Capitals And Bruins Battle To A Game 7

  • Monday, April 23, 2012 7:57 AM
  • Written By: Josh Marks

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History was made Sunday night in the first-round series between the Washington Capitals and Boston Bruins. The 4-3 overtime final in favor of Boston marked the first time ever that all six games of an NHL playoff round have been decided by one goal. That's how close it's been, folks. These are two evenly matched teams battling for every inch of ice and for hockey fans and sports fans in general, this is the first-round series to watch.

The Bruins' Tyler Seguin scored in the extra frame to force a Game 7 Wednesday night at TD Garden in Boston. It has been a roller coaster series with everything you expect from two teams that never say die -- hard hits, intense battles on the boards, creative play making, chirping, lucky bounces and great goaltending.

Let's discuss the goaltending for a moment. The Caps' 22-year-old rookie netminder Braden Holtby has come of age in this series. He is mature beyond his years and his confidence and composure against the defending Stanley Cup champions is magnificent to watch. Holtby is the main reason the Caps are in this series, as he has stonewalled the Bruins' relentless offensive zone pressure time and again. Win or lose this series, the Caps have their goalie of the future, and it is a very bright future indeed for young Holtby. And let's give credit to Tim Thomas. Yes, his off-the-ice political statements have tarnished his reputation, but Thomas is still one of the best goaltenders in the league. The reigning Vezina, Conn Smythe and Stanley Cup winner has made some spectacular stops in this series and kept the Bruins in it.

History has not been kind to the Capitals in Game 7s during the Oveckhin era, earning the Caps the unfortunate reputation as choking when it counts the most, of coming up small in the big games. Game 7 losses to the Flyers, Canadiens and Penguins have not instilled the confidence in Capitals Nation that this team will pull off a major upset against the Bruins on Wednesday. On the other hand, Boston has come up clutch in Game 7s. Last year Boston beat Montreal 4-3 in OT and Tampa 1-0 at TD Garden and then defeated the Canucks in Vancouver 4-0 to win the Stanley Cup.

So, the Boston Bruins should be heavily favored to beat the Washington Capitals Wednesday night. Order will be restored. The champs will move on after a scare from a seventh seed and the NHL playoffs can move on without those curious Caps. But maybe, just maybe, Washington can prove the critics wrong and reverse decades of playoff failure that have come to define this franchise. It's unlikely, but crazier things have happened. All it takes is a lucky bounce.

Caps Going To Make Bruins Earn It

  • Sunday, April 15, 2012 8:19 AM
  • Written By: Josh Marks

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Washington Capitals fans are humble. Crushing defeats (see Pittsburgh 2009), epic playoff collapses (see Montreal 2010) and stunning sweeps (see Tampa Bay 2011) will do that to a fan base. So Caps fans are realistic about the team's chances against the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins. They know the battle won Saturday is a small victory in a war that favors Boston. The Caps beat the Bruins in Boston 2-1 in double overtime, thanks to a game-winning goal from Nicklas Backstrom and another brilliant 43-save performance in the net from 22-year-old goaltender Braden Holtby.

The Caps split the first two games on the road, and by doing so made a statement to Boston that they are going to have to earn their ticket to the second round. If anyone thought Boston was going to steam roll over the Caps, the past two games have proven that Washington is mentally and physically tough and is prepared for a long series. But these are still the defending champs. They have been through the hard fought battles. They have won the wars of attrition. They will not back down. And they are still the favorites to win the series.

Win or lose this series, there is a certain pride Caps fans can take in finally watching their team turn into a playoff hockey contender, instead of the regular season powerhouse and playoff pretender of the past few years. There was even a point in the broadcast when NBC commentators Mike Emrick and Pierre McGuire were comparing the Caps' stifling defense to the mid-90s New Jersey Devils. A long way from the run-n-gun Caps of a few years ago, isn't it? Credit for this transformation goes to head coach Dale Hunter, who has instilled a more playoff-type system, and we are seeing the wonderful results of that the first two games. The Caps are dancing with the big bad Bruins, matching their work ethic and intensity, and it is a pleasure to watch. The odds are still very much stacked against the Caps winning this series, but they have shown their fans and the hockey world that they will not go quietly into the night. That they will fight to the bitter end.

Game 3 is at the Verizon Center on Monday night and if the first two games are any indication, it's going to be a whale of a hockey game between two tough teams full of heart and character. This Caps fan can't wait for the puck to drop. Who knew the playoffs could be this much fun?

Tim Thomas Tarnishes Image With White House Snub

  • Monday, January 23, 2012 4:30 PM
  • Written By: Josh Marks

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Today, Boston Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas put himself in front of his team, league and country by making a self-righteous political statement instead of attending a White House ceremony to honor the Bruins' Stanley Cup victory last season. In boycotting this event he selfishly stole the attention away from his teammates and the entire Bruins organization on a day that should have been a diplomatic, nonpartisan celebration of an amazing achievement in professional sports.

