Category:NHL
Posted on: February 29, 2012 3:25 pm
Edited on: February 29, 2012 3:27 pm
 

Vlasic hit latest to not warrant suspension

By Brian Stubits

Marc-Edouard Vlasic is the latest player who will not face a supplemental discipline hearing. An NHL source told CBSSports.com earlier on Wednesday that no hearing had been scheduled and Renaud P. Lavoie of RDS in Canada later reported that no hearing will be scheduled.

Late in the Sharks' 1-0 win on Tuesday night against the Flyers, Daniel Briere was chasing the dumped puck into the corner boards when Vlasic's contact from behind sent Briere head first into the boards and into a heap on the ice.

There wasn't even a minor called on the play, which turned out to be pretty key with the Flyers trying to score so late in the game. Briere didn't seem like the biggest fan of the play after the game (from the Philadelphia Daily News).

“I wasn’t expecting to be bulldozed there,” Briere said. “It was a dangerous play, there’s no doubt about it. Usually when you’re in a vulnerable position like that, guys will try to bear-hug you or go around you. It was scary. I think I got fortunate that it wasn’t worse than it is. I knew there was someone coming, but I just didn’t think I was going to get run over like that.”

Remember, Briere just came back from a concussion a few weeks ago. That had a few more people in orange and black holding their breath. But Briere did return to the game a short while later. It was a little surprising he didn't go to the quiet room considering his recent concussion and the fact that he admitted to reporters after the game that he was dizzy and a bit lost.

Back to the decision not to take any action from the league. While this one does not seem as egregious as others recently -- particularly the decision to do nothing to David Clarkson -- I thought there was a chance. We've seen similar calls this season. I can see the merits on either side of the equation in this one. It didn't seem particularly malicious from Vlasic and he did seem to slow down before impact.

It just seems like Brendan Shanahan has decided the first half of suspensions was enough, doesn't it? It seemed like every other day or even more often in the first few months there was a new suspension video from Shanahan. Now they've become as rare as Scott Gomez goals. There has only been one suspension handed down since Alex Ovechkin's just before the All-Star break, Minnesota's Warren Peters.

Has the play really been that much cleaner since the All-Star break? Did the message finally get through to the players? Well I haven't noticed as many bad hits so that's working, but only one play in more than a month that warranted a suspension?

I'm not going to make the leap here, I'll just say it's a little bit more intriguing to look back at the reports from earlier in the season about some GMs complaining about how tightly Shanahan's era was being run.

More NHL Discipline news

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Posted on: February 29, 2012 3:18 pm
Edited on: February 29, 2012 5:19 pm
 

Can Steven Stamkos score 60 this season?

StamkosBy: Adam Gretz

Pucks and Numbers: a weekly statistical look at what's happening around the NHL. This week: what it's going to take for Steven Stamkos to become the first 60-goal scorer since 2007-08, and whether or not it's even possible.

Steven Stamkos has been the one consistent bright spot for the Tampa Bay Lightning this year, and he is currently putting together the most productive goal-scoring season of his young career.

Through Tampa Bay's first 63 games he is leading the league with 44 goals, seven more than Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin as of Wednesday afternoon. Barring injury he looks to be well on his way to the second 50-goal season of his career, as well as his second Rocket Richard Trophy. (He shared the goal-scoring crown during the 2009-10 season with Sidney Crosby, with both players scoring 51 goals).

He has clearly taken over as the NHL's best, and most dangerous goal scoring threat.

But he also has a chance -- a very small chance -- to do something that only one player has done over the past 14 years -- score 60 goals in a single season. It's not going to be easy, of course, and it's probably going to take a great deal of luck along the way, but it's not entirely out of the question, either.

Scoring 50 goals these days is rare enough. Since the NHL came out of the lockout in 2005-06 only 10 different players have scored even 50 goals in a single season (Alex Ovechkin has done it four times, Dany Heatley and Ilya Kovalchuk have done it twice, Stamkos, Crosby, Jarome Iginla, Vincent Lecavalier, Jaromir Jagr and Corey Perry have all done it once).

Scoring 60 goals in this era is practically unheard of.

Ovechkin was the last player to reach the mark having scored 65 goals during the 2007-08 season. Before that you have to go all the way back to the 1995-96 season when Mario Lemieux and Jagr scored 69 and 62 goals respectively for the Penguins.

With 19 games remaining on the schedule for Tampa Bay, Stamkos needs 16 goals to reach 60 for the season. Twice in his career he's had 19-game stretches where he's scored at least 16 goals, including one such run earlier this season between games 20 and 38 for the Lightning, scoring 16 goals on 61 shots.

