HNIC Star Selector - Game 1 Preview - Flyers vs Bruins

Nope, this blog will not start by referencing last year, Game 7, 3-0 comeback... it is over, done, and this is a new year.

Both the Bruins and Flyers had troubles in their first round.  Power Play issues dominated (although the Flyers did pick it up going 3-9 down the stretch), the Flyers had a carousel of starters and Tim Thomas shrugged off a slow start with a game saving and series changing performance in game 6.  Offensively, neither team lit the lamp as frequently as they had in the regular season... yet here they both are in round 2!

Playing Star Selector for this series should be exciting, and will keep our players on their toes.  Boston has only had 2 real big point players in round one you should consider Nathan Horton and Chris Kelly in game one for the Bruins.  But, I think the player to start on your line up for sure is the 'ageless wonder' Mark Rechhi.  Rechhi has been playing like he is 26, and finding the perfect passing seams.  One or two of those 3 players needs to be on your roster in the 1st period.

The Flyers boast a great offense that can go off at anytime.  The line to focus on in this first game is the 3 Stooges line of Scott Hartnell, Ville Leino and  Danny Briere.  Briere is starting to get mentioned with the best playoff performers in league history and that cannot be ignored.  Leino cannot be taken off the puck and Hartnell loves to bring his A game for the Bruins.  But lets not forget the little big man, Giroux, and his newest buddy Van Riemsdyk.  Both played with intensity and a nasty forecheck that had Buffalo reeling at times.

With all this said I say stay away from the goalies and the 2nd and 3rd line defensemen, it could be a score-fest.

Our starting 5


Habs Go Bye Bye - A Post Mortem by Nic Sulsky

Poor Habs Fans.
Poor Pappagg & Jonny Utah
Poor me.

It would be very easy to take last night’s OT loss, stuff it in a dirty sock, and toss it in the nether regions of my closet. When Nathan Horton further cemented his name on the pavement that leads to my own personal hell, I really could not see any silver lining. None. Nil. There is NO longer a place for Horton in my house, no matter how many damn Who’s he hears. Sorry kid. He’s gone. Forever.

There is just something so painfully final about an OT loss in Game 7. That may be the most obvious statement I have ever written, but, alas (yes alas), ‘painfully final’ is exactly what that moment is. I have experienced my fair share of physical pain, but few things trump the emotional anguish of watching your beloved team die suddenly.

But, while immersed in all that darkness, that horrific darkness of Game 7 defeat, one moment in the mental playback of last night’s game started skipping back to me on repeat.

With just under 2 minutes left to go in the game, and the Habs down by a goal, PK Subban became a man. Homerism, be damned people, the kid is really good. He is well on his way to being a star, but in that moment AFTER he laser-beamed that one-timer past Tim Thomas, PK didn’t jump around frantically, he didn’t scream with the giddy enthusiasm of Jake Locker when he gets picked by the Redskins at 10 overall, he didn’t celebrate as jubilantly as we have grown accustomed to. PK simply clenched his fist, pounded some air and morphed into the future Norris trophy-winning anchor to the Habs defensive core of the future.

Silver Linings suck. Anytime that phrase is used, it means some serious shit has just gone down. But heck, regardless of the pain that losing in Game 7 OT to the most hated of hated brings on, there is an image that brings a smile to my face. An image that helps me forget how the Hab’s ceremoniously consoled Carey Price after the game.  An image that helps me block out the word ‘Gomez’. An image that lets me block out all overweight dancing purple elephants: P.K., confident, focused and all grows-up.

HNIC Star Selector - Game 1 Preview - Canucks vs Predators

All right Canuck fans, you can breathe again!  The dragon has been slaughtered, the demons exorcised, and it's time to focus on your second round opponents from Nashville.  Now if you can name more than 1 player on the Predators roster, with the exception of Shea Weber and Pekka Rinne, than you are smarter than the average NHL fan.  Truth is, the Predators get very little media attention in Canada and if you don't have the NHL Center Ice subscription you would have been hard pressed to witness any of their games.  That said, this in an interesting second round match up, as Nashville's roster possesses both a Vezina (Pekka Rinne)  and Norris (Shea Weber) trophy candidate, along with a top end shut down forward in ex-Ottawa Senator, Mike Fisher.

It will be interesting to see the impact of the quick turnaround on the Vancouver Canucks.  Just 48 hours ago, the Canucks were staring down a playoff collapse of epic proportions and a brewing goalie controversy that would have dominated story lines for an entire summer.  One Alex Burrows slapshot and 31 Roberto Luongo saves later, a playoff disaster has been exchanged for playoff momentum.  The question is, will this transfer to the Roger Center ice later tonight?

Quick Hits:
Vancouver and Nashville finished 1 - 2 respectively in goals against during the regular season.  However, Vancouver scored 45 more goals than the Preds.

The Teams split their season series, 2 - 2, with Nashville outscoring the Canucks by an 8 to 6 margin.

Trade deadline acquisition, Mike Fisher, is Nashville's leading playoff scorer tallying 3 goals and 3 assists in 6 games against Anahiem.

Game 7 hero Alex Burrows had a baby girl, Victoria, at 9:10 on Wednesday.  Needless to say it has been an emotional couple of days for the Canuck forward.

Roberto Luongo followed up his game 7 victory with an appearance on Pardon the Interruption's 'Five Good Minutes'.

My Star Selector Starting Five:
Ryan Kesler
Pekka Rinne
Roberto Luongo
Henrik Sedin
Mike Fisher

If you want to play Star Selector click here

HNIC Star Selector - Game 7!!! - Habs vs Bruins

There is no rivalry in hockey that sparks as much emotion and passion as the Boston Bruins versus Montreal Canadiens.  Just ask Star Selector regular's Mindblister and Jonny Utah who often embody the rivalry through their friendly natured chat room barbs during Hockey Night in Canada broadcasts.  The teams have faced each other 169 times in the postseason with Montreal winning 102 occasions translating into 24 series victories in 32 match ups.  Now, I am not one that believes that just because there is a history of winning against a certain opponent that this will automatically determine the outcome of the upcoming game.  As Toronto Maple Leaf General Manager, Brian Burke, often points out players are not responsible for the performance history of an organization but rather what they have done since becoming members of their respective clubs.  For that reason I am not going to concede victory to the Canadiens just because they have historically dominated the Bruins but rather offer some key factors for each team that will determine tonights outcome.  Let's start with the Bruins power play or better yet lack there of.  Boston has yet to register a power play goal and at times have looked completely ineffective.  Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli trade deadline acquisition of Tomas Kaberle was thought to be the final piece needed for a deep playoff run.  6 games later with no goals and two assist credited to Kaberle's stat line and this trade is starting to look like a complete bust.  If the Bruins have any hopes of winning tonight they will need some power play production and more of a contribution from the ex Toronto Maple Leaf.

