NHL Grab Bag: Two-Goal Leads, Two Nicklas Backstroms, and Too Much Don Cherry Techno

Nicklas Backstrom

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

The Three Stars of Comedy

Recognizing the three moments or personalities from around the league that produced the most comedic fodder for fans this week.

The third star: Mike Gillis
Just as the Washington Capitals are reaching rock bottom thanks to surprisingly terrible goaltending, Vancouver’s GM randomly shows up to take in a game on a “scouting trip” (even though the Canucks won’t play any Eastern Conference teams during the regular season). Predictably, everyone freaks out and starts churning out “Roberto Luongo–to–Washington” rumors, which both teams immediately deny. That’s some high-level GM trolling by Gillis right there. I can’t wait until he shows up in Toronto and spends the whole game shining a laser pointer in Dave Nonis’s eyes.

The second star: Max Pacioretty
The Habs winger underwent emergency surgery to remove his appendix last Saturday, sidelining him for three to four weeks. Showing he hadn’t lost his sense of humor, he made a funny joke about returning to the lineup eight days later that was hilarious because he — wait, he what? Really? Oh. Wow.

The first star: Mike Smith’s hair
How bad does your haircut have to be for you to become known as “the hockey player with the bad hair”? This bad.

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 the anger is justified.

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The issue: P.K. Subban is a jerk!

The outrage: Where to even begin with this guy? Complaints about Subban’s attitude have been around for years, but they’ve really taken off over the last month. First, he missed the season’s opening weeks in a selfish contract dispute. Then when he did sign, his own teammates didn’t seem all that glad to see him. And on top of all that, his coach had to make a point of banning his patented “triple low five” victory celebration. Who even has a patented victory celebration? No wonder everyone in the league hates him.

Is it justified? Hockey fans, this is why we can’t have nice things.

Subban’s “contract dispute” wasn’t a holdout — he was a restricted free agent without a deal in place, mostly because the Habs were playing hardball. And it ended when he accepted a contract for far less than he’d been demanding. As for his teammates not liking him, even the normally feisty Montreal media pushed back on those reports.

And as for the triple low five … I mean, go back and watch this. Really? This is what passes for an over-the-top celebration in the NHL? I’ve seen football players celebrate more vigorously after getting their chin straps fastened properly, but we need to declare a state of hockey emergency over a few hand slaps? (And let’s also take a minute to point out the contradiction in being simultaneously criticized for “not being liked by his teammates” and “celebrating too happily with his teammates.”)

But it appears Subban continues to commit the one unforgivable sin in the hockey world: having an actual personality. He’s exciting to watch, he’s good on TV, and sometimes he smiles and seems like he enjoys his job. This just cannot stand.

Look, I’m a Leafs fan, and P.K. Subban is a star player on the Montreal Canadiens. That means I want to hate him. I need to hate him. Hating him is practically embedded in my DNA. But I can’t do it. This guy is fantastic, and I can’t wait until the day the Canadiens run him out of town. I hope he triple-low-fives after every one of his new team’s wins in Montreal.

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 those players.

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This week’s obscure player is Reggie Savage, a forward who played with the Capitals and Nordiques in the early ’90s. He was a first-round pick who never really panned out, only playing in parts of three NHL seasons before spending a decade kicking around the minor leagues and Europe.

Here are the two things every hockey fan needs to know about Reggie Savage:

  • He was the fourth player in NHL history to score his first career goal on a penalty shot.
  • He had, hands down, the most badass name in hockey history.

I mean, it’s not even close, is it? “Reggie Savage”? That sounds like the final boss from an early-’90s Super Nintendo game. He’s like the perfect mixture of Reggie Jackson and Randy Savage, except he got the cool combination instead of the one that makes you a permanent American Idol judge.

I’m not sure what he’s doing these days, but I hope he’s renting out his name. I’d pay big bucks to spend one day being legally known as “Reggie Savage.”

