As his family does at the end of every year, President Barack Obama is currently in the great state of Hawaii, vacationing during the holiday as best as the leader of the free world can kick back. 

Here’s the thing: The 2015 Winter Classic? The hockey game between the Washington Capitals, D.C.’s local team, and the Chicago Blackhawks, Obama’s local team from back home, played at Nationals Park, the baseball stadium a short motorcade away from the White House?

Yeah, not in Honolulu.

So as Russian Machine Never Breaks reminds us, despite public pleas to have him attend the game, President Obama will not be watching hockey at Nationals Park on Dec. 1.

Because he’s not getting back to D.C. with his family until January 4.

But hey, he did catch that Oregon State/Akron game in Hawaii this week. 

Oh well. Ted Leonsis tried, via the Chicago Tribune:

“It’s just such great theater,” Leonsis said of the New Year’s Day game. “The bar keeps getting raised, and we’ll have a couple of unique things to D.C. I’m sure we’ll do something important with the military. Hopefully we can get President Obama to come. It’s Chicago, it’s Washington, it’s national television. I’m hoping that we can get President Obama to come to the game.”

Normally, this sort of thing wouldn’t be that notable, as a sitting president has never watched a Winter Classic, let along, like, an NHL game in general. But this was Washington vs. Chicago in Washington. This was, like, a game designed to get Barack Obama to an NHL game.  Which, incidentally, he hasn’t done during the entirety of his presidency, despite being within walking distance of the arena.

Oh well. Maybe Biden’s not busy. 

Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: December 22, 2014, 9:47 pm

When you think of creative hockey jerseys, you don't necessarily think of "The Hobbit" as a design template ... until the Bakersfield Condors showed their awesome uniforms based on the recently-released fantasy flick, "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies." The jersey will be worn Saturday, Dec. 27 against the Stockton Thunder. 

Behold the glory of the front of the jersey, which includes some writing in Elvish. Fortunately you don't have to throw it in the fire to read the words.

Photo via Bakersfield Condors

And the back ... it's Smaug!

Photo via Bakersfield Condors

Even if "The Hobbit" movies are way worse than the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, these are still fantastic. And they're all for charity as well. The unis will be auctioned off during the game and donations will go to the California Living Museum. 

Sadly, these aren't quite as cool as Bakersfield's "Seinfeld" jerseys that commemorated Jerry's puffy shirt. But the sequels tend to be worse than the original, again like "The Hobbit" movies versus LOTR. 

So will there be a pseudo-movie moment in the game, like when the Toledo Walleye and Evansville IceMen fought in their Batman and Riddler jerseys?

We can only hope that if a Condors goaltender makes a save while wearing this jersey, he will totally scream "you shall not pass!" like Gandalf in "Lord of the Rings."

Somewhere Mats Zuccarello, the 'Norwegian' Hobbit, is smiling. 

- - - - - - -

Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @joshuacooper

MORE FROM YAHOO HOCKEY

Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: December 22, 2014, 9:12 pm

Here are your Puck Headlines: A glorious collection of news and views collected from the greatest blogosphere in sports and the few, the proud, the mainstream hockey media.

🎅 @martin_jones31 @andyandreoff @tytoff16 pic.twitter.com/fC5xARlBl3

— LA Kings (@LAKings) December 21, 2014

• Santa and his elves in LA [@LAKings]

Former Penguins Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik react to Dan Bylsma’s firing. “The organization can say whatever it wants, that it wasn’t sure what it wanted to do, all that stuff,” said Niskanen. “But it was (bull)." [Trib Live]

• NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly has responded to Donald Fehr’s claims that all signs point to another lockout when the CBA expires after the 2021-22 season. Spoiler: Daly wasn't thrilled with the comment. [ProHockey Talk]

• Live TV & streaming details for Team USA at World Juniors. [USA Hockey]

• Devils' Michael Ryder, unhappy with ice time, could ask to be traded. [NJ.com]

• Team Canada's Connor McDavid settles in after being 'as rusty as you can possibly get'. [Buzzing the Net]

Illness spreading through Sabres, but Nolan maintains it's not mumps. [Buffalo News]

• Dallas Stars GM Jim Nill joins TSN to talk hockey analytics. [TSN]

• Behind the scenes with EPIX and an interview with producer Ross Greenburg. [Japers' Rink]

Brayden Holtby discusses his gear for the Winter Classic. [RMNB]

• Interview with Brandon Prust on 100 career points, fighting, and reaching veteran status in the NHL. [Feels Like '93]

• Down Goes Brown reviews the weekend with the theme of 'Fanning the Flames'. [Grantland]

• Cross Checks Blog: Calvin Pickard, Tyler Seguin on the rise out West; Wild and Coyotes trending down. [ESPN]

13-year journey leads Rob Zepp to first NHL start – and he got the win for the Flyers. [THN]

Worried about melting ice, pro hockey vows to go green. [Washington Post]

• NHL Three Stars of the Week: Anze Kopitar, Jakub Voracek, and Marc-Andre Fleury. [NHL]

• Closer to returning from fractured finger, Vancouver's Zack Kassian must get game pointed in right direction, or else he could see himself of a bus out of town. [The Province]

• An Oilers fan is not happy with the Facebook group Kevin Lowe Must Go's decision to raise funds to put an open letter to the owner, Mr. Katz, in the Edmonton Sun. [Sports Haven]

Finally, the New York Rangers honor two fallen NYPD with a moment of silence. [NHL]

The @NYRangers held a moment of silence to honor the NYPD officers who lost their lives in the line of duty.https://t.co/lXtIAZqIQ0

— NHL (@NHL) December 22, 2014
Author: Jen Neale
Posted: December 22, 2014, 7:28 pm

LISTEN HERE! [And if that doesn't work, try here.]

It's a (I don't like) Mondays edition of Marek vs. Wyshynski beginning at 2:00 p.m. ET/11:00 a.m. PT, and we're talking about the following and more:

Special Guest Star: Mike Heika on the Dallas Stars; Ryan Lambert on world juniors; Frank Seravalli on the Flyers.

• The Bartkowski hit. 

• The playoffs race. 

• News and notes. 

Question of the Day: Who deserves coal in their stocking this hockey Christmas? Email puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or hit us on Twitter with the hashtag #MvsW to @wyshynski or @jeffmarekClick here for the Sportsnet live stream or click the play button above!

Click here to download podcasts from the show each day. Subscribe to the podcast viaiTunes or Feedburner.

Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: December 22, 2014, 7:00 pm

Matt Bartkowski’s hit on Brian Gionta on Sunday was one of those moments when you wonder how it couldn’t be a suspension.

The velocity of the contact. The way the Buffalo Sabres forward's head flew back, before his body tumbled into the air, skates over shoulders, and he face-planted on the ice. The fact that he didn’t have possession of the puck, and the fact that the hit was so heinous that the on-ice officials handed him a five-minute major for interference and a game misconduct. And the fact that Gionta was injured.

And yet, from the NHL on Monday: No hearing. No fine. No suspension.

According to the League, this was an attempt at a full body check from the Boston Bruins defenseman. The main point of contact was the shoulder; while the head rocked back, the League contends it was from the jolt of the check and not because Bartkowski’s hit principally connected with it.

Looking at it again, there’s also some question about whether this hit should have been a major at all. Gionta touches the puck – was that enough to give him some semblance of “possession” before Bartkowski railroaded him, i.e. was he “eligible to be hit”?

He lunges for the puck on a suicide pass from a teammate; his prone position contributed to the injurious nature of the check. It’s not victim blaming to say he was in a vulnerable spot because of his body position; it’s just the circumstances behind the hit.

If there wasn’t significant contact with the head, I’m OK with there being no supplemental discipline. And even if you still think this is textbook interference, not every catastrophic penalty on the ice requires supplemental discipline off the ice.

With that, Sabres fans, please return to your seething anger that the NHL is working against you, a viewpoint previously reserved for Bruins fans. 

Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: December 22, 2014, 5:47 pm

Haven’t we all struggled in life? To find our footing? To accomplish something that might seem so perfunctory, so simple, so routine? 

To that end: We are all Anton Khudobin.

The Carolina Hurricanes goalie battled the boards at Madison Square Garden on Sunday night, and the boards won. After stumbling in his attempt to climb onto the Canes bench, like a newborn fawn attempting to walk across a frozen pond, Khudobin finally flopped his entire body over the boards with the help of Cam Ward.

It was a perfectly symbolic moment for Carolina, considering they couldn’t get one over all night: The New York Rangers won, 1-0.

But as Anton Khudobin has taught us all, if at first you don’t succeed, do what ever you can to not embarrass yourself until your buddy literally drags you to safety.

Also, that the game is played on ice. 

s/t My Regular Face

Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: December 22, 2014, 4:31 pm

Combining the mind of Ilya Bryzgalov and the iconography of the Anaheim Ducks can only lead to one thing: an absolutely awesome goalie mask. 

Like, for example, a Darkwing Duck tribute.

For the uninitiated, “Darkwing Duck” was a show that ran from 1991-95, back when Disney’s Duck-related programs ruled weekday afternoons. (See also: “DuckTales,” “TaleSpin”). It was a spin on golden age superheroes like The Shadow. The city he defended was St. Canard. One of his main adversaries was Negaduck, his evil doppelganger. It was pretty much the best.

Obviously, it made an impression on Bryz, too. He has Darkwing featured on his new mask riding his super-bike “The Rat Catcher,” which itself was a takeoff on Judge Dredd’s motorcycle.

From that mad genius Dave Gunnarsson, who designed the mask:

Ilya Bryzgalov´s new Ducks mask is here, and the mask is transformed into Darkwing´s awesome super bike ”The RatCatcher”! The mask is full of speed, action and burnouts…

Bad guys, watch out, Mr Darkwing is back in town, and of course Darkwing has his gas gun ready to take action on some bad guys…

The mask is so loaded with action and the insane exhaust pipes are hotter than ever… Bryz knew he wanted Darkwing again on his mask when he is back in Anaheim. We brainstormed together and this idea popped up ...

Please recall the last time Byrzgalov was a Duck. He also had a Darkwing Duck mask, although he was one of several ducks represented. He also had Daffy Duck too. Man, Disney and the WB on the same mask. Bryz builds bridges. 

So this is a great mask. Although we sorta wish he would have gone in a slightly different duck-related direction, considering how much buyout money he got from the Flyers: Scrooge McDuck jumping into his money bin. 

You can see the full mask here.

 

Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: December 22, 2014, 3:33 pm

Dec 20, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Kings center Trevor Lewis (22) celebrates after scoring a goal with an assist by center Tyler Toffoli (73) in the third period of the game at Staples Center. Kings won 4-2. (Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports)

(Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend’s events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.)

Right now, the Los Angeles Kings are safely ensconced in a playoff spot, which is something you'd expect from a reigning Stanley Cup champion which returned just about everyone. But the fact is that that their grip on a wild card spot has been tenuous at best for some time now, with the club rarely gaining more than three or four points on the ninth-place team in the West.

And it doesn't make a lot of sense.

On paper, they're just as good as they were last year, more or less, when they were a 100-point club. In fact, some of their young players who are still in a position to be considered up-and-coming have developed nicely this year, and Jonathan Quick to this point has been playing some of the best hockey in his career, posting a .923 save percentage in 27 games.

Yet the Kings are pretty much “just okay.” Having 40 points from 34 games really isn't that impressive; the Maple Leafs are better than that. So one has to wonder what, exactly, gives here? Why isn't this team, which has in fact improved from the majority of last season (in theory) simply by adding Marian Gaborik on his bargain contract, in better shape than a shoddy Vancouver team?

The first thing you have to say, though, is that they were very lucky to start the year overall; the first month and a half of the season saw them hovering right around even (50.8 percent) in terms of possession, which is not where the Kings really ought to be. And during that time, they went 9-5-4. Fair enough, you take a .611 win percentage even when you're playing well. It's a 100.2-point pace for the year, which is right around what they were last season. Goaltending, led by Quick, was basically keeping them afloat with an even-strength save percentage north of .940.

And since that time, they've improved significantly, rising from the middle of the pack to the top of the heap in terms of possession: a league-best corsi-for of 56.3 percent over the last 15 games. And yet, their record in that stretch has been just 8-6-2. Bad luck isn't at issue here, though. Nor is the understandably impactful (also: deserved) loss of Slava Voynov, who might never play a game for them again. The Kings have been dominant but not winning as much as they should, and you can't say the goalies' dropoff (to .922 at 5-on-5) is solely to blame. The Kings have been stumbling along at a 92-point pace or so since mid-November, when they've been otherwise killing their opponents. They're not not-getting bounces, and they weren't getting a ton of them before this downturn.

The real issue for the Kings seems to be that they are piping hot garbage away from home. At least, that's what the numbers would have you believe. Their home record is 13-4-1, and away from Staples Center they've gone just 4-7-5. That's a dropoff in points-per-game of almost half (1.5 to 0.825). But here's the thing: It really shouldn't be going this badly on the road. Overall their goal differential at home (50-32) versus on the road (43-49) tells a bit of a story, but at even-strength not so much: plus-8 in LA, plus-3 not-in LA.

Which says a lot about special teams. The Kings' net special teams — power play and shorthanded scored, minus power play and shorthanded goals allowed — just haven't been good enough overall, at only plus-3 and 12th in the NHL, and their combined percentage (48.95) is just 20th, though the latter discounts their shorthanded scoring proficiency.

It gets worse away from home. Their goal differential on special teams is tied for fourth-worst in the league (behind only Buffalo, Philadelphia, and Boston) at minus-7, and their overall conversion rate on special teams is at just 43.1 percent, 28th in the league. That is to say, they've been positively dreadful on both ends of the ice in penalty situations away from home. Their road penalty kill is 73.2 percent, a huge dropoff from 86.9 percent at home. That's seven extra goals allowed, and when you consider that they've scored 10 more power play goals for themselves at home versus on the road, the difference becomes even starker.

We spend a lot of time worried about why teams are or aren't good at even strength, because that's the situation in which the vast majority of even the most penalty-filled hockey game is played. But when the difference in quality for your special teams is that dramatic and dependent upon venue, it's going to have a major impact on your ability to win. The Kings are minus-6 in all situations for goal differential on the road, and plus-17 at home.

But because we have these advanced stats sites like War on Ice, we can find out that, hey, the Kings have been really unlucky shooting on the power play away from home (7.1 percent, 26th in the league, and behind notables Boston and Minnesota teams that have been “inexplicably” bad this year). At home their power play shoots 15.9 percent. Meanwhile, the Kings' goaltenders are stopping just .786 on the PK on the road (29th), and .901 at home (13th).

For these reasons, I think it's safe to say that if the Kings were to quote-unquote Figure It Out in terms of getting some bounces in the extremely small-sample minutes of something as relatively minor as “road special teams play” — as they're a little better than league average in terms of both drawing and committing penalties away from home — then they're going to be dominant overall once again.

After all, they're the Kings. And the Kings are one of the best teams in the league. Except in away 5-on-4 or 4-on-5 situations, apparently.

What We Learned

Anaheim Ducks: I'm so glad Ilya Bryzgalov is back in the league. So glad everyone can blame him when the team stinks.

Arizona Coyotes: Dave Tippet has now coached 900 games in the NHL, making him 30th to hit that number. His next regulation loss will only be his 300th. That's nuts.

Boston Bruins: The Bruins are bad. They have been bad all season. No one is going to fix this team with any great amount of ease. No trades can be made to sort this out. Sorry.

Buffalo Sabres: Mikhail Grigorenko is back up once again for another run-out with Buffalo. He'll be back in Rochester soon, regardless of performance quality.

Calgary Flames: The Flames are 0-7-1 since some handsome genius wrote that they were bad and would start losing any minute. Bob Hartley's prescription? Hard work, baby!

Carolina Hurricanes: Well as long as we're talking about trading everyone on the Hurricanes, might as well take a run at a few options.

Chicago Blackhawks: Do you think there's anything that's less of a concern for the Blackhawks than their 18 percent power play right now? They're the best team in the league by a mile. Everything will work itself out.

Colorado Avalanche: Gabe Landeskog is a beautiful boy who has been coached to be an NHL captain since the age of 12.

Columbus Blue Jackets: The Blue Jackets are 8-0-1 in their last nine. They're getting outshot by almost 11 a night over that stretch but, uh, “Bring it, Hockey Gods.” Shout out to Sergei Bobrovsky, though: .940 save percentage in December.

Dallas Stars: The Stars have no plans to move their AHL team, but they might want to move their AHL defense out of Dallas.

Detroit Red Wings: Hahahaha. Hoo boy. What a headline. What a premise.

Edmonton Oilers: Now they're healthy-scratching young Leon Draisaitl. Good thing you didn't send him back to junior this year, or loan him to the German team, or something.

Florida Panthers: You think Willie Mitchell is gonna get suspended for hitting an opponent with his own helmet in a fight? Naaaaah.

Los Angeles Kings: Another thing that's going to help the Kings turn things around is that they're in a division with Arizona, Calgary, and Edmonton.

Minnesota Wild: Absolutely crazy game in Minnesota on Saturday, which the Wild ended up losing to Nashville. Started out 2-1 Wild in the first 6:37. Ended the first period 3-2 Nashville. It was 3-3 after 40, then 5-3 after 50. Then 5-5 after 60. Mattias Ekholm scored at 1:45 of OT. You know things are weird when even Thomas Vanek scores.

Montreal Canadiens: It's amazing that in 2014 people continue to put on blackface like, “Yeah what could possibly be bad about this?”

Nashville Predators, America's Favorite Hockey Team: Pekka Rinne is up to 21 wins for the season. Wins are of course the most meaningless of goaltender stats, but considering he only won 25 games in the previous two seasons, I'd say he's off to a decent start.

New Jersey Devils: I honestly can't believe Peter DeBoer hasn't been fired yet.

New York Islanders: The Isles scored three goals in the final 3:09 to beat an excellent Tampa team 3-1. In my opinion the Islanders are also good.

New York Rangers: A one-year extension for Cam Talbot. Kid has a .936 save percentage over 28 career games. Not bad for a former Alabama-Huntsville Charger. And he didn't even put up numbers like that in college.

Ottawa Senators: Hit of the year nominee in the Ducks/Senators game Friday, thrown by … linesman Michel Cormier.

