Saturday, December 14, 2013

Stamkos Skates!



Steven Stamkos' rehab is way ahead of where we thought he'd be when he suffered a gruesome fractured tibia while crashing into the net in Boston just about a month ago. Check the videos and see for yourself. The first (up top) is of Stamkos taking the ice and doing some stickhandling drills in New Jersey, and the second (below) is Stamkos talking to the media after the skate. Great news for Stamkos but I still say let's not rush him. He's obviously not ready to skate hard and needs to let the bone heal and, as he put in his own words, make sure there are no setbacks.

The Lightning have done a great job of weathering the storm without Stamkos, and they currently stand at 18-10-3, good for third place in the Atlantic. As far as Stamkos' Olympic chances go, Team Canada has until January 7th to make their final roster decisions.

Will Stamkos convince the Team Canada's brass by that date that it is worth it to save a roster spot for him? And if they do save the roster spot, will Stamkos then feel increased pressure to rush his return? We love the idea of Stamkos' making a speedy remarkable recovery, but he clearly has a long way to go, and rushing to get to Sochi's big ice by early February might not be the best way for the 23-year-old to ensure that he makes a complete recovery.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Perry, Getzlaf Streaking as Ducks Roll



The Anaheim Ducks have been a tour de force at the Honda Center in 2013, and that has a lot to do with Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf. Anaheim is the only team that has yet to lose a regulation game at home. They dropped an OT game that they really should have won against New Jersey on Nov. 20th, and fell in a shootout to the Kings on Dec. 3rd. Other than that--nothing, zip, nada.

Perry scored his eighth goal in his last seven tonight, and his 21st of the season, as the Ducks edged Minnesota in a close affair.

Getzlaf got the secondary assist on the goal, upping his NHL best points streak to 13. For some strange reason, the NHL doesn't count a point streak that includes missed games, but if it did Getzlaf's streak would total 15. That's two more than the player that Getzlaf "officially" tied on Wednesday night: Alex Steen.

The Ducks are on a four-game winning streak and they stand atop the Pacific with 49 points.

Perry is currently tied for second in the NHL with 21 goals; he's also tied for fifth in points with the Islanders John Tavares at 36.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Vid: Jarome Iginla's Emotional Tribute in Calgary



Not a dry eye in the place. Okay, maybe a few, but not many...

Allen: Hockey's Code Has Gone Awry



USA Today's Kevin Allen raised some issues in a recent column that I have seen echoed in the comments sections of many articles that covered the Shawn Thornton sucker-punch on Brooks Orpik incident.

Orpik, who didn't feel he should have to fight after laying a massive, clean body check on Loui Ericksson of the Bruins, was later given no choice and instead pulled to the ice by an irate Shawn Thornton, who then cold-cocked Orpik and knocked him unconscious.

Allen wonders in his recent column when did hockey's code change so that even players who execute clean open-ice checks are considered open game by the opposing team's enforcer?

"Dissect what happened Saturday night in Boston any way you want," writes Allen, "and it still centers on the issue that Thornton was trying to make Orpik pay for delivering what was deemed a legal body check."

He continues, succinctly:

Now in today's game, most big hits, even legal ones, seems to be followed by a call to arms by someone on the other team. That scenario has become increasingly commonplace over the past decade.

This is not a Boston Bruins problem or a Thornton problem. This is an NHL problem with significant consequences.

First, it sometimes leads to the kind of scary situation we had Saturday night when Orpik was attacked by Thornton.

Second, it discourages legal hitting, which most of us seem to want in the game. Why would any player in today's game want to deliver a heavy hit? If he does, he probably will be asked to fight.

If the league doesn't address this at some point, the big hit is going to become an endangered species or we are going to have more situations like we had Saturday when the Pittsburgh Penguins' Orpik obviously felt he shouldn't have to fight because he delivered a legal hit on Loui Eriksson earlier in the game and Thornton believed he should fight.



The logic of Thornton is clear in this situation. Ericksson is a smaller player who was already knocked into kingdom come earlier in the season by Sabres' tough guy Jon Scott. The Bruins want to send a message to anyone who hits Ericksson that they will have to pay for it.

The question is: Do we want teams using intimidation to protect their players from clean body checks? What's next? Why not just sucker-punch anybody who scores a power play goal against your team? Or any goalie who makes a big save?

Monday, December 9, 2013

Penguins' James Neal Gets Five Games for Kneeing Incident



Penguins' forward James Neal was handed a five-game suspension for his ill-advised knee to the head of Brad Marchand on Saturday, and he really should have gotten more. There is simply no place for a play like this in any sport, as it signifies a complete lack of respect for the opponent and therefore the game itself.

Unfortunately it was one of many over-the-top antics that we saw in the NHL over the weekend.

Here is how NHL discipline czar Brendan Shanahan summarized his views on Neal's transgression:

"It is our belief after reviewing this incident that this is more serious than simply not avoiding contact with a fallen player. While looking down directly at Marchand Neal turns his skates and extends his left leg, ensuring that contact was made with Marchand's head."

Shanahan goes on to cite that one of the mitigating factors in the hearing is that Marchand was not seriously injured on the play. That's good news, but I'm not so sure it's a good way to judge what Neal has done. He went out of his way to run his knee into a player who was down on the ice--a total WWF move--and there's simply nothing that can mitigate the egregiousness of his actions.

"I mean, what do you want me to say? That I was trying to hit him?" Neal said following the game. "No, I'm going by him. I don't get out of the way, like I said. I need to be more careful and I guess get my knee out of the way, but I'm not trying to hit him in the head or injure him or anything like that."

Yes, you need to be more careful and get your knee out of the way. Now you are talking!

Shanahan will have a busy week, as he'll also have an in-person meeting with Bruins' Shawn Thornton after he sucker-punched Brooks Orpik in the aftermath of this play, and a phone meeting with Leafs' defenseman Dion Phaneuf after his boarding incident last night against Boston.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Shawn Thornton Says he Feels Bad about Sucker Punching Brooks Orpik



With suspensions--very big suspensions--looming, Shawn Thornton knows better than anyone it's never too late to say you're sorry. After sucker punching Brooks Orpik during last night during a heated battle between Eastern Conference powers (see video above), Thornton says he's feeling remorseful about his actions.

After the game Thornton said he felt terrible. He also said that Orpik is a friend of his and he had no intention of hurting him. Here's what he told reporters after the game, per this report from NESN.com.

“Listen, I feel awful,” he said. “It wasn’t my intention for that outcome. I know Brooksie, I’ve gotten to know him over the past several years. I got to skate with him during the lockout. I texted him a couple of times. I feel awful. It was definitely not what I wanted to see or what anyone wanted to see.

“Obviously I made a mistake. I’m aware of it. I’ve been told I’ll be having a hearing. It’s hard for me to say much more than it was not my intention. I felt sick all game.

“It’s always my job, I guess, to defend my teammates, but I’ve prided myself for a long time to stay within the lines. It’s hard for me to talk about it right now. I can’t say I’m sorry enough, and I’m sure I’ll be criticized for saying it, but it’s true. I just hope he’s doing all right. I heard he’s conscious and talking. I’m happy to hear that. “I really don’t know how to answer that right now [if this will change the way he plays], to tell you the truth. I haven’t had enough time to think about it.”

Hard to want to forgive a player after he pulls a cheap shot like that, whether it was part of a heated game or not. Thornton wasn't the only player to step out of line on Saturday (but that's nothing out of the ordinary, it happens pretty much every night in the only professional sport that seems content to let the inmates run the asylum), but that fact, or the fact that hockey lives its life on the edge where respect for the opponent is a mere afterthought after egregious acts of violence, doesn't make Thornton's actions forgivable at this point.

It's certainly no way to treat a friend.

Look, hockey is a tough sport, and everybody that loves the game takes pride in that fact, but sucker punching guys when the aren't prepared to defend themselves is more criminality than old-fashioned hockey. There's no place for it, and no apology will make it acceptable.

What do you think?

Friday, December 6, 2013

Should Max Pacioretty Be Disciplined for this Hit on Johnny Boychuk?



Montreal's Max Pacioretty scored his ninth goal in his last nine games to lead Les Habitants to a big win over the Bruins on Thursday, but Pacioretty's biggest play came along the back boards when he laid a massive hit on Bruins' defenseman Johnny Boychuk (see above).

