(...so much for my finals preview...)
Still on self-imposed writing hiatus from here and SportsGrumblings - the last two months have been crazy and I need to cut back for a short while - I also have a need to simply be a fan and not analyze everything, and just enjoy the Finals. Find analysis here or here. I'll chime back in more often at the end of the season, just when the draft and free-agent frenzy are picking up.
Hoping for at least six games from this series, last night was a decent-enough start.
29 May 2007
(...so much for my finals preview...)
24 May 2007
Taking a much-needed break this week - I'll be on board for the finals starting on Monday night, and I'll have a quick preview up by that afternoon. NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie might get his NHL team after all. The co-CEO of Waterloo, Ont.-based Blackberry makers Research in Motion Ltd., has reached a tentative agreement to buy the Nashville Predators, a source close the negotiations confirmed to the Canadian Press on Wednesday. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The deal would have to be investigated and approved by the NHL's board of governors before it became official.
I'm glad I stuck with game 6 the other night, as the last 10 minutes were riveting to see whether Detroit could pull out that last tying goal.
Potentially the biggest news today though is that Research In Motion's Jim Balsillie has reached an agreement to purchase the Nashville Predators:
Despite the inevitable protests from the offices of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Buffalo Sabres, the Niagara Frontier is very likely to have a new team within a year or two and that should be an absolutely fantastic thing for hockey and the NHL. I only hope the league finds a way to put the team into the Northeast Division, making the Leafs/Sabres/? (St. Pats? Fincups? Blackberries? - no I'm kidding, please no.) develop a fantastic 3-team regional rivalry.
with thanks to James Mirtle, RIM recently (and quietly) made a land purchase in Cambridge, about an hour west of Toronto via the 401.
here's some excellent perspective from Stephen Brunt at the Globe and Mail.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie might get his NHL team after all.
The co-CEO of Waterloo, Ont.-based Blackberry makers Research in Motion Ltd., has reached a tentative agreement to buy the Nashville Predators, a source close the negotiations confirmed to the Canadian Press on Wednesday. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The deal would have to be investigated and approved by the NHL's board of governors before it became official.
21 May 2007
I didn't have time (ok, or the will) to post this weekend. A tight series of weird games marked by peaks of end-to-end action separated by long stretches of inconsistent hockey. By both teams.
For a cheap and easy review...Ottawa's best outplayed Buffalo's best, and Ray Emery was rarely tested. Depending on your point-of-view, that could either be offensive ineptitude on Buffalo's part or a fantastic defensive scheme on Ottawa's part. I'm tending to steer more towards Ottawa's play with a side-dash of Buffalo playing tight.
It is easy to point out that Ottawa's best players were better than Buffalo's best players. The Sens' Pizza Line ("they deliver") of Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza, and Dany Heatley were markedly more effective than Daniel Briere, Chris Drury, and Thomas Vanek, not to mention Jason Pominville (despite meager offensive contributions, he did perform solid work in his own zone defensively) and Maxim Afinogenov.
As for flaws in Buffalo's game, the power-play is the obvious first answer as well as the correct one. Enough has been written about just how putrid it was, and not much effort would need to be made to argue that even an average man advantage unit in this series could have reversed the outcome. Although this was primarily Buffalo's problem, as their power-play was sub-par all season long, credit must be given to Ottawa who refused to deviate from their game plan. The Senators were content to let the Sabres (attempt to) set up at the blueline - Buffalo repeatedly tried to make the perfect play yet didn't ever move the puck often or creatively enough to get anything in the way of quality chances.
I'm finding myself a bit spent in terms of hockey and especially analysis. I think I'll be taking this week to relax and actually watch what's left of the Western finals before sitting down to further analyze the Eastern Finals. I'll have a post or two before my inevitable Cup Finals preview here (and at SportsGrumblings.com).
17 May 2007
Just when Buffalo Sabres fans think they're out....they get pulled right back in again.
After a 3-2 victory in a game that most pundits would have expected the Sabres to fully roll over and die after their pitiful game 3 performance, it was Derek Roy getting the stunning first goal of the night nine seconds after the opening drop. The Sabres never trailed, although things certainly changed after they took a 3-0 lead midway through the second period and it looked like they were ready to romp.
Buffalo suddenly and inexplicably fell into their early-series defensive funk by carelessly turning the puck over in their own zone, leading to two quick Ottawa goals which brought the home crowd to life and seemed to suck the tenuous confidence out of the Sabres.
