Monday, May 02, 2016

To Err Is Human, To Forgive is Divine...

There was no further need to accelerate the vitriolic hate that permeates the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals rivalry. In this series, a new chapter to the Pens/Caps rivalry is written with many players switching teams. Capitals with 4 former Penguins while Pittsburgh has one key ex-Capital.

During game two, a face familiar to both teams had thrust himself into the national spotlight as Brooks Orpik had laid out young Finnish defenseman Olli Maatta. My first thoughts weren't of anger initially, but immediate concern for Maatta's well-being. Then the play was stopped as the NBC broadcast camera starts to pan in towards rubbery Maatta laying prone on the ice. He was KO'd before he even hit the ice surface. Once the whistle had sounded, I looked and expected the referee to motion towards the guilty forty-four for a long stay in the penalty box. None were forthcoming.

I guess once the initial shock had worn off, disappointment and disbelief arrived to find that a once respected hero athlete who wore the black & gold for many seasons delivered a vicious hit to a former teammate. People still wear Orpik's jersey to games and never quit mentioning the trivial origins of his first name as connections to a legendary Penguins coach. Orpik is remembered fondly in Pittsburgh as a rough and tough player who leveled Red Wings players with heavy bodychecks when appropriate. Now that he wears the enemy's colors, are Penguins fans forced to condemn and make hyperbolic statements about him? 

I could wildly speculate a little deeper to what might Orpik had been thinking. He had been playing Maatta closely, but swoops back in toward to set a huge hit well after the puck sailed far away. Did Orpik target Maatta knowing that he was made expendable in the Penguins organization? Was revenge on his mind? Or was there clearly no thought process at all?

Today, Orpik owned up to his actions while making a classy statement:
Orpik accepted responsibility for the head hit he delivered that injured Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta, saying his three-game suspension was “fair” and that he made a “pretty bad mistake.”
He then went on in reports to explain that he told the Capitals that the Penguins would buckle under the pressure if they played a strong body checking game. He'd seen it happen before.

But now that I've heard his reactions to the steep 3 playoff game suspension, I've settled with Orpik emotionally. I can't ever condone what he did to the young Penguins player who had already been beset with injuries, but the matter is settled and closure is achieved. I forgive Orpik's reckless play.


It still leaves a few other directions to channel my disgust and anger. The referees who didn't call a penalty on Orpik and towards the Barry Trotz who suggested that the Penguins got preferential favoritism when the suspension was handed out. Trotz must have been channeling his inner- Stan Van Gundy. I recall Van Gundy tried to win "the war" of public opinion in the press by claiming that superstars always get the in-favor bias with the front office and officials.

The sensible thing would be that the inflammatory rhetoric Trotz used in his vague allegations would be laughed off, but in this case, he's looking to further incidents like this one in hopes that pressure might sway things back in their hands.

The referees made a mistake by not awarding this disastrous hit a 5-minute major penalty. At worst it's a match penalty. Did the referees decide or expect the Penguins to retaliate with hits of their own targeting their former player? Would justice be served by allowing Orpik to skate freely with a perennial target on his back? The more I think about the mistake the referees made, the angrier I get at surely having to listen to know-it-all pundits who feast on verbally pummeling the NHL for not taking better care of their players and doling out stricter penalties.

So, the Pens/Caps rivalry has yet another chapter forged between them in history. It's not like the playoffs weren't already raised up. But the rage-filled debate will yet again. For that, I can't tolerate another hit like Orpik's.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

2016 Stanley Cup Playoff Predictions - Round 2

Thank you, St. Louis Blues, for ruining my Stanley Cup predictions bracket for the second year in a row! Last year, I'd thought that it was finally going to be the Blues' year to get over the playoff hump and contend for further play. I'd even advised others on the Blues potential with the confidence of selecting them in my playoff brackets. They "screwed" me. This year, I was determined not to be fooled again by the Blues' chances. Thanks for the bittersweet job you did against the Hawks in the first round and eliminating them. So to the second round, we all go with plenty of new faces to talk about. Will there be a "shocking upset" in this round?

Western Conference

St. Louis v. Dallas
St. Louis is certainly playing inspired hockey as they've just taken down a perennial Cup contender in the Hawks. I was really glad to see that Jaden Schwartz has a point-per-game pace with 7 points in the playoffs. His late sister would've been proud of him, I'm sure. But the Stars are on a real resurgence behind their captain Benn. Look for him to add to his scoring totals. But in the end, I think the Blues goaltender Allen will hold up his part of the bargain and keep them in most all games this series.

Prediction: Blues in 5

Nashville v. San Jose
Here's another series with two more teams that can't seem to move on and underachieve in the playoffs. This might be the last ride for the Sharks as currently constructed. Their aging vets Thorton, Pavelski, and Marleau are plodding along with fan favorite Brent Burns and all his woolly hair are making their mark on the NHL leader boards so far. As for Nashville, their success rides on their goalie Pekka Rinne. But beyond Weber and Neal, I don't think they have enough depth to survive another series with a team that desperately wants to win.

