Posted on: January 4, 2012 7:28 pm
By: Adam Gretz
For the second time this season Calgary Flames forward Rene Bourque has been suspended by the NHL, and this time it's for his elbow to the head of Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom during the third period of Washington's 3-1 win on Tuesday night.
He had a disciplinary hearing early on Wednesday, and later in the day it was announced by NHL discipline czar Brendan Shanahan that Bourque will miss Calgary's next five games. He was banished earlier in the season for two games for boarding Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook.
Said Shanahan, "Backstrom is carrying the puck up the middle of the ice as Bourque pivots and pursues Backstrom, Backstrom makes a pass to Mike Knuble on his right. Bourque continues his path and throws an elbow, making principal of contact with Backstrom's jaw. This a hit to the head and a clear violation of rule 48."
Shanahan also added that he believed Bourque's argument that his elbow was an "instinctive" reflex as opposed to an attempt to injure. He also added that it was "reckless" and "indefensible." Bourque's two-game suspension for hitting Seabrook, which occurred less than a month ago making him a repeat offender, as well as the fact that Backstrom removed himself from the game after his condition became worse. He's currently listed as being day-to-day.
In 38 games this season Bourque has scored 13 goals to go with three assists. He will miss games against Boston, Minnesota, New Jersey, Anaheim and Los Angeles. He will be eligible to return to the Flames lineup on Tuesday, Jan. 17 when the Flames travel to San Jose to take on the Sharks.
More NHL Discipline News Here
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Posted on: January 4, 2012 10:23 am
Edited on: January 4, 2012 1:48 pm
While we await Brendan Shanahan's verdict of one repeat offender's actions in Daniel Carcillo, he added another repeat offender to the list of pending suspensions on Tuesday.
Calgary Flames forward Rene Bourque seemed to go out of his way in Tuesday night's game against the Washington Capitals to hit Caps leading scorer Nicklas Backstrom. Despite the puck being up the ice already and it happening behind the play, Bourque gave Backstrom an elbow anyway. To the head. And it's all that he gave him.
The result was a two-minute minor for elbowing, Backstrom having to be evaluated after the game -- though he did play after the hit -- and a hearing being scheduled for Wednesday with Shanahan.
Here are some replays of the hit for you to judge for yourself.
It goes without saying that the Capitals are probably holding their breath right now regarding Backstrom's health. He has been their best and most consistent player this season, an easy pick to go to the All-Star Game representing the Capitals. He assisted on all three of Washington's goals in the 3-1 victory.
“We removed him from the game, it was precautionary,” coach Dale Hunter said on Tuesday night. “He was getting evaluated right now. We’ll know more tomorrow.”
On Wednesday, Hunter called Backstrom day to day.
After the game, Bourque told the Washington Post that he wasn't even really aware if anything had happened.
"Did it look really bad? Was he hurt? I didn't even know if I clipped him," Bourque said. "I didn't even know if I hit him in the head."
Well, he did hit him in the head. So now we all know what comes next. Bourque, who has 13 goals and three assists on the season, will be banished to the corner for a timeout for a couple of games.
Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: January 3, 2012 12:04 pm
Things are starting to turn around for the Washington Capitals, it seems.
The Caps ended 2011 with a run of three consecutive wins, their first such stretch since the season-opening seven-game win streak. Now they are going to start 2012 with one of their most important players back, defenseman Mike Green.
Judging by the fact that the Capitals are 8-0-0 this season when Green plays, it's not a stretch to call him arguably the team's MVP. He isn't the sole reason why they are unbeaten when he plays, but it sure helps matters. The Capitals will welcome his three goals and three assists in just eight games this season on the blue line.
“Finally,” Green said after Tuesday's morning skate. “It’s been frustrating sitting out and obviously a couple months ago coming back and then the first game back, back on the press box. I’m just happy to be back, focused. Preparing to do the right things tonight and that’s all that’s on my mind right now.”
As I said, his return from a groin injury that has kept him out since Veteran's Day comes at a moment right when the Caps appear to be finding their footing and showing everybody why they were pegged as a Stanley Cup contender. Alex Ovechkin, who was behind even last year's career-low paces until recently, has found his touch. He has four goals in the last two games. He has six goals in his last six games, including three straight multi-point games, his first since Nov. 4.
But the Caps won't be showing off their full complement of players on Tuesday against the Calgary Flames in D.C. One player who will not be on the ice is Alex Semin, who is currently listed as day to day. He, too, has picked it up recently since the Ovechkin, Semin and Nicklas Backstrom line was reunited. He has five goals and four assists in the last seven games.
