Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Bruins fall to Flyers 2-2

I know what you are thinking... how is it possible for a team to lose a tie game? Sadly it is very possible in today's NHL where officiating gaffes are quietly brushed under the rug and the officials are never held liable.

In yesterday's game there was a game-altering moment in the first period when Vlad Sobotka, centering the 4th line, came down the right side and put a backhand on net which Boucher saved. Sobotka was able to flip the puck in as he passed the net and started celebrating (understandably) only to see it emphatically waved off.

Initially, I assumed the issue was that the net was off its mooring thanks to the Philly D-man crashing into the post and was annoyed that such a play would negate a goal. However, replay immediately showed that the puck was in the net well before the net came off its moorings so there goes that theory.

I then immediately feared an early whistle or even worse, its mentally deficient cousin, the assinine 'intent' to blow the whistle. Again, replay told the story as the whistle came long after the puck was in the net and there was no possible justification for 'intending' to blow the whistle before the puck went in.

So now the question is, why the HELL was the goal waved off?! Whats worse is that no replay was even allowed for reasons unknown to anyone. Finally the league's 'justification' was given after the first intermission and it was truly laughable... see for yourself:

Andy Brickley reports that the excuse was that "Boucher was not allowed the opportunity to make a save because he was shoved into his own goal as he was trying to cover the puck." Problem is, any contact forcible to move Boucher away from the puck came from his own teammate well after the puck was in the net. What contact Sobotka's left foot may have made was negligible at best and goalies absorb more contact than that on allowed goals in practically every game!

So long story short, the refs screwed up and the league went out of their way to cover for them... AGAIN.

I think the part that amuses me most is the fact that the national hockey blogs (PuckDaddy, Kukla's) have completely and utterly ignored this story after making such a big stink of Detroit's disallowed goal last month. Way to have equitable and consistent coverage guys!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Could there be a light at the end of the tunnel?

The Bruins finally appear to have recaptured some of last season's mojo and are playing as everyone expected them to entering the season. The defense has been excellent for the past five games, as has the goaltending and the offense appears to finally be coming around. As if this wasn't enough good news, it would appear that the walking wounded are closer to returning to the ice and are expected in two weeks or so.

During the telecast of Tuesday's game against Pittsburgh, VS interviewed Marc Savard about his recovery path. Apparently the plan is to be back on the ice this coming Tuesday and if everything goes well and doctors give their permission he hopes to be back in action four or five days later.

Meanwhile, the Globe is reporting that Milan Lucic had his first skate with the team today to test how his surgically repaired finger handled vibration from puck-impact on the blade. There were no problems reported though he has yet to take any slap shots or bodychecks. Julien is being understandably cautious with the hulking winger and setting his return date to at least a week away, if not a bit longer.

What does this all mean you ask? It means that the REAL Bruins will likely take the ice for the Monday night game in St. Louis on the 23rd with at least a week's practice under the belt.

Question now is, who gets sent down? Whitfield is an obvious choice but will Marchand or Sobotka be the ones to stick? My money is on Sobotka but he may be forced out along with Marchand due to cap considerations.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

One area where the NHL trumps the NFL

Most Americans consider the NFL to be the dominant sports league and view the NHL as a fringe organization. Unfortunately for puckheads, this is a pretty accurate assessment as hockey lacks anything close to the national television deal that the NFL enjoys. However, one area where the NHL has it all over the NFL is its financial transparency. Incidents of the past week illustrate my point perfectly...

On Monday, October 19th the Patriots released LB Tully Banta-Cain, the team leader in sacks who was making only $620K on his one-year deal. There was no reason given for the surprise release and all media outlets were dumbfounded by the move and struggled to explain any possible motivation. The following day, Banta-Cain re-signed with the Patriots for more money and more years and the best explanation ESPN could come up with was essentially a best guess and nothing definite. They THINK it was due to the player being signed to a cap-friendly contract type that could not be altered until its conclusion, and thus the release was necessary to get an extension.

The same week, the Bruins lost Marc Savard, their first line center and leading scorer, for 4 to 6 weeks to a broken foot. For a team that was pushing up against the cap, such an injury has major cap implications as replacements must be called up or signed. Curious as to the cap ramification of placing Savard on the LTIR, I took it upon myself to examine their current cap situation and determine just what impact Savard would have upon it going forwards. It took me 3-4 hours of slacking at work to work out the cap situations well enough to come up with the financial impact mentioned in my previous post.

In other words, the media 'insiders' required over 24 hours to analyze the Banta-Cain move and come up with the possible reasoning for it... if an embedded reporter needs that much time, what hope does the average fan have of understanding the complexities of the NFL salary cap? Meanwhile, an average NHL fan was able to determine just what impact a major move would have upon the teams salary cap after just 3-4 hours. It took me, the average fan, 20% less time to learn the ins and outs of the NHL's cap in my spare time than it took for a veteran, knowledgeable reporter to determine the motivation behind one simple NFL move.

In the NFL, only the extremely passionate and intelligent fans have a chance at understanding the intricacies of the financial side of the game. This can definitely be a turn-off for the average fan as FA and trade discussions will always remain incomplete. The NHL fosters their fans interest in organizations and their possibilities by making their financial structure so accessible and simplified. In my mind, that is a major win for the NHL as it will only serve to strengthen an already loyal fanbase.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Chicken Little Brigade

If Boston's spotty start wasn't enough to get the typical naysayers going in full force, events of the past week should ramp their cries up to full volume. Trading Kobasew for spare parts while announcing Lucic's impending absence would have been enough to bring out the boobirds but then to have Savard go down? Even otherwise sensible fans are joining the 'Chicken Little Brigade' and declaring the Bruins season over before it has even truly started! It honestly makes me hate being a Boston fan at times with the pervasive desire for instant gratification you see from so many supposed diehards.

Now I am not trying to say the loss of Savard and Lucic is nothing... it will definitely have an impact on the Bruins game. However, I choose to look at the positive aspects of this situation of which there are thankfully plenty.

1 - Timing
Would you rather the Bruins lost Savard in October or in March? Early in the year troubles can be overcome, often with relative ease... just look at the Penguins of last season. They were out of the playoffs in the 10-spot as late as February 28th! So why worry so about early points? The Bruins don't need to lead the Northeast from wire to wire again... they just have to stay in the running until they get back to full health. After all, playoff performance is all that should truly matter.

2 - Opportunities
Let the kids see the ice. Sobotka has been bouncing between Providence and Boston for two years now... its about time the Bruins find out what they really have in him. Is he an AHL all-star who can't cut it in the NHL as his performance would suggest thus far or is he a legit NHL player? No way of finding out until he sees regular icetime and now is as good a time as ever for that to happen. This also gives Boston an opportunity to get Brad Marchand some invaluable experience... in his debut last night he definitely looked like he belonged. Played with no fear or nerves for 15 minutes, including 1:45 on the PK and earned his first career assist. Very promising debut for Boston's 2006 third round selection.

3 - Motivation
With a player of Savard's caliber absent, the rest of the team knows it has to step up to fill that void. All 13 forwards on that roster now feel the need to up their game and help cover for Savard's lost production, none moreso than Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci. Bergeron has been looking more and more like the player Boston signed to a hefty contract in 2006 and has been one of Boston's best thus far. If Patrice can carry more of the load offensively and return to his 70-point game Boston becomes that much more dangerous a team.

4 - Financial
After the trade for Paille and Lucic's injury, Boston's daily cap hit fell $4.4K shy of the upper limit which prorates to $850K (Lucic's cap hit). In other words, Boston was right up to the cap and had little wiggle room. With Savard being replaced by Whitfield, Boston's daily cap hit falls $28,180 below the limit (Savard's daily pay) for a daily saving of ~$24K. If the roster remains static for the duration of Savard's time on LTIR, the Bruins will see the following savings against the cap:
30 days - $737K*
45 days - $1.093M*
60 days - $1.450M*

So before any more fans foolishly join the Chicken Little Brigade, maybe they should think about the potential long-term benefits from this situation. Boston will have additional cap space, more experienced depth players and stronger, more resilient personnel... all crucial elements for a long playoff run!

