Showing posts with label Rap Around. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Rap Around. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Broad Street Bullies Come To Fenway

Anaheim Calling

DANIEL:
Welcome to the Rap Around, where we take a look at headlines around the league.

The important details of the 2010 Winter Classic were officially revealed by the NHL today: the Boston Bruins will host the Philadelphia Flyers at Fenway Park in the annual New Year's Day game.

According to a report by the Trentonian last month, the league had originally envisioned the Capitals as Boston's opponent, but those plans were overruled by NBC, who insisted on the Flyers in order to draw better ratings.

Arthur, what do you think of this matchup and venue, and was NBC right to overrule the NHL, here?

ARTHUR:
The Broad Street Bullies and the Big Bad Bruins. And at Fenway, no less.

Let me set the scene. The snow is falling on Yawkey Way. The crowd is roaring. And in shallow center field, Milan Lucic is pummeling Daniel Carcillo.

Now, I've enjoyed the last two Winter Classics. And I understand that pond hockey is supposed to be nothing but offense (like last year's game) and skating (like the year before that). But when I watched those games, I felt something was missing. And I kept asking, if you're going to play in an NHL rink, why not play an NHL game?

I want to see some physical intimidation out there. Philly offers that-- though this Bruins team isn't exactly going to back down. Yes, they're not the Big Bads and the Bullies any more, but the crests are the same. And if last year's Classic harkened back to the Original Six matchups of the 30s, then this year takes you back to the late 60s, when these were the most violent teams in hockey.

I can't say enough about the venue. I've been to Boston and Fenway in the winter; the city and park are breathtaking under a layer of snow. This was the only way the NHL could step up their game after Wrigley. And I have to applaud them for rewarding another Original Six franchise that's gotten its groove back. When hockey flourishes in the major markets, it flourishes everywhere.

I also have to applaud NBC. They did the right thing for both parties, here. The Winter Classic has to establish high ratings (and thus, high advertising rates) for a few years before Bettman can start using the game as a highlight reel for his superstars. It beat out college football this year, but one bad matchup could scare the advertisers away next year.

DANIEL:
Let me start by saying that Pronger will rub someone's face into fresh snow. That thought excites me a little. Boston and Philadelphia have the forwards to keep fast skating and impressive offense a staple of the outdoor classic, but now Philly's nasty streak means chippy and, dare I say, playoff caliber hockey.

I'm not from Boston, I don't root for any team from Boston and I think Red Sox fans are a special kind of annoying. Having said that, Fenway is still one of the largest gems in the crown of sporting venues, and I can't wait to see what it looks like with a hockey rink in the middle of it.

Finally, I don't think the NHL should have folded on this one. Despite the fact that Boston and Philadelphia will be an awesome game, I think the league needs a show of force. The NHL is picking up popularity and isn't as bereft of muscle in television negotiations as it was a few years ago. Bettman needs to put on his big kid pants and stop letting NBC have its way. If he doesn't, rumors might start, and he may have to call David Stern for advice on what to do when fans think NBC crowned one of your champions.

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Monday, May 11, 2009

Rap Around: Walker Escapes Suspension



ARTHUR:
Anaheim calling to the hockey world...

Welcome to the Rap Around, where we take a look at headlines around the league.

Boston was up 4-0 with around 3 minutes left in the 3rd last night, when defenseman Aaron Ward got into a shoving match with Matt Cullen in front of the Bruins net. The puck was along the boards about 20 feet away at the time. At the tail end of the altercation, as Cullen was falling to the ground, Carolina's Scott Walker intervened. He immediately ditched his gloves and stick, grabbed a hold of Ward (still wearing his gloves and holding his stick in his left hand) and unleashed a right cross that instantly crumpled Ward to the ground.

