….the Oilers, the franchise that has selected an entire teams worth of 1st overall selections (OK, that might not be completely accurate..but close.) gets McDavid too?? WOW!! They will have an incredible wealth of talent at the forward positions, while still being thin on defense and in goal. I gotta think the Oilers will be considering some heavy-duty trades this summer to balance out the line-up. I mean will they EVER have a better chance of molding themselves into a contender? Should be an incredible off-season in Edmonton so stay tuned. Also, don’t feel too bad for Buffalo as Eichel is hardly a consolation prize. This guy is a beast and may develop into a Ryan Getzlaf-type guy.
2) On to the playoffs!!!
Eastern Conference:
Montreal vs Ottawa -…so much for coming in on a roll. Ottawa entered the series on fire, and quickly found  themselves eliminated. Game 1 did feature some controversy as PK Subban slashed Ottawa star Mark Stone on the wrist. Stone has clearly not been himself since, but has some how managed to still be contributing offensively. The main issue in the Sens game thus far has clearly been in net. The Hamburglar (Andrew Hammond) let in a few shots I’m quite sure he would love another chance at in both games 1 & 2, while Craig Anderson (who otherwise had a stellar game 3) gave up a short-side game winner to Dale Weise which found its way in. Ottawa needed to bring an ugly, nasty game to game 4 and get lots of traffic in front of (and all around) Carey Price. Montreal prevailed and sent Ottawa to the golf course!
New York Rangers vs Pittsburgh – This was waaaay closer than we thought it would be!! While the Rangers did ultimately take this series, the Penguins did not make it easy. Sidney Crosby played really well…but Evgeny Malkin played  really NOT well. No goals in 13 games Geno?? Come on now, if Malkin could have  found  a way to turn it on it would’ve been much more interesting. The Rangers overall team speed is a sight to behold as guys like Hagelin and Kreider can flat-out fly, while the (injury depleted) Penguins were just flat-out grinding it out, playing as tough as possible. Pittsburgh has a collection of guys that can bring a nasty game,  Ultimately the Blue Shirts proved to be too much for the pens and sent them packin’!
New York Islanders vs Washington –  Boy-Oh-Boychuk! Bruins fans can only continue to cringe as they watch their former hero provide amazing defense for the Isle, specifically against Alex Ovechkin. In all fairness to the other 5 New York defensemen playing, they are also did  a pretty good job shutting down the high-powered Caps offense. Jaro Halak has also played very solid in goal for the Isles through out the series. Caps goalie Braden Holtby actually missed the game the Caps won, as AHL call-up Philipp Grubauer took game 2 in Holtbys’ unexplained absence. To make it even more weird, the OT game winner by John Tavares in game 3 was not a great one for Holtby to give up. This was a pretty rough series thus far with numerous big hits…check out the hit Kyle Okposo put on Eric Fehr in game 3. Totally clean hit. Ovie played pretty solid and is showing signs of catching fire…game 7 was a beauty and a bit bittersweet as the Islanders ended up losing as well as saying goodbye to the Nassau coliseum as their new home will be in Brooklyn next year.
Tampa Bay vs Detroit – The Wings took the opener despite getting out-shot something like 46-15 ! Rookie Petr Mrazek looked fantastic and really stole game 1 for Detroit. In a twist for game 2, the Lightning won by a 5-1 score, although that outcome wasn’t a true representation of the game. As difficult as it may be to comprehend, the Wings actually played a much better game 2, but the Bolts capitalized on their opportunities that didn’t happen in game 1. Overall the Bolts out-played Detroit for sure,   Since the Wings did steal a game in Florida, this series eventually went game 7 with Tampa clinching a second round birth after a 1-0 victory.
Western Conference:
Anaheim vs Winnipeg.
This series took a way different path to its conclusion then we thought it would. The Jets had actually led all 3 games going into the 3rd period, only to have the Ducks storm back in the 3rd (or OT) to win each time. All 4 games were  as physical as we thought they would be, with numerous HUGE hits in each game. What is truly standing out thus far is the depth of the Ducks roster. To illustrate this, James Wisniewski and Tomas Fleischmann were both healthy scratches for games 1 & 2 (Fleischmann played in game 3). Keep in mind these are veteran players that do not get scratched from games. Not only are the Ducks top guys playing well and contributing, guys like Kesler, Silverberg, Cogliano & Vatanen are also stepping it up big-time. Kesler is showing why Anaheim got him, as he is providing a serious edge to his game and made life miserable for the Jets. Both goaltenders played good, but Freddie Andersen of Anaheim is made the bigger timely saves when needed. We really thought the Jets were gonna take game 3, particularly after Little ripped the 4th goal by Andersen…but again it was not to be. Game 4 ended with Anaheim doing more of the same and closed out the series. More time for the Alaskan warrior, Nate Thompson to heal up and get back into the next series after injuring his shoulder at the end of the regular season. Kick some ass Nate!!!!
