To be a goaltender in the National Hockey League is tough.

One must have not only the physical abilities, quickness, lateral movement, reflexes, conditioning to withstand playing upwards of 70-games a season, but also the mental capacity to withstand playing the only position in hockey that is individual. When a team wins it’s a team win, most of the time, but when a team loses it’s the goaltenders fault.

The worst part of a goaltenders job is the traffic he has to battle through to make saves. How would you like it if you had someone like Detroit’s Tomas Holmstrom parking his backend in your face, and you had to fight through that to make a save? How about Dustin Byfuglien?

There is no doubt that goaltenders have the toughest job in hockey. However, I have a problem with them.

Goaltenders expect to be protected to the max, they’re like quarterbacks in football, lay of finger on them and expect to get a penalty. Yet, goaltenders stand in their crease and hack at the players standing in front of the net.

Steve Downie was hacked in the back of the legs by Penguins goalie, Marc-Andre Fleury in a game earlier this month. Downie responded by turning around and giving Fleury a cross-check. Downie was then given a shot by a Penguins defenceman for touching the goalie. If that had been a defencman who had originally slashed Downie there wouldn’t have been a problem, the two might have dropped the gloves and settled their differences, but since a goalie slashed him, Downie is seen as a bad guy for retaliating. Why though? Fleury should be seen like every other player on the ice is. If he doesn’t want to be touched then don’t slash the player, who wasn’t in the crease, in the back of the legs. Downie had every right to turn around and give Fleury a little shot back.

Another example of this is from last seasons Stanley Cup Final, when Tim Thomas body checked Daniel Sedin. Thomas was credited with making a smart play, but if Sedin can’t hit him, why should Thomas be allowed to contact and hit Sedin.

Another problem I have with goaltenders is how much they complain about getting bumped when they come outside their crease.

Now, I’m not talking about what Milan Lucic did to Ryan Miller, that play should’ve resulted in a suspension for Lucic. What I’m talking about is when a goalie comes out to challenge a shot, but comes a foot-and-a-half outside his crease to do it. A player has every right to screen the goalie, as long as he isn’t in the crease, and has just as much right to that ice as a goalie does. Why does the goaltender automatically get the right to that ice if he comes out to challenge the shot. If the player is already standing there screening, why should he be given a penalty for goalie interference, if the goaltender makes contact with him.

Finally, the last, and biggest problem I have with goaltenders is how much they flop, and how they are credited for being crafty and smart for drawing penalties when they flop.

A prime example of this happened this past weekend in the Penguins Senators game. Senators goalie Ben Bishop maybe had his skate brushed be Matt Cooke’s skate, and I mean the steel might have just barely brushed, but Cooke received a penalty.

Now, on that play, Cooke probably got a penalty for being Matt Cooke, even though he’s cleaned up his act considerably this season, only 34 PIMS this season, but he received a penalty for the most part because of the acting job Bishop did.

Bishop went down like he had just be shot, arms flying, head snapping back, and when a goaltender who is 6′ 7″ falls down like he’s been shot, a referee is going to notice that.

That is the part that bothers me the most, Bishop was applauded by the CBC’s Greg Millen as being clever for drawing the penalty on the play. Millen is a former NHL goalie, by the way.

Why should Bishop be applauded though. If he had been someone like Max Lapierre, or Alex Burrows, of the Vancouver Canucks, who flopped they would’ve been roasted by all forms of media, but because a goalie did it to draw a penalty, it’s a smart play. I just don’t understand.

In my opinion, the worst offender in the goalie profession is Tampa’s Dwayne Roloson. He complains the most and flops the most, yet is rarely called out on it, but rather applauded for being a crafty veteran for his ability to draw a penalty.

The NHL needs to start giving these goalies diving penalties for flopping all over the ice, and the referees need to talk with the goalies and tell them to lay off the hacking and stick work with guys standing in front of their net, and if they don’t, then maybe the goalies can come to expect a few more hacks and slashes on their gloves after the whistle go uncalled.

Road trips are sort of like rights of passages for guys, and road trips that involve sports are even that much more better. There is

Crossing the B.C./Alberta boarder, near Jasper on Thursday, February 23.

nothing like getting together with a couple of good buddies, getting in a car, driving a long way just to watch a sporting event.

Recently, I went on a road trip with two good friends from high school to Edmonton and Calgary to catch the Philadelphia Flyers play the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames. We had been planning this trip for a couple of months, so the there was a lot of build up to the trip. I would’ve blogged about it during the actual trip itself, but I wanted my posts to be more than just a place to complain about having a hangover.

Firstly, the three of us went on this road trip because my one friend, Jordan, is a die-hard Philadelphia Flyers fan, and since the Flyers didn’t come to Vancouver this season, this seemed like more than a good enough reason to hit the road.

