[Author's note: Power rankings are usually three things: Bad, wrong, and boring. You typically know just as well as the authors which teams won what games against who and what it all means, so our moving the Red Wings up four spots or whatever really doesn't tell you anything you didn't know. Who's hot, who's not, who cares? For this reason, we're doing a power ranking of things that are usually not teams. You'll see what I mean.]
6. Not being able to see a few hours into the future
On Monday I brought up Matt Cooke's status as a repeat offender who was told to stop acting like a piece of garbage who tried to injure everyone all the time, and did so successfully across three seasons for two different teams.
But then about 10 hours after that published, Cooke went knee-to-knee on Tyson Barrie, and every columnist who never forgave him or thought they saw through his pretty transparent media campaign following his alleged transformation into St. Francis of Assisi got to break out a ladder and clamber back up on their high horses for the first time in nearly a thousand days and scream from the mountaintops, “See?!”
Of course, if he had gone the remainder of his career without doing this, we likely would have seen him cursed regardless, because just as Cooke was not allowed to change his stripes in their eyes, their opinions of players must likewise remain uniform forever. Think corsi's bad? Sure you do, it didn't exist seven or eight years ago and therefore has no value. Think fighting's good? Of course it is, because Bobby Orr fought and hell if Bobby Orr did it then it must be perfectly acceptable. The way you think about things must not change ever because what if a team fights and outperforms its underlying stats on the way to a Stanley Cup? You'd have no way to explain it, and your new beliefs would have failed you.
So yes, I made an horrific mistake in saying that Matt Cooke hadn't re-offended in three years. Because what I meant to say was that he would reoffend after three years and 10 hours. You got me.
Incidentally, I don't know if anyone ever thought there wasn't this injurious player, bereft of respect, lurking somewhere inside Cooke all along. I think the people who had seen him go three years without trying to end someone's career — which, let's be clear, is more or less what happened on Monday night — and assumed that he'd at least gotten himself under control. And it's important to note that there's a difference between the two. Addicts are always addicts, regardless of whether they relapse three years after vowing to be better, or never.
Turned out that the beast in Cooke was indeed caged by frail and fragile bars, and one assumes that with the way he's been running around throwing checks in this series that he's been ordered to play with more of an edge. Colorado is a fast team, after all, and one way to slow them down (in theory) is to finish your checks. At least in the theory advanced by old-school hockey types. So Cooke was out there trying to slow guys down as best he could by hitting everything within hitting distance and in doing so put Tyson Barrie on the shelf for four to six weeks, probably the remainder of the Avs' season.
Predictable, really. Same reason you don't give an alcoholic a job as a bartender. The problem, obviously, is that you can't ask Cooke to do anything but kill penalties and maybe get out there for a few defensive-zone draws before you start putting him in a position where he could hurt someone. You ask him to start sending a message, this is what you get.
It is on Mike Yeo a little bit, because he seems to have asked someone like Cooke, with this history, to “play on the edge,” and he demonstrably has no ability to discern what is and isn't over it. Cooke will get suspended for a lot of games, and he'll deserve every one of them.
4. Sportsmanship and bad awards
Everyone knows the Lady Byng award is a joke that no one cares about. Martin St. Louis, pouty little trade-demanding crybaby that he is, being nominated for it this season is pretty solid evidence thereof. If “sportsmanship,” or whatever, now includes demanding a trade because you were left off an Olympic team you eventually made, then sure, St. Louis is your guy.
This isn't an award worth voting on any more. Who's the guy with a decent number of points and games played, with the least penalty minutes? He's the winner. Ryan O'Reilly had one minor all season (and that for playing with a broken stick), he's your guy. That's a tap-in.
So here's what needs to happen: Change the award to something like the Art Ross or Rocket Richard or Jennings, a statistical award so everyone knows who wins the second the season ends. Penalty minutes per point or something like that.
