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Tag:Florida Panthers
Posted on: December 31, 2011 9:55 pm
Edited on: December 31, 2011 10:56 pm
 

Panthers' Barch ejected for alleged racial slur

By Brian Stubits

It's been an eventful end to the year in Florida. On Friday there was the scrum in the closing seconds of the game that saw Tomas Kopecky punch the Rangers' Michael Del Zotto after being hit in the head with Del Zotto's stick. After the game Florida's Krys Barch talked about there would be scores to settle when the teams meet again next week.

After Saturday night's game against the Montreal Canadiens, Barch might not be there to take part in the settling.

The enforcer the Panthers acquired earlier this season in a trade from the Dallas Stars was given a game misconduct at the end of the first period when the teams had a fracas in front of the net. At first it wasn't immediately clear as to why.

Then George Richards of the Miami Herald reported that the word from the linesman Darren Gibbs was that the reason for the ejection was the fact that Barch hurled a racial slur in the direction of Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban, who is black.

Renaud P. Lavoie of RDS in Quebec confirmed after the game that Barch was ejected for using a racial slur. He reported that Subban didn't hear the insult but the linesman did.

Panthers general manager Dale Tallon had no comment at the end of the second period but team general partner Cliff Viner shared his disappointment over the incident with the Herald.

“This is not what the character of this organization is about. Period. I'm devastated by that kind of behavior. That is not what we're about as an organization, a team, coaching staff, hockey operations.

"Dale, I'm sure, will be very critical of this. I hope they talk to the team and let them know this is unacceptable. You play hard, you fight hard. But that's not part of any competition."

After the game, Panthers coach Kevin Dineen addressed the Barch incident (also from the Herald).

Said coach Kevin Dinnen: “We have a broken up player back there. He feels extremely bad that there was an insinuation that something inappropriate was said. Now it's a league matter. Obviously the Florida Panthers and Krys Barch are really shoken up about this."

Subban told the Montreal media that he didn't hear a slur and that no one else on his team did either. Erik Cole added that he heard something but wasn't sure what. To paraphrase, he said it could have been something related to Subban's parents.

As Dineen said, now it becomes a league matter. That means it will fall to the league offices, but not Brendan Shanahan's desk. Instead, player conduct issues fall under the jurisdiction of Colin Campbell, the former discipline czar.

Barch's agent, Scott Norton, said he spoke to his client after the game and defended Barch.

"Spoke to client Krys Barch and I 100% stand behind him that there was no racial motivation at all involved! Truth will come out. I have known Krys Barch since he was 15 yrs old, and he is a quality, character human being. He did not, nor would ever, make a racial slur."

Unfortunately, this is something that is still seen around hockey. Even infrequent cases are still too often. Remember in a preseason game between the Detroit Red Wings and Philadelphia Flyers in London, Ontario, Philly's Wayne Simmonds, also black, was moving in on net in the shootout when a fan threw a banana peel on the ice.

Nor is it the first time that Subban has had to deal with some racial insensitivity, if it did happen here. Last season some fans thought it would be a good idea to wear blackface to a game while wearing "Subbanator" shirts.

You don't need me to tell you there is no place for discrimination in the game. When you start to think that it is no longer a problem in the sport, something like this happens. I'm not here to call Barch a racist, I don't know him personally. But if he did use a racial slur he is going to be viewed as such by many.

More NHL Discipline News Here

Photo: Getty Images

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Posted on: December 31, 2011 2:02 pm
Edited on: December 31, 2011 2:03 pm
 

Raffi Torres fined for elbow on Jan Hejda

By: Adam Gretz

One of the most common complaints about NHL discipline, whether it was under Colin Campbell in previous years or the current leadership of Brendan Shanahan, is the sometimes overwhelming lack of consistency from one incident to another. If you're going to call it one way for one play, make it the same way across the board.

It rarely, if ever, seems to work out that way.

The NHL's disciplinary committee was busy on Saturday announcing a couple of fines, and along with the surprising non-suspensions of Tomas Kopecky and Mike Rupp following Friday's Rangers-Panthers game, the NHL also announced that Phoenix Coyotes forward Raffi Torres has also avoided the Shanaban for his blindside elbow to the head of Colorado's Jan Hejda earlier in the week (Here's the play, in case you missed it the first time around).

