Posted on: March 9, 2012 12:07 am
Edited on: March 9, 2012 12:10 am
By: Adam Gretz
There's always a winner and a loser in the NHL, and this is a new nightly look at some of the winners and losers in the biggest games and biggest situations across the league.
Tomas Vincour and the Dallas Stars: Dallas went into Thursday's game against San Jose holding a three-point lead in the Pacific Division over the suddenly slumping -- and fading -- Sharks. The one thing the Sharks had going for them was the fact that they had games in hand, as wel as three remaining meetings with the Stars. All of that only matters, of course, if the Sharks find a way to get into the win column again, and they fell short of that once again as the Stars found a way to scratch and claw out another win, beating San Jose in a shootout, 4-3.
It was probably the game of the night in terms of entertainment, and after San Jose took the lead, 3-2, with less than four minutes to play in regulation, Tomas Vincour scored the game-tying goal for the Stars on a goal that cleared the goal line behind Antti Niemi by, oh, let's say about an inch, sending the game to overtime.
The Stars had to kill off a 4-on-3 power play in the extra period, and ended up picking up the extra point in the standings thanks to Vincour's goal -- the only one in the shootout -- in the fifth-round.
With the win, the Stars now hold a four-point lead in the Division race. The two teams will meet two more times this season and the Sharks still have two games in hand, but again, sooner or later they have to start winning some of these games.
[Related: Stars 4, Sharks 3]
Washington Capitals: Say this for the Capitals -- they certainly make it interesting, and for the second time in a week they needed a late third period goal to force overtime, taking advantage of an Eric Brewer turnover, and then receiving a game-winning goal in the extra period from their captain, Alex Ovechkin, to pick up a 3-2 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The win, combined with Florida's embarrassing loss to Philadelphia, moves the Capitals back to within two points of the top spot in the Southeast division.
Unfortunately, the Capitals may have to be without defenseman Mike Green for a game (or more) if the NHL decides to suspended him for his elbow to the head of Lightning forward Brett Connolly in the second period.
[Related: Capitals 3, Lightning 2 -- Video: Green elbows Connolly]
Boston Bruins: If nothing else, Boston's 3-1 win over the Sabres on Thursday night was big because it gave the Bruins consecutive wins for the first time since January 10-12. It also allowed them to maintain their three-point lead over the Ottawa Senators in the surprisingly tight Northeast Division race.
[Related: Bruins 3, Sabres: 1]
Florida Panthers: Yeah, they're still in first place, but you have to wonder how much longer they can go on like this. With their 5-0 loss to the Flyers, combined with the Capitals win, gives them just a two point lead in the division, and for the season they've now been outscored by 26 goals.
How bad is that? The only teams that have been outscored by more goals this season are the New York Islanders, Tampa Bay Lightning, Edmonton Oilers, Minnesota Wild and Columbus Blue Jackets.
That's not the type of company you want to be keeping at this point in the season.
[Related: Flyers 5, Panthers 0]
Another slow start for the Phoenix Coyotes: The Coyotes are making it difficult on themselves. On Thursday night against the Minnesota Wild they found themselves in a 2-0 hole for the fifth consecutive game, and it shouldn't be much of a surprise that for the fifth straight game they ended up in the loss column. Granted, this one came in a shootout, 4-3, giving them a point in the standings, but they can't keep falling behind by two goals early in games.
It's hard enough to win that way in the NHL for any team, especially one that isn't really built to play from behind.
[Related: Wild 3, Coyotes 2]
Anaheim Ducks: Bad night all around for the Ducks and their playoff chances. Not only did they lose to a Blues team that took over sole possession of the top spot in the NHL, a number of the teams they're chasing in the standings (Dallas, Phoenix, San Jose) gained a point. They're now back to being seven points out of the No. 8 seed.
[Related: Blues 3, Ducks 1 -- Blues take over top spot in NHL]
Los Angeles Kings: The Columbus Blue Jackets continued their spoiler role on Thursday with a 3-1 win over a Los Angeles Kings that couldn't afford to drop a game to the worst team in the league, on the same night the Blue Jackets did their part to erase the memories of Jeff Carter's brief stay in central Ohio by replacing his nameplates on fan jerseys with Jack Johnson nameplates.