Philadelphia Flyers: Rob Zepp, huh? I saw Rob Zepp play for Lowell in the AHL about 100000 years ago and assumed he had retired from the sport. Turns out he's on the Flyers now? And getting his first-ever NHL start? Hockey, I guess.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Not one but two embellishment penalties for Evgeni Malkin on Saturday. I wonder what the league record for a single game is. Gotta be two.

San Jose Sharks: Sharks are on eight straight wins. Clearly a team that needed a rebuild this summer. Glad they went through it.

St. Louis Blues: Trying to strangle a 2-1 win out of the Sharks is always going to be ill-advised, by the way.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Yeah, the Bolts lost 3-1 to the Islanders on that late collapse, but super-prospect Andrei Vasilevskiy made 45 saves so it's not all bad. Just mostly bad.

Toronto Maple Leafs: If Dallas Eakins goes back to Toronto can we safely say that the last two years were all some sort of inside job by Brian Burke-affiliated people to humiliate Kevin Lowe? I believe the answer is yes.

Vancouver Canucks: Maybe if a guy collapses on the bench you don't put him right into the next stupid game the team plays.

Washington Capitals: The Caps are another team on a big run here: They're 6-0-2 in their last eight. And are now talking about “trap games” against Ottawa without a hint of irony.

Winnipeg Jets: More bad leadership from Evander Kane, who wants his team to win but only before Christmas and presumably not after!!!!

Play of the Weekend

Yeah this kid needs to play more defense to get his team going in the right direction.

Gold Star Award

Dec 20, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Philadelphia Flyers center Claude Giroux (28) celebrates his goal in the first period against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre. (Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports)

Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek both had four points on Saturday against the Leafs. They're running 1-2 in league scoring right now.

Minus of the Weekend

Calgary's regression is right on track here.

Perfect HFBoards Trade Proposal of the Week

User “backhandsauce” is getting bold.

Taylor Hall for Claude Giroux

Straight up.

Would you?

“Yes,” says Craig MacTavish, a man without a center.

Signoff
Guess I'm not all smart like you.

Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here

Author: Ryan Lambert
Posted: December 22, 2014, 2:51 pm

No. 1 Star: Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars 

The NHL’s leading scorer led the Stars’ rally in a 6-5 thriller over the Edmonton Oilers. Down three goals in the second period, Seguin assisted on a Jamie Benn power-play goal; he then scored goals Nos. 24 and 25 in the third period. He added a goal in the shootout, but it was former Oiler Shawn Horcoff that won the game in Round 8.

No. 2 Star: Jakub Voracek, Philadelphia Flyers

The Flyers forward scored goals Nos. 13 and 14 in their 4-3 comeback win over the Winnipeg Jets in OT. He opened the scoring in the first period and then potted the game-winner just 10 seconds into overtime, converting a Dustin Byfuglien turnover into an extra point for the Flyers.

No. 3 Star: Calvin Pickard, Colorado Avalanche

Pickard made 34 saves in regulation and overtime and then outdueled Petr Mrazek in a nine-round shootout in the Avs’ 2-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings. Jarome Iginla had the shootout-winner. 

Honorable Mention: Fresh off a change, Loui Eriksson streaked into the Buffalo Sabres’ zone and scored a nfty game-winner at 2:14 of overtime, giving the Bruins a dramatic 4-3 win. Eriksson previously had an assist on a Dougie Hamilton goal in the first; Hamilton had the game-tying goal in the third with 18:29.… Rob Zepp won his NHL debut for the Flyers. … Mark Streit was a plus-4. … Cam Talbot got plenty of help from the Rangers’ defense, who limited the Carolina Hurricanes to four shots in the first and the third, but he still made 18 saves in a 1-0 win. Ryan McDonagh had the game-winner. … Taylor Hall and Mark Arcobello each had two goals for Edmonton. … Patrick Kane had a goal and two assists and Patrick Sharp had three points as the Chicago Blackhawks won an emotional game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, 4-0. Antti Raanta made 31 saves. Assistant equipment manager Clint Reif, 34, died at some point after traveling with the Blackhawks back to Chicago from Columbus. The team honored him before the game and wore “CR” stickers on their helmets in his honor.

Did You Know? Oilers rookie center Leon Draisaitl was a healthy scratch, despite not being loaned to play for Germany at the World Junior Hockey Championships

Dishonorable Mention: Cody Eakin was a minus-3. … Kari Lehtonen was pulled after giving up four goals on 19 shots. …  Should Matt Bartkowski earn a suspension for hit on Brian Gionta, which resulted in 20 penalty minutes?

 

 

Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: December 22, 2014, 7:07 am

Matt Bartkowski of the Boston Bruins delivered what could be kindly called a “controversial” hit on the Buffalo Sabres’ Brian Gionta on Sunday night, earning a game misconduct at 14:08 of the first period.

Gionta tried to snag a pass -- a really, really bad pass that put him on the trolleytracks -- and tapped it with his stick. Bartkowski skated over and cut him off, as Gionta skated towards the blue line, connecting with Gionta’s shoulder and, potentially, his head.

Here’s GIF:

The aesthetics were damning: Gionta flipping skates-over-shoulders and crashing to the ice. Marcus Foligno immediately engaged Bartkowski in a fight, earning an instigator, fighting major and a misconduct himself.

Bartkowski was given a 5-minute major for interference, five for fighting and a game misconduct. Gionta did not return to the game. Foligno also suffered an upper body injury and did not return.

Head-shot or no head shot, Bartkowski is likely going to get something from the NHL for delivering this kind of his to a defenseless opponent.

Yes, there’s a height disparity between the players of about five inches (listed) that has been mentioned by some in trying to analyze this hit; but it still tracks back to the kinds of hits the NHL wants in the game, and the ones that don’t need to be made. Gionta could stand as tall as a garden gnome and it’s still a late, illegal check. 

Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: December 22, 2014, 2:08 am
Photo via Chicago Blackhawks 

Some sad news out of Chicago. 

Blackhawks assistant equipment manager Clint Reif, 34, died Sunday morning. Below is the release from Chicago.

“We are deeply saddened by the untimely loss of one of our own family members this morning, assistant equipment manager Clint Reif. Like all trainers and support staff within our organization, Clint was instrumental in helping our players and coaches prepare and compete both on and off the ice. Our sincerest sympathies go out to the Reif family.”

While the cause of death is still unknown according to reports, the below blurb was published in the Chicago Sun-Times.

According to a DuPage County coroner statement, Reif was found unresponsive in his Lombard home, where he was pronounced dead at 8:32 a.m. The death still is under investigation by the coroner’s office and Lombard police, officials said.

The above photo is a decal players wore for Reif on their helmets in Sunday's game against Toronto. The Blackhawks held a moment of silence prior to the contest

For all these guys who spend a lot of time together, it's like losing a family member. Reif was in his ninth season with the Blackhawks, according to the team's website. 

Following the game, a 4-0 win by the Blackhawks, there was clearly a sullen mood amongst the players.

From the Chicago Tribune:

Asked what made Reif so special, Patrick Sharp began to answer but then apologized and walked out of the dressing room.

Duncan Keith, who was perhaps the player closest to Reif, said: "It was tough. To lose a close friend and have to try to play a hockey game on that same day, it wasn't easy."

From CSN Chicago:

"It's tough to describe," (Jonathan) Toews said, pausing between each sentence. "I think a lot of people, whether guys in this locker room or anyone else, other athletes, who have lost someone close to them and have to find ways to get their minds together and go out there any play as a team ... It's really tough to describe, something that still hasn't sunk in for most of us yet. But we were definitely playing with heavy hearts out there.

"We're still in disbelief. The fact we went out there and played the way we did, we dedicated that one to our good friend Clint."

Below are tweets from former Blackhawks members on Reif: 

Just terrible to hear about the passing of Clint Reif. One of the best guys I've met through hockey. RIP my friend. #veryfaast

— Viktor Stalberg (@VStalberg) December 21, 2014

Thoughts and prayers with the Reif family. Such a wonderful person to b around.

— Brian Campbell (@bcampbell_51) December 21, 2014

Rest in peace Clint. Everyone keep the Reif family in your thoughts.

— brandon pirri (@pirri91) December 21, 2014

Players know and certainly appreciate the hard work and effort of equipment managers who sharpen their skates and fix their helmets. Managers tend to become close with the people they serve, and it sounds like Reif was no different with the Blackhawks. 

While this thought is clearly not in the front of people's minds right now, but with Chicago playing in the Jan. 1 Winter Classic and the NHL and the Blackhawks filming an all access series with EPIX to promote the event, one does have to make sure this situation will be handled the right way on screen.  

Again, just terrible news. Thoughts go to Reif's family, his wife Kelly and their four children -- daughters Florence, Aislynn, Colette and son, C.J.

- - - - - - -

Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @joshuacooper

MORE FROM YAHOO HOCKEY

Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: December 21, 2014, 11:19 pm

Goalie Rob Zepp has played in Florida, Lowell, Finland and Germany. He’s been an Everblade, a Monster, a Polar Bear and a Phantom. 

For the first time in his career on Sunday. Zepp will be something he’s never been before: a starting goalie in the National Hockey League.

Zepp, 33, is scheduled to make his debut for the Philadelphia Flyers at the Winnipeg Jets. He was the backup to Ray Emery in the Flyers’ wild 7-4 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night, as Emery gave up four goals on 25 shots. With back-to-back games and with Steve Mason injured, Zepp gets the call.

From CSN Philly:

“He showed me in preseason he is a capable goalie,” coach Craig Berube said. “Definitely [had] a good preseason. Moved really well in net, side to side. Good structure to his game.”

Zepp worked on puck-handling with the Phantoms and Berube feels he’s improved there.

“Throughout your career, you always have your doubts,” Zepp replied when asked whether he’d ever get to the NHL level. “I always believed in myself and I could do it. I just needed an opportunity. One presented itself in the summer with the Flyers and another has presented itself now.”

It’s been a rather unorthodox journey for Zepp to the NHL.

Zepp played for the Plymouth Whalers for three seasons in the OHL. He was drafted by the Atlanta Thrashers in the fourth round in 1999 but never signed with the team. He was then drafted by the Carolina Hurricanes in 2001 – fourth round, 11 spots lower than in 1999 – and toiled in the ECHL and AHL from 2001-05.

Then it was off to Europe: SaiPa in SM-liga in Finland, followed by a seven-year stint with Berlin in the German ice hockey league.

“I went over to Europe with the intention of coming back and everyday I've worked with that goal in mind,” Zepp told NJ.com. "I tried to not prepare to just be successful over there, but to try be successful over here one day and I'm thrilled to have the opportunity now and see where it leads."

The Flyers were fans, especially when it came to his playoff stats – he’s finished with GAA of 1.69 and 1.94 in two of his last three postseasons.

They signed him for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, and he impressed in the preseason, including a 38-save performance.

Now, the Newmarket, Ont. Native gets his chance in the NHL, eager to show that the wait was worth it. And, hopefully, to give NHL.com a number of Led Zeppelin-related headline puns. 

Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: December 21, 2014, 7:57 pm

This week, James Neal of the Nashville Predators became the first player in the NHL to be fined under the new diving punishment standards. He was given a warning, then was given a $2,000 fine and a heaping spoonful of public shame. 

The question is: How many other NHL players have been warned on diving, and are set up for a potential fine?

According to Damien Cox of Sportsnet, there are 22 players that have receiving a warning about diving this season.

Cox explained the procedure for the NHL in ruling on diving:

“Here’s how it works: Every Monday morning, they all get together. Nine voters in all, some from player ops, some from hockey ops, and they look at these videos. You need six of them to say ‘yeah, that’s diving’ before you issue a warning or in Neal’s case, a fine.”

There’s been some controversy over whether these warnings should be made public, but the NHL believes that players knowing it will be revealed if they’re fined puts just a little more pressure on them not to dive.

Here’s a reminder of the escalating scale for diving. We’re still hoping Neal has a few more in him so we can witness Peter Laviolette discuss having to pay a fine for his player diving more than Ed Harris in "The Abyss." For that would be a very, very entertaining day.

Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: December 21, 2014, 5:03 pm

(Puck Daddy presents its annual look back at the year in hockey. Check back every day through the New Year for our many lists and hot takes.) 

At some point in the near future, maybe by the time the next lockout ends, the shootout will be a distant memory. NHL executives have been slowly minimizing its impact on the standings and the talk has only increased about holding different forms of overtime to avoid the shootout altogether.

In the meantime, we’re left to marvel at some of the magnificent moves pulled off by players in the one-on-one battle. 

Here are the top 10* shootout goals of 2014:

10. Yegor Milovzorov dons fish head during KHL Skills Competition

This may not be a shootout attempt that counted for anything meaningful, but Yegor Milovzorov putting on a bit of a show with the fish head and swan dive during the KHL’s All-Star Skills Competition was funny and memorable.

9. Nick Bjugstad finally ends it

Not only did Bjugstad pull off a pretty sweet move to beat Braden Holtby of the Washington Capitals, he also ended the NHL’s longest shootout ever in Round 20. 

8. John Tavares out-waits Steve Mason

Tavares showed here that sometimes patience is a virtue as he waited just long enough to fool Philadelphia Flyers netminder Steve Mason.. 

7. Jason Spezza dekes out Cory Schneider 

Spezza used a good mix during this attempt by speeding up, slowing down, then deking, keeping Schneider guessing before putting the backhander home.

6. Blake Wheeler makes Reto Berra whiff.

In similar fashion to what Spezza did on Schneider, Wheeler speeds in, slows down, dangles and forces Reto Berra to move first before whiffing on the stick check.

5. Josh Bailey and Ryan Strome bid farewell to the spin-o-rama

OK, make it 11. The spin-o-rama was banned from NHL shootouts over the summer, but not before Josh Bailey and Ryan Strome performed the final two acts against Martin Brodeur.

4. Linus Klasen channels inner Pavel Bure

There’s a little hint of Pavel Bure in this Klasen attempt as he represented Sweden during the Karjala Cup. During a shootout against Russia, he teed himself up with a pass off his skate to help extend Sweden’s lead.

3. Joe Thornton toe-drags Corey Crawford

Pavel Datsyuk has pulled this move off many times, as you’d expect from the Magic Man. But Big Joe Thornton? Yeah, he’s got some hands, too, as Corey Crawford found out.

2. Jonathan Huberdeau pulls a smooth 'Nilsson' versus Jaroslav Halak

There were many players who pulled the Kent Nilsson move in 2014, but the smoothness in the way Huberdeau delivered his gave him the edge in the end.

1. Viktor Arvidsson stuns at Predators camp

You may have to watch this twice to catch Arvidsson pinning the puck to the ice during his spin-o-rama before flipping it in for a goal. Quite impressive, young grasshopper.

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Author: Sean Leahy
Posted: December 21, 2014, 4:11 pm

 No. 1 Star: Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers

Scored two goals and added two assists in 7-4 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. They were Giroux’s first goals in five games. It was his seventh four-point game in his career. Giroux now ranks second in the NHL in scoring – tied with Stars forward Tyler Seguin – behind teammate Jakub Voracek.

No. 2 Star: Jakub Voracek, Philadelphia Flyers

Notched four assists in Philly’s win over Toronto. Three of Voracek’s helpers were primary assists. Voracek was the set-up man on two of Giroux’s goal. His four assists tied a career-high. Philadelphia’s win was the first game of an eight-game roadtrip.  

No. 3. Star: Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets

Stopped 41 of 43 Chicago shots on goal including six of six on power play shots on goal. Stopped eight of nine Blackhawks in the shootout, including the below move by Chicago shootout ace Patrick Kane. Bobrovsky has not lost in regulation since Nov. 28.

Honorable Mention: Colorado’s Jarome Iginla notched three assists in the Avs’ 5-1 win over Buffalo. Teammate Alex Tanguay scored two goals and added one assist … Kings forward Anze Kopitar notched three assists in Los Angeles’ win over Arizona … Coyotes forward Martin Hanzal scored his first goal since Nov. 14 … Kings defenseman Jamie McBain notched two assists … Flyers forward Michael Raffl scored on goal and added one assist … Habs forward Alex Galchenyuk scored one goal and added one assist in Montreal’s 4-1 win over Ottawa … Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty returned with two assists, just two days after a bruising hit by Clayton Stoner … Washington’s Alexander Ovechkin scored an absurd goal in win over New Jersey … Caps goaltender Braden Holtby made 21 saves in his second shutout of the year … Tampa’s Andrei Vasilevsky made 45 saves on 47 Islanders shots on goal in a 3-1 loss to New York … Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby scored his first mump-free goal, and his first score in eight games, in a 3-1 win over the Florida Panthers … The Rangers’ Kevin Klein late third period tally sent New York’s game into overtime against Carolina, an eventual 3-2 shootout win by the Rangers … Chicago’s Patrick Sharp scored a goal and fired seven shots on goal against Columbus … Predators defenseman Shea Weber notched two assists and played 26:43 in Nashville’s 6-5 OT win over Minnesota … Minnesota’s Zach Parise scored two goals and notched one assist in defeat … Wild defenseman Ryan Suter played 31:27 and had two assists against his former team … Vancouver’s Ryan Miller broke a three-game losing skid in a 3-2 overtime win over Calgary … San Jose’s Brent Burns fired the overtime winner for the Sharks in their win over the Blues. It was San Jose’s fifth straight win. 

Did You Know?:  With one assist Saturday night (on San Jose’s game-tying goal) Sharks center Joe Thornton moved into a tie with Phil Esposito for 22nd overall on the NHL’s all-time list with 873. 

Dishonorable Mention: Buffalo’s Nikita Zadorov was a minus-3 in his team’s loss to the Avalanche …  Arizona’s Devan Dubnyk picked up his third loss of the year, stopping 31 of 35 Los Angeles shots on goal in a 4-1 defeat … Nazim Kadri and Dion Phaneuf were each a minus-4 for the Maple Leafs … New Jersey’s Andy Greene was a minus-3. Devils goaltender Cory Schneider made 17 saves on 20 Washington shots on goal … The St. Louis Blues gave up the game-tying goal at San Jose with 18 seconds left. Then the Sharks won the game in overtime … Montreal’s Carey Price couldn’t field this floater  from Ottawa's Erik Condra.

