Gross Misconduct Hockey Thoughts from a drifter on the hockey landscape

04/23/2008

Round 1: Mission Accomplished

Filed under: Dark Ages,NHL playoffs — Joe Yerdon @ 5:21 PM

Suffice to say I think we can say that Round 1 was an overwhelming success for not just this blog, but for the NHL in general.

This playoffs has seen the defending champion Ducks get shown the door. This is good because these guys weren’t playing hockey in the first place and if anyone was kicking around the idea of emulating what they do in order to ensure success…forget it.

The Devils get the boot and that too is good because it means that Lamoriello-hockey takes another blow. After all, it was Lou and Lemaire that helped seal the deal for ushering in the Dark Ages of hockey. I’ve cooled in recent years on Lemaire but Lamoriello has shown that even without Jacques Lemaire he continues to run the organization the same cheap and awful way.

The way that shows that they’d rather not be bothered paying out for offensive skill players.

The Sharks bagged the Flames, finally, after seven games and did it all thanks to NHL ’94 legend, Jeremy Roenick. Think about that for a second: Roenick was to video game hockey what Bo Jackson was to Tecmo Super Bowl and all of that happened in the early ’90s with the exception being that Roenick is still playing.

What’s more amusing is reading reactions from people who at one point in time really despised Roenick and now find themselves saying, “Ahh you know what? Get it done J.R.” Incredible.

Also incredible in the process of last night’s game was Mike Keenan ensuring that he’ll have at least one superstar hating his guts next season as he yanked Miikka Kiprusoff after giving up four goals on thirty shots. Curtis Joseph then came in and gave up one more on one of the first shots he faced. Oops.

Oh, by the way, the Flames lost 5-3.

The Bruins bowing out quietly in the seventh game against Montreal, in hindsight, was rather predictable. The Bruins sucked it up enough the playoffs to make a show of things, inspire the locals to a degree (at least to the level where they may have actually drowned out the noise being made by the Canadiens fans that routinely take over the Garden), and even get some long since dormant “fans” to pay attention again.

That said, the Bruins played tough until Montreal scored to make it 1-0. Once the Habs were on the board, Operation “We Feel Good For Making It This Far” was on in full effect. After two periods it was 3-0, and then the Canadiens while up 4-0 score a fifth goal with five seconds left on Tim Thomas to throw a little salt in the wound and an extra kick in the junk.

If the NHL garnered as much attention and hype as Major League Baseball, I have no doubts whatsoever some sort of mythical story line would be tied into a Montreal-Boston matchup and it would be laced with a story that explains why the Bruins can never seem to get the best of the Canadiens.

Hey, why not, it worked for the Red Sox in dealing with the Yankees and made a mint for Dan Shaughnessy who fabricated the entire “curse” story to sell a book. Perhaps they could run with letting Bobby Orr end his career wearing a Blackhawks sweater and the Bruins never recovering since. After all, they haven’t won the Stanley Cup since Orr was on the team and scoring legendary goals.

So there we go, done deal! It’s the Curse of Bobby Orr everyone! Bobby Orr is the guy who shut the lights off in two different Cup Finals against the Edmonton Oilers (1988 and 1990). It was Bobby Orr who told John Muckler to rest Petr Klima up in 1990 and haphazardly put him out on the ice in triple-overtime to score the game winning goal. It was Bobby Orr who injured Cam Neely, not Ulf Samuelsson. It was Bobby Orr who told Harry Sinden to both not pay Raymond Bourque and then not surround him with capable talent so he could stay a Bruin forever and make a run at one more Stanley Cup Final that would ideally not feature the Edmonton Oilers, Wayne Gretzky or Petr Klima.

That said, even the loss of the Capitals to the Flyers can’t totally keep me down and mainly it’s because I have the comforting thought of knowing full-well that the city of Philadelphia will have another gut-wrenching loss in the playoffs set to be delivered to them. It doesn’t matter if it comes at the hands of the Canadiens, Penguins or Rangers – two of those teams the Flyers have a blood feud with – it’s going to be great to see. The Flyers have been on par for class and guts this year with the Anaheim Ducks and that’s no compliment.

In a Flyers fan’s mind, they think they’re going all the way and those sissies from Montreal, those assholes from Pittsburgh and those motherf-ckers from New York sure won’t beat them! No freakin’ way! Excitedly for myself and many others, it will be one of them to get rid of them and send the misery meter up one more notch in Philadelphia.

The only real downside to the Capitals losing is that it prevents us from seeing Sid the Kid and Evgeni Malkin from taking on Ovechkin and Backstrom in the second round. Say what you will, but Bettman had the perfect opportunity to take what he learned under Stern and to put it to use to set up a real dazzler of a matchup.

Much like everything else, however, Bettman fails to put the hit out to guarantee this will happen. Perhaps he was too preoccupied hoping that Detroit would put Dominik Hasek back in the nets to keep the Predators involved in the playoffs. You know, to benefit the game and spread it to non-traditional and new markets (read: to spur on another buyer to pay a ridiculous amount for a team whose fans just remembered where the arena was last week).

That said, Detroit not failing (and looking tough to deal with in the final two games) draw their former blood rival, the Avalanche. Yes, that’s right Woody Paige and Mark Kiszla and Adrian Dater – former blood rival. After all, if this was still the same old thing the Avalanche would be winning some of these matchups with Detroit.

But they’re not. Detroit has put the boots to Colorado the last few years now and the only thing that’s the same about these two teams is the Colorado lineup, thanks to this year’s trading deadline. Peter Forsberg? Adam Foote? Why not go find Adam Deadmarsh and Mike Keane while you’re at it.

