Saturday, May 31, 2008

Allen's Town

The hearts of Toronto football fans may forever belong to Damon Allen. With his role on the field diminishing, Allen called it a career on May 28th, 2008. Not since Pinball Clemons has an Argo been such a star on the field and a star in the city.

Damon Allen joined the CFL as a free agent in 1987 with Edmonton. By the end of his career, he had played with almost every team in the league, including a stint with Memphis during the CFL's ill advised U.S. expansion. Winning four Grey Cups, the most impressive may have been his last which came with Toronto. After an injury filled season in 2004, Allen was named the MVP of the Grey Cup for the third time and brought the Argos their 15th championship, cementing his place in Toronto sports history.

Voted number fourteen on TSN's top 50 CFL players of all time, Damon Allen is assured a prominent place in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. What about the hall in Canton, Ohio? Most are under the impression that Canton is home of the NFL Hall of Fame when in fact it is the Pro Football Hall. One other man is in both halls, Grey Cup winner and Pro Bowler Warren Moon.

Let's have a look at the numbers. On September 4th 2006 Damon Allen passed Warren Moon's pro football record of 70,553 passing yards and finished his career with an astounding 72,381 yards. Danny McManus is number two in the CFL and he's twenty thousand yards behind Allen. There is the argument that the CFL is a passing league and so Allen's accomplishments have less shine. If so much time was spent on passing plays, how is it that Allen is number three all time in rushing behind CFL legends George Reed and Mike Pringle? In pro football he's number fifteen all time in rushing yards, only three hundred or so yards behind his Hall of Fame older brother Marcus Allen.

The CFL doesn't always get the credit it deserves when compared to it's rich cousin, the NFL. Damon Allen's career numbers are not that far off Warren Moon's stats. If the Hall of Fame doesn't recognize Damon Allen as a once in a lifetime player and vote for him based on his stats, give credit to an exceptional career and an outstanding gentleman - vote him in as a builder. CFL or NFL, not many players compare to Damon Allen and he truly deserves all of the accolades that will follow him in to his off field career.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Triple Crown or Triple Threat?

In keeping with the theme of exploring different avenues of the sporting world, an important event is coming up June 7th. The running of the Belmont Stakes. This year we're looking at a possible Triple Crown winner. We're also looking at a possible disaster for the horse racing community.

There have been eleven Triple Crown winners. The last one was Affirmed, the great great grandson of 1937 winner War Admiral (pictured above). This year there is a strong chance a horse named Big Brown will sweep the three big races and become the 12th to claim the crown.

14.3 million viewers tuned in to watch Big Brown easily win the 1.25 mile Kentucky Derby but it's what happened after the race that casts a cloud over Belmont. Second place finisher Eight Bells was euthanized immediately after the race on the track due to compound fractures of both front legs. Two years ago it was Barbaro that was injured and euthanized months later. Now, going in to the Belmont, it is Big Brown's left front hoof that carries the horse racing world.

Big Brown has a slight quarter crack of his left hoof. The area has been cleaned and dried and nature is taking its course. A patch will be applied to secure the area and Big Brown continues to train and jog lightly in preparation. With at least fifty million dollars in stud fees waiting for the owners if Big Brown is a Triple Crown winner, the pressures to run this race are enormous.

I'm not here to comment on the ethics of horse racing. I would like to see some changes but I also see a long and proud tradition. However, in what other major sport is there a chance the star may be put to death due to injury? Medically Big Brown is cleared to race but can the race community and NBC ( the telecaster) afford another high profile death on live television? There used to be rivalries in racing. Horses competed against each other for several years. The best of the best going head to head. There was always next year. In this big money world though, Big Brown could win the Belmont and retire as a 3 year old. Far more valuable as a stud then as a racer.

Much has been made of the breeding in this "sport". Are the horses too strong for their own good? Bred to be too fast for their slender ankles? It is certainly a possibility. Of the twenty one horses running in the Kentucky Derby, every one is a descendant of 1950's racer Native Dancer. Personally, I believe the track textures could be more of an issue. With varying conditions and track surfaces it may be of benefit to explore a synthetic surface similar to field turf that could create a more consistent track.

