Tag Archives: NHL

Surprise: Goalies are the key in the Stanley Cup Finals

1 Jun

Roberto Luongo // photo courtesy of David Steadman

No position is more vital to playoff success than the goaltender in hockey. The 2011 Stanley Cup Finals feature two of the NHL’s elite. So who will be the difference?

Statistically, Roberto Luongo and Tim Thomas have had almost identical playoffs. They both have 12-6 records, 2 shutouts and have 2.29 GAAs.
But those stats are misleading.

Luongo got off to a rough start, being benched in favour of Cory Schneider (pff), before showing why I’ve been calling this guy the NHL’s best goalie since 2005. Since closing out the defending champs, he’s only allowed 2.18 goals per game, and has posted a .932 save percentage.

While never having to ride the pine, Tim Thomas has lacked Luongo’s consistency as of late. Sure, he posted two shutouts against Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference Finals, but he also had four games where he allowed either 4 or 5 goals. Surprisingly, the Bruins actually won one of those games.

That won’t happen against the Canucks.

Tim Thomas needs to be better for the Bruins to win // photo courtesy of rubyswoon

Both teams need their goalies to play well, but Boston needs it more. Boston prides itself with their defensive style of hockey. But how good are you when 4 or more goals are scored four times in a playoff series? The Canucks have scored 3 or more goals in 11 of 18 games, against some of the league’s top defenders (Chicago’s Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, Nashville’s Shea Weber and San Jose’s Dan Boyle) and scored at least 3 goals every single game against San Jose in the Western Conference Finals.

Vancouver has all the momentum. They’re firing on all cylinders at a time where the Bruins can’t keep the puck out of their own net. While I believe Tim Thomas should have been the regular season MVP, he needs that version of himself to show up for his team to have a chance.

Prediction: Vancouver in 6

Chara not suspended after Pacioretty breaks neck

9 Mar

Montreal Canadiens’ Max Pacioretty suffered a broken neck and concussion after having his head run into the stanchion (the bar between the bench and the glass) by the Boston Bruins’ Zdeno Chara during the second period of Tuesday’s game in Montreal. Chara received a five-minute major and a game misconduct.

Bruins captain Zdeno Chara wasn't suspended for his hit on Pacioretty/ photo courtesy of Dan4th Nicholas

On Wednesday, the NHL ruled that despite the injury, Chara would receive no further punishment.

“After a thorough review of the video I can find no basis to impose supplemental discipline,” said Mike Murphy, NHL Senior V.P. of Hockey Operations in a statement. “This hit resulted from a play that evolved and then happened very quickly — with both players skating in the same direction and with Chara attempting to angle his opponent into the boards.”

Murphy said that when making their decision, they considered that Chara “had not been involved in a supplemental discipline incident during his 13-year NHL career.”

Montreal was leading 4-0 when Chara made the hit. In the previous match-up (Feb. 9) between Boston and Montreal, the teams combined for 182 penalty minutes. Another game (Jan. 8.) ended in a skirmish after Pacioretty shoved Chara after scoring the game-winning goal in OT.

According to the NHL rulebook, an illegal check to the head is “a lateral or blind side hit to an opponent where the head is targeted and/or the principal point of contact is not permitted”. In regards to boarding, “the onus is on the player applying the check to ensure his opponent is not in a vulnerable position and if so, he must avoid the contact”.

If the onus is on the player to avoid injuring an opponent in a vulnerable position, how is Chara not responsible for Pacioretty’s injury?  Chara admitted that he knew how close they were to the bench when he made the hit. Under NHL rules, it’s his responsibility to know how dangerous a hit into the stanchion could be, and should have avoided it.

The league’s decision is interesting, but unsurprising. This season, many players – including many of the leagues’ stars – have suffered concussions or similar injuries as the result of hits to the head.

Sidney Crosby has been out since January 6 with concussion-like symptoms. / Dan4th Nicholas

Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby has missed over 25 games because of a concussion, which has been attributed to two illegal hits made in separate games. The first hit wasn’t ruled a penalty, and the second only garnered a two-minute minor. Neither player who hit Crosby’s head received suspensions or fines by the league. It’s unlikely that Crosby will return this season. Other elite players like Pat LaFontaine and Eric Lindros had their careers shortened due to dangerous hits to the head.

The two most notorious moments in recent memory are Todd Bertuzzi’s suckerpunch from behind on Steve Moore and Marty McSorley’s piñata swing on Donald Brashear. Bertuzzi – whose attack was in retaliation for a headshot Moore took on teammate Markus Naslund earlier in the season – was suspended indefinitely (although due to the 2004-05 lockout, he ended up missing only 20 games), and McSorley was suspended for a full year, and never played another NHL game.

This season, the NHL implemented a new rule regarding illegal checks to the head, and although they’ve handed out 22 head-shot related suspensions this season, only two of them have been for more than six games. Both instances were for New York Islanders’ winger Trevor Gillies, who received his second suspension (10 games) in his first game back after serving a nine-game suspension.

The NHL has a major problem. Rule 48 has done nothing to deter hits to the head, because the league rarely enforces its new rule, and refuses to adequately punish guilty players when it does.

Chara says he didn’t intentionally slam Pacioretty into the stanchion. But that doesn’t matter. He put him in a dangerous situation that resulted in a serious injury, and should have been punished for it.

Don Cherry swears on live TV

6 Mar

During the “Coach’s Corner” segment in the first intermission of Saturday’s Leafs/Blackhawks game, CBC analyst Don Cherry uttered the word “chickensh-t” on live TV.

The term was used to describe a trip made by Ville Leino on Thursday night, when the Philadelphia Flyers hosted Toronto. Leino was racing with Leafs’ defenseman Luke Schenn, and in an attempt to avoid an icing call, reached out his stick and tripped Schenn.

Just hours earlier, ESPN college hoops analyst and former coach Bob Knight – forgetting that his microphone was still turned on – derided the Baylor men’s basketball team for playing “chickensh-t defense” on a pregame segment of ESPN College Gameday. Moments later, ESPN apologized.

This is not the first time for Cherry. On May 2, 2009, he “dropped an F-bomb” in a segment after a playoff game between Chicago and the Vancouver Canucks.

UPDATE at 9:59 p.m. 03/05/11:

While CBC has not commented, Cherry’s slip of the tongue has been edited out of the clip on the CBC website.