Hump day hot takes: NHL makes the right call on Sidney Crosby injury, NBA playoffs stay right on cue & more

I’m back, bitches…

Seems like an eternity since the last time I’ve penned some words on the mighty Chin Music Podcast blog. It’s been a bit of an extended New Year’s blogcation for the crew here (an extended one for our stat man, cough cough) but we’re picking up right where we left off. I’ve got a full docket of hot takes ready for you, so let’s welcome back the most opinionated piece of literature you’ll read this week.

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1. While unfortunate, the NHL made the right call on the punishment regarding the Sidney Crosby injury

Unlike crazy Pittsburgh-based writer Rob Rossi, I’m not calling for the NHL to suspend Alex Ovechkin for the rest of the series while Sidney Crosby recovers from another concussion. That was by far the strangest thing I read about the unfortunate play that knocked the best player out of the world, but hey, it’s playoff hockey.

So let’s break down my take in a couple steps. First off: The slash by Ovechkin on Crosby wasn’t dirty. It was a whack on the elbow just like every other player faces as they drive to the net. The whiplash effect created by Ovi’s insanely low stick flex, the speed of Crosby and overall strength of both players hit Sid on the head. That was not the intended target of the slash, but a consequence that happens on a play where so many forces moving in different directions meet.

As for Matt Niskanen, I can’t believe I’m agreeing with Mike Milbury (Brendan’s favorite former NHL front office man), but once again, there was no intent behind the hit. When a player comes at you at such a high rate of speed, the first reaction is to protect yourself. And, that’s exactly what Niskanen did. It looked bad, on all fronts, but there was absolutely no plan to knock out Crosby. Thinking otherwise is simply stupid.

So what’s the result? Something I rarely say: I agree 100% with the NHL on a suspension decision. Ovechkin shouldn’t get anything – he didn’t. Niskanen basically served a game suspension because of the misconduct in game one. That’s more than enough for a bang-bang play that happens.

As for Crosby and the Penguins? Shit happens. Injuries happen. It’s unfortunate that the league’s biggest star will miss time in the marquee series of the postseason, but injuries are a part of sports. If Pittsburgh can rally and win without their captain, it makes for an even better story (and continues the narrative of Washington being the greatest chokers of the 21st century). So well done NHL, you got something right for a change. Now just outlaw the 1-3-1.

Editor’s note: This is one of the classic he-said-he-said, armchair debates. And like so often in these things, it all typically depends on your perspective, in more ways than one. If you’re watching it as a Penguins or Capitals fan, you already have an opinion, and that’s not an insult, it’s just a fact of life as a sports fan. If three people watched the play, one during game in real time and saw the play as it happened, one saw the play for the first time as  full-speed replay, and one saw the first instance slowed down from the perfect angle, you probably would have three different people with three different opinions about the play.

But Niskanen can only act on what is going on in real-time, and only on what he sees from his angle. Did he take an opportunity to give the best player on his opponent an extra hard shove while he was off-balance, and in front of the crease no less, and acted overly reckless in doing so? Absolutely. Did he earn the penalty he was given, which essentially meant he missed the whole game? I think so. But did he set out to injure Crosby from the time the game started, or even when he lifted his hands to deliver the check? I seriously doubt it. Injuries to stars are awful in sports, particularly when it’s a head injury to one of the beset players in the history of the game in his prime, who has struggled with these injuries before, but we can’t expect Niskanen to consider all that in the split second. It was an ugly hit to watch, and one that could have disastrous implications for Crosby, the Penguins and the NHL as a whole long term, but it was a hockey play, as so many others have described it.

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2. Is it the NBA Finals yet? No? Ok, I don’t care since there’s nothing exciting that happened yet. 

I guess you can qualify a 5 seed over a 4 seed an upset, but it’s a coin flip at best. So, as the NBA progresses into the second round of the postseason, I still find myself yawning at the TV screen. I started writing this weekly bitchfest before the start of the season and said this same thing. The Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors are on a collision course to meet in the NBA Finals. And injuries notwithstanding, nothing is going to change.

The Rockets blew out the Spurs in Game 1 of the second round? Cool.

The Celtics are the No. 1 seed in the East? Neat.

Guess what folks, all of it means a collective diddly poo when it comes to the NBA. You don’t see upsets in this era of the league. Whichever team has the most superstars will win 99 times out of 100.

While Boston fans can get all excited about the top seed and the opportunity to have home-court advantage against the Cavs (if they even get to the Final, considering this was their first playoff series win under Brad Stevens…), the only light at the end of the tunnel is an ECF appearance before a huge dose of reality comes in the form of LeBron James running the train down the Celtics’ throat.

When you have Golden State actively rooting for the Clippers so the players could enjoy LA nightlife instead of Salt Lake City, your league has a problem. The NBA playoffs are a giant letdown waiting to happen. And when/if an upset happens, it’ll be miraculous.

