There is a lot of statistical data out there to help compare the Los Angeles Kings and New York Rangers ahead of their 2014 Stanley Cup Final meeting, and an incredible number of rabbit holes one could venture down when attempting to analyze all the data made available. With stats gleaned from NHL.com, here’s a brief look at the the teams’ 2 regular season meetings from the categories I find most important, to show how they stack up versus and solo so far in the first 3 rounds of playoffs.
HEAD TO HEAD October 17 (Staples Center), November 17 (MSG)
Despite an even head-to-head record, NYR seemed to have a slight statistical advantage when playing each other.
*No longer on NYR’s roster.
**Quick only played 1 of the 2 games. Ben Scrivens played game 2, and is no longer on LA’s roster.
|Goals, PG AVG||73 — 3.48 (1st)||54 — 2.70 (8th)|
|GA — AVG||60 — 2.86 (9th)||45 — 2.25 (2nd)|
|PPG — %||17 (1st) — 25.4 (5th)||11 (5th) — 13.6 (10th)|
|PK%||81.2 (9th)||85.9 (2nd)|
|Total PIM||272 (16th)||200 (14th)|
|Blocked Shots||314 (4th)||331 (2nd)|
|Hits||898 (1st)||587 (2nd)|
|FOW — %||735 (1st) – 52.9 (2nd)||601 (3rd) – 47.5 (12th)|
|Leaders||Goals (Gaborik -12), Assists (Kopitar -19), Points (Kopitar -24), +/- (Williams – +11)||Goalie Wins, Save % (Lundqvist)|
With a slight edge in playoff statistics, LA seems to have the advantage through 3 rounds. They should dominate in face-offs, hits, goals, assists, points, +/-, shots, on the power play. Despite LA’s touted defensive domination, it’s actually NYR that leads the two on the penalty kill, PIM, goals against, shots against, blocked shots, and goaltending.
Of interest: Rangers are 100% when shots are even, and when leading after 2 periods.
By the numbers, this series may be closer than many assume. With more category leads in the above categories, I am giving the nod to the LA Kings to win the 2014 Stanley Cup. But those are just numbers — let’s see what the games actually bring!
If your team has been eliminated from the playoffs, it can be tough to choose another squad to root for while the remainder of the post season plays out. One way some people prefer in choosing an adoptive team is to go on player nationalities. With the Montreal Canadiens being the only team based in a Canadian city to qualify for the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs, and having been eliminated in the Eastern Conference Final, many Canadian fans may wonder whether it’d be better to align with LA or New York. I posted this same breakdown in 2012 when the LA Kings met the New Jersey Devils in the Final, and below you’ll find the 2014 edition. Hopefully it will help corral some of you lost, wandering hockey souls towards the appropriate roster while you try to pick up the shattered pieces and ease the pain of your true team’s season gone sideways.
LOS ANGELES KINGS
The active roster of the Los Angeles Kings features 24 players – 16 of them are Canadian, 5 are American, 1 is Russian, 1 is Slovakian, and 1 is Slovenian. Add 1 Canadian if you count head coach Darryl Sutter. The Kings have 1 more Canadian in their lineup than the Montreal Canadiens did – the only team based in a Canadian city that made this year’s playoffs.
Representing Canada (67%: +7% since 2012): Jeff Carter, Kyle Clifford, Dwight King, Jordan Nolan, Mike Richards, Jarret Stoll, Justin Williams, Drew Doughty, Willie Mitchell, Tanner Pearson, Tyler Toffoli, Brayden McNabb, Jake Muzzin, Robyn Regehr, Jeff Schultz, Martin Jones (Darryl Sutter).
Representing the USA (28%: -7% from 2012): Dustin Brown, Trevor Lewis, Matt Greene, Alec Martinez, Jonathan Quick.
Representing Europe (12.5%: +.05% from 2012): Slava Voynov, Anze Kopitar, Marian Gaborik
Assessment: Predominantly CANADIAN.