Boychuk needed to be wheeled off on a stretcher, but eventually returned to the Bell Centre, determined well enough to fly home to Boston with his team, but the extent of his injuries are still not known.

TSN's Ken Campbell thinks that Pacioretty deserves to be disciplined for what he deems a "reckless hit" on the vulnerable Boychuk. Here's his take from his morning column:

The hit stared out as an innocent-looking attempt to separate Boychuk from a puck that was approaching him along the boards. But as Pacioretty made contact, Boychuk turned to get the puck and the hit went from shoulder-to-shoulder to shoulder-to-back. If you’re arguing for a suspension, you could point out that while there was almost certainly no malice on Pacioretty’s part, it was a reckless play. Much of what made it reckless was that Pacioretty failed to let up and hit Boychuk while he was in a vulnerable position and a dangerous position from the boards.

Pacioretty received a minor penalty for boarding on the play, but you can be certain Shanahan will look at it hundreds of times tonight to determine whether it merits a hearing and supplemental suspension.

And it should. It was a reckless hit on a vulnerable opponent. The same way players have to be responsible for their sticks, they also have to be responsible for their bodies. These hits will keep happening unless they’re penalized with real consequences regardless of intent.

For the record, we agree with Campbell. The hit should be looked it. No malice, and the fact that Pacioretty got Boychuk from behind (ever so slightly) has a lot to do with the fact that Boychuk was angling into the boards to corral the puck. But while these types of hits are not malicious or even 100 percent intentional, they are the types of hits that are leading to a lot of players getting wheeled off on stretchers.

Shanahan and Co. should take a close look at this play and think about some type of discipline on Pacioretty. It could go a long way in terms of encouraging players to use caution and go in easier on these types of plays where opponents are vulnerable.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Don't Expect the Islanders to Deal for Ryan Miller



Garth Snow may be crazy, and he proved that he may be by trading for Thomas Vanek earlier in the season, but is he just plain dumb? Because anybody who is suggesting that the Isles would give up more of their highly valued prospects and/ or players to acquire the services of Ryan Miller for a few months before he becomes an unrestricted free agent, is insinuating as much.

Surely the Isles aren't looking to trade for another player who will almost certainly fly the coup after the season, and surely the Islanders aren't holding on to the belief that a bona fide goalie would do anything to help this team out of its current malaise. If Miller couldn't backstop the Sabres to relevancy, what makes anybody believe that he would be able to do so for the Islanders, a team that has progressively gotten worse with each passing week?

Allan Muir of SI helped to put some of the Miller-to-the-Islanders rumors to rest in his Home Ice column today, and he hits the nail on the head with the following statement:

That leaves Sabres goalie Ryan Miller as the obvious choice, but the risk involved in swapping for Buffalo’s netminder would be high — for both sides.

There’s no reason for the Sabres to do anything to help New York. Remember, Buffalo acquired, conditionally, the Islanders’ first-round pick in 2014, as well as a second-rounder in ’15, as part of the Thomas Vanek for Matt Moulson deal. It’s in the Sabres’ best interest then to see New York fail.

And even if Islanders GM Garth Snow was willing to pay Buffalo’s price (a high pick and a solid, though not elite, prospect), it might mean putting his job on the line. Miller and Vanek are pending UFAs, and if both walked after Snow had emptied New York’s coffers to acquire them, the losses would be devastating to the franchise.

So what’s likely to happen? Look for Snow to make two smaller deals: one to acquire a goalie with some longer-term potential, and one for a veteran defenseman to shore up the Islanders’ shaky blue line.

To that I will add: If I was Garth Snow and had been fleeced by the Sabres once in 2013, I'd probably turn my attention to another trading partner. The Islanders need one if not two defenseman, and yes, they do need to find a long-term solution at goalie, which Miller currently isn't. And even if the Isles do want to make a pitch for Miller, they'll have every opportunity to do that on July 1 when the American becomes a UFA.

As far as Miller's current value in light of Henrik Lundqvist's seven-year deal with the Rangers, Muir had some thoughts on that as well:

Speaking of Miller, what’s he worth now in the wake of Henrik Lundqvist’s seven-year, $59.5 million deal? At 33, Miller is two years older than the King, so it’s hard to see anyone giving him a contract that match’s the length of Lundqvist’s agreement, but the average annual value might not be that far off. Something in the neighborhood of four years and $26 million for Miller seems likely, although another bravura Olympic performance for Team USA could up the ante.


Sounds about right. But Miller sounds like a bargain at that price. Expect him to light up the league once he gets a new lease on life, preferable with a team that can play in front of him.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Rangers Ink Lundqvist to a Seven-Year Extension



The New York Rangers signed 31-year-old netminder Henrik Lundqvist to a seven-year, $59.5 million extension on Wednesday, according to sources.

According to NY Newsday:

The Rangers scheduled a news conference for after practice Wednesday at the Madison Square Garden Training Center.

"Since his arrival in New York in 2005, Henrik has consistently been one of the elite goaltenders in the NHL," Rangers president and general manager Glen Sather said in a statement. "He is a proud representative of the tradition and class of this organization and we are excited to have him remain as a cornerstone of the franchise."

The Swedish netminder will earn an average of $8.5 million per season, making him the highest-paid goaltender in the NHL, based on annual average value.

"He's paying for dinner, that's for sure," Ryan Callahan said after practice Wednesday.

Lundqvist, who won the Vezina Trophy in 2011-12, has said since September that he wanted to stay in New York with the team that drafted him in 2000. He was in the final season of a six-year extension which paid him an average salary of $6.877 million. The goaltender has declined to discuss the negotiations since opening night.

So much for that Cam Talbot controversy, which was sparked when the Rangers' rookie got back-to-back starts recently. So

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

What Can the Isles Get for Vanek?



Is it already time for New York Islanders' GM Garth Snow to admit he gambled and lost with Tomas Vanek? At 8-15-4, and with bottom-of-the-league goaltending and defense, Vanek's presence isn't likely to help it get back to the playoffs in 2013, and with the 29-year-old awaiting free agency at the end of the season, it's clearly time to admit that it's not working and start shopping Vanek for pieces that his club actually needs.


The 7 million dollar question? Is Snow ready to do that or is he hanging on to the pipe dream of signing Vanek to a lucrative extension and hoping that the other pieces of the puzzle somehow fall into place on Long Island?

Hopefully Snow is not that naive.

More than likely, Vanek will set sail for another city, whether the Isles want him to stay or not, so why not look for deep-pocketed teams that covet what Vanek brings to the table (and really, who doesn't covet what Vanek brings?)and try to shore up the beleaguered defense and goaltending corps.

If Snow plays his cards right, his Islanders could wind up better off than they were before they gave up Matt Moulson and two draft picks for Vanek in October. Both Moulson and Vanek are free agents in the off-season, so the Islanders could spin Vanek for a true impact defenseman and a prospect or pick, and maybe even take a shot at signing Moulson (who clearly has great chemistry with John Tavares, and could be signed at a much cheaper price than Vanek would) in the off-season.

The Islanders aren't a very good team right now, but another phase of rebuilding might help them get to where they thought they were heading into this season--a formidable playoff team with cup aspirations.

With Vanek and the Minnesota Wild already linked as a potential match, maybe the scoring-challenged Wild would be willing to deal for the former Golden Gopher? Or how about the Phoenix Coyotes, who are stacked on the blue line and also struggle to score? There's plenty of time until the NHL's trade deadline, and the Islanders don't need to rush. But they should be committed to getting something for Vanek before he departs for greener pastures. It's painfully obvious that the Islanders can't afford Vanek with their basement payroll and still continue to improve the depth and talent on their roster, so why should they even entertain the notion of keeping him?

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Brent Burns Comes Home to Hats in His Driveway After Hat-Trick vs. Blues on Friday



Sharks forward Brent Burns is clearly a sparkplug to his San Jose Sharks. The team is 11-0-1 with Burns in the lineup, and San Jose's fans clearly appreciate his rough and tumble brand of high-energy hockey.

Which is why they littered his driveway (huge driveway, btw) with hats after Burns netted three in the Sharks 6-3 takedown of the St. Louis Blues on Friday. It was the former defenseman's first career hat-trick.



Nice work from the home fans...

Vid: Zdeno Chara Nets a Gordie Howe Hat-Trick



Zdeno Chara achieved the holy grail of hockey toughness yesterday, and while his coach probably wasn't too thrilled about losing him for five minutes in the second period with the B's down 2-1, all is well that ends well, and it ended well and Chara rifled the game winner for the Bruins at 11:05 of the third period.

The Bruins now lead the Eastern Conference with 36 points, while the Rangers dropped to 13-13, good for third place in the Metropolitan Division.

Vid: Stephane Robidas Suffers Fractured Leg against Blackhawks (UPDATED)



Dallas Stars' defenseman Stephane Robidas suffered a gruesome leg injury on Friday (see vid above) against the Blackhawks and ended up with a fractured leg.

UPDATE: Stars Announce that Robidas Will Miss 4-6 Weeks with Injury

After getting his right toe stuck while blocking a Jonathan Toews shot Robidas severely twisted the ankle and slid into the boards in agony. Before a stunned, silent crowd he was taken off on a stretcher.

Robidas, 36, has played 704 games for the Stars and is one of the team’s longest-tenured players. He is one of two alternate captains. He also leads the team in hits with 62, is third in average time on ice at 20:14 and fourth in blocked shots with 34.

“It didn’t look good,” said Dallas coach Lindy Ruff. “Robi is a battler, and he’s been playing really hard for us.”

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Lenience on Sens' Cowen is a Major Fail for Shanahan's Player Safety Department



There have been a lot of suspensions and plenty of good work done by Brendan Shanahan and the NHL's Player Safety Department this season, but they dropped the ball on this vicious elbow by Jared Cowen on Detroit Red Wings star Pavel Datsyuk (see the hit above).

The hit, according to Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun, was deemed accidental and not worthy of supplemental discipline by Shanahan and Co. "NHL spokesman John Dellapina said VP of safety Brendan Shanahan had a thorough look at the elbow by Cowen with seven minutes left in the game and deemed that the contact was “accidental” and “inadvertent,” wrote Garrich.

This is where we have to part ways with Shanahan. Whether the hit is accidental or not (and how can you judge intent other than watching as Cowen clearly sticks out his elbow and rams it into Datsyuk's noggin?) it resulted in a major blow to the head of a player who is now out indefinitely. Intent shouldn't matter in this case, because it's a grey area anyway. What should matter is that Cowen viciously elbowed the Wings' star. If he's punished for the play, he and others will eventually learn to be more careful. By not punishing him, the league is saying as long as it is an accident, go crazy with the elbows.

It sends a bad message and it's the wrong call.

Is Last Night's Blowout the Beginning of the End for the Leafs?



The Hockey News' Ken Campbell wondered when the Leafs' poor play would catch up to them in his Monday column, and on the same day Toronto was drubbed 6-0 by the Blue Jackets.

Coincidence?

Campbell doesn't think so. Here are some interesting points from Campbell's column that bring to light the improbability of Toronto's success thus far this season:

"The Leafs are 28th in the league in shots per game, 29th in shots against and 25th in faceoff winning percentage," wrote Campbell. "With numbers like that, it’s a wonder how the Leafs ever even have the puck on their sticks during a game."

But thanks to a stellar goaltending tandem of James Reimer and Jonathan Bernier, the Leafs are winning with regularity, in spite of the numbers. The question: can it continue?

If it does continue, Toronto is hoping it will be the exception rather than the norm. Check out some of the depressing numbers, as cited in Cambell's column:

"To put the Toronto Maple Leafs analytics-defying season into perspective, consider the following: In the past 15 NHL seasons, there has been one team that has finished the season being outshot by a wider average margin than the Maple Leafs and Buffalo Sabres are in 2013-14. Think about that for a moment. If you multiply the number of teams in the NHL by those 15 seasons, you come up with 441 total teams. And just one of them – or just 0.23 percent – was outshot by more than the 9.7 shots per game by which opponents are outshooting the Maple Leafs and the 10.8 by which the Sabres are being outshot this season. The ’01-02 Atlanta Thrashers, who finished dead last in the NHL that season, were outshot by an average of 11.3 shots per game."


Or maybe the Leafs are better than their current analytics suggest, and they will start to trend upwards in the shots on goal and face-offs won departments, making the whole point of this article moot. Analytics can only take us so far. The fact of the matter is that the Leafs are playing well (or at least they were until last night), and they've been doing it all with significant injuries down the middle. When their centermen get healthy, things could--and should--change.

Still, Campbell's theorizing is worth consideration, especially after last night's laugher. Are the Leafs for real? Or are they pretending?

Time will tell. It always does.

Vid: Cam Ward Makes a Sick Paddle Save vs. Ottawa



Cam Ward made a miraculously good stick save against Ottawa's Colin Greening (see vid above) during Sunday's 4-1 Hurricanes victory. It's a real beauty, but we think Reto Berra's bicycle-kick job against the Blue Jackets last Wednesday is still the uncontested NHL save of the year.

What say you?

?

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Grapes Gives Clarke MacArthur Some Love



Don Cherry showed some love for Clarke MacArthur's between-the-legs assist work on this weekend's edition of "Coaches Corner," (video above) saying that the reason he liked the play by the Senators' winger was because it was done in a 0-0 game. If you remember, Cherry was hard on Tomas Hertl after the 19-year-old scored the most famous goal of the year against the Rangers on the back end of a blowout in October.

Here's what Cherry said at the time:

"There’s been a lot said about a lot of things, but let me say something: If the score [had] been 1-1, I would have said 'Hey, what a goal!’ But I want you people out there to think about this: I want you think if Martin Biron was your son or your brother in an 8-2 [game], and everybody's laughing at him.

"I’m going to say something about the kid. He didn’t think he did anything wrong. He played in the Czech Republic last year. This is what they do. You can see him laughing at it. He didn't understand. And kids, you don't do that."

In reference to MacArthur's dazzling assist, Cherry had the following to say:

"Look at the score, look at the score, look at the score--1-0. And you said 'Well you praise him and you didn't do it with Hertl.' It was 8-0. What a play that was."

How Good Are the Minnesota Wild?



The Minnesota Wild have gone 8-1-1 in their last ten games, have the NHL's 5th best power play, and give up a stingy 2.17 goals against per game. But despite their impressive 15-5-4 record just past the quarter mark of the season, the Wild find themselves battling for their playoff lives already, as they hold a slim lead over Phoenix for the top wildcard spot, and are currently in fourth place in the Central Division.

The Wild's legitimacy will be further contested in the upcoming nine games. With red-hot goalie Josh Harding out with a lower body injury, the Wild will enter a brutal segment of their schedule with lots to prove.

According to Wild beat writer Mike Russo, the Wild will be up against the best of the west for the better part of the next month:

"Beginning Monday in St. Louis, nine of the Wild’s next 11 games come against the top five teams in the Western Conference and the current eighth-place team – in order, Anaheim, Chicago, St. Louis, San Jose, Colorado and Phoenix. Those six teams are a combined 95-26-14 (.756).

Of those teams, the Wild has only played Anaheim and Chicago this season, going a combined 1-1-1.

So by mid-December, we’ll all get a really good sense of the Wild."

Should be interesting. The Wild have been solid all season, but if Harding and their power play come back to earth, they could be in a bit of trouble here. They'll begin their grueling stretch on Monday at St. Louis against the 16-3-3 Blues.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Three-on-Three Hockey Gets a Shot in L.A.



Moments before Jaromir Jagr scored this milestone game winner in overtime against the L.A. Kings, the Devils and Kings played two minutes of three-on-three hockey on Thursday, with both teams taking advantage of the wide open ice to generate some golden opportunities.

NHL GM's who have now put 3-on-3 overtime on the table as per their meetings a few weeks ago in Toronto, will likely be looking at this two-minute sampler to try and get a feel for whether or not the hockey is legitimate enough to be put on display. Here's what Devils' beat writer Tom Gulitti wrote about the experience last night:

The simultaneous minors to Jagr and Brown resulted in the teams skating 3-on-3 for two minutes in overtime. The NHL general managers discussed at their meeting last week in Toronto possibly adding some 3-on-3 time at the end of OT after the five minutes of 4-on-4 as a potential way of cutting down on the number of shootouts.

The end-to-end action and five total shots on goal – three for the Kings and two for the Devils (plus an Eric Gelinas’ redirection that went wide) – during the 3-on-3 might generate more supporters for the idea.

