Tag:John Tortorella
Posted on: January 2, 2012 1:05 pm
Edited on: January 2, 2012 1:28 pm
 

Rangers' Marc Staal will play in Winter Classic

By Brian Stubits

PHILADELPHIA -- It's becoming a Staal family tradition.

Just like his brother Jordan for the Pittsburgh Penguins one year ago, New York Rangers defenseman Marc Staal is going to make his return in the Winter Classic today as the Rangers take on the Philadelphia Flyers.

Marc Staal has been out all season long, being shut down in the preseason for precautionary reasons. He didn't play for the remainder of 2011 because of a concussion. But with the new year comes a new start and Staal is finally healthy enough to return.

"I sat down and asked him, 'do you want to play?' I've heard so many different things and Marc was talking quite a bit," coach John Tortorella said before the game. "I said 'Staals, I don't care about anybody else's opinion, are you OK to play?' He said he was, so he's playing."

The next question becomes about what the Rangers can expect from Staal in this game. He hasn't played since last season's playoffs so presumably there's a lot of game rust to get rid of.

"If Marc Staal tells me, and as I've told you all before, I needed a yes or a no. I got a yes from my trainer, I got a yes from my doctor and more importantly I got a yes from the player," Tortorella said. "He's going to play. I don't care if we're playing in a creek somewhere, he's going to play.

"As far as the minutes and the things that go along with Marc Staal, that's going to take time as far as where he's going to sit within our lineup. He'll play in the third period today and we'll make judgments as we go through. We're not putting him in a top four position and we'll make judgments about his game as it goes along here and he starts playing again."

As for who the Rangers will sit, Tortorella said before the game that he hadn't even made the decision yet.

"I haven't even talked to the player yet because not even all the players are even here yet. I'm still not sure."

That's going to be a knee to the gut for whichever player that will be. Imagine preparing to play in the Winter Classic only to arrive at the stadium and be told you're out. Ouch.

The Winter Classic's faceoff was moved back to a 3 p.m. ET start because of temperature and concerns over the glare on the ice

More Winter Classic News Here

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: January 1, 2012 3:05 pm
Edited on: January 1, 2012 5:45 pm
 

Winter Classic preview: What to look for

By Brian Stubits

It's hard to remember the Winter Classic is just another game on the schedule. In reality it is just that. The winner of this game gets nothing more than two points in the standings.

But in practical purposes, the Winter Classic is anything but normal. It is annually the most-watched game of the season and it's not even close. It's commonplace for players and even coaches on occasion to do some chirping before games. But general managers throwing down the gauntlet like the Rangers' Glen Sather did a couple months ago? Yea, that's no ordinary game.

Plus, you know, they play it outside and all.

Without further ado, let's look ahead to the NHL's annual "celebration of hockey" on Tuesday in Philadelphia between the Flyers and the Rangers.

The weather

It goes without saying this is the only game of the season when this matters now that the NHL has stopped the Heritage Classic in Canada.

The initial game-day in the extended forecast called for rain and warm temperatures. That has been altered, for the good. Now the game-time temp is supposed to be 41 degrees and the only element to deal with will be the wind, where it is expected to blow in excess of 20 MPH.

So the ice itself should be alright for the game. As for the wind? It might have an impact, but we're not talking football here where the ball will be affected by strong gusts on field-goal attempts or deep passes. It sure beats precipitation fogging up visors.

Home-field advantage

Not in this game. There is virtually zero home-ice advantage of which to speak in the Winter Classic. Both teams are equally inexperienced with the sheet of ice in Philadelphia. Despite two times the amount of fans in the building, the noise level doesn't factor in. As a matter of fact, it's diminished with fans so far from the ice and no roof.

"I think you go back to our building over there when it matters and when it counts to have our fans behind us, I think it's really important," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said on Sunday. "We are looking forward to getting here and on this ice out here in front of that many people and having a great game."

But the points stands, don't expect the Flyers to have a big advantage just because they're the home team and the Citizen's Bank Park seats will be full of folks garbed in black and orange. Of the five Winter Classic games played to date, only one of them has seen the home team come away victorious and it took the Bruins an overtime period to beat the Flyers in 2010.

One advantage that I suppose you can credit to the Flyers is the fact that they have multiple players who have experienced Winter Classics before thanks to that game at Fenway Park two years ago. I put little stock into that, however. Once the game begins, experience means squat. Rangers coach John Tortorella agrees that won't mean much.

