Biscuits 62: How Vegas and Washington Got Here and Who We Think Wins the Cup

Biscuits, a podcast on VICE Sports, takes an analytical, irreverent, and humorous look at the world of hockey and the NHL. Listen as hosts Sean McIndoe (of Down Goes Brown fame) and Dave Lozo (of Dave Lozo fame) react to the week’s biggest stories and most absurd news.

You can download or listen to Biscuits on Acast, Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Read more on Ovechkin and why the haters need to shut up:

Also read up on which team you should be cheering for:

And for more Stanley Cup content, check out Down Goes Brown’s latest Grab Bag.

Follow Biscuits on Twitter.

Biscuits 62: How Vegas and Washington Got Here and Who We Think Wins the Cup syndicated from https://australiahoverboards.wordpress.com

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A Bandwagon Guide to the Unlikely Capitals-Golden Knights Stanley Cup Final

So you’re not a fan of the Washington Capitals or Vegas Golden Knights, huh? You don’t have any interest in watching them play for a championship, huh? Stanley Cup Final ratings year after year indicate the neutral observer would rather watch Scrubs reruns than a game involving two teams he or she doesn’t care about but maybe that’s because nobody has given you a compelling case to hop on a bandwagon.

This year’s Super Bowl involved the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles, which was like choosing between watching your parents ripped apart by bears or Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull; no matter what happened, you were going to be irrevocably psychologically damaged. With the Capitals and Golden Knights, we get to pick between two likable teams looking to cap off unexpected championship seasons.

The only proper way to decide your allegiances is to look at what the Capitals and Knights offer and hitching your wagon to the team you want to call your own for a couple weeks. Let’s break down each team in some very important categories that were not chosen specifically as vessels for jokes. How dare you even think that?

THE CITIES

On one hand you have Washington, a city without any casinos, sports books or a mass transit system that runs after the sun goes down. On the other hand, you have Las Vegas, which hasn’t shut down since it opened.

Which is better? Each city is a place filled with people looking to hustle you out of your hard-earned money but at least Las Vegas gives you free booze while they do it.

THE DOUCHEBAGS

On one hand you have Tom Wilson, a player without any conscience, regard for human life or the power to keep his city’s mass transit system running after the sun goes down. On the other hand, you have… James Neal? He did knee Brad Marchand in the head that one time. Alex Tuch wore a border control costume this Halloween, which is extremely douchey.

Which douchebag is bigger? Wilson has run more people into the ground than a sadistic cross country coach and doesn’t seem to give two shits about it, so it’s another easy answer.

THE BELEAGUERED STARS WITH SOMETHING TO PROVE

Alex Ovechkin has taken the blame for everything wrong with Washington since he arrived in 2005. The playoff failures, the participation banners hung in the arena, Nicklas Backstrom’s failures, the outdoor game uniforms, government shutdowns, Kirk Cousins’ contract situation and departure, the lack of a mass transit system that runs after the sun goes down, Dan Snyder’s existence and the Capitals’ lack of a Stanley Cup. With four more wins, Ovechkin can play the rest of his career and chase the all-time goals record in peace.

Marc-Andre Fleury has three championships—one as a starter, one as a backup, and one as a helper—but was cast aside in Pittsburgh after last season when Matt Murray took his job and made him expendable. Fleury was the scapegoat for the Penguins’ failures between 2010 and 2013, which means a Conn Smythe Trophy and Stanley Cup would complete his redemption story.

Who is more worthy of your love? Fleury lost his job fair and square in Pittsburgh and come on, he has three Cups. Ovechkin has zero and who knows if he ever gets this far again. You should be pulling very hard for Ovechkin.

FAN BASES MOST UPSET BY THE OUTCOME

If the Capitals finally win a Cup, the most pissed off people will be Penguins fans and Rangers fans; Penguins fans have forged an identity through laughing at the Capitals and that will go away completely. Rangers fans have the goaltending version of Ovechkin, and if the real Ovechkin wins a Cup, that shines (an equally dumb and unfair) spotlight on Henrik Lundqvist’s lack of a Cup.