I should add, after seeing Paille play last night I am very pleased with the outcome of the Paille/Kobasew trades. It was Paille's hard-work and willingness to get dirty in the corners and behind the net that allowed Begin to score the game-winner last night. Boston improved draft picks while lowering their cap with minimal on-ice impact. Don't believe me? Then check out this objective analysis. Oh, and let's not forget that Chuckie was a UFA while Paille is an RFA.

*Note: This is based on my understanding of the LTIR's impact on cap space per the NHL's CBA. By no means should this be taken as being gospel truth.

Monday, September 21, 2009

New beginnings...

Thanks to my good friend Dan, I was able to get tickets to a dozen Bruins home games this year including an all-important Montreal Canadiennes game. This means that the 2009-2010 Bruins season has officially begun in my mind! Thus, I am back on here ready to go at this for a second year... hopefully I will be posting more frequently but nobody should hold their breath (blue skin just really isn't pretty...)

To begin with, I am going to ignore the elephant in the room and look into something that really bothered me this offseason. Last season, for the first time ever I was the proud holder of a 'season ticket'-ish 12 game pack for the Bruins. By buying in bulk, I was guaranteed a shot at playoff tickets and got the regular season tickets at 75% off or roughly $42 for solid balcony seats. As much as I would love to get full season tickets, I just can't justify the cost and the added transportation problems (I live 25 miles due west of the Garden and pay $20 for parking) and so I was debating getting a similar package as last season. Until I saw the price...


Ticket prices went up a full 50% from last season! While I understand that the Bruins were very successful last year and therefore it only makes sense to raise prices, that kind of increase is ridiculous gouging! Now it turns out that the majority of season tickets saw either no increase (if purchased before March 18) or minimal increase in cost (5% if purchased before April 30) which does make the situation more palatable. Basically, the team is sticking it to the new fans who are jumping on board now and to those who haven't been steadily supplying their income before this year. A sound business practice I suppose given the ridiculous season ticket totals (up 5K to 13,200) but still brutal for fans like me who are stuck in between categories. The real concern now becomes next season... there is no guarantee the prices will remain fixed again.

Now for the elephant in the room... the trading of 22yo, 36-goal scoring Phil Kessel to divisional rival Toronto. Before getting into my thoughts on the trade, there is one thing about this that absolutely astounds me...

At last season's trade deadline, there was rumors of a deal being in place with Toronto to ship them Kessel for Kaberle with Boston also asking for Toronto's #1. Turns out Burke, in his infinite stupidity, thought the offer was Kaberle for Kessel and BOSTON'S #1... needless to say, PC turned it down immediately.

Jump ahead a few months to the actual trade and Kessel gets shipped off for two #1s and a #2. Does that mean that Burke actually values 31yo Tomas Kaberle at THREE first round picks?! Sure looks that way... just boggles my mind!

As for the trade, I am all for it. Way I see it, the guy was asking WAY too much for what he brings to the ice. Sure, Phil has terrific speed and one of the nastiest shots in the game... there is no doubting that. However, what is being doubted is more important... his desire, his toughness, his willingness to play through pain, his understanding of the team concept, his attention to defense... need I go on? Fact is, there just is no room for him under Boston's cap and shuffling the roster to re-sign him would only have proven detrimental going forward. With his big cap-hit on the books for the next few years Boston would have been unable to re-sign team cornerstones Savard (UFA), Lucic (RFA), Wheeler (RFA) and Stuart (RFA) as well as (hopeful) goalie-of-the-future Rask (RFA). The simple facts of life under the cap.

With these picks, Boston now has 5 of the top 60 picks in 2010 (Tampa's 2010 #2 in the Recchi deal). Those picks will be invaluable with the lowering cap predictions and could prove very handy at this seasons trade deadline. Also, while this season's draft is supposedly looking pretty weak, it is not like the Bruins can't trade up to top-3 with the bevy of picks they now have. Now we just have to pull for the Leafs to go 0-for-2010, even if it means Montreal gets 6 wins!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Pyrrhus or Yamamoto?

The question is... whose quote better fits the situation after Game 5 of the Boston-Carolina series?

History lesson time! Pyrrhus led a Greek kingdom named Epirus in the early 3rd century BC and was widely held as one of the greatest military minds of the Hellenistic Era. Only Alexander the Great (his ancestor) was placed ahead of him by Hannibal of Carthage. In the days of Rome's infancy, they were still attempting to control the Italian peninsula and were fighting with Greek colonies there. These Greek colonies turned to Pyrrhus for aid and he answered, sensing a chance to expand his own kingdom at the expense of the still vulnerable Rome. Pyrrhus invaded southern Italy (Tarentum) and fought the Romans twice, winning both battles. However, his victories were so costly in terms of manpower lost that he was quoted by Plutarch as saying:
If we are victorious in one more battle with the Romans, we shall be utterly ruined.

So despite his forces winning the battles, they had lost the war and thus the term 'Pyrrhic Victory' was born. It is a case where the initial victory is so costly that defeat is all but assured in the long run and I fear that may be the case for the Bruins if Ward is lost to injury. With Boston's blueline already thinned by injuries to Hunwick and Ference the loss of Ward's steadying veteran presence and 19 minutes of ice time could prove devastating. He would be replaced by an AHL call-up (likely Johnny Boychuk) with minimal experience, thus increasing the already heavy workload on Chara, Wideman and Stuart. Not a good thing to say the least.

Or will his loss and the lack of punishment to Walker provide the spark Boston so desperately needed and propel them to a series victory? These Bruins have shown they thrive upon the physical game and play their best when they have been angered. Evidence of this can be found in the 5-1 domination of Dallas early this season (Ott was trying to end careers) and the destruction of Montreal after the closing fireworks to Game 1. So did this spark and the absurd punishment (apparently a punch hard enough to break the orbital bone is not considered a "reckless and forceful blow to the head" but Lucic's bump was) provide enough of a boost to the Bruins to overcome the potential absence or diminished role of Aaron Ward?

Who knows... it is anyones guess at this point in the series. Personally I am on the fence but I like to imagine Carolina players and fans muttering Admiral Yamamoto's (alleged) response to the bombing of Pearl Harbor...
I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Ah the hypocrisy...

Milan Lucic has officially been suspended for Game 3.

So let me get this straight... according to Colin Campbell players are allowed to:
-- Sucker punch an opponent in the face at the drop of the puck while on the wing (Cammalleri)
-- Attempt to elbow an opponent in the jaw, missing by less than an inch (Kostopoulos)
-- Continually eye-gouge an opponent, drawing blood and requiring sutures (Komisarek)
-- Hit a player into the boards while they are celebrating an ENG to seal a playoff game (Lapierre)

However, they are not allowed to do the following or they will be suspended:
-- Punch an opponent in the back of the head while at center (Carcillo)
-- Defend yourself from a charging agitator after already having been elbowed in the face (Lucic)

At the end of a blow-out over Montreal (how sweet that sounds!), Lucic was elbowed/butt-ended in the face by Mathieu Schneider. Like any legit player (this excludes most of Montreal's roster), Lucic went back at Schneider and crosschecked him as payback. This drew the attention of resident PITA Lapierre, who came flying towards Lucic from the side while he was engaged with Schneider. Seeing the oncoming pest, Lucic, already in the defensive position, raised his hands and made contact with Lapierre's head, knocking off his helmet. He was immediately attacked by Komisarek and effectively jumped by THREE Montreal players. On ice, Lucic was given 2 for cross-checking, 5 for fighting (I believe) and 10 misconduct leading to a 5-minute power-play for Montreal. It was only after the game that the call magically transformed into an match penalty for an intent to injure... very curious to say the least.

So Colin Campbell, who just this week laughed off the suggestion of actually deigning to punish Montreal players for blatant attempts to injure, determines that Lucic deserves to be suspended. What is worse is, he is going by Lucic's intent... not his actual actions!

While it is unclear whether Lucic's glove or stick makes contact with Lapierre, what is clear is that he delivered a reckless and forceful blow to the head of his opponent

Apparently Kostopoulos can intend to injure by throwing an elbow but that is acceptable since he didn't actually connect... only Lucic's intents are punishable. Needless to say, the acts of Gary Bete-man and his lap-dog Colin Campbell have SERIOUSLY damaged the integrity of the game. Not only has there been minimal consistency in officiating throughout the season now there is no consistency in discipline either and punishment apparently is determined not by your actions but by your star power and team. How else can you explain a Flyer and Bruin getting punished while Flames and Canadiens' get off scott-free? The only explanation can possibly the star power of players involved (Komisarek, Cammalleri) and the opposition/teams involved. After all, both Boston and Philly have reputations of being rough-and-tumble teams (despite Boston ranking at the bottom of the league in penalties) while Montreal and Pittsburgh (aka Crosby and the Malkinites) are both the media-darlings of the league. That is the only posisble explanation here...

