Monday, April 30, 2012

West Playoffs Are Exciting (Really!)

There was a collective groan amongst hockey fans when the two matchups in the West were finalized.  Everyone wants to see goals, and the general consensus was, that’s not happening.  On the surface, that’s a fair assumption.  I can see where everyone is coming from. But what upset me were people calling their brand of hockey boring and all defense.  As the beginning of the second round is proving, this is not going to be the case.

I really appreciated what Ken Hitchcock had to say about media outlets labeling the Blues and Kings as defensive teams.  In case you didn’t see it, here’s the gist of it:

"What ticks me off is when people say St. Louis is a defensive team or Los Angeles is a defensive team," Hitchcock said. "We're a defensive team because we both work like crazy on the forecheck. We make you spend time in your zone where you don't want to be."

"That whole thing makes me kind of sick ... both teams play good defense because we forecheck like hell," Hitchcock said. "We forecheck like hell, they forecheck like hell and then when you listen to teams say 'Well, they don't give you any offense,' or 'You can't get any offense.'... You can't get any offense because you're stuck in your own zone against us (and the Kings)."

I guess what you can take from what Hitchcock said is, these teams aren’t the New Jersey Devils of the 90’s, where they dump the puck in and sit and wait for the team to come at them.  These teams’ impressive defensive displays are a by-product of their incredible work ethic, and to begrudgingly quote John Tortorella, their commitment to playing “the right way.”  

Why wasn’t anyone complaining when Tampa Bay got to the conference finals? They played their now infamous 1-3-1, and waited for powerplays to score.  But they have a couple dynamic forwards, and no one says a word.  

I for one am happy to see four well balanced teams in the West, that don’t rely on one line or one player.  Four teams that buckle down and work their asses off every night to get the job done.  This is going to change the game of hockey.  There are a few players watching the playoffs right now that are going to have to look in the mirror and realize that this is how you’re going to win in this league now (cough, cough Patrick Marleau) 

You might not see too many highlight reel goals or individual efforts, but don’t think for one minute that these games are going to be boring.  I really hope that the fans are open minded enough to appreciate the brand of hockey you are going to see in the West.  I have a feeling we are going to see some fireworks in both rounds.  What happens when an unmovable force meets an immovable object? 

Ben Alavie

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