Milan Lucic.  At an imposing 6'3 and 238 lbs, with deft hands and a blistering shot Lucic has all the attributes to be the most dominating player on the ice.  All that Lucic is dominating at the moment is newspaper headlines detailing his hit from behind against Habs defensemen Jaroslav Spacek and the subsequent decision of the NHL not to suspend him.  Lucic has 1 assist this series and the Bruins will not win unless they get more from one of the pre-eminent power forwards in hockey.

Michael Cammalleri.  Cammalleri has been far and away the most productive offensive player on the ice posting a series leading 6 goals and 3 assists.  The Canadiens will need their star sniper to continue on this pace of they have any hopes of winning tonight.

This series however will come down to a which goalie outperforms the other.  Both Tim Thomas and Carey Price have been either outstanding or average during various points of the last 6 games and tonights winner will come down to which star goalie will crack first.  My instincts tell me that tonight will be a low scoring affair with both guys putting forth their best effort and your star selector starting five should reflect that.

Either way another chapter in the history of these original six members will be written tonight and I for one can't wait to see how it turns out.  See you tonight at 7:00 pm EST.

If you want to play Star Selector click here

HNIC Star Selector - Game Previews - Habs vs Bruins and Canucks vs Blackhawks

Before diving into tonight's previews, I want you to consider the following irrefutable facts. 12 teams do not make the post season, 15 playoff teams will all be eliminated, it takes 16 victories to hoist the Stanley Cup and, as long as you do not lose 4 games in any one series, you are still alive.  So fear not Hab or Canuck fans, your respective seasons, while admittedly dangling by a thread, are not over yet.  My advice?  Put in a productive office day, warn your co-workers that you might be potentially grumpy tomorrow (either from 'staying up too late on a school night' or being angered by your team's elimination) and get comfortable, as tonight's matches are not games to be missed.  Montreal won 5 games while facing elimination last season before eventually falling to the Philadelphia Flyers.  Do you remember how many goals they gave up in those games?  8!  This translates into a 1.6 goals against per game and reason for extreme optimism for the Bell Centre faithful.  Vancouver's recent history in the past two seasons is well documented and provides little comfort.   Same opponent, three games, one win and two very lopsided losses.

Boston vs Montreal

Canadien players might want to send a thank you card to Lady Gaga and her little monsters.  Due to Monday's scheduling conflict with the pop princess, Montreal was given an additional night to regroup from Saturday night's overtime loss in Boston.  In order for Montreal to win, they will need some scoring support for Michael Cammalleri and another strong game from Carey Price.  Outside of Cammalleri, Montreal does not have a scorer with more than 3 points and they need someone to step up if they want to keep this series alive.  Look for Tomas Plekanec and Brian Gionta to provide some scoring support and for Montreal to come out flying in the first period.  On the other hand, Boston has every reason to be confident heading into game 6.  Tim Thomas is frustrating Montreal's shooters and they are getting balanced secondary scoring.  I'm going to start Milan Lucic tonight despite his lack of offensive production through the first five games.  Lucic is due for a multi point game and I like his physical presence trying to slow down the speedy Canadiens.

My Star Selector Starting Five:
Mike Cammalleri
Tim Thomas
Brian Gionta
Tomas Plekanec
Milan Lucic

Chicago vs Vancouver

Where do we start with this one?  I could lead off detailing Alain Vigneault's game 6's goaltending decision, but that horse has been beaten. Maybe the impact of David Bolland's return in game 4, Mike Gillis' predictable officiating rant or Vancouver blowing a 3 - 0 series lead?  Each of these plot lines could carry an entire preview article on their own.  Actually, I'm going to write about the player who is going to lead the Canucks to an improbable game 7 victory (besides, I do not want to waste my postmortem material if the Hawks complete the comeback).  Truth is, there has been way to much coverage dedicated to Vancouver's goaltending situation and not nearly enough on the lack of offensive production contributed by Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler.  In order for Vancouver to win tonight they will need their best players to lead the way at both ends of the ice, and I expect these guys to do just that.  Vancouver outplayed Chicago Sunday night and have the opportunity to avoid one of the biggest collapses in playoff history.  Chicago is salivating at the opportunity of completing the playoff series hat trick, and making it even sweeter by doing it in Vancouver.  Duncan Keith has been outstanding and Corey Crawford continues to provide steady goaltending.  Vancouver will come out strong tonight and play desperate hockey, so loading up with some Canucks and Corey Crawford (if you think he will shut them down) will be a good strategy to get you on the top of the leaderboard.

My Star Selector Starting Five
Ryan Kesler
Daniel Sedin
Henrik Sedin
Alexandre Burrows
Corey Crawford

If you want to play Star Selector click here

Just Be Cauz - The NHL Playoffs vs The NBA Playoffs

This is going to be my stubborn column. You see I was all prepared to break down the biggest difference between the NHL and the NBA Playoffs.

The one run on sentence answer to sum up the differences is this:

“Come the playoffs skill takes a back seat in the NHL versus the NBA, upsets are the extreme exception in the NBA and the regular season is more important in basketball than it is in hockey.”

But then the Hornets tied their series with the Lakers at two, Memphis is up against the Spurs and Atlanta is a game away from upsetting the Magic.

You know what, I don’t care. I’m going all Captain Ahab on you, white whales be damned.

Because really do any of you think the Lakers are going to lose? This series is merely a reminder that Chris Paul is really super duper awesome, but in the end I don’t think any of us trust Trevor Ariza, Carl Landry, Emeka Okafor or Marco Belinelli to pull off the upset.

Hey let’s give credit to Memphis, this is a team that has never won a playoff game. But I’m sticking to my guns that the Spurs win, it’s just going to take them longer to do it than any of us ever expected it to take.

As for Orlando, can we really call this an upset when Hedo Turkoglu is in the starting lineup? He may be  the worst player I have ever seen in the playoffs. Seriously; I’m half expecting him to rip off his jersey to reveal a Hawks jersey underneath. The man is literally murdering his team. My theory is that the Lakers are paying him millions to tank this series to infuriate Dwight Howard to the point where he is “F&#k-It I already have copied everything else Shaq has done, I’m going to play for the Lakers.” How else can you explain Turkoglu’s line of: 37 minutes, 7.8 PPG while shooting .229%.  Oh my freakin GOD!!!!!!!


So I like to take small sample sizes and blow them up into big theories, it’s fun to do, especially in sports. I have always believed that the playoffs are about “grit” in the NHL vs. “skill” in the NBA when one name hit me to justify my beliefs … Dave Bolland.

Now this is not to say Bolland is one of those “lunch-box” players, which again is code for “not very skilled”. He is a multi faceted player. But Bolland is not exactly an all star. In 61 games he garnered 37 points while averaging 17:39 of ice time.

