January 26, 2009

Puck-mania!

by Dan Bilicki In: Ice Hockey

What’s this? Two NHL-related posts in a row? It must be a week off for the NFL. Couple the fact that football is off this week, building to the biggest show of the year, with the fact the all-star game took place in Montreal yesterday and I have to write about puck for a bit.

As fun as they tried to make it look, the shootout challenge was still a failure in my eyes. Really, a guy puts on a hat and sunglasses and that’s supposed to be entertainment? The diving-gloving-the-puck-ahead-and-knocking-it-in was good but completely illegal and ergo not possible in a game, which I thought was something of a requirement for this. Ryan Getzlaf’s attempts were my favourites since it actually looked like he had practised them. Makes sense since he had won the comp last year. As hard as the NHL tries, this event never will be anything close to the NBA’s slam dunk competition. There’s just not enough room for real creativity with breakaway dekes.

How about a big, 6-foot-7, round of applause for Zdeno Chara after breaking the world record for hardest shot? He deserves a big hoorah for narrow defeating Al Iaftrate’s old mark by a mere .2 MPH.

I find it ridiculous that players who “willingly” skip the all-star game are being forced to miss their teams’ next tilt. Because two Red Wings want to nurse slight injuries and take advantage of five days off, Detroit will suffer. Shouldn’t the league be all for player safety and preventing injuries to stars? At least the Wings are only facing the Blue Jackets when Datsyuk and Lidstrom will be sitting.

If scoring is what the league wanted to display, they got more than they bargained for in this one. With a total of 23 tallies from both sides, this all-star game was the second highest scoring affair ever. It really bodes well for the NHL since they’ve been steadily trying to boost scoring since the “dead-puck” era started after New Jersey trapped their way to the Cup.

I’ve seen coaches and managers interviewed between innings or even while people are at bat in baseball, but the NHL stepped it up a notch at the all-star game. Roberto Luongo was interviewed while he was playing! He even had to slide across his crease to make a save in between questions. While I’m all for innovation and the game was meaningless, that just seems a little ridiculous to ask a guy questions in the heat of action. What if he had hurt himself because he wasn’t paying enough attention to his surroundings? The Canucks would’ve raised hell about that.

A few questions about overtime and the shootout last night: When the game’s already 11-11, how does no one score playing 4-on-4 in OT? How do you call the only penalty of the game on a tick-tack hook in overtime? How does nobody score on that power play? Do you think that the NHL were hoping and praying for a shootout to further increase their showcase of talent? How did the coaches pick which players to use for the shootout with a star-studded bench? Why didn’t anyone try one of the trick moves from the Shootout Challenge?

All-in-all, the NHL’s all-star game isn’t the worst of its kind. It could just use some work, that’s all.

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