Posts Tagged ‘Sidney Crosby’


Battle of Pennsylvania will be one series that will be talked about for a long time. There’s no doubt about it. It has been some time since an NHL playoff series has held this much venom in it. All the pieces were set for the classic after things got heated between Flyers and Penguins at the last meeting between the two in the regular season.

The games have been high scoring affairs where both goalies look like they couldn’t catch a beach ball. Marc Andre Fleury looks like he couldn’t catch a gargantuan ball if it was coming his way, while Bryzgalov has managed to do just about enough to win three games. Having said that Bryz has allowed some easy goals along the way too.

Game three was something totally different. Penguins were a completely different team. Despite striking first in the game, the team looked like they were more interested in gooning around than playing hockey. As a result of the goonery, Arron Asham and James Neal are both facing disciplinary hearings (Neal facing two separate ones) and if Brendan Shanahan has the guts and does not fall folly to the NHL’s mollycoddling of the Penguins, both Asham and Neal have played their last playoff games of the season, regardless of how long the series goes on for.

There was one moment for me where I thought the Penguins were disorganised and not in the game. It was during the first period after Laviolette called a timeout. All the Flyers players leaned over to listen to what their coach had to say, while Dan Bylsma’s three penalty killers were huddled around their net instead of getting instructions from the coach. It was a 5on3 kill and a critical moment in the game.

The Penguins playing in the series now, is not the Penguins that went to the cup final twice and won the cup in 2009. I don’t know if Penguins think that they have had to adapt their style to more physical due to playing against the “big bad Flyers”. Whether the altercations in the regular season have gotten the Penguins completely off the rails, or if the Penguins are just trying too hard, it is all playing into the Flyers’ hands.

Flyers are a team that by its very nature doesn’t step back from anything. The team has grown mentally strong by being down in 57 of its last games.

Flyers have done one thing and they have pushed Penguins so far out of its comfort zone that the Penguins game is totally lost at the moment. The only way that the Penguins can get back into the comfort zone is through strong leadership and at the moment the man who wears the C and is supposed to be the emotional leader of the team is doing anything BUT leading.

There has been a lot said about Sidney Crosby and I got a bit over excited while watching the game and called Crosby a punk and whatnot in my tweets. Let’s get this straight, Crosby is probably the most skilled player on the ice and perhaps in the world, BUT I do not rate him as the best PLAYER because of his antics and his constant whining. If Crosby’s fans wonder why many dislike him as a player, it is the type of stuff that he did in game three that ruin his reputation. In game three of the series, Crosby played like an agitator without stepping into back his actions. He was quite happy yapping while his teammates went to work. He had completely lost his focus for the game and it showed.  

I had a few replies on Twitter reminding me that even Gretzky had McSorley or Dave Semenko to protect him on the ice. Yes, in his day Gretzky was a whiner like Crosby, but Gretzky had the class to stay away from the dirty game that Crosby seems to be playing at the moment.

 

If the Penguins want to win this series, Crosby has to lead his team and stay away from the agitation game and stick to what he is good at. If he can’t he will forever carry this series as a stain on his career as he showed his true face. Yes he will be in the Hall of Fame one day, because of what he’s won, but when you look at Crosby next to some of the great playoff leaders, like Messier or Yzerman, he is not even on the same level with those two. Players don’t respect Crosby as they would do Messier and Yzerman. If Crosby wanted to lead his team, he would’ve done so by using his voice, not his ‘fists’.

 

One tweet that I will hold on to, before moving away from the Crosby topic, is that if Crosby carries on like he has, it will be only a matter of time before he will be taken down and when that happens, it will be ugly and career ending (due to his concussion problems).

 

Defenssively, the Penguins are lost in the game. I won’t even say anything about Marc-Andre Fleury or his pathetic statics in this series, but the whole defence and Fleury have been weak. In fact, since Crosby’s return to the line up, the Penguins have given up 67 goals in 17 games. It seems that the Penguins have forgotten how to play Defence since the Penguins got the “wonder kid” back to the roster.

