Apr 232013
 

Listen to the following exchange between Chicago Blackhawks defenseman, Duncan Keith, and TEAM 1040 reporter, Karen Thomson: audio link to TEAM 1040

Karen Thomson: Well, there was something there it looked like maybe it was a penalty.

Duncan Keith: Oh no, I don’t think there was anything. I think he scored a nice goal. The ref was right there. That’s what the ref saw. We should get you as a ref maybe, eh? First female referee.

KT: Yeah, maybe. I can’t skate though.

DK: Can’t play probably either, right? But you’re thinking the game like you know it. Okay, see ya.

I know Keith was pissed off. I would be too if my team got beat in a big game and if I was on the ice and the Sedins burned me on a couple of goals.

For context, here’s the play in question:

Maybe it’s not enough to swing his stick like a baseball bat at Daniel, but what a jerk way to respond to a reporter.

Was Keith being sexist in his remarks? Was he being a dick? You be the judge.

Apr 232013
 

It’s like the Canucks flipped the proverbial switch last night. I mean, after all their 40-minute efforts and 10-minute wins, they played perhaps their most complete game of the season and beat the rival Chicago Blackhawks by a 3-1 score.

It was an eventful night, with the Sedins producing their usual share of Sedinery, the newly-formed Higgins-Roy-Kesler line showing some chemistry, and even Max Lapierre played his most annoying game of the season (in a good way).

20-year old Frankie Corrado also made his NHL debut. After spending most of the year in the OHL and suiting up for not even a handful of games with the Chicago Wolves in the AHL, Corrado logged 17:20 of unsheltered minutes last night and looked anything but a raw rookie playing in his first-ever NHL game.

Not bad, kid. Not bad.

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

Feb 022013
 

Are you ready for this? I hope so, because it’s Canucks v. Blackhawks baby!

That is just unnecessary and uncalled for. 80′s music is amazing thank-you very much. I now officially declare it 80′s night.

Now, on to the game.

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

Feb 012013
 

The Canucks celebrate their April 2011 playoff series win over the Blackhawks (Photo credit: Reuters)

I’m looking forward to tonight’s big match-up between the Vancouver Canucks and their nemesis the Chicago Blackhawks for a few reasons.  I’m intrigued to see how Roberto Luongo plays against his arch-rivals as the fascinating goaltending saga goes on.  I’m eager to see if guys like Zack Kassian and Keith Ballard can keep up their strong play.  I’m looking forward to some quality time with my lovely wife Gail (who patiently puts up with my blogging shenanigans).  And I wonder if there will be any retribution for Duncan Keith for his dirty hit on Daniel Sedin at the end of last season.

Just 21 months ago, I witnessed the same two teams clash in the best game that I’ve ever seen live.  Of course, I’m talking about game 7 in the first-round of the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs.  There had been so much drama and unrest leading up to game 7 as the Blackhawks had won three straight games to tie the series and bring the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Canucks to the brink of elimination.  There were questions about the officiating and questions about the Canucks goaltending (apparently the more things change the more they stay the same).  In fact, Roberto Luongo had been pulled in both games 4 and 5 before Cory Schneider was given the surprise start in game 6.  Schneider then was pulled in game 6…but due to injury.  Add in the fact that the Blackhawks had eliminated the Canucks in the second-round the two previous years and you can see why the game meant so much.

The atmosphere in Rogers Arena was incomparable that evening; there was a noticeable excitement, intensity and nervousness in the crowd the entire night.  I’m sure you remember the game details very vividly: how Alex Burrows scored early in the first and even had a chance to put the Canucks up by two with a penalty shot early in the third period.  How Jonathan Toews tied the game up with only two minutes left in the third period scoring from his knees with an amazing short-handed effort.

The 17-minute intermission between the third period and overtime was among the longest 17 minutes of my life.  I remember very vividly that the crowd sat in stunned silence for the entire time.  My buddy Mike and I, both of us never short for words when at a Canucks game, didn’t say a word to each other for the duration of the intermission.  There wasn’t really anything to be said.  We were about to witness history: either the Canucks were about to exorcise the Chicago Blackhawks demons or they would complete one of the greatest meltdowns in NHL playoff history.