I'll dispense with the game recap, but this was another game that went far beyond the final score. Buffalo started to show some legs in the first half of the game - they weren't perfect, but they were orders of magnitude better than they'd been over the previous ~six periods. What would concern me from a Buffalo point of view, however, is their quick lapse back into the giveaway game followed by uncharacteristically conservative play (at least in terms of their regular season game). Turnovers are an accepted part of Buffalo's game, and have been for two seasons now, but when every game is now magnified (with everything at stake) and they are playing an opponent who is on top of their game, it becomes far more dangerous.
click for full-sized view:
Lindy Ruff clearly recognized how he was going to deal with any tenuous play early on when he decided to shoot his entire "4 rolling lines" game plan to hell - above is the official shift chart for game 4 and the late-game gaps are telling. Dmitri Kalinin had five shifts in the first period and saw the ice once again - with nine minutes were gone in the third. I think many Sabres' fans will be okay with that decision (4:23 total ice time) but how will that play out in game 5 (or beyond)? Is this a one-time thing or has Ruff's faith [in Kalinin] been completely shattered? If so, he'd be better off not dressing Kalinin and calling up Nathan Paetsch. Skating five (or less...see Spacek below...) defencemen in a playoff game isn't advisable for the team's long-term health - especially if they cannot lose another game.
Some other decisions by Ruff were also questionable:
1) Lack of faith in Jaroslav Spacek. I know a lot of fans are on him for his zero points this postseason, but a major reason for that is his limited ice-time. Spacek only got 8:22 last night with 22 seconds combined on special-teams. He played three shafts total after Ottawa's second goal of the night, essentially giving the Sabres four defencemen for the second half of the game - a likely reason for them being pinned in their own zone much of the third. Long term - I would look for this to be an offseason where Buffalo quietly tries to deal Spacek - Ruff's pattern of usage of him over the past few games is telling - this isn't the first time Spacek has seen pine in critical situations.
2) Too much faith in Brian Campbell. Campbell is an exciting player who, when carrying the puck, can make one think of the better offensive defencemen of the past 20 years. Unfortunately when he doesn't commit to a two-way game he can be a defensive liability. Campbell accounted for four of Buffalo's 10 official turnovers last night yet led all Sabres in ice-time by far with just under 30 minutes. I'm not sure what Ruff is trying to emphasize here - if he wants reliability, Campbell might not be your best bet. Is he that much more defensively responsible than Spacek? No chance. There must be an equalization of ice-time or every third period will be completely slanted towards Ryan Miller for the duration of this postseason.
Speaking of Miller - again he was fantastic tonight. I wish I had seen where it was written that Ray Emery was "outplaying" Miller, because that's a joke. Emery - on the rare occasions he's been tested - has been quite shaky (although he deserves credit for a handful of spectacular saves - it's the easy ones he often struggles with). Chris Drury's goal was a poor effort on Emery's part.
Other shift notes: Dainus Zubrus played four minutes and never returned after the three minute mark of the second. He may be hurt. Ales Kotalik was used sparingly as was Max Afinogenov, although Max put in another solid effort. The most sad/frustrating part from a Sabres' fan point-of-view is the continued dog-like play of Thomas Vanek. He is looking like he did last postseason and at this point the team would lose nothing by having him take a view from the Ted Darling Memorial Press Box Saturday afternoon.
So this game shows again how fragile momentum in hockey is, or a lead within a game or series. Pick any critical moment in the previous three games - e.g. game 2: Toni Lydman's crossbar shot goes in...and this series is tied going back to Buffalo. This is something the Sabres have to hold onto - they're still alive and have a chance. Something simple to remember in all the talk that will come of possibly coming back from an 0-3 deficit...it's not 0-3 anymore. "One game at a time" will continue to be the Sabres' mantra, and although the HSBC arena will be deafening on Saturday, the pressure will still be squarely on the Buffalo Sabres. That will most definitely change in the event of a Buffalo win...
A bit of relevant history: In the 1980 semifinals the Wales Trophy champion Buffalo Sabres faced the New York Islanders. The Sabres were favoured as conference champions and having finished 19 points ahead of the Isles. After a long nine-day layoff the Sabres began their series with New York and quickly found themselves down 0-3 but won the next two. They took a lead in game 6 before eventually collapsing and losing 5-2.
So it's back to Buffalo for a Saturday afternoon matinee. Two days off for the teams to regroup, perhaps heal up, and also consider possible lineup changes.
If nothing else....we may now have a series.
