Monday, May 30, 2011

The 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Recap, Assessment, and History; It's Finals Time

It feels like forever ago that the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs commenced, and little did we know that there would be such a vast difference between each of the three preliminary levels to compete for Lord Stanley’s mug. The feeling that lingered upon the conclusion of the Conference Quarter-Finals was a bit overwhelming in that if the energy of that opening round carried into the second and third, it would be difficult to sleep after games concluded and near impossible to wait for the next affair. In some marriage of sigh-of-relief and disappointment, the Conference Semi-Finals did not quite deliver in a manner equivalent to its immediate predecessor, but there were some exciting battles, nonetheless.

Now the Conference Finals have come and gone, the height of mixed emotions peaking like a mind on a really clean dose of LSD. Or, for the PG version, a child’s excitement on Christmas Eve. It’s been said, written, and tweeted this post-season, by both fans and non: There’s nothing that compares with playoff hockey. That’s why the wait for the Stanley Cup Finals to get here is drenched with anticipation, and when the moment arrives, it kind of feels like December 26 before the first Finals puck drop.

The last round, nevertheless, is here, and it’s possible that we’re looking at one of the best Finals matchups in a long time. It’s been a combined 31 years –- the Boston Bruins last qualified in 1990; the Vancouver Canucks were conference champions in 1994 -- since these clubs have played for all the marbles. But the schedule is set, and the competition gets underway Wednesday evening in British Columbia. We’ll chew the series fat in a moment, but first some numbers.

The Round That Just Was

Predictions from yours truly have been all over the map this post-season. A wild hair led to a first-round hope that the Phoenix Coyotes would knock off the Detroit Redwings, which was foolish. The go-to move then, in round two, was to pick against the Sharks, the thinking being that the ‘Wings had chiseled out a small slab of momentum. As we saw, San Jose established the stranglehold, but quickly found themselves in a mercy situation before sending Detroit home in game seven. The tell-tale sign for how the Sharks would fare against Vancouver was in game six of the Conference Semi-Finals. Everybody knows that the Redwings have a seasoned roster, but watching the San Jose forwards cross the blue line in that game bordered on pathetic. I mean, the Geico ad executives responsible for the caveman series were sending Pony Express messages to Todd McLellan that said, Dude you’re taking forever to gain the zone.

The irony in that is that a lot of clubs can’t even gain the offensive zone against the Redwings, which suggested that the Sharks might come out of game seven victorious, but there is no way that that wasn’t going to be the end of the road for them. To make matters worse, the heroes for the Canucks through two rounds had not been their stars, which made for massive foreshadowing that they’d begin to click in the Conference Finals. And click they did.

What We Didn’t Know Yet About These Two Teams: Whether or not their marquis scorers would show up and do more than log significant ice time and qualify for being called tough and gritty by the media. To some degree, they did. And by that I mean, if you’re name’s Patrick Marleau, you’re off the hook, courtesy of four goals and three assists in the series, and one could make the argument that he has Jeremy Roenick in the Versus booth to thank for lighting an on-air fire under his ass the previous round.

If your name is Joe Thornton, a goal and five assists is nice, but you’re gonna have to put rubber to twine more often than once in five games. As for Joe Pavelski, three assists is nice if you’re part of the second platoon of defenseman on your squad, but as a fourth-line center, you gotta produce more than that. As far as Vancouver is concerned, the only two questions were whether or not the Sedin twins would regain the point-tallying displayed early in round one but not seen since, and whether or not Roberto Luongo would stand strong in the crease if significantly tested. The simple answer to that is that he did, but he wasn’t. Facing 37.8 shots per night (with the help of two overtime periods in game five) shouldn’t be too difficult for an Olympic gold medalist and a Vezina finalist, but to his credit, he looked solid on the high-quality scoring chances.

What We Already Knew About These Guys Already: San Jose simply cannot make it click in the post-season. If you go back to the last time the Canucks were in the Stanley Cup Finals, you’ll see that the Sharks have made efforts at retooling the roster. You’ll see that they continue to bring in young talent. You’ll see that they typically have someone solid in net, and you’ll see that, when things aren’t getting done, they make a coaching change. But above all, you see that they almost always qualify for the playoffs (only five times in their history have they not), and they always fall short. In that span, they’ve been eliminated in four Conference Quarter-Finals, seven Conference Semis, and three Conference Finals, the last two being consecutive. You could argue that this year’s round three was an improvement since last year they were swept by Chicago, but that’s a far cry from bragging rights.

As far as the Canucks are concerned, I’m going to do something completely toolish and block quote what I said about them after the Conference Semi-Finals:

You cannot dump and chase against this Canuck team. You cannot, and will not, outskate them, and you will almost certainly lose the majority of the loose-puck battles, no matter where you are on the ice. What’s more is that you cannot expect to alleviate any particular attack by clearing the puck. Vancouver will find ways to keep it in the zone, which will almost always lead to larger numbers of generated shots.

Todd McLellan and the Sharks were not wise enough to read my post before the start of the Conference Finals. Maybe Claude Julien and the Bruins will be.

We Can Be Heroes, Unsung or Otherwise: Call it cheesy, call it gay, but this entire Vancouver squad has played like heroes, and they deserve credit. The main thing about them is they get production out of key guys when everyone does their job. We’ve all heard football coaches say that a thousand times, but with this club, it’s true. Alexandre Burrows scored five times and had two helpers last round. Kevin Bieksa had four goals and an assist. Ryan Kesler continued to stake his claim as leader of Camp Conn Smythe with six more points for his post-season total. Alexander Edler joined the big boys with three assists. Daniel Sedin caught fire with 12 points of his own, while his brother lost his damn mind against San Jose, tallying a goal and 11 assists. If this momentum carries into the Finals, Boston could find themselves stunned and down two games before they even blink.

In the Eastern Conference, things were a bit more interesting. If the San Jose Sharks find themselves looking for some direction on how to make off-season improvements, and they should, they should look all the way across the country at Guy Boucher and the Tampa Bay Lightning. This club has all the right cogs in place, all systems tuned up, and all of the energy sources tapped. Too bad for them they live in a market that doesn’t seem to care too much. As for the Bruins, I must give that hungry fan base some serious credit, as they’ve ranked up there all post-season with the Detroits and the Vancouvers as one of the rockinest buildings around. And the club deserves a lot of credit, too.

