Saturday, December 27, 2014

Five Things that Happened While Gustav Nyquist Held the Puck before OT Winner vs. Sens

Five things that happened while Gustav Nyquist circled the ice three times before netting this OT winner vs. the Sens in Ottawa:

1. Taylor Swift wrote another pop anthem.

2. 7,456 dumb Xmas gifts got returned in shopping malls across North America (unofficial stat).

3. Clarke Macarthur got tired, then sad.

4. Dave Cameron wondered what his next job will be.

5. Nyquist's teammates loved then hated then loved him. Beauty of a goal.

Sabres Snap Islanders OT Streak at Nine

The New York Islanders record streak of nine consecutive OT/Shootout victories to open a season ended on Saturday night in Buffalo, as the Sabres erased a 3-0 deficit in the third period to win in a shootout 4-3. The Isles became the first team in NHL history to open a season by winning their first nine games that went beyond 60 minutes earlier this month with a shootout victory against the Devils.

Get "The Skinny" on this game here Vancouver (2006-07), Phoenix (2009-10) and Tampa Bay (2010-11) have also had 9-game winning streaks in a single season, but none started the season with the streak.

New York improves to 23-12-1 with the loss, while the Sabres snap a four game losing streak to improve to 14-19-3.

Three-goal leads have been a bit of a curse for the vastly improved but still not perfect Islanders. The loss marks the third time in December that the Islanders have lost a game after taking a 3-0 lead. They lost all three games (to St. Louis, Minnesota and now Buffalo) after failing to protect a 3-goal lead in the third.

"These are two points we should have held," Isles captain John Tavares said. "Certainly it's frustrating when you give up a three goal lead like that. Especially because I didn't think we did a whole lot wrong except for the breakdowns that led to the goals."

Fight of the Night: Lucic, Prout Renew Rivalry with Scrap

The last time the Bruins met the Bluejackets Milan Lucic suffered a one-and-done at the hands of Dalton Prout (see video below). Lucic, who clearly felt he wasn't done on that fateful night in November, got a chance to exact some revenge on Prout in Columbus tonight, and the result was a fantastic scrap (see video above).

After each went off for roughing minors at 10:52 of the first, the pair of lovebirds engaged in a classic haymaker-thon at 2:59 of the second. It was their third fight in the last two seasons. We're scoring this one as a headache for both.

(H/t: Eye on Hockey)

More Evidence that Swedish Elite League Hockey Rules

Two words: Július Hudáček. Yes, the Orebro netminder was at it again after a recent victory over Skellefteå AIK.

See more of this creative genius at work here.

Devils 3-Headed Coach Debuts vs. Rangers

After firing Peter DeBoer on Friday, the New Jersey Devils are heading into uncharted waters with their new coaching arrangement. The club announced the hiring of Scott Stevens and Adam Oates as co-coaches, and also announced that GM Lou Lamoriello will stay behind the bench for a few games to better familiarize himself with the team's needs in the early days of the new regime.

The Devils and their three-headed monster are on the road at Madison Square Garden to face the Rangers.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Jamie Benn Cheap Shots Nazem Kadri Away from Play

Nazem Kadri had an excellent night in Toronto, notching three points (1-1-2, plus-3) and centering the checking line that shut down the NHL's leading scorer Tyler Seguin in the Leafs' 4-0 takedown of the Stars on Tuesday at the Air Canada Centre.

Kadri's night was so good that not even this nasty little check from Jamie Benn early in the second period could bring him down.

Will Benn face a disciplinary hearing for the hit, which was away from the play and up near the head against a defenseless player?

GIF: Yakupov Slyly Knocks Chipchura into Open Door at Edmonton's Bench

Edmonton's Nail Yakupov recently told the Edmonton Sun he's "been doing everything right."

It may or not be true, but he proved tonight that he is good at getting under an opponent's skin. Could he transform himself into the next Ken Linseman? Edmonton has higher hopes for the 2012 first overall pick, but Yakupov's 4 goals and 8 points (and minus-16) have left much desired in 2014-15 thus far.

Yakupov was given two minutes for interference on the play, and he ended up a minus-1 in 16:21 of ice time as the Oilers fell 5-1 to the Coyotes.

The Top 10 Cheap Shots the 2014-15 NHL Season (So Far)

It’s been a rough and tumble NHL season thus far. Before the NHL’s Xmas break begins, let’s have a look at the top 10 Cheap Shots of the 2014-15 season to date:

Also See: The Top 10 Goals of the 2014-15 Season (So Far)

1. John Scott Sucker Punches Tim Jackman: By far the most egregious, senseless and sucker-punchy hit of the season. Scott, who wants to help his teammates in any way he can, just can’t seem to help taking it miles over the line at times.

2. Mitchell Hits Letang with His Own Helmet: Is it funny? Yes. Is it completely dirty and uncalled for and cheap? Uh-huh.

3. Bartkowski Blasts Gionta into Kingdom Come: We think Bartkowski had the best intentions on this play—he wanted to light up Gionta as soon as he corralled the breakout pass. But Gionta never possessed this puck, and Bartkowski got him in the head, which makes the hit even nastier.

4. Stoner Cranks Pacioretty Behind Play: The NHL doesn’t call this hit late, but it was certainly dirty. Stoner does everything he can to ensure that Pacioretty has a horrible experience with the boards—and succeeds.

5. Evander Kane Plasters Clayton Stoner into Glass: Kane is looking right at Stoner’s numbers, and has a good head of steam. He doesn’t let up and crushes him.

6. John Moore Hammers Haula’s Head: These are the worst kind of hits in hockey. We have a headachejust watching it. Fittingly, Moore got five games for this.

7. Jack Johnson’s Hit to Jiri Tlusty’s Head: Same play, different day. Stay away from the head, boys.

8. Seidenberg Hammers Toews into Boards: Many feel that Seidenberg’s hit was clean because he “tried” to attack from the side of Toews, and because the NHL Department of Player Safety is much kinder on boarding then it is on hits to the head. But what happens when the boarding results in a head getting crushed into the boards? The fact is that Seidenberg was pretty much directly behind Toews on the play. When a guy throws everything he has into a hit from behind, we call it cheap. It was a big hit, yes, but a cheap big hit.

