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The Penalty Box: It's playoff time

by Shawn P. Roarke

The 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs are finally upon us. As CTN readers know, this is the best two months of the year. Everything takes on additional meaning and the intensity level rockets up. as a whole and CTN in particular, will pick up the pace to document the Quest for the Cup. CTN hopes its loyal readers, the Penalty Box community, also will pick up the intensity and make the playoff editions of the Penalty Box the best issues of the season. So get those rants off about whatever has you feeling the passion for hockey. CTN and the Penalty Box community want to see and discuss them. The address is Remember to include your name and hometown.

Now, onto this week’s letters:

Hi Mr. Roarke,

I am a major fan of CTN. You and all the other guys at are doing a wonderful job. Actually, is the only place I get quality news on the NHL here in India. Please keep up the great work.

I must agree with all that you said about teams that will miss the playoffs this season. But the League's future is looking bright as ever and I hope for a tighter playoff race next season.

I want to know what happened to Andrew Raycroft and Robert Lang. They showed signs of greatness before walking away into near oblivion. Any thoughts?

Also, I guess, people ought to leave Mats Sundin alone. He bled blue for so long and he earned the right to choose his future.

Thanks for your time. Keep up the good work.


Wow, CTN’s first letter from India! It had to get top billing as just another example about how diverse the global hockey community is. Plus, it didn’t hurt that it contained so many kind words about CTN and

An even tighter playoff race in 2009? What do you want, Adi, all 30 teams alive with a week to go in the season? As it was, more than half the seeds weren’t decided until the last day of the season, and 20 of the 30 teams were in the playoff race until the final week of the season. That’s as tight as it gets, my friend.

As for the players you inquired about, here is the skinny. Raycroft did fall on hard times in Toronto, losing the starting job to Vesa Toskala. After winning a career-high 37 games last season with the Leafs, Raycroft played in just 19 games this season and won just two games. That is as bad a fall from grace as there is. Expect to see Raycroft wearing a different team’s sweater next fall. Lang, on the hand, was as good as usual – except he did his magic in Chicago instead of Detroit. He finished the season with 54 points, two more than he tallied last season with the Wings. He has topped the 50-point plateau for eight straight seasons now.

Hi Shawn,

Now that the regular season is over, I want to comment on a topic that was pretty much discussed during the whole season: Increasing the size of the net and reducing goalie equipment to fight against the so-called lack of scoring. Let's play a little John Kreiser here: 1,230 regular-season games, 6,847 goals scored. That makes an average of 5.56 goals per game.

Let’s take a look at some other leagues:
German DEL – 6.41 gpg
Sweden Eliteserien – 5.41 gpg
Suisse Nationaliga – 6.08 gpg
Finish SM-Liiga – 5.50 gpg

So the NHL pretty much is within the average. And why should there be more scoring than in other leagues? OK, you have the best forwards on the planet in this League, but also the best D-men and goalies. And two goals per period are OK in my eyes. It more or less is about which style your team is playing. And all these ideas wouldn’t change anything. If your team philosophy is "defense-first" and you have a bigger net, the coach will think: “OK, our goal is more vulnerable, let’s play an even more defensive style.”

If you want to blame somebody because you miss scoring, blame the coach or the GM of your team, not the league or the rules.

Moreover, I think it’s a topic that should be discussed by the International Ice Hockey Federation, not the NHL. It makes no sense to make changes in the NHL and then play with different net size or goalie equipment on the international level, like in the World Championships or the Olympics.

Munich, Germany

Thomas, any time we can channel’s John Kreiser, one of the game’s best statistical mavens, it’s a good day for CTN. You make a solid point and CTN comes down on the same side of the fence in this argument. There is nothing wrong with a well-played 1-0 or 2-1 game. There isn’t a need to have 10 goals in a game for it to be exciting. As long as there are scoring opportunities, physical play and passion, the scoreline almost is irrelevant. With those three ingredients in play, NHL hockey is the most entertaining sports product on the planet, without a doubt. There is no need to make the nets bigger. The only change I would make in goalie equipment guidelines is to make it more proportional. There is no reason why Roberto Luongo and Tim Thomas, who is four inches shorter, should wear the same size leg pads. Make the equipment proportional to a goalie’s build and you might be onto something.

The Islanders were picked by many "experts" to finish last in the NHL. How about showing some respect to Ted Nolan? He has done a good job with this team, especially with a third-string goalie. Hopefully he'll make your list, since he is a playoff coach.

