Anaheim Ducks v Vancouver Canucks

Thoughts on Thoughts” is a feature that looks at Elliotte Friedman’s terrific weekly post “30 Thoughts.” Justin Bourne selects his 10 favourite tidbits, and elaborates.

Last editionCraig MacTavish poised to shake up Oilers (Full Friedman edition here.)

Friedman’s column, April 26th: Canucks discover winning ugly is a beautiful thing

Opening:

In this week’s edition of Elliotte Friedman’s always excellent 30 Thoughts, he wrote about how the Canucks have a different identity than they did when they were winning mulitple Presidents’ Trophies in the style of, as Friedge put it, “Ermenegildo Zegnas” (as in, stylishly). Things aren’t as pretty, but they’re paying attention to both ends of the ice more than they ever have.

“It’s not good enough for us to just win games,” Henrik Sedin said by telephone on Tuesday. “Fans feel it should be 5-1 or 5-2 … seeing some highlight goals. We have to win in a certain way.

“You look at Detroit, I think people judge them on what they should be instead of what they have … We are not a run-and-gun team anymore. You’ve got to be good in your own end. When healthy, I think this is as good a team as we have ever had.”

I think I get what he’s saying.

I’m not sure if this has come from a conscious effort, or if it’s just they’ve had to fight more to get wins (it would be easy to be less dominant, play in closer, uglier games, then claim it’s on purpose), but I will say: I think all this scrapping will be great for them come playoffs. And the pressure of not being the top dawg should serve them well too. If they can avoid St. Louis in the first round, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them have a great post-season run.

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3. As Karlsson prepared to return, Bryan Murray said the two things that concerned him most about his club were things the reigning Norris Trophy winner could fix. “We’re not great at breakouts,” the Senators GM said. Karlsson will singlehandedly take care of that. Also, the power play entered last night’s game at Washington five for its last 50. The Senators went 1-for-5, but the one put them into the playoffs and he assisted on it.

I had to pick this thought purely for the Bryan Murray quote “We’re not great at breakouts.” I mean, I know he was under no pressure to specify in what regard (communication? Is D2 struggling to read reverses? Do the forwards have a tendency to cheat their routes?), I just love how “fan” that quote is. “The goal-getting Dan, it’s been a major issue.” 

Granted, the quote is bang on. Karlsson is a guy who helps get the puck into the hands of the forwards and quickly, which helps both defensively and offensively. He’s a star on the powerplay. …I just adore general quotes.

6. Boston Bruins head coach Claude Julien shot down questions about Zdeno Chara needing a break. “It’s a lot of BS right now,” Julien told reporters. “We have to … quit hiding behind those excuses.” That might be true, but will the team find time to rest Jaromir Jagr? He’s one guy they’d probably want to sit before the playoffs.

And sure enough, not long after 30 Thoughts posted…

I almost feel like Jaromir Jagr is too proud to admit “hey, I’m an older guy, I just needed a day or two to let my body heal up.” Here’s his quote (cribbed from Pro Hockey Talk) two days ago:

“If I’m healthy I want to play,” said Jagr, per CSNNE.com. “I feel more tired when I rest. I have to play all the time. I have to practice a lot, and I have to play.

“My body is kind of different. I get tired when I have a rest. I would rather play two games. If it was a double-header like in baseball, I would feel the best.

“Too bad there are no doubleheaders in hockey. I’d be the best. I would feel even better in the second game.”

I like that attitude. “Never let ‘em see you sweat,” preached my old coach Mike Vandekamp.

The mental edge of “Oh you’re tired, I’m only getting stronger” ain’t worth nuthin’.

7. I spoke to Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock last Friday in preparation for our Detroit/Vancouver broadcast. I opened the conversation by saying, “Thanks for making time, know it hasn’t been easy…” He stopped me right there. “The one thing you can control is your attitude,” he said. Babcock made it very clear that no matter how much the media or fans may be down on Detroit, he doesn’t have time for that. “We have a lot of young players with a chance to make the playoffs. We have to be excited about that challenge for them.”

I love guys like Mike Babcock who are always coaching, even when they’re not coaching. I’ve shared the anecdote before about him watching a two-year-old Stanley Cup game that he won, and getting angry about a ref’s call in the game, even knowing how it all ends. He’s intense. Steve Yzerman is another guy who’s like that, incidentally.

Stuff like this makes me want to play hard for Babcock (not being a Detroit Red Wing makes that hard, granted), and makes me wish I’d had the privilege of playing for him. He’s right. It’s a great experience for his players, this playoff push. Guys shouldn’t be down right now, they should be grabbing this opportunity by the short-and-curlies, as gruff hockey coaches say.

And if they draw the Ducks in round one, what, you’re going to count them out?

9. Interesting to hear New York Islanders players talk about the reason for their playoff berth. “John Tavares carried us for 25 games while the rest of us figured out what our roles were,” said one. “Once that happened, I think we actually made it easier on him. Now everyone understands what is expected of them.”