So history could be made on June 7th at the Belmont Stakes, Let's hope it's for the right reasons.

One last note... in 1919 an unbeatable horse named Man O War lost to the underdog. That horse's name was Upset. So now when an underdog beats the favorite...

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Captain Kaberle?

As I watched the UEFA Cup final, my thoughts drifted to hockey during halftime. I must have been in a European frame of mind because I started wondering about Mats Sundin. In Leaf Nation there is strong support to have their captain return. As there should be. There is however a growing number of Leaf fans that want to see the team go in another direction and spend Sundin's money elsewhere. There's no doubt it will be hotly debated on radio, television and in print until Mats makes his decision.

My thoughts weren't whether he would be back, but what happens if he's not? Toronto could be without a GM, a coach and a captain. Has this ever happened in NHL history? Who on the Leafs roster could step in to fill the void? Could Cliff Fletcher make a trade for a captain? Sign a free agent to wear the C and guide the talented young Marlies into Maple Leafs? Let's have a look.

With Mats gone, not only is there a leadership void ( he's the second longest serving captain behind Sakic in Colorado), his 78 points last year and 987 points in 981 career games as a Leaf would leave a huge hole up front should he not return. Would Toronto look for a player to fill both holes or just focus on one?

I looked around the league at some free agents that would certainly fill the leadership role but there's not a lot of offence. I don't think signing someone like Hossa is the answer here. How about some former Leafs? Would Owen Nolan be a good fit after a stellar year for the Flames. This guy is true grit and may have a few more years left in him. He did play 77 games for Mike Keenan last year and had 32 points. There's Peca in Columbus but he seems to have the injury bug the last few years and his point totals are declining. Jason Smith in Philly is interesting. Could he come back to Toronto after being traded in '99? He played 77 games and was a steal at only 1.9 million for the year. Another name that caught my eye was Gary Roberts. JF jr said tonight on "Off the record" he wished he'd kept Roberts. He's averaged forty to fifty points the last few years and he would certainly pick up his teammates by the shirt collar if need be.

I also considered the trade route. Patrick Marleau seems to be a name that's always out there. He has a no trade that kicks in July 1st. It was supposed to be a sure thing that he'd be moved but apparently they might let a new coach make the final call. Could Fletcher put together a package of young players for a player like Marleau who needs a fresh start. I think it would do him good to get back in a hockey market where the game is the priority. One real long shot - what would it take to get Draper out of Detroit. I have to admit, the goal off the face has me really high on this guy right now. His face-off skills alone would make him an asset.

Then there's promotion from within. This is probably the most likely. I can't see the Leafs signing any big names when there is the perception that no one is in charge. Looking at the current roster only one name jumps out, Kaberle. He would be a good bridge from the Sundin era. So many of the big names in Toronto seem to be on their way out - McCabe, Kubina and Tucker will all be finding new addresses this off season. Kaberle knows the room, he's an All Star and he played a full 82 games last year with a solid 53 points.

Considering the state of things in Toronto, a new captain may be the least of their worries and Mats Sundin could still be back for another year. I know it's early to be having this conversation but it's the night between game 3 and 4 of the best there are 5 more games this year...then what are we gonna do? Hey Leaf Nation - Who would you like to see wear the C if Mats moves on?

