NHL Grab Bag: How Should We Call These Playoff Games?

Welcome to a weekly grab bag of thoughts and observations from the past few days and/or decades of NHL hockey.

This week’s three stars of comedy

Recognizing the three NHL personalities from around the league who produced the most comedic fodder for fans.

The third star: All things considered, the L.A. Kings are taking this rather well — When times are bad, always look to surround yourself with those who have it even worse.

The second star: Brent Seabrook maybe doesn’t quite have the hang of this whole overtime thing quite yet — Hey, Brent, you scored the series-winning goal against Detroit in sudden death, so just go on out there and trust your instincts and I’m sure you’ll be just … what are you doing, Brent? NO NO NO!

The first star: The Flyers are gearing up for an interesting offseason — Yeah, I don’t think I want to visit that beach (even if it would give me a chance to meet Roberto Luongo).

What is the hockey world pretending to be outraged about now?

Nothing makes hockey folks happier than being outraged about something relatively unimportant. Each week we’ll pick one topic fans are complaining about and try to figure out if it’s justified.

The issue: You referred to it as the Stanley Cup finals.

The outrage: It’s the Stanley Cup final. Singular. You need to get rid of that last “s,” you moron.

Is it justified: Kis my as.

Obscure former player of the week

NHL history is filled with legendary players whose stories are passed down from generation to generation. This is not one of them.

This week’s obscure player is Darin Kimble, a tough guy from the late ’80s and early ’90s who also happens to be one of a surprisingly small number of players to suit up for both the Bruins and the Blackhawks.

In fact, he played for them back-to-back — first in 1992-93 with Boston, and then for two seasons in Chicago from 1993 to 1995. (Oddly, he signed with the Panthers as a free agent in between, but was traded to the Hawks before he ever played a game in Florida.) Here he is as a Bruin, taking on legendary Chicago enforcer Stu “The Grim Reaper” Grimson.

In addition to the Blackhawks and Bruins, Kimble also played for … well, everyone. Seriously, look at his HockeyDB page. By my count, that’s 21 teams over 18 years in eight different leagues, some of which I didn’t even know existed until just now.

Also, I have no idea if Kimble’s nickname was ever “Doctor,” but it should have been.

Great hockey debates

In which we employ the Socratic method in an attempt to settle the issues that have plagued a generation of hockey fans.

This week’s debate: As seems to happen most years, the 2013 playoffs have spawned frequent complaints about inconsistent officiating. Should referees call postseason games the same way they do in the regular season?

In favor: Of course they should. The rulebook doesn’t change once the playoffs start, so the officiating shouldn’t, either.

Opposed: The postseason is about the players. They should be the ones who decide the game, not the referees.

In favor: But when an official refuses to call an obvious penalty, they are deciding the game.

Opposed: OK, sure, the obvious penalties should be called. Nobody really complains about those. But there’s also a lot of borderline stuff that could go either way, and in those cases the refs should let the players play.

In favor: Yes, let them play … according to the rules. And that means calling penalties.

Opposed: I don’t know about you, but I don’t tune in to playoff hockey to see the referees handing out nonstop power plays. That’s not entertaining.

In favor: But neither is all-out anarchy, which is what some of these games are starting to resemble.

In favor: No fan should want to go back to the clutch-and-grab days of the Dead Puck Era, and that’s what too many of today’s playoff games look like.

Opposed: Um, dude, you just took my turn.

In favor: I did?

Opposed: Yeah, you don’t get to go twice in a row.

In favor: Oh, sorry about that.

In favor: I guess I just got careless.

In favor: I can see how that would be frustrating for you.

Opposed: Um …

In favor: Anyway, my point was that once the players realize the referees won’t make calls, they’ll naturally try to take advantage.

In favor: One uncalled foul leads to another, and suddenly you’ve got a game that’s completely out of control.

Opposed: You’re doing it again.

In favor: But once the game has devolved like that, there’s not much a referee can do to regain control.

In favor: And then when he finally does call a penalty, he gets blasted for being inconsistent because of everything he already let go.

Opposed: This is pointless if you’re not going to let me talk.

In favor: They’re damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

In favor: These guys can’t win.

In favor: Also, here’s another point that I’d like to make while completely ignoring your side of the debate …

Opposed: Hey, Moderator, a little help here?

Moderator: Yes? What seems to be the problem?

Opposed: My opponent here isn’t following the debate format.

Moderator: Oh.

In favor: … and then if we turn to page 63 in our rule book, you’ll note that the list of fouls that can result in a match penalty have been expanded to include …

Opposed: So … are you going to do something about this?

Moderator: [Shrug.] It’s the playoffs, man. Deal with it.

In favor: Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam …

Opposed: Look, this isn’t even a debate anymore.

Moderator: So, yeah, if nobody needs me I’m going on break.

In favor: ASKJSDKJSDHKSDHSDKDSHJDSHD

Opposed: This is futile. I quit.

In favor: I knew my tight defensive style would eventually frustrate you.

In favor: Man, I really elevated my game there when it counted.

In favor: Yay me!

The final verdict: Aren’t these things just so much more entertaining when they let the debaters debate?

Trivial NHL-related annoyance of the week

In which I will complain about things that probably only matter to me.

As an Original Six team, the Blackhawks have made plenty of contributions to league history over the years. For example, back at the old Chicago Stadium they became the first NHL team to use a goal horn. And as a kid growing up in the 1980s, I thought that goal horn was just about the coolest thing ever.

These days, all 30 teams have one, which means the concept is no longer special or even all that interesting. After all, this is the NHL and every good idea inevitably has to be beaten into the ground until everyone hates it.

