Justin Bourne

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Frans Nielsen4

There’s a good chance you noticed a change in the way things operated at Backhand Shelf this year. Well, there’s a reason for that: Backhand Shelf, along with the other theScore blogs, have been closing up shop to unite as one sports superpower that’ll compile more news and create better stories for you.

As such, Backhand Shelf is closing its doors. However, the work you found here is going to continue on under a different URL, so y’know, exhale and all that.

On one hand, it’s a bit of a sad day: we’re almost through Backhand Shelf’s third season, and the support for it has been wonderful. I’m really proud that we built a relevant sports blog within the hockey community. I’m appreciative that the comment section was remarkably thoughtful and generally kind, and I’m proud of a lot of the work I did.

On the other hand, nothing is really changing. I’m still going to be writing with the same frequency, only the work will once again be surrounded by news so you’ll once again have incentive to visit directly, instead of just when I tweet things out (though you can still follow me on Twitter for links here). Also, with playoffs just under way, the timing is just about perfect. Our plan of being able to ensure that you don’t miss a single bit of news, but also get quality analysis and opinion is finally coming together.

So, without much more ado, thank you. Sincerely. Thanks for the support, the kind words, the feedback, and for reading in general. (I’m very grateful to have been given the opportunity to make it a good site in the first place, so a big thank you to theScore as well.)

I really hope you like what we’ve created next. I truly think it’ll become a must-read site for hockey fans. Enjoy!

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Justin Bourne’s new columns (bookmark)   |   theScore’s new site   |   theScore’s new NHL home

Frans Nielsen

habs win

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For the better part of Game 4, the whistles had been put away. As the clock wound down in the third period with the score tied at three, there had only been two penalties called all night, the last coming just two minutes into the second period.

Over 35 minutes of game play later, with just two minutes left on the clock, 20-year-old Cedric Paquette of the Lightning found himself sitting in the penalty box, likely praying to the hockey gods that his penalty – which was a penalty, though it wasn’t the most egregious – wouldn’t cost his team.

Max Pacioretty scored the first playoff goal of his career on Latvian goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis with 43 seconds left to put the Habs up 4-3; as Paquette made the long skate across the ice back to his bench, the olés came raining down.

So, how did Habs/Bolts come to be a 4-0 sweep? Weren’t these two teams supposed to be locked in for a close series? Weren’t their regular season battles tighter than two coats of paint?

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How Montreal swept Tampa

Tampa’s goaltending

The unfortunate injury to Vezina hopeful Ben Bishop meant Tampa Bay was going to be heading into the playoffs with back-up Anders Lindback, and he hadn’t had much of a season. With Carey Price at the far end, he was going to have to step it up his game, and it looked like there might be hope for him, as he was good during Tampa’s last few regular season games.

But nope. Lindback was so bad I suggested “Lindbad” as a nickname, while Daryl Reaugh topped that lazy joke with the hashtag “#LindbackOfTheNet.” Read the rest of this entry »

matt cooke

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Two minutes into the second period of a scoreless game between Minnesota and Colorado, Jan Hejda ran the puck back to Tyson Barrie just inside the Avalanche blueline. Matt Cooke was playing the left side in the Wild’s neutral zone forecheck, and seeing the pass, he rightfully jumped the play.

The pass was long enough that it might have given him time to put some body on Barrie, so he set out to fulfill his job and do just that.

His timing off, and with Barrie reading the forecheck, it happened: the Avs’ best offensive defenseman jumped right, and feeling he might miss Barrie and come up empty, Cooke extended his knee left.

The result: Four to six weeks from now Barrie should be able to skate again after his MCL heals, and long before that, Matt Cooke will meet with the Department of Player Safety.

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Names like Matt Cooke are not popular around the league. Their reputation precedes them, as will happen when you leave a trail of bodies in your wake over the length of your career. He’s been suspended, vilified, and has deserved just about all of it.

But there’s a reason players like Cooke have had such long, prosperous careers: they’re really good at what they do, and what they do (outside of injuring people) has value, particularly in a salary cap league.

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I never liked playing against this particular genre of player for all the obvious reasons. They’re physical, in your face, usually dirty, and they make scoring harder. They made me fear for my well-being, and they were usually not that interested in reasoning. They exist more to antagonize than fight, so they were actually a much bigger burden on players of my ilk than pure tough guys. I always knew I’d never have to fight the thugs, but there was no avoiding the whacks from these guys.

