Monday, April 11, 2016

Top 5 Reasons You Can't Blame the Blue Jackets This Year

5. They've got Saad on the wrong line. - This kills me. How in good graciousness do you have your highest paid non goalie player, not on the top line? He was on the top line in Chicago in 2015, and they won a little trophy called the Stanley Cup. This makes no sense to me. You can give me the reasons, but I am not listening. He scored 30 plus goals from the second line, and if you put him up on the top line, I guarantee he'll get at least 40 goals. He is too skilled and too fast not to be playing on a better line. This is a real head scratcher for me.

4. Todd Richards put them in a 0-7 hole before he was fired. - The Blue Jackets Front Office waited too long to fire Todd Richards and bring in John Tortorella.  I could see losing four or five games to start the season as being too much, but seven? Come on! Clearly, the players did not respond to the coaching staff. They were the lottery team last year, and if you want to change the culture you need to hold the leash tighter. John Tortorella actually has playoff wins and a Stanley Cup. The Blue Jackets have two playoff wins. This is a no brainer.
Seth Jones

3. Seth Jones did not get a full season with the Blue Jackets. - Ok, lets be real for one moment. Right now Seth Jones is the only top-line defensemen on the team.  A first round draft pick by Nashville, this guy is young and talented. He is exactly who every team wants on their blue line. He shoots, defends and jumps into the play better than anyone else they have. The Blue Jackets are the team paying $4.5 million a year for Fedor Tyutin; what a waste! The Blue Jackets did draft Zach Werenski, and they have him playing with the Lake Erie Monsters - their farm team - so there is hope.

2. Ryan Johansen played like a baby until they traded him to Nashville. - Though he was right that he should of been paid more, Ryan Johansen played selfish until he was traded. He was taking unnecessary penalties and his effort was to be questioned. A great player, no doubt, but he was very immature in how he handled things. Life is not fair, and you have to deal with it. The silver lining, though, is the Blue Jackets picked up Seth Jones in what might be the greatest trade steal since R.J. Unburger for Scott Hartnell.
Korpisalo with the save!

1. With Bobrovsky and McElhinney getting injured every other week, the Blue Jackets were starting minor league goalies for most of the season. - Now I want to give some props here to Korpisalo and Forsberg because they did a hell of a job stepping up for the Blue Jackets. They had to put up with little defensive help until Seth Jones arrived. Its hard to make the jump from minor league to the NHL because the game is so much faster. Clearly, these NHL players are the best in the world, and they prove that night in and night out. So, for the Blue Jackets not to fall apart even worse than they did, much of the credit goes to Korpisalo and Forsberg.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Frozen Four Finale

Championship Game!
Well, it's all over and North Dakota is your champions.  They routed Quinnipiac in the final game of the NCAA Men's Hockey Tournament, 5-1. It was a dominating performance by the Fighting Hawks. I have to admit that I did not see this coming. I knew North Dakota had the ability to score but I was expecting Quinnipiac to be up to the task. The Bobcats were a little overmatched and North Dakota opened a can of whoop ass, thanks Stone Cold Steve Austin!

Well how did North Dakota get to the 5-1 victory? They opened the scoring at the 11:56 mark of the first period. The goal was from Shane Gersich, he was assisted by Gage Ausmus and Brock Boeser.  Brock Boeser got on the score sheet again, this time with a short handed goal to make it 2-0.  The goal from Boeser was unassisted. 
North Dakota's first goal!

Quinnipiac did have an answer late in the first period.  The Bobcats' power play goal at 18:53 cut the margin to 2-1. Scoring the goal was Tim Clifton, and he was assisted by Connor Clifton and Travis St. Denis.  The only problem was that it turned out to be the lone goal for the Bobcats in the game.  Though going into the first period intermission things were looking up for Quinnipiac

There was no scoring in the second period so the game remained 2-1 at the next intermission. Shots were equal in the period at nine to nine.  Finally, both teams were called for two penalties so things were definitely pretty even in the second period.
North Dakota wins!

Whatever was said in the North Dakota locker after the second intermission fired up the Fighting Hawks, specifically Drake Caggiula. Caggiula scored two goals in the first four minutes of the third period. The first at 1:21, was assisted by Nick Schmaltz and Brock Boeser. The second goal was at the 3:41 mark, was assisted by Brock Boeser and Paul Ladue. North Dakota's final goal of the game was scored at 10:41 by Austin Poganski.  On the Poganski goal, the assists went to Rhett Gardner and Gage Ausmus. Bottom line: North Dakota 5 - Quinnipiac 1.