I suppose Bete-man finally got his dream... he has turned the NHL into the NBA!

Friday, April 17, 2009

And so it begins...

It, of course, is referring to the general asshattery and douchebaggery we knew would come from Montreal in this series where they are clearly outgunned. I had the good fortune of being in attendance for last night's game and I am proud to report there were very few Montreal fans present and those that were remained silent. The game was nothing like the two previous Montreal games I attended this year (games 1 and 2 in Boston) as the visiting fans were limited and nowhere near as brave in their chanting.

Last night's game started off fine with Boston taking control early and the crowd being very supportive... right up until Montreal scored at the end of the second. The goal took a lot out of the crowd and the tying goal near the end of the second took the rest. You could tell the fans were rattled and worried about history repeating itself... the Bruins weren't helping matters any as they were unable to win any faceoffs in the third or even control the puck. Needless to say, it was not looking good for the Bruins until the 10 minute mark or so when they finally seemed to awake from their slumber. Montreal took back to back icings and the crowd started stepping up the cheering and the 'Carey' chants... two minutes later, Boston scores and the place is rocking once again for the remainder. Once Chara netted that PPG, the pall on the arena seemed to lift and confidence was restored... a confidence I think will carry over into tomorrow's game.

Something else that may carry over is the dirty tactics used by Montreal. With 20 seconds remaining, Lucic stepped in front of a Schneider cross-ice pass and took off down the boards towards the empty net... seeing he didn't have the angle, he passed back to a waiting Kessel who buried it and iced the game. Understandably he started celebrating (nothing over the top mind you) at which point Maxim Lapierre shoved him into the boards, sparking off a scrum. Somehow, matching penalties were doled out to Lapierre and Lucic despite Maxim's obvious instigation and unsportsmanlike conduct. No matter though... game is in hand, just have to close out the final seconds.

Julien, suspecting foul play from Montreal, took the high road and iced a quintet devoid of size or fight (no Chara, Lucic or Thornton) to show that Boston had no intent at gooning it up. Of course, Montreal decided to send a message as the final siren was blowing as Kostopoulos (who has already been suspended for boarding and severely injuring Toronto's Mike Van Ryn) throws a blatant elbow at the chin of Matt Hunwick. Fortunately, the elbow did not connect and the young D avoided the potential for serious injury. However, the attempt was not missed by Hunwick's teammates as a scrum commenced after the whistle which led to Hunwick being tangled up with Komisarek. An official gets between the two and grabs their sweaters, thus allowing for Komi to reach across and literally eye-gouge Hunwick multiple times, all in full view of the official. Needless to say, not penalty was called for this. According to Peter Chiarelli, Komisarek removed his glove and was poking at Hunwicks eyes with his bare hand. Though there is no video to support this chain of events, there is a picture which certainly indicates PC's interpretation of the situation is accurate. Video of the elbow and initial eye-gouge can be seen here: http://watch.tsn.ca/nhl/clip162326#clip162326

Now as I see it, there are two things to note in all this...
1 - Montreal fans love to call Lucic a coward while eternally defending the actions of Komisarek. Their logic is as follows... last playoffs, Komisarek should not have fought Lucic since it would be a talent loss would go in our favor. Perfectly understandable and logical. However, the same people call Lucic a coward for not fighting the no-talent Georges Laraque despite it being an obvious talent imbalance for Boston. The other issue is the fact the Komisarek will NEVER defend his actions with Lucic or Chara, the two Bruins who are near his size (6'5, 240lbs). He will, however, gladly mix it up with smaller players like Hunwick (5'11, 190lbs) and Krejci (6'0, 175lbs). Now who is the real coward here?

2 - Will the NHL actually stick to its guns? Yesterday they suspended Philly goon Daniel Carcillo for a punch to the back of the head on a faceoff in the closing seconds of a decided game. They also fined Flyers coach John Stevens $10K for his part in the 'message-sending'. This playoff season, the NHL is attempting to crackdown on 'message-sending' late in decided games and discussed the matter with all the playoff teams. Here is Colin Campbell's take on the matter:
We held a conference call Monday with the general managers and coaches of playoff teams and told them explicitly we would not tolerate attempts by clubs to 'send a message' late in a game when the outcome had been determined," said Colin Campbell, the NHL's senior executive vice president of hockey operations.
Organizations -- players and coaches -- will be held accountable for such actions.

To me, that says that the actions taken by Lapierre, Kostopoulos and Komisarek all merit punishment, whether it be fine or suspension. Problem is... in Philly, they suspended a 4th-line fighter that will have little impact on the series... with Montreal, it will be their top D man which will have a major impact on the game. In order to be consistent, Campbell NEEDS to suspend Komisarek for his actions but history and realism tells me that this will not be the case. As it is, Campbell has already been quoted as saying this on the matter...
People take things out of different incidents last night (and say:) 'Oh boy! Same thing (as Philadelphia-Pittsburgh)! How many games are you going to suspend him?' You've got to let the games unfold. You've got to let hockey be hockey, playoffs be playoffs. You've got to let the energy flow. And then, when they cross that line, you do what you have to do.
Certainly sounds to me like he is going to let the blatant late hit, elbowing attempts and eye-gougin happen after the whistle has blown while punishing people for punches during the game. Certainly makes sense to me!

Man, it must be nice to be a Montreal player and fan... knowing you can get away with ANYTHING!

Monday, April 13, 2009

NCAA recap...

Every spring, the sports world seems to revolve around the wonder that is 'March Madness' with ridiculous media coverage and endless bracket analysis. The media and the NCAA loves to push it as a tournament where anything can happen and upsets are de rigeur even as no #1 seed has ever lost in the first round. Since 1985, (when it expanded to 64 teams) the top 16 seeds have combined to win 90% of their first-round games with the top 8 teams losing only 4 games in 200 tries. Needless to say, there is not much suspense with the top teams early on, or sometimes at all as was the case this past season when 14 of the top seeds made the round of 16. What's worse is that the seeding of this tournament is shrouded in mystery and done by unknown processes, often favoring the big name schools and the hotter hand over the more consistent teams.

While all this is going on, the NCAA hockey tournament is left in relative anonymity... acknowledged only by fans of the participating schools and hockey die-hards. The seeding for this tournament is done by objective means... PairWise Rankings which compare every team with one another based on four attributes and rank them all accordingly. Therefore, the name of a school and how hot they are has no bearing in their seeding or even the ability to make the tournament other than via conference auto-bids. This aspect of the tournament makes it more appealing to me as the requirements for participation are clearly laid out and the field is stronger and has better balance. To give an idea of this balance and why the more popular basketball version has nothing on its lesser-known brother, here is a rundown of this years tournament...

Round 1 -
#1 BU beats #15 Ohio State 8-3. This one was over before it began.
#25 Bemidji State upsets #2 Notre Dame 5-1 with ND's lone goal coming when they were already down 4-0 in the third. Bemidji scores 4 on 18 shots.
#13 Miami (OH) upsets #3 Denver 4-2, outshooting the favorites 29-18
#14 Air Force upsets #4 Michigan 2-0 despite being outshot 43-11! High-pressure goaltending at its finest.
#9 Vermont upsets #5 Yale 4-1 in a game that UVM dominated. Yale only scored with 2 minutes left to break the shutout.
#11 Cornell upsets #6 Northeastern 3-2, scoring with four minutes and 0:17 left for the comeback win (typical NU gets outshot 12-4 in final period)
#7 Minnesota-Duluth beats #12 Princeton 5-4 in overtime. UMD scored with 0:40 and 0:01 left to overcome a 4-2 deficit and send the game to OT.
#10 UNH upsets #8 North Dakota 6-5 with UNH scoring with 0:01 left to send the game into overtime, which only lasted 45 seconds.

Tally: 6 upsets in 8 games... only one #1 (BU) and #2 (UMD) seeds remain.

