Did anybody else see the U.S. Open final round on Sunday? I did. I thought it was fantastic. I've been a Rory McIlroy fan for quite a while and was quite upset with his final round performance at Augusta in April. You might remember that he shot 65-69-70-80 at the Masters and blew a four shot lead on the final day to finish well off the leaderboard. People were questioning McIlroy's ability to compete in pressure situations.
Of course, at his next major, this U.S. Open, he won in a fashion similar to Tiger Woods' 2000 victory at Pebble Beach, where Tiger took a big lead wire-to-wire and won by 15. Rory won by 12 and shot 65-66-68-69 and set a number of tournament scoring records. He was, despite being just 21, absolutely surgical and shot a round in the 60s on the final day despite not needing to play aggressively and score. He simply needed to hang on, and he built on his score in the process.
Why I bring this up is just to show how the narrative can swing two ways. One month, your golfer, despite an obvious amount of talent, just simply can't compete when it counts and he fails. Two months later, your golfer wills his talent into a picture-perfect Father's Day story, and, oh boy, was NBC commentator Bob Costas trying to coax a staggering tribute to McIlroy's dad out of him in his post-round interview yesterday. All Rory wanted to talk about was getting drunk with his friends when he gets back home.
It's unfortunate that modern newspaper deadlines force sportswriters to come up with storylines to have the story ready to publish as soon as the event ends. Costas can, watching this young kid walk down the 18th fairway, immediately spin the story into a fairytale about the kid winning it for his dad and redeeming himself. It's so sappy and annoying, and a waste of the actually talented writers who have their talents wasted cranking out postcards for their readers instead of actually paying attention to the story in the game. I don't exactly know the story of why Rory won this past Sunday but stunk in the last round of the Masters, but nobody really bothered to ask, or bother to do the right analysis to find out. This is all completely applicable to the Boston Bruins Stanley Cup win over the Vancouver Canucks and the treatment some Canucks players and management have taken in the wake of the loss. Obviously, winning 15 games instead of 16 games means the Canucks weren't tough enough to win. It's all story-driven crap that serves no practical purpose. I like Cam Cole, but him and other writers suggesting that the Canucks not standing up for Daniel Sedin after he was punched by Brad Marchand is akin to a suggestion that the Canucks only lost because some idiot fan trimmed his playoff beard a day before the game. It's a bunch of superstition and nonsense.
Normally I wouldn't have an issue with this, but the narrative lends itself to the public conversation and validates the opinions of casual fans of the game who suggest that there is more going on in sports than weighted random number generators cranking out data.
Remember my Calgary friend who suggested that Ryan Kesler needed to get his act together, moments before Kesler torched the Nashville Predators like a car on Georgia Street? He complained that I hadn't put a blog post up about the Canucks recent Cup loss (which is due to a variety of reasons beyond that I'm too hurt to talk about hockey) so I'm going to respond to his email publically in bullet points.
I havn't read your thoughts after game 7. I looked on your writer blogs, and see nothing. I am sure your trends and such will cover up for poor play from Vancouver. Fact is , they should have won, had a 2-0 lead, 3-2 lead, home ice in Game # 7 and somehow blew it.
They did. I'm not too ashamed to admit that the Canucks lost 4 out of 5 to lose the Stanley Cup. It sucks, but 28 other teams in the NHL can't say the same thing. One thing I can say is that the Canucks managed the same series trend as the 2009 Detroit Red Wings, where the only game won on the road by either team in their series against Pittsburgh was Game Seven. Nobody questions Detroit's ability to win.
I thought Van may prove me wrong, but they did not disappoint me. The top players, Luongo, Sedins, Kesler did not perform up to expectations in the finals.
They didn't. What's amazing to me is that even though their star goalie couldn't make a save on the road and their three best players couldn't muster anything in the finals, the Canucks were a single game away from the Stanley Cup. This is a testament to how good of a job Mike Gillis did putting together the defense and the depth piayers.
Luongo will never get the confidence of the team. Too many chokes. They need to move him, get another solid goalie, and platoon the guy with Schneider
Sedins will never perform up to their talent, until the team protects them. Can you imagine Gretzky and Kurri taking that abuse. True teams don't turn the other cheek, they protect their stars especially if they are the type that can't protect themselves like Iggy and players like him.
Kesler gets a free ride from the press, regardless of your stats/ trends Cam, he didn't produce in the finals. He was constantly compared to Messier, and he didn't live up to it. Messier always came through when Gretzky was held in check. Kesler didn't come through when the Sedins failed.
