May 182014

Round 2 of the 2014 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs was a barn burner all-round. Every series felt like a legitimate rivalry even though some of these teams, like the Anaheim Ducks and the LA Kings, had never met in the playoffs before. Here’s the best and worst of it.

Brendan Gallagher, Zdeno Chara

Best Series: Boston Bruins vs. Montreal Canadiens

Original Six. Longstanding rivals. Good versus evil. These games had everything – the good (Carey Price and PK Subban’s performances), the bad (Thornton spraying Subban with water mid-play), and the ugly (the racist rantings of some Bruins fans). In the end, the intensity elevated the Habs play and seemed to throw the Bruins off their game with their big lines doing much of nothing.

Worst Series: Pittsburgh Penguins vs. New York Rangers

This was bad because for some reason, after being up 3-1 in the series, the Pittsburgh Penguins checked out. For me, the best series are battle right to the end, and this is the only series that wasn’t that. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Chris Kunitz and all that undeniable talent were deniable after Game 3. This can’t be laid on their goalie this time. It was disappointing to watch therefore, worst series.

Milan Book

Biggest Loser: Milan Lucic

Lucic wins this award not because his team lost, but because of the way HE lost. His childish, unsportsmanlike antics – spearing guys, being a sore winner taunting the Habs when Bruins won, death threats in the handshake line – make him not just the biggest loser of Round 2 but a life loser in general. Lucic, I’m embarrassed that you’re from Vancouver and even from Canada. You have a lot of growing up to do, punk.

Biggest Hero: PK Subban

I didn’t like this guy until this series. Sure, I never disputed his talent, but I thought he was an overemotional, hot-headed punk. Not anymore. I don’t know exactly when PK Subban became a poised, confident player but the change was noticeable this series again Boston. PK didn’t let the racist taunts, the bully antics of Thornton or the death threats of Lucic throw him off his game. He didn’t escalate it in the media when he honestly had every right to. Instead, he seemed to channel it into improving his already stellar play. His offensive defence was a major factor in the Habs nabbing the series.


Best Beard: Jeff Carter

Blondes aren’t known for thick beards, but Carter grows a Grizzly Adams one in the blink of an eye. And it’s got ginger in it, which is hot. The man is already talented and gorgeous, the thick, full beard just adds to it. Now if only he had more teeth… thanks Duncan Keith.

 Worst Beard – Patrick Kane

Speaking of ginger – Kane’s seems super orange this year. Like he used Sun-In or something. And, yay, it’s fuller than previous years but it’s an unkempt mess. And then there’s the mullet… shudder.

Jan 072012

I’m confused about the NHL quickly rescinding Milan Lucic’s game misconduct after the Canucks’ 4-3 win over the Boston Bruins.

The league is apparently saying that Lucic was on a legal line change, and thus was allowed to be on the ice while the line brawl was happening. But I have a couple of issues with this.

With a hat tip to the poster from HF Boards who pointed this out, first is NHL rule 70.1 which states:

70.1 Leaving the Bench – No player or goalkeeper may leave the players’ or penalty bench at any time during an altercation or for the purpose of starting an altercation. Substitutions made prior to the altercation shall be permitted provided the players so substituting do not enter the altercation.

It’s obvious from the many replays that Lucic was still on the bench when the brawl started. You see him standing in front of the bench for a long time before getting on the ice. And when he gets on the ice, he immediately joins in the brawl.

But secondly – and perhaps more importantly – was Lucic even supposed to be – legally? – on the ice?

The NHL’s own time chart doesn’t have Lucic on the ice just prior to the brawl.

Now this makes sense as it was Lucic’s line coming on the change. And on the replay, you do see Gregory Campbell and Daniel Paille leaving the ice and David Krejci and Nathan Horton coming on.

The problem is, Lucic was supposed to come on for Shawn Thornton, and obviously, Thornton hadn’t left the ice yet as he was fully engaged with Alex Burrows and the other Canucks.

Maybe the league has a better explanation than this, but from what I’ve seen, I don’t know how Lucic can escape the automatic suspension for leaving the bench to join an altercation.

Nov 132011

In hockey, there are two types of intimidation.

There’s the kind of mental intimidation a team imposes before a game — where a team knows it will win games before the puck is even dropped (The great Soviet Union teams of the 1970s and 1980s will attest). And then there’s the other, more obvious kind: physical intimidation.

The Boston Bruins are the poster boys of physical intimidation.

Lost in the Bruins’ steamrolling over the Sabres on Saturday night was when Ryan Miller came out of his crease to play the puck and saw Milan Lucic — all 220 pounds of him — barreling down on him and hitting him at full speed. Miller got up quickly and had some choice words for Lucic after the game, but for the most part, the Sabres didn’t really respond and fight back.

Now I could give you the ol’ Don Cherry spiel about how players should be policing themselves and how if you do something that violates the hockey player code, you’re going to pay the price. But that issue’s been beaten to death, so I’ll spare you that.

The Lucic fiasco last night harshly reminded me of Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals, when Brad Marchand used Daniel Sedin’s head as a human speed bag, clocking him with six jabs before a referee stepped in. Daniel Sedin, like the Sabres last night, didn’t fight back. The Canucks, on that night, with the game already out of hand, didn’t fight back.

And looking back, that incident might’ve been the final nail in the coffin for the Canucks. With their blueline already depleted, the Canucks’ inability to fight back gave the Bruins the kind of mental advantage they’d need to win Game 7. For so much of this series, the Bruins bulldozed and bullied their way en route to winning the Stanley Cup. Hindsight may be 20/20, but it leaves me curious as to what the end result would have been if the Canucks not absorbed all the bullying the Bruins laid down on them.

That kind of intimidation is a big part of how the Bruins operate. Physically, they’re a daunting team; Lucic, Nathan Horton, Shawn Thornton and Johnny Boychuk are all over 215 pounds, while Zdeno Chara at 6-foot-9 and 255 pounds is the undisputed king of intimidation.

It’ll be important to keep this x-factor in the back of your mind when the playoffs roll around again in April. You get the sense Mike Gillis keyed in on that intimidation when he brought in Byron Bitz (6-foot-5, 215) and Dale Weise (6-foot-2, 210 pounds) into the fold. You can also bet the team is hoping Aaron Volpatti will keep up his physical play for long stretches, too.

%d bloggers like this: