No. 1 Star: Patrick Sharp, Chicago Blackhawks

Notched four assists in Chicago’s 4-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks to give the Hawks a road sweep over the Pacific Division leaders. Sharp now has nine points in his last five games. It’s the third time in his career he has picked up four assists in a game.

No. 2. Star: Semyon Varlamov, Colorado Avalanche

Stopped 23 of 23 Nashville shots on goal to defeat the Central Division leading Predators. The win for Colorado kept the Avalanche within playoff striking distance – just two points back of Calgary for the final Wild Card spot in the Western Conference. It was Varlamov’s fourth shutout of the season and moved his save percentage up to .922.

No. 3 Star: Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks

Scored two goals and added an assist in Chicago’s win over the Ducks. Kane now has 56 points in 49 games played to move him into second overall in the NHL’s scoring race. He’s just two behind Jakub Voracek for the league lead. 

Honorable Mention: David Backes scored a goal in the Blues’ win over Carolina. Alex Pietrangelo picked up an assist. Teammate Ryan Reaves scored a goal … Ryan Murphy and Justin Faulk each scored for the Hurricanes … Devils goaltender Cory Schneider stopped 41 of 43 Pittsburgh shots on goal in an OT loss to the Penguins … Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang notched two assists in the Penguins win … Pittsburgh defenseman Simon Despres scored the OT winner … Colorado’s Jarome Iginla notched his 1,200th career NHL point … Buffalo’s Chris Stewart scored two goals … Vancouver’s Nick Bonino scored a goal … Chicago’s Corey Crawford stopped 21 of 22 Anaheim shots on goal in Chicago’s victory over the Ducks … Vancouver’s Henrik Sedin notched two assists in a win over Buffalo … Canucks goaltender Ryan Miller stopped 20 of 22 shots on goal in his first game against the Sabres, one of his former teams … Carolina goaltender Cam Ward stopped all 29 shots on goal he faced in relief of Anton Khudobin, but still lost in the shootout to the Blues. 

Did You Know?: Letang’s 16 points in January are the third most by a Penguins blueliner in this month in the team’s hstory behind Paul Coffey (22 in 1989 and 17 in 1990).  

Dishonorable Mention: Nashville defenseman Mattias Ekholm was a minus-3. Teammate Seth Jones was a minus-2. Nashville fell to 2-2-2 with Pekka Rinne injured … Anaheim’s Cam Fowler and Clayton Stoner were each a minus-2. Teammate Ryan Getzlaf was a minus-3 … Sabres All-Star Zemgus Girgensons scored a goal but was a minus-2 … Buffalo defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen was a minus-3. The Sabres have lost 14 games in a row … Khudobin was yanked after allowing two scores on three shots on goal.

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Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: January 31, 2015, 6:31 am

Hey everybody, I have an announcement to make! We are putting a 23-year-old cornerstone All-Star defenseman with a manageable contract on the trading block! 

If you followed Twitter on Friday, that’s what it sounded like Arizona Coyotes general manager Don Maloney told TSN 1200 in Ottawa. Instead, it was more like … he really didn’t want to move OEL but would for the right type of trade? You be the judge in this quote.

“Shane Doan is not going anywhere. Oliver Ekman-Larsson is a player we would certainly be very very reluctant to part with,” Maloney said.

This feels like the scene out of “Dumb and Dumber” where Lloyd Christmas goes “so you’re telling there’s a chance” that Mary Swanson would hook up with him, even though it was a one in a million shot.

In any context, it doesn’t totally sound like Maloney is totally pushing OEL as trade bait for the Coyotes, who have the NHL’s fourth-worst record.

If you add more background from the interview, Maloney goes to the mat to praise the prized defenseman calling him a “terrific talent” at another point in the hit.

Pumping him up to deal him perhaps?

At the moment, Ekman-Larsson isn’t exactly a generational player, but he’s an excellent defenseman who hasn’t reached his peak yet. And he has four years left after this season on a six-year $33 million contract at a manageable $5.5 million cap hit. Who knows, maybe he ends up being ‘that’ type of defenseman after all. Again, he’s just 23.

There is precedence for this. The Kings supposedly made Dustin Brown publicly available during the 2012 trade deadline – just to see if there were any takers. Or something like that. Whether there were or weren’t, it lit a fire under his ass and the team won the Stanley Cup and he played a major role on that squad's playoff run as a human battering ram. 

We don’t see the Yotes going on a miracle run to the Cup Final, but OEL hasn’t quite taken the next step Arizona hoped. Maybe this is a wakeup call for a young player who has already been lavished with a long-term deal?

If anything, Maloney’s comments may not be a deal for now but to at least perk the interest of general managers around draft time. Let’s say Arizona ends up with the third pick in the 2015 NHL Draft and wants to move up to take Connor McDavid or Jake Eichel. How would a package including OEL, and the No. 3 pick (likely Noah Hanifin) sound? That sets your blueline up for years.

Or Maloney could just take Hanifin and do the same thing with Arizona.

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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: January 30, 2015, 9:08 pm

LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 11: Nicole Brown and NHL player Dustin Brown of the Los Angeles Kings arrive at the 2012 ESPY Awards at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on July 11, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)Nicole Brown scrolled through her memory, trying to recall what would qualify as her favorite reality show.

“I’m trying to think about what my husband tells me to shut off when we’re going to bed,” she said, laughing.

She settled on “The Real Housewives of Orange County,” the O.G. version of that franchise and a series had a bit more humanity than its trashier offspring.

This is what Brown wants from her co-starring role on “Hockey Wives,” the new series debuting on Canada’s W Network at 10 p.m. ET/PT on March 18. As the wife of Los Angeles Kings captain Dustin Brown – the two have been together since they were 15 years old, and have four children – she hopes the new show brings to light the lives of wives and girlfriends of NHL players.

They raise families. They own businesses. They leverage their husbands' and boyfriends’ stardom for charitable causes.

“Every wife and girlfriend has their own story to tell,” Brown said. “It’s not like we’re all sitting at home waiting for our husbands or boyfriends to come home.”

The cast for the upcoming season, including Brown:

  • * Actress Noureen DeWulf (Anger Management, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past), wife of Vancouver Canucks goalie Ryan Miller
  • * Maripier Morin, girlfriend of Montreal Canadiens winger Brandon Prust
  • * Fashion designer Tiffany Parros, married to recently retired George Parros
  • * Model and new mom Martine Forget, engaged to Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Jonathan Bernier
  • * Hockey wives’ connector Brijet Whitney, married to recently retired Ray Whitney
  • * Social activist Kodette LaBarbera, wife of Anaheim Ducks goalie Jason LaBarbera
  • * Former Intelligence Specialist for the U.S. Military Emilie Blum, wife of Minnesota/Iowa Wild defenseman Jonathon Blum
  • * Athlete and Communications expert Jenny Scrivens, wife of Edmonton Oilers goalie Ben Scrivens
  • * Arizona real estate maven Wendy Tippett, wife of Arizona Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett

We spoke with Nicole Brown about “Hockey Wives”, how she handles criticism of Dustin Brown, parenting when one spouse is on the road a lot and much more.

Q. What are you hoping people get out of seeing this show?

BROWN: “The driving force behind me doing the show was trying to shed some light on the families of these guys who play hockey. I feel there’s a certain way that people think we live, or the things that we do because our husbands are hockey players. But our lives aren’t that different from anybody else.