We didn’t have to wait too long for a sign.  And it wasn’t a good one.

Just 24 seconds into the extra frame, Alex Burrows took a holding penalty on Duncan Keith on what seemed like a harmless play behind the Chicago net.  On the ensuing power-play, Roberto Luongo made an absolutely amazing save on Patrick Sharp’s one-timer from five feet away.  In watching the save countless times, I will say that it wasn’t Luongo’s most difficult save of the season.  But it certainly was his biggest.

You know the rest: just two shifts later, Burrows intercepted Chris Campoli’s clearing attempt, deftly dropped the puck to his feet, and slapped the winner over Crawford’s blocker.  The goal set off a wild celebration both on the ice (remember Victor Oreskovich jumping around looking for someone to hug?) and in the stands.  It’s certainly the loudest I’ve ever heard the crowd at Rogers Arena…rivaled only by the roar after Kevin Bieksa scored in game 5 vs. the Sharks to send the Canucks to the Stanley Cup Finals.

That’s why I look forward to Blackhawks-Canucks games.  They always seem to be intense and exciting contests.  We’ll see what drama unfolds tonight.

Mar 302012
 

When Zack Kassian arrived in Vancouver, one of the first words out of his mouth was the following:

They’ve got a great team here, and I’m just going to try to be a small piece in a big puzzle.

Oh Zack, we all know that’s not going to be possible in this hockey fishbowl.

Since he arrived on the scene, fans have been watching closely, scrutinizing and analyzing every little detail of his game. There have been bright moments, like his first three games as a Canuck, where he combined for 16 hits, a goal, and an assist. His fight with Brad Staubitz against Montreal and his skirmish with Duncan Keith in Chicago also stand out.

There are the naysayers, too. On some nights, Kassian has been stapled to the bench during crucial moments. Part of that has to do with Alain Vigneault’s unwillingness to play young players when the game’s on the line, and part of it has to do with Kassian’s play has been somewhat inconsistent.

On occasion, he has that gusto where he looks like he’ll take a player’s head off. On others, he’s losing puck battles in corners and slower than Steve Bernier.

But perhaps one of the most underrated aspects of Zack Kassian’s game is the intimidation factor he has when he’s on the ice. He has a presence, one which the team cannot say they boasted before.

When Kassian is on the ice, opponents are aware of it. Put together on a line with Mason Raymond and Henrik Sedin, neither player gets bogged down in a post-whistle scrum when Kassian is out there. If either Raymond or Sedin gets shoved around, Kassian enters the scrum and all of a sudden it gets dead quiet. Everyone shuts up and moves along.

That can be a very powerful weapon in the playoffs.

Against Chicago, Kassian challenged every single Blackhawk on the ice, and no one wanted to drop the gloves. That’s the kind of power and intimidation very few teams can buy. Kassian is feared, and in the playoffs, he can provide the kind of spark the Canucks will need when the going gets tough.

So don’t just take notice of what Kassian is doing in the game. Notice his game within the game, because that can be equally important.

Mar 242012
 

As you’ve all most likely heard by now, the Shanaban’s verdict is in – for his elbow to the head of Daniel Sedin, Duncan Keith was suspended for 5 games and will forfeit nearly $150,000 in salary.

For the Canucks, it’s a hollow victory. While Keith’s suspension is significant – and pretty much what most expected – it doesn’t bring Danny back. In fact, the Canucks confirmed yesterday that he did suffer a concussion and will be out of the lineup indefinitely. And if he’s still unable to play when the postseason begins, how do the Canucks replace their leading goal scorer?

Whether you’re a Canucks fan or a Blackhawks fan you agree or disagree with the severity of the punishment, you have to admit Brendan Shanahan has doled out his supplemental discipline with relative consistency. Moreso than in the past, similar hits seem to get similar punishments and we can understand them better thanks to the always popular Shanaban videos. Shane Doan’s hit to Jamie Benn’s head resulted in a 3-game suspension for Doan; Rene Bourque’s on Nicklas Backstrom resulted in a 5-game suspension; Andy Sutton’s on Calder candidate, Gabriel Landeskog, resulted in a 5-game suspension. As much as some Canucks fans wanted to see Keith miss playoff games as well – which would have meant a suspension of at least 8 games – this was an unrealistic expectation given Keith’s history and Shanahan’s M.O.