"We have kept our schedule, our whole way we have gone about our business has stayed the same and it will say the same tomorrow," Tortorella said. "We go day-to-day as far as how we prepare and that's what we have  done  right  on through this, we'll be doing the same thing as we get ready to play tomorrow."

Goals not galore

More on Winter Classic

Just continuing to look at the trends of past games, don't expect to see a lot of scoring. Only the game at Wrigley Field between the Red Wings and Blackhawks showed off much in the way of offense as the teams combined for 10 goals. The other three games combined have only seen nine goals (the Penguins won in a shootout).

That could just be as simple as a coincidence, there certainly is not a big sample size we're talking about here. Or it might be a real trend. I'd like to think that some of the uncontrolled elements play a role the lack of scoring in games, particularly factors such as glare, discomfort and surroundings.

I'll take my chances and say don't expect a lot of scoring on Monday. That's a bit easier to say knowing Henrik Lundqvist will be manning one crease.

Fighting chance

Half of the Winter Classics thus far have seen a fight. Each of the last two renditions featured impromptu boxing matches. So it's not like the players are going to shy away just because of the spotlight.

In the case of these two foes, there is a lot of dislike to put it mildly. Only the Blackhawks-Wings tilt compares favorably to this year's matchup in terms of a true rivalry. So it's likely some bad blood will spill over.

That seems especially plausible when you realize that last year's fight between the Penguins and Capitals featured Mike Rupp facing John Erskine. You'll recall that Rupp signed with the Rangers in the offseason so he'll be on the ice on Monday.

Players to watch

First for the Rangers, keep tabs on Brandon Dubinsky. The young Rangers forward was off to a very tough start this season, it had to be frustrating. It wasn't until Dec. 22 that he scored his second goal of the season. For a guy that had 24 goals last season, that's quite a drop.

However he is starting to return to the mean. What, you thought that only worked in the regression sense? Not exactly. Dubinsky enters the Winter Classic having scored a goal in each of his last two games and three of the past five.

For the Flyers, I'd love to say Ilya Bryzgalov but he's just going to be sitting on the bench, enjoying his tea in a thermos. Now if NBC can just get him mic'd up for the game, they'd have the best on-ice commentator in the sport for the broadcast, with all due respect to Darren Pang.

However it does mean that the actual Flyers starter, Sergei Bobrovsky, will be worth keeping an eye on. He's been playing very well lately for the Flyers and with Bryzgalov's struggles, this could be an opportunity for Bobrovsky to stake a big claim that he should continue to get a lot more playing time. Remember, it was just a season ago that he was their starter and came to the NHL with a lot of promise.

Prediction

I'm a sucker for trends, so I'm going to stick with them in this game. I've got the visiting Rangers winning a low-scoring affair. Plus, in a situation like that I'll take Lundqvist over Bobrovsky. I'll put my name down for a 3-1 prediction in favor of New York.

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: December 30, 2011 11:07 pm
Edited on: December 31, 2011 1:41 am
 

Kopecky punches Del Zotto leading to late scrum

By Brian Stubits

In the waning seconds of a 4-1 win by the Rangers over the Florida Panthers, as Ron Burgundy would say, that escalated quickly. I mean, that really got out of hand fast.

With just 10 seconds left and the outcome well in hand, the Panthers' Tomas Kopecky was trying to gain a footing in the crease alongside Rangers defenseman Michael Del Zotto. Del Zotto gave Kopecky a cross check and his stick hit Kopecky in the back of the head, so Kopecky responded with a blow to Del Zotto's head, unleashing a massive scrum.

The hit looked really bad and naturally it prompted a response from the Rangers, particularly Mike Rupp. He began circling around the fracas like a shark in the water, waiting for his chance at Kopecky. Despite the lineman trying to take Kopecky away from the pile, Rupp came in anyway and basically ripped Kopecky from the linesman's grasp and unloaded five haymakers to Kopecky's noggin. Both Rupp and Kopecky were assessed game misconducts (not a lot of punishment with 10 seconds left).

After the game, Rangers coach John Tortorella said called Kopecky's hit ''a cheap shot. With no honor.''

But Panthers coach Kevin Dineen stuck up for Kopecky.

"That's hockey. Some guy cross-checks you in the back and then follows through. He deserves a good smash in the face," Dineen said of Del Zotto. "He got what he deserved. Then guys who play five minutes a night, it's typical that they would go and try and grab our skill players. We'll see what the response is."

You can guarantee that this already has the full attention of Brendan Shanahan and the league office. This is one of the dirtiest plays you can pull in hockey, a sucker punch to an opponent. I have a feeling that not even Rupp's vigilante justice that is his right hand will be enough punishment for Kopecky in this case.

There is a little precedent for this under Shanahan, too. Remember back to the preseason when James Wisniewski of the Columbus Blue Jackets threw his own sucker shot on Cal Clutterbuck of the Minnesota Wild. That earned the Wiz a suspension for the rest of the preseason and the first eight regular-season games.

Now Kopecky doesn't have the priors that Wisniewski had on his record, but I'd be surprised if Kopecky didn't earn himself an in-person hearing for this punch. That would mean that a five-games or great suspension would be in play. Rupp could have earned himself a phone call from the league as well.

Mark it down on your calendar now, these teams will meet again, and very soon. Next week, Thursday to be exact, the Panthers head up to MSG for the last meeting of the season between the two and Florida's Krys Barch will be ready for it.

“I’m sure we’ll have a meeting next week in New York,” Barch told the Sun-Sentinel. "You can’t allow that stuff to happen. … That’s just not allowed to go on in terms of a teammate getting jumped like that. We’ll take care of that next week."

More NHL Discipline News Here

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

Posted on: December 29, 2011 12:10 pm
Edited on: December 29, 2011 12:14 pm
 

Rangers success has Lundqvist shining brighter

By Brian Stubits

WASHINGTON -- Thanks to HBO, we all learned a little something extra about New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist: he plays in one awesome jam band.

In the second episode of the great behind-the-scenes show, Lundqvist was followed on a day off to a studio where he was seen playing right beside American tennis legend John McEnroe and Jay Weinberg, son of Max Weinberg, on the drums.

How does a Swedish hockey player end up playing alongside such a group of guys?

"You live in New York, play there a few years obviously you're going to run into people," Lundqvist said. "John McEnroe, I've been running into him a bunch of times. He's a hockey fan and I'm a tennis fan. So we've been talking about playing music together. I said finally this year, 'Let's do it, let's do something fun.' We're doing a charity event in February, rock it out a little bit.

"Then the drummer Jay Weinberg, I met him at a Bruce [Springsteen] concert in Sweden actually, when his dad was playing. It's fun. If you play in New York you get to meet a lot of interesting people, sometimes people that you admire and respect a lot, so it's a great place."

So add musician to things we already knew about Lundqvist, such as his stellar fashion sense. Oh, and the fact that he's a damn good goalie.

We know that because New York isn't just a great place to live, it's a great place to play when you're playing for a Rangers team like this.

"So far it's been a good year," Lundqvist said. "It's been fun, it's been fun."

That usually happens when you are fighting for the top spot in the conference with every game you play. Sure beats the alternative of the past few seasons where the Rangers were fighting for the eighth spot in the East instead of first.

Make no mistake about: The Rangers have grown as a team. They have a young core of players that is only going to get better -- as a side note, watch out if Brandon Dubinsky regains his scoring form that he's beginning to show again -- and they had a pretty notable upgrade to the scoring this summer with Brad Richards in free agency. They are a very good group of skaters.

But Lundqvist has been and still is the straw that stirs the Rangers drink. He has earned the right to be referred to as an elite goaltender, and not just because he plays in New York. He's been that good in recent seasons for the Blueshirts. Without him, you wonder if they make the playoffs as often as they have. OK, I'll save you the wondering -- they don't.

But now he has help.

"I mean the reason why we're in pretty good shape in the standings is not that we're that much better than everybody else," Lundqvist said, "but it's that we've been consistent in how we play and how hard we have to play, so that's been paying off for us."

One of the ways that they play is a commitment to blocking shots. Defenseman Dan Girardi has been near the top of the shot-blocking list in the league the last couple of seasons and team captain Ryan Callahan isn't afraid to get in the way of a puck either. In the first period of the Rangers' 4-1 loss to the Capitals on Wednesday, Callahan was credited with four blocked shots, one of them actually led to a Dubinsky goal, giving Callahan an assist. He then was a mad man during a later penalty kill, scrambling and diving all over the ice, getting credit for three blocks in one shift.

"Guys take a lot of pride in that [blocking shots]," Lundqvist said. "You have a style. We have to play hard and we have to block shots, it's part of our game. Guys are doing a great job of that.

"To play well as a goalie you want to feel the support from the team in front of you. It helps if you have a good structure, you know what's going on and what type of chances are going to come up."

Well, it's working, because Lundqvist is playing as well as he ever has. In his case, that's saying something. Through 26 games this season, Lundqvist is on pace for career bests in save percentage (currently .936) and goals against average (1.95 per game).

