Saturday, 13 November 2010

It's been a while. Let's get started shall we...

  • I was watching the Bruins-Canadiens game last night when Jeff Halpern had a goal waved off because he kicked the puck into the net. According to NHL rules,  a goal can be allowed off of a skate as long as there is no distinct kicking motion. Is it just me, or does that allow for too much grey area? For those who didn't see the disallowed goal, Halpern was going hard to the net, took a pass off his skate, and the puck bounced into the net before he could get his stick on it. This is where the grey area comes in. When watching the replay, it can easily be argued that Halpern was simply trying to stop in front of the net, rather than run over Tuukka Rask. The key to situations such as these, is the leg must be going in a pendulum motion for the goal to be disallowed, something rather hard to see in a game where players' legs churn as quickly as in hockey. It is just too hard to judge just what it is the player in question was intending to do. Here is what I would recommend: allow a goal that is kicked in as long as the puck is not in the crease at the time. It is a simple, black and white rule that can be easily judged by the refs calling the game. At least if this were the rule, one inconsistency in the game (and there are plenty of others) will be taken away.
  • With the exception of Steven Stamkos, if the season ended today there would be a chance that all three finalists for the Hart Trophy would be goaltenders. As of November 12, five goaltenders have a GAA under 2.0: Mathieu Garon (1.28), Tim Thomas (1.39), Jonathan Quick (1.58), Jaroslav Halak (1.79) and Antero Niittymaki (1.80). Sure, its early in the season, but these goaltenders are playing out of this world. Each of them has their team in a position well ahead of what was expected of them; the only exception is Niittymaki's Sharks who currently sit in 12th place in the Western Conference, though that is largely do to the play of last year's Stanley Cup winning goalie Antti Niemi who cannot seem to find his groove in San Jose with his 3.91 GAA and .870 save percentage. Garon is definitely the most surprising name among those. The career backup has been exceptional, keeping former rookie of the year Steve Mason on the bench while he is leading the Blue Jackets into playoff position for just the second time. One of the feel good stories of the year so far, Thomas has regained his Vezina Trophy winning form from two seasons ago. This is a player who has had to fight and scrap for years in order to get into the NHL and even then many though he would be out of the league n a few years. He remains undefeated and went six games this season before giving up more than one goal in a game. The Bruins have full confidence in Thomas and it is east to tell the team is more relaxed when he is in goal as compared to Tuukka Rask. Quick and Halak are both leading their teams to surprising starts. Quick's Kings are at the top of the Western Conference and the Blues are tied with the Red Wings for the top spot in the Central Division. Both teams were expected, by me at least, to have good seasons this year, but stingy goaltending has transformed them into two of the most dominate teams in the league. Of course, it would be ridiculous to expect these goalies to keep up this pace for an entire season, but few players are more instrumental in their teams' success than these players. There hasn't been a Hart Trophy winning goalie since Jose Theodore in 2001-02; how Miller didn't win it last year I can't figure out. Goaltending may be the most important position in sports, these guys deserve more respect and credit for their teams' success.
  • This year's All-Star Game will feature a new format for selecting teams, and in tern, eliminating the East vs. West format altogether. Two captains will choose the teams, with the fans voting in the starting line-up. The list of players eligible to be picked can be found here. It will be interesting to see who are picked to be the captains. I know to East-West format is officially gone, but I think a fair way to do this every year, if this format becomes the norm, would be to have the captains of the previous year's Stanley Cup Final do the picking. Other than a fan vote, which would probably produce Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin as captains every year, this seems the fairest way to pick the captains. If that is the case, it will be fun to watch Mike Richards and Jonathan Toews square up against each other again. In terns of who is on the ballot, it seems every year the players eligible to be selected are picked before the season even begins. It will be just as interesting to see who is picked last as the All-Star game is becoming gym class all over again. Every year there are snubs and players on the ballot that do not deserve to be there. I understand the NHL wants a representative from each team, but does anyone on the Devils really deserve to be there? Zach Parise is injured and Ilya Kovalchuk and Martin Brodeur are in the middle of the worst season in each of their careers. Among other players on the ballot who aren't having All-Star caliber seasons are Boston's Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci (2 goals in 13 and 11 games respectively), Calgary's Jarome Iginla (2 goals and 8 points in 15 games), Montreal captain Brian Gionta (3 goals and 6 points in 16 games), New York Rangers' Marina Gaborik (2 assists in 4 games), San Jose's Antti Niemi (.872 save %, 3.91 GAA), and Toronto captain Dion Phaneuf (4 assists and a -6 in 11 games), just to name a few. All have been great players in the past, but are simply not getting it done this year. They may be the big names that could possibly draw in audiences (I think I get the point now, actually) but are in the place of more deserving players like Colorado's Chris Stewart (10 goals, 18 points in 15 games), Chicago's Patrick Sharp (10 goals, 17 points in 17 games), New York Rangers' Brandon Dubinsky (10 goals, 15 points in 16 games), Philadelphia's Sergei Bobrovsky (9-2-1 record, .931 save %, 2.09 GAA), and Washington's Alex Semin (12 goals, 21 points in 16 games), as well as plenty of others. One other thing they did was take away the Young Stars game. It was an interesting idea, highlighted by Kovalchuk's 6 goals in 2002, but players there give even less effort than the All-Star Game. Instead, 12 rookies will be invited to take place in the skills competition, though they won't make an appearance in the game itself. It seems its like this every year though, and I guess for an every where even the players don't put much effort into anyway, it won't make much of a difference. 

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