Tag Archives: gomez

Playoff Predictions

Game One of the Hudson Hate-Fest starts in 15 minutes. Tom Guilitti’s Fire and Ice blog has some great commentary, including a stream of reader comments. Tom wants predictions, and I can’t resist being an armchair broadcaster, coach and screaming fan:

  • Brodeur is on top of his game. Between the spin-o-rama saves and having great reads on the inbound puck, Marty is so far into the zone he can’t yell at the defense. If the offense gives him some time to relax and breathe, he’s in control.

  • Elias comes to play in April. Maybe it’s the birthday thing, maybe it’s just that every game is the pressure cooker situation he seems to thrive in (how else does he lead the team in game winning goals and shootout goals?). He was quiet during the regular series set with the Rangers, but I remember what he did in 2006 when his first-round performance had him in the playoff scoring leaders after the Devils were bounced.

  • Zubrus + Vish >> Jagr + Gomez. Gomez plays like he’s already scheduling his tee times in April; he’s the anti-Elias. Everyone is hyped about Jagr coming on strong late in the year, but watch his shifts: they aren’t the end to end, skate till you puke then change shifts that win playoff games. I’ll take Zubrus and Vish along the boards. And for Stan Fischler’s comments about Gomez knowing the Devils’ weaknesses, he’s right: it was Scott Gomez in the playoffs. I’m eager to see how all of those miles on the post-game bike rides play out in these games.

  • Langenbrunner time. Jamie has been quiet lately on the ice. What matters more is what happens in the locker room, on the bench, before the game, and everything else that establishes a winning context.
  • This is going to be a grind it out, long series. My predictions: it goes at least 5 games, probably 6. Rangers win one in the Rock, but the Devils humble the Rangers at least once and depose King Henrik. With all of the talk of playoff experience, doesn’t anyone remember Lundqvist’s first playoff experience against the Devils?

    Beginnings and Endings in (Elias) Style

    Bubba and I went to the Devils-Rangers game on Sunday, our first game together since January. Aside from the obvious – Devils beat the Rangers for the first and only time this season, Devils snap a 7-game losing streak against the Blue Meanies, Elias wins the game in fine style – there were a ton of little things that made the afternoon great. Most of all, though, the entire past season is not prelude to the playoffs, it’s more like the safety video on the airplane. It’s there, you have to acknowledge it, but now that it’s over the real fun begins. What happened between October and March – the highlights, the lowlights, the wonderful goals and the defensive breakdowns of Tacoma Narrows Bridge proportions is literally ancient history. It’s the second season, and we watched the Devils lay down the smelly hockey glove for a first-round brawl.

    Highlights from Sunday’s trip to the Rock:

    We visited Bubba’s jersey hanging outside of Section 121, in person, and got a good laugh. If you look through the men’s room sign you can spot the little snowman on the sleeve. It seemed appropriate for the quantity of bathroom humor that we enjoy.

    The Devils proved they can win in the clutch. Playoff hockey is about momentum: how often does a 6- or 7-seed make it deep into May while the top seeds are done in one? Sunday’s win was required and proved more than two points in the standings.

    The defense was better — not great, perhaps a bit above good — but definitely better. And “Swedish Vish” decided to gap up at the most opportune times. I hope he keeps it up through the first few Rangers games, because….

    Jagr skates like my friend Goggles. We call him “Goggles” because he never looks up to pass, and hasn’t seen the inside of his defensive zone since he was in high school. We saw Jagr camped on the Devils blue line or cherry picking in the neutral zone enough to question his stamina. They shouldn’t count time on ice if you’re standing in the far blue line wondering what happened to your long, flowing hair.

    Gomez showed some signs of his true playoff form, namely, bad passes in large quantities. With only 16 goals on the season (vs 13 in his last season in the proper uniform), Gomez cost the Rangers about half a million dollars a goal. Think about it: you could have Scott Gomez score you a goal, or buy a nice 4-bedroom house for the same money. When the pressure is on, he folds like a tourist in the Taj card room – at the wrong time and when the stakes are higher than he thought.