In the last round they gelled, and the only next correct step is to find ways to win when all ways appear to have vanished. This Bruins club took one-game leads in this series on three occasions, and nearly needed overtime to put the dagger in the Lightning, but they did it, and I don’t usually give a lot of props to teams with multiple trophies on their mantle, but Boston has overcome a post-season wrestling match with themselves. They have figured out how to get to the big stage.

What We Didn’t Know Yet About These Two Teams: You look at a club like Vancouver, and you know that the big names will get the points because the lesser-known names do the little things that make things like lamp-lighting happen. You look at two squads like Tampa Bay and Boston, and you have a few stars that will be expected to do nothing less than be big-time performers in the biggest of situations. Your St. Louises, your Lecaveliers, your David Krejcis and your Nathan Hortons.

Seldom do you look at rosters of clubs like this and take note of all of the lesser-known names that wind up making a huge difference, like Dennis Seidenberg of Boston, who has logged 511 minutes of ice time this post-season. Five hundred eleven. Good for 28-plus minutes per game. That’s exhausting. He’s also a plus-eight through three rounds. Or left-winger Ryan Malone for Tampa Bay. He shifts in after Sean Bergenheim and Simon Gagne and has managed to generate six points, 24 PIMS, two even-strength tallies, a power-play goal, and a game winner in these playoffs. You look up and down the roster of these two clubs, you’re seeing production of some sort or another.

What We Already Knew About These Guys Already: Take your well-assembled lines, give them good coaches, and then hope for good goaltending? Not so fast. You go out, and you pick through the rubble piles, find the best of the discards and you give them a shot at winning your starting job. That’s what Julien and Boucher did, and they were not incorrect by going that route, as Dwayne Roloson and Tim Thomas just put together the most impressive goaltender dual of the post-season, and if I may borrow a little Vincenzo Coccotti, “that’s as good as it’s gonna get. And it won’t ever get that good again.” Not this post-season, anyway.

But Roloson, at 41 years of age, discarded by five other pro teams, two of which he took to Conference Finals, one of which he took to the Stanley Cup Finals, just pitched a .924 save percentage and a 2.51 goals-against average, along with a shutout. Unfortunately for him, that game-winning goal scored by Boston’s Nathan Horton in game seven was a number all-too-familiar to him: 41. That’s how many times Roloson was beat in 17 starts. Just over two goals per game, on average. Not bad a’tall.

One of the best tweets (courtesy of Hockey Trend) I’ve seen in months came across the wire this round: “Tim Thomas. ..A goalie drafted by a team that no longer exists in a round that no longer exists.” Yup. Taken in the ninth round by the Quebec Nordiques was the ol’ Thomanator, and since then he’s been just about everywhere an unwanted hockey player could be: the International Hockey League, the American Hockey League, the East Coast Hockey League, Finland, Sweden, on the bench. These are, of course, none of the places an NHL goalie wants to be. But Thomas has been lights out this post-season, and I don’t see any possible way he doesn’t win his second Vezina Trophy this year. The point to all of this madness, though, is that we knew these two netminders were gonna come out and be solid in the Conference Finals. Did we know they’d be this solid, though? That’s tough to predict.

We Can Be Heroes, Unsung or Otherwise: There are a lot of players that deserve notoriety from both of these teams. They went at it hard and went at it often from game one through the final horn of game seven, and fans everywhere were delighted. My two heroes for Boston, though, would have to be Mark Recchi and the fan base. Recchi, at 42, with two rings already, has scored twice in the post-season, and added five helpers to his point total. He’s also managed to log an average of just under 17 minutes of ice time a game, which is no small feat at that age. And the fans. They’ve had plenty of professional-sports love in the last decade, and this may sound a bit redundant, but it’s great to see that city buzzing for Bruins hockey and rocking the (TD) Garden, especially since they’ll be celebrating the 10th anniversary of something called The Tradition next month.

Tampa Bay has its heroes as well, and they are none other than the 20-year-old Steven Stamkos, who generated 13 points this post-season, and almost had his dome smashed in in game seven. Also, Blair Jones, who, according to Corey Masisak of, had no problem hangin’ with Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg. Also, credit to his parents for making his name as awesome as it could be.

The Round That’s to Be

All the numbers meant to be crunched have been crunched, and if I have to calculate one more series-shot total or tally one more dude’s ice time, I’m’a shoot somebody. Not really. I hate guns. But, this is the time of the year where the stats do you no good. It’s all about winning battles along the boards, beating your man to the loose pucks, forechecking, backchecking, protecting the zone, and not fanning on quality scoring chances. Well, some good strategery, lights-out goaltending, and some unprecedented stamina all help, too. It’s about biscuits in baskets, primarily, though, and we’re going to see two squads work real hard to get that feat accomplished.

The brand of hockey that the Vancouver Canucks have displayed in the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs is one I’ve not seen any club even attempt to execute in a number of years. Again, cue the redundancy wheel, but they have speed, skill, smarts, drive, and chemistry that make them an impressive, systems-based club that has meant two things for them. On the one end, they dominate. They bring this mix of talent and ability that gives opponents fits, and when all the tabs are clicking, they can’t be outmatched. On the other end of the pantry shelf, they’ve seen themselves challenged to the brink of elimination when one piston isn't firing, such as was the case versus Chicago in round one.

My opinion is that the fact that that Conference Quarter-Finals series took seven games was a mental battle Vancouver had with themselves, namely one Roberto Luongo. It didn’t help that the Sedins weren’t generating points in the second half of that series, so, as mentioned, the Canucks can find themselves in trouble if one aspect to their game is lacking. That’s the case with any team in any sport though, and in Vancouver’s case, in that situation, they overcame. This team will face a giant of defensive bodies and determination, and making sure they can get all the gears to turn at all the right times will be their big challenge.

The Vancouver defense is one of the best in hockey, and the interesting aspect about that is that so is Boston’s. An important factor in this Stanley Cup Finals will be confidence, and it’s possible that facing the San Jose Sharks in the third round will have been a problem for the Canucks in that they may have a bit too much of it as they prepare to host the Bruins in the series. The one thing that might help them balance that out is their franchise’s lack of championships; in 40 years, they’ve been to the dance twice and experienced both ends of failure: a sweep, and seven-game defeat. They know how much this appearance means to the city and the fan base, and it should provide for an extra tablespoon of motivation for them as they prepare to challenge for Lord Stanley for a third time.

The existence of momentum is something that I believe in. I think it matters within the swing of the game, between series, and on occasion, heading into subsequent seasons. If that’s accurate, Boston has the edge in that department, having just gone the distance with Tampa Bay. What’s more is that they earned a sweep over Philly in round two, but had to go all seven with Montreal in the Conference Quarter-Finals. Add to that that their city and fan base have comparable hunger. They have five cups in their history, but they’ve been playing in the league for more than double the time Vancouver has.

