Justin Bourne

Recent Posts

Ducks win

“Score effects” has become the blanket term for a concept we’re all familiar with in sports: when one team jumps out to a big lead, they often “sit back” while the other team takes it to them, and the momentum appears to shift.

It’s not uncommon to see teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs push back late after a rough start, get close to making a comeback, than say things after the game like “We just need to play like we did at the end of the game for 60 minutes,” because they’re somehow oblivious to the fact that they didn’t get better, the game got easier for them. (You’ll hear the same from teams that run out to a great start then falter – gotta play the full 60.)

Take last night’s Winnipeg Jets/Anaheim Ducks game last night. Here are the shots from a game in which the Jets led 4-0 and managed to lose 5-4 in overtime:



What we think we see is hockey’s version of the “prevent” defense, where you let a team bite off huge chunks of yardage to avoid the one big play. But it’s different than that.
Read the rest of this entry »

Avalanche Blackhawks

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The Colorado Avalanche and Chicago Blackhawks are going to play in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs – that’s more or less unavoidable at this point. The two and three seeds in every division play in the first round, and the Avalanche are a full seven points behind St. Louis for first in the Central, while Chicago is a full 12 up on Minnesota in the three spot. So yeah, happening.

Avs fans have been pleasantly surprised by their team during Patrick Roy’s first year at the helm, storming out of the gates and taking a major step as a group that wasn’t expected to win this often. That combined with their success against the Blackhawks this season – they’re 4-1 in five games – and you have a recipe for some people to be hopeful about their odds in a seven game series.

But they’re going to get smoked. I’m sorry, Avs fans. No prejudice here – I just can’t see it ending any other way.

When I learned today that Matt Duchene is out with a knee injury that will keep him off the ice for a month, a timeline that takes him past the first round of the playoffs, I tweeted something semi-trolly (but also something I legitimately meant):

Read the rest of this entry »

martin st. louis4

We’re coming up on a full month since the trade deadline that saw the New York Rangers make a big splash and acquire defending Art Ross Trophy winner Martin St. Louis from the Tampa Bay Lightning for Ryan Callahan. The team has done well for themselves since the move, going 9-4-1 in 14 games, climbing up the standings to second in the Metropolitan division, only…it hasn’t exactly been thanks to their new offensive weapon.

In fact, St. Louis hasn’t really provided the Rangers with much of anything.

He’s still yet to score a single goal for the Blueshirts (stuck on 29), and has only picked up three assists. He put together an eight game stretch where he tallied a mere six shots, never putting up more than one in a single game. For a guy playing 19 minutes a night (including three on the powerplay) with your best players, you’d expect a little more.  Read the rest of this entry »

wg stick al

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It was November 25th, 1989, six months after my Dad had retired from the Los Angeles Kings and moved the family to Kelowna, BC. He decided to make the drive to Vancouver with my brother and I to see a Kings/Canucks game. I was granted the privilege of taping Luc Robataille’s stick before the game (I’m sure he re-taped it) on a night he recorded a hat-trick. After the final buzzer, we popped back into the Kings room for Dad to say his see-ya-laters, and he introduced us to his old Canada Cup teammate Wayne Gretzky. That day is one of my best childhood hockey memories.

Gretzky used the stick you see above that night, took the tape off and signed it. Look at that thing! Pre-made foam grip? Shiny as all get-out? NOT WOOD? How cool is that thing?


The first time I used an Easton Synergy one-piece hockey stick, I was playing Junior B for the Osoyoos Heat of the KIJHL (Kootney International Junior Hockey League, out of BC). At that level you still paid for your own sticks, so I had to go full puppy dog eyes on Mom and Dad for weeks to finally convince them to drop the dough. There was a cool new toy on the market, and I needed it to succeed.

At $200-plus a pop, it wasn’t a small investment, and I wanted to have it forever. I was terrified to take a slapshot with it for fear it would break, which is sort of ironic – “Mom, Dad, I need this great new tool that will completely minimize my arsenal of shot options, y’know, to get better at hockey.” First generation Synergys were nearly unusable tools, comprised of a substance that I believe was mostly hardened sugar (I mean, they had to have been). Two shifts into my second game with it, there I was, using my old Easton Aluminum Silver Tip (convex) just like I had been a few days before. My Synergy was in two tidy pieces after it failed to withstand a puck battle that involved someone breathing on it (30 day warranty though!).

Eventually, Easton – a former employer of mine, full disclosure – found their stride, in a big way. They make arguably the best sticks in hockey today. But prior to their takeover, there were a ton of companies vying for the “Mommy and Daddy will pay too much for junior’s sporting equipment because they think he’s the next Sidney Crosby” market. And that’s one lucrative market.

I’m going to say the true Easton Synergy matte silver one-piece became truly popular and relevant around 2001-2002, and they changed the game. The one-piece revolution was on. Prior to that and in the transition years, there were some neat twigs, which we’ll reminisce about below. Hell, I once tried a triangular-shafted twig called the “Trilage” at one point; companies were trying everything and anything. Wood sticks took major strides around this time too (they had to), while non-wood sticks got more creative. It really was the glory days for gear fiends.