“Yes, my husband is a professional athlete and yes he makes a lot of money, and yes, anyone can go online and see how much he makes, but we’re not that different than anybody else. I’m a stay at home mom. I take care of my kids. I go through all the things that every other mom does. Just because we’re in LA doesn’t mean we’re in Hollywood going to glamorous parties every night. Most days I don’t make it out of my Lululemons because they’re comfortable, and I’m running around from point A to point B to go to soccer practice and doing homework with a kindergartener.

“I think it’s really important to show the other sides.”

One of the more unique aspects of the pro athlete family is how the athlete keeps in touch when on the road. Will we see some of that?

“Dustin and I communicate through text message 95 percent of the time, as well as FaceTime. That’s really the only option. He misses out on a lot of stuff. It’s really hard on me and hard on him. I feel guilty that I get to be home for school plays and concerts and holidays, and he doesn’t get to be there all the time.

My oldest son, Jake, his birthday’s in February. And I think for the past five years, he hasn’t been home, because February’s their big road trip. My husband hasn’t been there for my six-year-old's birthday for maybe his entire life. I feel bad for him that he has to miss out on all of it.

“People say, ‘He’s making millions of dollars. Get over it. Well, the money doesn’t make it any easier when you’re missing your kid’s birthday.”

He’s like an elected official. His salary is public, and he’s under constant discussion and criticism in the media and online. Do you pay attention to all that? Do you close it off? Is it unavoidable?

“It’s one of those things as a girlfriend or a spouse of a professional athlete, you learn over the years how to handle it. I definitely used to read that stuff – I can’t even lie to you. Some of it is really hurtful, and people don’t realize when people sit behind a computer screen and type that, that’s it’s hurtful. Just because you’re not face to face, that doesn’t mean the words don’t hurt.

“So I used to read it and I used to get very upset. I’m loyal to my husband. I think he’s great. But it hurts. I learned over the years that people are going to talk about him. Whether he’s playing great or whether he’s playing awful, somebody’s always going to have something to say. I can’t buy into it.

“So I learned my lesson and I stay away as much as possible, and try to stay positive. I don’t bring that stuff up to him.”

When he’s playing at home, do you watch from the wives/girlfriends/family room?

“This is our first year of having four mobile children. But I’ve only been to a handful of games during the week this season because I have three kids doing homework or reading, it’s hard to get away. And there are some nights I’d rather just sit in my pajamas and fold laundry and watch the game, rather than get dressed up and go to the game and get home at midnight and get up at six a.m. to get the kids ready for the next day.

“But I go on the weekends. When I do go, me and the other wives and girlfriends will go to the family room, chit-chat before the game and then go up to the seats and watch."

Do you know any of your other cast members?

“I know some better than others, only because some play here and some have not. The Hockey World is very small. I know Jenny Scrivens and Kodette LaBarbera because they were here with me. I met Bridgette Whitney years ago when we did a fundraiser for the families of the Lokomotiv plane crash in Russia. You kind of meet people along the way.”

Can you tell me a little bit about the support system players wives an girlfriends have for each other? It’s not a secret that some of the guys in this league can make mistakes on the road; is there a strong support system?

“I can’t speak to what it’s like in other cities. I can say that in LA that around playoff time my family is the other girls on the team. When the guys are on the road and something happens, like a sick family member, those are the girls that are in town to help you. They’re going through the same thing as you.

“It’s hard to call a girlfriend back home that I grew up with, because she’s not going to understand really. But these other girls understand. We’re all in this together. We’re all supporting our husbands.”

It’s an interesting project, because although you’ll put yourselves out there for charity and a few of you are on social media, hockey wives don’t really seek out the spotlight all that much. Are you worried about the reaction? On the other side of the keyboard, let’s say?

“I feel like that’s going to happen, no matter what. I’ve read stuff online before just from a picture of Dustin and I popping up. No matter what you do or say, someone’s going to take it and turn it around to make it something that it’s not.

“[Sighs] I try not to worry too much. This is my life. Nothing that you’re going to see on TV was done for TV. My life is chaos. It’s not staged.

“In this business, it comes with the territory. It’s usually just Dustin, not me. They’re going to take it however they take it. If I complain about something, they’re going to say I shouldn’t be complaining. But I think there’s going to be more good to come out of it than bad.”

I think because that’s what we do with celebrity couples, every couple is now put under that magnifying glass, even if only one half of them qualifies as a celebrity.

“I totally agree. It’s unfortunate that we just can’t just appreciate one another and what they’re doing with their families. But that’s the world now, especially with social media.”

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Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: January 30, 2015, 7:52 pm

One of the key parts in scoring a memorable goal is the celebration. You have to pull it off perfectly, unless your jump against the glass results in your actually going through said glass.

Daniel Erlich of Sweden’s Östersunds IK overtime goal earlier this week was pretty smooth, so of course he decided to celebrate the only way he should have — by moonwalking.

Via Kenny Erlich:

There's probably an Östersunds IK fan coming up with Erlich/Michael Jackson songs in light of this, so we figured we'd help out using "The Way You Make Me Feel":

Hey Daniel Erlich with the hockey skates on

You give me fever

Like I've never, ever known

You're just a product of Canada

I like the groove of your (moon)walk,

Your talk, your zest

I see your celly

From miles around

I'll pick you up in my Zamboni

And we'll paint the town

Just reminisce, baby

And tell me twice

That your moonwalk’s better than Alexei’s

The way you make me feel…

Now that'll be stuck in your head for the rest of the day. It's already well-ingrained in mine.

Stick-tap Swiss Habs

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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: January 30, 2015, 7:21 pm

Local sports commercials are the best – in with any type of game in any market. Add an NFL ‘deflate-gate’ joke and an inflated Brett Hull and boom, television gold.

Check out this St. Louis area ad by McBride and Son Homes featuring Hull (now the executive VP of the Blues), Vladimir Tarasenko, and Blues analyst Kelly Chase.

Pump up those pucks and whammo! Hammer them into the net, Brett and Vladimir! The most interesting part of this video? The 50-year-old Hull can still blast that one-timer.

And by the eyeball test it looked harder and more accurate than Tarasenko's. Regardless of how we make fun of his post-NHL weight gain (what athlete hasn't packed on a few pounds after their playing days) no doubt he could find a spot near the circle on a power play and just blast shots past the goaltender

Add a cheesy joke about puck inflation and Hull’s 86-goal season at the end and you have low-quality local commercial gold. 

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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: January 30, 2015, 6:41 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.

