Friday, April 25, 2008

Knee or No Knee...

That is the question being raised following game one of the Montreal/Philadelphia series. With the score at 3-2 Philadelphia late in the third period, the Flyers Mike Richards was called for what some are saying (mostly distraught Flyers fans) was a "questionable" kneeing call. Here are some pictures to state each side's case.

From this angle it looks as if the shoulder of Richards is laying the blow on Kovalev, causing him to spin out and fall.
I believe that the angle in that picture is deceiving. From the side angle, a picture taken at roughly the same time shows that Kovalev's shoulder is well past Richards' and the knee is delivering the blow.
Either way, the call was made and Richards was sent to the box for two. The Habs managed to score on the powerplay with their net empty. They went on to win it in overtime. When all is broken down, Flyers fans have no right to criticize the referees. It was close enough not to warrant a blown call, but just a discretionary call that happened to go against them. The fact is, the Flyers blew a 2-0 lead, and a 3-2 lead late. One of their goals went in off of a skate and could have easily been called back, so not every call was made against them, like some will make it sound . Here's the Youtube video for you to decide in real-time:

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Avery Rule Now In Effect

Sean Avery is the worst kind of loser you can find. He not only gets under your skin, but he crosses the line, gets away with it, then lets you know he got away with it. What you just saw in that video was (and I use past tense for a reason) against the rules.

Rule 41 - Abuse of Officials and other Misconducts G) A misconduct penalty shall be imposed on any player who persists in any course of conduct (including threatening or abusive language or gestures or similar actions) designed to incite an opponent into incurring a penalty.

What's that you say? It was in the rule book already? Why the referee did not call it in the first place is beyond me. This is not what the NHL wants to look like. You cannot pick up your blade and wave it in front of another player's face, regardless if you make contact.

I would have been fine with a stern warning if it was anyone but Sean Avery. Another point I have to make is, this only sheds negative light on the Rangers. A leader from the Rangers (if they have any) should have stepped up and told him to settle down. I understand that it is the playoffs and you want to get into the opponent's head, but don't make it as obvious as that.

The NHL has decided to give an interpretation to the rule I quoted earlier, aiming it at Avery's antics.

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.

For one, I applaud them.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

The Mark Bell Hit: Was it Clean?

The Senators may be in trouble even though they managed the squeak into the playoffs. No, it's not their goaltending woes (which are non-existent), it's their loss of both their Captain Daniel Alfredsson and Mike Fisher to injuries. Both of the injuries occurred Thursday night in their 8-2 victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs, and both came at the hands of Leafs forward Mark Bell. A recent poll has revealed 82% of viewers think that the Sens can't win in the playoffs without their captain. The injury to Fisher is not really arguable since it was only a small collision, which you cannot blame Bell for. His injury was a fluke. The hit that injured Alfredsson, on the other hand, has been quite the hot topic.

I believe it was clean. I'm probably one of the biggest Leaf "jokers" ("haters" is just too strong) around, so this determination is not biased whatsoever. I think that if Alfredsson got up uninjured, this hit would just be on the highlight reel of every sports station and not ripped apart like it has been. Of course the reason people say he got hurt was because of the way Bell hit him.

The way Mark Bell hit Daniel Alfredsson caused him to get injured.

That is absolutely correct.

Was the hit illegal in any way? Not at all. Bell caught Alfredsson in a vulnerable position and punished him the way any good NHL checker does. If that's dirty then so be it, hockey is a dirty sport by their standards.

We should be worried much more about REAL head shots (and the people who go around looking for them), hits from behind, and protecting the goaltenders. Hits like these can stay in my NHL.

**You can vote on whether it was a clean hit or not on the top right hand corner of this site**

Friday, April 4, 2008

Potential Playoff Series: Habs vs. Caps

Before I begin, let me start by saying this is not written in stone yet, but if the playoffs were to start today, this would be the best series throughout the first round of playoff hockey. While the Capitals still require lady luck on their side, it's important to note that their chances are significantly higher considering the Flyers are going head-to-head with the Pittsburgh Penguins and New Jersey Devils for their final two games of the regular season. Meanwhile, the Capitals will be hosting the Florida Panthers for their final game -- not exactly an overly difficult game. Still, what we must keep in mind is that the Capitals do not control their destiny; so once again, lady luck will have to be sitting on their shoulder.

Throwing aside all these implications, let's look at what a possible Habs vs. Caps playoffs series would deliver. The first thing you can expect is an overhaul of intensity from both clubs. You can certainly expect Capitals goaltender Cristobal Huet to raise his game to new levels in an attempt to prove his old team wrong. Ever since the 33-year old has been traded, he's polished his game to become a much more reliable netminder. Huet was often criticized for weak goals and durability issues. Both of those things have gotten considerably better since arriving in Washington, winning his last three starts with a 0.67 GAA and a .971 SV%. One thing is for certain, the goaltending battle between former teammates Carey Price and Huet would make this one of the best series in the playoffs.

While the Habs have been scorching hot lately, Price has been better. The 20-year old goaltender has raised his game to new heights ever since the departure of Huet. While he had minor problems with questionable goals earlier in the season, he has rounded his game to become an undisputed #1 goaltender in this league. The Vancouver native has accumulated 23 wins, a 2.60 GAA, a .919 SV% and 3 shutouts in 40 games played. Sensational numbers considering he's playing his rookie season -- at 20 years old! Perhaps the best contributor to Price's success is his positional play. While he possesses a huge frame at 6'3, 226 lbs., he makes himself even bigger with superb positioning. Another thing that must be mentioned is that the kid is fazed by absolutely nothing, and he's capable of keeping his cool in the biggest of games. Despite all of his impressive abilities, Price will have to follow through in the playoffs, standing as the Habs best player. As we all know, a good team means nothing in the post-season unless you have a goaltender ready to steal you games.

The second thing you can expect is goals, and a lot of them with Alexander Ovechkin in the mix. The 22-year old has become the NHL's best player this season, posting an incredible league leading 65 goals and 112 points with a +28 rating in 81 games played. His explosive speed, big hits, ferocious wrist shots and incredible intensity are what make him impossible to contain for a full 60 minutes. The Russian sensation will undoubtedly win the Rocket Richard and Art Ross Trophies respectively, with a chance for the Hart Trophy as well. While the Habs contain one of the best defensive clubs of the East, they will not be able to stop Ovechkin, just slow him down a little. While the Caps have offensive threats in Alexander Semin and Niklas Backstrom, the key to any playoff success lies with Ovechkin.

In the other end, the Habs host the best offensive club in the league this season, scoring an impressive 259 goals for. The key to their offensive success lies in Alexei Kovalev and Tomas Plekanec. The duo has been explosive in the offensive zone this season, displaying great chemistry together. Fantastic puck control, superb passing and incredible patience is what makes the Habs such a threat going into the playoffs. The club has placed themselves 1st overall on the powerplay (24.3%) because of this, and it will prove to be a huge factor once the playoffs begin. Despite the play of Kovalev and Plekanec, the Habs have had balanced scoring throughout the season, the 3rd and 4th line chipping in for offensive production. If the Habs can follow through with superb goaltending, balanced scoring and solid defensive play, there won̢۪t be many teams who can stop them. But if you ask me, out of all the possible opponents the Habs could be facing, the Capitals should be the most feared.