Eye of the Hurricane

May 2, 2011

NHL Thinking of Retooling Playoffs?

Filed under: Uncategorized — eadeutsch @ 3:48 pm
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The National Hockey League has been attempting to re-brand itself and acquire a larger American audience ever since the lockout that saw the cancellation of the 2004-2005 NHL season.  When the league became active the next season, fans saw a number of changes that were meant to increase scoring and excitement in a league that was criticized for lacking in those departments in the years prior to the lockout.  No longer was the “two-line offside pass” rule enforced, there was a limited trapezoidal area behind each net that was the only location behind the goal that a goaltender could roam with the puck, and the fan favorite overtime shootout became a staple of the league

Still looking for excitement, the league has never been one to shun a suggestion, and this season’s All-Star Game was a perfect example of this.  The teams were split with captains–Eric Staal and Nicklas Lidstrom–picking their own teams in a Fantasy-draft style.  The NHL deemed this a success and we can count on seeing this next year, although probably tweaked.

The playoff system is one of my least favorite things about the NHL.  The two conferences are seeded just like basketball, 1-8, with the top three seeds going to the division leaders.  But instead of a simple bracket format throughout the conference playoffs, the teams are re-seeded after the first round to guarantee the greatest advantage to the top-seeded team, and make the road to the finals as challenging as possible for the lowest-seeded team.  So if the eighth-seeded team won an upset in the first round, they would go on to play the best remaining team in the second round.

Now, however, the NHL may be considering a static bracket format like basketball or the NCAA where the teams will play the winner of another series no matter what.  I like this idea, and I don’t know why it hasn’t been initiated since the lockout.

But as I said, the NHL is not going to ignore an idea–no matter how outlandish it may seem at first–and it is considering a 1-16 bracket that will include match-ups determined by conference standings.  The top eight teams from each conference would advance to the playoffs, but they would be matched up with a corresponding team–determined by regular season points–that will not necessarily be from their own conference.  It would be possible, then, for teams from the same conference to play each other in the Stanley Cup Finals.

As much as I don’t like this idea (travel would be strenuous and costly, bad match-ups between teams with no history would be costly in terms of fan excitement in the opening rounds), it might be a win for the NHL, who after all is looking out for its best interests.

No offense to my friends who root for the Marlins, but you can bet your house that the front office of Major League Baseball enjoyed the viewership and earnings from the epic seven-game ALCS between the Yankees and Red Sox more than they did the world series.

Likewise, the NHL commissioner and owners might enjoy a Capitals-Penguins Stanley Cup or a Red Wings-Canucks matchup.  The integrity of the NHL may be at stake, but in the meantime, several of the league’s franchises are threatened by financial struggles, and this might be just one way to increase viewership at a time that the NHL is desperately trying to stay relevant.

In the meantime, enjoy the Stanley Cup playoffs as they are.  The Capitals and Red Wings, both down 0-2, are fighting for their lives, while the Predators are attempting to stun the top-seeded Canucks in a series that’s tied 1-1.  The Bruins, up 1-0 in their series against the Flyers, host Philadelphia tonight.


February 14, 2011

Fighting in Hockey

Filed under: Uncategorized — eadeutsch @ 6:31 pm
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On the heels of the Friday night Islanders-Penguins game which ended in almost 350 penalty minutes, suspensions, and fines, there are renewed questions on the place of fighting in hockey.

Here is the (lengthy) video compiling the night’s events.

Mario Lemieux, the GM of the Pittsburgh Penguins, came out with an emotional and poignant response.

What does everybody think about fighting in hockey? Does it have a place in the game? Do harsher penalties need to occur after fights or specific occurrences? How does the NHL balance player safety with aggression and tradition?

February 24, 2010

It Should Have Been Great…

Filed under: Uncategorized — lsagaser @ 11:43 pm
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I cannot believe the team I just watched in the men’s hockey quarterfinal was the Russian national team. Expectations were high that the Russians would come out with their typically aggressive and physical forecheck, but after a shaky first period it seemed that there was no hope for the national team.

To give credit where credit’s due, the Canadian national team had an impeccable performance. It seems that the loss to USA sparked a desire within the Canadians to prove themselves on their home ice. With confidence in their composed goaltender Luongo, the Canadians played balanced defense, transitioned quickly and efficiently and attacked the puck to capitalize on mistakes made by both the Russian defense and goalie. They also stayed close to Ovechkin, especially in front of the net, to make the star’s impact nonexistent.

However, if it were not for the sloppy play of the Russians, the game might not have been the 7-3 slaughter that it ended as. Usually the Russians shine at using their speed and strength to manhandle defenses. Tonight, especially in the first period, the Russians could not get to the puck before the Canadian defensemen. The Canadians intercepted their sloppy transitions and long passes out of their zone. The usually physical forecheck the Russians pride themselves on was picked apart.

It was not just the offense that hurt the Russians’ chances. The Russians’ backchecking was absolutely abysmal. What stands out most in my mind were the first and third goals scored by the Canadians in the first period. There was no Russian hustle to get back on either shorthanded play; they looked like they were skating in slow motion. With the fast-paced attack of the Canadians, a slow defensive attitude would not overcome the scoring deficit.

Finally, there’s the goaltending situation. The major question is why Russian coach Slava Bykov waited so long to pull Nabokov. I would have made that decision as soon as the first period ended. Not only does letting in four goals in the first period affect a goaltender’s confidence, it affects every other player’s confidence in their goalie and how the game will play out. Even if the argument could be made that Bykov hoped to see improvement in Nabokov in the second period, the fifth goal against the Russians should have changed his mind. What goalie in their right mind would go out eight feet in front of the net when their team is facing a two on one. Not only that, but Nabokov might as well have put a bow on the puck when he gave out a rebound directly to Corey Perry rather than pushing the puck to either side.

After a great deal of hype leading up to the game about the Crosby, Ovechkin and Malkin face-off and two hockey powerhouses going at it, I was left thoroughly disappointed. I can only hope that the USA national team paid attention and saw what happens when you sit back on your heels against a skilled, well-sized and hungry team.