Monday, April 28, 2008

Poor Matchups and Referee Mishaps Defining Playoffs (for me)

Could the matchups for the 2008 NHL playoffs be any worse than they are?

Those hoping for a Penguins/Flyers or Wild/Flames/Ducks first round matchups were instead treated to Penguins/Senators and Predators/Wings and Avs/Wild cards. Excuse me while I zonk out for those "doozies."

The Penguins throwing their last game of the regular season didn't help things much. Has anyone else seen so many open shots blatantly miss the net? I believe the tell-tale sign was six powerplays and a meager six shots on net? I recall reading that the NHL would be investigating the game. Something tells me that will drop off of the "to do" list considering the implications that could arise would not be good PR for the NHL.

On to Round 1 and what do you remember? Sean "$500 John" Avery legally waived his stick in Marty "Fatso" Brodeur's face, prompting Colin Campbell to create a new rule out of an old rule. Fatso didn't want to shake Avery's hand after the series either, another wise decision made by a role model of thousands of little kids (join the club Marty). Apparently this is becoming a trend. Brodeur isn't the only one not to shake hands in recent years. So don't lay all the blame on him. Tradition isn't only being killed by league leadership; certain players have been compelled to create new practices as well.

Side - note to the New Jersey Devils. Did you see the Penguins' response, notably Hal Gill and Georges Laraque, to Sean Avery sticking Fleury? You should have done the same. Too late.

What about the referees? They don't escape criticism. Althought I won't gripe too much about the Caps game seven loss to the Flyers, I will say that the Flyers' second goal was a carbon copy of a "goal" that was disallowed in Tampa a few weeks earlier. As a matter of fact, not only was the goal disallowed, the Capitals forward that pushed the Lightning player into their goalie was assessed a goaltender interference penalty.

And when I say carbon copy, I mean the exact same play with the exception of different players wearing different jerseys.

Which brings me to the topic of penalty standards. Has anyone else noticed that referees are calling things differently not only from game to game but period to period? While I am all for letting the players decide the game in overtime, standards have changed depending upon the score and who was assessed the last penalty. I thought the NHL was trying to eliminate his practice? If so, it isn't working. And it is a black eye for those that watch and, even more so, for those that know the game of hockey.

Funny side - apparently Gary Bettman and Colly Campbell nipped the "Avery New Rule" teeshirt in the bud at that last second, this after the NHL's marketing office, the NHLPA, and Avery approved the shirt. But Gary and Colly didn't find the humor in it. Ah, a league run by non-hockey guys with no sense of humor. You gotta love it. The NHL will be a better place when the league is run by someone with a touch of charisma.

So here we are in round two with the Pens/Rangers (finally a series worth watching), Canadians/Flyers (for the sake of the city of Montreal and it's police car inventory, the Flyers need to win this series), Stars/Sharks (please go home Joe - the Sharks are drastically boring to watch!), and the Wing/Avs (does anyone else wonder who the NHL is trying to fool by replaying the classic Wings/Avs brawls of the 90s? Newsflash, it isn't going to happen. You killed the possibility of rivalries with your new rules).

Play on. With the exception of poor matchups and penalty calling standards (there has been a lot of diving too!), the NHL playoffs are always fun to watch because of the players that leave it all on the ice night in and night out.

Update. It appears that I am not alone in my assessment of the refereeing. While I won't hammer the zebras, I will say that it is disappointing that they are constantly the center of attention.

All Things Avs - Horrible Refereeing
Here's a Start! Collie Campbell to Become Next Leaf's GM?
Ref Tells Straka to F Himself? Video Here.
Refs Under Fire in NHL Playoffs

Monday, April 14, 2008

Colin Campbell Disrespects Paul Kelly

Welcome to the NHL Paul Kelly... your job means squateushe.

And while that is not entirely true, that may very well be how some might interpret it after league disciplinarian, Colin Campbell, communicated a new rule interpretation to combat Sean Avery's screen tactics against Marty Brodeur.

Is it me or is this why we have a Competition Committee? Is it me or is this why the Board of Governors gets together every year to meet about the NHL's rules?


NEW YORK/TORONTO (April 14, 2008) -- National Hockey League Senior Executive Vice President and Director of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell today issued the following advisory on the interpretation of Rule 75 - Unsportsmanlike Conduct: "An unsportsmanlike conduct minor penalty (Rule 75) will be interpreted and applied, effective immediately, to a situation when an offensive player positions himself facing the opposition goaltender and engages in actions such as waving his arms or stick in front of the goaltender's face, for the purpose of improperly interfering with and/or distracting the goaltender as opposed to positioning himself to try to make a play."
Sure Collie may have just been interpreting a rule. But he has essentially created a whole new rule in the context of an old one.

Next thing you know, Collie will be sending notice that penalties will be stiffened for teams that fight towards the end of a playoff game. Wait a second, as reported on TSN, that has already happened too!

Paul, Paul, Paul. What will you do? This is the league disciplinarian that is essentially toying with the rules of the game in which your players play. Time to step it up Paul.

More on Avery's screen tactics:

Sunday, April 6, 2008

C-A-P-S!!! Caps! Caps! Caps!

After completing one of the most improbable comebacks in NHL history, the Washington Capitals have an opponent for Round 1 of the playoffs. The Philadelphia Flyers, victors against the mysteriously absent-minded Penguins today, will take on the Caps in what should be a very physical series between these two rugged teams.

The Caps and Flyers played to season split this year:

Nov. 2: Flyers 3 at Capitals 2
Nov. 23: Capitals 4 at Flyers 3 (OT)
Jan. 13: Flyers 6 at Capitals 4
Feb. 6: Capitals 4 at Flyers 3

From a physical standpoint, the teams match up quite well. Heavyweights Donald Brashear and Riley Cote, who Georges Laraque recently called the toughest pound-for-pound player in the NHL, could meet up a couple of times to set the tone of the series. Both teams feature a couple of pests as well... the Flyers with Scottie Hartnell and Steve Downie (if he gets a jersey) and the Caps with Matt Cooke. The Capitals are rounded out by John Erskine and Matt Bradley. The Flyers also have Mike Richards and Jason Smith to provide a physical spark.

If Daniel Briere gets healthy, it will be interesting to see if he and Alexander Ovechkin continue their on-ice feud. Two years ago, Ovechkin boarded Briere while he was a member of the Sabres. The very next game Briere speared Ovechkin in his groin. Ovechkin went on to say that he challenged Briere to a fight but was declined.

While the physical side of the series will play a role, the deciding factors will be goaltending and special teams. And while both teams have been hot as of late, the playoffs are uncharted territories for many players involved, especially those on the Capitals.

No schedule has been issued as of yet. When it comes out, it will be posted here.