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The Penalty Box: Playoff intensity from fans

by Shawn P. Roarke

The pressure is starting to build now. Too much is on the line here, almost six weeks into the postseason, to go out with a whimper at this point. As a result, the Penalty Box crew is firing with both barrels as it sounds off about last week's Opening Faceoff, which identified the trophy winners through two rounds of the playoffs.

There's also a fair amount of chatter about last week's contentious Penalty Box. No matter the subject, the passion is omnipresent and we all know that makes for compelling reading.

You, too, can join the Penalty Box conversation. Simply fire off an e-mail with your thoughts on the Stanley Cup Playoffs or anything else to Remember to include your name and hometown. CTN looks forward to hearing from you.

Now, onto the mailbag:


I just started reading CTN. I like it! It's a refreshing format for hockey commentary. Sure beats a blasé article where said author states blah blah this and blah blah that…great story, next!! That being said I'd like to comment on this week's version.

Being a Wings fan, I hate to not see any Wings in the award categories, but I understand. The Wings' superior teamwork doesn't necessarily lend the opportunity for any single player to step up to the plate in award-winning fashion. The team captain is even silent so far in the playoffs, and "The Mule" is stealing the spotlight from the likes of Datsyuk and Zetterberg. My only beef is with your pick for goalie.

Despite the play of Marc-Andre Fleury, Marty Turco deserves this trophy hands down. Sure he got a honorable mention and you even beefed up this mention by saying Turco was "barely edged out," but you still screwed him. Turco was facing the San Jose Sharks, runners-up for the Presidents' Trophy. Yeah, that's right; the team with the second-best record in hockey. Not only was Turco on his game enough to help his team win the series; he did it with very little offensive backing. In a series that had 5 of 6 games decided by one goal and 4 of those 5 decided in OT, Turco was outstanding. Facing an offense including the likes of Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton, Ryan Clowe, and Jonathan Cheechoo, Turco continually frustrated SJ's attempts at creating some offense. Apart from the obvious of keeping goals out of the net, Turco's spectacular saves served as motivation to rally the Stars' offense.

When giving Fleury, the nod for this award, you mentioned the grit in winning a duel with Vezina finalist Henrik Lundqvist. Well if duels are a factor, I would like to bring to the table the final duel between Turco and Evgeni Nabokov -- a quadruple-overtime game in which both goalies were outstanding. Nabokov's miraculous glove save on a rocket at an 80 percent wide open net comes to mind. These two goalies shut down EVERY shot though three periods of overtime, and it finally took a 'questionable' penalty to get Dallas enough of an advantage to put in wonderfully executed shot to end the game. Nabokov didn't have a chance at that goal, shame that shot wasn't on his glove side.

This epic bout saw some of the best goaltending that I can recall in my time as a hockey fan. Nabokov with his matrix like glove save, and Turco with his Bruce Lee-style kicking, both made some miraculous saves. This series was the one to be talking about if you want epic goalie duels. Had SJ won this game, despite having gone down 3-0 at one point in the series, one could have made a decent argument for SJ having all the momentum and heart to go back to the Shark Tank and pull off only the third every comeback from a 3-0 deficit. Instead, Turco pulls off an amazing 61-save game, and outlasts another outstanding goalie in a 129-minute battle of the ages. Fleury may have had a great series for Steel Town, but Turco was the steel wall that Dallas needed to get them to the Western Conference Finals.

-- N.D. Pittman, Camp Pendleton, Calif.