Maybe that has something to do with coach John Tortorella's plan to play Lundqvist less this year, too. Only once in the past five seasons has Lundqvist played less than 70 games -- last season with 68. He was up there with the likes of Miikka Kiprusoff for biggest workhorses in the league. Now backup Martin Biron is being asked to and is carrying some more of the load. Rather well, too.

Before he took the loss against the Caps, Biron had a 7-1-0 record in his spot duty with a 1.84 GAA and .933 save percentage. That makes it a lot easier for the Rangers to stick to the plan this year and play Lundqvist around 65 games or so, possibly even a few less.

"I'm trying to get used to not playing as much. Last few years the plan was for me to play around 65 games, around there. It hasn't turned out that way," Lundqvist said. "We're [he and Biron] a good team. Benny [Rangers goaltending coach Benoit Allaire] and Marty work well together, push each other to work hard."

Well whatever it is, it's working.

The funny thing this season is that everything seems to be coming together for the Rangers. The spotlight was turned up on them this season anyway thanks to the Richards signing and all else they are experiencing this year.

"It's been a fun year. It's been an interesting year starting in Europe and then HBO and the Winter Classic coming up," Lundqvist said. "It's been a lot of ... I don't want to say distractions ... fun things going on. Things we don't normally see in a normal regular season. It's been a fun experience. I think we all look forward to the Winter Classic here as well.

"But it's good for us to have these different things happening during the year, learn to deal with it. It could be a distraction, it hasn't been one for us. We've been focused on what we have to do, with all the travel starting the year, the HBO, Winter Classic coming up. So, it's a test for us to maintain our focus on the games."

As he said, they've done that. He's done that.

But they're all hoping to have a lot more fun by season's end.

"It's still so early, but I'm happy with the way I've been playing so far, but there's a long way to go here," Lundqvist said. "We definitely raised the bar this year though. Our goal is to play in June. That's our goal."

If this is the Rangers' year, maybe Lundqvist can get the band together for a big show on the streets of Manhattan this summer.

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: December 14, 2011 11:34 pm
Edited on: December 15, 2011 12:48 pm
 

24/7: Flyers-Rangers Episode 1

By: Adam Gretz

HBO's 24/7 kicked off on Wednesday night, following the two participants in this year's Winter Classic (the Flyers and Rangers) as they prepare for their Jan. 2 showdown in Philadelphia.

Unlike last year's matchup between Pittsburgh and Washington, where one team (Pittsburgh) was playing on top of its game and the other (Washington) was struggling, there was little contrast this time around as both teams came into this year's documentary near the top of the NHL, giving most of the episode an "all is well, everything is cool" sort of feel.

It was difficult to find any real adversity for either team until the end of the episode when Claude Giroux's concussion was featured. It was obvious right from the start that it was't going to be good, and while we didn't get to see anything involving Giroux's time in the quiet room after the collision, we did get a brief glimpse of the Flyers trainer telling coach Peter Laviolette that Giroux simply wasn't feeling like himself.

A few quick takes on Episode one...

Episode one MVP: Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov

He wasn't featured all that much, but wow did Ilya Bryzgalov make a first impression. His only two appearances were a brief stretch early in the episode that was nothing but him spending a minute talking about the size of the universe and space, and how it makes everything that happens on Earth, as well as our solar system, seem so insignificant. "Just be happy," he said.



Later, he was presented with a rare bottle of Russian liquor that featured a picture of a Tiger on the bottle, and he then went into a discussion about how there are so few tiger species left in the world and how it is illegal to hunt them.
 


An entire episode that simply follows him around for a day would be pure insanity.

Four moments that stood out

1) The mini-brawl that was sparked by the shooting gesture of Rangers forward Artem Anisimov against the Tampa Bay Lightning last week had a big part in the episode, including him pleading his case to the officials in the penalty box, why he did it, and the sight of him apologizing to his teammates in the locker room for putting his team at a disadvantage. When asked where he learned it, Anisimov sighted an unnamed player he played with in Russia that used to do it after big goals and how it always fired the crowd up. He said he always promised himself that he would do it if he scored a big goal in the NHL. Apparently that goal was big enough.

When asked if he was "shooting at the goalie," he simply smiled and said "Just reloaded my weapon."

2) The New York Rangers pay for dinner on the road by putting all of their credit cards in a hat and then pulling them out, one at a time, until there is only one card remaining. And that's the person that gets stuck with the bill.