If the Golden Knights win a Cup in their first season, it will piss off [Gary Oldman in The Professional voice] EVERYONE. I believe it should be something to be celebrated by everyone but I know it won’t be. Fans across North America will spend the offseason wandering the streets, lost, confused, muttering to themselves about a rigged expansion draft.

Which is better for you? This really comes down to how much you hate the Penguins and Rangers, which, based on my online experience, is a lot. If you have those fans in your life, sure, I get why you want them to suffer. But what’s best for everyone is chaos, and that’s what Vegas winning the Cup will provide. This decision is between you and your heart.

CANADA’S LEVEL OF ANGER

If Canada can no longer hold the whole no Cups thing over Ovechkin, the nation may collapse. The Ovechkin Isn’t A Winner takes make up 45 percent of the Canadian economy and there’s no telling what a collapse like that will do to the global markets. Does Don Cherry have enough money saved in the event of an Ovechkin Take Crisis?

It’s been 25 years since a Canadian franchise has hoisted the Cup and there’s no telling what a first-year franchise in a desert community winning it will do to Canada. My guess is Canada is so numb to losing the Cup every year that the acceptance of American hockey dominance happened a long time ago and they won’t even feel it when Deryk Engelland takes the Cup from Gary Bettman.

Which is better for you? I lean toward Ovechkin winning the Cup, because it will lead to a whole bunch of people apologizing or inventing new crazy takes to survive. “Ovechkin has one Cup… but he should have more!” “Ovechkin’s Cup came against an expansion team, and that’s why it shouldn’t count!” There’s way more upside to a Capitals championship.

SHIT YELLED DURING THE NATIONAL ANTHEM

During the sacred ritual that is singing America’s theme song before a sports game, each teams’ fans scream one of the lyrics during home games. In Vegas, it’s “gave proof through the KNIGHT” because of the Golden Knights and in Washington it’s “rockets’ RED glare” because the Capitals have the color red in their uniforms. So when Seattle joins the league and becomes the Vampire Wolves, they will go with, “At the TWILIGHT’S last gleaming.”

Which is better? Neither! What are you people doing? Either sing the entire song from start to finish or keep your traps shut. Every fan base is looking for some gimmick during the anthem and they are all stupid. Rangers fans mumble a disorganized “LET’S GO RANGERS” and Jets fans scream “TRUE NORTH” during “O Canada” to honor the corporation that owns the Jets, which seems like a gag they’d do on Silicon Valley at Hooli. How long before Flyers fans start yelling “BROAD stripes” at home games? This is a PUSH (I was listening to Matchbox Twenty while writing this).

PREGAME ARENA SHOWS

Vegas offers a free Medieval Time show before every game where a fancy knight on skates has a sword fight with a person or something like a jet plane. I have no idea what even happens in Washington. Does a guy dress like Ben Franklin and read from the Constitution? Who cares?

Which is better? Unless the Capitals get some dudes with muskets shooting at each other, this is a no-brainer.

TEAM SLOGANS

It’s #ALLCAPS vs #VegasBorn in what has to be the dorkiest hashtag matchup in Final history. Of course you’re “Vegas Born”—your team was born in Vegas. What sort of lazy-ass slogan is that? What stops any other team from doing this? I guess all the relocating. Yeah, that’s the answer to that question. I take it back.

https://sports.vice.com/en_ca/embed/article/mbxw9v/the-expansion-vegas-golden-knights-are-stanley-cup-favorites-and-make-absolutely-no-sense?utm_source=stylizedembed_sports.vice.com&utm_campaign=qvnvmd&site=sports

Which is better? All earnest hashtags are bad. That’s the lesson here.

WHICH OUTCOME IS FUNNIER

The Capitals finally getting a Cup with what is objectively a worse team than they had the previous two years is hilarious. Barry Trotz pooped all over Kevin Shattenkirk this season and essentially blamed him for the Capitals’ losing in the second round last year and it turns out maybe he had a point. Braden Holtby was so bad that he wasn’t even the starter when the playoffs began and now he has a chance at winning the Conn Smythe. There are a lot of laughs packed into a potential Washington victory.

