Tag Archives: playoffs

Re-evaluating The Re-evaluation

When you sit down in the comfort of your own home and tune into an already-in-progress sporting event on television you expect a couple of things. For starters you expect to be entertained, enthralled, and emotionally invested. However, through the process of instant replay you can probably add confusion to the short list of expectations featured above.

How many times have you watched an NFL game and sarcastically joked with your friends or family “I guess I don’t know what pass interference is anymore”. Or in the NBA “I guess breathing on him is a foul now a days”. Well, begrudgingly I can now add the NHL to that less than fabled list, because I no longer know what is or is not a good goal anymore.

In the playoffs especially, the officials are there more as representations of the rule book, rather than the brute enforcers of the law. However, this may no longer be the case as the speed of the NHL playoffs and its bizarre relationship with the officiating have hit a fork in the road.

Prior to the 2015-16 season a brand new rule was implemented, allowing the head coach to challenge whether or not a goal should count. Now, there’s criteria that needs to be met, the goal has to have resulted in a questionably offside play by the attacking team, or a missed goalie interference call.

Albeit their mind was in the right place. When you consider time and time again questionable goals from years prior didn’t receive the attention they deserved.

Exhibit A: Blatant goal tender interference.

Exhibit B: Famously textbook offside play goes uncalled, for whatever reason.

Now it should be noted that both of these situations are examples where having the ability to challenge the play would have paid off in spades. This is not always the case. In fact sometimes perfectly good goals are wiped off the board for an infraction that had nothing to do with the end result of the play. I am, of course referencing offside calls. Nothing, and I truly mean nothing brings a perfectly good game to a sketching halt more than an unnecessarily lengthy review searching for the slightest inkling of an offside infraction.

Exhibit C: Goals being taken away well after the infraction only hurt the game.unnamed

Furthermore with the years of experience that comes with being an NHL official, one that is presumably well versed in the updates that come with the rule book. Wouldn’t you be able to come to the conclusion that JG Pageau undeniably covers the puck in the crease preventing a goal in over time of a playoff game? Need I remind you, that is in fact frowned upon and should have resulted in the very least as a delay of game penalty not to mention a penalty shot.

Image result for jg pageau covers puck in the crease

Apparently not, as neither of those calls came to fruition. This came after it was reviewed by the officials. Despite the lack of transparency one former official weighed in his take on the play.

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On top of that, Noel Acciari whom appeared to have scored to end the game earlier in overtime. Later he sat dumbfounded when the goal was taken away due to a fluky goaltender interference call. The review process lasted around 5 minutes.

I’ll admit this as dramatic an example as there is. Loopholes in the rule book can be found in rare situations in sports. But one must wonder has putting every play under a microscope helped or hindered hockey?

While there was plenty of good that came with the inception of this new rule, its also caused its fair share of  damage. Perhaps allowing a coach to possess too much power over the game. In return causing the officials to question their judgement and rely on the grace of instant replay far too heavily.

According to the NHL Public Relations twitter account on 4/30 we’ve had 19 games this playoffs that needed overtime to determine a winner through 50 games played. During the entirety of last seasons playoffs just 20 games needed overtime through 90 games played.

In a league whose major critique of themselves is a lack of offense, they appear to be doing a lot to maintain the status quo. Much attention needs to be diverted to this rule in the coming off season, to the benefit of the sport itself.

You cannot allow a questionably offside play, upwards of 30 seconds in the past rule out a perfectly good goal on the ice. Especially when the major concern of the league is finding a way to manufacture more offense.

The NHL dug themselves into this hole, it’s up to the to pull themselves back out again.

The Grandest Of Finales?

First and foremost, I’d like to take the time to congratulate Fan Interference on celebrating its one year anniversary yesterday. Cheers!

Now, all I want for graduation is a Stanley Cup Final that lives up to the hype of the Conference Finals that come before it. In turn, not to be subjected to a similar fate of years past by having a curtain in the form of an anti-climatic close to what the NHL heralds as “a best versus best” series.

With that in mind it may be hard to duplicate the atmosphere of a  Chicago v Los Angeles or a Washington v Montreal match up with a trip to the Cup Final on the line. Considering how often those previous teams play one another. What may not be difficult to request is, having a Final reach a winner takes all game 7. Its been noticeably absent, in fact you have to go back to 2011 when the Boston Bruins went into Vancouver and came out on the other side 4-0 victors.

