Earlier this morning, Bruce Arthur retweeted Elliotte Friedman of CBC’s weekly “30 Thoughts” column, along with a simple comment:

At this point, that’s not even up for debate – nothing comes close. It’s must-read material, especially for us uniformed bloggers who struggle to get credible information from the depth’s of our mother’s basements.

Football has Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback, but um, let’s just say he’s taken some internet abuse over the years for it (MAYBE). Friedman’s work is too rock-solid to deserve anything of the sort.

I’m going to start a weekly feature where I look at Elliotte’s 10 most note-worthy “Thoughts of the Week,” and riff on them a little myself. This way we get all the reliable facets of some actual journalism (him), combined with the wild speculation allowed in the blog world (me). I HEARD RADULOV IS GOING TO START IN GOAL FOR THE PREDATORS. See? Blogging rules.

Without further ado, your first installment of Bourne Riffs on Friedman’s Thoughts. It um…probably needs a better name.

4. Look, Toronto’s 8-0 loss to Boston was ugly in every imaginable way. But on the advice of one former player, I rewatched it looking for something he’d noticed. And it was true — the Maple Leafs had zero interest in winning races to pucks along the boards. If you’re Scott Niedermayer, you can play that way. That’s a huge concern for Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle.

This is part of the problem with being eliminated from playoffs (in addition to the whole missing playoffs thing) – winning races to pucks on the boards means taking hits during meaningless games. There’s few things mentally harder in hockey than thinking “Boy, I better pour it on so I can be the guy who gets hit instead of the guy who gives the hit here,” but if you want to influence the play and help your team, it’s something you have to do.

When you’re not playing for anything….”Meh, I’d just rather not get hurt.” You can still look good to fans by laying the big bodycheck and mayyybe winning a puck battle. But in the end, you’re not doing the little things that make the big difference, and that stuff doesn’t go unnoticed by coaches.

9. Despite the loss, don’t think it went unnoticed that Pittsburgh out-shot New Jersey by 30 and held the Flyers without one for 18 minutes. Scary team.

Out-shot Jersey by 30. Jebus that’s a lot.

It sucks having to watch the Penguins in a perpetual state of “Dear god don’t get hurt” - I’ll feel like we got robbed of finding out who the best team was this season if they don’t have all their pieces going. Because of that, I just can’t shake the Mother-watching-young-son’s-first-year-of-contact-hockey feeling when watching them play. BE CAREFUL, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD.

10. You ask Western-based NHL types who is going to grab the final playoff spot(s) and one team gets the most votes: San Jose. “Too talented not to get in,” is the usual comment. But, boy, did they waste a game in hand at home to Anaheim Monday night. Sharks are playing with fire.

Wouldn’t San Jose missing playoffs match the exact formula for a coaching change? GM provides team with a ton of talent. Team does miserably. Blame gets assigned.

McLellan does a good job in San Jose, but missing playoffs with that roster wouldn’t look good. Not to mention Havlat’s back for the playoff push (3 goals in his first 2 games), so they’re pretty much out of excuses.

11. Steve Mason had several eye-popping quotes in this story, including the fact he “didn’t know” he could wear bigger equipment. While that sure doesn’t sound great, there is a little more to it. Before Columbus goalie coach Ian Clark got him to switch, Mason was wearing the same stuff he used in his super-successful Calder Trophy season. Can’t really fault a guy for wanting to stay with that.

You certainly can’t fault him for not switching, but you would still expect him to know, would you not? And I don’t mean it’s his fault – shouldn’t someone (Ian Clark, maybe) have at least let him know what his options are?

Call me a cynic here if you like, but I feel like Mason has simply played better of late, and the “minor gear switch” thing seems like a convenient narrative for him to explain away the bad early-season play (in gear he once won the Calder in) and to explain the recent improvement. I feel like he’s probably just straight-up playing better, and the new gear was a nicely timed checkpoint for him. Could it be making that much of a difference for him?

13. Much disagreement with one of last week’s notes: That Tim Thomas can handle the increased workload because he’s used to it in March and April. Asked a couple of goalies about it and they pointed out how you have to take his style into account. Thomas is so active, expending so much energy, that 63 games for him is like 70-75 for others.

He is used to a heavy workload during those months, but coming off a season where he played well into June and he’s another year older, you could see why the guy could use a little bit lighter workload this season. It’s likely been a tough year mentally on him, too.

Am I the only one who feels Thomas is getting more loose on the ice this season? I know he’s always played a chaotic, reactionary, aggressive style, but I feel like he’s letting in more goals while facing completely backwards lately. (Though, I guess he did have a shutout last night, so I’ll shut up.)

17. Good news for Detroit that Nicklas Lidstrom skated Monday. Red Wings GM Ken Holland admitted Saturday he was “frustrated” by the franchise player’s lack of recovery from an ankle bruise. Asked him about the worst-case scenario, ie. Lidstrom missing playoff time, and Holland didn’t think so, because that means the captain would be out seven weeks. Detroit doesn’t think it’s that bad.

I said this when it first happened, and I’ll reiterate now: it’s so tough to play through foot pain. Shoulder pain affects you during contact, hand pain when you have the puck, and so on down the line – foot pain is a constant distraction.

Bone bruises don’t get the same respect as breaks; because of that, more people expect you to play through it. But the cycle of numbing it, taking painkillers and playing on it over and over again never allows it to heal. That injury just takes straight-up, annoying time.

