Boy, what a difference a few weeks make?
Really doesn't seem all that long ago I was feeling ahead of the curve with my pick for the Blues to come out of the West. Apparently there are two curses in hockey - one for whoever dons the cover of the most recent edition of EA's NHL video game franchise, and whoever Frank Steele picks to come out of the West.
But, as any good hockey blogger, I will stand by my early season prediction. Just in case it turns out to be correct. Then I will look brilliant. Brilliant.
All joking aside (the part about my brilliance was the joke, in case you missed it) I still have faith in that squad. I like the way they feel. People write and talk about liking how a team feels like it has a decent playoff run in its gas chamber. I think the Blues do. And I think that injuries to key personnel will help in the long run. Logging big minutes for small players and resting the top guns can help out big time, if you can manage to hold onto a playoff spot.
(Teams who I believe have a playoff feel in no particular order: Flyers, Penguins, Thrashers, Bruins, Rangers, Colorado, the Blues, and LA.)
At this time last year people were starting to wonder if the Red Wings of Detroit were finally at the end of their long playoff run.
My better-bearded blog counterpart Jesse sent me a text last night that I found interesting. One that was more or less an echo of what the word on the NHL Network and in other blogs has been. That the mighty Red Wings are in trouble right now.
Everyone has to say this sooner or later. Who wouldn't want to say they were the person who called the decline of arguably the most successful sports franchise currently going before anyone else? (honorable mention to the LA Lakers, Jimmy Johnson, and the New England Patriots as the best sports franchises going.)
But rumors of their demise have been greatly exaggerated time and time again. After dropping an embarrassing game to the Kings, getting smoked by the Blackhawks and losing to the Stars in OT the Wings have fallen all the way to first place in the West and tied for second in the League.
I think it has been very interesting to read about what has been happening on this 24/7 series that has been following around the Caps and the Penguins for HBO. Some very awesome things have been captured, and two very different pictures have been painted.
It just so happens that HBO's cameras have caught Sidney Crosby during the most dominant stretch of his career and AO during his most dormant. Which I find interesting, since it is supposed to be Alex who thrives in the spot light. Who feels the heat of it and responds to it with flair and ease.
Yet Sidney looks like Mario and Alex looks pedestrian. Or as pedestrian as we have seen since he came into the league. And these things happen. Do I think that Ovie has suddenly fallen off track for good? No way, no how. I just love the timing of his struggles and Sid's dominance. It's great for the league and should make for some excellent television leading up to and including the Winter Classic.
At the end of the day, I want the puck on Sid's stick with the game on the line. The first Winter Classic, every playoff game, the Gold Medal game... the Kid never ever shies away and never ever fails to deliver. He is scary. And he's like, 24 and still doesn't live in his own home. Which means there is hope for this lowly blogger yet, right?
Someone call the Atlanta Thrashers and tell them that hockey isn't supposed to succeed in the south please? I'm loving that teams run right now, and from what I have been able to gather those dudes are for real. Name a city in Canada outside of Vancouver who wouldn't trade squads with the Thrash.
Rick Dudley is currently what Brian Burke wishes he was - Shrewd and accurate. That is a dangerous combination, and an excellent way to build a contender very quickly.
The NHLPA has a new head. I hope this is less embarrassing than the last round or three for the Players Association. They were absolutely bullied in the last CBA. As anyone who has read anything about Donald Fehr knows, the man brings the heat when it is needed. Lets hope he knows how to use his firepower wisely and can help guide the League into a new era via bargaining agreement and holding the League responsible for its own inadequacy while doing the same for the Players Association. Like him or not, any hockey fan absolutely has to be rooting for him at this point.
There are literally no other options.
Steven Stamkos will be fine.
And I wish that this years edition of the Bruins and Flyers could go back in time and play in last years Classic.
That is about enough out of me. For those of you who stuck with me through that whole thing, you get a gold star for the day.
A gold star.
Happy Holidays everyone.