Gross Misconduct Hockey Thoughts from a drifter on the hockey landscape

07/15/2009

New Faces In New Places: Montreal and Toronto

Because I’m a video game dork, in particular with NHL games (well, OK EA Sports’ NHL game) and the summer leaves a dearth of fun NHL news to talk about, it’s time for me to flex my video game photo taking skills and give you an idea of what some of the new players in new places are going to look like in their snazzy new uniforms.

I’ll do a few of these photo galleries because I’m that bored and I have that kind of time. Suck it.

This gallery will feature two teams who have done quite a bit this off-season. It also helps that they’re huge rivals with each other.

I bring you the newest Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens. Feel free to click the photos to enlarge them at your leisure.


Scott Gomez slams on the brakes in front of Matthew Stajan and Colton Orr.


Brian Gionta celebrates a goal he didn’t score.


Mike Cammalleri lets a shot rip from the slot while Mike Komisarek sprawls out to block it.


Paul Mara skates head to head with Colton Orr.


Mike Komisarek lurks behind the net while Garnet Exelby defends. Jonas Gustavsson holds down the fort.


Jaroslav Spacek races through the slot to let a wrist shot fly.


Hal Gill does something other than stand around.


Travis Moen celebrates like a douchebag after scoring a back-breaking shorthanded goal. Francois Beauchemin stands by stoically.

06/01/2009

Game 2: Department of Redundancy Department – Detroit Wins 3-1

Stop me if you heard this one before.

Detroit beats Pittsburgh 3-1 in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Me breaking out Yogi Berra is apparently rubbing off in a big way because not only are Detroit and Pittsburgh in the Finals for the second straight year, but now the Red Wings have come out on top of the Penguins by identical 3-1 to scores in each game this year and are once again ahead in the Finals 2-0… Just like they were last year.

Invoking more of the acid flashbacks to last year was Valtteri Filppula who scored the game-winning goal in tonight’s Game 2 in a play that’s come under some major scrutiny from at least one very famous Penguins blog. Have a look for yourself and see what you think, highlights from NBC:

The contention from the Penguins loyalists comes from the stick-work from, who else, Marian Hossa. On the play you see Pens forward Pascal Dupuis try to maneuver away while be harassed by Hossa. Hossa lifts the stick, he stick checks him all while Dupuis’ stick breaks in his hands. I’ll admit, his reaction to having the composite lumber fall apart in his hands had me fooled but after the replay… Well, that’s just crappy luck.

What stuck out to me here is that Dupuis instantly tried to sell a call and stopped playing. Now, I know selling a call is all part of the game… You don’t stop skating to yell though. Dupuis realizes a couple seconds too late that he has to keep playing and by that time, Detroit is at the half-boards and firing away and then the scrum ensues leading to Filppula’s insane backhand goal.

After all that, however, that goal wasn’t the backbreaker. Filppula’s goal made the score 2-1 but a familiar face from Game 1 was going to notch his second goal of the series and coincidentally enough it would again be the goal to make the game 3-1. The fresh-off-the-TV video from NBC:

From that point on in the third period, the Penguins were toast and it showed for the better part of the next ten minutes of play as Detroit toyed with and puck-controlled for that time. Puck control was a huge issue for Detroit in the first 30 minutes of this one as they found themselves uncharacteristically turning it over and dumping and chasing rather than staying back and patient.

Give the Penguins a lot of credit here as their forecheck forced the issue on Detroit but the Red Wings seem to always find a way to bend and not break and to resist the waves of pressure.

The one glaring issue with the series to this point, however, is the difference between the defensemen of these teams. It’s already unfair to have the Red Wings roll out there with Nick Lidstrom, Brad Stuart, Brian Rafalski and Nick Kronwall. Adding 6’5″ former NHL Draft Mr. Irrelevant Jonathan Ericsson to the mix and having him produce (he scored Detroit’s first goal tonight) and help out on the special teams with seamless effectiveness turns the tide even more in favor of Detroit.


Penguins defenseman Hal Gill in his natural state.

Pittsburgh’s extreme lack of solid play on the blue line is becoming more noticeable and bigger efforts in shutting down Detroit’s third and fourth lines, never mind the top two lines, are needed out of guys like Rob Scuderi and Hal Gill who have looked beyond abysmal through two games.