And speaking of Johnson, and adding insult to injury for the Kings, he managed to get some revenge on the team that trade him (for Carter) by scoring what proved to be the game-winning goal. The Blue Jackets have now won four consecutive games, something they had not done since November. Of 2010.
[Related: Blue Jackets, 3 Kings 1 -- Blue Jackets will fix your Carter jersey]
For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter and like us on Facebook.
Tags: Adam Gretz, Alex Ovechkin, Anaheim Ducks, Antti Niemi, Brendan Shanahan, Brett Connolly, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Eric Brewer, Florida Panthers, Jack Johnson, Jeff Carter, Los Angeles Kings, Mike Green, Minnesota Wild, NHL Discipline, Philadelphia Flyers, Phoenix Coyotes, San Jose Sharks, Shanaban, St. Louis Blues, Tampa Bay Lightning, Thomas Vincour, Washington Capitals
Posted on: March 8, 2012 9:01 pm
Edited on: March 9, 2012 12:28 am
By: Adam Gretz
There haven't been many suspensions in the NHL over the past couple of months, but Washington Capitals defenseman Mike Green may have given Brendan Shanahan a reason to fire up another one of his (now rare) disciplinary videos.
Late in the second period of Thursday's game against Tampa Bay, a pretty important game in the Eastern Conference playoff race, Green delivered an elbow to the head of Lightning forward Brett Connolly (as he was being held up by Dmitry Orlov), dropping him to the ice.
There was no penalty called on the play, but Green has been suspended previously in his NHL career, missing three games for elbowing Michael Frolik in the head last season.
After the game Connolly said that it was a hockey play by Green and that he put himself in a bad position. Lightning coach Guy Boucher, however, said that he feels the NHL needs to look at it.
"The league has to look at that. It's right at the head, the head's targeted. For me it's clear.
"The ref didn't see it. But you know, the refs are on the ice, they can't see everything. It happens so fast there's people beside them so I don't blame the refs. To me it could have been a five [minute major] and the head was targeted, it's clear. We just watched it on the video."
For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter and like us on Facebook.
Posted on: December 27, 2011 12:25 pm
It's getting harder and harder for general managers to loan their prized young prospects to their junior national teams. What happened to Canada's Devante Smith-Pelly serves as the latest deterrent.
In Canada's 8-1 destruction of Finland in its tournament opener on Monday, the Scarborough, Ontario native and Anaheim Ducks forward Smith-Pelly, was forced to leave the game after blocking a shot. He didn't return and then later on Monday the Ducks announced Smith-Pelly won't be coming back for Team Canada or the Ducks for at least a month. He suffered a fractured left foot and will be out 4-6 weeks.
Before I go any further, I must make it clear that NHL players have to be released to the national teams and GMs certainly have the right of refusal. Smith-Pelly and Tampa Bay Lightning center Brett Connolly are the only NHL players in this year's World Junior Championships, but Team Canada also sought the services of Erik Gudbranson of the Florida Panthers, however GM Dale Tallon denied, so Gudbranson is still with the big club in South Florida. The Edmonton Oilers had a similar decision to make with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and they elected at the beginning of the season not to have him play for Team Canada. There were plenty of other options denied as well.
It has long been a common practice for teams to grant the requests of the national clubs. The thought process often included the idea of how much can be learned playing for your country as well as getting some more ice time for players who might not get as much as young prospects on their NHL squads. But we're likely going to see fewer and fewer.
In the cases of players like Nugent-Hopkins, it's a no-brainer for the franchise to keep the player around. He's an all-world talent and has been arguably the best player on the ice for the Oilers this season. He is literally a key component of the team winning. In the case of Smith-Pelly, Connolly and Gudbranson, none has received a lot of ice time this season. In the case of Gudbranson, he's actually been a healthy scratch on numerous occasions this season. Still, Florida didn't want to let him leave the team for a few weeks.
The risks will scare more and more teams away. In addition the obvious of not wanting to take a good player off your roster for a few weeks, who wants to risk injuries that will cost their team a good, young player?
