Over at Tom Benjamin's blog, there was some pretty good riffage out of Steve Yzerman's "it's not hockey" comment that I haven't linked to here because I'm, well, lusy (lusy=lazy + busy, a postmodern condition/alibi).
|TORONTO STAR FILE PHOTO|
|Carful James, wouldn't want you to get run over now.|
Is that William Shatner commercial the worst on TV?
If Bob Cole settled the raging "Koval-chuck or Koval-chook" debate on HNIC the week before last, why is Cole's booth partner Harry Neale still calling him Chuck?
How many times must we hear "I Fought the Law" played over the p.a. after a penalty call, and "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" after a good bodycheck, which (thankfully, at least in this aural cliche sense) happens about once a month in the postmodern NHL?
Back to Benjamin. A couple of his observations really stood out last night:
Do you think the behaviour of the players has changed from the beginning of the season? I think it clearly has. Mission accomplished. Nobody is complaining about water skiing or picket fences in the neutral zone or constant clutching and grabbing any more. The defensemen have learned to surround forwards in the slot instead of knocking them down. Most of those penalties taken early in the season have gone.
Indeed it is the absence of this stuff that is given the credit for the wildly exciting all new NHL.
So why are we still seeing so many penalties?
A quarter of the way through the season and there is hardly (any) hooking or holding or interference. The referees are down to distinguishing between tiny hooks that hardly matter (but are at least really hooks) and phantom calls and dives. They are trying to separate incidental contact, accidental contact and real interference. At least 95% of the problem has been solved. The players have stopped doing what everyone complained about.
The problem the NHL now has is that they have applauded the new NHL to the skies. They have fined complainers. The hockey announcers have congratulated the new NHL for every extra goal. Can the referees now stop calling penalties?
They can find 15 penalties a night indefinitely if that's what the league wants. They can't be consistent and do that, but they can do it."
I don't agree with all of what Benjamin has to say, but his last point is bang on. Ask any referee and they'll agree -- if they want to, they can call a penalty on about every play. And last night it seemed that was the mantra. There were 19 power plays. The upshoot was the game had absolutely zero "flow". Instead, it lurched.
I've held off this kind of talk, figuring it was too early. But we're into December now. The Bruins have started to make conclusions, and so am I.
Here's the the links off last night, a 4-0 win in Atlanta for Tellqvist's first career shutout:
Paul Hunter makes three points in his gamer: Telly is playing well as Belfour's backup; Kyle Wellwood can take a check (and how! Sutton caught him with his head down in open ice for the aforementioned Pat Benatar moment); and Ponikarovsky has turned into a pretty good player for the Leafs.
Rosie DiManno takes a look at Tellqvist, and over at the Sun, Mike Zeisberger notes that it was a milestone night for Sundin, too, as he tied Borje Salming on the Leafs' all-time scoring list: "Two Swedes. Two milestones. Reindeer steaks for everyone."
In the comments yesterday, Michelle had a note about another setback for Karel Pilar (Thanks for that, Michelle, you're welcome here anytime). I can't find any news from the usual outlets this morning, but message boards are saying that there was confirmation from John Ferguson Jr. on a Sportsnet report that he has had another setback due to his heart problems and won't be resuming play until next summer. Again, no confirmation, but if anyone has a link please send it along and I'll post it here.
(UPDATE: Thanks to Michelle and Sully for sending along the link to the Pilar story.):
Back for some more links today, after that oh so refreshing sleep last night, which started for me around the five-minute mark of the second....
Some Joe Thornton reaction to start (still can't believe it).
|Joe Thornton in teal.|
Of course the Boston papers are making the case against Thornton today. They were always good at that. Link is registration required. And, as usual, there's that mention of how Thornton but up zero points in the Bruins 2004 loss to Montreal in seven games. Forget the fact that he was in terrrible pain with a rib injury and shouldn't have been playing in the first place. I thought that made him a great captain -- sucking it up and hitting the ice for his team.
GM Mike O'Connell weighs in and defends his move, and the interesting tidbit to note is the admission the Bruins offseason strategy was "flawed". Remember the B's chose to keep thier roster relatively clear so they could swoop in and scoop up the free agents? Like Dave Scatchard (gone), Shawn McEachern (gone), Alexei Zhamnov (bust) ... now Thornton gone. He's only 26 years old!
So everyone agrees the Sharks got the best of the deal. Bruins won last night so for one day, O'Connell and penny-pinching Jeremy Jacobs can feel good.
In San Jose, it looks like Big Joe will start on a line with cousin Scott Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo. Sharks visit Toronto Saturday night so we get one of the first looks at the new man in San Jose; and we already know what Don Cherry is going to say about the deal, right?
Yup, that's right. An actual Western Conference team is going to play a hockey game against the Leafs. Also next week, the Kings bring the Roenick-Avery circus to town. Start brushing up on your best heckling lines folks.
Speaking of the unbalanced schedule, check this out: Avalanche have played 26 games this year, 11 against the Oilers or Canucks!
"New NHL" beware, the trap is back. Guess who?:
"Yeah, late in the game, in the last 6 minutes, you're darn right we trapped," says Ken Hitchcock.
More on Steve Yzerman from Detroit Free Press columnist Michael Rosenberg:
That's the new NHL. It is a skater's league. And it isn't designed for a 40-year-old with knee problems, even if that 40-year-old is a legend.
Your warm-and-fuzzy moment for the day also comes from Motown, where it's take your dad to work day.
The last word to goalie Nikolai Khabibulin. You put your heart and soul into a playoff run with the Lightining. You won a Cup. Then you were cast off like yesterday's goalie equipment, you were a cost cutting move so they could keep their core of players together. A core you apparently don't belong to. You are unwanted. They feel they can win without you. You are replaceable. What do you have to say?
"We won a Cup there. It's just a game."