Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Press Conference Invitation

If you missed The Hockey Show last week, you missed a great chat with Ryan Baillie, the Executive Director of Hockey Helps The Homeless. Ryan was on the show to talk about all the great things that Hockey Helps The Homeless does across this nation, and he even had a special announcement for the people of Winnipeg who have always wanted to suit up in their hockey gear next to a living NHL legend as Hockey Helps The Homeless is bringing their tournament to Winnipeg for the very first time on December 6, 2019! It should be an amazing event, but you likely need more details, right?

In saying that, you are cordially invited to the Hockey Helps The Homeless press conference in Winnipeg on May 14 at 3pm at Resource Assistance for Youth at 125 Sherbrook Street!
Most of the news and surrounding events for the Hockey Helps The Homeless will be presented and disseminated at this press conference, so if you're interested in playing or volunteering this is a press conference you'll want to catch. As you can see, Dave and Wayne Babych, who have a long hockey history in Winnipeg, will be on-hand, and the rumour is that Dave Babych is one of the pros who will be suiting up alongside the players who register to play! Hockey Helps The Homeless is holding the others names of players close to their chest right now, but there are reportedly some big-name former Jets who will head back to Winnipeg from their current locales to suit up with the ten teams as well!

If you can't make it down, keep your eyes on this space for more news and keep your radio tuned to 101.5 UMFM for The Hockey Show at 5:30pm CT on Thursday evenings for more news about the Hockey Helps The Homeless tournament that is happening in Winnipeg for the very first time! I'll have updates whenever new information is brought to my attention, and here's hoping that we do it right in Winnipeg once more in putting on an incredible event with the help and support of volunteers, donors, and committee members like yourselves!

See you on May 14!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 29 April 2019

The Boy Who Cried Wolf

Esa Lindell is a highly-talented Finnish defenceman who plays for the Dallas Stars. He had his best season to date this season where he played all 82 games and tallied 11 goals and 21 assists while helping Dallas make the playoffs and, eventually, helping the Stars dismiss the Nashville Predators in six games. Lindell isn't a little guy as he stands 6'3" tall and tips the scales at 215 lbs. so he has some size to him as well. The problem is that tonight's performance by Lindell looked like he could have been knocked over by a stiff breeze with how many times he ended up on the ice.

With the Blues leading 2-1 late in the second period, a scrum ensued to the right of Jordan Binnington. On the outside of said scrum was Esa Lindell and St. Louis' Robert Bortuzzo who also engaged in their own battle for position on the ice. As with any scrum, Bortuzzo used the stick to push Lindell to create some separation, and, well, you be the judge on what Lindell is doing here.
Remember, Lindell is 6'3" tall and 215 lbs! While I get that Bortuzzo is a strong guy himself, the fact that he knocked Lindell down with some pushing that we've all seen in these playoffs to date only served to enrage Bortuzzo further who delivered a second push before pleading his case to the observing official. The official, not wanting either player to get away with their actions, whistled Bortuzzo for cross-checking and Lindell for embellishment. Bortuzzo, now incensed that he was given a penalty, hammers Lindell in the chest with a true cross-check.

The second cross-check was likely the most egregious of the embellishment, and I'm glad the referee hit Lindell with the infraction. It's good game management on his part to try and diffuse the situation by sending both players off despite Bortuzzo's objections, but had he only sent Bortuzzo off I imagine things may have escalated further. Either way, it should be noted that the official likely wasn't going to give Lindell any benefit of the doubt going forward after he was already slapped with an embellishment penalty.

Why is that important, you ask?

With 1:38 to go in the game and the teams tied at 3-3, this happened.
Patrick Maroon's goal was made possible by the fact that he pushed Esa Lindell down in front of the net, allowing a wide-open Maroon to collect the puck from behind the net, pull it to the front of the net, and fire home the game-winning goal. Esa Lindell? He was still recovering from Maroon's push that knocked him down on the opposite side of the net, giving Maroon all the space he needed to score. Do you think the official took a quick second to see who got knocked down before signalling a good goal on Maroon's shot?

If there's one thing that officials hate more than anything, it's a player showing him or her up. Embellishment should never be used as a way to gain an advantage because it makes the officials look bad, and they're trying to be as objective as possible. Just like the boy who cried wolf, if one gains a reputation for embellishing plays that result in the other team being penalized, it will become apparent that less calls will go one's way. Call it karma or whatever, but Lindell wasn't getting the call for Maroon pushing him after he fell flat on his face so easily earlier in the game.

Had Lindell stayed on his feet, perhaps Maroon gets penalized for interference if that push was hard enough to knock Lindell off. Perhaps Lindell stays with Maroon, and he never gets the chance to take the shot because of Lindell's defensive positioning. Whatever the next sequence may have been, we'll never know because Esa Lindell cried wolf one too many times in this game, and the result is a 2-1 series lead for the St. Louis Blues thanks to Patrick Maroon's game-winning goal.

I don't know if Esa Lindell was familiar with Aesop before this game, but I imagine he's very familiar with the lessons taught in his fables now.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 28 April 2019

Bob Hartley: International Rule-Breaker

I don't normally look for crazy international stories on the weekend when I'm trying to relax, but this one has all sorts of intrigue mixed into it. Bob Hartley, pictured to the left coaching Latvia, is the current head coach of Avangard Omsk in the KHL. His team went on a nice run before running into the CSKA juggernaut in the Gagarin Cup Final that ended Avangard's season. For a team that has arena problems, being the second-best KHL team this season only bodes well for the future. Or so it seemed, at least, until RUSADA and Russian drug testing got involved because Bob Hartley is reportedly facing a four-year suspension from the KHL and possibly international hockey after it was alleged that he interfered with a drug test intended for one of the Avangard players.

I'll say this upfront: everyone here is innocent until proven guilty. Bob Hartley's actions, if any, have yet to be confirmed by anyone, and Avangard Omsk is stating that the report is "a blatant lie". RUSADA, for what it's worth, doesn't have a shining reputation of any sort following their actions in being complicit in the drug cheating that happened at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, so get yourself a few grains of salt as you read through the next few paragraphs.

Here's where the matter surfaced.
Aivis Kalniņš is a respected reporter who covers a lot of KHL news, so I have no reason to doubt the veracity of his reporting in this case. He continues,
And he added,
In a nutshell, it sounds like there will be an investigation into whether Bob Hartley was involved in this infraction, and, if he was, he'll likely be punished by the KHL and the IIHF for his involvement. If Avangard is playing this off as "just a misunderstanding," it sounds like there might be some truth to RUSADA's report regarding Hartley's involvement in whatever happened. Either way, there's likely a lot more that hasn't been said about what went down than what has been said.

Other than what Aivis Kalniņš has tweeted, not much more information has been released today. Hartley, with the Gagarin Cup awarded to CSKA, has moved on to Latvia where he'll coach the nation's team at the 2019 IIHF World Hockey Championship in Slovakia while things are sorted out in the KHL. Latvia's first game is against Austria on Saturday, May 11 at Ondrej Nepala Arena in Bratislava followed by a game against Switzerland on Sunday. Let's just hope that this won't be a distraction for Hartley because the Latvians will need some solid coaching if they hope to make some noise in this tournament.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 27 April 2019

Kelli Ewen Speaks Out

When Todd Ewen passed away on September 19, 2015, there were a lot of people whose eyebrows were raised regarding the 49 year-old's passing. Todd played in the NHL from 1986 until 1997 for four teams including the St. Louis Blues, the Montreal Canadiens, the San Jose Sharks, and the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. Drafted in 1984 at 168th overall by the Edmonton Oilers, the late NHLer won a Stanley Cup with Montreal in 1993, but the toll his body took from being an enforcer is the bigger story here as Todd Ewen's post-playing days sounded scarier than he was during his career.

