After the first period of Game 2, the Boston Bruins must’ve filed into the dressing room, plunked down in their stalls and exhaled a sigh of relief like a tornado had cruised through their town yet somehow skipped their neighborhood (fittingly, an actual tornado had done something similar during the first game). They had been outshot by a whopping margin, 19-4, but only found themselves down a goal thanks to the splendiferous goaltending of one of the league’s best, Tuukka Rask (“Two u’s, two k’s, two points,” as Bruins’ announcer Jack Edwards likes to say in the regular season).
As the Bruins emerged from their storm cellar to play the second period, something started to happen. The clouds thinned and parted a bit, and the play started to shift. The Bruins out-shot the Blackhawks 8-4, 8-5, and 8-6 respectively in the 2nd, 3rd, and overtime period, and eventually left the state of Illinois with a satisfying split.
If Generic Goalie A is in net for Boston, that likely doesn’t happen.
I have no idea if the phenomenon I’m about to describe happened to Chicago, because speculating on the mental state of an entire hockey club from my desk in another country is borderline ridiculous, but it did cross my mind when watching: Tuukka Rask might’ve “stopped” some shots in 2nd, 3rd and OT by discouraging players from ever taking them with saves earlier in the game. Read the rest of this entry »
The Pittsburgh Penguins don’t have a problem.
Wait– that probably doesn’t come off right in text form.
The Pittsburgh Penguins don’t have A problem. The Pittsburgh Penguins have problems. Like, we’re talking Jay-Z numbers, up around the 99 range. And despite the fact that, much like the aforementioned rapper, a “b***h” counts for zero of them, that total is enough to be cause for concern.
When your team has so many issues that you’re not sure where to start and it’s not the pre-season, I’m of the mind that it’s time to give the other team some credit. The Boston Bruins went into Pittsburgh and dismantled them. They walked in on a bomb and diffused it without so much as sweating a drop and they had excess time to spare. And for that, they have team discipline to thank.
Discipline, for a hockey team, can mean a lot of things. Coaches talk about getting players to “buy in,” which basically means “give up what you’re instincts are telling you on the defensive side of the puck, and actually do what we’re asking you to do.” Most players have the defensive instincts of a dog chasing a tennis ball. “PUCKPUCKPUCK THERE’STHEPUCKOMG PUCKPUCKPUCK.” When things aren’t going well it’s easy to step out of the system and chase it. But when things are working, it just reinforces behaviour that makes your team tougher to play. “Hey, if I just stand here, the puck comes to me a lot.”
Boston’s making it hard on Pittsburgh by being disciplined in a number of different areas. Read the rest of this entry »
I find Jaromir Jagr immensely fascinating.
There’s the skill that’s taken him to 8th all-time in NHL scoring. I’ve described him as the metal frame that makes up one of those quick-assemble gazebos: he can be compact and portable, then quickly become wide and lanky, holding off defenders without a thought while deciding what to do with the puck. That’s him in his present form though, as his younger days were more about dangles, sharp cuts and general domination.
There’s the personality, which we get in flashes of greatness, occasionally muddled with surliness.
There’s the mystique, and what I presume to be general selfishness. How could he sign with the Flyers? What goes on in this man’s head?
And through all that, there’s the general air of zero f***s given, as if none of this – his legacy in Pittsburgh, in the NHL, or as a person – ever crosses his mind. He is who he is and he does what he does. And sadly, he doesn’t have too many NHL games left in him after being a part of nearly 1600 total.
He’ll be returning to Pittsburgh with the Bruins this weekend, and there’s no guaranteeing he’ll be back there as a player again after this upcoming series. I have a hunch he could be a real problem for the Pens. Either way, we should probably enjoy it as much as I enjoy the picture at the top of this post. Or hell, as much as I enjoy this amazing outfit of Jagr’s. The NHL hasn’t seen too many like him.
Well, maybe after a 46-save performance, it’s time to replace Tomas Vokoun and go back to Marc-Andre Fleury. Win, and you’re in, after all, and the coach Dan Bylsma has to go with the hot hand. Vokoun stopped 27 shots in the regulation period, but not the 28th.
Of course… that’s absurd. Tomas Vokoun has been excellent since taking over in relief of Fleury in advance of the fifth game of the first round against the New York Islanders. Heading into Sunday’s game, the Penguins had won four consecutive, finishing off the pesky New York Islanders and taking the first two from the Pesky Sens.
At the trade deadline I bet a friend of mine straight up, taking The Field vs. the Pittsburgh Penguins. When the New York Islanders made it 5-4 in the fourth game of the series, I thought I might have him beat. “Surely, these are just the Islanders,” I thought. “Good as they are, one of the Bruins or Senators is going to have to take them down, right?”
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When the bells rang out in Nassau Coliseum to indicate that it was six-past-Fleury on Tuesday night, a very real question starting surfacing around the hockey world: who in the hell do the Penguins start in Game 5?
We now have our answer:
So what now? Is this the right call?
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(Click to enlarge)
Since the last lockout, the NHL’s Calder Trophy for Rookie of the Year has only gone to a non-forward twice (defenseman Tyler Myers, 2009-10, Steve Mason the year before). And really, it’s tough to pick a d-man because of the glamour-factor. “Oh, he was reliable and super-young, neat-o.”
Well, the Wild have launched a campaign for one of their own to break that mold, 19-year-old d-man Jonas Brodin (because apparently they’d like to owe him more when his entry level deal is up?). One of our best measures of NHL value these days is time-on-ice, especially for defenseman. The Wild made their case in the infographic above (“he’s super young and plays a ton”). Is Jonathan Huberdeau’s 28 points in 46 games enough to top him?
Nearly a decade ago, Martin St. Louis had a pretty good year. He was 29-years-old and playing on a darn good hockey team. He climbed from being very much not a point-per-game player to far more than that. He led the NHL in scoring at the end of the regular season (right when it was at its pre-lockout slogging worst – 94 points got the job done), edging out Ilya Kovalchuk, Joe Sakic, Marcus Nasland and a 25-year-old Marian Hossa. He scored 24 points in 23 playoff games, the Lightning won the Stanley Cup, then he hopped on a Pegasus and flew to Mount Money where he was greeted by Victoria’s Secret models on clouds of fluffy cotton candy. If my memory serves me correct, anyway.
But he didn’t get fat and happy and watch his stats go in the tank as so many NHLers do once their age begins with the number three. He’s played in 613 NHL games since (only missing seven games, including a run of five straight 82 game seasons), and scored 651 points in those contests. The Lightning have only been back to playoffs three times since The Year, but it certainly hasn’t been for a lack of him contributing.
But all NHL players enter into decline eventually (oh humanity, you cruel beast), and 37 seems like about the time you’d expect to see some. Or like, lots. But nutrition and training have changed over the years, and we’re seeing more and more older players maintain value into their later years. Teemu Selanne was nearly a point-per-game guy last year over age 40, Jaromir Jagr is still doin’ it to it, and Patrick Elias remains a viable offensive threat. And if there’s anyone who seems to be into fitness and nutrition…
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