Instead, coach Dale Hunter is going to suit seven defensemen, a rarity for the Caps under Bruce Boudreau. But it makes sense, there's no telling how Green is going to play and what type of minutes he can give the team. Good to have some insurance on the bench.
“I think you’ve got to ease yourself in,” Green said. “I’m not going to be jumping up all over the ice or whatnot. I think it’s important for me to get my game back and it’s better that I do that slowly rather than quickly. I don’t intend on being up and down the ice tonight.”
Sounds like some defensive insurance on the bench is a pretty good idea.
Hopefully for the Capitals and Green, he can stay healthy this time. That's been a bug-a-boo for him recently. In addition to the groin injury he is recovering from, Green missed time earlier this season with a twisted ankle and fought a concussion through much of last season.
Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: December 30, 2011 1:25 pm
Earlier this week, the St. Louis Blues visited Joe Louis Arena and battled the Detroit Red Wings in one of the better games of the season. In it, the Wings came back from a two-goal deficit and stung the Blues 3-2.
That was just on Tuesday. Apparently it was so good, they're going to do it again this Saturday, same arena and all.
Two teams playing each other twice in one week isn't rare in hockey. Happens a lot of weekends actually with home-and-home series. But playing twice in one week in the same city? Unless we're in the playoffs, not that common. But the Red Wings won't mind, I'm sure.
In hockey, home-ice advantage doesn't compare all that well to home-court advantage in the NBA, for example. Most teams fare better at home, but it's not as much of a lock as basketball. However for the Red Wings, it is. After beating the Blues on Tuesday, Detroit has won 11 consecutive games at the Joe. Overall this season, the Wings are 14-2-1 at home.
And they want to get rid of that place, huh?
Then again, it's probably a lot more about the team on the ice than where the ice is located, huh? I mean any team that has Pavel Datsyuk has to be good.
The three-time Selke winner and Russian stick wizard took the first-star honors after Tuesday's win, scoring a goal on a fantastic redirection and setting up Detroit's first goal of the game.
The year began a little slowly for Datsyuk -- he didn't score his third goal of the season until No. 19 -- but he's back to old tricks. For the most part, I mean that literally for that's what you think you're seeing when Datsyuk is playing the puck, trickery. He's been in the NHL since 2001 but he still leaves people amazed.
Detroit will be looking for a bit more of that amazing this weekend. Obviously their battles with the Blues have grown this season with St. Louis taking off under Ken Hitchcock. The two teams are separated by only one point in the standings and it sure seems like neither team will go away this season. So all of the head-to-head games are big with the points up for grabs.
If the rematch comes close to being a repeat of the meeting earlier this week, it might still be one the best game this weekend.
Friday night's alright in the Central
That's not the only big interdivision matchup in the Central Division this weekend. Both the Blues and Red Wings have massive matchups on Friday night, including the season's first Blackhawks-Red Wings matchup.
This is the matchup in a very good Central. The two top dogs, big rivals and true Stanley Cup threats. It begins Friday in Chicago.
Meanwhile, the Blues will be tangling with the Nashville Predators in what has become a very nice -- or should I say not nice? -- rivalry in its own right.
These two Friday night showdowns pit four of the West's top six teams against one another (Nashville is tied with the Sharks and Kings with 42 points). More importantly, they are all fighting within the same division.
It's going to be a great weekend of hockey in the Midwest.
At this point it's beyond absurd. The Boston Bruins are in the middle of one of the best stretches in the history of the NHL, and that's not hyperbole. In their last 24 games, Boston is an astounding 21-2-1, including the current seven-game win streak they take to Dallas.
In that time they have obliterated opponents. Eleven of those 21 wins were by a margin of three goals or more. By anybody's definition of dominant, the Bruins fit the bill.
Now they head to Dallas to face the Stars and get a glimpse of an old pal in Michael Ryder. The Stars forward was part of the Stanley Cup champs last season before migrating to Texas in the summer. The Bruins he played for were very good obviously, but not even that team was ever this great.
Of the many amazing things about the Bruins, one is the fact that not one of their players appears in the top 30 of the NHL in points. You have to go to No. 33 on the list to find Tyler Seguin. That's all in spite of the fact that the Bruins have the most productive offense in the league with 3.47 goals per game. Talk about balance. As Stars center Steve Ott would say "look at NHL.com."
While the Philadelphia Flyers are already back in the City of Brotherly Love and waiting to play in Citizen's Bank Park on Monday for the Winter Classic, their foes are making one stop in sunny South Florida first.