Jordan and I left on Wednesday afternoon to drive up to Kelowna to pick up our other friend, Bryan. I didn’t know quite what to expect on the drive, my parents were adamant that the Coquihalla highway was going to be quite treacherous, and that we were making this drive at our own peril. Parents can be so over-dramatic, right? Anyways, the roads heading up to Kelowna were quite good.

After staying the right in Kelowna on Wednesday, we were up before the crack of dawn, 5 a.m. to make the 12 hour drive from Kelowna to Edmonton.

Now, anyone who has gone on a road trip before knows that the drive is all part of the fun of the trip. The drive to Edmonton and was no different. Between chirping all the bad drivers on the road, to the gas station attendant in Avola, B.C., who told us the Scott Hartnell’s parents and Joffery Lupel’s parents had stopped in Avola once, to the beautiful Rockies driving through Jasper, to the pure agony that was the drive from Jasper National Park to Edmonton, (it’s flatter than you even expect it to be,) to Jordan getting so rattled because the traffic lights in Edmonton were hanging horizontal instead of vertical like they do it B.C., and almost rear-ending a truck coming off the highway right before Edmonton, it was an eventful drive to Alberta to say to least.

A road trip tip: it is always useful and helpful to have someone you know in the place you are planning to travel to. For us, that was my sister. My sister attends the University of Alberta in Edmonton, and she bravely let three 21-year-old guys crash at the house she leases with her roommates, for a couple of days. Luckily for her she was on reading break, so we wouldn’t bother her too much by staying out late.

We got to place in Edmonton around 6 p.m., which gave us just enough time to get some dinner, and have some beers before puck drop.

We got to Rexall Place and found our seats a couple minutes after puck drop. A couple things about Rexall.

The actual arena is a hole. It is old, out-dated and a terrible arena. It reminded me of the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver. However, the history of that building is incredible, it was the building that the Gretzky played in and those Oilers teams dominated the NHL in the ’80’s in. As well, the sight lines are amazing, and the building is electric. Like the MTS Centre is Winnipeg, Rexall Place is steep, so as a fan you’re right on top of the players, and this leads to a loud building. The game was on a Thursday night and the atmosphere and energy in the building was better than some Canucks games that are on Saturday night. This might’ve had something to do with the fact that the Flyers were in town, but never the less, it was an amazing atmosphere. Fans were constantly chanting “let’s go Oilers” and the the Flyers fans in the building, and there were a lot of them, would chant back “let’s go Flyers”, there was a constant buzz and the building erupted when the Oilers scored.

A note for Canuck fans who complain about beer prices at Rogers Arena: the price for a beer at Rexall Place was $8.50 too.

Unfortunately for Jordan, the Flyers lost, and they were shut out in the process 2-0, but for Bryan and I we got to see two of the three young guns for Edmonton, Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle score, and I love Jordan Eberle, so that was a plus. The game featured a good fight between Jody Shelley and Darcy Hordichuk and enough scoring chances to make the game exciting.

After the game we heading back to my sister’s place, she lives two blocks away from Whyte Ave in Edmonton, which is the prime party place, and headed out the drink for the night.

The thing I don’t understand about Edmonton, the hockey rink is a 20 minute drive, or 20 minute LRT, Edmonton’s version of the sky train, ride away from the party block. I just don’t understand why.

Anyways, after the game we headed over to Whyte Ave, to a place called the Black Dog. The Black Dog was an interesting place, but the thing I liked the most about this place was that they had Steam Whistle, a great beer, on tap, with many other beers on tap, and double high-balls were only $4.75. The bar was great, and you didn’t have to spend a ridiculous amount of money to drink. Another good thing, last call was at 3 a.m., on a Thursday. Last call at the Delta Lion on a Thursday night is 12:30 a.m, so needless to say we drank a lot. The only problem with bars in Edmonton, which we found out isn’t exclusive to just the Black Dog, is that because most of the buildings are tall and narrow, you have to walk down steep stairs to go to the washroom. This becomes more, and more, of a problem the longer you drink.

After last call, we walked back to my sister’s place, dressed like we would be for a night out in Vancouver, even though it was Edmonton in February and crashed, ending our first night on the road trip.

Image courtesy of The Province

The Vancouver Canucks made the biggest splash on trade deadline day this year, trading Cody Hodgson and Alex Sulzer for Marc-Andre Gragnani and Zack Kassian.

It was a move that shocked many Canuck fans, and sent fans into a frenzy. This trade was probably the most unpopular trade in Canucks history since Trevor Linden was sent packing by the Canucks in the late 90’s, an era of hockey that most Canuck fans would like to forget.

It’s easy to understand why Canuck fans disliked this trade so much. Cody Hodgson was the Canucks first round draft pick the year after the team drafted Patrick White in the first round, he was a stand out on Team Canada at the World Junior tournament, scoring 16 points in six games, and nearly made the team as an 18-year-old. He also 16 goals and and 33 points this season, giving the Canucks production from the third line.