    As we left the Rock on Sunday, hoarse, cheering, immune to the unseasonably cold April weather, and entering our second season of joy, we had one more reason to celebrate: the Devils won every game that Bubba and I attended this year. A perfect record, for the first time since we bought a slice of season tickets in 1999 and began cheering for some kid named Elias who had a wicked wrist shot. And now we face a horrible quandry: we wore our almost-matching Elias jerseys (Czech and Russian Superleague) to every game, and the Devils delivered in every one of those games. The Devils would like us to wear red, but second season or not, I can’t counter superstition and tradition. Elias style trumps the marketing department, in Trump style and standing up under pressure.

    Big Five Hole

    In previous years, the arrival of March signaled any number of sad events: the end of the youth hockey season, the end of a proper winter, and usually the mathematical elimination of the Rangers from post-season hockey. The blue shirts are managing to hold on this season, though, with thoughts of last year’s series win versus the Thrashers precipitating their Gomez and Drury-laced dreams of hockey in May.

    However, the hockey gods are tempted by superstitious belief and karma. Logic, payroll and math need not apply. How else do you explain that the Rangers blew a five goal lead against Montreal tonight, squeezing out only one point via the shootout? There were three pairs of goals scored within a minute of each other, two of them by the Rags, but even that double extreme momentum-shifter didn’t accelerate the Broadway payload through the third period. Oh yeah, Straka and Gomez were -1 in a game in which their team scored five goals. Talk about a five hole.

    Gomez and Goose Eggs

    Rangers lose three in a row, and lose to Boston for the first time in over two seasons. Gomez plays patty-cake on the power play with Jagr, in a wonderful impersonation of Dean Smith’s four corners offense (wrong sport, Scott). It’s somewhat depressing that the Rangers earned a point for today’s 1-0 shootout loss to the Bruins, but it’s also indicative of what’s (not) happening in Ranger-land: goose eggs in more scoresheet boxes than you’d see in a baseball pitchers’ duel.

    Let’s face it — if the Rangers were a Broadway show, they’d be shuffled off to Buffalo. Too bad Buffalo arrived on Broadway along with the Mystery, Alaskan and neither one can find the net, the scoresheet or even a way to beat Atlanta.

    Maniacal laugh goes here.

    Winner, Eleven

    Winner, eleven — that is, on the eleventh goal of last night’s Devils-Thrashers game (11 goals? In a Devils game?? Hello, Coach Sutter!). I was hoarse from yelling at the television and radio broadcasts but all’s well that ends well. In this case, there was ample material for holler-backs.

    The Good: Elias gets his first goal, and nets two goals and a very pretty assist on Zajac’s tying goal. The Devils didn’t give up when they were down two goals, and after squandering single-goal leads. Strong, solid forecheck, including the last power play of the game which may have been the best I’ve seen in three seasons. The days of long-range bombing from the point, typically resulting in a blocked shot, a riccochet to start a short-handed attempt, or the puck clearing the attack zone, are over and done. Precise passing and shooting through open lanes. Tying all of the good together: Elias fires from the top of the slot, rebound comes to the right where he scoops it, fires back to Martin, who re-feeds Patrik for the game-winning goal. Puck control, skating hard to make time and space, and shooting through lanes rather than into shinpads.

    The Interesting and Good: John Madden has re-emerged as a goal scorer. Not that he had ever lost the touch, but I think in previous seasons he was forced into a role of sheep-dogging the opponent’s top-line, over-watched center-pieces to the point where he was playing defense instead of pivot, with or with-out overt over-hyphenation for emphasis. I think my son puts it best: “Maddog is a hard worker.” When teenagers recognize work, you know it’s valuable and valued. When you go from two scoring lines to three, it’s a big deal for your opponents. Half of the Devils goals last night came from the Madden-Pandolfo combination.

