Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

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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 »

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Last night was bad news for the Columbus Blue Jackets. They played a great first game on the road in Pittsburgh. They twice led, once by two goals. They outshot the Penguins. They kept the Pens big guns from doing much damage. And they still lost.

Game 1 came down to Sergei Bobrovsky: he didn’t make the stops he normally would, and it cost them what realistically could’ve been a win.

Pittsburgh managed a Houdini-like escape from the close contest with the “W,” but if they hope to improve in Game 2, which they most certainly do, they’re going to need a bit more from Sidney Crosby between the whistles, and a bit less after them.

The Penguins captain played fine in the first contest, picking up an assist in a game that saw him spend the lion’s share of the game in the o-zone. But watching him play, I couldn’t help but think that part of what makes him so great – his competitiveness – also hinders him occasionally. It most certainly allows opponents to (wrongly) feel on his level.

Over half of Crosby’s ice time in Game 1 was spent against Brandon Dubinsky, a player who takes great pride in antagonizing his opponents, particularly ‘ol number 87. And, while he periodically ignored Dubinsky early, Sid eventually found himself caught up in the personal battle, which is exactly what Columbus wants. He seems unable to let the hacks and whacks go and settle for dominating between the whistles – he engages. Remember the battle vs. Claude Giroux that got the best of him?

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Pittsburgh Penguins' Crosby fights with Philadelphia Flyers' Giroux

Crosby is one of the most efficient point-getters in playoff history – the guy knows what he’s doing – but I think the Penguins would benefit in this particular series from him dismissing the pests on Columbus like he’s covered in Deep Woods Off, rather than flailing wildly every time they buzz around his head.
Read the rest of this entry »

Avs Ducks

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I’ve said this numerous times throughout the second half of this NHL season, but I believe the Boston Bruins are the Stanley Cup favorite–not because I believe they’re head and shoulders above every team in the league, but because they’re head and shoulders above every team in the East, and whoever gets out of the West will have to fight multiple wars before dragging the remainder of their one-legged battle-weary troops to the Stanley Cup Final.

For a team from the West to win the Cup, they’re going to need to get out of a playoff series or two in less than six or seven games. Every extra game you lace them up with the physical play of the post-season, the pace, the necessity of shot-blocking and all the rest, you’re taking a little off your players video game-like health meters, and are risking more team-crippling injuries.

So, naturally, playoff seeding in the first round matters. And boy-oh-boy, are things getting tight atop the Western Conference standings.

Let’s look at the three (almost four) teams who have the most realistic shot at winning the Western Conference and drawing Minnesota/Dallas instead of the slightly-more-terrifying Los Angeles/San Jose/Chicago.

The St. Louis Blues

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The St. Louis Blues are currently first in the Western Conference with 111 points. As you can see, they have three remaining games.

Remaining schedule: At Minnesota (7th), at Dallas (8th), Detroit at home (7th, East)

Read the rest of this entry »

Alex Ovechkin

Much like the blooming of the cherry blossoms, the official end of winter in Washington is often heralded by scurrilous whispering that Alex Ovechkin, multiple Rocket Richard winner, is really what’s ailing this team.

Interestingly, with so many other problems with the Capitals having presented themselves over the last few months — with team makeup, roster selection, player usage, penalty killing ineffectiveness, leaky defense, outright lousy goaltending, bad luck, etc. etc. etc. etc. — this is actually the latest the rumblings have really started to crop up over the past few years (more often, it’s in February). But the fact that they’re cropping up again nonetheless is frankly bizarre.

This is the reigning league MVP, coming off scoring 32 goals in 48 games to win his third Rocket Richard in six years, and who is as of this writing a goal away from breaking 50 for the fifth time in nine seasons. But still the criticism lingers, because he’s the most visible athlete in the city (all apologies to John Wall, Bryce Harper, and Robert Griffin III), playing on the richest AAV in the league by nearly $1 million, and his team is the smoldering crater of a turd meteor.

