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[Archive] 2014 interview with Bernie Nicholls

August 21, 2014 Leave a comment

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This interview with NHL legend Bernie Nicholls posted on The Score’s Backhand Shelf blog on February 10th, 2014. The LA Kings were in search of their second Stanley Cup in three seasons, and though Nicholls had moved on from their coaching staff, the lessons he left them with clearly had taken root. LA captured that Cup, and the players that Nicholls mentioned working with specifically appeared even more dominant than they did in 2012. 

The audio of this interview can be heard on the XP PSP: the eXPat Pro Sports Podcast by clicking here, or by listening/downloading on iTunes.  

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An Interview with Los Angeles Kings’ great Bernie Nicholls

Bernie Nicholls

When you think about the LA Kings and what players have meant the most to the team since their inception in 1967, most long term fans would not omit Bernie Nicholls from their list of all-time greats. Though he spent time with six different NHL clubs over 19 seasons, the nine seasons Nicholls played with the LA Kings were most his impactful, and what he is best remembered for. His 150 point season in 1988-89, team records of most points in a game and most goals in a season, and fifth place position in all-time team points left an impression on the franchise and its supporters that holds up to this day.

Nicholls was also an instrumental part of the coaching regime that replaced Terry Murray in LA in 2011, and set the Kings on course to win their first Stanley Cup in franchise history.

I caught up with Bernie via telephone just prior to the Superbowl to talk about all things Kings, coaching, his career, what’s wrong with the slumping LA team and how he’d fix them, where he keeps his Stanley Cup ring, and why he declines his New Jersey Devils’ alumni game invitation every year.

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First of all, how’d your Superbowl predictions turn out?

I got killed. I had Denver. Every one of my bets was with Denver. It was not a good day for me.

It’s tough to find a properly defined role to say what your job description with the LA Kings is right now. “Consultant” or “unofficial assistant coach” is what I’ve read in various reports. Whatever it is, it was enough to get you a day with the Stanley Cup when LA won two years ago. Can you clarify what you do with the team?

It was an assistant coaching job. They said I was a consultant to the coach, Darryl Sutter. But I did everything that the assistant coaches did, pretty much. I did more with the players than the coaches. I think I was a lot closer to the players. It was still like an assistant coaching role. I worked the power play, worked with the kids. When they were slumping or getting down, I think it’s always easier for players to talk to a former player than the head coach. I had a really good rapport with the players. It was along the lines of an assistant coaching role.

You’re talking about this stuff in past tense, are you not with the team anymore?

Yeah I’m not with them now, I didn’t go back this year.

How did the opportunity come up, initially? Word is you worked for free in the beginning because you wanted to work with the team so badly.

I was always asking to try and work with the Kings. They were the team I wanted to [work with] but it didn’t really work out. Then once Terry Murray got fired and they hired Darryl, I called Darryl right away and gave him the idea. Once he took over, I came down with him. It worked out great.

You scored 475 goals, and 1209 points in your career, including 88/89 when you scored a ridiculous 70 goals and 150 points. But that was a different era – people often criticize the goaltending of that time, and goaltending styles and equipment have evolved a lot since then. When you work with today’s players on scoring, do the same principles from when you scored 70 in a season apply, or did you have to take new approaches when helping in that department? How did your experience in your era overlap into players of today having success in this era?

Well I think scoring goals is scoring goals. In my opinion, obviously goalies are better now, and players are much bigger and stronger, but for the most part when you’re playing hockey you still have to score goals, and do the things to give yourself opportunities to score goals. That’s the sort of thing you can teach guys. To me, it’s just working hard. When things aren’t going well, you’ve got to work hard, work your way through it, be yourself in those hard places, and things will work out for you.

Obviously the Kings are having trouble in the goal scoring department these days. What is their problem in your opinion, and how do they fix it? Is it at the point where trading for new players is necessary, or is it just a matter of refining what they have? The team is by no means in short supply of goal scorers with the likes of Jeff Carter and Anze Kopitar, but the Kings are second last in goals per game average with 2.25, only better than Buffalo’s 1.83 (top team is 3.42), and second last on the power play with only 13.9% (top team has 24.7%).

