Wednesday April 22nd, 2015

Off The Draw

• You know how it is with technology these days. Someone comes up with a cool app. Someone else figures out how to use it in a way that people love. And then someone else figures out that they’re getting screwed by it and rushes to shut it down.

That’s the way it was with Periscope, a nifty bit of Twitter tech that allows users to broadcast anything live to anyone who wants to follow along. Cool, right? Well, it didn’t take long for the sports media to realize that it offered another bridge to a fragmented audience. They could essentially stream video from practices, warmups, post-game press conferences and other ancillary events, grabbing eyeballs by providing a new level of access to the teams they covered.

And it didn’t take long for the NHL to decide that Periscope is something the league needs to get under control. On Tuesday, deputy commissioner Bill Daly sent out a memo to team presidents regarding use of the app in arenas. He also conveniently CCed/warned every credentialed media member:

We have been advised that certain individuals attending NHL games pursuant to credentialed access are streaming live footage from inside NHL arenas before, during and after NHL games using technology offered by companies such as Periscope and Meerkat. As a reminder, NHL media credentials prohibit any “unauthorized use of any transmission, picture or other depiction or description of game action, game information, player interview or other arena activity ... without prior written approval of” NHL or the team as applicable.

Without limiting the generality of the credential language, any streaming of footage in violation of the NHL’s Broadcast Guidelines (including, for example, live streaming inside the arena less than 30 minutes before the start of the game) and Media Access Policy is expressly prohibited.

This iron-fisted approach has some in the media complaining that the league is doing a disservice to its fans by destroying a means of promoting its games and players. Maybe they're right, but I just can’t share their outrage.

2015 NHL Playoffs: Complete list of television times, schedule, bracket

In fact, it’s easy to see why the league is being protective. The NHL has accepted more than $7 billion in exchange for broadcast rights in the United States and Canada during the past couple of years, so preserving the full value in those agreements in the face of changing and potentially infringing technology makes good business sense.

You can argue that pregame warmups, a favorite of the Periscope users, aren’t currently covered by broadcasters and thus do not interfere with the league’s policy but you know how it is. As soon as the folks at headquarters figured out that some fans were interested in watching line rushes and goalie stretches it was a straight line to controlling access to the value of that action.

You know what will happen next. And if you don’t, then check out the NHL’s inevitable official Periscope and see for yourself. It'll be cool ... until the next game-changing app comes along.

• Coaching in the NHL these days is all about minimizing risk. Which is why it was inevitable that Senators coach Dave Cameron would tap Craig Anderson to start tonight’s must-win Game 4 vs. Montreal.

Watch: Predators goalie Pekka Rinne lost a puck in his pads for a long time

Andrew Hammond is the more compelling story: the middle-aged rookie who came out of nowhere to carry the Sens on his back during an improbable run to the playoffs. Given where the team would be without his late-season heroics, it’s fair to say that he earned this opportunity to make good after allowing seven goals on 84 shots through the first two games. And if anyone has it in him to pull the Sens out of their 0-3 ditch, it’s the guy who has rescued them once already in 2015.

But Hammond has all of one season of professional experience on his rèsumé, and an 0-2 playoff record. Anderson, on the other hand, is a proven hand on the till. The veteran netminder was excellent in Sunday’s 2–1 loss to the Canadiens, making 47 stops to keep his team in the game while the Senators’ intensity lagged in the second and third periods. He might not have a miracle in him, but there’s less chance that he’ll melt down. And with the season on the line, that’s the safest bet Cameron can make.

It also means we may have seen the last of the Hamburglar in action for the Sens. If Anderson wins tonight, Cameron will ride him until he drops. If he loses the season's over, bringing Hammond one step closer to leaving town as an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

• That P.K. Subban two-hander to the wrist of Senators rookie Mark Stone in Game 1 of the hotly contested Montreal-Ottawa series is starting to take on the hue of Bobby Clarke’s famed chop to the ankle of Soviet star Valeri Kharlamov, isn’t it? It’s impossible to consider how this has played out without wondering what might have been if Stone, the NHL’s fourth-leading scorer after Jan. 1, had been at full-strength.

Like Kharlamov in the latter stages of the 1972 Summit Series, Stone has found ways to contribute but he's not the same player. Not even close. What Ottawa needs now isn’t his brilliant defensive effort or his underrated playmaking. It needs the guy who peppered opposing netminders with 31 shots and scored seven goals in his final seven regular-season games. After watching him land all of one shot in Games 2 and 3, it’s clear that Stone’s injury means he doesn’t have the hands to be that guy. And the absence of that game-breaking skill might be too much of a hill for this team to climb.

• Lost in the love for Michael Ferland’s physical game on Tuesday night was a play that might have saved Calgary’s Game 4 win over Vancouver. It was late in the third period with the Canucks pressing when Flames center Matt Stajan gathered up a loose puck behind his own net and, under no immediate pressure, threw it blindly into the slot. It was the sort of brain cramp that would get a pee wee benched, but Ferland’s strong positioning allowed him to beat two Canucks to the loosie and safely exit the zone.

For a guy who is earning his keep with hits and the hurries he’s creating, this was his most impactful moment of the game. And it may have been the one that quietly turned the series. 

• The Sabres added another piece to the foundation Wednesday morning, signing free-agent forward Evan Rodrigues out of Boston University. The 5''-11" senior scored 21 goals and 61 points in 41 games, good for second in NCAA Division 1 scoring. The only player ahead of him? His linemate, and presumptive future Sabre, Jack Eichel.

Can Rodrigues replicate those numbers as a pro? Probably not. He lacks the shot of an elite scorer, limiting his upside. Sill, if his familiar presence helps convince Eichel to skip his sophomore season and report directly to the NHL, then it'll be a wise investment in the future of the franchise.

The numbers game

• The Blackhawks have played in the last three triple-overtime playoff games (April 21, 2015 vs. Nashville: 101; April 17, 2014 at St. Louis: 100:26, June 12, 2013 vs. Boston: 112:08). While Tuesday night’s Game 4 marathon was the longest in Predators history, the Blackhawks’ longest (113:50) was played on April 9, 1931 at Montreal in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals.

2015 NHL playoffs crystal ball: Cup picks, predictions and more

• When teams are tied 2-2 in a best-of-seven playoff series, the winner of Game 5 holds an all-time series record of 185-50 (78.7%). Teams that go up 3-1 in a best-of-seven hold an all-time series record of 249-27 (90.2%).

• There have been seven OT outcomes so far among the 27 playoff games that have been contested. (Road teams have won four of them.) In 2014, 26 for the 93 postseason games went to OT, including 14 in the first round.

Hot links

• A Toronto radio host argues that the NHL should have rigged the Connor McDavid lottery to ensure he landed in Toronto. David Staple takes issue with Jeff Blair's click-bait contention.

Watch: Jets' Dustin Byfuglien gives media Marshawn Lynch treatment

• Staple offers a little shock value of his own, comparing McDavid to Bobby Orr. Crazy on the surface, but in context it's actually valid.

• Ottawa rookie Curtis Lazar is my favorite human right now. This is why.

• Has the NHL instructed officials to turn a blind eye to the hooking, holding and obstruction fouls that are killing offense in the postseason?


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