Someone has to answer for it, and it’s probably going to be Adam Oates, but people love blaming stars for their teams’ problems, so blame Ovechkin they will. There are a whole hell of a lot of reasons that the Caps would, of course, be foolish to trade Ovechkin now, or probably ever, but the chief among these is obvious:

He’s incredible. Read the rest of this entry »

evander kane 3

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If we’re all okay with taking some not-so-massive leaps here, I’m gonna go ahead and say that Evander Kane is not happy in Winnipeg, and the Jets aren’t too thrilled with him either.

The short version of the latest flare up is that the Jets were going to play in Toronto…

…Kane went out, and it’s possible he had a bit too much fun.

Now, I don’t know that he slept in and missed a team event in the morning, but I know enough about hockey players, the lifestyle, and passive aggressiveness that I feel okay making that ca-raaaazy leap.

So, after that Kane was seen chatting with his agent in the hall (doesn’t mean anything, most players do, but when you’ve got another four years on your deal and just got healthy scratched as a young star “talking to your agent” certainly carries heavier overtones), and the next day he found himself in front of the camera, remorseful and apologetic about the unknown reasons for his absence.

Nah, I’m kidding, he was pretty indignant about the whole thing. Read the rest of this entry »

alex ovechkin

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Not sure if you’ve heard this tasty little tidbit yet or not, but Alex Ovechkin is minus-4,000 in his 2013-14 NHL campaign. I mean, if you’re rounding. He’s actually minus-36, which is a few worse than the likes of Nail Yakupov (-33), Alex Edler (same) and Steve Ott (-31). Winning the “green jacket” for being the farthest “below par” during a hockey season requires a combination of being on a bad team, playing a good amount of minutes, and usually not being great defensively.

But it’s Alex Ovechkin, so this has been a big thing. He’s going to lead the league in goals, and (might) finish last in plus-minus. That’s a pretty special accomplishment. Also, he’s Russian, so that whole stereotype gets the Mario-finding-a-mushroom bump in some eyes.

The problem is, his coach just made the spotlight on him stronger, which he probably didn’t enjoy. Adam Oates had this to say about Ovi’s defensive effort on the Stars fourth goal during a completely embarrassing 5-0 loss at home in the midst of a playoff race. From Katie Carrera of The Washington Post:

“Ovi quit on the play coming back,” Coach Adam Oates said. Whitney “forced [the play] down the ice and just goes to show you you’ve got to hustle the entire time, the whole entire time.”

Carrera corrected herself that it was Dustin Jeffrey that beat Ovi down the ice on the play.

Here’s the play in question:

As a winger – as any forward, actually – you don’t really have to get back to the zone as fast humanly possible when your team has “numbers” (enough people to cover those on the rush). What you do have to do, is shoulder check, and make sure your desire to be lazy and save your energy so you can use it offensively doesn’t leave your team in a bad situation. As in, if it’s a 3-on-3 headed back towards your own goal, you need to, at the very least, stay a step ahead of whoever their fourth guy is. Usually it’s a d-man who won’t try to press by you, but you do need to be sure. (Your coach will say you need to get back ASAP, but you’re usually fine dawdling.) Read the rest of this entry »

carey price

As the NHL schedule winds to a close, there’s still a number of playoff matchups to be determined. In the West, however, it’s almost certain the Chicago Blackhawks will be going head-to-head with the Colorado Avalanche thanks to the NHL’s new format that sees the two and three seeds from every division face each other in round one. In the East, that format makes it clear that Tampa Bay and Montreal will be paired up to duke it out.

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And damn, is that going to be one close playoff series.

The Lightning are 7-1-2 in their last 10 games, while the Canadiens are 8-2-0 over that same span. Both teams are playing well during a time on the NHL schedule when teams begin scrapping for every last point they can muster, which is a real testament to the make-up of both groups. Tampa scores a bit more (barely), while Montreal gives up fewer goals (barely). They both rely on undersized forwards who contribute. The both have great goaltending. They are, if you haven’t picked up on the direction I’m headed here, very similar teams.

So then, the differences that will decide their inevitable series:

Goaltending

Carey Price and Ben Bishop have been two of the NHL’s best goaltenders this year, both potential Vezina candidates in a year filled with many. Their comparables (Bishop on top, Price on bottom): Read the rest of this entry »