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Monday Playoff Round-Up, Plus Videos!

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As per usual, if you’d like to read my writing in coherent, organized form, here’s my latest piece for USA Today.  It’s on “those moments” that unify a team throughout the year, and how a team needs them to be dangerous in playoffs.  Cool?  Alright then.  Lets move on.

*****

BUFFALO / BOSTON

Johnny Boychuck hit that Matt Ellis guy, and I immediately thought “there’s not way that guy is a regular NHL player”.

 

 

(No one on the Sabres could even fake anger on that one.)

Have you ever seen someone skate for so long with the puck before getting hit by someone right in front of him?  At the NHL level?  He’s not even looking back for a pass, or trying to make a move, he’s literally looking down at the puck like a rec leaguer, to make sure he has it while he gets on his horse.

So, I pulled up his career stats to learn about the guy - I’m a little befuddled, and looking for some answers.  This year he had 3 and 10 for 13, so he doesn’t score.  He played in 72 of 82 games, but only had 12 PIMS, so he doesn’t fight much.  I assume he grinds it out, but usually grinders take a few PIMS, have a few scraps, somethin’. 

Sabres fans…. defend your boy!  That play was bizarre.

And then to top it off, Mark Recchi hits Tim Kennedy, and Kennedy looks like he was upset that Recchi was trying so hard.  There wasn’t even any effort to get up and back into the play by Kennedy.  Totally disheartening if you’re on the bench, and you watch your teammate get that pwned.  And of course, kudos to the old guard – he made a smart play with the puck the second he got it too, and two was all the Bruins would need! 

Fun series.  Weee!

*****

VANCOUVER / LA

This series is making me bummed that they’re playing each other, cause I want them both to advance.  Very fun to watch.

It’s already becoming clear that there won’t be a person in the media who doesn’t pick Doughty to win the Norris next year (if they didn’t already vote for him this one).

Kid is slick.

{Quick Tangent – I couldn’t help but think last night – okay, as of tonight, current playoff teams are going with Andrew Raycroft, Carey Price, Semyon Varlamov and Brian Boucher in net.  Oh, and Antti Niemi.  And Jon Quick.  And Jimmy Howard.  And honestly, I’m not sure who Ottawa’s goalie is.  Elliot?

Having a “great” goalie has gone from being a necessity to a perk (not that guys like Jonathan Quick aren’t great, they’re just not “established” yet).  Having a Ryan Miller is a plus, not a need – in the clutch ‘n’ grab NHL days, you had to have Brodeur, Roy or Hasek to win your 1-0, 2-1 games.  I almost put Ed Belfour in that category, but couldn’t quite bring myself to do it.}

But back to Vancouver / LA.  It’s such a coin flip series, and LA brought the absolute FIRE on the penalty kill last night.  Vancouver looked like they expected LA to let them cruise in, set up and have some fun, y’know, like they’re supposed to.  They got straight up outworked.

As for the Kings powerplay/Canucks penalty-kill, I’m giving blame to the ‘Nucks over praise to the Kings.  LA, to their credit, is doing the right things.  But they’re not reinventing the wheel.  They’re doing what every coach wants: move the puck quickly, get shots through, have traffic in front, and hunt for rebounds.  Vancouver has to do a much better job staying in lanes if they want Canada’s collective mental breakdown to be postponed to at least round two.

*****

WASHINGTON / MONTREAL

It was only a matter of time until the team that ended the season with the most points (by a runaway) pulled a complete game together and pumped Montreal.

Classic picture

It’s just too bad it had to happen when Varlamov was in net.  Not because I don’t wish the guy success, but because now Washington is the exact same team as last year:  Good enough to beat the bottom 26 or so teams in the league just by having that much better of a team, but when they have to play one of the three that can press ‘em, uh oh, goaltending issues!

Then again, I can’t help but feel it’s only a matter of time until a somewhat-bad goalie wins a cup, and it very well could be this year. (As I’m writing this, I see Gary Greene is praising Semyon for being “absolutely brilliant”.  Herrrre we go.  Someone give Osgood the tap too!)  I just thought that when Caps fans were praising Theo’s 18-0-2 end-of-the-year finish, he must have refound his Vezina form.  Hmm.  If you can’t trust fan analysis…. who can you trust?

*****

For those of you you who didn’t get around to following Link Fest ’98 I hosted on Twitter yesterday, here’s the highlights.  Enjoy.  Oh, let’s kick it off with a beauty….

 Mreow.  I want my cat to do this.

Brian Burke’s press conference announcing the Phaneuf/Giguere trades:

Dany Heatley giving a tour of his home in my lovely hometown of Kelowna:

A quick Spezza interview:

You could waste your whole day checking out Ottawa Gh0st’s work on YouTube (it’s a zero, not an “o” in Ghost – thanks for that annoying twist, buddy).  It’s masterful.

Comments

25 Responses to “Monday Playoff Round-Up, Plus Videos!”
  1. KForbes says:

    Was the called off goal by Vancouver a kick?

