Ryan Lambert

Recent Posts

Hey, dawg, I know how you feel.

Hey, dawg, I know how you feel.

There are a lot of match-ups you could have looked at headed into the Stanley Cup Final and said to yourself that Boston or Chicago had the edge.

Top-six forwards: Chicago. Forward depth: Boston. D corps: Chicago. Goaltending: Boston. And so on. The thing with these teams was that their strengths and weaknesses seemed to fit together like a 2,000-piece jigsaw puzzle. There wasn’t a lot of wiggle room, and for every measure one side boasted, the other seemed to offer a strong enough countermeasure that more or less neutralized it, at least in theory.

One thing that was less-often discussed was how important a role the two coaches would play in this series, which was so often framed as being something like the immovable object meeting the irresistible force. But the reason Boston is up two games to one right now, and holding serve with Game 4 tonight, is because Claude Julien has managed his bench perfectly, and Joel Quenneville has very much not. Read the rest of this entry »

Kris Letang in his natural habitat: Looking at a puck in the back of his own net.

Kris Letang in his natural habitat: Looking at a puck in the back of his own net.

Lost a little bit in all the talk of how much of a choker loser idiot Sidney Crosby is has been just how atrocious Kris Letang, who was nominated for a Norris Trophy this season ahead of Zdeno Chara because the people who vote for these kinds of things tend to be awful, has been for his Pittsburgh Penguins.

Like, so-bad-I-want-to-cry awful. Like, so-bad-I-almost-don’t-blame-Marc-Andre-Fleury-for-some-of-them awful. Like, so-bad-I-don’t-understand-why-he’s-playing-at-this-point awful. Like, so-bad-he-has-to-be-hurt awful.

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"Jarome, can you please answer the question in such a way that it fits what I've already decided to write?"

“Jarome, can you please answer the question in such a way that it fits what I’ve already decided to write?”

The problem with the Stanley Cup Playoffs, in a way, is they focus greater attention on a smaller number of teams. This means writers who were previously writing things about the Avalanche or Flyers, for instance, are now writing about the Blackhawks or Rangers. National writers in particular, who have been paying attention to the various comings and goings of teams league-wide, descend on cities throughout North America like a plague of locusts and analyze everything with the most powerful microscopes known to man.

This, in and of itself, isn’t strictly a bad thing all of the time. National writers tend to be the very best in the business, well-connected and intelligent and insightful and knowledgable, much more so than, say, someone who just covers the Bruins all year long. But the problem is that in the ongoing pursuit of angles from which to view such-and-such a series necessarily leads to some rather silly observations, from national and local writers alike, to take hold and become part of the national hockey conversation to the point where it can dominate the zeitgeist.

Take the San Jose Sharks. They are good this year. Well, they’re good every year. But they’re good this year too. This in and of itself is no real surprise, especially because they’re not, like, exceptionally good. They finished sixth in the West, not great or anything, but up one spot from last year. That’s also down from winning-the-division-every-year. But the media’s narrative is that this year’s Sharks are different, likely because they swept the Canucks. The reason for this difference seemingly had very little to do with half of Vancouver’s roster being out injured, but everything to do with The Coming Of Age Of Logan Couture.

The number of times you’ve heard “The Sharks are Logan Couture’s team now” is near-astronomical and it must be said that he is indeed very, very good and probably, at age 23 and a multiple-year veteran, becoming a more vocal leader. But the way people talk about this team, you would think Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau — LOSERS WHO STINK AND CAN’T WIN — have been left by the curb with the bottles and cans to be picked up by the local sanitation department. This was only reinforced when Couture was the one who happened to score the overtime game-winner in Game 3 to help the Sharks avoid going down 3-0 in their series. This was one of 25 goals Couture has scored since the season began in late January, but this more or less random event, the result of a lengthy power play opportunity in overtime, lent credibility to the idea that he’s The Leader now. Thornton and Marleau, meanwhile, shuffle around in the background, mere point-a-game players in this postseason because, again, they are losers. And Couture is not, no matter how many games his team is down in this series with Los Angeles. Read the rest of this entry »

"You see every decision I make is arbitrary and based on nothing at all and I'm awful at this."

“You see every decision I make is arbitrary and based on nothing at all and I’m awful at this.”

