Hockey Headlines

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Lightning Struck Down

The Montreal Canadiens followed the EA Sports prediction to a tee tonight, knocking off the Tampa Bay Lightning in four straight games. This series was supposed to be about two dominant goaltenders and a couple of key scoring threats, and it lived up to that billing for the most part. However, the Achilles' heel of this Tampa Bay team was, as we saw, their goaltending after Ben Bishop was injured. While mistakes were made, Anders Lindback was outplayed by Montreal's Carey Price and, in the end, was the defining reason why Montreal will move on and Tampa Bay will go home.

That's not say that there isn't other blame to be shared. Ryan Callahan, for all he was worth to the Lightning, failed to record a point in the series, was a -2, and only had five shots on Price in the four games played. It's hard to fathom why he believes he's worth more than $6 million per year when he failed to show up for the most important games in career at this moment. If you want to demand big money, it might help if you're a big-money player. Ryan Callahan did nothing to support this demand for a massive contract, and I'd be reconsidering the dollars and cents that Callahan is worth if I were Steve Yzerman.

There should be some blame tossed on head coach Jon Cooper. I get that he feels his team didn't catch a break in the series, especially when some of the calls against the team seemed entirely false. However, Cooper's biggest question mark may have came tonight when he had the option to pull Anders Lindback after the first period and replace him with Kristers Gudlevskis. Lindback struggled again last night, and it was apparent after the opening frame that he was fighting the puck once again. While Tampa bay did score a shorthanded marker to make it a 2-1 game, the Brendan Gallagher goal 1:10 after was a back-breaker. Cooper needed to give his team a fighting chance, and Lindback didn't help that cause. While I realize that hindsight is 20/20, Cooper should have made the move earlier, especially when you consider that Tampa Bay led for just 3:34 of the 258:08 played in the series. You will never win with that kind of stat.

General manager Steve Yzerman should also shoulder a bit of the blame. The St. Louis-for-Callahan trade backfired in the playoffs in a big way. Anders Lindback might be a capable backup netminder during the regular series, but there's a reason he's not starting for any NHL team. Lindback played 23 regular season games this year, posting a record of 8-12-2. His 2.90 GAA and his .893 save percentage are nowhere close to the level needed for a playoff goaltender. He carried those numbers into a playoff series where he'd have to better only to post a 3.91 GAA and an .881 save percentage.

While the Lightning were banking on Ben Bishop to be their top guy going into the playoffs, it's hard for me to believe that Steve Yzerman wouldn't have some sort of insurance plan in case Bishop got hurt. Bishop did get hurt, Lindback was thrust into the starter's role, and now the players are cleaning out their lockers after four games. There were goalies available at the deadline based on the vast number of moves made, and some Stanley Cup winners even went cheaply as Dallas now has Tim Thomas as their backup netminder. That's a fail on Steve Yzerman's part when Lindback proved he wasn't up to the task all season long.

The Lightning, though, had a great regular season, and they need to be commended for overcoming some incredible odds. The loss of Steven Stamkos for the majority of the season really put the strain on some of the kids they brought in from Syracuse, but Ondrej Palat, Alex Killorn, Tyler Johnson, and Nikita Kucherov stepped up immensely in helping the Lightning overcome those odds. They secured home-ice advantage as the second-place team in the Atlantic Division without their star player for most of the season.

The trade deadline saw Martin St. Louis - the team's heart and soul - dealt to the New York Rangers after a spat between himself and GM Steve Yzerman. There is no doubt in my mind that the Lightning got weaker that day. St. Louis was the engine that drove the Lightning, and you could tell that Steven Stamkos' game suffered when he returned to the ice without his cross-ice setup man. Ryan Callahan, who was netted in the St. Louis deal, played well down the stretch as the Lightning finished strong, but Steven Stamkos was missing his setup man in a big way as Callahan never came close to filling that role.

In finished second in their division, the Lightning did have an excellent season despite the seemingly uphill battle they faced with injuries. However in the playoffs, they fell short because of a lack of goaltending depth, some key pieces who underperformed, and some management decisions that will need to be addressed. After all, success is measured in the NHL by how close you got to the Stanley Cup.

The Lightning fell 16 wins short of that goal.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 21 April 2014

Not Hockey, But He's Blood

The man in the middle is CBC journalist and Hockey Night in Canada reporter Scott Oake. Scott Oake has become a fixture on the late-game broadcasts as he hosts the "After Hours" segment on Hockey Night in Canada as well as doing some rinkside reporting during the game. Oake has been a fixture at the CBC, rising from his sports reporting gig at CBC Winnipeg to becoming one of hockey's respected interviewers and personalities. While Scott Oake has been front-and-center on Canadian TV, it appears that another Oake is making his mark, albeit on British television with talents that haven't been seen in a long, long time.