**NOTE: If LA wins the Stanley Cup, Jeff Carter and Drew Doughty will have won both Olympic gold and the NHL crown in the same season — aka the DCC.
NEW YORK RANGERS
The active roster of the New York Rangers features 27 players – 13 of them are Canadian, 7 are American, 5 are Swedish, 1 is Norwegian, and 1 is Swiss. Add 1 Canadian if you count head coach Alain Vigneault.
Representing Canada (48%): Derick Brassard, Dan Carcillo, Derek Dorsett, Dominic Moore, Rick Nash, Benoit Pouliot, Martin St. Louis, Justin Falk, Dan Girardi, Kevin Klein, Marc Staal, Cam Talbot, Brad Richards (Alain Vigneault).
Representing the USA (26%): Brian Boyle, Ryan Haggerty, Chris Kreider, JT Miller, Derek Stepan, Ryan McDonagh, John Moore.
Representing Europe (26%): Jesper Fast, Carl Hagelin, Oscar Lindberg, Mats Zuccarello, Anton Stralman, Henrik Lundqvist, Raphael Diaz.
Assessment: Predominantly CANADIAN.
**NOTE: If NYR wins the Stanley Cup, Martin St. Louis and Rick Nash will have won both Olympic gold and the NHL crown in the same season — aka the DCC.
If you’re basing your newly acquired team allegiances upon the nationality content of each team, here’s how you should focus your cheering:
-If you are Canadian, and want to cheer for the highest volume of Canadian players, you should be cheering for the LA Kings in the 2014 Stanley Cup Finals, because they have the majority of them.
-If you are American cheering for Americans, the LA Kings again are your huckleberry.
-If you’re European cheering for Europeans, you should side with New York.
So with all that being said, who do ya got? Leave a comment to state your allegiance.
While one of his NHL alumnus has already advanced to the 2014 Stanley Cup Final, another still waits to earn their berth to the very same dance with the New York Rangers. But in a game so littered with gratuitous superstition, former LA Kings captain and club’s all-time single season assists and points leader Wayne Gretzky was recently spotted rubbing elbows in a Chicago jewelry store. Unless Wayne had a sabotage of Blackhawks players planned and was using this appearance as a clever diversion, the Windy City is probably not a place Kings fans would want him to be while LA jousts with Chicago for the 2014 Western Conference title.
But conspiracy theories aside, here’s the scoop on what Gretz was doing at Razny Jewelers in Chicago:
BREITLING HOSTS HOCKEY GREAT WAYNE GRETZKY AT EXCLUSIVE EVENT AT RAZNY JEWELERS
Guests Meet ‘The Great One’ and View Newest Timepieces from Breitling
Wilton, Conn. (May 27, 2014) – Breitling, the Swiss watch manufacturer, celebrated the expanded collection of Breitling timepieces available at Razny Jewelers with a special evening with friend and fan of the brand, Wayne Gretzky. Guests came from all over Chicago to see the newest Breitling watches – direct from their global debut at this year’s Baselworld – and to pose with the hockey legend while enjoying canapés and cocktails.
“It is a pleasure to be here in Chicago with Stan Razny and Wayne Gretzky. Both are legends in their own right,” said Breitling USA President Thierry Prissert. “Razny Jewelers is a family-owned business, like Breitling, and a longtime supporter of the brand. We are thrilled that they recently expanded their entire Breitling collection into a new corner of the store.”
Guests were able to view pieces from Breitling’s latest collection, including the Chronomat Airborne, making its worldwide debut in the United States, the Navitimer 01 46mm, the Navitimer GMT and the Breitling for Bentley GMT Light Body B04. Each of the new watches houses a Breitling Manufacture movement, has a five-year warranty and is chronometer-certified by the COSC, the Swiss Official Chronometer Testing Institute.
“I’ve been a huge Breitling enthusiast for many years, so it was wonderful to join them tonight to see the new collection of watches and meet some of my fans at Razny Jewelers. Chicago is a great hockey town and I know they look forward to some great games in the playoffs,” said Gretzky, a hockey hall-of-fame athlete.