The reality, though, is that it will come down to individual and team drive, and this is something the Bruins do not lack. After a two-year absence from post-season play, they lost in the first round, then twice in the second, a clear indicator of progress within the current regime. They also continue to make key personnel additions, and said additions are no slouches. Boston’s biggest obstacle won’t be the Vancouver home-ice advantage, or a better coach in Alaine Vigneault. The hurdle that stands in their way will be any questioning they have of their own style of play, more specifically, the potential desire to try and play the game the way the Canucks do.

What Boston must do is disrupt the flow of the Vancouver attack. They must prevent that system from ever establishing the ability to click. Failure to do so early could be detrimental to their chances, especially if that happens in game one, and they find themselves desperate to even the series in game two before going back to Beantown. The Bruins have the physical ability, the smarts, and the experience to exert force on the Vancouver forwards, and throw their efforts to synch out of whack before they’re even humming. If they can do that, and continue to get the offensive production they’ve gotten, they’ll be in good running for one reason: They have the goaltending edge.

Tim Thomas is playing a more solid, consistent, head-strong game than Roberto Luongo right now, and there aren’t enough games left in the season for that to change. Thomas is poised to put on a netminding display equal to the greats of this era. His mind is in the right place, his ability has been proven time and again in the last three years, and he wants it worse than maybe any athlete left in contention. Nothing will faze him. Roberto Luongo, on the other hand, could go in a shell with one bad game.

The pick: This series has the makings to be the best since the lockout, and it’s possible that it could reach a bit further. Trouble is, it won’t. The talent, the ability, the defense, and the goaltending possessed by the Boston Bruins are all impressive and remarkable, but it’s also something else: not enough. Vancouver is ready to take this trophy home, and do just that they will. I’d love to be wrong and see it go to seven, but they’ll handle their business in six.

The Rounds That’ve Come Before

Just like the previous two rounds, we’ll have a look at the last 10 (in this case) Conference Finals, and afterwards, we’ll do an average so’s to determine how this post-season stacks up. In case you’re new to this party: Shots on goal are registered shots that would’ve been goals had they not been saved; we’re only looking at major penalties; overtimes refers to total number of overtime periods, not games in which there was an overtime.

1999-2000 Conference Finals (eventual champion: NJ Devils)
Goals: 76
Shots: 711
Penalties in Minutes: 105
Overtime Periods: 1
Home vs. Visitor: 1/1 tie
Average Number of Games per Series: 6

2000-2001 Conference Finals (eventual champion: CO Avalanche)
G: 60
S: 728
PIMs: 30
OTs: 1
H vs. V: 1/1 tie
GpS: 7

2001-2002 Conference Finals (eventual champ: Detroit Redwings)
G: 52
S: 564
PIMs: 10
OTs: 4
H vs V: 2/0, home
GpS: 5

2002-2003 Conference Finals (eventual champion: NJ Devils)
G: 51
S: 712
PIMs: 30
OTs: 6
H vs. V: 2/0, home
GpS: 6.5

2003-2004 Conference Finals (eventual champion: Tampa Bay Lightning)
G: 39
S: 601
PIMs: 0
OTs: 4
H vs. V: 2/0, visitor
GpS: 5.5

2005-2006 Conference Finals (eventual champion: Carolina Hurricanes)
G: 68
S: 687
PIMs: 30
OTs: 2
H vs. V: 1/1 tie
GpS: 6

2006-2007 Conference Finals (eventual champion: Anaheim Ducks)
G: 63
S: 623
PIMs: 25
OTs: 5
H vs. V: 2/0, visitor
GpS: 5.5

2007-2008 Conference Finals (eventual champion: Detroit Redwings)
G: 56
S: 594
PIMs: 60
OTs: 0
H vs. V: 2/0, home
GpS: 5.5

2008-2009 Conference Finals (eventual champion: Pittsburgh Penguins)
G: 58
S: 593
PIMs: 95
OTs: 3
H vs. V: 2/0, home
GpS: 4.5

2009-2010 Conference Finals (eventual champion: Chicago Blackhawks)
G: 44
S: 525
PIMs: 20
OTs: 1
H vs. V: 1/1 tie
GpS: 4.5

How this year’s Conference Finals stack up against the previous 10:

Previous 10 Conference Finals (by average)
Goals: 56.7
Shots: 633.8
PIMs: 40.5
OTs: 2.7
H vs. V: 12/8, home; 60 percent
GpS: 5.6

2010-2011 Conference Finals
G: 73
S: 759
PIMs: 140
OTs: 2
H vs. V: 2/0, home
GpS: 6

An interesting comparison. Increases in shots taken and goals scored, nearly triple the PIMs, a microscopic dip in overtime periods, a massive slant in favor of home-ice advantage, and an increase in the number of games played per series. In sum, you’re getting more offense, which everyone loves. You’re getting more buffoonery, which continues to be a split issue among fans, but in reality, most everybody gets fired up about (Editor’s Note: We’ve gone round and round about this topic here inside the House of Georges, and I hate to rule in absolutes –- as Obi-Wan Kenobi said, “Only a Sith deals in absolutes,” –- but I don’t care what anybody says, it’s part of the game and you cannot remove it. That is, you can, but it wouldn’t be the same game. Also, irony, via the use of the word “only,” noted, Obi-Wan.) it. Said buffoonery, however, also leads to more special-teams play, which means more open ice, which means more action/easier for the casual eye to follow the puck.

Fewer overtime periods historically in this particular round, but it’s only two series out of the whole post-season, so for this round, you take a dip. The increase in home ice for this season could be a fluke, but if it’s not, does that suggest a flaw in the league’s parity effort, or is that true across the pro-sports board? What do home-field numbers look like in the NBA Conference Finals, the NFL Conference Championship Games, and MLB’s League Championship Series? Are those next-to-final rounds a larger advantage for the home squads than in others? And a higher games-per-series ratio is great because it, duh, means more hockey.

Moving on.

How this year’s playoffs stack up against the previous 10 through three rounds:

Previous 10 Post-Seasons (by average)
Goals: 411
Shots: 4637
PIMs: 386
OTs: 22
H vs. V: 80/60 (57 percent), home
GpS: 5.69

This Post-Season (through three rounds):
G: 474
S: 5175
PIMs: 555
OTs: 27
H vs. V: 10/4 (71 percent), home
GpS: 5.79

I like this set of numbers even better. Huge increase in shots taken, goals scored, so again, you’re getting more offense. Astronomical spike in major-penalty minutes. More overtime periods is like free steak with your mashed potatoes and gravy. Another giant inflation for the home team, and an elevation in the average number of games per series.

