Thursday, March 25, 2010

Caps vs Pens Last Night: A Thriller Once Again. And New Headshot Rule

If you didn't catch the Capitals and Penguins game at the Verizon Center last night here in DC, then you missed a great one. Washington won the game via shootout style 4-3 on home ice. Yes, I understand that some of you may be turned off because of the media hype between the Crosby and Ovechkin "rivalry." But you must not be a hockey fan if that alone makes you ignore such a great matchup and ultimately, and great game.

The Caps were down 2-1 entering the third period when Alex Semin began the surge with a shorthanded goal to tie the game, followed by Eric Fehr's 21st goal of the year to give Washington the lead. However, Jordan Staal of the Penguins tied the game again at three, and the game went into overtime.

In the shootout, things looked bleak early on for Washington, as Kris Letang and Sidney Crosby lifted the Penguins to an early twi goals to none lead. Alex Ovechkin, who has not always been so successful in the shootout, scored, along with Alex Semin and Mike Knuble, who recieved his first career shootout goal. Along with Jose Theodore stepping up in net after the first two Penguins goals, the Caps ended up winning 4-3 on home ice against Pittsburgh.
For a full recap of the game, check out my post on The Hockey Writers at http://thehockeywriters.com/capitals-penguins-game-3


While I claim this game to be one of the best games to watch all year, the whole first half of the game was dominated by the team in black and white - yep, the referees. I try to avoid making complaints about officiating these days, but when it was as blatant as it was last night, it's hard to avoid the discussion.

The Capitals had five penalties called against them, while the Penguins had one penalty. What was hilarious was how the Penguins power play dominated the flow of the game. The Caps penalty kill was rather impressive, allowing only one goal, despite the constant pressure the PK unit faced.

It was difficult to watch the seemingly uncompetitive matchup. Still, the Cardiac Caps did a great job of persevering through all of that and ultimately winning the game in the shootout, which isn't always the case in those situations.

Nonetheless the officiating was HORRIBLE and ATROCIOUS! Like as if it was illegal to call a penalty on Pittsburgh. It's one thing to see a lot of calls, but for it to go all one direction is ridiculous. Even the most neutral of spectators got livid at the number of missed calls that should have been on Pittsburgh (tripping anyone?).

Whatever, the Caps won, and are up 3-0 in the season series with Pittsburgh. I look forward to leaving the series to the regular season. I want to see the Caps win a Cup after all (will be revisted at a later date).

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Also, today it was announced that the NHL has approved a new rule prohibiting "a lateral, back-pressure or blind-side hit to an opponent where the head is targeted and/or the principal point of contact..."

...Meaning, they're disallowing headshots... which I thought was already kind-of-sort-of against the rules, but I suppose not if they just approved of one today. Ottawa Senators center Jason Spezza called the decision a "band-aid" solution. According to The Ottawa Sun, an unnamed player says this is partially because the players had wanted this rule implemented last season, and it was not put in until this season as a result of the outrage from the Matt Cooke incident.

That is a little unfortunate, since concussions were an issue the League was trying to look at before, and logic tells me that cutting down on head-hunting and risky hits would help decrease the number of concussions players were experiencing. But since when did logic matter in sports?

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Finally, as if anyone's bracket wasn't already burned, shredded, or eaten up by some animal/child/adult-person, the wildness continues. Cornell is out of the tournament though! The one underdog team that I was willing to cheer for is now out. You don't go with logic when it comes to this.

In fact, I heard some guy's 6-year-old was on point this year with some picks based on mascots... If there's something I NEVER put money on, it's NCAA basketball. Every year. I get angry watching some game because I did not pick that team to win, and they go almost all the way, if not entirely to the final two.

*If you were unaware, I don't like underdogs. Davidson? I hated them (I can revisit this later too)... well, unless they were American University *open bias*.

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I' will be at the Calgary Flames/Capitals game at the Verizon Center on Sunday. The game starts at 3pm. Follow me @LadyHatTrick1 for in-game updates and commentary.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Ovechkin Suspended for 2 Games - Fair?

During Sunday's thrilling Capitals 4-3 OT comeback win against the Chicago Blackhawks, Alex Ovechkin was ejected after what appeared to be a boarding infraction when he pushed Blackhawks defenseman Brian Campbell and Campbell fell injured on the boards.

I'm going to post the hit here so that once again, you can make the call:




I will concede to this: The hit wasn't the best hit that Ovechkin could have made. I don't agree that he hit him in that situation. Knowing that Ovechkin has probably the strength of a god, he should have known better and probably have drawn back while Campbell recovered the puck - THEN lay a big hit on him.

HOWEVER, the most was given to Ovechkin as a result of this hit. Following the incident, Ovechkin heads to the penalty box for a five minute major. Then, it was learned that he received a 10-minute game misconduct. THEN, Ovechkin is ejected from the entire game!

Luckily for the Capitals, this happened early on, and gave the team ample time to adjust so that they could comeback from a three-goal deficit to win.

Unfortunately for Ovechkin, today there was a hearing and it was decided that the Capitals' superstar forward was going to be suspended - again - for two games...

Now, like I said, I'm not entirely defending the hit. Ovechkin has to learn how to keep his strength in check, regardless of how "reckless" he wants to play. But did it warrant a suspension? No. It didn't even warrant the ejection even, and the major penalty would have done.