So what went wrong for Quinnipiac? First, they had no answer for Brock Boeser. He had a short handed goal and three assists. Secondly, they were only 1 for 4 on the power play. If you have that many chances, you need to cash in more than once. Finally, they got out played in third period. I said that North Dakota had the deeper team, and this clearly showed up in the third period. The Bobcats played well for 40 minutes but in a 60 minute game, that's just not going to cut it.
The team photo after the win!

So hats off to North Dakota for winning the championship. They stayed the course and when they got their opportunities, they made the most of them. They have a lot of talent on the team, and they got great goal tending from Cam Johnson. The scary thing for the rest of college hockey is that the Fighting Hawks are a young team. Cam Johnson and Nick Schmaltz are sophomores, and Brock Boeser is a freshman. These guys are only going to get better, they will probably be back in the Frozen Four next year.
The United Center

I hope that you enjoyed my coverage of the tournament. This was the best I have ever done with my picks from beginning. I got three of the four Frozen Four teams, both teams in the title game, and the champion right. It's going to be a long off season, and I cannot wait for next season to start. The 2017 Frozen Four will be in the United Center in Chicago, Illinois; the home of the Chicago Blackhawks. You better get ready! Have a great night! 

Friday, April 8, 2016

Frozen Four: Championship Prediction

The moment everyone is waiting for is here: The final prediction of the NCAA hockey championship. For the next three hours, I am going to draw this out as long as humanly possible. Just Kidding!

Since I started writing this blog, I have never picked both teams in the championship game until this year. Coincidently, the last time I got the champion right was 2012, and that Frozen Four was also in Tampa Bay. Boston College won the Frozen Four that year. I don't think I have ever been as close on the picks as I have this year. Watching all of this hockey is finally paying off.
"Celebrate good times, come on!"

So, it's Quinnipiac vs. North Dakota for all the marbles. I have broken down games featuring both for the last two weeks. I think pretty much all the bases and all the analysis has been done. You know all about the schools, where they are from, where they play and a little bit of history. These are two great teams, clearly, because they have made it this far. So, let's get to the pick!

When this started, I picked North Dakota to win it all. I thought they were the best team. I also like them, so the pick was a little swayed by my heart. The North Dakota - Chicago Blackhawks connection has been well documented. I could not go against that pick. Finally, I like the Fighting Hawks ability to roll four lines and make life difficult for the Bobcats.

Bottom line: North Dakota 4 - Quinnipiac 3.  


Thursday, April 7, 2016

Frozen Four: Semi Final Recap

Wow, what a day for NCAA hockey at the Frozen Four.  We had two really awesome games in Tampa Bay yesterday.  We had Quinnipiac, the No. 1 overall seed, just barely getting past Boston College 3-2 in the first game.  In the second game, we had North Dakota scoring with just under a minute left to beat Denver 4-2.  They added an empty netter at the end for the two goal victory.  I don't think we could have asked for anything better from the Frozen Four semi finals.  This is just means that the championship game will be just as awesome and intense!

As I said in the opening, Quinnipiac took down Boston College 3-2.  I think I was pretty spot on in my prediction of a 4-2 Quinnipiac winner.  I figured that it would be a close game.  I thought that Quinnipiac would get an empty netter, that is why I thought they would score 4 goals.  Quinnipiac was the better team and I think we all knew that going in but credit goes to the Boston College Eagles for giving them a hell of a fight to the finish.

Kevin McKernan got the opening goal for Quinnipiac just 2:31 into the first period.  It was a great way for the Bobcats to start the game.  Not so much what Boston College was looking for but hey it's a long game and there was time for a come back.

Quinnipiac's second goal of the period came just under five minutes later.  The goal was scored by Andrew Taverner and he was assisted by Travis St. Denis.  The first period was not even half over and the Bobcats had jumped out to a two goal lead.  After the second goal, Boston College settled things down and the teams went into the locker room at the intermission, 2-0 Bobcats.