ABOUT BREITLING: A specialist of technical watches, Breitling has played a crucial role in the development of the wrist chronograph and is a leader in this complication. Léon Breitling founded the company in 1884 in St. Imier, Switzerland, and chose to devote himself to the exclusive and demanding field of chronographs and timers. Breitling developed the first independent chronograph pushpiece in 1915 and then added the second pushpiece in 1934 to complete the final configuration of the modern
chronograph. In 1969, the brand introduced the first self-winding chronograph movement. Today Breitling is the world’s only major watch brand to equip all its models with chronometer-certified movements, the ultimate token of precision. Breitling is one of the rare companies to produce its own mechanical chronograph movement, entirely developed and manufactured in its state-of-the-art workshops with its quality guaranteed by an unprecedented five-year warranty. This family business is also one of the last remaining independent Swiss watch brands, celebrating its 130-year anniversary this year in 2014.
ABOUT RAZNY JEWELERS: Razny Jewelers is family owned and operated. The Razny family represents the world’s top brands and offers custom creations. Razny Jewelers is always on the cutting edge showcasing the brightest stars in the jewelry and Fine Swiss Timepieces’ world. For over 60 years, Razny Jewelers has defined the essence of what a fine jewelry store should be to their clientele. Razny Jewelers is dedicated to the best combination of old-world and modern values. They are one of the only jewelers in the Chicago area that fabricates custom creations truly by hand. With several bench jewelers on staff, custom jewelry remains their specialty. Their careful attention to perfection and unrivaled craftsmanship turns dreams into reality. In addition, Razny Jewelers has Certified WOSTEP Watchmakers on premises to service your timepiece requirements. Razny Jewelers’ integrity, honesty and commitment to unparalleled personal service bring their customers back time after time. Razny Jewelers are located in Addison, Highland Park and Hinsdale.
ABOUT WAYNE GRETZKY: The greatest ice hockey player of all time has been a Breitling ambassador since 2011, Canadian-born, Wayne Gretzky is a living legend in the world of ice hockey. He is renowned for his professionalism and his fair play. He also has a record-breaking list of achievements to his credit, including four Stanley Cup Championships, 61 NHL records, and being named 18 times to the All-Star teams. In tribute to his absolute superiority, his famous jersey number, 99, has been retired by all NHL teams.
CONTACT FOR HIGH-RESOLUTION IMAGES AND MORE INFORMATION:
Centigrade for Breitling / Lindsay Paterson / email@example.com
T +1 323 556 8854 Extn 41154 M +1 949 204 7059
W centigrade.com twitter.com/centigradeworld facebook.com/centigradeworld
Centigrade, Inc. 8383 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 350, Beverly Hills, CA 90211 US
He may not be a household name just yet, but San Jose Sharks defenseman Matt Irwin may work his way into your mental NHL player directory yet. Now in his second NHL season, the 26 year old British Columbian is continuing a trend from his amateur career that has seen his point totals, ice-time, and contributions to his team’s success dynamically increase every year.
Irwin spoke with me at length about his long road to the NHL and what he’ll have to do to stay there, the tough decisions he was required to make and small window of opportunity he had to live out his dream, past teammates that helped get him where he is now, current ones that help make him better, what the San Jose Sharks will have to do to win their first Stanley Cup, what it takes to be consistently inserted into a lineup full of Olympians, All-Stars, and Stanley Cup champions, and more.
Larry Fisher from the Kelowna Daily Courier called in for episode 13 to debrief all the action from the 2014 NHL trade deadline. We talked Martin St. Louis for Ryan Callahan, Roberto Luongo to Florida, Gaborik to LA, Ryan Miller to Buffalo, Jaroslav Halak all over the place, Vanek’s path to Montreal, Edmonton’s moves of Hemsky and Bryzgalov, the non-moves of Brodeur and Kesler, and we both pick our winners of the day.
