Plenty is going on heading into Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final. Here are a few things that you may find interesting, even if they’re not full-blown posts.
- Remember Manon Rheaume, the first (and only) woman to play in an NHL exhibition game? She did so with the Tampa Bay Lightning more than 20 years ago, and tonight mark’s her first visit back. Sportsnet’s has a fantastic Q & A session with her, which includes the shocking realization that she never heard of David Letterman before appearing on his show.
- Dynasty talk often boils down to semantics. The bottom line is that the Chicago Blackhawks have done some special things, and you can see that in one form by noticing the milestones head coach Joel Quenneville (pictured) is starting to pile up. Game 2 marks Coach Q’s 200th career postseason game behind an bench, becoming just the third coach to do so. The list is as elite as they get, too:
One would expect him to pass New York Islanders great Al Arbour, but legend Scotty Bowman’s mark is almost certainly safe.
Quenneville’s record is impressive, too, as he heads in with a 112-87 record in playoff games coached.
- Should we expect overtime tonight? The league points out that four straight Game 2’s have gone beyond regulation. (Grinds extra coffee beans.)
- Obvious point alert: the Lightning really, really need to win this one.
Scotty Bowman has been in hockey a long time. He’s seen the game change and evolve many times over through his career but he says the way things are being played now don’t sit well with him.
Jim Matheson hears from Bowman about how the strategy teams use that sees players all falling back to defend and block shots is one that doesn’t help the game look good.
“It’s three against five to score. The two defencemen (on the attacking team) don’t come in because they’re worried about getting caught. You get so many outnumbered situations down low. Look at how close the defending wingers are to their net and how far away they are from the other net. It’s a good ploy defensively, but it’s why there is not as much offence.”
That makes plenty of sense, even to fans that don’t know the game well. Then Bowman draws it up a bit clearer.
“When I was coaching in Montreal, Lafleur and Shutt wouldn’t even know what the ice was like below the top of the circle. Look at Wayne Gretzky; he was always out between the blue-lines. Brett Hull? Maybe it’s wise to put four guys down low and one other guy way high,” said Bowman.
If you’ll recall, Bowman used a defensive system called the “left wing lock” to help the Red Wings shut down opponents. Instead of stopping shots in the zone, it kept teams from gaining the zone easily and turning it over in the neutral zone. A lot of people thought that was a scourge once, too.
Scotty Bowman has won the Stanley Cup numerous times in his life but now he’s been given one of the highest honors in Canada.
Bowman was awarded the Order of Canada, the highest honor a Canadian can get aside from the Queen’s Order of Merit, thanks to his history as a head coach and the charitable work he’s done in his life. Bowman tells NHL.com the honor is truly special.
“It’s certainly different from my Stanley Cup rings, and I look forward to wearing it on special occasions,” Bowman told reporters after the ceremony at Ottawa’s Rideau Hall in which he received the red-and-white medallion from Governor General David Johnston.
Bowman has won nine Stanley Cups over his 40+ years in hockey, winning the Cup with three teams as a coach (Montreal, Pittsburgh, Detroit) and one as an executive (Chicago). Now the only question he’ll have to figure out is where to display his award amongst all the Stanley Cups. Perhaps draping the medal around a Stanley Cup replica is the way to go.
The GM meetings gave us the scary possibility that the red line would be reintroduced, bringing back the two-line pass. Thankfully, GMs couldn’t support that idea and it’s been turned down, but there’s another plan that’s piqued their interest that essentially does the same thing.
Legendary coach Scotty Bowman once had an idea to introduce a “ringette” or a line above the faceoff circles and NHL.com’s Dan Rosen tells us about how it’s gaining popularity at the meetings and might get tested out in the future.
The ringette line, which comes from the Canadian game of ringette — a derivative of hockey — would be painted across the ice at the top of the faceoff circles at each end of the ice. The team with possession of the puck in its own end would have to gain the ringette line in order to make a legal pass across the center red line. Passing the puck across the center red line from behind the ringette line would be considered an illegal pass.
In essence they want to bring back the two-line pass but don’t want it to look as obvious. Considering how poorly the two-line pass played out while it was a rule, it doesn’t make much sense that this mutant version of it is going to play out any differently.
Coaches will always figure out a way to defend against everything. Finding a way to guarantee more whistles, not turnovers, doesn’t do much to make the game entertaining.
By now you already know about how the Flyers opted to counterattack the Lightning’s 1-3-1 defensive alignment. By not attacking it all and stalling with the puck in their own end, the Flyers managed to create a fevered debate about who is right and wrong in this whole situation and the truth is everyone should be shouldering the blame.
Guy Boucher’s strategy is nothing new by him. He’s used the 1-3-1 since he’s coached in juniors and it frustrated the hell out of teams there to the point they’d do the same thing the Flyers did. Obviously, the critics of his defensive scheme are many. Chris Pronger wondered aloud (very loud) after the game why anyone would pay to see something that wasn’t hockey.
Even Boucher doesn’t have a supporter in legendary coach Scotty Bowman. Bowman was in attendance for last night’s display of civil disobedience and tactical play and felt that the league has to do something about Boucher’s scheme capping off his thoughts saying, “This used to be the fastest game on ice.” That’s big talk coming from the coach who used the “left wing lock” to shut teams down.
Boucher’s scheme runs sour because his 1-3-1 setup doesn’t have the lead forechecker do any pressuring of the puck carrier at all. Instead they sit in the neutral zone and wait, clogging things up and making it difficult to break through. By not challenging the play, that takes the spirit out of the game. Laying in wait is a perfectly legal strategy, but it’s a brutally boring one for what’s meant to be an exciting game.
The Flyers aren’t blameless here though. Peter Laviolette is the first coach to seemingly take a stand on things and while he says his own attack scheme is based on having a forechecker pressure the play, that’s a coy explanation for actively causing a disturbance. By not bearing down and forcing Tampa to action, the Flyers take even more blame in this by making a game-slowing defense into a game-stopping situation. Famed coach Roger Neilson would’ve been proud of Laviolette’s curious stand.
Because of that, the threat of killing the pace of the game will make the NHL Board of Governors have to discuss things at the GM meetings next month. The last thing the league wants is a return of the “dead puck” era and see their product ground down into a mind-numbing bore fest.
Every team traps in their own different ways so blaming that in general is wrong. Regardless of who you support in this debate, the NHL will be forced to craft an answer for how to handle this.