Out of the line-up the Sedin twins had plenty of space to do what they pleased. But with Boland’s return in the lineup Chicago has a hat trick going in the win column and the Glimmer Twins have one measly point and a Jason Voorhees esqu -13. Somewhere Hedo is nodding his head in approval at their performances.

This can only happen in hockey. Could you imagine one player being able to play such a vital role in shutting down two NBA superstars? Last year Ron Artest was brilliant against Kevin Durant, but it wasn’t like Ron-Ron was also shutting down Russell Westbrook. Yes it’s not just Bolland alone that’s getting it done, but the impact his return has had is stunning.

So really it comes down to what you want from your regular season & postseason:

NHL: Wild first round of the playoffs, unpredictable throughout, different Stanley Cup Champions every year BUT the regular season doesn’t mean as much because really who cares what seed you are? Just ask the Blackhawks about how much they’ve struggled this past week as a #8 seed.

NBA: First round of the playoffs is as predictable as porn with either multiple sweeps or the lower seed getting one mercy win, looking at you Pacers and 76ers. The downside is the first two weeks are boring but the playoffs get wildly interesting after that. The regular season has greater significance but in the end it usually is the same couple teams winning. On the flip side in the NBA whoever wins it all feels a bit more legitimate than in the NHL because in basketball in a seven game series the BEST team always wins.

I am not here to tell you what is better, just to clarify the differences.

If you want to play Star Selector click here

HNIC Star Selector - Game 6 Preview - Pens vs Lightning Boyeeee

Anyone else sick of having the highlight packs from this series eaten up watching Crosby skating around pylons and his condition not changing?  And interviews about when he will come back?  There is a game on the ice here people and an extremely intriguing series to boot.  The Pens are up 3 games to two and the Lightning seem to be reeling things in.  With the majority of series going 7, and comebacks galore, I think we are watching this one thinking anything can happen.

Alright on to the Star Selector breakdown and with the release of the new Beastie Boys video and upcoming album next week, I decided to provide a little tweak scratch.

"If it's gonna be that kind a party, I'm gonna stick my..." So who is going to spoil the comeback? I have been pitching Kris Letang's name all series and he has done squat!  So tonight is the night, he will go OFF for a goal and an assist.

"Check Your Head" - I never got a chance to sound off about the Kunitz and Downie hits but they should both be counting their freaking lucky stars they only got one game suspensions.  I think we would all agree that Campbell or 'Collie'  is clueless on how to police this league.  BTW what is with every media outlet referring to either Colin Campbell or Brian Burke by their nicknames?

"I got my funkified golf gear from head to toe..."  How do the Pen's eliminate the Lightning?  This series has been all over the place, with the Pens winning the close ones, and the Lightning blowing the Pens out.  To win the Pens need to literally hit the Lightning out of the building, will rely on Fleury to dominate and they need dirty sloppy goals.  Also they need to be way better on the penalty kill and stay out of the box.  Sounds like a lot but in Game 1 they looked like a cup contender.  Star Selector rewards Gamers with points for hits so strongly consider Max Talbot for your starting five.

"5-Piece Chicken Dinner" In Game 5, the Lightning showed they have a lot of scoring potential but the names that stood out to me were; Kubina with 2 goals and a plus 3, Gagne, St. Louis, Lecavalier and Purcell with 3 assists.  Still a little worried about Steven Stamkos?  Could he throw another stinker or could he go off?  My take,  "lets your spine unwind and take a risk".  Tonight is the night to captain Stamkos, just do it, you know you want to.

"Putting Shame in Your Game" Roloson doesn't need to change a thing.  He faced 50+ in Game 5, turned away 31 in Game 6 and has been mesmerizing throughout this series.

Both teams should think about my favorite lyrics from the tune "Slow and Low"
The beat is slow in order to dance,
I wanna hear I do's and no I can't's

If you want to play Star Selector click here

HNIC Star Selector - Games 5 and 6 Previews - Habs vs Bruins, Canucks vs Blackhawks

On the surface there are some remarkable similarities between the Canadian entries in this years Stanley Cup playoffs.  Both teams are in the midst of two game losing streaks, have let their opponents back into the series, coming off home losses, skating into a headwind of momentum and are on the road for the crucial next game.  While on the surface there are some consistent trends, the manner in which teams are playing couldn't be more different.

Montreal could have easily pulled out a victory in either of the two losses if not for the exceptional play of goaltender, Tim Thomas and a momentum changing, rolling puck slap shot goal by Andrew 'One Finger Salute' Ferrence.  (By the way his explanation for throwing the Habs fans the bird was outstanding just for its sheer ridiculousness).   It is an entirely different story on the West Coast.  Vancouver has been thoroughly dominated losing games 4 and 5 by a combined score of 12 - 2.  The good news for Vancouver is they couldn't possible play any worse and still have two more opportunities to end the series.  The Bad?  They have let the defending champs back into things, Chicago is getting balance scoring from all of their top players and they are heading to what will be a loud and energized Madhouse Arena.   Let's take a deeper look into each series to help with your Star Selector picks but for this preview I am going to use the R S T L N & E Wheel of Fortune approach by highlighting some key players outside of the obvious stars for each team.  This is not to suggest to leave star players like Duncan Keith, Jonathan Toews, Tim Thomas or Carey Price off your starting roster but rather a look at some lower profile guys that have or will make a crucial contribution.

Montreal vs Boston

I love Montreal forward Travis Moen as a sleeper pick for tonights critical game 5 contest.  Why? In order for Montreal to win tonight they will have to find some secondary scoring and grind out a couple of goals.  Moen is the prototypical grinder who has made a living going to the dirty areas of the ice.  If this becomes a low scoring affair a grinder will be the difference maker and Moen is my guy.  For Boston, my gut tells me that Mark Recchi is going to have a big night.  Recchi has been fairly quiet through the first half of the series but historically the potential Hall of Famer has come through with at least one big effort in each playoff round and my money is on him doing that this evening.

Vancouver vs Chicago

Let me start this by writing that I still think Vancouver is going to win this series despite what has happened over the last two games.  The Canucks have had some time to regroup, settle down and re-focus on what originally staked them to a 3-0 series.  There is no doubt that Chicago is riding high and will be extremely tough to beat, that said a game 6 win in Chicago might just be the character building victory that propels this team to their first ever Stanley Cup victory.  I like Bryan Bickell to continue producing secondary scoring for Chicago while Alexander Edler will play a pivotal role in what Vancouver Canucks fans hope will be the series winning game.