Here is where we get into crazy narrative. I don't exactly get the logic behind the Luongo confidence crap. He played reasonably well in the series despite being frustrating at times and wasn't the difference in Game Seven. The major story among the goaltenders in this series was Tim Thomas.
For all we talk about how Roberto Luongo is some abomination of a playoff goaltender, consider that his save percentage in the postseason was .914. In his first 26 regular season games, his save percentage was also .914 and the team's record was also 15-11, yet the Canucks somehow, despite a goaltender who couldn't win games, managed to rally and win the President's Trophy. Playoffs are more of an issue with sample size than anything else, particularly when we ask why good teams didn't win.
Interesting that he also notes that Jarome Iginla would have protected himself, unlike the Sedins. Both the Sedins and Jarome Iginla are 0-1 in Stanley Cup Final Game Sevens, so the point is rendered arbitrarily moot. Also, Mark Messier was a cheap shot artist and since he won a pile of Stanley Cups nobody seems to care that he hacked, slashed, chopped, bit, and did whatever to players because it gave him an advantage. I wrote after Game Five that the Canucks had to continue to play the villain because "history vindicates the villain". This is what has happened to Mark Messier in the end. Ryan Kesler, despite not scoring, is still more valuable as a player who is trying to set up chances than one who is busy stepping in and fighting battles. The best enforcer is a good powerplay. It worked for the Canucks through most of the regular season and fell apart in the Finals. It happens.
The faking, biting, whining about the ref's ( Giles was pathetic with his comments ). You constantly embarrass the ref's, you will never get a break, they never know if you are faking or if it is real.
See above about Mark Messier.
I give the Sedins credit with their comments taking accountability. I truly feel bad for them, that their teammates allowed them to be abused. You will never win a cup when your stars get pushed around like they did.
It would have been funny to see how good the Sedins were as locker room motivational forces had the Canucks won Game Seven the same way they won Game Five, with the Sedins conspicuously absent. Again, this shows how the narrative dictates the importance of certain players to teams. The Canucks PDO (save percentage plus shooting percentage at even strength, a good measure of luck using a number that balances out over a large number of games) was 94.2%.
I never saw a team that gets hammered , that doesn't respond the next game, not necessarily with a win, but with a battle even in a loss. Total lack in character, and are only front runners. In Chicago it happened, and in Boston it happened. Luckily they got Chicago too far in a hole to recover, but is Bollard was healthy from Game 1, Van would have lost the series.
Chicago looked lost without Bolland, but the Canucks were also without their third line centreman. Injuries happen, and they suck.
Great to see teams like Boston with players with heart like Lucic, Horton, hard nosed players can win. That the NHL havn't ruined tough , hard hockey yet.
Teams have learned how Vancouver can be beat and if they don't address some of these issues, it will be even tougher for them next year.
It's true. I'm very happy for Milan Lucic. He's one of the few NHLers I've met and is a really good dude. He defied all the odds to become a Stanley Cup champion and it must be great for him to have been able to lift it in his hometown. Despite the fancy storytelling, Lucic had a minus-7 shot differential in Game Seven and was a non-factor for his team that game. He had three points all series, and, had the Canucks managed to win Game Seven like they won Game Five, would be one of the guys whose will to win might have been questioned by some hack writers when it was all over.
He was, however, more effective than Nathan Horton. It's funny that my friend included Horton's name. When Horton played, despite being a hard-nosed player with heart he can win, his team was down 0-2. He got knocked out of the series on a questionable hit. Sure, writers can talk about how Horton was an inspiration for his team, but really. If Game Seven ends differently, you can simply scratch Nathan Horton out and fill in Mason Raymond's name, who would have been such a lovely inspiration to the Canucks. Down Goes Brown's pre-emptive post on the Game Seven just shows how fill-in-the-blanks hockey writing can be.
The funny thing about the email is not what was contained in the writing, but one name it omitted. Tim Thomas was spectacular. Tim Thomas defied percentages all season, all playoffs, and, just when I thought regression would catch up to Thomas, he goes ahead and destroys the Canucks in the Cup Final. His series save percentage at even strength was .969. Thomas's play made his teammates look good and deservedly won the Conn Smythe Trophy.
As losers as the Canucks are, there's no use hanging their head in shame because they couldn't win. Despite the narrative and popular belief, the Sedin twins are still two of the most valuable players in the league, Roberto Luongo is still a good goaltender and the defense is one of the NHL's best units. If they can get Kevin Bieksa signed for cheap, a repeat run is possible. Teams have run into hot goaltenders since the beginning of playoff series', and the Canucks management needs to trust the process. To paraphrase Gillis, if you knock on the door a bunch of times, eventually you're going to break through, even if you're a soft team that has no respect for the game.