All posts by connorand31

COLUMN: What Exactly Is Crosby’s Legacy?

Sidney Crosby has recently arose in conversations as a top 5 player all time, and it’s about time.  Crosby has easily reined the NHL as the best player in the league over the past ten years.  So if anything he is overdue for being considered by many as a top 5 player all time.  Crosby has many reasons to be considered, and I will try to touch on those.

To begin, the easiest argument would be his insane stats.  Right now he sits at sixth all-time on the points per game stat, which in my opinion, is a great stat to show how offensively talented a player is.  The reason being, that a player could play 1000 games and have 700 points, while a player that only played 600 games could have 600 points.  The points per game stat obviously shows that the second player had a better offensive impact as he averaged one point per game and player one only averaged .7 points per game.  Also, the fact that Crosby is sixth all time, and playing in the hardest era yet to score in is also a testimony to how great of a player he is.  The next closest player from this era on that list…is none other than Evgeni Malkin.  Crosby has also scored 100 plus points in 5 out of 8 seasons where he played more than 70 games.  If it wasn’t for all his injuries, we can only wonder how much his stat line would be improved. And lastly he has been a 1+ point per game player every season of his career.

The second thing that attributes to his ever-growing legacy is his extensive trophy case.  Crosby has already captained the Penguins to two Stanley cups and has a chance to captain them to their third if they can win two of the next five games.  Crosby also has two Olympic gold medals, one World Junior Championship gold, and a World Cup gold.  He also has a plethora of individual awards to tack onto that.  He has two Art Ross trophies, two Maurice Rocket Richard trophies, three Ted Lindsay awards, two Hart trophies, two Messier awards, one World Cup MVP, and one Conn Smythe trophy.  Those are his best trophies or awards, there are much more but listing them all would make the article an extra page long.

Lastly, Crosby’s play style can be argued as an equal if not better argument for him being a top 5 player all time.  Crosby was mainly offensive in his game up until roughly 2015.  Ever since 2015, Crosby’s ability to play both sides of the puck has really taken a fore front.  He is now more physical than ever on both sides of the puck, and has shown that he can shut his opponents down in key moments of the game.  Most analysts are using his two-way play to justify him being a top 5 player of all-time.  The same argument was used to show why Crosby was the best player in the NHL this year despite being slightly outscored by Connor McDavid.  McDavid is yet to show he can play adequate defense and it mainly offensive oriented.  Stats don’t show the whole story in sports, and Crosby’s play is what truly sets him apart from the rest.

Overall, it should be a no brainer that Crosby is a top 5 player all-time, however there are still critics out there.  The good news is that his legacy can only go on from here on out, and he still has many years left to leave his mark.

COLUMN: NHL Officials Hurting The Game

I’m willing to bet many hockey fans have at least one time wanted to give the refs a piece of their mind. This feeling however, has gotten much more common within the past few years, and for good reason.

The NHL referees are just as disliked or, even more so, than Gary Bettman himself.  So in this column I will try and shed some light onto why that has occurred, and no I won’t be writing this as a disgruntled Penguins fan. But I will be using game 3 of the Penguins and Capitals series as it is a great example.

Probably the biggest reason why the Refs are despised by the fans is their constant inconsistency in the playoffs.

This in other words means how at one point they can be calling everything, and not even three minutes later start letting the players play only to go back to calling everything another 5 minutes later. So there is always a question of what can and can’t be done.

The largest example for this inconsistency, unfortunately decided the game in overtime.

Earlier in the game Evgeni Malkin was called for closing his hand on the puck, which is a penalty, and Matt Cullen was blatantly hooked on a breakaway with no call. In overtime, Capitals forward Marcus Johansson caught a pass out of midair, closed his hand on the puck and threw it around Trevor Daley and then Daley checked Johansson down on the breakaway and got called for a holding penalty.  This is a prime example of how the refs called something earlier in the game, but let it go at a crucial point in the game which should not happen. The refs also called Daley for a holding penalty which was clearly not a holding or even a penalty at all, and gave the Capitals their power play which they scored on to win the game.

The other reason the referees are so hated, is because most calls are left up to their discretion.

Even though the rule book clearly states the rules for penalties and such, most of it is still up to them on the end result.

One such call which is a very grey rule nowadays is the goalie interference call.

The official rule is that if a player interferes with the goalie’s ability to stop the puck that the goal will be disallowed. But the results of these calls are all over the place.

I have seen Carey Price get dragged out of the net and the goal still be allowed, and I have also seen Price get brushed by Jakob Silfverberg and the goal get called off.  There was also a questionable goalie interference call in last night’s game.

