Tag:Boston Bruins
Posted on: December 24, 2011 12:38 pm
Edited on: December 25, 2011 4:33 pm
 

Top NHL stories and moments in 2011

By Brian Stubits

There was a lot of good in 2011, but also a lot of bad. By bad, I really mean tragedy. It was an unforgettable yet forgettable year all at the same time.

As we hit the heart of the holiday season, here is a look back at the year that was in hockey with the top 10 moments/storylines of 2011.

10. Summer acquisitions -- This is when the magic happens in the NHL's salary cap world and franchises are made or destroyed.

It was over the summer that two teams in particular built the nucleus for their surprising starts this season, the Minnesota Wild and Florida Panthers. Minnesota was the host for this year's NHL Entry Draft and really did leave an impression. Not only did they come away from the draft with a few new prospects in their system but they also swung a deal to land Devin Setoguchi from the San Jose Sharks for Brent Burns. The Wild swung another deal with the Sharks that landed them Dany Heatley for Martin Havlat. Of course their biggest summer acquisition might have been the hiring of head coach Mike Yeo.

The Panthers meanwhile continued to use the draft to make their system better and also swung a big trade, taking on Brian Campbell's big salary from the Blackhawks in exchange for Rostislav Olesz. That kicked off a wild spending spree that lasted through free agency and the core of the team that's in first in the Southeast was built just like that. Like the Wild, they also found themselves a new coach who has returned big dividends early in Kevin Dineen.

The unrestricted free-agent class was led by the pursuit of Brad Richards, who eventually signed with the New York Rangers after a day of courting, including from the Maple Leafs while GM Brian Burke was in Afghanistan. But the most intrigue was on the restricted front where Steven Stamkos' future was wildly speculated before re-signing with the Lightning and Shea Weber stayed with the Predators after the biggest arbitration award ever.

A couple weeks in the middle of the year set up the last couple of months in the year and even with what was perceived as a weak free-agent class, this year was no different.

Look back: Free-agency tracker

9. Winter Classic -- As sad as it is to think about, games hardly ever are the top stories in sports any more. But in hockey, the Winter Classic will always matter, it's that big of a showcase and spectacle for the NHL.

As is the case with every Winter Classic -- as fans of all the less-fortunate teams will remind you -- it was a marquee matchup of two high-profile teams from the East with the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins. The Caps eventually prevailed in a game that might be the most memorable Winter Classic thus far for a variety of reasons, one of them makes an appearance later on this list.

But first of all the lead up to the game featured the first 24/7: Road to the Winter Classic series on HBO and it was riveting. While technically most of it aired in 2010, it is tied in with the Winter Classic so it counts. It left fans anticipating the next version like a kid awaits Christmas, this year's version featuring the Flyers and Rangers.

Mother Nature also left her mark on the game. It was the first Winter Classic thus far that the weather was so uncooperative that they had to delay the start of the game. Unseasonably warm temperatures and rain in Pittsburgh led to the game being pushed to the night and it did provide a pretty memorable setting at Heinz Field. 

Look back: Caps win Winter Classic 3-1

8. Realignment -- While the fruit of this labor will be seen starting in 2012, it was a large conversation for the entire second half of the year, spurred by a development that appears further up this list.

I don't know if there was a person in hockey -- both within the game and covering it -- that didn't have their own idea for how the realignment should be done. In the end the six-division format was blown up, an effort that was from all accounts led by Gary Bettman himself.

The biggest drama in the whole saga revolved around the Detroit Red Wings' desire to move to the Eastern Conference. Well, without an Eastern Conference to move to any more, I guess you could say that was taken care of.

Look back: NHL announces realignment

7. Lokomotiv plane crash -- The KHL is to the NHL as the NHL is to ESPN. That is to say the only time we ever seem to hear about the KHL is when something bad happens.

Unfortunately, that was the case this summer when the airplane carrying the KHL's Yaroslavl Lokomotiv team barely got airborne before it crashed, killing everybody on board except a member of the flight crew.

The tragedy was already tough enough for the hockey community in North America simply for the fact sheer sadness of the lethal error. But what made it really hit home in the NHL was the number of former NHL players who died in the crash.

Among those who died in the crash were Josef Vasicek, Karlis Skrastins, Ruslan Salei, Pavol Demitra and head coach Brad McCrimmon, all of who were in the NHL at some point in their careers. In the case of McCrimmon he was a member of the Detroit Red Wings coaching staff as recently as last season before he took the chance to be a head coach in Russia.