HNIC Star Selector - Games 4 and 5 Previews

I heard James Duthie on the TSN 1050 radio the other day discussing some common media wishes during the marathon run that is the Stanley Cup Playoffs.  In short, speaking on the behalf of his brethren, Duthie conveyed the following; media secretly hopes for a stronger Eastern Coast presence, good food will make or break a telecast and he expressed a strong desire for limited West coast overtime contests.  Now much of what he said was in jest and let's not confuse working in connection to professional hockey as hard manual labour but you can certainly appreciate the amount of hours and work associated with nightly coverage.

Luckily there have been no shortages of developing stories to help fill the numerous hours of on air coverage.  Let's take a quick look at some with a Star Selector spin:

Is this the last game ever to be played in the desert and does anyone in Phoenix care?  I took a read through the Arizona Republic this morning and there was one article related to the potential re-location of the franchise.  You know who else had one online article?  Cheyenne Woods, Tiger's niece, who recently won the individual ACC women's golf title.  Fact is there will be little fan cry to save the 'Yotes' and don't expect Phoenix to display the same passion and fire as the defending champion Blackhawks did last night.  Look for the Red Wings to complete the sweep and your starting roster tonight should reflect that.  Pavel Datsyuk is a must have in your starting five and consider Daniel Cleary as a nice sleeper pick.

Will Chris Kunitz's elbow change the momentum of the series?  I often wonder how Mario Lemieux reacts when he watches players like Kunitz and Cooke commit such ridiculous actions when his 'franchise' player's only contribution to the first round series is relaying information to assistant coaches via a head set.  Simon Gagne has a history of concussions and Kunitz went out of his way to target his head.  For that fact alone I have a strong feeling that Tampa Bay wins tonight and my roster is going to be influenced by that inclination.  Martin St. Louis has been a dominant force and Steven Stamkos is starting to show some jump.   Look for these two stars to help Tampa even this series.

The Chara Factor.  I am fully aware that I have highlighted Boston never overcoming a 2-0  series deficit. However, considering that they had never blown a 3-0 series lead before and the majority of their roster remained intact from last years debacle there is every reason to believe the Bruins organization is optimistic about revising history again this year.  The Bruins are one strong performance away for making this a best of 3 and they still have yet to reach the level of play that made them many prognosticators favorite as the Eastern Conference's Stanley Cup representative.  Look for Milan Lucic and Tomas Kaberle to finally find the scorers sheet and for all-world defensemen Zdeno Chara to dominate game 4.  Montreal will need a huge effort from Carey Price if they have any hopes of traveling back to Boston with a 3 - 1 series advantage.

Have the Canucks awakened a sleeping giant?  Noticeably absent through the first three games of the Western Conference re-match was the bad blood and hatred that usually dominates contests between these two rivals.  One Raffi Torres hit later and we have ourselves the heated series everyone expected.  If there was any need for any additional motivation (you would need to be on life support for this to be the case) look at the third period box score:

02:49 - CHI PPG - Patrick Sharp (2)  Assists: P. Kane (4) & J. Toews (3)

13:21 - CHI PPG - Patrick Sharp (3)  Assists: M. Hossa (1) & C. Campoli (1)

If you can come up with one reason why the Hawks number 1 power play unit is on the ice in the third period with a blow out lead other than the "we needed to get our top guys going" than good for you.  Fact is, the Blackhawks were running up the score and as displayed by Patrick Sharp's over the top goal celebration (especially considering the lopsided score when it happened) sending the Canucks a message.  Look for Vancouver to answer and play their best game of the series Thursday night.  Henrik and Daniel Sedin will happily allow Alain Vigneault to match them up against anyone other than David Bolland and Roberto Luongo will bounce back with a stellar performance.

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HNIC Star Selector - Game 3 - Habs vs Bruins

I ran a marathon once.  For 4 hours and 37 minutes I sweated, walked, jogged and crawled my way through one of the most humbling/exciting experiences of my life.  Boston Athletic Association’s running of the 115th Boston Marathon today is my Crown Royal Star Selector preview article inspiration as many running definitions can effectively describe the ebb and flow of play off hockey.  Let’s utilize a few of the more well known terms to set up game 3 between the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins.

1. Negative Split:  For those not familiar with ‘negative split’ the term references the ability to run a faster second half time of a marathon.  Montreal would love to run a negative or match their first split as it would translate into a 4 game sweep.  Brian Gionta, Michael Cammalleri and Scott Gomez have paced Montreal’s offensive attack and look for this trend to continue.  Your Star Selector starting lineup should have representation from this lead group.
2. Kick:  No, I am not talking about Anahiem Ducks Bobby Ryan, but rather a boost of energy near the end of a run.  Boston is desperately looking for a boost to get them back into this series.  Few people (outside of those within the Sulsky household) expected Montreal to take two games in Boston and if you count last year collapse the Bruins are in the midst of a 5 game playoff losing streak.  Expect Milan Lucic to provide the necessary kick for his Bruin teammates.  Lucic is just too good to be this ineffective and I fully believe he will come through with a dominant performance.
3. Hitting the Wall:  I could use this expression in a couple of ways.  From a literal standpoint it would be the perfect segue way if I felt Montreal had come out of the gates too strong and blown all of their energy in Boston.  But, I am going to leverage some creative liberties and use the term as more of a symbolic description of Carey Price’s goaltending.  Price had been outstanding in the first two games approaching or even surpassing Jaroslav Halak’s performance from a year ago.  As long as Price is playing at this level he should remain in your 5 player lineup.
4. Second Wind:  Bruin fans are desperately hoping that Zdeno Chara suits up tonight.  Chara spent Friday night in a hospital reportedly suffering from dehydration. To make matters worse Boston has never overcome a 2-0 playoff deficit while Montreal posts a 48-4 all time record when winning the first two games.  Chara, is unquestionably Boston’s best player and a key component in any comeback aspirations.  If he plays strongly consider starting him in your Star Selector opening lineup.

Ryan Hall set a Boston Marathon record today for the fastest time ever posted by an American (2 hours 4 minutes) and still finished fourth.  Bruin fans might just be in for the same kind of experience as even their best effort might not be enough to overcome what promises to be an extremely loud and pumped up Bell Center crowd.  Either way it will be the game to watch tonight!

If you want to play Star Selector click here

HNIC Star Selector - Game 3 - Penguins vs Lightning and Yotes vs Redwings

There is a great scene in 'Hang 'Em High' when Clint Eastwood pulls down his scarf and says, "when you hang a man, you better look at him."  When you have a chance to kill a man, you make sure you finish it.  Pittsburgh had the Lightning reeling after game one and had the perfect opportunity to gain control of their Eastern Conference first round series.  Instead they came out extremely flat, were down 3 - 0 and the end of the first period and Tampa Bay cruised to a 5 - 1 victory.  You cannot lose a series in Game 2 but you can certainly lose ground and the Pens certainly did that.

