Glenn Healey demonstrates how to lose one’s head, and how to be way, far outside of your crease.
This is a guest post written by Patrick Johnston
Watching the game on Sunday, I found myself doing more than my usual talking-back to HNIC commentators Jim Hughson, Craig Simpson and Glenn Healy. As a matter of course, I’m usually pretty appreciative of the work that commentators do – it’s a challenging job, requiring the ability to think on your feet and articulate that thinking clearly and concisely. Generally, it should be expected that their comments aren’t always going to be of the highest quality. We all say silly things in our regular lives, so why shouldn’t TV analysts be exempt from the odd slip-up? This time, however, I couldn’t let these particular comments go by. They struck me as asinine, lazy and totally lacking in preparation, awareness or actual knowledge. Two things stood out, both about critical moments in the game:
1. Remember Patrick Marleau’s power-play goal? Vancouver’s PK unit has been mostly pretty good this postseason – they were seriously challenged by Chicago’s in the first round, and came out looking ok (or amazing, if you want to compare the Canucks PK to last year’s debacle). Then they used the Preds PP as a week and a half long practice session. It’s pretty clear why they were successful, both during the playoffs and especially during the regular season: maintaining pressure on the points and keeping the front of the net reasonably clear. But Marleau scored his goal by standing in front of Luongo and making a great tip 5 feet in front of him.
Watch it again, and you see why Marleau could make such a great tip; Kevin Bieksa, for reasons unknown, let Marleau stand there, and did nothing to prevent him from tipping the puck. It was the type of inattention to detail which the Canucks have mostly expunged from their game. Instead of focusing on Bieksa’s brain fart, and reminding us of how the Canucks might have come out on top of the situation, Healy and Simpson chose to go off about Luongo’s positioning.
They insisted that Luongo was ‘too deep’ in the net, and that his positioning was the main reason for the goal going in. Did they forget that the biggest change credited to Rollie Melanson’s coaching, was to get Lu to play deeper in his net, and that Lu’s most successful performances have been when he hasn’t been on top of his crease? Further, it’s well documented that there’s not much a goalie can do with his reflexes if the puck direction occurs within 20 feet of the net. Luongo didn’t have a chance. Watching the replay, we see that Lu actually is moving to catch the puck as Marleau stabs out to tip the puck. If Marleau had been battling in front of the net, it’s probably not such a great tip for him. Simpson and Healy carrying on the way they did was surprising and disappointing.
2. The late 4 on 4 created a troublesome situation for the Canucks. For reasons which aren’t obvious to this scribe, the Canucks initiated a late change in the 4 on 4 which left them with DANIEL Sedin and Alex Burrows. I emphasize Daniel’s name here because, as most of us know, he’s not the Sedin who plays centre, Henrik is. Burrows and Daniel, surprisingly, fell under serious pressure from the Sharks, who were by this time playing with an extra attacker. Forced to ice the puck, the Canucks were stuck with Daniel and Burrows as the forwards on the ice, and neither player is noted for ability in the circle. The shocking thing from the commentary box? None of Hughson, Simpson or Healy saw fit to mention the coming challenge for the Canucks! This was even stranger given that the Canucks called a time out to give their group a rest, and probably come up with a strategy on how to play the faceoff. It wasn’t until the teams lined up, that Hughson realized what was happening. With Burrows tossed, Daniel came in and played a surprisingly nifty and well-executed forward draw, clearing the puck like an experienced centre man. Daniel is pretty brutal on faceoffs (23.5% this season) so seeing him win a clutch draw in the way he did it is even more impressive.
Commenting on a game as fast as game 1 was, is daunting. But both of these moments dealt with a sort of hockey awareness that isn’t that advanced. Just as we expect the players and the officials to be at their best at this point in the season, shouldn’t we expect the same from the commentators? It was pretty disappointing to hear the HNIC crew get these two major moments wrong. No doubt they’ll slip-up again, but let’s hope they are more on the order of Bob Cole’s famed ‘EVERYTHING IS HAPPENING’ from the first round.
Patrick Johnston lives in Vancouver, bleeds Canucks blue and green (or is it yellow and red..or salmon…or…), and is pretty sure his 14 year old self could’ve done a better job than Rick Ley. You can follow him on twitter at twitter.com/risingaction