The NHL is and always will be an incredibly dangerous league for its participants. Hockey is not exactly a low-contact game to begin with and obviously these guys are flying around and getting better at everything with each passing year. The NHL of today resembles that of the 1980s and ’90s and even early 2000s, for example, in only the most cursory ways: There’s a stick and a puck and skates but the blue lines have moved, there’s a trapezoid behind the net, and the goalies’ pads are smaller and also guys are just about getting killed in every damn game you watch.

How many times in this postseason have we watched a game and said, “Oh, that’s something Brendan Shanahan is going to have to look at?” If it’s not literally every single game so far, it’s pretty damn close, because when the intensity gets ratcheted up to the levels typically observed this time of year, lots of elbows start flying around, lots of knees get taken out, and all that. It’s unavoidable. Or so we’d be led to believe. Read the rest of this entry »

This guy with the funny stick and big pads is getting good again.

This guy with the funny stick and big pads is getting good again.

For much of the year the Los Angeles Kings, reigning Stanley Cup champions though they may be, have languished in relative mediocrity. Anaheim jumped out to such a big lead in the Pacific that their neighbors never really got a chance to stake a claim to the tops division, and even if they wanted to, they never really played well enough to warrant it.

It’s looking more and more, though, like the Kings are going to come a lot closer to the Ducks than anyone had a reason to believe even a few weeks ago, having overcome a rather bizarre handicap.

Jonathan Quick — who, if Sergei Bobrovsky is becoming a clearer Hart contender as the Blue Jackets keep winning, should have won that award last season instead of Evgeni Malkin as well as the Vezina taken by Henrik Lundqvist — has for most of the season been playing like absolute garbage. His stats stand at pathetic marks of 2.44/.901, with an even-strength save percentage of .908. The save percentages are actually worse than Ondrej Pavelec’s numbers, and it’s important to remember that Pavelec is terrible.

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You know for sure that bag isn’t full of good managerial decisions

Edmonton Oilers president of hockey operations Kevin Lowe is a lot of things.

He’d be quick to remind you that he is a multiple-time NHL All-Star and only slightly less frequent Stanley Cup champion from his time with the team that won so many game in the 1980s.

He’s also an indisputably bad NHL general manager who only got his job because of who he is and what he did for the franchise in the past. He’s the executive on whose watch perhaps the ugliest stretch of futility seen league-wide since the Pittsburgh Penguins of the early 2000s.

And so imagine the absolute balls it must take to stick with the Oilers’ long-time tradition of being a good old boys club in naming his new general manager, and meeting all skepticism leveled at him and his decision — the latest on a long list of those that have been questionable at their absolute best, dating back to right around when he took the Edmonton GMing job, and seems destined to expand in perpetuity like the universe itself — by saying, “I think I know a little bit about winning, if there’s ever a concern.”

The fact of the matter is that, unless Lowe means he knows about what it takes to win in the NHL is roughly on par with the rest of ours, the room should have exploded in paroxysms laughter and knee-slapping. What it takes to win in the NHL is good players, and the Oilers haven’t had that lying about — save for that time they traded next to nothing for Chris Pronger somehow — in a good decade at least. Read the rest of this entry »

This guy is mad.

This guy is doing that “I’m really mad” smile and it’s scary.

One thing that is often going unmentioned in all these talks about exactly where Jarome Iginla, or any other free agent of even the vaguest name value and declining hockey skill, will end up is that a team which is so often considered a rather enthusiastic buyer in the market has been largely silent.

It’s been tough to dig up any information about who the New York Rangers might be interested in pursuing at the deadline, if anyone, and that strikes me as being more than a little weird. On the one hand, John Tortorella’s boys are vastly underperforming expectations, and as of this writing sit eighth in the Eastern Conference, a place pretty much no one expected them to be after they won the conference by a point last season and went to the Eastern Conference Final against the Devils. They returned just about everyone, added Rick Nash, had some exciting rookies in the offing, all that stuff. But one has to wonder exactly how much this unforeseen down year changes expectations. Apart from the usual distant rumblings about an appetite for moving Marian Gaborik, which have been shaking the ground underneath Madison Square Garden ever so slightly more or less since he was acquired for reasons I’m not sure I understand, it seems unlikely that the Rangers would ever actually go to the trouble of selling off veteran pieces unless they tank very, very hard in the next few days and maybe Henrik Lundqvist retires.

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