In Goal Magazine

• Montreal prospect, and Team Canada WJC golden goalie, Zach Fucale pays tribute to Jean Beliveau and Guy Lafleur on his new mask. [In Goal Magazine]

• Cuteness overload. Little hockey player Ann Schaab sees Alex Ovechkin for first time since the car donation, and she is NOT happy with Ovi's recent scuffles in the game against the Penguins. She lets him know. GO GIRL! [RMNB]

• Lawsuit seeks to have junior players paid minimum wage. Sounds eerily familiar to the controversy facing the NCAA and their treatment of student-athletes. [ESPN]

• Three Periods: Martin Brodeur's incredible career; AHL moves to California; NHL notes. [Nick Cotsonika]

• Martin Brodeur's career - in hockey cards. [Puck Junk]

• Best. Idea. Ever. The Brampton Beast is hosting the first ever 'Toss Your Jersey Night'. All jerseys tossed will go to a youth hockey team. [Brampton Beast]

• The Maloof brothers, former owners of the Sacramento Kings, really want an NHL in Vegas. [LV Review-Journal]

• Is Kimmo Timonen returning after a serious battle with a series blood clots? Flyers GM Ron Hextall says issue is complex. [Philly.com]

• Interesting insight into how society is influencing changes in hockey. [Greatest Hockey Legends]

• Val James, the NHL’s first African-American player, tells his story in a new book. [The Color of Hockey]

• Kind of surprised this hasn't happened yet: Ryan Miller ready to face his old Sabres teammates from the other side of the puck. [Buffalo Hockey Beat]

• Why Dave Tippett is the grumpiest man in hockey. Can you really blame him? [Sportsnet]

• The Ballad of Filip Scoresberg. Probably not a post for Capitals fans. [On the Forecheck]

• Can't make it to the Stadium Series game in San Jose? Well, three Southern California movie theatres plan to show the outdoor game between the rival Los Angeles Kings and their foes from San Jose. [Mayor's Manor]

• "With 8:01 left in the first period of Thursday night's Lightning-Red Wings showdown, a puck with eyes found its way into the net to tie the score, and a loud roar vibrated through the building ... The goal wasn't scored by the Lightning, and this wasn't Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. This was Amalie Arena, home of the Lightning." Lightning fans are not happy with the invasion of outsiders. [Tampa Bay Times]

• Your fancy stats look at the Chicago Blackhawks forwards. [The Committed Indian]

• Here's why Jody Shelley should have his number retired by the Columbus Blue Jackets. Yes, you read that right, Jody Shelley. [Union and Blue]

• For the injury cursed Blue Jackets, the final 35 games of the season are a test. [Fox Sports Ohio]

• Shutouts becoming Tri-City Americans goalie Evan Sarthou’s claim to fame. [Buzzing the Net]

• A fantasy hockey look ahead to Week 18 in the NHL. [Dobber Hockey]

• Unmasked: Old-school style helped Brodeur stand out. [NHL.com]

• Don’t look for Shane Doan to pull a Ray Bourque or Jarome Iginla (i.e. leave longtime franchise in search of a winner before hanging 'em up.) [The Hockey News]

• The Flames have been rumored to be one of the suitors inquiring on Mike Richards. What's in it for the Kings, the Flames, and what to do is explored. [Flames Nation]

• Luca Sbisa sleeps with the fishes. Not really. He just thinks the Canucks mascot's name is 'Whale', which in Vancouver, could earn you cement shoes. [PITB]

• Finally, ARE YOU READY TO ROCK? If so, or even if not, here's behind the scenes footage of Metallica night at SAP center as the Sharks took on the Kings. [San Jose Sharks]

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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: January 30, 2015, 6:36 pm

“That one hurt.”

NHL referee Tim Peel and I are at Foley’s pub in New York, which is the only logical place for a hockey summit. He’s between games, having officiated in Washington the night before and headed over to New Jersey on Friday night. He’s affable, engaging, the kind of guy who gives you a tap on the knee before hitting a punchline in that “you’re going to want to hear this one” way. 

And he’s sitting across from a guy who’s ridden his ass like a jockey for the last two years.

We were aware of Tim Peel well before his foibles became a department on this website. A lot of hockey fans were. The criticism of his many mishaps tracks back to 2008 on the venerable Kukla’s Korner. The advent of social media in hockey fandom led to a cottage industry of “Tim Peel Alerts” when he was scheduled to officiate the game.

We had written about him regularly since around Dec. 2013, which is when “The Adventures of Tim Peel, Terrible NHL Referee” debuted. That was followed by “The Continuing Adventures of Tim Peel” and so on. We’d show his blown calls and bad judgment, and assess it with a banana peel score, like a star scale. There’s no question this helped push Peel as the poster-boy for NHL officiating incompetence, although we’d argue he was already in that spotlight when we intensified it.

Anyway, here’s Peel, beer in hand, explaining that for all the derision, all the criticism, there was one thing that really hurt.

It was when he was named to officiate the Sochi Olympics hockey tournament in Dec. 2013, and our response was to publish a laundry list of his mistakes in the NHL. But it wasn’t so much that as the headline that got to him: “Tim Peel is an Olympic referee; what’s Russian for ‘blown call’?”

It was at that point, he tells me, when he realized that there was this permanent stigma attached to his name; that when his two young children are old enough, that they’ll search out their dad on the Internet and this is what they’ll find.

I know this was part of the message he wanted to convey to me, having tried to set up a meeting on a few previous occasions. A chance to see the human behind the zebra sweater, clear the air, all that. And I appreciated the effort. 

Me? Well, I love dealing with those I criticize and those who are critical of me. If it doesn’t lead to cringe-worthy confrontations, it will  lead to some level of greater understanding about each other, which is always productive.

This meeting was surreal. I’m not going to lie. He was just so god-damned nice to someone that picked apart his failures and helped turn “Tim Peel Alert” into Twitter shorthand for “what’s going to get screwed up tonight?” He was, like too nice. The kind of nice the precedes a broken bottle and him gutting me like a trout in the middle of a Manhattan sports bar.

But instead we were toasting shots of tequila while glancing at the Wild and Flames on the television; two hockey guys, talking hockey. 

Here’s what I learned about Tim Peel in 90 minutes on two bar stools: He knows who he is. He has a level of self-evaluation that’s impressive, although I wished I had asked if it was influenced at all by the public scorn he deals with. My concern was that it was going to be an evening of him defending each criticism I’ve given him through the years; instead, it was an acknowledgment that he screws up sometimes, and screws up grandly.

Case in point: The Sami Vatanen diving call.

Peel called diving on the Anaheim Ducks defenseman in one of the single worst calls of the NHL season. It sent Bruce Boudreau into hysterics, and rightfully so. 

But Peel knows it was a bad call, to the point where he skated up to the Ducks bench and apologized the next time he officiated an Anaheim game. So why make it? Well, because the NHL wanted a crackdown on diving, and with that mandate, he felt compelled to make that call.

In talking to Peel, you start to see a pattern: The NHL asks its officials to manage the game a certain way, and they have to do it. The Alex Ovechkin penalty in the previous night’s game in Washington?

Peel admits it was a call he wouldn’t have made in a 1-1 game, and wouldn’t have made without knowing that the NHL wants this penalty for the sake of "game management," in order to ensure a 4-0 game between two rivals doesn’t get out of hand. Peel said he went over to Barry Trotz after the call, explained it, and the coach, having seen this episode before, said he understood.

He’s a guy who knows he makes mistakes, whether it’s because the game is too fast, or he got the call wrong or because the NHL is asking him to focus on a certain call and he overreaches. He’s knows his limitations. I asked Peel why he’s never officiated a Stanley Cup Final in over 15 years as a League official.

“Because there are guys that are better than me,” he said.

A few more things I learned about Tim Peel:

1. NHL referees own two shirts, wear both during games, and then have to do their own laundry when arriving in each new NHL city. Like, literally getting quarters for the machine from the hotel’s front desk.