This 15-minute video documentary was put together by The Atlantic, and it features Kelli Ewen, Todd's wife, Rick Westhead of TSN, and lawyer Brian Gudmundson, a lawyer for the NHLPA's class-action lawsuit. Some of the details in the following video are a little discomforting, particularly with some of the testimony of neuropathologist Lili-Naz Hazrati. With that warning, here is Blood on the Ice: The Death of Todd Ewen.
If there's a takeaway from this video, it's that everyone at the Canadian Concussion Centre, including Dr. Charles Tator and Dr. Lili-Naz Hazrati, seem less interested in the science of CTE and concussions and more interested in taking money from the NHL for as long as they can. The fact that Dr. Hazrati declined numerous interviews leads me to believe that she doesn't want to correct her statements made on her recorded testimony. And that's just wrong in so many ways.

As the only league who has yet to publicly state that there is a direct link between head trauma in its sport and CTE in its athletes, the NHL only makes this worse with each day that passes. And while hundreds of other people, some far more influential than me, have spoken up about this problem and the NHL's unwillingness to listen to leading scientists on the topic, it seems the NHL's ignorance of the mountains of evidence that science has found and proven about the link between head trauma and CTE is the league's go-to escape route for any responsibility or liability.

As a hockey fan, it's embarrassing when you see your heroes struggle doing everyday tasks once their careers are over. It's sickening to think that some of those heroes have died. Get your act together, NHL, so another family isn't destroyed by your willful ignorance of a problem that's becoming increasingly harder to deny on a daily basis.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 26 April 2019

Celebrity Hockey Fan Talks Hockey

If you need a break from hockey tonight, you likely can fill some time by watching a movie. A lot of movie stars are hockey fans - Will Ferrell goes to Kings games, for example - but one of the biggest hockey fans is actress Margot Robbie! Yes, the actress born in Dalby, Australia and who has starred in blockbusters like Suicide Squad, The Wolf of Wall Street, and The Legend of Tarzan is a regular at New York Rangers games when she's not filming. As you can see, she's got her own Henrik Lundqvist jersey that she wears, so we can rightfully count her in as a celebrity hockey fan.

This clip is a couple of years old, but here's Margot Robbie talking about hockey on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, and there are a couple of interesting tidbits that one should catch from the chat.
Ok, pushing aside the Rangers fan stuff and the Mighty Ducks stuff for a second, did you catch the moment where she said she played hockey for a short time after arriving in America? According to a 2014 interview in Vulture by Amanda Dobbs, she plays right wing!

Back to her being an NHL fan, she apparently had seen the Mighty Ducks movies in Australia, and her love of the Rangers came organically according to what she told MTV.com. Miss Robbie explained,
"Well, I always wanted to play ice hockey back in Australia. I'm not sure why, but we didn't have any ice where I lived. It was very hot, a coastal town. So, I played field hockey. But then when I moved to America, I was finally able to join a team once I wasn't contracted to a show. When I was contracted to a show, I wasn't able to play. I was living in New York, and the Rangers were my default team. They're the best team ever."
In a number of interviews, Margot explained that she wasn't a great skater and likely the most terrible player on the team. Funnily enough, one of her recent roles was as Tonya Harding in the film I, Tonya. Being that she's not a great skater, she told W magazine's Jane Larkworthy,
"Well, funnily enough, I am training at the moment to be Tonya Harding, so I'm learning how to figure skate. And they're like, 'So, you're going to be good right? Because you play ice hockey.' And I had to tell them I wasn't very good, plus hockey skates and figure skates are totally different. And now I realize as I'm trying to learn is, wow, I never really skated. I just ran around on the ice and just smashed into the barriers. I didn't really know how to stop; I'd just sprint. And now that I don't have all that padding on, it's terrifying so I have to be a lot more careful learning."
While she made it through the film fine in her skating scenes, perhaps Margot Robbie can push the envelope for little girls in her next role by combining her passion for hockey and her ability to portray an iconic doll. If you haven't heard, Robbie is slated to play Barbie in an upcoming live-action film about the doll, and we've already seen Laura Stacey recognized as a positive role model for young girls by Mattel in a recent Canadian campaign. Since Barbie has never actually donned hockey skates and thrown on a jersey in toy form, maybe Margot Robbie can get Mattel to put Barbie in some hockey gear?

While I doubt anything will happen on that front, no one can question Margot Robbie's love for hockey. If they ever do a story on some of the women playing today, Margot Robbie should be a leading candidate to star in that film!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 25 April 2019

The Hockey Show - Episode 344

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, is back tonight with a very special interview as I've been working to try and pin down a time on our guest's schedule for some time. While he'll deny it, he's a mover and shaker when it comes to doing great things in both the hockey world and the charitable world, and his intertwining of those two worlds are why Beans and I are honoured to welcome him to the show. This won't be your normal NHL Playoffs show - we may still get some chatter in - as tonight's guest is all about doing amazing things thanks to hockey!

Beans and I are proud, honoured, privileged, and humbled to welcome Ryan Baillie, the Executive Director of Hockey Helps The Homeless, to The Hockey Show tonight as we learn about everything this amazing charitable group does in helping people in cities across Canada through hockey! We'll talk to Ryan about how he got started with Hockey Helps The Homeless, the work they do and why it's so important, how people like you can help out, and possibly a major announcement for the city of Winnipeg that Ryan may have. It should be a great chat about an incredible organization that does so much good work in the cities they're currently in, and we feel pretty lucky to have Ryan on the show tonight. Of course, we may have to grill him a little on the Toronto Maple Leafs getting bounced from the playoffs as Hockey Helps The Homeless is based north of Toronto, but I'm sure he can return the favour with a few zings about the Jets! All in all, we're excited to talk to Ryan tonight, and we hope you'll join us on 101.5 UMFM at 5:30pm CT!

Speaking of joining us, the new UMFM website's online streaming player is pretty awesome. If you're using an Apple device, the player doesn't seem to like Safari yet, but we highly recommend you use the TuneIn app found on the App Store or perhaps another browser. If you do use the TuneIn app, you won't be disappointed. It's a solid app.

Having lost faith in Facebook, I spend far less time on that site for good reasons. In saying that, you can still email all show questions and comments to hockeyshow@umfm.com! Tweet me anytime with questions you may have by hitting me up at @TeebzHBIC on Twitter! We're here to listen to you, so make your voice heard!

Tonight, Teebz and Beans chat with Ryan Baillie, Executive Director of Hockey Helps The Homeless, about his work, the work of the organization, some of their major achievements, the people they help, perhaps some news about Winnipeg(?), and much more only on The Hockey Show found exclusively on 101.5 UMFM, on the UMFM app, on the UMFM.com web stream!

PODCAST: April 25, 2019: Episode 344
RESOURCES: Hockey Helps The Homeless, Red Road Lodge, Willow Place, Resource Assistance for Youth (RAY).
CONTACTS: Viola Bauer & Brenda Bourns - Winnipeg Committee Co-Chairs

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Round Two Starts Now!

With the overtime finish in Washington tonight between the Hurricanes and Capitals, this got pushed back a little later than I originally had planned. Thankfully, we didn't need a six-overtime epic for this one, so I can post this with some time to go. The second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs starts tomorrow, so you'll need to get this one in quick. However, I realize that time zones and work hours and all the things that are a hundred times more important than this pool, so I'm gonna cut everyone a break as well. Read down to see what that break is and how it affects you. After all the craziness in these playoffs, I figure everyone deserves something to help them.