Where Ovechkin hit him (referring back to the video), it was actually on the shoulder pad of Campbell, and not entirely from behind, as originally thought. Also, the hit occurred a little further than where a typical boarding penalty would be called. Nonetheless, Ovechkin still hit Campbell in a dangerous spot, and in the position of an official, of you are on the fence with a call, especially like boarding, you would go ahead and call it.

So in a perfect world, Ovechkin would have been still called for a five-minute major penalty for boarding. A game misconduct might be a little more, but the hit was dangerous, and I would even let that go. But an apologetic Ovechkin still had to leave the rest of the game? Not so sure about that one.

As harsh as it may sound, Campbell is slightly also at fault for not obeying one of those rules that every hockey player is told from youth: keeping your head up. Campbell could have been more prepared for an incoming body. Campbell was also not in the best place to play the puck; thus, putting anyone who came across him at risk for hitting him dangerously. There is no benefit to this, as that is no strategy, so it wasn't done purposely.

Here's where the biggest of big problems lies... Why isn't Matt Cooke of the Pittsburgh Penguins suspended? Where was his penalty/game-misconduct/ejection/suspension sequence? In my previous two posts, I make reference to Cooke's elbow to Boston's Marc Savard's head. This hit ended Savard's season, and puts the Bruins without a key player. However, it was concluded that Cooke will receive no punishment...

O_o... Yet, for a much less intentional hit that was not to the head, rather an unfortunate situation of bad timing aka shit happens, Ovechkin got a suspension added to his in-game punishments. Funny, because this Cooke hit just occurred last week!

It is in hope that the NHL gets a consistent system together - and not consistency regarding lack of suspensions for headshots. The second the NHL got some good press for the Olympics and the success of the Capitals, then things like this take precedent. I will not disclose further thoughts as to how I feel about how they made this decision to suspend Ovechkin. But, if you know me personally, you already know what I have to say.

At least Versus and Direct TV have reached a new deal today. Now to get hockey on a better channel... Not gonna happen under Gary Bettman's watch unfortunately.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

In Light of Matt Cooke's non-Suspension...

It was deemed today that Matt Cooke will not be suspended for the headshot on Marc Savard that was discussed in the last post. On Thursday, March 18's Penguins/Bruins matchup, I will be looking for Bruins players to be hunting down Cooke...

...Meanwhile, I came across this today and...

...*Dead* I died. This ENTIRELY made my day.



Hope you laughed.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Hit: Matt Cooke goes without a suspension yet

Oh my goodness! I finally have a laptop back! I have missed y'all so much!

The last thing that occurred before we were separated was the final result of the 2010 Winter Olympic ice hockey tournament. Team Canada won the gold medal against the United States in quite dramatic fashion. But we already saw it, we already know, and it was brought up again on the cover of last week's edition of Sports Illustrated.

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Anyway, I thought I'd give mention of the Pittsburgh Penguins' Matt Cooke's "legal" hit on the Boston Bruins' Marc Savard a few days ago. After all, I shall give Boston some love after last night's awesome Dropkick Murphys concert here in DC.

If you haven't seen the hit, here it is:

From about 1:00 to 1:23 they do a slow motion replay of the hit



I'll let you decide if that hit is dirty or not. But I will be the first to say I think that deserved a suspension immediately, and certainly more than two games.

Matt Cooke, first of all, is a repeat offender and known for being a dirty player. He was suspended two games last season for another headshot incident against then-Carolina Hurricane Scott Walker. There have been other occassions where Cooke has made a questionable hit on players i.e. (you may hardly remember but) the hit on Vincent Lecavlier when Cooke played for the Washington Capitals.

Putting past incidents aside and just based on the hit itself, there are plenty of things that show there should have been a suspension. There was no intent by Cooke to avoid Savard after Savard took the shot. While it would have been difficult for Savard to move out of the way of a looming Cooke, Cooke had time to take a extra step to the side or so to get out of the way of Savard.

While the argument that NHL disciplinarian, Colin Campbell, gave stated that there were no flying elbows, Cooke seemed to have raised his left elbow a little bit while passing Savard. Had he not intended to hit Savard, there would be every effort to tighted his elbow to his own body.

He was finishing a check? I think not. That check need not to have happened to begin with. Had I been coaching a group of kids, there's no way I would let my players hit a player in that situation in that manner when there is a way to avoid it. Cooke's check/take out would have had no impact on the play; therefore, I deem it unecessary. I would not advise my players to make an unecessary check when there would be maximum four other more plausible options on the ice.

I could go on and on about why I hate this hit and I think it deserves some kind of suspension. The best justification for a sspension to me though is that Cooke is a repeat offender. This way, it's not just a "knee-jerk reaction" to suspend him, which I would say to a first-timer (*cough* like they do to Ovechkin *cough*). Headshots>knee hits

The NHL has to stop these kinds of hits. Concussions are a huge risk, and there have been a lot lately. And I do think that the David Booth hit earlier this year on Mike Richards deserved a suspension too, so I wouldn't be a hypocrite.

Like I said, I'm not the disciplinarian here. I'm just a well-versed hockey fan that has no role in the NHL and its decisions. So whatever I say has no bearing on what happens aka it doesn't really matter. I know this. But I'm still going to complain because I can.

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If you REALLY missed me, don't worry, I'm still on here, Crashing the Net. But I also write for TheHockeyWriters.com, listed as the Washington Capitals correspondent. I do hope you all check it out and feel free to comment there as well.
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