They do have some offensive talent, for sure. They play a great defensive system, but for some reason they find it very difficult to score, and I’m not really too sure why. They do have some very talented players. They could create more on the power play. They’re second last, that’s not good. That’d be a start – create, and give themselves more opportunities that way, and just try to find chemistry. I know when Darryl put Kopitar and Carter together they worked very well together, but I think they’ve just cooled off. But it’s tough to score in this league. That’s the biggest problem, and those guys are finding that out real bad right now.

Is that a product of coaching, or of other teams adjusting to their style of play?

The other teams, for sure. Darryl allows the guys to create opportunities. That’s one thing that he does do. He gives guys opportunities to be creative. But one thing about Darryl, if you’re not working hard and you’re not competing, you won’t have an opportunity to be on the power play or be in an offensive role. He demands that you work at it, but sometimes that just doesn’t work.

On the flip side of those negative stats, LA is league best in goals against average with 2.07, gives up the third fewest shots per game with 26.8, has the most wins when winning after two periods with 100%, and win the most face-offs in the league with 53.3%. How has the team been able to accomplish those positive instances alongside the slump? Is there more to it all than having an elite goaltender in Jonathan Quick and great backups in Scrivens and Jones to him, as well as guys like Carter, Kopitar, Stoll, and Richards being dynamite in the faceoff circle? Or is it simply Sutter’s coaching systems, perhaps?

In my opinion, they have the best goalie in probably the world in Quick. They play great defense. That’s Darryl there – he demands his systems are great, a good work ethic, whistle-to-whistle hard nose play, and the players do that, man per man. That may be why you don’t see as many goals from that team, because they do play such a defensive game. No one cheats. To create offense, they play their defensive role, and that gives them an opportunity, but maybe doesn’t give them quite the opportunity to score as many goals. They take care of one end, and that’s key for them. They play so well defensively. They’ve got a good defensive system and a great goalie. That’s why they’re in every game. If they could score goals, they would win every game.

You mentioned you worked with the “kids”. Who were those guys you worked with the closest, and what did you focus on with them?

One thing I preached more than anything — and we worked on it everyday — I’d take Drew Doughty or Voynov out and just work on their trade. You watch good athletes in general, they work hard, and they work hard on their trade. Whether it’s a football player throwing passes all day, or a hockey player shooting hundreds and hundreds of pucks every day. That was key. We would do that. You work with those guys, work on one-timers, quick release, shots from the slot, coming out of the corner…you just work on things to help you create goals. Guys working on their trade is one thing I tried to work on more than anything.

You played with six teams during your NHL career, including nine with the LA Kings. Is there any particular reason you decided to work with LA when your playing days were over, instead of one of your other five former teams? Do you feel you identify with LA the best of them all? Did you have opportunity to work with the Rangers, Oilers, Devils, Blackhawks or Sharks?

LA was the team I approached first. They were the team I wanted to coach. I knew most of the guys there, I spent more time in LA, they were the team I played with the most. I still say it was my team as far as the team I felt most comfortable with. I just liked the guys too. When Darryl went there I felt it was a great opportunity for me to go there. It was more or less because they were my first team, I played the longest there, and I’m there more than any place.

What was it that made you feel LA was your team more than any of those other five you played with?

I played in the organization for ten years, and the others were for two or less. It was the first team I played for, and for the longest, my kids are there… I feel more comfortable with the LA team than any other team I guess.

Do you do any sort of alumni stuff with those other teams, or are you primarily just an LA guy?

I still do some alumni stuff for Chicago a little bit, San Jose I have. I haven’t for the other ones, but I would. I’ve been asked every year to go to New Jersey, but it’s moose hunting season for me at that time and I can’t make it. But I’ve done charity games for the other teams as well, and I enjoy doing it, for sure.

When the Kings won their first Stanley Cup in franchise history, did you feel any personal connection with the championship as a former Kings player, and further as a player who was so instrumental in the smaller successes the team had while you played? You’re fifth in all-time team points (758), and even have a couple of team records that Wayne Gretzky doesn’t have: most points in a game by a King (8), and most goals in a season (70) – those sort of things tend to stitch you to a team pretty tight, especially to fans in retrospect. Obviously you weren’t on the ice when they won, but did you feel like that was your Cup too?

Well, it’s not the same as playing, obviously, but it’s a close second. Being around the guys, you get the joy from watching them compete everyday. You know, as a former player, what they go through and what it takes to be successful. You’re out there helping them any way you can, and if you’ve added a little bit to their success, then great. You hope that you did, and looking at it like that, yeah you do feel like you’re part of it.

Did you get your name on the Cup, or a ring?

I got a ring, yeah. It’s on my dresser in my bedroom.

An interview with you I read said you had never touched the Stanley Cup, presumably before you got your hands all over it when the Kings won. How good did it feel to finally be able to break that vow?

It was really exciting. More so for the players than myself. It’s much different as a player than as a coach, assistant, or whatever it may be. But it was still really, really exciting to be there. My daughter was with me, and we spent a lot of time with it that night. It was really exciting, no question.

Was there any one player on that team that you felt you identified with most, had the best rapport with, and was particularly happy to watch win the Cup?

Other than one or two players, no one else had won the Cup, so they were all really, really excited. I played similar to a Mike Richards I guess, but I think I could identify with the skilled players – Kopitar, Doughty, Carter – that’s kind of the role I would have taken. Those guys played so well, and so well as a group. They were not going to be denied. They had as good of a run in the playoffs as probably any team has ever had. It was pretty cool.

Why in particular is that tradition of not touching the Cup unless you’ve won it so revered? Lots of people with or without hockey backgrounds seem to uphold that approach — even former players who will never win it.  

I think it’s just respect. As a hockey player, you realize how tremendously difficult it is to win, that it’s such an honor to win, and until you do win I just don’t feel, and I’m sure there’s a lot of people who don’t feel like you should be touching it as far as players and former players who’ve never won it. It may be a little weird, but it is what it is. I just think the players have so much respect for the Cup that if you don’t win it, you don’t deserve to touch it.

What are your thoughts on the NFL’s tradition of the winning team’s owner touching the trophy first, rather than how the captain gets first touch in hockey?

I have no problem with that. Everything’s different. Every league’s different. That’s great too. The owner is the one who pays all the players all the money, so he’s responsible for the team, and it’s his team, so I have no problem with him touching it first either. I’m not sure every player gets their trophy for a day like hockey does though, which is just amazing.

So if Dean Lombardi, or Kings owner Philip Anschutz had touched the Cup before Dustin Brown did, you’d be ok with that? Or is it just ok for the NFL because it’s a totally different sport with its own unique customs?

I love the way we do it. They way it’s presented on the ice, the way they do it I think is great. Football’s different. They have the big stage, the owner, GM, and coach are up there, and then they’ll call up one or a couple of the players to talk, but that’s fine too.

Another interview I read with you regarding the 2012 playoffs quoted you as saying,

“We had a big meeting the night before Game 1, and I went for a walk after, and it was like I went right back to (being) a player. I was really excited, I had the butterflies, I was just so amped up, I was so excited – that was the first time for me in 12 years. It was unbelievable. To have that feeling is great – athletes get it a lot before big games and I had it. I could have played that night, I could have played, I was ready to go!” 

How hard is it to be in a position like that and not be able to play? How often do you get to play these days? You seem like a player that genuinely loves to play the game.