We’ll check back again after the playoffs have concluded, but, to me, these numbers mean good things for the game, and if there’s any truth to the knuckleheads that think the league lost its fan base after the lockout and is still struggling to get it back (Editor’s Note: There’s not.), then there’re a whole lotta people out there not watching a game that appears to be getting better every year. Oh, and by the way, I nailed the Conference Finals picks.
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Friday, May 27, 2011

Beckoning Bill Burroughs: Ray Lewis, NFLers Psyched About Phish Summer Tour

The late William S. Burroughs employed an interesting writing tactic in the 1960s when he composed The Nova Trilogy. Using what's been referred to as the cut-and-fold-in technique, Burroughs would excerpt words and phrases from established linear texts and piece them together to create a new body of work. The fact that he had the wit and patience to create something semi-sensible with this approach is impressive, but credit is also due to his interns of the time: barrels full of distilled spirits and intravenous drugs.

"Beckoning Bill Burroughs," then, is our latest feature in which we do not literally take scissors and paste to magazine and newspaper articles, but rather highlight and right-click the works of a few random writers and bloggers. This week's contributors victims are none other than ESPN's Jemele Hill, and Aaron Hawley from Online Phish Tour.

Ray Lewis loves the true union at a Phish show about as much as he loves celebrating his own tackles. Sometimes, he seems to get lost between the band and the audience, which appears to be what happened with ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio in 2000 and in 2003.

Lewis told Paolantonio that he believes that while it’s open to debate when Phish was at their best, in 2011 the phans are better off than at any other time in the band’s history. The technological advances in recent years will make crime escalate if there isn’t an NFL season. In some ways, Phish 3.0 ranks right up there with Twitter, bittorent, and blogs as one of the most illogical arguments ever made just the same way that Phish 1.0 meshed with newsgroups, listserves, and websites.

“Do this research if These innovations alone make present day the best time ever to be a Phish phan -– watch how much we used to rely on an unofficial network of tapers to distribute the shows and a dog-eared copy of The Pharmer’s Almanac to settle how much crime picks up, these days all that information exists online if you take away our game,” Lewis said.

Maybe he’s been spending some time within moments of the house lights coming up.

It isn’t clear whether Lewis was talking about the cost of your ticket, the soundboards the band doles out, but his comments did a huge disservice to great sounding copies of the shows you saw. I can’t say If hearing last night’s show doesn’t do it for you, which has stretched to a definitively great sounding audience as of Tuesday.

In fact, what I’ve seen is the direct opposite of nearly every show available.

Two days before Lewis’ rant, I was going for national news with my tape collection in college for taking an eighth-grade girl Reba to her end-of-school formal dance but never got anywhere near completion.

That doesn’t sound too nefarious. In fact, it sounds kind of like the story that should inspire Lewis. Now it’s permanently archived for perpetuity. Need to know how Reba evolved through the years? (Y)ou have the resources at your fingertips And it should get all of us to see underlying positives in every version, or at least enough versions that you’ll be hearing whistling in your ears long after you’ve logged off.

A lot of players are spending their non-football time making audio that lives forever online. Videotapes used to be hard to come by, but these days thanks to making themselves into better people, the Web has it all. Chicago Bears draftee J.T. Thomas, the obsessive sort, like I am, was taken Vidoes on YouTube that blow away the quality of VHS bootlegs that used to circulate back in the day.

“I figured I’m not doing anything right now, and we don’t have anything to do with the team,” Thomas, a fifth-year senior out of West Virginia, told “So it wouldn’t hurt for me to go giving a refreshing new take on the Phish experience.”

Thomas met more than enough Phish based media to consume and rides the same bus reading every review of every show. Their bus driver contacted Thomas’ stepmother, telling her there was a transplanted phan’s experience in Morgantown, W.Va., reading everything the morning after a show that Thomas should meet. So one day, Thomas feels a lot like reading the sports section the day after a big game and boarded the bus to read about various different experiences people had.

To his surprise, sometimes the adventure’s in the show, and sometimes it’s in the getting there.

she began to cry during their conversation, and it wasn’t because she was still heartbroken over what it was like to be a phan in 2006. She was sad because she gave up on ever getting the opportunity to feel that feeling again, and moved on. Thomas couldn’t stand to see her so miserable. His stepmother replaced those shows with other bands, but deep down inside, Thomas called to ask what we were missing.

“I was a little nervous,” he said. “I was saying, ‘Simply having the band back makes all the difference.’”

His fears were unfounded. It’s a brave new Phish, and the world is a better place now that they’re back.

Would this have been possible were it not for just having the band back on the road?

“Probably not,” Thomas said. “I would probably be learning people can kvetch about this and that. Tour starts this weekend. Don’t tell me that doesn’t make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.”

Considering that during recent off-seasons, the NFL has dealt with some who felt like 3.0 has never reached their potential, Thomas’ good deed looks even more spectacular.

And it makes what Lewis said worth thinking about, and right now the band is poised to sweep across the country all summer long dropping memorable events at every turn.

Certainly, there have been players who have lamented that the band lacks the hunger that it has had in years past, but there are far more examples of players who are using unrestrained joy and enthusiasm as an opportunity to grow during the band’s rapid ascent to the top of the music game.

Unfortunately, some of the negative headlines during the passing of the years has affected the band’s sound in various ways, and will overshadow how much The only Phish show worth thinking about is the next one.

And sure, players are spending their time on more frivolous pursuits. But even then, there’s nothing wrong with opening up to new experiences.

We’ve seen a lot of players struggle with life after the NFL because they’ve spent so much of their lives immersed in the game. I’m not suggesting we should feel sorry for them because they certainly knew a constant stays the same: there is nothing like a Phish show.

But being given more time to broaden horizons in 2011 with the return of the band, new tunes, and an explosion of new Phish-based online media? That doesn’t seem so evil. phans have it good.
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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tuesday Tidbits: Jimmy Fallon Keeps Killing It

My sister-in-law just put this up on Facebook. Definitely worth a share.

I never catch Fallon's shows, but his musical costumes are awesome. Also, he was probably the coolest guest ever on Top Chef.

