Tuesday, February 5, 2008

It's About Time

Anyone who knows me knows how mad I was last year watching the Senators play the Penguins in the playoffs. The Penguins got exposed for being a soft team and an easy team to play against in terms of physical play. Also, I don't believe that having a guy like Laraque on the team makes you truly tough. Yes, he's a perennial heavy weight and a beast in all respects, but team toughness is what matters in the playoffs. If you look at what the Ducks did in the playoffs last year they proved that team toughness is about having players that play more than 10 minutes a game that are willing to get to work in the corners and thrive on making the lives of their opponents hell. Well, Ryan Whitney, who received a fat long term deal, was the number one guy I was truly upset with in the playoffs. I thought he was positively awful. I under the need for offensive defenseman especially in today's hockey where a transition game is absolutely crucial. However, having a guy like Whitney who can play the offensive side of hockey but lacks the stones and the heart to play the tough-nosed defensive side is a liability, especially when he's on the ice for 20+ minutes a night. I was surprised that no one was bashing Whitney after that performance, and after a slow start to the current season even offensively, but apparently Michele Therrien, Penguin's coach, finally saw something in Whitney he didn't like last night. After blowing a 2 goal lead with 10 minutes left in the game to eventually fall in overtime to division rival New Jersey Devils, Therrien had this to say about his young defenseman, "It's unacceptable to lose a hockey game like this. Unacceptable. A guy like Ryan Whitney, he's going to have to be more aggressive around the net. He's not aggressive at all. It cost us the game."

He cost you at least a game if not multiple games in the playoffs as well there Michele. Frankly, the same could be said about much of the defensive core of the Penguins. It's way too easy and comfortable to play against the Penguins, especially in the corners and in front of their net. You don't need 6 defensemen that can put up 40+ points unless most of them can do what Pronger, Phaneuf and the other great defensemen do which is aid the transition game while punishing the other team. The Penguins need a true, stay-at-home tough nosed defenseman if they intend to go anywhere beyond the first round. Penguins have called up AHL all star Alex Goligoski and hopefully this means that Ryan Whitney may finally get the punishment he deserves, a brief stint riding the pine.

Speaking of toughness, Ethan Moreau defines tough with this play. He takes a stick to the mouth and not only does he stay on the ice, he continues with the play and even gets a shot on goal despite the fact that he has so much blood in his mouth it's tough to breathe. This is one of the many things that separates hockey players from others.

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