Back to school

This was supposed to be the NHL's dream match up for the Stanley Cup Final. A series that could get the attention of the casual sports fan. A series that might actually raise the struggling television ratings in the United States. The savvy and veteran Detroit Red Wings versus the young Penguin stars from Pittsburgh. An original six dynasty against a Penguins team that was nearly bankrupt a few years ago and now seems poised to become a dynasty themselves. This was supposed to be Sidney Crosby's graduation party. What happened?
The comparisons to the '83 Oilers will intensify now as the Penguins are in serious danger of being bounced from the Stanley Cup final before they realize it's even started. The Wings are all over the ice, winning all the races. When a Pittsburgh player heads for the puck, two Wings are already there. When a shot does get through to the Detroit net Osgood is there waiting. He lead the league this year in save percentage and we're seeing his skills on display in the finals, especially period one of game one. When the Wings get the lead they can split up Datsyuk and Zetterberg on to separate lines. With Kris Draper on the third line the Wings have three lines with a Selke trophy winner or nominee that is capable of shutting down anyone.
Experts in all major sports will tell you it's not over until you've lost at home. The Wings have delivered the first two punches in this heavyweight battle and in my opinion, if the Penguins are not careful, the knockout punch is coming in Pittsburgh. I had the Wings winning in six. I would have loved to see either team win in a game seven. A sweep though... how disappointing would that be? Well, not for Wings fans. Crosby and Malkin need to pass the puck to create room for themselves and get their teammates involved. I remember a game when I lived in Vancouver where Naslund had a hat trick and the puck was on his stick for a total of two seconds or less. All the goals were one timers after the Canucks gained the zone with crisp, clean passes. I hope for hockey's sake the Pens defend their home ice and send this series back to Detroit 2-2.
Speaking of not seeing a punch coming...How about Roberts punching recently concussed Franzen in the head? In this era of hockey we often hear of a lack of respect among players for their union brothers. I was surprised to see a veteran like Roberts take such an obvious cheap shot. I'm not saying leave Franzen alone all game. He's a very dangerous scoring threat. However, if you're looking to send a message, do it in the first period when the score is 0-0. Not when the game is out of reach.
Detroit has been schooling your team through two games and now you've pissed them off. Poking an angry bear can only have one result - you lose your hand. Expect to see Malkin on the radar of Kronwall for several bone bruising hits. Taking cheap shots at any team's stars or goalie will only get you the same in return.
It will be very interesting next game to see how Pittsburgh comes out in the first ten minutes of period one. If there's some jump in their step or they get the first goal we may have a series yet. If Detroit comes out and continues the shutout streak beyond the first period this thing is done in four. Enjoy the game everyone...

Monday, May 26, 2008

At home on the range

Unfortunately I didn't get to see as much of the Memorial Cup as I would have liked to. Considering I spent three years living in Kitchener - Waterloo, I should have been following the home team a little closer. The memories of their seven game OHL final against Belleville seemed to have been haunting the Rangers through the round robin portion of the tournament but they sure got organized on their day off. The powerhouse the home crowd had been expecting finally emerged when it counted most. Dispatching the Bulls 9-0 in the semi final game certainly sent a message to the home fans - don't count us out yet. But in the end, it wasn't meant to be as Spokane's defense won the day and the Memorial Cup.

One thing that struck me throughout the tournament as some teams racked up the wins and others piled up the losses, is how easy it is to forget these young men are all 16 to 20 years of age. The high level of skills on display was tremendous. All of the teams in the Memorial Cup are champions in their own leagues and should hold their heads high. They should take pride in this seasons accomplishments regardless of their place in the tournament.

During these games, when there is a close up of the bench, you see the excitement and love of hockey in the faces of these young men. When the games are over, the raw emotions that shine through. The joys of winning and the bitter taste of defeat are so real and genuine. It's refreshing in this world of thirty second sound bites.

Some of these young men, at 16, may be experiencing defeat at a professional level for the first time and they will learn from it and work towards next year. The star players may be moving on to the NHL or AHL where new challenges await them. For some players though, at 20, this may have been their last game. Unless they are going on to play university hockey or sign on with a team somewhere in Europe, their days of pro hockey may be over. Tears flowed on both sides of the ice as the Memorial Cup was handed to the Spokane Chiefs and that's one of the great things about junior hockey. Real emotion.