Two new episodes of XP PSP to update you on:
In episode 11, Sachin and Harold return for panel discussion on the Superbowl, cast their Superbowl predictions, discuss how to choose a team to cheer for if you don’t have one in your hometown and whether geography or national pride should play into your decision; Harold says the CFL isn’t real football and discusses why he turned down an opportunity to play in the league; Sachin plays the race card concerning the Richard Sherman issue and rips Erin Andrews; and we all decide whether we’d let our kids play hockey or football knowing how what we now do about injuries, and how prevalent the risks of concussions and other injuries now are in sports.
In episode 6, I went 1-on-1 with 19 year NHL veteran Bernie Nicholls to talk all things LA Kings, their current slump and how he’d cure it, where he keeps his Stanley Cup ring, why he declines his invites to the New Jersey Devils’ alumni game every year, who should be allowed to touch the Stanley Cup, and a whole bunch more.
Feel free to email the show at firstname.lastname@example.org with any comments, guest requests, or discussion topic suggestions!
As a big fan of the LA Kings, and general supporter of charity, I’m happy to post the following press release. I know I’d like to get my hands on one of those rings…
L.A. Kings Authentic Stanley Cup Championship Ring Up for Special Auction to Benefit Children’s Hospital Los Angeles
Bids Accepted Through 12:00 p.m. PST/3:00 p.m. EST on Monday, April 22 at CharityBuzz.com
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Los Angeles (April 9, 2013) – Fans of the defending world champion Los Angeles Kings have a unique opportunity to own a piece of sports history while also supporting a worthy cause. One of an extremely limited number of authentic L.A. Kings Stanley Cup Championship rings, courtesy of the Kings in support of their charitable partners, is up for auction now through April 22 on CharityBuzz.com. Proceeds from the sale will benefit two of the Kings’ charitable partners, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and City Year Los Angeles.
Created by world premiere jeweler, Tiffany & Co.®, the ring is fabricated to the exact specifications of the Stanley Cup Championship rings that were also created for the Kings’ players. Worth $13,500 at fair market value, the ring features 14 karat white gold with .84 carats in round, brilliant cut diamonds, and will be personalized with the name of the auction winner prominently engraved on the band. Authentic LA Kings Stanley Cup Championship rings will not be sold in retail outlets.
Additionally, Kings fans may also bid on an “Ultimate Kings Fan Package,” valued at $7,500. The package includes dinner for two with Luc Robitaille, two tickets to the Kings vs. Sharks game on April 27 and a Kings jersey signed by the team.
“The L.A. Kings have been an invaluable and genuinely compassionate partner over many years through philanthropic funding, widespread community blood drives, regular player visits to cheer up patients, in-game awareness, and so, so much more,” says Richard Cordova, FACHE, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles President and CEO. “They are so generous to share in this historic time with us and make their victory a win for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles as well.”
“Supporting Children’s Hospital Los Angeles is one of the most important things we do as an organization,” says L.A. Kings president of business operations and NHL Hall-of-Famer, Luc Robataille. “They are our Champions.”
The auction is currently underway, with bidding started at $3,000 and $800 respectively. Both opportunities will close at 12:00 p.m. PST/3:00 p.m. EST.
For more information, visit http://www.wearechildrens.org/2013/04/be-a-part-of-los-angeles-history/
About Children’s Hospital Los Angeles
Children’s Hospital Los Angeles has been named the best children’s hospital in California and among the top five in the nation for clinical excellence with its selection to the prestigious U.S. News & World Report Honor Roll. Children’s Hospital is home to The Saban Research Institute, one of the largest and most productive pediatric research facilities in the United States. Children’s Hospital is also one of America’s premier teaching hospitals through its affiliation since 1932 with the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California.
The 2014 NHL Winter Classic has been officially (re)announced, and so have the jerseys each team will wear for both the main event and the alumni game. Not everyone appears to be as enthusiastic about the choice for the New Year’s Eve alumni game’s uniforms as Gary Bettman does.
