Saturday, March 17, 2012

Sudden Life

Oh what a day to be a hockey fan whether you root for the New York Islanders or the New York Rangers as there was plenty of entertaining hockey for you. You knew the day was going to be entertaining when the first game of the day went to double overtime.

You knew today was going to a good one when you saw the key prospects for both the Islanders and Rangers helping to lead their teams to big wins. It is a good day when you have 2 Islander prospects put on performances equally worthy of being the first star.

Islander's First Star Brock Nelson

Brock Nelson (NYI 2010 1st) once again came up big when his 9th ranked North Dakota Fighting Sioux needed him to. Nelson does not get the attention he rightfully deserves but no other Islander prospect has made the leap in his development like Nelson has this season.

In the 3rd period of the evening WCHA semifinal against top seed Minnesota trailing 3-2, Nelson scored to tie the game up as North Dakota scored 5 goals in the 3rd period to earn a 6-3 win and a spot in the finals of the WCHA Final Five. Nelson fired a nasty looking wrist shot past Minnesota goalie Kent Patterson 30 seconds after North Dakota had scored to pull within 1 goal.

It was a backbreaking goal which Minnesota never recovered from as the Fighting Sioux poured it on from there to earn the win. It was Nelson's 26th goal of the season and his 3rd in this year's Final Five.

North Dakota will face the Denver Pioneers Saturday evening with the winner receiving the WCHA's automatic invite to the NCAA tournament. As we mentioned there were 2 performances worthy of being the Islander First Star and you can read that along with the rest of the Islander report right here.

Ranger's First Star Chris Kreider

Call us a broken record but the facts back up our belief that if Chris Kreider (NYR 2010 1st) takes at least 4 shots in a game then Kreider will score points and Boston College will win.

Ask the Providence Friars about this theory as Kreider took 5 shots, wound up with 2 secondary assists and Boston College winds up with a 4-2 win and a spot in Hockey East Finals on Saturday night.

To us the 4 shots tells us that Kreider is being active on offense and when you have a 6'3 225 power forward on the attack then it creates space for his teammates because Kreider attracts the opposition's defense to him with or without the puck. Against Providence Kreider was involved on 2 key goals for Boston College.

The first came in the first period with Boston College trailing 2-1 as Kreider got the puck to Kevin Hayes behind the Providence goal and Hayes fed Destry Straight who scored at 8:35 to tie the game at 2-2. Boston College never trailed again as in the 2nd period while on their 1st power play of the game, Kreider really did not do much other than get the puck to Paul Carey who in turn fed Johnny Gaudreau who had gotten behind the Providence defense.

Gaudreau made a couple of moves to get Providence goalie Alex Beaudry out of position for the easy goal that turned out to be the game winner. Kreider got the Ranger prospects going as they had a mixed evening and you can find their report here.

Bad Impressions

Last Saturday the Islanders announced that they had signed UFA Mike Halmo of the Owen Sound Attack to an entry level contract. Halmo is the Attack's leader in goals (40) as well as points (85) and PIMs (162).

Halmo is also the Attack's captain and for us it was a good signing by the Islanders as Halmo will bring grit as well as high energy to the Islanders. But Halmo also needs some work on his decision making process because on the same day Halmo's signing was announced he made a bad decision that will cost him a 10 game suspension by the OHL.

Halmo laid a heavy hit on Sarnia's Nail Yakupov that has led to Yakupov getting hurt and missing the last 4 games of the regular season. It is a hit that once again fired up the debate about hitting in hockey but for us it was not about an open ice hit but rather an intent to injure someone.

Our stance has always been that we are not about taking the hitting out of hockey but rather we want to take the players getting hurt out of hockey. Now the OHL in handing out what we have to acknowledge is a mixed messages suspension listed these reasons for the suspension:

Player in vulnerable position

Contact with the head

Repeat offender

Player injured on play

The defenders of the play say that Halmo was making a "hockey play" and deserves some of the blame for skating in open ice with his head down. But see that is also where Halmo "hangs himself" because IF Halmo was just making a "hockey play" then shouldn't he just kept playing?

This is where in our eyes Halmo earns the suspension because that is what Halmo did not do.

If you just made a "clean hockey play" then why did you stop skating and await for the Sarnia response? That to us is what turns a hard hit into a play that earns you a suspension. It is like a police chase; if you are innocent then why did you run?

Halmo hurt Yakupov but he may have hurt his own team more because now they enter the playoffs without their captain and best player. His Owen Sound Attack have lost 3 straight games and have fallen from 4th to 6th in the standings so the question we wonder how Halmo would respond to is "Was it worth it?"

(Nelson - Grand Forks Herald, Kreider- New York Rangers/NHL media, Halmo - Owen Sound Attack)


Chris Gordon said...

Hey, Jess. I almost always agree 100% with your observations and opinions, but I disagree on the Yakupov thing.

Not only was Nail's head down, but when he cuts to the middle, he crouches. If his posture is normal, Halmo hits him in the chest with his shoulder.

Before I have to wash the bad taste out of my mouth for defending an Islander prospect, I will concede that - hockey play or not - Halmo hit him in the head.

Indeed, I see a little bit of Cindy Crosby post hoc ergo procter hoc reasoning here.

Yakupov's a superstar - an unbelievable player - and I'm psyched to see how he develops. I hope he recovers fully and quickly.

But I think 10 games is too severe.

That's all.

BTW - hope you're health has improved. Big playoff run coming up!

Jess Rubenstein said...

Chris thanks for the comments but I think where people are misunderstanding me is the moment right after the hit.

Halmo stops skating and stands there waiting for the Sarina response.

The moment Halmo does that then he sets himself up to be suspended.

If you did nothing wrong then you have to keep playing and that is where Halmo gives the OHL their reasoning to suspend him

Chris Gordon said...

I hear you. Although I almost think that's become part of the culture in junior hockey, where a big hit (legal or not) prompts a challenge... especially when leveled against a top player.

BTW, all I want for Christmas is Matt Dumba. If he ends up on Long Island, I might cry.