Nothing from the ordeal was more chilling than the sad, sad story from a professional driver in Dallas who was tasked with picking up the family of Skrastins to drive them to the airport hours after the tragedy. Honestly, I'm getting emotional just thinking about it again. It was truly a horrible day for hockey.

Look back: Lokomovit team plane crashes

6. Vancouver riot -- For the second time in as many Stanley Cup trips for the Vancouver Canucks, the hockey-crazed city erupted into a violent storm following its team's loss in the decisive Game 7. A similar eruption happened in 1994 after the Canucks fell to the New York Rangers.

The night began with a massive gathering in the streets of Vancouver for the fans to all watch the game together on a big screen. Many saw that as an ill-fated moment from the start and boy were they right. Soon after the game and season were finished, the hooligans of Vancouver were just getting started.

Looters took to the streets to cause mayhem, and cause mayhem they did. The result was a night full of rioting embarrassing to the city, a lot of videos to live on in YouTube glory (like this classic), at least 25 people being charged (including Miss Congeniality) and the romance, sports and maybe general photo of the year, the "riot kiss" seen up above.

The unfortunate part (OK, one of them) was the fact that the riot completely overshadowed what was really a great postseason and season for the Canucks. Vancouver was the best team all regular season long and as fine of a year as they ever have.

Look back: Riot erupts after Stanley Cup Finals

5. Brendan Shanahan takes over -- There has been no bigger overarching story in the second half of the year than what Shanahan has been doing as the new head of player safety having replaced Colin Campbell. His arrival on the job has coincided with the attempt to expand and clarify Rule 48.1, the one dealing with headshots. The focus has also been ramped up on boarding.

His impact has been felt from the get-go. In the preseason he was very busy and then really sent some shock waves through the league when he suspended Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman James Wisniewski for eight games.

It's at the point now that every questionable hit is immediately scrutinized and I'm still not sure if that's good or bad. Obviously the good is that it continues to put a microscope on bad hits in an attempt to rid the game of them. On the bad side, some clean hits get more attention than they should and the consistency of punishment applications has been a bit bedeviling, just ask the Sabres fans.

However Shanahan has done something that I've yet to find a person complain about and that's making videos for each and every suspension wherein he explains exactly what the thought process was that led to the decision. The first one he made in the preseason was a breath of fresh air and welcome transparency. All season he's been a busy, busy man.

You know you've watched a lot of Shanahan suspension videos when you can recall that he has done videos in front of three different backdrops and you can tell when he gets a haircut.

Look back: A look at Shanahan's handy work

4. Winnipeg Jets return -- At one point, it looked like the old Jets -- the Phoenix Coyotes -- were going to be the team to move to Winnipeg. Fans were elated as it seemed that with a clear potential ownership group and new, albeit small, arena, the NHL would be coming back to the 'Peg after 15 years.

Then they pulled a little switcheroo on everybody when the Coyotes announced they were staying in Phoenix for another year, so attention turned to the Atlanta Thrashers. A few transactions later and hockey was back in Manitoba (and the NHL had to realign -- Winnipeg in the Southeast?).

The push was one to rename the team the Jets like the old franchise in town and after much debate, the fans won out, although a new logo would be introduced. Not lacking in flair, the Jets showed off their new uniforms in an unveiling at a military base with the players wearing the new duds walking out of a cargo plane.

The first game of the Jets. 2.0 came in their new home at the MTS Centre and they fell in defeat to the Montreal Canadiens, but you couldn't tell. The great hockey city that is Winnipeg was happier than a pig in you-know-what just to have the NHL back. When Nik Antropov became the first player to score for the new Jets, the roar was deafening. Maybe the best way to measure the city's appreciation and love for having hockey back would have been with decibels.

After a slow start (again, they were the Thrashers) the Jets have really come to find a comfort on home ice, as many thought they would. With a 12-6-1 record at home this season, the Jets have the best home mark in the Eastern Conference next to Boston's 13-6-1. It seems that a little excitement really can go a long way.

Look back: Thrashers relocate to Winnipeg

3. Sidney Crosby's concussions -- This was the biggest development to come out of the aforementioned Winter Classic in Pittsburgh. Sidney Crosby caught an elbow to the head from the Capitals' David Steckel that rocked the game's best player pretty good. He certainly appeared out of sorts but was back in the lineup a few days later against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

A check from Victor Hedman led to Crosby experiencing another concussion and he didn't play again for the rest of the season. He finally did return to game action in November, playing eight games before being shut down again for post-concussion symptoms.

Before he went down, Crosby was on pace for one mammoth season. To illustrate how good he was playing before the injury, he still finished the season as the Penguins' leading scorer by a whopping 16 points despite playing only 41 games.

For literally almost a year, the hockey world sat and waited for word on Crosby returning. There was speculation he could come back for the Penguins' playoffs games. There was talk that he might retire. None of that happened, but what did do was bring another reminder of the seriousness that are concussions.

It's not good business for the NHL when the top players aren't on the ice, let alone the best player. I'd like to think it isn't the case, but you have to wonder if Crosby's absence didn't go a long way in facilitating the NHL's actions on trying to remove bad hits as well as enacting strong concussion protocols.

The way the Penguins have handled the Crosby situation has been one of the best parts of all -- or maybe the only good part, depending on your point of view. They have been incredibly patient the entire time, insisting they didn't want to do anything to jeopardize Crosby's health and future.

But because of his most recent setback, Crosby Watch 2011 will move on into Crosby Watch 2012.

Look back: Crosby's recovery efforts

2. Deaths of Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien, Wade Belak -- The NHL's summer of sorrow began in late spring when the tragic news came down of New York Rangers and former Minnesota Wild enforcer Derek Boogaard's death. The autopsy concluded he died of a lethal mix of alcohol and Oxycodone.

Later in the offseason the NHL was then shook by the news of deaths of Rick Rypien and Wade Belak, separated by only two weeks. Both players were fighters themselves, each suffered from depression and both apparently committed suicide (Rypien's was classified as such, Belak's death treated as such by Toronto PD).

The news of their deaths was sad and shocking in their own right. These were all players 35 or younger who all shared a role in their hockey careers. It was also a catalyst for the discussion of fighting in hockey. No tie can be drawn between each of their deaths and fighting, but it at least begged the question.

Since the three players died, the conversation has picked up. It was really spurred along by the New York Times' in-depth piece that looked at the life of Boogaard and the study of his brain. The findings of the Boston University lab found Boogaard's brain was already showing signs of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, a deterioration of the brain due to repeated blows to the head.

Look back: Boogaard | Rypien | Belak

1. Bruins win Stanley Cup -- If he didn't already have the designation by all before, Tim Thomas certainly earned it in the playoffs. He is the best goalie in the world.

Thomas pretty much put the Bruins on his shoulders and carried them past the Vancouver Canucks in a great seven-game series that led to the Bruins hoisting their first Stanley Cup in 39 years. Of course Thomas topped it off with a shutout in Game 7 and took home the Conn Smythe as the playoff MVP, an incredibly well-deserved award.

But in addition to Thomas, it was one heck of a series. The first six games were won by the home team. We had one game ending a few seconds into overtime. Who can forget the man that scored that goal, Alex Burrows, was caught biting Patrice Bergeron in a scrum and the resulting taunts at Burrows from the Bruins later on.

There was Nathan Horton getting leveled and concussed in Boston in a moment that some feel changed the series. The Bruins responded to that by running the Canucks out of their building in Games 3 and 4. Horton made another impression when he was seen pouring TD Garden ice on the rink in Vancouver before Game 7, a superstitious move that will live in Bruins lore.

We had Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo pumping Thomas' tires after critiquing his aggressive style in net. Then of course item No. 6 on this list, the post-series riot in Vancouver.

The series was about as memorable as it gets. The ratings were as good as they have been in decades, too. And the Bruins' post-championship romp back in New England became a legend with a reported $156,679.74 bar tab that included one Amstel Light. It kicked off a great summer tour with the Cup for the Bruins, Michael Ryder's Cup mishap included.

There is no disputing the Bruins earned the right to lift Lord Stanley's Cup after one great Final.

Look back: Bruins win Stanley Cup

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.


Posted on: December 20, 2011 2:52 pm
 

Bolts to honor founder Esposito with sculpture

By Brian Stubits

Without Phil Esposito there probably is no team known as the Tampa Bay Lightning today. Perhaps it would have happened, but it's unlikely.

So it makes perfect sense then that the franchise is going to erect a sculpture outside the St. Pete Times Forum in downtown Tampa to honor their founder and former president and general manager. It's part of the team's 20th anniversary celebration. The team came into existence in 1992, so just hours before year No. 2 begins, they will unveil the sculpture.

"I'm very excited," Esposito told the Tampa Tribune. "I've seen the sculpture and the guy did a real good job. My only regret is we should have put a pair of hockey skates off to the side."

Here is the full description of the sculpture from the Tribune:

The life-sized sculpture, created by local artist Steven Dickey, portrays Esposito in a jacket and Lightning tie, grasping a hockey stick. Esposito brandishes a Lightning Stanley Cup ring on the finger of one hand and a ring from Boston's 1969-1970 Stanley Cup champions on the other hand.

Esposito fought tooth and nail to win an expansion berth for the Tampa Bay area and he did. His clout helped with his insistence that hockey could work in Florida was a major factor in getting the franchise awarded.

"We went through a lot of pain and suffering, but in the end, it was all worth it," said Mel Lowell, the former Madison Square Garden executive. "It's one thing to have my business experience and Henry's legal insight, but without Phil, we couldn't have even dreamed about getting a franchise in Tampa."

He has never wavered in his support of the Lightning since. Seeing them basically as his children, Esposito has been non-apologetic about his rooting for the Lightning over even teams he starred for and won a Stanley Cup with like the Boston Bruins.

And it's been proven that Tampa Bay is a sustainable hockey market. Like almost every American hockey city, attendance numbers go down when they aren't winning. It's just that the Lightning had a lot of not winning. But you go to Tampa and tell me the Bolts don't matter there. They aren't the biggest ticket in town, but they have a good fan base.

So now Esposito -- who is still around the team as he serves as the color analyst for the Lightning's radio broadcasts -- will be memorialized outside the Forum as long as it stands. A well deserved honor for the father of hockey in Tampa Bay.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: December 19, 2011 3:09 pm
Edited on: December 19, 2011 6:54 pm
 

Milan Lucic suspended 1 game



By: Adam Gretz


Zac Rinaldo said he was fine with the hit from Boston's Milan Lucic over the weekend. The NHL, however, was not fine with it.

The league announced on Monday afternoon that the Bruins forward has been suspended one game for his hit from behind during his team's 6-0 win over the Flyers on Saturday afternoon. Lucic will miss Monday's home game against the Montreal Canadiens.

Lucic was issued a five-minute major and a game misconduct for hitting Rinaldo into the boards from behind late in the second period, which was part of an extremely physical game that Boston dominated on the scoreboard from the opening faceoff.

Even though Lucic was ejected for the hit, Rinaldo was quick to come to his defense.

“It’s hockey, you hit and go into the boards, I don’t think it was dirty at all,” said Rinaldo via Tim Panaccio of CSN Philly. “Shoulder-to-shoulder and just momentum. He’s big guy, maybe double my weight. His momentum carried him into the boards awkwardly. I don’t think it was dirty at all.”

Lucic responded again on Monday after the suspension was announced, taking his medicine.

"I don't think anyone's ever happy when they get suspended," Lucic said. "But you have to respect any decision they make. I do everything my power to keep it clean out there. I try my full-on best to follow [the NHL's] rules [on hitting].

Brendan Shanahan, the NHL's disciplinary czar, did not agree.

"In spite of the fact Lucic sees Rinaldo's numbers and proximity to the boards, Lucic delivers a dangerous check from behind," said Shanahan. "Rinaldo makes no sudden movement either just prior to or simultaneous with the hit that contributes to making this an illegal check. Therefore, the onus is on Lucic to avoid this hit completely, or at the very least minimize it to a greater degree. Instead, Lucic follows through with his check driving Rinaldo high and hard into the glass."

Shanahan also added that Lucic's history of similar infractions, warnings and fines went into the decision to suspend him, as did the fact that Rinaldo suffered no apparent injury as a result of the play.

More NHL Discipline News Here

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: December 18, 2011 4:19 pm
Edited on: December 18, 2011 4:49 pm
 

Milan Lucic has hearing for hit on Zac Rinaldo

By Brian Stubits

Milan Lucic might finally get hit with the Shanahammer.

The Bruins forward who has been in the crosshairs in the past for those watching Brendan Shanahan's suspension radar, has yet to be punished beyond on-ice infractions. That could change now as Bruins coach Claude Julien announced that Lucic will have a phone hearing with Shanahan for his hit on the Flyers' Zac Rinaldo in a 6-0 Bruins win on Saturday.

