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Five Thoughts: Alain Vigneault’s crazy gamble; A pair of bad hits make us weary

Apr 25, 2011, 9:00 AM EDT

Cory Schneider AP

With so many things cropping up yesterday there’s plenty of thoughts to get to. Before those thoughts, let’s give it up to the Nashville Predators for advancing to the second round of the playoffs for the first time in team history. There are a lot of great stories on that team to be told and it’s great that they’ll get more looks on television to tell them. Hockey in the honkytonk is for real. As for everything else on our minds, let’s have a look.

1. If for nothing else, you have to give Canucks coach Alain Vigneault credit for having gigantic brass ones. Opting to start Cory Schneider over Roberto Luongo in Game 6 is as unexpected of a move as he could make. Even though Luongo’s struggled in his previous two games, making a move that bold takes guts or a touch of insanity. Schneider played well when he wasn’t handling the puck, but that was one of the risks with going with your backup goalie to start so deep into a series. The communication between Schneider and his defensemen obviously wasn’t there and the first two goals he allowed were due to that unfamiliarity. The Canucks didn’t come away with the win so that leads us to our next thought.

2. Now the big debate will center around who gets the start in Game 7 for Vancouver. The Blackhawks have all the momentum now and for whatever reason Vigneault started Schneider you have to wonder if that applies to Game 7 now. Schneider left Game 6 after giving up a penalty shot goal to Michal Frolik. While it looked like it could’ve been a bad injury, it turns out he cramped up badly and will be available for Game 7.

We’ve seen the goaltending debate go on in Philadelphia and now sparking up in San Jose during these playoffs, but is this actually happening in Vancouver? Seems like it is and that’s what makes all of this all the more stunning. What an incredible meltdown from the team that seemed ready to roll through the playoffs.

3. How fun must it be to be Chicago’s Ben Smith? Smith is a former Boston College standout who rode shotgun to two national championships with the Eagles in 2008 and 2010. In 2008 he played alongside Nathan Gerbe and in 2010 he was playing wingman to Chris Kreider and Cam Atkinson. This year he was a late season call-up for Chicago who played in six regular season games and scored one goal. Now six games into the playoffs he has three goals and scored the game-winner in Game 6 and has helped Chicago to the verge of pulling a titanic upset in the first round. Not too bad for a kid who was a sixth round pick in 2008.

4. Many people who are a lot smarter about hockey than I ever will be believe that Flyers captain Mike Richards will not be suspended for his nasty shove from behind on Tim Connolly that knocked Connolly out of the game with a head injury. Richards was given a minor penalty for boarding on the play and for Connolly it’s a brutal hit because of his past concussion problems.

I respect their takes on that play, but it’s hard for me to believe that there wasn’t some ill intent on that play. Perhaps it’s more emotion than rational thinking speaking here as careless plays like that make me sick to my stomach, but if I were in Colin Campbell’s position chances are I’d be a hated man in Philadelphia for the way I’d rule on that play. There was no need for Richards to check or push Connolly on that play. You want to make a play there, go for the puck not smearing the player.

5. Expect a lot more talk about the mysterious “hitting zone” behind the net today. Chicago’s Bryan Bickell caught Vancouver’s Kevin Bieksa with a very obvious head shot that was virtually the same kind of hit Raffi Torres delivered to Brent Seabrook. There was no penalty on the play and Bieksa was slow in getting to his feet. Obviously the standard has been set now, but it certainly didn’t take long for there to be a hit that was virtually identical in it’s violence. That’s one very dangerous precedent the league has set concerning hits in that location of that manner. If you’re behind the net there should be a sign saying “Welcome to Thunderdome” from now on.

  1. spiffy53 - Apr 25, 2011 at 9:33 AM

    yes, joe you are absolutely correct regarding the richards hit. you are showing more emotion than rational thinking. it was a hit. it was a penalty. that is about it. if connolly skates off and plays his next shift, no one would be talking about it. but we have a player with a history of head issues where each hit no matter how big or small is going to have an effect. trust me, philadelphia knows full well once the concussions start, they do not stop. again, less emotion and more rational thinking would suit you well.

    • gvots - Apr 25, 2011 at 9:58 AM

      and it’s a shoulder injury to boot.

      • spiffy53 - Apr 25, 2011 at 10:24 AM

        i just saw that. when he went down, he was holding his head. again, it was a hit. it was a penalty. i would think that would be about it. either way, neither team is going to do much after this. the flyers goaltending situation is embarrassing and the sabres can’t close.