We, as fans have been robbed of such a luxury in the years between. In 2012, Steve Bernier plastered Kings defensemen Rob Scuderi into the glass, resulting in a major penalty. Los Angeles then bombarded Marty Brodeur on the ensuing 5 minute major on their way to a 6-1, game 6 victory. In 2013 Chicago tallied two goals in 17 seconds crushing Bostons late 3rd period lead in their last ditch effort to force a game 7 in Chicago. In 2015, Chicago yet again doubled down scoring the only two goals against Tampa Bay in game 6 to hoist their 3rd Cup in 5 years. Lastly, 2016 saw the a narrowly focused, much matured Sidney Crosby land his second ring, in a series where San Jose was never out of it but also never truly in it either.

For a multitude of reasons 2017 has been a year of interesting narratives, putting it lightly. But in terms of hockey, what it could potentially offer is that game 7 that has eluded fans for quite some time. Washington, who easily up to this point has established themselves as the best team in the league, beefed up by trading for Kevin Shattenkirk. Clearly the mentality is to win, now more than ever.

We’ve been teased with the notion that this is Washington’s year many a time in the past. But, with the additions of players like Justin Williams, TJ Oshie, Lars Eller, Brett Connolly, and the recently mentioned Kevin Shattenkirk. It be difficult to argue that the road to the Cup, does in fact run through Washington. Much forgotten the years of repeated playoff disappointments which come as early as last years defeat at the hands of Sidney Crosby. Washington has reloaded, beefed up, and have a frightening mental infatuation with putting those less than fortunate seasons behind them, forever.

Chicago, since the 2008-09 season has established themselves as the poster child of consistency in the NHL. Currently running through their opposition as if they were constructed of wet tissue paper, including their eyebrow raising 4-1 victory Wednesday night over Pittsburgh. Patrick Kane is back to his form which saw him win league MVP last season, while Jonathan Toews has recovered from his mid season slump.

Go down the roster, if you fancy, and attempt to pick out a match up in which your favorite team has the clear cut advantage. Even Bill Belichick would quiver in his boots at the thought of a 7 game series against the NHL’s most formidable playoff foe. Home ice advantage for the Hawks means you best win every game on your home turf, something Chicago doesn’t always let their opposition do.

Chicago has the experience, bar none. With the lethal combination of Kane and Toews.

Washington has the firepower and the confidence to go shot for shot with anyone in the league. Not to mention that Ovechkin and Backstrom go together like peanut butter and jelly.

Washington versus Chicago is the series you didn’t realize you needed in your life until right now. For the Caps they have a charismatic captain desperate for the one piece of hardware needed to complete his star studded resume. For the Hawks, one more Cup would put them in the realm of immortality, along with Gretzky’s Oilers, and Bossy’s Islanders of the 80’s.

Separately the journey to this years Cup Final won’t be easy on either side. Washington will surely see Pittsburgh again, while Chicago will have to take care of Minnesota and Los Angeles. But a hockey nut can dream, right?

If, by chance these two organizations meet for the right to compete for hockey’s ultimate prize, you best not blink. As for those smiles? Surly they won’t last.

#MakeAmericaHockeyAgain

NFL Preview Week 15

The hunt for the Lombardi Trophy is in full force. December games are always ones that can make or break a franchise’s playoff hopes, and there are still 23 teams eligible to make it into the playoffs. There are a number of games this week that could be critical to a teams playoff chances. Let’s take a look at week 15’s top 5 match-ups.

Sunday 1:00

Baltimore Ravens v New Orleans Saints : News Photo

Philadelphia Eagles @ Baltimore Ravens

After settling with a tough loss last Monday night to the New England Patriots, tempers flared this week at Ravens practice as veteran WR Steve Smith slammed his helmet in frustration and walked off the practice field. It will be interesting to see if the many veterans on the team can settle the squad and move to this week’s matchup with the Eagles. Philly looks to rebound from their four game losing streak and douse Baltimore’s hope at sneaking into the playoff picture. This game will definitely have a playoff atmosphere at M&T Bank Stadium tomorrow. Ravens will use some of that old magic and Coach John Harbaugh will have his troops ready, Ravens win.

Ravens 28-Eagles 17

Washington Redskins v New York Giants : News Photo

Detroit Lions @ New York Giants

The Giants are coming off  a huge win last week against the division leading Dallas Cowboys. Their defense seems to be firing on all cylinders and offseason acquisitions Janoris Jenkins and Olivier Vernon seem to be worth every penny. Detroit currently has a two game lead in their division, but Aaron Rodgers seems to be getting back into his old self and the Packers are rolling . And trust me, Detroit does not want to let them back into the picture. This is a must win for both teams. Although Detroit is in better position to make the playoffs, my senses tell me that when Giants are in the playoff hunt, they’re probably going to win.