Game 3 goes tonight in Tampa Bay where a "didn't we win a cup here not that long ago" crowd will be at sellout capacity.  Pittsburgh has a strong road record at 25-11-6 but their home game 2 performance (after pitching a shutout) is more than a little disconcerting for the Penguin faithful.  Tampa Bay have capitalized on their power play opportunities, got their defense involved and dominated the battle of the boards.

Star Selector fans, I give you my 5 Eastwood’s trying to answer the question, who will stay hot?

1) Vincent Lecavalier - he played a spirited game one, and a remarkable game two. I see nothing but good things playing in front of his home crowd.
2) Kris Letang - he played a great game one, and forgettable game 2 but he will improve his play and he should find the score sheet this game.
3) Eric Brewer - This is why the Lightning got him, his goal in game 2 was a top shelf rocket.  I am not sure he will remain this hot, but is worth a 1st period start with a watchful eye.
4) Simon Gagne - His line seems to be clicking and with 3 points in game 2 you cannot ignore he might stay hot and roll.  He is a vet and always is around the puck.
5) Victor Hedman - He has played amazing so far in this series and when he laces it up at home, he will go off.  Maybe a long shot captain?

Big question is, Where is Steven Stamkos???

Continuing with the desert theme we head to,(if Nick Kypreos and Doug MacLean's sources are accurate), what might the last NHL hockey to be played at Jobing Arena.  Word from the Hockey Central dynamic duo is that an announcement of the Coyotes move back to Winnipeg will be announced immediately following their elimination from the post season.  Detroit has a commanding 2 - 0 lead and will be doing everything possible to ensure this is the last home stand in Yotes history.

Five Star Selector keys for tonights game:
1. Pavel Datsyuk.  Datsyuk has been dominant and don’t let the last line change match up promise by Phoenix Head Coach, Dave Tippett, sway you from starting the Red Wing superstar.  Fact is he has been far and away the best player on the ice through the first two games and a must have in your starting line-up.
2. Keith Yandle.  Yandle has done a great job all season quarterbacking the Coyote’s power play.  Yandle will have to be at his best if Phoenix has any hopes of getting back into this series.
3. Tomas Holmstrom.  Playoff road victories are often secured through ugly or grinder type goals and there is no better player that fits this description than the Detroit’s Tomas Holmstrom.  The Red Wing forward has made a living by going to the hard places on the ice and will be rewarded with a rebound or deflection goal tonight.
4. Shane Doan.  Doan is coming off his first multi goal playoff game and Phoenix will be counting on another big performance from him tonight.
5. Johan Franzen.  The ‘Mule’ has a history of scoring playoff goals in bunches and is a great pick for tonights game!

If you want to play Star Selector click here

HNIC Star Selector - Game 3 Preview - Canucks vs Blackhawks

I was good she was hot
Stealin everything she got
I was bold she was over the worst of it
Gave me gear thank you dear bring your sister over here
Let her dance with me just for the hell of it

No, I haven’t turned into a poet this weekend and the above lyrics aren’t stolen from Robert Frost or William Shakespeare.  Blackhawk or Fratelli fans will instantly recognize the chorus from Chelsea Dagger, the catchy tune played after each Hawk goal in the ‘Madhouse on Madison’.  If you have ever been lucky enough to watch a game in Chicago you know how much energy and momentum the song creates (writers note:  I use to like this song but as a Canuck fan I had to remove it from my iPod). The Blackhawks need an energy boost.  Coming off a late season playoff push and two straight losses to open the series in Vancouver, a victory in tonight’s game is critical to the Hawks Stanley Cup defense hopes.  Jonathan Toews has to start producing some offense, 0 goals 0 assists and -2 through the first two games, and starting goalie, Corey Crawford,  needs to steal a game.  The Canucks attack has been balanced and they will be getting a boost from the return of suspended forward Raffi Torres.  Torres is an effective player especially when he plays physical and there is no doubt that Vancouver has been dominating the battle of the boards.

Some other thoughts:

1. Which Roberto Luongo will show up tonight?  The game 1 version was rock steady making every key save with exceptional rebound control.  Game 2?  Not so much.  A soft goal to Viktor Stalberg and juicy rebound gift to Ben Smith allowed the Hawks to keep it close.  That said, Lou made some key saves late in the third period and will be ready to go tonight.  For my money I am going to have him in my starting five and will strongly considering making Loungo my captain.

2. Can the Canucks continue getting secondary scoring?  Jannik Hansen, Chris Higgins and defenseman Alex Edler have accounted for 4 of Vancouver’s 6 playoff goals and their strong play has allowed coach Alain Vigneault to roll 4 lines throughout the first two games.  Vancouver will be looking to come at the Blackhawks in waves and taking a sleeper pick from the Canuck roll players might be a great way to differentiate yourself from the Star Selector pack.

3. Can Corey Crawford steal a game?  There is no one that will blame Crawford for the first two losses in Vancouver and if fact most pundits agree that he has kept the games close enough for the Hawks to have at at least a split at this point.  Vancouver has an opportunity to take a stranglehold on this series and will be coming out strong.  Crawford needs to be at his best tonight if the Hawks have any hopes of getting back into the winners column.

4. What do Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharpe, Jonathan Toews, Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler have in common thus far in the 2011 playoffs?  If you answered they are all goal less than congratulations you have won a boot of beer from WestEnd, the Chicago Blackhawks official pre-game tavern (editors note - costs associated with airfare, accommodations and the boot of beer are your responsibility).  Someone from the aforementioned group will bust out tonight it is just a matter of picking the right combination for your Star Selector starting lineup.

Good luck with your picks tonight and see you at Crown Royal Star Selector @ 8:00pm EST tonight!

HNIC Star Selector - Game 2 - Penguins vs Lightning

The Wall and the No Call

Marc-Andre Fleury is freakin sick!  With the majority of pre series Penguins hype centered around Crosby & Malkin's injuries and questions around who will provide an offensive spark the Stanley Cup winning goalie made a statement in game 1.  The 26 year old posted his 5th career post season shutout shutting down the Lightning snipers with many acrobatic saves.  Lightning fans have every reason to be concerned as I am not sure they are a team that can rise above a frustrating game like that one.

And the Lightning should be frustrated, especially with the officiating.  With 6 penalties against and several of them 'light' calls, you might wonder what could have been.  Then there was the obvious non call, where Michalek swung his stick around and smashed St. Louis in the mouth. Never one to say what if, but you have to wonder in a 0-0 close game how a 5 minutes major could have jump started the Lightning... but the game is the game and root canal is root canal.  Just ask Martin St. Louis who immediately made the post game trip to the dentist chair to repair his two front teeth.
This is one of the greatest saves
in the last 10 years

With the 1st night of games under our belts and a big prize of a Euro NHL trip on the line, Star Selectors brought their A-game.  A major shout out to @yokobird with a solid 742 which is a good number, but will it last?  I am never one for captaining a goalie, but Fleury made me eat my words, as he was huge with 410 total captained points.  Orpik put up some solid points as well, the empty netter helped with shout outs going to Kovalev, Brewer and Malone.