3) The Philadelphia Flyers post-game victory celebration in their locker room? Dancing to the song "Knock Knock" by Mac Miller. Very bizarre.

4) Perhaps the best, nicest moment of episode one: Rangers captain Ryan Callahan giving his grandmother a kiss after scoring a goal in his hometown of Buffalo and bringing a tear to her eye.

The unnofficial F-bomb count

If you had Flyers coach Peter Laviolette as the first person to drop an F-Bomb, you win the prize, as he let loose with four of them in an eight-second span in the shows opening minutes.

The unofficial final tally (by my count): 44
John Tortorella F-bomb count (again, by my count): 11

Biggest complaint of the night

Needs more Bryzgalov.

More 2012 Winter Classic News Here

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: December 14, 2011 12:18 am
Edited on: December 14, 2011 12:28 am
 

Tortorella was not happy with this charging call

By: Adam Gretz

The protection of goalies has been a hot topic in the NHL this season and it all started when Boston's Milan Lucic ran over Ryan Miller in a game back in November. During Tuesday's New York Rangers-Dallas Stars game, which the Stars won by a 1-0 margin thanks to a late third period goal from Trevor Daley and the first career shutout for rookie goalie Richard Bachman, Bachman left his crease in an effort to knock a loose puck away from Rangers forward Carl Hagelin.

There was a collision that resulted in Bachman losing his mask and being knocked to the ice, while Hagelin was assessed a two-minute minor for charging. It again needs to be pointed out that goalies, whether they're in the crease or out of the crease, are not fair game to be hit, and if the opposing team's skater doesn't make an effort to avoid the contact, the proper penalty is to be assessed.

That's not necessarily what happened with this incident, as evey replay angle shows that not only did Hagelin make an effort to avoid making contact with the Stars goalie, he's not even the player that made the actual contact with him -- it was Bachman's own teammate, defenseman Alex Goligoski, that hit him.

No penalty should have been called, and Rangers coach John Tortorella had a bit of an eruption on the bench, and rightfully so.



It's a good bet that shouting match is going to make an appearance on an episode of HBO's 24/7.

After the game, Tortorella said "The goalie came out 20 feet. Sometimes they feel they have to call something. It should've been a non-call."

He's absolutely right.

(H/T PHT for video)

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

Posted on: December 4, 2011 4:20 pm
Edited on: December 4, 2011 6:43 pm
 

Weekend Wrap: Broadway boys continue to be a hit

By Brian Stubits

It's about time we start taking the New York Rangers seriously, wouldn't you say?

The view in the Eastern Conference is that it's the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins followed by every other team. While that's still the case -- I mean, they have combined to win two of the last three Stanley Cups -- there has to be a setting at the table for the Blueshirts, no? (Yes, Flyers fans, Philadelphia too.)

It's amazing to think about a team from New York being overshadowed. Teams all across Major League Baseball wish that were possible in their sport. But this Rangers team is rather quietly just chugging along. The latest steamrolling effort came in Tampa, where Brad Richards returned to one of his favorite places and helped the Rangers take down his and coach John Tortorella's former team, the Lightning, 4-2.

Since losing to the Ottawa Senators 5-4 in a shootout on October 29, the Rangers have gone 12-2-0. They won seven straight games before dropping two on the road and then have since reeled off five wins in a row since being shutout by the Panthers on Nov. 23.

And how about Richards, the big acquisition in the offseason? In the most recent five-game winning streak he has four goals and five assists. Looking at the team's last nine games, Richards has points in seven of them. The only two he didn't get on the score sheet? The two losses.

Don't think he didn't savor a win in his old stomping grounds. From the New York Daily News.

“It was the first win I had back here, and I really wanted it,” said Richards, who had lost both previous visits to Tampa Bay after being dealt to the Dallas Stars. “Torts wanted this one, too. I don’t know if he wanted it more or not, but the way it ended here was a little frustrating, so I was really happy to get that one.”

Tortorella said he and Richards meant no disrespect to Tampa Bay’s current front office, including general manager Steve Yzerman, but recalled watching in February 2008 as then-Tampa GM Jay Feaster traded away the man who won the Conn Smythe trophy during the Lightning’s Stanley Cup run.

“Not this organization, not the owners here or the people here, but the people that moved him had no clue,” Tortorella said. “I was in the meetings. I watched it happen, and I thought they jammed it to him. How he was handled, I don’t think he’s too unhappy about getting a win here.”

I don't think anybody that's in the organization or is a Rangers fan is too unhappy these days.