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Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: December 21, 2014, 7:28 am

There are few more enjoyably uncomfortable plays in hockey than when a team passes a puck into its own net on a delayed penalty. Wait ... no. That is the most enjoyably uncomfortable moment in the sport. 

Just see what pure joy looks like when Flames defenseman Dennis Wideman zips a puck 200 feet with Jonas Hiller pulled on a delayed call. A little too much mustard on that one, eh Dennis?

The video ...

 

Earlier in the night Alexander Ovechkin staked his claim to the unofficial 'Goal of the Year' with a brilliant inside-out backhand move. But Yannick Weber's goal (yes, the official credit was given to him) may be more impressive -- simply because of the sheer hilarity of the situation. 

There is little reaction from the Canucks, which is fantastic. I mean, how do you celebrate when you don't even know who officially scored?

Such goals are somewhat rare, and when they happen we must laud their praises, because of their awesomeness. Wideman shouldn't feel too bad. It happened to Steven Stamkos last year, and he’s amazing so it's all good. 

In case you were wondering, Calgary did not score on the ensuing power play. 

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @joshuacooper

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Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: December 21, 2014, 5:18 am

There was quite the scary scene at Rogers Arena on Saturday night. 

Canucks forward Jannik Hansen collapsed on the Vancouver bench following a big hit by Calgary defenseman Dennis Wideman. The above photo is of Hansen collapsing via HockeyWays on Twitter. 

Below is the video:

It appears that Wideman slammed in Hansen's chest. Hansen looked winded as he skated to the bench. The broadcast said Hansen was able to walk to the Canucks dressing room with some help following the scene on the bench. 

According to the Canucks official Twitter account, Hansen was helped to the Vancouver locker room and was being kept out of the rest of the game as a "precautionary measure."

No matter what, such scenes prompt memories of Jiri Fischer's collapse with the Red Wings and Rich Peverley last year with the Dallas Stars. Fortunately, it seems Hansen is going to be OK. 

Update: Canucks coach Willie Desjardins gave an upbeat report on Hansen after his team's 3-2 overtime win over Calgary. 

From the Vancouver Sun:

“I think everything’s good,” Desjardins said following the Canucks’ 3-2 overtime win over the Calgary Flames at Rogers Arena.

“He was at the hospital, everything’s checking out though, and I don’t think there’s going to a problem — everything looks real good.”

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @joshuacooper

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Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: December 21, 2014, 4:54 am

This was a confusing goal that was eventually called a goal, which wasn't initially. 

In the second period of Nashville's 6-5 win over Minnesota, Wild defenseman Marco Scandella fired a rebound shot at Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne. The referee initially didn't say it was a goal, but a lengthy review by the NHL determined so. 

Below is the video:

 

You can hear the Wild announcer go "two unbelievable stops by the Predator goaltender."

Per the NHL's situation room:

At 7:17 of the second period in the Nashville Predators/Minnesota Wild game, the Situation Room initiated a video review to further examine a play at the Nashville net. Video review determined that Marco Scandella's rebound shot completely crossed the goal line. Good goal Minnesota.

There seemed to be confusion by the players, and the referee who was in position.

Good thing the league initiated the review. The play ended up making a difference since the Wild took the game to overtime and got a point. But alas, Mattias Ekholm got the game-winner for Nashville.

Can you imagine the incensed rage of fiery Nashville coach Peter Laviolette if the Preds had lost that game with a goal like that? Since he was featured on HBO for their 24/7 documentary leading to the 2012 Winter Classic, we can.

The Predators postgame show had a camera angle over the goal which showed the puck likely was under defenseman Seth Jones, who was behind the goal line, and forward Derek Roy pushed it out from under Jones. 

Again, it didn't matter much for the Preds in this game. But if the Wild makes the playoffs by one point over Nashville ... 

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @joshuacooper

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Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: December 21, 2014, 3:40 am

When Alex Ovechkin is on his game, there are few players who can combine speed, hands shot and flair like the Caps forward.

And all were viewable Saturday night in this dazzling offensive display below in Ovechkin’s bid for the mythical ‘Goal of the Year.’

The video please:

That didn’t look so good for Devils defenseman Jon Merrill, but whatever. He joins a long list of blueliners Ovi has undressed at some point in his career. Also, that backhand roof-shot while falling down was quite solid. 

This snapped Ovechkin’s second four-game streak without a goal since Nov. 28. But in the Capitals’ 4-0 win over the Devils he was a plus-3, which puts him at plus-7 on the year.

So the people who hated on Ovi for having a lot of goals a year ago with a horrible plus/minus can hate on the fact that he’s not scoring as much this year with a decent plus/minus.

Said Caps coach Barry Trotz to the Washington Post before the game:

"What I’m trying to teach him is, if you’re not scoring, there’s another 100 ways you can help and contribute to the hockey team and still be effective, and we can still win. I think he’s seeing some of that. I think he’s growing. I think you’re seeing a wiser, more detailed Alex Ovechkin as he matures as a player.”

Eh, who cares about the details. That goal was awesome. 

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @joshuacooper

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Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: December 21, 2014, 3:04 am

(Puck Daddy presents its annual look back at the year in hockey. Check back every day through the New Year for our many lists and hot takes.)

"You'll laugh. You'll cry. You'll hurl." Is that a byline for the 1992 cinematic masterpiece "Wayne's World" or a description of social media as we know it? (Answer: It's both.)

2014 had a helluva lot of social media news, both good and bad. In this post, we look back at the lighter side of the medium. Later on we'll cover the more controversial issues that grabbed our attention.

10. Buckle Up Baby

This little Penguins fan, Ty, is about as intense as they come. If the Penguins win another Stanley Cup in his lifetime, he just might explode.

Buckle Up Baby

9. Gustl Kopitar, the NHL's most adorable dog

There are so many pictures of Anze Kopitar's dog Gustl, it's difficult to pick just one. We've seen the one of him eating out of a mini Stanley Cup with his poppa. Here's one of the eager little guy waiting for his dad to get done with work for the day. (Side note: Dustin Brown also has a Goldendoodle, and no one seems to care.)

Kopitar's dog is legitimately a Muppet. RT @BaileyLAKings: Gustl is here!!!! pic.twitter.com/DBX4tgmwXe

— ChrismahanukwanziKat (@RunsOnDuncan) October 17, 2014

8. Sochi's toilet situation

Never heard of the guy who tweeted this, but it drew massive attention across the sports world. It even earned the author Sports Illustrated's Sports Media Tweet of the Year honors. Best of luck to this guy and his sports career.

People have asked me what surprised me the most here in Sochi. It's this. Without question ... it's ... THIS. pic.twitter.com/1jj05FNdCP

— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) February 4, 2014

7. Tomas Hertl discovers the most magical place on earth - Dave & Busters

Hertl continues to acclimate himself to American culture, and we're all lucky to witness the process. After teammate Matt Nieto took Hertl to D&B for the first time, the young Sharks forward was in love. So much so that he went back BY HIMSELF and amassed a small army of friends from his winnings.

Hertl’s winnings at Dave & Busters pic.twitter.com/pD4gkQhNCV

— Ann Frazier (@annfrazi) April 22, 2014

6. @NHLonNBCSports tweets a question that blows our minds (it was later deleted)...

5. Jay Feaster trolls the Oilers

The real Jay Feaster, you know, the former Calgary Flames GM, took to Twitter to pour salt into the open, oozing wounds of the Edmonton Oilers. He later clarified his tweet was meant to be lighthearded and just poking a little fun. Sure it was, Jay. Sure. It. Was.

YEHHHH BABY!!! You can put it in the LOSS column, #Oilers! Entire time I was in Calgary all I heard was how far ahead they were of #Flames

— Jay Feaster (@therealjfeaster) December 4, 2014

4. Teemu Selanne's son designates Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau for assignment

Boudreau made the decision to healthy scratch the elder statesman, Selanne, for Game 4 of the Ducks series against Dallas. Of course the decision was met with much debate, and it was amped up further after Selanne's teenage son tweeted the following (which was later deleted).

@eemilselanne

3. Steven Stamkos 'Favored Tweet Gate'

Adam Proteau of The Hockey News wrote a piece earlier in the year discussing the NHL having a LeBron-esque figure that could go 'home' one day to play. One of the players mentioned was Steven Stamkos and the possibility he could return home to Toronto. When THN's Twitter account promoted the story, Stamkos added it to his list of favorites. LET THE RAMPANT AND UNNECESSARY SPECULATION BEGIN!

2. Sidney Crosby's lovely hockey lump/mumps

Nothing like a superstar with an obvious case of the mumps acting like all is normal...

The right side of Sidney Crosby's face was ... different ... today: pic.twitter.com/8gVmXU8c19

— Seth Rorabaugh (@emptynetters) December 12, 2014

1. Luongo Kardashian

It's...well...wow...ok, there are no words.

Let me tell ya.... Wasn't easy holding that stick there with all that oil on...... pic.twitter.com/eV0gHgXLOQ

— Strombone (@strombone1) November 13, 2014

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Jen Neale is a staff writer for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow her on Twitter! Follow @MsJenNeale_PD.

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Author: Jen Neale
Posted: December 20, 2014, 11:50 pm

If you’re a Canadian and you were scared, frightened or upset about your team’s Friday loss to Russia in a World Junior tournament prelim, just stop. The savior is about to return – and they shall call him Connor. 

Yes, that Connor – Connor McDavid – is expected to come back to play in Canada’s Sunday game against Sweden. It will be McDavid’s first in-game action since he broke the fifth metacarpal bone in his right hand on Nov. 11 in an on-ice fight for his junior team, the Erie Otters.

Here is what McDavid expects of himself via the Canadian Press:

"Just try and play as well as I can I mean that’s the main thing," he said. "I can’t ask for too much, I’ve been off for a while.

"Just do what I can."

This isn’t exactly a surprise. The Canadian wunderkind had been practicing with his teammates all week, and it was pretty much expected he would be back for his team’s Boxing Day opener against Slovakia.

But you have to ask – did he in any way rush to come back before the injury was fully healed? And if so, did he feel any sort of national pressure to do so? After all the World Juniors is a ‘humangous big' deal in Canada.

If he’s not 100 percent, what if American prodigy Jack Eichel outplays him? And if so, would this do anything to McDavid’s draft stock?

On the last question, which is probably the most important for McDavid, probably not. He's basically a lock to go No. 1 unless his game totally implodes.

It’s still a much-needed boost for Canada, because let’s face it. A loss to Russia in a game that means nothing for the actual tournament is unacceptable. 

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @joshuacooper

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Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: December 20, 2014, 11:00 pm

Just when the Blue Jackets start to get hot, healthy and look like a playoff team … bam, they get hit with yet another injury.

Saturday, the team announced forward Boone Jenner will the next 1-2 months with a stress fracture in his back. Though he has just 12 points in 20 games played, his value is way more important than just scores.

Says the Columbus Dispatch:

 He's a highly competitive player, both in practice and in games, and he drives the team's work ethic in most games.

According to Dispatch Blue Jackets scribe Aaron Portzline, the team will have lost 209 man-games to injury this year when it plays the Blackhawks on Saturday night. That sounds awful ... if you're a Blue Jackets player, coach, exec or fan. 

Jenner missed the first month of the season with a broken hand and didn’t play his first game until Nov. 4.

The article also says that Jenner’s back had been bothering him for “some time.” The Blue Jackets recalled Sean Collins from the AHL.

This certainly can’t help Columbus’ momentum. The team had won seven of eight games – a stretch where it had gone 7-0-1.

Even with such a streak, the Blue Jackets enter Saturday seven points out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. This in itself is a minor miracle, since its entire first line – including Jenner – was out earlier in the year

Poor Lumbus. But the Blue Jackets are one of those ‘hot goalie’ type teams. As long as they have Bob(rovsky) they can at least tread water. 

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @joshuacooper

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Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: December 20, 2014, 5:51 pm

No. 1 Star: Michael Hutchinson, Winnipeg Jets

The Jets’ netminder kept rolling by stopping 29 shots as Winnipeg downed the Boston Bruins 2-1. Hutchinson won for the third times in four starts. Mathieu Perreault’s goal late in the second period snapped a 1-1 deadlock and stood as the game-winning tally. 

No. 2 Star: Patrik Elias, New Jersey

Elias scored his second goal in three games and later put home the only goal in the shootout as the Devils beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2. After his goal in the first period fooled Evgeni Nabokov, he later helped New Jersey earned the extra point with some lovely deking: 

No. 3 Star: Mike Hoffman, Ottawa Senators

Hoffman scored twice as the Senators cruised to an easy 6-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks. He was one of five Ottawa players record a pair of points, joining Mika Zibanejad, Kyle Turris, Bobby Ryan, and Erik Karlsson. Craig Anderson made 32 saves for his third win in four starts. One of Turris' two points came via this nasty shorthanded goal: 

Honorable Mention: Good Long Island boy Keith Kinkaid earned his first NHL win with a 26-save night for the Devils … Ryan Getzlaf netted both Anaheim goals in the loss … Brock Nelson tied the game at one late in the first period and then set up Anders Lee’s go-ahead goal in the secod as the New York Islanders edged the Detroit Red Wings 2-1 … Newly acquired Jay Harrison recorded an assist in his first shift with the Jets … Kari Lehtonen made 21 saves and Jamie Benn and Trevor Daley provided the goals as the Dallas Stars beat the Calgary Flames 2-1 for their third win in a row. 

Did You Know? The Islanders have won five in a row at Joe Louis Arena, dating back to 2003. (AP)

Dishonorable Mention: Detroit is now winless in their last five games, with three losses coming via the shootout … Calgary has lost seven straight ... Jimmy Howard left the game after the first period with a lower-body injury. There was no update available after the game … Making his first start of the year, Ilya Bryzgalov allowed six goals on 31 shots … Good job, good effort, Lance Bouma:

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Author: Sean Leahy
Posted: December 20, 2014, 4:47 am

The New Jersey Devils edged the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2 after a shootout Friday night to snap a six-game losing streak. They jumped on Evgeni Nabokov in the first period scoring twice before Nikita Kucherov would force overtime by scoring with 41 seconds left in the third.

Late in the first, Patrik Elias put the Devils up 2-0 in nifty fashion. Entering the Tampa zone one-on-one with Matt Carle, Elias turned on the Patrick Kane Mode on his controller and performed a spin-o-rama backhand that knuckled by Nabokov:

Such a helpless feeling for Nabokov. He’s in position ready for a shot and the puck deflects off Carle’s stick, throwing everything off, and he’s left to adjust to a knuckler floating his way.

Said Elias afterward, via Tom Gulitti: "That was more about luck, more of a lucky goal on that one. Good move, but lucky.”

Elias wouldn't be done there. He would later haunt Nabokov by scoring the only goal in the shootout to give New Jersey the extra point.

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Author: Sean Leahy
Posted: December 20, 2014, 2:55 am

(Puck Daddy presents its annual look back at the year in hockey. Check back every day through the New Year for our many lists and hot takes.)

Players come and go; it's part of the business of hockey.

In 2014, the business just so happened to include many star-studded trades. Some of the reasons for the trades were pretty clear cut (i.e. get me the hell out of [location]), and others not so much.

Now we look back at the famous faces that changed places. Enjoy!

10. June 29, 2014: Sam Gagner dealt twice in same day

Remember that one time in 2012 when Sam Gagner had an eight point game for the Edmonton Oilers, and no one thought he'd leave the organization ever? Then he was signed to a four-year contract extension before the 2013-2014 season? Well that love-fest had run its course after just one season on the books. Gagner was initially dealt by the Oilers to the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for Teddy Purcell. It looked like a good fit for Gagner, but Lightning GM Steve Yzerman decided to flip Gagner (plus B.J. Crombeen) a mere 90-minutes later to Arizona for a 2015 sixth-round pick. Gagner barely had time to react to the news of the first first trade before learning of the other.

9. June 27, 2014: Ryan Kesler gets his wish - to leave Vancouver.

Pretty much anyone who follows hockey saw this trade coming. We all knew Kesler wanted out of Vancouver, it was just a matter of when and to whom would the center go. After a couple false starts, it appeared the Blackhawks and the Ducks were the final two bidders with Anaheim coming out on top. In the other direction, the Ducks sent draft picks, marginal defenseman Luca Sbisa, and breakout player Nick Bonino. Kesler gives the Ducks the 'one-two punch' down the middle, and as the team is beset by injuries/mumps, he's filling in with needed offense adding 26 points in 34 games.

8. March 4, 2014: Anaheim trades Dustin Penner to Washington Capitals for 2014 fourth-round pick

In the off-season, Dustin Penner signed an one-year, $2-million UFA contract in order to return to his former team, the Anaheim Ducks. Penner was reunited with besties Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, and thus stopping the revolving door of left wingers Anaheim attempted to play with the two. In 46 games with the Ducks, Penner had 32-points (13 goals, 19 assists). Not too shabby. That's why it was a shock to most that he was sent packing to Washington. Ducks GM Bob Murray said it was for 'cap room', Boudreau didn't seem to care too much for his effort, and Penner called the move 'cold'. As expected, the affable forward responded to the trade via Twitter in the way only Dustin Penner can:

.@BarackObama hey i know this is last minute & I hate asking on such short notice but can I crash for a few days? I'm great with kids

— Dustin Penner (@Dustinpenner25) March 4, 2014

7. July 1, 2014: Dallas ropes Jason Spezza

Like Kesler above, it was pretty clear that Jason Spezza wanted out of Ottawa. Part of the difficulties in trading Spezza was getting someone to take $7-million cap hit, and gamble on if he would re-sign with whatever team he landed on. In walks a Dallas franchise that was on an upswing after a surprisingly successful first full season of head coach Lindy Ruff, the leadership of GM Jim Nill, and the explosion of Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. Spezza came to Dallas, and just a month into the regular season, he signed a new deal with the Stars for four years, $30-million.

6. June 23, 2014: Scott Hartnell sent packing from Philadelphia to Columbus for R.J. Umberger

Scott Hartnell was the quintessential Philadelphia Flyer. He was an annoying, repugnant, smart-ass who reveled in the bad boy persona of Broad St. Despite a lousy lockout shortened season, Hartnell earned himself a six year, $28.5-million contract extension. In the first year of the deal, he notched 52 points in 78 regular season games played. It wasn't enough to keep him on head coach Craig Berube's good side; at least, that's who Hartnell believed played a role in his trade.

