Posted on: December 17, 2011 5:20 pm
Edited on: December 17, 2011 5:28 pm
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 10:15 pm
Edited on: December 16, 2011 10:15 pm
By: Adam Gretz
Late in the second period of a Wild game between Toronto and Buffalo on Friday night, which Buffalo won by a 5-4 margin, Maple Leafs defenseman Dion Phaneuf was issued a five-minute major and a game misconduct for boarding Sabres forward Zack Kassian, which you can see in the above video.
The play occurred behind the Toronto net with three minutes to play in the period, and Kassian didn't appear to do anything at the last second to put himself in a vulnerable position. When you combine that with the fact Kassian had a noticeable cut on his face, that was more than enough to give Phaneuf an early trip to the locker room.
Is this hit all that different from the one Winnipeg's Zach Bogosian delivered to Minnesota's Pierre-Marc Bouchard earlier this week? That play also resulted in a five-minute major and a game misconduct, while Bogosian did not receive any supplemental discipline from the NHL.
Before being ejected, Phaneuf scored his fourth goal of the season.
More NHL Discipline News Here
For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: December 6, 2011 3:18 pm
When it comes to hitting, there is nobody better in hockey right now than Dion Phaneuf. When the season is done and we're left trying to decide what was the hit of the year, there's a chance he will have authored each one of the candidates.
Why not? Well besides Phaneuf hitting Sauer so hard that his stick AND helmet went flying, it was in the presence of his dad, as well as the rest of the Maple Leafs dads. It was a true illustration of why Phaneuf's last name has become a verb. He just Phaneufed Sauer.
And the dads approved.
That is Papa Phaneuf looking on with a strong appearance of approval and then getting high-fives from all of the other dads in the box at Madison Square Garden.
Why are the dads at a game in New York, you ask? They all got a taste to visit the team on a roadtrip, as a sort of a thank-you to their dads. On Sunday the team held a skate in Central Park with all of the dads in attendance.
We know one dad who really enjoyed the trip.
Posted on: November 15, 2011 2:25 pm
Honestly, I dislike writing these posts as much as most of you dislike reading them, if I'm to judge by the comments. Yet people click on them.
But this one? It's justified from a hockey point of view. So 3 ... 2 ... 1 ... gossip!
New York Rangers new star Brad Richards is discovering the perks of playing in New York as he has reportedly begun dating actress Olivia Munn. If you are as out of touch with most of the gossip and acting world as I am, I submit Miss Munn's IMDB profile for your perusal.
Here is what the gossip site Just Jared had to say about the two.
As a personal note, that just made me feel slimier.
But here's where the actual hockey tie comes into play. Since the two began dating, the Rangers have gone 6-0-0. And here I was crediting that streak to the split of Richards and Marian Gaborik. Well if that's how things are going to go, I'm sure the Rangers fans are waiting on pins and needles for Brad to propose already.
By the way, found another justification for this entry: getting to post a picture of Olivia Munn.
Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: November 7, 2011 10:35 pm
Edited on: November 7, 2011 10:41 pm
Former NHL enforcer Georges Laraque opened up a can of worms this weekend when his book The Story of the NHL's Unlikeliest Tough Guy came out. I mean, he damaged the good name of the Great One, saying Wayne Gretzky wasn't good, let alone great when it came to coaching.
Oh, and something about players taking steroids too.
Yes, Laraque dropped the "S word" and now the conversation is open. That's not say it shouldn't be. Quite frankly, it should have been a bigger talk for years in hockey, much the same as it has been in baseball. But for some reason, it has been a very quiet conversation.
It is a conversation that former World Anti-Doping Agency head Dick Pound started a little bit back in 2005. That's when he estimated about 1/3 of player in the NHL were doping. The numbers seems a bit high, even for many of the cynics. So it comes as no surprise that Pound isn't ... um ... surprised by Laraque's claim that players are doping, more than the enforcers.
"Anybody who pays attention to these things already knew that," Pound told the Canadian Press on Monday. "The only organization in denial was the NHL.
"When you see some of the stuff occurring on the rinks these days, you don't know whether you're dealing with people who are playing the game in a steroid rage or not, but some of these head shots are not accident."
Pound continued by discussing the NHL's drug-testing policies, something a colleague described to me as the "most lax PED policy in pro sports."
"They still don't test in the off-season," Pound said. "If you've got an IQ higher than room temperature, you know they can do this program for a number of weeks and have the stuff all flushed out of your system and still get the benefit of it.
