Thursday, May 14, 2009

Exciting Hockey Doesn't Win Championships

So 2 of the greatest Playoff Series I have ever had the pleasure to watch have ended, and in general disappointment for me. I was hoping for Vancouver and Washington to win out.

On last night's Penguins blowout of the Washington Capitals; its a sad and embarrassing way to go out, but not entirely unexpected. These teams have been hammering each other for over a week -- and one was bound to crack once the end was in sight. In the end, the Penguins played a better team game (as they did all series). With Gonchar back, it steadied their blue line, and prevented the lethal Caps offense from getting the turnovers and rushes they have always punished on. Even early in the game the Pens were playing 5 men back -- but their positioning and structure was sound, and enabled them to break out against a flailing opponent. The 2nd and 3rd goals sucked the lifeblood out of the Caps, and they suddenly looked like an old-timers hockey team.

The Canucks and Hawks was another amazing series; violent and lethal, toe-to-toe and face to face. In this case I think the Canucks were the better coached team, (as far as structure goes) but there was a failure to protect the lead (I say that like its easy). A commitment problem perhaps, but I am no Canucks expert.

So the Penguins, a well disciplined and very talented team, will face either Boston or Carolina - both with strong team play. And the Blackhawks will either play Detroit (the definition of strong team play and loads of talent) or Anaheim, who have a stiffling defensive system and a punishing offense (and a hot rookie goltender). I would be very surprised to see the Hawks move on; leaving us with teams with lots of "systems" -- in short, bye-bye wide open exciting wild hockey.

The exciting teams managed to win some playoff series against "better coached" teams, like New Jersey and arguably the Rangers, but it takes such a high energy level that sustaining it through the entire run is near impossible.

So, my point (finally) -- you can't win a championship with wide open, high energy, consistantly violent hockey. And I would prefer to have my team play that way and die in the 2nd or 3rd round than win the Cup. I would much rather have my Montreal Canadiens play like any of these 2nd round teams, even the 'losers', than watch a New Jersey style win.

San Jose lost in the first round -- what a disappointment! And Washington almost blew it. So there is certainly a possibility that an exciting team won't even get out of the first round... But the way I look at it, winning the Cup these days is to unpredictable anyhow. Carolina is still a serious contender -- but if you look at that roster, and Staal's year, would you really have picked them? Either Detroit wins, or the South East Division champs. Who cares? Perhaps it has become like the NFL -- year to year, its anybody's game. Which is great for expanding the game and growing new markets, but terrible news for old franchises looking to return to glory. Detroit and now Chicago had to pay a terrible price to get where they are now.

So nevermind the outcome. It would be great to win, but lightning really has to strike. Instead, show me some awesome, exciting hockey! Make my team fun to watch, dangerous even when losing, prepared to sacrifice... That's what I want to see!!

Of course as soon as I get that I'll demand a championship. Who the hell am I kidding? But let's take this step first...

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