Malkin threw a puck to the net, and it appeared to hit a defender and Chris Kunitz and trickle past Braden Holtby.  The goal was originally ruled a good goal on the ice and after review, and then turned over after the Capitals challenged it.  There was some contact with Holtby, but Kunitz was being pressed on by a Capitals defender and Holtby was not going to stop it from trickling in regardless of the contact, thus proving how this rule is such a controversial rule.

One other call that got lots of mixed reviews was the incident that led to Sidney Crosby’s concussion and Matt Niskanen’s 5 minute major and ejection from the game.

Some people think this call was a good call and others think he shouldn’t have gotten called.

So let’s take an in-depth look at how the play happened and break it down.

Crosby was driving to the net, and on his way to the net his was slashed in the arm and the head by Alexander Ovechkin. Along with that, Ovechkin took out Crosby’s left leg with a slew foot.

As Crosby was falling over and leaving the front of the net, Niskanen ended up cross checking Crosby in the head and thus injuring him.

The overall reception for what Niskanen did is mixed as well.

I believe it was intentional and not a “hockey play” and not due to the speed of the game. Yes hockey is a fast paced game, but not insanely fast.

The players skate in the 20-30 mph range at top speed, but Crosby and Niskanen were far from top speed.

Crosby was moving less than 10 mph and Niskanen actually raised his stick right to Crosby’s head level and even delivered a little extra push when contact was made.  Niskanen has done antics like this all series which also leads to my conclusion that a 5 minute major was a good call.

All in all, the NHL referees approval level is decreasing quickly and I do not expect it to get better anytime soon with the factors of inconsistency and the fact that they can use their discretion for most calls.

What Can Pens Fans Take Away From Red Wings’ Streak?

Just recently the Detroit Red Wings had their 25 year playoff streak end as they were officially eliminated from the playoffs.  Their streak is the third longest in NHL history and was littered with Stanley Cups and sensational players.  They had some of the greats playing for them such as Nicklas Lindstrom, Sergei Federov, and Pavel Datsyuk to name a few.  Even in spite of all of this their streak eventually had to come to an end and thus they are now entering a rebuild phase.  And us as Penguins fans can take lots of things from their streak ending.

 

The first thing that we can take from it, is that we should take a moment just to appreciate the talent that we get to see right now, because in 10-15 years we most likely won’t have talent like this in an abundance.  We are watching two of the best to ever play the game in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.  Along with these we are also able to witness elite players such as Phil Kessel, Kris Letang,  Marc-Andre Fleury, Matt Murray, and as of this year Justin Shultz.  In addition to these players the Penguins have also had key players in the past that are no longer with them such as James Neal. Jordan Staal, and Brooks Orpik.  So what fans should do is focus less on the negatives of a player’s game, as we have a tendency to do, and just be happy that we get to see them play.  The reason being that, in the future we may only have one elite player to watch instead of multiple and our team will not be at the caliber it is now.

 

The second point, which is similar to the first, is that we as fans have to realize that this success can’t last forever.  Unfortunately, the Penguins are going to have to go into a rebuild period to be able to get a team as talented as we have right now.  Most fans may  not be prepared or used to the Penguins not being good, because they have been in the playoffs for 11 straight years and have gained a good bit of fans because of their recent success.  So we just need to be prepared to stick by this team when the success eventually falls off and our superstars retire.
In summation, we as fans have to not take this team and the talent we have for granted as many other fanbases would love to have the team that we do.  A team’s success is always a rollercoaster ride and we have been fortunate to be at the top for a while, but sadly that won’t last so we need to appreciate this team instead of critiquing it.

COLUMN: Don’t Judge A Goalie By His Wins

For years fans have been quick to use a goalie’s record to compare one to another. The record is only a mere fraction of a goalie’s performance.

Hockey is a team sport and goalies only steal a game once in a while.  There are also games where a team’s offense makes up for a goaltender’s poor performance in a win. In other words, there are much better ways to judge a goalies performance in a game, season, and career.

The easiest and most efficient way to judge a goalie’s performance is their save percentage. This stat is just what it says. It shows what percentage of the shots that were faced were saved.

In most non-professional leagues, a save percentage above .900 (90%) is considered good. However, in the NHL, a save percentage above .915 is good, and above .920 is a great save percentage. Anything below .900 in the NHL is well below par.

Another stat that can be used to measure a goalie’s success is their goals against average (GAA) stat.

This is a stat that is an average of how many goals the goalie has let in per game for a specific time period.