The New York Rangers, fresh off a 4-1 loss in Washington to the Capitals, would love to take a win with them into Philly for the game, so they'll take a crack at the Florida Panthers. It's the third meeting between the two teams this season, the most recent a Rangers demolishing of the Panthers in Madison Square Garden. The first meeting came in Sunrise and went to the Panthers.
The good news for Florida is that Stephen Weiss is a game-time decision. The top-line center has missed the past couple of games while the Panthers have made due with almost two lines worth of AHL forwards.
The game is just about as big for the Panthers as it is the Rangers. Florida has been atop the Southeast Division for most of the season, but the Winnipeg Jets have crawled to within four points of the 'Cats for the division lead.
Happy New Year!
Typically, the Winter Classic has been the first game played in the new year in recent seasons. Not this year.
Because of the final Sunday of the NFL season falls on Jan. 1, the Winter Classic -- and majority of the NHL schedule -- has been pushed back to Monday, Jan. 2. But one game will be played on Sunday.
The Calgary Flames will visit the Predators and the two will have the (meaningless) honor of being the first teams to play in 2012. Ring it in, boys.
We're going streaking!
Here are the streaks, good and bad, entering the weekend. Not a whole lot.
Bruins: As mentioned, take that seven-game win streak into Dallas.
Vancouver Canucks: The other Stanley Cup Finalist last season is almost as hot as the Bruins. The Canucks have won three in a row and seven of the last 10. They have a date with the Kings in L.A. on Saturday.
Phoenix Coyotes: Phoenix heads to face the Minnesota Wild as losers of four straight games. The good news? The fourth-place Coyotes are still only two points behind first-place San Jose in the Pacific.
Photo: Getty Images
Tags: 2012 Winter Classic, Boston Bruins, Brian Elliott, Brian Stubits, Calgary Flames, Chicago Blackhawks, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers, Ken Hitchcock, Los Angeles Kings, Michael Ryder, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, New York Rangers, Pavel Datsyuk, Phoenix Coytoes, St. Louis Blues, Stephen Weiss, Tyler Seguin, Vancouver Canucks, Weekend Preview
Posted on: December 20, 2011 3:24 pm
Edited on: December 20, 2011 3:40 pm
Pucks and Numbers: a weekly statistical look at what's happening around the NHL. This week: A look at the teams that are probably already out of the playoff race.
By: Adam Gretz
We are not even half way through the NHL season, but we have reached the point where a slow start in the standings is going to be too much to overcome, and you can probably already cross a handful of teams off when it comes to the playoff race. And perhaps more than just the teams you would expect.
The NHL has already seen six head coaching changes during the regular season (and who knows how many more to come), and now that Jacques Martin and Terry Murray have been let go by Montreal and Los Angeles over the past week, all eyes have shifted to Columbus and Blue Jackets head coach Scott Arniel. Earlier this week general manager Scott Howson refused to blame Columbus' brutal start, which currently has the team at the bottom of the Western Conference standings, on coaching issues.
The season started with such promise for the Blue Jackets, in large part because of the big offseason additions of Jeff Carter and James Wisniewski, players that filled two of Columbus' biggest areas of weakness -- A No. 1 center (Carter) and a big-time offensive defenseman (Wisniewski). Unfortunately, whatever optimism that might have been floating around the Blue Jackets fan base in the preseason was crushed almost immediately thanks to a 1-9-1 start the team hasn't been able to recover from.
The eight-game suspension to Wisniewski to start the season, as well as Carter missing extended time due to injury certainly didn't help matters, either.
Entering Tuesday's slate of games the Blue Jackets own a 9-20-4 mark, giving them a league-worst 22 points in the standings. They currently sit (again, as of Tuesday afternoon) 15 points of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, which is now occupied by the San Jose Sharks.
Howson was asked about whether or not the season at this point is already a lost cause, and he refused to acknowledge that, telling Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch, “I’m not going to acknowledge that, no. Strange things happen in sports. We’ve certainly dug a hole for ourselves. It's a requirement of being in pro sports to keep banging at the door, no matter what's going on. So, no, I'm not going to acknowledge that."
Strange things do happen in sports, but here's something that hasn't happened in the NHL in its current playoff format: a team overcoming a deficit the size of the one Columbus faces to make the playoffs. More on that in a minute.
Meanwhile, out in Edmonton, Oilers general manager Steve Tambellini is reportedly still of the belief that his team, which currently sits six points out of the eighth spot in the West, can still make a run at the postseason, a claim that has left even Oilers fans in disbelief.