15 May 2007
as published at SportsGrumblings.com
Hockey is defined as a sport - an athletic competition with participants in direct opposition to each other. This definition is incomplete, as incomplete as deriving the whys and hows of a game from the what of the simple final score. In hockey, the player is not only battling the opposition, they are battling themselves. No other sport turns as dramatically and drastically on a whim, a seemingly innocuous play, a bounce or whistle. And if "the tide" seems to be sweeping against you, in creeps a tendency to freeze - to overthink. And if you let your mind beat you, you will lose.
This Buffalo-Ottawa series has been a strange one, and one that is not fully told by looking at the final scores. Last week in a series preview I wrote:
…With a skilled and aggressive
Little could I know how right that would be, as an 0-16 powerplay through three games is the single-biggest reason for Buffalo being on the verge of yet another heartbreaking end to a season. Nobody on either side of the fence could have predicted either team being up 3-0 at this point in the series, yet here sits
Game 1: 5-2
Game 2: 4-3
Game 3: 1-0
I defy someone to find a game where a team - at any level of hockey - had so little ability to even approach setting up a simple power play. The Sabres tried dumping the puck in…tried carrying it in…there was no success with either method. Normally reliable players such as Chris Drury played with obvious distress (zero shots on the night). Tim Connolly – whose late-season return many thought would revive a dull
In the end it really must come down to the mental game. The talent is there, in abundance. Even the lowest-of-the-low of the hockey world can set up a power play more than once or twice in nearly 12 minutes of 5-on-4 play. Call it the heavy weight of national expectations, or the burden of a title-starved region who once again will be teased with the promise of ultimate glory - bring out every phantom excuse - some or all may apply.
But unlike last season, this year the Buffalo Sabres don't have an on-ice excuse. They're fully healthy. They're loaded. They had home-ice advantage after ending with the best record in the regular season. What they don't appear to have is confidence, and in the truly dynamic sport of hockey if you lose your confidence - especially to a team every bit as talented as yours - you will have lost everything.
14 May 2007
(note: apologies for the ranting-aspect of this post. I tried to spend all day yesterday flushing all hockey knowledge from my brain and so catching up on ranting emails and websites about the Sabres/Sens series this morning has me back in a bad mood. Oh yeah - Happy Mothers Day!)
Co-captain Daniel Briere has been called out at length this post-season; he's taken some cheap-shots in the media in my opinion. But nobody ever calls out the other captain, "Mr. Clutch" Chris Drury. He has been a non-factor in the first two games against the Senators, but all the Versus broadcast team can bring themselves to do late in the game is declare that this is "his time" or some such nonsense.
Drury is an outstanding and highly valuable player - as a Sabres fan I love having him on the team. Yet he is somehow blessed with getting the Derek Jeter treatment by the media and fans - potentially overstating positive contributions while ignoring failures. When this player has a bad game, and especially in the postseason, instead of focusing on that very fact and perhaps pointing out some specifics instead in late-game situations tired bromides are spewed forth about how every team should be lucky enough to have a player like Drury to lean on in tough times.
Is it so hard to actually critique a good player? How about something simple and obvious - things like...lack of strong forecheck / poor puck pursuit. missed defensive assignments in his own zone. Even an admittedly deceiving stat like shots taken - he only took 3 in four+ periods during game 2 - can at least begin to paint a picture here.
I'm not trying to be anti-Drury. It just galls me to see Briere take a whole host of shit that Drury doesn't get.
game 3 tonight in Ottawa, 7pm EDT. Sabres look to find some semblance of quality special teams play at either end of the rink, or the dream is dead.
11 May 2007
Kind of a strange game last night. The Versus crew kept saying "what a game we have" and yes, it was tight for the first ~57 minutes. But it was not a smooth game, not very well played. From the Buffalo Sabres' point of view, I've never quite seen a frustrating pattern like that - they began to generate offence early with an excellent forecheck, good cycling... their 5-on-5 play was quite dominant at times. Outside of the Heatley-Spezza-Alfie line, Ottawa couldn't generate much of anything.
The Sabres quality work led to them drawing penalties....which cost them the game. Each Buffalo power play sucked all the life out of the team. The Sabres' powerplay actually generated far more chances for Ottawa, leading with the shorthanded goal by Mike Fisher. There could have been more.
Each PP was truly a momentum-killer for Buffalo - how can that be? 5-on-5 for the first ~30-40 minutes the Sabres were in control.
Neither team really brought their best - Ottawa was still relatively weak after their first line (who were fantastic, btw. Dany Heatley owns the Sabres).
