The Hump-day Hater
Who’s dishing out the hate in the hockey world

John Tortorella

Torts got into a little bit of a heated argument in the last round of the playoffs. The problem was that it was with a Washington fan behind the visiting bench. After continuously taunting and pounding on the glass behind the New York coach, Tortorella snapped into action…or should I just say snapped?

After spraying water through a partition in the glass, Tortorella proceeded to then throw the bottle into the stands and wave Aaron Voros’ stick at the crowd. The Washington fans succeeded at their task and got Tortorella suspended for game six in Madison Square Garden. Not that it mattered, by that point the Capitals (who were still down 3-2) were in charge of the series.

If only they could’ve held on to that series. I feel bad for the team that has Washington now. Oh wait…

Tap of the Stick/Drop of the Gloves
Who deserves a pat on the back; and who deserves a punch in the face

Drop of the Gloves: The media

It only took a couple hours for ESPN to turn attention to the only two players who matter in our series (apparently): Dupuis and Laich

Ok, I was just seeing if you were paying attention. I, of course, mean Crosby and Ovechkin.

When Carolina came back to score two late goals against New Jersey in the first round and everyone knew it would be Pens/Caps, national media like NBC and ESPN began drooling like a hyena chasing a three-legged antelope.

The very next morning, Barry Melrose was allowed to talk on Sports Center. For a minute, I thought he was making sense. He said that it wasn’t about the players and that it was more about the teams.

Shame on me for six weeks for believing that.

Later in the show, Melrose interviewed Alex Ovechkin live and did everything but tell him that he has beautiful eyes (which would’ve been very awkward). He began, “I’m joined by Alex Ovechkin, who I believe is the greatest player in hockey.”

NBC was better. Milbury actually took Crosby over Ovechkin during his and McGuire’s mock two-person draft on their intermission monkey show Saturday afternoon. But that still defeats the purpose. Just because it’s Crosby doesn’t mean that it’s right. We shouldn’t be picking anyone over anyone else. In the regular season? Maybe. But not in the playoffs.

Objectivity never killed the cat, boys and girls. So it’s safe to use it.

Tap of the Stick: Jonas Hiller

It was Conklin last season, Clemmensen during this season, and now Hiller in the post-season. The Ducks have rallied behind this 27-year-old goalie who virtually came out of nowhere. A few years ago, Hiller was living it up with HC Davos in the Swiss league. He got his start with Anaheim last season and finished out this season very strong for the Ducks.

But all that hails in comparison to what he’s done in that past few weeks.

Take a look at these post-season numbers:

Most shots against: 375
Most saves made: 358
Best save percentage: .955
Third in GAA: 1.74/game
Playoff leading 2 shutouts.

And this all isn’t just a playoff showing. During the regular season when Hiller played 46 games for the Ducks (most of which were in the second half), he was sixth in the league for save percentage and seventh for GAA.

He looked very strong in the triple overtime thriller on Sunday in Detroit and equally as impressive in last night’s home victory over the Red Wings.

Drop of the Gloves: Brian Engblom

Brian, just shave your head and start all over again. Nothing you can do to your hair will change what you’ve done in the past.

Not so fast!
Who’s getting more credit than the deserve

Simeon Varlomov

I’d love to give this guy credit, and I know I’ll get some flack for this, but that save he made on Sidney Crosby on Saturday during game 1 was not all his doing. I’m not going to say that he had nothing to do with the save, because it was a great effort by him and a great showing of flexibility. Also, I’m not saying that any game as a whole that he’s played hasn’t been spectacular.

But Sidney Crosby, what are you doing? You have a wide open cage and you put it in the only place where Varlomov can reach the puck. Had you elevated the puck two inches, you would’ve scored. Had you put the puck just inside the post, you would’ve scored. Had you put the puck anywhere else except where you did, you would’ve scored.

Instead, Caps win 3-2 and start off the series 1-0. Keep reading…it gets worse.

Barrel of Monkeys
Which team is really coming together

Chicago Blackhawks

After winning a very convincing opening-round series against Calgary, the Blackhawks continue to impress. Though game one of their series with Vancouver (who many are picking to go to the finals) didn’t go their way, they still looked good.

After being shut out by Luongo in the first two periods, the Blackhawks offense got a swift kick in the pants and erased a 3-0 lead in the third period. A late goal by Sami Salo and an empty-netter sealed the deal at 5-3. But Chicago showed that they had the fight in them. Patrick Kane was particularly impressive with a 1.00 shooting percentage: two shots, two goals.

Game 2 went much better for the young team. Despite Vancouver jumping out to a 2-0 lead, Chicago didn’t lose their heads and scored five straight goals on Roberto Luongo. They would then add an empty-netter to cap it off for a 6-3 decision.

Kane scored once again, accompanied by two apiece for Patrick Sharp and Dave Bolland and a wrister from Ben Eager.

I have to admit, I’m impressed by this very young team for keeping such composure with as much pressure on them as they have. Toews and Kane are doing a very good job leading the team.

Even through last night’s loss at home to Vancouver, Chicago was able to apply pressure to the Canucks throughout the game. That alone, given their experience, is an accomplishment. There’s a bright future for hockey in Chicago.

Killer Whale
The week’s Penguin killer

Kelly Sutherland

First, as Mike Adams noted in his game grades, Sutherland called the trip on Letang’s beautiful defensive play on the breakaway in the first period. Even Stevie Wonder saw Letang hit the puck first.

Then, for a short while, I was upset after the third Capital goal that Ovechkin scored on the power play. Then I realized it must be legal to trip shorthanded forwards when a super star like Ovechkin has the puck. Certainly Sutherland would’ve called the same thing in Crosby’s favor right?

Well, the answer is no.

That situation was presented in the third period when Crosby brought the puck off of the wall when Malkin attempted to take the puck with his skate and ended up tripping up one of the Caps. I joined Mike Emerick in waiting for the even-up call, which he accurately predicted should’ve entailed. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case and the Pens are down 2-0.

Well that concludes this week’s edition of the Hump-day Report. I’ll be back next week: same time, same place.