Does either team still have much of a chance? Recent history suggests that no, they don't. I'm aware that it's not exactly an earth shattering revelation to announce a team that is 15 points out of a playoff spot at the end of December is in danger of missing the postseason, but the point here is to see how possible it is to overcome that deficit, and whether or not it's been done recently.
Some things to consider:
-- Going back to the 2000-01 season, a span of 10 full seasons, there have been 62 teams that have been more than five points out of a playoff spot on December 20 (Tuesday's date).
-- Only four of them (or a little over 6 percent) were able to overcome that deficit to qualify for the postseason: The 2010-11 Sabres (eight points), 2008-09 Blues (six points), 2007-08 Capitals (seven points) and 2007-08 Predators (nine points).
You wouldn't think that being just five points in December would be such a tall mountain to climb, but it is. And along with Columbus, that's also bad news for the Hurricanes and Islanders (both nine points out), and leaves Tampa Bay, a team that was just one game away from reaching the Stanley Cup Final last season, and Calgary (five points out) right on the line. The Ducks, another playoff team from a year ago and just one point ahead of Columbus, are 14 points out and should also be considered out of the playoff race at this point.
-- You might notice Nashville overcoming a nine-point deficit in 2007-08 as the largest number, and since 2000-01, it is. There have been 29 teams that have been 10 or more points out at this point in the season since then, and none of them have been able to come back and qualify for the playoffs.
Even worse, if you go all the way back to the 1993-94 season, the year the NHL scrapped the divisional playoff format (Adams, Patrick, Smythe, Norris) and went to its current Conference playoff format (1 vs. 8, etc.), there have been 41 teams 10 or more points back.
Not one of them qualified for the playoffs.
For a team like Columbus or Anaheim to overcome this it would be completely unheard of in the current playoff format.
Ninety-five points has typically been a good bet to get in the playoffs, or at the very least, still be in the playoff discussion during the final week of the season. For the teams mentioned above to reach that mark they would need to finish with the following records over the remainder of the season:
Columbus Blue Jackets -- (Need 73 points in 49 games): 34-10-5
Anaheim Ducks -- (Need 72 points in games 49 games): 33-10-6
Carolina Hurricanes -- (Need 69 points in 48 games): 32-11-5
New York Islanders -- (Need 69 points in 52 games): 30-13-9
Tampa Bay Lightning -- (Need 65 points in 50 games): 30-15-5
Edmonton Oilers -- (Need 64 points in 49 games): 29-15-6
Calgary Flames -- (Need 63 points in 49 games): 28-14-7
Yeah, that's asking a lot, even for Tampa Bay and Calgary. Obviously, no team is going to throw in the towel on a season, nor do I expect a general manager to publicly admit defeat (which explains Howson's comments), but for the fans? Well, there's always next season. And for others (mainly Columbus and Anaheim), there's always prospective No. 1 overall pick Nail Yakupov to look forward to.
Photo: Getty Images
For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Tags: Adam Gretz, Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames, Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets, Edmonton Oilers, Jacques Martin, James Wisniewski, Jeff Carter, Los Angeles Kings, Montreal Canadiens, New York Islanders, Pucks And Numbers, San Jose Sharks, Scott Arniel, Scott Howson, Steve Tambellini, Tampa Bay Lightning, Terry Murray
Posted on: December 19, 2011 6:20 pm
Edited on: December 19, 2011 6:49 pm
The hit came in the opening period of the game when Seabrook got stalled a little bit by the referee, losing the puck on the ref's skates. A moment later he was heading face first into the boards as a result of a Bourque check. Bourque was given a five-minute major and game misconduct for the hit.
Seabrook left the game and didn't return, although the Blackhawks said it was more precautionary (we also heard that with Marc Staal and Sidney Crosby at points this season, so keep your fingers crossed, Chicago).
As is the case with most every suspension, the problem here is that Bourque delivers the hit squarely from behind, staring right at Seabrook's number. Every player in the NHL has to know by now that that is as good as a big red X -- don't hit!
One of the questionable parts about this hit was the role that Seabrook losing the puck in the referee's skates played. Shanahan explained why that didn't impact the decision.
"Seabrook loses control of the puck and then his stick makes contact with the skate of the referee," Shanahan said. "However, neither cause him to significantly turn his body immediately prior to or simultaneously with the hit from Bourque. Despite the fact that Seabrook is looking back and to his right, Bourque continues his pursuit and finishes Seabrook high and forcefully from behind, driving Seabrook's head into the boards.