But would it be too much to ask that the other teams dial it down a little bit? I know it bothers you that Chicago thought of it first and everyone knows that you’re just blatantly stealing their idea, but that doesn’t mean you should try to overcompensate through sheer volume and repetition.

Settle down, horn guys. Not every goal the home team scores has to be accompanied by you frantically wailing on the horn blast button like a starving hamster in a Skinner box. (And yes, we are all looking at you, Ottawa Senators goal-horn guy. You’re the absolute worst.)

The goal horn is a garnish. Do not abuse it. Because we are this close to taking it away from you and going back to only letting Chicago use it.

The week’s most depressing CapGeek page

In which we select one page on capgeek.com and stare at it while a single tear rolls down our cheek.

This week’s most depressing CapGeek page belongs to P.K. Subban.

Hey, remember a few months ago when Subban ended his holdout and signed a new two-year deal with the Canadiens? Remember how lots of us (OK, me) thought Montreal got a fantastic bargain, because they’d locked in a good young defenseman for a cap hit of just $2.875 million without having to overcommit on a long-term deal to a player who wasn’t completely proven?

Oops.

Subban was nominated for the Norris Trophy this year, and while the league won’t formally announce the results until next week, the winner has apparently already been leaked. Spoiler alert: Subban wins.

And that means the Habs have one more year of their “bargain” left to enjoy before they’ll have to negotiate a brand-new contract with a Norris winner in his prime. That’s going to be expensive. Here’s an idea of how expensive.

Maybe saving a few bucks on a short-term deal wasn’t the best idea after all.

What has Don Cherry gone and done now?

Whether it’s Coach’s Corner, his regular media appearances, or a Twitter account that’s presumably meant to be performance art, Don Cherry is everywhere. What’s he been up to this week?

Congratulations, you will now spend the rest of the week having nightmares about Don Cherry’s suit and tie coming to eat you.

Awesome and/or horrific old YouTube clip of the week

In addition to being a great source of adorable pets and functionally illiterate commenters, YouTube is a gold mine for old hockey clips. Each week we find one and break it down in way too much detail.

In the spirit of the ongoing Chicago-Boston series, let’s travel back to 1992 to break down a famous Cup final goal scored against the Blackhawks by a current Bruin. This clip is from May 26, 1992.

• So it’s Game 1 of the 1992 Stanley Cup final between the Blackhawks and the Penguins. Pittsburgh is the defending champ and has home ice advantage, but both teams finished the season with 87 points, so the series is pretty much a toss-up.

• The Blackhawks are ahead 4-3, which you’ll just have to trust me on since there’s no score clock in the top corner. How did we ever survive without those? This game happened over 20 years ago and I’m still feeling jittery without the score being displayed at all times.

• So we start with a shot of Mike Keenan with his arms crossed and looking angry. There are only two possible shots of Mike Keenan, by the way: arms crossed and looking angry, and gesturing at the backup goalie to get in there.

• Next up is a quick shot of Penguins GM Craig Patrick. He actually held the job from 1989 until he was replaced with Ray Shero in 2006, meaning he built a good chunk of the current Pittsburgh roster. Here he is drafting Sidney Crosby in 2005. I think I liked him better with the skullet.

• Now we go down to the ice, which is disturbingly clean-looking. No trapezoid, no extra lines on the faceoff circles, no ads plastered everywhere. Between this and the lack of a score clock, I’m disoriented. Someone hold me.

• A Chicago clearing attempt winds up on the stick of Jaromir Jagr, who immediately finds himself surrounded by basically the entire Blackhawks team. As you’ll see, this will not turn out to be a problem.

• Jagr steps by Dirk Graham and Stephane Matteau before staring down Brent Sutter. And yes, that would be the same Brent Sutter who’d go on to coach the Devils and the Flames. He was known as a defensive-minded coach. I’m guessing he didn’t use this clip in many film sessions.

• Good job, Frantisek Kucera and Igor Kravchuk, good effort.

• I’m not actually sure what Ed Belfour is doing here. Not only does he just kind of stumble around and wave at Jagr’s weakish backhand, but he doesn’t even follow that up with some sort of stick-smashing meltdown. Are we sure that’s even him? Is it possible that Ray LeBlanc snuck in and replaced him for a period? I think we need a 30 for 30 on this.

• No, I don’t know why there are so many Czech signs in Pittsburgh. Yes, I do want to talk about that one guy’s sweater. I like it. The diamond pattern really pops next to his wife’s all-white pantsuit ensemble.

• Wait, was that the Jagr Salute? I didn’t think he started doing that until later. This is like seeing an early prototype of a future classic. I may be getting a little too excited here.

• “I don’t care how good the team is defensively, that becomes man-on-man.” Or man-on-men. Or, in this case, man–on–flailing, frightened little children. Any of those can work.

• The Penguins ended up winning the game 5-4 on a Mario Lemieux goal in the dying seconds of regulation, when the Blackhawks decided to execute a strategy they called “Leave the best player in the world completely wide open.” In hindsight, I might have gone with “Cover him,” but maybe that’s why I’m not an NHL coach.

Epilogue: The Penguins swept the series in four straight. To this day, the Jagr goal is considered not only one of the greatest in Stanley Cup history, but also the second-most heroic effort in the history of the Blackhawks-Penguins rivalry, trailing only this one.

Filed Under: Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, Los Angeles Kings, NHL, Philadelphia Flyers

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Sean McIndoe ’s work can be found at his blog, Down Goes Brown. His first book, The Best of Down Goes Brown, was released last September.

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