The headline’s a bit dramatic, if only because who the hell knows what happens going forward with injuries and the potential for terrifyingly bad luck, but if everything stays the same as it currently sits, I feel like the Stanley Cup is waiting to be dropped from it’s dunk tank-like perch into Corey Crawford and the Blackhawks’ hands…if he can just throw a couple strikes at the target.
Last night was huge for Chicago. If Boston scores the OT winner they head back to the Windy City with three cracks to beat Chicago once. The Blackhawks would be in full second-guessing themselves mode, having blown multiple leads and having given up six. Quenneville might tinker with the lines, or the lineup as a whole. Crawford is strung up from a sturdy branch. Ray Emery starts answering more questions. The whole thing starts to unravel, because that’s how the reactionary world of sports works.
But winning heals everything, and in the process, the Blackhawks had a barrel full of back-monkeys jump off, which will entirely free their stars up mentally to play the game as they can again. Jonathan Toews starred as The Beast in the Crease and scored for the first time since May, a span of 10 games dating back to the Red Wings’ series. Patrick Kane scored his first goal of the Stanley Cup Final. Patrick Sharp got his second of the Final. Hell, they even scored a powerplay goal.
And further, Marian Hossa made it all the way through the game and now doesn’t have to play again until Saturday, which means he gets an extra day to heal up, and will definitely play in Game 5. Those of you who’ve played through injuries know just how valuable that extra day can be – where the one day off in between contests means you wake up going “Ughhh f*************k, everything hurts,” there’s the potential to feel human with the bonus day in there.
Now they’ve got two of three games in the Madhouse on Madison. Everything would be peachy and perfect if it weren’t for this one large, scary elephant hiding behind the dresser:
The hell is up with all those low-glove goals on Corey Crawford? Is this a thing? Is shooting there like using The Cheat Move in NHL ’94? Read the rest of this entry »
When the puck dropped on Game 3 in Boston last night, Chicago’s captain and the NHL’s 2013 Selke Award winner Jonathan Toews took the draw for the road Blackhawks. He’s the same dude who tallied 48 points in 47 regular season games, including 23 goals. The same guy who earned Hart Trophy votes. The same guy who won nearly 60% of his regular season draws, second best in the league. The same guy who…is centering Marcus Kruger and Michael Frolik? Are you f*****g kidding me?
Last night I tweeted about it without putting much thought into it, and missed the point entirely. I added some brackey-y stuff for clarity, but the tweet read: ”(Is) Toews being demoted, (is Quenneville) trying get B’s to drop matchup on his line, or (are they just) outta options sans Hossa? Kruger-Frolik? Yikes.”
Anyway, it’s pretty clear in hindsight that the idea was to trade Toews’ minutes as a wash versus Chara’s (anything gained is a bonus), and leave the rest of the talent to try to beat the Bruins.
Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. This is a terrible strategy, if in fact it was his strategy as many people have speculated. Read the rest of this entry »
Hockey glorifies size. It’s understandable, considering how physicality is an undeniably important aspect of the game. You need big defencemen to clear out the front of the net and big forwards who can prevent themselves from being cleared. You want players with enough size to deliver punishing body checks to create turnovers and make opponents panic with the puck. You need players who can use their body effectively to protect the puck.
Size is frequently overemphasized, however. Reading draft previews, a prospect’s bio will quote scouts going on and on about his big frame, then add in at the end ”And he can skate!” as if that’s a bonus rather than a requirement. Undersized forwards and defencemen struggle to get noticed in the minors, as less talented, but bigger-bodied teammates get called up long before they do.
That’s one of the reasons why this Stanley Cup Final match-up is so interesting to me. Despite one team’s reputation, these are actually two of the smallest teams in the NHL, showing that size doesn’t matter nearly as much as some would suggest.
On Wednesday, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety issued a one-game suspension to Duncan Keith for a slash to the face of Jeff Carter, which seems relatively fair. Shanahan’s description in the video had me expecting a longer suspension, to be honest: an intentional slash to the face by a repeat offender causing 20 stitches and dental work? That’s usually the recipe for a longer break from on-ice action.
Some people pointed out that if it was a different repeat offender in Keith’s place, such as Raffi Torres, the suspension would have surely been for longer. It’s an interesting idea, but the two players are prone to very different offences. Comparing the two players, however, gives some insight into why Torres is vilified and why Keith still seems to have a sterling reputation.
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.”
Being a referee is a hard job on your average day. In an exhibition game, in a men’s league, in the NHL and in peewee. I spent parts of a couple summers reffing, and I remember being surprised at how much my own fatigue affected my ability to be in the right place. It’s kind of like being a penalty killer for 60 minutes – the job requires a lot of stops and starts to be in the perfect position, and while you’re doing that, you need to be keeping a clear, focused mind on the action.
And hockey doesn’t lend itself to simple decisions. Big bodies whip around an enclosed area chasing a small object that passes over lines at various heights, and sometimes things simply aren’t black and white. Even with multiple cameras and slo-mo replays, it can occasionally be hard to get calls right.
So I’m sympathetic to the plight of the referee, partially because of the above job description, but also because you add to that the contempt of both teams on the ice, the coaches, and all the fans in the building. They live in a state of perpetual mistrust.
What that situation means is that all they can do is their best, be true to themselves, and hope the game doesn’t unfold in a manner like say, Chicago/Detroit did last night. Read the rest of this entry »