Instead of missing any games, Torres was simply given the maximum fine of $2,500.

Message: not sent.
Hejda is expected to be in the lineup for the Avalanche on Saturday when they visit the Anaheim Ducks.

There was also no penalty called on the play, and it recieved little attention in the aftermath. It almost seems that unless a player is seriously injured (or injured at all) and it's a play that's shown on highlight reels across the league the NHL has no interest in handing out a stiff punishment.

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Posted on: December 31, 2011 1:36 pm
Edited on: December 31, 2011 2:10 pm
 

No suspension for Kopecky



By: Adam Gretz

The NHL determined on Saturday morning that the incident at the end of Friday's Rangers-Panthers game was worth nothing more than a couple of $2,500 fines.

In the closing seconds Panthers forward Tomas Kopecky and Rangers defenseman Michael Del Zotto werei involved in a skirmish in front of the New York net. After Del Zotto gave Kopecky a shot up high with his stick, Kopecky responded by dropping Del Zotto with what was basically a sucker punch to the face.

Kopecky was then pulled out of the ensuing scrum by Mike Rupp, who then started to throw some punches of his own at the Panthers forward.

Kopecky received a match penalty for his punch on Del Zotto (Rupp was also given a game misconduct and a five-minute major for fighting), and it seemed like a pretty good bet that Kopecky would sit out at least a couple of games for his actions. Not the case. The league announced on Saturday that Kopecky and Del Zotto have each been fined $2,500, the maximum fine allowed, and both will be eligible to play in their team's next game.

The Panthers host the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday, while the Rangers will play the Flyers on Monday during the Winter Classic.

Of course, all parties involved will also be eligible to play when these two teams face off again next Thursday in New York, a meeting that could get ugly with some sort of vigilante justice if the post-game comments from Friday are any indication.

Following Friday's game Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said that Del Zotto deserved to get smashed in the face for his stick work on Kopecky, while Panthers forward Krys Barch said "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."

Mark your calendars.

More From Eye On Hockey

Kopecky sucker punches Del Zotto
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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

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Posted on: December 30, 2011 2:58 pm
Edited on: December 30, 2011 3:16 pm
 

Winter Classic in Miami? Panthers would love it

By Brian Stubits

Is there any doubt there's nothing more exciting in the regular season than the Winter Classic? It's by far and away the most-watched game of the season, it has the HBO 24/7 that leads up to it and is treated by the NHL for what it is: the season's marquee game. So every city wants to get their hands on it. Even Miami.

Could you imagine that picture being the setting for the Winter Classic? There are some that can.

Yes, the Florida Panthers would love to host the NHL's annual outdoor game (as would probably 29 other franchises). But there's that whole problem of playing in the tropics and ice, they don't really go together, right? Well, the Panthers think it could happen.

Thanks to the new baseball park opening in a couple of months for baseball's Miami Marlins, it could happen -- meaning literally, they could pull it off. That's because the new ballpark will have a retractable roof, opening the possibility of building a solid rink that would be more than playable.

George Richards of the Miami Herald reports that the Panthers brass would love to speak to the NHL about the possibility of the game in Miami, as farfetched as it seems.

Plus, some of the players would love to play where it's warm.

“Everyone loves coming down here and it would be neat to have a tropical outdoor game," said Kris Versteeg, who played in the Chicago Winter Classic. "People would travel from all over for that. The game and the weather would be great for the fans. It was awesome playing at Wrigley, but I don't want to play in that cold again. But it was a memory I'll always have."

To further lend credence to the idea that it could happen in Florida, remember that the Kings and Rangers played an outdoor game in Las Vegas in the preseason back in 1991 and that worked just fine. With the help of a retractable roof, NHL-quality ice is possible.

But the practicality of it? I'd say very, very low. It's not like the Panthers are a big draw in the NHL, although their success this season helps a little bit. Plus, Florida will have to get in line.