 

After the game Dan Bylsma announced that Fleury will be going in net for the next game (and the next four apparently). There is a lot of work to do for Bylsma, who has seemingly lost the control of his team in this series and for Fleury and the Penguins defensive line-up. The Penguins simply can’t afford stupidity shown by Kris Letang when he engaged Kimmo Timonen in a fight. If the Penguins want to make a series of this and save face, they have to smarten up. BIG TIME.

 

At the moment, the Flyers are a better team man for man. They have all the advantage going into Game four and have all the tools in their hands to finish the series there and then. But you know, hockey is a funny old game. When you think that something is a clear as day, it can throw a curve ball and change the direction. If you asked me right now, I would say that the Penguins will be swept, just because their game has not been anywhere to be seen throughout the whole series and I don’t think Bylsma has the tools to turn the boat in a couple of days.

 

I guess we’ll be a bit wiser in a few days once 60 minutes (or more) have been played, that is if there are enough players left on each team to finish the game.


This post has also been published by Pucks Across The Pond in my diary: http://pucksatp.hockeytutorial.com/2012/helmets-protect-head-brain/

 

As I’ve been out with another concussion (non-hockey related), I’ve thought about the so called concussion epidemic that has plagued the NHL and the sport of hockey for a long while now. I’ve started to think that despite the equipment us hockey players wear on the ice, there is very little there that would actually protect a players’ brain from a concussion.

Where the helmet has been designed to protect the head from potential injury if hit by another player, stick, puck, board or the ice itself, there is (at least in my opinion) very little in the way that a helmet would actually protect  a player from concussion.

I’m not a doctor, but my understanding of concussion is that the fluid that surrounds the brain is unable to protect the brain from severe impacts or forces associated with rapid acceleration/deceleration where the head would jolt violently causing the fluid not being able to protect the brain from these motions.

Helmet shells are commonly made from vinyl nitrale which do form a strong and durable shell to protect the head from impacts. The sole purpose of the shell is to disperse the energy of a point of impact, similar to a car in an accident where the body of the car has been designed to absorb the forces of impact in an accident to protect a passenger. The insides of the helmet are either made of the same material (the white stuff that majority of the pros wear) or polypropylene foam, which is supposed to absorb forces of impact to reduce the chance of a concussion.

A quick history lesson before we move on. As far as hockey goes, helmets are a relatively new piece of equipment. It was only in 1979 the NHL made helmets mandatory. Though at the time of making helmets mandatory 70% of NHL players were already wearing them. Sure helmets had been around before then, but it was the first time that players were required to wear a helmet full time. I had to do a Google search for hockey helmets to find that George Owen of the Boston Bruins was the first player to wear a helmet in 1928-29 season.

It wasn’t until the death of Bill Masterton in 1968 that the discussion of helmets became prominent and lot of the stigmas about wearing helmets started to dispel. A similar stigma now surrounds the use of visors. Majority of players do wear a visor, but there is still a debate ongoing whether the use of visors should be made mandatory to avoid career threatening eye injuries.

As for helmets and concussions, there has only been one company (Cascade Hockey) that has made concussion protection its USP. With it’s M11 helmet Cascade tried to create a helmet that would significantly reduce the risk of concussion. The M11 was designed to significantly reduce the forces from high speed linear impacts which Cascade determined caused most of the concussions in hockey. Additionally Cascade developed a system to adjust the setting of the back of the helmet to give it a more customised fit feel  and ensure tight, but comfortable fit. A lot of the times when watching hockey you see the helmet move on the players’ head from hits on the boards or player getting up after a hit and re-adjusting the helmet, which means that the helmet is does not sit right and therefore is not providing adequate protection.

Going back to the fitting and adjusting feature, I’ve not seen a similar system on any other helmet. The Reebok 8K helmet, however had something similar to it, with its FitLite technology. This has obviously evolved in the 11K helmet. Though I don’t want to take a snipe at the technology or design, Sidney Crosby the face of Reebok was out for 10 months with a concussion and is now sidelined again with a neck injury and concussion. People can make their own judgements of that.

I think aside from Cascade, only one other manufacturer has made a play on the reducing the risk of concussion and that is Bauer, with its RE-AKT helmet. The helmet has been specifically designed to manage rotational impacts, as is the M11 from Cascade. The collateral from Bauer says that the helmet helps to protect the brain from excessive intra-cranial movement due to the helmet’s liner, which Bauer has named VERTEX FOAM. I have asked Bauer how the helmet actually protects from concussion or how the liner in the helmet reduces the risk of concussion, but I have not received an answer yet.