The problem in recent seasons in New York certainly hasn't been the goaltending. Henrik Lundqvist has been outstanding in recent seasons and could have been a Vezina Trophy winner at some point if he had a little more offensive help. Let's be honest, team success is helpful in winning individual awards and the lack of offense wasn't helping the team achieve a whole lot of success.

More from the weekend
Recaps
Stories

But things are finally clicking. It's no wonder the Rangers have won 12 of their last 14 games. In six of their last seven wins, the Rangers have scored at least four goals.

Marian Gaborik is back to scoring like he did before coming to New York. He has a team-high 12 goals. It would appear he's beginning to thrive again now that there is somebody else -- Richards -- to take a good chunk of the spotlight and expectations off of him, somebody to share those heavy burdens with.

Start spreading the news, the Rangers aren't leaving any time soon.

Moulson nice

The other team in New York, the Islanders, have been anemic when it comes to scoring goals. The offense has been horrible all season long. So of course they became the first team this season to have one of its players score four goals in a game.

The Isles needed all four scores from Matt Moulson on Saturday in Dallas, his final tally of the night being the game-winner.

"They [John Tavares and P.A. Parenteau] really gave me some good chances, all I had to do was sweep it into an open net," Moulson said. "The win's the biggest part. Score as many goals as you want, but the win's the most important thing."

The win in over the Stars caps off a very successful four-game road trip for the Isles. They picked up seven of the eight possible points, the only point missing came in Friday's shootout loss to the Blackhawks.

Yes, there is actually a hint of optimism on the Island again after another brutal start.

Good to have Gabby back

Bruce Boudreau's debut as the Anaheim Ducks coach was eerily reminiscent of his debut with the Capitals for years ago. His team was playing the Flyers, built a three-goal lead before losing it and going to overtime. The only difference was the Capitals won that game four years ago while a double minor in overtime cost his Ducks dearly as they lost in overtime.

But Boudreau had plenty of positives to take from the game, most notably the team's effort.

However it's what he said after the game that really caught my eyes and made me grateful Boudreau is already back in coaching. Having familiarity with the Flyers from his time in Washington, Boudreau said he was anticipating what Philly would do.

“I knew exactly what Philly was going to do,” he said. ”I knew the guys that were going to dive and they did. They got away with it. The only one that didn’t get away with it was [Wayne] Simmonds. It looked like he got shot. And he went down until he start peeking and no one was calling it and then he had to get back up.

“[Scott] Hartnell looked like he’d gotten shot by a bazooka. He didn’t miss a shift and then he comes in and scores the tying goal.”

Props for dropping a bazooka reference on us, Bruce. The implication is that the Ducks didn't really deserve all of the penalty minutes they accrued to contribute to the loss.

I'm sure Philly fans will love Boudreau as much as Rangers fans after this.

Rude welcome

While the first leg of the Flyers' back-to-back was all about the opposing team and its new coach, the second leg was about one of the Flyers players.

For the first time this season, Ilya Bryzgalov started both ends of a back-to-back, and it's probably no coincidence that it involved playing in his former city, Phoenix (or Glendale, if you'd prefer). They saw the Bryzgalov they came to know and love, too.

The Flyers goalie was sharp enough to allow just two goals and lead his new team over his old team with a 4-2 victory.

"I was walking in the building, and I can't explain what I felt, but it's something," Bryzgalov said about his return. "I played here three-and-a-half years. Winning lots of games, losing lots of games. Part of my soul is left here.

"I was surprised if they were going to boo me because I don't think I deserved it. I think I did lots of good things for this city and for this team and same thing. They did lots of good things for me. I really appreciate everything they've done for me."

He shows his appreciation by beating his old team. Nice (we kid).

Rat pack

This is how you make people believe you're for real.

The Florida Panthers just made a quick cross-country trip for games in Los Angeles and San Jose. While they lost 2-1 to the Kings on Thursday, they outshot and pretty much outplayed the Kings.

On Saturday they went into San Jose and fell down early to the Sharks. The Panthers stormed back in the second period and eventually won the game 5-3. It was the first time this season the Sharks lost a game when scoring the first goal.

As is becoming common again, there were even a few plastic rats on the ice, even in California.

Of course, it was the top line of Kris Versteeg-Stephen Weiss-Tomas Fleischmann doing the damage again after Versteeg missed the Kings game with a bad neck.

Now the Panthers begin their third consecutive week (!) as the Southeast Division leaders by welcoming Tomas Vokoun and the Washington Capitals to Florida on Monday. Still quite stunning.