Game 2

Both goalies looked strong and like lemmings I am sure our Star Selectors will captain Fleury faster than a Shea Weber clapper.  It may be a case of, you better follow suit or you could be left out.  But that isn't really our style.  The players that stood out to us and could have a serious impact would be:

1) Jordan Staal, he was the monster with no goals.  He will go off in this series and Game 2 could be the stage.

2) Ryan Malone, he had 4 shots on net and was not a minus.  He had 2 big chances and seemed to be driving the net well.

3) Kris Letang, he played a tone of minutes, had 4 shots, an assist, he could be the top point man in this series and should be started, if not captained in game 2.

4) Alexi Kovalev, the more you hate him the lazier he gets and the more goals he scores.  Put your heart away and pick with your head cause he is in the right spot a lot of the time.

5) Victor Hedman, he was a minus 1 but had 5 shots and plays the PP.  A bit of a long shot but could be a sleeper?

If you want to play Star Selector click here

HNIC Star Selector - Game 2 - Blackhawks vs Canucks

One of the most over used and common cliches during the playoffs is, “game x (fill in number here) is a must win”.  So in the spirit of every sound-bite from hockey players throughout the NHL, let me be the first to write that Game 2 on Friday night is a must win for the Chicago Blackhawks. But, before we jump into Friday night’s Star Selector game preview, I’ve got to give a shout out to my new favorite golfer, Kevin Na.  The dude took a 16 on a par 4 yesterday. But what makes it even more admirable? The conversation with his caddy counting up his score and the fact that he still posted an 80 for his round.  Sorry for the aside, but as a resident of the GTA I am unfortunately accustomed to a little springtime golf influence when thinking or talking hockey during the playoffs.

Back to hockey thoughts:

With the exception of a quiet night from the Sedins and their regular season leading power play, Canuck fans have to be thrilled about the game 1 outcome.  Vancouver played physical, rolled four lines, got secondary scoring and most importantly shutout goaltending from Roberto Luongo.   Winning game 1 in a series is nothing new, as the Canucks have gotten off to a quick start in the last 2 years against the Hawks.  However, Chicago has been quick to return the game 1 volley with consecutive game 2 victories.  From a mental and momentum perspective, a reversal of this trend will go a long way to propelling the President Trophy winner’s to a first round victory.

5 (Ok, 6) key players to watch:

1. Daniel and Henrik Sedin.  All right I’m cheating a little, but the twins virtually play as one and I have a strong feeling that they will rebound from a quiet game 1 and put up some solid Star Selector points.  Why?  They are just too good & consistent and rarely go more than a game between points.

2. Roberto Luongo.  Vancouver has done a magnificent job getting their number 1 goalie ready for the playoffs.  He is rested (Cory Schneider started 25 games this year) and focused.  Luongo made several key saves Wednesday night and was full measure for his 32 save shut out victory.  A must have in your starting lineup and a solid captain selection.

3. Ryan Kesler.  Kesler, in the opinion of many Canuck fans and analysts, is the team’s 2010 MVP. His game 1 performance only enhanced this sentiment.  Kesler is the regular season Star Selector leading scorer and  is a must-have in your starting five.

4. Jonathan Toews.  Just to prove that I’m not completely biased, this is the perfect game to start the Blackhawk’s captain.  In his short career, Toews has consistently played his best hockey when it matters most and tonight’s game is an absolute must win (please refer to the opening paragraph).

5. Corey Crawford.  Crawford settled down after a shaky first period and provided some solid goaltending.  He is a great choice if you feel this series is going to follow the same trend of the last couple of years with Chicago winning game 2.  

If you want to play Star Selector click here

Round One Playoff Preview - HNIC Star Selector

Headlining Star Selectors first round Stanley Cup Playoff match-ups: two rematches, an Original six rivalry with an abundance of bad blood and a battle between recent Stanley Cup winners. CBC sport’s executives are still smiling this afternoon given the abundance of plot lines surrounding their first round play off match ups (for a complete schedule follow this link:

Let’s examine some of the story lines and give some insight that might help you select your starting Crown Royal Star Selector lineups.

1. Will the Vancouver Canucks finally defeat the Chicago Blackhawks?

So what is the reward for winning your franchise’s first President Trophy?  A date with your playoff nemesis, and defending Stanley Cup Champion, the Chicago Blackhawks.

If any Canuck fan tries to sell you on the, ‘we are happy to be getting a chance to avenge the last 2 playoff losses to Chicago story’, kindly thank them for their time and ask them for two of whatever they are drinking.  Truth is Canuck fans were desperately hoping for Dallas to grab the final playoff spot.  That said, the Canucks can create some serious playoff momentum with a first round victory, especially if they beat the Hawks in 5 games or less.  Chicago is battled tested and will be undoubtedly looking to cash in on the free hand Dallas dealt them.

This is a Star Selectors dream series (or nightmare) depending on your views on player changes, as each team boast a stable of young stallions.  Take your pick between the twins Daniel & Henrik Sedin, Ryan Kesler (regular season Star Selector leading scorer), Roberto Luongo, Patrick Kane or Sharp, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith or Cory Crawford.  Just don’t be scared to make roster adjustments if you see your selections underperforming.

2. Bad Bad Blood.  Boston Bruins vs Montreal Canadiens

All right hockey fans, this is the series you so desperately wanted.  A classic series featuring exceptional goaltending, with size & strength taking on speed & skill.   All that is missing is some bad blood to really hype this series up.  Of course I write this in jest as there is probably more bad blood heading into this series than the previous 33 times the teams have squared off.  No need to rehash the entire Pacioretty - Chara incident and subsequent non-suspension fallout, but when a French-language Electoral debate is rescheduled to avoid going up at the same time as a hockey game, you know there is more than a little interest in this series.

Some additional plot lines if the above wasn’t enough:  Can Carey Price build on a solid regular season and provide Halakian level of postseason goaltending?  Can Boston exorcise last year’s playoff collapse demons?   Does Tomas Kaberle remember how to compete in the playoffs (sorry Leaf fans)?  Are the Canadiens tough enough to handle the Bruins physical presence?

From a player selection standpoint, this is a series that might be the lowest scoring of all the other first round match ups making goalie picks a solid strategic option.  Boston will go with the new regular season NHL save percentage record holder Tim Thomas, while Montreal will counter with their Star Selector leading scorer, Carey Price.  Upfront it’s difficult not to consider starting from Boston: Milan Lucic, David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron, Nathan Horton & Zdeno Chara and from Montreal; Tomas Plekanec, Michael Cammalleri, Brian Gionta & PK Subban.

