Should the Hockey Hall of Fame open up its voting process?

It seems like there is a weird MVP voting quirk almost every year in nearly every sport. Sometimes those moments are amusing, such as a beat writer choosing a fringe player on the team he or she covers to make a “statement.” Rarely – but on occasion – there’s a tinge of something a little bit more sinister; one writer leaving Jarome Iginla off of his 2002 Hart Trophy list altogether the year Jose Theodore narrowly won it will always bother me.

The thing is, even if awards tend to be ceremonial and occasionally downright silly, they do affect people. Writers and hockey nuts will often bring up Norris Trophy victories to judge defensemen and so on. When you vote on something that’s fairly meaningful, I think that the public should know if you’re clearly falling victim to petty, biased thoughts.

This all leads up to an argument made my Joe Pelletier that I cannot agree with enough; the Hockey Hall of Fame should make their voting public. Doing so would allow the committee to be held accountable for its choices, which in the case of ailing former coach Pat Burns, could give the hockey public more of an idea of why these decisions were made. Pelletier brings up this point while discussing the holding pattern Dino Ciccarelli found himself before he finally made it into the Hall of Fame yesterday.

I do not disagree with Ciccarelli’s wait. He was very good for a long time. To me that does not equal greatness, even if he did score over 600 goals. I continue to have trouble with longevity vs. dominance.

But I think the Hockey Hall of Fame selection committee took it upon themselves to punish him for some off-ice transgressions that the plagued his career far too long. They knew they couldn’t keep him out forever, not with those lofty goal totals, but they made sure he had to wait.

What is even worse than the committee’s almighty attitude is they never have to answer for their own actions. Voting results are not released. Some voting consistency is badly needed, and a line needs to be established. Transparency will provide that.

The Hall of Fame does not release voting results, saying that they don’t want to hurt or embarrass the players who do not make the cut. But this would make the Hall more accountable. Right now the rather anonymous Hall of Fame selection committee (admit it, you can’t name more than a couple of guys in that room) are hockey insiders. Voting guidelines are even vaguer. The Hall comes across as, at best, an old boys network or, at worst, holier than thou.

It seems doubtful that the HHOF would open up its process like that … mainly because they would see little benefit (and plenty of extra criticism). That doesn’t change the fact it would be the right thing to do, though.

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    Backstrom provides OT winner as Capitals take 3-2 series lead

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    The Washington Capitals are on the verge of the second round.

    Yes, the Capitals, who began the series with back-to-back losses in Game 1 and 2 to the Columbus Blue Jackets, are now on the brink of eliminating Ohio’s team after Nicklas Backstrom‘s deft deflection in overtime gave the Capitals their third straight win and a 3-2 series lead.

    It was the fourth time in the series both clubs played to a tie in regulation. After Columbus won the first two in OT, Washington replied with a win in double-overtime in Game 3 before Backstrom ended Game 5 at the 11:53 mark of the first frame of free hockey.

    Backstrom scored his first goal of the series to open the scoring for the Caps and assisted for the sixth time in the series on the go-ahead goal in the second period before Oliver Bjorkstrand tied it in third.

    [NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

    Braden Holtby had to be sharp, especially in the third period as, inexplicably, the Caps were outshot 16-1. At home. Holtby made 40 saves when it was all said and done.

    Two-hundred feet away, Sergei Bobrovsky was up to the task, making some silly stops including a big one on Alex Ovechkin earlier in overtime and a bigger one in regulation time off the same man’s stick.

    Game 6 of this series is slated for Monday in Columbus, with a start time still to be determined.

    In his post-game comments, Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella said, twice, that his team will be back in the capital for Game 7.

    The promise has been made.


    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

    Kucherov, Vasilevskiy shine as Lightning eliminate Devils in 5

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    One’s up for the Hart as the NHL’s best player while the other is up for the Vezina as the league’s top goaltender. Both combined their talents to eliminate the New Jersey Devils with a 2-1 win in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Saturday.

    Nikita Kucherov was once again on point for the Tampa Bay Lightning in Saturday’s matinee. Leading 1-0 in the third period, Kucherov scored a clutch goal — his fifth of the series — to put the Lightning from just inside the blue line to put the Bolts up two with seven minutes and change remaining.

    It proved vital, Kucherov’s goal, as the Devils attempted a late comeback with Kyle Palmieri scored with three minutes remaining after Devils pulled Cory Schneider for the extra attacker 30 seconds earlier.

    Andrei Vasilevskiy stood tall in the final 180 seconds, stopping 26-of-27 to help usher the Lightning into the second round.

    Tampa, the Atlantic Division winners in the regular season, will face the winner of the series between the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs, who play later on Saturday in Game 5. The Bruins lead the series 3-1.

    Kucherov was as immense for the Lightning as he was oppressive for the Devils, adding five assists to bring his series total to 10 points. His usual scoring touch was supplemented by his play in the physical department, including this bone-crushing hit on New Jersey defenseman Sami Vatanen.

    [NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

    For the Devils, it was hard-fought series from a young team still trying to find its way in the playoffs.

    The Devils abandoned goalie Keith Kinkaid after dropping the first two games. Cory Schneider, who hadn’t won a game in 2018 before Game 3, came in and provided the spark in goal, one that seemed to get the Devils going at the other end of the rink as well as they rolled to a 5-3 win.

    But that well ran dry in Game 4 as the Devils produced just one goal in a 3-1 loss. Game 5 was much the same, production-wise, with the Devils only managing one goal.

    Fellow Hart Trophy candidate Taylor Hall provided two goals and six points in the series after a 93-point regular season. Rookie Nico Hischier managed just a goal after scoring 20 in his rookie campaign.

    For Vasilevskiy, after looking far more human in the second half of the season, finding his mojo again can only be mean bad things for future playoff opponents.

    The young Russian finished with a .941 save percentage in the series.


    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

    Blue Jackets’ Matt Calvert scores a most unusual breakaway goal (Video)

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    We’ve all see some breakaways go horribly, horribly wrong in the past.

    Patrik Stefan reigns supreme here. Devin Setoguchi didn’t fare too well on this one. And then there was this gaffe by Dennis Wideman once upon a time.

    But sometimes one screws up, only to rebound quickly and turn a near-blunder into a nice-ish goal.

    Columbus Blue Jackets forward Matt Calvert did that today, in what’s already being called the best/worst breakaway attempt of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

    As you can see in the video above, Calvert gets a nice clean breakaway. As he attempts to first a wrist shot, he whiffs on the attempt but manages to corral the puck back, doing the whole spin-o-rama thing, and deposit the puck past Braden Holtby for his second goal of the game.

    Sometimes it just all works out.


    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

    WATCH LIVE: Lightning, Bruins try to move on to Round 2

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    Game 5: New Jersey Devils at Tampa Bay Lightning, 3 p.m. ET (Lightning lead series 3-1)
    NBC/NBCSN*
    Call: Gord Miller, Joe Micheletti
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    Game 5: Columbus Blue Jackets at Washington Capitals, 3 p.m. ET (Series tied 2-2)
    NBC/NBCSN*
    Call: Chris Cuthbert, Ray Ferraro
    Series preview
    Stream

    Game 5: Toronto Maple Leafs at Boston Bruins, 8 p.m. ET (Bruins lead series 3-1)
    NBC
    Call: Mike Emrick, Mike Milbury, Pierre McGuire
    Series preview
    Stream

    *Regionalized coverage – Florida markets and WNBC in New York metro area will air NJ-TB on NBC and CBJ-WSH on NBCSN; all other markets will receive CBJ-WSH on NBC and NJ-TB on NBCSN

    [NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]