His best 19-game stretch came at the start of last season he averaged a goal-per-game over the first 19 games of the season. So it is possible, and he's done it before.

If he were to maintain his current shooting percentage for the season, a career-best 19.9 percent, he would need to generate somewhere in the neighborhood of 80 shots on goal over the final 19 games of the season to score 16 goals. That's a lot. Even worse, if he were to shoot at his career average of 16.8 percent he would need to generate nearly 100 shots in 19 games, which is just over five per game. That's nearly impossible. Especially if you add in the fact that he's already in the middle of a hot streak, having scored seven goals in his past seven games, which would mean he would need to finish the season with 23 goals in 26 games.

One of the biggest reasons we no longer see 60 (or even 50) goal seasons is the same reason goal-scoring as a whole is down across the league -- a declining number of power play opportunities.

Stamkos is at his most lethal to opposing teams when the Lightning are on the man-advantage and his teammates are able to feed him one-timer after one-timer from the circle. With the average NHL team getting just 3.5 power play opportunities per game this season, the lowest average the NHL has seen in over 10 years, and the Lightning actually well below that average at just 3.1 opportunities per game, players just aren't getting as many prime opportunities to put up huge goal totals.

And it's why the 60-goal scorer is nearly extinct in the NHL.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter and like us on Facebook.
Posted on: February 29, 2012 12:54 pm
Edited on: February 29, 2012 12:56 pm
 

Caps owner Leonsis' stylish new Rally Poncho

Looking stylish Ted. (Ted's Take)

By Brian Stubits

You want to know the real reason why the Washington Capitals scored two goal in the final four minutes on Tuesday night that possibly saved their season? Thank their owner Ted Leonsis.

Don't thank him for paying the salaries and running the franchise. Well do that if you want to, but that's not the point here. Nope. Thanks his lucky Capitals poncho. Really.

Leonsis is unique in the ownership world, he's very interactive and open. He runs a blog called Ted's Take where he can be a bit unfiltered.

In his latest post about the Capitals after the dramatic 3-2 OT win over the Islanders, Leonsis explained his new good-luck charm.

My friend Seth Hurwitz gave me a Caps poncho that he bought in Mexico – it is so ugly it is beautiful. He insisted I wear it to rally the team! I did – and boom – we get the two points! Thank you Seth! Rally Poncho!

Go Caps!

Boy, earlier this season there was the Rally Balloon at Verizon Center, now the Rally Poncho? Well at least the poncho can stick around as it won't deflate or risk being popped.

I think Leonsis might have a marketing opportunity here to expand his fortune.

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

Posted on: February 29, 2012 11:44 am
Edited on: February 29, 2012 11:47 am
 

Video: Condra misses wide-open net point blank

By Brian Stubits

We've had our share of Goal of the Year candidate posts this season -- like this recent one from Evgeni Malkin. Some of them are just too good to ignore.

This isn't one of those posts.

No, this is the other side of things, the ugliest misses of the season. The latest entrant into the competition was Erik Condra's miss in Tuesday night's 1-0 Senators win over the Bruins.

I sure am glad the Sens didn't need another goal otherwise, ouch. I mean, he just missed a completely unobstructed cage from just a shade outside of the blue paint.

Luckily for Condra and his pride, I don't think he'll take home the shame of the top blooper this season. Craig Smith's miss earlier this season is going to be really hard to beat. They even started the goal horn in Nashville prematurely.

My favorite part about the Smith scene -- completely underrated, by the way -- is Sergei Kostitsyn coming over to give Smith a hug and then slowly slinking away once he realizes it was no goal.

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

Posted on: February 29, 2012 10:17 am
Edited on: February 29, 2012 10:29 am
 

Morning Skate: Stars keep playoff push going

The Stars go searching for a fifth straight win. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

The Morning Skate is back. Every morning for the rest of the season we're going to take a look at the games that have the greatest significance in the push for the postseason for you to digest while you drink your java. We'll throw in some miscellany for the fun of it.

Playoff Race

7:30 ET, Pittsburgh at Dallas (NBC Sports Network)

The teams in the Atlantic Division (excluding the Islanders) are in an interesting spot here. Barring a miracle, they aren't going to catch the Rangers but none of them is fighting for their playoff lives either. Maybe New Jersey has to worry if they lose a few more -- maybe -- but they're six points up on ninth-place Winnipeg. So they're left playing big games seeing that it's playoff push time and all, but nothing all that impactful.

But you find ways to make them meaningful. For example, only one non-division winner is going host a first-round playoff series as the four seed. That's no doubt worth playing for. And that's what the Penguins are going after right now.