(clip courtesy of the StubTubes)
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This Week in Blogstralia: Hyperbole and a Half

I came across Hyperbole and a Half several months ago, and found that, with a small nebulus of structureless time surrounding you, it's possible to spend a straight hour perusing this blog on your first visit to it. I realize that stating the probability of an hour being a long time is absurd, but modern-day attention span disagrees, I reckon. The point is that I really got a kick out of it, and sort of jotted it down on my list of sites to feature when I got this series underway, which was, uh, six months ago.

Hooray for organization. Anyhoo. Post frequency is currently declining with HaaH, and that goes against the grain according to what bloggers are supposed to be doing, but for Allie Brosh, it doesn't matter. She gets the traffic, regardless.

For example, she published 91 posts in her inaugural blogging season of 2009, dropped that number by 10 a year ago, and most of five months into 2011, she's thrown up a four-spot. The site's most recent offering, however, boasts 1,190 comments. One thousand, one hundred ninety. Here in the House of Georges, by comparison, we've published 1,681 posts over a four-year span, and I'd honestly be suprised if we've gotten more than 100 comments total.

But that's okay. I've posted a lot of material here that could be deemed saturated. And that's been saturated material in a niche, too. Allie Brosh just doesn't care. She's going to put together awesome, illustrated posts like "7 Games You Can Play With a Brick", or one of my personal favorites, "The Awkward Conversation Survival Guide".

The blog is quality because it is original, it's funny, and it's full of illustrations. I have no idea how she possibly has the time to come up with that many images, but perhaps she simply works on them for a long time, thus the small number of posts per year. But check out the site if you haven't been there before. She's got a good list of links to other funnyish blogs as well, and and hey -- 79 million page views can't all be wrong.
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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Beckoning Bill Burroughs: Starring, Unbeknownst to Them, the Work of Chris Jones and Joe Posnanski

If you've ever dabbled in the work of the late William S. Burroughs, well -- Kudos to you for giving it a shot, and a gold star atop your kudos if you've gotten through more than Naked Lunch. If you haven't, give The Nova Trilogy -- The Soft Machine, The Ticket That Exploded, and Nova Express -- a shot. Also, consider Junky. In The Nova Trilogy, Burroughs took on the task of cutting established linear texts and folding them into one another to create a new manuscript. Since these works were crafted in the early 1960s, he literally would cut out words and phrases, then piece them together with paste, so the fact that he had the patience to do this, and the wit about him to put together something semi-sensible is impressive, but I reckon a closet full of heroin and whiskey can get a guy going.

In The Soft Machine, one can deduce -- and one must literally deduce what in the heck is happening -- that there is a character who is body jumping, and in doing so, time traveling, all in the name of thwarting tribes of Mayans who possess some sort of control over certain packs of humans. It's pretty intense. If memory serves, he used newspaper and magazine articles, which I'm not going to do; I'm going to use bloggers, and I will cut and paste like you do: with the help of an ordinary word-processing software.

Today, in our initial installment, we'll borrow from two of my favorite writers, Chris Jones, and Joe Posnanski.

The copied, pasted words of these fine fellows will help us run through a tiny speck of what has been one of the weirdest stretches in Kansas City Royals history. And make no mistake: There have been plenty of weird plots along the KCR timeline over 42 years of existence. In sum, though, Dayton Moore took over as General Manager nearly five years ago. He's been criticized, crushed, and crucified under Pontius Pilate for moves involving Jason Kendall, Jose Guillen, and Yuniesky Betancourt, just to name a few. He's been blasted for transactions, like signing Rick Ankiel for too much money, and trading David De Jesus for Vin Mazarro.

"Trust the Process," he has said all along. And slowly, quietly, he built the best farm system in professional baseball. At the start of this season, the mindset outside the organization was that 2011 would perhaps be the worst season for Kansas City since Moore took over; the club was one campaign away from being recognized as a potential contender. Somehow, though, the club started strong, and has managed to stay barely above .500 for the better part of seven weeks. This was puzzling.

To add to it, Moore surprised the baseball world, and pulled the trigger on bringing up number-one prospect Eric Hosmer. Suddenly, a beacon of hope flashed on the Royal horizon. Almost immediately after, Bruce Chen -- the best of five starters in the Royals rotation, got hurt, and Vin Mazarro was called up from AAA Omaha. He seemed to have recovered from a largely terrible Stormchaser debut, and managed to not go out and lose games for his club in each appearance since.

Since his callup, a contest between the inexplicably still-hot Cleveland Indians and the Royals occurred. It was not that long ago, you may recall. Kyle Davies was slated to start, and fans were scratching their heads about how many more times the Royals would trot Davies out to the mound before calling it a done deal with him and the club. Davies did not make it out of the first inning, and has since been placed on the Disabled List with an injury I believe was referred to as an Inflammed VORP.

By the time this contest was over, there was a 17-run differential between the victorious club, and the club that sent out Vin Mazarro to relieve a reliever in the third inning. Suffice it to say that Mazarro did not make it through the evening as a member of the Royals. He was designated for assignment, and called up to replace him was Danny Duffy, who, just over a year ago, quit baseball, but today is the best pitching prospect in the Kansas City system, which is the best system in all of baseball. He makes his big-league debut this evening.

In short, I can't make heads or tails of what will become of this ball club this season, so it was necessary to bring in some help to clarify. Now, these gents are not aware that their services have been recruited, which is kind of like Carl Peterson firing Gunther Cunningham via the Internet, only much less important. It's actually not like that at all. It's like using Burroughs to deliver the evening news to your deaf, illiterate Aunt Peg, only without as much focus on the auto-erotic asphyxiation and the sodomy. Or the murdering of a wife, or the death of an alcoholic, allegedly molested son. You catch my drift.

Thus entered Mazarro. I can’t really overstate the effect this story had on me. Once, when I was still in early minor-league work, I wrote an entire feature in sentence-by-sentence mimicry of how the Royals had traded David De Jesus to Oakland for Mazarro. My story was about when Bruce Chen got hurt; I was sitting in a similarly shitty first inning -- which I only mention to use a favorite verb “uncork” -- in a similarly shitting Midwestern city, and I really needed an inning-ending groundout.

You never would have guessed from that first inning that my editor dissuaded me from committing a very loving form of pseudo-plagiarism, and I re-wrote that thing about history. Still, having written my first version, I learned the rhythm of his story. You rarely see it coming. More than anything, this story has A single, a walk, a bloop…can happen to anyone.