Scott's youngest son, Darcy, is an amazing magician! He's been seen around Winnipeg in some amateur magic shows, but Darcy went big on Saturday night when he made an appearance on Britain's Got Talent! No word of a lie: this performance should wow even the most accomplished magicians.

If you're a fan of The Incredibles, this should say it all...
Darcy turned in one of the most amazing magic performances ever seen on the program, even getting praise from Simon Cowell who called Oake, "The best magician we have ever had on this show." I have to admit that his abilities are amazing. I was floored by his act, and he deserves the praise he's receiving.

As he said in the video, though, it was his father, Scott Oake, who got the young man hooked on magic. When Darcy was ten, Scott showed him a card trick, but refused to reveal the trick for weeks. This, of course, drove Darcy crazy who tried in vain to replicate his father's magic trick. The seed had been planted, and Darcy Oake's love for magic grew like a weed.

Scott Oake, Darcy's father, really didn't dabble in magic professionally. According to his CBC bio, "Oake began his career by volunteering at the university radio station during three years of pre-medicine studies at Memorial University in St. John's, Newfoundland. After two summers working at CBC-St. John's in radio and television, he was hired full-time in 1974." Pre-medicine, radio and television, amateur magician. Scott Oake is literally a man of many talents, and he was instrumental in his son's success!

Congratulations to Darcy Oake who got the vote of approval from Britain's Got Talent judges! This Winnipeg-born magician appears to be ready to set the world on fire with his act unless, of course, he turns it into a dove!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Bands And Other Groups

As you may well be aware, there are many kids who take band in school and may even attend band camp at some point if they feel they have some musical ability. Other kids may take band, never want to play music, and move on to bigger and/or better things like working for the CIA or FBI or some other organization. In any case, everyone becomes something important in life, and it seems hockey finds its way into each of those lives.

We'll start with some of those kids who decided band class wasn't for them, opting for studies in mathematics, linguistics, and other analysis techniques. The FBI hockey team seems to look a lot like the Winnipeg Jets in their new uniforms, posing next to the Stanley Cup. I have to admit that those are some fine-looking agents in those uniforms, though.

I'm not sure how many people saw this based on their early exit, but Russia's Alexander Ovechkin came ready to play in the Olympics in Sochi for at least the first few games. While the Russian team was a squad divided amongst itself within it own dressing room, Ovechkin's patriotic skates could not be mistaken for anything but Mother Russia.

If you're buying playoff tickets for hockey in Toronto, you might be getting ripped off a little. Keep your eyes peeled, Torontonians. Don't get duped!

Alright, let's get to the musicians because I have a few of those images. If you haven't stopped by the Musicians in Jerseys page yet, make sure you do because there are a load of musicians wearing hockey jerseys or hockey-related, one-of-a-kind paraphernalia.

The Replacements' Reed Fischer shows his appreciation for the Canadiens while Cee-Lo Green tweeted out his support for Montreal as the playoffs began!

Winnipeg has had its fair share of rock stars and hockey stars play in the city. Those two scenes crossed for a publicity photo when Bobby Hull and Burton Cummings got dressed up on the ice for a small community center in Winnipeg named Valley Gardens Community Center! That's a pretty awesome photo considering just how big these two men were in Winnipeg back in the 1970s!

Yes was an English progressive rock band who broke onto the music scene in the late-1960s and early 1970s. They were well-known for a few hits including Owner of a Broken Heart which could be considered their most-famous track. Drummer Bill Bruford routinely took the stage in Boston Bruins-adorned overalls! Perhaps the "B" in the center of the logo stood for "Bruford" when he wore it?

2014 Juno nominee Amanda Rheaume has been setting the Canadian music scene on fire with her latest album Keep a Fire. The Métis songstress from Manitoba didn't appear on MTS Centre ice to sing the national anthem, but she did get to do it in the nation's capital as she appeared in front of Ottawa Senators fans! Well done, Amanda!

While Edmonton Oilers fans were heaving their uniforms onto Rexall Place's ice this season, one musician did not. Daron Malakian of System of a Down was spotted in Rexall Place by the Oilers' PR staff, and they snapped this picture of Daron in his Oilers gear!

She may have been born in Phoenix, Arizona, but music has taken her worldwide and earned her a Grammy alongside Carlos Santana. I speak, of course, about Michelle Branch who decided to support the local hockey team when she stopped in Boston with her band The Wreckers! Michelle looks pretty good in a Bruins jersey!

I'm not sure how hockey became a mainstay on the rap scene in the 1990s, but we have another group that showed off their hockey love on their album cover. UGK is made up of the duo Bun B and Pimp C, and they hail from Houston, Texas. So it was a little confusing to see Pimp C in an Anaheim Mighty Ducks uniform on the cover of their 1994 album Super Tight.

