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      Down Goes Brown Grab Bag: Tuesday Firings, High Scoring Games, and Goalie Pants
      Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
      February 10, 2017

      Down Goes Brown Grab Bag: Tuesday Firings, High Scoring Games, and Goalie Pants

      (Editor's note: Welcome to Sean McIndoe's weekly grab bag, where he writes on a variety of NHL topics. You can follow him on Twitter. Check out the Biscuits podcast with Sean and Dave Lozo as they discuss the events of the week.)

      Three stars of comedy

      The first star: Nick Foligno—Drink 'em if you got 'em.

      To be honest, those Red Wing fans need it more than you do right now, Nick.

      The second star: Lawson Crouse's dad—These days, just about every team does a dad road trip, and the one rule is that you have to try to keep your cool when your kid does something. You're in enemy territory, after all. Be chill.

      Mr. Crouse appears to have missed the memo.

      The best part: He's reacting to his son winning a fight.

      The first star: Hrudey on Duty—Fans of the Classic YouTube section will appreciate the L.A. Kings web site posting this breakdown of a truly horrible 1989 Kelly Hrudey welcome song. I always wondered what was up with the blue bandana; now I suspect he had it wrapped around his ears.

      Outrage of the week

      The issue: The Bruins fired Claude Julien on Tuesday.
      The outrage: You saw the part where it said "The Bruins fired Claude Julien," right?
      Is it justified: Of course. Julien is one of the best coaches in the league. It's not his fault that the Bruins are suffering through a terrible shooting slump and shaky goaltending. In fact, when it comes to the things that a coach has the most control over—special teams, possession, things like that—the Bruins' numbers look great. So of course Boston fans and media were going to be furious when they found out that...

      Wait, I'm being handed a note.

      Huh. Apparently, the outrage in Boston this week isn't about the first half of that sentence. I'm being told that while plenty of Bruins fans disagree with the move, that's not what people are really mad about. So, uh, let's try this again.

      The issue: We just went over this, but to reiterate: the Bruins fired Claude Julien on Tuesday.
      The outrage: You saw the part where it said "on Tuesday", right?
      Is it justified: Wait, what?

      Yes, believe it or not, the big issue in Boston with Tuesday's announcement was that it happened on Tuesday. That was the same day as the Patriots' Super Bowl parade, and somehow this is seen as a problem.

      Well, "problem" might be underselling it. No, the Bruins' timing here was "beyond weak, beyond cowardly" and something for which the team "should never be forgiven", according to the Boston Globe. And in case you're wondering if this was just one columnist trying to stir up controversy out of nothing, it wasn't. Plenty of others made it clear they felt the same way.

      In a sense, you can see where they're coming from. Firing a coach is bad news, and teams tend to enjoy burying bad news by releasing it when nobody's paying attention. At first glance, it feels like the Bruins were doing that. Surely, they could have fired Julien some other time.

      But...when? Julien's last game as Bruins' coach came on Saturday, when the team stormed back from a 4-1 deficit but gave up a late goal to drop a 6-5 regulation decision to the Maple Leafs. It was a big game, and a bad loss; when the Bruins can't finish off a 4-1 comeback against Toronto, you know it's bad. With four days off before the next game, the time for a change had apparently arrived.

      When the JumboTron brings only ill tidings. Photo by James Guillory-USA TODAY Sport

      So when do you make the call? On Sunday, which happens to be the day of the Super Bowl? You'd get ripped for trying to bury the news. On Monday, with the entire town buzzing over one of the greatest comeback wins in history? Same deal. On Tuesday morning, during the parade? We saw how that worked out. On Tuesday afternoon, after Julien has already run the morning practice? That makes no sense.

      Sure, you could wait until Wednesday. But again, the team had a four-day window between games. Do you really want to use up almost all of that time while you sit around, deferring to the Patriots hangover? That's not fair to interim coach Bruce Cassidy, and it's not fair to Julien.

      The Bruins do have their bye next week, so maybe you argue that you wait until then. But you can't practice during a bye, and it would have left Cassidy to start his stint with the dreaded California road trip. Besides, if you've made up your mind to fire Julien after Saturday's meltdown, you don't give him three more games just so it's more convenient for a handful of reporters and doesn't conflict with a parade.