Prediction: Sharks in 6

Eastern Conference

New York Islanders v. Tampa Bay
This is going to be a really interesting series with these two teams. Even though I was leaning towards an upset from the Panthers, the now veteran Islanders will have to continue their good luck with the Lightning team that's the defending Conference champs. I expect Ben Bishop to earn more respect with his recent Vezina trophy nomination. Also, the 'Bolts young star Drouin has to earn his playing time and prove to the owners that he belongs on the ice at the major league level. Tavares needs this win big if he is going to earn elite superstar status that was once expected of him.

Prediction: Lightning in 6

Washington v. Pittsburgh
The mainstream media have already picked sides and promote their agendas to get further attention to this playoff series. It's at least prevalent to me in both US and Canadian broadcasts. But there's also an underpinning of regret that this series isn't for the Stanley Cup because of the unpopular changes proposed to the playoff seeding years ago suggesting that the Conference finals could be wiped out. They just had to get around the fact that Ovechkin and Crosby compete in the same division/conference. I believe with time to heal on the first round and time to re-align the linemates for this series, the Penguins can run all over the Capitals. Look for Fleury to return in net at some point during the series.

Prediction: Penguins in 7

Friday, March 25, 2016

Frozen Four Pick Em 2016

I recently read that the odds of picking a perfect bracket in the other sport is the virtually impossible one in 9.2 Quintilian. I would like to re-introduce you to the nation-wide phenomenon of prognosticating the tournament winners in this year's Frozen Four tournament aka the NCAA Division 1 Ice Hockey Championships.

Confessions of a Hockey Fanatic Official Bracket for 2016

Above is the bracket that I carefully picked based upon the college hockey that I've been steadily increasing in watching now that the major 24/7 sports cable networks have been airing them. Of course, I'm a little disappointed to see my alma mater not on that bracket just yet. But I'm still giving them time to grow the program and develop some cache credibility.

But based upon the actual teams listed on this tournament, I feel that it's a real exciting opening first round as many of these schools have been visited the last four remaining in prior championship runs.

The biggest first round game standing out has to be the Notre Dame and Michigan game. With the recent news that Notre Dame will be joining the Big Ten (B10) next season, this is a measuring stick for Notre Dame against one of the biggest teams in college hockey and will be facing them on a regular basis. Michigan has clearly benefited from the area willing to make a big spectacle. They've been playing outdoor games and I'm sure a lot of the top quality kids who want to play NCAA level want to play in Michigan just for that experience alone.

I'm giving the more dominant Michigan Wolverines the benefit of the doubt to take their dominate Big 10 (B10) run and take care of the Hockey East conference teams.

Tampa Bay will return to be the host city of the NCAA Frozen Four since they last hosted it in 2012.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas 2015

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays in 2015!

Thank you very much for reading and watching my video blogs over the past year. I've been spending a lot of time planning new and innovative ways to express my brand of hockey blogging across the internet in 2015 and hopefully you've enjoyed it.
I'm going to continue a lot of more "Game of the Week" episodes as well as more cutting edge internet blogging for 2016.

Stay Tuned!!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving 2015

Once again, it's the annual tradition of The Pond Ice Arena Classic Hockey Tournament where young kids who travel from all around the area compete in the age-comparable groupings. I've been a fan of their graphic arts artwork, anticipating just what this year's design is going to look like.
Courtsey of The Pond Ice Arena, Newark, DE
The Pond Ice Arena

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Weighing in on the Columbus Blue Jackets Hiring of Tortorella

Yes, you see that right. John Tortorella is back in the NHL with a new team - the Columbus Blue Jackets. Often taken in critical remarks as a controversial hockey personality, "Torts" will certainly bring about some change in order to salvage the season. A miserable 0-7 start is already starting to erode the fan base that started to gather from the 12-0 finish last season and playoff appearance. This is what I think will most certainly be the key to turning the franchise around into something resembling an NHL franchise for the rest of the 75 games or-so remaining.

The Pros:
  1. He's worked with Brandon Dubinsky before in New York. Certainly, he's at least found someone to work with and buy into his coaching system. And with that, he can start to kindle more leadership with Dubinsky and by extension more confidence in the rest of the players.
  2. Saad, a newly acquired player, is used to the edgy coaching style as he'd seen in Chicago. His skills are comparable to some of the other greats that Torts has coached in the past. They need production from Saad to grow the team around his future potential.
  3. As stated before, Coach Torts is a highly controversial personality with a history of colorful remarks during press conferences. This circus act can serve as a smoke screen, if Torts and the BJ's are up to it, the more the press focuses on Torts in the spotlight, the less lack-of-victories coverage gets talked about in the media.
  4. Torts has an ability to build teams up and sometimes gets them to overachieve with gritty defensive style. He's taken two teams to the Cup finals and preparing a third. He works well with what he's given.