Jim Coffey

Jim, CTN is not sure what list you are referring to in your letter. But, regardless, there is little doubt in CTN’s mind that he has given Ted Nolan all the props he deserves. Nolan is one of CTN’s favorite coaches. Nolan has done an amazing job with the Islanders, especially with the injuries the club has suffered this year. But to suggest the Isles were selected to finish last in the NHL by any expert is pure folly. GM Garth Snow’s summer free-agent flurry had prognosticators pumped about a hockey revival on the Island. The Isles clearly disappointed in that task, but the blame can not be placed at the feet of Nolan, a coach CTN would have selected to be a part of the Team Canada coaching staff at the upcoming World Championships. 

A question for you regarding Monday night’s lottery for the No. 1 pick in the NHL Entry Draft.
Los Angeles and Tampa Bay finished tied for last place with 71 points each. Apparently, Tampa Bay was awarded 30th place overall due to having fewer wins than Los Angeles.
I could argue that Los Angeles should have been awarded 30th place overall since they had more regulation losses than Tampa Bay.
Shouldn't the primary factor for determining last place be based upon regulation losses? It only makes logical sense. You shouldn't be determining last place based upon wins!
I welcome your thoughts on this matter.
Best Regards,
David Gartner

David, it is CTN’s pleasure to address this issue, about which you clearly have pondered. The best way to answer the question is to argue that the tie-breaking process used by the League needs to be used to determine all 30 positions. In other words, you can’t use the number of wins as the tie-breaking process to determine the top 16 teams and the seedings for the playoffs and then use the number of losses as the tie-breaking process to determine the next 14 positions. Where’s the fairness in that? Plus, the team that has the fewest wins naturally has the most losses – regardless of when they come. Tampa Bay lost 51 games, even though nine came after regulation and resulted in the Lightning earning a point. Los Angeles lost just 50 games, although 43 of them – one more than Tampa Bay – came in regulation. In either scenario, Tampa Bay comes out as the lowest-seeded team in the equation. CTN doesn’t really see an issue here. Sorry.

Hello from the land of the Dragon. Some comments for you and my fellow readers and a couple of questions:

Does the Center Ice online package include the playoffs? I had purchased a subscription for the season and now that the playoffs are set to begin I am a little anxious that I could possibly miss some of the action if my subscription only includes the regular season. I have e-mailed Center Ice three times in the last two weeks but have yet to hear back. Can you help a fellow fanatic out?

My team is the Bruins. I am so happy they are in the playoffs again. This team battled all year and despite some really tough times, they found a way to take the eighth seed. In your opinion what do the boys from Boston need to do in order to be in the mix longer than most everyone is giving them a chance to be? Which player(s) on this team do you think will surprise us in the playoffs and provide the kind of spark that can lead a team deep into the later rounds? What is this team's most glaring weakness heading into their series with the Habs? Their greatest strength? Thanks for taking the time to read this.

I guess that is more than a couple....

ShenZhen, China

Tim Thomas will have to be on top of his game to help Boston beat Montreal in the playoffs. Tim Thomas highlight video
Ray, it’s always a pleasure to help out a fellow fanatic – especially one based in China. To answer your most-pressing question, CTN’s sources with the Center Ice service tell me that your Center Ice subscription, based In China, should allow you access to games throughout the playoffs. It will read your IP address and know that you are not subject to the blackouts that may occur with some North American subscriptions.

As for the Bruins, CTN thinks the team will have to play way above its head to unseat Montreal. The biggest problem Boston faces, in CTN’s humble opinion, is that it lacks the overall speed to handle Montreal’s fast forwards. Obviously, Tim Thomas will have stand on his head – something he has done on a regular basis this year. Also, CTN expects Aaron Ward to have a strong playoffs. He is the type of player that makes things happen when the games are most important. Ward’s attitude is the tangible proof of Boston’s biggest asset – a willingness to claw and scratch for everything it gets. CTN assures you of this – regardless of the outcome, Montreal will know it has been in a battle when this series is done.

Even though I regularly visit, I've just read CTN for the first time. Despite the stylistic similarities to a certain John Buccigross column (i.e., using music references to color the article), I'm glad to have discovered another opinion column about one of my favorite subjects – hockey. I can see myself coming back to read it again, but I beg you, stop referring to the column in the third person. Every letter response reads like, "CTN thinks this and CTN does that, but if it were up to CTN, CTN wouldn't change that rule." Please stop. This is as incredibly annoying as that Seinfeld episode illustrates. It is perfectly fine to use pronouns.

Matt Vanderville

Matt, thanks for the feedback. It will be taken under consideration, although CTN believes the current format works just fine. The issue, though, will be revisited in the offseason to provide Crashing the Net readers with the best product possible. It’s still inconceivable to be compared to both John Buccigross and Jerry Seinfeld in the same letter, though. What a highlight. Thanks so much, Matt, and CTN sincerely hopes you come back to Crashing the Net for your hockey fix every Thursday. Enjoy the playoffs!

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