2. He’s a New Brunswick native who’s lived in St. Louis for some time, and has a rather apparent affinity for toasted ravioli.

3. I’ve often talked about the “cloud of incompetence” that follows Peel around, and he confirmed something I’ve suspected about that: Since he’s a veteran official in the NHL, he’s tasked with mentoring younger referees, who often make mistakes. They happen in his games, so he gets the blame. And we’re all like “why does this weirdness always affect Tim Peel games?”

4. He keeps Photoshopped images of himself on his phone. Because he finds them funny.

I couldn’t quite tell if he ultimately found our coverage amusing. I got the sense this meeting was so I could put a face to the name and he could do the same. That it was an informal request for fairness in criticizing him, and maybe not to be so abjectly nasty about it.

The former, frankly, I think we’ve done for years. Tim Peel can be a bad referee. His mistakes aren’t just goofs, they’re glaring, embarrassing moments. There’s a reason fans know his name, and it’s not because we write blog posts about him. It’s because he makes questionable calls, be it because he’s serving the League’s best interests or because he just didn’t get it right. If there's any caveat I'd offer here, it's that he's not the only NHL referee to make these calls, although you'd think it based on fan reception. 

That said … yeah, we could be nicer. Admittedly. He’s a good guy. He’s trying. Maybe we drop the banana peels at the very least. Because ultimately the goal is to criticize his performance, not crush his soul. 

After about 90 minutes, I walked out of the bar into a snow shower. I hoped Tim got whatever he was looking for out of it, because I know I did: a little better understanding about the man and his mistakes, a new perspective on our criticism of them. And, well, this photo. 

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Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: January 30, 2015, 5:10 pm

Some sad news coming out of the Blackhawks organization. Team all-time leading scorer Stan Mikita is apparently facing some “serious health issues” according to a statement released by his family.

It was circling around Twitter this morning, but Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times confirmed the statement with Mikita’s daughter Jane.

“Stan has been diagnosed with suspected Lewy Body dementia, a progressive disease, and is currently under the care of compassionate and understanding care-givers,” the family said. 

This isn’t exactly a great way to start a Friday morning. The 74-year-old Mikita is a hockey icon and a true great in the game. He is the Blackhawks all-time leader in games played (1,394) and points (1,467) and played with the team from 1958-59 through 1979-80, winning the Hart Trophy twice. 

It has been a horrible year for the health of hockey legends. From Gordie Howe's strokes, to the unfortunate passing of Jean Beliveau. This just adds another to the list of ailing titans of a prior era. 

There are just two Blackhawks statues in front of the United Center – Mikita and Bobby Hull. Considering the amount of legendary players who have gone through that organization, this is quite an honor.

The below statement is from the Blackhawks:

“We are aware of the unfortunate health news regarding Blackhawks Ambassador and Hockey Hall of Famer Stan Mikita. We are thinking of Stan and his family at this difficult time, and wish him well. Stan’s family has asked for privacy, and we hope all will respect their wishes.” 

Our thoughts are with Mikita and his family. 

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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: January 30, 2015, 4:10 pm

With the trade deadline a little more than a month away and many teams already starting to make roster moves that will impact their competitiveness down the stretch (if they had any to begin with, that is), much of the attention in the league turns to who is and is not in playoff contention. 

These “bubble teams” may be within, say, four, six, eight points of a postseason spot with 30-something games to go. That often leads to both fans and team officials feeling as though they are very much in the race for that final position, and want to push all-in to pursue that end. If that includes trading picks and prospects so they can win the final seed in their divisional playoff group, or a wild card, then so be it. That's the price of doing business when the goal is to make the playoffs.

And leaving aside the absurdity of the egalitarian dream that “once you make the playoffs, anything can happen” — while big underdogs do occasionally PDO their way to a Cup final or even a title, the end result of the playoffs far more often than not is one of a handful of elite teams actually walking away with the trophy — one has to wonder whether this is, necessarily, a good idea.

We know from research done a few years ago by Elliotte Friedman that if you're as little as four or five points out of a playoff spot as early in the season as Nov. 1, your season is essentially over; from the point at which the shootout was introduced (that is, the introduction of the three-point game) only three of 32 teams by 2011-12 that were at least four points out of a playoff spot ended up making it. That's a 9.4 percent chance, and it's not very good at all.

The three teams that did it at the time of that study: Calgary in 2006-07, Buffalo in 2010-11, and Boston in 2011-12. Since then, you can also add in last year's Philadelphia — which was was six points back on Nov. 1 and needed a 39-21-10 record to get in — and Dallas — also six points back, and went 35-25-9 — but you have to assume the latter was helped significantly by the new playoff system and divisional alignment that put fewer teams in the West. Those five teams averaged winning percentages of about .624 over the final 70 or so games of the season.

So this week — prompted by an angry email in which I declared one reader's team “out of it” already despite their only being a handful of points back from the last playoff spot in its conference — I found myself wondering:

If you only have a 9.4 percent chance if you're that far back at the end of October, because you have to go .640 for five and a half months, at what point can we officially declare a team's playoff hopes dead at the start of February?

I looked at all the playoff teams in the salary cap era as well as their positions in the standings as of Feb. 1 in those years. I also ignored the lockout-shortened 2013 season because teams in playoff positions wouldn't have had enough time to build safer leads that you'd see going through an 82-game schedule. February seemed a reasonable cut-off for me because that's when things get “serious” and most teams have about 30 games left on the schedule. And in that time, 19 teams that were out of playoff spots when January ended wound up sneaking into the postseason by hook or by crook.

In all, 112 teams have missed the playoffs in those eight seasons, so the fact that 19 forced someone ahead of them out gives you a success rate of about 17 percent. That is, you have a roughly 1 in 6 chance of making the playoffs if you're not in that position on Feb. 1. But that's also a little more than two teams per season, so you're not necessarily looking at the worst odds in the world, and no fewer than two teams in playoff positions have faltered and ended up missing in any given season.

Heading in, I assumed the cutoff for teams getting into the playoffs would be about three points: Those farther back would find it almost insanely difficult to make up the ground if four points was such an insurmountable deficit as early as Nov. 1. Turns out that this was, for the most part, true.

The teams that made the cut are as follows:

Season

Team

Pts. out (Feb. 1)

2005-06

Montreal Canadiens

3

2005-06

San Jose Sharks

7

2005-06

Anaheim Ducks

4

2006-07

New York Rangers

4

2006-07

New York Islanders

4

2007-08

Washington Capitals

3

2007-08

Nashville Predators

1

2008-09

Pittsburgh Penguins

2

2008-09

Vancouver Canucks

1

2008-09

St. Louis Blues

9

2009-10

Boston Bruins

2

2009-10

Montreal Canadiens

1

2009-10

Detroit Red Wings

0*

2010-11

Buffalo Sabres

6

2010-11

Los Angeles Kings

2

2011-12

Washington Capitals

1

2011-12

Phoenix Coyotes

3

2013-14

Detroit Red Wings

1

2013-14

Dallas Stars

4

*tied with Calgary at 62, but with one win fewer

It turns out the average deficit overcome during that time was indeed 3.05 points, and as you can see the vast majority of those teams (12 of 19, about 63 percent) were within that range. But that still leaves us seven teams in the last eight seasons that overcame deficits larger than that. Of those, four were back just four points, not appreciably more than the previously assumed cutoff of three. Include those in the “nominally capable of making up the lost ground” group, and 16 of 19 are within two wins. I think, then, that this is a pretty reasonable cutoff.