Well I don’t think it’s like you want to jump on the ice and go, that kind of wears off after you’ve been out for a couple of years. But just that thought – I hadn’t been around the game in a long time, or in a competitive setting like I was there, back in the game again. As athletes, you’re kind of wired different than most. Regular season games are regular season games, but once you make the playoffs, your body and your mind knows it’s a different animal. You feel different the day of the game — your body does, your mind does. For me at that time, we had the meeting, and I just went for a walk, and I felt like I did in one of my playoff games when I played again. It’s a great feeling to have. It’s tough to explain unless you’ve been there. Most athletes who have been there understand. It was really a cool feeling to get that again – to get those butterflies, to get all excited about the game. It’s difficult when you can’t do anything though. If I’m working the power play and I’m watching them and they go 0 for 5 or something and you go, ‘wow, I maybe could have helped,’ not that I could, but your mind still thinks you can, and you’re body says, ‘noooo, you can’t.’

Did you get the chance to skate on the Dodger Stadium ice during the Stadium Series event?

I didn’t. They dropped the ball so bad. Out of all the outdoor games, the only one they did [alumni games at] was the Winter Classic. They had Toronto and Detroit and they had two games. That’s how many alumni they had. They had 40,000 people there for an alumni game. I can’t believe why at Yankee Stadium they wouldn’t let the Rangers and Devils play an alumni game, or at Dodger Stadium. I heard Luc [Robitalle] tried, but the league wouldn’t let them. I just can’t believe they wouldn’t let them do that. It would have been so cool.

I still do fantasy camps, though. I’m going to do Wayne Gretzky’s fantasy camp in Vegas in March, I’ll try to do the Kings, I think I’ll do the Sharks at the end of March. I still love to skate. Even to this day, I put my skates on, and I still feel like a kid when I go out on the ice. It’s something that will probably never leave me, and I hope it never does. It’s always fun to put those skates on.

Are you one of those players who is superstitious and still uses all his old gear, or have you upgraded your equipment over the years? 

My pants I had in Chicago in ’94, I don’t wear a helmet anymore but I still have my CCM helmet from LA, my skates I’ve had for a little while but new skates are always better than the old ones anyway. I’ve got my old gloves too. I still like the old setup.

So you didn’t get on the Dodger Stadium ice, but did you get down to the event? Did you get any beach volleyball in on the court in left field?

No, I was at home. I was back in Canada for it. I wasn’t out there. I would have liked to have went, but I was back in Canada, in the snow.

Well that was a poor decision.

It was a terrible one.

To your knowledge, is there any reason the Kings decided to go with gray jerseys for the game, rather than a throwback to the purple and gold version, like most teams tend to do for outdoor games?

I think they did the same as New York. They went white and black I think. I just think they did all that for advertising and for merchandise to sell. The uniforms looked beautiful. The Ducks’ were different, so were the Islanders’ and Rangers’. I just think it was a big money grab to sell merchandise. Just another jersey. The Kings always wear the old jersey on legends night. There are about three times a year that they’ll bring the old purple and gold out.

When you look back on your career as both a player and a coach, what’s that one moment that stands above the rest of them?

I think having an opportunity to play with Wayne Gretzky was great. Just playing in the NHL. I feel like I’m just a kid when I’m playing. To think you get to play a game every day in front of thousands of people, I can’t think of anything better to do. Just everything about it to me is amazing. Playing in the NHL for that long, playing with the great players that you play with, travelling around… it was a dream that most kids dream about and only a select few get an opportunity to do, and I was fortunate to be one of them.

 

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XP PSP s01e13: NHL Trade Deadline Roundup

March 8, 2014 Leave a comment

Larry Fisher

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.

Follow Larry FisherXP PSP, and host Dave Cunning on Twitter.

Visit www.larry-fisher.com 

Click here to listen to the XP PSP audio podcast at Podbean

Download_on_iTunes_Badge_US-UK_110x40_1004https://itunes.apple.com/ca/podcast/xppsp/id643817929

The cheapest Stadium Series tickets left; TJ Sochi T-Shirt

February 27, 2014 Leave a comment

With the puck about to drop on the final 2 games of the 2014 NHL Stadium Series, TiqIQ.com has passed along some interesting data on average secondary market ticket prices for the March 1st Blackhawks/Penguins game in Chicago at Soldier Field. If you were planning on attending, but haven’t bought a ticket yet, here’s what you should expect to have to shell out:

-Current average ticket price for Saturday’s game: $230.77 (down 18% this week and 67% since its peak on 9/23/13)

-Cheapest ticket currently listed: $91 (originally $139), Section 432

-Most expensive ticket currently listed: $845 (originally $325), Section 308

Soldier Field Stadium Series seating

All I know is, if I’m gonna cough up $825 to sit in a seat in the farthest section away from the ice in the stadium, my seat better come with an open mini bar, and the NHL Network installed into the back of the seat in front of me.