    It feels like Washington has woke up and are going to supremely outclass Montreal for the rest of this series. They scored a hundred more goals than the Canadiens (no joke) during the regular season and they are quite simply the superior team. Montreal had the benefit of playing against a snoozing Caps team in Game 1 and the first half of Game 2, but now…
    If you’re Jacques Martin, who do you go with in Game 4? Price?
    (as a sidenote, Ottawa/Pittsburgh feels kinda similar too, where Pittsburgh’s woken up and coming into playoff form).

  2. Andrew says:

    It’s Tim Kennedy not Tyler, our Tyler is 6’8″.

    Also Matt Ellis was just making sure he got the puck out of the zone after sustained pressure (rather than giving it away like the rest of his teammates).

    Sure he isn’t very skilled or very tough, but he hustles on every play and never stops skating. I suspect he was brought on to teach the youngsters a thing or two they can’t learn from Roy, MacArthur et al.

    I believe that the Sabres have some very serious locker room issues, bringing back Grier helped, but I get the impression that many of the ‘soft’ sabres just don’t give a damn, so it’s refreshing to see guys like Ellis and Kaleta skate hard every shift even if they don’t have much skill.

  3. jtbourne says:

    Nice, a defender! Fair enough – it’s he’s “not tough or skilled” and made the NHL, he must do something right.

    However, I suggest he may want to attempt a different method of “getting the puck out of the zone” than what I would describe as the ‘suicide bomber method’. He doesn’t need to sacrifice himself to get that job done, I promise.

  4. jtbourne says:

    KForbes – Yeah, the goal was called a kick – it was probably intentional, but if you can redirect a puck into the net while making a hockey stop, you’re hardly cheating. I liked @TSNBobMcKenzie’s take on it on Twitter – http://twitter.com/TSNBobMcKenzie if you care to follow his latest argument. I was indifferent about him until Twitter …he seems much more “real” here. He’ll actually engage idiots, which I find entertaining.

  5. Char says:

    Is Ellis teaching the youngsters how to carry the puck? Yikes!

    Best thing about that hit was Ellis grabbing at his head while he’s lying on the ice. Holy delayed reaction, Batman!

  6. Andrew says:

    haha I completely agree, Miller also had this to say about Pat Kaleta (on being banged up), ‘We’ve got to start teaching him not to lead with his face that much’.

    One of the reasons many Sabres fans have been upset the last few years is the lack of perceived toughness. Sure, winning quells that criticism, but when the team misses the playoffs 2 years in a row and is perceived as being soft the natives get restless.

    I digress…

    One thing is for certain, Ellis got blowed up.

  7. Pat says:

    Brian Elliot’s the goalie for Ottawa. He went to Wisconsin, you probably played against him

  8. jtbourne says:

    Yup, there it is, Elliot. Leclaire’s in Buffalo, isn’t he? I made the fix – for those of you reading this, I guessed Leclaire was in Ottawa. (And actually, good call Pat, I did play against Elliot…. my bad).

  9. Sherry says:

    Really nice work on the USA Today piece Justin (I gave it a Recommend – sorry no commentary, too busy…).
    Anyway, about that whole team ethic, that’s why I love hockey so much. The guys care about each other and play for each other and we, as fans, care about them and can almost feel like we are part of the “family”.

    Here’s a nice (tangential) piece about playing with heart and how important that is. http://www.ottawasun.com/sports/hockey/2010/04/19/13643061.html

    Go Pens!

  10. KForbes says:

    One of the funniest things I’ve seen is Bob McKenzie on HFBoards (he posts there occassionally) calling some kid who was speaking far too much on a topic he didn’t understand at all, an ‘assclown’.

    I like what McKenzie says about further clarifying the rule. Sadly, it takes an incident like this to bring attention to the troubles with interpretation. The question then becomes whether this is enough attention or not. I mean, it doesn’t really harm the game if pucks off skates, kicked or not, are allowed to count as goals. Sure, make sure the skate doesn’t leave the ice for safety, but it’s not like the game will suddenly become soccer on ice.

  11. KForbes says:

    Leclaire is on the bench in Ottawa behind Elliott.

    Lalime is on the bench in Buffalo behind Miller.

  12. Mike says:

    Great article at USA Today. I think this is one of the main reasons why the playoffs are so f’n awesome.

    Regarding Vancouver’s kick- I thought it was by accident until the overhead re-play. In which I saw an unbelievable display of athleticism. That was ridiculous. Should have just given him the goal.

  13. James says:

    Ellis is “gritty” but he’s not a cross the line hitter like Kaleta and he’s not a mitt dropper like Mair.

    He’s kind of like a broke a$$ man’s Mike Grier.

    Mike had 14 PIMs this year…..

  14. minnesotagirl71 says:

    What the heck was that cat looking at?

  15. nightfly says:

    One of the most impressive no-goals I ever saw was by Todd Bertuzzi after he’d lost his stick. He took the puck in his skates, soccer-dribbled it a bit along the goal line, and when he reached the net, he fed his right skate with his left skate and scored.

