Thursday, December 1, 2022

The Athletic Hockey Show: The unhateables

On this week's episode of The Athletic Hockey Show:
- The NHL stars everyone likes
- Ian wants to know if I'm sold on Matt Murray yet
- Jack Edwards vs. Pat Maroon
- Ovechkin breaks another record
- Jesse Granger defends the honor of goalies everywhere
- I have to eat crow about Lindy Ruff
- Plus listener mail, goalies scoring goals and more...

The Athletic Hockey Show runs most days of the week during the season, with Ian and I hosting every Thursday. There are two versions of each episode available:
- An ad-free version for subscribers that you can find here
- An ad-supported version you can get for free wherever you normally find your podcasts (like Apple or Spotify)

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

The 10 active NHL stars that nobody hates (except for everyone who does)

Heading into last night’s action, there had been 762 skaters and 74 goalies that had appeared in at least one NHL game this season. That’s well over 800 names, ranging from big stars to no-names, grizzled veterans to fresh-faced rookies, guys with personalities and lots who never say a word, and everything in between.

Can we find just ten that everyone likes?

Good luck. Hockey fans are notoriously difficult to please, which is a nice way of saying we’re all crusty jerks who are simmering with rage at all times, all carrying a long list of players we’re sworn to never forgive for some sin we don’t even remember. You like your own team, sometimes, but that’s about it. Maybe there’s one or two guys on other teams that you respect, or even like.

But ten? Forget it.

Well, I love a challenge. The last time I did this was back in 2019, and the results were mixed. I managed to come up with a few names that most of you seemed to agree on, including Henrik Lundqvist and Patrick Marleau. Both of those guys have rudely retired, so I can’t use them again. In fact, I’m going to go one further: This time around, I can’t use anyone who made the cut back in 2019. That means still-active names like Patrice Bergeron, Marc-Andre Fleury and Phil Kessel are off the table too. This is going to impossible.

That’s never stopped me before, so let’s do this. Ten active players, ten reasons why we should all like them, and ten exceptions that prove the rule.

>> Read the full post at The Athletic

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Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Puck Soup: We're going streaking

On this week's episode of the Puck Soup podcast:
- Won't somebody please think of the goaltenders
- What rule changes do we need after a weird week?
- We run down and rank all of the wild streaks we've seen so far this year
- Kraken: good!
- Rangers: bad!
- Lindy Ruff hits 800 wins, and more...

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>> Listen on Spotify

>> Get weekly mailbags and special bonus episodes by supporting Puck Soup on Patreon for $5.

Monday, November 28, 2022

Weekend rankings: Offseason wins, goaltending rules, and the Flyers crater

How’d your Black Friday shopping go? Did you snag any impressive bargains, or are you already feeling pangs of regret for overspending on junk you didn’t need?

Now that we’ve got the timely tie-in out of the way, let’s look back at some offseason additions. We did this a few weeks ago, listing five players with new homes who were underperforming. This week, let’s flip that script and look at five more offseason moves that are working out great so far.

Top five offseason acquisitions that have worked out well so far

5. Johnny Gaudreau – The season has been a mess in Columbus, but that hasn’t been Gaudreau’s fault. The biggest UFA in years has settled in nicely, producing points despite having nowhere near as much talent around him. We can debate his decision to go to Columbus over other options (including staying put in Calgary), but it’s fair to say the Blue Jackets are glad he did.

>> Read the full post at The Athletic

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Thursday, November 24, 2022

Did the Devils get screwed? Explaining the key calls that gave the Leafs the win

We saw one of the wilder games of the year on Wednesday night, with the Maple Leafs going into New Jersey and ending the Devils' 13-game winning streak.

Or did they? The standings will say they did, but that doesn’t mean Devils fans have to accept it. While the final score will go into the books as 2-1 for Toronto, the Devils actually put the puck past Matt Murray four times on the night. The first three didn’t count, thanks to a pair of goaltender interference calls followed by a distinctive kicking motion ruling. By the time that last goal was wiped off, furious Devils fans in attendance were pelting the ice with beer and debris, while others were venting online about the obvious conspiracy.

Do they have a case? As the self-appointed rulebook guy around these parts, I’m here to help. Let’s do this Q&A style.

Should the first Devils goal have counted?

The first no-goal came early in the first, with a Dougie Hamilton point shot beating Murray. The goal was immediately waved off, and replays showed that Nathan Bastian was in the crease. Lindy Ruff and the Devils challenged, but the call on the ice was confirmed.

It’s the right call, as you already know if you read my detailed guide to understanding goalie interference. As that post explained, the key to any goalie interference ruling is usually the crease – if the attacking player is in there, it’s probably going to be no goal. Bastian clearly is, and he’s in Murray’s way as the Leafs’ goalie tries to slide his pad across to play the shot.

But he barely touched him!

True, but that doesn’t matter. There’s contact, and it’s enough that it “impairs the goalkeeper’s ability to move freely within his crease or defend his goal”. According to the rulebook, that makes this an easy call. In fact, it doesn’t even matter if there’s any contact at all. If a player is in the crease and in the goalie’s way, it’s supposed to be no goal. And while there’s enough of a gray area to occasionally make this a judgment call, they almost always give the goalie the benefit of the doubt.

As I’ve said more than a few times, even if you understand the rule you’ll still run into cases where a call is debatable. That's part of the reason I think we should get rid of these reviews altogether. But this wasn’t one of those times. The refs got it right, both initially and on further review.

So Lindy Ruff was wrong to challenge it?

Well… maybe. That’s a trickier question, because a goal in the low-scoring NHL is a big deal. You don’t have to be 50/50 to make a challenge worth it, because the penalty for failure is only a two-minute minor. If you think it's 60/40 or even 70/30 that you're going to lose, it’s probably still worth it to roll the dice.

But in this case, I think it was close to 90/10, or maybe just 100/0. Remember, the call on the ice was no goal, so in theory a close call was going to against the Devils. And again, this one wasn’t all that close. I’m betting Ruff wishes he had this one back.

OK, but what about the second goal? If barely touching a goalie means a goal can’t count, can we assume that wiping him out is just as clear?

Weirdly, no. I actually thought the Devils had a case here.

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