It's also worth looking at the three teams that were farther back than that: the 2005-06 Sharks (minus-7), the 2008-09 Blues (minus-9), and 2010-11 Sabres (minus-6). 

In 2005-06, two teams fell out of the playoff spots they held: Vancouver and Los Angeles, both of which were solidly middle of the pack. San Jose and Anaheim just leapfrogged Colorado and Edmonton to claim their now-division rivals' No. 5 and 6 spots, respectively.

Anaheim was only four points out so it wasn't outside the realm of possibility. But San Jose — having only somewhat recently traded for Joe Thornton and being much deeper than that — needed a run, and they got it: they went 20-8-4 down the stretch (.688), using games in hand and a ton of lucky bounces to get there. In that final 32 games, they shot 11 percent at ES, scored 37 power play goals, and won in overtime five times out of nine.

In 2008-09, the Blues were in dead last in the West on Feb. 1, with just 44 points from 48 games. They went 21-7-6 (.706), because they basically stopped allowing goals. Opponents scored only 17 power play goals in those 34 games after they netted 41 in 48 prior to that date. This was still a pretty big fluke, though: Goaltending in all situations came in at a sixth-in-the-league .917 despite the fact that their possession numbers were 20th in that time (47.5 percent). They also went to overtime nine times, and won three of those. 

Finally, there's the 2010-11 Sabres, and I probably don't need to tell you at this point that they just got mega-lucky to clear the six-point hole they faced on Feb. 1, 2011.

Their record after that point was 20-8-5 (.682). They were very slightly outpossessed in those final 33 games (49.9 percent) and the team shot 9 percent at evens while Ryan Miller and Co. went .926 — fifth and 13th in the league, respectively. And hey wouldn't you know it, they started shooting the lights out on the power play (15.9 percent, third in the NHL) and no one could score on them shorthanded (.911, fourth). No surprise here, either, that Buffalo went to OT or the shootout 11 times and won six of them.

So that, I guess, is the formula. There were three teams out of 68 — 4.4 percent, a little better than 1 in 23 — to make the playoffs after being more than four points out on Feb 1, and they all had four things in common:

1. Games in hand.

2. Insane special teams success in terms of either killing penalties, making the other team pay for them, or both.

3. One of the biggest PDOs in the league.

4. The ability to get to overtime in close to 1 in every 3 games.

That's it. And hey, that's how bad teams make the playoffs all the time (except for No. 4, which is just crazy).

So basically, the point is, if you're not in a playoff position on Feb. 1, the odds are that you won't be when the season ends. And if you're more than four points out, it's nearly impossible. But then again, you might be the '06 Sharks, '09 Blues, or '11 Sabres.

Actually, there's one more thing those three teams have in common: They didn't. get. close to winning the Stanley Cup.

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

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Author: Ryan Lambert
Posted: January 30, 2015, 2:54 pm

Sergeant Slaughter & Mike Rathje are in the Shark Tank tonight. @SanJoseSharks pic.twitter.com/vqkNgIzej6

— Owen Nolan (@OwenNolan11) January 30, 2015

No. 1 Star: Cedric Paquette, Tampa Bay Lightning

The Lightning rookie recorded his first career NHL hat trick during a 5-1 rout of the Detroit Red Wings. The win set a franchise record with their ninth straight win at Amalie Arena.  

No. 2 Star: Anton Lander, Edmonton Oilers

Lander had a hand in all three Oiler goals in their 3-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres in the “McDavid Bowl.” After recording a pair of helpers, Landers put home the eventual game-winner 7:52 into the third period: 

No. 3 Star: Devan Dubnyk, Minnesota Wild

Behind Zach Parise’s 20th of the year and 30 saves from Dubnyk, the Wild shutout the Calgary Flames 1-0. It was the 11th shutout of Dubnyk’s career and his third straight win.

Honorable Mention: Tuukka Rask made 43 stops and Reilly Smith and Milan Lucic each recorded three points as the Boston Bruins downed the New York Islanders 5-2. Boston has won seven of ten … Five different Philadelphia Flyers scored as they defeated the Winnipeg Jets 5-2. The win was Philly’s fourth in five games. Nick Schultz’s first period goal was his first in 125 games … Jamie Benn scored twice and Trevor Daley added three points as the Dallas Stars beat the Ottawa Senators 6-3. In his return to Ottawa, Jason Spezza was held pointless in 16:17 of ice time. During a stoppage in the first period, the Senators paid tribute to Spezza:

The Arizona Coyotes scored three times in the final period en route to a 3-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s long-range shorthanded goal kicked things off in the third period and Martin Hanzal added what would stand as the game winner three minutes later. Mike Smith made 24 saves for his first win in seven starts … Sean Bergenheim’s third period power play goal broke a 2-2 tie and helped give the Florida Panthers a 3-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Roberto Luongo stopped 30 shots as the Panthers ended a five-game losing streak and six-game home losing streak.

Birthday boy Kevin Shattenkirk scored the winning goal in the shootout as the St. Louis Blues edged the Nashville Predators 5-4:

The San Jose Sharks scored five times in the second period and chased Ilya Bryzgalov en route to a 6-3 win over the Anaheim Ducks. Barclay Goodrow, Tomas Hertl, Patrick Marleau, James Sheppard, and Joe Thornton all recorded two points apiece.  ... Bravo, Lightning. Bravo ... Carey Price stopped 24 shots and Max Pacioretty scored the only goal as the Montreal Canadiens blanked the New York Rangers 1-0. Via NHL PR, “Price joins Jacques Plante (9), Bill Durnan, George Hainsworth & Charlie Hodge as only Canadiens goalies with six shutouts vs. the Rangers.”  

Did You Know? Zdeno Chara, who scored an empty-netter, played possibly his final game at Nassau Coliseum 16 years to the day he tallied his first ever NHL goal there.

Dishonorable Mention: Ottawa allowed Dallas to score twice on three power play chances and let in a pair of shorthanded empty-net goals … Petr Mrazek allowed all five Lightning goal in the first two periods before being pulled … Jonathan Bernier’s going to want this goal back … Toronto is 0-7-1 in their last eight … Bryz allowed six goals on 25 shots and was pulled late in the second period ... Dale Weise came this close to a goal and a review didn't help:

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Author: Sean Leahy
Posted: January 30, 2015, 5:44 am

Katelyn and C.J. Mckeen were under the impression they were about to participate in an intermission game at Thursday’s Tampa Bay Lightning game. The brother and sister were slated to take a shot on goal of some sort, but little did they know they were in store for a huge surprise. 

Just before they were to attempt their shots, the Lightning game-night emcee Greg Wolf introduced their father, Master Sergeant Chris Mckeen of the U.S. Air Force:

“I’m just extremely grateful that I get to come back to my family safe and get to see them,” said Mckeen, who was on tour in South Korea.

These military reunions are always the best, and the family reactions really make you want to grab the tissues.

Welcome back home, Master Sergeant Mckeen.

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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: January 30, 2015, 3:14 am

Watching hockey games is a wonderful family event. Crowd around the television, turn the volume up and enjoy hearing lustful sexual screams in the background. Wait, what?