“It was different for sure,” Devils goaltender Cory Schneider said. “I think guys were kind of looking at each other off the draw and saying, ‘What do we do now?’ As a goalie, it’s probably not going to help our goals-against or our win-loss total because there’s probably going to be plenty of chances, but I’m sure all the GMs are going to watch that tape and see how exciting it was and how the crowd was into it and try to push it forward. So, we’ll see.”

There seems to be mixed feelings about whether or not a three-on-three element (if the four-on-four overtime does not decide the outcome of an overtime game) would be the right approach. One thing is for certain: Too many shootouts deciding NHL games is not being interpreted as a good thing right now. There have already been 52 shootouts in 335 games this season, meaning more than 15 percent of games are being decided by them.

Red Wings GM Ken Holland has come out strongly in favor of it, as have others, such as Bruins' Milan Lucic.

Jaromir Jagr Ties Mario Lemieux and Gordie Howe with One Goal in L.A.

Jaromir Jagr had a big night in L.A.

Okay, that's a massive understatement.

The 41-year-old tied Mario Lemieux for 9th on the NHL's all-time scoring list with his 690th goal in the Devils' 2-1 overtime win against the Los Angeles Kings last night. (Horrible awareness by Dustin Brown on the play, as he turns the wrong way and lets Jagr back in unmolested, but we'll let Darryl Sutter handle that and instead get back to the glory of No. 68) The goal also ties Jagr with Gordie Howe for the top spot on the NHL's all-time game-winning goal list with 121. Earlier this year, Jagr had reportedly already achieved that milestone, but a statistical error in the Bruins' and Devils' media guides was later cleared up.

And if that wasn't enough milestones for Jagr, the goal also pads Jagr's lead at the top of the NHL's all-time regular season overtime goals list. Jagr now has 18 of those, three more than Patrick Elias, Sergei Federov and Mats Sundin.

According to Tom Gulitti, Devils' beat writer, Jagr was so excited to tie Lemieux he almost forgot about tying Howe for the game-winning goals record. He went on to heap some high praise on his former teammate, which we'll quote below:

“I didn’t really have a chance to see Wayne (Gretzky) when he was doing the 200-point season in Edmonton,” said Jagr, whose goal was also his team-leading ninth of the season. “When I came in the league, I was playing with Mario, so he was the guy I was looking up to. I know Wayne got all the records, but, to me, I had a better chance to look for Mario. I could see him every day in practice the way he plays. He was a huge influence on the game I play. I learned so many things from him.

“There’s not many people who get to play with the best player in the world, so I’m going to tell all the young kids when you have a chance to come in the league and you play with the best player in the world, watch him because you can learn a lot. I was pretty lucky to see him at his best.

“I tied him, but he played (497) less games than me,” Jagr said. “This is just a number. He didn’t play many games. If he would play as many games as I did, he would have 2,500 points and probably 900 goals.”

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Three Most Amazing Plays You'll Ever See During One Night of Hockey

Wanna get your mind blown, hockey fans? Then check out last night's top three plays.

First was this ridiculous seeing-eye through-the-legs feed by Ottawa's Clarke MacArthur:

It's one thing to go between the legs, but check out the perfect placement of this pass, absolutely divine.



But honestly, that ridiculous pass had to take a back seat to what Calgary's Reto Berra did against the Blue Jackets last night. A bicycle save? Are you kidding me? Seriously, this is the save of the century, no, the save of the millenium. The commentator subtly states: "You won't see that everyday." Translated, it means: "I've just seen god and he is wearing a waffle!"

Seriously. Best. Save. Ever. Pele has nothing on Reto Berra.



And last but not least we have the Pittsburgh Penguins taking tic-tac-toe to a brand new level, somewhere out there where ping-pong meets skydiving with a blow torch. Is this not the prettiest set of one-touch passes finished off by the coolest one-timer that you've seen in, say, the last 47,000 years? Am I getting carried away? Can you blame me? How do you not freak out when three plays like this happen on the same night in the NHL?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Vid: Isles' Tavares Gets Crunched into Linesman by Leafs' Nikolai Kulemin



The New York Islanders have lost five straight road games, all in regulation, and if that isn't an indication that things are going really bad for the Isles, then have a look at this big check by Leaf' winger Nikolai Kulemin on New York's star center John Tavares.

Tavares, who had his assist and points streak snapped at five games in the loss, is usually a strong skater who is pretty tough to bowl over.

But much like his anemic Islanders, the Missisagua, Ontario nativa was ripe for picking on Tuesday at the Air Canada Center in Toronto. This play starts innocently but ends up as one of the biggest hits we've seen all year. Hilarious watching the linesman pull up in center ice and try to jump over the boards only to find that he was far, far too late...

The Islanders have been outscored 21-8 in their last five road games, and they've been outscored 17-4 in the third period of their last 12 games.

The good news? Tavares is okay. Oh, and Thomas Vanek should make his return to the lineup, either when New York plays the Pens on Friday or the Flyers on Saturday.

Costello: "Two Minutes for Bullying Isn't Enough"



TSP came across this column written by THN's Brian Costello today, and we couldn't help posting on it because it is the most logical, constructive piece we've seen on fighting in the NHL this season.

With Ray Emery's snow job on Braden Holtby bringing fighting and bullying into the consciousness of the common hockey fan this season, everybody has been talking about whether or not fighting is good for the game or bad for the game. What is a good fight? What is a bad fight?

In his column, Costello states that scripted fights between voluntary assailants is not nearly as bad as what Andrew Ference did to Lee Stempniak on Saturday night in Calgary (see video above). We'll let Costello take it from here:

My pet peeve of the season is about the league being too tolerant with bullies. Bullies in this case being players who start fights with opponents who have no interest in dropping the gloves.

A recent example happened Saturday night when the Edmonton Oilers visited the Calgary Flames.

Closing in on a loose puck in the corner, Calgary’s Lee Stempniak decked Edmonton defenseman Andrew Ference to the ice with a 100 percent clean shoulder-to-shoulder check.

Ference was clearly disturbed that he was outmuscled in his own end by an opponent in his same weight class (5-foot-11, 190-ish pounds). He skated over to Stempniak, tried to engage a fight, then dropped his gloves and started punching. Stempniak had no interest in fighting and was held back from trying to return to the play. After taking a few punches to the face, Stempniak fell to the ice and emerged with a bloody chops and spitting out a displaced tooth.

Nice work Ference. Very classy. Bet you feel great about yourself for doing that. Whatever happened to the age-old notion of getting the guy’s numbers and returning the favor with a clean hit the next battle for a loose puck? I guess it’s easier being a bully.

The two players got five minutes each for fighting and Ference got an extra two for roughing. In my mind, that’s not enough. I’d implore the league to investigate bullying cases such as these and issue supplementary discipline. Thuggery like that shouldn’t be permitted. Say what you want about the dancing bears out on the ice and their scripted fights, but at least they both willing participants.

Punching an opponent simply because he got the better of you on a hockey play should not be tolerated. An extra two minutes is not nearly enough. It’s far more damaging to the game than scripted fights.


Costello's argument struck me as the most sensible, compassionate take on the NHL's true problem with fighting. The fact is that some players are interested in playing the game the proper way. Clean hits, crisp passes, hard skating, so on and so forth. They don't want to fight, and haven't developed the techniques to protect themselves out there on the ice. Should they really be hassled into a fight when all they want to do is join the rush, gather up the puck and help their teams win? And should the NHL really continue to discourage truly talented (and yes, tough) hockey players by allowing bullies to take offense and punch their faces in whenever they make a clean hit or good play on them?

I mean really, why not just grab Martin St. Louis after he scores a goal and punch a hole in his throat, a-la Dale Hunter on Pierre Turgeon? If Ference is allowed to punch Stempniak in the face every which way just because he got lit up by him along the boards, where do we draw the line?

There is too much of this dog doo in hockey at every level, and the true playmaking and creativity suffers at the expense of lugheads who choose fisticuffs as their only mode of competition (in Ference's case he has other modes, but you get our drift). The NHL is stifled, with leaden-skating, swollen-knuckled fourth lines and minor leagues full of inherently violent yahoos, and yet the culture of hockey is that it's all good because everybody wants to see blood on the ice when they pay for a ticket?

Hockey is pathetic for thinking that it needs this junk in the game. I'm sorry but it really is.

This is just one example of about fifty that we will see between now and Christmas, by the way. It's not just Ray Emery, or Andrew Ference. It happens every night on every sheet of ice, from the NHL to mites.

