Monte Carlo and NHL Update

I’m in Monte Carlo, and conveniently woke up at 3:00am local time so I could watch the San Jose Sharks play the Colorado Avalanche in game 6. As you might remember from my last blog, I bet on San Jose to win the series in 6 games. If I had to do it over again… I wouldn’t have bet on them. I ended up winning the bet, also cashing in on my biggest bet in game 6 where I bet San Jose -1.5 goals plus money and got lucky late to pull that off. After watching the Sharks struggle with Colorado, though, I don’t think I’ll be making another bet on them for the duration of the playoffs. I don’t think they’ll get past the next round, unless somehow that top line learns to adapt to playoff hockey. Going into the series I didn’t buy into the idea that the Sharks weren’t a good playoff team, but after watching Joe Thorton, Patrik Marleau, and Dan Heatley in this series, I fully understand why Barry Melrose doesn’t like their chances. They are soft man. For real, they looked invisible out there, and if it wasn’t for guys like Dan Boyle, Joe Pavelski, and for the most part goalie Evgeny Nabakov, Colorado would have pulled off the upset.
In the next round, it looks as though San Jose will draw Detroit. So you are talking about two teams at the other end of the spectrum. One team hasn’t had any success in the playoffs, the other, the Detroit Red Wings, have more playoff experience than any other NHL team. Chalk full of veterans and grinders, along with maybe their best goalie in some time, Jimmy Howard, I think the Wings (provided they get past Phoenix) are going to be too much to handle for the Sharks.
I was also surprised with some of the lazy, defensive breakdowns by the Sharks. Do that against Detroit… and you are dead. The New Jersey/Philadelphia series was a nightmare for me. Watched every game, and every game it looked like New Jersey was outplaying the Flyers, except in one key area: special teams. Philly looked just awesome on the penalty kill, in large part thanks to the behemoth Chris Pronger. Philly was fast, and very aggressive against the puck carrier.
Aside from that, the series saw Brian Boucher outplay Martin Brodeur! In fairness, Boucher and the Flyers got the lucky bounces, and NJ certainly didn’t.
The biggest surprise for me in this series was that I thought NJ should have an edge in terms of speed, but Philly played excellent defensively and were very quick to grab loose pucks… although, Boucher really didn’t give up many rebounds.
Philly likely will face Washington if they take care of the Habs, and if it’s a Washington/Philly series I’ll be looking to bet the overs consistently. Washington is obviously very skilled offensively, and I don’t know if Boucher can muster up that magic for another series. As for Philly, they have real issues at forward. Two of their best forwards are gone for the series, Jeff Carter and Simon Gagne both suffering injuries. Vancouver blew out LA 7-2 in game 5 and really started to look like a cup contender. Luongo has NOT looked sharp in this series, but they’ll need him to be at his best. The Canucks penalty kill could learn a thing or two from the Flyers, but the main issue their is size. Defense is the one weak spot for this Canucks team.
Offensively, adding Martin Samuelsson to the Sedin line has been magic as he’s potted 7 goals in 5 games. The is the best offensive Canucks team they’ve probably ever had, but with some of the chances they take, they need Luongo to be in top form to win the cup. Their next round match up appears to be the Blackhawks, but I wouldn’t count the Nashville Predators out yet. Nashville has played them tough this series and have home ice in game 6. There is a very good chance this thing goes the full seven games.
If Chicago does win that will set up a doozy of a match up with Chicago having home ice against Vancouver. If that’s the case, I think both teams match up pretty evenly offensively. Chicago has a much better defense, but in goal, Luongo vs Niemi is a mismatch. As far as the totals, that series would vary depending on fatigue. I’ll likely be going over and under throughout the series depending how it’s looking. You’ll see some 2-1 finals, but there will also be one or two games that end up 5-4. The last potential series looks like it will be Pittsburgh against either Boston or Buffalo. Pittsburgh should be rooting for Boston for a couple reasons, #1 they’ll have home ice versus Boston, and #2 Boston lacks any real firepower offensively. Both Boston and Buffalo have superb goalies in Ryan Miller and Tukka Rask respectively. I’m tellin’ ya, this Rask kid is the next Dominik Hasek. I’ve been saying that since he was drafted as a teenager by the Leafs until they were anally raped by Boston in a trade that saw the Leafs end up wiith Andrew Raycroft. Yeah, I’m bitter, so what. Ottawa played better than expected and gave Pittsburgh a run for their money, but it seems like Pittsburgh is just rounding into form and the Ovechkin-Crosy conference final is inevitable. That’s music to Gary Bettman’s ears, and it’s great for hockey when those two teams meet. So, while it’s early to speculate, here is how I see the final four shaping up at this point: Vancouver over Detroit
Pittsburgh over Washington Vancouver over Pittsburgh ***************************************************************** I’m in Monte Carlo suffering from jet lag a bit, but luckily I’m not playing until day 1B so hopefully by then I’ll be well rested and ready to play. Recently I was involved in an e-mail chain with Crandell Addington, with Doyle Brunson chiming in as well. Crandell and Doyle both helped me realize a few truths about poker that I may have underestimated. I’ve always been quick to praise the fundamental knowledge of the online players, but in doing so, may have been underestimating the value of live experience and the major differences between the two. At the WPT championship on day two, I had that epiphany for myself. I watched a hand between James Mackey and Phil Ivey, and when Mackey bet the river, I studied him and sensed that it was a bluff. Not based on the way he played the hand, but something else. Ivey made the call, very weak I might add, and sure enough, Mackey was indeed bluffing.
About 20 minutes later I found myself in a pot against Mackey. I checked the river and he went all in. My first instinct was that he had it this time. Not based on the way he played the hand, but something else. I ended up ignoring my read. I put him on a “range of hands” and I was ahead of that range and the call made sense on paper.
So instead of relying on my strengths as a poker player, I was thinking about the hand differently and it caused me to make a big mistake. He had me beat, and it crippled me. In playing more online poker recently, the hardest thing I’ve found about it all is applying what I’ve learned at PokerStars to real live poker. It’s confused me more than anything, and caused me to second guess what I’m doing. It’s sometimes difficult to completely separate the two trains of thoughts, at least for me it is since I’m pretty new to the online game. There were actually 3 or 4 key hands I played on day two of the tournament that went badly due to my confusion in meshing the two worlds. Now, I’ve made it through day one 100% of the time this year, but day two has been a struggle either because of back luck or bad reads. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it, and there are a few changes I’m going to make to help me be “in the moment” a little bit more than I have been. I promised NAPT/EPT Live commentator extraordinaire James Hartigan I’d make the final table in Monte Carlo, so I’d better play good 🙂 ***************************************************************** This is my last road trip until the WSOP. The long grind awaits and I’m excited as always to get to battle. My plan until then is to play The Big Game in early may, play one or two of the SCOOP events on Stars, and then literally play at least 36 holes a day of golf until the first WSOP event, the $50,000 8-game mix. I have not decided if I’m going to make a bunch of bets this year with Erick Lindgren as we did last year. It was a real grind. I think I might be better served to take on a less exhausting schedule and focus on the $10k and higher buy in events in the various disciplines. I do have a couple bracelet bets. One, a standing bet with Phil Ivey in every tournament we play, and also this year, I laid Tom Dwan 2-1 on a bracelet bet for 2010 with the stipulation that if we both win one, it’s a wash. It’s almost 8:00am here now, so I guess I better try and sleep for a few hours. I have an interview day scheduled all day today, so I’ll need to be up by about noon.