Nicolas, a well-written treatise on why Turco should own the MVP through two rounds of the playoffs that is hard to argue with. CTN welcomes you to the Crashing the Net community and looks forward to hearing from you more often. As CTN said, Turco was as solid a choice as there was for the award. CTN went with Fleury, though, because he has been the more "interesting" story to date. He was injured earlier in the year and almost lost his job, but he has responded with a brilliant performance in these playoffs. Let's not forget, Fleury beat an Ottawa team in the first round that scored 262 goals in the regular season, 40 more than the offensive juggernaut you built San Jose up to be. And, the Sharks managed just nine more goals than the New York Rangers in the regular season, so CTN believes it is fair to argue that the Rangers, especially with Jaromir Jagr playing like a man possessed, were just as dangerous to a goalie as the Sharks were to Turco. Against Ottawa, Fleury allowed just five goals on 112 shots. Against the Rangers, he allowed 11 on 124 shots and allowed just two goals in the only game he lost in the series. His contributions are often overshadowed by the antics of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, but CTN remains convinced that Fleury was the best goalie -- in totality -- through the first two rounds. It is clearly an arguable point, though. Enjoy the rest of the playoffs, Nicolas, and be safe.


I concur with your pick of Brenden Morrow as second-round playoff MVP (CTN May 8, 2008.) Morrow has been doing it all year! When you add in Dallas' travel schedule, it makes his exploits even more amazing. However, it could not hurt to have Jere Lehtinen on the other wing either, eh? He could play on my team as well! And that Ribeiro guy ain't no slouch! And the centers on two of the "other" two lines are Richards and Modano? (Pause for maniacal laughter.)

Keep up the great work!

--Doug Cole

The Dallas Stars courageous performance in Game 4 gives them every reason to hold their heads high. Watch the Stars win Game 4
Doug, let CTN issue an important disclaimer and note that your letter arrived last Thursday, shortly after Crashing the Net came out and before the Western Conference Finals began. In that vacuum of results, you had every right to be confident. Morrow was playing like one of the best players in the world, a bull unable to be tamed. Richards was flirting with the form that earned him the Conn Smythe a few years back, Stephane Robidas was taking an improbable, yet effective, turn as a No. 1 D-man and the Dallas goalie was on the type of run that wins titles in this sport. But things went off the rails pretty quickly after you wrote. It appears to CTN that a lot of the Stars -- particularly Morrow -- expended too much in eliminating the Sharks. Turco has been good, but not good enough to silence an offense that has no peer in the NHL and the team has not figured out a way to impinge upon Detroit's quick-passing, East-West game. Dallas still had a chance to make this a series when it forged a 2-2 tie in Game 3, but Detroit showed its class by scoring three goals to pull away. For much of the third period of Game 3, the Wings just played keep-away from a Stars team that exhausted itself chasing the puck. Regardless of what happens next, Dallas has every reason to hold its head high for what it has accomplished during the 2007-08 campaign -- especially after turning in a courageous performance in a Game 4 victory.

I'm totally confused by this comment on your blog:

* In case you missed Brenden Morrow's line from Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals, here it is: 57 minutes of ice time, 19 hits, seven shots and, oh yeah, the game-winning goal. Let's put it this way -- Morrow can play for CTN's team anytime.

So, he played all but 3 minutes of the game?? I find that VERY hard to believe. Also, not ONE award for the second round given to a Red Wing? Are you kidding me? The best team, by far, playing right now in the NHL and nothing? Wow. You must be a Dallas fan, because I sure saw a lot of Stars on that list.

Have a great day!


Amy, CTN always has a great day during the playoffs. There is no better time during the year for a hockey fan. In fact, CTN is having such a great time that CTN won't even be snotty in correcting your correction.

Brendan Morrow did not play 57 minutes in Game 6 against the Sharks, he only played 51 minutes. That was a typo on the part of CTN. The game, though, went four overtimes and lasted 129 minutes and 3 seconds, so Morrow didn't play all but nine minutes, as you suggest with your form of new math. CTN guesses we can both wipe a little egg of our faces in that exchange. As for your suggestion that CTN must be a Dallas fan because Star players took the majority of the awards in last week's Opening Faceoff, it couldn't be further off the mark. CTN arrived at the award winners through independent and objective analysis. As a fellow Wings' fan, Nicolas, stated in an earlier letter, the Wings amazing teamwork and team-first approach has limited the club's individual performances, especially when compared to players that have almost single-handedly carried their teams on to greater heights. Now, Amy, CTN wishes you a great day and hopes you continue to enjoy your team's dominating run through the 2008 postseason.

