8. Praise for Brooks Orpik
Ah, there may still be room in hockey for slow defensemen who kinda suck after all. And it’s all thanks to Brooks Orpik, who was a huge albatross around the Capitals’ necks (not that anyone would say it) as recently as a month ago.
NBC made him the third star of Game 4 (he had six hits!!!!) and no shortage of media rubes have pontificated about how valuable he has been. And sure, when he’s been on the ice, the Caps have only taken about 1 in every 3 shot attempts and scoring chances at 5-on-5, but you gotta think: What about those hits?
Barry Trotz is using him as judiciuously as possible, typically less than 17 minutes a night and only in certain situations such as the PK, where not being able to skate is kinda not as big of a deal. But all these people saying, “Doesn’t this prove something about a thing I still inexplicably think about this sport?” No, not really.
The reason everyone thinks Orpik has been a horse in this series? He’s been on the ice for three goals for and only two against despite getting BADLY outshot. This is the “Oscar Klefbom sucks now!” argument but in the opposite direction. Orpik has a 110.8 PDO — seriously, that’s the actual number! — in the four games of the Cup Final so far, and yeah buddy that’s gonna make anyone look good.
But guess what: Brooks Orpik stunk a month ago and stinks now and will only get worse next year. He hasn’t unlocked anything in his game, he just hasn’t been on the ice for many goals against. That’s not the same thing! You know this!
7. Becoming a brain genius
Gerard Gallant, back against the wall, is starting to make the kinds of dumbass decisions that he seemingly could never have made in his run to a surefire Jack Adams.
Some are due to circumstance — you only have so many defensemen so maybe giving Deryk Engelland of all the blue liners on the roster 22 minutes a night can in some way feel justifiable even if it truly is not — but others are due to having no answers. There are two worth highlighting here.
First, the continued use of Ryan Reaves in high-leverage situations is beyond baffling. I think I said the other day it’s not the reason the team is suddenly failing, but Gallant is now both using Reaves as his extra attacker, and as the guy who got bumped up to the second line when things “needed” to be shaken up in Game 4.
I cannot stress this enough: Ryan Reaves is not only not a difference-maker, but he is actively bad and harmful to the team. In a word, he sucks. I guess he’ll try to punch Tom Wilson in the face but in doing so he’ll also create a 4-on-4 situation where Vegas’s lack of high-end skill beyond their top group will only be more apparent. I don’t understand it at all, but I guess he scored goals in back-to-back games a week ago so we’re just going to pretend he’s got that in him forever. Fun fact: The last time Reaves scored in back-to-back games before Game 5 of the WCF and Game 1 of the Cup Final was January 2015. Before that it was in January 2011.
To continue to expect offense from him is a fool’s errand.
Like, this is a parody of what a dumb coach would do. And no one is calling him on it but me! What goes on out there?
6. The Senators’ week
First their AGM gets arrested — and pleads not guilty — on some pretty gross charges that potentially throws his interactions with all the Senators’ prospects he’s dealt with over the course of his job into a troubling light.
Then Health Canada recalls “thousands” of Senators onesies because they posed a choking hazard. Sometimes the jokes don’t have to be written at all.
5. Happy to be here
So the city of Las Vegas announced the other day that it would have a parade for the Golden Knights regardless of whether they won the Cup and the team was like, “Please for the love of God don’t do that to us.”
Nice for the team to have the sense to beg their way out from that kind of event, but it also highlights how fast everyone went from “THIS IS THE BEST TEAM IN THE HISTORY OF HOCKEY AND NO ONE WILL EVER UNDERSTAND OR STOP US,” to “Ah, we were playing with house money — like the gambling thing! — the whole time.”
It’s a great bit.
4. Big Lou
The writing was kinda on the wall when it came to Garth Snow, right? You fire the guy who is maybe the reason the team has no certainty on John Tavares coming back, and hey Lou was right there and his son’s already the AGM so that all works.
But firing the coach everyone kinda seemed to like? That’s a weird one. Obviously the Islanders have long been considered a cone of silence (a great, modern reference) when it comes to understanding their inner workings so, I dunno, it’s maybe plausible that Weight and Tavares didn’t get along or something, and this is also Lou trying to get out in front of the problem.
But also, yikes! Because maybe the problem was something to do with Tavares feeling like this is a disfunctional franchise and, well, all these changes probably don’t help, right? But at least they’re getting that arena in like six years or whatever.
3. Ilya Kovalchuk
Turns out money might not be the motivating factor in bringing Ilya Kovalchuk back from the KHL. After all, he can make a boatload of cash playing over there and it’s all tax-free.
Instead, Kovalchuk apparently wants to win, which is a nice sentiment and everything, but hear me out, Ilya: Vegas has a lot of cap room and the apparent will to add more top talent this summer. Maybe that’s a thing.
I’m gonna bang the drum on this for a while. It’s the only thing that makes sense, to me.
2. Coming around
One thing that has been encouraging in the past few games has been, apart from all the hits necessitating it, people with a voice in this sport are really starting to call for a better concussion protocol. Maybe that’ll make it actually happen!
But probably not.
Here’s something few people remember about Evgeny Kuznetsov: He was the 26th player selected in his draft.
And look, you can get bargains in the later rounds — Henrik Zetterberg! Patric Hornqvist! Any number of great goalies! — but the reason Kuznetsov dropped was, of course, that teams were concerned about whether he would bolt from the KHL.
I saw something this week about how George McPhee only had a handful of games with Kuznetsov on his Capitals roster before he got canned. The implication, I guess, being that the three-or-so years Kuznetsov took to come to the NHL was in some way a reason he didn’t keep his job with in Washington.
But how many guys get drafted somewhere in the first round, play three years of college or junior, then come over without the constant fretting about “WHEN IS THIS GONNA HAPPEN?” that we got with Kuznetsov?
I mean, just pick a guy totally at random, oh, I don’t know, like TJ Oshie. He was also the 24th overall pick in the 2005 draft, played three years at North Dakota, then went right to the NHL at age 22.
The difference between Oshie (who was a perfectly reasonable pick at No. 24) and Kuznetsov (who was not the 26th-best player in his draft but slipped anyway) was the “fear of the Russian” factor.
Anyway, Kuznetsov suddenly looks like an ultra-mega-star on the game’s biggest stage, and he probably won’t win the Conn Smythe because Alex Ovechkin’s due, and that is kinda funny to me for reasons I can’t quite put my finger on.
(Not ranked this week: The end of the season.
About midway through Game 4 I realized hockey is gonna be over soon and I got bummed out!)
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