5. March 5, 2014: Dean Lombardi steals Marian Gaborik from Columbus

If the Blue Jackets haven't figured it out yet, let's help them out: stop trading with the Kings. When Columbus does deal with the devil Dean Lombardi, they always end up giving up a lot and receiving very little in return (Jeff Carter, anyone?). Columbus was aiming to get rid of the forward and they found the bidder in LA, who sent for Matt Frattin (who has since gone to Toronto) and draft picks the other direction. Gaborik ended up bolstering a sometimes stagnant Kings offense all the way to the team's second Cup. He was rewarded by LA in the off-season with a new seven year, $34.125-million contract.

4. June 27, 2014: James Neal traded to Nashville from Pittsburgh

Even the winger himself admits he was 'blindsided' by the trade that sent him to Nashville in exchange for Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling. While in Pittsburgh, He was designated as Evgeni Malkin's wingman and the partnership was a success with Neal scoring 61-points in 59 regular season games. He looked to be one of several pieces to fall in the franchise's multiple changes after another disappointing run in the playoffs. His time with the Penguins was not without controversy and that likely played into why he was moved. As Wysh notes after the trade, "Neal was a divisive player, with multiple suspensions and some scuttlebutt about difficulties in the Penguins locker room."

3. March 4, 2014: Vancouver unloads most of Roberto Luongo's contract on Florida.

Saddled with a gigantic contract that doesn't expire until 2022, it seemed highly unlikely that the Canucks were going to be able to find a suitor for the oft-maligned netminder (who had a no-trade clause). In walks the Florida Panthers, the team Luongo came from (and Todd Bertuzzi was sent the other way) in 2006. Bobby Lu maintained ties to the Florida area and was happy to go back. Vancouver retains $800,000 of Luongo's salary for the remaining life of the contract.

2. February 28, 2014: Ryan Miller comes to St. Louis from Buffalo

Right when this trade happened, the hockey world started collectively assuming Miller was the missing piece that St. Louis had been looking for all along. Yeah...you know what the old saying is about 'assuming', right? In the regular season, Miller went 10-8-1 with a 2.47 goals-against and .903 save-percentage. Not terrible. The Blues expected Miller to come through in the playoffs, and well, he didn't. He won the first two games of the series and then proceeded to drop four straight against Chicago. All that remains in St. Louis from this trade is Steve Ott, who came over with Miller. Miller left in the off-season via free agency for Vancouver.

1. March 5, 2014: Martin St. Louis traded to Rangers for Ryan Callahan

Prior to the trade, Martin St. Louis was considered to be a player with a sterling reputation; he stuck around Tampa Bay when he definitely could have gone elsewhere for more money. That's why it was so surprising to hear that he asked for a trade after being initially snubbed from the Canadian Olympic team, a roster that was overseen by his boss in Tampa, Steve Yzerman. The captain-for-captain swap appears to have benefited both teams. With St. Louis, the Rangers went all the way to the Stanley Cup final. Callahan enjoyed his time with the Bolts so much he signed a six-year, $34.8-million contract.

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Jen Neale is a staff writer for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow her on Twitter! Follow @MsJenNeale_PD.

Author: Jen Neale
Posted: December 19, 2014, 11:06 pm

Tired of hearing "Holiday Sweater" over and over again in your head?

Probably not, because that San Jose Sharks video is awesome. But the Pittsburgh Penguins sure did give the Sharks a nice run for NHL holiday video awesomeness in their spoof of the movie "Christmas Vacation."

The video below:

The Penguins buried the lead unfortunately. We had to wait until the end to see Sidney Crosby yell "Where's the Tylenol?" and Evgeni Malkin doing his best Cousin Eddie with "Bingo." 

Nice hat Geno. 

In that sense, it was almost like watching the credits in a Marvel action movie. 

Regardless, there was more than enough good stuff before, between Jim Rutherford as Mr. Shirley or Beau Bennett and Robert Bortuzzo playing the Griswold family's neighbors. 

So far, nothing beats the rapping Sharks, but this is a pretty funny video if you're a "Christmas Vacation" fan ... and if you like the Penguins and hockey in general. 

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @joshuacooper

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Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: December 19, 2014, 10:28 pm

Say, were you on the fence about casting an NHL All-Star Game ballot for Jonathan Toews?

Perhaps you’re worried he can’t rock a headband. Or pump iron. Perhaps you’re concerned about him not being the Canadian dream.

Well, the Chicago Blackhawks are about to knock your backside off that fence. Because it’s time to Exercise Your Right To Vote!

(Well, clearly someone inside the Blackhawks video team is a Tim and Eric fan…)

The Blackhawks debuted the first in what we assume is a series of kitschy player-centric videos that feature headbands, tanktops, pastel colors and a 1980s aesthetic.

And if you’ve ever wanted to see a super-intense Patrick Kane in aerobics gear on a step machine winking at you, merry Christmas.

Is it uh hot in here did someone maybe leave the Yule log on a little too long swoon …

The lesson here, folks: Jonathan Toews is a comedy genius who chooses not to unleash his powers, and any time you mine the 1980s for comedy, it’s gold.

And yes, that is an excuse to run this Los Angeles Kings video again:

GOOOOO KIIIINGS!

Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: December 19, 2014, 10:21 pm

The thing you hear people who have come to understand the game more fully in the past few years talk about a lot is “The Process.”

The Process, in hockey, is everything.

It's hard to define exactly what The Process is or isn't, because people may see it as different things. For some people, it's defined by wins and losses: If you're winning, you're doing things right, and if you're losing, you're doing things wrong.

For others, it relates to goals: If the goals are going in, or being kept out, for any given length of time, that too is an indicator that a team is good or turned a corner from being bad or has had something go horrible wrong. And for some, something as simple as possession numbers indicate whether things are going right or wrong for a team.

It's unfair to wholly dismiss any one of these as being important. You can be like the Devils the last few years, and have a ton of bounces go against you all season long and lose games you should have won and not make the playoffs but still have strong possession numbers. You can be like the Avalanche last season and get every single bounce for 82 games to go in your favor, despite the fact that you never have the puck. Hockey teams are ultimately evaluated on wins and losses, and nothing more, no matter how much lip service or actual attention is paid to peripheral things.

That, in essence, is why the Oilers fired Dallas Eakins this week. They had to, at some point. No matter if he had the possession trending in the right direction, and it was obvious that his team wasn't getting a single bounce to go its way, but this is a results-oriented business and the results were a 3-15-4 record after starting the season 4-4-1. It's stupid that the team couldn't look past the actual W's and L's in the standings, but that's the reality of professional sports. The Process only gets you so far if The Results don't follow after a certain amount of time.

But if you really look under the hood on that woeful stretch of 22 games for the Oilers, from which they wrung just 10 of 44 available points, you see that no amount of coaching would have saved that team. “Luck” in the NHL, for lack of a better term, is quantified largely by PDO; that is, the addition of shooting percentage and save percentage at 5-on-5, with 100 being the normal number. When your PDO is high, you tend to win a lot of games because your team is scoring on a large percentage of its shots and allowing goals on a low percentage of the opposition's. When your PDO is low, you lose a lot for the opposite reasons. Every team in the league understands this fundamentally.

Suffice it to say that the Oilers' PDO during their losing streak was an abysmal 96.1, because the goalies couldn't save anything and the team couldn't put the puck in the net. Only Minnesota was worse from Oct. 29 to Dec. 12, and even then just marginally, at an even 96 rating, because their goaltending was considerably worse in that stretch (and what do you know: they only went 10-8-1 during that time because hockey's funny that way). If the Wild had fared as poorly as the Oilers, Mike Yeo would have been fired, without question.

But Minnesota is undoubtedly a better team than the Oilers, both in terms of actual on-ice product and in roster construction: They have better players at nearly every slot of the lineup. They are a clear playoff team, where the Oilers are very much not. Even at 10-8-1, people in the Twin Cities often acted as though the sky were crashing down around them.

And what's important to keep in mind about PDO, too, is that teams don't actually have a lot of control over it. If you were to theoretically put together a team of fourth-line guys who were barely at NHL replacement level, and put a career backup behind them, you could reasonably expect your team's PDO to come in lower than the expected, normal 100 by a pretty decent margin. But teams aren't built like that, obviously, and if anything, the Oilers actually tried pretty hard to do that (two NHL centers, two NHL defensemen, and a career backup). The resulting PDO was only a little surprising.

But what no one talked about, really, is that over those 22 games, Dallas Eakins' team had the puck more often than it didn't: 51.7 percent of the time, in fact. That's 12th in the league in that stretch, and it's not nothing. The Process states that he must have been doing something right to get a team that was that bad on paper to possess the puck more often than its superior opponents. And okay sure they obviously spent a lot of time in those games trailing, often by a wide margin — but even with the score close, they were at 51 percent.

Coaches always get fired when their team's PDO is bad for a decently long length of time. Claude Noel was fired last January, when the team's PDO for the year had been 98.8. In the month before he was fired, it was 96.4. Paul Maurice, who looks like he's transformed the team, has enjoyed a totally neutral PDO of 100 since then. That kind of improvement in player performance will help a lot.

And just as a low PDO can make good coaches (and it's hard to argue that's what Claude Noel was, at any rate) look like fools bereft of solutions for their teams' problems, high PDOs can make bad coaches look like geniuses who have found a way to turn chicken excrement into a full-course meal with the world's greatest chicken dish as the entree.

And that's why Bob Hartley signed a multi-year extension on Wednesday.

Obviously, the Flames were in a bit of a skid at that point, having lost six games straight, but it's pretty clear this was a deal that had been in the works for a while. After all, the Flames started out 17-8-2, and with the roster as it was and is constituted, plus all the injuries to key players suffered to start the season, the fact that they spent any time at all north of .500 and in a playoff spot made Hartley look like a miracle worker despite miserable possession numbers (43.5 percent).

All anyone noticed in Calgary was the comebacks — surely the result of work ethic and going to the contested areas — and the winning, and how close even the losing effort were. Hartley had instilled in his club a sense of hard work that allowed it to outperform its meager expectations. And all they needed for that first 27 games of the season was a PDO of 102. Which is not the result of hard work, or the talent that comprises the Flames roster.

(Also of note: The Leafs recently went on a 10-1-1 run in which their PDO was sky-high and their possession was in the toilet. Randy Carlyle, former president of the Wins Are All That Matters Club, told reporters after that 10th win that he was in no way satisfied with the performance; could it be that a hard lesson or three from Kyle Dubas and the last few seasons showed him the light? If Carlyle of all people can learn that this is the actual way in which the world works, then anyone can.)

Teams can, generally, have high PDOs only if they have elite-level goaltending and a strong top-six. The Bruins almost always turn in a season-long PDO north of 100 because Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask have been Vezina-quality for years, and because they generally have forward groups that can make things happen at the other end. (The latter, plus a traditionally strong defense, also leads to good possession numbers, which underscore the job Claude Julien has typically done in this era of Zdeno Chara as captain.)

The Flames have none of those things, relying instead on a mix of Jonas Hiller and Kari Ramo in net, and a top-six that's headlined by Jiri Hudler, Johnny Gaudreau, and Sean Monahan. This is not the stuff of teams that can post a 102 PDO all year, and indeed, in this six-game losing streak, it's been 94.4. Funny how that works.

The problem with Hartley is that apart from lucking into that PDO, and consequently all those wins, he's done nothing to improve The Process.

For the entire season, the Flames have possession just 45.2 percent, 28th in the league ahead of only Buffalo and Colorado. Last year: 26th at 46.3 percent. The year before: 24th at 47.4 percent. This is a team that's actively getting worse (which you'd expect to some extent because for the most part they're not bringing back veterans, and so on), and started from a pretty pathetic position to begin with.

Over Hartley's three seasons with the team, he's won just 71 of 163, and lost 13 more in overtime or the shootout: That's a .475 winning percentage. They've also allowed 77 more goals than they've scored at even strength, and their possession numbers are 27th out of 30 at 46.4 percent. By any measure, this is a man for whom The Process has not gone anything resembling well.

And to be fair to Flames fans, who say the team has really turned a corner in terms of on-ice performance since the start of last January or so — they're 38-34-3 since then — let's also keep in mind that they're on 46.7 percent corsi during those 75 games, and that's 26th of 30 in the NHL. Calgary has also been outscored by 14 goals (133 for, 147 against) during that time, good for 24th in the league. They're making no headway, regardless of how you want to view things beyond wins.

So why, then, the rush to get him locked up for at least a few more years? They had 27 good games, driven almost entirely by good fortune. Dallas Eakins had 22 bad ones, and was plagued by rotten bounces.

But only the latter had his team moving in the right direction after years of hopelessness, and was given his walking papers anyway. The former's team, which continues its slide, just ensured more of the same hopelessness for years to come.

Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.

Author: Ryan Lambert
Posted: December 19, 2014, 9:39 pm

Here are your Puck Headlines: A glorious collection of news and views collected from the greatest blogosphere in sports and the few, the proud, the mainstream hockey media.

Photo via @mitchkorncaps

• Washington goaltending coach Mitch Korn wishes everyone a Happy Hanukkah. Barry Trotz is not impressed. [Via Twitter @mitchkorncaps]

• Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta has the mumps. Robert Bortuzzo and Thomas Greiss each tested negative. Maatta recently came back from thyroid cancer surgery. [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review]

• Blue Jackets forward Nick Foligno is on fire at the moment, right on time for next month’s All-Star game in Columbus. [Fox Sports]

• The Kings and the Blackhawks showed us the best overtime we’ve ever seen in last year’s playoffs. [Grantland]

• The Fort McMurray Oil Barons will be sans forward Danton Ayotte after he attacked a referee. [Slam Sports]

• Ottawa Senators goaltender Craig Anderson almost scored a goal into an empty net against New Jersey. And talked about that amongst other topics. [The Hockey Writers]

• A look at the future Los Angeles Kings, when they all decide to pull a Martin Brodeur. [The Royal Half via LAKings.com]

•  A detailed look at how many players drafted by teams are in the league, and still producing for those teams.  [The Committed Indian]

• The Blue Jackets have stormed back into the hunt and looking like a true contender. [Yahoo]

• The Washington Capitals are awesome when they score first. When they don’t? That’s another story. [Japers Rink]

• The Minnesota Wild ruined the Montreal Canadiens’ 2001 draft by taking Mikko Koivu. Montreal ended up with Mike Komisarek instead. [The Hockey News]

• Who are the NHL’s ‘hot’ goalies and NHL’s cold netminders? An inside look.  [InGoal Magazine]

•  A detailed breakdown of the Los Angeles Kings zone entries. Who are the best puck carriers on Los Angeles? [LAKingsinsider]

• Shane Doan cannot fathom leaving the Arizona Coyotes. [ESPN]

• Finally, The Montreal Canadiens honored former captain Saku Koivu on Thursday. 

 

 

 

Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: December 19, 2014, 7:53 pm

The NHL’s mumps ‘Team Zero’ is clear and obvious to Ducks defenseman Francois Beauchemin.

“I tell everybody who said the mumps started in Anaheim, if you look back from where players started missing games the first team that had some kind of the flu was the St. Louis Blues,” Beauchemin said via phone. “They had (a bunch of) guys that had what they called a ‘bacterial infection.’ They probably didn’t know they had the mumps but my guess is that’s probably what they had. Then Minnesota got it then we got it.”

Awesome.

Keep in mind, there is possibly credence to Beauchemin’s statement. The Blues have been really mumpy … I mean shady about how a bunch of their players had a mysterious bacterial infection on their team before without definitively saying what it was. In fact, they still haven't.

There was even some weird drama about the Centers for Disease Control being at Scottrade Center, until the team denied it. 

Generally where there's smoke there's fire ... but whatever. 

Regardless, if the Blues, or the Ducks or the Minnesota Wild, their players or any other team had any clue about the mumps, a virus that only afflicted 584 people in the United States last year, could the outbreak have been stopped before it even started?

“I never really knew what the mumps was until I got them. I never really heard about it,” Beauchemin said. 

So far we haven’t seen any Jenny McCarthy/Kristin Cavallari reason as to why a player wouldn’t get a booster vaccine. For example, Wild defenseman and mumps survivor Ryan Suter just went with the hand washing method, which failed.

“Everybody got the shots on our team, and I’m like ‘I don’t need to get the shot. I think I’ll be all right. I wash my hands a lot. I’m a clean guy,’” he said. “So everybody got it except for me. And of course, two weeks ago I get the mumps.”

But in a league with a players association that has to put visors to a vote, can you really force a player to have a team stick a needle in him? Even if it has a reported 88 percent chance of stopping this illness?  This complicates the matter somewhat. 

“I don’t know. Everybody has a different view on that stuff with flu shots or whatever,” Bruins defenseman Dougie Hamilton said.

With the news that Pens defenseman Olli Maatta has the mumps, that brings 16 confirmed, public cases to the NHL. 

Adam Larsson said the mumps were the low point in his 22-year-old life.

“It came right away for me. My face started growing and the fever came at night. Those four days were probably the worst days in my life so far. It was really bad at one point. I couldn’t eat or anything. I’m glad to be back. I just have to work my energy level up a little bit to where I can play.”

Ack, that sounds horrible.

The NHLPA responded with the below statement from spokesperson Jonathan Weatherdon via email, when asked if the association had sent out or pushed any measures to lessen the mumps spread. 

“The NHL/NHLPA’s joint infection control subcommittee has been following the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) recommendations on managing mumps outbreaks. We continue to educate the players on best practices to avoid contracting and spreading mumps.”

When asked if mumps vaccines are mandatory, the answer from the PA was that vaccinations were “available, but not mandatory.”

In this regard, pressure may have to come internally from other players. Suter, who said he was vaccinated as a child like most players from North America, indicated that he felt remorse for not taking the shot, since it knocked him out and may have infected others.

In a lot of ways, it’s no different than a sick co-worker who tries to tough it out, and then infects the entire office.

Beauchemin believes others should take the vaccine, simply so they won’t have to go through the pain he felt.