The jerseys for the real teams will wear on New Year’s Day are, on the other hand, phenomenal. The potential 100,000+ fans in attendance at Michigan Stadium will be far happier to see Toronto in these ones — both of Detroit’s look sharp.
Also announced was the return of HBO’s 24/7 series, this year following both the Leafs and Red Wings behind the scenes as a lead up to the Winter Classic game. I still would love to see HBO place this amount of cinematic drama on the Stanley Cup Final — which is far more important than the mid regular season game that the WC is — but my opinion continues to fall upon deaf ears. Either way, I love this show, and I’m glad HBO stayed on board post-lockout to put it back on the air.
Also reported (albeit not confirmed) by multiple sources was that an outdoor game (assumably the Winter Classic) in 2014 will be played — get this — in Los Angeles. You know, a place where people tired of being cold retreat to in order to escape the most necessary ingredients for outdoor ice hockey — cold and ice. It seems environmentally impossible, but Dodger Stadium is apparently getting a $100 million face-lift, so who knows what it’ll be capable of. Seems like an odd thing to lie about, but I’ll wait for confirmation from the NHL before I believe it. If it’s true, I sure am pumped for the LA Kings.
Reports also hint at the return of the Heritage Classic, to be played at a Canadian venue.
While all those games were be announced as happening, looks like the NHL’s Europe Premier games for 2013 have been dealt the opposite fate — reports say 2013-14’s version of the across the pond games are out, with much discussion to be had on the NHL’s future international presence.
After tough season, Paddock sets sights on Europe
FRIDAY, 22 JUNE 2012 02:00 DAVE CUNNING
Had things played out a little differently this past season, a former Kelowna Rocket could have had his name on the Stanley Cup this year.
Unfortunately for Cam Paddock, things didn’t quite work out that way.
Two years prior, he had appeared in 16 games with the St. Louis Blues, until being sent back to the AHL. This past season, it seemed Paddock had been given his second chance in the NHL.
Looks can be deceiving though, and the deal turned out to be too good to be true – L.A. released him two days later, and reassigned him to their AHL affiliate, the Manchester Monarchs.
“They basically offered me the contract and cut me at the same time,” said Paddock. “I came back to Vancouver and mulled the offer over at home before I signed it.
“I jumped in my car and drove 52 hours out to Manchester the next day.”
After a strong showing at L.A.’s training camp, and a contract offer from them, Paddock felt he was lined up for a season ripe with opportunity with the Kings’ affiliate.
However, Paddock’s hope slowly dwindled. After scoring two goals, three assists for five points with 44 penalty minutes and a minus-10 rating in 39 games, Paddock seemed to be a fixture on the team’s fourth line.
“I thought that I had a really good training camp,” said Paddock, 29. “I was told certain things by L.A., got sent to Manchester and then had their coach looking at me like I was playing with the wrong-handed stick.
“I assumed I was going to be the same third-line centre that I had been the past four years that I’d played in the league, but it didn’t work out that way. The coaches were feeding me the ‘work hard and you’ll get your opportunity’ rhetoric you get told when you’re a 21-year-old starting out in pro hockey, and playing me on the fourth line. I haven’t done that in five years. It was discouraging. I already know how to work hard, and what kind of player I am.”
“On some teams, you can do no wrong in the eyes of the coach. On other teams, it seems you can do no right,” continued Paddock. “It was the latter in Manchester for me. That’s just how it goes sometimes. It was a weird year.”
Playing with the Monarchs did, however, offer him the chance to play with Dwight King (his older brother D.J. played with Paddock in Kelowna), Slava Voynov, Jordan Nolan and Andrei Loktionov – all whom were recalled by L.A. and were contributors to the Kings’ Stanley Cup victory.
“They were all very good players with a ton of NHL ability,” Paddock said. “Dwight’s a really good guy and probably an even better hockey player. Loktionov and Voynov are both super-skilled. Slava’s nickname was Slava-bomb because his slapshot is about as hard as they come. Jordan is one of the toughest kids I’ve ever seen in the AHL. I was happy to see them all get a chance to go up there, and do as well as they did.”