Comparatively, here are the average prices for the previous four Stadium Series games of 2014, as well as the upcoming Heritage Classic, ranked from most expensive to least:

-Yankee Stadium – Rangers/Devils – $244 ($89)

-Yankee Stadium – Rangers/Islanders – $206 ($43)

-Winter Classic – Red Wings/Maple Leafs – $156 ($57)

-Dodger Stadium – Kings/Ducks – $199 ($117)

-Heritage Classic – Canucks/Senators – $182 ($74)

For more on this data, visit TiqIQ.com, follow TiqIQ on Twitter, or contact TiqIQ’s Director of Marketing, Stefan Mersch, at stefan@tiqiq.com.

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Speaking of buying things hockey related, I know a t-shirt worthy catchphrase when I hear one, and thusly I put one on one. After TJ Oshie’s unfathomable shootout performance against Russia, “TJ Sochi” was one of the best nicknames to emerge from the Sochi 2014 Olympics, so here’s what I did with it:

TJ Sochi shirt

 Visit my Etsy store and make this shirt yours before everyone forgets about that fateful night in Sochi! It may even help to cover the American shame of losing the bronze medal game 5-0 and finishing fourth, after posting a video like this:

Book Review: “Behind the Net: 101 Incredible Hockey Stories” by Stan Fischler

December 19, 2013 Leave a comment

If you’re looking for a great gift or stocking stuffer for a hockey fan on your Christmas list, or just a great collection of hockey stories for yourself, look no further than Stan Fischler’s latest book, Behind the Net: 101 Incredible Hockey Stories.

BTNFischler, an Islanders, Rangers and Devils correspondent for MSG and veteran author of over 90 books, writes a wide spectrum of hockey stories in BTN – everything from the Toronto Maple Leafs’ 2013 playoff collapse against the Boston Bruins, to puck tales that predate the NHL. There’s a story about how a game that went deep into overtime in the 1930’s was almost decided by coin toss – a crazy notion when you consider the discussion of the shootout and other game ending approaches these days. Today’s debate about preventing and managing concussions make the game’s stewards in the 1940’s look like primitive cave people – it sounds like it was commonplace for fights to spill into the stands and involve spectators, and sticks were regularly cracked over helmetless players’ heads. It makes for interesting commentary on where the game has evolved from when you read that teams used to only cost $75,000 and gunshots used to signal period ends, seasons used to last around 20 games, and the Art Ross Trophy winner would net 70 points in that short span.

As today’s hockey fans are aware, the NHLPA and NHL don’t always get along, but those of us affected by their disagreements may take solace in learning that the NHLPA has been a thorn in the side of NHL ownership since the 50’s. And as we are all reminded by Gary Bettman’s annual awarding of the Stanley Cup always being met by a deafening rebuttal of boos from fans in attendance, the NHL commissioner has not always been a fan favorite either. When Clarence Campbell was at the league’s helm, he had everything from insults, tear gas, and items from the produce section whipped at him by fans who did not agree with his suspension of Maurice Richard. Can you imagine Bettman having to make public appearances in riot gear?

Hockey players have always been known for their toughness, resilience, and overwhelming desire to keep playing the game. One of the best examples of this is included in the book. It depicts the story of Bill Chadwick, who lost sight in one eye from an injury but kept playing. He later injured his other eye too, and was forced to end his playing days. But he stayed in the game, becoming a referee, and then an announcer. Do you think they were having the visor discussion even then? The book also digs up interesting tidbits on player oddities, like how Jaromir Jagr runs the stairs of every arena he plays in, and how Gordie Howe was ambidextrous and gave goalies he faced double the grief in trying to stop him.