Alex Tuch wasted little time as the second period began to get Boston College on the board.  His goal 23 seconds into the period made the score 2-1 Quinnipiac.  He was assisted on the goal by Colin White and Casey Fitzgerald.  It was a nice response from the Eagles and exactly how you wanted to start the second period.

Unfortunately for Boston College, Quinnipiac had other ideas.  Just over four minutes later Landon Smith scored on the power play for the Bobcats.  He was assisted by Tim Clifton and Travis St. Denis.  It was Travis St. Denis' second assist on the night.  Smith's power play goal was the end of the scoring in the second leaving the score, 3-1, Bobcats.

Like Al Michaels once said, "And they refuse to go quietly," Boston College was not done.  At the 15:44 mark of the third period, Ryan Fitzgerald scored on the power play for the Eagles.  He was assisted by Ian McCoshen and Teddy Doherty.  This made the score 3-2 Bobcats.  The Eagles could not put another one home and Quinnipiac took the game 3-2!

The second game of the night was another great one.  As North Dakota beat Denver 4-2.  I thought it would be a higher scoring game but I cannot complain the way the game turned out.  The teams set a record only taking a combined eight shots in the first period.  Just like the first game, I think everyone knew North Dakota was the better team on paper, like Quinnipiac, it was just a question of if they could execute and get the job done.

Like I said, there were only eight shots in the first period.  There were also no goals.  This should not surprise because these teams know each other so well.  This was the sixth contest between the two sides.  Maybe nerves and excitement got the best of the teams in the first period and that is why there were no goals.

The second period was the Drake Caggiula show.  The North Dakota senior scored his first goal of the period at the 1:03 mark.  He was assisted by Brock Boeser and Coltyn Sanderson.  Caggiula followed up with his second goal of the period just over five minutes later.  The goal was unassisted and just over six minutes into the second period North Dakota had jumped out to a 2-0 lead.  The lead would remain in tack as the second period came to an end.

Denver finally got their answer 2:50 into the third period from Will Butcher.  His goal made it 2-1, and gave the Pioneers new life in the third period.  He was assisted by Grant Arnold and Matt Marinew.  It was just what the doctor ordered for Denver, get a quick goal coming out of the gates of the third period and get your legs back under you.

Denver tied the game eight minutes later on a goal from Matt Vanvoorhis.  He was assisted by Gabe Levin and Blake Hillman.  So, just a little over half way through the third period we have a 2-2 game.  It looked like Denver had all the momentum on their side.

Things stayed tied until just under a minute left when Nick Schmaltz scored for North Dakota.  The Blackhawks' 2014, first round draft pick, got the go ahead goal for the Fighting Hawks at the 19:03 mark of the third period.  He was assisted by Brock Boeser and Drake Caggiulla.  It was Boeser's second assist and Caggiula's third point on the night.  North Dakota added an empty netter from Rhett Gardner for the 4-2 victory!

I cannot wait for the championship game.  It will be Quinnipiac vs. North Dakota on Saturday at 8 PM.  It will be televised on ESPN2 or available on WatchESPN.  Nothing like two No. 1 seeds going at it, with everything thing on the line.  I will post my preview and prediction for the championship on Saturday!  Have a great night!

Frozen Four: Semi-Final Predictions

So, I have given you some background on the four teams left in the Frozen Four; Quinnipiac, Boston College, North Dakota and Denver.  Let's talk about some keys and predictions to the Semi-Finals of the Frozen Four.  It's only two days away!

In the first semi-final, we have Quinnipiac vs. Boston College at 5 PM.  It's like the struggle between old and new money.  Who is better?  On one hand you have the tradition power Boston College and on the other you have Quinnipiac; the new money.  There's definitely going to be much skill on the ice, so honestly it's hard to pick a winner. 

Let's dive into Quinnipiac, I like that they have been successful all year.  Not to mention, the way they have played the last couple of years, they are due.  They only have three losses on the entire season, that's pretty amazing given the chaos of college hockey.  In 2013, I undervalued Quinnipiac and they played much better than I thought.  I thought they might be able to have similar success this year because again they are the No. 1 overall seed.

Facing Quinnipiac is Boston College, the team that is always lurking around the Frozen Four.  It's hard to determine if this location will help the Eagles or not.  They have won the title in this building before, but they are 0-2 in the state of Florida this season.  This is not like a usual Boston College team though, they usually have a stand out guy that leads the team.  This year, it seems like they are getting production from more people and better goaltending.  They have had a tougher road through the tournament to this point, that could pay dividends.