First, the business side of the equation: here's the new spreadsheet for Round Two. Same rules as before - rename it with your name AND ADD "R2" AT THE END, and then send it to me at this email address.

As you'll notice, there are no player selections for each division this time. Your scorers that you chose at the beginning are your scorers for the playoffs. No exceptions and no changes. Unfortunately, no one has more than two scorers remaining and a few people are already down to zero. The upsets in the first round really hurt the scoring threats that people assumed would go the distance. C'est la vie in the 2019 edition of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

As for the break I'm offering, I realize that time is of the essence when it comes to getting this spreadsheet in. So to alleviate any late entries, everyone in the pool gets the Boston-Columbus Game One result for free. That's right: a free point for simply getting the sheet in prior to the St. Louis-Dallas game. And please don't send in a sheet with the game-winning goal scorer for the Boston-Columbus game either - you're already getting that game gratis. There won't be any added points awarded.

I can already hear some of you saying, "But Teebz, if everyone gets a point, that doesn't benefit me at all!" Well, yes, you're right. As Syndrome points out, there is no real benefit to this break other than making it as fair as possible for those people who have other things happening that may prevent them from getting the spreadsheet submitted before the Boston-Columbus game because there's less than 24 hours between the end of Round One and the start of Round Two. I'm not going to penalize people for having lives, so let's quiet down about this not benefitting people. It benefits all by being fair to everyone. Ok? Ok.

Finally, the leaderboard will be updated some time on Thursday, so make sure you check in and see where you are in the standings. I will put the table back in to make the leaderboard pretty, but I simply didn't feel like coding the other day. Yes, I was lazy.

Get your picks in ASAP, and let's get on with Round Two!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

It's Not Because Of The Penalty

Normally, when one sees this many sharks converging in one spot, one would assume there's a significant amount of chum in the area. Instead, these Sharks had just finished their blood-in-the-water moment in the third period before taking the final bite out of the Vegas Golden Knights with a Barclay Goodrow overtime game-winner. People will point at the major penalty to Cody Eakin as the turning point as the Sharks scored four times to take a 4-3 lead in Game Seven, but Vegas had multiple chances to oust the Sharks and just couldn't deliver the death blow.

We go to Game Five with the Golden Knights leading the series 3-1 after having taken three-straight games off the Sharks. Jonathan Marchessault scores at 11:36 to make cut the deficit to 3-2, but the Golden Knights give up a Tomas Hertl goal just 3:09 later to put San Jose up 4-2, and they'd ice the game with a Joe Pavelski goal at 18:14. Still two more chances, and the Golden Knights were heading home where they had won two-straight games.

But following the game, this happened.
Look, I like Hertl, but the Knights should have had his comment pasted all over every bulletin board, every window, every ticket booth, and anything else where it can be taped, pasted, or pinned because he's not Mark Messier. While I admire his courage, Tomas Hertl's comments should have rattled the helmets of the Vegas Golden Knights.

With the game tied 1-1 and in double-overtime, Tomas Hertl - yes, that Hertl - fired a blast past Marc-Andre Fleury at 11:17 in the fifth period of play to give the Sharks the 2-1 win. What should be noted here is that Martin Jones made 58 saves in this game! Reilly Smith, Jonathan Marchessault, and Alex Tuch had 21 combined shots and had just one assist to show for their efforts. Martin Jones was magnificent in this game, but the Golden Knights have to find a way to dent twine more than once after throwing 59 pucks on net.

If one wants to point to a moment in this series where Vegas missed a glorious opportunity, it likely was the overtime periods in Game Six. The Golden Knights needed just one goal through the 30 minutes of overtime play, but couldn't solve Jones on 15 shots through the overtime periods. The Knights carried the play in overtime, out-shot the Sharks, but simply couldn't convert.

Entering the third period of tonight's game, the Knights once again held a 2-0 lead, and they increased the lead to 3-0 at 3:36 when Max Pacioretty found the back of net. The Knights were 16:24 from moving into the second round, but the cross-check by Eakin leading to Pavelski's injury and the subsequent five-minute major penalty was the opening that San Jose needed. But the Knights still should have controlled their own destiny.

Four power-play goals in 4:01 later, and the Golden Knights looked dazed and confused as the Sharks had completely stolen the game from the jaws of what appeared to be Golden Knights victory. And as the night rolls on, the players and fans and experts will point to the call and exclaim how the referees made a grave error by making this call that determined this series.

Did they?
Pretty sure that Eakin's stick parallel to the ice and pushing Pavelski backwards would mean that the criteria in Rule 59.1 was met. If we jump to Rule 59.3, the severity of the cross-check and the associated penalty is at the discretion of the referee, and in seeing Pavelski lying motionless on the ice following his fall it seems the referee deemed the penalty worthy of a major penalty.

Most penalties called in the NHL are at the referee's discretion, so can fans really be upset if the guy Eakin cross-checked is seriously injured and can't return? Let's be honest: Eakin's cross-check led to a series of unfortunate events for Pavelski that ended up with him being hurt, and the referee reacted with the severity of the penalty to the injury on the ice. With 59.3 now being assessed, that also activates Rule 59.5 which would see Eakin receive a game misconduct. That's how the rule book is written.

Honestly, the five-minute major is a setback, but the Golden Knights were 4-for-4 while shorthanded in this game. The Sharks were 4-for-25 with the man-advantage prior to the major penalty, so whatever the Golden Knights were doing on their penalty kills, it was working. And then the ceiling caved in.

Look, one can blame the officials for handing out that penalty. But the penalty kill of the Golden Knights fell apart in four minutes in Game Seven. And they still had chances to end the series in Games Five and Six. To point at one moment and exclaim, "That cost us the season," that's just patently false when there were many moments that the Golden Knights just couldn't kill the Sharks.

If you have your foot on your opposition's throat, you better end them. Allowing them to get up off the mat and continue to fight usually results in bad things. That's exactly what the Golden Knights did, and now they'll gave all summer to ask how they missed so many opportunities to gut the Sharks after going up 3-1 in this series.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 22 April 2019

Updated Survivor Pool

As you may be aware if you tune into The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, Canada's Best Hockey Radio Contest™ is currently in the midst of the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs as the Survivor: NHL Playoffs contest continues to run on The Hockey Show on UMFM. While we await a few series to conclude, I have been tardy in posting the who-versus-who image as the contest participants, so I figured that might be a good idea tonight with Nashville being voted off the island.

Ladies and gentlemen, here is the Survivor board current after tonight's results that saw Dallas advance and Carolina force Game 7.
If you click the image, you can make it bigger to see who is still in and who is on their way back from the island. Names in black are still alive while names in red have been, unfortunately, eliminated from winning the grand prize and all the glory that comes with it as the faded logos are representative of the faded dreams of winning this contest.

May 2 is when Beans and I will run through the first eight exit interviews for the teams dismissed in the opening round. That means that Elliot, Jason, Ethan, Tom, and Tyler will be joined by three other individuals on that day as we block off the May 2 episode of The Hockey Show for exit interviews. I'm already excited to hear what Jason and Elliot have to say after their teams were swept off the island, and I suspect that Tyler and Tom will have some thoughts on the Flames and Jets making very early exits compared to where people thought they may end their series. Nevertheless, it should be a fun show on May 2 if you want to hear some hockey fans rip into specific teams!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 21 April 2019

The 2019 Leaderboard

As with any competition that keeps scores for people to check, the HBIC Playoff Pool also has itself a leaderboard where names and corresponding scores are posted. This is that page, so if you're in the pool you may want to bookmark this page as it will be updated at the conclusion of every round with the new scores. I have to admit that in scoring the pool entries so far, there are some impressive totals in the first round of play, and then there are some people who are at the bottom of the scoring list because they didn't follow the instructions very well. I can't fix that, so those who find themselves at the bottom of the scoring table should have paid attention a little more closely.