Their opponents on Wednesday night, however, have a lot greater sense of desperation. That's because the Stars enter the night in a three-way tie for the final playoff spot in the West (holding the tie-breaker with a game in hand). Dallas would be thinking about hopping into the division race if the Coyotes weren't hotter than the Phoenix summers. They have won four straight games and have gained no ground on the Coyotes.

Now none of the above means the Penguins are going to come coasting into the game while the Stars come guns a blazin'. They wouldn't be in the position their in if they did that ever. In today's NHL you can't do that against any team. It's just something to remember if you notice a difference in "compete level."

It also marks, by the way, the first time that James Neal has come back to Dallas to face his old team (and Matt Niskanen, of course). Seeing the season that Neal is having with his brand new contract extension has to be a little painful for the Dallas faithful thinking of what could have been.

Oh and don't forget about Evgeni Malkin. He has five goals and two assists in his last three games. I hear he's good.

8 ET, Toronto at Chicago

This game should be sponsored by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Free Falling could be the theme song.

The Toronto Maple Leafs are in a tail spin that Chuck Yeager would have a hard time pulling out of. They've lost five in a row, most in ugly fashion. They've lost nine of their last 10 games. The fans are chanting for the coach to be fired. They are on the verge of falling completely out of the playoff race, going into tonight's game four points behind eighth-place Washington. The Leafs are as close right now to 14th in the East as they are eighth.

Well OK, I guess it's a pretty typical end of February in Canada's biggest city.

But let's not forget about America's Second City here and Chicago. They are going through their own swoon. They have only four wins in their last 16 games and bring a three-game losing streak into the battle with the Leafs.

If they were to get no points tonight, the Blackhawks would legitimately have to start worrying about being on the playoff bubble. Right now they are only three points up on teams 8-10 and will have played more games than all of them. When teams come into Chicago this out of sorts, the Blackhawks need to be able to deliver the next blow.

I'm not sure who is more desperate for the two points tonight.

Others worth watching

9:30 ET, St. Louis at Edmonton: The Blues are in fight for the Central Division crown with the Red Wings and have finally found their form on the road. They've won three straight away from home but the Oilers seem like a perfect team to play spoiler the rest of the way.

10 ET, Buffalo at Anaheim: To be frank, but of these teams is all but done in the playoff race. It would be remarkable if either made it in. But I'm still going to dub this a "loser leave town" match. Don't win this game and you can definitely forget about it.

Your promised miscellany

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

Posted on: February 29, 2012 12:40 am
Edited on: February 29, 2012 12:51 am
 

Coyotes complete near-perfect February

TippettBy: Adam Gretz

This is Dave Tippett's ninth year as a head coach in the NHL.

During that time he has missed the playoffs just once, and as recently as a month ago it looked like this season just might in fact be the second time.

After a 2-1 shootout win over the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday night, it not only looks like his Phoenix Coyotes are going to make a third straight postseason trip (all under Tippett's watch), but they're currently in first place in the Pacific Division thanks to a performance in February that saw the Coyotes go 11-0-1, with the only loss coming in a shootout in Vancouver back on Feb. 13th.

That also happened to be the only game during the month that goaltender Mike Smith did not start, and he pushed his personal winning streak to 11 games with a 39-save performance against the Canucks on Tuesday.

Smith, without much fanfare, signed to a two-year, $4 million contract on July 1 to join the Coyotes, and he has more than filled whatever hole was left by Ilya Bryzgalov when his free agent rights were traded to the Flyers over the summer. His numbers are almost identical to what Bryzgalov put up during his time in Phoenix, while Bryzgalov's production has completely fallen off the map in Philadelphia.

Is it the system? Perhaps. When I spoke to Smith before the season, shortly after he signed in Phoenix, he pointed out how Tippett's defense-first system was attractive and very friendly to goaltenders (keep in mind, Smith played under Tippett for a brief time in Dallas). But right now Smith is simply in a zone and is making every key save the Coyotes need him to make as they continue to grind out wins and chug along against all odds, completely shutting down every opponent they face. That includes the stop Smith made on Mason Raymond during Tuesday's shootout, stopping his spin-o-rama attempt in the second round (starting at the 2:18 mark of the video below).



It's a move that some goaltenders believe is nearly impossible to stop, but Smith simply did not flinch.

During the month of February the Coyotes allowed just 17 goals (not counting "team goals" from shootouts) in 12 games. That includes two shutouts and eight games where they allowed just one goal. What is most impressive about their performance in February is that it came against quality opponents nearly every night. They played just one team with a losing record (Edmonton), and had multiple games with Vancouver, Los Angeles and Calgary, and also knocked off Deroit, Chicago and San Jose. As far as Vancouver and the latter three are concerned, those aren't exactly lightweights in the NHL.