Yup, that’s what happened during Nashville’s broadcast in St. Louis. Just listen to the vine below. We joke about #hockeyporn on this blog all the time. This is real, legit literal hockey porn ... (s/t to Rinkside Report’s Jim Diamond for alerting me to this while I was catching up on lower grade porn known as "The Bachelor" on my DVR. Needless to say, the channel has been changed).

 

The game’s still not over as of this blog, but I feel like we’ve reached the climax. Below is some more, um, dubious noises. 

And I thought the Predators had let go of Michael Del Zotto. 

In case anyone thinks the video was doctored, Diamond is the Chapter Chair of the Nashville Professional Hockey Writers' Association and a highly trusted NHL resource in the area.

As it turns out I did hear what I thought I heard. Guess the team is Predator hard once again.

— Jim Diamond (@diamondhockey) January 30, 2015

Did I hear what I thought I heard in the background of the Preds broadcast?

— Jim Diamond (@diamondhockey) January 30, 2015

Apparently Fox Sports Tennessee is trying to get to the root of the problem ... note, search for the Australian slang verb usage of the word 'root.'

@ZackTN Are you still hearing these sounds?

— FOX Sports Tennessee (@FSTennessee) January 30, 2015

Hey, mistakes happen. We are all human. And it’s an arena. There are all sorts of strange noises that occur in these buildings. Maybe a production truck is no longer virgin territory. 

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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: January 30, 2015, 2:51 am

The Toronto Maple Leafs held a 1-0 lead on the Arizona Coyotes and were on a power play as the third period began. Things were looking good.

Five seconds later, Jonathan Bernier channeled Vesa Toskala and oh, no:

Oliver Ekman-Larsson will never get a luckier goal in his career, especially shorthanded. He also entered the NHL record books in the process. The goal was the fastest shorthanded tally to start a period ever at five seconds.

That’s a rough one for Bernier. That puck dipped just as he thought he was about to catch it. And now he joins Vesa Toskala with his own Maple Leaf memory to forget.

The goal was the start of a bad third period for the Leafs. Martin Hanzal would score three minutes later and the Coyotes would add on an empty-netter another one for a 3-1 victory.

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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: January 30, 2015, 2:50 am

When the NHL and the NHLPA announced the 2016 World Cup of Hockey last weekend, it was clear that they would find new and excited ways to generate revenue from an event that could gross as much as $120 million. 

This is because NHL players (and fans and media) are all really keen on Olympic participation, and the League knows the only way to knock dreams of gold medals out of their heads is to smack them with bags of money.

So, to the surprise of no one except those delusional enough to believe there won’t be advertising on NHL jerseys in the near future, there will be advertising on World Cup of Hockey sweaters, according to Rick Westhead of TSN:

The NHL has informed sponsors that it will feature about eight categories of sponsorships for the World Cup, selling each for about $1.5 million. To have a corporate logo featured on a team jersey would probably cost about $2 million per team, sources tell TSN.

Buying the jersey rights to all eight teams would probably cost about $6 million. Companies such as Honda, McDonald's and Pepsi who sell in global markets would probably make the most sense for such a partnership. NHL chief operating officer John Collins told TSN it was premature to say whether the league would sell on-jersey ads. "Our agreement with the IIHF/national federations provides us with all commercial rights to the (World Cup) including jerseys so we have the ability to potentially include a sponsor but have yet to decide whether we will," Collins wrote in an email.

NHLPA spokesman Jonathan Weatherdon confirmed the union, which is organizing the World Cup in conjunction with the NHL, would consider jersey ads. "All revenue options will be considered but no decision (on jersey ads) has been reached yet," Weatherdon told TSN.

There’s something refreshing about the NHL dropping all pretense that this supposed to be a proper World Cup or even a pumped up version of the IIHF world championships. Step one was getting rid of those pesky Swiss and Slovak teams in favor of rookies and “Category: Other” teams. Step two is to take the traditional sweaters of national teams and clutter them up with advertising logos.

Who’s ready for Team Sweden, with the fourth crown provided by Burger King!?

For the record, we’re super psyched for the World Cup. It’s going to be a lot of fun. But we just have to all prepare ourselves because this tournament is going to have more shameless corporate sponsor shilling than a season of “American Idol." 

Image via Hockey Blog in Canada

Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: January 29, 2015, 10:03 pm

Remember when hockey in California was a novelty? You had the Golden Seals with their goofy jerseys and white skates. The Los Angeles Kings seemed like nothing more than a token gift to the West Coast.

Now, hockey in California is real, it’s a thing, and it’s getting much more serious with the American Hockey League’s announcement of the formation of the Pacific Division and the addition of five California franchises to start play in 2015-16. The breakdown from the release:

- The Anaheim Ducks will purchase the Norfolk Admirals AHL franchise and will relocate it from Norfolk, Va., to San Diego, Calif.  

- The AHL franchise owned by the Calgary Flames will relocate from Glens Falls, N.Y., to Stockton, Calif. 

- The AHL franchise owned by the Edmonton Oilers will relocate from Oklahoma City, Okla., to Bakersfield, Calif. 

- The AHL franchise owned by the Los Angeles Kings will relocate from Manchester, N.H., to Ontario, Calif. 

- The AHL franchise owned by the San Jose Sharks will relocate from Worcester, Mass., to San Jose, Calif.

I can think of about five "Anchorman" jokes about the Ducks in San Diego and many "Oregon Trail" refrences about teams moving west. Beware of cholera!

Anyway between the arrival of Wayne Gretzky to the Kings in the late 80s, to the Ducks and Kings’ success post-lockouts, California hockey has become trendy, hip and prolific.

There was a lot of hoopla and back-slapping during the news conference – but ultimately this is the right call. Anaheim general manager Bob Murray was highly passionate about the deal – seemingly not just because it helps the Ducks, but also because it continues the upward tick of hockey players from the state.

Murray insisted that on a morning in the middle of the season, “Instead of watching our team practice, I can go down the coast and watch my minor league team practice. “

It’s a luxury a lot of East Coast teams have, that he doesn’t out West. 

He added, “Hockey is growing in California and the West Coast. This is going to take it one step ahead. “

It’s also going to be a neat proposition for hockey fans in California. Say you’re a Kings fan. You want to see some prospects play. Go to Ontario, which is about 40 miles east of Los Angeles.

Said Los Angeles exec and Kings Hall of Fame forward Luc Robitaille, “Fans are going to see players who are one phone call away from the NHL.”

As for the East Coast markets losing a team? It stinks. Departing franchises blow on any level. This is obvious. But this had to happen.

Said Calgary general manager Brad Treliving, “I applaud the GMs and their foresight on how to make a better development model.”

A move like this doesn’t occur if there isn’t some competitive help towards the NHL teams, or if it doesn't add a level of cost efficiency. Now if a team wants to call up a player, he’s much closer to an international airport, or just a drive from the parent team’s city.

If Murray wants to recall Emerson Etem (who has gone back and forth between Anaheim and Norfolk this year) from San Diego, just tell him to jump in his car and drive up ‘The 5' to Anaheim. Done deal.

Good for the AHL. Good for hockey in California. Good for the NHL. Smart move.