The leaderboard is posted alphabetically by first name with last initial for clarity, although this appears to be the first time in the pool's history that we don't have same names for any of the entrants. Next to the name is the team each person chose for the tie-breaker. Following that, the number listed is how many of the four players each person picked to help their scoring have left in the playoffs. As you can see, until the scoring is posted, everyone is still showing four scorers except those who decided that they didn't want any help. That's on those two entrants as they'll be forced to win this thing with predictions alone.

With a handful of series to be decided, there likely will still be movement in the scoring, so make sure you check back midweek for the new pool spreadsheet and the the updated scoring totals!

Scores

HBIC PLAYOFF POOL LEADERBOARD
Name Tie-Breaker Players Points Rank
Andy S.
Tampa Bay
0 60
Chris L.
Tampa Bay
1 81 2nd
Darin S.
Washington
0 62
Jared R.
Calgary
0 46
LJ S.
Pittsburgh
0 78 4th
Loralea R.
Washington
0 51
Matt H.
San Jose
1 68
Michael J.
Winnipeg
1 80 3rd
Neal L.
Boston
0 91 1st
Peter S.
Tampa Bay
0 72
Richard D.
Nashville
1 62
Teri D.
Boston
1 74
Tomas L.
Winnipeg
0 31
Travis T.
Tampa Bay
0 49
Tyler D.
Washington
0 76 T-5th
Zeke P.
Nashville
1 76 T-5th

You're reading that correctly in that just 16 people have entered the pool. That means that this year's pool has the best odds of any of the names above winning, and it helps me immensely because I don't have to spend hours marking pool entries. My complaining aside, all entrants have a 1-in-16shot at winning the pool right now and the great prizes at the end!

What are the prizes, you ask? Those will be revealed at a later date, but I assure you that the top prize is an NHL jersey. That won't change from previous years. I'm still waiting on a couple of places to ante up for the contest, so all shall be revealed shortly.

Make sure you check back here to see your point totals once all the Round One series are done, and then head to the summary page to get the next spreadsheet for Round Two!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 20 April 2019

Another Summer Of Blues

In hypothetical terms, the question of who would win between the immovable object and the unstoppable force has never truly been answered since we have yet to discover either in our galaxy. Somewhere out there, those two things may exist and perhaps the question has already been answered, but it's not within our reach yet. However, the Winnipeg Jets and St. Louis Blues may have been those two things as they battled through six games before a winner was found, and the end result was one that fans of the Winnipeg Jets won't like after the Blues, as unstoppable as they were through the second-half of the season, will continue into the next round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

This series was brought back to a best-of-three after the road teams won both games in the other team's rink. It wasn't a given that either team had any advantage following Game Four, but there was some belief that the Jets might have figured out the Blues following two-straight wins at the Enterprise Center in St. Louis and the Jets coming home for Game Five. Perhaps they found a hitch in Binnington or a weakness in St. Louis' system, but whatever belief fans and experts may have had evaporated in the third period of Game Five as Winnipeg coughed up a final period lead for the eleventh time this season in a loss.

Down 3-2 and heading back to St. Louis, the Jets faced elimination far earlier than they might have expected, so one had to believe they'd come out and blow the doors off the Enterprise Center like they had done in Game Three. One would think that the big guns would be firing lasers, the physicality would be ramped up, and the intensity would be at a high for this season.

And the Jets managed just six shots through the first two periods. Six total. SIX. Yikes.

This Jets team was supposed to be bigger, stronger, hungrier, and whatever other adjectives you want to pin on them following their dismissal in the Western Conference Final last season at the hands of the Vegas Golden Knights. We heard all about how in that series the Jets simply ran out of steam after a tough seven-game battle against Nashville, and how next season would be their season as they learned what it takes to win in the spring.

When asked at his post-game press conference about the Jets' health in this series, head coach Paul Maurice warned, "Be careful with excuses. We got beat. I didn't think we had that sustainable gas for the whole series. I didn't feel we had it coming into it."

Um, hold on a second, Paul. If the team doesn't have the "sustainable gas for the whole series," wouldn't that be a direct answer to the question about the team's health? And, on top of that, wouldn't that be the exact same problem that this team had last season in the Western Conference Final? In fact, following the Game Five loss to Vegas last season, Maurice said, "[S]ome of it was mental, but it was the physical fatigue caused by having to spend as much as we spent to get here."

If fatigue crept into the room, it seems to have hit the team sometime in February when the Jets began their two-month stretch of .500 hockey leading into the playoffs. The Jets had players available in the press box at that time to help alleviate some of that fatigue, but Maurice chose to run his horses into the ground, it seems, by constantly playing them and asking them to carry the load. If he isn't willing to give guys rest when he knows they're tired, this six-game dismissal falls directly on his shoulders as much as it does the players. There's no excuse not to rest guys when he knows they're tired.

This team gave up leads in the third period in both Game One and Game Four when it appeared they had played the first 40 minutes in each game with some purpose. This team looked spent in the third period of Game Five when St. Louis rallied for three goals in the last 20 minutes to crush any home-ice advantage the Jets thought they had entering the period. And tonight, it seemed that exhausted team was rolled out again by Maurice as the Jets simply didn't have the legs to break through the St. Louis defence.

For all the talent the Jets had in the press box at times this season - Nic Petan, Sami Niku, Nathan Beaulieu, Bogdan Kiselevich, and Joe Morrow - none of these players saw the ice for any extended periods of time outside of injury relief. Even with the likes of Mason Appleton, Cameron Schilling, Par Lindholm, and Kristian Vesalainen at his disposal for the playoffs, injury relief was all the time that Paul Maurice was willing to give to these players. Does exhaustion count as an injury? Because I'm quite certain that seeing the likes of Wheeler, Scheifele, Little, and Ehlers sputter in the playoffs should have prompted a few nights off for these stars.

With as many as 15 players to make decisions on, Paul Maurice hasn't made the job for Kevin Cheveldayoff any easier with this playoff performance. There are major pieces that need to be addressed - Patrik Laine, Kyle Connor, Jacob Trouba, Tyler Myers, and Kevin Hayes, notably - but some of the role players who played entirely better than the role they were given in the playoffs - Brandon Tanev, Andrew Copp, Par Lindholm, and Laurent Brossoit - will need some significant thought when it comes to how important they are in this team's makeup. For those wondering at home, they were vital parts of this Jets team throughout the season, and all four likely deserve raises and more ice-time.

While the Jets' window for winning isn't fully closed, the opportunity this season seemed to escape their grasp some time in February when things began to spiral out of control. The Blues played .667 hockey down the stretch as they tied the Jets in points, and they won two-thirds of the games they played this spring against the Jets. That's consistency that the Jets simply didn't have in the final two months of the season, and it cost them dearly when they needed wins most.

Change is coming to the Winnipeg Jets. The big question as they enter the 2019-20 season will be how different will this team look compared to this year's squad? My guess is that possibly two major players listed above likely won't be back, and a handful of the role players will move on to teams that will either give them the ice-time they seek or the pay they feel they deserve. That's the reality of the new NHL, and it's a harsh reality the Jets will face following a disappointing finish to this season.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 19 April 2019

Down In Flames

If you're a Canadian hockey fan, your dreams of seeing a Stanley Cup parade north of the border just got reduced by one-third. The Colorado Avalanche used blazing speed, solid defence, timely scoring, and some key goaltending to eliminate the top seed in the Western Conference as the Calgary Flames were doused in five games. Say what you want about these playoffs being wacky or insane, but the eighth seeds in each conference have proven that they belong as both Columbus and Colorado await their opponents for the second round. With Calgary on the outs, the Western Conference just got a lot more wide-open than it was one week ago.