I assume from reading your article that you must be a Red Wings "hater." 

The players got zero respect from you in this article. In years past I have seen commentators and writers diss the Wings; but this year it's just terrible. Your article is another point for that case.

Datsyuk is clearly one of the best defensive forwards. Mike Richards? Yeah, he's good and I like to watch him play. But he's not in the same category as Datsyuk. Have you considered that Datsyuk has two and three players draped on him at all times?

Babcock was "supposed to make it this far?" Every writer and commentator has been waiting for the Wings to fall, now when they play well, it's "supposed to make it this far?" Babcock has put his stamp on this team, and he's almost as good (and better in some area's) than Scotty Bowman.

Franzen ... 2nd??  Come on. That's disgusting. He's clearly the favorite for the Conn, at this point. And what's the deal with Osgood? What's this guy got to do to get some respect? He'd play shutout hockey for five straight games and writers would still be disrespecting him. I'm a hockey player and way too superstitious to discuss his current record. But maybe you should look at it. Anyway, the Wings have earned their due. EARNED it. I hope this email isn't taken wrong. It's just that the Wings are dominating these playoffs, and it needs to be considered.

-- Alan Neilson, Saginaw, Michigan.

Mike Richards' defensive efforts against Alex Ovechkin and the Canadiens' top offense make him the leader for best defensive forward.
Alan, you say you don't want this e-mail to be taken wrong, yet you open it by accusing CTN of being a hater. Perhaps, you might want to take some classes in tact, my friend. But, first, we will dissect your letter, point by point. Datsyuk is a hell of a defensive player and should win the Selke Trophy this June. But has he been the best defensive forward through two rounds of the playoffs? No. Look at the numbers and look at what Richards has done against Ovechkin and Montreal's top offensive players. Also, look at Philadelphia's penalty killing through the first two rounds. If you can still tell CTN that Richards is the wrong pick, more power to you; but CTN doubts an objective person can make that argument. And, what exactly does the fact that Datsyuk has two or three players draped over him have to do with his effectiveness as a defensive forward? Now, on to Babcock. Has he done a masterful job this postseason?  Yes, he has, especially in showing the guts to bench Dom Hasek. But most of Babcock's work was done in the regular season. He has his team playing methodical, effective hockey and few would argue that the team has been on cruise control for long stretches throughout this postseason. Plus, CTN insists that Detroit should be in the conference finals. When you win the Presidents' Trophy, you should be among the last four teams standing. John Stevens in Philadelphia has taken a team that barely qualified for the postseason, has several major weaknesses, including a playoff novice in goal,  and has still unseated the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds in the East. How has what Babcock has done more impressive than that?

Franzen as runner-up for MVP is disgusting? How so? Yes, he has scored a ton of goals, but Detroit has won each of its first eight games by an average of 2.5 goals a game. So, it is conceivable to argue that Detroit could have advanced without his mammoth contributions. In fact, the Wings have won two games against Dallas without Franzen in the lineup. CTN would suggest that is pretty damning to your argument that Franzen finishing behind Morrow after two rounds is 'disgusting.' But, that's just CTN's opinion. The Wings have earned plenty of accolades for their dominating performance in the postseason and much of that praise has come in this space. But CTN remains steadfast in his belief that no Detroit player had performed at an individualistic level necessary to cop hardware after two rounds of the playoffs. Will that change at the conclusion of Round 3. Most likely, but you will have to tune in to next week's Opening Faceoff to find out for sure.

Hey Shawn,

Granted the theme of CTN last week (5/1) was disagreeing with CTN, I'm still kind of bothered by the ignorance of some of the fans writing in complaining about their team "not being recognized." Needless to say, they must not be fans of hockey, rather fans of their home team. Not that there's anything terribly wrong with that, but I digress...