Fischler’s book gives us glimpses into the days when the NHL competed for fans and players with rival leagues like the WHA and the lesser known Eastern League. He tells us stories of when players were bought with, and arenas were built on, horse race winnings. It unveils stories of “Big” Bill Dwyer, a bootlegger in the 1920’s, who owned the New York Americans; and local rival New York Rangers coach Lester Patrick, who okayed the team publicist’s suggestion to modify to players names to Jewish and Italian last names to attract fans of those local minorities to Rangers games, and away from Americans games.

And if you thought the Winnipeg Jets had a tough travel schedule when they were still competing in the Eastern Conference, things won’t seem so bad when you read about the team from the Klondike that rode dogsleds to Ottawa to challenge for the Stanley Cup in 1905, only to get shelled 23-2 and see Frank McGee score 14 goals in a game against them.

It’s an enthralling and easy read – most of the stories are only 1-3 pages long, suitable for any age or level of reader, and any completion time frame. Any fan of hockey will be a fan of this book. You can find it a print or digital copy for around $20 on Amazon, Chapters, or your local bookstore.

Here’s the Press Release:

Stan Fischler’s latest hockey classic, Behind the Net: 101 Incredible Hockey Stories (Sports Publishing, November 2013) is a collection of short, zany (but true!) tales that have taken place over more than a half century of hockey-watching. An easy read for fans of all ages with photos to accompany the anecdotes, this book offers a unique perspective into the NHL from one of today’s most prolific hockey writers. Different from the typical NHL “game” stories, this book details everything, from the hilarious to the absurd.

Fischler details the time that:

• Bill Mosienko scored three goals in 21 seconds

• Rene Fernand Gauthier accepted a challenge to shoot the puck in the ocean

• Sam LoPresti faced 83 shots on goal in one game

• And 98 more unique stories!

So lace up your skates and hit the ice with Behind the Net, a comprehensive collection sure to entertain any hockey fan, regardless of team allegiances.

About the author:

Stan Fischler is a legend of sports broadcasting. He began his career as a publicist for the New York Rangers in 1954 and has been covering hockey in the over half a century since. The winner of five Emmy Awards, Fischler has worked in every medium from print to TV to Twitter. This “Hockey Maven” currently serves as the resident hockey expert for MSG and MSG Plus. He can be seen every week on MSG Hockey Night Live. He lives in New York City.

Contact the Publisher:

Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.

307 W 36th Street, 11th Floor | New York, NY 10018

Ph:(212) 643-6816 x 226 | Fax: (212) 643-6819

skyhorsepublishing.com

There Are No Words. Except For These. (LA KINGS 2012 STANLEY CUP CHAMPIONS!!!)

June 13, 2012 Leave a comment

 

Wait, what happened? What day is it? What year is it? Where am I???

I think I blacked out — I was having the most amazing dream though….. I was dreaming that the LA Kings won the Stanley Cup…. but it couldn’t be…. they were the eighth seed in this year’s playoffs…. they’ve been bad or average at best since 1993 when they lost in the Finals…. they had to beat #1 seeded Vancouver, #2 seeded St. Louis, #3 seeded Phoenix, and then 3-time Stanley Cup champion New Jersey Devils and their future Hall-of-Fame goaltender…..

Wait, let’s watch this video and see if this really happened….

OMG THE KINGS REALLY WON THE STANLEY CUP

Besides my boyhood favorite team winning their first ever franchise Stanley Cup, highlights of this video include Anze Kopitar spinning around the Staples Center with a tilted crown and “California Love” by Dr.Dre & Tupac playing at the 42:43 mark, hearing Dean Lombardi tip his cap to Terry Murray and other builders of the team, seeing guys from the past like Luc Robitaille, Bernie Nichols, Ron Hextall, and of course Darryl Sutter get their hoist of the Cup, and my eyes getting a little misty at the 20:51 mark when the team picture is being taken and the chorus of U2’s “Beautiful Day” kicks in. Elementary school me would have come absolutely unglued. Adult version of me barely held it together. One can only imagine what would have happened if I’d seen Wayne Gretzky get another lift of Stanley.