Scuderi was a -1 and Gill a -2 in Game 2 and Gill, while a solid shot blocker and space-taker-upper, is slow and prone to grabbing and holding out there something for which he should be fortunate the officials are letting go. So far through the first two games, Scuderi is -3 while Gill is a -4.

Not good.

Topping off the amazing coincidental party was how a game that was virtually decided managed to have some shenanigans break loose involving one of Pittsburgh’s super-duper-mega stars. Tonight, it was Evgeni Malkin’s turn to embarrass the Penguins as he instigated a fight with Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg after a fracas near the Detroit net, sparked by Maxime Talbot spearing goaltender Chris Osgood into flopping like Vlade Divac. Take a look:

Now, really, this whole Déjà vu thing takes a life of its own in this situation if you’ll think back to last year’s Game 2 and what occurred that night:

OK a questionable hit from a Penguins player leads to Osgood hitting the ice and then we’re playing the feud where Evgeni Malkin gets made to look really bad against someone from Sweden. Last year it’s Johan Franzen and this year it’s Zetterberg.

I really don’t know how this can play out any more similar than it has already.

The one “issue” that came up out of tonight’s schoolyard horsing around was that Malkin was booked for instigating a fight in the final five minutes of a game, something that according to the NHL Rule Book leads to an automatic one-game suspension.

Of course, if you believed the league was going to stick by that rule in the playoffs, you’re crazy as less than an hour after the game, Colin Campbell didn’t even bother to spin his Wheel of Justice and said that there would be no suspension for Malkin.

The one stark difference between this year and last year in spite of the results is the professionalism coming from Pittsburgh’s locker room, namely from head coach Dan Bylsma. While guys like Crosby and Malkin are busy running around like idiots and Maxime Talbot is too busy mouthing off at Marian Hossa or jabbing at Chris Osgood, Bylsma keeps his head held high and offers no excuses and points no fingers.

Imagine the explosion if Michel Therrien were in charge this year? Ye gods.

Here’s a look at Bylsma’s comments in the post-game press conference from tonight:

Q. Did you see the Hossa hook-slash on Dupuis before the second goal, and if so, what did you make of the whole sequence?

COACH BYLSMA: I think the way I saw the replay that our guy was trying to get the puck out. Hossa came in and used his stick to lift up their guy’s stick. You can make the judgment. The referee made the judgment that it wasn’t a hook.

I can slow it down and look at it myself and make my own judgment, but that was what happened. We failed to clear it with that hook and it led to the goal.

Pretty calm and collected there and it’s that kind of thing this Penguins team needs in that locker room so they don’t lose their heads and run around like idiots. Too bad Dan Bylsma wasn’t with this team last year.

Compare that to what Michel Therrien was ranting about after last year’s Game 2 loss:


It’s really tough to generate offense against that team. They’re good on
obstruction. It’s going to be tough to generate any type of offense, if the
rules remain the same. So it’s the first time we’re facing a team that the
obstruction is there, and we’re having a hard time skating to take away ice.

We took two penalties tonight on the goalie. We never take penalty to
the goalie in the playoff. I’ll tell you something, I reviewed those plays.
He’s a good actor. He goes to players, and he’s diving. Took away our power
play. Got to get focused. I know our players are frustrated right now. It’s
tough to play the game. But Osgood did the same thing against Dallas under
Ribeiro.

It’s like night and day.

Should the “history repeating itself” theme continue, Pittsburgh will take Game 3 and get talk of this being a series once again started in earnest. That said, if Detroit gets Pavel Datsyuk and/or Kris Draper back in the lineup on Tuesday life gets even more difficult for the Penguins because right now, they’re having a very hard time keeping up with the Red Wings AHL Invasion Unit of Justin Abdelkader, Ville Leino and Darren Helm. Adding in an MVP Candidate and a defensive face-off wizard only makes the Penguins hill to climb even more treacherous.

05/29/2008

Game 3: Wait, That’s The Best You’ve Got? — Pittsburgh wins 3-2

Once again, the Pittsburgh Penguins put in a solid period-and-a-half of effort, only this time it resulted in them potting three goals and outlasting a furious and ridiculous rush from Detroit in the final 10 minutes of play to hang on for the victory.