It would be so easy to stop if the boys at the top just had the courage. And it would be so good for the quality of the game, from top to bottom.

Anyhow, we'll get off our soapbox now. Just wanted to give a sticktap to Costello for a job well done.

Wilds' Ryan Suter Getting Major Minutes and Loving it.



Could Minnesota's Ryan Suter be the first NHL defenseman to average over 30 minutes a game since Chris Pronger did it in the 1999-2000 season? He has a chance.

Though the odds are against logging in 30 a game when the season's done, the fact that he's nearly on pace to do so after 22 games is quite remarkable. It's also a testament to the efficiency of the 9th-year blueliner, who knows when to turn it up and when to dial it down during games.

According to NHL.com, Suter was averaging 29:36 per game, which led the NHL by more than two minutes heading into last night's blowout loss to Montreal. Even more remarkable, Suter played over 35 minutes in three consecutive games from Nov. 7 to Nov. 13, amounting to 108:19, the most ever in a three game stretch since the NHL began recording the stat in 2000 (according to Elias Sports).

How is he doing it?

He stays within himself. "Maybe instead of jumping up and making plays, you just sit back a bit and rest up," Suter told NHL.com. "Then that following shift, you can get back out there and create again."

It might seem run-of-the-mill to Suter, but his teammates tend to be blown away. "In Washington [Nov. 7], we were on a power play and I changed and he was still on the ice," Wild forward Jason Pominville said. "For a little while, I was on the bench and turned and saw him skating the puck up the ice and I was like, 'Oh my God, Sutes is still out there?' It's unreal.'"

Even Suter's head coach, Mike Yeo, is amazed. "You look at the box score through two [periods], he's already at 20 minutes, which is a lot. Then he plays another 15 or 16 minutes in the third period and in overtime. It's mind-boggling," Yeo said. "When you look at it after the game, and you see how well he was still playing at the end, that's what's most amazing."

Last night Suter logged 26:56 in 30 shifts against the Habs, coming in as a minus-3.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Blues' Chris Stewart Still Mad About Getting "Ratted Out" for Vegas Trip



After a fight-filled game against his old team the Colorado Avalanche, Blues' winger Chris Stewart says he doesn't mind that Avs' goalie J.S. Giguere called him gutless for fighting Corey Sarich and for pouring salt on Sarich's wounds by celebrating wildly after the fight had ended (see fight below).



Of Giguere's comments, his former teammate said the following, according to this piece by Blues' beat writer Dan O'Neill in the St. Louis Post Dispatch:

“Yeah, he says it's gutless, and this is the same guy who ratted on his team about a Vegas trip. So I don't really care about his opinion, to be honest."


The whole incident was nothing personal, Stewart said:

“I mean, he's a veteran in this league and I have the utmost respect for him, by far. It was nothing personal against him in the aftermath. It's just emotions got the better of me and that was it. We handled it. It's nothing I had planned, that's for sure,” he said. “But when you see the fans and they're all fired up after that happens, you can't really explain that feeling inside. It's not something I'm going to do every time, but it just happened.”


The take-away: The Blues next meeting with the Avs (Nov. 27th in Colorado) ought to be a real hum-dinger, and J.S. Giguere really ought to learn that what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.

Ovechkin Nets Two Against Blues, Ties Steen for NHL Lead



Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals are red hot. And when that happens, there isn't much that opposing goalies can do about it.

Read more about the game here

Great 8 netted his 16th and 17th of the season on Sunday night, tying Alexander Steen for the NHL lead. “For me, it means a lot,” Ovechkin said of winning tonight's battle with Steen, who saw his point streak snapped at 13 games. “It’s always nice to score big goals in big game but it was a very good team effort today, especially first period when we jump on them.”

Here's both Ovechkin goals (Most people are raving about that slapper, but how about the second one? What a tasty backhand chip--total goal-scorer's goal)



The Capitals came away with the 4-1 victory, but Steen is still the NHL's point leader with 26. Ovechkin, who is a minus-7 on the year, has 24.

Vid: Mikhail Grabovski Bats a Rebound Home from Mid-Air



Just a gorgeous finish from Mikhail Grabovski, who swats this big, flying rebound of a Jason Chimera wrister out of mid-air to give the Caps a 3-0 lead over St. Louis in Sunday night.

Nice work by Grabovski to get inside position on Blues' defenseman Jay Bouwmeester and keep his stick free to make the play. The goal was part of a three-goal period from Washington, and it marked the first time the Blues had allowed three goals in a single period in 43 games. In other words, Washington opened things up against a very solid defensive team on Sunday.

There was more good news for Washington, as they leapfrogged Pittsburgh to move into the Metropolitan Division lead. The Capitals, 12-8-1, will host the 12-8-0 Penguins on Wednesday.

The Caps went on to win in impressive fashion over St. Louis, thanks in part to Alex Ovechkin's two goals, which tied him with Alex Steen for the league lead.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Vid: Tanner Glass Leaves Eric Nystrom Feeling Woozy After Fight



Fighting in the NHL: Fans love it, players love it, player's brains decidedly against it.

Vid: Huge Hit by Jordan Nolan on Peter Harrold



One word describes this bone-jarring hit by Jordan Nolan on Devils' defenseman Peter Harrold during last night's 2-0 Kings' victory. OUCH!

One thing to note about the collision is how easy it would have been for Nolan to inadvertently connect with Harrold's head (if the defenseman had ducked at the last instant) on the play. He's cruising in there, looking to make something happen, and he's vulnerable to any last-second decisions that Harrold may or not make on the play. In today's NHL, the perfect hit is about one centimetre (or so) away from being a five-game suspension.

It is a perfect example of how difficult it is becoming to be highly physical with all the rules in place to protect the players, and should serve as a reminder that every player that makes contact with an opponent's head is not a villain.

Christian Ehrhoff Saves a Goal Then Scores One for Sabres



It is a dream come true for any defensemen from mites on up: Saving a goal with the goalie out of the play, then turning around and netting an empty netter to seal a victory. That is what happened at the first Niagara Center in Buffalo last night, as the Sabres and Christian Ehrhoff ushered in the second Ted Nolan era with an inspired effort to take out the Leafs, 3-1.

“Nice finally to make a save for Millsie,” Ehrhoff said after the game. “He’s got so many saves for us. That’s just a lot of desperation at the end.”

“Christian Ehrhoff had the play of the game and saved our butts and then he put it away,” Sabres goalie Ryan Miller said.

What did the emotional victory for Ted Nolan feel like? “You know what?” Nolan said. “I can’t even put it into words.”

Buffalo will face the Leafs at the Air Canada Centre in the second leg of their home-and-home this evening.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Iginla: Fighting Helps Hold Players Accountable



Jarome Iginla has penned yet another pro-fighting piece in SI.com today, saying that the barbaric act of bare knuckle fighting helps hold players accountable for all the stuff that goes on in games that the referees can't see.

Here's some excerpts:

"Fighting helps hold players accountable for their actions on the ice, even more so than penalties. If it was taken out of the game, I believe there would be more illegal stickwork, most of it done out of sight of the referees; more slashes to the ankles or wrists, and in between pads; and more cross checks to the tailbone. Incidents of players taking such liberties are rare in today's game because fighting gives us the ability to hold each other accountable. If you play dirty, you're going to have to answer for it."


In other words, according to Iginla, the inmates need to run the asylum, or else there would be no justice in the NHL. Is he right? All you have to do is look at Olympic hockey, International junior hockey or NCAA hockey, and form your own opinions. All three leagues are much cleaner and played with a higher degree of mutual respect between opponents, than the NHL. Whether or not fighting has a place in the game is certainly up for debate, but arguing that it really is the primary mode of player accountability (a point also argued by Brian Burke a few weeks ago in the piece he penned for USA Today) is somewhat ludicrous.

Players can drop the gloves all they want, but it is up to the NHL, its refs, and the framework of the rulebook to determine how the game is played. That is the way it works in the NFL, an equally voilent sport that doesn't seem to need fighting to police cheap shots.

Another excerpt from Iginla states that their is a purpose behind every NHL fight:

"There is a purpose behind almost every fight. I have fought -- and my teammates have, too -- to stick up for myself or to stand up for a teammate who had been the victim of dirty play. And I do acknowledge that fighting can provide an emotional lift for a team. A player who drops his gloves and puts himself in harm's way on behalf of his teammates is selfless and courageous. And those are qualities that all hockey players respect."