One quick note. Much has been made of the Memorial Cup falling to pieces... my theory? Could it have been the collective heartache of the Kitchener fans unconsciously wishing for it?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Cup still coming to Canada

As Canadians, I've been guilty of this too, we cheer for our home team religiously all season long and into the playoffs. When they get eliminated we shift our allegiance to another Canadian team. Maybe the closest geographically, a team from the same division or the last one standing. When the teams from the great white north are bounced from the post season we tune out in droves. Neglecting the fact the two teams that eventually fight for Lord Stanley's Cup are loaded with our boys.

Last year's winners, the Anaheim Ducks, had about the same number of Canadian players as their opponent the Ottawa Senators. Pronger, Giguere, Getzlaf, Perry, the Neidermayer brothers and others all brought the cup north to celebrate their victory. I personally was just as pleased to see Ottawa native Sean O'donnell win last year as I would have been to see Senators captain Daniel Alfredson become the first European captain to hoist the cup.

This year's final could be the NHL's dream come true as the original six Red Wings take on the young guns from Pittsburgh. I can't remember when I was this excited for a Stanley Cup Final. The last time a cup final was so widely anticipated may have been back in '94 when Messier led the Rangers to their first cup win in fifty four years.

As the Conference Finals both went to 3-0 and a Detroit/Pittsburgh final seemed inevitable, I wanted to follow Pierre Mcguire's lead and not pick a winner. Just enjoy what will surely be one for the ages. There is a strong argument for both teams but something happened in the Western Conference's game 6 that changed my mind.

When Kris Draper gave the Wings a 1-0 lead against the Dallas Stars by scoring a goal with his face I picked Detroit to win the cup. So much has already been said and will be written about the superstars - Crosby, Malkin, Zetterberg, Lidstrom and all the others (heck, this could almost be an All - Star game.), it's the players like Draper who bring their work boots and work ethic with them every day to the rink that will be the deciding factor. This guy could be a captain on almost any other team with his grit, determination, leadership and perseverance. All the qualities Canadian's love. So why are we not celebrating these guys instead of moaning about Montreal being the last Canadian team to win it all in '93?

Hang in there Canada!! Although it will be another year before a Canadian team gets the chance to play for the cup, take heart in the fact that some of our finest hockey citizens are in the finals. The Stanley Cup will be coming north of the border for a visit this summer. The beautiful thing about the sports world - there's always next year.

Last season Alfie was the first European captain to lead his team to the finals. This year Lidstrom will be the first European captain to be handed the Cup.

Detroit Red Wings in six games.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Chelsea Mourning

I must admit that I'm certainly not the world's biggest soccer fan. I watch the World Cup every four years and that's about it. I'll cheer for Canada if they ever get back on to the world's stage but it's difficult to go from watching a dazzling display between Brazil and Italy in a World Cup match and then trying to watch Canada plod along against Mexico in a Gold Cup qualifier.

In North America, where we celebrate the NFL "World" Champions and play the World Series, we owe it to ourselves to watch a truly world event. As millions tuned in to watch Chelsea play Manchester United in Moscow at the UEFA Cup Final, it felt good to be part of the global sporting community and celebrate the beautiful game. From my Canadian point of view, a well contested soccer match can be as rough as a good hockey game. Elbows are flying, guys are bleeding and if they had gloves, I'm sure they'd drop 'em.

One of the aspects of soccer that keeps it from gaining ground in North America is the diving which continues to plague the sport. Why can't the ref reverse his call if the injured player immediately springs up smiling and laughing? Even in today's great match Rinaldo drew a foul in the 19th minute that was clearly a dive. Once the call was made, he pops up instantly healed, laughs at his opponent and claps his hand at the ref to say - great call. Even the sideline photographers were shaking their heads in disgust at the blatant dive. As one of the world's greatest players it's a shame that he, and others, have to act this way. Rinaldo's beautiful header in the 26th minute for the opening goal was a prime example of his skill. He doesn't need the embellishments. Win on your soccer skills not your acting skills.

Frank Lampard helped Chelsea even things up with a goal in the 45th minute and it went back and forth to open the second half. Chelsea forward Drogba, who was sent off with a red card in extra time, almost made it 2-1 but he rang it off the post in the 77th minute. Lampard came close as well in extra time but as the light rain became heavier and then became a downpour, they were off to penalty kicks where Manchester United won and became UEFA Cup champs for the third time in their history, defeating Chelsea 2-1.

