Mention that Jonathan Toews is playing poorly in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and an angry mob of advanced statistics people will march on your home carrying charts and graphs. Mention that Jonathan Toews is playing well in the postseason by pointing toward his Corsi and Fenwick numbers, and old sportswriters will roll their eyes and ask if you pay rent while living in your mom’s basement.
Trying to determine why in the heck a player as good as Toews has one goal in 20 playoff games is about as difficult juggling chainsaws with your feet, only instead of feet, you have stumps smothered in baby oil.
During the regular season, Toews was so good at the sport of hockey that he finished fourth in voting for the Hart Trophy. On the strength of a career-best (pro-rated) 23 goals and 48 points in 47 contests and excellent defensive game that won him the Selke Trophy, the captain of the Chicago Blackhawks also received the third-most first-place votes for the Hart.
The Blackhawks won the Presidents’ Trophy with 131.5 (again, pro-rated, obviously) points, which if you round up ties the 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens for the most in a season. Sure, it happened over the course of 48 games so it doesn’t mean as much, but the Blackhawks put forth the NHL’s most dominant season in nearly four decades, and Toews was a major reason the Blackhawks brought hockey back the way Justin Timberlake brought sexy back in that neither brought anything back because it was already there. Read the rest of this entry »
Howdy y’all. Fortunately, hockey is back tonight. Looking forward to it. Today we discussed…
* Will Hossa return?
* Will Kris Letang get traded?
* Will Colorado draft a forward or trade their pick?
* Will Bryzgalov stay a Flyer?
* And more
You can listen to it here, download it here, and subscribe on iTunes here. Facebook!
On June 4th, in what has to be one of the most safety-conscious competition committee meetings in its history, the NHL decided to begin experimenting with hybrid icing. The move was long overdue. Touch icing is probably one of the most broadly unpopular features of the NHL brand of hockey. Nobody likes it. I’m pretty sure there are more supporters of the instigator and the puck-over-glass penalty than there are of touch icing. Unlike most safety issues, it wasn’t only tender-hearted New-Age fans who hated watching players race at full speed into the back boards just to end the play. One of the greatest opponents of the practice was Don Cherry, representing a whole faction of old-school, traditionalist, good hard hockey fans who were similarly appalled by this dangerous practice.
This is odd, because Cherry and his ilk are definitely not against hockey players getting hurt. We are speaking of a man who opposed visors for years and holds up Scott Stevens as a model body-checker. He’s all for hockey players getting hurt in all kinds of ways, including many that normal human beings would consider stupid and unnecessary. He’ll advocate for guys getting punched in the face for saying something mean, yet when it comes to touching the puck for an icing call, that’s too much. That’s the one thing in hockey that’s not worth the injuries it causes.
Why? What makes touch icing an unacceptable cause of harm, in a game with thousands of acceptable and even beloved causes of harm? It’s not how bad or frequent the injuries are. Although the potential is certainly there, there’s never been an epidemic of careers ended by touch icing. If the concern was purely player safety, we’d be revamping bodychecking standards rather than experimenting with hybrid icing.
This is another place where we see aesthetics at work in hockey’s attitude towards violence. The difference between touch icing injuries and other sorts isn’t the harm itself, it’s the storyline that goes with them. The Don Cherrys of the world don’t just want pain, they want aesthetically satisfying pain. They want pain that means something. Touch icing is an overwhelmingly anticlimactic phenomenon. It’s players running a great risk in pursuit of a completely deflating whistle, and even on the rare occasions it’s beaten, there’s seldom much dramatic payoff. Icings are boring, period, and adding a footrace element doesn’t make them any less so. It’s not the danger itself that turns people off. It’s the dullness.
Read the rest of this entry »
Hey, dawg, I know how you feel.
There are a lot of match-ups you could have looked at headed into the Stanley Cup Final and said to yourself that Boston or Chicago had the edge.