Two players who stood out with their poor play for Buffalo:
Thomas Vanek. Merely invisible for the first 2 periods, switched over to awful by the third with some brutal giveaways.
Dmitri Kalinin. Kalinin has been a focal point for Buffalo fans' ire over the past few years - he's a player who when he is on can sometimes justify the faith that Lindy Ruff and Darcy Regier have put in him over the years. Last night was bit of the old "low-confidence" Dmitri. A bad pinch led to Fisher's goal...lazy coverage let Oleg Saprykin get free in the third for the game-winner on a deflection. Other times he just failed to make the right play on a breakout. He was flat-out terrible last night.
Chris Drury had a rough night, and I only bring him up because there has actually been some talk about him being a Conn Smythe candidate which I think is overstating his contributions to date. Obviously as a Buffalo fan I love Drury but he's the type of player that when he scores (and obviously his Friday night goal will become legendary in Western New York) he's the most clutch player in history. When he doesn't score he's "doing all the little things" (which means "we can't quite tell what he's doing out there but he never smiles so he must be working hard"). Last night he didn't really do either - Daniel Briere rightly gets called out when he's not producing (and he should be again for last night's rather dispirited performance), and Drury needs to be held to the same standard.
Overall there were a shocking number of lazy or stupid giveaways last night, and from everyone. The official scoresheet has Buffalo with 19 giveaways - it certainly seemed like more.
In the end - it was one game, and one in which both teams could find many faults. Had the Sabres played better (and had an average power play) they would have won. Had the Senators been able to bring more offence and play well 5-on-5, the game would have been over after two.
Game 2: Saturday night at 8pm EDT.
10 May 2007
The Kitchener Rangers have been awarded as host team for the 2008 Memorial Cup. I'm a little surprised Oshawa didn't get it, with a chance to fully showcase the incomparable John Tavares to the rest of the hockey world - who really knows how that bidding process goes.... Congrats to Kitchener - the Kitchener/Waterloo area is growing and a fun place to hang out - best of luck to the Rangers next season.
In the seemingly never-ending saga of the future home of the Mississauga Ice Dogs franchise, it finally looks as though they'll be moving down the QEW to St. Catharines for next season (although the arena is apparently not up-to-snuff).
09 May 2007
For the first time in the 38 years of the QMJHL (Quebec Major Junior Hockey League) the league champion is from the United States. The Lewiston Maineiacs just finished steamrolling their way through the Q playoffs finishing off the Val d'Or Foreurs in a four-game sweep en route to the Presidents Cup. They lost 1 game in four rounds (16-1).
Defenceman Chad Denny (Atlanta prospect - I'm shocked they didn't deal him at the deadline for John LeClair...) and goaltender Jonathan Bernier (in a few years Kings fans should be treated to an awesome team, and Bernier in the crease will hopefully make them forget about the Dan Cloutier disaster) were fantastic in the 3rd period tonight; Denny looks like a smart, solid defender with a low panic threshold. Bernier looks like a star.
2007 EASTERN CONFERENCE FINAL
#1 Buffalo vs. #4 Ottawa
Thursday, May 10, 7:00 p.m. at Buffalo
Saturday, May 12, 8:00 p.m. at Buffalo
Monday, May 14, 7:00 p.m. at Ottawa
Wednesday, May 16, 7:00 p.m. at Ottawa
* Saturday, May 19, 2:00 p.m. at Buffalo
* Monday, May 21, 7:00 p.m. at Ottawa
* Wednesday, May 23, 7:00 p.m. at Buffalo
If the NHL powers-that-be wanted to cherry-pick two teams to feature the skill and excitement of the post-lockout era, they couldn't have done better than this – the 113 point Buffalo Sabres against the 105 point Ottawa Senators is the marquee match-up that neutral hockey fans have wanted to see all year; featuring the two best teams in the Eastern Conference facing off for the right to play for the Stanley Cup. There's a lot of intrigue and anticipation in advance of this meeting - will the two highest scoring teams in the league deliver an offensive explosion? Will the bad-blood from this season spill over into the playoffs and result in more free-for-alls like we saw from these two back in February? Can
Going by nearly every number possible,