It truly was a beautiful day.

More To Kopitar’s OT GWG Than Meets The Eye

June 11, 2012 Leave a comment

 

[originally post for www.betonhockey.com on June 3, 2012]

Anze Kopitar’s game 1 overtime winner was unquestionably pretty, and there’s a lot more within the 10 second series of events that occurred prior to the puck crossing the goal line than one is able to see at first glance that made it even more spectacular.

First, the fact that this scoring opportunity even materialized is ridiculous, and a complete breakdown on New Jersey’s part.

BetOnHockey_Kopitar_Goal_Creation.jpg

1. Things start out as New Jersey defenceman, Marek Zidlicky, forced Dustin Brown to turn the puck over just before the Kings blue line (C). Up until this point, Kopitar (A) was covered by Zach Parise (B), and both were anticipating the puck heading towards the Devils’ zone.

2. When the original Brown/Zidlicky turnover occurred, Parise peeled off from Kopitar to aid the attack. Kopitar perhaps was anticipating a positive outcome of the breakdown and just kept heading to the other end in a straight line, rather than doubling back to help defensively.

3. Travis Zajac (A) responded and swatted at it, but wasn’t able to gain true possession, while Drew Doughty (B) was. Doughty then sent the puck up along the boards to Justin Williams (C), who was waiting near center ice. By the time Williams received the puck, Kopitar was waiting at center completely uncovered (D), as Parise was still deep in the Kings zone (E).

4. New Jersey’s last man back, defenceman Bryce Salvador, pinched on Williams (A) – why he would take a risk like that in overtime is beyond me, especially with an unhindered attacker heading towards his net. Before Salvador could engage, Williams (B) had the presence of mind to chip the puck to the middle (whereas most coaches would instruct you to chip it off the boards and into the zone to be chased down) to a wide open Kopitar at the Devils’ blue line (C), who had at that point been gaining speed since his own blue line. Parise is so far behind on his backchecking, he’s not even on the screen anymore.

5. By the time Kopitar made his shot, Dainius Zubrus (A) was incredibly able to catch up and touch him with his stick, but not with enough force to disrupt the scoring opportunity.

Regarding the goal itself, there are a number of amazing things that occur within the split seconds of it being scored (3 seconds from the time he takes possession of the puck at the Devils’ blue line to the puck going in). The whole scenario almost boils down to a battle of the wits when you slow it down and dissect it.

BetOnHockey_Kopi_Goal_Set.jpg

1. Kopitar throws a deke to the right that Brodeur bites on, but is able to stay with. As Kopitar moves to the left side of the goal, Brodeur continues to track the puck; sprawling across the crease with his right pad along the ice to thwart a goal being scored along the ice.

2. What happened next is where I believe Kopitar won the battle. While on his stomach, Brodeur flexed his right knee from about 2 feet out from the goal line, and elevated his right pad up to around a 45° angle, with his skate blade finishing approximately half way up the 4’ high post — one may assume to counter an anticipated elevated shot that Brodeur had baited by closing off the on-ice options. Brodeur is 6’2”, which means the length from his knee to his foot is approximately 1.5 feet, while the pad being elevated is 11 inches wide. Kopitar had the puck at the 4’ mark at the top of the crease – a 4’ distance and a 4’ high post create a 45° shooting angle for Kopitar. BUT Brodeur has his pad up, and by the estimated distance variables, Brodeur’s sprawl actually cuts the middle 13° out of Kopitar’s scoring angle, and reduces his total feasible scoring area by 40% down to an 18° angle in which he needs to raise the puck within to score – that’s a tough shot from that distance, even by NHL standards.

