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CTN readers go to Penalty Box

by Shawn P. Roarke

Just like the Stanley Cup Final, the mood in the Penalty Box is getting a bit testy. CTN loves to see that, by the way. It seems the masses are not very pleased by CTN's award presentations after the Conference Final. Virtually every award – coach, rookie, defenseman and defensive forward – has come under fire.

In all seriousness, CTN loves that. This space is about exchanging ideas, an open forum that can serve the love we all share for this great game. CTN wants you to bring passion and that passion will be reciprocated throughout Crashing the Net.

So join the discussion. It's easy. All you need to do is have an opinion or thought about hockey or anything in Crashing the Net. Put it down in words and fire it off in an e-mail to Remember to include your name and hometown and you will likely find it in a future edition of the Penalty Box.

Now, it's on to this week's letters:

I'm sorry, I have a hard time giving all those awards to Detroit. If they were that dominant they would have the best record and of course, the best-ranked defense with players like Lidstrom. But, that's simply not the case. Detroit has faced the three teams in the playoffs suffering the most severe offensive paralysis -- so, why are they not higher ranked defensively? I agree that Pavel, Zetterberg, and Lidstrom have played admirably; who else on Detroit's roster has done much of anything else?  And if that's the case, what has been so spectacular about Babcock's coaching? 

The two awards I most vehemently disagree with you on are coaching, and defensive player. Therrien has been the real surprise this postseason with his ability unite a young, highly talented team around a banner of percentage plays, responsible two-way play, and an enviable work ethic in a city that has long praised the offensive prowess of Lemieux/Jagr over the salience of defensive cogency.  Indeed, even with all of Therrien's success, he's not terribly popular in the Steel City. Babcock was masterful with line-changes, but so was Therrien. In contrast, Therrien has been brilliant with quick, successful changes in the lineup or in reshuffling lines.  He changed defensive pairings before the semis, to the consternation of many. Yet again, it proved successful and brilliant.  Babcock's replacement of Hasek with Osgood was a necessity, not an act of foresight. The fact that Hasek choked so early is these playoffs perhaps underscores the importance of too much experience and perhaps suggests an overall lack of team unity, grit, and hunger. Detroit's lapses have been longer-lived and more severe than Pittsburgh's and against arguably weaker teams. Therrien over Babcock is all too obvious.  Maybe if his name was Mike instead of Michel he would have been nominated this year as well.

As far as the best defensive player goes, how can you make the case for Lidstrom over Gonchar? How? Lidstrom has played a lot of time, so has Gonchar.  Lidstrom has a higher plus/minus rating, but he plays primarily with Zetterberg and Pavel, who do most  of the Detroit scoring (which accounts for their own plus/minus rating).  Gonchar has more points this postseason even though he played two less games, and is accumulating them at the higher points-per-game average in his career (Lidstrom .62, Gonchar .79). Everyone, including yourself, is amazed by his own defensive prowess. And as far as hitting, have you watched a Pittsburgh game this postseason? Gonchar has been finishing his checks like I've never seen and he's racking up some spectacular ones at that.  I know that Lidstrom is always an acceptable choice because he is the best defenseman in a long time, maybe ever.  But in the 2008 postseason, he hasn't been No. 1.

-- Jim Staley, Erie, PA

Johan Franzen has scored 12 goals in 11 playoff games. VIDEO
Jim, them there are some cogent points. But they are also arrived at after looking some black-and-yellow hued glasses, CTN fears. To suggest that only three Red Wings players have done much of anything, as you did in the opening paragraph, is sheer folly. Have you heard of a chap named Johan Franzen. You know, they call him  “Mule” and he's the guy that had 12 goals in 11 playoff games. How about Niklas Kronwall? You know, the guy that plasters everything that moves and is among the leading scorers among defensemen in these playoffs. Shall CTN continue? No. Let's move on.

Your contention that some French bias played into CTN's choice for best coach is ludicrous and insulting. And, by the way, Michel Therrien does go by Mike, further shooting down your argument, my friend. Perhaps your most solid point has to do with Gonchar's candidacy for best defenseman in the playoffs after three rounds. CTN certainly struggled with the decision and Gonchar was close to winning. In the end, I went with Lidstrom because of the experience factor. It's much the same as when the champion in boxing doesn't have to win a fight but only not lose it in order to get a decision from the judges. Clearly, the difference between these two great European defenders was razor-thin.