One could have pointed to Calgary's goaltending as possibly being a weak point as the Flames entered the playoffs, but Mike Smith was anything but awful. Yes, he got beat soundly by an Avalanche offence that looked virtually unstoppable, but Smith made 188 saves in five games - an average of 37.6 stops per game - while his save percentage was a solid .917 in those five contests. If anything, Mike Smith's goaltending might have been the only reason why Colorado was held to single-digit scores in a few of those five games.

What has to worry you is that if Smith was good in these five games, what happened to the Flames' defence? This was a team that surrendered a league-low 28.1 shots against per game, but got blown up by the Avalanche. The league's ninth-best defensive team found itself in a world of hurt when it came to the final four games, unable to move the puck quickly enough or effectively enough, and most times they found themselves fishing it out of the net behind Smith.

We saw a handful of players from the Colorado Avalanche elevate their games to heights not many have seen before. Nathan MacKinnon will haunt the nightmares of the Flames for a while, Mikko Rantanen lit the lamp like he was testing the light bulb, and Tyson Barrie led a defence who simply wasn't content in letting any of the Flames set up shop on the Colorado zone. In short, this was another dominating eighth-seed performance against a team who was thought by most experts to significantly better in all aspects of the game.

Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Gabriel Landeskog put on an offensive display tonight, accounting for three goals and seven points in the Game Five elimination of the Flames. They totaled nine goals and 21 points in the series compared to Calgary's top guns of Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Elias Lindholm who recorded just a pair of goals and five points in the series. Needless to say, Colorado's best players not only showed up, but they stole the show and laid waste to the Flames as they won four-straight games against the West's best team.

"For anyone who doesn’t think MacKinnon is one of the best, if not the best, they might want to look at this series because he can really turn it on up to another level," Flames captain Mark Giordano told reporters after the game. And the 37 year-old is right regarding MacKinnon, but the Avalanche got so much more as Colin Wilson and Matt Nieto each had two goals and two assists, fresh-out-of-college Cale Makar had a game-winning goal and an assist in three games, and veteran Ian Cole had three helpers. The Avalanche got scoring out of everywhere. The Flames, unfortunately, did not.

Calgary ranked second in goal scoring in the regular season behind the Lightning and tied with San Jose, but couldn't manage more than two goals in any game following the 4-0 win in Game One. One of the guys brought in to Calgary to help with a playoff push in James Neal was scratched in Game Five, basically signalling that his time in Calgary was assuredly over. No matter what changes were made and what line combinations were rolled out, the Avalanche had an answer for it. And it's why Calgary is going home.

A large part of the Colorado success came from the unmatched speed the Avalanche showed as the Flames often lost races to pucks and were forced to chase the game as the Avalanche seemed to transition seamlessly from offence to defence with that speed. When Calgary advanced the puck, the backchecking speed of the Avalanche allowed them to get all five players back in their own zone before Calgary could set up their offence. Like the Penguins of 2015, the Avalanche dare teams to outskate them, and the Flames simply weren't up to that task.

That speed also helped the Avalanche draw an insane amount of penalties on the Flames after Colorado entered the playoffs as the most penalized team this season. Instead, it was the Flames who found themselves shorthanded 25 times in five games - even with the rule book mostly erased for the playoffs - and it hurt the Flames at inopportune times. Game Three saw MacKinnon net back-to-back power-play goals in the 3-2 win. Game Four saw Rantanen tie the game on the power-play late in that one before he scored the winner in overtime. Game Fine saw the Avalanche ice the game and series with two power-play goals that made it 4-1 and 5-1. Speed kills, and it killed the Flames.

Finally, let's not forget Philipp Grubauer in all this either. Acquired on June 22 as a salary dump for the Washington Capitals, Grubauer was instrumental in helping the Avalanche make the playoffs down the stretch. His excellent play carried into these playoffs where he's now 4-1, has stopped 153 of 163 shots for a .939 save percentage, and is sporting a minuscule 1.90 GAA through the five games. Take away the four goals he allowed in Game One, and the final four games of this series saw Grubauer go bananas in stopping 125 of 132 shots. Even when Calgary got chances to score, Philipp Grubauer wasn't having any of it.

Like what Columbus did to Tampa Bay, Colorado was better than Calgary in all facets of the game, and that will undoubtedly result in wins. As we've seen with both eight seeds thus far, it's take nine games to eliminate the top-two teams in the NHL this season - true parity in the NHL as it seems anyone can beat anyone on any given night. Or, in the case of Columbus and Colorado, on four-straight nights.

The Flames were doused by the Avalanche. Who's next?

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 18 April 2019

The Hockey Show - Episode 343

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, is back tonight with all sorts of guests and interviews to do thanks to the Stanley Cup Playoffs! If you liked the pizza giveaway last week, it seems we'll do another one tonight as we welcome a very special guest to the studio to talk pie, playoffs, and the Winnipeg Jets before turning the show over to two people whose lives on Playoff Island have come to an end on the Survivor: NHL Playoffs contest. Beans and I will also discuss the epic failure of the Tampa Bay Lightning - previewed two weeks ago on The Hockey Show! - and get everyone set up for Game Five between the St. Louis Blues and Winnipeg Jets as the Whiteout parties continue in the Manitoba capital!

Beans and I are honoured and pleased to welcome Arneil Navarro, store owner of the Portage Avenue Pizza Pizza franchise, to the studio where we're talkiing everything that Pizza Pizza is doing in Winnipeg while the Jets and the Whiteouts have gripped the city in playoff madness! As you can see in the image, his store front has been "whited out" in support of the Jets, changing the familiar orange sign to white in support of the Jets along with whiting out the windows! We'll get the scoop on everything happening with specials and deals on Pizza Pizza pies, talk to Arneil about his love of the Jets, and more before we turn our attention to Elliot and Jason who have exit interviews to do for the Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins, respectively, as part of the Survivor: NHL Playoffs contest. From there, we'll likely dissect the Lightning's historic collapse, the Avs on the verge of dismissing the West's best team, San Jose's inability to keep the puck out of their net against the executioners known as Stone, Stastny, and Pacioretty, and more! All of that tonight on The Hockey Show at 5:30pm CT on 101.5 UMFM!

The new UMFM website's online streaming player is pretty awesome. If you're using an Apple device, the player doesn't seem to like Safari yet, but we highly recommend you use the TuneIn app found on the App Store or perhaps another browser. If you do use the TuneIn app, you won't be disappointed. It's a solid app.

Having lost faith in Facebook, I spend far less time on that site for good reasons. In saying that, you can still email all show questions and comments to hockeyshow@umfm.com! Tweet me anytime with questions you may have by hitting me up at @TeebzHBIC on Twitter! We're here to listen to you, so make your voice heard!

Tonight, Teebz and Beans chat with Arneil Navarro about changing Pizza Pizza's look for the playoffs and the deals they're offering Jets fans before the gents get Elliot and Jason to close out their Survivor runs, discussing the playoffs in-depth, and much more only on The Hockey Show found exclusively on 101.5 UMFM, on the UMFM app, on the UMFM.com web stream!

