Resplendent Riveters Run Rampant on Russians, or, The Riveters Preseason Series

Editor’s note: I know what the title of the site is, but with how the Blackhawks handled the Patrick Kane situation, I don’t feel like writing about them, so enjoy this post about the Riveters.

The NWHL is back! Amanda Kessel be praised!  I was fortunately able to make it to the two Riveters preseason games, and I thought I’d type out some quick observations I had from them.

-Amanda Kessel is the fifth horseman of the apocalypse.  The mythical destroyer of worlds.  Death incarnate.  Everything she was promised to be and more.  Riveters fans should be very, very excited.  Almost every time she had the puck she created a scoring chance, and when she didn’t have the puck she was usually taking it away from the opposing team.  It was an absolute joy watching her do everything right, from impeccable skating, always finding the right spot to be, to placing her stick perfectly to direct a pass from her teammates.  She had two goals in two games and easily could have had more.  Amanda Kessel is the best player to ever put on a Riveters sweater, and it will be fun watching her.

-Rebecca Russo, one of many additions to the Riveters roster, has shown immense promise with this new Riveters team.  She is incredibly fast with soft hands and is difficult to take the puck away from. She had the only assist on D’Oench’s goal in game one.  Her combination of speed and tenacity will fit in well with the Riveters, as will her big personality that seems to shine through no matter what.  She is sure to be a fan favorite before long! Plus, she went to BU.  Everyone loves people who went to BU! 😉

-Ashley Johnston had an incredible two games, seemingly back to her pre-injury form from last season.  The unparalleled positioning, shot, and awareness that that made her such an effective blue-liner last year are back.  Look out NWHL.

-Michelle Picard, former US Olympian, was impressive with her skill and aggressiveness.  She has no qualms about jumping up into the offensive zone, and was effective doing so.  Picard was also strong with the puck, showing excellent vision and distributing the puck well.

-The biggest question mark with the Riveters right now is their goaltending, after signing and then losing the leagues previous best goaltender, Jamie Leonoff.  Rookie goaltenders Sojung Shin and Katie Fitzgerald have large shoes to fill, but looked good in the first two games.  Fitzgerald showcased some considerable athleticism, while Shin was impressive playing an excellent positional game and showcasing a lightning-like glove.  At the moment, I believe Shin should and will be the starting goaltender, as she showed a more complete game than Fitzgerald did.  Both showed some difficulties with rebound control, but once the team gels more that should be worked out.  It is a small sample size, but Riveters fans should be hopeful about their goaltending tandem.

-So the Riveters the first few games have been, wait for it, good at zone entries and exits.

I’ll give you a minute to process that.

GOOD ZONE ENTRIES AND EXITS! Last season twitter was constantly screaming about their absence and the difficulties that they were causing for the Riveters.  But if these two games are any indication, it will no longer be a problem for the Rivs.  The improved defense is a big part of this.  As Jen LC (who in my mind is the best analyst around) on twitter says, having D that can dig the puck out, turn, and quickly move it out of the zone is incredibly important to a team’s success.  She says if forwards have to come back and help dig the puck out, they can’t participate fully in the breakout the way they should.  The D on this Riveters team don’t need help getting the puck, and can look to move it up ice quickly. Combining that with a faster and more skilled forward corp, and this team can move the puck in and out of zones fast and efficiently.

-The Riveters game could still use some more structure, particularly on the back end, but this wasn’t surprising.  They were playing for the first time with each other, and I for one was very impressed with how far their play had come from last year.  The structure will come.  This is a team that will be able to compete with any team in the NWHL, and in my mind is second only to the stacked Pride roster.  This should be a fun year for Riveters fans, so enjoy the ride!

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Riveters Thoughts: Thinking About Next Season

Editor’s note: I know that this is a Blackhawks blog, but with how they handled the Patrick Kane situation, I am far more excited about the Riveters right now, so they get more of my writing time this year. I like to write about what excites me, and right now that’s the Riveters