9. Brendan Smith Breaks Stick on Richard Panik’s Back: Dude, we know you're upset, but breaking a stick on a guy’s back? C’mon!

10. Andrew Ference Headhunts Zack Kassian: Good for Tylenol, not good for hockey. Ference got three games for this hit to the head on Kassian.

The Top 10 NHL Goals of 2014-2015 (So Far)

One day ahead of the NHL's three-day Christmas break, let's have a log back at the ten best goals we've seen so far this season. Did we miss anything? If so, just leave a nasty comment below to let us know how utterly stupid we are.

1. Ovechkin’s Dazzling Dangler: Ovi can do this move in his sleep. And defenders can get toasted by him in their sleep. Nice finish with the chest plant after the roof job to make it a perfect ten.

2. Tyler Ennis Gets Air, Goal vs. Habs: Roll the highlight film is right. Ennis executes a perfect jump and landing before lasering the no-look backhand into the cage.

3. Bobby Ryan Splits and Smokes the Kings Defense: Ryan made this one look as easy as a Sunday morning.

4. Tarasenko’s One-Handed Gem: The Russian revolution has come to St. Louis, and it wears Sergei Federov’s 91.

5. Ovi’s “Other” Mind-Blowing Goal: This one isn’t as smooth as the mystical move Ovechkin pulled against the Devils (see No. 1) but the play off the back boards is a nice touch.

6. Jiri Sekac's spin-o-rama: The rookie looked like a world-class vet on this play, as he held onto the puck and executed a 360 before roofing a wrister.

7. Brook Laich’s between-the-legs pass to self: What Laich does on this play is so much harder than it looks to pull off.

8. Nazem Kadri Toe-Drags then Snipes: Kadri shows his world-class potential on this mellifluous move…

9. Seth Griffith’s Orr Impersonation: There wasn’t much of a move on this play, but what a thrilling kamikaze rush and the diving finish makes it a top ten goal.

10. Nino Niederreiter’s Falling Backhand: How does Nino stuff this in? Great hands, great balance, great poise.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Nathan MacKinnon is Now a Shootout Whiz

In his second full NHL season, former No. 1 overall pick Nathan MacKinnon is making himself useful in the skills competition. After going 0-3 in his rookie season, the Halifax, Nova Scotia native apparently got tired of getting sand kicked in his face by NHL netminders.

More: Bartkowski Gets Misconduct for Dirty Hit on Gionta, Could Face Discipline

MacKinnon, one of just three NHL players with more than two attempts to have made 100 percent of shootout attempts this season (Vermette, 3-3, Crosby, 3-3), is 4-4 on the year, and he displayed his newfound skillllzzzz!!! against Detroit's Petr Mrazek on Sunday (see video above).

It's a pretty tasty move (or should we say series of moves, jukes, dekes and dives?), and it is further proof that the best shootout players are the ones who completely rearrange the time-space continuum on ice, taking their time and embracing trick-stick wizardry as a sort of goalie hypnotizer before delicately depositing puck into the twine while the goalie's eyes are closed and his head is spinning.

If you're curious, here are the top 8 shootout players, in terms of percentage, since the tiebreaker was adopted in 2005 (20 or more attempts).

Video: Bartkowski Gets Misconduct after Vicious Hit on Gionta

Boston's Matt Bartkowski was given a 5-minute major for interference after leveling Sabres' forward Brian Gionta at the TD Garden on Sunday. Gionta was looking for a breakout pass, but when the pass didn't connect he got something nastier from Bartkowski a moment later, as Bartkowski hits him up high and causes him to pinwheel and land on his head/neck area when he hits the ice.

After the hit, Gionta's teammate Marcus Foligno stepped in to trade blows with Bartkowski. Foligno was given five for fighting, two for instigating and a ten-minute misconduct. Gionta left the ice immediately after the play under his own power, but will not return:
Check out a GIF of the play below:

Friday, December 19, 2014

Flyers Goalie Steve Mason Suffers Debilitating Injury at Practice

Flyers No. 1 goalie Steve Mason went down face-first during Friday's practice and had to be helped off the ice (see video above).

According to Flyers insider Tim Panaccio, several players speculated that Mason's issue might be back spasms.

“Hopefully, he is all right,” teammate Vincent Lecavalier said of Mason, according to Panaccio. “He was down a few minutes. It’s always scary when your best player is down like that. “When you have back issues, it’s tough. I don’t know if that is what he has, but back spasms are tough. Tough to move, tough to get strength in your legs, everything.”

Ray Emery will take over between the pipes when Philadelphia meets the Toronto Maple Leafs on the road on Saturday.

Months After Horrific Accident, Corey Sarich Contemplates Return to Hockey

Looking for a hero to pull for in the second half of the 2014-2015 NHL season? How about Corey Sarich? The former Stanley Cup champion (with Tampa in 2004) and veteran of 969 NHL games is currently skating again after suffering multiple injuries in a horrific bike accident in July. Sarich sustained five broken vertebra, gruesome road rash and a deep head wound after a Ford F-350 ran him while he was out training on his bike in British Columbia.

Read More About Sarich's Accident Here

But less that five months after the injury that Sarich admits thought would kill him, the 36-year-old Saskatoon native is skating and hoping that some NHL team will give him a chance to finish out his career on his own terms.

“Everyone thinks I’m still getting around in a wheelchair,” he told Elliotte Friedman of SN on December 17. “I’m a realist, what I’ve been through probably scares a lot of people. Banking on a 36-year-old coming off back surgery and run over by a truck, who knows what it does to people's minds? I didn’t get off to a good start but by the end of last week, I felt about as normal as I can. Just need a little more conditioning."

He told Friedman that he knows if he doesn't get moving now, it might be too late by this time next year.