Immediately after Keith’s hit, I wondered whether or not the league was doing enough to deter these dirty hits. Coincidentally, Shanahan himself talked earlier this week about his use of suspensions to change players’ behaviors (via ESPN Insider, subscription required).

“The standard of what is illegal or legal doesn’t change,” Shanahan said. “For the most part, you’re looking at things in seven-game clumps. It’s a seven-game season each series.”

(snip)

“I can attest to this as a player, if you ask me if I’d rather have a four-game suspension in November than a one-game suspension in the playoffs, I’d take the four-game suspension in November,” Shanahan said. “If you think about it, that one game in the finals is the equivalent of a 12-game suspension. I don’t feel we’re in the punishment business, we’re in the changing player behavior business. You do that by getting a player’s attention.”

But if you want to get the players’ attention, wouldn’t you want to send a stronger message than a 5-game break two weeks before the playoffs begin? What is there to deter a similar incident from happening tonight when the player knows he’ll sit the last few, and in some cases, meaningless regular season games and be back playing when the most important games start?

In a way, it’s very similar to the NHL’s approach to managing officiating games. While no one from the league would ever admit it, we all know that a hooking penalty in the first period is not a hooking penalty in third period; an interference penalty is an interference penalty when committed against a team trailing by 3 goals halfway through the game but not when committed against a team leading by 3 goals in the last 5 minutes of the third period. If you’re a team trailing in the late stages of the game, why wouldn’t you clutch and grab and hook and hold when you know that chances are those penalties won’t be called?

If you want to change players’ behaviors, make it so that a 2-minute minor in the first shift of a game is a 2-minute minor in the last. If you want to get the players’ attention, make it so that an offense egregious enough to warrant a 5-game suspension in the regular season is a 5-game suspension in the postseason.

It wasn’t even a year ago that Aaron Rome was suspended for 4 Stanley Cup Finals games – or 48 regular season games using Shanahan’s formula – for a hit that even the NHL deemed to be a legal, hockey hit that just happened to be 0.4 seconds late. Yes, Shanahan has been consistent, but when you look at the number of the league’s top line players who have been knocked out this season because of dirty hits, maybe it’s time to raise the standard.

Or re-raise it. Again.

Only then will we know the NHL is truly serious about upholding player safety, about eliminating head shots, about protecting its stars, about protecting its players, and about protecting its product.

Mar 212012
 

Duncan Keith can sound contrite all he wants, but the video evidence is damning.

First, the puck is nowhere near Daniel Sedin.

Second, Keith threw an elbow and targets Danny’s head.

Add Henrik’s allegations that Keith had threatened Danny before the hit and Brendan Shanahan should have a helluva time reviewing this one. (Brad Ziemer via Twitter: 1, 2, 3, 4)

Henrik on Keith threatening Daniel before hit: “You have to ask Keith. He’s a tough Canadian guy so I am sure he is going to be honest.”

More Henrik: “It’s one of those hits where things were said before from a certain guy and he did what he wanted to and that’s too bad…

More Henrik: “But again, they are the tough team over there and we’re the diving bunch so I guess there’s not much to say about that.”

Henrik on Daniel’s injury: “He didn’t continue playing and that’s usually when it’s bad because he likes to play hockey.”

Now, I don’t believe Keith is a dirty player. Far from it. However, this was still a dirty hit – a blatant head shot the kind of which the NHL has been trying to eliminate.

When you look around the league and see guys like Sidney Crosby and Nicklas Backstrom sitting out more than half a season because of head shots (and others like Jamie Benn who are victims of such but luckily escape serious injury), you have to question if the message is sinking in.

Or wonder if the NHL is really, seriously doing enough to deter them.

In tonight’s case, the price Keith paid for his transgression was a two-minute minor penalty. On the other hand, Danny, the Canucks’ leading scorer, is injured for an unknown amount of time. A two-minute minor penalty for that. That’s a hell of a deterrent, ain’t it? It’s up to Shanny now to determine if that’s sufficient.

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