Sunday, February 27, 2011

Head-ing In The Wrong Direction

Do you remember when you were a kid and someone told you not to do something, and you did it anyways just to spite them? Seems like that attitude is showing up tenfold this season in the NHL when it comes to headshots and illegal hits.

In the 2009-2010 season, 2 fines and 3 suspensions were doled out for headshots. In March, Matt Cooke's concussion-inducing hit on Marc Savard forced the NHL to take a closer look at blindside hits, and what is and is not acceptable. The severity of Savard's concussion prompted the league to implement Rule 48, which banished blindside hits.

With these stricter guidelines in effect going into the 2010-2011 season, you would think that the number of injuries caused by illegal hits would decrease. But instead, they multiplied. So far, 8 suspensions have been handed out and 4 players have been heftily fined. The Calgary Flames' Tom Kostopolous received the harshest punishment, a 6-game suspension for his hit on Brad Stuart.

The league has been riddled with headshot-related injuries of late, and perhaps the most significant of the concussion victims is the NHL's poster boy Sidney Crosby. An unintentional hit by the Washington Capitals' David Steckel during the 2011 Winter Classic visibly shook Crosby up. A few days later against the Tampa Bay Lightning, another hit by Victor Hedman aggravated the injury and took him out of the game. Crosby, who had just come off of a 25-game point streak, has been out due to concussion since January 5th.

The only good thing to come out of Crosby's injury was the fact that the NHL once again was forced to re-examine the rules of the game. Since then, illegal hits have gone down in number, with only one instance (Danny Paille's hit on Raymond Sawada) in the past 2 months.

The halfway mark to the season has come and gone, and while dirty hockey seems to be on its way out, it is far from being gone completely. Here's to hoping the trend of increased illegal hits doesn't follow the game into the next season.

Stubborn As A Mule

February 2, 2011

Detroit Red Wings vs Ottawa Senators

The unsuspected "mule" Johan Franzen nets 5 goals in the span of 2 periods, giving the Detroit Red Wings a 7-5 victory over the struggling Ottawa Senators. Franzen's five goals notches the first natural hat trick since Marian Gaborik's in 2007.

Click HERE to see the video

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Fire On Ice

Over 40,000 hockey fans braved the bitter cold on Sunday, February 2oth, to watch the much-hyped Heritage Classic. Old rivals met again as the Calgary Flames and the Montreal Canadiens squared off to play outdoors in Calgary's McMahon Stadium.
The 2 most prominent meetings between these clubs happened in 1986 and 1989, both of which were Stanley Cup Finals. The Habs won the '86 Championship, while the Flames were the very first team to hoist Lord Stanley in Montreal's Bell Center in '89.

Despite the -15 degree weather, McMahon Stadium was filled from end to end in jerseys of red, with a surprising amount of blue and white as well. At least the sun was shining and the beer and hot chocolate flowed freely.
Opening ceremonies included a quick aerial show of 5 jets above the stadium, performances by Tokyo Police Club, Paul Brandt singing the national anthem, and the ceremonial puck drop that saw legends Bob Gainey and Lanny McDonald on the ice with Jarome Iginla and Brian Gionta.

It was an exciting game, with both teams playing well but there were 2 key factors that determined the outcome.

1. Calgary's offence was just too much for Carey Price. Rene Borque's two goals and Anton Babchuk's slick move boosted the Flames to a 4 goal lead over the Habs.

2. Kiprusoff was a door. Despite windy conditions going against him, Kipper denied any chance of a Habs goal and earned his 41st career shutout.

In NHL outdoor game history, the visiting team was usually the one to skate away with a victory, but the Flames, who have been very hot of late, picked up the two points this time around. A home win over a storied rival helped add to the electric "C of Red" atmosphere.

It had been 8 years since the last outdoor NHL game was played in Canada, but it seemed to be well worth the wait. Overall, the Heritage Classic weekend was a success, and it became clear early on that hockey fans are unlike any other; willing to sit for hours in weather well below freezing, all for the love of the game.

Calgary Flames vs Montreal Canadiens, February 20th, 2011

Seeing Double

Okay, so this post is not exactly hockey news or anything but...

Has anyone noticed that former Oilers coach Craig Mactavish and current Oilers coach Tom Renney look exactly alike??

Seperated at birth!