Tag Archives: Hockey

How David Volek became synonymous with playoff hockey

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Andrew McGilligan | One Volek In Time

At the age of 12 years old, I became aware of David Volek.

In fact, he’s become somewhat of a folk hero to me. If it weren’t for Volek, my greatest hockey memory may not have happened.

On June 9, 1993, the Montreal Canadiens won the Stanley Cup. Volek was nowhere near the ice of the Montreal Forum when this happened. No Volek’s contribution to this moment, the greatest one for me as a life-long Habs fans, happened almost a month earlier on May 14. With a well-placed one-timer, Volek and the New York Islanders eliminated the Pittsburgh Penguins – correction, the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins.

Volek’s goal paved the way for the Habs to win the Stanley Cup with a series of amazing overtime wins. Had Volek not scored that goal, I truly believe the Habs would have been overmatched against the Pittsburgh and not captured their 24th title in franchise history.

Just look at the Penguins roster from that season which included four 100-point scorers – including 160 from Mario Lemieux. Of note, Jaromir Jagr was not among the four 100-point getters, he finished with 94.

Compare that to the Habs to scorers which included zero 100-point players (Vincent Damphousse and Kirk Muller were three and six points away, respectively).

The goal was jaw-dropping at the time and has come to symbolize what I love about playoff hockey. There’s really no way the Islanders should have won that series and that goal resulted in one of the truly amazing playoff upsets. However, Volek’s marker has been somewhat marginalized due to the unlikely overtime heroics of the Canadiens during their Cup run (10 OT wins in the playoffs)and the fact it was the last time a Canadian team won the Stanley Cup.

Despite all that, Volek’s goal epitomizes playoff hockey. It was the shocking moment, the embodiment of the ‘anything can happen in the postseason’ cliché that gets thrown around too often.

All this to say, I’m always reminded of Volek every time I sit down to watch playoff hockey. I revert to being a 12-year-old kid watching the playoffs hoping to witness a miracle.

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NHL needs to change rules for hits from behind

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Andrew McGilligan | Out of WriteField

We should thank Patrick Kaleta for bringing a serious topic back to light in hockey.

The Sabres forward was suspended five games for checking Brad Richards head first into the boards in a game against the Rangers. The hit was vicious, unnecessary and could have ended Richard’s career. Consider that for a moment.

A Conn Smythe winner and Stanley Cup champion was almost taken from the game by a guy who…well I can’t think of any of Kaleta’s accomplishments. Hockey is so focused on hits to the head and the subsequent concussions – and rightly so, it’s a big problem for the health of those playing the game – that potentially life-altering hits from behind that can leave a person paralyzed is merely a two-minute minor for boarding in many leagues. It seems like the standard is if the guy gets up and is OK, then its two minutes. If he’s injured, just like Richards was from the Kaleta hit, it seems the harsher standard is applied.

A few years ago, hits from behind were talked about the way concussions are discussed now. It was a constant source of debate on sports television and rules, penalties and education strategies were being discussed and brought forward to try and alleviate the problem. The talk eventually faded as another problem became the hot topic. For some reason, in hockey circles only one problem can be discussed at a time.

There’s still far too many hits from behind – which can cause concussions – but it has been pushed to the backburner. While the efforts to stem the tide of the dangerous hits have helped, it needs to be taken more seriously by all levels of hockey including the NHL. The premier league in the world can set the standard in these matters and have everyone else react.

The league should look at only assessing five-minute major penalties to hits from behind as a standard with an automatic review by the league for possible suspension. Boarding calls should not even be considered on hits from behind thus no two-minute minors being called for the infraction. Let analysts and coaches gripe about how a guy turned or if the hit was more from the side. In the end, players will adjust and a new talking point will emerge.

While hockey should continue to try and stem the flow of dangerous hits to the head, let’s not let other safety issues fall by the way side. Hits that cause concussions and paralysis are dangerous; and those who commit the act deserve more than a two-minute break in the box.