Great Hockey Debates

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

This week’s debate: Is a two-goal lead really the worst lead in hockey?

In favor: Of course it is! Every hockey fan knows this.

Opposed: No. No, it’s really not.

In favor: How can you say that? Anyone who’s ever watched a hockey game knows the two-goal lead is the worst lead in hockey, because every announcer keeps bringing it up.

Opposed: Please stop saying this. It’s really, really not.

In favor: OK smart guy, what lead would you say is worse?

Opposed: The one-goal lead is worse than a two-goal lead, because — you might want to sit down for this part — “one” is a smaller number than “two.”

In favor: Whoa there. Slow down, Mr. Fancy-Stats!

Opposed: [Deep sigh.]

In favor: See, here’s the thing: When you have a one-goal lead, you know you have to crack down defensively. And when it’s three goals, then you pretty much know you’re going to win. But when it’s a two-goal lead, you’re kind of caught in the middle, because you’re not sure whether to play defensively or relax. That’s what makes it so difficult.

Opposed: [Patiently …] So if you have a two-goal lead, what’s the worst-case scenario for what happens next?

In favor: Well, you end up pushing a little bit too much on offense, you have a defensive lapse, and you give up a goal.

Opposed: At which point the lead becomes …

In favor: Um …

Opposed: No, go ahead and do the math, we’ll wait.

In favor: Half of a two-goal lead.

Opposed: I hate you.

In favor: Do you have a point?

Opposed: My point is that calling a two-goal lead the “worst lead in hockey” is dumb, and we all need to stop doing it. Literally 100 percent of two-goal leads that have ever been blown, in the entire history of ice hockey, were also one-goal leads along the way. If a two-goal lead was really worse than a one-goal lead, then teams that took a two-goal lead would immediately pull their goalie and shoot the puck into their own net to restore their one-goal lead, at which point their opponent would pull their goalie and shoot the puck into their own net, and the whole thing would continue for the rest of the game and it would all be ridiculous because we’d be living in a world where the concept of basic math no longer exists!

In favor: Dude, are you OK?

Opposed: [Takes a hit from an asthma inhaler.]

The final verdict: You know what, let’s all agree to keep saying this just to make the people who understand math really angry.

Trivial NHL-Related Annoyance of the Week

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

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There are too many Nicklas Backstroms in the NHL.

There’s no reason that a center for the Washington Capitals and a goaltender for the Minnesota Wild should have the same name. I know there are a lot of hockey players out there, but it’s not like we’ve run out of names and need to start doubling up. It’s confusing, and it’s inconvenient for people who have to write about hockey while also being lazy and not very smart (i.e., me).

And yes, I realize the goalie is technically “Niklas” not “Nicklas.” That difference is too subtle and it doesn’t help. We need a better solution: Effective immediately, I’m revoking both guys’ Nicklas privileges.

First of all, according to Wikipedia, Washington’s Backstrom isn’t even a real Nicklas. It’s his middle name. What kind of shenanigans are you trying to pull here, Lars?

Goalie Backstrom is older so he should probably get to keep being Niklas, but just to be safe we’re going to change his name, too. Sorry for any inconvenience, Oskar Backstrom, and thanks for understanding.

So there we have it. As of today, the Capitals center is Lars Backstrom and the Wild goalie is Oskar Backstrom. Problem solved. No need to thank me.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go yell at the Petr Sykora.

The Week’s Most Depressing CapGeek Page

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

CapGeek.com, or, as hockey fans call it for short, “the greatest website in the entire world” (note to self: That abbreviation is five times longer than the site’s actual name and probably needs some work), launched a new feature this week and it’s just a cavalcade of tears.

The new “cap recapture calculator” is a useful tool because it allows hockey fans to figure out how much cap space teams will lose if a player on a front-loaded contract retires early (while also reinforcing the fact the new rule doesn’t make sense).

