Jun 032014
 

Injuries, overtimes, near-goalie fights and sudden death wins. The Eastern and Western 2014 conference finals had more action that an episode of Game of Thrones. Okay maybe that’s a slight exageration… but not by much. Allow me to recap the best and worst of it.

hawks, kings, stanley cup playoffs, nhl, chicago, los angeles

Best Series: Chicago Blackhawks vs Los Angeles Kings

This series had some of the best hockey this entire NHL season has seen. Goals, hits, near goalie fights. And of course, a come-from-behind Game 7 win by the underdog team. It was incredible.

Both teams are so filled with talent that it was even fun to watch their fourth lines battle it out. Plus, on the bench it was like watching Grumpy Cat coach against Yosemite Sam. Pure awesomesauce.

Worst Series: Montreal Canadiens vs. New York Rangers

After such a big, emotional win against the Boston Bruins and an emotionally-disturbed Milan Lucic, this series was bound to feel a little less exciting. But it wasn’t just the energy that lacked, it was the Habs offense. As the games went on, the whole Montreal team began to resemble a deflating balloon. They were done. They weren’t coming back. Add to that two kind of chirpy, whiney head coaches and you’ve got a frustrating series.

new york rangers, nhl, chris kreider, carey price, playoffs, stanley cup

Biggest Jerk: Chris Kreider

Chris “Ice is slippery” Kreider. Jonathan Quick, watch yourself. This professional hockey player can’t seem to stay on his skates near goalies. Rangers fans will tell you he was pushed into Marc-Andre Fleury and Carey Price. Hockey fans know there’s a way to avoid contact and a way not to. If your legs are caught up in a stick, you fall face first, not skates-first, like he did when he ended Carey Price’s playoffs. This guy is making this a habit and it’s not cool. In the end, losing Price wasn’t what caused the Habs to lose the series, but if it happens against the Kings too, this guy better get a suspension.

Biggest Hero: Dustin Tokarski

This kid could have ended up curled up in the back of his net, sucking his thumb and crying for his mother and no one would have blamed him. He’s the back-up’s back-up, fresh from the farm team, and was thrown into the starting goaltender’s role in the Eastern Conference Finals for a team with the most rabid fan base on the planet. But Tokarski rose to the challenge, and in the end, you really couldn’t blame the Habs losses on the goaltending. He was a hero even if his team didn’t advance.

2014 playoffs, stanley cup, nhl, tyler toffoli, marc staal, beards

Best Playoff Beard: Marc Staal

Marc Staal of the New York Rangers proves gingers can do it, and do it well. And by “it” I mean playoff beards of course (get your mind out of the gutter). Unlike Claude Giroux he doesn’t look like a skid row muppet. His ginger facial fuzz is even, fairly full and well groomed.  He’s going to look really good losing the Cup. (Go Kings!)

Worst Playoff Beard: Tyler Toffoli (LA Kings)

Look very, very closely…. Put on your glasses. Pull out a magnifying glass. Blow the picture up as big as possible. No that’s not a caterpillar on his lip, or Cheetos dust on his chin. That’s a beard. I know the kid is like 19 or something so I should cut him a little slack but his attempt at facial makes Sidney Crosby look like a rugged mountain man.

Mar 112013
 

Yahoo Sports

I’ve been busy moving but I haven’t stopped watching hockey… well, when I can find it, which, in LA, isn’t easy. Over the last few weeks, there have been a lot of things that have me going “Hmmm”. Hockey fans’ inability to forgive, Kesler’s latest injury, and the debate about visors top the list.

Hockey Fans Hold Grudges

Matt Cooke is the devil. He could cure cancer, save orphaned kittens from a burning house and get Gary Bettman fired and people would still hate his guts. I get that the old Matt Cooke was a monster. No two ways about it. But the new Matt Cooke – the post-2011 Matt Cooke – isn’t. He’s changed his ways drastically. Need proof? Last season Matt Cooke had 42 PIMs. Henrik Sedin had 52. And I’m talking last year’s Hank, not the enforcer we’ve seen this season.

But it seems hockey fans do not forgive and forget. Because when Matt Cooke’s skate sliced Eric Karlsson during a game, fans everywhere – mostly but not just Ottawa fans – wanted him executed.

Was the angle weird? Yes. Was the leg up? Yes. But was it on purpose? No. I get Sens fans being angry because they’ve already lost Jason Spezza and they can’t afford to lose Karlsson. I know how easy it is to judge someone on their past – but just because it’s easy, doesn’t make it right. Matt Cooke has changed. The experts, and ultimately the NHL, agreed the laceration accidental. It amazes and disappoints me that a lot of hockey fans refuse to give Cooke the benefit of the doubt, even though he’s earned it.

Kesler is the New Salo

Ryan Kesler sure has a pretty physique, too bad it’s made of glass. I don’t know what is happening to this poor guy, but he can’t stay healthy. It’s infuriating because he’s got such a hefty contract and he can be a key player when he’s focused and in the zone. I guess we’ll have to blame this on bad luck, but there’s still a reason to be concerned. Kesler’s injury apparently happened in his very first game back. Now I’ve broken bones in my foot – it’s not easy to ignore. But Kesler did it.  His agent confirmed, Ryan knew there was something wrong and chose to ignore it. That’s not cool. Did he make it worse? We need him to play but we need him to do it healthy not with broken parts.

His injury and predicted 6-week recovery time means the Canucks are in a pinch on the second line once again. The problem with him being injured, for me, is we’ll probably learn to play without him.  If someone else shines in the second line spot, are we willing to give that up (in a short season) for Kesler’s return? Luckily for Canucks fans Alain Vigneault isn’t big on sticking with what works. If a line does start clicking, he’ll likely scramble it up like his morning eggs before Kes even gets back anyway.

Visors

Marc Staal is out indefinitely after taking a puck directly to the eye in a game between the New York Rangers and the Philadelphia Flyers. The accident looked as severe as Manny Malholtra’s in 2011, although the Rangers, the doctors and the Staal family are saying he should make a full recovery. Sadly, I’m not so sure because as a Canucks fan I’ve seen Malholtra’s struggles and I know that hockey teams tend to give the best case scenario to fans and media, not the actual truth.  I’m a huge fan of all things Staal and I have wondered for a long time why none of them wear visors – and not just because I find their faces particularly adorable and worth protecting. Jordan Staal took a fairly serious puck to the face a few years back. That would have scared me into a visor if I were Jordan, any of his siblings or his teammates.

Marc Staal’s injury has reignited the debate on whether visors should be mandatory. What makes me go ‘hmmm’ about this whole thing is why there is even a debate.

Visors should be mandatory – end of story. It’s a safety issue. It’s owners protecting their investments and players protecting their careers. Obviously, it’s not impossible to see through a visor. The guys that usually lead the league in scoring – Crosby, Giroux, Malkin, Stamkos – all wear visors. As for the old guys, or the “tough guys” that aren’t used to it, I say get used to it.  According to Bill Daly, the NHL is in favor of a mandatory visor rule and wanted to incorporate it into the most recent negotiations. The NHLPA wants the players to have a choice. This is the first time I’ve ever said I agree wholeheartedly with Team Bettman. It feels dirty and uncomfortable, but in this case it’s right.

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