"If you know you're not getting tested before the season begins, it's an invitation to do it in the offseason."
That's the biggest criticism of all, the dark period of testing. From the end of the season until it begins again, players aren't under any kind of microscope.
But not everybody agrees with Laraque and Pound on this matter. We point you to naive crowd over in blue corner, led by the always opinionated Jeremy Roenick. Not only does he not believe the better players are doping, he doesn't think ANYBODY is doping. This is what he told The Score in a recent interview.
"I think the steroids, I think he was referring to two different things, one, I think maybe in the late 80′s/early 90′s when the fighters were as prevalent, they were a dime a dozen, there might have been a little bit more of…something to happen. I can tell you right now that steroids is not an issue in the National Hockey League whatsoever. There is no steroids whatsoever, across the board in the National Hockey League."
That's quite a stand to take. You can probably tell by my tone that I don't agree. Maybe I have grown to be one of those cynics, but I just can't believe that nobody is using PEDs in hockey. But there has only been one player caught under the current testing framework, Sean Hill with the Islanders back in 2006. The cynic says that shows how bad the testing policy is. The clean-believers say that shows the game is clean.
If any of the players currently in the game have seen them, they at least aren't saying as much.
"I don't know what his reasons are to define it as a problem, but it's like most things in life that people don't get enough information and shoot their mouth off about something before they get all their facts," Konopka said.
"I think Georges probably should have done a little more fact-finding himself before making comments that maybe he'll regret."
Are we headed down a path that will take hockey in front of Congress? Probably not. But you better believe that if nothing else, Laraque just reopened the conversation.
Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: October 18, 2011 12:29 pm
Edited on: October 19, 2011 10:57 am
The Colorado Avalanche have shown a little pattern in recet years, so maybe we should have seen this start coming.
Three seasons ago they came off a conference semifinal loss by finishing with 69 points, bad enough to get the No. 3 overall pick in the draft, which they used to select Matt Duchene (good call). The following season they were in the playoffs behind Craig Anderson in goal. That was followed by another miserable season to give the Avs the No. 2 pick, which is where they grabbed Gabriel Landeskog.
It is still incredibly early, but if there were a surprise from the first two weeks of the season, it is without a doubt the Avalanche. Colorado lost its home opener before embarking on a five-game road trip to the East, including the Eastern Canada swing, and lo and behold, the Avs took all 10 available points. It was the first time in franchise history they won five consecutive road games. Not bad for a team with only three players over the age of 30 -- Jean Sebastien-Giguere, Milan Hejduk and Jan Hejda.
"Now what we have to do is take this kind of game we played on the road -- keeping it simple, doing little things -- and translating it to our home ice," Giguere said Monday night after beating his former Maple Leafs team. "This was obviously a great trip for us. It should give us confidence going forward."
Obviously winning at this rate won't last. That goes without saying. Considering their youth and inexperience, they are more susceptible than most to higher highs and lower lows. But the prospects of not finishing near or at the bottom of the Western Conference like many foresaw? Those seem pretty good right now.
A good chunk of the team's success has come from the goaltending duo of Giguere and Semyon Varlamov. Desperate to get a goaltender to take the reins this offseason, the Avs signed the veteran Giguere, but it was their move for Varlamov that took the attention.
Colorado was the heavy favorite to court and then sign free agent Tomas Vokoun. It seemed to be a perfect match. But a funny thing happened; the Avs didn't seem to want to go down that road. Instead, they spoke with the Capitals -- Vokoun's eventual landing spot, oddly enough -- and worked out a trade to acquire Varlamov, who said he was done playing in Washington. The price of a first-round pick in return seemed like a quality deal for the Capitals. After all, Colorado was the second worst team in the league a season ago. Talk to people around Washington and they are all aware of how talented Varlamov is. That was never the issue. If he can stay healthy -- now we have our issue -- it could be a coup for the Avalanche
However they are more than the goaltending, obviously. What really jumped out of the screen watching them play the Leafs on Monday -- and again, this was the fifth of five games on the road in another time zone, so the excuses to be sluggish where there -- was their speed and energy. I guess you can call that youthful exuberance. Whatever words you use to describe it, I call it impressive.
A lot of people might have been sleeping on the Avs before this season began, but Joe Sacco's crew has opened some eyes in a hurry.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Despite losing to the Avalanche in overtime on Monday -- their first missed point of the season -- Toronto is out of the gate strong. Now this isn't something entirely new this time of year. Remember the Maple Leafs started 4-0-0 last season, then they won only one of the next 12 games.