It may be true, but there is also a purpose behind every cheap shot in the NHL -- and that doesn't necessarily make them right, or courageous. Take Ray Emery's beatdown of Braden Holtby a few weeks ago. The purpose was intimidation and to provide his team with an emotional lift. Apparently it has worked for the Flyers, who seen to have gained traction after that game, but is it worth it given that the cost could be brain damage for a player who was goaded into a fight he clearly did not wish to participate in?

Take a look at the photo of Iginla throwing down with Radko Gudas at the top of the page--what is Iginla's purpose on that play?

Iginla can argue all he wants that fighting helps hold players accountable for their actions, but if the players doing the cheap shots actually enjoy the fights that come with it, how is a fight going to deter them from head-hunting the next guy?

Actually some of the commenters on the SI article made more sense that Iginla (and I'll admit, share TSP's views on the matter) so we'll print a few here:

rkcla08

could si please find a more stupid article for its front page? the problem is hockey thinks it's special, somehow more intense and physical. bull. the game doesn't need fighting, but it does need more immediate ejections instead of the refs standing there comically watching "the intensity."


likedoohan

The bottom line is the sport is trying to eliminate blows to the head. This is not compatible with allowing people to deliver blows to the head with fists. Asserting that allowing blows to the head from fists is the only way to avoid blows from elbows is absurd. Officiating is able to control all other sports, the NHL simply refuses to make the commitment to do so. This is because the owners fear losing a portion of their core fans who want fighting.
And the debate lingers on...

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Wild's Toughness in Question Due to Kadri's Hits. Should it Be?



Wild blogger Michael Russo raises the question: Were the Wild soft last night in their tepid response to Nazem Kadri's goonery (see above)? Here's what he had to say on the matter:

Some fans were tweeting me incessantly that the Wild are “soft.” The reality is, this is the first time all season a team came in intent on trying to push the Wild around, and the end result?

The Wild completely outplayed that team and ended up taking two points. At the end of the day, this alleged soft team has gotten points in 10 of the last 11 games and the last six. So this is not as big a deal yet as I think these fans are making it out to be.


Predictably, the fans want blood. But credit to the Wild for wanting the two points, and for getting them. Here's what head coach Mike Yeo had to say:

“Do we match up against that team's toughness? No, we don’t. If we want to start trading off, we go after Kadri, next thing you know, what are they going to go after? They’re going to go after our guys too and again we don’t match up in that toughness department against them. Now we do have a team that cares about each other very much, and we stick up for each other, trust me. You saw Brodzy (Kyle Brodziak) getting in there for Nino and you saw guys competing and battling and trying to have that team toughness. Between the whistles and the way we fought through this game and found a way to win, that’s a message too to your teammates.”


Hey, maybe one less enforcer in Minnesota's dressing room and one more skill player made the difference tonight. As long as the NHL is going to take care of business when it comes to Kadri's cheap shot on their goalie, they can eschew the eye for an eye mentality and get down to putting the biscuit in the basket.

Is there anything wrong with that?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Vids: Nazem Kadri Goes Headhunting Twice against Wild



At TSP we are always siding with the goalies whenever they get run by crease-crashing forwards. Why? Because goalies wear 25 pounds of mobility-limiting equipment and a vision-limiting helmet, and the rules explicitly state that players are required to avoid collisions with them at all costs. They are for all intents and purposes defenseless and they need to be protected.

That's why we give two thumbs down to the nasty goonery of Toronto Maple Leafs center Nazem Kadri who glides through the goal crease and throws a forearm shiver into a Wild golie Niklas Backstrom, when Backstrom isn't even looking at him.

Why is Kadri, a skill player, acting like he's Tie Domi? Your guess is as good as ours.

Kadri got a two-minute minor for the play, and Backstrom left the game with an "upper body" injury two minutes later.

Kadri must have woke up on the wrong side of the bed on Wednesday (or had a pep talk from Domi), because he was given a match penalty for this hit on Mikael Granlund.

Granlund stayed in the game, while Kadri was booed mercilessly as he was ushered off the ice. The 23-year-old will likely be suspended for the second hit, but will the league add to his punishment for the cheap shot on Backstrom?

It actually looks like Kadri had the best intentions on the second hit on Granlund. He didn't seem to want to go for the head, but with Granlund hunching down over the puck it was hard for Kadri to get anything else. You can't fault him for wanting to play some hard-nosed hockey, but Kadri might want to rethink his targets a bit. He went after two virtually two defenseless players tonight, and the league doesn't take kindly to that sort of thing.

The Wild won the game 2-1 in a shootout, thanks to Zach Parise's late equalizer and game winner in the skills competition.

Milan Hejduk Tells Czech Newpaper He's Retired



Milan Hejduk tells the Czech newspaper Blesk that he is for all intents and purposes retired. The former 50-goal scorer, Stanley Cup winner and fourth-leading all-time scorer for the Colorado Avalanche/ Quebec Nordiques franchise, told Blesk that he wanted to hang it up officially after the 2012-2013 season, but his agent encouraged him to test the market.
"I wanted to quit after the end of last season," he said. "But my agent told me not to be crazy, that maybe some interesting offer would show up. But I realized I did not want to move somewhere else."
Hejduk scored 23 points in 23 games during the 2001 Stanley Cup playoffs, helping the Avalanche to win it all. He spent all of his 14 NHL seasons with the Avs, scoring 375 goals and 805 points. Avs beat writer Adrian Dater says the Hejduk, now 37, deserves a spot in the rafters at the Pepsi Center:
I’m sure the Avs will, at the least, hold a special night for him at some point. Will he get his No. 23 retired? I don’t know for sure, but I would bet he will. And I think he would deserve that. He scored 375 goals and 805 points in 1,020 games, all with the Avs. He scored 20 or more goals in 11 straight seasons. He led the NHL in goals one season (2002-03, with 50) and won a Stanley Cup. He deserves to be in the Avs’ raftered pantheon.
Hejduk still lives in Denver, coaches his two sons in youth hockey, and is looking forward to having a nice ski season this winter.
"In normal life my knees are fine," he said. "That is the other reason why I quit. I did not want to ruin my health. In the recent years I have taken painkillers all the time, which was not ideal. There is life after hockey too. For example, I want to do some skiing. The (skiing) season here is starting just now."





Monday, November 11, 2013

Stamkos Suffers Serious Injury in Boston (Updated)



Just a terrible and scary moment on Monday, as Steven Stamkos crashes into the Bruins' net and suffers what appears to be a very serious leg injury (see video above). Stamkos leads the league in goals with 14 and is one of the NHL's most explosive and entertaining players.

The 23-year-old Markham, Ontario native was taken off the ice on a stretcher and sent to a local hospital for X-rays.

News of Stamkos' broken tibia was released by NHL.com earlier this evening:

Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos will require surgery to repair a broken tibia suffered in Monday's 3-0 loss against the Boston Bruins and is out indefinitely.

"At this point Steven will be out indefinitely," general manager Steve Yzerman said in a statement released by the team. "The medical staff in Boston, in consultation with our team physicians, has made the decision to surgically repair the injury. The procedure is expected to take place tomorrow morning. The biggest concern for me, and the rest of the Lightning, is that decisions are made in Steven's best long-term interest, and we feel this is the appropriate course of action."


Thursday, November 7, 2013

Joe Thornton's Wrap-Around Bounces off Luongo's Back into Net



If you wanted proof that Joe Thornton has some of the softest hands in the NHL, just watch how Jumboe Joe feathers this dump in along the wall, off a the kick plate on the end boards, and off of a very surprised Roberto Luongo and into the net.

Talk about a puck with eyes...

Thornton, no doubt, will say he planned it down to the last, strange bounce. The goal gave the Sharks a 1-0 lead in the first, but since then the Canucks have responded and 4-2 with less than ten minutes left in the third.

Vid: Bollig Sends Pardy Through Glass, Fan Steals Helmet



Let me guess... you thought you'd seen everything. Well, you're wrong, hockey fans. Check out this crazy play at the United Center in Chicago, as Brandon Bollig throws a nice body check on Jets' defenseman Adam Pardy, sending him through the glass (don't try this at home). Things get even weirder at the Madhouse on Madison, as a fan proceeds to steal Pardy's helmet and then another fan, dutifully might I add, douses him with a cold one.

This, my fellow hockey fans, is as old-time hockey as it gets.