“It is everybody’s choice, but I don’t know why you wouldn’t do it,” he said. “You’re better off feeling a little under the weather for a couple of days, than getting a fever putting you down for a couple of weeks.” 

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @joshuacooper

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Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: December 19, 2014, 7:34 pm

LISTEN HERE! [And if that doesn't work, try here.]

It's a (Gettin' down on) Friday edition of Marek vs. Wyshynski beginning at 2:00 p.m. ET/11:00 a.m. PT, and we're talking about the following and more:

Special Guest Star: Chris Johnston of Sportsnet on the KHL crisis and the NHL in general. 

• Marty Brodeur's rough night. 

• Bruins, Blues talking trade?

• News and notes. 

Question of the Day: GOING POSTAL! ASK US ANYTHING! Email puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or hit us on Twitter with the hashtag #MvsW to @wyshynski or @jeffmarekClick here for the Sportsnet live stream or click the play button above!

Click here to download podcasts from the show each day. Subscribe to the podcast viaiTunes or Feedburner.

Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: December 19, 2014, 6:56 pm

Many fans take to public forums to push for an ouster of various people in their favorite organization. Talk radio, message boards, article commenters etc. 

But when a fan or fan group puts its money where its mouth is ... that's a little different. Behold the below screen grab from an ad by the "Kevin Lowe Must Go" Facebook group in the Edmonton Sun.

Photo credit via the Edmonton Sun's online edition. 

According to the Sun's website, a full page ad costs $5,680 dollars for a weekday. Wow, that's a lot of oil money -- or at least money that could be better spent on a vacation out of Edmonton. But if you got it, may as well spend it. It's not the first time fans have put in time and effort to asking the Oilers to fire Lowe, and not the first time this social media group has pushed for Lowe's ouster in a paid public setting. 

The Facebook page itself has over 16,000 likes. You can also purchase merchandise from them, which includes bumper stickers and t-shirts. Get me one of those!

Short description on the page says:

Seeing how many likes we can get to create some publicity to get Kevin Lowe fired. No commitment or sales pitch, just like and share if you want Lowe gone

As the Oilers continue their "Forensic" investigation of the joke they have become, will this be included as evidence? Probably not. But props to this Facebook group for using its hard earned loonies to show its dislike, distaste and disdain for the current management group. 

Sadly the advertisement misses part of the point. Bad management starts at the top -- with ownership. So if Katz does indeed fire Lowe, do you trust him to put the right guy in charge?

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @joshuacooper

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Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: December 19, 2014, 6:14 pm

The salary cap molds and shapes the future plans of NHL teams. Such is the case for the Boston Bruins, St. Louis Blues and, potentially, T.J. Oshie. 

Oshie is signed through 2017 at $4.175 million annually. He’s a well-liked player, meshes with David Backes and gives them an aggressive forechecker. And as we saw in Sochi, he's pretty OK in the shootout sometimes. 

But where would you rank him among the best Blues forwards? He’s currently seventh among them in scoring with 12 points in 24 games. He’s been eclipsed by Vladimir Taresenko, Jaden Schwartz and Jori Lehtera. He’s not as vital as Alex Steen or David Backes. He’s probably ahead of Patrick Berglund, but mostly because Berglund’s been a dud this season.

About that salary cap: The Blues project to have well over $12 million in space next season, but with only 15 players under contract. Jake Allen needs a deal. Taresenko (hoo boy) needs a deal. Lehtera’s up in 2016 as a UFA. Schwartz is up in 2016 as well, as an RFA.

The Blues have to look to the future, and Oshie might not be a part of it. 

So they’re listening to offers, and Elliotte Friedman says a lot of interest is trickling down from the Boston Bruins.

On Brady and Walker on Friday morning, Friedman said the Bruins have “talked a lot” with the Blues. “They’ve been linked to T.J. Oshie, and the issue there is that he’s got more term,” he said.

And that’s the trick for the Bruins: Their cap situation is even more precarious. They too have over $12 million in space for next season, but only 14 players under contract. Adam McQuaid (UFA), Torey Krug (RFA), Matt Bartkowski (UFA) and Dougie Hamilton (RFA) are all up; so is Reilly Smith (RFA).

(Please recall this cap situation in 2015 was the reason they couldn’t give Jarome Iginla a 2-year deal.)

One assumes any deal for Oshie would be salary for salary. Loui Eriksson, struggling to find his footing in Boston, is signed through 2016 and makes $4.25 million. One-for-one?

But again, that term … would it be worth it for the Bruins for a player that, frankly, simply doesn’t generate enough points?

Friedman said that “Boston’s looking around at a lot of things. I think they’re concerned about a lack of edge on that team.”

Another name, that he terms a longshot? Zack Kassian of the Vancouver Canucks, who would come cheaper than Oshie. He has a $1.75 million cap hit through 2016. And obviously, he plays with the edge they’re looking for.

Zack Kassian, for whom Milan Lucic was a prototype, with Milan Lucic as a mentor?

Or, given that Lucic goes UFA in 2016 … would this be a “Men In Black” training your replacement deal?

(All salary info via Cap Geek)

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Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: December 19, 2014, 5:55 pm

(Puck Daddy presents its annual look back at the year in hockey. Check back every day through the New Year for our many lists and hot takes.)

It hasn't been the busiest year for the NHL's Department of Player Safety, which is good news: It means players are getting it. Alas, as we see in this countdown, many do not. Including some that are one their way to the NHL one day. 

Here are the top 10 most heinous on-ice acts of 2014: 

10. John Moore’s head-shot on Erik Haula

The Rangers defenseman was given a 2-game ban for a hit on Dale Weise on the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Just 12 games later, he was given a 5-gamer for this hit on Erik Haula of the Minnesota Wild that had a little bit of that ‘ol Cooke-on-Savard black magic.

9. Mike Rupp’s head-shot on T.J. Oshie

A shoulder to the head on Oshie earned Rupp a 4-game suspension from the NHL, which called it late and too high and totally interference. This incident was memorable for former Minnesota Wild player Wes Walz defending the Wild’s Rupp for the hit, blaming the St. Louis Blues for vowing to send a message to Minny.

8.  Gianluca Curcuruto head-shots Travis Konecny 

The Plymouth Whalers defenseman saw an opportunity to lay out Ottawa’s Konecny and took it, nailing the 17-year-old draft prospect in the noggin. The result was a 12-game suspension from the OHL. Watch the hit on the OHL site.

7. Ryan Garbutt gets trippy vs. Winnipeg

The Dallas stars pest had a two-fer against the Winnipeg Jets in December, with a straight-legged trip of goalie Michael Hutchinson and then a slew-foot that lifted the 526-pound* Dustin Byfuglien off the ice and then crashing down. He earned a 3-game suspension from the NHL.

*Our estimate

6. Matt Cooke goes knee-on-knee with Barrie

Matt Cooke had been on his best … well, best for Matt Cooke behavior for a while. Then, in a playoff game against the Colorado Avalanche, he basically did the Captain Morgan pose in going knee-on-knee with Tyson Barrie, taking out the Avs’ No. 2 defenseman. Cooke earned a 7-game suspension and lost the benefit of the doubt.

5. Noah Bushnell elbows Julius Bergman in the head

Bushnell skated up to Julius Bergman, raised his arm and elbowed Bergman in the head, earning a 10-game suspension for the Sarnia Sting forward from this September game. (Watch the video here.) Hey, it’s preseason for dudes who want to elbow other dudes in the head, too…

4. Milan Lucic spears DeKeyser

It’s one thing to go tape-to-taint with an opponent. It’s another to do it when he’s got his back turned to you. The Boston Bruins forward was fined $5,000 for this cup-check on Danny DeKeyser of the Detroit Red Wings. Not exactly Milan Lucic’s finest moment, but it would be erased later in the postseason when he threatened to murder most of the Montreal Canadiens.

3. Anthony Stolarz slashes Josh Ho-Sang in the head

Windsor’s Josh Ho-Sang gave London Knights goalie Anthony Stolarz a slash at the end of a play in their Memorial Cup playoff game. Stolarz responded by taking his goalie lumber and smacking Ho-Sang in the back of the hear. Inexplicably, outside of “it was Josh Ho-Sang,” Stolarz was only given a 2-minute minor. That was later rectified by the OHL, who gave him an 8-game suspension. Also, Stolarz is a Philadelphia Flyers draft pick. Sometimes the jokes write themselves, folks. 

2. Lukas Kaspar throws stick at ref

In a KHL game in November, Yugra Khanty-Mansiysk forward Lucas Kaspar was hit with a slap shot. He crumpled to the ice as his opponents controlled the puck. Like, for a while. Kaspar was in ridiculous pain, so he’s thinking this was a serious injury. Yet there was no whistle. So he decided to get a whistle … by hurling his stick like a javelin at the referee.

He was kicked out of the game and suspended for five more. 

1. Storm Phaneuf, wearing skates, kicks a dude

Storm Phaneuf is a goalie for the Chicoutimi Sagueneens of the QMJHL. The crease is his domain. The Drummondville Voltigeurs' Dylan Montcalm crashed that crease, and for that was given a goalie interference penalty.

At that moment, Phaneuf remembered he was wearing Ginzu knives on his feet, and kicked Montcalm with his skate.

Montcalm was injured, but not seriously. Phaneuf was suspended for nine games. But hey, bright side: His was the most heinous on-ice act of 2014. Congrats, or something.

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Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: December 19, 2014, 4:49 pm

Whenever Ryan Suter gets into trouble, he just skates out of it. This is what he has done his entire career, and it’s a fascinating attribute to watch: If an attacking player comes at Suter in his own zone, he slips out, starts to churn his legs and glides away. In some ways, he's the American version of Scott Niedermayer, a two-way slick-skating blueliner who is as strong defensively as he is offensively. 

It's an ability that helps him on the ice, as it has since he was a young child learning to play hockey in Madison, Wisc. But as he's discovered this season, he can also skate away from distress and pain off the ice. 

While the summer of 2012 was one of Suter’s biggest moments of his career, when he ended up with a 13-year $98 million contract from the Minnesota Wild, the 2014-15 hockey season has been one of the toughest.

His father Bob, a 1980 “Miracle on Ice” Olympian died before the year began, on Sept. 9 from a heart attack.

Then Ryan Suter contracted the mumps, an illness that was officially announced on Dec. 4. 

“After going through earlier in the year with my dad, I feel like nothing can hurt me anymore,” Ryan said. “That is the biggest blow I’ve ever had to deal with in my life. I got along with my dad pretty darn good. We had a pretty good relationship, so that was probably … nothing can faze me after dealing with that.”

And through it all, Ryan has simply continued to skate – for almost half a game. He has averaged 29:34 of ice-time through 28 contests. If he endures this pace, it would be the highest of his career. It’s a way to calm down, and just forget about life. 

“The more that I’m on the ice, the more comfortable I feel, the more I don’t have to think, the more you just go out and play,” he said. “I think it’s easier to play more minutes. The part that kind of bothers me about it, is having to … I don’t want that to be ‘Ryan Suter played all these minutes.’ I want it to be that he’s a good player.” 

When Ryan saw his wife Becky at an informal skate last September at Braemar Arena in Edina, Minnesota, he knew something was off. Immediately Ryan thought there was something wrong with one of his two children. Instead it was more complicated.

“She had said (my dad) had a heart attack,” Ryan said. “So I’m thinking, ‘He’ll be in the hospital, we’ll go to Madison and everything is going to be fine.’”

But it wasn’t OK. After a phone call with his brother, Ryan knew that life was about to be altered dramatically. 

"It’s the worst thing ever, it’s the worst day of my life," Ryan said.  

Just 10 days later, he showed up for the first day of training camp, fought back tears and talked about the experience and his father’s wake, which was attended by a reported 4,000 people.  

"Leaving is tough," he said. "It was tough to leave. Everyone's probably going to think I'm just so soft. It was tough leaving to come up here because it was close and I knew he loved coming up here to watch games. It sucks. I feel bad for everybody that's gone through it." 

And then the season started, and he went back to what he does best – running the Wild’s attack from the blueline and controlling the pace of the game.

He then woke up Sunday Nov. 30 after a Nov. 29 loss to the Blues, and felt off.

After some tests, it was confirmed that he had the mumps.

Becky Suter was pregnant with the couple’s third child – according to the Mayo Clinic, a possible mumps complication is miscarriage early in pregnancy – so Ryan locked himself in a room in their house away from the rest of their family, including his two vaccinated children.

If he needed to eat, he put on a surgical mask and Becky would serve him food. 

After Ryan finished the contagious period of the virus he scrubbed down the entire room with anti-bacterial wipes.

“I wiped down every single part of that room that could have gotten anything on it, Ryan said. “Wiping the fan down, washed all the sheets, so I sterilized the room right away so she didn’t have to deal with it.” 

His first game back against the Islanders on Dec. 9, he played 29:08 and notched three assists. Against the Arizona Coyotes on Dec. 13, he played 33:07. 

Ice-time may not be a sexy Norris Trophy stat, and Suter may have his own issues as being known as the guy who plays forever, but there’s something about putting him on the ice that makes a coach look better.

The Wild’s Mike Yeo probably knows that with Suter playing for half a game, that’s 30 minutes where he doesn’t have to worry about his team’s defense. And Suter doesn’t have to worry about anything. It's a win-win for both sides. 

“There’s a time to be physical and a time to put a hit on someone,” Suter said. “For me a lot of the time (I spend) is protecting the middle of the ice and playing and using your brain more than your body so you can think the game more and not exert so much energy skating around and chasing guys around. You can think where they’re going to be and anticipate a little bit more.”

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @joshuacooper

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Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: December 19, 2014, 2:56 pm
Dec 18, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Flyers center Claude Giroux (28) skates against Florida Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad (5) during the second period at Wells Fargo Center. (Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)

“Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I’m the lead physician for Hockey Monitoring Mumps Measles, Muscus and Mirsey, a.k.a. HMMMMM… 

“We’ve instructed the members of the National Hockey League to do what they can to stop the spread of infectious diseases, lest anyone wish to see Sidney Crosby do another media availability looking like he’s hiding a boomerang in his cheek.

“To that end, we present this short feature called ‘How To Not Spread Bodily Fluids And Be Generally Gross, Starring Claude Giroux of the Philadelphia Flyers.

“Here we see Mr. Giroux, once called the best player in the world by the current coach of the Nashville Predators, taking off his glove, bringing his finger to his face and then vigorously wiping his hand on the back of a linesman before a faceoff against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The common theory here is that Mr.. Giroux is applying a viscous colloid, a.k.a. a ‘booger’ to the official’s shirt, a common practice among second graders but a bit of a lost art in pro hockey.

“While some are quick to blame Mr. Giroux, we believe this is a general failure on the part of the National Hockey League to not have small boxes of Kleenex attached to the belts of each on-ice official. 

“Later in the week, Mr. Giroux was playing the Florida Panthers when he leaned over and began gnawing on the sweater of defenseman Erik Gudbranson.

“This, again, is curious and troublesome behavior at a time when mumps are affecting true superstars of the game like Sidney Crosby and Corey Perry as well as Tanner Glass. Recent statistics show there are currently more NHL players with the mumps than there would have been fans in the stands had this game been played in Sunrise.

“But, again, we can’t put the blame on Mr. Giroux. Clearly it’s the responsibility of the National Hockey League to have more snacks readily available around the ice for the players. A bowl of peanuts near the benches. Maybe a Cliff bar in the penalty box. Had they been, we believe Mr. Giroux would have relented from chewing on synthetic fibers or, potential, human shoulder flesh. 

“In summary, we here at HMMMMM excuse this pattern of seemingly gross, yucky and grucky behavior from Mr. Giroux in recent games.

“Although, admittedly, we don’t have any medical explanation for that whole grabbing a cop’s buttocks thing without a definitive measurement of his blood alcohol levels …”

Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: December 19, 2014, 2:10 pm

No. 1 Star: Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings 

Kopitar has a career-best 5-point night as the Los Angeles Kings won a wild 6-4 game against the St. Louis Blues and Marty Brodeur. Kopitar assisted on Marian Gaborik’s two goals, Jeff Carter’s game-trying goal and Jake Muzzin’s game-winning goal. He also scored a goal of his own in the second period, his seventh.

No. 2 Star: Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins

Fleury made 29 saves for his NHL-leading sixth shutout as the Penguins defeated the Colorado Avalanche, 1-0. Blake Comeau had the lone goal.

No. 3 Star: Eric Fehr, Washington Capitals

After a brilliant set-up by Mike Green, Fehr’s goal at 42 seconds of overtime gave the Washington Capitals a 5-4 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. He also assisted on Joel Ward’s opening tally in the first period. The Capitals ended the Jackets’ winning streak at seven games.

Honorable Mention: Calvin Pickard made 47 saves in a losing effort for the Avs. … Brandon Pirri and Dave Bolland had shootout goals and Roberto Luongo made 25 saves a few more in the shootout as Florida defeated the Flyers, 2-1. … Andres Sekera and Justin Faulk had a goal and an assist as the Carolina Hurricanes stunned the streaking Toronto Maple Leafs, 4-1. … Matt Beleskey’s goal at 8:33 of the third period gave the Anaheim Ducks a lead they wouldn’t give up and a 2-1 win. Frederik Andersen made 23 saves. … Matt Tennyson and Barclay Goodnow scored in the third period as the San Jose Sharks rallied for 4-3 win over the Edmonton Oilers.

Did You Know? The Oilers only win over their past 18 games is against the Sharks.

Dishonorable Mention: Dalton Prout and Tom Wilson fought, and then Jared Boll and Michael Latta fought two seconds later in the second period. … Ryan Johansen, James Wisniewski and Boone Jenner were minus-3. … Joffrey Lupul was a minus-3. … Marty Brodeur gave up six goals, including a long-distance one from Dwight King. …  Max Pacioretty was hospitalized after a hit from Clayton Stoner.

 

 

Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: December 19, 2014, 8:21 am
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 18: Martin Brodeur #30 of the St. Louis Blues reacts as he waits for the ice to be cleaned tied 3-3 with the Los Angeles Kings during the second period at Staples Center on December 18, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Martin Brodeur visited the site of his 2012 Stanley Cup Final loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night.

And things were … weird.