I picked Quinnipiac in this game.  I think they are better than Boston College this year.  I think that Sam Anas has a chance to be like Eichel last year and will his team to the championship game.  While there might be some bitterness left over in Boston College from losing to Union (NY) two years ago, I do not think it will be enough.  They are going to have to get great goaltending to keep them in this.  Bottomline: Quinnpiac 4 - Boston College 2

In the other semi-final, we have North Dakota vs. Denver University at 8:30 PM.  This is almost the same match-up as in the other final but it's the western version.  North Dakota is a college hockey super power like Boston College.  Denver on the other hand is more like Quinnipiac though they do have a couple of titles back to back, 2004-2005.  This should be a high scoring affair with a lot of pace.  It should be a very entertaining game.

On paper North Dakota has more talent, and more top draft picks.  Like Boston College, they have some bitterness about the 2014 Frozen Four losing on a last second goal.  With a new coach, I think they have a new vision and more resolve.  The two teams split the season series, both winning impressively at home.  Then, skating to a tie on neutral ice in the NCHC tournament.  North Dakota played really well in their first two game to get here, they have some good momentum.

Denver, like Quinnipiac, is facing off against a tradition power.  They have shown in the first two games that they have an ability to score many goals when given the opportunity.  They are less talented but that does not mean that they do not have a chance.  They will have play really good defense if they would like to knock off the Fighting Hawks.  Denver probably would be considered the Cinderella of the Frozen Four.

I picked North Dakota in this one.  I think at the end of the day North Dakota will out score Denver.  The Pioneers while they can score a lot, they will have to focus more on defense with the talent of North Dakota.  Talent is really going to help the Fighting Hawks, but I also think they are deeper.  They can roll more lines that have the ability to score.  Bottomline: North Dakota 6 - Denver 4

Once the games are over Thursday, I will be back to recap the action and talk about my predictions!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Frozen Four Preview: Denver

In the second semifinal, the Denver Pioneers play against North Dakota Fighting Hawks. This semifinal is an all NCHC affair. The Denver Pioneers have not been to the Frozen Four since 2005.  I was at the game it was in Columbus, OH, and the Ohio State Buckeyes hosted the Frozen Four. I have the Frozen Four program framed on the wall, and I used to have a picture of the team celebrating on the wall, as well.  It looked a little tacky because I ripped it out of ESPN the magazine.  It was Denver's second championship in a row. Now the Pioneers are back for more, watch out Tampa!

The University of Denver was found in 1864.  It was originally founded as a Methodist institution but renamed University of Denver in 1880.  It was called Colorado Seminary and that is still the legal name of DU.  Also, the school was downtown Denver but was moved to land donated by a potato farmer, Rufus Clark, about 7 miles south of the city.  The school enrolls about 5,600 undergrads and 6,100 postgrads.  It is the only school in the Frozen Four this year, that has more postgrad students than undergrad students.
Magness Arena

The Pioneers play at Magness Arena.  Named after Bob Magness, a cable TV pioneer, that donated $10 million towards the construction of the building.  It was built from 1997 to 1999 and is part of the sports complex at the University of Denver.  The grand opening for the building was September 15, 1999. The capacity is listed at 6,315 for hockey.  The largest hockey crowd on record is 6,026; the Pioneers hosted Colorado College.  The building is shared by the basketball and hockey programs. On site is the Williams Tower, a 215 foot tower, that houses a 65 bell carillon.

The Pioneers started their season off against the Air Force in home and home series.  They lost the first game 5-4 in OT.  Denver bounced back in the second game with a 3-1 victory.  Next, they welcomed the Michigan State Spartans to Denver.  The Pioneers swept the Spartans 4-2 and 3-0.

After sweeping Michigan State, DU headed east.  They lost to Boston College 4-3.  Next, they played the Terriers of Boston University.  It was another loss, 5-4, but it was in overtime.

The Pioneers opened NCHC play with a home and home series against Colorado College.  DU got back to their winning ways with a sweep of Colorado College, 5-3 and 3-1.  NCHC play continued for Denver as they traveled to Minnesota Duluth.  They won the first game 3-0 but lost the second game in a shootout.

