Tag Archives: James Neal

The NHL Playoffs Are Out Of Control

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Playoff time in the NHL is the greatest time of year in any sport.

The action gets so jacked up and intense that you would think that games 1-7 are life or death. Year after year players leave everything on the ice whether you are an 8 seed or a 1 seed in the name of Lord Stanley.

Injuries don’t matter, hits are harder, everyone gets in the way of slap shots… it’s a daily spectacle that leaves you on the edge of seat and wincing at every bone-crushing check and unbelievable save.

You know this going into the playoffs and you adjust accordingly as a player and as a fan… However, this year’s playoffs?

Man, no one was ready for this.

Virtually every series except New Jersey vs. Florida has been hate-filled and angry.

St. Louis hates San Jose, Ottawa wants revenge against New York, Phoenix and Chicago have traded blows… Then there’s been the Philly and Pittsburgh series, where do we begin there?

These playoffs are on steroids, everyone’s angry at everyone, violence has been kicked up several notches and Brendad Shanahan hasn’t had much time to make a sandwich because he’s too busy looking over tape of reckless hits.

What the hell is going on?

In the first round of this year’s playoffs there have been more match penalties, more suspensions and more game misconducts than in years past… AND THE PLAYOFFS ARE ONLY A WEEK OLD!!

Look at these occurances and consequences:

Shea Weber fined $2500 for throwing Henrik Zetterberg’s head into the boards

Carl Hagelin suspended three games for elbowing Daniel Alfredsson in the head an giving him a concussion

Aaron Asham suspended four games for trying to decapitate Braydon Schenn

Nicklas Backstrom suspended one game for cross checking Rich Peverly in the head

Michael Shaw suspended three games for knocking goalie Mike Smith in the head

James Neal suspended one game for blindsiding Claude Giroux

Raffi Torres suspended indefinitely for concussing Marian Hossa…

And let me reiterate that the playoffs are only a week old.

I know that hockey is a violent sport and stuff like this happens, but not as frequent as this.

There has been more goonery than actually hockey it would seem to the casual hockey fan. In an interview Dan Boyle said that it seems like guys are just trying to start stuff on the ice. Jonathan Toews doesn’t know what to expect right now… Both guys aren’t alone in their feelings.

At first I was loving the hate being spread around the playoffs. It felt like old time hockey and was great for the game. Now it’s getting out of hand.

The Torres hit should be the last draw for Shanahan and the front offices in the league. They have to start hammering guys with longer suspensions to get their points across.

Shanahan has been criticized for being to lenient on more skilled players like Weber and Backstrom and hammering guys like Asham and Hagelin who are either too young or not as skilled.

He’s got to make things fair across the board. Like Colin Campbell did to Matt Cooke last year Shanahan has to start doing to these players.

Hockey is a self policing game, however when there needs to be stiffer policing from suits in the offices.

Shanahan has to suspend Torres for the rest of the playoffs and encourage referees to get tougher on the ice. Referees have to call these games tighter, which means more penalties and control these games before they continue to get out of hand.

Games like Sundays Flyers-Pens free for all are great once in a while but they’re happening every night in the playoffs. The league has to get this over excessive play under control before someone gets really injured out there.

The over aggressiveness has taken away from some great hockey as well. Jonathan Quick has been putting on a show in the Kings-Canucks series, the Predators-Red Wings matchup has been great with Pekka Rinne dominating the action and game 3 of the Rangers-Senators series was non stop up and down hockey with great goaltending from both teams.

The playoffs have been their normal unbeatable selves, however the action has to be placed back on the skillful play and not on the over excessive violence that has stolen the headlines.

I’m all for a few fights and scrums but this has been ridiculous.

Hopefully we can get back to the great hockey that’s been played so far and not have anymore Marian Hossa incidents.


Is Evgeni Malkin Pittsburgh’s Most Important Penguin?

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For the second time in his career Evgeni Malkin has had to the man in Pittsburgh…

For the second time Malkin has made me ask myself this question, who really is the most important Penguin in Pittsburgh?

Three years ago during the Pens title run Sidney Crosby missed 28 games due to injury and the Pens didn’t miss a beat. It was mostly thanks to Malkin who did his best Crosby impersonation by racking up points and making life miserable for defenders.

Malkin finished second in the league in scoring to Alex Ovechkin and was a Hart trophy finalist also losing out to Ovechkin.

Fast forward to this season and here we are again. Same scenario just a different year. Crosby has missed the majority of the last two seasons thanks to a concussion suffered in last year’s Winter Classic. The Pens were supposed to falter, they were supposed to be a middle of the road team without the league’s biggest star…

So how in the hell are they 1 point back of the New York Rangers for the best record in the Eastern Conference with they’re second straight 100 point season and are the hottest team in the league?

Geno Malkin of course.

This year more than ever Malkin has proven himself to be considered a franchise alpha dog and even the best player in the league. He leads the league in points, is second in goals behind Steven Stamkos and has turned James Neal into a premier goal scorer on his line.

The Pens have done more than not lose a step without Crosby, in fact they have taken a giant step. With Malkin steering the ship Pittsburgh has maintained its elite status and looks just as invincible as if Crosby never left. Even if they don’t overtake the Rangers for the best record in the East you would still have to say that they are the favorites to represent the conference in the Stanley Cup Finals.

There’s no player hotter than Malkin in the league, Marc-Andre Fleury is finally playing at an elite level on a consistent basis, and Kris Letang, Neal, Pascal Dupuis and Jordan Staal have to be the most explosive role players in the league right now.

Adding Crosby to the mix now that his concussion has subsided makes them the scariest team on the ice right now.

However, down the road if you are Pittsburgh you have to ask yourself, is Crosby or Malkin your most valuable player?

Yes Crosby is a former MVP, gold medal winner, and captain of the Penguins, but is he their most important player?

Crosby has now missed big parts of the seasons due to injury. In all three seasons the Penguins have secured home ice for at least one round of the playoffs and Malkin has been the reason for two of those three occurrences.

Last year’s early playoff exit you can’t blame on Crosby’s injury or Malkin’s for that matter, but rather the lack of production from the wings. With the emergence of Neal and others the Penguins are cup contenders this year with Malkin leading the way and without Crosby on the ice.

If the roles were reversed could Crosby do the same?

Could Crosby make his teammates around him this good? Could he make the Pens a contender with Malkin? Could his goal scoring match his passing skills and get the Pens out of jams like Malkin?

Honestly I don’t think so.

I think this is Malkin’s ship and Crosby is along for the ride. If I’m Dan Bylsma I wouldn’t mess with the chemistry of his top line by inserting Crosby back in. Yes you aren’t supposed to lose your starting role do to injury but why mess with something that’s working so well?

Watching the Pens over the next few weeks will be interesting. They’re peaking right before the playoffs, their special teams are working and with Crosby back in the lineup it makes them even more lethal.

However, this is due to the play of Evgeni Malkin. Malkin has made them a contender, the most lethal offensive team in the league and has them staring at a second Stanley Cup in the last four years.

He is going to win the points title, he is the MVP of the NHL, and most importantly he’s the most valuable Pittsburgh Penguin on that roster.

They’ve proven that they can live without Sidney Crosby time and time again, if they were to lose Malkin I don’t think the results would be the same.