But the real interesting thing is, at least in Europe, whenever you buy a helmet you’ll have a CE safety certificate on it to say that the helmet has passed required tests, but might not protect you from serious injury. As far as I’m concerned there simply isn’t, or hasn’t been enough done by manufacturers to address the concussion problem, but then again, how do you stop the brain moving around inside your skull? How do you stop a violent jolt of the neck/head from causing concussion?

When the issue of head shots raised its ugly head in the NHL, there was a lot of discussion among GMs on how you can take it out of the game and as a result a new rule was introduced (Rule 48). The NHL also set up a task force to better manage concussions and players who suffer a suspected concussion, hence the quiet room players are lead to mid game if there is a suspect concussion. If the NHL set up a task force to look into the issue and how to better manage the issue, why wasn’t helmet safety and safety features a part of this discussion?

To me it only seems obvious as one of the things that always crops up in concussion and hockey conversations is that “the players are bigger and faster and the padding has gotten better and bigger so players feel more protected”. Yes true. I do feel safer and protected when it comes to shoulder pads, shorts, elbow pads etc, but looking at the helmets over the last few years, I feel that the development has not been as rapid as with other pieces of equipment hockey players wear.

The other issue that comes with helmets is that the common advice is that a helmet should be replaced after heavy impact to the shell as it might lose its protective features. Again the Cascade M11 helmet is the only helmet that I know of that can sustain more than one impact.

Which leads us to the issue of price. Where the pros will have access to free equipment in most instances, guys who have to pay for their own kit might not be able to afford the top of the range helmet that provides the safety features that have been promoted by Reebok, Cascade and Bauer with their top of the range helmets.

A quick look on Hockey Monkey shows that CCM’s V10 helmet is the cheapest top of the range helmet around and retails at sub $100 at Hockey Monkey. I use the V10 helmet and since my last on ice concussion, I’ve been looking at the helmet and thinking how on earth does this protect my brain from concussions. Sure it protects my head/skull from impact from puck, stick, boards etc, but there is very little in the helmet to re-assure me that this will also protect my brain from concussion.

Also let’s not forget that Marc Savard wore the CCM V10 helmet when Matt Cooke deliberately hit him in the head in 2010. In fact, the V10 helmet has changed very little since then.

I haven’t been able to find the prices for Bauer’s RE-AKT helmet, but the M11 retails at $129.99 (reg: $159.99), the RBK 11k at $169.99 (reg: $179.99), The Easton E700 at $149.99 (reg: 179.99) or the Easton S19 Pro stock helmet which regular retail price tops the $200 mark. Please note that those are the prices as per Hockey Monkey and can vary from retailer to retailer.

Then there is of course the mirror test. I remember that the V10 helmet especially at the time of its launch was promoting itself with the tag line of “Guaranteed to pass any mirror test”. The mirror test should not be the first thing on your mind when buying a helmet. The fit and protection should be the top priority when choosing a helmet. You only get one head and unfortunately the brain is a delicate thing that can’t take too many beatings or injuries.

But like I said in my interview with Aaron Murphy, the contact and physicality of hockey is something that draws people to the sport and was a reason why I started to follow it in the first place. If you take the hitting out, we are left with something that resembles the All-Star game and no-one in their right mind would want to watch that type of hockey for 82 games (plus play-offs) a year. I guess concussions are something that you can never fully take out from a contact sport, but you can always make sure that players are protected to the highest standards and that there are medical checks to ensure that players with concussions are given the best possible treatment.

What I would like to see is equipment manufacturers include some of their ‘concussion prevention technologies’ into all their helmets. Remember all it takes is a funny fall in a game of shinny to cause a concussion. It’s not just professional, semi-pro or amateur players who are at risk from concussions, it is hockey players from all levels.

Think of it this way and using my car analogy from earlier. A car that does not meet the safety regulations in collision and impact testing by EURONCAP is not allowed on the road. As your brain is a passenger in your head, wouldn’t you want it protected to the highest standard when you play any contact sport?


