A lesson in comparative hockey violence for Predators fans

After tying the Stanley Cup Final series at two games each on the backs of two emotional, dominant wins at home in the first NHL championship-series games ever played in Nashville, the Predators returned to Pittsburgh hoping to convert their momentum into their first lead in this series. Instead, they fell flat. The Penguins scored three goals in the first period, and three more in the second on their way to a 6-0 shutout victory.

It was a very disappointing night for Predators fans, who reportedly had more people in attendance in Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena to watch the away game on big screens than the number of people who were in the seats at the actual game in Pittsburgh. They certainly were upset with the result of the game, as well as with the way in which the Penguins– Sidney Crosby in particular– played it.

Crosby has been sparring with Nashville’s P.K. Subban throughout this series, but their clashes mostly have played out in the media and off-ice press conferences. Last night, however, things became decidedly physical, peaking with this moment:

Hockey is a contact sport, obviously, and the issue of fighting in hockey is a broader conversation for another day. I think most agree, though, that there is not a place in the game for Crosby’s behavior captured above.

Understandably, Predators fans are incensed and are calling for Crosby to be suspended for his actions. (Crosby also threw a water bottle on the ice in apparent response to what he thought was a missed penalty call against the visitors.) If the league decides to go in that direction, I would not have any objection.

I would remind the Predators fans that their team does not exactly have a clean record in this department, however. Five years ago, hosting their then-division rival Detroit Red Wings in the early rounds of the playoffs, Nashville ended a game-one win in ugly and embarrassing fashion. That night, it was Shea Weber who brutally bashed Hendrik Zetterberg’s face into the boards as time expired:

(In a bit of hockey irony, the Predators later would trade Weber for Subban, the victim of last night’s skull dribbling.)

I know from first-hand experience that Nashville hockey fans are good hockey fans who know the game. They’re justified in directing their anger toward Crosby (welcome to the club!), and I do want them to win the Cup because of what it would mean for the sport; a city I love; and all of my friends there, whether they’ve been on the hockey train or are jumping on now (again, welcome to the club!). All teams have had their dark moments, though, and hockey memories run deep. On the other hand, does it seem like Crosby’s Pens have more such moments than, say, Subban’s Preds? You bet.

Go Perds.

Hockey parlor games

Found this from FiveThirtyEight:

With the Stanley Cup finals set to start tonight, I thought this would be a fun game to play, especially for hockey fans whose teams are done for the season.

For me, the picking went pretty easy, probably because there are lots of good combinations here. I went with Ken Dryden ($2); Lidstrom, my favorite player, potentially overvalued but always undervalued while he played ($5); Chelios ($1); Mr. Hockey ($5); Super Mario ($4); and John Bucyk, never of whom I have heard ($1). (I originally had Shanahan at LW before realizing I needed two defensemen, hence Cheli and Mr. Bucyk.)

FiveThirtyEight offers a team “formed from an advanced stats point of view.” In this case, that mostly means referencing Goals Versus Threshold (“GVT”), a WAR-like statistic that seeks to present “the value of a player, in goals, above what a replacement player would have contributed.” Their picks:

  • Hasek ($4) – “A steal”
  • Orr ($5) – “the difference between his production at his peak … and that of the next-best defenseman is truly massive”
  • Larry Robinson ($2) – “a higher five-year peak [in terms of GVT] than . . . Lidstrom despite” costing less than half as much as Nick
  • Gretzky ($5) – his “production was such a radical outlier that he’ll be worth the price”
  • Jarri Kurri ($1) and Bucyk ($1) – “both Hall of Famers” and “building a top-heavy team with a few stars and a bunch of lesser players is not such a bad thing.

Post your team in the comments below, and cast your predictive vote for the outcome of this year’s Stanley Cup finals right here:

Ken Dryden: Time for the NHL to Get Head Smart (via Grantland)

I come back to the Crosby press conference. I’m not sure how it could have been done better. The message was that we are in uncharted territory. We know some things, there is much more we don’t know, and we’re going to do what we know and respect what we don’t until we know better. This is serious, and we are serious. And we want you — all those who are watching — to experience what we have experienced and learn what we have learned, because as people who love sports, we’re in this together. It is this same tone, attitude, and approach on head injuries that Bettman and Goodell need to take. … Read More

(via Grantland)