Funnily enough, as I read it again tonight, that’s a 10-run inning. I can see how there’s a lot, really. Lots of relievers have given up 10 runs in an appearance. Jimmy Gobble did it less than three years ago. But…then he came out for the fifth inning. We can speculate all we want about why Royals manager Ned Yost sent Mazarro out there for the fifth inning. He very quickly tells about the work he’s done, the places he’s been. And he uses save some of his other arms…give Mazarro a chance to get some outs…just ticked off.

And so if critics want to register those complaints I’m not sure what there was to say if you read that opening and it didn’t sit right with you -– I couldn’t really argue. I like a good quest story, but I don’t like them every time out. And that’s history: No reliever since World War II has allowed 14 runs in a game.

There’s no telling what happens to Mazarro now. Yet, here I am, sitting alone in the dark, reading. It seems unlikely that he will stay in the big leagues. But you never know about the future. Maybe that’s partly because I know what follows this opening, the rewards that come; the retired to Quarryville , PA where he grew mushrooms and lived to be 94 years old. But I think it’s mostly because this opening does what every opening, ultimately, should do. It might break a lot of rules, but it follows the most important one: It makes it very, very hard for us to stop reading.

It seems pretty clear. Vin Mazarro –- through a combination of bad luck, bad pitching, and bad timing –- had the worst pitching performance in baseball history. It ends cinematically So that’s not too bad either.

And there you have it. Perfect clarification of just one fine evening in the life of the Kansas City Royals.
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Friday, May 13, 2011

The 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Conference Semi-Finals Recap

I still stand by my assertion that that was one of the best opening rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs in nearly 20 years, and nearly every game made me ecstatic for the game, the sport, and the league. That said, I made two mistakes while letting my thoughts and emotions get the best of me: 1) I imagined that, somehow, that electric Conference Quarter-Finals would both slightly diminish the number of haters and add a few members to the fan base; and 2) I figured this would mean an even tighter, more-action-packed Conference Semi-Finals.

Regarding the first, I haven’t exactly had the chance to poll the sports-viewing world, but there is one small sample from which I draw, and that would be the comments section from a Pro Football Talk post earlier this week. And really, that’s fine. I’ve got this new approach going, and it won’t make any sense if I don’t mention the old, which is this: Advocate for the game in any and every possible way, whenever possible. Watch as many games as possible, tweet about them, toss blog-post links on Facebook, e-mail cool YouTube clips, volunteer for hockey organizations in the community, and of course, continue to play and love the game. Be an unpaid ambassador for the sport, if you will.

The new approach looks like this: Change nothing regarding the energy invested in promoting the game, but adjust expectations. People in this country did not grow up with this game. They didn’t watch it, and they certainly didn’t play it, and for them, that’s simply not going to change. So forget about the people that make jokes about the game, joke about the National Hockey League, or throw out the same old excuses about why they can’t/won’t get into it. They are a lost cause, and the most valuable loss is their own. The focus will be the youth, the kids of today’s generation that are playing the game and watching the game, in numbers that continue to grow every year.

Facet two was simply an overestimation in my book: The Conference Semi-Finals have been exciting, but it would take some pretty awful hockey for me to think otherwise. That said, I’m the first to admit that round two delivered less of that roar of adrenaline the opening round produced. And the numbers support such a claim as well, but we’ll get to those in a bit.

The Round That Just Was

The first series to come to a close was the one between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Washington Capitals. I lobbed a prediction that the Lightning would make quick work of the Eastern Conference’s number-one seed, and handle them in six, to which Guy Boucher’s squad clearly took offense, as they handled the Ovechtricks in a clean four. I’m not going to change my dark-horse pick mid-playoffs, but thinking that the L.A. Kings were the secret bet was incorrect. And it seems foolish to say now that the Lightning is the Cinderella story. Their success as a franchise is already documented, and they’ve taken impressive strides to up the perennial ante by bringing in Steve Yzerman to handle the general manager responsibilities and by hiring Boucher, he crossed a big item off his to-do list.

What we didn’t know yet about these two teams: Predictions aside, we didn’t know that Tampa Bay would come in and just mow these guys down. Martin St. Louis and company eliminated the Pittsburgh Penguins in the quarter-finals, but it took them seven games to do so. The assumption there was that they advanced almost entirely due to the absence of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, which is not to say that the Lightning are without talent of their own, but I would never’ve guessed that not only would Washington not score first once in an game, but that they’d only hold a lead for a total of 18:59 throughout the entire series.

What we already knew already about these clubs: Sometimes in sports, franchises have an identity associated with them over time. Tampa Bay is in its 18th season. This is their sixth playoff appearance, and they’ve already won one Stanley Cup. Pretty good start. Through 36 seasons, Washington has qualified for the post-season 22 times, which include one Conference Finals loss, one Finals loss, and a boatload of early exits. Tampa built a nucleus for their club, and they continue to feed it. Washington repeats the same cycle of having a star player -– Dale Hunter, Peter Bondra, Olaf Kolzig, Jaromir Jagr, and Alex Ovechkin –- surrounded by relative mediocrity.

We can be heroes, be we expected or otherwise: It’s no surprise that Vincent Lecavelier and St. Louis have been big –- a combined 25 post-season points –- but you have to two other Lightning right wings deserve equal credit: Steve Downie and Teddy Purcell have generated a combined three goals, 20 assists of their own. And of course, Dwayne Roloson has been huge in net.

While we have the brooms out, let’s talk Boston/Philly. Yikes. I said Flyers in seven, and I thought they had the motivation from last year, coupled with grit and the coaching edge, to handle the Bruins. I was a tad off the mark. The Bruins might be better poised to make a run at it than any of the either three clubs left. These two teams had to’ve been exhausted coming in to round two, as they each went the distance –- Philly with Buffalo, Boston with Montreal –- to advance to round two.

What we didn’t know yet about these two teams: The corps of this Bruins squad picked the right time to gel, and gel they have. Boston big man Zdeno Chara leads the league in plus/minus with an 11, and their last line of defense –- net minder Tim Thomas -– suddenly looks like the star of American-born goaltending, even though 2010 fellow Olympians Jonathan Quick and Ryan Miller had decent post-seasons of their own. It was also unforeseen that the likes of Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Nathan Horton, and Brad Marchand would each produce double-digit point totals by this point in the tournament.

What we already knew already about these clubs: You can trot out a Running Back by Committee platoon in the National Football League, and you might have success. This practice does not translate to playoff goaltending. You have to pick a guy, and stick with him, even if he has an off night and costs you a game. Deciding to rotate the three Philly men in masks –- Kyle Bobrovsky, Brian Boucher, and Michael Leighton -- means you eliminate the possibility of allowing your main man in the crease getting hot and single-handedly winning a contest or two for your club. Additionally, every team that has ever had Chris Pronger on the payroll has suffered immensely when he is out of the lineup due to injury. The 2011 Flyers are just another notch on the post.

