That’s Scrotie, mascot for the Rhode Island School of Design’s sports teams – the Nads (hockey) and the Balls (basketball). Go Nads, support your Balls – you see how this works. Classic picture, but really, I just wanted to set up this segue: Speaking of dicks on ice… ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Patrick Kane!
Kane’s latest PR fuck-up has young Patrick in the back of a limo, shirtless and drinking Kokanees with some chicks in Vancouver. This isn’t really crazy – dude’s 21 and rich, can he live? – but elderly Canadians had a blast this week expressing their moral outrage and shaking their heads vigorously. Whatever. Wake me up when he’s smoking meth with underage chicks or bagging a hat trick on acid. Me, I’m just surprised Patty’s not rolling with the kind of boring model chicks I typically associate with hockey bros. No offense to his ladyfriends here – one of whom is real excited to be where she is – but they do not immediately appear to be models. And what the hell is 36-year-old John Madden (not that John Madden, hockey John Madden, formerly of the Devils) doing rolling around with these young ladies? Kris Versteeg gets a pass – he’s 24 – but you’d think Madden would be back at the hotel watching Cinemax or something. At least Kane’s indiscretion lets me play my cranky old-timer card: “In my day, the only time hockey dudes went shirtless was when they were giving each other fist-based concussions…”
But out of the limo and on to the ice, where the playoff race is far more compelling than Kane’s “wild” Saturday night. Today’s Hockey Day in Canada, so more on the crowded East after the jump.
Goddamn! The Eastern Conference is a constipated clusterfuck of mediocre teams trying to scrap their way in to the postseason. How tight is it? Right now, two points separate Atlanta at #6 with 56 points and the Isles at #13 with 54. Two measly points. The other teams in the scrum include Philly and Tampa Bay, both of whom would make the cut if the playoffs started today, and then New York, Florida, Montreal and Boston on the outside looking in. Of these eight, just three will make it. With just under 30 games left on the docket for most teams, we’re still kinda far out, but two tanking teams warrant closer examination.
Boston‘s reeling. Last year’s Northeastern Champs and the #1 seed out of the East, the Bruins have been a gigantic disappointment thus far, an incredible 31 points off last year’s point total. Not Bill Buckner/David Tyree disappointing, sure but the Bruins have still come up lame. What gives? Well, they’ve been hurt a hell of a lot: Lucic’s missed 30+ games, Savard’s banged up, Sturm’s been out. That’s a lot of grit and scoring off the ice, and it’s left Boston unable to consistently generate offensive pressure. As a result, they’re dead last in goals per game. Unless Boston wakes up soon, they might be done. At least the Celtics are still winning, right?
Montreal‘s staggering right now, too, having lost six out of their last ten. Those pesky hundred-year-ghosts must still be haunting the franchise, because the Canadiens are just over .500 in their own building. Like Boston, Montreal can’t score consistently, either – and plus they’ve got a goaltender controversy. After demanding a trade in December, Jaro Halak has been playing lights out; meanwhile, former wunderkind Carey Price has struggled. After a loss to the Blues last week, recently returned Habs defenseman Andrei Markov is said to have told Price that if he’s not going to play hard, he might as well stay home because the team doesn’t need him. Oh snap. Cedrick Desjardins looks to be a fairly solid prospect in net down in the AHL, so maybe MTL moves someone before the deadline. Complicating things, both Price and Halak are restricted free agents at season’s end.
So besides those two clunkers, who do I like to sneak in? Hard to say – each of the eight has obvious talent, but they’ve all put together some truly wretched stretches, too. The Isles have been surprisingly spunky but supremely inconsistent, but it’d be kinda cool to see them make a run. Florida’s Tomas Vokoun, who will play net for the Czechs in Vancouver, has been playing extremely well, so the Panthers could really push, too.
The Rangers? Dude, I dunno. They’ve lost four in a row. Besides Marian Gaborik, whose recent “fight” with Daniel Carcillo is above, perhaps the most entertaining Ranger as of late is Coach John Tortorella and his combative press conferences. The Thrashers, on the other hand, have been showing flashes. Gonna be interesting to see what they do with Kovalchuk at the deadline; his contract’s up at the end of the year, and he’ll make an supremely talented rental for some Cup-hungry team if he does get dealt. (Mentioning Ilya K reminds me that I’ve still got to preview the Russian Olympic team in a future Sporting Obs. Their first line has Malkin centering Kovalchuk and Ovechkin. Goddamn!) Who’s left? Philly? They’ve got the guns to make the cut if they can get Leighton or Emery to hold up in net. Meanwhile, I enjoyed the latest edition of the traditional Penguins-Flyers “biting incident.”
In conclusion, I’ll slot in Philly, Florida, and the Rangers for the final berths. But we’ll see – judging by my inept picks at the beginning of the season, I’ve likely just doomed each of those teams to golf in early April. Happy Hockey Day.- Caps