Round 2 -
#1 BU beats #10 UNH 2-1 with the Terriers breaking the tie with only 0:15 left.
#13 Miami upsets #7 UMD 2-1 with two special teams goals (SH and PP). UMD pulls the goale with 3 minutes left and nets their lone goal but not enough.
#9 Vermont beats #14 Air Force 3-2 in double OT. Strangest game of the tournament as UVM gets a goal waved off in the final minute of the first OT and then scores on a shot that goes THROUGH the net and is not seen by officials. Play continues for 5 minutes until a stoppage occurs for the play to be reviewed... a review that required 15 minutes to ensure the correct call was made.
#25 Bemidji State upsets #11 Cornell 4-1 by out-shooting the favorite 12-2 in the third and netting 3.

Tally: 2 upsets in 4 games, only BU remains among the top half.

Rounds 3 & 4, Frozen Four -
#1 BU beats #9 Vermont 5-4 with two late third period goals (6:54 and 5:41 remaining)
#13 Miami beats #25 Bemidji St 4-1, finally ending the Cinderalla season. Even so, two 4-seeds meeting for the chance to make the National Championship game?!?

#1 BU beats #13 Miami 4-3 in overtime. Miami scores three unanswered to lead 3-1 with 4 minutes remaining but can't keep BU down as they score with 0:59 and 0:17 left to send it to OT where they end it after 12 minutes after the strangest blocked-shot deflection I have ever seen.

Finaly Tally - 8 upsets in 15 games, would have been worse had #1 overall BU not won its four. SEVEN goals scored in the final minute to win or tie games.

And yet there is minimal coverage by the media even though they love to go on about the suspense and buzzer-beaters of 'March Madness'. Somehow, I doubt there were as many 'buzzer-beaters' in the 64 basketball games as there were in the 15 hockey games with the 7 last minute and 4 overtime goals scored. Despite the inherent drama of the NCAA hockey tournament and the intensity of sudden-death playoffs, ESPN felt that D2 basketball was more important as the hockey games were bumped to ESPN2 and unheard of (and oft uncarried) ESPNU. To add insult to injury, two games (UNH-UMD, NU-Cornell) were preempted for regular season NCAA lacrosse games! Well ESPN... you can keep your basketball... you can keep your poker... you can keep your lacrosse... I will stick with hockey and just go on ignoring the 'world-wide leader'.

Guess that is the burden of being a hockey fan... knowing you enjoy the superior product but the masses not being smart enough to comprehend that fact!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Did Chiarelli screw the pooch?

Let me preface this by saying that by no means am I a Chiarelli-basher nor am I an doom-and-gloom troll as are (sadly) so common in Bruins forums. I generally agree with the moves Chiarelli makes and understand that not every move he makes will be perfect (Schaeffer, Nokelainnen) and that a GM should be judged by the total body of his work (Wheeler, Ryder, Lucic, Krejci, Savard, Chara). However, he really seems to have messed up by signing Thomas to a 4yr, $20M deal, a slight change from previous contract rumors.

The reason I say Chiarelli screwed up is not in the signing itself... the merits of which are definitely debatable but can easily be defended. No, my issue is with his apparent misinterpretation of the CBA. This quote is taken from the Bruins Blog Friday afternoon:

According to a source in the Bruins front office, part of what was driving the club to get the deal done now is that fact that Thomas will turn 35 years old on April 15.

When a player signs a new deal after his 35th birthday, per the collective bargaining agreement (CBA), although he can be bought out (at a two-thirds reduction in pay), his cap number can not be deleted from the club's salary commitments.

For next year, and for either two or three more years, Thomas will be on Boston's books for some $5 million a year. But because he has signed the deal before age 35, the Bruins have the safeguard -- that they would want to execute it -- to be able to buy him out at any time, cut their dollar commitment by one-third, and be able to spread the payments over twice the remaining term of the deal. It is a significant safeguard.

Now we are clearly led to believe by SOMEONE in the front office that the timing of this extension is key and provides the Bruins with some insurance against struggles and/or retirement. However, this is NOT the case as was pointed out by Larry Brooks and James Mirtle via Stanley Cup of Chowder. Curious as to what the disconnect was, I attempted to find answers in the CBA... no easy task for those unfamiliar with legalese such as myself. Here is what I found (transcribed from the CBA):
Actual Club Salary shall be calculated as follows:
All player salary and bonuses earned in a league year by a player who is in the second or later year of a multi-year standard contract which was signed when the players was age 35 or older (as of June 30 prior to the league year in which the contract is to be effective)...
The 'league year' in question is 2009 as the extension goes into effect next season. Therefore, the signing counts as 35+ and his cap-hit can NOT be affected by retirement. Only way to lose the 5M cap-hit is via trade or the ever-unappetizing buyout.

Now someone in the front-office was KPD's source and they clearly do not understand how the CBA works. My question is this... was this information allowed out to make the signing look better or was it a mis-interpretation by Chiarelli? Unfortunately, there is no positive answer for this... the former means Chiarelli (responsible for the front-office) lied to the fans... the latter means Chiarelli doesn't comprehend the CBA. Simply put, no good.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Thomas Extension - Ramifications

The Boston Globe is reporting that Tim Thomas signed an extension with the Bruins for 3 years at $5.2M per (the same amount as Brodeur). Needless to say, this has some MAJOR ramifications for the future of the team, not all of which are of a positive nature. As much as I love Thomas and everything he has done for this team, I have very mixed feelings about this contract and here is why:

Timing - One of the positive aspects of the deal actually. Per the new CBA, a player's contract can be bought-out for 2/3rds the value with the cap hit being 1/3rd the value spread out over double the remaining length. (Example: Player A has 2 years left on his contract with a cap hit of $3M per. If he were bought-out, he would have a $1M cap hit for the next four years.) However, while players signed after the age of 35 may still be bought-out, there is no cap relief allowed. Tim Thomas turns 35 on April 15th. Had he not been signed til the offseason, the Bruins would not have the insurance of cap relief via buy-out should Thomas struggle at the end of his contract.

Duration - What does this mean for Tuukka Rask, the goaltender of the future? People have already been clamoring for him to take over for Manny and back-up Tank after his impressive 35-save shutout earlier this year. The plan has been to get him up next season as a backup and get him used to NHL life before having the responsibility of starting thrust upon him. A one or two year extension for Thomas would have made sense as Rask could have backed up next season (25 games?) and then swapped the following season (50 games?). With three years of Tank, the question becomes when does Rask assume the starting role and will he get frustrated waiting for it?

Monetary - Not gonna lie, $5.2M a year is an awful lot for an older goalie, especially when there is someone like Rask waiting in the wings. I would have very much preferred his deal top out around $4M but nothing to be done about it now. This will make the upcoming offseason that much more critical as Boston has three RFA's who will all be demanding a raise. Currently, Kessel, Krejci and Hunwick combine for a $3.8M cap hit... my guess is they will require at LEAST $10M next season to retain all three. At best, Boston will have $8M in cap space (assuming the cap ONLY drops $1.7M to $55M) meaning someone will have to be moved. It may also prove difficult the following offseason with four RFA's needing to be signed (Rask, Wheeler, Lucic, Stuart). Mind you, when I say that these seven need to be signed, I mean NEED... these are the kind of players you build a franchise around. It will take some impressive work from Chiarelli to keep this group together in light of the Thomas signing.

My hope for the cap next year? It has a slight drop to the aforementioned $55M giving Boston the most room possible. With the CBA securely installed, the rookie contract bonus structure will return, meaning that Rask and Wheeler will see their cap hit drop from a combined $5M to ~$1.6M (I need to do more research into this matter to better understand the specifics of the cap and how bonuses are applied but this is my current understanding.) Should the bonuses be removed from cap consideration and Glen Murray win his appeal (thus taking his $1.4M buy-out off the cap next season) Boston would have 15 players under contract for $44.4M (8 F, 5 D, 2 G). This is assuming PJ, Hnidy and Yelle are not re-signed for next season.

Problems arise when you attempt to add in the hopeful $10M for the three RFAs as the Bruins have $600K in cap room with only 18 players (10 F, 6 D, 2 G) under contract! Should Ward retire (a definite possibility given his age and frequent injuries) the Bruins would save another $2.5M giving $3.1M to sign three forwards and two defenseman. Would be very difficult to say the least. One possibility would be PJ, Yelle and Hnidy returning for a combined $2.25M ($750K a pop seems legit) meaning two spots still need filling with $850K and thats just not happening! Looks like Kobasew, Sturm or Bergeron will be trade bait with Kobasew being the best asset due to his health and lower contract. Unfortunately, it is for those very qualities that I would want to keep the man in a Boston uniform!