As good as they are, though, none of them are household names on the Kings’ roster. In fact, one could make the case that other Monarchs could have done as good of a job as those call-ups had they got the call instead.
“Sometimes it comes down to whether you had a good week, or if a certain person saw you play a good game somewhere,” Paddock said. “Those guys are their young draft picks that they are developing. They deserve it, they work hard.
“But as far as them getting a chance instead of me, it’s a pretty fine line when you get down to it. In a lot of cases, it’s youth and size more than anything, I’d say.”
Perhaps if Darryl Sutter, who replaced Terry Murray as L.A.’s head coach back in December, had seen Paddock in training camp, things might have worked out differently.
“I thought about that when he got the job,” said Paddock. “I don’t know if it would have really made a difference, but the Sutter brothers are from Western Canada, and I know Darryl had seen me play when he was with Calgary and I was with St. Louis. I’d like to think that maybe it would have helped me out. But in saying that, he had only come to L.A. in a coaching role rather than a managerial one.
“The best-case scenario for me with Sutter would have been him putting a bug in someone’s ear about me when I was down the depth chart in Manchester and not playing. I’m sure he had enough to worry about in L.A. and wouldn’t have been too concerned.
“It definitely worked out good for Colin Fraser, though, who played for Brent Sutter in Red Deer. When Darryl got there, he knew exactly what kind of player he was and he trusted him. Colin is a good player – I played against him all over and I respect him -Â but to be candid, I think he’s six of one and I’m half a dozen of the other.”
On Jan. 26th, Kings president Dean Lombardi released a statement saying Paddock’s contract had been terminated – freeing him to return to play in Germany’s DEL.
In 13 games with the Augsburger Panther, Paddock recorded three goals, five assists for eight points, plus 20 PIMs and a plus-five rating.
“For my career, I had to make a move,” Paddock said. “Going back to Europe became the best option for me. It sucks to say, but as far as the NHL goes, with as disappointing as the year was this year, I’m done with it.
“To have the experience I had in Manchester, you realize the team really has nothing invested in you. I’m happy I got my 16 NHL games in, but now I’m looking forward to playing more years in Europe. It’s a cool lifestyle, it’s a different culture and there’s opportunity to climb the ranks over there instead.
“I really liked Augsburger’s coach. He was a very honest guy that told me exactly what I was there to do and didn’t make any promises he didn’t keep. I got along with him well. I really liked the fans, and we had a good group of guys on the team. It will be a lot of fun going back to that, and I’m looking forward to it.”
Before signing his next overseas contract, Paddock will have to wait until the NHL’s CBA is worked out – the result of which will determine whether an import spot will be available for him, rather than a North American orphan looking for a European team. It’ll give him more time to ponder his future.
“If I could play for another five or six years, I’d be happy,” Paddock said. “But it has to make sense. I feel really good, I’m as healthy as I’ve ever been, and I still really like playing and being around the guys. Playing the game’s still fun for me, and that’s the main thing.”
Follow Cam Paddock on Twitter: Follow @CPads18
If there’s one thing that chaps me about the NHL’s critics, it’s their constant evaluation of playoff ratings, and assessment of hockey being “boring” because of low TV numbers.
The Los Angeles Kings/New Jersey Devils Stanley Cup Final isn’t producing the numbers that Boston/Vancouver did last year, and it’s not beating the NBA’s ratings either (this year’s game 6 ratings were actually better than last year, and the LA Kings owned social media interaction, but those are just details).
Well boo f’n hoo.
Look, I get it — the NHL is a business that sells the product of hockey to fans, advertisers, TV networks and the rest, and thusly it has to put a show on TV that a lot of people watch in order to swoon money away from all the afore mentioned parties. Fine.
