[Author's note: Every sports website on earth dedicated to covering just one league publishes a weekly power ranking, and we here at Puck Daddy have finally decided to do the same. But we're doing a power ranking of things that are usually not teams. You'll see what I mean.]
7. Washington's Goaltending
And now a list of goaltenders who have allowed five goals on 11 shots since the NHL began keeping SOG data four decades ago:
Saturday's performance against the Wild was, in point of fact, inarguably the worst NHL goaltending performance in 40 years. It's not often that you see any goalie post a .545 save percentage in any amount of time, and as far as we can tell it has literally never happened in a full 60-minute game. That this game against the Wild, whose scoring woes these last every-year-they've-existed have been exceedingly well publicized.
But perhaps that's what happens when you go against pure snipers like Ryan Suter, who had a hat trick in the game.
Fortunately, though, the Caps are all set in the goaltending department even despite the recent failings of Holtby, whose GAA and save percentage are growing farther apart at a speed rivaling that of the universe's expansion. They, after all, have Michal Neuvirth to lean on.
What's that? Neuvirth wants a trade? Yeah, that makes sense.
There is, after all, Philipp Grubauer. He's 22 and has appeared in 11 games this season -- nearly all against garbage teams -- and has a .932 save percentage. It's not like Washington has ever had a young goalie start really hot and then flame out or anything. You can just take my word for it on that and not look at Holtby or Neuvirth's stats from when they were rookies.
6. Misplaced Anger
The thing that people don't seem to get about the Brian Burke thing is that neither he nor anyone else owes Bobby Ryan an apology for the quotes that "got out" (i.e. "were said in front of a reporter on the record") about how he isn't intense enough.
The player evaluation process is a no-fun one and if you heard the things that are said about just about anyone's job performance -- like, say, yours -- behind closed doors, you'd probably be a little bit appalled. If not embarrassed. If not upset. That's how it goes.
The problem wasn't what was said about Ryan, or even that it was said at all. It was the illogic behind it; the favoring of virtues which have a nebulous or non-existent or even negative effect on winning over the one thing to which hockey boils down, which is to say "scoring goals." The US does not deserve to win gold because of this selection process because it was idiotic, and if it does so anyway, it does little to validate the process or roster that resulted from it.
This is a knockout tournament and strange things happen. Finland just won gold at World Juniors despite entering the tournament at something like 25 to 1 long shots. Hockey's weird to begin with, so a team with as many legitimate NHL talents as the US is probably going to do well even with a few snubs.
But when you're counting on the GMs of the Flames, Predators, and Flyers -- who seem to have spent most of their time during the process making fun of the heavily-researched recommendations of the GM of the Kings, a recent Cup winner among the best teams in hockey -- to get things right, you're really hoping they don't screw it up too horribly.
No, I won't stop screaming and crying about this.
5. Outdoor Games
There's no doubt about it: The Winter Classic at the Big House in front of 1.3 billion people or whatever it ended up being was a sight to behold. As long as you weren't looking at the game at any point.
Sea of Blue and Sea of Red got the chance to see some truly abominable and unwatchable hockey in subfreezing temperatures for the three-plus hours the game took. If the Winter Classic had been any longer, they would have had to rename the documentary series 24/7/365. It was interminable and awful.
And now there are five more of them.
Over the weekend, there were two college hockey games at Fenway Park, the first involving Merrimack and Providence Colleges, and the late game between Boston College and Notre Dame. The quality of the hockey was as low as the quality of the ice, and there were several spots in the neutral zone where one would have only dared skate if they placed no value upon their lives.
After the game, Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson, whose squad also played at Soldier Field in Chicago last year, seemed like he'd had enough.
"Outdoor hockey is where the game started and where it was played, but there's way too much of it going on right now,” he said after the game. “They're ruining it. There's too much. It's nice to have this event for Hockey East. It's great, but there's way too many outdoor games right now. It's great for shinny, but there's just too much.”
So why do we still do this nonsense if everyone agrees it sucks so much? You don't have to $earch very hard to $ee the rea$on.
Yesterday was an astonishing display of arrogance by the country that likes to portray itself as the aww-shucks capital of the world. It took Hockey Canada longer to announce its roster than it does for John Scott to get through the neutral zone.
“We are winter.” Get over yourselves, you put Chris Kunitz, Mike Smith, and Rick Nash on your team. The only thing you are is choosing the be mediocre.
Congratulations to Winnipeg Free Press reporter/resident Thrasher-hater Gary Lawless on the all-time record 1,000th career column bitching about Dustin Byfuglien. It's a truly stunning achievement for a guy who couldn't tell you one thing about the Jets other than, “Byfuglien and Kane are the real problem here.”
The best part, of course, is that after he destroys stupid lazy awful turnover machine Byfuglien — who's only fourth in defenseman scoring this year, that loser! — for 700 words, he says, “What could Cheveldayoff expect to get for Byfuglien? If we're talking futures, maybe a first-round pick and a Grade A prospect. A roster player? Maybe a second or third pairing defenseman and a third-round pick. Or a top six forward and a late pick.”
Because that's what you get for guys who suck so bad the Winnipeg Jets shouldn't even want them, right?
This is a very brave stance for Lawless to take. Again. And again. And again. Especially because the real problem is that Ondrej Pavelec and Al Montoya have a save percentage of just .879 with him on the ice; the unassailable Mark Stuart, meanwhile, has a .932 save percentage behind him. Wonder if that makes defensemen look better than they are. Nah.
2. Snubs and flubs, and those who flubbed when they snubbed
In the immediate wake of the naming of Canada's Olympic team, the obvious focus was on a one-word question: “Why?” Why this guy and not that guy, etc.
The list of snubs is lengthy, but the various justifications for them has been, frankly, bizarre. Case in point: Steve Yzerman saying with a straight face that Chris Kunitz has done enough on his own to merit inclusion.
Look, Steve, it's fine if you want to include the guy because of his chemistry with Sidney Crosby. It's your team, and even if it's a bad decision, you get to make it. But you don't have to lie about it. The reason TJ Oshie made the U.S. team ahead of some more deserving guys (rhymes with Flobby Flyan) is that he had chemistry with David Backes. You can disagree with how much that helps, obviously, but you see where the argument comes from.
Anyone — Steve Yzerman or not — who says Kunitz made it on his own merits and, say, Taylor Hall or Claude Giroux or Logan Couture or, god, Martin St. Louis did not is obviously fallacious and face-saving. He can't say Kunitz wouldn't have made it without Crosby (but of course he wouldn't) but he's not required to say he would have. It's ludicrous. I just named four wings off the top of my head who are inarguably better at hockey than Kunitz, and I didn't need a scouting staff to get me there.
Canada, given its talent pool, is always going to leave off extraordinarily deserving players. It's reasons for doing so are just as bad as USA Hockey's.
1. The Pittsburgh Penguins
Oh god they're going to shred the East the rest of the way. Happy New Year, Dan Bylsma.
(Not ranked this week: Intensity, itensity, intesity, intendisy, intensidy, entensity, intensdee, intensisty, isensity, intendicy, instentiy, antencidy, itensidy, intendisee, intensitie, intentcity, insensitivity, intestidy, entencity, intense city, intendisy.)