Championship sports teams have been honored in Washington by countless administrations over the years. It doesn't matter if there is a Democrat or Republican in the Oval Office, political disagreements have never entered the picture. That is until now. This is not about President Barack Obama, but respecting the Office of the President of the United States of America. Tim Thomas may have exercised his right as a "Free Citizen," as he posted on his Facebook page, but that does not excuse his actions. He represents an organization that is paying him millions of dollars. He represents the National Hockey League that is trying to broaden its appeal into minority communities. And as one of only two Americans on the team, he represents this country (players from Canada, Slovakia, Finland and other nations were honored to be at the White House with President Obama).

There is a time and place for political protests. This was not one of them. Sports are supposed to be an escape from everything that divides us. It is supposed to be a safe place free of partisan politics. Today, Tim Thomas broke that sacred trust and it will take a long time for those wounds to heal.

Here is video of President Obama honoring the Bruins at the White House.

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Boston Bruins Stun Vancouver Canucks In Game 7, Win Stanley Cup

  • Wednesday, June 15, 2011 8:03 PM
  • Written By: Josh Marks

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The Boston Bruins have won the Stanley Cup in stunning fashion over the Vancouver Canucks in Game 7 at Rogers Arena by a final score of 4-0. Many in hockey circles didn't give the Bruins a chance against the super-skilled Canucks, especially after having gone down 2-0 in the series.

But the Bruins dominated the Canucks in Boston, and lost by only one goal in all three games in Vancouver. So perhaps it was inevitable that Boston would dominate this Game 7 in Vancouver. They had simply out-willed the Canucks and played a more physical game that wore down Vancouver's skill players. The injury to defenseman Dan Hamhuis in Game 1 and the suspension of defenseman Aaron Rome after a devastating hit on Nathan Horton in Game 3 did not help Vancouver's cause. That hit to Horton also became a motivational factor for Boston and the series seems to have swung in Boston's favor after that hit.

The story now is the gritty Boston Bruins. What a season for Conn Smythe winner Tim Thomas. What a way to go out in style by 43-year-old Mark Recchi. What a stone wall on defense by Captain Zdeno Chara. What an amazing effort in Game 7 by two-goal scorer Brad Marchand. What a coaching performance by Claude Julien. And the list goes on and on.

Bottom line is congratulations to the Boston Bruins on winning the Stanley Cup for the first time in 39 years.

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Vancouver Canucks Have Edge In Game 7

  • Monday, June 13, 2011 9:56 PM
  • Written By: Josh Marks

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The Canucks flag flies in front of the B.C. Legislature.

An epic Stanley Cup Final series between the Vancouver Canucks and Boston Bruins will come to a fitting conclusion on Wednesday night with Game 7 at Rogers Arena.

The Canucks have the edge because they are simply a better team at home.

I've never seen a more Jekyll and Hyde team and goaltender then the Canucks and Roberto Luongo in this series. At home in beautiful British Columbia they play with more energy and passion and get the clutch goal and timely save to secure victory. But on the road in Boston they are just atrocious and have been dominated by the Bruins.

So which team will show up Wednesday night? Will it be the good 'Nucks or the bad 'Nucks?

My money is on the team that ran circles around the rest of the league during the regular season on their way to a Presidents' Trophy. The team that battled the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks to a first-round Game 7 victory. The team that put away the pesky Preds and ferocious Sharks. And the team that is now facing their toughest challenge yet in a tough-as-nails Boston Bruins team.

But this is not 1994, when the New York Rangers defeated Vancouver in Game 7 at Madison Square Garden in NYC. In that heartbreaking loss, the Canucks had to watch Mark Messier jump up and down like a little kid after scoring the winning goal to give the Rangers their first Stanley Cup in 54 years.

That won't happen this year. It is why you play during the regular season for home ice advantage throughout the playoffs. For moments like this. There will be 18,000 excited and anxious fans cheering on the Canucks inside Rogers Arena; thousands more gathered in public areas around the city of Vancouver; and millions more across Canada cheering on the Canucks to their first Stanley Cup in franchise history and the first Cup in Canada since Montreal won it in '93.

Regardless of who wins, these two teams have blessed us fans with an amazing series. It's been one for the ages and it's a shame someone has to lose.

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Remarkable TV Ratings For Stanley Cup Finals Game 1

  • Thursday, June 2, 2011 11:17 AM
  • Written By: Josh Marks

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Wow. What a Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final between the Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks. The most television viewers in 12 years for an SC Final opener witnessed finger biting, hip checks that flipped players in the air, unbelievable goaltending, and a last-second goal to seal a 1-0 victory for the 'Nucks.

What makes the 3.2 overnight rating and 6 share on NBC so remarkable is that these figures are for American audiences and one of the teams resides in a mid-sized Canadian city tucked way up in the fringes of the Pacific Northwest. That means that, unlike last year when two major American markets -- Philadelphia and Chicago -- battled it out for Lord Stanley's Cup, this year Boston is the only American city in the Finals.

And apparently every single TV set in the Boston-New England market was tuned in to the game because the ratings were a full 14 percent higher than last year's Game 1 between the Blackhawks and Flyers.