      • ginnitti - Apr 25, 2011 at 10:59 AM

        I was at the game, it was a violent hit, but we’ve seen this in Buffalo before. Connolly allows himself to be stuck in corners, or dangling horizontally at center ice. Where I do believe there was intent from Richards, Connolly is too lazy to get out of his own way. Both teams are undermanned and beaten entering a game 7

  2. ginnitti - Apr 25, 2011 at 10:57 AM

    $10 million salary sitting on the bench to start game 6. How is this acceptable to any team? When you pay that kind of money, you’re obligated to stick with the guy in the big game.

    Source: http://www.spotrac.com/nhl/vancouver-canucks/roberto-luongo/

  3. polegojim - Apr 25, 2011 at 11:07 AM

    I thought the same thing Joe, but after watching, I believe that Schneider gave them a better chance than Luongo. Luongo’s shaken and seeing puck ghosts with Blackhawks swarming around him in his sleep

    Cory kept the Canucks in the game. Two goals were via puck handling decisions, but not bad tending. Puck handling can be fixed easily. D and Cory just not used to working together as much.

    With the way Chicago was bombing the net, they would’ve scored another 2-3 on Luongo.

    That said, although Luongo was in goal for the game winner/lose, the final goal was given up by poor D, poor position.

  4. puckfan43 - Apr 25, 2011 at 11:57 AM

    Joe-Smith actually played with Kreider and future Blackhawk Jimmy Hayes in 2010. Additionally, he was a 6th round draft choice in 2008. What would you do without my nitpicking? ;)

  5. balewsquare - Apr 25, 2011 at 12:07 PM

    In regards to the Torres hit, I felt the NHL wouldn’t suspend him because it’s a gray area for them. I felt the hit should be suspendable because, for the defenseman, it’s a routine play. If that hit is legal, it unnecessarily puts defensemen at risk, as this hit would happen often. Took what, three games? Thunderdome! http://www.hark.com/clips/pbrvlpsnyr-its-like-thunderdome

    • derpdederpdederp - Apr 25, 2011 at 4:23 PM

      defensemen play a position that puts them at risk, theyve accepted that and they deal with it. if the hit on seabrook or bieksa is made illegal we might as well just ban all hitting becasue those plays are just part of the game. i think some people are forgetting that hockey is a contact sport and there cant be a suspension every time theres an injury

  6. derpdederpdederp - Apr 25, 2011 at 2:09 PM

    its so ridiculous how the hit on bieksa was EXACTLY the same as the hit on seabrook but because bieksa got up right away there is virtually no discussion about it. obviously both hits were fine but it seems more than hypocritical that everyone was calling for a huge suspension for torres yet this hit got zero attention. perhaps the american media is a bit biased and only cares when a player on an american team gets hit….

    • hawks49 - Apr 25, 2011 at 6:08 PM

      You must be a Canucks fan. I don’t expect Canadians to have that great of a memory after their own days in hockey so I will recap:

      * Seabrook got right back up, much faster than Bieksa in fact.
      * Torres reputation precedes him, Bickell is known as a hitter now and again but not a dirty player.
      * The hit on Bieksa was with the shoulder and he looked at Bickell beforehand.
      * The hit on Seabrook was with blind sided flying elbow

      Was Bickells hit a penalty? Maybe. Should Torres have received a major penalty? Probably.

      Welcome to the Thunder Dome. The Canucks better be ready to get run down by a motorcycle.

      • derpdederpdederp - Apr 25, 2011 at 7:07 PM

        i personally find the canucks perennial choking pretty amusing, its all us leafs fans have this time of year

        what reputation does torres have? the only reason you say that is because he was just coming off a suspension. he does not have much of a history past that

        perhaps you need to watch these again and not let your bias get in the way. both hits were with the shoulder and both were good solid hits. had the puck not hopped over seabrooks stick torres would not have even been called for interference

        the point is these hits are both ok and neither of them truly deserve any attention, but the fact that the torres hit got so much attention and this one so little despite the fact they were identical shows how much inconsistency there is when it comes to dealing with what some people call “questionable” hits

  7. tommytd - Apr 25, 2011 at 8:22 PM

    Reduce headshots in the NHL??? The whole discussion is a sham. It ain’t gonna happen.

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