(Editor’s note: So I was writing this as part of a larger post on where the Riveters stand, but I was having fun thinking about next season and it got long fast, so here it is on its own!)
It is time to think about next season. This is of course assuming the NWHL gets a next season.  In my mind, there are 3 priorities.
1. Sign all the draftees. The 2015 Riveters draft class of Alex Carpenter, Haley Skarupa, Erin Ambrose, Dana Trivigno and Kimberly Newell are all having FANTASTIC years. There is an enormous amount of talent there, and all of it needs to be signed. Young talent is good no matter what sport you are playing, and this is really, really excellent young talent. All of it needs to be on the team next year, and hopefully many more to come.
2. Steal talent from other NWHL teams. In a league as small as the NWHL, talent that you take from another team is doubly effective because a. you get that talent and b. the other team loses it. The NWHL is rife with talent that is being underpaid because of the salary cap (to be clear, I think every single player in the NWHL is underpaid, but I’m talking in a relative sense) and that is what should be targeted. Would I love to see the Riveters get a player like Emily Pfalzer, Gigi Marvin, Briana Decker, or Blake Bolden? Of course! But until the league can pay a living wage (cross your fingers) I don’t see that happening. However, players like Jordan Brickner, Danielle Ward, Jillian Dempsey, and Rachel Llanes are all making less than 11,000 dollars a year. The Riveters could surely find a way to beat that. Of particular interest to me are players like Dempsey and Llanes of the Pride. With all the national team members on the Pride, they would not be able to afford to give players like Dempsey and Llanes a raise. That’s where the Riveters come in!
3. Resign important players. So here’s the thing, in my mind the Riveters don’t really have a lot of weak spots, players who are well below their teammates. The Riveters are a very balanced team, and more importantly all the players are incredible young women. But unfortunately, the Riveters need an infusion of high end talent, which they can get through the draft and free agency, so unless the rosters expand there will be players who cannot stay. Dani Rylan (or the next GM, but Rylan should already be thinking about this) need to identify players who the Riveters can’t lose, resign them first, then resign other players as needed. Off the top of my head (and quickly so I can finish writing this and go to work) Johnston, Fujimoto, Ketchum, Packer, Ammerman, Weber, Belyakova, Holze, Dosdall, and Kidd are all lock-ins to get a second year with the Riveters. A lot of other players will hopefully be back as well, but these ten need to be priorities.

Also, one last note. Thought the Riveters are struggling right now, I would rather watch them lose than pretty much any other team I support win. For years many of us have been complaining about the complicity we feel while following pro sports that enable drunk drivers, rapists, and murderers. Then the NWHL came along, and is doing something unbelievably positive in sports.

Riveters Thoughts: The State of the Riveters

Editor’s note: I know that this is a Blackhawks blog, but with how they handled the Patrick Kane situation, I am far more excited about the Riveters right now, so they may get more of my writing time this year. I like to write about what excites me, and right now that’s the Riveters.

Editor’s note 2: The zone entry tracking posts I do for the Riveters take a lot of time to write, and are better with larger sample sizes. As such, I’ll be filling in the blanks with Riveters Thoughts every week or so.   These posts will draw from my tracking, as well as all the games I see, both as a season ticket holder and any I watch on the computer. Enjoy!

The New York Riveters are six games into their season, and currently sit at 2-4. In the NHL, this would be chalked up to small sample size and not many conclusions would be drawn from it. However, this is 1/3 of the NWHL season, so let’s what we can do with it.

Aside from a rough start the first two games, the Riveters goaltending has been exceptional. Nana Fujimoto has shown to be everything that was advertised. She moves in the crease with blinding speed and tracks the puck well. Kate Cimini of Todays Slapshot wrote a wonderful post about how Fujimoto’s work with goaltending coach Jonathan de Castro has simplified and improved her game. Very few of the goals against her early on were her fault, most coming on rushes or defensive breakdowns, and as the defense has tightened up, so has she. The last four games have seen her on a tear, moving fast in the crease, showing excellent rebound control, and being tough to beat low or high. If she continues to develop, look out. Nana Fujimoto has all the raw skills to be the best goaltender in the NWHL. (I feel like I should mention here that I am a Fujimoto Fanboy and she’s my favorite player in the world, but I stand by what I say nonetheless)

Last night however, Fujimoto was seemingly injured, and had to be helped off the ice at the end of the game as she was seemingly in a great deal of pain. If she is out for any amount of time, it has to hurt the Riveters chances. While Shenae Lundberg and Jenny Scrivens have both looked good in small samples we have seen, you never want to lose a goaltender who has been performing like Nana has.

It has also been wonderful to see the growth of the Riveters defense. At the start of the year, when the Riveters were really only rolling 4 defensemen, things were a little shaky. The additions of Amber Moore and Sydney Kidd to Elena Orlando, Gabie Figueroa, Kiira Dosdall, and Ashley Johnston have stabilized the defense. It’s a good group of defenders, with Dosdall and Kidd really contributing of late. The story of the group though, is the brilliance of Ashley Johnston. She was not anywhere on my radar as the season started, but that changed fast. Johnston is a defensive force, displaying unrivaled size and positional awareness on the ice. Her hockey IQ is off the charts, allowing her to take risks other defenders couldn’t and still always be in the right place. Combine that with good puck moving abilities, and a heavy, heavy shot, and in my mind she is one of the 3 best defenders in the NWHL right now along with Gigi Marvin and Blake Bolden of the Boston Pride. Moreover, Johnston has filled her role of captain extremely well. She is constantly providing encouragement, and leadership to her team. On the ice, she is constantly supporting her teammates, be it by always being there with a fist bump, helping Fujimoto off the ice when she is hurt, or this adorable moment. The Riveters players made the right choice giving her the C. Also, she’s a tall, engineer hockey player like myself, so what’s there not to be a fan of???