Back in the day, the league scrambled to regain its post-lockout fan base, and was desperate to lure them back. Fans, viewers, and advertisers alike drooled over the “new NHL” that they were rewarded with, and ever since the NHL has seen its ratings and fan base grow exponentially. New rules were put in place to allow players more time and space to score, and impeding their progress was heavily penalized for the slightest obstructions. Players were paraded to the penalty box, and special teams dominated ice time. Goalies had their pad size decreased, got confined to a trapezoid shape around their net, and rightfully started getting lit up. Fighting became increasingly criticized, and thusly enforcers who contributed nothing besides their fists were put on notice that their services were far less necessary. Fans who came to see boxing matches were disappointed when the only thing that broke out was a hockey game.
Supposedly, the game was fun to watch “again” (it never wasn’t), and everyone seemed happy — except for goalies, tough-guys, all non-elite scorers who had to make defensive adjustments in their game to survive in the league, and also some elite players that took the retirement option rather than the adjustment one – well, everyone except most of the players, that is. So basically no one in the game was better for it, but all in the name of increased ratings and entertainment; everyone from the ground up made adjustments to produce a more entertaining on-ice product because the agreed consensus was it was a necessary evil.
But here’s the thing: you can modify the rules of the game and try to weed certain aspects/players out all you want, but eventually hockey players will adapt, survive, and thrive. Very few players really care if you find them entertaining or not (save for Sean Avery, et al), they just want to play the game they love, not get cut, make tons of money, and win. But they are aware of how their inflated salaries are funded.
Goalies are probably the best example of all – in the 80’s, scoring was probably at an all-time high, as Wayne Gretzky and others were making a mockery of modern goaltending by scoring 200 points in single seasons. Eventually, goalies got hip to it, bought bigger pads, invested themselves in honing their craft, and developed new styles of goaltending (see: Patrick Roy) that became the standard to learn from. Goaltenders even started handling the puck as well as some players, and scored goals (see: Martin Brodeur, Ron Rextall, etc).
In short, goalies got really good at stopping the puck, and scoring went down. Goalies were so good, people started to prefix Gretzky’s scoring triumphs with an asterix, because apparently they were achieved under crooked terms (despite the fact that legends like Gordie Howe, Jean Beliveau and Rocket Richard scored and set records on even worse goalies).
Talented goalies became a “threat” to the product of hockey; so almost as a punishment for getting so good at their position, goalies had to downsize their equipment, stay in a smaller space, and endure ongoing threats of making their nets bigger and other absurdities. All in the name of entertainment.
So they made the adjustments, scoring went up, and everyone was happy — for a while. That is, until goaltenders like Jonathan Quick, Pekke Rinne, Tim Thomas, and an apparently ageless Martin Brodeur were able to adapt, survive, and thrive — and stop a lot of goals from going in.
And once again, people complain that hockey is boring because they don’t get to see 20 goals go in every night – the same thing they criticize the last generation for being able to do — despite the fact that the stars of this generation like Sidney Crosby, Alex Oveckin, Steven Stamkos, Claude Giroux and others still score the way Gretzky, Lemieux, Yzerman, and Hull were able to in the previous one. Either you want today’s elite to score 50 goals in 50 games, or you don’t, pick your side.
The casual fan that the NHL tries so hard to entice into becoming a viewer/customer doesn’t get that every level of hockey player would kill to crack an NHL lineup, if only as a fourth line player whose job description is limited to getting the puck over the center line and dumping it in the other team’s zone and changing. They don’t get that playing defensive and positional hockey is as important as scoring goals in some scenarios,
They don’t get that the players they view as “boring” have been playing the game since they were able to walk, travelled a million miles through every small town in the world, had coaches bench them, been told they weren’t good enough, been cut from teams, put in 1000’s of hours in the gym, spent 1000’s of dollars on equipment and training, gave up summers to devote to self-improvement, studied the game, learned to get better at their position, fought, injured every bone and muscle in their body, and have basically done everything it takes to just be a “boring” player. Casual fans don’t understand why every player isn’t as flashy as Crosby or Ovechkin. They don’t get the thrill of skating down open ice on a breakaway, making a crisp pass that sticks where it’s supposed to, making a big body check, having anywhere from 20 to 20,000 people cheering or booing you, or just how electrifying it is to be better than the other 11 players on the ice for one brief moment and score a goal.