But the Golden Knights winning it all in their first year is the Monty Python and the Holy Grail (or whatever movie you find really funny, I don’t care) of sports comedy. You won’t ever laugh like this in your life. Literally nobody—not me, not you, not team owner Bill Foley—thought this was possible and now the Knights are favorites in the Cup Final.

And this last answer is all that matters. You should be pulling for Vegas. Thinking about every NHL GM staring at his TV as Brayden McNabb hands the Cup to Luca Sbisa, who hands it to Ryan Reaves, who hands it to Colin Miller, who hands it to Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith at the same time, who put down the Cup and hold up a sign that reads, “THANK YOU DALE” is something too good to pass up.

There’s plenty to enjoy about a Caps win but nothing in the history of hockey will be more pleasurable than the Vegas Golden Knights being crowned Stanley Cup champs.

This article originally appeared on VICE Sports CA.

A Bandwagon Guide to the Unlikely Capitals-Golden Knights Stanley Cup Final syndicated from https://australiahoverboards.wordpress.com

Tactical Guide to Darren Till Vs. Stephen Thompson

Darren Till exploded into the consciousness of many MMA fans when he battered Donald Cerrone in late 2017. Cerrone was Till’s first “name” opponent but is entering the twilight of his career, is undersized at welterweight, and was tailor made for Darren Till to box up. This weekend Till meets Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson, a man in exile having lost two close fights with Tyron Woodley, the second of which was so tedious that he will likely not get a third shot. Thompson is as slick as they come on the feet, pushing forward a style of striking straight out of the 1970s kickboxing scene and doing things that would have been laughed off as impractical or impossible just a few years ago.

Both men have interesting quirks and we have written about both before, so let’s not beat around the bush with the general game of each man. Let us delve into the specifics of the match-up and explore what each man can do to hinder the other.

Hypothetical Gameplans

Darren Till faces the same stumbling blocks that everyone does when matched against Stephen Thompson. How does a fighter make Thompson engage on their terms, without simply walking onto stopping side kicks and counter left straights? At his most simplistic, Thompson is just a counter-puncher who keeps a strict control of distance. His opponents keep trying to close it and he’s only going to let them if he thinks he can run them onto something good and get away without getting hurt. We discussed this extensively in The Distance Trap.

Running onto a straight left can happen, but Thompson is much more inclined to drop away on a slight angle and fire a straight through the open side as the opponent recovers from over-extending. Interestingly, this is something that Thompson can do with a degree of ambidexterity. He has performed it as a southpaw fighter against orthodox opponents and, when meeting a southpaw like Johny Hendricks, Thompson has taken up the orthodox stance to create the same opening. The over-commitment with the rear hand from an open stance scenario leaves a fighter completely exposed for the counter left straight through that slight angle and this has proven to be a killer counter punch from the days of Benny Leonard versus Lew Tendler to Conor McGregor versus whoever.

Thompson cracking current UFC middleweight champion, Robert Whittaker.

Benny Leonard retreating to the open side and firing a right straight in through the same angle, over a century earlier.

And wouldn’t you know it, here’s that Scouse lad doing the same thing.

There are a few means of stifling a counter fighter’s distance trap but the first and most important is using the boundaries: the ropes or fence. Every Thompson fight is decided by distance: he controls the distance, keeps it how he wants it for a little while, assesses his opponents’ aggression and leads or counters based on that. There are fighters for whom distance is something to be overcome in order to throw more hands, but for Thompson the fight starts and ends with distance with some strikes landed in between. But that means constant adjustment, constant re-establishing of the buffer zone, and all the back-stepping punches, check hooks, and open-side counters in Thompson’s arsenal require space for him to retreat into. Put him near the fence and half of the subtleties that Thompson’s feet bring to striking exchanges are immediately muted.

Darren Till showed excellent ring awareness against Donald Cerrone, placing him on the fence and hammering him with hard strikes in this disadvantaged position, but similarities between Cerrone and Thompson are few and far between. Thompson is a top notch ring general and Cerrone is nothing close to that. Study the few moments that Johny Hendricks, Robert Whittaker, and others were close to cornering Thompson and you will realize that he knows exactly how much he relies on space and is always aware of where he shouldn’t be.