Coach Wiseman promised that as the players bought into the system, a offense would be generated, which has come to fruition the last few games. The Riveters are looking more comfortable with each other, and their passing and movement have shown it (more on their zone entries and exits in a few posts coming soon!).   However, I have one worry. In the last game against the Beauts the Riveters were looking to pass rather than shoot more often than not on the rush. On 1 on 1s, this would usually take the form of swinging out to the half boards and trying to hit the trailer with a pass. On 2 on 2 situations, the players are looking pass more than they are looking to shoot. This might be a system problem, or a problem with player mindset, or it might be an aberration, but it needs to be fixed. Modern hockey analysis has shown that generating shots is the key to winning games, so offensive systems that suppress shots need to be corrected.

That being said, players like Madison Packer (who has been on a tear!), Bray Ketchum, Beth Hanrahan, Janine Weber, Taylor Holze (go BU!), and Brooke Ammerman have shown that they can bring it in the offensive zone as well as the defensive zone. While the Riveters may not have the raw offensive firepower of the Pride or the Whale, it is an extremely balanced team, with every player being able to contribute in every zone. It is also worth mentioning that Lyudmila Belyakova has missed half the season, and she is the most gifted offensive player on the team. She has a good shot, great vision, and a high hockey IQ. Her return to the roster will surely be a great addition to the team and help take it to the next level.

More importantly than the hockey, the players on the Riveters make being a hockey fan fun. Be it is their big personalities shining through on social media, interactions with their young fans, their charity work, or Janine Weber pounding a burger, the Riveters players are excellent role models for the next generation of hockey players. With the NHL showing every day that it cares more about money than people, the Riveters and the NWHL have been a refreshing change in the hockey world, and I don’t know how someone could not support them!

Tracking the Riveters First Game

Editor’s note: I know that this is a Blackhawks blog, but with how they have been handling the Patrick Kane situation of late, I am far more excited about the Riveters right now, so they may get more of my writing time this year. I like to write about what excites me, and right now that’s the Riveters.

 

                Tracking zone entries is a hot topic in hockey analytics. Since the landmark paper by Tulsky, et al. showing that entering the zone with control leads to far more offense than dumping the puck in, numerous teams have been tracked including the Flyers, Blackhawks, Sharks, and the entire friggin NHL (Corey you’re a damn hero). There is no reason this kind of methodology cannot be used to achieve a greater understanding of my new favorite hockey team, the New York Riveters.

Simply put, it has been found repeatedly that controlling the puck during a zone entry, such as a carry in, leads to far more offense than an uncontrolled entry, like a dump in or a chip and chase. I’m tracking the Riveters zone entries this year (and possibly their zone exits and defensive targets, but we’ll get to that) and wanted to share the results of their first game against the Connecticut Whale. Hopefully, this can lead to a greater understanding of where the Riveters offense is coming from, and how it can be improved.

To do this, I tracked every even strength entry the Riveters made into the offensive zone, following closely the methods put forward by Corey Sznajder and Jen Lute Costella. Every time the puck was carried into the zone, it was marked as a controlled entry. Pucks that were dumped in, brought in with chip and chase, or the result of a turnover forced in the offensive zone were categorized as uncontrolled entries. There was a wrinkle that the archived feed of the game would skip around sometimes, so occasionally I would miss who brought the puck into the zone, or how they did it. Those were categorized as unknowns. I don’t believe this will continue during the season, just an understandable growing pain. I also tracked the number of shots that were generated for each entry. Here, I am using unblocked shots, or Fenwick numbers, but it also could be done with Corsi numbers as well (and I counted them as well so they can be used in the future). Entry attempts that did not work were categorized as failed entries. I will be posting a more rigorous tracking methodology, but this should be fine for now. (Click on the picture below to enlarge)

bestest riveters tracking

The Numbers

First, before we get into the numbers, let me say this is a very small sample size, and the number of unknown entries, or unknown players making the entry, makes for more uncertainty with the data. This post is mostly about showing what the data can do, and this data will be more useful when there are more data points, but we might as well have some fun with it!

