Sunday, April 15, 2007

A Sunday smorgasbord of shinny

It was almost wall to wall hockey from 10 Am PST TO 10 PM PST on Sunday, with a brief interlude between 1 and 3 to replenish the beer fridge and make sure the provisions were laid in for the afternoon and evening’s entertainment.

If the NHL had worked the Ducks/Wild game a little better into the schedule they wouldn’t have ended up the unused dinner place at the table. As it turned out Anaheim and Minnesota provided only the briefest of bridges between the Canucks and Stars showdown in Big D.

The day started off with the Sunday Brunch special a 10 am start for pacific dwellers that tuned in and watched the Red Wings tune up the Flames. With an outrageous shot difference of 50 to 15 and tendency for the Flames to take penalties at the worst possible time, it’s no wonder that Calgary finds themselves on the downward slope out of the playoffs, a convincing 3-1 victory by Detroit left no doubt as to which team is in control of this series.

Calgary have been taken completely off their game, they have no desire to hit in the Detroit end, frequently give up the puck and are woefully disinterested in their own end. Facing fifty shots and only allowing three goals tells you that only Flame doing his job on Sunday was Mikka Kiprusoff.

Detroit is in complete control, they can roll the lines nicely; Hasek makes saves on that rare occasion that somebody on Calgary shows an interest in taking one. Game three is at crisis mode for the Flames, the first five to ten minutes will tell us all whether they have any interest in finishing off the playoff round or just waving the white flag and wishing Detroit well.

With a couple of hours to re stock and grab some fresh air, we settled in for the late afternoon and evening’s entertainment. Ottawa and Pittsburgh take to the ice for the second time in two days, after having gone two days between games one and two, only the NHL can construct such a strange way of showcasing their most important time of the year.

The Pens who had taken home ice advantage away from the Sens on Saturday in Ottawa, come out on the fly in the first period and pack away a goal in the first 50 seconds of play, a missed assignment on the Defensive side that allowed that old Senator thorn Gary Roberts to open the scoring and send the Mellon heads into rapture in Pittsburgh. It makes for a shaky start for the Sens, but as they head to the second period they have begun to reclaim the ice and take charge of the game. It was a rough bit of hockey at times, marked by a crushing hit from Colby Armstrong on Patrick Eaves that sent Eaves off the ice on a stretcher.

The physical play is a result of Ottawa’s domination of the play through the second and into most of the third. The Sens returned to the kind of play that helped them control the flow of game one. Led by their captain Daniel Alfredsson, the Sens took advantage of their opportunities and made the best of them. If they ever can get their power play untracked they could add even more to the total. By the third period the game is well in hand, the Sens with a 4-1 lead need only keep the pens hemmed in their own end and this one will fade to black nice and quick. However, Ottawa being Ottawa, there’s always a hard way to do things, the Sens briefly give the Penguins hope with a stupid penaltyby Christoph Schubert late in the third, allowing Pittsburgh to pick up a goal and contemplate a comeback, for Ottawa however, it’s not hard to get back on track and they shut the Pens down again, taking a 4-2 victory and a 2-1 lead in the series, reclaiming home ice advantage.

While we all anxiously wait to see if the crew in Dallas can transform a basketball court into a hockey surface in time for the drop of the puck, we graze over at TSN with the Ducks and Wild. It’s looking like a typical contest between the two clubs, low scoring, tight checking and a fair amount of hitting. We don’t linger long with the Canucks and Stars about to get to work, but while we watch it appears that the Ducks are more in control of the game. It’s an observation that perhaps explains the 2-1 victory, which leaves the Wild in a desperate place down three games to none and on the verge of elimination. Saturday night TSN won the national viewing lottery, with Hockey Night in Canada forced to offer up the Jersey/Lightning opus, TSN countered with the drama of Ted Nolan's return to Buffalo. And to make the evening complete Nolan's Islanders played hard all night to take a surprising victory out of Buffalo. It's safe to assume that the audience totals between the two nights will be significantly different.

Vancouver and Dallas prepare to light up the scoreboard as is their tradition. It’s another defensive match up as the two teams plod along in their ways, occasional forays into each others zone, tempered by congestion at centre ice provides the temp for the first half of the game. The two sides trade goals By the second period a little nap prepares us for the frantic play of the third and a subsequent overtime period. Canuck fans take a collective gasp in the third as Ladislav Nagy appears to run over the catching hand of Roberto Luongo, the dominating force of Luongo languishes on the ice for a bit, attended to by a trainer before slipping on the catching glove and facing down the Stars once again.

Later in the period, Marty Turco will take some Willie Mitchell ice shavings in the face and likewise find medical attention on the way in the form of eye drops. Having faced 25 shots to Luongo’s 29 by games end, perhaps the visine helped to get most of the red out, with the exception of the red light soon to come of Tyler Pyatts overtime marker to give the Canucks a 2-1 victory and 2-1 lead in the series.

For Stars fans two things should provide a bit of a worrisome trend, one that ability of the Canucks to dominate most of the third period out shooting the Stars 15-4 and the sudden burst of energy that came from combining Markus Naslund with the Sedins. If not for Turco’s acrobatic efforts, the game may never have made it to OT, as both the Sedins and Naslund came just short of ending the match before the sixty minute mark. For the second time in three games the two teams prepared to begin the long trudge through any number of extra periods, but the Canucks picked up where they left off in regulation, taking the play deep into the Stars end, at 7:47 of the first overtime Taylor Pyatt paid his penance for a lackluster regulation effort by taking a one timer from the face off circle off of a Brian Smolinski pass and parking it behind Marty Turco.

No need for oranges and bagels, Gatorade and IV drips this time, just barely into an OT sweat the game was done and the Canucks were once again in the driver’s seat. The game ended a few minutes short of 10 pm on the west coast, finishing off a twelve hour block of hockey that should deliver some decent ratings to the CBC for their Sunday shinny showcase.

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