One last interesting note... Starting at 10:45 pm Wednesday night Moscow time and ending at nearly 2 am Thursday morning, this was the only UEFA Cup final to be played over two days.

Penguins take flight

There is a story told about the Edmonton Oilers first trip to the Stanley Cup final against the New York Islanders dynasty of the early eighties. I believe it was in Kevin Lowe's book "Champions" , it may have been a Wayne Gretzky story, or it may be both...The Oilers had just lost the cup and after the game a few of them were walking past the Islanders dressing room on their way out of the arena. This had been New York's 4th straight cup and they were celebrating as best they could. After the playoff battles were done, Potvin, Gilles, Trottier and everyone else were so banged up they could barely move. Ice packs and bandages and slings were everywhere. That was the moment that the Edmonton players realized what it takes to win the Stanley Cup; everything you have and then some.
The Oilers went on to win 4 of the next 5 Stanley Cups. Playing with broken bones, broken ribs, separated shoulders and everything else that goes with playoff hockey. Mark Messier would go on to be one of the greatest leaders in all of sports, bringing a cup later to the Rangers after a 54 year absence. That one moment looking at the Islanders was where those great players learned not only how to get to the final but how to win it.
Is this the year for the Pittsburgh Penguins to win it all? Are these great players ready to make the next step to great leaders? Detroit sure isn't ready to just hand the cup over without one hell of a fight.It's going to be an amazing final that's for sure. Detroit has been through this battle before and their core group of players have hoisted the cup under Steve Yzerman's leadership in '02.
There's something about Pittsburgh this year though. All of these young players have had to mature under the microscope with Crosby as their captain. Everywhere he goes the cameras are rolling. Three major things happened for Pittsburgh this year in my opinion. After coming back from injury, Fleury got rid of those ugly yellow pads - enough said. Crosby's injury opened the door for Malkin to emerge as a super star with increased ice time and responsibility. The other not so obvious factor was that while injured, Crosby could sit with Mario in the owner's box and discuss the game. It can't hurt to sit and watch a hockey game with one of it's greatest scoring minds ever and Malkin's great play meant that they didn't have to rush back their Captain.
With the way that they have marched through the Sens, Rangers and now the Flyers, Detroit is in for a long series. I'm not saying the Penguins will win it all this year but last season's second round exit to the Senators may have been their Islanders moment. This team has been on an accelerated learning curve so it wouldn't surprise me if they're ready now.
More to come in the days ahead... including my Stanley Cup winner...

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Hall of the Braves?

An interesting conversation was taking place a few weeks ago on the "Third Shift" on Fox Radio and I thought it was worth taking another look at here. As Atlanta sits 1.5 games back of the upstart and underpaid Marlins and the Mets will forever be spending the big bucks to compete for headlines with the Yanks, the era of a guaranteed playoff spot for the Braves seems to have come to an end. On a ball club that played into October a staggering 14 times in a row, who are the future Hall of Famers on this team? With only one World Series ring in those 14 years, does anybody qualify? Are they the Buffalo Bills of baseball? Getting to the post season regularly and coming up short.

The first thing that came to my mind as I started to ponder the one World Series victory was that we are coming out of a very dark and dirty period of drugs and who knows what in baseball. Obviously the World Series is incredibly difficult to win, ask the Cubs. But could the Braves be one of the teams that stayed clean and paid the price for it? We'll never really know who was on what and I can't claim the Braves were clean or their opponents were juiced but if they ran into Barry Bonds in a NLCS or the Cardinals with Big Mac they'd be behind before the series even began.
An NBA referee has admitted in court documents he played a part in fixing 14 games last year alone, so we can't really dismiss conspiracy theories like we used to...