Here's a look at the hit and ensuing fight between Rinaldo and Nathan Horton.

The fact that Lucic is getting a hearing leads me to believe that this is one hit Lucic won't be able to get past with no punishment.

Of course the most notable instance of a hit that wasn't punished came earlier this season when Lucic ran into Sabres goalie Ryan Miller way outside the crease. People were split on whether the hit warranted a suspension, but Shanahan explained that he didn't think the intent was there.

In this case, while Rinaldo clearly wasn't injured, I'm not sure how much Lucic can argue that it was an accident, that it wasn't his intention. Just look at what he said after the game.

"I noticed he was in a bit of a vulnerable position," Lucic said. "I looked and watched the tape again in slo-mo and I looked at the point of contact and it was his shoulder more than anything. And you can see him turning ... when he was going into the boards.

"I'm just glad no one got hurt on the play."

Admitting to delivering a hit on a guy that you saw in a vulnerable position isn't going to get him any brownie points to start the conversation off.

But then Rinaldo came out on Sunday and said he had no problems with the hit, calling it clean and "shoulder to shoulder."

So score one in Lucic's defense.

At this point I'm very curious to hear what the verdict will be. Rinaldo wasn't hurt and he had no problems with the hit, but it was a potentially dangerous play. I don't know if he'll be suspended for this or not, it's up in the air.

What I do know is that if he doesn't get suspended, this guy might have more lives than my cats. Likely there will be a lot of people feeling like the Bruins and Lucic got away with another one (judging from comments on all of the Lucic stories).

So, how many games, if any, jury?

More NHL Discipline News Here

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: December 18, 2011 10:29 am
Edited on: December 18, 2011 10:37 am
 

Mike Milbury denies allegations of assault

By Brian Stubits

On Friday, word come out from Brookline, Mass. police that Mike Milbury, currently an analyst on both NBC Sports and the CBC, was being charged with assault and battery on a 10-year-old hockey player, threatening to commit a crime and disorderly conduct. The incident happened in a game involving his son, Jake, and a fight that broke out on the ice.

The typical statement was released from Milbury's legal representation, saying “Mike Milbury denies any allegations that there was an assault of any kind. He simply intervened in an altercation between his son and an opposing player. No one was struck, no one was injured and no one was threatened.” It's very legalese and didn't say a whole lot, leaving vague the actual happenings.

But it didn't take long for Milbury to tell his full side of the story, which is backed up by some others who were there to witness it.

Milbury told the Boston Globe that Jake was targeted all game long by taunts from a player on the opposing team. It eventually led to his son's frustration boiling over and the two players getting into it.

"This was also after watching my kid get verbally bullied by the other player for over two hours," Milbury said. "It was the third time that night that Jake and the kid got into it, and that was the last straw for Jake. I mean, what kid can take that?"

What happened next is what's in contention now.

“I want to be clear about a couple of things," Milbury said. “No one was punched, kicked, or assaulted in any way. I know the ‘Mad Mike’ image that I have and all that. I love the game, I’m passionate about it, but I don’t smack kids around. I grabbed the other kid by the sweater to stop a fight and, yeah, I swore at him. That’s it. That’s what I did.

“I yelled at him, ‘What did you say?! What the [expletive] did you just say to [Jake]?!’"

Milbury's account of events was backed up by a parent of one of Jake's teammates, Peter Weiner.

Weiner told the Globe he was there throughout the night and that he witnessed Jake “being needled pretty much all game," and lauded Milbury for helping to restrain the skirmishing players.

“All he did was stop the kids," Weiner said. “And on top of it, he booted his own kid off the ice."

That differs only a little from the reported account from an opposing team's parent, from Deadspin.

Coaches from both teams went on to the ice to break it up, and at this point, says a Blackhawks parent, Milbury grabbed the victim's facemask and screamed at him, asking "What did you say to my son?" Milbury allegedly lifted the kid off the ground and shook him, yelling obscenities all the while, before dropping him roughly to the ice.

The accounts really are very similar. So the only gray matter there appears to be in this situation is how physical Milbury was with the other team's player. Milbury says he grabbed his jersey and swore. The other view says Milbury lifted him off the ground and shook the player.