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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: January 29, 2015, 9:37 pm
Photo via @ottawasuncom on Twitter

Oh the amazingness of tabloid newspapers never ceases to amaze. Behold the above cover of the Ottawa Sun featuring Jason Voorhees from the film “Friday the 13th” to commemorate Dallas forward Jason Spezza and his return to Ottawa for the first time since a summer trade.

And if there was a question as to whether he was going to be booed in his Thursday night return? A horror movie villain certainly adds to fan anger. Or scares children readers.

And then there was this little delicious morsel from the Dallas Morning News.

“It’s been challenging. It’s not easy to move teams when you’ve been in one spot for so long. But I think it’s made me a better player,” he said. “There’s been a learning curve, probably a little more than I expected. But I guess that’s been being a little naïve in moving teams for the first time — you expect everything to fall into place, but it takes a little bit of work.”

OK, not exactly an ‘I hate Ottawa’ quote. But moving to Dallas made him a better player? Goo.

Regardless of what he probably meant – sometimes a player needs a change – it’s not like a fan hears the whole quote or understands the context. So that just happens to be more ‘boo’ fodder … on top of Spezza’s trade request last summer.

Does Spezza think he will be booed? He gave the type of canned answer that most returning players say upon arrival at a former team – after he asked to leave. From the Morning News again.  

“Hopefully, they appreciate I gave everything when I was here and tried to do all I could to help us win.”

Maybe they will. But this isn’t a conquering hero who won a Stanley Cup and was not exactly offered a contract a la Mark Messier in New York with Vancouver.

Spezza wanted to leave Ottawa, forced the Sens’ hand with a no-trade clause and ended up in the furthest thing from a rabid Canadian market – the American South. Also, when he was with Ottawa, there was always a sense that he could have done more. There was the hype of No. 2 overall draft expectations. He was a good All-Star type player for many years, but never simply a great one that fans adored like that guy Alfie.

Said Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun:

Named the captain after Alfredsson departed for the Red Wings as a free agent on July 5, 2013, Spezza was always a lightning rod for criticism with the Senators. The fans loved him when he scored points but they couldn’t stand his penchant for bad giveaways.

While he scored a lot of points and got many of the accolades that went with that role, Spezza just wishes the Senators had brought home a Stanley Cup during his time here because he certainly feels there were times this team had the talent to get that job done.

But all-in-all, Spezza was a terrific player for Ottawa. He was a point-per-game guy with 687 in 686 games – a difficult feat for most players in the post-offensive 80s.

Again, he never won a Cup. Never picked up a major award. Was the captain by default after Alfie, and then … he was gone and did it on his terms. Is this Martin St. Louis who felt scorned by his general manager for not selecting him for Team Canada and then somehow thought Tampa fans should give him an ovation? Not at all.

This also isn’t Ryan Suter who left Nashville for Minnesota for more money and was shocked at the derision every time he touched the puck in his first game back in the Music City – though who would turn down a job for more money closer to family in any profession? 

Essentially Spezza’s situation isn’t exactly WWE villainish. But he’s not exactly Luke Skywalker after blowing up the Death Star.

Also in the Sun:

“I had some good talks with (GM) Bryan (Murray),” said Spezza. “In the long run, it’s best for the organization to move on and me to move on. It gave me a second chapter in my career to challenge myself and take a different approach to trying to win.

Says Garrioch on his reception:

It’s the departure that makes you wonder what kind of reception he’s going to get as a result. People booed Dany Heatley loudly and threw his jersey on the ice in 2010. Alfredsson was welcomed back with open arms after a video tribute.

Another example? Mike Fisher wanted a trade and ended up Nashville. His return included applause and a tribute. He played 675 games in Ottawa and amassed 348 points. Maybe that was because in Ottawa they blamed his wife for the move, not the player. Oh well. 

Our prediction. Boos with a smattering of cheers. The kind of lukewarm responses dedicated for a lukewarm player with a lukewarm tenure. 

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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: January 29, 2015, 7:30 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.

Dollar beer night at the Cincinnati Cyclones game... @LanceMcAlister @darrenrovell @KariVanHorn @MoEgger1530 pic.twitter.com/rK5W7Mid7z

— Britton Thornberry (@BThornberry23) January 29, 2015

• "Dollar Beer Night" in Cincinnati ends with a monstrous beer pyramid. [Sporting News]

• “Fans are passionate, so I hope I’m remembered for giving my all and having some success here, but I expect them to support their team, too.” Jason Spezza returns to Ottawa for the first time as a Dallas Star. [Ottawa Citizen]

• Martin Brodeur plans to play in a Devils alumni game in March and the team will honor him at a later date. [Fire & Ice]

• Brodeur's son, Jeremy, on his dad's retirement: "If anyone knows there's a time to stop, it's him." [Buzzing the Net

• Who’s the best goaltender ever? The statistical debate will never end. [Bleacher Report]

• It looks as if TSN will strike out again as Rogers is expected to be awarded TV rights for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. [Globe and Mail]

• Despite his struggles in Carolina, Ron Francis has no plans to buy out Alex Semin in the summer. [News and Observer]

• The LA Kings and LA Galaxy will celebrate their respective championships on Monday at the White House with President Obama.

• Don Maloney wants the Arizona Coyotes to get younger, so they’ll be in full fire sale mode come trade deadline time. [ESPN.com]

• Jack Johnson’s parents not only screwed him over financially, they also took advantage of his grandfather. [Deadspin]

• Jeremy Morin of the Columbus Blue Jackets was hospitalized Tuesday after his heart rate elevated. After being held overnight, he was released on Wednesday and is out indefinitely. [Columbus Dispatch

• Darryl Sutter and his son, Chris, have been asked to be torch bearers at the Special Olympics World Games in LA this summer. [Fox Sports West]

• Remember when people wrote that Alex Ovechkin should leave Washington? Good times! [Japers’ Rink]

• Katie Baker says goodbye to Nassau Coliseum, a dirty dump that is also quite beautfiful. [Grantland]

• “Some 57 charges of child abuse and assault reportedly will be filed against the drunken hockey fans who subjected 57 American Indian students to racially-charged taunts the included spraying the students with beer and lacing them with racial slurs, according to unnamed sources.” [Native News Online]

• If you’re feeling up for a fight, ask Ben Scrivens about tanking. [Sporting News]

• Good Q&A with Mike Komisarek. When did he know it was time to retire? "For me, I realized I just didn't have ’it’ anymore.” [The Score]

• There’s room to improve in Vancouver, which is why the Canucks need to make a deal. [Province]

• Mike Richards and Blink-182: together, forever. [The Royal Half]

• Sweden’s Lulea and Frolunda will play on Tuesday for the IIHF Champions Hockey League trophy, a trophy designed by a fan in Minnesota. [Champions Hockey League

• Taking a look at the top five prospects in the Kings system. [Mayor’s Manor]

• The Red Army’s Slava Fetisov and Alexei Kasatonov formed one of the world’s greatest defense pairing, despite their dislike for one another. [Greatest Hockey Legends

• Willie O’Ree sees hockey thriving again in San Diego after the AHL makes its western announcement today. [San Diego 6

• Who will serve your fantasy team better: Chris Kreider or Jonathan Huberdeau? [Dobber Hockey]

• If anyone comes calling for Andrew Ference, should the Edmonton Oilers say bye, bye? [Oilers Nation]

• Finally, here are the highlights from the NHL All-Star Mascot Challenge:

Author: Sean Leahy
Posted: January 29, 2015, 7:23 pm

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

It's a Thursday 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: Chuck Gormley of CSN Washington on the Capitals vs. Penguins.