First I must say that your blog has become a weekly staple of this year's playoffs for me. Keep up the great work. Now, I must respectfully disagree on your choice for best defensive forward. In my opinion, it should be Jordan Staal. He consistently plays against the opposing team's top units. The Flyers top line was ineffective for the conference final and much of this can be attributed to the Staal line. Not to mention that Staal also contributed to the Pens offense, making him a solid two-way player. Zetterberg is usually up against most team's third lines. Now I'm not saying that those lines can't score, but they are not nearly as offensively gifted as the lines Stall is up against night after night. So, it would be easy to say that Zetterberg is a defensive forward, but battling night after night against the likes of Steve Ott makes it easier to say that Jordan Staal, who plays night after night against the likes of Danny Heatley and Jason Spezza in Round 1, Jaromir Jagr in Round 2 and Mike Richards and Danny Briere last round.

I can't disagree with Osgood as best goalie, but I think if you look at the whole playoff run the runaway winner with that would have to be Marc-Andre Fleury.I mean the guy has only lost two games all playoffs and has a shutout in every round. Now, I know the teams Fleury has been facing have been offensively challenged when playing the Pens. But, he was still able to shut the door on the likes of Heatley, Spezza, Alfredsson, and Jagr, not to mention the whole Philadelphia Flyers. And, yes, I know this was done with the help of some phenomenal team defense on the Pens part, but each team the Pens have faced has had pure goal scorers and Fleury stopped them all.

My heart goes out to Team Canada our boys fought hard and gave us a good show here on home soil, but it just wasn't enough to stop the likes of Alexander Ovechkin and Ilya Kovalchuck.  But it gave as hope for things to come with the emergence of young stars, the likes of Brent Burns and Mike Green. Needless to say, Vancouver 2010 should be what every Canadian hockey fan is hoping for.

Lastly, I would like to say that this year's Finals is a hockey fans dream -- side from the part that my team is not in the Finals, nor did they make the playoffs.  That aside, both teams this year are extremely fast, and have a good eye for the puck and are good on the defensive side, as well.  The battle which comes down to who can pull it out? The experience in Detroit or the youthful exuberance in Pittsburgh? It is sure to captivate and fulfill all hockey fans appetite for the game.

-- Rob  Oromocto, New Brunswick

Red Wings winger Henrik Zetterberg's line draws in non-scoring lines because they are the most dangerous offensively.
Rob, thanks for the compliment. That's the proper way to butter someone up before dismissing all of the points they made in an argument. Well played. Jordan Staal is a great, great defensive forward, but he has not as good as either Zetterberg or Datsyuk in the playoffs, in my opinion. Your argument that they play against the third line is slightly ingenuous. The Zetterberg line plays against top lines, but not exclusively. You have seen it in this series. In the first two games, Babcock played that line against the Crosby line because he was confident in their shutdown abilities. Once the series moved to Pittsburgh, Babcock was happy to let the Pens, with last change, be more aggressive with dictating the matchups. He can do that because he believes he has three shut-down lines. The reason, Zetterberg draws non-scoring lines is because other teams know that the Zetterberg line is the most dangerous offensively and tries to counter it with a checking line. If a team doesn't opt to check that line, Babcock is happy to go power on power He can do that because he knows Zetterberg and Datsyuk will win that battle 95-percent of the time. CTN also finds it humorous that you admitted that the Penguin goalie put up some of his impressive numbers because he played against some offensively suspect teams, considering that Jim Staley argued that Detroit's defensive numbers were the result of playing against offensively inferior teams. CTN guesses that just goes to show that beauty really is in the eyes of the beholder. But, Rob, CTN will point out one place that we do agree. That's when it comes to the fact that this is a great Final matchup. Forget that it has been 7-0 in favor of Detroit in the first two games for a minute and acknowledge that this is the most intriguing matchup possible. It has been a great showcase for Detroit's brilliant and ruthless two-way game. Plus, this Final has been played, for long stretches, at a pace that is utterly spellbinding. CTN fervently hopes the Penguins find a way back into the series so we can relish this showcase of speed and skill for as long as possible. 