The Pioneers squeezed in a series against Wisconsin next in Madison.  The two teams skated to a 3-3 OT tie in the first game, and Denver handily won the second game 6-2. 

The road trip continued as DU made it way to Grand Forks to face North Dakota.  Things did not go so well for the Pioneers, getting beat badly 5-1 and 4-0 against the Fighting Hawks.  The woes continued for Denver as they opened a series against St. Cloud State.  The Huskies beat the Pioneers 5-2 and 6-2.

DU inched closer to a "W" with a pair of OT ties with Notre Dame.  The score of the first game was 1-1 and the second was 2-2.

Things got back on track for Denver with a trip to Omaha.  The Pioneers took the first game 3-0 and the second game 4-3.  The Pioneers success continued with a win over Western Michigan, 5-3.  In the second game against Western Michigan, Denver lost in a shootout.

The shootout loss was just a small bump in the road as DU took on Minnesota Duluth at home.  The Pioneers took the first game 3-2 and the second game 2-1 for the sweep.

After a home stand, Denver was on the road against Miami.  They lost the first game 3-1 but won the second game 5-3.  I was at the second game and you could tell Denver was the better team.  Miami looked a little bit tired during the game.  The Pioneers capitalized and got the split in the series.

Next, Denver got revenge on North Dakota for an early season sweep.  The Pioneers returned the favor with a sweep of their own, 6-4 and 4-1.  The sweeping continued as Denver played Colorado College, for the second time.  The Pioneers won both games 4-1, including the second game which was played outside.

Denver closed out the regular season with a couple of more sweeps.  First, in Kalamazoo, the Pioneers swept the Broncos, 5-1 and 4-1.  DU returned home to sweep Nebraska-Omaha 3-0 and 2-1.  Since the win at Miami, Denver had a 9 game winning streak.

The Pioneers opened the NCHC tournament against a team they just swept Nebraska-Omaha.  The first game Denver easily won 5-2 but the second game was a 4-3 double overtime thriller.  Denver advanced to play St. Cloud State.  St. Cloud won the game 4-2 and went on to win the tournament.  The Pioneers settled (no pun intended) for a 1-1 OT tie against North Dakota in the third place game.

DU was the No. 2 seed in the West Region of the NCAA tournament.  They exploded for seven goals and avenged a loss against Boston University in the first round.  In the second round, Denver played a tough Ferris State team.  It took a couple of quick goals in the third period to break a 3-3 tie, and put the Pioneers up for good in a 6-3 victory.  They will face North Dakota, Thursday, Apirl 7th at 8:30 PM.  It will be the sixth meeting between the two schools this year. Goodnight and tip your bartenders!

Friday, April 1, 2016

Frozen Four Preview: North Dakota

In the other Frozen Four semifinal, we have two NCHC teams, North Dakota and Denver.  North Dakota is the other No. 1 seed left so let's talk about them first.  The Fighting Hawks as they are now known are like Boston College, one of the best programs in the nation.  This is their third Frozen Four in a row.  In 2014, they lost a heartbreaker to their rivals Minnesota in the semifinal, on a last second goal in the third period.  In 2015, they were beaten by Boston University in the semifinal.  First year head coach Brad Berry, hopes that this will be the year North Dakota breaks through for the title.

The University of North Dakota was founded in 1883 in Grand Forks, North Dakota.  It was founded six years before North Dakota officially became a state.  According to Wikipedia outside of their hockey program, the school is best known for their Aerospace program.  This is a program that trains pilots and air traffic controls.  They also are the first university to offer a degree in unmanned aircraft operations.

The school's original mascot was the Fighting Sioux but was forced to change that name.  They went a couple of years without a mascot and just within the last calendar year settled on the Fighting Hawks. Though it is the more politically correct mascot, most fans still are holding onto the Sioux.  The main cheer or motto for the team is "Fight on Sioux."  Fans replace the word "Brave" with "Sioux" at the end of the national anthem. 

The Ralph!
The Fighting Hawks play at Ralph Engelstad Arena.  The venue seats 11,643 people and rather well as it has been called the "Taj Mahal of Hockey."  The arena was built in 2001 and cost $104 million dollars.  The Great One, Wayne Gretzky has called it "one of the most beautiful buildings in North America."  The arena is on campus like Boston College.  It sounds like a great place to watch hockey if you can get a ticket.  The fans of the Fighting Hawks are some of the best in the country, they will follow the team wherever they go!