Otherwise, I’ll just catch the highlights while we wait for GSW/CLE round three.

Editor’s note: *Sigh*. There’s nothing exciting happening in the NBA Playoffs. It’s not like the first round saw at least one series go to a Game Seven when the NHL had none. Or there was some overwhelming humanitarian story involving a star player on the rise in the city Tim lives. If only….

I love the NHL Playoffs as much as the next guy, and for the most part, this year’s installment really has not disappointed. But the disregard NHL fans show for the NBA is truly disheartening as someone who watches both sports. And perhaps tellingly, it typically comes from the NHL side, who seem desperate to prove how much better hockey is than basketball, despite the popularity difference. The “hockey players are tougher/more respectful/better people” thing only serves to make it feel like hockey fans have to yell the loudest because the actions don’t back up the words. As a devoted NHL fan, I know that isn’t the case—but if you have to keep telling everyone how tough and exciting you are, are you really either of those things?

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3. Let’s cut the buddy-buddy bullshit with MLB teams – I want some hate

Outside of the Cubs winning the World Series last year, the biggest story coming out of baseball the past couple of years that resonated with non-baseball fans was the brawl between the Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays. Why? Because people like drama. People like hatred. And, most simply, people like violence.

The other week, Boston Red Sox relief pitcher threw behind Baltimore Orioles’ third baseman Manny Machado after a dirty slide into second base and Dustin Pedroia. While I certainly don’t like Barnes firing a fastball near the noggin of Machado, I certainly respect and expected the move. Machado is a punk, and it’s nice to see someone put him in his place.

So when we saw Pedroia defending Machado later in the game and in the press afterward, my blood boiled? Hey, Dustin – what the hell are you doing? Your teammate stuck up for you after a bush-league play. And you’re up on the top dugout step apologizing for an errant pitch? Are you kidding me?

I’m getting really tired about the friendliness between athletes on different teams. If you want to be buddy-buddy with someone during the offseason or in BP, go for it. But when you throw the uniform on and are in-between the foul lines, you’re enemies. When someone does something cheap to you, you don’t defend the retaliation. You stick with your teammates, you know, the guys you get paid to play with?

Baseball was more fun when teams hated each other, a la the Yankees and Red Sox of the mid-2000s. Give me that, or give me a lot less baseball this summer.

Editor’s note: Tim, you got what you wanted. You may not have known this when you pressed submit and handed the blog over to your trusted benevolent dictator editor, but Manny Machado would go on last night to lace into the Red Sox using more four-letter words than I know how to count (my deepest sympathies for the interns that had to edit all those bleeps in for broadcasts.) And while we’ve seen plenty of the ugly side of sports-inspired hate in Boston this week, I largely agree with Tim. Keep it on the field, keep it clean, but keep it mean.

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4. What in the world is going on with the Chicago Bears and Buffalo Bills? 

Boy oh boy, do two of the “proudest” franchises in the NFL have a whole mess of problems going on entering the 2017 season. And yet, I couldn’t help but smile over the whole situation while also counting my blessings.

Let’s start with da Bears. Mike Glennon, the biggest cuckolded guy in the city last week, finding out that the team moved up one pick (that they didn’t need to) to pick QB Mitchell Trubisky (who apparently loves some mammary glands) while he was at the team draft party is pretty nuts. And then the head coach not knowing about the move is borderline insane too.

How do you invite your new “starting” QB to the team draft party and then choose his replacement/successor without giving him a heads up? Or how do you not tell the man in charge of getting the team ready that after spending big money on a free-agent QB, you go ahead and trade multiple picks for a new one? Talk about dysfunction.

And then you have the Buffalo Bills. #BillsMafia was out in full force in Philly for the draft, but that’s not even the strangest thing from the weekend. How about all-knowing and all-seeing owner Terry Pegula firing GM Doug Whaley and the entire scouting staff one day after the NFL Draft.

Aren’t these the guys that ran the draft? Or are we just outsourcing here? Good lord what a mess in Buffalo. If the Browns are running circles around you, maybe it’s time to call it a day.

Editor’s note: I can answer Tim’s question on the Buffalo side: Terry Pegula owns the team, and he has a fever, and the only cure is more cowbell firings, apparently. The Bears, however, cannot be explained as simply. The Mike Glennon factor doesn’t bother me too much, as they were roundly mocked for giving him so much money this year, and even if he  does perform well, likely has a limited life span, so investing in a high-quality rookie to learn behind him and be ready to take over isn’t such a bad idea. But trading the haul they did, to move up one spot, possibly despite the fact that no one else wanted the pick, is quite questionable.

That’s it for Tim. Only four takes because we all need to ease our way back into this blog. He’ll be back next week with more. Like ChinMusicPod.com on Facebook and follow Tim on Twitter @culvey13

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