I could be wrong, but I think this has been the oddest Stanley Cup finals that I’ve ever watched. The shocking difference between home and road games, the goal differential collapse of the Presidents’ Trophy winners, and the general nastiness and bizarre refereeing all leave me shaking my head.
There are a lot of different things I’d like to make mention of, but nothing really worth a whole post, so after the jump some reflections on the latest game and the series in general.
If there is one myth that I would like to see disappear immediately, it’s the notion that Tomas Kaberle never shoots. Yes, he makes a lot of passes, but he actually shoots a fair amount for a defenseman – among defensemen he ranked 40th this season, 24th last year, and has consistently been in top-pairing range since the NHL lockout. He scored 28 goals between 2005-07, but has had a low shooting percentage (and not a lot of goals, as a result) over the last few years.
Roberto Luongo’s up-and-down performance is more than a little disconcerting. His overall save percentage is still excellent (in the same range as Ryan Miller and Henrik Lundqvist), because more than any other goaltender in this playoff he has alternated between hot and cold, allowing 4+ goals on six occasions, while holding the opposition to one or fewer goals on seven occasions (including four shutouts). His ability to rebound is exceptional, but even if he ends up winning the Cup I think his painful game losses to Chicago and Boston will keep his reputation from being much improved.
The hit that injured Mason Raymond early in the game was every bit as bad as anything we’ve seen in this series. Nobody seems to have a decent video of the incident, but the lateness of Johnny Boychuk’s follow-through is evident even here:
Maybe I’m just being sentimental, but I think Don Cherry has been in fine form for CBC during these finals.
I can’t find a video now, but for me the most interesting moment of tonight’s game was the ‘scrum’ (for lack of a better term) between Daniel Sedin and Brad Marchand. I know some have and will take it as an example of the gutlessness of the Canucks, but Sedin’s discipline while being repeatedly punched by Marchand was exemplary – he didn’t dive, he didn’t retaliate, he stood there and took it, the way a guy who wants a power play to help his team win a hockey game does. It didn’t help; he ended up looking weak and got a penalty anyway, but as far as I’m concerned his lack of reaction was to his credit.
One of the CBC commentators during the game suggested that the impact of the referees on this series had been slight, but I don’t feel that way. Sure, they’ve let the players play, but the result has been a plethora of nasty slashes, cross-checks, late hits and hits on players without the puck. This was probably going to be a nasty series anyway, and the task of policing it is far from easy, but I can’t help but feel that the laissez-faire approach of the referees has contributed to the tone of the play, to the diminishment of both teams.
Finally, one last thought on tone and the CBC commentators – Craig Simpson suggested that late in a lost game, it would be sensible for a Canuck player like Raffi Torres to run Tim Thomas in order to throw him off his game. It’s not a comment unique to him – every fan-base in the league has fans who take the ‘win at any cost’ approach to its logical conclusion. There must be boundaries, though, and this is one of them.