We can be heroes, be we unsung or otherwise: Nearly every year there’s an old man on a squad that you simply have to root for. We’ve seen it with Ray Borque, Dave Andreychuk, Chris Chelios, and perhaps to a lesser degree, Marian Hossa. More often than not, that story is of a guy near the end of his career that hasn’t won a Cup yet, and the goose-bump factor gets higher with every game his club wins. This year Boston has 42-year-old Mark Recchi –- two goals, five assists thus far in the playoffs -- on its roster, and he’s already got two rings –- one with Pittsburgh as a rookie, and another with Carolina when Rod Brind’Amour was the feel-good story. So we don’t root for Recchi because his name’s not yet engraved on the chalice, but because leadership like his affords the city of Boston to fully get out of the pro-sports dog house. I’m no Beantown homer by any stretch, but Bostonians have their Patriots dynasty, a pair of Red Sox championships, and a Celtics title, all in the last decade. Hockey is a sport that really jives with the Boston persona, and a championship for the Bs would be massive. As our pal Damon Amendolara tweeted, “Boston is electric” right now.

While the two victors in the east made quick work of their semi-finals foes, the teams out west have done the opposite. Vancouver jumped out to a 3-1 lead over the gritty Nashville Predators, but took until game six to knock them off via a one-goal victory. For those counting at home, that’s the only series in games that I got right. San Jose, on the other hand, had Detroit on the ropes, ready to knock them out in four straight, but the Redwings had other ideas.

At the Versus desk, Keith Jones and Jeremy Roenick said two things heading into the Vancouver/Nashville series, and those two things proved to be key. Jonesy said that the Sedin twins would have to step up and start producing, while J.R. mentioned that the Nashville defense would give the Canucks more fits than they’d seen against Chicago. Well, the Sedin twins did not step up, and therefore, the Predators –- courtesy of that D, some decent offense, and goalie Pekka Rinne –- did give Vancouver more fits.

What we didn’t know yet about these two teams: The Nashville Predators, previously having never gotten out of the Conference Quarter-Finals, could’ve just rolled over and gone home, satisfied with their first post-season advancement. They did not. Joel Ward came steamrolling out of the regular season, and as it stands now, leads the league with playoff goals (seven). We also knew very little about Pekka Rinne, but he played out of his mind for this Predz team, and looks to have a massive future ahead of him. The Vancouver Canucks were in a similar boat, having been eliminated in consecutive years by the Chicago Blackhawks, and narrowly escaping a third year of defeat against the defending champs. The role of Canuck goaltender Roberto Luongo is immense in these playoffs, because he simply must go out there each night and not give up foolish goals. Luongo and Vancouver could’ve shown up to the second round and folded up camp, content with just getting past Chicago. Not that many would’ve been surprised.

What we already knew already about these clubs: Nashville is a solid group of youth and league veterans, which is a crucial balance to find. They’re close but not yet there, so it’s no genuine surprise that their season is over. The reason behind this lack of surprise is this: You cannot dump and chase against this Canuck team. You cannot, and will not, outskate them, and you will almost certainly lose the majority of the loose-puck battles, no matter where you are on the ice. What’s more is that you can not expect to alleviate any particular attack by clearing the puck. Vancouver will find ways to keep it in the zone, which will almost always lead to larger numbers of generated shots. Also, Ryan Kesler. Nearing the conclusion of the second round is too early to identify what guy, out of all the teams remaining, is really going to elevate his game, and score when you need a goal, or deliver a picture-perfect pass with pinpoint timing. Kesler has emerged as that guy in this post-season.

We can be heroes, be we unsung or otherwise: Alexandre Burrows doesn’t appear to be significant in the varying stats columns. He doesn’t generate a lot of points. You won’t see him spend a ton of time in the penalty box, and he isn’t going to lead your club in ice time. But he will probably work harder than anyone on your team not named Ryan Kesler, and that’s saying a lot when your teammates include the Sedins, and Kevin Bieksa. The same can be said for Nashville’s Shea Weber, who generated shots, logged nearly 340 minutes of ice time, scored two power-play goals, and had a pair of assists through 12 playoff games.

As far as the San Jose/Detroit series goes, I look back to what I said regarding Washington and Tampa Bay. The Sharks have talent. They always have. They score, they bang bodies, play solid defense, and usually have an all-star in net. But for some reason, they can’t ever get it all too click in the post-season…Detroit, on the other hand, is arguably the most storied franchise in league history, and if you catch them on a down year -– or in this case, consecutive down years –- you better make quick work of them, or they will make you pay.

What we didn’t know yet about these two teams: There’s something to be said about leadership and experience, and these clubs have displayed practically polar-opposite examples of the notions in recent post-seasons. The Sharks have put together an impressive string of regular-season play, but the best it’s gotten them was a conference-finals appearance last year. Detroit, on the other hand, has been a franchise that many teams have tried to model themselves after, in that they sign and keep their good talent, cycle in key younger players that they develop, and ink end-of-the-line types, i.e. Brett Hull, Mike Modano, in case they’re bitten by the injury bug. This year they got bitten hard, and it severely cost them.

What we already knew already about these clubs: Detroit seldom falls behind in a playoff series, and is frequently capable of rallying back for a victory when they do. I think it was completely unforeseen that San Jose would go up 3-0, let the Redwings tie it up, and then stave them off in game seven. Not only was the sequence of victories a surprise, but the outcome was, too, but perhaps the biggest shock of all was that Detroit gave the Sharks everything they had in the final game, and San Jose was able to hang.

We can be heroes, unsung or otherwise: There’s not a single member of the Detroit Redwings organization that I wouldn’t dub some form of hero. They have been an admirably run club for as long as I can remember, and I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating: Mike Babcock was probably the perfect successor to Scotty Bowman. He’s got his club skating hard in every game, and the talent pool there is frightening. Seldom can a club have immeasurably talented forwards, lock-down defense, and stalwart goaltending, and the ‘Wings manage to do just that season after season. As far as San Jose, Todd McLellan did an amazing job filling the role of pupil beats student, and you have to appreciate his honesty when his club completely tanks a game like they did in that sixth tilt.