Or, you make it the thing that the Masterton has become: An award for a likeable old guy who's just been around for a million years. Then you get to stop nominating one player from every team for the Masterton, which in a lot of ways takes away from the guys who are actually going through some stuff; Josh Harding and Dominic Moore deserve to stand apart from Daniel Alfredsson, who chose to play a game for another year in exchange for millions of dollars, rather than not-do that. They're not equivalent. Let's stop pretending.
This has been a season replete with a number of spectacular performances from first-year players, and that trend has continued in the playoffs. Prior to Tuesday night's games, there were seven rookies (Brian Gibbons, Tomas Hertl, Torey Krug, Colton Sceviour, Boone Jenner, Matt Nieto, and of course Nathan MacKinnon) who'd posted at least a point a game, and many more were having a significant influence even beyond the scoreboard.
Ryan Murray's getting 25 minutes a night on average (brought up by 30:23 in Game 2), Olli Maata's playing a solid defensive role on the other side of the ice. Luke Glendening and Danny DeKeyser are getting important minutes for Detroit in shutting down Boston's scoring lines, and so on. Jason Akeson is getting some extremely tough zone starts for a team being dominated in possession, and yet remains one of the only Flyers in positive territory. Erik Haula is likewise at the top of the list for the Wild despite starting about three-quarters of his shifts in the offensive zone.
Granted it's only a few games, but sometimes it's just nice to think about this kind of thing, because so much attention is paid to the league's current stars. The future's looking pretty decent too.
2. Lack of respect
So much hemming and hawing in this league over the fact that players don't respect each other, and a lot of it is deserved. You just need to look at the incidents that have piled up since the playoffs began, whether they rose to the level of requiring supplementary discipline or not, and see that no, there's not really a lot of respect in the game.
Which is what makes everyone's insistence on tweeting and talking about the need for so-and-so to “stay classy” so hilarious. There was a huge uproar over the fact that a Blackhawk said to a probably-concussed David Backes “Wakey wakey” — and that a moron Blackhawks fan decided to make a shirt about it — and yet less of an uproar over the fact that Backes was concussed with a clearly illegal hit. Everyone just shrugged their shoulders and accepted it as “part of the game.”
Obviously the rules are different for coaches and players are punished, but Joel Quenneville's fine for grabbing his crotch should not, in a rational world, be five times the size of Milan Lucic's for spearing Danny DeKeyser's for him.
It's not that the league needs to “lighten up” or anything like that. It's that the league and its observers (fan and media alike) needs to get things straight and start treating things with the gravity due them. A concussion is a lot more serious than a player making fun of the concussion, but the player making fun of it highlights the league's culture problem to begin with. Nothing ever gets fixed.
It seems like every year, there's more and more overtime in the playoffs. After last night, in 28 games across the eight playoff series, nine games had gone into overtime. And pretty much all those games ended with crazy goals, too, as playoff overtimes are wont to do.
You'll recall that the NHL record for overtime games in a season is 28 out of 85, set in 1993, and it'll be tough to get to that mark. But these teams sure do seem intent on trying. I think we're all fine with it.
(Not ranked this week: Lightning goaltending.
You really have to feel for Kristers Gudlevskis and Anders Lindback, who were never supposed to have been in this situation. Guys get hurt in the playoffs, obviously, and the Bolts probably never had much of a chance without Ben Bishop, but even if he'd been healthy, things have been going bad for this team between the pipes for a while now.
Bishop, you'll recall, finished the year with a .924 save percentage and was a candidate for both the U.S. Olympic team and Vezina trophy. But over his last 18 games before getting hurt, he allowed 48 goals on just 500 shots (.904), and that's not a very flattering number at all.
Whatever went bad for him — simple regression, one would think — also worked against Gudlevskis and Lindback in their four straight losses to the Canadiens. They allowed 16 goals in getting swept, which by my count is four per game, on 138 shots. It goes without saying that you can't stop only .884 across four games and hope to win.
But with that said, those poor goalies also got no help. This Lightning team that was so good in possession all season got crushed at even strength, with a fenwick share of just 43.6, and they scored just two goals at even strength to support their netminders.
With those numbers, nothing really would have helped, but the inability to stop pretty much anything ever means even Bishop at his worst would have been an improvement.)