heaterreturns

Hate Index: Comparing Cleveland’s reaction to LeBron vs. Ottawa’s toward Heatley

This is truly a unique evening of cross-sports hatred.

In case you’re under a professional sports rock, Dany Heatley is making his first appearance in Ottawa since he demanded a trade (yet refused to go to Edmonton) two summers ago. If you’re living in an even more isolated sports cave, you might not be aware that LeBron James also makes his return to his home state and original team in Cleveland, Ohio tonight after breaking their hearts like an Earnest Byner fumble with “The Decision.”

As long as it doesn’t devolve into violence, looting or other over-the-line behavior, it’s actually kind of fun to study the actions of a large group of people making too big of a deal about games. With that passion in mind, I decided to observe the opening moments of each game (Sharks-Oilers is currently in the first intermission; Heat-Cavaliers just passed the eight-minute mark) and compare the crowd reactions.

Ottawa’s reaction to Heatley

Most apparent chant: “Heatley sucks.”

Habits: Crowd boos whenever his line comes onto the ice.

Crowd effectiveness: Above average

The vitriol level was pretty high, but not completely unreasonable. One thing I like about that booing pattern: by beginning with jeers when his entire line came out on the ice, that actually could be a tactical advantage for line matching. It seems like it settled down to the industry standard “only when he touches the puck” though.

Heatley’s start

It seems like he’s been motivated by the boos. Although he didn’t register a shot on goal, he hit a post on a shot and drew a penalty. The Sharks are also up 1-0, so he’s getting the first laugh.

Cleveland’s reaction to LeBron

Most apparent chant: Sing-songy “A——” chant. Also “Ak-ron hates you” which gets huge bonus points for creativity.

Habits: Booing when he touches the ball.

Crowd effectiveness: Medium

It’s almost impossible for the angry fans in Cleveland to live up to the hate hype without going over the line, but they’ve done a decent job of making their former hero uncomfortable. Beer only being sold in paper cups = solid decision.

LeBron’s start (through 8:25)

Three points on 1-3 shooting, one missed three pointer, three rebounds and two assists.

(Note: He hit a couple great plays in a row and has eight points as of this immediate writing.)

We’ll keep our eyes peeled for any other interesting developments, but don’t expect much more LeBron-specific talk tonight.

Lightning lament Game 6 effort, Cooper doesn’t blame disallowed goal

TAMPA, FL - MAY 24:  Brian Boyle #11 of the Tampa Bay Lightning reacts after losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Final with a score of 5 to 2 during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena on May 24, 2016 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)
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The Tampa Bay Lightning seemed to sleepwalk through the first two periods of Game 6, and waking up in the final frame wasn’t enough to edge the Pittsburgh Penguins.

On the bright side, at least the Lightning aren’t in denial about that weak first 40 minutes.

It seemed like everyone on the team more or less admitted as much in unison.

Brian Boyle added that he felt like the Lightning tiptoed around this game. Jon Cooper often provides great quips, yet he was pretty matter-of-fact in this case.

Many will linger on this disallowed goal for Jonathan Drouin, which would have provided a 1-0 lead for Tampa Bay in the first period.

Let’s face it; that moment came pretty early in the game. To Tampa Bay’s credit, they’re not pinning the loss on that setback.

Now they must set their sights on competing throughout Game 7 … and maybe earning some bounces of their own in the process.

Read more about Game 6 here.

Penguins force Game 7 after holding off Lightning rally

TAMPA, FL - MAY 24:  Kris Letang #58 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates with his teammates Sidney Crosby #87 after scoring a goal against Andrei Vasilevskiy #88 of the Tampa Bay Lightning during the second period in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena on May 24, 2016 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Jason Behnken/Getty Images)
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The Pittsburgh Penguins played with fire late in Game 6, but they also showed plenty of fire in beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-2.

With that, this thrilling Eastern Conference Final will go the distance with Game 7 on Thursday.

There are at least a few “What if?” scenarios to consider, especially for the Lightning.

What if that offside goal counted?

Jonathan Drouin played some fantastic hockey on Tuesday, yet his most memorable moment came via something that ultimately “didn’t happen.” An offside call on a goal review kept a 1-0 lead from happening for Tampa Bay:

Instead, the Penguins poured it on during the first period and eventually went up 1-0. They then carried that momentum over through the second period, adding two more goals to go up 3-0 heading into the final frame.

What if Tampa Bay played more like they did in the third period?

The difference between the level of play in the first 40 minutes and the final frame were night-and-day.

Now, you can make a chicken-and-the-egg argument here. Did the Penguins take their feet off the gas with that lead? Maybe Jon Cooper finally unleashed the hounds when the Lightning were facing a big deficit?

Maybe it’s a combination of those factors; either way, the Bolts couldn’t come all the way back even after making it interesting. At one point the game was 3-2 before a Bryan Rust breakaway goal and an empty-netter put things out of reach.

Both Matt Murray and Andrei Vasilevskiy faced plenty of tough chances and came through more often than not. We’ll see if there are any goal controversy rumblings, but each netminder came through at times tonight.

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Now the series shifts back to Pittsburgh for Game 7 with a Stanley Cup Final on the line. Excited and/or nervous yet?

More: Great goals by Sidney Crosby and Phil Kessel.

Sidney Crosby scores a superstar goal

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With the Pittsburgh Penguins’ season on the line in Game 6, plenty of eyes are on big guns Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Phil Kessel.

Those marquee names are really coming through so far as they’ve now built a 3-0 lead through two periods against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

You likely already saw Kessel’s display of high-end hand-eye coordination (if not, check it here). Kris Letang scored his first goal of the series to make it 2-0 on a very tricky, well-placed shot.

The highlight really might be Crosby’s tally, though. He left multiple Lightning players baffled and beat a very-much-game Andrei Vasilevskiy to beef that lead up 3-0.

Video: Phil Kessel displays incredible hand-eye coordination on goal

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This has been a tough postseason for Phil Kessel haters.

The supposed “choker” is on a team that’s in the Eastern Conference Final, but Kessel obviously isn’t just in for the ride with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He scored his 18th point in 17 postseason games by scoring the 1-0 goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 6.

(Watch that goal in the video above.)

It was a dramatic first period, with a Jonathan Drouin goal getting disallowed and Andrei Vasilevskiy making some huge saves on tough chances.

Can Pittsburgh protect this slim lead with 1-0 down one period? We’ll see, but either way, what a great postseason for Kessel.

Update: Here’s the goal Kessel accidentally “scored” for the Lightning:

Ouch.