Oh, and let's not forget... the cap is expected to drop even further the following off-season! The same off-season that Rask, Wheeler, Lucic and Stuart will be RFAs. This is going to require some impessive massaging of contracts and cap-hits for PC to make this all work... and that is with a number of beneficial assumptions all going in Boston's favor!

In all honesty, this signing may have just killed the future of the Bruins...

Edit: Apparently the extension is actually 4 yrs, $20M. Goodbye Tuukka. Goodbye Phil. Send us letters from your future ASG appearances!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Boston's red-headed stepchild

Believe it or not, there is something good about the Bruins playing such a ridiculously light schedule lately... it has allowed me to focus on NCAA hockey, back where the love-affair with all things hockey began!

Typically, my interest in NCAA hockey is minimal this late in the season since Northeastern (the alma mater) is a perennial cellar-dweller and never makes it out of the first round of the Hockey East tournament. Of course, that is even assuming they are fortunate enough to even qualify; something they were unable to do my last two years there. Mind you, that is especially telling since the league was only 9 teams, 8 of which made the tournament! However, this year has been far from typical... NU is having perhaps the best season in its 80th year of existence. They have gone 23-9-4 in the regular season and advanced to the Hockey East semifinals for the first time in 15 years.

In that semi-final game, they led 2-1 going into the final minutes of regulation when disaster struck... they were called for too many men on the ice. Sad thing is, there was no question they were guilty of the infraction... it wasn't even close as the two skaters nearest the bench were both playing the puck-carrier. Brad Theissen, their stellar goalie (Hockey East Player of the Year) was unable to do everything for the Huskies and allowed the equalizer with 30 seconds left. The winning goal was scored a few minutes later on a deflection... there was an eerie sense of deja-vu seeing as the previous night saw the Bruins have a similar collapse to the Kings on the very same ice. [I actually joked with my friend that the ice had some bad juju and that it needed to be changed for the sake of the Bruins. Judging by their strong all-around performance in a division-clinching 4-1 win the following Sunday over NJ, I would like to think someone listened!] Even though the loss dropped their record to 25-11-4, NU ended the season ranked sixth in the nation and earned a spot in the NCAA tournament. They are the #2 seed in the Midwest bracket and will be playing Cornell tomorrow in Grand Rapids, MI. This is only the fourth NCAA bid for NU and its first in 15 seasons (1994 was apparenly a good year for NU!) so you would think a big deal would be made of it, right?

Well you would think wrong... very much so in fact. The morning after the brackets were announced, there was a nice article about BU taking the top seed and how they were the heavy favorites to win it all (>shudder<). The article showed some stats of their first-round fodder (Ohio St) while listing the other teams to make the tournament. That was NU's sole mention in the BOSTON Globe in regards to their making the NCAAs for the first time in over a decade.

Needless to say, I was quite displeased by this obvious lack of respect for Northeastern in its hometown paper. Hell, the Globe gave Ohio St more publicity than it gave Boston's-own Huskies! Lord knows there would have been a full write-up if it were BC or Harvard ranked sixth in the nation! Now I have no problem with BU having its own article... their history and success this season most certainly merit the attention. Same goes for BC... they are the reigning champions after all and have the history that NU does not. But I would still like to think that a local program having its best season in well over a decade would merit SOME attention! I was so displeased by this that I even went so far as to email the author of the article as well as the sports editor. I did receive a response from the author but it just said she does as assigned and she will pass it along the chain of command. Needless to say, never heard anything from the editor and four days later, there is still no mention of NU in the Globe. Pretty damned pathetic that the cinderalla local program gets so little respect here... hell, I think their basketball team got more press for being in the CBI! (WTF?? NIT lite?) Just very annoying and disrespectful in my mind...

Okay, rant over. Sorry bout that... 2 days til the Huskies square off with Cornell for the right to get killed by Notre Dame.

Edit: Apparently the brilliant editors at the Globe feel that their Boston-based readers would rather know more about North Dakota's season instead of focusing on the higher-ranked local team. Gotta love it...

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

RTSS = Home-Cooking?

The question arose while watching the latest Bruins-Canadiennes tilt at Montreal. After the first period, the hit totals in the game were 27 to 10 in favor of Montreal (shocker!) which put the Canadiennes on pace for 81 (!!!!) hits, only slightly above their home-average of 28.5 hits per game. The final hit total came out to 48-25 which is still a ridiculous total with an unrealistic difference between the two teams. Are we really to believe that the Canadiennes were TWICE as physical as the Bruins? Or was this just another instance of the home-town scorer being generous and stretching the definition of a hit?

This all got me thinking about statistics when involved with sports and how subjectivity should be avoided at all costs. The other major leagues rely primarily upon objective stats (the MLB error is the only subjective stat that comes to mind) as does hockey for the most part (goals, assists, +/-, shutouts, wins, losses etc…). However, lately there has been an increased interest in RTSS (Real-Time Scoring System) stats and I have seen these metrics used more and more when comparing players and teams. For those unfamiliar with the concept of RTSS, it is the use of a dedicated scorer to record the total number of hits, blocked shots, missed shots, giveaways, takeaways and faceoff outcomes for each team. It has been in place since the beginning of the ’97-’98 season but has only become accessible to everyday fans in the past year or so. Every NHL boxscore on ESPN features these statistics prominently, alongside shot and PIM totals, above the scoring summary. The placement of these subjective figures atop the page next to more traditional, objective statistics gives them an importance and legitimacy that is not truly deserved. Thankfully, the other main hockey/sports sites (SI, TSN, NHL) do not list this ‘information’ at all, or make it difficult to find as is the case with NHL.

Now don’t get me wrong... I am a big proponent of using statistics to compare players and teams. I love the fact that more and more statistical analyses are becoming available and that hockey and the NHL are moving in that direction. The game of baseball has changed dramatically over the past decade or two thanks to the advent of SABRmetrics and similar statistics which delve further into how the game is played. These advanced analyses have allowed for the objective comparison of players from any era by measuring those players against their peers (the only possible way to legitimately compare players of different eras). I have seen a similar approach taken with RTSS stats by adjusting the numbers to remove any inherent bias from certain arena scorers. However, too many questions arise with their methodology and the concept in general...
  • What equations are to be used?
  • How is a bias judged?
  • How is it to be done?
  • Will it be a rolling adjustment done after every game?
  • Will it be based off last season's biases?
  • Will it have to wait until season's end when all the numbers have been accumulated?
  • What happens if the scorer, and thus the bias, changes mid-season?
Even should acceptable responses be established for all of these questions, there still remains a major flaw… the subjectivity of the original RTSS stats! The difference between adjusting RTSS stats and baseball’s ERA+, OPS+ and other SABRmetrics is their basis in facts; their basis in objective data. Consider adjusting statistics to be like building a house on a weak foundation… no matter how perfect the design (the adjustment equations) it is still doomed to collapse due to its poor foundation (RTSS stats). Here is an illustration of WHY they are such a poor foundation…
Hits – How do you define a hit? How hard does it have to be? Does a player have to be knocked to the ice or does a simple two-handed shove count? Sure, there are plenty of bruising hits with solid contact but there are just as many instances where some level of contact is made… how much constitutes an official hit? Also, while there are plenty of instances where there is a clear-cut aggressor, what happens when both players are trying to be physical? Does the hit get credited to both players or only to one, and if the latter who ‘wins’ the hit?

Blocked Shots – Is intent considered or does dumb luck play a role in this stat? Does the shot have to actually be on net (or appear to be doing so) to count as a block or is it merely recognition of the bravery to step in front of that vulcanized rubber disc, regardless of its destination? If the shot is blocked and caroms into the net, does it count as a blocked shot, a positive stat, despite the negative impact of the play?

Missed Shots – Same issue as the blocked shots but in reverse… does a shot not on net count as a miss even if blocked? And what about shots that are clearly going over the crossbar (and thus not on net) yet are gloved by the goalie… is that a shot or a missed shot?