For his actions, Walker received an Instigator, a 5-minute Major for Fighting, a Game Misconduct and a $2500 fine, but his automatic suspension under Rule 47.22 was rescinded. Many anti-fighting stalwarts are pointing to the incident and subsequent lack of discipline as a downside of the NHL's love affair with fighting. Daniel, you and I have recently argued for the status quo of Fighting in the NHL. So, let me ask you: was this a sucker punch, should Walker have been suspended and is this proof of the danger posed to hockey players if fighting is not outlawed or controlled?

DANIEL:
I don't think this is necessarily a reason to outlaw or control fighting more than it already is. This type of action is not uncommon and happens every year. Inevitably, someone is going to take too many liberties with a scorer, and an enforcer on the opposing team is going to step in. Was this a sucker punch? Yes. Was it unnecessary? Not at all. If someone is going to get rough with one of the skill players, which Cullen is as we both remember, then something needs to be done to send a message that it is not ok. If anything, this is more evidence about how effective the self-policing policy is.

There's no need to suspend a player for a play that is no different from what happens around the net, only he didn't have a glove on. Hockey players are tough, and one punch isn't going to take someone out. If there was an injury, then maybe a suspension discussion needs to take place. But Walker got a match penalty, the $2500 fine and I'm sure the refs and the Bruins are going to keep an eye on him. If anything, the media paying too much attention to minor incidents like this gives hockey its violent reputation. I'm not trying to deny that people get hurt playing this game, or even that fighting can lead to injuries. I'm simply arguing that the violence that does happen in hockey is a part of the game and part of its ability to separate itself from the other major sports in this North America. But, that doesn't mean that it is the only thing that makes hockey exciting. It's time for the media to stop defining hockey by the violence that happens. I bet if I checked to see how many career ending injuries happen in football compared to hockey, football would be the victor. It's time for us to stop getting bent out of shape every time a punch is thrown. Fighting is a defining characteristic of hockey, but it is not THE defining characteristic of hockey. Maybe if the media kept that in mind, we could talk about what actually makes hockey exciting, like great saves, odd man rushes and Ovechkin's crazy wrist shot, instead of the few fights that we enjoy as a tool of momentum.

ARTHUR:
I'm going to agree that it was a sucker punch, but disagree that a suspension wasn't warranted. I absolutely think Walker should have been suspended.

Yes, Ward was taking liberties with Cullen here, but there are a finite number of situations where you can start pummeling a guy who has his gloves on AND his stick in his hand. This was a normal shoving match. Ward didn't board Cullen, spear him, elbow him or draw blood of any kind. If Walker wants to get involved in that fray, then escalate things, but don't ramp them up to 11 without warning.

Some Ducks fans may disagree with me here, as I'm sure they think they've seen this before. Didn't Chris Kunitz beat the crap out of a fetal Zidlicky not too long ago, and didn't Travis Moen jump a number of players in his time in a Ducks sweater? With Zidlicky, he dropped his stick. Roughing can still be called when you drop your stick or feign dropping your stick to goad the other player into starting a fight. Referees watch for that, and even though Zidlicky covered up and didn't throw a punch, the referees determined he was accepting the challenge when he dropped his stick. And if you watch the video, Kunitz is just shoving until he sees the stick drop. Then he starts throwing uppercuts like Tommy Hearns. As for Moen, yeah, he jumped guys, but he never opened with a haymaker. You facewash a guy, you grab his jersey and talk to him: an amuse bouche of violence, if you will. You never open with the entree.

The problem with the way Fighting is perceived by the mainstream media is that everyone assumes it's like this, and that there are no rules. Everyone who doesn't watch hockey assumes that every fight is like the Todd Bertuzzi punch on Steve Moore. They don't realize that there's a code, and that things like the Todd Bertuzzi punch happen when teams aren't following the code. That leads to frustration and mindless attacks. And I think mindless attacks should be reserved as checks to counter other mindless attacks. If Ward spears Cullen, open season. But if they're just shoving each other, it behooves you to shove him a little more and find out what his intentions are with your forward.