Giants 24- Lions 17

4:25

AFC Championship - New England Patriots v Denver Broncos : News Photo

New England Patriots @ Denver Broncos

Mile High has never been a friendly place for Tom Brady and the New England Patriots as it is one of the only places they have a losing record in the Belichick era. However, this is a much different Broncos team than what we saw in January of last year. No Peyton Manning and no CJ Anderson means that it is a whole new ball game and the advantage goes to the Patriots. Brady seems to have found comfort in rookie Malcolm Mitchell and newcomer Chris Hogan. The Pats also have Dion Lewis and Legarette Blount in the backfield this time and Denver can’t stop the run. Advantage Patriots. Although you can never predict what will happen in Mile High, I still think it’s pretty clear. Pats win

Patriots 31- Denver 14

8:30

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v New Orleans Saints : News Photo

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Dallas Cowboys

At the beginning of the season, no one would have guessed that the Bucs would be in the playoff hunt and the Cowboys would be at the top of the NFC. But they are and this is going to be a FANTASTIC football game. Dak Prescott vs. Jameis Winston. Two future star NFL QB’s squaring up for their first real December football game with playoff implications. If you look at the standings, this game on paper is needed more by the Bucs to keep their playoff hopes alive as they sit 6th in the NFC.

As we have heard from Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones, he loves his quarterback situation and he sees both as potential Super Bowl winning players. This might give pause to Dak Prescott, making him feel as if he is on the hot seat after losing to the Giants in New York. If he loses again, Tony Romo might get the nod to go for the rest of the season. It will be very interesting to watch. I love Dak Prescott and I think his future in the NFL is bight, but the Bucs are on a roll and I think they keep it going Sunday Night in Jerry’s World. Bucs win.

Buccaneers 27-Cowboys 24

Monday Night 8:30

Pittsburgh Steelers v Washington Redskins : News Photo

Carolina Panthers @ Washington Redskins

Another good Monday Night match up will leave NFL fans happy as the Washington Redskins look to keep their playoff hopes alive with a big win at home against the reigning NFC champions Carolina Panthers. This game has A LOT more implication than that. Former Carolina Panthers CB Josh Norman will be suiting up with the Redskins in his first game against his old team. He has shown a lot of animosity towards them due to this past offseason when they chose to part ways instead of making Norman the highest paid CB in the NFL. This would be a great way for him to show his old team what he’s worth. With a big victory as well as kicking the Panthers while they’re down after their abysmal season. Redskins get the W.YOU LIKE THAT!

Redskins 34- Panthers 24

 

 

Edmonton Is More Than Just Number 97

Picture your favorite hockey player currently on your respective team.

Alright.

Connor McDavid is far and beyond a better player than him. Disregard the baby face and polite aura, as of Wednesday the 19 year old captain not only leads his team in points, but the entire league as well. Just 22 games into 2016-17 season the Edmonton Oilers more so resemble the dynasty of the 80’s than the punching bag’s of the last decade.

While other cards were added to the deck, it would be a respectable assumption to believe that McDavid is clearly the biggest factor to Edmonton’s early triumphs. At the same time, Milan Lucic has made his presence felt, Jordan Eberle is second in scoring, while recent draft select Leon Draisaitl has begun his emergence as a lethal play maker.

Currently, Edmonton sits second behind the mighty Blackhawks in the Western Conference overall standings. However, skepticism is expected, considering how young the 2016-17 season is. Yet, it remains difficult not to believe perhaps, the necessary pieces have begun to fall into place.

Now, is it within the realm of reason to believe the Oilers are Cup Final bound? Probably not. But it’s been a decade since one of the sports most sought after franchises has been a part of meaningful spring hockey. During that time, it has been a revolving door at the head coach position, starting goal tender and not to mention the persistent search for an all purpose defender.

Within that struggle a generally young team was constantly redesigning their game plan and identity. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that’s detrimental to the makeup of an inexperienced and vulnerable hockey team.

Within the last 12 or so months, drastic change has breed drastic results. Both newly appointed general manager Peter Chiarelli and head coach Todd McLellan have shot adrenaline directly into Edmonton’s veins.

Does it help being able to draft Connor McDavid in your first offseason? Of course it does. That being said, you also need to create a team that will coexist with that player.

In order to enjoy success on a regular basis, it’s finally time for Edmonton to grow up. I don’t mean that in the sense like a parent wagging their finger in your face after doing something you knew you shouldn’t have done, I mean it strictly in a professional manor. For years people around hockey have been predicting how bright Edmonton’s future is going to be. That was nearly seven years ago, so when does the future officially begin?

Well folks, you’re seeing it now. Typically, teams within the playoff race after U.S. Thanksgiving remain there. Leaving those just a few points outside to battle it out for the spots that remain up for grabs.

For the first time in a long time, the Edmonton Oilers are a playoff team after Thanksgiving. If history is any indicator, you will see them compete for Lord Stanley’s hardware.

No need to pinch yourself either, you aren’t dreaming.