Weird in the sense that the St. Louis Blues managed to secure a 3-0 lead in the first period, only to see the Kings rally to tie; and then a 4-3 lead entering the third, only to see the Kings score three goals in 12:06 to secure a 6-3 win. 

Weird in the sense that Brodeur made a save on Tyler Toffoli in the third period, and then had the puck literally disappear in his gear. It took about 90 seconds for the game officials to locate the puck, searching his glove and his pads and, finally, watching as Brodeur basically dropped it on the ice like a chicken would an egg:

The highlight that launched a million “Marty ate the puck!” jokes on social media.

Weird in the sense that, moments later, things got a little less funny for Brodeur.

Although we can’t say the same for the Kings and Dwight King:

The Kings intercepted the puck at center ice, and King fired a long-distance shot on Brodeur from the red line. Reminder: the puck is made of rubber. And it acted as such as it bounced like a super-happy fun ball over Brodeur’s shoulder to make it 6-4 in favor of the Kings.

Some goals from the red line are bad. Some are just unfortunate and borderline freaky.

It was that kind of night for Marty Brodeur. 

Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: December 19, 2014, 6:57 am

The Montreal Canadiens could have used Max Pacioretty late in their game against the Anaheim Ducks. But as they scrambled to find a way to tie Thursday night’s game – which ended in a 2-1 win for the visiting Ducks – Pacioretty was getting evaluated after a brutal Clayton Stoner hit along the boards.

Pacioretty left the game at 4:04 of the third period. He passed the puck up ice and, frankly, admired the pass a bit. But Stoner delivered a hard check to his side, twisting the Montreal forward’s body around. Pacioretty face-planted into the glass. He was helped to the back and was eventually taken to the hospital for precautionary tests. 

Expectedly, the two sides had differing views of the incident. From the Gazette:

“I didn’t like the hit,” said [Montreal Coach Michel] Therrien, but he refrained from discussing the matter further.

The one Canadien who was unequivocal in his assessment of the hit was Pacioretty’s close friend, David Desharnais. “It should have been a penalty,” said Desharnais, who went on to suggest that a five-minute major for boarding was in order. 

Said Clayton Stoner: "I think their team wasn't happy about it. … I didn't mean to hurt him but the game's fast and sometimes guys go into the boards wrong, so I hope he's all right and I didn't mean any intentions to hurt him."

What do you think? With no penalty on the play, could Stoner get something from the league?

Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: December 19, 2014, 6:30 am

“Decimated” might be putting it kindly. 

The Winnipeg Jets currently have their top four defensemen out of their lineup, at least through mid-January. Tobias Enstrom and Zach Bogosian are out with lower body injuries, and won’t be back until next month. Jacob Trouba is out until February with an upper body injury. Ditto Mark Stuart with a lower body injury.

That’s four of the team’s five leaders in ice time, and their top four penalty killers by ice time.

Ouch.

Pressed to make a move, GM Kevin Cheveldayoff did what he does best: Acquire a body without giving up one.

The Jets snagged Jay Harrison from the Carolina Hurricanes for a sixth-round pick in 2015 which previously belonge to Ottawa.

The 32-year-old defenseman has four points and a minus-5 in 20 games this season. He’s been a healthy scratch on multiple occasions for the basement-dwelling Hurricanes.

Harrison carries a $1.5 million cap hit through 2016.

Maurice knows him well, having coached him with the Toronto Maple Leafs and with the Carolina Hurricanes. 

He’s not addition, bringing some leadership and being a geniunely good guy in the room. But with Harrison, Dustin Byfuglien, Julien Brouillette, Grant Clitsome, Ben Chiarot, Adam Pardy and Paul Postma as the blue line for the time being … well, pray for Pavelec and Hutchinson. 

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Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: December 18, 2014, 10:15 pm

What is it about Simon Despres that is so ‘prank-able’ for the Penguins?

Seriously… we’re asking, because nothing seems off about the 23-year-old blueliner that makes him such a target.

Who knows … but thank goodness he has a sense of humor about it. The Penguins were at it with Despres for the third publicized time, making a crime scene out of the spot where he caught an edge and bit it in a Monday game against Tampa, hence the above photo courtesy of the Penguins’ website. 

Below is the video of the play.

 

Ouch and ha…

This is not the first time Despres has been pranked. As the website says…

It all started back during the 2011-12 season, when Despres played 18 NHL games with the Penguins. When the team was on the road in Carolina that year, Despres’ dress shirt ‘went missing,’ forcing him to wear a workout T-shirt with his suit jacket.

Shortly after that, unknown pranksters strung his street clothes (a leather jacket, pants and shoes) in the rafters of CONSOL Energy Center before a practice. The items were hooked onto a hanger and lowered on a wire about 30 feet above the ice.

When pressed on the culprit of the prank, teammate Brandon Sutter said, “Well, let’s say a couple players and maybe a trainer. Or maybe it was one player and one trainer that decided to put a little artwork on the boards today for practice.”

At least the team can have a sense of humor around all the swirling mumps drama. But unfortunately, the Centers for Disease Control does not have a detective bureau for such cases as the Despres prank. 

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @joshuacooper

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Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: December 18, 2014, 9:45 pm

When you get to the rink this week for your rec hockey game, just know that your career is far from being over, no matter how bad or old you get.

Meet Jan Loos. He turned 85 on Thursday and still plays in an adult hockey league in London, Ont. The “Huff N Puff” league is for players 55 and older, and Loos isn't the only super veteran on the roster. He has four teammates over the age of 80. 

Loos plays three times a week, but when he steps on the ice Friday for his next game, he’ll be making history by becoming the oldest man to ever play in a competitive hockey game. The current record is held by 78-year old Fred DeWit, a goaltender from Holland.

From Morris Dallacosta of the London Free Press:

The game had to be a regular game on regulation ice, timed properly, and have at least two linesmen and a referee. One of the officials is Peter Schussler who just retired from refereeing Huff N Puff. He's 90.
Former NHL referee Don Van Massenhoven will be there and act as a recorder to ensure that everything is done to Guinness’ specifications.

A 90-year old referee? And you want to complain about Tim Peel?

What advice does the 85-year old Loos have for those young whippersnappers wanting to play competitive sports as long as he has?

"My motto is, don't get old, get older. Stay in shape and you live a lot longer and happier."

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Author: Sean Leahy
Posted: December 18, 2014, 9:28 pm

Like a few other teams in the NHL this season, the New York Rangers have been hit with a mumps outbreak. Forwards Tanner Glass and Derick Brassard were both out with the viral infection, and forward Lee Stempniak is being tested for it.

Now, it appears mumps have been demoted to the AHL, too. And behind the bench. 

AHL Hartford Wolf Pack coach Ken Gernander has been isolated from the team for five days and is being tested for mumps. He’s the first coach in the NHL or AHL to go missing in action due to suspicion of the mumps.

Forward Joey Crabb was also isolated and is being tested for the disease.

Assistant coaches Jeff Beukeboom and Pat Boller will take the bench for practices and for home games vs. the Syracuse Crunch and the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.

Gernander has been the head coach for Hartford since 2007. When he retired as an active player, he was the top-scoring American-born player in AHL history.

The incubation time for mumps is about two weeks. Interestingly, the Rangers haven’t shuttled anyone from MSG to Hartford or vice versa during December. 

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Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: December 18, 2014, 9:18 pm

The Kontinental Hockey League’s meeting between its president and the managers of its franchises was scheduled some time ago. But it took on new, vital importance this week thanks to the league’s crisis over the ruble’s drop in value and teams struggling to pay players.

KHL President Dmitry Chernyshenko, still new to the job, revealed what course they decided to take to steady the league:

“For the first time the KHL and its leadership met with member clubs to openly, without the media, discuss all internal questions, problems, challenges we are facing. We need to understand that I, as a new President of the League, was tasked by the Board of Directors with presenting a new development strategy for the KHL. The League right now is a serious developed product. This is not a situation where something needs to be saved. The task is to make it more interesting and appealing [emphasis added]…”

The most interesting notes from the meeting:        

Finances

According to Chernyshenko the League is monitoring the payment of salaries to players. The KHL will start narrowing the gap between the salary floor and the salary cap. Most importantly, there will be no indexing of payrolls to tie them to a dollar or a Euro.

“There is a document, which we will present, where all clubs agreed to and signed an agreement not to index salaries. This is extremely important not to tie them to [foreign currencies], not to give in to the panic. The most important thing is for clubs to guarantee honoring existing contracts. There will be no domino effect and attempts by one of the clubs to use this situation to solve their problems. The financial health of the League is good and stable. We are looking at the current economic situation with calm. This season will be played out as planned.”

Asked specifically whether player salaries will be cut, Chernyshenko replied:

“As I told you, this is the first question we started to discuss. Everyone needs to keep calm. And we have a signed agreement with all clubs to prevent the process of reconsideration of salaries, their indexing in accordance with foreign currency exchange rates. We continue to honor our obligations to players.”

The Calendar

The League wants to have more games played, and will start the next season in August some time with longer breaks to accommodate the Russian national team playing in Euro Hockey Tour legs. “The calendar is the solution of a multi-criteria goal. The main criterion is the interests of the national team.”

The Survival Of The Clubs

Chernyshenko said that the KHL clubs must meet League imposed guidelines without any leniency. This statement related to financial obligations of the clubs.

“We have the information that not all clubs currently are meeting their obligations [read: not paying salaries on time and/or in full]. I am not ruling out that at the end of the season we will reassess and will be tough in our approach as to what clubs are worthy of playing in season.”

Chernyshenko also mentioned that the regulations will not be changed to accommodate particular clubs.

***

The panic that set in early in the week seems to have subsided to a certain extent. The Russian Central Bank and the government came out with aggressive measures to save the economy and the free falling ruble that seem to have worked to a certain extent so far. The US Fed gave the ruble a boost yesterday by deciding not to raise interest rates in the US, which would have strengthened the dollar against all other currencies. 

However, the KHL and its clubs need to adjust to the new realities of living in a world much different than even a year ago. They have to accept that the number of clubs in the league is likely to dwindle.

The financial guarantees that Chernyshenko talked about will have to be scrutinized further, and other mechanisms to ensure funding should be considered, such as trust account.

As much as the League talks about being calm, only time will tell what format the League will survive in. It will certainly be smaller. But for the KHL it may not be a bad thing after all. One of the disappointments, however, is that by having KHL’s interests sacrificed for the IIHF or the Russian Hockey Federation, its importance may take a hit as well.

 

Author: Dmitry Chesnokov
Posted: December 18, 2014, 8:47 pm

Here are your Puck Headlines: A glorious collection of news and views collected from the greatest blogosphere in sports and the few, the proud, the mainstream hockey media.

Photo credit from the website http://www.greatesthockeylegends.com/

• Some amazing hockey Christmas village photos depicting the Battle of Alberta, which include the above described as, “Feeding Wayne Gretzky to a pack of wild lions and tigers at Peyto Lake, near Banff, Alberta.”  [Greatest Hockey Legends]

• Gordie Howe is doing much better. He’s doing some walking and has been getting stronger, says his son Mark. [MLive]

• The Nashville Predators put Viktor Stalberg on waivers. The forward has been a total bust for them. [Rinkside Report]

• Saku Koivu expects quite a return when he is honored Thursday night in Montreal. [Montreal Gazette]

• The Oilers have become a cautionary tale on how teams should handle themselves. Here is a list of lessons Edmonton has taught us. [Grantland]

• A stirring letter from the Beliveau family. Take out the tissues for this one. [Montreal Canadiens]

• The IIHF Hockey Hall of Fame announced its class for 2015. This includes Dominik Hasek, Robert Reichl, Scott Niedermayer, Fran Rider and Maria Rooth. [IIHF]

• How do analytics evaluate goaltenders? A look at how it has changed the netminding game. [NHL]

• A year in review of hockey’s biggest problems … and yes, the mumps are on this list, as are Stadium series jerseys. [The Royal Half]

• Roland McKeown says his favorite player growing up was Drew Doughty. An all-encompassing feature on the Kings prospect. [LA Kings]

• A closer look into Colorado’s puck possession numbers on an individual, player-by-player basis. [Mile High Hockey]

• This week’s look at hockey lines and defensive pairs. The Maple Leafs seem like a pretty good bet up front. [Dobber Hockey]

• A closer look at the Washington Capitals’ second line and how it has done this season and how it has played to the team's success. [Japers Rink]

• The Senators have loaned Curtis Lazar to Team Canada for the upcoming World Junior tournament. While this won’t do much to Ottawa, it certainly will bolster Canada’s chances. [Buzzing the Net]

• What will Islanders fans do next season when the team moves to Brooklyn? To go to games or not to go? [Islanders Insight]

• Gary Bettman lauds the work of Rocky Wirtz in rebuilding the Blackhawks image, and also says the NHL franchises are quite healthy. [CSN Chicago]

• Smith Falls rallies around Neil Doef, who suffered what the article calls a “devastating” injury Sunday. [Ottawa Citizen]

• Jimmy Howard puts a ‘Mega’ Santa on his Christmas themed mask. [In-Goal Magazine]

• Finally, Jarred Tinordi is 6-foot-6, and hits very hard: 

 

 

 

Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: December 18, 2014, 7:58 pm
Vancouver Canucks goalie Ryan Miller (30) keeps his eye on the puck during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014 in Vancouver, British Columbia. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jonathan Hayward)

Ryan Miller has this sort of ‘screw you’ mentality. He has confidence. He has bravado, and he has flair – and a sick flow. 

This is totally different than Miller’s predecessor, Roberto Luongo, who seemed to chafe at the constant drama that surrounded him.

Unlike when Luongo tended the crease, the numbers aren’t there yet for Vancouver goaltender Ryan Miller.

A 2.69 goals against average and .900 save percentage are quite poor, actually.

But when it comes to tending net in Canada’s ‘Lower Mainland’ you need more than just a high save percentage and a low goals against average. You need to be able to shake off constant scrutiny, and the ability to forget what just happened on the last score and move forward. And you also need to focus on the one number that matters … wins.

Currently Miller is 16-7-0, despite losing his last three starts.

We recently caught up with Miller and chatted about life in Vancouver, stopping his brother on a breakaway, and finding peace in training in Los Angeles over the summer.

Q. Your numbers probably aren’t what you would expect out of yourself, but does that really bother you?

MILLER: I think the numbers do indicate a consistency.

My numbers aren’t where I want them to be at the moment. There have been some changes to my environment. There have been some changes to the way I want to play the game and by the end of the season, I want to do it at a consistent level to the point where I think the numbers will align themselves. But right now I want to play well enough to help the team win. Winning is the ultimate thing. Basically it’s just get to the playoffs and get hot.

There are no gray areas in goaltending. You make the save, or you don’t. You seem like someone who can shake off goals pretty well. Does this ability help being in more of a fishbowl like Vancouver?

I hope that is something that’s going to help in the long run. You’re not going to play a long time in the NHL unless you’re able to forget the good and the bad. The good is not going to really be stacked up behind you like bricks on the goal line to help you make saves. But if you can feel the confidence that you know you can do something or make a certain kind of save going into a certain situation where you have that feeling. Ultimately it’s not going to be there to make it happen every time. And the same with the bad stuff. You’re not going to make the wrong read or a bad decision or get a bad break every time. You have to prepare yourself good or bad every time, and you have to try to bring the same kind of energy every time. That becomes a challenge.

We’re going through a stretch right now where it has been a little more difficult. We had a good start and a long road trip. Then we started to get a little bit of fatigue in our game, some habits crept in and we’re working our way out of it. But one thing that’s going to get out of it is, you have to trust the system. You have to trust the procedure, you have to be able to get back to the basic mentality where you don’t stray from the structure that makes you a good player and makes you a competitive team. You have to believe that’s what’s going to get you through.

You train in Los Angeles during the summer. You have a pretty good group currently. What was it like when you started and what’s it like now? Seems like people have caught onto your secret.

I think we kind of had a lull when we first got there. The Kings hadn’t won a Stanley Cup yet, so they had a few summer camps going on. But there was a lull where guys were in and out of town. Then when I got to know who was around and I got the idea I could be available and some of the other guys were available, we started to make a point to get on the ice a little earlier in the summer from time to time.

We connected with some of the local guys who were up and coming … guys in college and juniors and entering their early pro years like Beau Bennett, Emerson Etem, (recently retired) George Parros and Eric Nystrom. It’s a lot of fun to be around those guys, and I think we have a good core group of guys who lean on each other to make sure we’re pushing. From time-to-time, most summers we have a small group of guys we want to come in, just some of the local boys. They’ll stay for a week or two and skate – sometimes longer. The boys know we’re there if they want to come to LA during the summer. We’re there, we have ice-time, and it feels like there are a few more guys filtering out that way.

I moved out there to be near my wife about five years ago. It coincided with when the Michigan State skates in my hometown lightened up a little bit. My brother skates mainly in Detroit now. East Lansing slowed down a little bit. It used to be all the boys I went to college with. We had a nice training situation, but as they moved on it dried up a little bit more.

You played Detroit this year and you stopped your brother (Drew) on a breakaway. Your mom was at the game. Did you see the video of her reaction?

I saw the replay. That’s very much my mom in a nutshell right there. She’s a lot of fun – a great woman. Really emotional and really connected to her family. She makes a one-of-a-kind coat or something homemade. Every time we play each other, she’s had something she has made to reflect that she’s a ‘mom divided’ for the day and is somehow rooting for both teams to do well.

It has been a lot of fun to have the opportunity to play against my brother and have my family be at a lot of those games, so yeah … and to have Drew work himself into a breakaway. I think he felt he ran out of room. I think he felt if he had more time he would have made a little more of a move. I think since he ran out of space, I was able to close off one of his options and it happened to be the one he was picking.

So you’re not going to say ‘I had him all the way’ then?

No, he’s a good player. I think he’s underrated in his ability to create offense. He’s a very responsible person by nature. He knows his role. He’s a very loyal kind of person. He knows what’s expected of himself. He’s not going to get caught cheating on the ice. He takes himself out of the offense sometimes to the benefit of his linemates, so I think when you see moments like that, and he’s had a few of them over the years where he has been able to showcase his hands, knocking stuff out of the air, putting (the puck) down, making a play, the ability to play with different linemates over the years … he’s an underrated player when it comes to seeing the ice on the offensive side. He knows his role and knows what’s asked of him. He plays great defense and he’s responsible.