The Canucks gave up a good, young player in this trade, but I still think they made a good trade.

In Zack Kassian, the Canucks are getting a big, powerful winger, a former first-round draft pick, 13th overall, who can skate and throw his body around, and contrary to many peoples thoughts, he actually has some touch in the offensive zone. The Canucks haven’t traded for some meat head enforcer like some fans believe, although Kassian can drop the gloves if he has to. According to hockeyfights.com, Kassian, has three fights this season, one in the AHL and one in the NHL.

Kassian, who is a year younger than Cody Hodgson, is having a better season than Hodgson did at the same time in his young career. The stats don’t lie.

As a 20/21-year-old this season, Kassian, has played 30 games in the American Hockey League, and at the time of the trade 27 games in the NHL. Cody Hodgson played 52 games in the AHL and eight in the NHL when he was a 20/21-year-old. For the sake of fair comparison, let’s compare their AHL stats.

Both Hodgson and Kassian were top prospects in their organizations, so it would be safe to assume both got their fair share of ice time in the minors.

Kassian’s stat line in the AHL this season read like this:

30GP 15G 11A 26Pts 31PIMS +4

Hodgson’s stat line in the AHL at the same age read like this:

52GP 17G 13A 30Pts 14PIMS -12

Kassian has played in 22 less games, in the AHL, but he has scored only two less goals, scored four less points and has a better plus/minus and more penalty minutes. Kassian has also played in 27 games in the NHL at the time of the trade, compared to eight for Hodgson at the same age.

All I’m saying is give this trade time, Hodgson may have been having a breakout season this year, but he wasn’t exactly playing against the cream of the crop defencemen, not while on the same team that has the Sedin twins on one line and Ryan Kesler on the other.

This trade could end up being the Markus Naslund for Alex Stojanov, where the Canucks give up the skilled forward, for the power forward, or it could end up being the Cam Neely trade, where the Sabres give up on a young, power forward too early.

There is risk in this trade, but there is risk in every trade, and only time will tell how this trade works out for both teams. In the end the Canucks gave up a good, young player, for another. They gave up a piece player in a run to the Stanley Cup for another player that will be a piece in a run to the Stanley Cup.

Why do Vancouver Canuck fans hate Dave Bolland? Well, that isn’t a hard question to answer at all.

As a fan base, us Canuck fans hate Dave Bolland because he is a rat. Yes, a rat, who seems to believe deep down, that picking on the Sedin twins, Daniel and Henrik, is fun.

Earlier this season, Bolland, the Chicago Blackhawks third-line center, went on a Chicago radio station and called the Sedin twins sisters. Really? Sisters? First of all, that particular chirp was coined by Canuck fans and has long since been retired. In fact, Mr. Bolland, it was retired by Canuck fans right around when the Sedin’s started to produce at a point-per-game pace, win Art Ross Trophies, win a Hart Trophy and win the Ted Lindsay award, as most valuable player in the league, as voted by the players. Canuck fans have long since come to the realization, save for a few boneheads, how lucky we are, to be able to witness the Sedin mastery with the puck night-in and night-out.

But Bolland didn’t stop at just calling the Sedin’s the sisters. He took it a step further, telling the hosts of the radio show that the Blackhawks wouldn’t let the Sedins on the team. Again, really? Really? Is Dave Bolland really telling us that if they could, the Chicago Blackhawks would turn down the opportunity to have the past two Art Ross Trophy winners play for them. I hate to disagree, but I think players such as, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa would kill for the opportunity to have those two play for the Hawks. Maybe Bolland wouldn’t want Sedins on the Hawks because then he’d probably be out of a job.

That in a nutshell, is why Canuck fans hate Dave Bolland. He is a classic needler and rat. The original rat Ken Linesman would be proud of Bolland’s work. Bolland tries to verbally bully two of the best and classiest players in the NHL. And he’s just another in a long line of people who try and label the Sedins as soft players.

Yet, there is a secret, more evil reason why Canucks fans hate Dave Bolland. A reason that every Canuck fan loathes and deep down knows is true.

Dave Bolland is hated by Canuck fans because he is good at his job, shutting the Sedins down.

I hate admitting that, as much as, the next Canuck fan does, but it’s true. Go back and examine the last three playoff series these teams have played against each other.

Over the last three postseasons the Canucks and Hawks have played 19 games.

In those 19 games, Daniel Sedin, has 8 goals, 8 assists for 16 points in those games. Henrik Sedin has 5 goals, 11 assists for 16 points in 19 games. The Sedin’s have averaged 0.84 points-per-game in 19 games against the Hawks in the last three playoff series.

