Please Like My Sport: Sidney Crosby, great heels and what else to enjoy about the NHL this week
Here are some things to enjoy about hockey this week
Welcome to Please Like My Sport, the weekly column in which we find various things that can (and should) make you excited about hockey this week. Whether you're already a hockey enjoyer or someone who is looking for reasons to become one, the goal is to deliver reasons for you to appreciate the NHL right now.
Here are some things to enjoy about hockey this week:
The return of Sidney Crosby
For some reason or another, a lot of people don't seem to like Sidney Crosby. Maybe it's because he's so good they feel they have to dislike him if he doesn't play for their favorite team. I don't know.
What I do know, however, is that the NHL is an exponentially more fun league when Sidney Crosby is playing hockey, and so this week has been a good one. Crosby returned to the ice and suited up for the Penguins for the first time since undergoing abdominal surgery in November and he didn't wait long to remind us all that he's still Sidney Crosby. And he's still very fun.
Crosby had four points in his return, including a goal and this absolutely ridiculous assist.
Putting aside the self-pass off the back of the net, which is always fun, the gall to even attempt that pass is something else. I mean, what an utterly rude feed through an absurdly small window. Credit to Dominik Simon for even having the the awareness level to even anticipate that pass and be able to finish. I think i'd be too stunned to even react in that situation. So, basically, I'd be a Minnesota Wild defenseman.
Anyway, welcome back Sidney Crosby. You're fun and I love you.
The Battle of Alberta
I've said it since his rookie season, when it became quite clear that he was going to be a menace, but Matthew Tkachuk makes the NHL a better product. He's nightmare for opposing teams because of his skill and his antics, and there are going to be a ton of people who hate him by the time his career is done, but heels are good for the sport. Hate is good for the sport. Rivalries are good for the sport.
Tkachuk has already added plenty of spice to Flames-Kings in the Pacific thanks to his never-ending feud with Drew Doughty, and now he's doing the same for the Battle of Alberta thanks to a new rivalry with the Oilers' Zack Kassian. During the Oilers' visit to Calgary over the weekend, Kassian wasn't thrilled with a few big, borderline hits that Tkachuk threw during a tense matchup. Those hits weren't penalized, so Kassian
While fighting is permitted, attacking an unwilling combatant is frowned upon, so Kassian was penalized and, later, got a two-game suspension from the league's Department of Player Safety. After the incident, Kassian trashed Tkachuk, sayingeven despite the suspension. Kassian also said Tkachuk is going to get his at some point down the line.
Regardless of where you land on this particular incident and who was more in the wrong, you have to concede that future Oilers-Flames games just got a whole lot more exciting. You obviously hope that things don't spiral violently out of control, but a little hate makes things a lot more intriguing, and we're approaching must-see TV for the next Kassian-Tkachuk matchup.
Speaking of which, the Oilers' first few games following Kassian's two-game ban? A home-and-home set against the Flames. Oh boy.
NHL All-Star events
This may be difficult for you to believe, but the NHL has actually done something new and cool that seems to have fans excited. It was announced this week that the league will introduce a new event at this year's All-Star Skills Competition that will feature players shooting pucks from the stands as they try to hit targets on the ice surface below.
It has been described as "hockey meets TopGolf," and.
Eight participants will shoot pucks from a section in the upper bowl towards circular targets that will be on the ice below. Each target will have different point values and will depend on how easy the targets are to hit. Participants will also receive more points if they completely shatter a target rather than just clipping the side.
The Skills Competition is typically a fun time but some of the aspects have gotten stale over the years, so it's cool to see the league find some new, non-sucky ways to spice up the event. Everyone loves to make fun of the NHL anytime they try to do something different, and usually those criticisms are warranted.
But I think this idea could be great, especially considering it gets players a little closer to the fans during a marquee event that should be about the fans more than anything else, and people seem to be responding well to it. If you're going to bring weirdness into All-Star Weekend, which the NHL has done since they installed the 3-on-3 tournament format, then you might as well go all-in on the weirdness. This a good step in that direction.
Also a good step in the right direction: The league will have a women's event this year. There will reportedly be a USA vs. Canada women's hockey 3-on-3 scrimmage this year as well. The league has invited some of the top women's players to All-Star Weekend over the past few years, and Kendall Coyne Schofield became the first female competitor in the Skills Competition in 2019, but this is the first event exclusive to the women. It's a great idea to help showcase those immensely talented athletes.
Minnesota screws up their lineup
There are so many dumb things that happen in hockey every week and every season, but this is perhaps one of the dumbest in recent memory:
The Wild couldn't even fill out their lineup correctly and scratched the wrong guy. As a result, defenseman Greg Pateryn, who literally suited up and was on the bench when he was told he had to leave, was replaced by an extra forward in Ryan Donato, who had to scramble to get ready for the game.
Donato barely played (4:57 of total ice time) and was the guy who got absolutely wrecked by Sidney Crosby behind the net in the clip we highlighted earlier in this column. I mean, if you're Donato, you kind of have to request a trade after that, right? Poor guy.
This sport is so stupid and I love it.
Goal of the week
Congratulations to Pekka Rinne, who became the 12th goalie in NHL history to score a goal this week.
The Beautiful Game highlight of the week
Congratulations are also in order for Brad Marchand, who delivered the absolute worst shootout try in league history.
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