Obviously Smith-Pelly could have suffered the same injury with the Ducks and it's in no way to say that his playing for Team Canada is to blame for his injury. The same thing could happen in any game at any level. But the fact is Smith-Pelly did get hurt playing for Team Canada. You'd at least rather your guy get hurt playing for your team, wouldn't you?
We hear all the time in sports the objectifying of players. They are called pieces, parts, assets, weapons. Another popular one is calling them investments. In the case of the latter, it's a pretty apt comparison to make, after all teams put a lot of money into professional athletes. When you are talking about 19-year-olds, they are part of your franchise's future. They really do fit the bill for the word investment. So do you really think many people want to turn over high-priced investments to another broker, to keep the analogy going? I don't think so.
There aren't many players in the NHL that are still eligible to play in the juniors. Most of the ones that are of age are of the Nugent-Hopkins ilk, so good that they can make an immediate impact in the NHL. They aren't going to leave the NHL for a few weeks to play for their junior national team. So really we're only talking about a small number of players that are under 20 but aren't logging serious minutes in the NHL. For them there is still some upside in a loan to the national team, most specifically more ice time.
Of course, weighing the player's desire to play for their national team has to be a consideration. Last thing you want is a player to feel resentment over not getting a chance to wear his nation's sweater. That's why I don't think this will ever be an issue for the Olympics.
They aren't completely comparable as the NHL has begun shutting down for the Olympics thus no player is missing games for their professional team, but there have been rumblings that not all league executives like letting their players go play for their national teams because of the risks at play. But that's a battle they won't win. There are too many guys who want to play in the games, so they'll play.
But at some point the cons will outweigh the pros when you are talking about a couple of players at the junior level. The Ducks won't have Smith-Pelly available for a couple of weeks when the Junior Championships are done. That's too bad, I'm sure coach Bruce Boudreau would like some time to work with the young and talented player. The odds of the Ducks climbing back into the playoff picture are long, but a healthy Smith-Pelly wouldn't hurt them by any stretch. That's a pretty big con.
He hasn't played a whole lot with the Ducks, score three goals and two assists in a little less than nine minutes on ice per game. But he was helping to provide some line depth for a team that doesn't have a lot of it in Anaheim.
I'm not saying this is a death sentence to the World Junior Championships -- that would be ludicrous -- or even the end of NHL players in the Junior Championships. There will still the occasional NHLer released for the championships, just not often.
Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: December 8, 2011 9:50 pm
Edited on: December 8, 2011 11:35 pm
In the second period of their game in Madison Square Garden, there was a really interesting sequence that unfolded. While on the power play, a Lightning slap shot took down Brett Connolly in front of the Rangers crease, leading to a breakout the other direction. The rush was finished off by Artem Anisimov scoring a goal. The place was excited.
Then all hell broke loose. Relatively speaking, of course.
Obviously pleased with his effort and the go-ahead goal, Anisimov felt like celebrating. That's all fine and dandy, until he decided to pretend his stick is a gun and aim right for Mathieu Garon and the Lightning net. Vincent Lecavalier wasn't happy as you might expect.
The ensuing scrum resulted in four minutes of roughing for Marc-Andre Bergeron, two for roughing on Steven Stamkos, two minutes for roughing on Downie and a 10-minute misconduct, four minutes for Brandon Dubinsky on roughing, two minutes to Anisimov for unsportsmanlike conduct, four for roughing and a 10-minute misconduct. Phew!
"It's wrong, we all know that," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "It's the wrong thing to do. He's a solid, solid guy who made a mistake. He's not an idiot."
"I guess I'm in a protective mode because he deserves to be protected."
Tortorella went on to say that Anisimov apologized for his celebration and that he'll be available to the media on Friday. Nor did Tortorella blame his former team, the Lightning, for their reaction, admitting that Anisimov crossed a line."Artie's not doing it to do anything against their team," Brad Richards added. "Artie won't do that again. He wasn't trying to embarrass anybody."
That would have been the end of and the sportsmanship of Anisimov would have been the only remaining talking point for the next few days.