Unbeatable Bruins

This is as great of a run as we've seen in hockey in a long time. The Bruins just finished reminding the Toronto Maple Leafs who the boss of the Northeast is. After beating the Leafs earlier in the week in Toronto, the B's took care of the Leafs a second time, this time back in Boston, 4-1.

With the win, the Bruins haven't lost in regulation since Oct. 29. That's an entire month (14 games) of earning points in every game. The only non-two-point game was the shootout loss to the equally hot Detroit Red Wings on Black Friday.

There are a lot of heralded players on the team. One of them, David Krejci, just received a big extension from the club. Another guy that could soon be getting a nice new contract is Chris Kelly, and he'd be on the unheralded side.

But his goal on Saturday, the game-winner, was already his 10th on the season. He came in to Boston as more of what people love to call a "role player." (Resisting urge to rant ...) Now he is only five goals from matching his career high of 15, which he set twice with the Senators, most recently in 2009-10.

We'll have more on the Bruins later this week from Adam Gretz, but this is one helluva run

Quote of the weekend

There were a few candidates this week. We shared them already, lines from Richards, Bryzgalov and Boudreau.

But none were more interesting than what Ilya Kovalchuk had to say after the Devils lost their fourth straight, 4-2 in Winnipeg to the Jets.

Like a lot of other players this season, Kovalchuk was booed in his visit to the 'Peg. What were his thoughts on the matter?

"They should support me, maybe I'm one of the reasons they moved here." Ouch. Sorry, Atlanta.

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: November 27, 2011 4:57 pm
Edited on: November 27, 2011 8:30 pm
 

Weekend Wrap: Sanford, Jackets starting to roll

By Brian Stubits

Amid Columbus' awful, awful opening to the season, the only bit of defense the team and its fans had was something along the lines of waiting for everybody to be healthy. The team was built in the offseason around the additions of James Wisniewski and Jeff Carter and for the first month and a half of the season; they had not played in the same game. Now they are both playing and the Blue Jackets are now winning.

But it was another injured player returning that has been even bigger. And this one wasn't really on anybody's excuse radar.

Turns out the return of goaltender Curtis Sanford has been huge. Or at least it would appear that way. It was no mystery that Steve Mason in goal was as big an issue as anything else in Columbus' struggles, but I am not sure anybody believed there was a possible solution within the organization.

It wasn't long ago that in this blog we were discussing the possibilities of the Blue Jackets getting a major shakeup in the front office and coaching staff. Some were just saying give it more time, all they needed was to trade for a good goalie. The only problem was the Jackets are right up against the cap and have no flexibility.

This feels as good as a trade right now.

In the five games prior to Sunday's 2-1 loss to the Blues, all Sanford starts, the Blue Jackets picked up at least one point. His record is now 3-0-2 after Columbus' 5-1 beating of the Buffalo Sabres on Black Friday. He entered Sunday with a goals against average of 1.27 and a save percentage of .950. Not bad. Not bad at all.

The recent run has done what not long ago seemed laughable: the Jackets had climbed out of the NHL cellar. With the Devils' squeaker over the Devils on Saturday, the Jackets returned to the basement, but they are hot on the heels of the Isles, Ducks and Flames to move (or down) the draft lottery list.

But the big acquisitions have been doing their part, too. Carter, back after breaking his foot, is finally looking comfortable with his new team. With two beautiful assists against the Sabres, Carter brought his total to five points (3-2=5) in the last five games. Wisniewski has also recorded five points in that span as he also contributed two assists to the win on Friday.

However none of that would matter much if they weren't getting better goaltending. Now, with Sanford getting the bulk of the work, they are. It's not too late to crawl their way back into the picture, but a lot of that will ride on Sanford continuing to play at a level this high.

If he keeps those ice blue pads, maybe he will.

Hangover Part II

Much was made about the champion Bruins' hangover to start the season. They came out slower than any team not named the Blue Jackets. Of course, that's long-ago history as the Bruins have won 11 of the past 12 games, earning a point in all of them.

But not as much has been said about the Canucks' meager beginning. After all, this was the best team in the regular season last year and was within 60 minutes of winning the Stanley Cup. Like the Bruins, the Canucks returned the core of their team and were expected to be powerful once again. Yet they were merely average.

That might be changing. With a road trip that included a 5-0 domination of the Coyotes in a "packed" (with blue) Jobing.com Arena on Friday and a gritty 3-2 win over the Sharks in San Jose on Saturday, the Canucks have won four in a row.