Perhaps most encouraging to the team, and their fans, is that they have no injuries to speak of (in stark contrast to last season). What injuries they may eventually face they now can counter with unprecedented and unmatched depth, most notably standout rookie Drew Stafford who, with the return of spirited forward Paul Gaustad, finds himself in the press box strictly due to the numbers game. If
With all the talk about how explosive
Miller has arrived as a fearsome playoff goaltender who cannot be judged on statistics alone - his penchant for foiling breakaways may be unparalleled in the NHL and despite the eventual emergence of the
There is some sense that the Buffalo Sabres have peaked and are cracking a bit under either the intense physical play of the postseason or some phantom weight of being the favourites. I'm not sure how much stock to put in rather ethereal characteristics but there are a number of concrete concerns for the Sabres. If there has been any knock on
It seems almost inexplicable that a team as powerful as
After losing Zdeno Chara to Boston in the off-season, it was expected by many that the Ottawa defence would take a hit, but after initial growing pains their defensive unit has become – if not well-known – one of the best in the NHL. In particular they’ve been doing an excellent job clogging offensive lanes and blocking opposing shots. Anton Volchenkov led the league in blocked shots during the regular season and is at it again in the playoffs with 39 thus far, with teammate Chris Phillips not far behind with 34. With the Senators' defence stepping up while on the penalty kill, don't be surprised to see a number of quality shorthanded chances for
For all the talk about how well the top line is playing, they still have demonstrated a lack of consistent scoring threats from their other lines. Unless their secondary scorers like Antoine Vermette, Mike Comrie, and Mike Fisher can at the very least put sustained pressure on the
Goaltender Ray Emery has proven many doubters wrong this season, taking the number one job and establishing himself as a quality netminder. However, he has yet to face consistent pressure all year as he is about to against
While distant playoff history is not a quality guide to determine the outcome of this or any series, it must nevertheless be said that the
Random useless but fun playoff facts:
The Sabres have won each of the three playoff meetings between the two clubs, each being a memorable series in its own right. In 1997 the teams went to overtime of game seven before Derek Plante ripped a slapshot off of Ron Tugnutt's glove to win the series. 1999 saw the first-place Senators get swept and the shine first began to fade from Alexei Yashin (zero points after finishing the season tied for second in goals with 44). Last season's tight five-game series featured four one-goal games and ended on Jason Pominville's shorthanded tally in overtime. Buffalo head coach Lindy Ruff has established himself as one of the better playoff coaches in recent memory, taking the Sabres to four trips to the conference finals in his nine years at the helm – add one Stanley Cup victory to that resume and he will rightfully take his place among the better coaches of all-time.
One understated key for
As for who will eventually win this best-of-seven – nobody can predict. The epitome of a toss-up series, the end result may very well turn on a random bounce of the puck or unforeseen circumstance that forces otherwise inexperienced players into action. As touched upon above, Ottawa will win this series if they can establish a constant pressure in the Buffalo zone, leaving Buffalo scrambling to create offense and ending up in the penalty box, where the Senators will pick apart Buffalo. Buffalo will win this series if they quickly and effectively neutralize the Senators' top line and can keep them frustrated - Ottawa won't quite have the quality depth to keep up with all four Buffalo lines if the Sabres can consistently roll them (read: quickly move the puck out of the Buffalo zone and stay out of penalty trouble).
I’ve gone back and forth between thinking each team was going to win this series - no result (other than it only going four or five games) could be seen as unexpected; I would think that if Ottawa can take three of the first five, they will clinch it at home in game six. However in the end, I can’t go with anything other than this series going seven games and if that happens, I give it to the home team.
08 May 2007
A quick look at the Q finals, with the winner going to the Memorial Cup tournament which starts May 18 - hosted this year by the Vancouver Giants:
QMJHL - watch the finals online for free here.