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3. This is where I venture that Kopitar’s skill/instinct kicked in – as Brodeur’s pad came up, it obviously reopened the along-the-ice scoring option, which Kopitar held on to the puck long enough to draw out – in overtime of the Stanley Cup Final, 25 year old Anze Kopitar had the patience to outwait a 3-time Stanley Cup champion, 4-time goalie of the year, and 20 year NHL veteran within a 4’ space at top speed in a fraction of a second – and tuck it neatly right underneath within an even smaller 14° clearance, while Brodeur unsuccessfully scrambled to get his pad back down in time.

4. Kopitar buries the puck and game 1 in the back of the net behind Brodeur.

They say that in those split seconds, time seems to slow down. I’ve been in game situations like that – not an OT breakaway in the Stanley Cup Finals against a future Hall of Fame goaltender scenario, mind you – but I can attest that you do can have an odd amount of control in a finite window of time like that. Kopitar being the amazing player that he is, demonstrated that point to a tea, and made it count.

Amazing.

Why Canadians Should Be Cheering For The LA Kings To Win The Stanley Cup

June 4, 2012 1 comment

[originally post for www.betonhockey.com on May 30/2012 ]

[click here for the 2014 LA/NYR SCF version of this post]

There’s a big fuss being made over the fact that, for only the second time ever, an American captain will be hoisting the Stanley Cup for his team first at the conclusion of this year’s playoffs. While it is an interesting statistic, it seems that the same people that are so concerned with captaincy nationality are uninterested in discussing the birthplaces of each of Dustin Brown and Zach Parise’s teammates that they are leading into battle; and less interested in talking about where the coaches that these captains are taking orders from, originate.

We should examine the origins of the remainder of each team’s roster to see exactly where our nationalistic allegiances should be strewn. Let’s do that now.

LOS ANGELES KINGS

The active roster of the Los Angeles Kings features 25 players – 15 of them are Canadian, 7 are American, 2 are Russian, and 1 is Slovenian. Add 1 Canadian if you count head coach Darryl Sutter. The Kings have more Canadians in their lineup than the Ottawa Senators, and as many as the Vancouver Canucks – the only two teams based in Canadian cities that made this year’s playoffs.

Representing Canada (60%): Jeff Carter, Kyle Clifford, Colin Fraser, Simon Gagne, Dwight King, Jordan Nolan, Dustin Penner, Mike Richards, Brad Richardson, Jarret Stoll, Kevin Westgarth, Justin Williams, Drew Doughty, Willie Mitchell, Jonathan Bernier (Darryl Sutter).

Representing the USA (28%): Dustin Brown, Trevor Lewis, Scott Parse, Matt Greene, Alec Martinez, Rob Scuderi, Jonathan Quick.

Representing Europe (12%): Slava Voynov, Andrei Loktionov, Anze Kopitar.

Assessment: Predominantly CANADIAN.

NEW JERSEY DEVILS

New_Jersey_Devils_BetOnHockey.gifThe active roster of the New Jersey Devils also includes 25 players – 7 of them are Canadian, 7 are American, 4 are Swedish, 3 are Czech, 2 are Russian, 1 is Ukranian, and 1 is Lithuanian. Add 1 Canadian if you count head coach Peter DeBoer.

Representing Canada (28%): Steve Bernier, Eric Boulton, David Clarkson, Adam Henrique, Travis Zajac, Bryce Salvador, Martin Brodeur (Peter DeBoer)

Representing the USA (28%): Ryan Carter, Stephen Gionta, Cam Janssen, Zach Parise, Mark Fayne, Andy Greene, Peter Harrold.

Representing Europe (44%): Patrick Elias, Jacob Josefson, Ilya Kovalchuk, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Petr Sykora, Dainius Zubrus, Adam Larsson, Henrik Tallinder, Anton Volchenkov, Marek Zidlicky, Johan Hedberg.

Assessment: Predominantly EUROPEAN.

CONCLUSION

If you’re basing your 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 Canadian players, you should be cheering for the LA Kings in the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals.

If you are American cheering for Americans, it’s your choice.

If you’re European cheering for Europeans, you should side with New Jersey.

[click here for the 2014 LA/NYR SCF version of this post]

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