18. Get ready to see more officials conferences after scores when there’s contact with the goalies. After the GM meetings, a memo was sent to all referees and linesman to consult with one another to make sure they get it right. For example, linesman will be allowed to tell referees if it should be no goal because there was a penalty on the play, even though they’re not allowed to call one. Just the same, if one of them sees a defender was responsible for pushing an attacker into the net, the goal can stand.

I push for justice like this in every walk of life: let’s use common sense.

How nonsensical is it to have four people on the ice who saw a play from four different angles, yet not consult them all when it’s a tough call? If you’re not sure, and you don’t have video replay, ask for other opinions. I’m surprised it took us so long to get here, but better late than never, I suppose.

21. I know some Calgary Flames fans were upset that head coach Brent Sutter went with Leland Irving twice over the past three weeks — critical games that Calgary lost. Here’s why I disagree with them: Remember last year when Tampa Bay sat an exhausted Dwayne Roloson in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference final? The Lightning lost that night, but Roloson came back to win the next one before making 37 saves in a heartbreaking 1-0 defeat in Game 7. If a goalie is tired and you don’t rest him, you’re done. If you do, you’ve got a chance. Even Miikka Kiprusoff needs a break.

Fully agree. Every game matters, but if you work your tender (or top D, or top line) mercilessly with 10 games to go, you’re not going to like results in the final few.

23. As tough as this season’s been for Montreal, the Canadiens do play hard for Cunneyworth. They killed nine Ottawa power plays Friday night. He’s done his best with a bad hand, while Canadiens fans kill a kitten each time Kirk Muller’s Carolina Hurricanes win a game.

Few things make me happier than reading a serious column that mixes in a phrase like “kill a kitten.”

I can’t ever remember a team stringing a coach out there as bad as Montreal has with Lame Duck Cunneyworth. Hired him, then basically told fans they’d be looking for a french-speaking coach. I realize you don’t relinquish your first attempt at a head coaching gig in the NHL, but that would’ve made it awfully tempting. At the very least, it was grounds for a serious “WTF, man?” conversation between Cunneyworth and Molson.

(Interesting note here – there’s a report that Patrick Roy will be “taking over the reins” in Montreal next year.)

25. For his part, Markov says he’s nowhere near the pace he wants to be, adding he’s noticed he’s a step behind several times. Considering Montreal didn’t want him playing on back-to-back nights last weekend, I can’t see any way the organization allows him to play in the worlds. Too much at stake.

If I’m the Montreal Canadiens, Markov is allowed three places during the off-season: his house, the gym, the arena. And not an arena where competitive hockey is taking place, just a big sheet and a bucket of pucks. He’s too valuable to the Canadiens success, and he seems to find a way to get hurt every time he turns around.

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Check out 20 more of Friedman’s thoughts here. We’ll see you next week!

Comments (6)

  1. Just last week I was reffing a game and got trapped behind the play coming into the zone. Quick pass, shot, rebound, and a tremendous PING! I waved “NO GOAL” (pretty loudly, too), based in large part on the sound and the puck coming back out and landing in the crease.

    Well, everyone and their twin stopped and stared – including the defending team and their goalie. Uh-oh. Since nobody was playing anyway I blew it dead and checked with my partner. Back pipe and down, goal. I felt stupid but hey, we got it right and nobody got bent out of shape about it.

    If the pros are going to go with consultation, I’m all for it. Oh, and PS – could someone pad those back pipes, please? Not that it’s an excuse, but really. I’m not asking for 60 fps replay cameras on the line here – just cut up some damn pool noodles and tape them on there.

    (This has been “C’mon Rec Ref.” Thanks for reading.)

    • Ha, honestly, I love the simplicity of the solution. Chuck half a pool noodle in their, problem solved. As a League, I have to believe they can afford that upgrade.

  2. The Habs haven’t given up and may be playing hard, and Cunneyworth gets a lot of sympathy for the whole language issue, but one thing that doesn’t get anywhere near the amount of press it deserves, maybe because of the other is this: he’s been pretty much awful as a NHL head coach.

    Cunneyworth preaches hard work and has been getting it, but the problem is that he seems to have little else. He is so tactically inept that hard work really hasn’t mattered. The Habs’ “system” has been reduced to its simplest expression (chip it out, pass it forward, dump it in), which has led to teams catching on after 10 minutes of play and bottling Montreal entirely in their zone because the Habs have only one option for zone exit (and that’s always the simplest possible play). Randy’s personnel management is best described as ham-fisted, and he is one of those coaches who commits the cardinal sin of playing ineffective players for “energy”, routinely underplaying otherwise superior players.

  3. As for Mason, I wonder if not a big part of it is mental. Apparently hockey players are supersticious guys, and Mason has been below average for a while. I’d guess he hasn’t been that strong mentally early in the season. Then he gets new equipment that’s “better”, which is a great way for him to tell himself that “this will improve my game”. And that boost of confidence means he does play better because his mental strenght is improving (I’d compare it to a placebo effect). And when he notices he’s playing better, he gets into a positive spiral, instead of a negative like before, and keeps playing better than he did early in the season.

    So while the equipment in itself might not be an huge improvement (as you said, he won the Calder in his old gear), the mental effect of changing it is significant.

    Just a theory

  4. Thank you, once again. Found the name for the feeling I’ve had during Pens games lately.

    State of “Dear god don’t get hurt” describes it so well.

    And I’m happy to hear someone else has that too.

  5. On refs consulting with each other: that just seems like a no-brainer. I used to umpire baseball and consulting with your partner (or team, for higher levels) happened all the time. The emphasis is always on just getting the play right.

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