The Riveters entered the offensive zone “successfully” (that just means they got in, not that they did anything) 83% of the time, failing to enter the zone 17%. In the 2013-2014 NHL season, most teams failed to enter the zone about 7-9% of the time. While this is a small sample size, this is something the Riveters can work on. Successful zone entries are key to an effective offensive attack, and without them it is difficult to score or control the game. Of the successful entries, 48% were controlled, 38% uncontrolled, and 14% were unknown due to difficulties with the archived stream. Uncontrolled entries generated shots at a rate of 0.3 per entry, while controlled entries almost doubled that at 0.59. This goes with what is to be expected, if you maintain control of the puck, more offense will be generated.

Several players stand out. The first, and my favorite Riveters forward, is Lyudmila Belyakova. She was tied for the Riveters lead for successful entries with 9 respectively. Furthermore, 2/3 of the time she carried the puck in, and generated 0.67 shots per attempted entry. Belyakova played a great game, driving the offense by consistently moving the puck and allowing the offense to generate numerous shots. Watching her, she sees the ice and uses space well, and is an excellent 2-way player. Belyakova is a joy to watch, and as she gets more comfortable with her teammates will be a force in the NWHL.

Janine Weber was another standout. Carrying the puck in on 80% of her successful entries, she generated an average of a shot per carry-in. This exceptional rate may not be sustainable through the regular season, but in both games I have seen, Weber has been one of the Riveters best forwards. I think she is going to surprise a lot of people.

Ketchum, Packer, Fritz-Ward, Ammerman, and Hanrahan were all excellent, and all preferred to carry the puck in, while none of the defense carried the puck in. Whether this is an artifact of the small sample size, or is from the Riveters system not wanting their defense to jump into the play remains to be seen.

A few observations to end with…

-The Riveters don’t use the point as often as they should. If you get in trouble down low, a pass to the point can allow the team to reset and keep possession of the puck. Plus, when you have a hammer of a shot like Ashley Johnston does, why not use it?

-Speaking of, Johnston has been very impressive. She’s tall and has a big wingspan, skates well, plays wonderful D, and shoots like a howitzer. She’s fun to watch.

-Something I noticed is that the Riveters have a lot of zone entries where they come in, get a shot, don’t get the rebound or keep possession of the puck, and have to leave the zone. A lot of this is because they don’t screen the goalie enough. Screening the goalie would both make the first shot more likely to go in, and put the players in a better position to collect rebounds and maintain possession.

-Nana Fujimoto had a good game. A lot of the goals that she let in were fluky or the kind of thing she would have had no chance with. She has some really good defenders in front of her, and as they get to know each other more good things will happen.

-I really believe this is a very talented team, it just can take a while for everyone to learn the system and get on the same page. Once they click though, this team will be able to take on any team in the NWHL

Thank you so much for reading! If you have any questions, or want the raw data, don’t hesitate to ask! I’ll be posting these every 4-6 weeks (to increase the sample size) but I’ll be posting observations and the like more often. In the future, I also hope to include zone exits and targeting data.

Go Riveters!

Thoughts on the Riveters Final Preseason Game

Editor’s note: I know that this is a Blackhawks blog, but with how they have been handling the Patrick Kane situation of late, I am far more excited about the Riveters right now, so they may get more of my writing time this year, especially if this project I’m thinking about comes around. Basically, I like to write about what excites me, and right now that’s the Riveters.

So on Sunday I went to the Riveters preseason game, and I wanted to share my thoughts with y’all about it.

-First of all, it was an absolute blast. It was a small rink, but it was packed with fans of all shapes and sizes, all of whom were pumped for Riveters hockey. You had hard core Riveters nuts who already had gear, you had kids coming in from playing hockey next door, hell, there was even a girls hockey team there, fist bumping the players as they walked by! To me, this just represents what the NWHL can be, hockey for everyone. The NHL without the baggage. Do you like first class hockey, run by first class people that is open to all and accepting of all? That’s what I think the NWHL can be! Now, let’s get to the game…

-Right away my new favorite player, Nana Fujimoto, was amazing! Just the night before she had flown in from Japan, but still showed up and brought it! She is every bit as small as advertised, but also every bit the goalie that was advertised. She moves incredibly well in the crease, tracks the puck well, even though screens, and is dynamite with the pads. Also, she was a fierce competitor, clearly pissed when weird, fluky goals went in on her, and shoving larger players out of her crease when need be. I get that it’s a small sample size, but Nana Fujimoto is everything you want in a hockey player. I’m wildly excited!

-On defense, Ashley Johnston was very impressive. She is a very, very big blue liner, and is fast too. She is active in the play, and her stick was constantly causing trouble for the Whitecaps. She positioned herself well, and contributed in the offensive zone. She’s everything you want on the back end, and is a real joy to watch.

-Beth Hanrahan was a name that I didn’t really know going into the game, but that changed fast. She was involved in everything, and created offense every time she was on the ice. Hanrahan is active in the rush, and her head is always on a swivel. I was very impressed by her play, and look forward to watching more of it.