What is it like playing in a real, true Canadian market – understanding that there are a lot of Canadian Buffalo Sabres fans?

Everything is kind of geared towards hockey being the major sport. There’s a little more attention paid to it, where with Buffalo I think … it’s not really relief, but you share with the Bills a little bit. Here it’s, most commercials as you get towards the winter have hockey in them.

There’s a lot of emphasis on hockey being the premier sport, whereas in the States we have the football season and people get into the hockey season a little bit later. Here it’s on everywhere and people – it’s not just this market. They know what’s going on around the league, very similar to the way football is constantly on the background on television. As you go through your day in the States, you see sports highlights in different restaurants or passing by bars and restaurants, anywhere with a TV, you get some football highlights. Here you have all the hockey highlights.

It’s nice that the sport has so much attention and it has been interesting to kind of feel what football must feel.

You’re talking about football a lot. Do you miss the NFL?

I wasn’t a huge football fan. I have a respect for the sport, but I’m not a real die-hard kinda guy. Culturally there are some similarities between hockey and football … between the two countries.

Ryan Miller #39 of USA and Sidney Crosby #87 of Canada shake hands after the ice hockey men's gold medal game between USA and Canada on day 17 of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics at Canada Hockey Place on February 28, 2010 in Vancouver, Canada. Canada defeated USA 3-2 in overtime. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)There is a 2010 Canadian gold medal banner hanging in the rafters at Rogers Arena. Does that tick you off since losing that Olympic gold medal game (in the same building) to Canada was very emotional for you?

It reflects a time where I thought I prepared myself mentally to compete in the tournament at a high level and I was able to accomplish that. We were one shot away on either side … we got back in the game and we had our opportunities and they scored. It was frustrating not to get the win, but my mental preparation for that season started well before the season.

I was proud of the fact I was able to develop a plan, execute the plan and play at a high level with a certain level of focus and was able to prove something to myself, knowing I could execute on a plan and build myself up to a point where when I have an opportunity like that, where I can do that again.

Did you find you had more of a national following for yourself in the United States after the game?

It was something where you want to be respected as a player and as a group overall. It was definitely a transitional period where different guys could make a step up and make a claim that USA Hockey was moving forward. I think we did that, and I think we represented ourselves well in this last Olympics too. We had a tight game against Canada and it was an emotional loss. And I think that was kind of reflected in the bronze medal game.

But I think the last two Olympics have been a nice step forward for the United States and I was happy to be a part of a positive moment with USA Hockey for sure.

Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: December 18, 2014, 6:51 pm

Photo credit, screen shot from pittsburghpenguins.com The NHL's face of the mumps looked, well ... normal in a video produced by the Pittsburgh Penguins. 

Sidney Crosby, the league's biggest star (and unofficial mumps spokesman after a Quagmire from Family Guy-like shot last Friday) skated with teammates in advance of their Thursday evening game against Colorado, talked to reporters and most importantly ... didn't rip the Penguins or their medical staff for their handling of his issue. 

"I felt good. To be honest with you I think that … my situation is probably the wrong one to try to analyze because I had a previous thing that happened a couple of weeks before that I was dealing with for at least 10 days to two weeks," Crosby said, also noting it was generally in the same area the mumps afflicts. 

And then added, "Our staff was well aware of it, they did a great job."

Below is a video of a less mumpy Crosby ... though the camera person clearly is shooting the left side of Sid's face.

Crosby's statement is consistent with the Penguins' prior timeline which said he suffered an injury to his salivary gland on the right side of his neck on Nov. 28. He also did say he was tested for mumps and his tests were negative. 

Meanwhile, forward Beau Bennett tested positive for the mumps, and visited a children's hospital, reportedly before his positive test result. 

As for the questions as to why Crosby even talked to reporters in the first place Friday, which led to the ridiculous mumps photo -- he said he didn't look quite as bad before the skate. 

"When I saw that picture ... that’s not what I looked like before I went on the ice," he joked.

While his statements seem to check out OK and are on the mark with the Pens message, again ... why was he allowed to talk to the media Friday with a giant bulge on his face? Didn't anyone notice this? It did lead to a great photo, incredible exposure for 84 Lumber, and more leaguewide vigilance. Which is funny, since it seemed way less important until Crosby got the mumps. 

Not like another former Hart Trophy, Stanley Cup winner/Canadian Olympic gold medalist had the mumps ... oh wait, what about that Perry fellow in Anaheim?

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Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: December 18, 2014, 6:00 pm

(Puck Daddy presents its annual look back at the year in hockey. Check back every day through the New Year for our many lists and hot takes.) 

Sometimes images stay with you longer than a video. A single moment in time, whether funny or poignant, could tell a bigger story. The game of hockey provides such stunning photography that choosing the best 10 in 2014 wasn't an easy task. 

Here are the top 10 hockey photos of 2014.

10. Orebro fans' touching tribute to player's mom  (STA via Aftonbladet)

Jared Aulin has spent the last four years playing for Orebro of the Swedish Hockey League. Last spring, he found out his mother had been diagnosed with cancer, a battle she would sadly lose in October. Before a game in March, Orebro fans showed support for one of their own by unveiling this banner in one end of the rink.

9. Team USA's women see golden dreams dashed by a post. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Nathan Denette)

Team USA came this close to scoring an empty-netter and putting away Canada to win the gold medal in Sochi. Instead, the puck clanked off the post, giving their bitter rivals new life. The Canadians would take advantage of the opportunity by tying the game with under a minute left in the third period. In overtime, Marie-Philip Poulin played hero as the Canadian women won their fourth consecutive Olympic gold medal.

Here's what it looked and sounded like from the stands, via YouTube user chezyt:

8. A picturesque Big House, the stage for the 2014 Winter Classic (Leon Halip/Getty Images)

105,491 fans. An "Original Six" match-up. A snowy setting. The 2014 Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium was the perfect setting for the league's annual outdoor showcase.

7. Sochi Bear reacts to Russia's exit from Olympic hockey tournament (@Sochi2014, Twitter)

Russian fans were left disappointed when their hockey team exited the Sochi’s men’s tournament without a medal. Their 3-1 loss to Finland in the quarterfinals ended hopes of glorious celebrations and left poor Sochi Bear despondant and inconsolable. 

6. T.J. Oshie vs. Sergei Bobrovsky (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Even though it was only the second game of the tournament for both the U.S. and Russia, the T.J Oshie show in the shootout was one of the more memorable moments of the entire Sochi Olympics. The Team USA forward beat Sergei Bobrovsky four times in six chances en route to a 3-2 win. This photo perfectly captures the intensity of the one-on-one battle.

5. Anze Kopitar and his dog, Gustl, enjoy treats from their own Stanley Cups (Anze Kopitar, Instagram)

While daddy enjoyed munching on a treat from the real Stanley Cup, Gustl had to settle for his own in a smaller Cup. It might not be the best photo of 2014, but it is definitely the most adorable one.

4. Travis Hamonic, Nick Bjugstad share a moment along the boards (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Just your typical beautiful work from Bruce Bennett, who captures this great shot of the moment of impact. The ice shavings flying, Hamonic's reaction, the reflection in the glass... hockey is gorgeous.

3. Jaromir Jagr performs selfie photobomb (@RayFoy4, Twitter)

Jagr has turned into a softy in his old age. No longer the young diva, the 42-year old has turned into a wise, old sage, focused on having fun in his old age. While he’s still working on his selfie game off the ice, Jagr is pretty much a pro when helping others take their own. (Cory Schneider's presence in the photo is really underrated.)

2. Guy Lafleur says goodbye to Jean Beliveau (@Pandaramaaa, Twitter)

The hockey world took a hit earlier this month when we lost the great Jean Beliveau. During his two-day wake at Bell Centre, a live feed caught this image of one legendary Montreal Canadien saying goodbye to another.

1. Gary Bettman meets Kiss (Robert Beck - Sports Illustrated/Getty Images)

When the NHL Commissioner pictured how the Stadium Series game at Dodger Stadium would go, he probably never expected to be put in a head-lock by Gene Simmons of Kiss. But it happened and it’s our best hockey photo of the 2014.

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Sean Leahy is the associate editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Sean_Leahy

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Author: Sean Leahy
Posted: December 18, 2014, 5:19 pm

Steve Moses of Jokerit is one of the KHL’s leading offensive players this season: 43 points in 39 games, including 26 goals. He’s a scoring machine; alas, that includes his own net.

In a game against Slovan on Monday, goalie Riku Helenius made a terrific pad save on Vaclav Nedorost. The puck rested on the goal line, its momentum stopped.

That’s when Moses decided to liberate the puck from the crease. And it worked out about as well as it did for the Egyptian army crossing the Red Sea.

Our hero pulled the puck back off his goalie’s elbow. It bounced back to the goal line. He tried to bring it out again … and he put it into his own net.

Helenius was, uh, not amused, smacking his goalie paddle against the cage in frustration.

Or maybe he's angry he hasn’t gotten a check in two months. Thanks, Ruble.

Memo to Leominster's own Mr. Moses: STOP TRYING TO BE SO HELPFUL. You're the guy who tries to save a kitten from a tree and drops the poor thing into a sewer. 

Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: December 18, 2014, 4:27 pm

It’s pretty easy to connect the dots that would bring Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock to take over the Edmonton Oilers: 

  1. He has an expiring contract with the Red Wings.
  2. He’ll want to make a lot of money.
  3. Darryl Katz has a lot of money. Maybe not, like, Little Caesar’s money, but money nonetheless.
  4. Bob Nicholson was his boss with the Canadian Olympic team. Bob Nicholson is now a president in the Oilers organization.
  5. Mike Babcock considers Saskatoon his hometown.
  6. He coached in Red Deer.

These are obviously concrete, unwavering connections between the Oilers or their geographic home and the best coach in the NHL.

Does that mean he would ever, ever coach the Oilers? Even if the other 29 teams contracted the mump and the NHL was reduced to Edmonton intrasquad games? 

No.

But Terry Jones of the Edmonton Sun made the case anyway, with these facts as well as:

Why in the world would Babcock even consider coaching a team which four good men — Pat Quinn, Tom Renney, Ralph Krueger and Dallas Eakins — couldn’t win with?

Well, what if they finished 30th and won the draft lottery?

Connor McDavid is supposedly a generational player the likes of Sidney Crosby. And the consolation prize, Jack Eichel, is supposed to rank up there, too. Even if that didn’t happen, Babcock would certainly have an idea what’s involved with this team having hired Renney as his associate coach in Detroit after he was fired by the Oilers.

Right now it would qualify as tampering. But when the time comes, as one source who has worked with Nicholson and Babcock made the point to your agent Wednesday, it only makes sense for the former Hockey Canada boss to talk to him first. “He’d have to talk to him. Why wouldn’t he? There’s no salary cap on coaches. And there’s a relationship between the two of them that goes back to 1997.”

Honestly, because Terry Jones is pretty good at this, by the end of the column you’re like “huh … maybe?”

But the idea that Babcock would show more loyalty to Nicholson than he would Ken Holland and Mike Ilitch is hard to comprehend. Not as hard as Babcock taking over a major reclamation project in Edmonton when winning is his only obsession, but still difficult to conceive.

And why the hell would Babcock go from the smooth machine of the Red Wings’ front office to the nostalgia-fueled finger-pointing contest in Edmonton anyway?

s/t Malik

Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: December 18, 2014, 2:59 pm

No. 1 Star: Craig Anderson, Ottawa Senators

Anderson posted his third shutout of the year and 29th of his career during a 2-0 win over the New Jersey Devils. He turned aside 34 shots to earn his second win in three starts. Kyle Turris scored early in the first period and put the game away with an empty-netter with one second left in the game. Anderson almost got in on the scoring himself with attempt at the empty net late in the game:

No. 2 Star: Kari Lehtonen, Dallas Stars

The Stars opened up a three-game western Canada road trip with a 2-0 shutout of the Vancouver Canucks. Colton Sceviour opened the scoring early in the second period and then Antoine Roussel turned off the lights with an empty-netter late in the third period. Lehtonen made 27 saves and recorded his second shutout of the season and 29th of his career.

No. 3 Star: Niklas Svedberg, Boston Bruins

Loui Eriksson’s goal 1:30 into overtime helped the Boston Bruins beat the Minnesota Wild 3-2 and earn their first win in four games. Svedberg was excellent between the pipes, stopping 35 shots for his second win in three starts.  

Honorable Mention: According to the AP, Eriksson now has 29 points in 31 career games against the Wild … Via the NHL, only Alex Ovechkin (10) and Steven Stamkos (8) have more overtime goals since 2008-09 than Eriksson (7).

Did You Know? 

Per Elias: Niklas Svedberg is the first goalie in @NHLBruins history to require OT in 4 of his first 5 career NHL wins (3 OT, 1 shootout).

— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) December 18, 2014

Dishonorable Mention: New Jersey has dropped five in a row … The Devils failed on all five power play opportunities … Will Brett Sutter be hearing from the Department of Player Safety after this hit on Craig Cunningham?

Finally, via CJZero, this is not how you Dougie (Hamilton):

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Author: Sean Leahy
Posted: December 18, 2014, 5:50 am

Binghamton Senators goaltender Andrew Hammond had a short night on Wednesday against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. After facing three shots in the game's opening 36 seconds, he allowed three goals. If that wasn’t bad enough, the three goals came in a span of 21 seconds. 

Yes, three goals. Twenty-one seconds. Petr Straka, Jason Akeson and Andrew Gordon were the history makers.

Said Gordon afterward, via the Phantoms' YouTube page: "I've never even done it in a videogame!"

The rest of the period was dominated mostly by the Senators, who finished the first out-shooting the Phantoms 15-6, but remained off the scoreboard until late in the second period.

The feat tied the AHL record for fastest three goals by one team, which was set by the Hershey Bears in 1962. The record for fastest three goals in an AHL game is 20 seconds, set by the Worcester IceCats and Springfield Falcons in 1997

In case you were wondering, the NHL record for the fastest three goals by one team is held by the Boston Bruins, who set the mark in 20 seconds against the Vancouver Canucks in Feb. 1971.

Lehigh Valley would hang on in the end for a 5-3 win.

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Sean Leahy is the associate editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Sean_Leahy

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Author: Sean Leahy
Posted: December 18, 2014, 3:27 am

The Calgary Flames have been one of the NHL’s feel-good stories during the first two months of the 2014-15 season. The scrappy bunch have posted a 17-14-2 record and are tied with the Los Angeles Kings for the last wild card spot in the Western Conference. Mark Giordano is again in the Norris Trophy conversation; youngsters Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan are producing; and Jonas Hiller is providing quality goaltending, something the team hasn’t seen since Miikka Kiprusoff retired.

If you’re Bob Hartley, despite a current six-game losing streak, then you’d want to parlay that early-season success into a contract extension. And that he did.

The Flames announced on Wednesday that they’ve signed Hartley to a multi-year extension after guiding the team to a 71-79-13 record over the last three seasons. 

“I said a couple of years ago that I felt that this was the biggest challenge of my career, and I still believe it,” said Hartley, via the Calgary Sun. “I love the direction that this organization is taking. I'm just very grateful to be part of this great organization, great city, and I'm looking forward to many more wins to come.” 

But the thing about the Flames this year is that their current fall was predictable. Their PDO, a stat that is the combined total of a team’s even-strength save percentage and shooting percentage and should average out to 100, was sky high, well above 100, a telling sign that a decline was about to come. It currently sits at 100.6, according to War on Ice

As their PDO drops, their possession numbers remain poor under Hartley, currently hovering around a 47-percent Fenwick, which measures shots on net and missed shots. That number hasn't improved during Hartley's tenure.

It's great that Calgary owns the league's top defensive pairing and has a number of young players producing for them, but they're quickly slipping out of the playoff hunt as they come back down to Earth. Why the rush to extend Hartley's stay and not wait and see how this plays out by April?

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Sean Leahy is the associate editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Sean_Leahy

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Author: Sean Leahy
Posted: December 18, 2014, 12:56 am

James Neal has been fined $2,000 by the NHL for diving/embellishment. And when you see the play that led to the issue, you'll probably know why. 

Behold Neal pull a 'cannonball' leap at the 19:39 mark of Nashville's Saturday game against San Jose after Barclay Goodrow gently tapped him on the leg. 

The video please...

Despite the fact that Neal has gone to great pains to reconstruct his 'bad boy' image around the NHL, this certainly doesn't help. The three prior suspensions also adds a little tarnish as well. But if there were Vegas-like odds on a player to be named first in the NHL's new diving crackdown Neal would have been a good bet. 

Former NHL referee Paul Stewart took Neal to the woodshed a year ago for his takedown of the then Pittsburgh forward on Hockeybuzz. 

I have also seen enough of his play to know something else: James Neal is not my type of hockey player. He has been involved in multiple incidents, showing reckless disregard for the safety of fellow players. Furthermore, he’s a player who has acquired the reputation for being a diver.

The NHL, in its release, said that Neal had been given a warning after a Nov. 13 game against the St. Louis Blues. And it clearly wasn't totally received in Neal's consciousness in time for the San Jose game. 

So along with his prior dirty play, James Neal has officially been branded as a diver by the NHL. Give him a big 'D' to wear on his jersey or something. 

So now that the ice has been broken, who's next? 

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Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: December 17, 2014, 11:11 pm

Oct 28, 2014; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Bruins left wing Brad Marchand (63) reacts to being defeated by the Minnesota Wild 4-3 at TD Banknorth Garden. (Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports)The “Wednesday Rivalry Night” franchise for NBC Sports Network tapped into something every hockey fan loves about the NHL: The storied blood feuds between franchises, and games where animosity is assumed and intensity is expected. 

It’s not an exact science. The Detroit Red Wings faced the Buffalo Sabres on “Rivalry Night” in 2013, right after the Wings realigned from the West for the first time in decades. The Wings also faced the Washington Capitals on “Rivalry Night” this year, rekindling the intense emotional war we all witnessed when the Wings swept the Capitals in the … the … some Stanley Cup Final in the late 1990s.