The 10 Best Pre-Synergy Hockey Sticks

Sherwood PMP 5030 (Coffey curve mandatory) Read the rest of this entry »

Players only

There was an interesting article from Pittsburgh Penguins’ beat writer Rob Rossi yesterday, in which he alluded to the Penguins having a “players-only” meeting after the team’s most recent loss to the Phoenix Coyotes. The Pens can apparently feel things sliding in the wrong direction.

From TribLive:

Rob Scuderi said the Penguins lack “passion.”

Matt Niskanen said they are short on “pride.”

Brooks Orpik said some words will remain part of his private address to teammates after the Penguins lost 3-2 to the Phoenix Coyotes on Tuesday night at Consol Energy Center.

The Penguins are troubled, and with only 10 games remaining before the Stanley Cup playoffs, there is a sense that a once-inspiring season is headed for another early postseason exit.

And so, the players meeting. That’s where words like passion and pride are bandied about.

In my experience there are two types of “players only” meetings. You have them because when the head coach is talking, everybody is just listening. It’s not a two-way conversation. You’re being told things by the general, and you are the subordinate, whether you’re older than him or not.

That leads to a lot of discontent, particularly if the players don’t care for the coach, so sometimes it’s good to air out the issues. Only…there’s a right time, and a relatively pointless time. Read the rest of this entry »

patrick kane 3

I often write about “systems” in hockey, and in doing so, imply that every team uses them. I do that, because, well, they do. Sort of.

Not all teams use systems in the same way. Some teams have a roster that offers them the luxury of using “guidelines” for certain players and certain lines.

Systems confine players to set paths on the ice, which means that while you might be moving a player not smart enough to move himself into the right position, you may also be limiting your more talented players from being able to make reads and plays that can turn the tide of a game in your favor.

What makes sense then, is being open to a little deviation from the plan by allowing your talent to use their instincts. Not everyone, mind you – just your true talent.

I’m actually a big fan of varying the systems throughout your lineup based on the tools you have to work with, because it doesn’t allow your opponent to figure out what you’re doing and beat the same pattern consistently. If you have a crazy fast checking line you may want them to forecheck in a 2-1-2, where a slower line might be best sagging in a 1-2-2. As long as you keep the same foundation in the d-zone, particularly with breakouts, pairing talent with proper direction can be a killer combo. Read the rest of this entry »

james reimer cool

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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.


Friedman’s column, March 24th: Leafs’ Reimer should follow Cammalleri’s lead


Friedman’s opening this week centered on the plight of James Reimer, and how he could use a little dose of that “eff you” that Mike Cammalleri has shown over the past few weeks. Friedman explained how Cammalleri expected to be dealt to a contender at the deadline, but nobody traded for him despite the fact that he was available. (Overpriced and underperforming, as he was.)

Since the deadline, Cammalleri has killed it, scoring nine goals and 15 points in 10 games (impressive when you consider he only has 37 points on the season). Friedman explained how he sees that run as a bit of an “eff you” to those GMs. True or not, he believes that Reimer, in a situation where the Leafs have shown no respect or trust for him, could use a dose of “eff you” attitude himself coming down the homestretch, only towards the Leafs’ brass.

reimer benchI wrote something similar Monday morning about starting Reimer Tuesday night. If I may quote myself – I do agree with myself fairly often – “Reimer could very well post a classic “eff you coach” game tomorrow night and get hot, and that’s the Leafs best chance at winning six or seven of their next nine games, which they’ll likely need to do.” As in, if he starts playing for himself and changes his mindset, he could pull his mental dune-buggy out of the muddy bog.

My one addendum to Reimer’s situation is that it’s one thing to be “proving a point” on a team that overvalued you (a compliment) and kept you a la Cammalleri, and another to feel like an outsider on the inside of your own dressing room. “Eff these guys” – even if it only means the coaching staff and management – doesn’t feel very good, and isn’t something that’s a part of Reimer’s natural pet-all-the-puppies disposition.

10 Thoughts

2. Carlyle is taking heat as his team hits the iceberg, but last Wednesday’s 5-3 loss to Tampa proved the players must take greater responsibility for their own defensive mindset. There’s no coach in the world who doesn’t prepare his team for Steven Stamkos. The Lightning’s franchise player scored three times, without being bothered in the process. Toronto is fun to watch, but that game hammered home the point that this style isn’t going to work long-term. Prediction: at least one of the more offensive-minded players goes somewhere else this summer for a defensively stout replacement.

We’ll get to the prediction at the end, but first the “style” stuff: the most damning thing I can say about Randy Carlyle’s Leafs is that it looks like they’re playing shinny, which means one of four things:

1) The players aren’t listening to him. He’s put a system in place but his guys skirt it at will so it looks like a ball hockey session in gym class. Not good. Read the rest of this entry »