-Another forward who had the wow-factor was Bray Ketchum. She was fast, like, super-fast. She moves the puck very well, and her forecheck that lead to her goal was one of the prettiest plays I’ve seen in quite some time. Every time she was on the ice, she was making things happen.

-Janine Weber was an all-around beast. A forechecking monster who played amazing D and was awesome with the puck. She was another player who was very noticeable, and is a really excellent addition to the Riveters forward core.

-The Riveters lost, but they lost to an experienced team who has world class talent up and down the roster. A loss is ok. What was not ok was the lack of structure to their game. It was noticeable everywhere. The Riveters took a LOT of penalties, most of which were unnecessary. After they took the penalties, the PK lacked the structure that I usually associate with a good PK. They were reacting to the Whitecaps, not smothering them and dictating play. In the defensive zone, the Riveters forwards would often get sucked down below the faceoff dots, and any good work they did to stall offensive progress would be canceled out by a quick, uncontested pass to the point. This cost them at least one goal. And speaking of the point, the Riveters refused to use it. A number of times that the Rivs had the puck on the halfboards under pressure, and instead of making the easy pass to the D, which would then set up the pass to the other D and a good shot at the net, they would dump the puck in or pass it to a guarded forward on the goal line. And it never worked. Using your defense well in the offensive zone is essential when playing good teams, and the Riveters are going to play a few. Also, not to harp on the lack of structure, but the zone exits, neutral zone play, and zone entries were all sloppy. The good news is, all of this can be fixed. It’s a young team, with tons of exciting talent. I have no doubt they can bring it all together, and when they do it’ll be a sight to see!

-The Riveters excellent Russian forward, Lyudmila Belyakova, was not present at the game. Look for Belyakova to be an impact player with this team. She is an excellent 2-way forward, who handles the puck exceptionally well, is a beast in the slot, and has a killer shot. Belyakova is going to be an excellent addition to this team during the regular season, and will be fun to watch!  If you want a preview, enjoy this video of her recent play.

One last thing, I was hoping to start a zone entry and exit tracking project with the Riveters this year. I was wondering, is there anything you all want to see in it? I was going to do it the way most tracking projects have been done recently, but maybe there is something that would be helpful to you. And maybe there are other fans tracking other teams you know. This is a new league, and things like this have a lot of potential to be new, fun, and useful!

Go Riveters!

Guest Post: You’re Always Better Than Tanner Glass

Editors Note: As I am not qualified to write about what it is like to play hockey as a woman in a co-ed league, the wonderful Sara Garcia (@sara_lnr on Twitter) consented to step in as a guest contributor, and really make this website far, far more classy.  Enjoy reading it, I know I did!

As a kid, I was never all that in to sports. Looking through old family photos, there’s me in a Kings sweater, but I don’t recall watching any games. When I got older, I did take to ice skating quickly and it became something I begged my mom to do every weekend. After moving to the Midwest, I continued the weekly tradition of going ice-skating.

I went off to Rochester Institute of Technology for a year and continued skating for a bit. Regrettably, I never attended a single hockey game for either the men or women’s teams, even though they were both phenomenal programs.

Then, I moved back home. Shortly after, there was the Blackhawks’ 2010 Cup win, which I and most everyone I know got swept up in. I continued to watch games when I had the chance. After the 2013 Cup run, I decided to get back on the ice by buying a pair of skates. Getting back on the ice felt kind of like going home after a while. It just felt right.

I joined a clinic for beginner’s hockey through one of the local park districts. It ended up being for all levels of skill, which was great! I was able to learn from and with others in the clinic and their abilities were in different places. One of the guys had actually sold my first pair of skates to me.

While I got the hang of the skating, positioning was a different story. I was placed on the wing, which had me skating forwards more than backwards. However, I constantly managed to forget where the lines were. I remember my coach asking if I knew what “being offside” was and I responded with a nod and realized that I was on the wrong side of the red line. Whoops. I can only imagine how players that are accustomed to playing on international-sized ice must feel when they come to North American rinks.

Another thing I remember being fairly difficult was actually getting the puck up off the ice. There was no way I was going top shelf, at least not for a while. The first time I actually did get some air under the puck, it was a big deal. I couldn’t remember how I did it for a while, but everyone seemed impressed at a girl having a half-decent shot her second time picking up a stick.

Learning how to play a sport that I enjoy watching was a rewarding and difficult experience. However, I was disappointed in the fact that I was the only woman in attendance for something was promoted as co-ed. Given hockey’s rise in popularity in my area, it was a surprise. I’m not entirely sure where the miscommunication was between my registration and the time I spent at the rink, but the park district never opened up the women’s locker room for me.