With the eight points in four games, they are now two points behind the Minnesota Wild, two points from reclaiming their seemingly rightful position atop the Northwest Division (they have lived in the Northwest penthouse for a few seasons).

In goal for each of those four games? That would be Cory Schneider, not Roberto Luongo. Schneider -- who had back-to-back shutouts in the four-game run -- was already seen by many to be the best backup in the game, rumored constantly in trade talks around the league over the last season-plus. Now the only goalie that Canucks fans want to throw around in those conversations is Luongo, the Vezina finalist from just last season.

There was already a goalie controversy in Vancouver even before Schneider began playing so well. The controversy? The fact that Luongo was the starter. That was enough to cause a civil war among the fans in British Columbia. This just makes it more heated.

It's show time

We got a taste of the Winter Classic on Saturday with the Flyers and Rangers waging battle in New York, a 2-0 Blueshirts win. Brandon Prust fought not once, but twice, much to the pleasure of John Tortorella.

It was also the first time this season that the league's highest-scoring offense, the Flyers, were grounded. It should come as no surprise that it was Henrik Lundqvist who was first to do it. They don't call him King Henrik for nothing.

But over the weekend, we also got our first taste of the HBO 24/7 series that's set to debut on Dec. 14. No, I'm not talking about the game, but HBO's 12-minute preview of the must-see show for hockey (and non-hockey) fans.

Warning: If you don't already have HBO in your cable/dish subscription plan, the following teaser might make you change your mind (video courtesy of nyrangersblog.com).

There wasn't even an appearance from Jaromir Jagr or Sean Avery in this tease, so clearly they must be saving the best for the show, a refreshing change from movie trailers that show you the only good parts of the movie.

Glory Toews

Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews isn't going anywhere anytime soon. If they have their way in Chicago, he'll retire in the black and red.

But if he were to change work addresses, he just might move to Southern California.

The Blackhawks took their turn at the SoCal double dip with a game Friday in Anaheim and Saturday in Los Angeles. What did Toews do? Oh just help the 'Hawks take both games with three goals and three assists. One of those goals came 1960s style with Toews parked in the crease without a helmet and scrambling to hammer home the loose puck.

I have no doubt that when this season is all said and done, Toews will have his say in the Hart Trophy conversation.

Real quickly on the Ducks, this is just too atrocious to leave out (from Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register: The Ducks have now lost six in a row, 12 of 13 and 15 of their last 17. No other word for that than horrendous.

Florida flurry

It's not even December yet and the intrastate rivals in Florida have already met five times. For the second time in the first two months, the Lightning and Panthers had a back-to-back set beginning in Sunrise and finishing in Tampa.

This time, it was the Bolts getting the better of the Cats. One massive reason was the play of Steven Stamkos. He had three goals, including the game-winner in overtime on Friday night, and an assist. He was the best player on the ice on Saturday, no questions asked.

It continues to amaze me how little attention Stammer seems to be generating. After all, he proved last year he's one of the top three scorers in the league. He has quietly amassed 14 goals and 10 assists this season. Yet there seems to be hardly a peep about him.

A few more four-point weekends for the Lightning and I'm sure he'll start getting his due.

Capital punishment

At this point I'm starting to think this will be a regular section in the Weekend Wrap. At least as long as the Capitals continue to play the way they have been.

With their 5-1 beating in Buffalo -- where the Sabres' Zack Kassian scored his first career NHL goal -- the Caps moved to 3-6-1 in their last 10 games. In the past eight, it's been particularly awful.

Check out this stat from Stephen Whyno at the Washington Post. The Caps have now been outscored 34-17 in their past eight games. Minus-17 in the past eight? That's worthy of one big OUCH.

The upcoming week for the Caps has dates with the Blues and Penguins. So things might not get better quite yet.

Quote of the weekend

After the Penguins destroyed the Senators 6-3 and Sidney Crosby continued his stellar return with three assists, Sens forward Nick Foligno attacked Crosby for taking a headshot at him late in the game. He wasn't too happy with Sid, saying he was disappointed and more or less called Crosby a hypocrite.

While Crosby was quiet about the criticism, his coach Dan Bylsma wasn't. Here's what he had to say in response.

"We're talking about a player that bumped into our goalie three times. With the score 5-1 and intentionally going into our goalie, he can expect more than Sidney Crosby coming at him and talking to him during the game. That's how we feel about those situations. He was in our net falling over our goalie, and I don't think there was any question about the intent."

Photo: US Presswire

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