Chicago used that home ice advantage to defeat Winnipeg 4-1 on Wednesday.

Johnny Boychuk Lays the Hit of the Year on Erik Cole, Then Fights



There are top shelf goals and we all know what they are, but we don't really hear anybody talking about top shelf hits--you know, were grandma keeps the peanut butter (or whiskey, depending upon your version of the story)--until now.

But the havoc that Bruins' Defenseman Johnny Boychuk wreaks on two members of the Dallas Stars on this play is certainly worthy of the top shelf moniker. Watch as Boychuk flattens Erik Cole with a clean hit then gets up and smothers Vernon Fiddler after the Stars' center makes the ill-advised decision to come get a piece of Boychuk.

This is the wham-bam play of the year in the NHL. It simply has to be.

An aside: Why does someone always have to go over and fight the guy who makes a perfectly clean, perfectly awesome hit like Boychuk's? I think it's B.S. and is a weak way to deal with one of your teammates getting plowed. Bide your time, and when your chance comes, make a clean hit back. Keep you hands in your gloves and deal with the fact that your teammate got tattooed. It's part of the game.

What do you think?

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Grandy Man Scores Goal Between Periods in Chicago



He doesn't have the best wrister, but you have to hand it to Curtis Granderson for scoring a big goal in Chicago on Sunday. Now a free agent, Granderson is one of the few Yankees that is willing to show his face in public after that atrocious season the Bronx Bombers had in New York.

Note: Granderson went 1 for 5. That's .200. Since when does that earn you a free round-trip on United airlines?

Another Note: Grandy Man, you are a slugger, shoot the puck like you mean it, kid!

Oh, by the way, the Blackhawks fell to the Flames in overtime thanks to a Kris Russell goal at 1:32 of the extra session, 3-2.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Leafs' Center Dave Bolland Suffers Leg Laceration



The Toronto Maple Leafs lost more than a 4-0 decision in Vancouver on Saturday night. Dave Bolland, an off-season acquisition from cup-winning Chicago and one of their best players this season, suffered a laceration to his left leg after some mucking in the corner with Vancouver's Zach Kassian, and was to undergo immediate surgery. (See video above and watch the right side of your screen to see Bolland come up lame on the play).

From the Globe and Mail:
"Toronto Maple Leafs centre Dave Bolland was rolled out of Rogers Arena on a stretcher after Saturday’s 4-0 loss to the Vancouver Canucks, just after coach Randy Carlyle told reporters about the planned surgery.

Carlyle, who had just been briefed by medical staff, said the cut was similar to the gruesome Achilles injury suffered by Erik Karlsson last year, but added that he didn’t have a sense of the severity."


Bolland had six goals and four assists and was a plus-4 for the Leafs in 15 games. He joins Tyler Bozak on the injured list, which leaves Toronto two centers short. Bozak is not expected back for a few weeks.

Vid: Isles' Tavares Bunts One Home Against the Bruins



Thomas Vanek is finding that points come a lot easier when you have John Tavares on his line. The Islanders new winger notched a helper on this goal, but Tavares did all the work. Watch as Tavares stealthily sneaks out from the side of the net to bunt the flying puck into the twine. Great concentration, great hands, great goal.

The Islanders defeated the Bruins 3-1, and Thomas Vanek scored his first as an Islander--a rocket of a one-timer off a feed from Kyle Okposo--which you can see below. (Vanek has a goal and two assists and is a plus-3 after three games with the Islanders.)

Friday, November 1, 2013

Vid: Dallas' Kari Lehtonen Makes Ridiculous Save against Avs



Kari Lehtonen might have made the acrobatic save of the NHL season (though Antti Niemi might have a thing to say about that) on Friday night in Dallas as he stonewalled Avs' John Mitchell with this Matrix-like pad save.

The play starts when Lehtonen can't corral a rebound on the right side of the cage, and the Avs eventually work the puck behind the net where Mitchell is waiting for what looks like a wide open net. But lehtonen, who apparently has eyes in the back of his head, or can smell puck even when he can't see it, somehow slides over to cover the goal before Mitchell's attempt finds twine.

At first it looks like Lehtonen is going to get it with the catching glove but the puck eludes it and that is when the pad swings around to save the day.

Remarkable save, to say the least, but is it better than the highway robbery Antti Niemi pulled on Todd Bertuzzi in a shootout in Detroit on October 21? You be the judge...

October Highlights, Lowlights in the NHL

There was lots to get excited about in October in the NHL.

One month of NHL hockey is in the books, which means its time to take stock of what has occurred on NHL ice thus far. What have we learned? Who has surprised us, disappointed us? And who is looking like the lead horse in the race to win the Stanley Cup? We'll ponder all this in more in Highlights and Lowlights...

Highlight: Patrick Roy and the Colorado Avalanche

It all started with this:



It may seem like a bit of silliness or posturing to the casual observer, but the intensity that Roy showed here in his NHL coaching debut has rubbed off on his team.

The Avs, who seem as if they would jump on grenades if Roy asked them to (Roy would likely jump on grenades to get his team to win so the feeling is mutual), are 10-1 and 5-0 on the road, and they've allowed 16 goals in those eleven games. In their biggest win of the season, a nationally televised 1-0 victory over the Penguins in Pittsburgh on October 21st, they proved just how far they will go to keep rubber out of their net. They blocked 22 shots and got great goaltending, a recipe that's worked well for them all season.

Lowlight: The Metropolitan Division

The name is bad enough. Don't you miss the days of the Patrick Division and the Adams Division in the old Prince of Wales Conference? But the play of the teams in the newly formed Metro Division has been even worse. Of the eight teams in the Division, only one (Pittsburgh) is over .500. They are 10-22-6 vs. the Western conference, and it's hard to imagine that winning percentage improving much as the season progresses. The good news? The division's second and third place spots will be up for grabs all year.

Highlight: Alexander Steen

The 29-year-old Winnipeg native is off to a fast start with 11 goals in ten games. He is the NHL's leading scorer and he has already notched two game-winning goals in the final minute of games, helping the Blues notch 16 of a possible 20 points in October.

Lowlight: Garth Snow

Credit the Isles GM for wanting to make a splash in the trade market, but shame on him for giving up two picks and their second-best player for Thomas Vanek, who very likely will end up signing somewhere else in the off-season. With the Islanders desperately in need of defensive help and goaltending, this was the wrong time for Snow to abandon what up until now has been a very successful rebuild on Long Island.

Highlight: The Western Conference

Has the Western Conference ever been this stacked? Besides Edmonton, which is talented but just too green, every other team is a bona fide playoff contender and many (San Jose, L.A., Anaheim, Colorado, Chicago, St. Louis) could be considered elite.

Lowlight: Hits to the Head, cheap shots, and the like

The NHL's Department of Player Safety has already handed out ten suspensions in the first month of play. Not all of them were cheap and malicious though. Many times aggressive players were caught by surprise when puck carriers ducked or turned away from their hits. Cody McLeod's hit on Niklas Kronwall, and Maxim Lapierre's hit on Dan Boyle could fit into this category.


That said, the NHL has done a good job of mediating discipline and letting people know that when a puck carrier is in a vulnerable position, that is time for the checker to pull back and "finish easy." It doesn't come natural to a lot of players, but maybe after sitting out and being docked significant pay for infractions, it will start to sink in.

Highlight: Tomas Hertl

Hertl scored the most ridiculous goal of the 2013-2014 season and we think it's going to be difficult for anybody to top it. He also leads all rookies in goals, with eight, and is a plus-8 in 13 games with San Jose.



Vancouver Canucks Ink Sedin Twins for Four More Years



The Vancouver Canucks have inked the Sedin twins through the 2017-2018 season, the club announced in a press conference today.

Reportedly worth $28 million, or $7 million a year, the club has all but ensured that they will have the services of the 33-year-old twins for the remainder of their careers. “As an organization we’re absolutely thrilled to say that we have them on board for the forseeable future,” said Canucks GM Mike Gillis. “They are pillars of our hockey team.”

The twins, who have a combined 482 goals and 1091 assists for 1583 points with Vancouver since 2000, were pretty thrilled to make the deal, citing their ties with the community as one of the major reasons that they took a hometown discount(rumors had them commanding five-year, $40 million deals on the open market if they became free agents at the end of the season).

"People that know us know that money is a small part of the negotiating thing," Henrik Sedin told reporters at a news conference in Vancouver. "We love it here. Our families love it here. ... If you go to become UFA, you may get more money somewhere else, but that was never part of the negotiation."