One difference this time around, however, is James Reimer -- or his Twitter world nickname Optimus Reim, if you prefer. The young goalie is giving fans hope that they have finally solved the riddle in the cage. That and the so-far spectacular play of Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf gives you reason to believe the Maple Leafs just could end their six-year playoff drought this season.
Tampa Bay Lightning: They are surprising, but not in a good way. The Eastern Conference runnerups from a season ago have looked, well, awful. They have picked up only four points from their first six games and given up four goals or more four different times already. Dwayne Roloson looks his age, which is now 42.
"Obviously, we're not happy," Steven Stamkos said Monday. "I wouldn't say we're in a panic mode, but we're worried. This isn't the start we wanted. We're taking way too many penalties."
They better figure it out soon because with some improved teams in the East this year, they don't want to fall too far behind.
Everybody wondered how Dallas would replace the loss of Richards. Signing Michael Ryder in the offseason didn't seem to be a void-filler. Maybe all they needed was another year for Jamie Benn, Mike Ribeiro, Brendan Morrow, Steve Ott and Loui Eriksson together. Oh, and a healthy Kari Lehtonen. Dallas is 4-0 when Lehtonen starts this season.
Then there is Sheldon Souray, who Edmonton couldn't get out of town fast enough. Dallas took a shot on the bought-out Oilers defenseman and so far it's looking like a good gamble. He has a goal and three assists as well as a plus-4 rating while averaging more than 20 minutes on ice per game.
Florida Panthers power play: Is this real life or is this just fantasy?
The Panthers had 35 power-play goals in 82 games last season. Let that sink in for a minute. As you would probably guess, that was the lowest in the NHL. Maybe it's the addition of Kevin Dineen and assistant Craig Ramsey, maybe it's the influx of new forwards, or, perhaps most likely, it's the arrival of Brian Campbell to run the show. Whatever the result, the Panthers have scored on eight of their 25 power-play attempts this season, including five in one game against the Lightning on Monday.
Heck, they even have a short-handed goal already, making them an even squad on the penalty kill.
No suspensions for hits: With how busy Brendan Shanahan was during the preseason, I was getting ready to request Shanny TV 24/7. It was like Hannukah, waking up every day for eight straight days to see the newest gift, or in this case video. But since the first puck was dropped in Toronto, the only suspension handed down was for the Wild's Marc-Pierre Bouchard and his high stick on the Blue Jackets' Matt Calvert.
But a funny thing happened when the season began, the suspensions stopped coming. That's because the head hits have stopped coming, which is exactly what everybody hoped to see in the first place, even the anti-Shanny crowd. I view it like Republicans and Democrats; everybody wants to get to the same prosperous place, they just don't agree on how to get there. This is the same. I have yet to hear one person say they want head shots to remain in hockey, just that they feel like Shanahan was going too far, or as Don Cherry and Mike Milbury put it, setting the bar too high.
The preseason over/under on the number of suspensions laid down by Shanahan was 40.5. That under is starting to look awfully tasty now.
Not surprising but still noteworthy
The Washington Capitals and Detroit Red Wings both remain perfect. But we wouldn't expect anything else from those two franchises these days. To the other hot starters like the Flyers and Ducks, consider it a compliment that your team isn't on here. They have rosters people thought were capable of doing just this.
Photos: Getty Images
Tags: Anaheim Ducks, Brad Richards, Brendan Morrow, Brendan Shanahan, Brian Campbell, Brian Stubits, Colorado Avalanche, Craig Ramsey, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Dion Phaneuf, Dwayne Roloson, Florida Panthers, Gabriel Landeskog, James Reimer, Jamie Benn, Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Joe Sacco, Kari Lehtonen, Kevin Dineen, Kris Letang, Loui Eriksson, Matt Duchene, Mike Ribeiro, NHL Early Surprises, Phil Kessel, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Semyon Varlamov, Shanaban, Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs, Washington Capitals
Posted on: October 8, 2011 10:54 pm
Edited on: October 8, 2011 11:00 pm
By: Adam Gretz
Every big hit in the NHL this season, whether it's legal or illegal, is going to be put under an immediate microscope as we try to figure out which ones will result in a suspension and which ones will not.