    Ellis grabbing his head reminded me of somthing that happened recently in our rec league. Kid got bounced off the puck at the blue line and crumpled like he’d been hit by the Zamboni. As I came by I said, “Aw, come on, kid!” He immediately bounced back up and charged at me. Cost his team a power play, too, when he gave me a shove and asked me to fight him. Well, at least the kid was OK. Ah the healing power of snark. Wish it would for my knee.

  16. jtbourne says:

    I’m haunted by a “no-goal” when I was in Bridgeport. The fastest game I ever played in was against Hartford in the AHL. Crazy fast. It took me a few shifts to get used to pumping my legs so hard even while trying to do skill things.

    We were down one with about ten left in the third – most definitely the last shift I was going to get – and I was on a 2 on 1, without the puck. The guy passed, and I had an open net. Someone caught me (and my stick) at the last second, so I hockey stopped the puck towards the goal. It went in five-hole.

    Looked pretty innocent, big celebration, ref skates to give the goals and assists…. but no. A linesman catches him, and they eventually ruled it off. Fuckery.

  17. neil says:

    I don’t think it would necessarily have changed the fact that the Nucks PK was brutal and the Kings played well, but that was a bad no-goal call, considering they overruled the call of the ref on the ice and made a decision that went the opposite way all season long in such cases (shouldn’t you at least be on solid ground if you’re going to overrule the on-ice call?). So for those of you keeping score at home, that’s a blown goal call mid-comeback in game 3 and a questionable too-many-men call by a linesman in OT in game 2. This shit always makes me think of the NBA official scandal, because you always think “no way could officials ACTUALLY be on board with this conspiracy theory shit”, but yeah, in the NBA, they totally were and most of them have gotten away with it to this day. Company men perhaps? I can handle bad calls in the NHL but when those bad calls directly influence the outcome of a game, my brain starts whirring…
    That being said, LA is playing well, the Canucks’ PK is MIA, and there seems to be a pattern forming where the Canucks outplay LA for periods 1 and 3 but then suck so badly in the second that it doesn’t matter.
    That Ottawa Ghost stuff cracks me up.
    I’m glad you found the standing cat, Amy was thinking of sending that to you. We actually trained Griff to balance on his back legs when he gets treats/food. We got him to stand up and touch his nose to the treat before giving it to him, then moved on to only giving it to him if he stayed up for a couple seconds, then only if he kept his paws down and balanced for longer, and boo-ya, standing circus cat!

  18. neil says:

    Here’s Mike Murphy, former LA Kings player, LA assistant coach, and LA head coach (and now current NHL V.P. of hockey operations) explaining why it was called back.
    - http://www.cbc.ca/video/#/Sports/Stanley_Cup_Playoffs/Vancouver_Canucks_vs_Los_Angeles_Kings/ID=1473457543
    From the rulebook — “A puck that deflects into the net of an attacking player’s skate who does not use a distinct kicking motion is a legitimate goal. A puck that is directed into the net by an attacking player’s skate shall be a legitimate goal as long a no distinct kicking motion is evident.”
    From Murphy’s interview — …”it had to be the skate, in not a distinct kicking motion, but in a kicking motion”

    Murphy says two months ago the league sent out a DVD to the players that “doesn’t circumvent the rule, but it’s an adendum to the rule to make sure that they understand when we have these plays, they’re not gonna be easy, they’re gonna be difficult”. If he agrees it wasn’t a distinct kicking motion but claims it was close enough to be called no-goal, then yes, by definition he is circumventing the original rule.
    Sorry for the rant people, but how this call got made and how this guy got put in charge of an LA playoff game boggles my mind. Ron MacLean is a former ref, look at his face at 1:16 when Murphy explains the call. I’m not suggesting this was the only reason the Canucks lost that game because it clearly wasn’t, but did Mike Murphy seriously just go back on several years of precedent in game 3 of the playoffs to overule an on-ice call in favour of his old team? Did that really just happen?

  19. Madeleine says:

    Much Guelph love to Doughty, much love.

  20. neil says:

    Ok I’ve cooled off a little and I’m pretty sure I overestimated the likelihood of a Kings-Murphy conspiracy :)

  21. Meg Jarrell says:

    Thanks for showing my boy Drew Doughty some well-deserved love, Justin. As we say here in Cali, you’re one righteous dude! Doughty for Norris!

  22. Fish says:

    Matt Ellis decided to skate the puck out after every other sabre on the ice tried to clear the puck out the zone after a couple of minutes of constant pressure by the Bruins. And every attempted “clear” was intercepted before the puck reached the blue line.

    Bruins D had the boards covered and caught 5 – 6 pucks in a row. (you can see Boychuck come over from the right side). At least Ellis forced them back far enough so that Boychuck could really swing into him.

  23. tomo says:

    i’m not an expert but no way that cat is NOT looking at the birds.

  24. tomo says:

    wrong article :) . not an expert.

  25. crushasaurus says:

    Proteau picked Duncan Keith and Nicklas Lidstrom in front of Doughty. Somehow.

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