St. Louis vs Minnesota-  Uh-oh! Are the Blues doomed to lose another playoff series early in the spring? Game 4 was monumental for the Blues! We actually heard the experts discussing the ramifications of the Blues losing this series, and what it will do to the franchise. Yikes!! If you had been watching this series you found two teams that play a totally different style. The Wild play a speed game, while the Blues play a much more “heavy” physical game. So the Wild had frustrated  the Blues all over the ice, while Dubnyk has continued his fine play in goal. I think we mentioned (in a previous column) that the Blues only real weakness could be a lack of consistent offense, and that’s what we saw this in the series. Vlad Tarasenko is still producing, but when you have Backes, Oshie & Statsny with ZERO points between them, it makes you say uh-oh for sure.  Its also worth mentioning that Zack Parise of the Wild is playing as well as we’ve ever seen him play! The Wild went on to defeat the Blues and there as dangerous as anybody looking to hoist the cup!
Vancouver vs Calgary – Look at the Flames go!!! Wow. Very impressive effort . This Flames team is good now, and they are only going to get better…a lot better! Lets not forget the Flames are minus their Captain and All-Star defenseman Mark Giordano. Jonas Hiller has been magnificent so far for the Flames, I think the forward depth of the Flames is surprising a lot of people…including us! With guys like Jiri Hudler, Johnny Gaudreau & Sean Monahan leading the charge…oh yeah, don’t forget Sam Bennett who made his debut during this series too! Who is Sam Bennett you ask? Only the 4th overall pick in the 2014 draft!! So yes, the Flames have another stud forward coming along. It also must be noted that the play of the Flames defense has stepped it up big-time in the absence of Gio. Kris Russell &  TJ Brodie are contributing at both ends of the ice, with Russell leading the team in scoring. The Canucks needed to turn up the physical aspect of their game,which is why I have always called them soft. They just don’t have the physical presence needed to get the job done. Calgary went on to close the series and deliver Vancouver their first round exit!
Chicago vs Nashville: Triple OT in game 4! These two teams sure play some classic games don’t they? Gotta love it. Some very interesting story-lines from this series as well.  The Blackhawks goaltending & Shea Weber. First with Weber. He went down with an apparent knee or ankle injury in game 2 in Nashville and did not make the trip to the Windy City for games 3 & 4.  Over in the net for Chicago was… Scott Darling ?!! With Corey Crawford turning in questionable performances in both games 1 & 2, Darling took over the crease for the Hawks and has been very solid, particularly in the OT sessions. Other than game 2 (which Nashville won) the games were  ultra-close, killer series the Chicago ended up closing out and moving on!
2nd round has begun and the Rangers-Capitals game was a beauty. Ovechkin looked much better and sent a laser over the shoulder of Lundquist from the top of the circle for the games first goal and then contributed with a nasty pass to Joel Ward who buried the game winner with 1 second left in regulation time to silence the sold-out crowd at MSG!
Anaheim came out on fire and pelted Calgary with a 6-1 game 1 win. I’m telling you, Anaheim is no joke and it was awesome to see my boy Nate Thompson back in the line up after sitting out the first series with a banged up shoulder and getting on the box sheet with a cross checking minor! Thata kid!!
The Minnesota Wild – Chicago Blackhawks series begins tonight and it’s gonna be explosive, so
Much talent on both squads and Patty Kane is back and looking like he hasn’t missed a step.
The Montreal Canadiens – Tampa Bay Lightning series should be pretty tight but Carey Price is looking like the best tender in the game and you can ride all the way to the cup final  when you got a guy like that between the pipes.
So it’s the greatest time of the year and hopefully you are gettin’ in all the shit talking you can against your boys while watching the games. You know we are!!!
Keep your head up,
Brock & Matt