Faceoff wins – How is a faceoff win determined? Is possession the only important thing or does it have to do with which side of the dot the puck ended up on? In other words, if the Boston center knocks the puck back towards his side but an opposing player is the first to gain possession who gets the win? The opposition clearly has the puck and thus won the faceoff and yet the Boston center did nothing to merit a loss since he controlled the puck better than his opponent.

Giveaway/Takeaway – Once again… what is the definition here? Apparently the two are mutually exclusive (a play can only be one or the other, never both) and therefore the two numbers do not have to balance out. Still the question becomes what counts as what… does a failed dump-in count as a giveaway or takeaway? Does an intentional icing or slow-roller (to prevent icing) count as a giveaway? What about errant passes… do they count and if so, who gets (dis)credited with it, the passer or intended receiver? Not always clear who is at fault for the missed opportunity. Or do they simply count as a takeaway regardless of whether the pass would have been ‘completed’?
Admittedly, the extent of the subjectivity in these statistics varies with hits, giveaways and takeaways having the potential to be ruled by scorer bias while the other three instances are more clear cut. However, the situations where each stat is opened to subjectivity (bias) are enough to skew the data over the course of the season and make them statistically useless. To prove the deficiencies of these stats, I will provide examples in my next entry...

Monday, February 9, 2009

Let's go Huskies!

Ten minutes til the puck drops on the 57th Beanpot Finals and I am praying NU can pull out the victory over the #1 team in the nation. If only the game could be based on best and loudest fanbases... Northeastern would win EASILY!

4:00 - Quiet game thus far... some decent back and forth but really nothing to report. No surprise the NU fans have been the more vocal thus far.

7:01 - NU gets the first penalty after a neutral-zone hook from BU. The Huskies immediately put themselves in the box, taking an interference on a short-handed rush. NU starts off 0-1 on the PP thanks to the 8 second duration. Only been one shot on net per side at this point...

9:52 - No scoring on the 4x4... only good chance came at the hand's of NU's Wade McLeod but his pass didn't connect. BU takes another penalty... maybe NU can have more success than 8 fruitless seconds...

16:08 - MERDE! BU scores on the 5-on-3, beating Thiessen from the point high blocker-side. Still a minute left on the second penalty... bad news is a clearing attempt just drilled the referee in the eye-area and there is clearly blood on the ice. Brutal play and one you never want to see... 1-0 BU

19:34 - Northeastern with the man-advantage... McLaughlin roofs a juicy rebound to tie the score at 1. Interesting bit is that there was a delayed penalty on BU on the play so what is the manpower going to be? Parker and BU are trying to get the delayed penalty wiped (leaving BU with 1:16 PK time) but the refs disagreed and posted the new penalty. NU will go into the break with 1:34 remaining on their power play and the score tied at 1. 1-1 EVEN

0:27 - FUCK! NU guy breaks a stick and thus leaves the ice, allowing for a BU shorthanded breakaway. Thiessen stops the intial shot but the rebound is left floating for Bonino to bury top-corner, banking it off the crossbar and post then in. 2-1 BU

3:24 - Another Northeastern penalty in the defensive zone. BU is starting to take control of the game and NU is not helping their cause with sloppy play. McLeod just had a beautiful shortie attempt but lost control of the puck after cutting in front of the net and beating Millan... all he needed was a tap towards the net to get the equalizer.

11:06 - Back and forth action... NU is unable to capitalize on a power-play but score seconds after to tie the score. Unfortunately, a couple minutes later, BU comes in a takes the lead back. Hard to blame Thiessen though as he wasn't given much of a chance on the play. 3-2 BU

13:27 - Northeastern keeps up the sloppy play, giving BU yet another power play. Brick says the call was crap (worded it a bit different) and I would have to agree with him... hopefully this game won't be decided by the referees (as I feared may be the case for BU...).

15:44 - Wonderful... the officiating is stepping in once again. Huskies managed to kill off the man advantage but shortly after, there is a pileup in the crease... all 10 skaters appeared to be crammed into that 6' by 8' blue real estate. There is no possible WAY that the ref could see that puck and CLEARLY the play should have been blown dead. Thiessen literally got assaulted(making it a perfect 2 for 2 in Beanpot games!) with people crashing in on his neck of all places. Then the BU guy manages to get a nice little slash in at Thiessen's neck after the officials finally realized the puck was at center ice. Somehow, after this blatant assault on Thiessen (and his potential injury) the only penalty call made is a misconduct to NU's McNeely. Strange... the same thing happened last game... Thiessen gets assaulted, NU player defends him and gets tossed for it while the true guilty party gets off scott-free. Makes me fucking sick.

Second Period Recap:
Apparently the Beanpot refs feel that Thiessen is so good, he doesn't need any help from them. This is the second game where he is brutally attacked by the opposition and yet in both instances it is a Huskie who gets tossed from the game. This one was especially impressive as a BU player (Yip?) has his stick under Thiessen's neck and just keeps tugging away... looked as if he was trying to strangle the man! Of course, this is perfectly within the rules for Terriers while Huskies are barely allowed to play with any physicality...

0:57 - Amazing... as soon as there is any pressure on Millan, the whistle is blown. Can you say double standard? Good news is a Terrier penalty is called on the play, giving NU the 5-on-3 for 45 seconds. NEED to capitalize on this... NU calls their lone timeout. Surprised to see it called so early and not sure I agree with it... gotta think there will be a time later in the period where that timeout would be more valuable.

4:29 - Timeout didn't help matters as Northeastern is unable to convert on the 3+ minutes of man-advantage despite taking 7-8 shots. Getting that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach now... just not going to pull this one out...

10:02 - Nice little dive in front of the NU net by Saponari to get the interference call and BU power play. Not looking good for the Huskies...

13:54 - And thats the game folks... BU gets a 2-on-1 shorthanded bid and Warsofsky opts for the shot over the pass. That makes it two shorthanded goals allowed by Northeastern. Can't expect to win like that... Oh, wait... let's make that THREE shorthanded goals! Absolutely fucking atrocious... how do you let up TWO 2-on-1 shorthanded breaks inside of 30 seconds. Bloody miserable. So much for #5...

So much for the Hockey Gods looking kindly upon the Huskies...
Final score: lot to little, BU

Thursday, February 5, 2009

I'm a celebrity!

Ok... not really. Well, actually, not at all...

I did, however, get my question answered in the latest Bruins mailbag which is quite pleasing since it has been something I have been wondering for some time but unable to get any news on. Here it is:
Any word on the Glen Murray appeal? Last I remember hearing, it was scheduled for January 16th. Did something change or has the verdict simply not been rendered? Also, regarding the appeal, am I correct in believing that the best option would be for Glen to win? That way, he could be placed on LTIR this season, wiping his salary off the cap and taking the $1.4M buyout figure off of next season's cap as well?
Dave, Natick

A: Dave, the second installment of the Murray hearing is scheduled for Feb. 12. There might even need to be a third day of hearings. But once the hearings are complete, I'm told that a verdict will be rendered shortly after. And yes, in terms of cap purposes, it would be best for the Bruins if Murray won the appeal. They'd have to pay his full $4.15 million this year, but his buyout money would be completely off the 2009-10 books.

So the good news is that Bruins fans should have a definite answer in a week or two. Glad to see my understanding of the situation was correct and that a Bruins 'loss' would in fact be a victory! C'mon Glen! (and your lawyer/agent) Help the Bruins out one last time!

Edit: On an editorial note, I have a monster in the works but I am still crunching numbers and trying to decide how best to attack it...

Monday, February 2, 2009


Lord I hope Northeastern can claim the title. They are more than overdue... 21 years is far too long. Road won't be easy as they will have to go through #11 BC and likely #1 BU (NU is ranked #3).

Harvard is the tough-luck loser to BU, 4-3. The Terriers were handed a power-play with 2:10 left in the game after a Harvard player hooks a BU forward who grabs the stick and falls on it, selling the call. BU's first goal game due to a similar penalty call behind the BU net. Harvard deserved better tonight...