On-ice contribution Read the rest of this entry »

Granlund winner

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Five minutes into overtime between the Minnesota Wild and Colorado Avalanche last night, Mikael Granlund started to make the best play of his young NHL career. His linemates Zach Parise and Jason Pominville helped the Wild gain possession low, and room opened up behind the net. With Avalanche defender Jan Hejda draped all over him, he carried the puck east-west, at one point hanging on to it with one hand on his stick, took Hejda out to the far wall, where a combination of shoddy body position from his opponent and a fortuitous bounce left him with a clear lane to the net.

He then took the puck directly into traffic, stick-handled beneath the player waiting in the slot (Marc-Andre Cliche) and above Eric Johnson, carried the puck across the crease, and tucked his seventh shot of the night home on the far side.

With that, Granlund became just the fifth player ever to score his first NHL playoff goal in OT of a 1-0 win, and the Wild trimmed Colorado’s series lead to a manageable 2-1, instead of falling behind 3-0.

I wanted to explain what went wrong for Colorado (it wasn’t all Hejda’s fault), and I will below, but first here’s what made Granlund’s goal so special from an offensive standpoint:

* He got his legs moving behind the net and took the puck east-west, which forces defenders to rotate, and can create problems.

* He actually thought about cutting in with a wrap-around, feels he doesn’t have body position, but stays with it and stays strong on his skates.

* He was relentless. When he gets taken into the wall, he’s immediately looking for the puck, and immediately gets his legs moving again.

* The pure skill of the play. He showed great hands in tight and a nose for scoring goals. Not bad for a 22-year-old.

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As it is with any goal, some players messed up. I wanted to briefly point out something that seems misunderstood when hockey people talk systems and positional play: you are not chained to any particular area of the ice, so when things break down, you’re allowed to leave. 

I’ve written about a system I like before here, which the Boston Bruins play. In every hockey game some players are going to get beat in the d-zone, so you want your team to be able to provide help when that happens. The idea is that you want to force the other team to make plays. Read the rest of this entry »

david_backes_injury

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If you’ve played hockey at any level, you’ve had a hate-on for someone. That stretches from organized hockey to rec hockey to ball hockey and beyond. You may have been in a verbal fight over knee hockey at one point. Hell, I don’t know how crazy you are, maybe it was a physical one.

It’s no secret that being competitive is advantageous in sports, meaning that the guys at the top levels are usually uber-competitive, meaning there’s going to be some eff yous out there on the ice. There just is, and that’s fine.

The problems for those who follow the game comes when someone goes beyond that, as they often do, and a mic picks it up. It’s tough for fans to know what’s normal out there.

The latest outrage comes courtesy a microphone that picked up (what appears to be) Duncan Keith chirping “Wakey wakey, Backes” at the St. Louis Blues’ captain as he was propped up by his trainer after taking one of the most devastating (illegal) hits I’ve seen in years from Brent Seabrook.

Alex Steen was there to rebuke the comments with “Show some f***ing class” (again, appeared to be to Keith) and a “That’s bull***t Johnny,” presumably at Toews who sort of hovered around Backes ala Lebron James over Jason Terry a little over a year ago.

Here it is at the :45 second mark if you haven’t heard it yet:

My experience with on-ice chirps are that they change a great deal as you move up the ranks because you become a lot more accountable for them. The higher up, the less personal with random players, and the more personal with those that are targets. More on the latter part of that farther down. Read the rest of this entry »

coopd

On Sunday night the Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning were tied up at one in the second period of a fast-paced game. Down 2-0 in the series, the Lightning badly needed a win. And, it looked like they had just opened up a 2-1 lead on a chaotic flurry of a play when it happened: the ‘ol “safe” call from the ref. No goal.

Francis Charron ruled that Alex Killorn had interfered with Carey Price, and the game changed. Bolts captain Steven Stamkos took a knee to the grey matter shortly after (he returned in the third), the Habs scored not too long after that, and the Lightning are now down 3-0. It felt like the game swung on the moment below:

It’s never fun when reffing is the focal point in the midst of great playoff action, but it’s not so bad when they get the controversial call in question correct, as I believe they did here. Read the rest of this entry »

backes n crew

Sports tickets seem comically overpriced, but when you consider the amount of money and energy fans put into their favorite teams, it’s probably justified.

Ticket IQ is a cool site that breaks down what folks are paying to see live playoff hockey this year. I thought it was interesting, and thought you might too. You can check out all that info here, if what I grabbed below isn’t quite enough.

Geez, Chicago. You guys really love your puck. Read the rest of this entry »