I know lots of folks around the league are eager to trumpet the arrival of Sidney Crosby to the Cup Finals. Netting two goals will do that after all. Pittsburgh again followed Yours Truly’s Recommendations for Victory and were able to make turnovers happen against the more “suspect” Detroit defensemen. Pressure on Brad Stuart in the first period got him to fire a pass off the skates of Henrik Zetterberg in their own end leading to Crosby’s first goal. Poor defensive efforts out of Andreas Lilja and Brett Lebda helped lead to the other two Penguins goals and now the Penguins won’t have to deal with being on the brink of elimination in Game 4.

What they will have to deal with is a defensive unit that doesn’t feature Andreas Lilja, Red Wings fans’ scapegoat for all problems defensively the last two seasons running. All signs are pointing towards Chris Chelios feeling healthy enough on his knee to get Lilja back on the bench. The Red Wings are a much more sound unit with Chelios out there and his steady play helps calm the nerves of a still somewhat green-acting Brett Lebda.

The Penguins also got the game they were looking for out of the Game 3 officials Dan O’Halloran and Paul Devorski, the latter of which stuns me as to how he’s made it all the way to the Finals as he’s been just awful all playoffs long. While he may not say it here, AOL FanHouse blogger and University of Minnesota-Duluth play-by-play man Bruce Ciskie has been highly critical of Devorski throughout the playoffs.

Don’t be fooled, penalty calls didn’t swing this game one way or the other. Both teams netted a power play goal a piece. Pittsburgh’s power play looked better at home while Detroit’s top unit still can’t quite get it together. Then again, whenever they do put one home, an official takes the time to waive it off. The folks at Abel to Yzerman have grumbled a little bit about the seeming lack of production from Mr. Universe Nicklas Lidstrom, but he’s had a couple of points taken from him by officials on a hellbent agenda.

Both coaches Mike Babcock and Michel Therrien made it clear that the NHL head office people came and talked to them about things they were absolutely going to crack down on. One of these things was clearly to turn the front of the goal mouth into the prison yard. Pittsburgh defenseman Hal Gill spent the better part of his shifts against the Red Wings top line burying the shaft of his stick into the back of Wings net clogger Tomas Holmstrom.

Gill earned two separate cross-checking calls which were called after Holmstrom finally got planted on his chest in front of the net while Gill fell on top of him to make sure he’d stay down. Gill as well as Brooks Orpik, who played the best game of his career last night, and Sergei Gonchar made it a habit of continually cross-checking Holmstrom as he camped out for position in front of the net.

The working over Holmstrom got from the Penguins defensemen as well as from Devorski and O’Halloran reminded of a story about this guy named Andy who got sent to prison wrongly and ran into this fella Boggs who had a group of friends called The Sisters. Perhaps you remember the story a little bit, they made it into a movie:

Paul Devorski (left) warns Tomas Holmstrom (right) what he’s got coming to him the rest of the game.

As I said, the officiating didn’t give too much or take away anything from either team last night, but the blind-eye taken towards what happened with Holmstrom all game long was, to say the least, shameful.

Holmstrom left the game in the third after being upended away from the play by Hal Gill. It’s unknown as of now what is wrong with Holmstrom, one early report had it as whiplash (no, seriously) but given that he was taken out at the knee, his bad knee, I’d suspect the issue is there. His status for Game 4 is unknown as of this writing.

For Detroit and their fans, a loss usually amounts to heading for the bridge to jump or to the bar to commence sorrow-drowning. Not this time says Bill Houlihan at Abel To Yzerman.

Confidence is high from the Red Wings. They’re convinced that the defense won’t have that bad of a game again. They also feel that Mike Babcock will whisper (shout, actually) all the sweet nothings they need to hear to make sure it won’t happen again.

With as poor of a game as Detroit played, and for how well Pittsburgh stuck to their plan, to have the difference in the game come down to one goal, and one unlucky post hit from Johan Franzen halfway through the third that would’ve tied the game at three, Pittsburgh has to find a way to stay as intense as they were and hope that Detroit lays a few more eggs. Detroit should also find a way to take those final ten minutes of play from the third period and be able to spread that out over 60 minutes – if they can do that, this series ends in a puff of smoke. Detroit has finally gotten tested here and they know they can’t sit back and I don’t expect them to get lazy now.

Game 4 will dictate the rest of this series. A Pittsburgh win and this thing can and almost assuredly will go seven.

If it’s a Detroit win… The season ends on Monday night.

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