"I can do everything physically I wanted to do. My wife [Reagan] is a rock. She said 'do it now, because if you postpone, it will be harder and harder.' If I wait until next year, there will be zero interest, having gone a year without playing. "If I was going into a training camp right now, I would be so optimistic. Even if I’m not going to play right away, I would be okay with a reserve role, working on everything I need to work on. I just need guys to skate against. Can’t be choosy. If somebody wants to give me an opportunity, I’m ready to go.”

Sarich, who had his 2013-14 campaign ended by back surgery, had been told by the Avalanche that they would not be offering him a contract. He says he was back to 100 percent this summer and had been hoping to be signed with another NHL club by August before the accident.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

How Did He Do That? Dwight King Roofs Wrister From 100 Feet

The St. Louis Blues took a commanding 3-0 lead against the L.A. Kings at the Staples Center on Thursday night, but by the time that Dwight King sailed this 100-foot roof job past a flummoxed Martin Brodeur (see video above) late in the third period, that lead was gone and then some.

More: Foligno and Karlson's Massive Collision in slo-mo

The Kings would end up scoring the final two goals of the evening to gain the 6-4 victory in this Western Conference battle, thanks to a power player marker by Jake Muzzin that Brodeur never saw at 8:58, and this oddball, seeing eye shot off the stick of King that somehow knocks the water bottle.

To add insult to injury, the Staples Center lighting crew was kind enough to flash the red light of shame on Brodeur for about ten seconds as he reflected on the situation while taking a sip of water. That is not cool, Staples Center lighting people.

Brodeur, 42, drops to 2-2 on the season for the Blues, but to be fair, his defense completely disappeared in the final two periods of this game. He ended up saving 31 of 37 shots before being pulled for the extra skater with just over a minute and a half to go.

Video: Nick Foligno and John Carlson Have Epic Collision

Columbus' Nick Foligno and Washington's John Carlson got up close and personal during a penalty-marred second period of Washington's 5-4 overtime victory in Columbus on Thursday evening. This was a giant hit and it ticked Carlson off so badly that he took a cheap shot at Ryan Johansen, who just happened to be innocently skating in the neighborhood (see full video below).

In total, the Caps and Jackets amassed 42 penalty minutes during a bruising second stanza, including three fights.

Eric Fehr's OT winner, 42 seconds into the extra session, enabled Washington to escape with the win. Not so sure Carlson escaped without a headache after the massive crunch he took from Foligno.

Lehigh Valley Scores 3 Goals in 21 Seconds to Break AHL Record

There are fast starts to hockey games and then there are BLAZING, RIPPING, IN-YOUR-FACE, AFTERBURNER starts. The latter is what the Lehigh Valley Phantoms got on Wednesday evening when they faced off against the Binghamton Senators. The Phantoms, the Philadelphia Flyers AHL affiliate, got goals from Petr Straka, Jason Akeson and Andrew Gordon in 21 seconds to tie a record for the fastest three goals in the history of the league.

The outburst was complete at :36, which led to the pulling of Binghamton's shellshocked goalie, Andrew Hammond.

Matt Larkin of the Hockey News had some fun with Hammond's miserable 36-second evening:
Time for some fun with numbers. Divide three goals by 36 seconds, multiply that number by 60 (seconds), and multiply that number by 60 (minutes) to get Hammond’s GAA for the night. You get 299.999999. Probably fair to round that puppy up to an even 300.00.

No AHL team has ever scored three goals quicker than the Phantoms' trio on Wednesday. Read more about the historic night from the team's official website here.

The Winnipeg Jets Can't Catch a Break

The Winnipeg Jets situation has turned from a bummer to dour to comical in the last week, as the Jets have lost all of their top-four defenseman to injury this season, including two in the last two days.

More Saucer Pass: What's Wrong with John Tavares?

“You almost have to laugh about it,” Jets captain Andrew Ladd said, after the team learned that Mark Stuart would be out until at least February after suffering a lower body injury in a fight in the third period of Tuesday night's game vs the Sabres. “You don’t think it’s going to happen. Our group has done a good job of being positive and accepting every challenge we’ve had this year. We’ll accept whatever’s thrown our way.”

You can watch the fight below, and if you see where Stuart gets hurt, please let us know.

It was announced on Tuesday that the Jets top-scoring defenseman Jacob Trouba would miss more than six weeks with an upper body injury.

Trouba and Stuart join Zach Bogasian and Toby Enstrom, who are already on the sidelines.

Grant Clitsome returned from injury this week, and the Jets announced that they've acquired veteran Jay Harrison in a trade from Carolina this afternoon.

Head coach Paul Maurice is doing everything he can to keep a cool head, even telling reporters that he "benched Stuart for a month" for a laugh.

“We’ve got six guys that have played in the NHL that are going to dress tomorrow night. That’s the way you have to approach it,” Maurice told the Winnipeg Sun. “You get into the most critical times of your season after deadlines, you are who you are. And you’ve got to figure out a way to be competitive and win hockey games.”

The challenge for Winnipeg and its current band-aid defense corps will be to get acquainted quickly so that it can avoid dropping out of the playoff race. At 16-10-6, the Jets are currently 7th in the conference, but Los Angeles (36 pts), Calgary (36 pts) and Minnesota (34 pts) are all breathing down their neck already, and it's not even Christmas.

What's Up with John Tavares this Year?

John Tavares and the Islanders are off to a scorching-hot start this season, but a lot more of it is due to Tavares' teammates on the island then the play of the Islanders' captain himself. That's not to say that Tavares has been bad this season-he hasn't. But the numbers show that he's performing far below his typical level in a lot of areas.

Is Tavares' still getting to know his body after the knee injury that kept him out of the season after the 2014 Olympic games? Or is he facing tougher competition? How about just a little mini-slump? Or, maybe, it's all three.

Let's take a closer look at Tavares' performance thus far in 2014-15:

At even strength, the Islanders have been less successful when Tavares is on the ice this season. They are scoring 47.7 percent of total goals scored with Tavares on the ice, and 55.1 percent of the goals with him off. That means the Islanders net goal situation is 7.4 percent less when Tavares is skating, compared to when he's on the bench. Granted, he's faced tougher competition this year than in any other year of his career (and it's a relatively small sample size), but the contrast in numbers between this year and last year is a little bit strange given what quality of player we all know Tavares to be.

In 2013-2014, The Islanders net goal ratio was 13 percent higher with Tavares on the ice than when he was off. He's been positive in that regard in every year of his career except his rookie year, but not the case this season.

***To read the chart: GF%off (far right column) = the percentage of total goals scored (Islanders and opponent, cumulative) that the Isles scored with Tavares on the bench. Take this number and add Tavares GF% relative to figure what percentage of total cumulative goals the Isles scored with Tavares on the ice. Most seasons, the Islanders couldn't do much without Tavares on the ice, but this season it's been the opposite.***

(Stats Via War on Ice)

Tavares' even strength relative quality of competition (corsi of players faced on-ice) has been higher this season than in any of his previous seasons in the NHL, so that could be the reason for his dropoff in numbers (below is the measure of the Corsi numbers of the players that Tavares is getting ice time against (and their relative Corsi's when compared with the rest of their teammates):

Corsi of Competition, Relative Corsi of Competition (Stats Via Behind the Net)

1.660, .972/
.946, .636/
.065, -.044/
.380, .562/
.782, .557/
.690, .473

But no matter what the reason, the numbers do show that Tavares is scoring at a far less proficient clip than usual. A glance at his average points per game number shows that he's dipped below 2 points per 60 minutes for the first time since his rookie season:

(Stats Via

All of this is true despite the fact that Tavares' possession numbers are quite high. He's improved them vastly from last year, probably benefiting from the addition of puck moving defensemen Nick Leddy and Johny Boychuk, as well as the return of Lubomir Vishnovsky.

Below are Tavares' Corsi and Fenwick numbers, which point to the percentage of scoring opportunities that the Islanders generate when he is on the ice:

(Stats via Top Row 2009-2010))

The good news for the Islanders is that they are dealing with Tavares's lack of production by racing off to a 21-10 record, which is their best starts in decades. And if Tavares hits his stride, which he is bound to do, they'll be even more formidable as a team.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Hat Trick News: Tarasenko, Galchenyuk Record Rare Feats

Montreal's Alex Galchenyuk and St. Louis's Vladimir Tarasenko eached recorded rare hat trick milestones for their storied franchises on Tuesday night (one more storied that the other, but hey, both storied nonetheless).

Tarasenko recorded his second career hat trick in the Blues 5-2 win over the Kings, and in the process became the second St. Louis player to record multiple hat tricks in the same season (and the first to do it since Brett Hull 18 years ago).

Tarasenko, who now has 20 goals on the season and is second in the NHL in goals scored, also became the first Blue to record four points in a game more than once in a season in 14 years.

See video here:

Galchenyuk notched his triple in Les Habs 4-1 win over Carolina and in the process joined Guy Lafleur, Boom Boom Geoffrion and Stephane Richer in a special club:

See Galchenyuk's hat trick here (note that his teammates on the ice left him hanging after the third goal just to have a little fun with hiim (that's why he's smiling even bigger than he normally would have been):

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Panthers Down Caps in Longest Shootout in NHL History

You may or may not be a fan of the NHL skills competition, but whatever your views on the subject you'd have a pretty tough time denying that tonight's 20-frame shooutout victory for the Florida Panthers over the Washington Capitals was anything but epic (see video above).

Per the NHL, before Nick Bjugstad notched the game winner in the 20th frame, a few records were shattered:

"I've never seen anything like that," Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo said. "The great thing is I don't know how many time guys bailed me out where they had to score to keep it alive, and they did every time. It was amazing."

Luongo also took to Twitter to share his excitement with fans on social media:

Rumor has it that this stressed-out fan also blacked out, but we have no official word yet...

The Panthers must have known luck was on their side when Sean Bergenheim, previously 0-9 in shootouts, scored to keep his team alive in the 11th frame.

Florida needed a goal to stay alive five times in total, and each time they were able to find a way to put one past losing goalie Braden Holtby.

“Definitely wasn’t fun to be a part of it,” Holtby said, according to the Washington Post. “Being on the end that, I just had to make a save when the game was on the line numerous times and I didn’t, that’s not a fun spot to be in. I thought we showed a lot of character, kept battling, got some big goals from some unlikely guys. That’s just a spot where I’d like to make a save and reward those guys.”

Finally, Nick Bjugstad put an end to festivities in the 20th frame as he deked then faded out to the forehand side before sailing a wrister past the fatigued Capitals netminder.

While Holtby and the Caps felt shame, Florida Panthers and their fans felt pride. They headed to the exit cheering "Let's Go Panthers" at full throat:

The Capitals were also on the losing end of the previous record for longest shootout. They dropped a 3-2, 15-frame shootout loss to the Rangers in 2005.

Everything You Need to Know about #NHLMumps and More

More mumps in the road for the NHL.

Penguins right winger Beau Bennett has become the 15th NHLer to contract mumps this season, and Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith could be next.

Where it stops, does anybody know (insert your guess here, I'll go with 46 cases before it's all said and done)? Not likely anytime soon, unfortunately, as most people typically are contagious two weeks before they know they have the virus. The NHL has been doing its best to educate teams and players on the vaccine, but even if they do get the vaccine, it is reportedly only 95 percent effective (maybe less).

So expect more outbreaks before this "epidemic" comes to a close.

Thus far, here are the names of the 15 players who have publically been diagnosed with mumps:

Sidney Crosby, Beau Bennett, Cory Perry, Francois Beauchamin, Keith Ballard, Tanner Glass, Ryan Suter, Emerson Etem, Marco Scandella, Jonas Brodin, Christian Folin, Clayton Stoner, Adam Larsson, Travis Zajac and Derrick Brassard.

A total of five teams--Rangers, Devils, Penguins, Wild, Ducks--have been infected, but that could be on the rise soon.

To get educated about mumps (because why not?) here and here.

To read what Jeff Klein of the New York Times has found out, click here.

To read a Forbes piece about the vaccine and its efficacy click here

To view a Q and A on the mumps epidemic from the New York Post click here.

To read Puck Daddy's (Yahoo) insights on the issue, click here.

To see a really stupid but not completely horrific and somewhat funny mock song about it, click here.

To follow the unofficial #NHLMumps Twitter account (of course there is one) click here.

Speaking of which, it's nice to see people are having fun with this on Twitter:

Voynov Facing Felony Charges after Gruesome Details of Domestic Abuse Emerge

Suspended L.A. Kings defenseman Slava Voynov will stand trial for a felony domestic violence charge, the Los Angeles Superior Court ruled on Monday. Redondo Beach police officer Gregory Wiist testified that Voynov's wife, Marta Varlamova, was bleeding and out of sorts when he he interviewed her on October 20th. Reportedly, she told the officer that Voynov had hit her that evening at a halloween party, and then the incident continued when they returned home.

According to the L.A. Times, Wiist said that when he toured the bedroom later that night, he saw blood "everywhere" including covering a comforter, around the bed, in a trail leading to the bathroom and in the shape of a bloody handprint on the floor. Nathan Fenno, Los Angeles Times sports enterprise reporter, was on the scene for Monday's hearing, and here are his tweets:

Voynov will be arraigned on Dec. 29th. He could face up to nine years in prison if found guilty.

Jagr Passes Yzerman on NHL's All-Time Assist Board

During the Devils 3-2 shooutout loss to the New York Islanders on Tuesday, 42-year-old Jaromir Jagr notched another milestone for his storied career.

Jagr was credited with the secondary assist on Marek Zidlicky's power play goal in the first, and later in the period he added a second helper on Scott Gomez's goal. The assists give Jagr a total of 1,065, which move the Kladno, Czech Republic native past Steve Yzerman into seventh all-time and tops the active list.

Here are the NHL's 1,000-assist players:

And here are the top ten active assist men:

Monday, December 15, 2014

Pekka Rinne is Having a Monster Year, Thanks to Team Defense

The Nashville Predators own the NHL's stingiest defense, allowing just 1.4 goals per game, and while the return to form of Pekka Rinne between the pipes has been a large factor, the Predators have also stepped up their team defense under their new coach Peter Laviolette.

Wicked Cool: Wild Prospect Goes Between the Legs for Highlight-Reel Tally

Nashville (19-8-2) has only allowed 57 goals on the season, and Rinne, a two-time Vezina Trophy finalist who missed most of last season due to an infection after hip surgery, has been a huge reason for that number. The 6'5" Finn is on pace for career-best save percentage and goals against averages, and he's No. 1 in the league in wins, save percentage and goals against average. But Rinne has been boosted by Nashville's vastly improved defense, and the advanced stats show it.

The chart below shows that Rinne and co. have allowed their opponents much lower shooting percentage numbers in 2014-15 (right on the chart) vs. 2013-14 (left). Numbers above one are above the league average in shooting percentage allowed, while numbers below one are below. In 2014-15, Nashville allowed more than the league average shot percentage from the vital areas in front of the crease and the slot.

Fast forward a year and one can see that Nashville is taking away those chances at an alarming clip. One could quickly credit Rinne's resurgence, and that would be partially correct to be sure, but it doesn't tell the whole story about the Predators newfound ultra-stinginess.

Rinne is seeing less shot attempts from his doorstep and the slot and high slot, and slightly more from the tops of the circles and points.

In other words, not only is Pekka Rinne healthy again, he's also been bolstered by a defense that is very good at limiting high-quality scoring chances from in close. That isn't to say that Nashville isn't giving up shots. Their Corsi against and Fenwick against numbers don't show much disparity from last season, but they are clearly prioritizing differently under Laviolette's scheme.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Minnesota Wild Prospect Scores Between-the-Legs Beauty in Swiss League

Minnesota Wild prospect (6th round, 158 overall in 2012 draft) Christoph Bertschy did his best Tomas Hertl impersonation over the weekend, pulling off a 'tweener with two defenders in hot pursuit to put the finishing touches on SC Bern's 5-1 win over the Kloten Flyers of the Swiss National League.

Say what you will about the fact that Bertschy, who has 11 goals in 31 games this season for the club, showboats on the play in the manner that would make him many goony enemies in the NHL, but there's no denying that the 20-year-old showed a world-class burst on the play, and at the speed with which he makes the play it actually appears that the between-the-legs shot may have actually been the best way to score. Hockey purists tend to scoff at this move--they certainly did when Hertl pulled his dazzling, crowd-pleaser in a home blowout against the Rangers early last season, but what nobody seems to take into account is that if you can actually execute the shot it's a pretty good way to keep the goalie guessing.

Take another look at this beauty below:

And if you're in the mood for reminiscing, or comparing, see Hertl's gem from 2013 below:

Whose was better, Hertl or Bertschy's?

(H/T: The Hockey News)

Tyler Seguin is Scoring at a Torrid Pace this Season

Tyler Seguin rifled home his 23rd goal of the season during Saturday night's 4-3 victory over New Jersey, increasing his lead over the NHL's second-leading scorer to five, and giving the Brampton, Ontario native the outright lead in NHL scoring.

Seguin is scoring at a career-best clip of 2.5 goals per sixty minutes, which is nearly double his previous best pace:

The 22-year-old is even hotter at home at the American Airlines Center, where he's netted 15 goals in 17 games for the Stars.

At this point in the season, Seguin is also shooting at an unprecedented level for him, his shooting percentage is 7.2 percentage points higher than his career average. Last year, Seguin ranked 144th in the NHL with a 12.6 percent shooting percentage; this year, he's at No. 15.

Is Seguin headed for a 50-goal season? Well, if he maintains his current pace, he'd wind up with 65. That's enough to make Dallas fans and management smile as wide as the lone star state. Meanwhile it's enough to make Bruins fans sick. Boston traded Seguin and Rich Peverley for forwards Loui Eriksson, Reilly Smith, Matt Fraser and defenseman Joe Morrow on July 4, 2013. Eriksson, Smith and Fraser have totaled 121 points combined in Boston. Seguin has accumulated 119 points by himself over the last two seasons, and leads the NHL in that category this year.

(Stats courtesy of and

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Video: Brendan Smith Breaks Stick over Richard Panik, Fight Ensues

After the Toronto Maple Leafs scored an empty-netter to take a 4-1 lead over the Detroit Red Wings, the pesky Leafs kept taking it to Detroit on Saturday night at the Air Canada Center. Richard Panik kept the forecheck amped up for Toronto, and he delivered two big body checks on Wings' d-man Brendan Smith before Smith took offense (see vid below).

Opinion: Why the NHL Got the Seidenberg Hit on Toews Wrong

First a slash, then the disgruntled Smith snaps his shaft over Panik's back before the two get engaged in a good old-fashioned scrap.

The decision, like the game, went to Toronto, as Panik got Smith's jersey up around his head to score a unanimous decision.

Oh, and the Leafs won the back end of their home-and-home with Detroit, 4-1, to notch their second straight against Detroit and fourth in a row over all.

Why the NHL Didn't Get the Toews Hit Right

It seems I'm in the minority here (for counter arguments, see here and here), but I'm still not convinced that Dennis Seidenberg shouldn't be suspended for stapling Jonathan Toews into the end boards on Thursday night in Boston (Not that it matters, the NHL has made its decision, but hear me out if you're so inclined).

It seems that the general consensus is that the NHL made the right call in letting Seidenberg off the hook. His coach, Claude Julien, pleaded Seidenberg's case immediately after the Blackhawks 3-2 win over the Bruins, saying "I view that five-on-three we're going to close a gap quickly and Dennis is a strong individual. So, is he supposed to get weak because of that situation? Or he just plays to his strength. Again, I wasn't happy. I looked at it, and it could be arguable, but from my end of it I think it's what it is. Our guys need to finish their checks and sure, you've got to be careful, but I'm sure [Toews] knew that he was coming.”

Julien added: "A player’s job is to finish his check and a player should know he’s going to be hit. It’s not about tonight, it’s about the whole league. I’m one of those guys who has put a lot of pressure on people who look at those kind of things and say, ‘It’s OK to take away those hits from behind when they’re warranted. But what about the other guy? Does he not have a responsibility?'"

Julien is genuinely making his case, but would he air the same views if the hit was on one of his top-three forwards, and the result was a season-ending injury?

More important, how much responsibility does a player need to have when he has won a footrace to the puck, is three feet from the boards, and plays in a league where illegal hits from behind are frowned upon, penalized and very often worthy of suspensions?

Julien asks "Is [Seidenberg] supposed to get weak because of that situation?" during his press monologue and, if he really wants an answer, YES. Clearly the NHL wants players to refrain from hitting other players from behind, and ESPECIALLY when they are in close proximity to the boards. Many seem to believe that Seidenberg's hit wasn't actually a hit from behind because he didn't hit Toews square in the numbers. But Seidenberg was pretty much directly behind Toews--his hip and thigh are directly in the center of Toews' body--and it is Seidenberg, not Toews, that turns at the last second to try and get his shoulder in front.

But he never does get his shoulder in front. He sticks it in the scapula of Toews and then, with all his might, follows through with his whole uper body to ensure that Toews has a close encounter of the worst kind with the boards.

Notice the raised left arm and stick high in the air, proof that Seidenberg has "exploded" through the hit and followed-through nicely.

One more picture: As you can see, Seidenberg is almost directly behind Toews, except for the torqued shoulder.

The NHL decided that a boarding penalty was enough. Claude Julien decided that Toews should have been "ready" to get checked from behind. Pundits say the NHL got it right. But I'm saying this: Toews got to the puck first, established position, then Seidenberg raced over there and straight-up jacked him. If Seidenberg had any kind of position on the play, then he could have, as Julien said, played to his strength and went for the booming hit. But he was pretty much directly behind Toews, so to go for a massive hit there (he did) is completely out of line. It should have warranted a phone call from the league, and because it hasn't we could be looking at more of these (see below).

Is it what the NHL wants? Regardless of who the player is (megastar like Toews or rookie call-up), do we want guys getting jolted like this?

The argument that many seem to be making is that Toews needed to be aware of Seidenberg and protect himself. It's a good point. Rather then get the hell out of dodge, Toews spreads his legs and keeps his back to Seidenberg, looking as if he's going to delay there for a while, feeling safe that he won't get pummeled and perhaps waiting for Seidenberg to pick a side before he darts in the other direction. Well, he was wrong. Next, time he'll know. One of the most creative, talented players in the NHL will be forced to play in fear of the hit from behind rather than playing the instinctive game that has made him such a venerable and mind-blowing talent during his tenure in the league.

Is that what we want? Apparently, most do. Not me.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Jiri Sekac Goes Top Shelf after Spin-O-Rama

The Montreal Canadiens blasted the Pacific Division's most stingy defense on Friday night at the Bell Centre, hanging six on the Los Angeles Kings' backup goalie Martin Jones in a 6-2 victory, including this spin-o-rama beauty by Jiri Sekac.

Very nice presence by Sekac to display patience in hanging onto the puck instead of trying to squeeze it in while he was in close on Jones. Instead, Sekac realizes he has time and space and does a 360 before roofing a twisted wrister and sending the Montreal faithful (and P.K. Subban) into party mode.

Here's another look at the sheer laser ferocity of Sekac's wrister. 'Tis a beautiful thing... (notice how Drew Doughty wanted no part of that puck once it left Sekac's stick.)

Montreal has now won two straight at home after dropping three in a row to Minnesota, Chicago and Dallas last week. They are 19-10-2 and one point back of both Tampa and Detroit for first place in the Atlantic Division.