      Look, you can blame Don Sweeney for a long list of things, up to and including the decision to fire Julien at all. But it's not his fault that the Patriots were in the Super Bowl, or that they won. At some point, Sweeney can't be expected to put his job on hold so that Boston fans and media can focus their attention elsewhere for a few days.

      Obscure former player of the week

      Today's obscure player is Russian winger Maxim Afinogenov, because he's celebrating an anniversary today. Maybe. We'll get to that.

      Afinogenov was a third-round pick by the Sabres in the 1997 draft. After two more years with Dynamo Moscow, he headed to Buffalo and scored 16 goals as a rookie during the 1999-2000 season. He'd go onto play nine seasons with the Sabres, peaking with 22 goals and 73 points in 2005-06. In 2009, he signed with the Thrashers as a free agent and played one final season, scoring a career-high 24 goals, before heading back home to join the KHL, where's he's still playing to this day.

      Afinogenov was one of those guys who never really put up great numbers, but would occasionally do something completely ridiculous that made you wonder why he wasn't an all-star every year.

      Here are three things I know about Afinogenov. One, his sister married Max Pacioretty. Two, he holds the NHL record for longest name made up entirely of alternating consonants and vowels. And three, his career highlight came during the 2007 playoffs, when he scored the OT winner that was the turning point of the Rangers/Sabres second-round series, then celebrated like a boss.

      Speaking of overtime, here's something I did not know about Maxim Afinogenov: According to this site, 16 years ago today he became the first player in modern NHL history to score an OT winner in back-to-back regular season games.

      I mean... that can't be right, can it? The NHL re-introduced overtime in 1983; did they really go 18 years without anyone scoring in back-to-back games? Far be it from me to impugn anyone else's accuracy, since 90 percent of the facts in this section are just stuff I made up on the assumption nobody will call me on it, but that seems weird. Somebody get back to me on this.

      Trivial annoyance of the week

      Earlier this week, the Dallas Stars were in Toronto to face the Maple Leafs. Both teams have developed reputations for run-and-gun styles coupled with shaky goaltending, so fans were hoping they might see a high-scoring, end-to-end shootout.

      On the day of the game, reporters asked the Stars about the possibility. And to nobody's surprise, they were told that nobody wanted that sort of game. Offense is a dirty word in the NHL, remember.

      In fact, one Star even went so far as to say this:

      That may be the perfect quote to sum up the modern-day NHL. It doesn't make any sense – the point of the game is to outscore your opponent, and there's absolutely no reason to prefer a 2-1 win to the 6-5 version. But it's pretty much the Platonic ideal of how hockey people think these days. A boring 1-0 win is great. An exciting 6-5 win will get you bag-skated.

      But here's the depressing part: Try to guess whose quote that was. You might assume it was Lindy Ruff, or one of the other coaches. You could certainly see it being one of the goalies. Or maybe one of the checking line guys.

      Nope.

      That quote came from Jamie Benn. You know, the guy who won the scoring title two years ago. The player who leads all left wingers in points over the last three years. They guy who recently signed a $76-million contract precisely because of how much he scores.

      Maybe he was just saying what he knew his coaches wanted to hear. Let's hope so. Because if the Jamie Benns of this league would rather win 1-0 than 6-5, we're screwed. They can make the nets as big as they want, take out the blue lines, give each team a dozen powerplays per game and install a three-point line, and none of it will matter as long as everyone thinks this way.

      We've already lost the coaches, the front offices and most of the players. The superstars are our last hope. Somebody in this league has to want to see some goals. If it's not the goal-scorers, then we're pretty much done.

      Dallas went out and lost 3-1, by the way. It wasn't a very good game.

      Classic YouTube clip breakdown

      Speaking of the NHL's decades-long quest to increase scoring, we got the latest chapter this week when the league finally got around to making smaller goaltending equipment mandatory. Oh, not the giant shoulder pads, chest protectors or catching gloves. No, that would be crazy. Instead, the league made goalie pants slightly smaller.

      That might not seem like a big deal, but goalies are complaining about it, because that's just what goalies do. You can understand where they're coming from. When you've spent your entire career swimming inside giant novelty pants, slicing a half-inch off around the edges can really mess up your equilibrium.