“I think you all know how we love Vancouver,” added Daniel. “This organization has always treated us with a lot of respect.”

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Burke: Fighting Regulates the Level of Violence in Hockey



Calgary Flames' president of hockey operations Brian Burke penned a piece for USA Today in favor of fighting of the NHL, and in it the well known hockey executive says that he loves and respects the game, and its unique stance on fighting.

"Reduced to its simplest truth," Burke writes, "fighting is one of the mechanisms that regulates the level of violence in our game. Players who break the rules are held accountable by other players. The instigator rule has reduced accountability. Eliminating fighting would render it extinct."

Burke seems to cling to the notion that fighting protects non-violent players who, if not policed by their teams' enforcers, would be threatened on a consistent basis by hockey goonery. He mentions that the most violent plays that have occurred in the NHL this season are scary bodychecks and hits from behind, and he believes that without fighting as a deterrent, there'd be more of those scary hits.

Here's an excerpt from the piece:
"It's hard to quantify where our game would be without fighting. It's easy to be repelled by a scary injury such as George Parros'. But I thought the hits on Danny Boyle and Niklas Kronwall were much more dangerous, as was the hit on Max Talbot (which I believe was legal). These are examples of times when fighting did not act as a deterrent. In fact, we can all recite a list of players who clearly operate outside of a system of honor. But today, these are the exceptions. Horrific injuries, stars being mugged, rats who run around hitting people from behind — these stand out to us because they don't happen with regularity. It's fighting that keeps these incidents to a minimum.

Horrific injuries, stars being mugged, rats who run around hitting people from behind — these stand out to us because they don't happen with regularity. It's fighting that keeps these incidents to a minimum."


Is Burke right? Is a player like Maxim Lapierre, who got five games for sending Dan Boyle to the hospital earlier this season, really going to temper his enthusiasm for tattooing the opposition in the boards simply because he may have to deal with an enforcer in the hits' aftermath?

That's a shoddy argument at best. Big, tough NHL players don't shy away from fights--they love them--so why would fighting deter them from dirty play against the opponent's skill players.

There are other, more sensible arguments to make, but I'm not so sure about Burke's assertion that fighting protects the players. Would the NHL be an even more violent game without fighting? That certainly isn't the case in Olympic hockey, so why should it be in the NHL?

Should the inmates really be running the asylum and policing themselves on the ice? According to statistics, fights are down this season, but serious injuries from high-speed collisions are on the rise. Is there really any connection between the two?

Avs Trade for Ex-Cup Winner Talbot



The Colorado Avalanche have traded winger Steve Downie to the Philadelphia Flyers for veteran center Maxime Talbot.

Downie, a 26-year-old Ontario native, was originally drafted by the Flyers. He was traded to Tampa Bay in 2009. He is a two-time 20-goal scorer.

Talbot, 29, has 77 career goals and was a pivotal leader on the Penguins Stanley Cup-winning team of 2009.

"Talbot has won a Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh," Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy told the Denver Post. "He's a great penalty killer. We feel that he's going to (bring) a lot of depth to our team. He's a guy that has performed so really well in the playoffs and we think he'll be a great addition."

Roy added: "I thought that we were a little short in (penalty killing) players, and Talbot is very good in that regard. He's a really good P.K. guy and it's going to help a lot."

Report: Varlamov Kicked Girlfriend in Chest and Stomped on Her



The girlfriend of Colorado Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov said that he kicked her in the chest, stomped on her and told her that if they were in Russia he would have beaten her more.

Varlamov appeared in court on domestic violence and kidnapping charges on Thursday in Denver, and posted $5,000 bond by noon.

The woman, whose name has been redacted from the records, reportedly spent five hours getting medical attention and x-rays. Detectives reported that they observed bruising on the left forearm and right hip of the woman. She lives in Russia, but travels to visit with Varlamov, and had arrived for a three-month stay in Colorado.

More from the Denver Post's coverage:
"Her statement is that this is the most minor of the beatings she received. She's received five in all, and the last one was to unconsciousness," said Robert Abrams, an attorney who is representing Varlamov's girlfriend. He said the woman spent five hours in a hospital getting exams and X-rays.

His client has been dating Varlamov off and on for four years. She lives in Russia where she is from but travels to live with him. She had just begun a three-month stay in Denver, Abrams said. He said he would try to keep her here so she can testify against Varlamov but added, "I've got her in hiding."


Varlamov has been given permission to travel, but Avalanche coach Patrick Roy is not prepared to say much to the media about whether or not Varlamov will join the team in Dallas on Friday. "It's a law thing and it's important for me as a coach that I keep my focus on my team and we keep our focus there, and at the same time, let the law decide what's going to be," he said. "I'd rather wait for it to be confirmed by his lawyer than to start projecting things and then at the last minute have to turn back and say he can't play."

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Avs' Goalie Semyon Varlamov Arrested on Domestic Violence Charges



Colorado's No. 1 goalie, Semyon Varlamov, was arrested on domestic violence-related charges, and turned himself into Denver police at around 6 P.M. on Wednesday.

According to the Denver Post, Varlamov is being held without bond on second-degree kidnapping and third-degree assault charges.

More from the Denver Post's coverage:
"The kidnapping charge is a Class 4 felony, punishable by to two to six years in prison, according Colorado statutes. Class 4 felony kidnapping is defined by taking someone and moving them to another place without their consent.

The assault charge is a misdemeanor.

Varlamov was to remain in jail overnight because he could not post bail due to the assault charge. Varlamov must first appear before a judge — he has a court date set for 10 a.m. Thursday.

Varlamov, prison officials said, is in a cell alone because of his celebrity. When reached at Denver's downtown detention center, he refused an interview with The Denver Post.

The police charges stem from an incident that happened at an undisclosed time Tuesday in the 1700 block of Bassett Street, police said.

Colorado coach Patrick Roy, when reached by phone Wednesday night, had no comment."

In a statement, the Avs said: "The Colorado Avalanche organization is aware of the allegations concerning Semyon Varlamov. At this time, and until the conclusion of this investigation, the Avalanche organization will have no further comment on this situation."

Vid: Pascal Dupuis Pulls Out Tooth on Bench



We saw Islanders Center John Tavares pull out his teeth on the bench against Chicago earlier this season, and on Wednesday it was Penguins' right wing Pascal Dupuis performing that age-old hockey tradition during the Penguins 3-2 victory over rival Boston.

Dupuis took some friendly fire, as the offending stick was held by Kris Letang, who was trying to corral Bruins' forward Carl Soderberg on the play when his stick flew up (rather violently, might I add) and whacked Dupuis in the kisser.

“I tried a second one, too, but it’s glued there,” Dupuis later said.

According to Sidney Crosby, Dupuis' tooth was part of a bridge. “(It) was part of a bridge, so I don’t think it hurt that much,” Crosby said. “But I saw a steel rod in his tooth when it came out. That’s not something you see every day. Kind of funny, kind of gross. Not something you see too often. I said, ‘Hurry up, you’re grossing me out. Just get rid of it.’ ” Pittburgh grabbed a 3-1 lead late in the third period, but couldn't get rid of Boston, the team that swept the Penguins out of last year's conference finals, until the bitter end.

Jarome Iginla scored to make it 3-2, and the Bruins had the Tuukka Rask pulled for the final 1:36 but were unable to sneak an equalizer past Marc-Andre Fleury.

Not So Fast, Jaromir Jagr, You Need Two More Goals



Jaromir Jagr achieved a huge milestone last night--then he didn't.

Many media outlets, including this one, reported that Jagr had passed Phil Esposito and now owned the record for the most NHL game-winning goals. As it turns out, an error in the New Jersey Devils' media notes led to the misunderstanding, which led to this photo opp with Jagr after the game:

According to Devils' beat reporter Tom Gulitti, the erroneous reporting of the game-winning goals record started last season when the Boston Bruins reported that Jagr was tied with Phil Esposito in their media guide.
The mistake spread and was reported widely last night after the game, until the Elias Sports Bureau cleared up the mess on Twitter after the game.


Oh, well, we feel stupid and we're not ashamed to admit it.

But at least we had this tweet to make us laugh:

What will we be fooled into thinking next, that the Toronto Maple Leafs will pass the Montreal Canadiens for most Stanley Cups all time if they win the cup this year?