With seeing the two sides so similar in their stories, I'd imagine it's a matter of perspective. Exaggeration often occurs in situations like this, but not on purpose. The moment is intense and sometimes things become more grandiose. Or in the other vein, sometimes a person doesn't really how far they might have gone.

Just my completely unqualified hunch, I'd be very surprised if anything serious came out of this for Milbury. If anything, I'd imagine he'll have some community service to do. But the damage to his reputation is already done and even exoneration likely won't take away the stain.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: December 17, 2011 5:20 pm
Edited on: December 17, 2011 5:28 pm
 

Couturier hit in head with puck; Lucic ejected

By: Adam Gretz

The Boston Bruins completely dismantled the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday afternoon, cruising to a 6-0 win in a game that featured the type of physical play that is to be expected anytime these two teams are on the same ice surface.

It wasn't a physical hockey play, however, that resulted in the latest head injury for a Flyers player. With time ticking down in the opening period, and the Flyers already facing a four-goal deficit, rookie forward Sean Couturier was involved in a rather scary incident in front of the net when he was hit in the side of the head with a puck following a shot from his own teammate, defenseman Kimmo Timonen.

He left the game and did not return with what general manager Paul Holmgren described as "a head injury."



That's the type of month it's been for the Flyers, a team that's already lost forwards Claude Giroux and Brayden Schenn, as well as defenseman Chris Pronger, to concussions. It was announced this past week that Pronger is expected to be out for the remainder of the regular season and the playoffs, while there is no immediate timetable for Giroux or Schenn to return.

Of course, that wasn't the only noteworthy development during Saturday's game.

Late in the second period Bruins forward Milan Lucic was given a five-minute major and a game misconduct for hitting Zac Rinaldo from behind, setting off one of the game's three fights.



Given that there was an ejection it's sure to get at least another look from the NHL's disciplinary czar, Brendan Shanahan, even if nothing comes of it. Over the past week we've seen Toronto's Dion Phaneuf and Winnipeg's Zach Bogosian be ejected for hits from behind with no supplemental discipline handed out by the league.

Saturday's game also marked the return of defenseman Zdeno Chara to the Boston lineup and he responded with a Gordie Howe Hat Trick, scoring a goal, recording an assist and fighting Philadelphia's Jody Shelley.

For the Bruins, it's their fourth in a row, a stretch that's seen them outscore their opponents 19-5, as they continue their dominant run that started over a month ago that's seen them post an 18-2-1 record since November 1.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: December 16, 2011 1:39 pm
Edited on: December 16, 2011 2:35 pm
 

Weekend Preview: Flyers streak on sans Pronger, G

Schedules: Friday | Saturday | Sunday

By Brian Stubits

There must be something in the water in Pennsylvania. That's the old cliché people turn to when they can't make sense of what's going on, how people (or teams in this case) continue to perform at a high level despite the obstacles.

We saw it last year (and again this season, really) with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Despite being without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin the second half of last season, they just kept on winning. Their 106 points were tied with the Flyers for most in the Atlantic and were just one point behind the Capitals for best in the East.

This season, the Flyers are getting their own taste of life without their Stars. And just like their Keystone State brethren, they continue to win. As in seven in a row.

Philly has been playing without its captain Chris Pronger for a month now. After yesterday's news, they are going to have to play the rest of the season without him, too. In fact, some are saying that Pronger might never play a game again. After all, he is 37 and he has a life after hockey to think about.

As good as Pronger is and has been his entire career, the Flyers have done a good job overcoming his absence this season -- nay, a great job. Since he last played against Winnipeg on Nov. 19, the Flyers have won nine of 11 games.

As callous as it always feels, the Flyers must move on. While their captain and best defenseman deals with severe post-concussion syndrome, they have a very promising season to continue. With the roster freeze coming next week, it's unlikely the Flyers will acquire some additional help on the blue line in the near future, but it will have to be a consideration for Flyers GM Paul Holmgren.

Holmgren told the media on Friday that he's already considered that, having called all 29 teams, presumably about any defensemen they might have available.

But that's for then. Right now, the Flyers are making due without him or their budding superstar center Claude Giroux (or simply G, as they team calls him). It doesn't seem like it will be a long shelving for Giroux, but you never can know, concussions tend to be pretty fickle.

In the only games the Flyers have played without either player, they have won. Despite missing their leading scorer and a point-producing defenseman, Philly has still averaged 4.5 goals in the two games without Giroux and Pronger.