    The Bad: I always follow games through live caps at 2 Man Advantage because their photo editing captures the mood so perfectly. It’s like enjoying one of the old Monkees TV shows with the cutaway jokes to make a visual pun. Last night they challenged Brodeur to stop a beachball (but stopped short of suggesting he couldn’t make do with a pitchfork, both a Devilishly good utensil and the best for spearing wayward plastic). I’m not so sure it was Brodeur, more of the weak defense on the weak side (again) and a complete lack of attention to the wings on the weak side. A possible breaking point in the game came when Kovalchuk was left unmolested on the left side, with Dave Clarkson just behind the play. When the “D” is back, cutting down the shooting lanes, the wings have to fill in and take away the passing lanes. Nobody got between Kovalchuk and the puck from the cross-zone pass to the one-time that eluded Marty. Partly a rookie mistake, partly bad defense. If the Devils are going to play a more aggressive offensive game, then the natural by-product is that they’re going to have more goals scored against them — this goes both ways. But I’d much rather see the Devils win 6-5 than lose 2-1. Any day.

    The Ugly: Bobby Holik. How his crease-crashing that resulted in Brodeur looking up at the Thrasher’s third goal was not a penalty escapes me. Why give the captain-C to a player with the loyalty of a cat and the leadership qualities of a high school locker room bully? To top it off, our brilliant TV commentators relayed a story that Elias and Holik had spoken when Holik was given the “C”, just as Patrik had his revoked, randomness rooted in their Czech heritage. Maybe if Elias races across the Hudson to pimp his contract, there will be some kind of similarity here, but then we’d have to talk about Gomez.

    So we will: Elias has 4 points (2 G, 2A) and Gomez has half of that, only thanks to a miserable assist late in last night’s Senatorial smackdown. If Gomer was on his way to 63 helpers, he should have quadrupled his output. Personally, I think the relative economics lesson here is that there’s half a Gome$$ separating the two. Double oof.

    Missed, er, October

    Almost precisely 3 months ago I posited that Scott Gomez and Alex Rodriguez were increasingly alike.

    Let me add to the list: neither one has shown up for big games in October. At least Gomez recorded three shots tonight (plus one miss, and one blocked, is it me or are the new NHL statistics not bad once you learn to decode them)? A-Rod is A-WOL for the Division Championship Series (let’s hear John Sterling make a big deal out of that one). That giant sucking sound you hear is the extra $7 million or so that Rodriguez thought he’d coax out of a team next year when he exercises his contract option. I think I’ve invented a new unit of measure: The Gomez, more specifically, $7M paid for non-performance when people are watching.

    Some other random thoughts, two games into the season:

    I like Kevin Weekes. He brings his A-game, a solid effort, and he has no fear. Goalies are always a few sigma off of normal anyway, but he has impressed.

    The Islanders are 2-0, and the Sabres are 0-2 as a result. So much for the predictive power of the hockey press. Yes, it’s early, but c’mon. Shuffle off to Buffalo for some ugly practices this week.

    The Capitals are better than anyone thinks, and the Rangers will miss Nylander as they realize why.

    Mike Cammalleri is now in my top five favorite players. Three goals, same pace as Dany Heatly through week one. The Kings aren’t as bad as everyone thinks, and the Ducks might not be as good as everyone predicted.

    Lonely In The Slot

    Vinny Lecavalier was quite lonely in the low slot, waiting for a pass from Prospal that turned into tonight’s game-winning goal. Listening to the game on XM radio (sometimes rental cars aren’t thoroughly horrible) I could only get the Lightning version of events, but it didn’t sound so great for the Devils. Sutter commented after the game that there was a lot of “standing around,” and if it’s possible to hear nothingness on the radio, I did. Devils sounded good in the first, adequate in the second, and then deflated in the third. I think Oduya is showing some of the form that got him scratched in the playoffs.

    It’s only one game. But it’s an opening night loss, and in a game that the Devils should have won. Coupled with the Yankees smelling like old cheese, and the fact that the Rangers managed to score one goal for each of the fingers I gave them in the third, it wasn’t a good night for this fan. The only solace: Gomez stayed off the Rangers’ scoresheet.

    Three Equals Minus Five

    What happens when you add Chris Drury, Scott Gomez and Jaromir Jagr together in their first pre-season game? You get a minus five rating. I don’t want to hear about rust, or chemistry, or anything else vaguely resembling oxidation or corrosion. The Rangers stunk it up against the Flyers — the very same Flyers that various hockey print mags have predicted to finish so far down in the standings that they might be better saving their points for next season.