The Blackhawks are 11-8 in those games, winning two series to the Canucks one. A pretty even match up.

But remember, Bolland didn’t play in the first three games of last season’s first round series.

So, take out the three games Bolland didn’t play in, and in the 16 playoff games that Bolland has played against Daniel and Henrik the stats are:

Daniel Sedin: 5 goals, 6 assists for 11 points

Henrik Sedin: 5 goals, 7 assists for 12 points

Not bad statistics, but consider that Bolland has never been a minus player over a series he’s played against Vancouver.

Bolland’s plus-minus stats:

2011: +6

2010: +2

2009: +3

Total: +11

Bolland is +11 playing against Vancouver’s two best players, and his team has gone 11-5 with him in the lineup. The last three years in the playoffs, they haven’t beaten the Canucks without Bolland. With Dave Bolland in the lineup the Hawks have a winning percentage of 0.6875. They win against the Canucks in the playoffs 70 per cent of the time when Bolland plays, and Vancouver nearly blew a 3-0 series lead last year, after Bolland returned after injury.

If the Canucks had won all three series, then Dave Bolland would barely register on Canuck fans radars.

But his team wins, and he’s effective as a player.

And that is why Canuck fans hate Dave Bolland.

 

The National Hockey League held it’s annual all-star festivities over this past weekend in Ottawa with Team Alfredsson winning the skills competition and Team Chara winning the game 12-9. While the fans were able to witness the amazing skills of this year’s stars, Zdeno Chara’s 108.8 miles-per-hour blast in the hardest shot competition anyone, there can’t be any denying that as usual there was something missing from the festivities.

Of course I’m talking about the complete lack of defence, competitiveness and resemblance to an actual NHL game. Although this is to be expected, teams and the players themselves don’t want to see anyone participating get hurt, to market this game as an exhibition of the best of the best the NHL can offer is a sham.

First off, let me point out that I do enjoy the concept of the all-star weekend. The players, for the most part, let their guards down when it comes to the media, and are very candid and open when speaking to the media. I mean when else are hockey fans watching a game at home going to get the opportunity to have players, Scott Hartnell, Joffery Lupel and Daniel Alfredsson, to name a few, mic’d up and speaking with announcers during the game. And although the skills competition can run a bit long, who doesn’t want to see Shea Weber and Chara tee up their booming shots. All-star weekend gives the fans the chance to get up-close and personal with the players, and that is something that the league does great. As well, the all-star game is a fantastic way for the older players, such as Gordie Howe in 1980, playing for Hartford as a 52-year-old, returning to Detroit as an all-star, to have a last memorable moment in their NHL careers.

My problem with the entire weekend lies with the game itself.

The all-star game is glorified shinny and unbearable to watch. I mean at what point do the goaltenders say to themselves, “screw this, let these guys play six-on-six.” The number of times I heard the goal horn on Sunday is enough to make me cringe, whenever I watch a Ottawa Senators home game now. The NHL needs to come up with creative ideas to make the game itself a little more appealing, and frankly, watchable.

Here are a few examples of changes that might spice the game up.

Firstly, play the game for a charitable cause. In the early days of the NHL, a number of benefit and memorial games were played in honour of players. Perhaps the most memorable of these games was the Ace Bailey Benefit Game, played on February 14, 1934, to help raise money for Toronto Maple Leafs player Ace Bailey after he was felled by a vicious check by Boston Bruin defenseman Eddie Shore. Bailey, who was nearly killed by the hit, would never play hockey again, but the game raised $20,909.40 for Bailey and his family.

The NHL could easily do something like this for it’s all-star game. Although this tweak wouldn’t make the game anymore interesting, it would be a feel good story in sports and give the NHL some very good publicity. The NHL, for example, could have given the profits made from ticket sales to the family of Jack Jablonski, a 16-year-old hockey player from Minnesota, who suffered spinal cord injuries, and is now paralyzed, after he was body checked into the boards.

Secondly, the NHL could hold the all-star game outdoors. The Winter Classic has been a very successful endeavour for the league, and the NHL could reward it’s all-stars by giving them the opportunity to play outdoors, just like they used to when they were kids. The problem with this idea is that it eliminates nearly two-thirds of the leagues teams from hosting an all-star game, but it would give the game a new sense of flair.

Thirdly, host the game in a small town. CBC has their annual Kraft Hockeyville, where a town in Canada receives upgrades to their rink and they get to host an NHL preseason game. This would be another chance for the NHL to expand the game into the smaller towns that don’t have the benefit of seeing NHL action live very often. This idea could add hype to the game itself, as a contest could be run to see what town would get to host the game.

Finally, play the game four-on-four. It’s unlikely that the game will ever resemble a regular season NHL game, so why not create more space for these ridiculously talented athletes to do what they do best, and that is wow us with their skills.