But now a real test comes to see how they compare with the other beats of the East without the two stars.

The Boston Bruins are nipping on the Flyers' heels for the best record in the Eastern Conference and they, too, have been playing without arguably their best player (skaters-only division) in Zdeno Chara. But the big man might be back in time for the Saturday matinee in Philadelphia.

"We're going to give him a chance to fly and see how he feels," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "If he feels good then we have a chance of seeing him."

Normally I'd lament this game being played without Giroux, Pronger and possibly Chara. But with the way both of them, the Flyers in particular, have played without the all-stars, I don't see it stopping what will likely still be a very good game.

Winnipeg welcome wagon rolls on

This first season with the Jets back in the NHL has been an ongoing welcome wagon for the folks in Manitoba. They were licking their chops at getting to see Ilya Bryzgalov, they relished the opportunity to see former Jet Shane Doan back in Winnipeg.

Now comes perhaps the best welcome/return of them all; Teemu Selanne.

The veteran once starred for the Jets before he was traded to the Anaheim Ducks. He has waited for the chance to go back and play in the first NHL city he called home. Now it comes on Saturday night.

"You know, even when the schedule came out, even when I didn't know if I was going to play or not, I checked right away if we were going to Winnipeg," Selanne said. "That day was on my calendar right away.

"I knew there were two really special things. Obviously the Finland trip and then Winnipeg. It was really exciting to even think about it."

Unlike the welcomes fans in Winnipeg gave to Bryzgalov and, to an extent, Doan, it's hard to imagine there will be any jeers, only cheers for Selanne.

"He was so admired. It was overwhelming," Jets chairman Mark Chipman said of Selanne. "This guy was so good and so approachable and so humble in his approach that the community just absolutely fell head over heels for the guy."

Amazingly, Selanne is still performing at the level he was when he first broke into the NHL with the Jets in the early 90s. That's only going to help the flashbacks for the fans -- minus that whole wearing the Ducks jersey part.

Back in Buffalo

One of the more criticized offseason signings (excluding just about every move made by the Florida Panthers) was the Toronto Maple Leafs signing former Sabres center Tim Connolly. Leafs GM Brian Burke gave Connolly a two-year deal worth $4.75 million per season.

People in Buffalo laughed and simply said "Enjoy!" to their near-neighbors in Toronto. It wasn't about Connolly being a bad player -- he's not at all -- but it was about his health concerns. There always seemed to be something that was keeping Connolly on the bench.

So there's a sense of irony when the Maple Leafs visit the First Niagara Center this weekend. Connolly will be healthy and on the ice against his former team. Although he hasn't been without his health issues this season, when he's been on the ice, he's been good for Toronto. In 18 games played, he has 15 points.

On the other hand, the deal that Buffalo signed with Ville Leino was widely applauded. That one hasn't worked out so well.

Reunion tour continues

The Washington Capitals will be visiting the Colorado Avalanche this weekend. That means they will get to see their old goalie Semyon Varlamov up close and personal again.

Varlamov was traded to the Avs this summer after he made it clear that he was looking to play in the KHL over Washington. So Caps GM George McPhee swung a deal with the Avs to give them Varlamov in exchange for Colorado's first-round draft pick this offseason and their second-round pick.

So not only do the Caps get the chance to say hi to an old friend, but they can help themselves out in more ways than one. The points in the standings are the first and most obvious way, but every game without points for the Avs helps the Caps' first-round draft pick go higher and higher.

Although it's quieted down with Varlamov coming back down to earth, when he and the Avalanche were off to their hot starts, some in Washington wondered if the team made the wrong goalie decision. There might still be some questions considering the duo of Tomas Vokoun and Michal Neuvirth hasn't fared much better, if at all. But at least Neuvirth comes into the game having just shut out the Jets in Winnipeg, so there might be some positive momentum building. The goaltending problems have been as much an issue as anything in D.C. this season.

Canucks are still great

In fact, according to Roberto Luongo they are better than they were last season, which was great.

"We were one win away, so I don't think you need to change much," Luongo said. "That being said, though, we went through a lot last year, and I think we grew as a team. So for that reason alone, I think that we're better than last year."

That's even with him still getting a lot of starts in the net. Remember, he was a Vezina finalist last season. This season? Not so much.

Their next chance to prove Lu right will come in Toronto on Saturday evening for another Hockey Night in Canada appearance.