Lewiston Maineiacs vs. Val d'Or Foreurs (Lewiston leads 2-0)
|POS|| ||RKI|| ||Player|| ||TM|| ||GP|| ||G|| ||A|| ||Pts|| ||PiM|| ||+/-|| ||PPG|| ||SHG|| |
| ||C|| || || ||Marchand, Brad|| ||VdO|| ||18|| ||16|| ||21|| ||37|| ||36|| ||10|| ||7|| ||1|| |
| ||D|| || || ||Letang, Kristopher|| ||VdO|| ||17|| ||11|| ||18|| ||29|| ||42|| ||8|| ||3|| ||2|| |
| ||LW|| || || ||Faubert, Pierre-Luc|| ||Lew|| ||15|| ||11|| ||15|| ||26|| ||4|| ||11|| ||6|| ||0|| |
| ||C|| ||*|| ||Perron, David|| ||Lew|| ||15|| ||10|| ||15|| ||25|| ||18|| ||7|| ||6|| ||0|| |
| ||C|| || || ||Brassard, Derick|| ||Dru|| ||12|| ||9|| ||15|| ||24|| ||12|| ||4|| ||4|| ||0|| |
| ||RW|| ||*|| ||Voracek, Jakub|| ||Hal|| ||12|| ||7|| ||17|| ||24|| ||6|| ||5|| ||3|| ||0|| |
| ||LW|| || || ||Roy, Mathieu|| ||VdO|| ||18|| ||9|| ||14|| ||23|| ||18|| ||5|| ||3|| ||0|| |
| ||RW|| || || ||Samson, Jérôme|| ||VdO|| ||18|| ||12|| ||10|| ||22|| ||10|| ||6|| ||7|| ||2|| |
| ||C|| || || ||MacMillan, Logan|| ||Hal|| ||12|| ||9|| ||11|| ||20|| ||6|| ||8|| ||1|| ||1|| |
| ||C|| || || ||Sheppard, James|| ||Cap|| ||16|| ||8|| ||12|| ||20|| ||14|| ||9|| ||2|| ||1|| |
| ||LW|| || || ||Ouellet, Dean|| ||Cap|| ||16|| ||9|| ||10|| ||19|| ||18|| ||3|| ||5|| ||0|| |
| ||C|| || || ||Cliche, Marc-André|| ||Lew|| ||14|| ||5|| ||14|| ||19|| ||10|| ||8|| ||2|| ||0|| |
| ||D|| || || ||Sawyer, Jean-Claude|| ||Cap|| ||16|| ||3|| ||16|| ||19|| ||6|| ||6|| ||1|| ||1|| |
| ||D|| || || ||Denny, Chad|| ||Lew|| ||15|| ||9|| ||9|| ||18|| ||30|| ||9|| ||6|| ||0|| |
After three games the San Jose Sharks led the Detroit Red Wings 2 games to 1...only to lose the final three. I expected a lot more out of the Sharks overall, and especially last night.
A shutout at home? In a do-or-die game?
For the series the most glaring individual failure came from captain Patrick Marleau: 0 points, -3. Yet for me Joe Thornton (1 goal, 4 assists - 12 shots in 6 games) failed to lead this team as he could have. I was going to write "should" have but I think it's finally time to reevaluate that, and him. Here's something I wrote on a board last night while watching the game:
Joe Thornton just lacks...something. Maturity? Constant killer instinct?
One must be wary of creating impressions based on short experiences. Nevertheless, when I saw him play one game ~11 years ago for the Soo Greyhounds, he scored a goal on his first shift and almost quite literally spent the rest of the game circling in the offensive zone, waiting. Never creating. Watching.
This against the worst team in the league, a team that a year before had set an OHL record for futility (3 wins). And that afternoon the lesser team, the feeble London Knights, beat the first place Soo. And ever since then I've always wondered about Thornton's mettle. Not saying it isn't there. But it is buried. To me he would benefit from playing second-fiddle to a seasoned-warrior. Behind a total pro uber-respected vet like Joe Sakic. Or Brendan Shanahan. Or Chris Drury.
Again last night - zero shots and on the ice for both goals-against? ZERO shots? ZERO hits? Where is the passion?
As an aside, I think Boston Bruins fans love the fact that they traded Thornton - it gives them (yet another) reason to blame management; another phantom scapegoat incident. Fact is - and I live in the Boston area, I was here for the trade - fans had little love for JT the day before the deal was made. He was in the last year of his contract, he was playing dispirited hockey, he was in many ways an on-ice symbol for the failings of the Boston Bruins organization. Fast-forward to the trade - yes, the net deal was awful for Boston, but not in terms of what they gave up - if they had made more of an effort with their returned assets (sign Brad Stuart and Marco Sturm long-term, use extra money saved on Thornton's deal to shore up other areas, e.g. defence) it could have eventually worked out for them. But I digress.... suddenly Thornton was this massive superstar who was "given" away.
My point is this - Boston fans knew. They were frustrated with his inconsistent play and increasing MIA status in many games. Frustrated because they'd seen him play a dominant game, they'd seen the force he could become.
It's time to re-evaluate Joe Thornton. I think Jaromir Jagr was jobbed out of the MVP last year (even though awards are meaningless, I tell myself - e.g. Theodore over Iginla?) - the voters completely discounted the first 25% of the season Joe played (a listless game) in Boston. And I think Joe Thornton is a player who - in some ways like Pierre Turgeon before him - will go down in history as one who put up great numbers but left everyone who saw him play wanting more, so much more.