3:24 - NU on the 5-on-3... win the faceoff, cycle down low to the right of Muse... Ginand, team leading scorer, beats Muse high glove-side with a hard-angle shot. NU unsuccessful on second PP opportunity. 1-0 NU

8:06 - BC just finished with the power-play, delayed penalty on NU allows for the 6-on-5... Price, the extra skater winds up from the point, Thiessen appears to make the stop but it trickles through five hole and barely crosses the line with two Eagles racing to help it in. 1-1 Even

8:54 - Great save by Thiessen on a near breakaway by Bradford, BC's leading scorer... leads to NU's transition game, Costa puts it in on the third try. 2-1 NU

15:00 - NU penalized shortly after the goal... able to kill it off with some good netminding from Thiessen who had to hold the post on another impressive scoring chance from Bradford. Near breakaway from Donovan of NU but puts it over the net, glove-side. They seem to be going glove-side on him a lot.

End of first - Impressive goaltending from Thiessen keeping NU in this game. Very vocal NU student contingent so far with "Let's go Huskies" chant clearly audible on the NESN feed... not so much for BC. Solid period though has to be more disciplined if they expect to win. Shots are 9-8 for NU.

3:22 - BC has owned the period thus far and NU's Chisholm just got rung up for Interference. BC is 0-2 on the PP with 1 shot.

6:14 - NU escapes the PK unharmed... finally get their first shot of the period and not surprisingly, they went high on the glove-side. Muse made the save on a shot that appeared to be wide of the net.

12:02 - NU on the PP... BC's Almeida guilty of the trip on Costa off the faceoff. NU is 1-2 with 2 shots on the man advantage. On a side not, some rather disturbing news... turns out NU freshman Steve Quailer is property of the enemy! He was a 3rd round selection of the Canadiennes in the 2008 Entry Draft... I am saddened by this. Not saddened though by NU putting in another PPG... odd bounce behind the net off the boards puts Muse in an awkward position, opening the hole for Liotti's blast. 3-1 NU

12:44 - Drive by McCauley from the point. Two goals in 42 seconds... York takes the TO to calm Muse and the Eagles down. Shots are now even at 17 apiece 4-1 NU

18:19 - So that bit about not liking Quailer? Yea... completely disregard that! He puts in NU's 5th goal, their 3rd goal on 4 shots and another shaky play from Muse. NU on the PK though with a roughing call... game is getting chippy now. 5-1 NU

19:57 - Thiessen with another save on a breakaway. Scrum in front of him after Bradford slams into Thiessen. Problem is, he didn't even try to slow down heading in but instead slammed right into Thiessen's upper torso and head... he deserves to be tossed for that in my opinion. NU's Chisholm brought his own form of justice with some punches to the downed Bradford... he is heading to the lockerroom and it certainly seems like he was tossed. Can't comprehend how Bradford doesn't get the same punishment since he obviously didn't even TRY to slow down or avoid blind-siding Thiessen.

End of Second - Period ends on a nasty note with the melee in Thiessen's crease. It was started by BC's captain who made (in my opinion) a blatantly dirty play that could only have been born of frustration. Thankfully NU is dominating the period despite being soundly outshot (22-11) with three goals to none, two in large part to misplays behind the net from the sophomore Muse. Did not expect that out of him, seeing as he has played, and won, in the pressure-cooker of the NCAA finals. Thiessen has been dominant, taking the first shot with ease and allowing very few rebounds... hopefully no harm done by Bradford's charge.

Final results of Melee:
NU Chisholm - 5min punching, game disqualification
NU Vitale - 2min hitting after whistle
BC Bradford - 5min charging
BC Atkinson - 2min hitting after whistle

No power plays from the mess... still don't comprehend how Bradford is still in the game after sparking the brawl. Even the USCHO blogger is in agreement:
"Bradford ran goalie Brad Thiessen while he was covering a puck amidst a scrum. The intent was clear as day..."
I am less than pleased with the official's handling of that play and the end results. Thankfully, NU has a 4-goal lead and should be able to hold it so long as Thiessen is unharmed.

8:00 - NU kills off the second penalty of the third... BC is quickly running out of time in this one and is still no closer to solving Thiessen. The NU defense reminds me somewhat of the Bruins... allow lots of low-quality shots and few juicy rebounds and those few rebounds that are allowed are quickly cleared out by the defense. Just as with Boston, there are a couple times each period that the goalie is relied upon to make the spectacular save and Thiessen is delivering just like Thomas, though a little more composed...

12:04 - NU fans sound like they are a little bored... the last few minutes they have been counting down the last ten seconds of each minute then repeatedly chanting the minutes left. Rather amusing yet sad at the same time... have hardly heard a peep from the BC crowd over the telecast... really quite pathetic, especially considering they are reigning NCAA champs. As I am writing this, Donovan pots killer and gets his 4th point of the night (1G, 3A). Finally, the NU fans have something real to cheer about and Muse has been pulled from the game in favor of the local kid Venti (Needham) who is seeing his first collegiate action. Donovan then gets his third minor penalty (talk about filling up the stat sheet!) but is not too concerned since BC is 0-6 tonight on PP. 6-1 NU

5:00 - Five minutes also the chant from the Huskies fans, anticipating a spirited matchup with their Comm Ave rivals. Thiessen must have broken 40 saves by now, which is made all the more impressive by the fact BC scored on their first shot (and even then just barely). He certainly looks to be in line for his second straight Eberly Award (given to the goalie with the best save percentage).

Final - NU closes it out on the man advantage. Just an impressive, dominating effort from the Huskies (6-1 victors) and their fans rewarded them with some raucous cheers. Impressive bit is they are the first team to chase John Muse in his 67 games at the Heights... he had yet to miss even a second of play for the Eagles. Strange bit is, NU was outshot 45-26 but you wouldn't have guessed watching the game since BC was clearly suffocated by the Huskie defense. Goes to show you how shots don't truly tell the story of a game... what really matters is the quality of those shots! Was nervous heading into this game with BC and was concerned throughout the first period but once NU got that third goal, I felt a lot more comfortable.

Now the question is... do I try and get tickets for the final and risk severe disappointment or do I stick with what worked and live-blog the game again? Decisions, decisions...
See running commentary here...

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

They're ba-aack!

Fluto at the Globe has confirmed that the Bruins will be getting considerable reinforcements tonight in the form of Lucic, Bergeron and Ference.

Lucic will be returning to the first line to play alongside Savard and Kobasew while Ference has been written into the second defensive pairing with Wideman (Stuart and Hnidy are the 3rd pairing). Bergeron will playing playing for the ill Michael Ryder (flu-like symptoms) on the second line alongside Krejci and Wheeler... hopefully Krejci continues his magic and jumpstarts Patrice's game as he previously did with Marco and Mikey.

The real surprise from all this is what it means to the kid, Matt Hunwick... instead of scratching him after his solid fill-in work, CJ has decided to try him on the wing. He is currently pencilled in to fill the left wing alongside Nokelainen and Byron Bitz (what a great name...) which should prove an interesting experiment. I love the idea of keeping a 7th D dressed as it lets CJ manage the minutes for Ward and Ference and is a nice insurance policy should one of the two go down... I would much rather play a with one less forward than 5 D...

EDIT: Fluto just reported that Phil Kessel has been cleared for contact and is in line to play in tomorrow's game against the Devils. He will be wearing extra padding around his midsection to protect his spleen (which can become enlarged due to mono) but it is purely a precautionary measure. His return will be a HUGE boost for the offense!

Monday, January 26, 2009

ASG recap and changes

Well, the 2009 NHL All-Star Weekend has come and gone with all the usual highlights and an unfortunate number of lowlights. Despite their best attempts, Montreal fans were unsuccessful in barring Boston from the festivities with all four Bruins making their presence felt. Quick recap of the Bruins’ impact upon the weekend…

Blake Wheeler – Hat trick in the YoungStars game (against Carey ‘The Second Coming’ Price!) and a couple of assists… named MVP.

Zdeno Chara – Breaks record for hardest shot with 105.4mph blast and raises $24K for Right to Play, his charity of choice. Was booed (as were all the Bruins) at the introductions but amazingly, the Montreal fans were classy enough to applaud his record-breaking victory and his honorable charitable efforts.

Marc Savard – Runner-up in the elimination shootout to Shane Doan… three assists in the game and one funny bastard when mic’ed up.

Tim Thomas – The true MVP of the ASG… gave up two quick goals in 3 minutes and then only allowed 1 more in the last 22 minutes, including stonewalling Nash and Doan on the shootout. Ultimately had 19 saves on 22 shots in 25 minutes and 2 for 2 in the shootout… winning goalie for second straight year.