Direction changes to get off the fence and a constant awareness of just where the fence is are the keys to great defensive ringcraft.

Moving Thompson to the fence is going to be hard work, but pressuring in that direction will force engagements and action from the ordinarily measured Thompson. Till has shown an understanding of feints to go along with his pressure, constantly pumping his left shoulder and hip, and while he rarely uses his jab as much as he should, let alone shows a double, it will certainly come in handy—especially when Thompson is southpaw. Feints combine with pressure to make distance based counter strikers move without opening up or wasting energy. It is a tricky business trying to decide which movements are worth picking up on and which are worth ignoring in a split second window, and when fighters stop reacting to feints they make themselves easy marks for clean leads.

https://sports.vice.com/en_us/embed/article/zmgbb4/from-silva-to-mcgregor-the-distance-trap-is-the-most-powerful-principle-in-mma?utm_source=stylizedembed_sports.vice.com&utm_campaign=gyky9x&site=sports

When we discussed The Distance Trap, we talked about Sean O’Malley being caught off guard by a bumping shuffle step. Bringing the rear foot up near to the lead and pushing off it is not basic boxing but it is a great way to cover much more distance that most fighters are used to. Not only does this cover more distance and increase the chances of cracking an opponent while he retreats, it also plays with the opponents sense of distance. While Till hasn’t shown a propensity to double jab in his UFC tenure, he has used shoulder fakes to shuffle up and make distance for his left straight, which shows an understanding of the principle.

This kind of double feinting and covering distance should work to force Thompson into giving up ground quicker than he would like and thereby bring the fight closer to the fence more often. Along the fence, Till should look to land his heavy round kicks and to sneak the left straight through as these are his money strikes. More importantly the left elbow has proven an excellent weapon for Till when his man starts parrying or slipping the left straight.

Another trick which it would be good to see Till use in closing the distance is foot trapping. Whether Thompson is southpaw or orthodox, he fights from a lengthy stance that allows him to push off of the mat in front or behind him and create or close distance rapidly. This stance does, however, mean that he is rarely on top of his feet and rather balanced between them. Long stances like this allow a fighter to create distance rapidly—often mitigating traditional low kicks unless they are well set up or applied along the boundaries of the cage or ring—but it is very susceptible to sneaky, short foot sweeps and traps. As a fighter scuttles backwards as fast as he can his lead foot can be knocked across him or outwards with a short kick at the ankle. This is usually done with a skip up and lead leg kick or hooking of the foot. The actual strike accomplishes nothing in terms of damage, but complicates the retreat and pulls the fighter out of his stance. The low foot hook or kick can immediately be placed down in front of the advancing fighter and followed with actual strikes against an out-of-position opponent.

Here Yoel Romero demonstrates the foot trap. Notice that as Tim Kennedy’s lead foot lightens to retreat, it becomes much more susceptible to being knocked out of position. This technique works best against mobile fighters who are happy to retreat from exchanges.

One of Rory MacDonald’s few moments of success against Thompson was in skipping up and tapping the lead foot of the elusive karateka. Ironically one of the main proponents of these tapping low kicks in MMA was Lyoto Machida but, while they work wonderfully against fleet footed distance fighters, most of Machida’s opponents were heavy footed and plodding so the kick rarely had its full effect.

Stephen Thompson is in the position where, if Darren Till cannot demonstrate some smart ringcraft, he might not have to bring too many new looks. Thompson’s style is to ask questions of his opponent rather than offer answer to theirs. Staying off the fence and out in the center of the cage is obviously to Thompson’s advantage. If Till simply plods after Thompson, as Jorge Masvidal did, expect Thompson to dart in and out with pairs of straight punches and pile up his points that way. In terms of kicking though, Till’s southpaw stance makes things interesting.