Sorry, Shawn, for best rookie, you must include Brandon Dubinsky of the NY Rangers. He was a leader in hits, goals and points in the playoffs (eight points four goals plus-2 in 10 games) He should not be overlooked. Only Letang can be considered as an equal rookie, but he is playing fourth-line duty and is not making the same impact for his team. And for the record, a NY Rangers against Detroit final would have been the better show for the NHL. Shanny back in Detroit... Come On. The time for the Crosby show would have been better if played next year against a young Sharks team.  Sharks get eaten by Penguins!!!  

-- Ron Paradiso

Brandon Dubinsky didn't make the cut for best rookie because the Rangers were eliminated after Round 2. Brandon Dubinsky highlights
Ron, CTN is guessing that you must have a background in the advertising business with those catchy slogans. If you aren't, perhaps you should consider a career change. You are spot-on about Dubinsky. CTN is very impressed by this young man. He does just about everything right. He has a horrible-looking skating stride, but he still gets where he needs to be alright. If you don't, you don't act as Jaromir Jagr's center for very long. But, the reason he did not make the cut is because his body of work ended after two rounds. The other players finished ahead of him because they advanced to the third round. Letang, before being removed in Wednesday's Game 3 of the Final, was playing solid, dependable hockey for the Penguins. Tyler Kennedy has been an excellent energy guy for Pittsburgh and Helm has added an injection of speed and creativity to Detroit's fourth line. Also, the fact that you think Detroit vs. the Rangers would be a better show for the NHL shows that you are blinded by your allegiance. In case you missed it, the Penguins are all the rage across the NHL. Sidney Crosby is the face of the NHL, as said by Detroit GM Ken Holland. They are young, they are vibrant, they are exciting and they are owned by Mario Lemieux, one of the five greatest players of all time. Even the most causal fan knows who Mario and Sidney are, so this series is a gateway into the consciousness of the non-hockey fan, which is never a bad thing. Also, Pittsburgh is one of the few teams in the League that has the same amount of skill and speed that Detroit possesses. Pittsburgh used that speed and skill to send the Rangers home for the summer. So, how could the Rangers be the best team to face Detroit?



-- Henry Peters

Why thank you so much for that erudite summarization of both the Detroit Red Wings and the Stanley Cup Final. You certainly have a way with words. In fact, the lyrical beauty of your diatribe and the cutting-edge analysis it provided left CTN momentarily speechless. As afraid as CTN is to engage in a battle of wits with someone as intellectually acute as you, CTN fears that it must happen. Never mind. It's impossible. You clearly have hit the nail on the head. Or, hit yourself in the head with the hammer. CTN is not sure which. The Red Wings have used their speed and a suffocating backcheck to stifle the Pens, not obstruction. As for diving, that is a non-starter. Both teams have been guilty of embellishment in an attempt to draw penalties. This is the Stanley Cup Final, man! You do what you can to gain an edge and hope that it goes undetected and unpunished. In the two most celebrated incidents from Game 2, there was no diving involved. Gary Roberts punched Johan Franzen in the eye. That is a penalty last time CTN checked the rulebook. As for goalie Chris Osgood, there is no denying that Petr Sykora hit him. Again, a penalty. Did Sykora barrel Osgood over? Heck no! But, every goalie in the NHL – including Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury – is taught to fall to the ice after contact like that. Trust CTN, Sykora was guilty of goalie interference whether Osgood flopped to the ice or not. Plus, it is hard to argue with that call after Tomas Holmstrom has been whistled twice for the same infraction. CTN looks forward to hearing more of your concise analysis in the near future.

Enough with the depeche mode references, none cares man

-- Jeff Kalb

Jeff, it's hard to believe anyone could be more concise or more acute with their observations then Mr. Peters above. But, it appears you have done it. Congrats. By the way, it is Depeche Mode with a capital D and a capital M. Have the decency to spell the band correctly. And, while you are at it, you might want to look up no one in the dictionary. You are slightly off the mark in your attempt. Punctuation is also a plus, by the way. CTN suggests because CTN cares, Jeff.

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