Corey on his blog has this grotesquely troubling quote from Flyers’ center Daniel Briere:
“Another thing that favored us was the condition of the ice,” he said. “It was so bad that it was tough for guys like Semin, Backstrom and Ovechkin to get anything going, the ice was so bad. That was another thing that went our way.”
I’m so sick and tired of hearing and reading about how unprofessionally crappy Verizon Center’s ice is — months and months after it’s been pilloried by players in the press. And even the home team. The purpose of having home ice advantage, it seems to me, is to afford your players an advantage, not aid the slower opponent, undermine the advantages your world-class players possess, or, in a worst-case scenario, actually increase the likelihood of your best skaters incurring injury by skating in slop.
It was mild and muggy in Washington yesterday, and so external conditions made for a modest challenge for the arena’s ice techs. But whereas in February and March it was actually chilly inside Verizon Center for hockey games, yesterday most in the press box were dressed comfortably, in light and loose clothing, for balmy spring. I’d actually seen improvements in the ice in late winter as the building was made colder; passes remained flatter on those nights, for instance, and at times you could see a heavy volume of snow accumulate on the sheet at periods’ end. Not last night. Not when it mattered most.
The Wizards had been off in Cleveland for the better part of a week, a big circus was weeks behind us, and Verizon Center actually replaced its ice sheet just prior to the start of the playoffs. There simply is no excuse whatsoever for there not having been in place merely an adequate surface upon which to contest the most important hockey game for the Caps in perhaps a decade. Instead, world-class skaters Mike Green and Alexander Semin were falling down — often not from contact.
A few hours after Briere offered up his assessment Caps’ GM George McPhee informed local media of his heightened concern about captain Chris Clark’s ongoing groin woes. Woes that he never knew before this season on this sheet of slop. Now we can add Boyd Gordon to the list of the leg-injured (with, like Clark, a torn groin).
We’ve been told that the problem was elaborately studied during the season, and recommendations for improvements made and implemented, only to have one of the few world-class Flyer skaters say playing on the road in game 7 was most inhospitable for the skilled members of the home team. Swell.
Right now I’m far less concerned about restricted and unrestricted free agents getting inked this summer and worrying who’s groin is next to rupture. What good is it having a young and skilled and quick team when at home they can’t move and make plays?