The key for Detroit in the series is to make sure that Andreas Lilja and Dominik Hasek don’t find their way into any games. Colorado is a bit of a wild-card at this stage, but they go from dealing with a 0.5 dimensional offensive team in the Wild to a much tougher and lethal offensive team with Detroit. Colorado will need Forsberg in every game they play from here on out and Sakic needs to keep being a hockey deity. The real Jose Theodore also needs to not show up as well. He could’ve beaten Minnesota wearing no pads and I assure you, Detroit will be a bit more intense.

As for San Jose and Dallas, this leads us to our other directive for the second round: Eliminate Dallas. Dallas brings nothing fun to the table at all and the only reason they were being rooted for in the first round was to God’s work to eliminate the cheating Ducks. You’ve done your duty boys, time to pack it in…for the benefit of the game.

To recap, what we want out of the second round:

  1. The elimination of the Philadelphia Flyers
  2. The elimination of the Dallas Stars

I figure we’ve cut down on the teams, I can cut down on my demands. Philly and their goon squad and the Stars and their boredom can take a powder. Either the Rangers or Penguins bring the goods into a Conference Finals matchup, same goes for Detroit and Colorado (although I’d rather not see Peter Forsberg and his flopping ways not go any further).

Remember, this is all about what benefits the game the most and I’m trying my hardest to be objective. Something here is bound to fail – what it will be has yet to happen. Let’s hope that Herr Bettman stays asleep at the wheel and doesn’t make a move for a Dallas vs. Philadelphia Finals.

05/15/2007

It Had To Happen Eventually

Filed under: boring,Dark Ages,Devils,trap — Joe Yerdon @ 7:13 PM

That’s right, the Buffalo Sabres finally played a real stinkbomb of a game. Luckily for them, Ryan Miller was in tip-top form and beyond. He really played out of his mind.

Of course, into each life a little rain must fall. One unlucky bounce followed up by the ever opportunistic Daniel Alfredsson putting it away and right there you had enough goals to determine an outcome in Game Three.

I mentioned yesterday that this absolutely was a gut-check game for the Sabres and given how everyone not named Ryan Miller played…well, it allows us to think of more than a few negative words and phrases to describe what it was the Sabres were doing out there.

All that aside, tip your caps to the Senators who stymied Buffalo all night long. The Sabres couldn’t get shots away nevermind on the net. Which leads me to some things I’ve been reading around the web forums. Call it sour grapes if you’d like, but there was grumbling coming from the ten or so New Jersey Devils fans saying that the Senators play the same way the Devils do but yet the poor wittle Devils take all the heat for it.

Not so fast there Aqua Net Brigade – let’s take a timeout here.

First of all, while it’s true the Devils weren’t the first team to employ non-hockey playing tactics in order to win hockey games (the Canadiens of the 1970s were) there’s a fundamental difference in how the Devils have and still do play hockey compared to how those Canadiens teams played it and how a team like the Senators plays it.

The Devils are, unfortunately for those of us with the distinguishing hockey eye, a well-oiled machine full of suck. They throw up the Berlin Wall across their own blueline when retreating back on defense. Their two forecheckers hang tight to the center red line, sometimes dropping one of those men back to make the wall across the blue line even more formidable. In my mind and in the mind of a lot of people who grew up watching the same hockey I did in the 1980s find this to be almost embarassing. After all, if professional hockey players can’t condition themselves to keep up with the guys they’re playing against…why does that make it OK now to have defensemen essentially be offensively retarded just so they can eat up space defensively, skate backwards and drag their stick across potential passing-lanes.

This style of defensive play was taught by Jacques Lemaire (now coaching and boring folks in Minnesota with the Wild) a former standout with the Montreal Canadiens during their dynastic days of the 1970s. Devils General Manager Lou Lamoriello seeing that Lemaire had a school of thought that met his approval and the approval of the bottom line of the company became the most ardent follower of Lemaire’s instructions.

All of the many coaches Lamoriello has hired, fired and re-hired again have all been made to follow the rule book: Play the dry, trapping, don’t bother to play offense style….or else I’ll fire you after you’ve gotten the team a playoff spot and I’ll take over and either hog the glory you’ve earned or drive the bandwagon into the river. Larry Robinson, hall of fame defenseman, is in particular Lou Lamoriello’s version of Billy Martin, which is sad in and of itself since Larry Robinson isn’t anywhere near as fiery a personality as Martin was otherwise I have the feeling Robinson would’ve done us all a favor a while ago and socked it to Lamoriello.

But I digress.

The point of this ramble here is that while yes, the Senators are playing some hybrid variation of the kind of “hockey” that generally drives me insane and makes me wish the Plague upon whoever decided to do that – they’re doing it differently. The Sens don’t spend the entirety of the game skating backwards and just waiting for teams to skate right up to them and dump it in the zone over their heads ending any and all ability to skate forward and generate offense. The key to beating a trap is to attack it and hit it in the mouth and make guys snap out of it. Buffalo hasn’t even come close to showing the fire needed to do this – all the while Ottawa still sends guys to attack once they’ve got the puck rather than dumping and chasing after it as well, something that turns hockey into the worst game of Pong ever created. Imagine if you played Pong and no one scored and the ball just bounced all over the screen with no way to make a result happen.

There, that’s what you get with the Devils/Wild/Ducks variation of “hockey” these days. Everyone had wrongly assumed that the trap as we knew it in the Dark Ages would be a distant, horrible memory – meanwhile rational thinking folks pulled examples out of the European Leagues about how teams would figure out a way to make it work and continue to employ it and well, what do you know….teams did just that same thing here. Rather than accent on speed and skill they continue to accent on slowing things down, interfering with guys chasing on the dump-ins and setting picks that the referees have suddenly started letting go once again now that we’ve reached the playoffs. BAD PRECEDENT!

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