I never bothered to ask, because when it came down to it, I changed in/out of my lowest layer in the bathroom. It was inconvenient and part of a decision to stop playing for some time. The other factor in that decision was a hip injury that I’d sustained somewhere along the line.

Being in the gender minority shouldn’t stop someone from playing hockey, or any sport they care about, for that matter. While most locker rooms are relatively welcoming and open, I simply didn’t feel comfortable.

As soon as I feel good enough to get back on the ice after rehabbing from what caused the injury, I’m signing up for a quick refresher course and then the next logical step from there would be joining a rec league. I’m just hoping that I’ll have an open stall waiting, where I feel comfortable changing in and out of my gear.

If I had to give one piece of advice to someone learning to play hockey, it would be this: You’re not going to be Sidney Crosby on your first shift, even if it feels like you are. Don’t worry though, at least you won’t be as terrible as Tanner Glass! You’ll get better with time and practice.

Learning to Play Hockey as an Adult: Why You Should Learn

So you’ve been watching hockey for years, and you know everything about it. You know the teams, the players, the stats, and that the Blues are the spawn of Satan. However, for whatever reason you haven’t played. Or you haven’t played in years. Maybe you’ve had an itch to learn how to play, and never quite scratched it. Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s not too late. I learned as an adult (if you ever see me play and want to take issue with the idea that I ever actually learned, well, you’re probably justified), and know people who have learned at all ages, from 20 to well into their 50’s. I can also say, without a doubt, that learning to play was one of the absolute best decisions I’ve ever made. So I am writing this series of posts to convince you to play as well, and show you as best I can how to learn.
So, why should you learn? A bunch of reasons!
To appreciate the sport on a deeper level – Now, I am in no way saying you need to play hockey to understand the game. Some of the best hockey minds I know have never played. But let’s be real, getting on the ice yourself can only deepen your understanding of the game. It can help you understand just how skillful that deke was, how precise that pass was, how sick that top shelf backhand was. Skate a mile in the players skates as it were.
You’ll be helping the sport grow – This may sound naive, but it is completely true. Hockey is a relatively minor sport within America in terms of participation. While you as an adult will never be as important to its growth as children are, you can grow it in a real way. The money you spend on the game will help it expand, both on the local level by injecting money into the rinks and leagues, as well as the local shops, and will help the big gear companies continue to expand. Hell, if more people played, more companies could get in on the game. Wouldn’t it be fun to see Nike release a line of gear like they did with golf a few years ago? And from a non-monetary perspective, every new person playing brings their unique skillset and life perspective to the game, further enriching it.
The “post-game locker room beer” – Nothing will ever taste sweeter, no matter how bad the beer is. Plus, in the league I’m playing in right now, sometimes we go heckle other teams while drinking the beer after we change. Makes the beer taste even better!
Your game matters more than your professional teams – A bunch of us, myself included, live and die with our NHL team, but the funny thing is that we have no control over what our team does. Maybe your coach is making dumb personnel decisions and it’s driving you mad, maybe your front office keeps extending the wrong players. Maybe the players on your team have let you down recently (not that that’s happened recently nooooooo sir). But if you play, you’d be amazed to see that your game, which you have control over, will begin to take precedence. It’s nice!
But really, screw all of those reasons, you’ll do it because it’s fun! I remember the first time I stepped onto the ice with my gear after learning to skate, and felt the wind rush over my face as I skated on the empty rink. I’ll never forget the moment. I’ll never forget my first goal, which just so happened to be in my first game. Or how could I forget when I scored a no look backhand as my first goal in my second season. I think I had the wildest, gangliest celebration ever. Those moments will stay with me forever. So will the laughter, both on the ice and in the locker room. This last year, I had more bad weeks than good ones. No matter how bad the week was though, when I stepped onto the ice for a game, everything else disappeared, and would stay disappeared until I went to bed that night.
Basically, playing hockey is amazing, and I wish more hockey fans did it! But I already convinced you to learn, right? Well, good! Stay tuned this week, and I’ll show you how to learn!

Here are the posts you can expect:
Wednesday: Your Game Plan for Learning to Play Hockey
Thursday: SPECIAL GUEST POST from Sara Garcia (@sara_lnr) on playing hockey as a woman in co-ed leagues
Friday: What to Buy
Monday: How to Go About Learning to Skate
Tuesday: How to Learn to Play
Wednesday: Addressing Common Concerns (and any questions you have hint hint)

Thoughts on the Sixth Cup

So how about last night am I right!? Now, I haven’t posted on this in a loooonnnnnnggg time because it’s been a rough year, but I just had some thoughts I have to share with ya’ll.