That's until you see the replay again and wonder, where did Downie come from to join that scrum? That's right, the bench. That means an automatic suspension is coming his way -- if it's determined it wasn't a line change. That could be the one thing that saves Downie if they decide he was coming onto the ice for the next shift after goal, but it sure doesn't look that way.
Eric Godard learned the suspension lesson last year with the Penguins. Making it worse, Downie doesn't have a pristine reputation. Brendan Shanahan might add more games on to what could be a long suspension.
In the end, it was the Lightning getting the last laugh, winning in a shootout after a late comeback to end their five-game losing streak.
But back to the original celebration. Are you OK with Anisimov going gunny on the Lightning?
Posted on: October 20, 2011 4:06 pm
One of the rules of the CBA I love is the ability to give young prospects extended tryouts with the parent organization without risking a contract kicking in. It's a great opportunity for players to learn from some NHL experience and, in some cases, prove they are too good to be sent back to their junior team.
These players are known as "Slide-Risk" players. Here's what the CBA rule states specifically:
"In the event that an 18 year old or 19 year old player signs a Player Contract with a Club but does not play at least 10 NHL games (regular season and/or playoffs) in the first season under that player's Player Contract, the term of his Player Contract and his number of years in the Entry Level System shall be extended for a period of one year, except that this automatic extension will not apply to a player who is age 19 according to Section 9.2 by virtue of turning 20 between September 16 and December 31 in the year in which he first signs a Player Contract."
To summarize, if a player under the age of 20 doesn't play more than 10 games at the NHL level, his contract doesn't kick in. So that's one more year to hold off restricted free agency. What's not to like about the provision?
This season, there are 12 players who could be returned and have their contract years delayed. Without further ado, let's see the names (in alphabetical order, of course).
Brett Bulmer, Minnesota Wild: Bulmer was selected 39th overall by the Wild two drafts ago, but his toughness and energy seem to be welcome as far as first-year coach Mike Yeo is concerned. Bulmer seems like he has earned a spot on the third line, although he hasn't been playing all that much (9:38 per game). He does have a pair of assists in that time. He might not play a whole lot, but Yeo talks pretty glowingly about him. Verdict: Wild ride continues.
Brett Connolly, Tampa Bay Lightning: This is an iffy call. Connolly, taken sixth overall two drafts ago, has the skill. That's evident by his playing alongside Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis at times already this season. Here's what coach Guy Boucher told the Tampa Tribune: "He eventually will be an NHL player. Now will he be an NHL player starting this year for a long time? It's up to him and it's up to, I think, circumstances, too, for us to see if he can manage it because we don't want to hurt the kids." Verdict: 50/50 still.
Sean Couturier, Philadelphia Flyers: The Flyers' top pick in this summer's draft might have surprised a few by earning such a strong look from the staff in Philly, but he has continued to impress. Couturier at this point seems like a fixture already on the team's penalty-killing unit and he is averaging 14:53 minutes on ice per game. He also has a goal and two assists through the first five games. Verdict: Looks like a lock to stay.
Erik Gudbranson, Florida Panthers: The rough-and-tumble defenseman who went third overall two years ago has found himself a defensive partner in Ed Jovanovski, the veteran the Cats brought in this summer. He has only managed 11:49 of ice time in five games, but that's partly because he has racked up 24 minutes in penalties already, getting himself into a pair of fights against the Lightning. Verdict: There seems to be no inclination to send him down. Fine in Florida.
Ryan Johansen, Columbus Blue Jackets: He has played in only three of the Blue Jackets' six games this season, getting on the ice for just 8:18 per game. If he sticks around, his role won't be a big one, likely finding a home on the third of fourth lines. He is their big prospect in Columbus, but he might benefit from more time in the WHL, especially if the team isn't committed to playing him night and night out. Verdict: Could go either way still.
Gabriel Landeskog, Colorado Avalanche: Landeskog was the player who was universally dubbed with the "most NHL ready" tag prior to this past summer's draft. The expectation for whichever team took him, he would become a fixture almost immediately. That still seems to be the case in Colorado as Landeskog is playing close to 17 minutes a game, has shown solid speed and strength and amassed three points (two goals and an assist). Things are going good in Colorado with him there, that should say enough. Don't mess with a good thing. Verdict: Get comfortable in Denver, kid.