The fact of the matter is this: every fan that follows one team is really only looking for news on their team, and you, as a sports column writer, don't really get to hear "Good job, you hit the nail on the head" often enough, so here it is.  I think you've done a great job covering the playoffs and giving respect and recognition to the players that deserve it. I know I couldn't have painted a better picture myself, but then again, I also don't possess the time or the will power to watch the highlights from all of the playoff games to do so.

My question is this: nobody can doubt that Kimmo Timonen and Braydon Coburn was a lights-out defense pair in the first and second rounds; but how will the Flyers -- as a team -- defend against arguably two of the most top-heavy offensive lines in hockey today? Sure, Kimmo and Cobie can shut down one or two guys on a line when they're out on the ice (Sorry, AO), but what happens when Therrien shifts the lines so that the Flyers are forced to have other defensemen out on the ice when one of those explosive lines takes charge?

My guess would be to try to have a great forechecking line, probably the Kapanen-Dowd-Thoresen line, out to try and keep the puck deep in their zone so that the Pens don't get a chance to have good rushes in on Marty Biron. If that doesn't work, possibly a line change? I could see this playing out to some kind of major line change that would replace great offensive chemistry with shut-down defense lineups, a la a Richards-Upshall-Thoresen line or something like that. This could get interesting....What do you think?

-- Darren Podolak, Medford, NJ (No, I'm NOT a Devils fan!)

Darren, CTN lives at the Jersey Shore, smack between the Devils and the Flyers; so CTN knows that not all Jerseyites are Devils fans. In fact Mrs. CTN is a South Jersey gal who grew up cheering for the Flyers. CTN also appreciates the kind words that led off your column. It's nice to see when people get "it," understanding the service that CTN is trying to provide. As CTN writes this response, though, the Flyers are already in deep trouble in the ECF, facing a 3-0 deficit. Timonen was ruled out before the series started because of a freak foot injury and Coburn was lost to a facial injury in Game 2. That left the Flyers with few options on the blue line to counter the Penguins' top-heavy attack. More and more of the onus must fall on the forwards now to help contain the Pens' offense, but that will limit Philadelphia's chances at the offensive end. And, as funny as this sounds, CTN believes that Philadelphia can only be competitive in this series by beating Pittsburgh at its own offense-first game. The Penguins can score on almost any opportunity, as they proved in Game 2, so it is dangerous to play the tight-checking, chance-limiting game that so many implement against Pittsburgh. The Pens can, and will, capitalize on almost any mistake and if the opponent is playing a defense-first game, it is in a bad position to rally. So, CTN thinks that Philadelphia must go power against power if it wants to get back in the series. It is a gamble worth taking, especially when you are playing with house money, like the Flyers are at this point in the season.


I hate to use your impressive blog as a place to respond back to a writer, but seeing as they addressed myself and the other Avalanche fan in the Penalty Box two weeks ago as the same type of fan I thought I should be given a chance to re-inform them of my opinions.

I am first and foremost a HOCKEY fan, a fan of the game. I watch every NHL game (and many college and minor-league games) available to me because I do appreciate the caliber of the game. The teams iced around the league this season have been of the highest quality I have seen in years.

In my letter, I was not concerned solely with recognition for Theodore, as Dave suggested last week, I merely wished to commend you, Shawn, on what I perceived as an apt choice. I was not frustrated with your decisions in the awards. In fact, I would have picked many of the same players myself.

I realize that around the time Dave wrote his letter last week the Avalanche were a few short hours away from being swept by a Detroit team that, being the best of the best throughout the year, earned and deserved that sweep (but I ask you to realize my letter was written before game two of that series was played, hence my home-team optimism).

Johan Franzen's play in the series against the Avs was nothing short of spectacular. As of this moment, he'd get my vote of Conn Smythe. See, Dave, I do give credit where credit is due. I watched the series against Detroit telling myself "Dang...Theo got scored on, again, but that was a great shot." I know, and love, a good goal when I see one.
Dave, I completely agree with you that my Avalanche fan colleague had a very myopic view of hockey and doesn't, as you said, appreciate the greatest game in the world. He embodied everything you described in your letter last week. I, however, made no claim that coincided with your arguments. I do not appreciate being called out for claims I never made and grouped in a category of fans "too worried about recognition."