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A record not soon to be broken

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Andrew McGilligan | Out of WriteField

Tim Hamel and Jonathan Langille are now the answers to a trivia question.
If someone asks who were the referees in the game that ended Acadie-Bathurst Titan forward Zach O’Brien’s streak of 181 games without a penalty, the answer is Hamel and Langille.
The unbelievable mark has come to an end in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with O’Brien’s first major junior foray into the sin bin. He was whistled for interference of a player or goaltender at 1:52 of the second period in a 5-1 loss to the Moncton Wildcats on Tuesday.
As if being a young man playing the volatile sport of hockey and not taking so much as a hooking call in 181 games (191 if you count the playoffs) isn’t impressive enough, a quick look at some other numbers really puts the accomplishment into perspective.
82
Not only did O’Brien set a new record, he shattered the previous mark by 82. The longest streak without a penalty before the Newfoundland-born O’Brien etched his name into the record book was 99. The player who compiled the second-longest streak in Q history was Jean-Luc Phaneuf who played three seasons in the league with Montreal. Phaneuf’s streak stretched from Nov. 5, 1973 to Feb. 4, 1975. O’Brien’s streak began Sept. 11, 2009 and ended with his last penalty-free game on Feb. 17, 2013.

248

During his streak, O’Brien has racked up 248 points in regular season play. Not only is he a perpetual candidate for most sportsmanlike player, but the Titan sniper is one of the most consistent point-getters in the Q. He currently sits in a tie for seventh in the scoring race, finished second in 2011-12 and notched 65 – including 29 goals in his first full season in the league in 2010-11. He led the league in goal scoring with 50 last season.
20-22 minutes
Given his talent and importance to the Titan, O’Brien plays between 20-22 minutes a night according to statistics provided by the team. To log heavy minutes as a first-line forward, night in and night out and not so much as get-the-stick-up accidently for a hooking call or put too much behind a clearing attempt and watch it sail over the glass is unbelievable.
1.3 and 0.010989010989011
O’Brien has averaged 1.3 points per game in his career while his penalty minutes per game average is 0.010989010989011.
He logs heavy minutes for a playoff team, doesn’t put his team in bad situations, is perpetually among the league’s top scorers and when he’s on the ice he creates scoring chances. O’Brien is the definition of a valuable hockey player.
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Consider this before you draft

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Andrew McGilligan | Out of WriteField

With a little more than a week to puck drop, there’s no shortage of interesting story lines for the shortened NHL season. Poolies are busy cramming in advance of their hockey pool drafts, so here are a few things to keep in mind as your draft date rolls around.

Young Guns in Edmonton

Two factors to consider when drafting players in a shortened season is age and conditioning. Age is obvious as there won’t be as many off days in a condensed schedule and younger legs should be able to handle the wear and tear better than those of a 10-year veteran.

Conditioning really means have they been playing during the lockout either in the KHL, other European leagues, junior hockey or AHL. Three Edmonton Oilers meet these criteria perfectly: Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. The trio have been skating together this season with the Oklahoma City Barons of the AHL and Nugent-Hopkins also played for Canada at the World Juniors.

The trio is in game shape and should have a leg up on a lot their competition – even the ones who have been playing during the lockout – as they’re skating, often times, on the same line in Oklahoma City. Justin Schultz and Nail Yakupov also meet the criteria, but being rookies lends a bit of uncertainty to their game, however, they could be good players to gamble on in your draft.

The key player for Edmonton is Eberle, he’s coming off a great year and looks poised to be the top star on this young, exciting Edmonton team.

Staal to the top six

The numbers Jordan Staal can potentially put up as a top six forward with the Carolina Hurricanes should be enough to make poolies drool. As a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins for the past few seasons, he was behind all-world centres Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

In Carolina he will get a chance to be a top six forward and benefit from first-line power play duties and increased ice time. The opportunity gets even better when you realize he could be flanked by the likes of his brother Eric, Jeff Skinner and Alex Semin. Jordan Staal has the chance to have a breakout season even in an abbreviated 49-game schedule. He could be the steal of the draft if you can score him after the second round.

Rookie to Watch

While most of the eyes will be trained on the Edmonton duo of Yakupov and Schultz, one guy to gamble on having a solid rookie campaign is Mikael Granlund. When it looked like the lock out was coming to an end, the Wild pulled him from the lineup of the AHL’s Houston Aeros to ensure he’d be healthy and ready for camp.

Granlund has adapted well to the North American pro game registering a point-per-game pace with 21 points in as many games this season with Houston. He’s well versed in playing against older competition as he’s competed against much older players the past few seasons in the top pro league in Finland. The forward should find a home in Minnesota’s top six.

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