  1. I have to start talking about Duncan Keith. He was truly unreal. That was a playoff for the ages. To average 30 minutes a night, consistently shut down opposing teams top players, and come third in playoff scoring as a Dman is remarkable. Watching him push bigger players to the outside in his own zone, watching him put pass after pass on players tape, watching him always be in the right spot was something to see. What a playoffs from him. And keep in mind we have him for 8 more years at 5.5 million dollars. That’s the kind of scratch Jeff Petry got. And as good as he is, he is no Duncan Keith. Hell, that’s Dave Bolland money. Keith really is a remarkable player.
  2. If you ask me what the difference was in this series, aside from Keith and Crawford’s brilliant play (more on that last one coming up), it was the depth. Good teams find ways to shut down star players, and both teams did that. Toews with 1 goal. Kane with 1 goal. Stamkos with no goals. But the Hawks third line of Teuvo-Vermette-Versteeg/Sharp and the fourth line of Shaw-Kruger-Desi were amazing, coming through again and again. The stars got us there, but depth won the series. Well, depth and…
  3. UNREAL GOALTENDING. If any of you still doubt Corey Crawford, enjoy eating crow (hey that’s an unintentional pun). In the Hawks four wins he held the high flying Lightning to three goals. Three! If it wasn’t for a bad first round (and a lot of the goals he gave up there were because our defense didn’t play well but whatever) he would have had a real shot at the Conn Smythe. Crawford has proved that he is a gamer, the players love him, and its time the fans give him that same respect. We don’t win that series without Crawford.
  4. Quick shoutout to the Bolts. They really are an incredible team. Ben Bishop played an amazing series, only giving up 8 goals in the 4 losses while playing with a torn groin. And no matter what the odds makers say, they are the favorite to win it all next year. The Lightining are only just getting started, and the rest of the NHL should be scared.
  5. The whole playoffs there were reasons the Hawks shouldn’t win. Our goaltending imploded in the first round. We were going up against Wilhahahah I can’t finish that did anyone actually think the Wild would win? In the third round how were we supposed to take that many hits??? No human can withstand that many hits!!! *Tries not to look at Kesler* *fails miserably* *points and laughs* And then we were going up against the best offense in the league with only 4 Dmen. But guess what? The Blackhawks got it done. I know we in the blogging world hate narratives, but we all should admit that the Hawks have no quit in them, and found a way. That is a legitimate skill, and the Hawks seem to have mastered it.
  6. Take a minute and think about what the Hawks have accomplished these last 7 years. Not long before that we would have 8000 people show up for a game. It was clown shoes on ice. Now you can’t get a ticket. Hockey participation in Illinois is at record levels! In a league with a salary cap below 70 million to bring about parity we went to five of the last seven Western Conference Finals. We won three of the last six Stanley Cups! Toews and Kane are only 27! Saad is only 22! Teuvo was our offense at the start of that series and the kid is only 20! Not to mention we have a solid system that is about to flood the team with young, cheap talent. Ross, Hartman, McNeil, Danault, Johns, Pokka, TVR (maybe he doesn’t belong that list because he just won a cup) not to mention Panarin. Next years top 6 could be Panarin-Toews-Hossa, Saad-Teuvo-Kane. That sounds pretty damn good to me. And then we fill holes in our bottom six from within the system. The kids are ready. So Is Capocolypse gonna be rough? Yah. But after 2010 we came back only a couple seasons later to win it all, and this time we are better prepared. Long story short, this is a remarkable franchise, and it’s got a lot more left in the tank. It’s a cliché that has been said a lot, but this is the golden age of hockey in Chicago. Enjoy it.
  7. I just wanted to share a personal note why this is all so important to me. I have been away from Chicago, the greatest city in the world, my home, for 9 years now.   And it’s been rough. It’s funny, because when I lived in Chicago I never really cared about the sports teams very much, but the longer I’m away, the more they matter to me. They help me keep connected with the city I love so much, and can’t wait to move back to. So thank you Blackhawks for making me still feel like a Chicagoan. And thanks to all of you for helping expand my knowledge of the sport and for sharing your love of hockey and, in some cases, the Blackhawks.
  8. IT’S A SUMMER OF STANLEY IN CHICAGO! LET’S ENJOY IT! LET’S GO HAWKS!!!!

Well Glad That’s Over…

HAWKS WIN!!  Or the Stars somehow didn’t put us away.  Either way, I’ll take it.  But there are some things we should talk about…

The first 2 periods of that game were bad…  Like, awful.  We looked like the Sabres out there.  We couldn’t complete passes, enter the offensive zone cleanly, or clear our own zone.  We badly lost the possession game, and couldn’t shoot to save our lives.  Hell, we were making the Stars 4th line look good.