PODCAST: April 18, 2019: Episode 343

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Gone With No Return Date

I was excitedly tweeting about the Jets defeating the Blues in Game Four in overtime on the strength of a Kyle Connor goal when I heard it a sound. It wasn't a familiar sound, but I'm pretty sure it was audible for most to hear. It wasn't picked up by any major news outlets nor did it make any local reports outside of Mike Sawatzky's article in the Winnipeg Free Press so I'm not surprised that very few actually heard it, but it stopped me cold in my tracks. What sound did I hear, you ask? There was a crack in the planet, and it shook my world pretty significantly.

Let me explain this. For the last number of years, you're aware that I've been part of the radio and webcast broadcast team for the University of Manitoba Bisons women's hockey team. We've established some pretty great relationships with the players and the team, and we're always pulling for them to ascend to bigger, better, and greater heights. Venla Hovi's success following her career at the university is something I've followed very closely, and I'm extremely happy for all her success. My hope is that we'd see more players from the Bisons have successes on the bigger hockey stage in the future, and one of those women whose future seemed brightest was goaltender Lauren Taraschuk.

Until this happened.
Record scratch, double-take, jaw drop. In that order.

Lauren's reasons for the decision to leave with no timetable for a return nor a commitment to returning at all, as per Sawatzky's article, were personality conflicts and the coaching changes over the last few seasons which, admittedly, would take its toll on any young athlete. She wouldn't elaborate much further, but she doesn't have to based on those reasons. I'm quite comfortable without Lauren throwing anyone under the bus, but that's not her personality as it is.

It should be noted that Lauren did say she's doing well when I asked her if she was ok considering that there will likely be some surprise over this announcement that made its way into the print edition of the Winnipeg Free Press today. I want to be clear that I could care less about hockey or who did what or anything of that nature when it comes to the well-being of a 19 year-old woman who I consider a friend. She's always been honest and open in our conversations, and I have no reason to believe she'd be covering something up when I spoke with her today. Her well-bring is of the utmost importance beyond everything else, and she said she's doing well. That's good and brings me some relief.

What did bother me, however, was that, according to the article, she was prepared to leave the team in December. She instead played through the problems she was having, helping Manitoba to a second-straight U SPORTS National Championship appearance where they were one goal short of knocking off the eventual champions in the Guelph Gryphons in the opening game before rebounding with a pair of strong efforts against UPEI and Toronto. If she was bothered by everything that was happening in December, it's rather shocking that the coaching staff were blind to what was happening on their team, particularly their star netminder. Lauren isn't one to complain or sulk - she's a warrior and will suck it up for the team - but there had to be signs that this coaching staff either missed or ignored.

On top of that, the leadership in the room should have picked up on whatever was going on as well. It's hard for me to write these words, but how do the captains of the defending national champions not notice significant personality conflicts on the team and try to either resolve them or find an acceptable solution with the parties? And this isn't to say that Lauren was one of those parties. She's a pretty well-adjusted young lady, in my experiences with her, and her personality seems adaptable to most, if not all, situations. However, if there were significant conflicts between the ladies in the room, where was the leadership?

Regardless of my questions that will largely go unanswered, there's no doubt that Lauren was overplayed this season as she was on the ice in 31 of 35 games for the Bisons. That's an enormous workload when one considers the course work she's required to also put in to remain academically-eligible to play, but it was almost like the Bisons rested their season on her shoulders with little regard for the abilities of backup netminders Erin Fargey and Devan Johnson. No one was likely to usurp the crease from Taraschuk, but would it have killed the coaching staff to have given Lauren a lighter workload on the ice over the course of the season? As a result of the mismanagement of the netminders, the Bisons will now enter 2019-20 with two goaltenders who have six appearance combined in their careers. Not ideal at all.

Let me be clear here: whatever happens in this upcoming season will not be pinned on Lauren Taraschuk's decision to step away from the team. Fargey and Johnson are extremely capable and talented netminders who will suit up being a lineup that features ten new faces next season. It's not ideal, but it is what it is. Again, this likely could have been better than what it seems, but there's no denying that last season's overplaying of Taraschuk has come back to bite the Bisons in the rear. C'est la vie, and, hopefully, lesson learned for the coaching staff.

At this point, my only concern is Lauren's well-being, and she has stated that she's doing well. When it comes to university athletics, U SPORTS has never shied away from the fact that student-athletes are students first and athletes second. In following that belief, Lauren stepping away to better herself will ensure her long-term success rather than going through another season where she's unhappy. That should be the goal of all university hockey programs: ensuring that their student-athletes will have long-term success whether that's in the classroom, on the ice, or both.

While it won't be the same in not seeing her familiar wink and big smile as she skates by my spot between the benches next season, Lauren Taraschuk will always be a champion at life in my eyes. Glory and championships on the ice will come and go, and they won't define who this young woman is to me. She's an incredible person who deserves to be happy and healthy - mentally, emotionally, and physically - and I will never question her decision to do what's right for her.

That's what Lauren did, and she will always have my unwavering support no matter where her next steps take her.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

Free Broom With Purchase

Ladies and gentlemen, the Columbus Blue Jackets have swept the President's Trophy-winning, most wins ever in a season-tying, entirely-dominant-during-the-regular-season Tampa Bay Lightning out of the playoffs in what is one of the most stunning defeats ever, and likely the biggest defeat in the salary-cap era of parity in the NHL. They were forechecked into submission. They were outcoached over four-straight losses. They were out-goalied in the duel. And, at the end of the day, the Columbus Blue Jackets now await the winner of the Boston-Toronto series while the Lightning head back to Tampa to clean out their lockers after falling stunningly short once more.

WOW

Let's give credit where credit is due as the big players for Columbus stepped up and contributed in a big way. Matt Duchene, Cam Atkinson, Seth Jones, and Artemi Panarin were all over the scoresheets for the four games while Sergei Bobrovsky and the swarming Blue Jackets defence neutralized the Tampa Bay offence like no one has done this season. Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, and Brayden Point were made to look human by the Blue Jackets while they exposed a Tampa Bay defence who simply couldn't handle the waves of pressure as Andrei Vaskilevskiy was often left out on his own while the Blue Jackets peppered him with shots, often finding the back of the net. It was a debacle from the Tampa Bay view, but a glorious exercise in preparation and execution by the Columbus Blue Jackets as they executed with surgical precision in carving out the hearts of the Lightning fans.

Of course, if you're a Tampa Bay Lightning fan, it felt more like you were the guy in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom who had his heart ripped out by high priest Mola Ram. Your team, which piled up the wins all season by simply steamrolling teams early and often, had no answer for a basic 1-2-2 neutral zone formation. Yes, some will say it's a modified version of the trap, but it's an effective way of neutralizing the Lightning's speed through the neutral zone on which the Lightning attack was entirely based. Let the skilled players rip through the neutral zone, take a pass in full flight, and terrorize opposing goalies. Sound familiar? That's precisely how Jon Cooper had coached his system all season long.

Of course, it didn't help that Columbus got all sorts of secondary scoring from the likes of David Savard, Oliver Bjorkstrand, and Alexandre Texier whereas the likes of Tyler Johnson, Anthony Cirelli, and Yanni Gourde couldn't replicate the same production for Tampa Bay. Seeing Bjorkstrand continue his magic with game-winning goals in his professional career is rather remarkable as he had both game-winning goals in Games Three and Four to go along with his 2016 AHL record-tying six game-winners in 17 games as he helped the Lake Erie Monsters win the Calder Cup. If the puck is on his stick in a playoff game, there's a good chance someone is fishing it out of a net based on his production in his career.