3. Dessert Delights.  Detroit Red Wings vs Phoenix Coyotes

Many hockey experts considered Detroit’s 7 games series win over Phoenix as the most entertaining contest during last year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs.  This rematch, while not garnering as much attention as the Hawks-Canucks series, has the potential to recapture the same magic as last year.  Detroit and Phoenix split their 4 game series during the regular season, with all games being decided by 2 goals or less.  Detroit will be starting the series without the services of star forward Henrik Zetterberg, who is still nursing the popular ‘lower body’ injury, while Phoenix enters this years cup run with a healthy lineup.  For those on twitter and who aren’t already following @BizNasty2point0, Phoenix Forward Paul Bissonnette this is the perfect opportunity to start following the most entertaining NHL’er on the popular social media medium.

I like this to be the highest scoring of the first round Star Selector match-ups, and as such will be loading up on some great offensive players.  Pavel Datsyuk, Nicklas Lidstrom, Daniel Cleary & Johan Franzen lead the Red Wings while Phoenix offers Shane Doan, Keith Yandle, Ray Whitney and Lauri Korpikoski.

4. Run and Gun?  Pittsburgh Penguins vs Tampa Bay Lightning

With Tampa and Pittsburgh meeting in the 1st round, this sets up to be one of the most entertaining series on Hockey Night In Canada.  While the big guns, Crosby and Malkin, have been injured for most of the second half of the season, the Penguins never slipped and are one of the strongest teams entering the playoffs.  The Lightning on the other hand were sizzling out of the gate, but have cooled over the last 2 months.

Goaltending will dictate this series.  Marc-Andre Fleury will need to carry the Penguins above the deadly Tampa Bay power play and their powerhouses forwards Vinny LeCavalier, Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos.  Dwayne Roloson historically has been rock steady in the playoffs and Lightning fans will need him to steal some games again this year.  That said, I would not PICK the goalies.  In the Star Selector game it will be all about the big guns for both teams.  Chris Kunitz and Pascale Dupuis should be considered as the best Penguins each night with their high plus/minus and point totals, plus Kunitz likes to play a physical game.  On the TBay side the big 3 should always be considered but don't ignore Teddy Purcell and Ryan Malone for points.  You could win games by captaining a player like Purcell or maybe even the Penguins Tyler Kennedy because everyone else might be thinking Stamkos all the way and they could emerge as keep roll players in the series.  Game one should give us some indication as to the abilities of the shutdown lines on each team to limit the big players from getting on the score sheet and that should tell you who to stay away from.

If you want to play Star Selector click here

Just Be Cauz - 2011 NCAA Final: WORST GAME EVER!

I once re-watched the 2007 NFL Draft just to see Brady Quinn's face when the Miami Dolphins passed him for Ted Ginn. I once spent a sunny afternoon watching Battlefield Earth. I have sat through experimental theatre in a dingy loft.

I can come up for an excuse for all of them:
(1) Watch this clip and try to tell me it's not one of the best moments in Draft History
(2) I was hungover and the remote control was really far away.
(3) I was hoping it would lead to sex, it didn't.

None of those moments was as painful to experience as the 2011 Men's Basketball National Championship. I've seen pre-teen girls basketball that had a higher degree of execution than what we endured on Monday night.

So in honour of that 53-41 turd sandwich I'm going to come up with as many hack jokes to describe the game. Really it doesn't deserve any better than my array of C- jokes I'm going to unleash on you.

I heard that Jim Calhoun may have to forfeit the title. No not for yet another scandal but when you shoot 34.5%, dish out just six assists versus eleven turnovers do you really deserve to be called Champion?

By the way 6 assists to 11 turnovers? Did UConn fly in Stephon Marbury from China to play point guard?

UConn scored just 19 points in the first half! Coincidentally that's the same number of players who have graduated in Calhoun's tenure in Connecticut.

The rims took more abuse from misfired balls than ... hmmm let me rephrase that. The rims was abused more than Pat Summerall's liver.

The last episode of 'Seinfeld' had a better ending than this game.

The surprise ending in 'The Crying Game' was less disturbing than Butler's half court offence.

I haven't seen that may turnovers since Ryan Leaf played Akili Smith

That game had more misses than Nicholas Cage's IMDB page.

You know you're watching a truly terrible game when you're in shock when either team actually scores a basket.

The bench for the Washington Generals would have outscored either of those teams.

That game was so ugly CBS decided to play 'One Shining Moment' with six minutes left to play.

Forget "One Shining Moment" I would have been happy with one moment of well executed basketball.

Butler's field goal percentage (18.8%) was lower than my Grade Nine Advanced French mark.

Butler's offense was nothing more than 37 passes two feet behind the three-point line than jack up a wild shot and hope it goes in.

Butler made four baskets from inside the three point line! I haven't seen a team avoid the paint so much since Rafael Araujo was the Raptors starting centre.

Chad Ford had Matt Howard ranked 185th before the tournament, I think he's being kind. The only way Howard is getting drafted is if the NBA expands to 10 rounds. Maybe he would then be Mr. Irrelevant.

Howard went 1-13. One for thirteen! Hey Matt, John Starks called he wants his stat line back from Game Seven of the NBA Finals.

That game was so bad Jim Nance at one point blanked out in sheer boredom and starting talking about Mickelson's short game.

At one point in the game I clicked over to watch 'The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants', and guess what, I'm not ashamed to admit it. At least that movie had a more compelling and satisfying storyline.

All right that's all I got. I just wish I could have had those three hours back.

Just Be Cauz - Baseball Preview

I love April. It reminds me of my favourite 'Simpsons' quote:

"To the most beautiful moment in life, better than the deed, better than the memory, the moment of anticipation"

That feeling of anticipation is never stronger than it is right now. Winter is over, Spring has arrived, girls are wearing less clothes, the Masters are a week away and the baseball season is finally upon us.
There's just so much to look forward too.
Of course on the flip slide no sport crushes optimism quite like baseball. Hey I love the game; but about half the teams in the league secretly know they will not be making the playoffs. With no salary cap and only eight playoff spots up for grabs its just about impossible for a team like the Toronto Blue Jays to make it in.
So how do you know if you're team has no chances of making the playoffs? The obvious answer is to assess your teams talent and compare and contrast with the other clubs in your division.
However a more fun way is to go onto their home website and take a look at the official team slogan and/or what the major headlines are. You will find more than enough clues on just how competitive your team will be in the first week in September.

Allow me to give you some examples:

Toronto Blue Jays:
SLOGAN: Hustle + Heart 2.0.
Nothing says a dearth of talent quite like the 'we're going to work really hard' message. You know what they don't have to emphasize in Philadelphia or Boston? Just how much heart the team has. They're too busy telling their fans just how talented and freakishly athletic and accomplished their roster is. As a 10 year old little league player I was often described as having a lot of talent. Of course I was also the guy that picked a lot of grass in the outfield, was afraid of the ball and maybe collected five hits in my career.
By the way what is it with this city and math? The Raptors marketing campaign had tons of adds where the copy read: DeRozan + Athleticism = Excitement. I ran the numbers and I don't trust their math. I believe DeRozan + Athleticism = Lottery Pick.