The NHL, led by Brendan Shanahan, has sent out multiple videos to teams demonstrating hits that will be penalized (or result in suspensions) as well as hits that are considered legal. During the second period of Toronto's crazy 6-5 win over the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night, Maple Leafs defenseman Dion Phaneuf crushed Stephane Da Costa with a booming open ice hit that we're pretty sure fits under the "legal" category.
Senators coach Paul MaClean said after the game that he had no problem with it and considered it to be a clean play, which seems to be the general consensus. The head isn't the primary point of contact, it's not targeted, and Phaneuf doesn't leave his feet. TSN's Darren Dreger, for example, pointed out on Twitter the hit was a "full body hit" which means there will be no issues from the league. So, yes, the NHL is trying to clean up some things, but as this hit shows there's still room for plenty of contact.
Along with Phaneuf's thunderous hit, this game had plenty of craziness, especially during the third period when the Maple Leafs nearly watched a four-goal lead with 10 minutes to play slip away. With the Senators trailing 5-1 and looking completely overmatched for much of the night, they put together a furious rally that saw them cut the deficit to 5-4 in a matter of minutes, thanks in large part to a pair of goals just eight seconds apart.
Two minutes later Phil Kessel answered for Toronto and completed the hat trick when he scored his third goal of the game to put the Leafs back up by two, seemingly ending Ottawa's comeback effort ... until Da Costa scored 25 seconds later to pull the Senators back to within one. That would be as close as they would get.
Kessel's hat trick will be what gets him all of the attention, but he also helped run out the clock in the closing seconds by keeping the puck pinned against the boards on the forecheck behind the Ottawa net, allowing at least 10 crucial seconds to run off.
For the Senators, it's the second game in a row they've put together a strong third period which ultimately proved to be too little, too late. In their first two games this season Ottawa has been outscored 8-0 in the first and second periods, but managed to outscore its opponents 8-3 in the third period.
Posted on: October 4, 2011 11:39 am
Edited on: October 4, 2011 3:40 pm
The New York Rangers put Sean Avery on waivers. The news was originaly reported by Larry Brooks of the New York Post, who is in Sweden to cover the team's season openers against the Kings and Ducks. The move was executed at noon by the Rangers per Dan Rosen of NHL.com.
The news could qualify as a stunner based on name recognition, but it doesn't come out of left field. Avery's role with the Rangers this year was never set in stone after he saw it diminish last season. He was in a battle this camp with Erik Christensen to make the roster and, well, we can see who won. Either that, or coach John Tortorella just doesn't like Avery. That's the theory the New York Rangers blog is subscribing to. Either way, Avery is out in New York.
"We think we have a better team, and think we have better players than Sean Avery," coach John Tortorella said. "Our depth put Sean in this spot. We have better players, maybe not in that role, but more versatile...certainly (Mike) Rupp helps fill that [role]."
Every NHL team will have a chance to make a claim on Avery, who is signed to make $4 million this season. Let's just say that seems unlikely to happen. Putting the factors together of an on- and off-ice headache and little production? Not entirely an ideal candidate for any team at this point. However it is possible he could get a look on re-entry waivers for a cheap rate, I just can't imagine there will be many takers.
That especially goes for the Maple Leafs, who are captained by Dion Phaneuf. Those two had a rather public spat once upon a time, leading to Avery's suspension and eventual cutting by the Dallas Stars after making a "sloppy seconds" reference about an ex of his (Elisha Cuthbert) who was dating Phaneuf.
Jesse Spector at the Sporting News reports that Avery's agent, Pat Morris, will be exploring all the options available, which naturally include joining the Rangers' AHL affiliate in Connecticut or playing in Europe. I wonder how well his trash talking and antics would translate to Russian?
But let's be honest, here: This is every NHL fan's loss. When looking ahead to this year's 24/7 series featuring the Rangers and Flyers before their Winter Classic matchup, Avery was one of the most intriguing aspects of the show. He was sure to be the Rangers' most interesting character. And with his recent incident involving the Flyers' Wayne Simmonds and "not wanting to have to kill [Claude] Giroux?" It was going to be must-see TV.
On a somewhat related note for the Rangers, they placed Dale Weise on waivers and he nearly made it all the way through. Instead, he became the second waived player to be claimed (joining Nick Johnson, grabbed by Minnesota), being picked up by the Vancouver Canucks. It's a move that could pay major dividends down the road. The Rangers were taking a chance on waiving Weise, who had 38 points (18 goals) in 47 games for the Connecticut Whale of the AHL last season. Obvoiusly that risk backfired.
Photo: Getty Images