My next thought brought me back home to Montreal. Major League Baseball realigned the divisions and dropped Atlanta into our laps. Could the Braves 14 post season trips have more to do with the division they were in? Once 1994's lockout came and went, the Expos were in permanent sales mode, sending All Stars around the league in exchange for minor leaguers. Walker, Grissom, Pedro Martinez and anyone else that got too pricey was sent packing. Speaking of too pricey, the man who eventually killed baseball in Montreal, was awarded ownership of the Marlins. They've had some surprising Series victories but they too are usually in sell and rebuild mode. Then there's the Phillies. Last year Philadelphia was the first major league franchise in any sport to lose 10 thousand games - enough said. The Braves certainly have had some stellar teams but there were a few years when the competition in the East division was more like AAA baseball not the majors.

There will be more Braves enter the Hall of Fame, as the players from those winning years retire from the game and follow Hank Aaron and Phil Niekro into those hallowed halls. I believe Tom Glavine is headed in when he retires. A 2 time Cy Young winner, he's one of only five lefties to win at least 300 games. Greg Maddux has been a model of consistency throughout his career. He's the only pitcher to win 4 Cy Young's in a row and has 350 wins. With over 3000 k's he'll definitely be voted in but will he be wearing a Cubs hat? He might have a spot in his heart for the Cubs after playing there twice in his career but his major accomplishments have come as a Brave and I think he'd recognize that. Jon Smoltz however might run into a little trouble getting votes after spending part of his career in the bullpen. However, he is the only pitcher to have over 200 wins and 150 saves, is a Cy Young winner and has 3000 k's. One or two more rings would help his cause but I think he'll garner enough votes. If Chipper Jones can stay consistent and healthy, his numbers should help him avoid the same fate as Dale Murphy. Murphy played on as his skills faded and struck out a lot to end his career and many believe that has cost him. Jones though is behind only Mickey Mantle and Eddie Murray on the career home run list for switch hitters and his .309 career batting average makes him a safe bet for induction.

Is that it though? Are there really only 4 Hall of Famers on a team that went to the post season 14 years in a row? Manager Bobby Cox will certainly be in the Hall when he steps down. No matter the reasons why or how they won 14 pennants in a row, Bobby Cox was the captain that guided the ship and deserves to be honoured.

Will the Braves ever see this kind of streak again? I really don't see how as the East division goes from being one of the worst to a division where 4 out of the 5 teams could compete every year. The Nationals, as were the Expos, are cursed to the cellar. The Phillies have the strength of Ryan Howard to power them along. As I mentioned before, the Mets will always be competing with the Yankees for headlines if not fans so they'll always be the biggest spenders in the division. With a new stadium the Marlins should finally have the revenue to secure their star players to long term contracts, if Jeff Loria the owner wants to share.

So Braves fans, what do you think? Will only one World Series win in 14 years hurt the chances of any of these players getting in to the Hall? Will the Hall of Fame someday be the Hall of the Braves?

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Say it ain't Joe

Marty Turco made a solid 38 saves and had an assist on the winning goal as he exorcised some demons in a 2-1 Dallas win at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. Turco, who had been 0-9-2 at the Joe going into today's game, had to be at his best as Dallas inched closer to even ground and now trail the series 3 games to 2.

The streak though significant, was misleading. Turco, a NCAA star for Michigan, was 18-5 in games played at the JLA. Could the 0 for 11 have more to do with the powerhouse Wings? Who, year after year are competing for the President's Trophy as the top team in the league. The Red Wings weren't supposed to survive in a salary cap era and instead they have thrived.

About three weeks ago I was speaking with a friend in the hockey world familiar with Turco and his hometown of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. The question was raised; does Turco need to win the Cup to be considered a great goalie when his career is done? Will his playoff record overshadow his stellar seasons? Will an arena have his name on it someday? I wasn't sure at the time how to answer but as the '08 playoffs continue, I'd say the answer to all three is yes.

Last September I picked an Anaheim / Ottawa rematch in this year's final. With the same result...unfortunately for Ottawa fans. At the trade deadline, I thought the Stars were the big winners by picking up Brad Richards. Sending a strong message to the rest of the league but also to Turco. Up and coming goalie Mike Smith was sent to Tampa Bay solidifying Turco as the Stars #1 for years to come. I thought Dallas would be an interesting dark horse coming out of the west and they haven't disappointed.

