Thoughts on the Phoenix/LA Series
Wednesday, 05.16.2012 / 1:24 PM
Watching the Phoenix/LA game last night, I was struck by a few things. First of all, yes the pace of play and physical nature of the game is reaching a zenith at this time of year. Despite these teams having played nearly 100 contests already, the fire is not only burning bright but may have actually increased its intensity. Both the Eastern and Western Conference Finals are being played out at fever pitch, and hockey fans are benefitting from some of the most entertaining hockey in recent memory.
What I do find disturbing were the hits from behind and general lack of regard for player safety in the game last night. While Shane Doan’s hit actually injured Trevor Lewis worse than Martin Hanzal’s hit on Dustin Brown, I think Doan’s might have been the more “hockey play” of the two. Certainly Doan is not a dirty player and indeed if anyone has respect for his competitors, it’s him. That said he did hit Lewis hard and right in the numbers, driving him into the boards and possibly giving him a broken nose and a raccoon mask for the next couple of weeks. I can’t expect Lewis to brace himself because the puck was there and he was making a play. He does turn his back to Doan but again, with the puck there and a play in progress I’m not expecting him to be as able or attuned to a hit like that coming. Finally, the hit occurs in the second period when the game was definitely not decided and each side was playing physical trying to win the game. I think the five and a game misconduct was definitely the right call.
Hanzal’s hit is a little different, first of all from the timing of it all. Phoenix was definitely at the “message-sending” point of the game when the play occurs. Hanzal appeared to have time to let up on Brown and the flow of the play would show that Brown would turn the way he did to follow the puck. Oddly enough I think Brown being a little further from the boards allowed him to brace himself better (but he still went in pretty darn hard and face-first). Hanzal blew right through his numbers, and never showed a sign of letting off the gas. He was going to finish that check regardless of player positioning, which I think makes it even a little more dangerous.
Brian Engblom made a great point about Hanzal “hunting” Brown, both in the way the play was moving and the timing of where things stood in the game. Hanzal never lets up and is indeed tracking Brown after his chip-in from the blueline. He motors into him at full speed and literally drives Brown from his nameplate into the glass with a push.
Both are examples of hits you don’t want to see – ever. Word has come down today that only Hanzal will have a league meeting, so don’t expect a suspension for Doan (which I agree likely isn’t warranted). One would hope that over time these types of hits are eradicated from the game, but in the meantime expect there to be more heated play as the series progresses.
A few thoughts:
- Jonathan Quick is still playing outrageously well. His waterbug-style of goaltending, jetting along the ice by pushing back and forth and daring shooters to beat him high while staying aggressive isn’t easy to play and requires a lot of ability and confidence. But as he proves how playing this way can mean wins, look for yet another new trend in goaltending to come along. Kids, start working even harder on your push-off now.
- Speaking of amazing goaltending, how about the showdown between King Henrik and Marty Brodeur in the ECF? Watching those two battle is amazing.
- Just give Dustin Brown the Conn Smythe now. Thanks.
- The Kings still have two other guys who can score named Carter and Richards. Just in case you forgot they served notice in Game Two.
- The New York Rangers really seem to have the complete team mentality needed for success this time of year. I hear people knock this team for an occasional lack of timely scoring, but when they block shots and play gritty hockey as they have thus far in the playoffs, I don’t think I’m worried about them scoring enough. Two goals might really be all it takes most nights to win in that series.
- Uh oh, Phoenix. Mike Smith appears rattled. That’s not good (if you're a fan of the Coyotes).
- Also one more memo to the Coyotes: stay disciplined! Giving up a million five-on-threes does not equal winning hockey. Neither does two five-minute majors against.
- New York/LA Final anyone?
Until next time, keep your stick on the ice.