Charlotte Checkers' Laugh-Inducing Lip Reading Vids

The Saucer Pass has a new idea on how to settle ties after overtime. Forget the shootout. Let's have each team make a "bad lip-reading" video each prior to each game and fans can vote on to decide which is best. The winner, of course, gets the extra point in case of an overtime tie.

Why? Because hockey fans definitely need more of these videos. Check out the pure comical genius of the AHL's Charlotte Checkers in these videos (one above and one below), and tell us honestly that you don't think we're on to something.

(H/T: Sporting News and Eye on Hockey)

Aaron Ekblad is Giving the Florida Panthers Reason to Believe

Panthers rookie defenseman Aaron Ekblad has been producing at a torrid pace for an 18-year-old blueliner this year in Florida. One of only 11 18-year-old defenseman to have played in an NHL game in the last 20 years, Ekblad is already on pace to become the second highest-scoring 18-year-old defenseman.

Ekblad is a plus-six on a minus-ten team, and though he has been helped along by being paired with the poised and dynamic Brian Campbell in Florida, it's clear that the rookie is a candidate for the Calder after his first 26 games.

There have been plenty of 19-year-old defensemen who have made big impacts in their rookie year, but Ekblad is one of the few 18-year-olds to have stepped in and made a difference so young. In terms of points per game, he's head and shoulders above the other four 18-year-old blueliners that have played 20 or more games in a season since 1994-95.

But let' not judge Ekblad against other 18-year-olds. Instead, let's look at what he's doing in the here and now, against the big, bad boys of the NHL. He's tied for 11th in the league in points (and tied for 10th in goals). Not bad at all.

For comparison's sake, here's a look at all the NHL rookie defenseman that have played in five or more games. Only one other (Mirco Mueller of San Jose) is a teenager but, more important, none come close to Ekblad's production at this stage of the campaign. It's early yet, but Aaron Ekblad is making a case for the Calder already, as well as getting management and the fan base excited about Florida Panther hockey.

(All Stats:

Leafs' Prospect William Nylander Scores Pretty One-Handed Goal in Sweden

The Toronto Maple Leafs have themselves a pretty thrilling prospect in 18-year-old William Nylander of Sweden. Toronto took Nylander--the son of former NHLer Michael Nylander--with the 8th overall pick last year and elected to send him back to Sweden to hone his skills. Apparently he's doing just that. Nylander has racked up 18 points in 18 games for Modo.

North American fans will get to see more of him when he comes to Canada for the World Juniors later this month.

Judging from this video, we can expect some blazing speed and a nose for the net.

(H/T: Sportsnet Canada)

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Hockey Gods Were Smiling on Nikita Kucherov on Thursday in Tampa

Lady luck was kind to the Tampa Bay Lightning's Nikita Kucherov on Thursday as the 21-year-old Muscovite scored his 10th and 11th goals of the season (Tampa's only goals of the night) in bizarre fashion against the Carolina Hurricanes. First Kucherov opened the scoring by tapping in an errant bounce off the boards after an Anton Stralman dump-in for a power play goal (see vid below.

More: Chris Neil Injured after Hip Check and Ottawa Fans Are Happy

Then, with the Bolts and Canes tied heading down the stretch, Kucherov netted his second goal when his attempted cross-ice feed was accidentally kicked into the net by Carolina defenseman Ron Hainsey's skate past a demoralized Cam Ward for the game winner (vid below). Poor Cam Ward. He did everything right tonight at Amalie Arena on Thursday and all he has to show for it is 25 saves and a 2-1 loss.

“It’s frustrating,” Hurricanes forward Jeff Skinner said. “Obviously, Ward played a great game. It’s tough to let him down like that.”

As for Kucherov, he may want to go put a few thousand down on 21 red at his local casino, because it clearly was his lucky night.

Chris Neil Plastered by Brayden McNabb Hip Check, Ottawa Fans Not Sad

Chris Neil was plastered into the boards by this brutal Brayden McNabb hip check and immediately left the ice after getting up under his own power during Ottawa's 5-3 loss to the Kings. Ottawa dropped its first game under new coach Dave Cameron, 5-3, to L.A., but many Senator fans seemed to be sanguine about their short-term future despite (um, due to?) the loss of Neil.

Here's the general jist of the Twitter reaction to coach Dave Cameron's announcement that Neil would be out "week-to-week" with a lower body injury:

Bobby Ryan Undresses McNabb and Quick on Same Play

Bobby Ryan got the Senators on the board in Thursday night's battle against the Kings in scintillating fashion, racing the length of the ice before laying waste to Kings' d-man Brayden McNabb with a nifty little toe drag and schooling Jonathan Quick with a deke to the forehand before sliding the backhand home into a wide open net.

It was Ryan's sixth goal of the season. The four-time 30-goal scorer with the Ducks only managed 23 in his first season with the Sens, and this year he's on pace for about the same. But tonight, at least for this play, he was on top of the world.

The Kings, thanks to 32 saves by Jonathan Quick, ended up winning, 5-3.

Here's another look at Ryan's beauty below:

Statisfaction: Nashville's Dominant Even Strength Numbers, Stephen Weiss's Resurgence

Each week. we'll break down three statistical trends in the NHL. Here's three for Dec. 11:

1. Nashville is dominant at even strength:

The Preds are by far the best even strength team in the NHL, as their ratio of scoring 1.6 goals to every one for their opponent at even strength is head and shoulders above the rest of the NHL's top five in that category:

And they're just as good in close games (games where the lead or deficit is two or less) at even strength, scoring 64.8 percent of the goals in those sutuations, good for No. 1 in the NHL:

But the Preds have the NHL's second-worst PP at 10.7 percent, and they are in the bottom half on the penalty kill at 80.3 percent. Do they lack the personnel to up those numbers or is this a team that can become truly dominant if they get their special teams firing?