Walker says he heard the appropriate words to believe he was involved in an altercation, but I don't buy that. It happened too fast in a league where players still slash a leg, talk it out and then circle each other like samurai. Walker needed to issue a formal challenge, or at least get a few shoves in there before he punched him. The NHL should've suspended him because no professional hockey player should be throwing a haymaker like that when the other player still has his gloves on and a firm grasp on his stick. It's dangerous for the game, and it's dangerous for Walker, who is probably looking at Retaliation City in this series. And another thing: how is this not message sending? Losing 4-0, a guy steps into a shoving match with a right cross? He's so eager to start a fight, he's going to take a shot at a guy, who didn't agree to drop the gloves, and that's not message sending?

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Rap Around: March 25th, 2009

ARTHUR:
This is the Rap Around for March 25th, 2009. Daniel and I will run down hockey headlines from the week with answers limited to one paragraph. Let's get started.

Alexander Ovechkin's "hot stick" goal celebration for his 50th of the season-- more, less or just as outrageous as Selanne's "skeet-shooting" celebration with the Jets?

DANIEL:
Ovechkin's celebration was a little over the top. I enjoy big celebrations, but this one was just too far. I felt like I was watching a football game. I don't have a problem with good celebrating, I'm just saying I'm looking for more creativity from one of the premiere goal scorers in the NHL.

Everyone seems to be making a big deal about whether the Sharks or the Wings will walk away with the Presidents' trophy, so who takes the Presidents' and does it mean anything?

ARTHUR:
They both have easy remaining schedules, but a lot of those games are against division rivals. The Sharks were struggling, but they've seemed to regain their scoring touch. Still, I have to give the trophy to Detroit, who's up by 1 point and will only be on the road TWICE for the rest of the season. Presidents' Trophy doesn't really forecast anything. Cup success depends on how deep the team is, and who the 8th seed is that year.

Brad Richards came back from a hand injury just in time to injure his other hand, are the Stars out of the playoffs?

DANIEL:
The Stars aren't done yet, but if they don't scare up some wins quick, they will be. Modano is done and Morrison is not the scoring answer they are looking for. I don't think they have the offense to get it done, but if Turco can steal some games and they hang around for another week, they're going to be a problem down the stretch, they're just too feisty to roll over and die. Of course that doesn't mean they won't choke.

Positions 7-12 in the Western Conference are only separated by 5 points with about 10 games left. Since we are clearly biased Ducks fans, and greatly concerned with magumbo, I will only ask this, if not us then who makes it in?

ARTHUR:
If the Ducks are out (huk huk), then on strength of schedule I have to say the Predators and Wild are out, too. The Wild are at home, but they don't get to play the Coyotes or Avalanche at all, so no free points. 7 and 8 on my Ducks-free bracket would be the Stars and Edmonton, respectively; I just don't think the Blues will have what it takes to close the gap with Edmonton.

Best Deadline Duck so far? Christensen, Nokelainen, Whitney or Wisniewski?

DANIEL:
I call toss up, Nokelainen is great in the circle and has been a really solid force with Robbie on that line, and he's got two goals both of which came in wins, and the one against Nashville would have been a game winner if we didn't cough up the late lead. Whitney is so solid, he eats minutes and gives us an opportunity to have our second powerplay unit be a first unit on some other teams in the league. Right now I say Whitney only because he's locked up for the next few years and will give us more leverage in the offseason with Pronger and Niedermayer.

What move, or prospect that will come up, do you think will help propel us back into competition in the Pacific and keep us from having this dogfight for a playoff spot in 2010?

ARTHUR:
I think we called up a lot of the guys we might see next year. If we re-sign Beauchemin, you'll still likely see Mikk or Fest out there before you see Salcido or Bickel or even Mitera. Of course, Niedermayer's destiny will determine Pronger's and may shake up the pairings, if not the whole team. I think Murray will re-sign Todd and/or Rob, maybe trade Pronger, and then window shop in the free agent market. But with the cap likely going down the year after next, I expect to see a lot of one-year deals, which may have us back in the dogfight as early as 2011.
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