When your  tower of Molson Export empties comes up to Lindy Ruff’s forehead, you’re probably from Montreal.

It’s weeks like this that remind us why we’re all just so darn passionate about this game. The shenanigans never end.

Sean Avery will always be in a class all by himself when it comes to rule breaking, and rule making. Avery was the first to have a rule made up overnight (or was he?) when he waved his stick in the face of Martin Brodeur. We all thought only Avery was innovative and clever enough to find a new way to piss of goalies. We were wrong.

Oh and about that Brodeur guy. His elbow is still aching, and columnists are wistfully writing about how he could be shipped out of the swamp, with his permission of course. Zach Parise is still watching games with a smile on his face, and when Ilya Kovalchuk isn’t fanning on shootout attempts and getting booed by the home crowd, he’s staring up at Rich Peverley, Derek Stepan, James Wiseniewski, and Jeff Halpern in the points standings. We thought we’d seen rock bottom for big Lou and his crew, but we were wrong.

December must almost be here, because we thought we’d heard the last report of Peter Forsberg going on a leisurely skate. But we were wrong.

Sigh.

Week 12 Headlines and Storylines

Chris Pronger’s friendly wave hello

Chris Pronger and Sean Avery are two of the most hated players in the game, at least from a fan’s standpoint. Avery is much further ahead in this category, and that’s what hauling the “sloppy seconds” line out of the bag will get you. But Pronger’s pugilism, and overall boorish attitude don’t have him too far behind.

This is why the surprise over Pronger’s use of Avery’s screen tactics is laughable. Let’s be clear: Blatant attempts to distract a goaltender by doing anything other than planted your big bottom in his face should not be permitted. Forget respect, because that flew out the window with the brigade of headshots over the past year. Respect certainly plays a factor, but this is more about not letting hockey turn into some stick-puck version of baseketball.

But it was difficult to even fake any shock over Pronger being the next in line to impersonate Avery. Pronger has never been and never will be an ambassador for sportsmanship and common sense.

We’ve had a few days to digest this story now, and after analyzing the tapes JFK style, a few bloggers (most notably Greg Wyshynski) have tried to sift through the thick forest of verbiage that is the NHL rulebook. The conclusion? Pronger’s flailing was in poor taste, but it didn’t break any rule. At least not by the letter of the NHL’s flimsy laws, and don’t evoke some mystical spirit of the rule either. The rule states that a player must be facing the goalie, and Pronger was in a normal screening position.

It’s another simple little loophole discovered by a player creative enough to find even the tiniest pin prick in the rulebook. But it’s a rule that–like a certain headshot rule–resembles mud in the clarity category.

For what it’s worth–which isn’t much–Pronger agrees:

It ain’t easy being rich

Life has never been easy for the rich and famous. Just ask the Olson twins, or anyone with Kardashian as a last name.

Ilya Kovalchuk knows their pain. The $100 million man still isn’t earning his keep, and has now scored one goal and three points in his last 12 games. I’ll pause to let that sink in for a second, and give you the standard Devils fan foul for comedic relief…

All we need is a little more space for “three cups, one team.”

New Jersey always comes through with quality comedy, and lately Kovalchuk has ascended to the top of the laughingstock. After 23 games, the former Russian sniper has four goals and 10 points. With 23 games in the books last year, he had 16 goals and 27 points.

I’ve already listed some of the names ahead of Kovy in the league’s point standings. But just for fun, here’s a few more:

  • Forwards: Tyler Ennis, Taylor Hall, Matt Cooke, Chad LaRose, Benoit Pouliot
  • Defenceman: Niklas Kronwall, Alex Pietrangelo, Dan Girardi, Frans Nielson

Because we don’t write about Sean Avery enough…

Sean Avery makes the headlines a lot, and this time we mean that literally. In a first for the Week in Review, a player has earned a sacred spot in the headlines section twice in the same week, albeit indirectly in the first instance. Let’s [ray this never happens again.

Between Pronger’s waving, Kovy’s continued spiral, and Alex Ovechkin doing whatever he wants, Avery’s little dust-up with Tampa Bay’s Mattias Ohlund Wednesday was skimmed over. And so it should have been, because the skirmish itself was small and rather mundane by today’s standards. But it was the motivation for skirmish that’s bothersome, as the already rampant practice of making a player drop the mitts after a clean hit grew to an even more ridiculous level.

Ohlund had just leveled Rangers centre Erik Christensen, and was immediately challenged by Avery. The concept of protecting star players is as old has the game itself, and it’s an unwritten code that we all fully understand. But with all due respect to Christensen, is this response really warranted for a player who has yet to play a full NHL season, and whose career high is 18 goals?

Quick Hits

  • Flames forward Rene Bourque has more goals (11) than Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin. One of these things is not like the other…
  • Marc-Andre Fleury has performed quite the rebounding act. In his last eight starts he’s 7-0-1 with a 1.71 GAA.
  • The Flames/Devils game Wednesday night was the ugliest thing I’ve ever watched on television in quite some time, beating out re-runs of the early Full House episodes and Sinbad specials. It was pure slop from the opening whistle, and when you thought it might get better in crunch time, you were wrong. There were a combined eight shots in the third period, and Kovalchuk finished without a shot in regulation.
  • Carey Price has held the opposition to three goals or fewer in 12 of his 22 starts, and seven times in his last nine games.

Trending Teams

Penthouse

Dallas Stars: Maybe it’s the Brad Richards death stare, but suddenly the Stars are soaring, and the lead the Pacific. Capped off by a clean sweep of a home-and-home series against St. Louis over the weekend, Dallas has won four straight games.

They’re doing it primarily with goaltending. The combination of Kari Lehtonen and backup Andrew Raycroft (yes, he’s still in the NHL) had a 1.50 GAA this week, a performance that will be key for a middle-tier team in terms of scoring.

Outhouse

Ottawa Senators: Sure, that 3-0 shutout in the Battle of Ontario Saturday was nice and uplifting, but there’s no moral victories column in the standings. There are columns for wins and losses, and Ottawa has been putting quite a few tallies under the “L” of lately.

The Senators dropped two of their three games this week, and have now lost five of their last seven games. When the Sens lose, they do it in style too. In the five losses over this stretch Ottawa has scored six goals. In accordance to hockey tradition, Ottawa’s goalies have been cast as the scapegoats, but scoring is the problem in the nation’s capital.

Three Stars

  1. Dustin Byfuglien: The crescendo was a four-point night Sunday against Boston, and Dusty B now has four goals and nine points over his last five games.
  2. Alex Semin: A week that began poorly ended in a flurry. Prior to Friday’s game against Tampa Bay, Semin had gone four games with only one point. He then finished off the week with four goals in two games.
  3. Kevin Shattenkirk: The rookie Avalanche defenceman has emerged early, and is scoring in bunches. Shattenkirk had two goals and five points this week.

Plays of the Week(end)

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