While Thompson can hit his open-side counters off both stances, his kicking game seems very different in southpaw and orthodox positions. Almost all of Thompson’s lead leg kicking is done from his more bladed southpaw stance, while he throws more bread-and-butter kickboxing stuff focused on the rear leg from his orthodox stance. Darren Till being a southpaw means that when Thompson fights with his strong leg forward he is in a closed guard engagement. Typically Thompson likes the side kick and the hook kick with the lead leg, and using the defensive side kick to essentially start him into motion to move back on that forty-five degree angle to make the open-side counter. Obviously if he fights southpaw against Till that lead leg hook kick becomes a lot higher risk and a lot lower reward—with Till being a turn of the shoulders or a duck below the shoulder line away from the kick being worthless. Nicolas Dalby caught Till with a pair of high kicks over his right shoulder—it’s not impossible—but that was in the third round as Dalby pushed up the pace and stayed in a tired Till’s face.

More likely, as against Johny Hendricks, it will be that lead leg side kick and the standard round kick off the lead leg which form a staple of Thompson’s kicking in this fight. This was the pairing that won “Superfoot” Bill Wallace most of his fights, with the odd hook kick thrown in. The side kick draws the elbows down and in; the high kick flicks up and around from a very similar chamber. It’s a simple idea but Wallace and Thompson are a rare breed that can put it into practice against world class opponents. The closed guard match-up does increase the chances of Thompson wheel-kicking if Till lingers on the end of its range, though—turning kicks coming in on the open side from such a stance match-up.

One interesting consideration with this sort of match-up is: does it help or hurt the more adaptable fighter to go to his other skills? Darren Till has done good work as both an ultra-aggressive striker and a laid back counter striker, and in some matches (such as the Dalby one) he effectively switched between the two for periods of the bout. Stephen Thompson, meanwhile, works mainly with what his opponents give him, reluctantly pot-shotting when his opponent waits for him. We all recall that the tag line of the second Woodley fight was “I promise I’ll let my hands go this time.” So does Till do better by going to Wonderboy and trying to play the aggressor against a great counter-striker, or does he sit back and try to make Wonderboy play the role that most of the time he looks uncomfortable in?

Certainly you would think that Till has the advantage as the exchanges lengthen. Thompson has been caught off good counters in the same way that Lyoto Machida and Kyoji Horiguchi has—he times a perfect connection and then admires his work, or hangs around throwing hands when his boxing just isn’t up to snuff. Jake Ellenberger dropped Thompson in this way.

It might benefit Till to simply play the bully here, accepting that the counters are going to come and try to stick to Thompson with a collar tie or catch him with a hook before he exits. Till’s work with elbows and knees has been very impressive and frequent so far in the Octagon, it would be well in his interest to manufacture chances to use these weapons which Wonderboy essentially eschews. Whether that be by making ugly exchanges after pushing forward, or by clinching and physically pushing Thompson to the fence.

What makes this a fantastic match-up is that both men are clever enough and talented enough that there are any number of ways it could unfold. Unlike, say, the Maia vs. Usman fight last weekend—wherein most expected a slog where Maia couldn’t get the takedown—this welterweight tilt is surrounded by questions and they don’t stop dead if one man can’t do one thing in one area of the fight. Whether it’s an outright banger or a tentative snoozer, Thompson vs. Till has big ramifications for the division, watch the fight and get back here Monday if it was any good.

Jack wrote the hit biography Notorious: The Life and Fights of Conor McGregor and hosts the Fights Gone By Podcast.

Tactical Guide to Darren Till Vs. Stephen Thompson syndicated from https://australiahoverboards.wordpress.com

DGB Grab Gag: Retconning the Knights, Touching Trophies, and Good Ol’ Kerry Fraser

Three Stars of Comedy

The third star: The Golden Knights are feeling it – Laugh it up now, guys. Let’s see how glib you are when you go through some rough times. You know, eventually. Probably some time in 2023 or so.

The second star: Ryan Miller’s three-year-old son – This kid goes right for the jugular. I respect that.

The first star: This photo – I don’t say this lightly, but this might be my favorite NHL photo of all time. Sorry, Bobby Orr, you had a good run. But this one captures the yin and the yang of what the league is all about: the overwhelming excitement of a game-winning goal, and the eye-rolling annoyance of basically everything else. It’s perfect.