Regardless of who produced and who didn't, history will show that the Blue Jackets won their first franchise playoff series by becoming the first team to eliminate the President's Trophy winner in a sweep. At the end of the day, it's all about sixteen wins. Columbus is one-quarter of the way there while Tampa Bay will reset and look to 2019-20 as explanations for this epic destruction will be sought. With the sweep by Columbus, the Eastern Conference is now wide-open for any team to win, but one would think that one would want to avoid running into the Blue Jackets. No team has ever won the Stanley Cup by going 16-0, but the Blue Jackets look dialled in right now to pull off that feat after this dismantling of the Lightning.

Maybe they'll start handing out free brooms with season ticket renewals for next season?

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 15 April 2019

Philly Turns To Vigneault

The Philadelphia Flyers, having gone with the US college coach experiment and failed, decided to go back to the NHL ranks to hire their next coach as they introduced former New York Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault as their 21st head coach in franchise history today. The 57 year-old will be responsible for guiding the Flyers back to the playoffs and further after last winning the Stanley Cup in 1975. Scott Gordon, who took over the interim head coach role, was not let by the club, so there is some speculation that Gordon will either stay on with Vigneault as an assistant coach or possibly return to Lehigh Valley where he was having some solid success at the AHL level before being promoted after Hakstol's dismissal.

It was reported, but unconfirmed, that the contract for Vigneault's services clocked in at five years and $25 million which seems steep for a guy who has never won a Stanley Cup after playing in the big dance twice. Vigneault will likely have some weapons at his disposal with the likes of Voracek, Giroux, Couturier, Provorov, and Gostisbehere already signed and the Flyers having some $30 million in cap space to spend this summer, but this is a squad that hasn't been to the second round of the playoffs since 2012. In short, Vigneault will have some work to do.

"The history they have established and the passionate fan base has made this a first-class franchise. I am excited to work with Chuck, the talented group of players, and the prospects coming up through the system in order to return Philadelphia to the top of the NHL landscape," Vigneault told reporters at his introduction.

Where the Flyers should see some improvement with the defensively-minded Vigneault behind the bench is on the goals-against totals that were escalating under Hakstol. Philly gave up 280 goals this season - third-most in the NHL - which was a massive increase from the 236 goals-against they posted in 2017-18 and the 231 goals they surrendered in 2016-17. With the right personnel, Vigneault's systems work as he's shown at the AHL level with the Manitoba Moose and at the NHL level in guiding the Canucks and Rangers to the Stanley Cup Final.

One could argue that having nine 40-win seasons in 15 seasons of NHL head coaching is something to justify that massive amount of money that the Flyers are paying him, and the fact that he's only missed the playoffs four times in fifteen seasons behind NHL benches could be another. I caution that while these results can be repeatable, Vigneault's first season as a head coach in his three NHL stops saw his teams advance to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs or better. Perhaps Chuck Fletcher is betting big on Vigneault's influence, knowledge, and systems with the money he committed to the coach.

If there is one concern that the Flyers could have, it's that Vigneault has relied heavily on veteran talent at all his stops. While he'll have that talent base to work with in Philadelphia, there will likely be some youth injected into the lineup alongside young players such as Nolan Patrick and Travis Konecny. Both players will need to factor into Vigneault's system, and I assume there will be much work done by Vigneault to continue to make them into effective 200-foot players.

Regardless of what I think, the Flyers have their man and will go into the off-season with a renewed confidence. They'll pick up a solid player with the eleventh pick in June's NHL Entry Draft, and then Fletcher will consult Vigneault on the players he can drop $30 million on that fit into his new coach's systems.

It's a new era in Philadelphia with Fletcher and Vigneault.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 14 April 2019

Robbed

The image to the left should have been the lede photo for most of the stories being published about the 2019 IIHF Women's World Hockey Championship, but Petra Nieminen's goal in overtime was overturned by the IIHF in one of the most unbelievable video reviews that has ever occurred in any league. To say that the off-ice officials have zero knowledge of the rule book they're supposed to know would be unfair. It's fairly clear that they have a concept of the rules, but the application of those rules seems to be the difficult part for these officials. Whatever the case, the IIHF proved to be the world's greatest crime organization as they straight-up robbed Finland of the gold medals they rightly deserve.

Before we get too deep into this rant of the clown show known as the IIHF, let's take a look at the goal in question. Remember that this goal was ruled a good goal on the ice by the officials.


That's simply baffling. First, how does it take that long to determine that there was interference if interference actually occurred? Secondly, did the on-ice official have a chance to review the video evidence that justified the call of interference? If not, how does the off-ice video official who made the decision justify the call of interference? Finally, on what rule is this call being overturned if this truly is interference?

The IIHF offered no explanation today, but I assume there will be some sort of flimsy, ridiculous justification for this call that makes no sense, but here are the IIHF rules that define goaltender interference.
Note the rule highlighted above because, in my view, that's the rule that should be applied in this situation based on the video evidence. There is no way that that Jenni Hiirikoski's effort on the puck was anything but incidental as the puck was loose in front of Alex Rigsby and she went to make a play on it as both players attempted to gain possession of the puck. As per the rule, the goal should count.

Instead, the players are subjected to an eternity of time while the review is going on. Why does it take so long for this to be decided? I'll give the official in the image to the right the benefit of the doubt if she is making a case for no interference as the call on the ice, by the letter of the rule, was correct. I wouldn't want my call overturned at that point without there being some sort of conclusive, undeniable proof that Hiirikoski committed some sort of interference outside of trying to play a loose puck. Instead, the official allowed this to happen, and the celebration by Team Finland and the Finnish fans was short-lived.

What a load of crap.

Look, I don't hold any ill will towards the Americans. Head coach Bob Corkum did what any coach would do on that play and challenged it for goaltender interference. I get that, and I respect that Corkum was looking out for his team and for Alex Rigsby. The fact that they were able to regroup, get to the shootout, and win the tournament in the skills competition proves that Corkum's call was the right one even if the decision by the IIHF was egregiously wrong.

What bothers me is that the IIHF will never admit that it got this call wrong by any means despite all the evidence suggesting otherwise. It cost Finland their greatest victory and the corresponding celebration of that achievement, and it was hard to watch the Finnish women crying after the game after they thought they had conquered the world just minutes prior. And as much as people want to blame the two on-ice officials in Nicole Hertrich and Lacey Senuk, this decision to call Hiirikoski's attempt to play the loose puck as interference is entirely on the off-ice video official whose name will never be released by the IIHF.

There are lists of the greatest robberies in history. They include the Gardner Museum Robbery, Stéphane Breitwieser's list of robberies, and the Leviev diamond heist. I'm going to go ahead and add the IIHF's robbery of Finland's gold medals today to the list because that heist is one that will never see justice.

Congratulations to Finland on a heckuva tournament. While I know the sting of today's results won't go away quickly, the world saw that the Naisleijonat are indeed champions on this Sunday in April.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 13 April 2019

Steps Forward

For years, we've been hearing about the disparity in women's hockey. Yes, the Canadians and Americans have been the world's best for some time, and there's always been some promise of a team rising up and knocking off one of these two common foes. We saw Sweden do it at the 2006 Torino Olympics when they shocked the Americans with a 3-2 victory in the semifinals, but the Swedes have fallen from grace quickly as funding was cut and players opted to retire. As it stands, Finland was the next challenger, and we got to see what it looks like when the Finns execute their systems perfectly as they took down the Canadians in the semifinal at the 2019 Women's World Hockey Championship.

I've written about how upsets are good for the sport. I mention it time and again when one of the "underdogs" rises up to beat Canada or the USA, but it remains true to this day that seeing these other countries win against the two powerhouses is good for the sport.