Top-six forwards: Chicago. Forward depth: Boston. D corps: Chicago. Goaltending: Boston. And so on. The thing with these teams was that their strengths and weaknesses seemed to fit together like a 2,000-piece jigsaw puzzle. There wasn’t a lot of wiggle room, and for every measure one side boasted, the other seemed to offer a strong enough countermeasure that more or less neutralized it, at least in theory.
One thing that was less-often discussed was how important a role the two coaches would play in this series, which was so often framed as being something like the immovable object meeting the irresistible force. But the reason Boston is up two games to one right now, and holding serve with Game 4 tonight, is because Claude Julien has managed his bench perfectly, and Joel Quenneville has very much not. Read the rest of this entry »
Today’s not your typical Systems Analyst post in which I break down a play that led to a goal or scoring opportunity. Earlier in the week I wrote this post that goes over the “Bruins’ defensive system” that you always hear about, and explained that they use layers to stop the opposition from cashing in after a single defensive breakdown. That was last Wednesday.
That night the Stanley Cup Final opened, which saw Chicago win the game in triple overtime by a score of 4-3. I thought the Hawks did a good job at times of making quality support passes to soft areas in the Bruins layers, so when I did my 10 takeaways from Game 1, I wrote this:
3. Blackhawks passes to soft areas in the offensive zone
One thing I noticed early (and I wrote this note about 10 minutes into the game) was Chicago creating opportunities by finding the soft areas in Boston’s coverage, and making great passes. And to be clear, I don’t mean the usual soft areas, this was different. It’s something elite teams can do that the dregs can’t. Use vision and skill to pass to areas you don’t usually see players. It was pretty clear they’ve taken a long, hard look at how Boston defends and decided to make the conscious effort to avoid the normal “set” offensive spots.
I don’t love how I worded that, because when I wrote it I was really thinking about a few three-to-five foot passes the Hawks made to get the puck to dangerous areas, and it was effective. Read the rest of this entry »
I already started this post once, but “I disagree with Jonathan Toews’ usage last night” ended up being 600 words and its own post, so let’s try this again.
1. Life for Chicago after Hossa: not hopeless, but awfully bleak
After the game we found out Joel Quenneville knew there was some chance Marian Hossa may take warm-up and call it a day as he did, which makes it awfully bizarre that Ben Smith didn’t warm-up and Jamaal Mayers did, despite the former playing and the latter not. But anyway.
When Hossa’s out it tips the balance of the series to Boston with a reasonably heavy weight. Bold, I know. But he really is one of the league’s best puck possession players (and I mean actual ability to maintain possession, not Corsi), a nasty offensive threat with finishing ability and a big body that’s tough to deal with. In a series so even, with over 60 minutes of overtime played after three games, his absence looms as the potential back-breaker for Chicago. Apparently he’s going to play in Game 4, but if he’s seriously hindered, so are they.
2. Tough, clean hockey
We don’t generally talk about dirty hits in hockey until there is one, and this season there was no shortage. But it came across my inner brain-screen pretty early in the first period: for all the big, cringe-inducing hits in the last few weeks of hockey, players have really reined it in (the cleanliness of said hits, I mean). David Krejci absolutely crushed Jonathan Toews last night, and neither player so much as looked at the other after. Just “Good?” “Good.” “Good.”
Maybe there’s just been less games, or maybe Raffi Torres was eliminated. Both are reasonable options. Whatever the case, it’s been a pleasure to not have to deal with. Read the rest of this entry »
Helllloooo! Podcasts are always easier when there was a game the day before to talk about, ja know? We discussed:
* Hossa’s injury, Chara’s fall
* Quenneville’s decisions
* The play of Jonathan Toews and Tuukka Rask
* The lack of Blackhawks net attack
* Flyers buying out Bryzgalov and Briere, signing Streit
* Alain Vigneault getting hired in New York
* And so much more
You can listen to it here:
Download it here, and subscribe on iTunes here. Facebook!