    What’s this prove? Probably nothing. There’s a reason the press is referred to as the “fourth estate” (behind the clergy, which would be the Church of Saint Patrik and Commissioner Bettman, the nobility, a/k/a Coach Sutter, and the commoners, also called fans and sometimes bloggers). Maybe the Flyers won’t be so horrible, and maybe the Rangers won’t be as much of a lock for the postseason as previously predicted in print. It’s one game, and it’s still September. But still: Lundquist was in goal, not Montoya or Valiquette. Personally, I’m betting on the Rangers blowing a lot of early leads due to lack of defense.

    World of Fantasy

    Every year, the hockey press likes to make predictions about the league leaders, playoff matchups and where the break outs will appear. I often wonder where they come up with these ideas — are they attending camps, watching guys skate, and looking at the overall team, or just pulling random numbers out of last year’s statistical pile and then hitting “puree” on their column inch generators?

    Let’s start by looking at what The Hockey News had to say in their September 4 issue with “Fantasy Advice” (page 49). I’ll call it more fantasy than advice, and make some of my own predictions, and generally try to keep from laughing at the suspension of mathematics for the sake of storytelling.

    Scott Gomez will finish in the top 25 scorers, with 87 points, 63 of them assists. So the Rangers are paying $10M for 24 goals? Granted, that’s twice what Gomer put in the net last year at twice the price, so maybe the math works. But wait, there’s more!! Jagr is also projected to have 67 assists. Um, who is going to score the goals from all of those assists? THN doesn’t show any Rangers in the top 25 goal scorers. Prediction #1: Jagr and Gomez play patty-cake with the puck until Gomez starts making his ill-timed, inaccurate passes and the Rangers lead the league in short-handed goals allowed, unless Gomez’ groin strains again and he gets to watch from the press box.

    Similarly, fellow green-seeker Brian Rafalski is predicted to score 8 goals and notch 53 assists in the Motor City. Maybe if he keeps his stick down, and remembers where the blue line is. Prediction #2: Rafalski will be the first defenseman to earn $200,000 a point. And Chelios will complain about him at least once.

    Much of Evgeni Malkin’s success this year will depend upon his wingers, if he’s moved to center as THN’s 07-08 Yearbook suggests. Put a pair of young guns on either side and he’s got room to move, pass and score; saddle him with guys who don’t move or pass and he’ll get frustrated quickly. Prediction #3: The Penguins give the Rangers a run for the money and playoff seeding.

    The Devils will have a 40-goal scorer, again. Parise, Gionta, or Elias could do it, especially if Zubrus sets up the triangle and keeps the shooting lanes open. Prediction #4: At least one of the Devils’ top lines accounts for 100 goals this year.

    I have the one-pager from THN tacked to my bulliten board, right by the free weekend passes (with 395 restrictions) from Avis and the raffle tickets I’ve bought to support various random charities; it’s in good company in the “fantasy” world. We’ll revisit this at the half-way point.

    Free Agency and the Price of Beer

    I’m about two weeks behind in blogging various trips, adventures and random technology thoughts, so I’ll probably start with the most recent and work backwards.

    Scott Gomez’ departure across the Hudson River was not the way I wanted to start my summer vacation. At some level; I knew he was leaving the Devils because he and general manager Lou Lamariello didn’t see eye to eye on just about anything. But going to the Rangers was painful for those of us who started cheering for Gomez when he was 19 and enjoying a Calder Trophy rewarded rookie year. He’s going to make $10M for somewhere between 80 and 100 games of hockey next season, or about $100,000 a game. High priced free agents usually are short-term pops for attendance, but long-term, they tend to crank the price of beer and do little for long-term fan support.

    I carry on about this topic to the point of drawing a parallel between Alex Rodriguez and Scott Gomez. Building a fan base means investing in the community, in the media, in accessibility, and in brand image of your players, your club and your league. Hence the A-Rod comparisons.