Debating the Issues

Editor’s note: Due to an unforeseen scheduling conflict, this week’s regularly scheduled debate is not available. In its place, please enjoy this rerun from June 2017.

This week’s debate: The expansion draft was held last night, and the Vegas Golden Knights finally have a roster. And wow, are they ever super-good! But was it wrong for the NHL to make it so easy for the Knights to become the Stanley Cup favorites right out of the gate?

In favor: I think it was. Sure, we all want to see new teams succeed, and nobody wants to go back to the days when the Senators or Capitals were terrible for years before they could build anything resembling a competitive team. But with last night’s draft, the pendulum seems to have swung way too far to the other side. Because man, as everyone agrees, the Golden Knights are stacked.

Opposed: Well I… wait, sorry, what’s happening here?

In favor: I mean, sure, it would be nice if the Knights could be in the playoff race in year one. We’d all have been on board with that. But instead, the league gift-wrapped the Knights with a championship roster from day one. I mean, talk about making it way too easy.

Opposed: They… they did?

In favor: Oh for sure. Imagine being one of the other teams in the Pacific, or even the Western Conference. You’ve been building up a team for years, hoping to contend someday. And then suddenly, you know you have no chance next year, because the league went and rigged the expansion draft to give the Golden Knights all the good players!

Opposed: [squinting at roster] I don’t see any good players.

In favor: Look closer, because as fans around the league are unanimously declaring right now and certainly not with hindsight, the Knights are loaded. What team wouldn’t want to start with established superstars like David Perron, Erik Haula, and Alex Tuch?

Opposed: I mean, those players are fine, I guess. But none of them are remotely considered stars.

In favor: And then there’s Jonathan Marchessault, who’s virtually guaranteed to score somewhere in the range of 74 to 76 points.

Opposed: He was good last year, but he’s had one career season of more than 20 points.

In favor: And then there’s William Karlsson. I mean, how could the league just hand these guys a 40-goal scorer?

Opposed: I… I don’t actually know who William Karlsson is. What team did they get him from?

In favor: And then there’s the goaltending.

Opposed: OK, yes, that’s the one position we can agree on. Marc-Andre Fleury should be fine. He lost his job to a rookie in Pittsburgh, but he could absolutely give the Knights a solid option for a few years. As long as he stays healthy.

In favor: No, even if he gets hurt early and they have to use like five different goalies, they’ll be totally fine.

Opposed: I don’t understand anything you are saying right now.

In favor: And besides, Fleury will be healthy in time for the playoffs, at which point he’ll turn into vintage Ken Dryden and lead the Knights to a Cup. Everyone is predicting this right now, in June of 2017.

Opposed: But Fleury has a reputation for being terrible in the playoffs.

In favor: And if having the best roster in the league isn’t bad enough, the Knights also have the league’s best coach (who was left at the curb by the Panthers) and the best GM (who made the Martin Erat trade). They’re unbeatable! Everyone can see this!

Opposed: [looking around] what alternate reality is this?

In favor: The one where the expansion draft is rigged and everyone knows the league made it too easy on the Golden Knights. Duh.

Opposed: Yeah but, that’s not what’s happening. Everyone thinks the Knights drafted a terrible team. Literally every single person agrees on this point.

In favor: Well, everyone is wrong. And also, everyone is going to forget all about that by the time the Knights are about to win a Cup. Within about 11 months, we’re all going to be complaining that the expansion draft was rigged and this was all inevitable.

Opposed: How do you know all this?

In favor: Uh, call it a hunch.

Opposed: Man. A Stanley Cup run? I’m just not seeing it. It seems impossible right now.

In favor: Trust me, it all works out.

Opposed: Wow. I guess this Shipachyov kid must turn out to be unstoppable.

In favor: Yeah, about that

The final verdict: We hope you enjoyed this rerun from June 2017. The regularly scheduled debate feature will return soon.