Thank you, Shawn, for provide the hockey community a place to find unbiased analysis and a forum to voice our opinions around the hockey world. Here's to the Pens in '08.

--Melissa, Estes Park, CO

Hey CTN,
I must apologize for my last submission to the Penalty Box. You see I had a little chip on my shoulder over Avalanche coverage and in blind rage I took it out on you. That was wrong. Quite frankly, right about now, I wish people would stop talking about the Avs since every sentence having anything to do with them right now contains the word "sweep" or "demolition" (For the record, I hate the Red Wings... I hate them more than traffic when I'm late for work)

Anyways, CTN I've said it many times before and I'm sure I'll say it again, I love your column you do great work and for my anger that was directed at you I am sorry.

There is one small question I have to ask... How in the name of God do you claim Montreal fans have class? Did you happen to see the rioting after they won their first round? I mean I would love to see Lord Stanley come back to Canada, but I was truly terrified over what would happen if Les Habitants went all the way.

On a final note, I know I won't be the only one who will be sad if Joe Sakic decides to hang up the skates this summer. Whether you're an Avs fan or not, there's no denying Joe has still got it.

Keep up the great work,

Tyler Moyes, Cambridge, Ont.

Tyler and Melissa, there's no worries about your fits of pique in the Penalty Box. It's playoff time, CTN wants to see some passion from those that call the Penalty Box their hockey home. I applaud you both for, as they say, bringing it with all the passion you could muster. You just have to expect your passion to be countered by others, including CTN. It is that passionate exchange of ideas that makes this column so vibrant. So, don't ever be shy about voicing your thoughts.

Now, Tyler, you don't owe CTN or anyone else an apology. You have been far too loyal a reader/responder to have to be forgiven. CTN understands your dislike of the Wings, although CTN can't imagine anything much worse than being stuck in traffic. As for your question about the Montreal fans, CTN says they have class because of the standing O the Bell Centre crowd gave the team in Game 5 despite the fact the club was losing and on its way to an epic upset in the second round. The fans put aside their understandable bitterness, at least for the moment, and thanked the Canadiens players for the season they provided and the memories they made. That's really all you can ask from fans, isn't it?

And, CTN doesn't even want to comprehend the NHL without Joe Sakic a part of it. Let's not even go there yet, Tyler. OK?


I think the tiny little hockey factory of Slovakia bears mentioning in your 2010 Olympics rundown. While they lack a true No. 1 goalie (I nominate Jan Lasek), in my opinion the Slovaks have enough talent to contend in Vancouver. With great forwards like Marian Gaborik, Marian Hossa, Pavol Demitra, a dangerous Marek Svatos and a sneaky Miroslav Satan, the Slovaks can poke holes in the defensively thin U.S. and Czech squads. And with a blue line blockaded by Zdeno Chara and Lubomir Visnovsky (giving him a chance to excel on a team that doesn't stink), Slovakia may get the dap they deserve in 2010.

-- Evan from DC

Evan, CTN can only assume that your Olympic-themed missive was prompted by the World Championship-themed Opening Faceoff of a couple weeks ago. But regardless of its origin, CTN was happy to receive it and even happier to see the term "dap" make an appearance. For those of you not well-versed in slang, "dap" means respect, at least in this usage. It's never too early to start thinking about an Olympic tournament. You make some valid points about Slovakia -- especially their firepower up front. But, CTN has some concerns about this team as a threat to medal. First, and foremost, is the goaltending situation. You don't medal in the Olympics without a world-class goalie. It's as simple as that. Does Slovakia have such a goalie? Not at the moment. But, things do change rapidly at that position. Also, in CTN's humble opinion, the Slovaks do not have enough blue-line depth to handle the four-line attacks that the most powerful countries -- Canada, United States, Russia, Sweden, Czech Republic and Finland -- are going to go with in the tournament. It will be interesting to see what will happen though. CTN can't wait!

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