Adam Larsson, New Jersey Devils: Many believed the Devils got a steal by grabbing Larsson with the fourth pick of the draft this summer. But the three that went before him look pretty darn good too, so it's understandable. But that doesn't mean he might not be the best rookie of them all. The Calder candidate has been averaging a whopping 24:14 of ice time with New Jersey and is expected to be a rock on the blueline at the Rock. Verdict: Jersey boy for sure.
Nino Niederreiter, New York Islanders: The fifth overall pick two years ago was given an extended look last season when he played nine games for the Islanders, totaling two points. He was expected to earn a roster spot this year but he has yet to play because of a groin injury. When he's ready, he'll get his nine-game tryout started and they will go from there. Verdict: Good chance he's staying on the Island.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton Oilers: There was some skepticism if Nugent-Hopkins was ready for the grind of an NHL season but the Oilers would keep him anyway, it's important the franchise show the future. Well if he's shown anything in the first few games it's that he's good enough to stick around on his own merits anyway. He leads the team in scoring thanks in part to a hat trick already in his career. Verdict: Bundle up for an Edmonton winter.
Mark Scheifele, Winnipeg Jets: The Jets turned lots of heads with their selection of Scheifele early in the draft, but he was impressive during camp and the preseason. So he earned his right at an extended look from the team. He does have a goal on the power play but he has averaged just 11:25 of ice time. "We'll do what's best for him," was coach Claude Noel's cryptic response to Scheifele's place. Verdict: A little more seasoning in juniors before a full season in the NHL.
Devante Smith-Pelly, Anaheim Ducks: It wasn't long ago that Smith-Pelly seemed like a bit of a long-shot to make the roster. But he's giving his best effort to make it a tough call on the staff. He has seemed to work well with Andrew Cogliano and Andrew Gordon on the third line. Averaging a little more than 11 minutes per game, he has picked up one assist. Verdict: Have a feeling he stays since he can't be recalled if he's sent to juniors again. Few more games will tell the tale for sure.
Mika Zibanejad, Ottawa Senators: This is a tough call. From a physical standpoint, Zibanejad seems ready. This hit from his European days pre-draft drew a lot of attention. And earlier this year, GM Bryan Murray said Zibanejad would stay with the Sens. But with just one assist in 12:35 per game and Ottawa being as dreadful as it has been, you wonder if he wouldn't benefit more by being sent down. Verdict: Should probably return to Sweden but gut tells me he stays in Ottawa.
Photo: Getty Images
Tags: Adam Larsson, Anaheim Ducks, Brett Bulmer, Brett Connolly, Brian Stubits, Colorado Avalanche, Columbus Blue Jackets, Devante Smith-Pelly, Edmonton Oilers, Erik Gudbranson, Florida Panthers, Gabriel Landeskog, Mark Scheifele, Mika Zibanejad, Minnesota Wild, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, Nino Niederreiter, Ottawa Senators, Philadelphia Flyers, Restricted Free Agency, Ryan Johansen, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Sean Couturier, Slide-Risk Players, Tampa Bay Lightning, Winnipeg Jets
Posted on: September 30, 2011 10:12 am
TROUBLE IN PARADISE: Jose Theodore, the Panthers' new starting goaltender, played the entirety of the team's final preseason game, a 7-1 shellacking in Dallas. Kevin Dineen expressed some concern over a bad camp but says there's lot of time. (Miami Herald). If he struggles, it will be Jacob Markstrom to come in as he beat out Tyler Plante for the backup job. (Miami Herald)
TRAVEL Kings: Ever wonder who does the most traveling in the NHL every season? Well this year it will be the Los Angeles Kings, who will rack up more than 55,000 miles with 15 back-to-back games and 13 one-game road trips. The Florida Panthers come in second. Surprisingly, the Winnipeg Jets are just 10th on the list. (Shark Page)
WHAT'S YOUR NUMBER?: There will be a change to the helmets in the NHL this season, but we aren't talking about player safety here. Instead, this season players will have their numbers plastered on the front of their domes in addition to the back, their jersey and shoulders. Just in case, you know, you missed it everywhere else. (Icethetics)