Obscure Former Player of the Week

The Capitals actually won a Game 7 this week, and they did it on the strength of a Braden Holtby shutout. It’s fair to say that that’s a reversal of the typical pattern when it comes to this team. And the only thing more painful than watching the Capitals lose a Game 7 is watching the Capitals lose the equivalent of two Game 7s on one night. So this week, let’s bestow obscure player honors to Bob Mason.

Mason was an undrafted goaltender out of the University of Minnesota-Duluth who signed with the Capitals shortly after playing for Team USA at the 1984 Olympics. He made his NHL debut in a handful of games that year, and spent most of the next two years in the minors while serving as an occasional backup in Washington.

That changed in 1986-87, when Mason spent the entire year in the NHL splitting the crease duties with Pete Peeters. The Caps made the playoffs and took a 3-1 series lead against the Islanders in the opening round, so you can probably guess where this is going. The Isles extended the series to a seventh game, and Mason got the start. It would end up being one of the most memorable game sevens in NHL history: The Easter Epic, a quadruple overtime thriller that ended on Pat LaFontaine’s winner.

Mason’s stunned reaction was one of the greatest Sad Goalie Slumps ever, and is burned into the memory of most Caps fans to this day.

Mason was picked as the third goalie for Team USA in that summer’s World Cup; by then he’d signed with the Blackhawks as a free agent. He spent a year in Chicago before being dealt to Quebec and then back to Washington, and he finished his NHL career with a half-dozen appearances for the Canucks in 1991. He bounced around the AHL and IHL for a few more years before retiring, having played 145 NHL games.

Mason went on to a career in coaching, and has been the goaltending coach for the Minnesota Wild since 2002.

Outrage of the Week

The issue: Both the Capitals and Golden Knights capped off their conference final wins by touching the trophies.

The outrage: You never touch the trophy!

Is it justified: We can all agree this stupid tradition can end now, right?

It was cool for a while, with a neat sort of “We only have one goal” vibe to it. Then it morphed into a superstition, which was fine. But then, like everything else in hockey that’s vaguely fun, it was almost immediately beaten into the ground. Playoff beards were cool too, until they became mandatory and 19-year-old kids who’d never shaved in their lives were suddenly being brow-beaten about it if they didn’t show up looking like a stunt double for ZZ Top. When “Don’t touch the trophy” went from suggestion to commandment, any fun drained out of it. Once the NHL marketing department starts promoting something, you know it’s run its course.

But now that both teams have done it, one of two things will happen. One, they’ll catch some rare strain of influenza from the trophy and the Final will be cancelled. Or two, we can all stop pretending this is a thing.

Here’s hoping we over-correct by steering in the other direction, and it becomes a competition to see who can come up with the most creative way to engage with the conference final trophy. Skate it around. Dance with it. Paint a little face on it, wrap a jersey around it and make it sit on the bench during the final. Give it a name and everything. “This is Campbell, he’s our backup goalie tonight.”

Just touch it. Or don’t, if that’s your thing. But let’s all stop pretending the whole thing is endlessly fascinating.

Classic YouTube Clip Breakdown

We’ve spent some time over the course of the year reliving the 1992-93 season, i.e. the best NHL season ever. That was 25 years ago, and it can be fun to check the calendar and see what was happening, or about to happen, during that frantic season a quarter-century ago.

Which means right about now would be when we’d get to … sigh … look, can we talk?

Maple Leaf fans, I know you’re expecting it. But we don’t have to do this. Just because you hit yourself in the face with a hammer 25 years ago doesn’t mean you have to relive it every year for the rest of your life. Remember a few weeks ago when we did the Wendel Clark/Curtis Joseph clip? Remember how happy we all were? Back when Curtis Joseph’s head exploded? Good times. We can stay that way. There’s no reason to go any further.

Yeah, you’re right. We really don’t have a choice. Fine. Roll the clip.