Now for those unfortunate lowlights… the NHL just can’t seem to avoid the damned things! Of course, in this instance I am referring to the glaring issues with fan voting determining the starters. The fact that this game ended up being a contest between the ‘Pittreal Canaduins’ and the ‘Chicaheim BlackDucks’ is pathetic to say the least. It is even more damning when you consider the fact that the four teams (Montreal, Chicago, Anaheim & Pittsburgh) to comprise the starting lineups are not in the top 6 in the NHL (7th, 10th, 16th & 18th respectively) and not one leads their division. So now the question is… what can be done to right the ship and make the NHL ASG at least slightly reputable?

1 – Keep the ‘1 Team, 1 All-Star’ rule currently in place and allow fans of each team to vote on their team’s representative. This would fill 15 of the 21 roster spots with the remaining six being given to the league to decide upon. The main problem here would be too many teams voting in goalies but this could be solved using season stats as tie-breakers and the fans second choice being named in the loser’s stead.

2 – Same as #1 with a twist… the extra roster spots are given out proportionally to the top teams in each conference. For instance, this season would see two extra spots go to Boston, Washington, Detroit and San Jose since they are the clear ‘elite’ of their respective conference. The remaining four extra spots would be divided between Chicago, Montreal, New Jersey and Calgary as these are the 3rd and 4th team in each conference based on the standings. The problem here is that the proportional spots could not be determined until close to the break and therefore fan-voting wouldn’t be possible for those.

3 – Get rid of the ‘1 Team, 1 All-Star’ rule and just let the league fill in the 15 reserves with the most deserving candidates regardless of team. This would make the ballot-stuffing less damaging since there would be more spots for the truly deserving to still make the squad. Problem here is that the rule is in place to make it so that every fanbase has someone to cheer for and therefore a reason to watch the ASG. This could be solved by ensuring all teams are represented in the skills events and the YoungStars game… possibly even upping the ratio of non-ASG team reps to account for the disparity.

Needless to say, however the NHL decides to act (or not act as is more likely the case), controls need to be implemented to limit excessive voting from one source. Whether it be vote caps per email or IP address, I do not know… I just know that the NHL needs to change it and has two full years to do so. My guess is nothing will change for 2011 and Bete-man will point towards the results of this years game and the ‘fair and balanced’ voting as evidence that all is well.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Back in Action!

Been a whiles since I last posted... I would use the holidays or work as my excuse but its two weeks into the new year and I haven’t had any real work in months so those aren’t gonna fly. Guess I will just blame my absence on a lack of motivation (I am a complete slacker after all…) and nothing that really inspired me to write a post. Anywho, I am back now and will try to do this on a more regular basis. In the meantime, a lot has happened in the world of sports since I last posted so I suppose it is about time I caught up...

Not planning on saying much here as I plan on having a couple posts dedicated to them in the coming week. Just need to say that the last second equalizer for St Louis in yesterday’s matinee was unequivocally a high-stick and I am utterly baffled as to how the replay officials missed that and thus failed to overturn the goal. That said, the loss cannot be blamed on the officiating since there is no way the Blues should have been able to get that shot off or even still be in the game that late. Such is life…

I love Carey Price’s dedication to his team... he sits out important regular season games due to an injury but of course manages to come back to play in a meaningless exhibition for his own greater glory. That is the definition of a selfish player... going after personal honors instead of being more concerned about team goals and honors. Teams rarely go far in the playoffs when their goalie is more concerned about looking out for himself at the expense of the team. No way would Thomas, a true team player, act in such a way…

After all the experts predicted he would sign with the Red Sox, Mark Teixeira signed an 8 year, $180M deal with New York last month meaning the Yankees now have spent $424M this season on three players (20 years total). This also means that the Yankees have the four of the six highest paid players in baseball for 2009 (Santana #3, Cabrera #5) totaling $92M, or more money than the payroll for 16 other TEAMS! It also means the Yankees have the highest paid player at 6 of 8 possible positions (Cano is second for 2b, Damon is eighth for OF). Now I realize that my Red Sox have benefited from the lack of a salary cap in MLB but this is just getting ridiculous. Quite simply, when one team is given such a dramatic competitive advantage over the rest of the field, something needs to be done about it…

Now one could argue that this is all sour grapes from a Red Sox fan… after all, according to the experts Boston was a near lock to sign Teixeira so his ‘defection’ to the Yankees stings more. However, as a Red Sox fan, I am thrilled they didn’t give into Boras’s demands for $20M+ per season and I love the $244M spent on an ever-expanding blimp and a pitcher who lives on the DL. In all seriousness, Burnett has not been able to stay healthy for his entire career so what chance is there he will be able to do so after getting the big payday? Can anyone say Pavano 2.0? As for Sabathia, the man easily weighs 350lbs already… what is going to happen in three or four years when he is pushing four bills? He may work out in the short-term but no way does he pull a Dave Wells and pitch well as an old fattie. I see the two contracts being wasted money by 2011, if not sooner…

That said, I would wager a considerable amount of money on the Yankees not winning the 2009 World Series. Hell, I honestly doubt they will even make the playoffs… there is more to baseball than buying the best possible team. After all, if it were all about money how would the Phillies ($98M, #13) have won the title over the Rays ($44M, #29!) while the Yankees ($209M, #1), Tigers ($139M, #2) and Mets ($138M, #3) all failed to even qualify for the playoffs?

As for the Red Sox, they have been taking the low-risk, high-reward approach by signing veteran pitchers (Smoltz, Penny, Saito) while also locking up their young talent long-term (Pedroia, Youkilis). At this point, the only concerns heading into 2009 is filling the void at catcher (preferably with someone NOT named Varitek) and the healthy return of Lowell and Ortiz from off-season surgery. For all the Yankee signings, I still think Boston has the advantage (in terms of both depth and talent) in the rotation, bullpen (major advantage) and defense. It is far too early to be making predictions but it is safe to say I am confident of yet another competitive Red Sox campaign in 2009…

The Patriots became the second team in NFL history to reach 11 wins yet fail to qualify for the playoffs. Many fans are calling for a change to the NFL’s playoff formats since ‘lesser’ teams (8-8 Chargers, 9-7 Cardinals, 9-6-1 Eagles, 10-6 Vikings) made it to the playoffs ahead of New England. My view is that no change is needed and the Patriots’ not making the playoffs is their own fault since they could have (and should have) won the second Jets game and the Colts game. They can only blame themselves for not stopping the Jets on 3rd and 15 in OT or for the stupid drive-killing penalty to David Thomas against the Colts.

Though the Patriots did fail to make the playoffs, their season still has to be considered an unmitigated success. After all, how many franchises could lose the reigning MVP in the opening minutes of the season, hand over the reigns to an absolutely unproven quarterback and still finish 11-5? Their success is especially impressive when you consider the number of veteran starters lost to injury (Harrison, Thomas, Bruschi, Warren, Green, Maroney, Neal). During the year, the Patriots had undrafted rookies starting at LB and RB (Guyton, Green-Ellis) and two retirees signed off the street starting the final four games at LB (Colvin, Seau). The bright spot in all this is the progression of our recent top draft picks… Brandon Meriwether validated his ’07 first round selection while Jerod Mayo was an absolute revelation at linebacker and will (hopefully) be a cornerstone of the defense for years to come.

As for the playoffs, I am still having a hard time believing that the Cardinals made it past the Panthers and Eagles to make it into the Super Bowl. Can this really be the same team that the Patriots limited to 186 yards (78 of which came on one meaningless TD) in destroying them 47-7? I would love to see the Cardinals stun the world by beating the heavily favored Steelers if only to say that the Patriots absolutely dominated the reigning champs (and yet didn’t make the playoffs). The fact that I despise the Steelers probably has something to do with my rooting for the Cardinals too…

Oh, one last thing… Peyton Manning won his third NFL MVP. Of course, this honor came along with his routine first-round exit from the playoffs. That runs his record up to 7-8 in the postseason with SIX first-game departures (3 WC round, 3 divisional round)… and that is even crediting him with the 4 wins of their championship run where he was carried by the defense and ground attack (3 TDs, 7 INTs in 4 games). Makes me wonder… would he rather have his 3 MVPs, 7-8 playoff record and 1 ring or Brady’s 1 MVP, 14-3 playoff record and 3 rings? I certainly know who I would take…