      We sympathize. So this week, let's help our goalie friends out with some tips from our friends at Hockey Night in Canada.

      • This clip is from 1981, and features real live goaltender Don Edwards. He's warming up in a dressing room that's apparently shared by the Sabres and Canadiens, because this is Canadian TV and set design isn't really a strong point.
      • Here's Edwards doing his impression of me trying to do a vertical high jump.
      • We see Edwards try a few more stretches, all while sprawled out on what appears to be a big piece of cardboard. I bet there's an angry troop of breakdancers standing just off camera waiting to get that back.
      • By the way, Edwards was a two-time all-star who won the Vezina in 1980. He was considered one of the better goalies in the league around the time this aired. He'd be out of the NHL entirely by 1986. I'm not saying those things are connected, but I'm also not not saying it.
      • Howie Meeker joins us for some equipment talk. Edwards, who at this point is clearly thrilled to be doing this, walks us through buying a goalie stick. We're told that it's important to "stand as erect as possible in a good crouch," which makes everyone so uncomfortable that we don't even notice that it doesn't make any sense.
      • Next up, Meeker asks about equipment that's too large, and Edwards warns young goalies to make sure everything fits properly. Tragically, the next generation of goaltenders can't hear him, because their shoulder pads were covering their ears.
      • "The goaltender must be the best skater on the team." Yeah, I'm going to go ahead and say this isn't remotely true. But it's OK, because it leads to a clip of Edwards doing this and this.
      • Look, I'll just say it: I'm like 90 percent certain that at some point when you joined the Sabres, somebody showed that clip to Dominik Hasek and he mistakenly thought it was what you were supposed to do during the actual games.
      • "Hey I'm a layman and I see you doing this, I wonder whhhhyyyy..." You speak for us all, Howie.
      • We get a random sighting of those terrible Canucks jerseys, before cutting to footage of Edwards stopping a Bobby Smith wrist shot. "How can you play without a neck protector with guys shooting the puck 120 miles per hour?" That's right, kids, back in the 1980s the goalies were the best skaters on the team and everyone shot the pick 20 mph harder than Shea Weber.
      • Watching a 1980s Sabres goalie dismiss the importance of neck protection is one of the most retroactively distressing moments imaginable, so let's skip ahead.
      • Next up, Edwards demonstrates proper stickhandling, pausing to once again warn kids against wearing equipment that's too big. Tragically, the next generation of goaltenders can't see him do this, because their leg pads were blocking their eyes.
      • "A goaltender has to learn how to use his stick just as well as a forward does." Yep, better work on those 120 mph slapshots.
      • Back in 1981, Don Edwards could propel the puck forward with either hand and we all thought it was the coolest thing ever. These days, Mike Smith can do this and nobody even remembers it the next day. The position has improved slightly, is what I'm trying to say.
      • Next up is a quick lesson on rebound control, which is actually kind of fascinating for younger fans. See how Edwards is standing up the whole time, covering roughly 20 percent of the net? This is what goaltending really looked like in the 1980s. We'd seen the butterfly from guys like Tony Esposito and Glenn Hall, but it would be another few years before it became widespread, and a few years after that before Patrick Roy came along and showed how much better it could be. Today, the only goalies who play like Edwards in this clip are old dads playing with their kids in the driveway who don't want to get their dress pants dirty. Back then, everyone did it.
      • Did we mention that guys had 90-goal seasons back then? In hindsight, maybe 1980s goalies should have spent a little less time on the Rockettes leg kick warmups and more on figuring out ways to take away the entire bottom half of the net. Just a thought.
      • We end with what seems like a completely random dig at "that OLD hacker" Gary Dornhoefer, the longtime Flyer who'd been out of the league for three years at this point. There's no great backstory here, other than that Dornhoefer was working for Hockey Night that season and Edwards apparently felt that taking a jab at him would be safer than Don Cherry. Probably a smart choice.
      • And that's the end of our clip. See, modern day goaltenders? If you work hard, and do lots of ridiculous stretching, you too can have a successful career in the NHL. Even if your pants are slightly smaller than they were last week.

      Have a question, suggestion, old YouTube clip, or anything else you'd like to see included in this column? Email Sean at nhlgrabbag@gmail.com.

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