I believe it was Sean Gentille who made the point on Twitter yesterday: something to the effect of “If John Tavares actually looked 22, his season might be a bigger story.” He’s getting Hart consideration now, so that’s been good for him, but man, it’s really easy to forget that the guy is 22. He dragged an NHL team kicking and screaming to the playoffs, and that’s amazing.

One other point: if voters were to take the word “valuable” extremely seriously in their Hart deliberations, and deemed him the most valuable to his team, how much of a kick to the jewels is that for the rest of his team? I mean, it’s not like they’re about to take home ice or anything, they’re most likely to finish 8th in the East. “Congrats, you dragged your team to eighth, which considering who you’re playing with, HOLY S#!T.

12. Speaking of the Islanders, Toronto’s Nazem Kadri is so wired up after games that, when at home, he’ll rewatch the entire thing before going to sleep. The Leafs’ 5-3 loss to New York? “First game I turned off all year,” he said. “Couldn’t look at it.”

If I’m a Leaf-ite, I quite enjoy this story. Dude goes home and re-watches the games? Now that’s taking being a professional athlete seriously. You tend to see things like that from older players looking for an edge as they lose some of their natural abilities. But a guy entering his peak physical years looking for edges? That’s pretty amazing.

14. I heard a great story about Dubinsky. After the trade, he showed up in Columbus to do some summer skating. Apparently, there was a scrimmage where only one NHL-calibre goaltender played. His team had the more inexperienced guy and lost. He demanded a trade, but the other team wouldn’t do it, so he stormed off the ice because he hated the losing. Teams need that attitude.

This is pathetic. I mean, truly. This cannot be a true story.

First off, I acknowledge Elliotte’s point that having a leader who hates losing ever is a good thing. It will be good for the team, for the organization’s culture, etc. etc. and beyond. But I hope for the sake of that same organization that this is an exaggeration or total fabrication.

First off, when most pros play summer hockey and there’s only one good goalie, every single one I’ve ever met would like to shoot on the better goaltender. Guys are skating in the summer to improve. They’re trying to keep up their cardio or push it somewhere new, get better at shooting, get better at scoring, so they want to shoot on the good guy. It’s no different than being in the gym – improve.

When you’re a professional hockey player and you’re shooting on not just a bad goalie, but a goalie from a league or two below you…it’s a waste of time. It is simply not hard, and not satisfying. I just can’t believe a pro would be like “Ugh, I’m going to score less and not win? THEN I’M NOT EVEN PLAYING.” 

Okay, fine then buddy, beat it.

19. Alex Ovechkin is so hot that he’s scoring on his backhand. That’s been a problem because of his wicked curve. Did Capitals head coach Adam Oates, a notorious tinkerer of players’ sticks, ask Ovechkin to change his? “No,” was the answer.

Alex Ovechkin has 32 goals this season…two are backhands (I went through each one), and both of those were finishes on dekes, so it’s not like he’s gone Crosby on us. April 25th versus Ottawa, April 13th versus Tampa. If you want to nitpick, his one deflection goal on the season (March 24th, Rangers) may have gone off the backside of his stick.

With Ovy, he scores the way he scores, and that way is from the left face-off circle, generally one-timed. If you’re the coach, you let him use the tool he needs to do the thing he’s damn good at. Adam Oates rules.

22. Oilers GM Craig MacTavish, asked if he sees Taylor Hall as a winger or a centre: “We wanted to try him at centre this season, but aside from some faceoff work when Ryan Nugent-Hopkins struggled, it never materialized … Terry O’Reilly always used to tell me, ‘Position is just a place where you line up when they drop the puck.’ Taylor covers a lot of ice from the wing.”

“Position is just a place where you line up when they drop the puck” is a pretty common statement. Once the initial execution of a draw has come and gone, it’s all F1, F2, F3, D1 and D2. I’m constantly impressed with how much ice Taylor Hall covers. He probably wastes some movement – something he’ll likely get better at over the years – but I’m with MacTavish on this. Hall doesn’t under-utilize himself when he’s out there. He’s fine.

25. Finally, Edmonton is going to try and upgrade in goal. Devan Dubnyk‘s held them in a lot more games than the Oilers deserve, but they don’t have much throughout the organization. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them chase guys who can help them in both the NHL and AHL.

This is pretty insane. I mean, Dubnyk is a 6’5″ 26-year-old who just posted a .920 (nicely above average) on a losing team and the Oilers are like, “man, we gotta plug that hole in the crease, hey?” I don’t think Dubnyk is Roberto Luongo or anything, but you’re getting that at a $3.5 million cap hit and that’s an area you’ve identified as a problem?

28. It was a marvelous gesture by the Carolina Hurricanes to call up Jared Staal and for head coach Kirk Muller to start all three brothers together. I wonder, though, if the New York Rangers look at this and say, “Do we have only two years left of Marc?”

I want to make fun of this, and did a little bit in the office today, but I do get how cool it is for the family, and considering how much that family has committed to your organization…I get it. I’m not so sure the young dude is the most deserving call-up ever, but in the spirit of Dustin Parkes, I’ll file this one under “Sports The Good.”