For the month the nine different opponents they faced had a combined record of 262-185-58, and the Coyotes rolled right through them.

After being one of the worst teams in the league in January, they were the best team in hockey in February, and it's put them right back in the thick of the Western Conference playoff picture.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: February 28, 2012 10:48 pm
Edited on: February 28, 2012 10:57 pm
 

Winners & Losers: Senators, Capitals, Kings



By: Adam Gretz

There's always a winner and a loser in the NHL, and this is a new nightly look at some of the winners and losers in the biggest games and biggest situations across the league.

Winners

Ottawa Senators: Heading into Tuesday's game in Boston there was an expectation that the Bruins would try to get some sort of "revenge" on Ottawa for Kyle Turris' hit on Joe Corvo during their last meeting over the weekend.

Nothing out of the ordinary happened (it was a physical game, but that's about it), and in the end, the Senators came away with an important 1-0 win led by the rookie goalie Robin Lehner recording his first career shutout, stopping all 32 shots he faced. It was a pretty impressive performance by the Senators in a big situation, and the only goal of the night came from defenseman Erik Karlsson as he extended his league lead for scoring among defenseman.

With the win, Ottawa now finds itself just one point behind Boston for the top spot in the Northeast Division, and the two teams still have one more meeting remaining this season. Not only do the Senators look like a guaranteed playoff team at this point, they have a real shot to win the division.

It can't be said enough times: Nobody saw this coming.

[Related: Senators 1, Bruins 0]

Washington Capitals: Down 2-0 with three minutes to play, and their season potentially on the line, the Capitals found a way to dig deep and come all the way back to win, 3-2, in overtime thanks to a vintage Alex Ovechkin goal as he came into the offensive zone, flying down the wing and fired a shot through a defenseman, beating Islanders goalie Evgeni Nabokov for the winner.

For the time being, the Capitals are back into the No. 8 spot in the East.

Perhaps a game that can save a season?

[Related: Capitals 3, Islanders 2]

Los Angeles Kings: The Kings barely average two goals per game this season. They matched that total in the first 12 minutes on Tuesday night in a 4-0 win over the Wild, a game that brought them into a three-way tie with Colorado and Dallas with 70 points.

It also might have been the least-convincing four-goal win any team has had this season.

The Kings generated just 15 shots on goal, with only six of them being quality scoring chances. Fortunately they were able to take advantage of them, scoring on four of them.

You're not going to get that sort of success rate every night, and they need to do way more to generate consistent offense, but they're also not going to turn down the two points at this point.

[Related: Kings 4, Wild 0]

Losers

Toronto Maple Leafs: Oh, Toronto. This is how the Maple Leafs started their game on Tuesday, a 5-3 loss, against the Florida Panthers. It might just be the perfect way to describe the past 10 games and a season that is quickly starting to slip away.



I have nothing else to add, other than to point out a "Fire Wilson" chant started in the third period.

[Related: Panthers 5, Maple Leafs 3]

New York Islanders: If the Capitals win helped to save their season, then the Islanders loss had to all but crush their season.

Not that their playoff chances were great to begin with, but a win in regulation would have brought the Islanders to within five points of the Capitals in the standings. After letting a two-goal lead slip away with less than three minutes to play, losing in overtime, they're now eight points behind the Capitals. That's one heck of a swing.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: February 28, 2012 9:49 pm
 

Ryan Malone goes a little crazy, gets ejected

By: Adam Gretz

During the second period of Tuesday's Montreal-Tampa Bay game, Lightning forward Ryan Malone had a bit of a meltdown and took out some serious anger on Canadiens defenseman Alexei Emelin.



This resulted in Malone being ejected for being the "aggressor" in the fight (if you want to call it a fight), and tallied 17 penalty minutes.

According to the NHL Rule book, being the aggressor is defined as follows:
The aggressor in an altercation shall be the player who continues to throw punches in an attempt to inflict punishment on his opponent who is in a defenseless position or who is an unwilling combatant.

A player must be deemed the aggressor when he has clearly won the fight but he continues throwing and landing punches in a further attempt to inflict punishment and/or injury on his opponent who is no longer in a position to defend himself.

A player who is deemed to be the aggressor of an altercation shall be assessed a major penalty for fighting and a game misconduct.

A player who is deemed to be the aggressor of an altercation will have this recorded as an aggressor of an altercation for statistical and suspension purposes.
Just before this incident took place, Emelin was issued a two-minute minor for intereference for a hit on Malone.

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