Besides the fact that one of the teams isn't from an American city, the other fact that makes the ratings so remarkable is the relatively late start time of 8 p.m. on a weekday. No doubt there were a lot of hockey fans who stayed up late to watch the game despite having to go to work or summer camp early the next morning.

According to the initial figures, more Bostonians tuned into the Bruins-Canucks Game 1 than did last year's Game 1 between the Celtics and Lakers. It will be interesting to see the breakdown of the ratings by region. The ratings should be through the roof in the entire New England area -- Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Maine.

And this doesn't even factor in the ratings in Canada, where the entire country is rooting for the Canucks to bring the first Stanley Cup to their country since the Montreal Canadiens won it in 1993.

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No Surprise Teams In Stanley Cup Finals

  • Friday, May 27, 2011 9:55 PM
  • Written By: Josh Marks

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When the playoffs started if you had told me that the Vancouver Canucks and Boston Bruins would be playing in the Stanley Cup Finals, I would have nodded my head and said, "Yep."

The 'Nucks ran away with the Presidents' Trophy this year and seemed to be operating on another level all season. The Sedin twins, Ryan Kesler, Roberto Luongo and their mates simply dominated the rest of the league. Of course they had a scare in the first round from their arch-nemesis Chicago Blackhawks. But after they got that big monkey off their backs, everything started clicking for Vancouver. And after putting away San Jose in five games, they are peaking at just the right time.

Like the Canucks, the Boston Bruins were another team looking to put past playoff defeats behind them. In Boston's case, this season they became much more mentally tough after last season's collapse against the Flyers, in which they blew a 3-0 lead in the series and a 3-0 lead in Game 7. They weren't going to let that happen this year. And after beating Montreal in seven games in the first round and sweeping Philadelphia, the B's beat the Lightning in seven games behind stellar goaltending by 37-year-old Tim Thomas and a game winning goal from forward Nathan Horton.

Now the best team from the east and the best team from the west will battle for Lord Stanley's Cup in what will hopefully be a great series. You certainly couldn't ask for two more hockey crazed cities than Vancouver and Boston. People in British Columbia, Canada and Massachusetts, USA live and breathe the sport of hockey.

Here is the Stanley Cup Finals Schedule (all times are Eastern Standard):

Game 1 — Wednesday, June 1 (NBC 8PM) at Rogers Arena, Vancouver, British Columbia,

Game 2 — Saturday, June 4 (NBC 8PM) at Rogers Arena, Vancouver, British Columbia,

Game 3 — Monday, June 6 (VS 8PM) at TD Garden, Boston

Game 4 — Wednesday, June 8 (VS 8PM) at TD Garden, Boston

Game 5* — Friday, June 10 (NBC 8PM) at Rogers Arena, Vancouver, British Columbia,

Game 6* — Monday, June 13 (NBC 8PM) at TD Garden, Boston

Game 7* — Wednesday, June 15 (NBC 8PM) at Rogers Arena, Vancouver, British Columbia,

* If Necessary

May Madness: Habs-Flyers in Eastern Finals

  • Friday, May 14, 2010 7:27 PM
  • Written By: Josh Marks

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No. 1 seed Washington Capitals. Done. No. 2 seed New Jersey Devils. See ya. No. 3 seed Buffalo Sabres. Eliminated. No. 4 seed Pittsburgh Penguins. It's tee time. No. 5 seed Ottawa Senators. Have a nice summer. No. 6 seed Boston Bruins. Bye bye.

Improbably the eighth-seeded Montreal Canadiens will be flying to Philadelphia to take on the seventh-seeded Flyers at Wachovia Center for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Wow.

Unlike the Western Conference, where the two top seeds -- the Chicago Blackhawks and San Jose Sharks -- will be battling it out for a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals, two Cinderella teams will dance on the East Coast.

Tonight the Flyers came back from a 3-0 series deficit and 3-0 goal deficit in Game 7 in Boston to become only the third team in NHL history to climb back from three games down to win a series.

Simon Gagne scored on a power play with 7:08 left in the third period to propel the Flyers into the history books.

And what makes this win even more remarkable is the fact that Philadelphia needed an overtime shootout victory over the New York Rangers in the final game of the regular season just to make the playoffs.

And on top of that the Flyers are riddled with injuries, including losing top goalie Ray Emery earlier in the season and then losing backup Brian Boucher in the Bruins series. So they had to go with untested netminder Michael Leighton, who played solid in relief against the woeful offense of Boston.

And I also heard there was an NBA playoffs going on too, but I've been too busy watching the most exciting NHL playoffs in years to pay any attention.

LATimes.com adds Ducks, Kings

  • Friday, October 9, 2009 6:51 PM
  • Written By: Josh Marks

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I'm happy to report that the Los Angeles Times has finally added links to the Ducks and Kings from the top navigation bar on their new homepage.

Plus, the King and Ducks both won their games last night. L.A. dispatched Minnesota 6-3 at Staples Center while Anaheim dominated the Bruins 6-1 in Boston.

Oh yeah, and I heard the Dodgers and Angels won their playoff games yesterday but that hasn't been confirmed.