  • So it’s May 27, 1993, and no I didn’t have to look that date up, thank you very much. The date has been ingrained in the heads of Maple Leafs fans ever since. Literally, in some cases—some of us got tattoos. Don’t judge until you’ve been there.
  • Here’s the situation. The Maple Leafs are in L.A. to face the Kings in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final. Toronto leads the series 3-2, meaning a win sends them to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1967. Waiting for them there: the Montreal Canadiens. It’s destiny. It’s going to happen.
  • But first, the Kings, who apparently missed the memo about the inevitable Leafs/Habs showdown. They’ve given Toronto a tough game and held a 4-2 lead late in the third. But Wendel Clark tied it up with the goalie out, completing a hat trick and quite possibly the best individual game by a Maple Leaf in the modern era, so now we’re in overtime. Can you guess what’s about to happen?
  • If you said “the worst thing ever,” then you win.
  • The Kings are on the powerplay because Glenn Anderson took the Target logo literally, and they’re set up in the Leafs zone. But Wayne Gretzky’s shot is blocked, and while going for the rebound he clips Doug Gilmour under the chin, drawing blood. That’s an automatic five-and-a-game back in 1993. But will they call it?
  • Seriously, will they? I’ve watched this clip roughly ten thousand times and I keep waiting for the ending to change.
  • Gilmour goes right to referee Kerry Fraser, who confers with his linesman. Meanwhile, Harry Neale knows exactly what’s up. “Wouldn’t this be something if Wayne Gretzky was thrown out for a high-stick.” Indeed, Harry. Wouldn’t it, though.
  • I know the whole “Kerry Fraser has great hair” thing was beaten into the ground over the years, but good lord, he really did have great hair. Look at it. He’s been skating hard for three hours at this point, and it’s immaculate. Meanwhile, I get my hair cut and step outside into a slight breeze and I immediately look like Neil Hamburger. Life isn’t fair.
  • So Fraser talks with his linesmen, who don’t seem to have much to say. It goes without saying that Fraser took a ton of heat over what comes next, and to some extent the buck stops with him. But as Don Cherry pointed out two nights later, his linesmen could have bailed him out here. Any of the three could have made the call; none did. But Fraser has been hearing about it for 25 years, and most Leafs fans couldn’t even tell you who the linesmen were. Did we mention the part about life not being fair?
  • Gretzky’s guilty face here is the best. He’s every little kid who ever wet his bed and really hopes mom and dad somehow don’t notice.
  • We get a decent replay, which makes it clear that this is indeed a penalty. To this day you still hear people try to make the “It was on the follow-through” argument. Those people are liars who deserve to be in jail.
  • Now comes the weirdest part of the clip, especially if you’re a fan that’s heard about this play but never actually seen it. Neale is breaking down the replay, and just casually slips in a “They’re not going to give him a penalty by the look of it,” and the game just continues.
  • Really, that’s it. Nobody’s all that shocked. Pat Burns doesn’t throw a fit. Gilmour barely complains. Neale and Bob Cole kind of shrug. And the game continues. That’s the weird thing about this play in hindsight—at the time it happened, it wasn’t actually that big a deal. Even after Gretzky scores the winner a few seconds later, the missed call was considered one part of the story. Compared to what happens when a call gets missed today, the immediate reaction was pretty mild.
  • I’m not sure why that is. Part of me thinks it’s because before Twitter, we were actually able to process things without immediately racing towards the hottest possible take. Or maybe it’s because this was a West Coast game, and it was after midnight in Toronto and we were all too tired to get worked up. Or maybe everyone just kind of assumed the Leafs were winning Game 7 at home. Whatever it was, the missed call didn’t really ascend to legendary status until after the Kings won the series.
  • Epilogue: The Kings lost to the Canadiens, ironically with help from another controversial Fraser moment. The Leafs have yet to get this close to the Stanley Cup Final again. Fraser admits that he missed the call, but has had to deal with criticism, conspiracy theories, and random idiots ever since. And Maple Leafs fans got over it, and certainly didn’t drone on and on about it for decades.
  • Also, I still get angry every time I see a Target logo, but that’s probably just me.

Have a question, suggestion, old YouTube clip, or anything else you’d like to see included in this column? Email Sean at nhlgrabbag@gmail.com .

DGB Grab Gag: Retconning the Knights, Touching Trophies, and Good Ol’ Kerry Fraser syndicated from https://australiahoverboards.wordpress.com