SECOND, BEST?: Most think if Phil Kessel when talking about the Toronto Maple Leafs and their best players. While he did lead the team in scoring last season, it just might be the second line of Nikolai Kulemin, Mikhail Grabovski and Clarke MacArthur in Toronto that really does the damage and dictates the Leafs' success. (Globe and Mail)
MIKA MAKING IT?: The Senators figure to get a lot of time to look at their prospects this season as the prospects for a good season aren't high. So on that note, the team's first pick in the draft this summer, big Swede Mika Zibanejad, has pretty much nailed down a roster spot with the Sens. (Senators Extra)
RISING TO THE CHALLENGE: Brett Connolly is the top prospect for the Tampa Bay Lightning, a ballyhooed player the fans can't wait to see skating in Tampa. The 2010 sixth-overall draft pick is having a great camp and showing he's worthy of at least a longer look, the first nine games of the season. (St. Petersburg Times)
PICK MIGHT STICK: The Pittsburgh Penguins might have found themselves a real gem in the back end of the first orund. Their top pick Joe Morrow is still hanging around camp and keeps a chance to earn a roster spot alive, especially as long as Brooks Orpik is out with an abdominal injury. (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)
LOOKING GOOD: Nashville, music city, has plenty of good-looking people. A few minutes watching Country Music Television will tell you that. Nashville Lifestyles put together a list of the 25 most beautiful and wouldn't you know it, Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne cracked the list. (Nashville Lifestyles)
SUSPENSIONS STICK: Tom Sestito of the Flyers and Jean-Francois Jacques were each suspended by Brendhan Shanahan for action in preseason games and have both been subsequently sent down to AHL affiliates. Well the AHL announced on Thursday that it will enforce the suspensions as well. (TheAHL.com)
STILL GOT IT: Don't think Martin Broudeur has llost much yet. Check out this rob job in last night's Devils game in Philadephia, somehow keeping the puck out of a wide-open net.
Tags: AHL, Brett Connolly, Brian Stubits, Clarke MacArthur, Daily Skate, Florida Panthers, Jacob Markstrom, Jean-Francois Jacques, Joe Morrow, Jose Theodore, Los Angeles Kings, Martin Brodeur, Mika Zibanejad, Mikhail Grabovski, Nashville Predators, New Jersey Devils, Nikolai Kulemin, Ottawa Senators, Pekka Rinne, Phil Kessel, Pittsburgh Penguins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Tom Sestito, Toronto Maple Leafs, Tyler Plante, Winnipeg Jets
Posted on: August 5, 2011 10:37 am
NOT OSGOOD ENOUGH: The debate will go on as long as we don't have anything more meaningful to discuss. (OK, that's a lie, we've had much more meaningful things, but we digress.) Is Chris Osgood worthy of a place in the Hall of Fame? Here's a submission from a Red Wings fan arguing why Osgood should NOT be inducted. I always like seeing a fan trying his/her best to be impartial and arguing against their team. In this case, Osgood is truly as close to a tossup as you will find and you can make the argument either way.
ISLES THIRD JERSEY?: The blog over at Puck Daddy got wind yesterday of a possible third jersey for next season for the New York Islanders. As you might have noticed, alternates have become all the rage, a nice way for teams to sell additional jerseys. The sweater features a lot of black with blue and orange piping. The team later said that the mockup was one of the versions being considered but no final decision was made. I am clearly in the minority based on the onslaught of bad reactions the team received for it, but I don't mind them.
BOLTS PROSPECT HURT: Perhaps the Lightning's top prospect, Brett Connolly was hurt in a game on Thursday, having to be helped off the ice according to TSN's Ryan Rishaug, who says that it looked like a leg injury, and not a very good one.
OVIE DITCHES CCM: Capitals star Alexander Ovechkin made an off-ice move this week, changing his apparel company from CCM to Bauer. Too bad, I guess it means the end of the crazy Ovechkin commercials that CCM was running like this one.