A GAA fewer than 2.40 is considered good for a goalie, fewer than 2.20 is great, and below a 2.00 is spectacular.

Even with all of these stats, the truest way to judge a goalie’s success is to physically watch them play, but this can be hard for the common person to evaluate sometimes.

I will address an in depth view at goaltending for the common fan at another time.

Anyways, a goalie’s stats could not look fantastic for a game, but the saves they made could’ve been amazing, and the opposing team could have gotten some lucky goals.

One example of a goalie stealing a game is Matt Murray’s win versus the Lightning. Murray was 20-23 on saves and still came out with the win.

On the other hand, Mike Smith for the Arizona Coyotes made 58 saves in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Blue Jackets.

So all in all, a goalie’s record does show some of their talent, but their stats and play show a better example of their performance.

COLUMN: Stop Blaming The Goaltenders

It is the oldest move in the book, when a team loses a game the easiest thing to do is blame the goalie. Now, in some cases that may be true; however, in 90% of cases it is far from the truth. Sadly, with the whole Matt Murray vs. Marc-Andre Fleury debate still going fans are now more eager to just blatantly throw blame on either goalie. To illustrate my point, I will analyze two games which Murray and Fleury were blamed, and prove why it was in no way their fault for the loss.

First up, we will look at the Penguin’s most recent game versus the Detroit Red Wings. The Penguins lost 5-2 and Murray let in four goals on twenty shots. Most fans immediately jumped to place the blame onto Murray based on the fact that he only faced twenty shots, which is not an educated statement. Let’s look at how all four goals went in. The first goal was a breakaway by Nick Jensen. The whole play started with a turnover in the offensive zone, then continued with Chris Kunitz falling over at center ice, then a poor transition by Trevor Daley, and lastly a very nice move from Jensen to give the Wings a 1-0 lead. This goal can now be clearly seen as not Murray’s fault. The second goal was scored by Steve Ott. He made a clean hit on Kris Letang, and shortly after cut right across the slot and scored a backhander that trickled through Murray. Now here, the goal is Murray’s fault because it went through is body. Any goal that goes under or through a goalie is his fault. Next, the third goal was scored by Tomas Tatar on a 3-1. This play started by a horrendous giveaway by Jake Guentzel in the defensive zone to create the 3-1.  The goal was scored from the off-center slot via a one timer. Yet again this goal was in no way Murray’s fault, because the goalie’s job is to cover the shot not the pass. The fault clearly falls onto Guentzel here. The fourth goal was scored shortly after by Thomas Vanek. The slot is statistically the easiest place to score from in hockey, and Daley and Letang let Vanek walk right into the slot and score. This was a 1-2 and Daley should have stepped up to cut Vanek off, instead of letting him shoot from the best place on the ice. Lastly, the blame for this game should also be placed on the Penguin’s offense for going 0-4 on power plays, Tom Kuhnhackl missing a breakaway, and missing two open net chances.

Next up is Fleury’s game against the Capitals on January 11th. The Penguins lost 4-2 ad Fleury faced 29 shots. This game, much like the Red Wings game, was just an overall headache to watch.  Arguably one of the best pure goal scorers ever, Alexander Ovechkin, scored his 1,000th point about a minute into the game. Kris Letang, let Ovechkin push his gap back as he entered the zone, and ultimately was allowed to walk right into the slot for a clear shot. It is absurd to expect Fleury to stop the best goal scorer in the NHL right now from dead center slot. The second goal was scored by… you guessed it, Ovechkin as well. Ovechkin notched his 1,001th career point from the dot on the power play like he has done countless times in his career. For a goalie to have to slide across his crease and stop a 95 mph slap shot that went high glove side is again almost impossible to ask for.  The third goal was scored by Evgeny Kuznetsov. Kuznetsov walked around the top of the circles, wheeled behind the net, stopped abruptly, and passed to Justin Williams on the short side who beat Fleury low. This is the only goal that is Fleury’s fault. He stayed with Kuznetsov behind the net, but was scored on in tight while being down in the reverse VH position. The key reason he is to blame for this is because he was beat short side, and in the reverse VH position the short side should be completely covered. The last goal was scored by TJ Oshie on a short 2-2 break. As the 2-2 developed, Oshie streaked right past Letang who made did not keep track of him, and the rest is history as Oshie had the whole top of the net open. Another point for blame in this game falls on Phil Kessel for missing a breakaway and the Penguins for only scoring two goals.

All in all, Penguin’s fans need to take a step back before jumping to place the blame. Often times, the blame can and should be placed on someone other than the goalies.