It's expected that next year's game will be held in Washington D.C., likely at Nationals Park. If it doesn't happen next year, it will happen the year after that in the nation's capital. It figures that Detroit/Michigan would be in the conversation. The same goes for the Twin Cities, Denver, St. Louis and even San Francisco. Adrian Dater of SI.com and the Denver Post is begging the NHL to bring the showcase West.

I agree with the sentiment that the NHL should try and drift out of the Northeastern corridor a little for the game, but that's the U.S. hockey hub, so I think those cities need to appear frequently in the rotation. As I said, I think Florida would be way down the list, to the point of not even being on it despite the possibilities.

It would be fantastic for the Panthers and hockey in Florida, would give it tremendous local exposure, but I'm not sure how much the reciprocal effect would be for the NHL. It has more of a Jim Carrey in Dumb & Dumber vibe to it than anything, but is fun to think about.

On top of it all, I can't imagine the outrage that would come from hockey fans if the game were played in 70-degree weather.

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: December 30, 2011 1:25 pm
 

Weekend Preview: Central the center of the action

By Brian Stubits

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.

Hard to believe that the Oilers and Wild have already played each other six times while the Blackhawks and Red Wings have yet to renew acquaintances, but that's the case. Until Friday, at least.

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.

B's buzzing

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."

Classic tuneup

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

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

Posted on: December 28, 2011 1:07 pm
Edited on: December 28, 2011 2:47 pm
 

Report: Injury-ravaged Panthers to sign Madden

By Brian Stubits

The Florida Panthers are in a world of hurt right now. As in literal hurt.

The surprising Southeast Division leaders are still holding onto a somewhat comfortable lead over the Winnipeg Jets in the division, but they are missing a lot of players. As in seven forwards, all due to some form of injury.

That has general manager Dale Tallon on the verge of signing veteran free agent John Madden. That's according to Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "Hearing John Madden signs with @FlaPanthers tomorrow."

Madden played most recently for the Minnesota Wild and Russo used to be the beat writer for the Panthers, so he can have a rumor like that covered from both sides.

Then current Panthers beat writer George Richards of the Miami Herald tweeted that the timeline perhaps has been quickened. "Word in the #FlaPanthers locker room is John Madden has been signed and is excited to join the Cats."

Richards added that the deal isn't likely to be announced quite yet. "#FlaPanthers say no announcement on John Madden forthcoming; coach Kevin Dineen left practice early" followed by Tallon saying it isn't done quite yet.

“We don't know how long that's going to take [to get rust off] and when we're getting some other guys back," Tallon said Wednesday.

Either way, there's a lot of smoke, so the fire seems to be close behind.

Like a good chunk of the Panthers roster this season, Tallon has some familiarity with Madden, who was part of the Stanley Cup champion in Chicago that Tallon helped build. He is a tough-nosed center that likely still has some gas left in the tank. He scored 12 goals last season for the Wild.

He would also bring along the intangibles that come with being a veteran and a multiple-times champion in the NHL. In addition to winning the Blackhawks he also lifted the Stanley Cup twice while a member of the New Jersey Devils.

But more importantly, he helps the Panthers get through their injury woes at the moment. As mentioned, seven players are currently sidelined, all of them forwards. Stephen Weiss and Mikael Samuelsson could return soon but it doesn't look as good for Jack Skille, Sean Bergenheim, Marco Sturm, Marcel Goc or Scottie Upshall.

I think it is a solid addition for the Panthers even without those intangibles. He's 38 but he can likely still lead a third or fourth line when the injured Panthers get healthy. Coach Kevin Dineen has been clear that he really likes to be able to run all four lines.

What's more, Madden has long been very good on the penalty kill, a department the Panthers could use some improvement. Their 80.2 percent kill rate ranks 24th in the league.

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: December 27, 2011 12:25 pm
 

Smith-Pelly injury could close junior loan doors

By Brian Stubits

It's getting harder and harder for general managers to loan their prized young prospects to their junior national teams. What happened to Canada's Devante Smith-Pelly serves as the latest deterrent.