Marty had yet another strong year, tied for 8th in the league with a 2.31 goals against average. When you look at his career numbers, in 382 games he has a 2.15 GAA and a .913 Save Percentage. Compare that to another Marty. Martin Brodeur who someday, if he isn't already, will be the mark by which everyone else is measured. In his 968 games, Brodeur has a 2.20 GAA and a .914 Save %. Now I'm not saying Marty Turco is on the same level now as the New Jersey All-Star but game 6 versus San Jose and today's win at the Joe lay a strong foundation towards a Hall of Fame career. New Jersey has had the defense for long playoff runs. Dallas hasn't always had that luxury.

Will there be an arena someday with Marty Turco's name on it? I'd say there will be. He'll go down as one of the greats in my books. And if he doesn't get a Stanley Cup ring? Well, the kids in my hometown are playing in the Pierre Page Arena. So I think it's a safe bet. And now the Stars know that if there is a game 7 in Detroit, their man between the pipes can get them to the final.

Friday, May 16, 2008

For Crease Sakes!

As for last night's question, goal or no? I stayed up to watch the replay on the Score. It's a goal for sure, for now... it gets a little tricky to explain in writing but here goes...let's get out the history books...Was it in '98 or '99 that the big "crease crackdown" happened? There was a league wide mandate to protect goalies and so any body part, foot or toe in the crease and the goal didn't count. So many goals were called back and ones that should have been weren't. Ask Buffalo about Brett Hull's Stanley Cup winner, foot in the crease, should have been called back, but it was in Dallas and they were handing out the hardware when they should have been reviewing the goal. From the Dallas perspective it was a hockey play. Whether Hull was in the crease or not shouldn't have mattered. He didn't stop Hasek from making the save, he just scored a great goal. If Hasek was a butterfly goalie or had a stand-up style, he probably would have made the save. Hasek affected the outcome more than Hull's supposed crease violation. It's a shame that all season long the league called back goals for ridiculous reasons, so Hull's game winner has a little less shine. I'm worried this is where we are going again, games being decided by silly rules, by a video judge in Toronto. I'll have lots to write about but the hockey and the fans will suffer.

Getting back to this year's goals. To me it seems that the league wants to and should crackdown on guys standing in the crease, facing the play but backing into the goalie, or waiting to be pushed into the goalie by a defenseman. It's a hockey play to screen the goalie but he does need the blue paint to give him the space to make the save. Post lockout era hockey is cracking down on clutching and grabbing and holding in the 3 zones, why not in the net area? If the defender isn't allowed to clear the area for fear of an obstruction penalty, and the goalie isn't allowed to do a Hextall on crease crashers, then the refs need to protect the space in the blue paint and the goalies.

Last night's 2nd Philly goal was a goal ( i think), here's why... you can bring the puck into the crease or follow the puck into the crease without it being a penalty during a hockey play...the puck is live until it's covered and the whistle goes. I'm not advocating running the goalie to score, that's not a hockey play, that's a penalty.But when a guy is chasing the puck into the crease, it's gotta stand.
Unlike what's been going on in the Wings/Stars series though, last night we had Briere coming in from the side boards cutting to the net. He had a tiny bit of real estate there but Gill was closing off his lane and angling him towards the crease. The Flyer player drove to the net and was sent to the net at the same time. I think that because he was carrying the puck in with him, it's a goal.

Here's a solution. If the ref's going to let a player screen and or impede the goalie, let the defense try to clobber the hell out of the guy to move him out. Old time hockey. In the current rules the D man will get a penalty for obstruction if he uses too much force, that's wrong. Where's the hockey? When still in Ottawa, Chara was given an obstruction penalty in front of the net and the ref said to him to explain the penalty call - "you were too strong for that guy". Are you kidding me? Penalizing a player for being too strong? It happened.