Stammer don't hurt 'em!

More like don't get hurt Stammer.

With his overtime winner on Thursday night, Steven Stamkos joined Milan Michalek on the top of the goal-scoring list this season with his 19th. Hopefully the same fate that has befallen many of the game's best scorers in recent weeks won't strike the Lightning's superstar.

With Michalek, Giroux, Sidney Crosby and Jeff Skinner (among many others) recently being diagnosed with concussions or at least post-concussion symptoms, the last thing the league wants is another young star to go down. If anything, it would probably love to see Stamkos go on one of his tears and become a positive story in the league again.

He'll have the chance to take the lead in the goals race by himself when Tampa Bay heads to Columbus to face the Blue Jackets.

We're going streaking!

Flyers: As mentioned, they are the hottest thing going in the NHL right now between their seven-game win streak and HBO's 24/7.

Bruins: Philly's opponent brings a modest three-game run of itself into the Saturday matchup.

Chicago Blackhawks: A double-dip awaits the Blackhawks and their three-game win streak as they face the Ducks and Flames.

Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues: We're going to combine these two because they are both riding four-game win streaks and they will face off against one another on Saturday. The Blues also have the Jackets on Sunday.

Dallas Stars: Last on the win side, the Pacific-leading Stars take to New Jersey seeking to extend their three-game streak on Scott Niedermayer Night.

New York Islanders: Once again, the Isles are slumping. They get to face the NHL-best Minnesota Wild with a four-game skid. The good news for New York is Minnesota is likely down a lot of bodies.

Florida Panthers The Southeast leaders are on a mini slump having lost three in a row. They have the Flames and Hurricanes at home this weekend to try and cure the ills.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: December 16, 2011 12:38 pm
Edited on: December 16, 2011 4:33 pm
 

Mike Milbury charged with assaulting 12-year-old

By Brian Stubits

Mike Milbury, the former Bruins player and coach as well as Islanders GM who is now an analyst for Versus, NBC and NESN as well as occassional guest on Hockey Night in Canada, has been charged with assaulting a 12-year-old hockey player in Brookline, Mass. The report first came from CBSBoston.com.

The Boston Herald has more information on the details of what happened.

Police today said they have charged Milbury with assault and battery on a child, threats to commit a crime and disorderly conduct in connection with his alleged verbal and physical attack on a 12-year-old boy during a pee-wee exhibition hockey game last Friday night at the town-owned Larz Andersen Rink in Brookline.

...

The incident allegedly occurred at the end of the Winter Classic between the Boch Blazers for whom Milbury coaches and his son plays forward vs. the Boston Junior Black Hawks. It is alleged that after Milbury’s son and a player for the Black Hawks got into a scrape on the ice, Milbury charged out onto the rink and verbally berated and grabbed and shook the 12-year-old opposing player.

A statement on Milbury's behalf was released today by his lawyer, Daniel Rabinovitz.

“Mike Milbury denies any allegations that there was an assault of any kind. He simply intervened in an altercation between his son and an opposing player. No one was struck, no one was injured and no one was threatened.”

NBC, which owns and operates Versus (soon to become NBC Sports Network) also released a statement ont he accusations.

“We are aware of the story and are gathering the facts. We will not have any further statements until we know more information," NBC said.

If true -- and I accentuate that, he has only been charged at this point -- I don't think it will catch many by surprise. Milbury has long been recognized for his temper, among other things. Perhaps no moment was more infamous than the time that the whole Bruins team he played for climbed into the stands in a game against the Rangers and Milbury was seen ripping off the shoe of a fan and then hitting the fan with said shoe.



He didn't earn the nickname Mad Mike Milbury for nothing.

As an analyst, Milbury has been just about as controversial as he was a GM for the Islanders, albeit for different reasons. Milbury isn't looked upon too fondly by the Isles fans after what they view was a colossal failure as his time leading their franchise.

On TV, he's probably about as disliked by the viewers as he was the fans of the Islanders. He has been known to get loud and argumentative on the air as well as taking a lot of unpopular stances. But he's always been consistent. He has and continues to stand up for the rough side of the sport.

I'll just say what a wacky couple of days in Massachusetts for non-professional hockey. First there was the story about a player pooping in another player's glove, now this. Also, you might remember another hockey analyst, Matthew Barnaby, was arrested for DWI.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com