2. Colorado is atrocious when leading this season:

Only one NHL team has a sub-.500 winning percentage when leading after two periods, and that would be Patrick Roy's Avs. How is their .429 winning percentage when leading after two even possible? The next lowest (Edmonton and Dallas, .667) are horrible in their own right, but they are miles from where Colorado currently is. It's a relatively small sample size (they are 3-2-2 when leading after two), but it's pretty telling about where Colorado is headed this season. The Avs are also 2-4 when leading after one this season.

On the other side of the coin, Chicago (9-0), Toronto (11-0) and Calgary (8-0) are the only three teams that have yet to drop a game when leading after two.

3. Detroit's Stephen Weiss is on fire:

It took Stephen Weiss 26 games to amass four points in 2013-14 for Detroit, but this year the 31-year-old is off to a torrid start. He's notched ten points in ten games and leads the NHL in points per 60 minutes of ice time by a mile at 4.91 points per 60 minutes:

Here are the top five in the NHL:

1. Stephen Weiss/ 10g/ 97:40 TOI/ 4.91 Points Per 60
2. Matt Cooke/ 8g/ 67:50 TOI/ 4.42 Points Per 60
3. Rick Nash/ 26g/ 319:17 TOI/ 3.76 Points Per 60
4. Tyler Johnson/ 29g/ 363:29 TOI/ 3.63 Points Per 60
5. Vladimir Tarasenko/ 28g/ 399:05 TOI/ 3.31 Points Per 60

Weiss has played under 100 minutes, so doubtful that he'll be the league leader at season's end, but clearly has a different player for Detroit than he was last year.

Report: Babcock Deal With Wings Likely to Happen Soon (Update: Babcock Denies)

Bob Duff of the Windsor Star is reporting that Mike Babcock is staying put in Detroit, and likely could ink a multi-year deal with the Red Wings by Christmas.

Here's what Duff had to say:

"Soon, he will be the NHL’s highest-paid coach. And he will continue to earn that pay behind the Wings’ bench. Expect a new contract between the Wings and Babcock to be announced sooner rather than later.... According to multiple NHL sources familiar with the negotiations, the announcement could be imminent, perhaps even a holiday gift for the man who’s guided Canada to the last two Olympic gold medals."

Babcock is in his tenth year behind the Red Wings bench, but when he didn't get a contract done prior to the start of 2014-2015, speculation became rampant that he might be headed for another city.

Babcock has guided the Wings to a Stanley Cup and another final, and they have not missed the playoffs during his tenure.

Update: According to the Hockey News, Mike Babcock denies Duff's report.

Here's part of TSN's report:

“Guys, that’s like a fantasy world or something like that,” Babcock told reporters after practice on Thursday. “Ken Holland and I talked before the year. We agreed we wouldn’t do this during the year. Our team is doing good, our team is playing good. I like the way we’re playing. We don’t need any distractions.”

Okay then, right back where we started...

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Joffrey Lupul Plasters Kyle Quincey from Behind

During the second period of the Toronto Maple Leafs 2-1 shooutout victory over Detroit on Wednesday, Joffrey Lupul drilled Detroit defenseman Kyle Quincey from behind, drawing a two-minute boarding penalty.

More: Ballard Goes Face-First Into Boards After Martin Hit | Scandella Suspended Two Games After Hit on Nelson

Quincey was no worse for the wear, and ended up playing over 21 minutes in the game. Thanks to a 41-save performance from Leafs goalie James Reimer, Toronto hung in for the shootout win and improved to 7-1-1 in their last nine.

Lupul, who was suspended two-games last season for a hit to the head on Tampa's Victor Hedman, could be hearing from the NHL again on this one.

Marco Scandella Suspended Two Games for Hit on Nelson

On the same day that the Minnesota Wild learned they'd be losing defenseman Keith Ballard indefinitely, they lost defenseman Marco Scandella for two games because of a hit to the head on Islanders' center Brock Nelson (see video above).

Scandella was fined just ten days (and three games) ago for a similar hit on T.J. Oshie (see below).

Scandella's hit on Nelson isn't as clear-cut in our opinion, but the fact that his latest head check came just ten days after his very obvious hit to the head on Oshie caused the NHL to nip his behavior in the bud on Wednesday.

Scandella, who signed a five-year, $20 million deal earlier this season, was fined $2,755 for his hit on Oshie, but his pocketbook will be hit harder this time:

Disgruntled Edmonton Fan Tries to Sell "City of Champions" Sign

It's no secret that the Edmonton Oilers have been mired in a near-decade-long slump. Frustrations are high, coaches are on the hot seat, and the cities' fans have even taken to the local digital marketplace to sell off one of the city-owned municipal welcome signs that read "City of Champions."

That's right, a local Edmontonian placed an add--which was quickly removed--on the site Kijiji. But before it was removed, lots of hard working and similarly frustrated Edmontonians took notice and had a good laugh (or cry):

According to the Edmonton Journal, the add contained the following hilarious selling points:

“Stylistic throwback to the 80s, when the bottom portion of the sign was still relevant,” and "designed to withstand snow, wind, rain and drive-by laughter." For the kicker, the seller stated that he or she would be happy to accept “a strong two-way centre” or a “goalie who can stop a beach ball” for the sign.

Things have gotten real bad in Edmonton, but at least they still have a sense of humor. And--at least for now--they're still the city of champions.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Andrew Desjardins Lowers the Boom on Edmonton's Luke Gazdic

San Jose's Andrew Desjardins executed the perfect--and perfectly clean!--open ice check on Edmonton's Luke Gazdic early in the third period of the Sharks 5-2 win over the Oilers on Tuesday night. Considering that Gazdic is listed at 6'4" and 233, while Desjardins is listed at 6'1" and 195, this has to be one of the best hits of the NHL season, pound-for-pound.

More: Keith Ballard Goes Face-First into Boards, No Call on Play

It was so good, and Gazdic felt so much humiliation, that he chased Desjardins into the corner looking for a fight. But he decided against it when 6'8" 260-pound John Scott stepped in to make sure he behaved.

Here's another look at this glorious hit in slo-mo. Desjardins put everything he had into this one--just look at his arms go flying as he drops to the ice. A perfect ten.