Archive for the ‘Week in review’ Category

Sigh. And here I thought today’s youth would usher in a new era of creativity.

In a week that saw playoff hopes end in varying fashion, there was something Charlie Sheen-esque about the demise of several playoff hopefuls. Yes, the man that’s equal parts glory and colossal failure can be linked to the game of hockey beyond Chris Pronger.

For glory, we turn to the Leafs, a team that finally had its slim playoff hopes buried on Tuesday, but gained league-wide respect along the way. Toronto’s season started with a swift injection of false hope in the form of four-straight wins, and then the usual list of injuries and December dull-drums followed. As Don Cherry astutely pointed out Saturday night (did I just describe a Cherry observation as “astute”?) if two of those injuries happened just a little earlier, the Leafs could be facing off with Washington this week. James Reimer’s emergence followed injuries to Jonas Gustavsson and J.S Giguere, and the young goaltender may have saved Ron Wilson’s job.

The Leafs transition into the offseason with a sense of accomplishment and hope, two things that haven’t hovered around the franchise in quite some time. The Dallas Stars have no idea what this feels like after their disappointing effort Sunday against a Minnesota team that finished 12th in the Western Conference. Dallas’ start was unexpected, and Brad Richards’ concussion began the spiral, with the Stars winning only four of the 10 games he missed in late February and early March. But hey, you should have known about Dallas’ impending demise, because we called it months ago.

So before we look ahead to the playoff matchups starting this Wednesday–and trust me, we’ll be doing plenty of that–let’s look back on not only the week of failure and missed opportunities, but other areas where the seven-month grind took a wayward turn for teams that fell just short.

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Beyond those crazy green men in Vancouver, it seems much of the hockey crowd creativity is stuck in the minor leagues.

We’ve reached that point in the season when we’re always counting something.

Leafs fans are counting how far back they remain in their pipe dream of a playoff hunt, in which the hockey gods are routinely concocting nightmare scenarios (see: Sunday). Habs fans are counting the number of goals their team has scored in the past six games, an effort that takes eight fingers. And Sabres fans are counting how many medical opinions Ryan Miller has received, hoping against hope that somewhere Dr. Nick can work his malpractice magic.

Most of all, we count down until the end of the season. The playoff races are exhilarating, but we’re ready for beards, mullets, and emotional CBC montages oddly mixed with early 90′s grunge. We’ve ready for overtime periods on top of overtime periods, causing that hangover-like affect throughout the office the following day, and the pride in being able to say that you beat the overtime, and stayed up until the final goal.

But out of every emotion we’re preparing for that comes with playoff hockey, the one that stirs the most anticipation is surprise. More specifically, the excitement of watching an unpredictable performance, whether it’s the goaltending heroics that we saw from Craig Anderson and Jaroslav Halak last year, or Joe Pavelski scoring nine goals over a stretch of 10 playoff games.

For that kind of youthful exuberance, it seems fitting to look to the game’s youth.

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Oh NHL.com. Never, ever change.

As we peer through the murky, muddled waters of the playoff picture, ever so slowly some clarity has emerged thanks to the events of the past week.

We see the East, where the eighth place Sabres now hold a five-point lead over the Hurricanes, and have seven points over the Leafs, a lead accumulated after Buffalo earned all six points available in Week 24 over their three games. And we see the West, which remains the far closer race, with just five points still separating fifth and ninth. But given the intense closeness of the West throughout the second half of the season, even a small gap is notable, and three points now divide the ninth place Flames and the eighth place Blackhawks.

But most of all, we’ve observed mounting and in some cases haunting questions for teams bound for the playoffs.

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The Week in Review returns this week with a slight format change. Don’t worry, Gary Roberts, we won’t have any typos (maybe). That would be too much, man.

Shots to the head have been heard continually around the NHL this past week, ending with Matt Cooke’s now infamous elbow to the noggin of Ryan McDonagh that resulted in his longest career suspension. The Elbow was the weapon of choice for the week, as prior to Cooke’s incident Dany Heatley was suspended two games for an elbow on Steve Ott, and Brad Marchand was also given two games for his elbow on R.J Umberger.

Heads kept rolling when Patric Hornqvist was fined $2,500 for his elbow on Tyler Seguin. The final tally was four incidents resulting in some form of discipline, and a week when most–but certainly not all–have agreed that the NHL finally made the correct decision after throwing a large object at Cooke.

We’ve covered the ongoing black and blue marks on heads around the NHL extensively this week. We provided a handy  head shot template, attempted to read the minds of elbow-givers, warned against “discipline theatre,” and hypothesized that the only way dangerous hits will be eliminated is through the banishment of any hit to the head. Head shots are clearly a major issue, and given the head-ramming events of the past week and the glacial pace of the NHL, the issue won’t be going away any time soon.

But if you don’t mind, we’d actually like to talk about hockey for just a little bit, because some playoff races have heated up over the past week.

Shall we?

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After going goal-less for an eight game stretch early in January, Marian Gaborik is contributing at a decent pace now, with 14 points over his last 17 games. Must have been the milk carton.

When Maple Leaf Gardens closed its doors for the last time in 1999 and permitted the rats to have full access to the building, a banner in the rafters was brought from the old rink to the Air Canada Centre, the Leafs’ new home. The banner was a touching bit of sentimentality that read “1931-1999: Memories and dreams.”

That still hangs high above each Leaf home game. Soon, we’ll discover if a couple minor edits need to be made because of the Leafs’ yearly February and March teasing, creating memories of false hope.

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For the second week in a row, the Week in Review has been pushed to Tuesday due to some Monday craziness. This is a travesty, and it’s painful to watch the post I love turned into a sideshow, but not as painful as Ron MacLean’s shopping sprees at The Bay.

There are certain words and insults that are tossed around far too loosely. This week’s word of choice was “hypocrite.”

Mario Lemieux was slapped with that label mere minutes after his public statement on the discipline handed out after the nightmare at Nassau. A fight-filled affair between the Penguins and Islanders that mercifully ended with 14 fighting majors, 21 misconducts, and 346 penalty minutes Friday night left a black mark on some of the players, and the game.

While some were content to cast Lemieux aside as the hypocrite because he enables Matt Cooke, an equal army came out in his defence, supporting the Pens owner with the “I’m with Mario” hash tag on Twitter. The Islanders/Penguins fight crossed the line of sanity, but it’s a line that as fans we’ve push the game towards gradually by rising to our seats the moment the mitts fall.

Only two nights earlier we were all yelling and fist-pumping as the Bruins and Habs engaged in a similar 1970′s style beatdown. The outrage wasn’t nearly as loud when Tom Pyatt and Jaroslav Spacek acted as human speed bags.

So, aren’t we all a little hypocritical?

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Alex is on the trading block in Ottawa and his career is winding down, so it’s good to see he’s making post-hockey plans.

Welcome to the dog days of the hockey season, a time when the bizarro is normal. If it’s easier, think of the NHL season like an Emmy Award winning soap opera.

At first there’s the zany bubbling plot (the Blues leading the West in October). Then, the storyline is kick-started by some traumatic event. It’s often a car accident (Sidney Crosby’s injury) or perhaps a freeway pileup (Crosby’s injury combined with Evgeni Malkin’s busted knee). Then, when the protagonist is on their deathbed, an old flame returns, re-igniting dormant emotions (Peter Forsberg’s comeback).

It all moves fast, and can be immensely confusing. But at least we have a Rick DiPietro injury to bring a sense of calm and normalcy.

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