Alexander Ovechkin is one of the NHL’s powerhouses and a premiere players. A player that can single handedly turn a game around. He is a four time 50 goal scorer and has won a number of individual awards at the end season awards.

This season has seen Ovechkin’s scoring rate decline, along with the high power offence of the Washington Capitals. Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge Ovechkin fan and I admire the way he approaches the game and how he plays. But part of being a fan, I think, is to be critical of your favourite players/teams.

Hockey analysts have covered Ovechkin’s scoring troubles at length, but one question I have not seen anyone answer is “Was it to be expected?”  In my opinion, yes it was. The signs were in the air last year with a sub-par performance in the Olympics, a season marred with suspensions, followed by early play-off exit where Ovechkin was shut down by the Montreal Canadiens. Still Ovehckin combined for 50 goals and 59 assists last season. Respectable stats.

However, the playoffs and the subsequent world championships gave everyone a sign of what was to come. Ovechkin, clearly disappointed by the Capitals’ early playoff exit, had a poor showing in the World Championships, where his season ended in bitter disappointment in the final against a much weaker Czech Republic team. The magazine CQ ran a story on Ovechkin during the summer and the story gave an interesting view into the man’s life. I’m sure parts of the story were embellished to make it better and more ‘lifestyle’ oriented, but Ovechkin’s summer seemed to focus on parties, girls and promoting CCM gear. Don’t get me wrong, I do think it is important to blow off steam and party during the summer, but it lead me to question whether Ovie had done enough during the summer to get in shape. Soon after training camp opened there were reports suggesting that Ovechkin was out of shape, after he was caught out of breath.

Ovechkin, still the Caps’ best point scorer, has not been as effective and his stats are helped with the assists that he has gathered. An unusual situation for a sniper to be a playmaker, while Sidney Crosby, who was known as a playmaker has turned himself into a pure scorer in the last two NHL seasons. There is, however, one thing that is glaringly obvious when you watch Ovechkin play and that is, he tries to do too much himself. The games I’ve seen this year, he has tried on many occasion to go coast to coast, only to lose the puck before even getting a shot of. Whether it speaks of lack of confidence, or the desire to score highlight reel material every time, only Ovechkin knows the answer to that.

The other thing that I think has held Ovechkin back this year is that people know how he plays now and what he does and have learnt to defend against him. Ovechkin is heavily relied upon on the Caps’ power play, but he is not getting shots off due to the coverage the other teams put on him during power play situations. Same can be said about even strength. Teams have studied how he plays and positions, so that they know how to defend against him.

Another thing that I think might affect Ovechkin and his play is the amount of promo and extracurricular activities he has. I don’t think there’s another player that is in such a high demand for promotional spots as Ovechkin is. There’s books, DVDs, CCM, Caps, the NHL, his own clothing line and the list goes on. The NHL is a gruelling place to begin with and the amount of hype and distraction has to affect any players’ game. Maybe there is an argument that he should focus only on what is essential, hockey. Though I can understand that it is important to capitalise on opportunities while you’re the talk of the town.

Comparing Ovechkin to Crosby, I have not seen as many gimmicky promo things for Crosby as I have for Ovechkin. Don’t get me wrong Crosby still does it and has his sponsor obligations for Reebok, but it just seems that Crosby doesn’t have too many external distractions, which has allowed for him to focus on his game and the results, well, everyone can tell by looking at the stats.

This isn’t to say that Ovechkin is a has been or a washout. He still has the hunger to win and maybe his newish role as the Caps’ captain has him thinking more of the bigger goal at the end of the year. Crosby has had slumping years in the past and I believe, that similarly, Ovechkin will bounce back. He is sure to turn his season around, but the critical question is ‘when?’

I think he will be able to turn things around in the lead up to the play-offs, depending on the Caps’ league position. I think Ovechkin is hungry for the biggest prize in pro sports in the Stanley Cup that he will bring his A game just as the play offs loom in the horizon. After all it is the playoffs where you can tell how good a player really is by his contributions to help his team to lift the Cup at the end of the season and I believe Ovechkin will do whatever it takes to get his hands and name on the Cup this year.