But the best part is that the tool only allows you to select players who are on long-term front-loaded deals. Which means that it produces the most depressing dropdown list in the history of website interfaces.

Seriously, just go here and click on the “select player” box. Read those names. Ovechkin, Luongo, Weber, Lecavalier, Parise, Richards x 2 … it’s all your favorite cap-killing contracts in one handy list. It’s like a walk through a graveyard of horrible ideas. Johan Franzen still has seven more years left? Marc Savard is still listed as an active player? Oh god, I forgot about Rick DiPietro’s contract somebody hold me …

I don’t know if a dropdown list can actually be considered a page, but I don’t care. It’s the most depressing CapGeek page of the week, and probably of all time.

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?

Don Cherry didn’t really do anything especially interesting this week.

Nope. He made his usual good points on Coach’s Corner. He appeared on various radio stations to talk about the local team. And he updated his Twitter account with several interesting observations about the world around him.

Nothing out of the ordinary. Just seven consecutive days of good, solid NHL analysis.

So … nothing to see here. Sorry, Cherry fans. Maybe next week.

[Checks to make sure Don Cherry and his legal representatives have stopped reading.]

OK everyone, quick, meet me in the next section!

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.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you “Rock ’em Sock ’em Techno.”

  • OK, the background: This “song” is a collaboration between Cherry and a Canadian techno group called BKS. It was released in 1992, and the video above appeared in that year’s edition of Cherry’s Rock’em Sock’em video series.
  • Portions of the proceeds from this song went to support The Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada. The wish that each one of those children made? To never hear this song again.
  • I like how the song starts off with a glass-breaking sound effect. I wonder if Stone Cold Steve Austin is still paying Cherry royalties.
  • This is the worst techno song of all time. It is tied with every other techno song ever made.
  • “OK Grapes, we’re going to need you to dance a little bit here, and … why are you kind of just half-heartedly moving side-to-side? Oh, that is your idea of dancing? OK, great, carry on.”
  • There are people out there who once had “dancing girl in Don Cherry techno video” on their resume. If they didn’t all get jobs as CEOs of multinational corporations, the world is broken.
  • Fact I learned while researching this post: The Rock’em Sock’em videos each have their own IMDB page. There’s a cast list for Rock’emSock’em 5 that includes Blue the Dog, who is credited as “himself” even though every Canadian knows Blue was female. WHAT ELSE ARE YOU LYING TO US ABOUT, INTERNET?
  • Speaking of Blue, Cherry’s iconic dog can be seen in the background of this video a few times, and is … wait, is that Blue? Why isn’t she moving? And why does she seem to be glowing?
  • Good god, did Don Cherry take his beloved dog to a taxidermist and have her turned into a novelty lamp? He did, didn’t he? I need to go lie down.
  • The video includes plenty of NHL highlights. Like every old Don Cherry clip, it’s fun to count all the “great hits” that would be a 10-game suspension if they happened today. Bawango!
  • The CD/cassette tape release of this song included an instrumental version. I don’t know why, but that kills me.
  • The special effects in this video were definitely pushing somebody’s Amiga 500 to its technological limits. “Dad, for the last time, stop tripping over the modem cord while we’re rendering!”
  • That hit at the two-minute mark is Wendel Clark laying out Bruce Bell, and is the most devastating body check in hockey history. I don’t even have a joke here. Bell gets liquefied. Keep your head up, kids!
  • Got to be completely honest, I’m still not over the whole “Don Cherry made his dog into a lamp” revelation.
  • It’s hard not to get excited toward the end when the siren sound effect comes in, since it could mean the Mounties are showing up to arrest everyone involved. No such luck.

I’ve had all the lyrics to this song memorized for 20 years but I’m not sure what color my wife’s eyes are, in case you were wondering.

Filed Under: NHL, NHL Grab Bag

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Sean McIndoe ’s work can be found at Down Goes Brown. When he's not writing, he makes hockey jokes on Twitter at @downgoesbrown.

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