"Although losing the puck in the referee's feet may cause Seabrook to look back and might eventually cause him to turn, contact is made before he does. Seabrook is neither falling nor turning to any degree to absolve Bourque of responsibility."
Last night I had originally said that my call would be for no suspension as bad as the hit might have looked. Well I must have been tired because looking at the slow-motion replays, it does look pretty bad. I was sort of taking it for granted that Seabrook had turned back for the puck already, but as Shanny points out, he really hadn't turned yet.
Posted on: December 18, 2011 10:44 pm
Edited on: December 18, 2011 10:55 pm
The fans of the Blackhawks were left holding their breath in the opening period of their 4-2 win over the Calgary Flames on Sunday night. That's because star defenseman Brent Seabrook took a very rough and dangerous hit from Rene Bourque into the boards.
Seabrook stayed down on the ice for a few moments and was eventually helped to the locker room. He did not return in the game.
Bourque was given a five-minute major for boarding on the play as well as a game misconduct.
Before going any further, have a look at the hit.
The good news is that after the game, coach Joel Quenneville -- who picked up his 600th career win -- said that Seabrook appeared to be doing OK. "He seemed not bad after the game," Quennevill said. "We’ll know more [Monday]."
So for a player that has had a history with taking some rough head shots, that's very encouraging. More will come out on his status in coming days.
But of course the next order of business these days becomes questioning the legality of the hit that caused the injury and whether or not Brendan Shanahan will find it to be suspension worthy.
Like most, this one is very much debatable. The biggest issue is the fact that Seabrook is moving up the boards until he loses the puck and gets his stick stalled by the referee's skates, leading him to turn back and reach for the puck. That's when Bourque came in with the hit.
In the end, Bourque does deliver a hit to the numbers of an opponent. But he has a pretty good case here that he committed to the hit before Seabrook reached back and that Seabrook's change of position immediately prior to the hit led to it being dangerous. Plus, when discussing intent as Shanahan often does, it seems to be judging by Bourque's reaction immediately after the hit shows it wasn't his intent to hurt. It makes me uneasy trying to figure out what a player's intention is in these cases, but it's something Shanahan considers.
What we do know is that the hit is going to be reviewed closely by the NHL. I wouldn't be surprised at all to see a suspension levied, but personally I'd err on the side of no suspension if it were my call. What's your take?
Posted on: December 13, 2011 3:09 pm
Edited on: December 13, 2011 3:18 pm
Kings coach Terry Murray became the fifth head coach to be fired this season on Monday. Los Angeles was the first team, however, not to name a permanent successor upon the firing, instead naming John Stevens as the interim bench boss.
It looks like it could be a very short stint as the head man for Stevens.
Sutter, formerly the GM of the Flames who is without a position right now, is still under contract in Calgary. Thus, the Kings had to ask for permission first.
The only thing giving me pause is another blog from Hammond saying it might not happen quite that fast.
If the sides work out an agreement — Sutter would also have to reach a financial agreement with the Calgary Flames, in terms of the rest of his contract — Sutter could be announced as the Kings’ coach this week, although it’s unlikely that he would be behind the bench Thursday in Columbus.
Whether it happens in time for Thursday's road game or not, this much seems pretty evident. There is so much smoke the fire must be burning and Sutter will become the next Kings coach at some point in the very near future.
It certainly wouldn't surprise his brother Brent.
“There’s a history with him and Dean [Lombardi, the Kings GM], going back to San Jose,” Brent Sutter told the Calgary Sun. “It’s not a shock to me if it does materialize.
“To me, that’s where Darryl’s niche is.”
And I don't think that's going to win over all the fans in Los Angeles. Despite the fact that Sutter has a trip to the Stanley Cup Final on his resume as Flames coach and all in all is not a bad coach, Sutter's rep was soured by his GM duties in Calgary. Plus, his teams will play in the pretty much same defensive fashion the Kings had under Murray, just with a lot more edge.
It would come down to a matter of getting a new voice to try and get to the players. That's been the theme in all the firings this season, the coaches were being tuned out by the players, so new voices were needed (another cliché I'm growing tired of). Couldn't they just all go falsetto?
It's clear that by going from Murray to Sutter, GM Dean Lombardi really wants his team to play a defensive style. He had a coach he liked in Murray and, according to Darren Dreger, Lombardi let the team know they better get their butts in gear, because he didn't want to fire Murray, a coach he originally hired.
Lombardi expressed some of the frustration publicly too, courtesy of Frozen Royalty.
So what's your take, Kings fans and none; you like Sutter to L.A. or no?
Photo: Getty Images