Monday, January 23, 2012

The Other Exciting Games This Weekend

I'm very happy that the NHLPA rejected the proposed realignment that would have reduced the number of times the Bruins play teams like the Devils, Rangers, and Flyers. Not only are these good Eastern seaboard rivalries for fans, but the hockey is simply fantastic to watch.

Starting with the Rangers game, it was a good, close-checking, hard fighting playoff style game. For the Rangers, who are looking to prove something to themselves as well as the League, it was a playoff game.

The Bruins needed to get more from their Power Play unit. Not necessarily scoring. They only got 2 shots on goal in 4 PP chances. That's not good enough. At the very least, you have to generate some opportunities, make the goalie work to kill the penalty.

Another thing the B's did was take too many shots that were clearly going to get blocked. It's one thing to shoot through traffic and have a defenseman block the shot down low. But when forwards are pressuring the point as much as the Rangers' were, it's inevitable that the shot won't get to the goalie. So don't take the shot.

One positive from the Rangers' game was how productive the defensemen were. Andrew Ference has become a sniper (and a thug, according to the NHL. More on that later).

The Flyers game saw more special teams struggles. The Bruins allowed 3 PP goals. There were some weird bounces that favored the Flyers. But the B's also allowed Hartnell to repeatedly set himself up in the middle slot. A hat-trick resulted.

The officiating was interesting. It seemed like the Flyers would hit a Bruin up high, there'd be some drama, an odd number of penalties issued, and the Bruins would wind up being shorthanded. Apparently, checks aimed at the head aren't as severe as standing up for a teammate.

That's the game, though. It can't be easy for a ref to keep a lid on these kinds of games.

I know the NHL wants to make sure that teams like the Bruins, Rangers, and Flyers visit every struggling market in the NHL, from Columbus to Phoenix to Nashville to Miami. The NHL wants these markets to have some games they can promote and sell out. But it's hockey welfare, redistributing wealth to markets that don't care much about the game.

It's not worth losing multiple games between the Bruins and Flyers, between the Bruins and Rangers. If anything, the Bruins should be playing these teams more than 4 times a year. Because these were some very exciting games, with good atmospheres generated by passionate fanbases.

How often do you see a natural hat-trick and a Gordie Howe hat-trick in the same game AND have it occur in front of fans who know what those terms mean?

The Bruins are in Washington Tuesday. They'll also meet the President. I'd like to hear a conversation between Marchand and Obama. "You got big ears, eh?"

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