And they’re shocked and appalled when playoff hockey success becomes defined by grit, toughness, and will, rather than the finesse and freewheeling they see all year. They don’t like that prominent regular season scorers like the Sedin’s get roughed up in the playoffs and can’t score as often. This is the way the NHL has always been, and always will be. Through all the concessions of tweaks and modifications they make, the league works hard to protect its roots. The NHL’s regular season is a show, the playoffs are a showdown. Playoff hockey is the real version of hockey, played in the key that every young player was taught by every coach they ever had. Playoff hockey is about two teams battling through everything the other throws at them, and scoring more goals than them by any means necessary. Every pro, college, junior, and minor hockey player know that a switch gets flipped come playoff time.
They want more penalties called because they think it’ll make the game faster and improve its flow – because, you know, nothing keeps the game moving like 50 stoppages of play per game to call penalties. And if they don’t see the penalties called that they are assessing from the comfort of their couch, some have the audacity to claim hockey is rigged. Come on.
Casual fans don’t get it because they’ve never done it. They’ve never been in those situations, and likely never will. Heck, I’d wager a good number of people calling hockey boring can’t even stand up on skates. The NHL isn’t trying to appeal solely to former players, it’s just that people who’ve played know what’s really going on out there, and have a better grasp on how to emotionally engage the game.
To be fair, there are some great minds in hockey that never did ever lace up in the NHL – Bob McKenzie, Darren Dreger, James Duthie, Elliotte Friedman, and plenty others like them know their stats and inside information, no question – but the thing about stats and averages is that they may tell a good story, they can’t ever fully predict the happenings of a game as unpredictable as hockey is from shift to shift. Again, hats off to the insiders, but guys that have been on the ice immersed in those situations insiders try to predict the outcome of – guys like Ray Ferraro, Kelly Hrudey, Jeremy Roenick, Nick Kypreos, and up and comers like Justin Bourne – are the ones I’m going to lend my ear to when I really want to know what’s going through players’ heads. But that’s just me.
Inclusion may be the root of the entire problem – hockey is far more difficult to get involved in than other sports; you have to buy a lot of pricy equipment, plus facility and registration fees are high, whereas participation in sports like soccer and others require very little besides a ball and a sunny day. If there were as many grassroots hockey players worldwide as there are soccer players, maybe we wouldn’t be having this discussion.
So many exciting storylines have developed through these playoffs: LA entered as an eighth seed and dominated top teams, their incredible road victory record, the emergence of Jonathan Quick as an elite goaltender, Dustin Brown’s prominence and then disappearance, Dustin Penner’s redemption, the Radulov and Kostitsyn debacle in Nashville, Phoenix going farther than its franchise ever has and the fall out of their elimination, Martin Brodeur being 40 years old and still making ridiculous saves, Washington’s ongoing Ovechkin/coaching saga, Claude Giroux leading the playoffs in scoring while his team was eliminated for an entire round, every Tortorella post-game interview, and many more beyond those.
In the finals themselves, the first two games were decided in overtime, saw Kopitar score exciting goals, and now is featuring aNew Jerseycomeback when it seemed at first sight that LA was going to sweep the series. If overtime isn’t exciting enough for you, there’s even a plethora of Hollywood stars and other famous people attending games if straight-up hockey isn’t good enough for you – heck, even TMZ is covering stars attending Kings games/events.
But beyond all that still, you have two teams of players and coaches who are playing through pain and doing whatever it takes to accomplish what they’ve wanted to do since they were kids: win the Stanley Cup. It’s still the most difficult trophy to win in sports, and the lifelong goal of every person who’s laced up a pair of skates. To capture it is nothing short of a feat.
Anyone who doesn’t find entertainment in this extravaganza just doesn’t get hockey, and probably never will. The NHL wouldn’t agree with this, but if you’re reading this and are still one of the people calling hockey boring, please by all means, go watch basketball.