Carcillo was a damn tire fire.  Seriously, he’s a bad hockey player.  We’re gonna bench him in the playoffs, so can we just waive him and give his money to someone who can do something (TT, Dahlbeck the list goes on and on and on).

I’m absolutely not a fan of the whole “roll 3 lines and 2 D-pairings” thing.  Multiple beat writers have said that was due to all the penalties, but still.  Not a fan.  Runblad had 6:25 minutes, Morin 5:32 minutes, and Carcillo 4:43.  Meanwhile Duncs is rolling at damn near 30.

We had a lot of times where we waited too long to shoot, or got cute with a pass.  This was especially true early.  When things aren’t going your way, and the other goalie is as shaky as Lehtonen was, put shots on net.

Okay, that’s a lot of negativity.  Lets look at the positives…

Holy goalie stealing a game Batman.  Crow played out of his mind.  A .941 when you’re facing that many shots is very impressive.  His little 3 save in a row thing early was mind blowing, as was his save on the shorthanded chance towards the end.  Seriously, amazing game.  1st star in my book.

I liked Sharpie a lot.  If you shoot the puck, good things happen, and he demonstrated that.

The iron was not our friend.

I thought TVR had a fine game.  No real complaints.  He got about 11 minutes of ice time, which is about what you would expect from a young player in his first game.  I hope he gets another.

Only 7 players had positive corsi, which isn’t really optimum.  That shouldn’t be surprising, as we got frighteningly out-possesed the first 2 periods.  We will lose games if this keeps happening.

Hossa’s goal line play the third period to get to the net?  Chills.

So in the end a win is a win.  Hopefully the boys don’t come out so flat footed in the future, and we can avoid this in the future.

Graduate Blackhawks

Stats from war-on-ice.com and nhl.com

A Quick Guide to the Events of the Weekend

Hey everyone! I hope that you had a nice time! It was an interesting weekend for the Blackhawks, and I wanted to give ya’ll my take on it real fast.

 

Ben Smith is Back! I absolutely loved this. Ben Smith really made himself a name on the Blackhawks this year. What I love about him is how versatile he is. Smitty cut his teeth on the 4th line this year playing solid defense, but also giving it some much needed offensive edge. He also played on lines 2 and 3, where maintained that defensive talent while showing that he can play offense with the big boys. I though him and Kaner had really nice chemistry together, though personally I would like to see the two of them on different lines. I like Smitty as a 2nd or a 3rd liner to have his considerable defensive acumen while giving it more offence. Maybe later on in his career as he continues to develop he can move up, but good and cheap 3rd and 4th liners are what can make a hockey team, and I’m glad to have Smitty. OH! I forgot about the money! I was guessing that he comes in at 1.5-2 million, and we got him for 1.5. I’m a fan.

 

Raaaaaaaaaanta We brought back Raanta as well. I was a fan of this. Raanta has a lot more development to go, but I think that the goalie market is very lean, so I’m glad we secured a backup who isn’t 523952 years old (shot at Khabi there). Also, $750k is a great price for him. I think that Raanta has a high ceiling (we saw glimpses of this when he pulled our bacon out of the fire in the first half of the year when Crow and Khabi went down with injuries) and I’m excited to see him develop. One last thing, I know a lot of people wanted him at Rockford this year to develop, and while I agree that would do him a world of good, when it comes to a backup goaltender I think the devil you know beats the devil you don’t.

 

GIVE ME MO! I was super excited that we re-signed Jeremy Morin. I think he has tremendous upside and is going to go far in the NHL. I love his on ice vision, his shot, and his 62.6% CF. He makes players around him better, and I think eventually he’ll be a top-6 forward in the NHL. Also, 800k is a great price for him. I am worried that he’ll be sitting in the press box a lot, and I really hope the Hawks finally give him the chance he deserves.

 

WE TRADED BOLLIG!!! Oh. My. God. I was starting to wonder if this day would ever come. But then two things that are constants came through for us. The first is that Stan Bowman is a genius. I mean, a third round pick for Bollig?! The second is Brian Burke’s propensity for meathead forwards. I love it! I have nothing against Bollig personally. Actually, that’s not true. Attacking your fans on Twitter is pretty awful for a professional athlete, but I digress. I don’t like him as a player, and I hated his extension, but now that’s not an issue. A good day indeed.

 

Stan Bowman is Awesome He really is. Not only did he re-sign 3 valuable players for 3.05 million, but he managed to get a third round draft pick for Bollig. And I liked the way he drafted too. I know that some people aren’t a fan of Schmaltz, but he has high upside, and we have enough talent in the system to see how he develops. And I was fine with the rest of the draft too. Stan Bowman, you are a friggin genius!