Speaking of rap, there are a few heavy hitters who transcended the 1990s into today. One of those men is Method Man, and the Staten Island-born musician is certainly representing in his New York Rangers gear. I'm not sure of that pose, but the Rangers jersey looks pretty good.

So there are a pile of jerseys from different walks of life, and a shot of Ovechkin's patriotic skates and a bit of a laugh at the expense of Leafs fans. Again, stop by the Musicians in Jerseys page to see all the musicians caught wearing hockey jerseys, and if you want to send in pictures of musicians wearing or holding hockey jerseys, fire them off to me here!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Just A Phone Hearing?

Brent Seabrook is an excellent defenceman, a great NHLer, and one of my favorite rearguards in all of hockey. While I appreciate the offensive capabilities of Duncan Keith, Seabrook routinely is forgotten for all he does while Keith pushes the play up the ice. He's an Olympic gold medalist, so it's not like can't play at a high level. And that's what makes his hit on David Backes so confusing since he rarely throws a dirty hit when on the ice.

If you missed the hit today, here is the highlight so you're up to speed.
David Backes was clearly struggling during the scrum, and probably was seeing more stars than most astronomers. I'm not sure why Greg Millen credited Backes for trying to get into the crowd when any sort of contact to his head could have resulted in catastrophic injuries to a guy who has taken a few pops before. Seabrook received a five-minute major for charging and a game misconduct for his hit while Backes' status post-game was simply listed as "day-to-day" as the trainers and medical staff worked to clear the fog he was in after that brutal check.

The Chicago Sun-Times caught up with Seabrook after the game, and they recorded his comments on the hit. Seabrook says all the clichéd stuff you'd expect during playoff hockey, but he does sound regretful that he hurt Backes.

Ok, so here's what we do know. Seabrook will have a phone hearing for this hit. Expect a suspension for at least one game, but more likely two games. That will remove him for at least Game Three in Chicago where the Blackhawks are playing must-win hockey if they hope to make this a series. Chicago's second-best defenceman, arguably, will be watching from the press box as one of Sheldon Brookbank or David Rundblad check into the series during the most critical time in Chicago's season. That's not really the kind of leadership one expects from their alternate captain.

This is not an attack on Seabrook, though. Instead, this is a major decision for the NHL and their disciplinary group. On the one hand, Brent Seabrook threw a hit that made contact with the head - clearly seen at the 2:27 mark of the video above - that resulted in Backes missing the remainder of the game and possibly more. This is a textbook case of what the NHL is trying its damnedest to eliminate and had punished harshly in the past.

On the other hand, to punish Seabrook as harshly as, say, a Raffi Torres or Matt Cooke for their headshots in the past leaves the NHL in an unenviable position. The Chicago-St. Louis series has been everything that people expected with its physicality, it's life-or-death gameplay, and the overtimes in both the games in St. Louis. If the NHL wanted entertainment, this is a gladiatorial war inside the Colosseum on ice. And the fans love it!

Personally, if this was a regular season game, I would be surprised if Seabrook was only getting a phone call. However, the NHL probably realizes the importance of this series for the entertainment value, and it knows that removing one of the key warriors in this Central Division battle may only hurt the product if it weakens Chicago for any period of time. Here's hoping Backes is able to return as well. Otherwise, this phone call could have serious ramifications on St. Louis' playoff chances as well.

The NHL is damned if it does, and damned if it doesn't. Yet it wins in both cases.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 18 April 2014

Because It's The Cup

With the final opening round series set to get underway tonight, there were a few photos of a second Stanley Cup making their way around the interwebs thanks to a brand-new attraction in Boston. The Legoland Discovery Center Boston opens in approximately one month, and I will tell you right now that I am a Lego freak. I love it. I can honestly say it may have been my favorite toy growing up and into my adulthood because it literally makes one creative. You can build anything, and, in saying that, the Legoland Discovery Center Boston constructed a replica of the Stanley Cup that has been popping up around Boston in a number of places. If the Bruins can play some creative hockey over the next few weeks, that could be the real Stanley Cup!

According to Legoland Discovery Center Boston's Facebook page, this replica of the Stanley Cup is made from "7,500 LEGO bricks, is 35 inches tall and 17 inches wide, and took more than 32 hours to design and build". Needless to say, it's a bit of an engineering feat! It looks pretty awesome, though, and you'll see that the Lego version of the Stanley Cup has been touring Boston finding all the Bruins on billboards, statues, and signage.

Players like Patrice Bergeron...

... and Bobby Orr...

... and even Blades got into the action with the Lego Stanley Cup!

That Stanley Cup is pretty awesome. I would love to see Lego raffle that thing off, but when you're talking about a three-foot trophy made from 7500 bricks, that would be a pain in the rear to ship to the winner. In any case, the Bruins got a little taste of the Stanley Cup courtesy of Lego's new Legoland Discovery Center Boston, and the newest Lego attraction is pulling for its hometown NHL squad this spring!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!