In Canada's 8-1 destruction of Finland in its tournament opener on Monday, the Scarborough, Ontario native and Anaheim Ducks forward Smith-Pelly, was forced to leave the game after blocking a shot. He didn't return and then later on Monday the Ducks announced Smith-Pelly won't be coming back for Team Canada or the Ducks for at least a month. He suffered a fractured left foot and will be out 4-6 weeks.

Before I go any further, I must make it clear that NHL players have to be released to the national teams and GMs certainly have the right of refusal. Smith-Pelly and Tampa Bay Lightning center Brett Connolly are the only NHL players in this year's World Junior Championships, but Team Canada also sought the services of Erik Gudbranson of the Florida Panthers, however GM Dale Tallon denied, so Gudbranson is still with the big club in South Florida. The Edmonton Oilers had a similar decision to make with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and they elected at the beginning of the season not to have him play for Team Canada. There were plenty of other options denied as well.

It has long been a common practice for teams to grant the requests of the national clubs. The thought process often included the idea of how much can be learned playing for your country as well as getting some more ice time for players who might not get as much as young prospects on their NHL squads. But we're likely going to see fewer and fewer.

In the cases of players like Nugent-Hopkins, it's a no-brainer for the franchise to keep the player around. He's an all-world talent and has been arguably the best player on the ice for the Oilers this season. He is literally a key component of the team winning. In the case of Smith-Pelly, Connolly and Gudbranson, none has received a lot of ice time this season. In the case of Gudbranson, he's actually been a healthy scratch on numerous occasions this season. Still, Florida didn't want to let him leave the team for a few weeks.

The risks will scare more and more teams away. In addition the obvious of not wanting to take a good player off your roster for a few weeks, who wants to risk injuries that will cost their team a good, young player?

Obviously Smith-Pelly could have suffered the same injury with the Ducks and it's in no way to say that his playing for Team Canada is to blame for his injury. The same thing could happen in any game at any level. But the fact is Smith-Pelly did get hurt playing for Team Canada. You'd at least rather your guy get hurt playing for your team, wouldn't you?

More on World Juniors

We hear all the time in sports the objectifying of players. They are called pieces, parts, assets, weapons. Another popular one is calling them investments. In the case of the latter, it's a pretty apt comparison to make, after all teams put a lot of money into professional athletes. When you are talking about 19-year-olds, they are part of your franchise's future. They really do fit the bill for the word investment. So do you really think many people want to turn over high-priced investments to another broker, to keep the analogy going? I don't think so.

There aren't many players in the NHL that are still eligible to play in the juniors. Most of the ones that are of age are of the Nugent-Hopkins ilk, so good that they can make an immediate impact in the NHL. They aren't going to leave the NHL for a few weeks to play for their junior national team. So really we're only talking about a small number of players that are under 20 but aren't logging serious minutes in the NHL. For them there is still some upside in a loan to the national team, most specifically more ice time.

Of course, weighing the player's desire to play for their national team has to be a consideration. Last thing you want is a player to feel resentment over not getting a chance to wear his nation's sweater. That's why I don't think this will ever be an issue for the Olympics.

They aren't completely comparable as the NHL has begun shutting down for the Olympics thus no player is missing games for their professional team, but there have been rumblings that not all league executives like letting their players go play for their national teams because of the risks at play. But that's a battle they won't win. There are too many guys who want to play in the games, so they'll play.

But at some point the cons will outweigh the pros when you are talking about a couple of players at the junior level. The Ducks won't have Smith-Pelly available for a couple of weeks when the Junior Championships are done. That's too bad, I'm sure coach Bruce Boudreau would like some time to work with the young and talented player. The odds of the Ducks climbing back into the playoff picture are long, but a healthy Smith-Pelly wouldn't hurt them by any stretch. That's a pretty big con.

He hasn't played a whole lot with the Ducks, score three goals and two assists in a little less than nine minutes on ice per game. But he was helping to provide some line depth for a team that doesn't have a lot of it in Anaheim.

I'm not saying this is a death sentence to the World Junior Championships -- that would be ludicrous -- or even the end of NHL players in the Junior Championships. There will still the occasional NHLer released for the championships, just not often.

Photo: Getty Images

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