We can sit here and make excuses for what happened today, but that's not going to happen. I'm very aware that Canada was without Marie-Philip Poulin and that Blayre Turnbull left the game midway through the action. There are all sorts of footnotes that one can put on this game, but Canada's roster on paper has all sorts of talent that should allow it to rise above a Finnish team that, on paper, isn't close to being comparatively talented.

Finland won because they executed their game plan, they capitalized on chances, they got amazing goaltending, and they had 19 players who went over the boards with one singular goal. That's not to say that Canada didn't have the same goal from their 19 players, but the fact that Finland accomplished said goal means that they were better on this day. If this game is played 100 other times, Canada likely wins more often than not. But today, the Finns were the better team and deserved to advance to the gold medal game.

Winning today is the culmination of years of heartbreak, disappointment, and back-to-the-drawing-board for Finland. It's years of tinkering, trying, failing, trying again, finding things that work, replicating those successes, and putting it all together in sixty minutes. Finland downed Canada in the preliminaries at the 2017 Women's World Championship for their first-ever win against Canada, but had yet to replicate that success until today when they pulled off a 4-2 win in the semifinals.

The stats will show 43 saves by Noora Raty and a Canadian power-play that went 0-for-4 as being large reasons for the Finnish win today, but the stats won't show a coordinated team effort on defence to thwart the Canadians time and again while the Canadians failed to give the same effort in their defensive zone. The results now speak for themselves as Canada will face Russia for an unfamiliar bronze medal while Finland will look to thrill their home crowd as they have a date with the Americans and the potential for another monster upset.

And while I celebrate this major victory for Finland, the reality of the situation also rears itself in that outside of Finland, there really isn't any other country who presents itself as a legitimate threat to Canada and the US on the world stage. The fact that Finland is the only country to even move the needle at this World Championship is once again a problem for every country not named "Canada" or the "USA" based on the results at this tournament. With Finland having a number of women on its squad who possibly will be retiring following tomorrow's gold medal game or soon thereafter, the pipeline of talent on the world stage has never been more pressing for all teams who hope to replicate Finland's success.

The problem that the world faces is that there simply isn't a program at this point who has invested in its program as well as Finland has. This is a double-edged sword as Finland is on the verge of joining Canada and the US as powerhouses, but will likely see significant player turnover in the next few years. With no other country even on the radar of an upset win at this point, can Finland maintain this current level of success if the players who have worked tirelessly to put Finland at this point decide to retire? On top of that, will we ever see Russia or Switzerland or another country or countries join Finland in being legitimate threats to the long-time reigns of Canada and the US at the top of the hockey world?

Finland's win over Canada is monstrous for the Finnish program for a number of reasons, but one has to be aware that there could be a potential void on the world stage if a number of the current Finnish women decide to move on following this tournament. For now, no one will give that problem much thought as Finland prepares to compete for its first gold medal in women's hockey at any level, and that accomplishment cannot be understated when highlighting the importance of today's win. Beyond tomorrow, there may be bigger issues in women's hockey once again, but I'm quite content to allow Finland to celebrate this victory over Canada today on home soil. They earned this celebration after the biggest win in their program's history before playing the most meaningful game in their country's women's hockey history tomorrow.

Hyvä Suomi!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 12 April 2019

Reasons For Concern

While it wasn't written about sports and the relationship fans have with their teams, Alice In Chains' 1993 song "Down in a Hole" seems particularly relevant right now for the fanbases in Winnipeg. The lyrics of the chorus read, "Down in a hole, feelin' so small/Down in a hole, losin' my soul/I'd like to fly, but my wings have been so denied," and this team has legitimately been denied by St. Louis from taking flight. While we knew it was going to a tight-checking series, with Winnipeg heading to St. Louis in a 2-0 hole there are a number of reasons to be concerned about the Jets' chances of coming back to Winnipeg with the series tied.

We'll hear Paul Maurice talk about breaking the game into five-minute segments. We'll hear players talk about winning periods and winning shifts before they mention anything about winning the games. How much truth is there to this for the Jets as they visit the Enterprise Center in St. Louis basically playing must-win hockey?

Here's a quick table of how the teams played this season in periods thanks to Hockey Reference.
If we look at the data presented, the first thing that jumps out at me is the goal differential that the Blues have at home in the first period. They're +16 at home in terms of goals scored and +25 in first periods overall. We always hear of how important that first goal is, and there's no doubt that St. Louis has used their first period scoring to their advantage, particularly over this impressive 32-10-5 run in their last 47 games.

Comparatively, the Jets were an impressive +19 at home in first-period goal differential, but a -5 on the road. While the Jets are a +1 in these playoffs at home, a slow start against St. Louis while being down a couple of games in the series is literally flirting with disaster based on the numbers above. The Jets have to find a way to set the pace early in these next two games if they hope to have a prayer in this series, and getting an early goal or two will go a long way in helping their cause of returning to Winnipeg in a best-of-three series as St. Louis actually has a -6 goal differential for the season over the final 40 minutes of play.

The second thing that Paul Maurice should be doing is stressing discipline to his players. We saw Mark Scheifele take a couple of rather unnecessary penalties early in Game Two, but it was the Jets' power-play who scored on two of three chances. St. Louis is 0-for-7 with the man-advantage compared to Winnipeg who is 2-for-4. The Jets need to play to their strengths by drawing penalties as power-play goals have accounted for two of the four goals they've scored in the series thus far.

The third thing that the Jets need is Connor Hellebuyck to rebound in a big way. There's no denying that Jordan Binnington has outplayed the Jets' netminder thus far, but at least two of the goals that were scored tonight were pucks that Hellebuyck should have had. He misplayed the dump-in prior to the Patrick Maroon goal where he should have easily trapped that puck against his chest, and Oskar Sundqvist's goal that went right between the wickets is one he has to have. His current .897 save percentage simply isn't good enough to win a series by any means, so Hellebuyck needs to have himself a couple of big games with key stops if he wants to help Winnipeg come back home with this series squared.

In his post-game press conference tonight, Maurice said there would be roster changes for Game Three. In scanning player usage tonight, one has to wonder if Dmitry Kulikov is one of those changes as he played just 13:44 tonight on the blue line. Jack Roslovic played just a mere 6:43 and I assume that Roslovic will be shown the door to the press box once again.

Maurice isn't going to avoid the sword here, though, as Kevin Hayes played just 8:32 and has yet to look like he's even engaged in this series. He was a woeful 20% at the face-off dot tonight. Whatever is plaguing the big man needs to be solved quickly because he was an integral part of the Jets' lineup down the stretch. The Jets need him to show up and play like the game-changer he has shown if they want to go further than Missouri in these playoffs.

Maurice also needs to figure out how to deploy Nikolaj Ehlers more effectively as Ehlers didn't see a second of time on special teams and played just 9:08. Ehlers is a possession zone entry player whose speed through the neutral zone could cause fits for the Blues, but it seems that Maurice is more content to sit him on the bench than having him on the ice. If he's playing less than the likes of Par Lindholm (10:13 of even-strength time), something is wrong with the team's player management. That's directly on the coach.

At the end of the day, the Jets lost two games by one goal each. The coughed up a lead in Game One, and they were unable to score in Game Two. To me, there are small adjustments that need to be made by the Jets if they hope to climb back into this series. Doing it on Enterprise Center ice won't be easy, but a few small changes with some attention to details in the game could change this team's fortunes in a hurry.

The Jets may be "down in a hole" and "feelin' so small," but no team has ever won a seven-game series in two games. It's not going to be easy to dig out of this hole they've made for themselves, but the Jets have start winning shifts and periods before they ever start talking about winning series at this point.

See you Sunday, St. Louis.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!