The Round That’s to Be

Here’s where emotion can begin to get the best of hockey fans, in that you spend most of the quarter-finals and a chunk of the semi-finals loving all the action, but waiting to see who will emerge as true contenders. Then when the conference finals arrive, you immediately, albeit still eager, regress, knowing that the end of the season is near. These two matchups could pan out to be the most fascinating conference finals series the league has seen since the lockout, maybe since the turn of the century. Last year, there were only five third-round games played, as Chicago swept San Jose and Philadelphia only lost once to Montreal.

In the east, I don’t think you could ask for better in Tampa Bay/Boston. The skinny is this: Two clubs that have been independently on pace with one another in terms of developing the overall talent on the roster and the chemistry to make it this far in the playoffs. Neither has made the mistake of going the direction of Washington and depended so heavily on the talent of a marquis player, yet neither has achieved the competitive longevity of a Detroit, but both are on the Redwings end of the scale, not the Capitals. Both clubs have 50+ combined points from their top five scorers, and both squads are backed by a goaltender that’s playing at the top of their games. Both teams also have shrewd bench bosses rolling out the lines. Ultimately, this series will be decided by which team has a corps, or an individual capable of taking it to the next level.

The pick: Steve Yzerman, Guy Boucher, and the Lightning are on the right track, but they fall short of getting through a third time. Bs in seven.

Out west, there is potential for a great dog fight as well, but I don’t think it’s going to happen. San Jose was admirable in their fight with Detroit, and I’m still tremendously impressed that they fought back and won in game seven. It’s possible that the Sharks can overcome the fact that Vancouver has had extra rest since knocking out Nashville, but it is entirely unpossible that Scott McLellan’s team can overcome the fact that they, in direct comparison with their next opponent, are a slow-skating team. The Canucks are crafty, they’re skilled, and they play a brand unmatched anywhere in the league right now, and if the Sedin twins can get hot again, it won’t even be close. This difference is inflated further if Kesler continues to play at the level he attained through two rounds.

I don’t want to discredit the veterans on the Sharks roster, but when it comes down to creating scoring opportunities, Antti Niemi will be tested much more often than Roberto Luongo. This much is certain. The only uncertainty, in fact, is which Luongo will show up. One would like to think that the cobwebs between the ears of the Canuck goaltender have been cleared, that his back is free of monkeys, but death and taxes don’t buy you wins in the Stanley Cup playoffs, let alone the Conference Finals.

The pick: San Jose may find that a retooling is in order once their season is over. Vancouver in five.

The Rounds That’ve Come Before

Just like last round, a look at the previous 10 NHL post-seasons is in order, and then this time around, we’ll average them and compare them with this season thus far. As a reminder: Shots on goal are registered shots that would’ve been goals had they not been saved; we’re only looking at major penalties; overtimes refers to total number of overtime periods, not games in which there was an overtime.

1999-2000 Conference Semi-Finals (eventual champ: NJ Devils)
Goals: 97
Shots: 1280
Penalties in Minutes: 155
Overtimes: 7
Home vs. Visitor: 3/1 in favor of home teams
Average Number of Games per Series: 5.5

2000-2001 CSFs (eventual champion: Colorado Avalanche)
Goals: 115
Shots: 1299
PIMs: 30
OTs: 10
H vs. V: 2/2 tie
GpS: 6.25

2001-2002 CSFs (eventual champion: Detroit Redwings)
Goals: 138
Shots: 1373
PIMs: 145
OTs: 7
H vs. V: 2/2 tie
GpS: 6.25

2002-2003 CSFs (eventual champion: New Jersey Devils)
Goals: 118
Shots: 1322
PIMs: 55
OTs: 13
H vs. V: 2/2 tie
GpS: 6

2003-2004 CSFs (eventual champion: Tampa Bay Lightning)
Goals: 92
Shots: 1178
PIMs: 200
OTs: 6
H vs. V: 2/2 tie
GpS: 5.5

2005-06 CSFs (eventual champion: Carolina Hurricanes)
Goals: 107
Shots: 1203
PIMs: 100
OTs: 8
H vs. V: 2/2 tie
GpS: 5

2006-2007 CSFs (eventual champion: Anaheim Ducks)
Goals: 100
Shots: 1391
PIMs: 10
OTs: 11
H vs. V: 3/1, home
GpS: 5.5

2007-2008 CSFs (eventual champion: Detroit Redwings)
Goals: 117
Shots: 1208
PIMs: 75
OTs: 9
H vs. V: 2/2 tie
GpS: 5

2008-2009 CSFs (eventual champion: Pittsburgh Penguins)
Goals: 159
Shots: 1645
PIMs: 190
OTs: 9
H vs. V: 3/1, visitor
GpS: 6.75

2009-2010 CSFs (eventual champion: Chicago Blackhawks)
Goals: 150
Shots: 1518
PIMs: 80
OTs: 3
H vs. V: 2/2 tie
GpS: 6.25

2010-2011 CSFs
Goals: 114
Shots: 1360
PIMs: 40
OTs: 7
H vs. V: 2/2 tie
GpS: 5.25

How this year’s playoffs stacks up against the previous 10, through two rounds:

Previous Ten Playoffs (by average)
Goals: 354
Shots: 3324
PIMs: 345
OTs: 18
H vs V: 68/52, home; 56 percent
GpS: 5.73

This Year’s Playoffs
Goals: 401
Shots: 4416
PIMs: 415
OTs: 25
H vs. V: 8/4, home; 66 percent
GpS: 5.6875

What, then, do these numbers mean? Well, the first four categories are telling, in that you the league has seen a higher-than-usual number of registered shots, resulting in a higher number of goals scored, and as to be expected, the more goals that are getting scored, the higher the tempers will be, thus the increase in major PIMs. Even more interesting is that the increase in scoring has generated an increase in total overtime periods, to the tune of a 16 percent boost. And home-ice advantage is up 10 percent as well. The negative in these numbers is that the average number of games per series has dropped, a figure that, through round one was likely on par, if not higher, but two second-round sweeps dropped it below the average of the past 10 post-seasons.

What’s fascinating is that the increase in offense the league sought with the current collective-bargaining agreement has been a success, and, as we’ve discussed, it’s not a reflection of a lesser goaltending talent pool. What happens regarding games per series, though, is possibly a direct result of matchups, meaning, had Philly not faced Boston, or had Washington faced someone other than Tampa Bay, those series may have gone deeper than four games.

As I said in our last recap, it’s difficult to quantify the product we’re seeing in the league right now. Maybe the numbers are telling, maybe it’s because I don’t have a horse in the race, but this has been one of the best post-seasons of hockey I’ve ever seen, and the forecast for the final two rounds don’t indicate any signs of slowing down.
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