North Dakota opened their season at the Ice Breaker in Portland, Maine.  They won the first game 5-2 against Lake Superior State.  They skated to a 1-1 OT tie against the host, the Maine Black Bears. 

After the Ice Breaker, the Fighting Hawks played a home and home against Bemidji State.  The first game the teams tied 4-4 in OT.  In the second game, which was North Dakota's first home game, the Fighting Hawks won 5-2.  If you were curious, Bemidji is a city in northern Minnesota with a pretty decent hockey program.

Next, North Dakota was back out east to face the Catamounts of Vermont.  The Fighting Hawks swept the series pretty easily 2-0 and 5-2.  The road trip continued with North Dakota's first NCHC opponent of the year, Colorado College.  The Fighting Hawks took both games in Colorado, 5-2 and 2-0.

North Dakota was finally home for a change with a series against Wisconsin.  The teams split the two games, both with 3-1 victories.  Next, the Fighting Hawks welcomed Miami to "The Ralph."  North Dakota won the first game 6-2 and won the second game in OT, 4-3.  Miami is also in the NCHC.

Back on the road again, North Dakota was at St. Cloud State in St. Cloud, Minnesota.  In the clash of the two main powers of the NCHC, the Fighting Hawks took the first game 4-3.  In the second game, things did not go as planned, it was a 6-1 victory for the Huskies. 

Next stop on the Fighting Hawks Tour of America (just kidding) was East Lansing.  The Spartans were the second Big Ten opponent on the schedule.  North Dakota swept the series, 3-1 and 4-1.  The Fighting Hawks made short work of the Spartans and it was time to go back home.

Waiting in Grand Forks for the Fighting Hawks were the Pioneers of Denver.  One of the up and coming programs of the NCHC and the opponent for North Dakota's next game in the Frozen Four.  North Dakota was ready, easily sweeping the Pioneers, 5-1 and 4-0.

The next opponent on the schedule was Minnesota Duluth.  The Fighting Hawks continued their winning ways with a couple of 3-0 victories. 

North Dakota headed back home for a series against Alabama - Huntsville.  The Fighting Hawks won the series 1-0 and 4-1.  To run the winning streak to eight games.  They played an exhibition game against the US Under-18 team next, and won 4-1.

The winning streak ended with a 4-3 OT loss against Nebraska Omaha.  Revenge was dealt swiftly by the Fighting Hawks, winning the next game against Nebraska Omaha 5-1. 

The home-stand continued with a series against Colorado College.  North Dakota won the first game in a shootout.  The Fighting Hawks came out much better in the second game, winning 5-1. 

North Dakota was back on the road with a series against Western Michigan.  The Fighting Hawks won the series 2-1 and 2-0.  Next, was a stop in Denver. The Pioneers got revenge on the Fighting Hawks by sweeping them 6-4 and 4-1.  It was the first back to back losses on the season for North Dakota.

A quick trip home for two game against Minnesota Duluth was next on the agenda.  North Dakota won both games 2-1.  The first game was won in OT and the second was won in regulation. 

Next, the Fighting Hawks traveled to Omaha.  North Dakota impressively won 4-2 and 4-1.  They closed out the regular season at home against Western Michigan.  The Fighting Hawks took down the Broncos 8-1 and 5-4.

North Dakota opened the NCHC tournament with the destruction of Colorado College.  Coupled by the fact they were playing at home and they were the best team facing the worst team, the Fighting Hawks won the series 7-1 and 5-1.  They were upset in the semifinals by Minnesota Duluth 4-2.  In the third place game, they skated to a 1-1 OT tie against Denver.

North Dakota travelled to Cincinnati for the Midwest Region, where they were the No. 1 seed.  In the first game, the Fighting Hawks handled Northeastern 6-2.  In the second game, they were too much for the Michigan Wolverines in a 5-2 victory.  Michigan was the Fighting Hawks third opponent from the Big Ten.  They will play Denver April 7th at 8:30 PM.  The teams split the season series and tied 1-1 in OT in the NCHC Third Place Game.  It should be a great game in Tampa!