On Wednesday night, the gimmick’s concept will be stretched like taffy as the Minnesota Wild take on the Boston Bruins. As Stanley Cup Of Chowder cheekily noted, these teams don’t really have a rivalry outside of “NBC said we do.”

This is, of course, shortchanging the storied history between the teams, including:

- Having had players like Brian Rolston, Shane Hnidy, Chuck Kobasew and Randy Robitaille spend time with both teams.

-  The fact that Manny Fernandez won a Jennings with Boston after being traded by the Wild to the Bruins in 2007.

- The continued employment of Matt Cooke by the Wild.

See … it’s practically Oilers/Flames in its history and intensity!

None of this is NBC’s fault, exactly. The NHL scheduled three games for Wednesday night. Ottawa and the Devils don’t have a rivalry. Dallas and Vancouver don’t have one either, unless you count the notion that the Stars’ former AHL coach is thriving with the Canucks. Minnesota and Boston afforded NBCSN the chance to have two big markets face each other; what else could they do?

So how is NBC attempting to market a “Rivalry Night” between two teams that are anything but? 

Here’s the official press release on the game:

ZACH PARISE AND MINNESOTA WILD HOST PATRICE BERGERON AND BOSTON BRUINS ON NBCSN’S WEDNESDAY NIGHT RIVALRY

WEDNESDAY NIGHT RIVALRY: BRUINS-WILD – WEDNESDAY AT 8 P.M. ET ON NBCSN

STAMFORD, Conn. – Dec. 15, 2014 – NBCSN’s coverage of the 2014-15 NHL regular season continues with an interconference matchup on Wednesday Night Rivalry, as Zach Parise and the Minnesota Wild host Patrice Bergeron and the Boston Bruins Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET. Pre-game coverage begins with NHL Live at 7 p.m. ET, highlighted by a sit-down interview with Pierre McGuire and Zach Parise.

This week’s matchup on Wednesday Night Rivalry is the second meeting of the season between the Bruins and Wild. On October 28, Parise led Minnesota’s third-period comeback in Boston, scoring the first of the Wild’s three third-period goals in a 4-3 win.

Minnesota has dominated Boston since the Wild entered the league in 2000, holding a 12-2-1 advantage in the all-time series. Parise has notched nine points (3g/6a) in his last seven games, including the game-tying goal and a shootout marker in Minnesota’s 4-3 shootout win on Saturday night. The Bruins enter this week’s action following a 3-2 shootout loss to Ottawa on Saturday afternoon. Boston faces Nashville tomorrow night, while Minnesota will be in Chicago to face the Blackhawks.

Emmy Award-winning play-by-play commentatorMike ‘Doc’ Emrick, analyst Eddie Olczyk,and Emmy Award-winning ‘Inside-the-Glass’ analystPierre McGuirewill have the call from Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.

So they’re not exactly trying to push this thing as an actual rivalry either, something further evidenced by this Vine published by NBC Sports:

Honestly, what hockey rivalry isn’t born from one player throwing a candy cane that knocks another player’s head off on a spring, only to have the second player use his magic super breath to transform the first player’s body into that of a gingerbread man?

On second thought, we’re totally watching Rivalry Night tonight.

Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: December 17, 2014, 10:20 pm
The Dallas Stars have the greatest jumbotron in the NHL – and all others must bow down in its presence. 
Just kidding … sort of. 
Dallas’ jumbotron has become pretty famous for trolling multiple organizations and situations. Whether they’re in Canada, the United States or ‘Catfished’ football players, all are puny in the presence of the Stars jumbotron. 
Dallas game ops – which controls the almighty jumbotron – includes far more than just snark. It’s a group of people who like Monty Python, and try to skate the fine line between funny and offensive. And they generally do a good job of it. 
We chatted with Jason Walsh, who is the Stars' assistant vice-president for broadcasting and creative. 
He’s not exactly the man behind the tron, but part of the group that creates the jokes. 
Q: So that Winnipeg bit – amongst others. How do they all come about?
WALSH: We have a pretty good group of people who do our show. They’re all pretty funny individuals to be honest. And we decided about two years ago, as we realized we were probably going to be moving into a new division, that we need to create some rivalries. So that got us thinking that we are basically going to engage those fan bases, but do it in a tasteful way. So… tasteful is something that can be taken differently depending on what side you’re on. People in Winnipeg may not have appreciated our comments. However, we felt we didn’t take advantage of any individual player on the team, or the franchise itself because that would not be in good taste. But we’ll take pot shots at Winnipeg, Toronto or Colorado, and you guys can take pot shots at us. That’s great. We’re just needling each other. At the end of the day you have people who go to these games and they pay you to watch a hockey game. They’re also paying to be entertained. It’s one of the hardest things to do, is to get people to laugh … and to be interested in the rivalry. That’s kind of the general thought process behind all the things we do is … we want to create a little rivalry, we appreciate all the teams in our division, or just within the league itself, and when the opportunity reveals itself, we will make people laugh if we can. 
How difficult is it to walk the line, and not overstep your bounds but be funny for a huge audience?
It’s a very difficult line to walk, but I think though once you create it and you get a good laugh out of it before it ever goes to air, you sit back and say ‘Who can possibly be offended by this?’ and then you run through the gambit of options and you feel that this is within good taste, so we’re going to run with it. That’s the way we look at it. You don’t want to come across as cheap. You don’t want the cheap laugh, that’s not worth it. You can get a big laugh, but it’s not worth it at the end of the day. You want something that’s a little inquisitive, a little bit funny and make people laugh. That’s the goal. 
You guys seem to realize that it’s OK to not take yourselves too seriously either, no?

People come to our games or tune into our games to get away from real life. It doesn’t have to be so serious all the time. That’s what they’re doing … coming to be entertained. They want to watch the game, they want to see a win hopefully and they want to have a few laughs. That’s all you try to provide at the end of the night. 

Who is the Monty Python fan on you staff?
We have an individual, his name is Jason Danby, he’s the director of game entertainment, and he’s an invaluable asset to our organization. He’s a guy who should get all the credit for taking this in-arena presentation from where it used to be to where it is now. He has been around the organization for about eight years and has been running the show for the last two years. There is a bit of a group of people who come up with different things. He spearheads a lot of it, but there are other individuals as well.
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Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: December 17, 2014, 8:26 pm

Here are your Puck Headlines: A glorious collection of news and views collected from the greatest blogosphere in sports and the few, the proud, the mainstream hockey media.

<a target=

• We knew Emerson Etem had the mumps, but we didn't think it was THIS bad... [@brianrowland]

• The mumps strike again in Pittsburgh! Beau Bennett and an intern for the Penguins are the latest victims. Marc-Andre Fleury, Olli Maatta and Roberto Bortuzzo were being the latest players to be tested. [Tribune Live]

• With all the concern about the mumps epidemic in the league, teams are being cautious and postponing holiday visits to hospitals. [ESPN]

• For NHL players and other athletes, blood clots provide a deadly threat. [SI]

• "Until Hockey Canada hears the word no from the Ottawa Senators they’ll continue to hold out hope for Curtis Lazar." [Buzzing the Net]

• Will the first major sports league in Vegas really be … the NHL? [Grantland]

• Eugene Melnyk, a man who loves the sound of his own voice, talks LeBreton Flats, the budget, grandmothers diagnosing mumps, and so much more. [The 6th Sens]

• Bobby Ryan: The New Daniel Alfredsson? [Silver Seven Sens]

• "Why Ryan Miller needs to be the back-up more often."A goaltending controversy in Vancouver? Well, I never... [Canucks Army]

• Sorry Bruins fans, you're not going to get Taylor Hall. [Days of Y'Orr]

• A possible tipping point: asking Oilers fans to continue to be patient with team. [Oilers Nation]

• Braden Holtby: Capitals' masked man masking concerning trend. [Japers' Rink]

• Buy, sell or hold? Looking at the best forwards in the Eastern Conference, fantasy-wise. [Dobber Hockey]

• "The next time you wonder what’s the difference between men’s and women’s college sports, look no further than the University of Minnesota Duluth, which has announced it won’t renew the contract of the women’s hockey coach, Shannon Miller, because of 'financial considerations.'" [MPR News]

• CWHL All-Star Game 2014: Exhibit A for why we need more exposure for women's hockey. [Hockey Wilderness]

• Now that both jerseys have been released, HbD breaks down the looks of the Kings and Sharks stadium series ensembles. [Hockey by Design]

• Comparing attendance figures (this season and last) for all 30 teams. [Pro Hockey Talk]

• A special look at what Santa is getting the St. Louis Blues players this year. [St. Louis Game Time]

• Finally, San Jose's 'Holiday Sweater' rap video is one of the ages. Here's a look at the team as they see the finished product for the first time.

Author: Jen Neale
Posted: December 17, 2014, 7:23 pm

LISTEN HERE! [And if that doesn't work, try here.]

It's a Wednesday edition of Marek vs. Wyshynski beginning at 2:00 p.m. ET/11:00 a.m. PT, and we're talking about the following and more:

Special Guest Star: Jody Shelley of the Blue Jackets discusses the team. 

• Dat shootout. 

• Review of Road To The Winter Classic. 

• News and notes. 

Question of the Day: GOING POSTAL! ASK US ANYTHING! Email puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or hit us on Twitter with the hashtag #MvsW to @wyshynski or @jeffmarekClick here for the Sportsnet live stream or click the play button above!

Click here to download podcasts from the show each day. Subscribe to the podcast viaiTunes or Feedburner.

Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: December 17, 2014, 7:01 pm

(Puck Daddy presents its annual look back at the year in hockey. Check back every day through the New Year for our many lists and hot takes.) 

Many thoughts, ideas and actions underachieved in the year 2014.

Whether it was a free agent signing, a leadership experiment, or a country’s dominance over another in international competition – we all enter the new year upset and frustrated at various events that occurred the year before. 

Here are the Top-10 events/situations/teams/people/viruses that were the biggest busts of 2014.

10. The flu 

Whatever happened to the virus that used to afflict and quarantine NHL players? It has been bumped … by the mumps as the NHL’s ‘it’ problem in 2014. Both have vaccines, and both aren’t usually life threatening to young, healthy males. But a coach used to just say, “he has the flu” or “he’s sick.” Now we need clarifications on every illness to make sure the CDC hasn’t been called in. Adios flu … you’re donezo.   

9. United States v. Canada in the Olympics 

When the chips are down and you need to bet on a win in a big international game, don’t go for the United States in hockey over Canada in the Olympics. Ever. While #merica may have World Junior heroes like John Carlson and Seth Jones, the country’s Olympic teams just seem to cave against their Canadian brethren, as happened in Sochi when the US men and women lost to their friendly Tim Hortons drinkin’ neighbors to the North in important games.

8. Dallas Eakins

The Edmonton Oilers coach was considered one of the hottest names on the market. He even had the support of superstar Taylor Hall. And he only lasted 113 games, being fired 31 games into the 2014-15 season. Eakins accrued a woeful 36-63-14 record in Edmonton. And you’re not hearing the ‘he’s going to find another job soon’ from anyone about him. His own hubris in some way, added to the calamity that is the Oilers. 

7. The dry scrape 

Oh dry scrape, we hardly knew ye. We were told you would make overtime more skating friendly with a better sheet of ice, but you only lasted until mid-November, before the NHL decided you were lame. Good call. The added time between regulation and overtime killed in-game momentum and slowed down the action.

6. Thomas Vanek and Paul Stastny

The two ‘goes home’ or ‘goes back to where he played college’ quasi-feel good stories of the summer have been bust during the 2014-15 season. Stastny has just 12 points in 23 games for the St. Louis Blues. Vanek has just 18 points in 29 games for the Minnesota Wild and has made more headlines off ice than on ice. But hey, both have a combined $47.5 million coming to them, so they’ll be OK regardless of mediocre stats.

5. San Jose Sharks ‘massive’ overhaul  

In the 2014 offseason, the San Jose Sharks decided to go without a guy with a ‘C’ on his jersey for the upcoming year. But instead of just stripping it from Joe Thornton, giving it to Joe Pavelski and simply saying “we’re giving it to a younger player because he’s younger” they decided to take it from Thornton and go with all alternate captains … until further notice.  This all ended up being pomp and circumstance and caused an unnecessary distraction. Nothing much has changed. The Sharks are still firmly in the playoff hunt, and probably an outside Stanley Cup threat – like they are every year.

4. Russian Olympic men’s hockey

There’s always tons of pressure on the hosting country for an Olympics. Russia was no different, especially when your team’s biggest fan is its unquestioned leader. Regardless, Russia didn’t medal, losing to Finland in the quarterfinal. Maybe they should have called in said leader as a ringer.

3. Connor McDavid tanking in Buffalo

Before the season, it seemed like a slam-dunk that Buffalo was going to get hockey’s boy wonder. But stop the presses. The Sabres have a comfortable nine-point cushion over the league-worst team, the Carolina Hurricanes. Also, Arizona has just 26 points. Bring Connor to the Sun Belt to save hockey in Glendale!

2. Forensic investigations

Oilers general manager Craig MacTavish has looked more like Inspector Clouseau than Sherlock Holmes after he launched his search into finding out the problems behind the constantly underachieving bunch. He has fired coaches, and shopped star players. But ultimately the fault falls on management and ownership. They’re all thick as thieves, so basically nobody is going to be held accountable. And the Oilers will continue to suck. Either way, this ‘investigation’ has come up wrong. 

1. A mega-market Stanley Cup Final

The dream seemed so real in Game 1, when New York held a 2-0 advantage. Maybe the underdog Rangers indeed had some punch in them. Then Los Angeles did what it always does – win big games.  The Kings came from behind to take Game 1 and never looked back. The Los Angeles/New York big market glory final that we’ve all been waiting for turned into a dud – a five-game win by the Kings and their second Cup in three years.

New York Rangers left wing Benoit Pouliot looks down after losing to the Los Angeles Kings during overtime in Game 5 of the NHL Stanley Cup Final series Friday, June 13, 2014, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: December 17, 2014, 4:50 pm

Nov 22, 2014; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Bruins left wing Loui Eriksson (21) skates with the puck during the third period against the Montreal Canadiens at TD Banknorth Garden. (Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports)NASHVILLE – Boston forward Loui Eriksson is well aware of Tyler Seguin’s point producing with the Dallas Stars.

It’s something he says he’s not concerned with. But the annoyance and frustration for the slumping Eriksson is clear, yet also subtle in his polite ‘Swedish’ manner, when asked specifically about the former Boston Bruins wild child.

“Yeah, he’s doing a good job there scoring a lot of goals,” Eriksson said. “It’s a different system they play a different way than we do here, so yeah … he’s on fire right now and he’s playing really well, like I said, scoring goals.

"But that’s nothing I can really do about. I’m just trying to play how I want to play and not worry about that.”

No matter what, Eriksson is currently a symbol of the Bruins’ struggles. Boston, which has lost six of seven and is ranked 22nd in the NHL in offense at 2.45 goals per-game, could definitely use Seguin. But honestly, what it really needs is Eriksson (who has 15 points in 31 games this year) playing at the top of his game. 

It’s easy to forget that Eriksson had over 70 points for three straight years on ‘meh’ Dallas Stars teams. He was an all-situation type player. Penalty kill, power play – if you needed an assist he could pass the puck. A goal? He had 36 in 2008-09. 

But really, he has never been the same since John Scott ruined him on Oct. 23, 2013 with a dirty charge well after the much smaller Eriksson had delivered the puck.

It was a senseless and pointless play by Scott – who is somehow still employed by an NHL team and only got a seven-game suspension. 

The slick Swede has dealt with a much longer sentence. Though Eriksson won’t admit that the concussion changed him, there is something different after a 2013-14 where he had another head injury after the Scott play.  

“I feel good right now,” Eriksson said. “It definitely was a tough year with the concussion and everything, but that’s in the past now and I’m used to trying to get better here and playing with this team.” 

There are other plausible theories and possibilities that also lend to Eriksson’s swift demise with Boston. The Bruins are a slower-tempo team than the Stars. Also, Jamie Benn is a pretty solid linemate, and anyone would see a drop in production if you took him away from Benn.

But concussions have wrecked careers before. And the more we learn about them, the scarier they seem.

The year before Paul Kariya was concussed by a vicious Gary Suter cross check, he averaged 1.43 points-per-game. The year of the injury, he was at 1.41 before it happened. Then started a decline that saw his points per-game never reach higher than 1.23. 

It’s somewhat unfair to compare Eriksson, who is still only 29, to Kariya in his early 20s in the dead-puck era. But forwards need to go to certain areas of the ice to score. Places where they take punishment. And if they’re afraid because of a previous injury, it’s hard. And considering that we know multiple head injuries can lead to various off-ice problems, why would a player like Eriksson want to continue to put himself in major harms way? You can't really blame him if that's somehow playing into his consciousness. 

Says the Boston Globe: 

When Loui Eriksson arrived in Boston, he was touted as a perfect fit, an underrated forward with offensive and defensive abilities, with skills and talent that would allow him to slide right into the Bruins system. It hasn’t quite worked out that way.

Eriksson’s difficult first season in Boston could be explained by forces out of his control, by the pair of concussions that limited him to 37 points (10 goals, 27 assists) in 61 games. It took until the Olympic break, along with a pairing with center Carl Soderberg, for Eriksson to look even a little like the player the Bruins thought they were getting .

His less-than-stellar second season, though, is slightly tougher to explain.

And as Seguin continues to roll on Dallas, it makes the trade look so much worse for Boston, which is unfair to Eriksson in general. He was brought in to be the anti-Seguin. A straight laced all-zone player, who the team knew would at least change his clothes every day.

Who could have expected a cheap shot would cause an alteration in the space-time continuum? 

That being said. Part of this has to do with the Bruins’ struggles as a whole. If Boston was playing well and its offense looked better, then maybe the trade wouldn’t look quite so bad. Center David Krejci has been out since Nov. 18. Hulking captain Zdeno Chara has only played 12 games so far.

“Can (Eriksson) be better? Yeah but there’s 19 others in that lineup where I can say the same thing at times,” coach Claude Julien said. “He’s not going to be the whipping boy or the guy that we’re going to pick on. If we’re going to pick on somebody, we have to look at our team as a whole right now.”  

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Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: December 17, 2014, 3:41 pm

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