Pittsburgh Pirates:
SLOGAN: P. Pride. Passion. Pittsburgh Pirates.
I can't tell if that is a slogan or a lesson plan from Sesame Street. Simple alliterations are not clever, they just show that you're prejudice against 25 other perfectly acceptable letter options. lame, lazy, losers.
The teams top headline centres on the fact that eight Pirates will be experiencing their first opening day. Of course for many this will be there only one. Maybe their slogan should have been: The 2011 Pittsburgh Pirates: Just who the F*&K are these guys?

Baltimore Orioles:
SLOGAN: This is Birdland.
What does that even mean? Is that supposed to intimidate opposing teams? Birds haven't been scary since Alfred Hitchcock. Sure they're creepy, but that's really about it. I have a hard time imaging Derek Jeter warning Mark Teixeira to be careful when he goes to the plate, because, you know they are in ... Birdland.
As for headlines one reported that Brooks Robinson was hospitalized (He's fine!) and that former Oriole Randy Winn is retiring. Not sure if it is a sign but Winn was the active leader in most games played (1,717) without playing in the postseason. I'm sure that is just a coincidence, nothing to read into there.

Kansas City Royals
SLOGAN: Major League Moments
Again vagueness reigns supreme. I guess they are just reminding their fans that yes the Royals are indeed a Major League team. Though their is plenty of evidence to suggest the contrary, they are part of MLB, I looked it up.

Hey good on you Seattle! Most teams just woke up this morning, read the paper and were startled to learn that it was indeed opening day.
Most of the headlines were simple reminders that yes Felix Hernandez is still a Mariner, for now.
By the way if you are in Seattle area for the home opener you can get a magnetic schedule for your refrigerator. Think of it as a perfect opportunity to work on your ability to print the letter L.

SLOGAN: Expect It
I expect them to lose 100 games, I expect Jayson Werth will regret signing there and I expect the team to send daily updates on the health of Stephen Strasburg.

NY Mets:
SLOGAN: ?????
I couldn't find one but don't worry I found something better.
Check out this commercial promoting the 2011 squad
I haven't seen acting that stiff since (Insert your own Nicholas Cage joke here. Frankly I'm running out).
That has to be the worst ad campaign since the Miami Heat's ill-fated Fan Up promotion. You could promise the first 1,000 fans genital warts and you'd get a better reaction from your fan base than that 116 seconds of suck.
The top headline was an open letter from manager Terry Collins who promises: "We will always hustle on the bases, run balls down in the outfield and never take anything for granted, no matter the score of the game."
Translation: Yeah we will be on the losing end of a lot of 7-2 games but hey for the 3,500 fans still at the stadium will try to run really hard to first after hitting into an inning ending double play.

Once again when the message is we have plenty of heart and will work real hard just read between the lines, what they're really saying is 'Maybe Next Year'.

Game Previews - April 2nd - Hockey Night in Canada

Game Previews Saturday April 2nd, 2011

3 Crown Royal Star Selector games to choose from Saturday night.   Toronto travels to Ottawa for the final installment  of the 2010 battle of Ontario.  Montreal tries to kick-start their offense in New Jersey, while the President’s trophy winning Vancouver Canucks travel to Edmonton for a date with the injury depleted Oilers.

Toronto vs Ottawa 7:00pm EST 

While they are still a long shot to make the playoffs, the Toronto Maple Leafs have given Leaf Nation plenty to feel good about this week.  The Leafs are riding high posting a 7-3 record over their last 10 games; with key victories this week over Buffalo and Boston.  ‘Optimus Reim’ or ‘Reim-minister of Defense’ (depending on which nickname you prefer) is the toast of the town. And, with Thursday Nights shoot out dangle, coupled with his strong performance of late, Nazim Kadri has all but erased memories of his disappointing early season play.  Ottawa would love nothing more than to put the final nail in the Leaf’s playoff coffin.  This opportunity to audition for Team Canada’s General Manager Dave Nonis combined with it being in front of a nationally broadcasted Hockey Night in Canada audience, there should be no shortage of motivation for Jason Spezza and the rest of the Sens.

Star Selector Starting Five:

Clarke MacArthur - Captain Pick
James Reimer
Craig Anderson
Jason Spezza
Dion Phaneuf

Montreal vs New Jersey 7:00pm EST

Dear Montreal’s Offense:
“Where did you go and could you kindly return before April 13th?”
With concern,
Habs fans everywhere.

With only 5 goals in their last 5 games the Canadiens are slumping at the worse possible time (4-6 in their last 10). They are in danger of earning themselves a first round match-up with the Philadelphia Flyers.  The Habs defense has been battling through injuries all season and the wear and tear could finally be catching up with them. They have looked fatigued in their last few games.  New Jersey went on a ridiculous run post the all-star break, but has since cooled and are virtually eliminated from post season action for the first time since 1996.  Look for Zach Parise to return to the Devil’s lineup Saturday night to begin his preparation for the 2011 World Hockey Championships.

Star Selector Starting Five:

Michael Cammalleri - Captain Pick
Martin Brodeur
Ilya Kovalchuk
Carey Price
James Wisniewski

Vancouver vs Edmonton 10:00pm EST

There is not much left for the Canucks to accomplish in the remainder of the 2010 - 2011 regular season with the exception of ensuring their star players are rested and that they get through their final 5 games without incurring any additional injuries.  Canuck fans have to be thrilled with their outstanding regular season performance and equally excited about the team’s mind set heading into the playoffs.  Check out a couple of post game quotes after clinching the President’s Trophy Thursday night:

"I won one of those in San Jose and it got us nowhere."
Christian Ehrhoff, on securing the Presidents' Trophy as the NHL's top regular-season team.

"Nope, nothing," said Daniel Sedin "It means we have home-ice advantage, but other than that, nothing."

"It doesn't mean we're going to win it all, but it means we have a great shot and it's up to us in there. We said all along if we play our way and the way we can, it's going to be tough for teams to beat us in seven games."  Captain Henrik Sedin.

Picking for this game will be interesting.  While it hasn’t been announced, it is almost a certainty that Cory Schneider will be the starting Canucks goalie. Also look for coach Alain Vigneault to roll 4 lines for the majority of the game.  The Sedin’s and Ryan Kesler will play a regular shift and special teams but not much more.

Star Selector Starting Five:
Ryan Kesler - Captain Pick
Raffi Torres
Cory Schneider
Linus Omark
Daniel Sedin

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