• Brodeur retires. 

• Spezza in Ottawa. 

• News and notes. 

Question of the Day: 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!

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Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: January 29, 2015, 6:58 pm
FILE - In this June 9, 2003, file photo, New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur hoists the Stanley Cup after the Devils defeated the Anaheim Mighty Ducks 3-0 in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals in East Rutherford, N.J.. Brodeur is retiring to take a front office job with the St. Louis Blues. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Paul Chiasson)

They call my home state of New Jersey the “Garden State.” I always imagined it was the runner-up to the rejected original winner, “Constant State of Inferiority.”

We’re a punch-line. We’re a weird growth on the ass of New York. We’re trash heaps and smoke stacks and odd odors that creep through your vents while traveling down I-95. We’re Snooki and The Situation and Joe Piscopo and Chris Christie and clichés about Springsteen songs and where everyone looks like Tony Soprano.

When you’re from Jersey, you always hear about the concept of “Jersey Pride.” It’s this notion that we’re something more than the jokes that define us, something more than the being “The Garbage State.”

It’s a difficult concept to grasp for many reasons, being that we’re a collection of self-deprecating jerks half the time. It was especially difficult growing up as a sports fan in New Jersey during the 1980s and ‘90s, because nothing that was good about Jersey sports was actually ours.

The Giants and Jets, playing their home games in the swampy Meadowlands? New York’s NFL teams. The Nets’ most cherished player had his number hanging from the Brendan Byrne Arena rafters, yet Dr. J only played three years with the franchise, all of them in New York.

Same story with the Devils. Peter Stastny, who would go on to be the first Hall of Famer that played in New Jersey, was a Nordique. Slava Fetisov had played roughly 15 years for the Red Army before he showed up in New Jersey, and then didn’t win a Cup until heading to the Red Wings. Scott Stevens was a Capital and a Blue before coming to the Devils, the product of a fortunate arbitration hearing decision. And then he didn’t want to be there for the first few seasons.

This is what made Martin Brodeur special. Drafted by New Jersey, No. 20 in 1990. Nurtured by New Jersey. Played every game with New Jersey, save for a regrettable seven-contest coda with the Blues this season.

Set records with New Jersey. Won Cups with New Jersey.

Suddenly Jersey Pride wasn’t an obtuse concept. You could see it, touch it, marvel at it. He wore No. 30, and his mask was adorned with one primary image: A ‘J’ with Devils horns and a tail attached.

***

Scott Mackie was a Devils fan I knew back in the day, who once penned this about the experience of being one:

“To be a Devils fan …especially one IN the area, by nature you pick up a certain hostility and a good bit of ‘f--k you’ attitude about things. All you hear all this time ‘your team has no fans,’ ‘your team doesn't belong here,’ ‘the Devils are a nice story, but we'd talk about it 100 times more on WFAN if it was the Rangers,’ ‘your team's boring style is ruining the sport,’ and all that kinda stuff. And it builds up.

“And yes, this team has been THE dominant franchise in the East the last 10 years, and maybe some of that is why you hear the RANGERS SUCK chant all game or why ‘we're classless to other team’s fans.’ Or your little goalie has to hear 19,040 yell SUCKS at him before each game. But being a Devils fan in this area almost REQUIRES that level of attitude, and you don't get it if you're not FROM here and have to live through the day to day stuff like that. Just try to understand that we DO, and it's part of that fighting spirit and the constant feeling of it's the world against US.”

All of this was to say that we were the most defensive, angsty fan base in hockey. In Brodeur’s early years, that was embodied by Scott Stevens and Ken Daneyko breaking bones, and an “interchangeable flock of forwards” who would just as soon punch you in the mouth as they would beat you with a goal.

But Brodeur was a combination of defiance and elegance. His goaltending style was picturesque – a controlled, confident technique augmented by an unprecedented ability to play the puck. His focus was incredible, given the Devils’ ability to suppress offense with their system. If a shot got through on him, it was going to be a quality one. He’d stop them all, when called upon. He was Charlie Watts with the Stones – the backbeat of the Devils classics, carrying the tune when necessary.

He orchestrated a system that frustrated foes, NHL management and television executives. Think of the Devils’ trap like a video game: Once you battle your way through dozens of levels of difficult opponents, the Big Bad at the end is the hardest Big Bad in the game. Beat the forward, beat the defense and there was Brodeur. It was exhausting.

Yet he’d beat you with a smile on his face. The fans were screaming “SUCKS” and the players in front of him where bloodying the ice and here was Brodeur, the jovial ringmaster, laughing at plays and joking with the officials.

His personality was part of the appeal. So was the fact that he was a regular dude. With that physique. With that family drama -- the Flyers fans chanting "UNCLE DADDY!" is still bitterly acknowledged as genius. With that laid back attitude. 

It was a glorious juxtaposition to most modern athletes. 

Then again, so was a player from New Jersey demanding, and receiving, respect from the outside. 

***

Before their first Cup, there was a perfect storm of additions for the Devils. The acquisition of Stevens. The drafting of Scott Niedermayer and Brodeur. The hiring of Jacques Lemaire and Larry Robinson. I’m not sure if the dynasty – and that’s what it was, be real here – happens without any one of these factors. Stevens, to me, was the more important sea-change for the Devils. But Brodeur’s right there, and frankly did more to class up the joint in the eyes of the rest of the League.

The 1995 Stanley Cup was raised from the ashes of 1994, in which the Devils lost to their arch rivals in Game 7 of the conference final. Messier guarantee. Matteau Matteau Matteau. You know the drill.

Brodeur faced Mike Ritcher in that Game 7, and it was one of his all-time greatest goaltending duels: Two overtimes, and 46 saves from Brodeur, capping his first playoff run with a .928 save percentage and a 1.95 GAA.

One year later, and Brodeur was the dominant backbone of a crushing defensive effort. He didn’t give up more than two goals his last six playoff games, including that sweep of the Red Wings.

The 2000 Stanley Cup saw the same thing: 12 goals allowed in his last nine playoff games, as Brodeur limited the Dallas Stars to one goal in each of the last four games.

The 2003 Stanley Cup was Brodeur’s best shot at the Conn Smythe he had previously conceded to Claude Lemieux and Scott Stevens during the earlier wins. But his three shutouts in the Stanley Cup Final weren’t enough to overcome a 5-spot in a potential Cup clincher, and Jean-Sebastian Giguere had the better narrative.

Three Stanley Cups and five conference championships, the last one a career renaissance that absolutely no one saw coming in 2012. That 26-save Game 4 shutout against the Panthers in the first round remains one of the most important wins of his career, and it may have been trumped by that 43-save effort in Game 7.

Three rings. Two gold medals. Four Vezina Trophies, after being runner up to Dominik Hasek twice in the 1990s. Considered the greatest of all-time. Sorta.

St. Louis Blues' Martin Brodeur smiles as he announces his retirement from from NHL hockey during a news conference, Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015, in St. Louis. Brodeur finished his career with St. Louis after 21 seasons as goaltender with New Jersey. He will remain with the Blues as a senior adviser to general manager Doug Armstrong. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

This being New Jersey, there’s always a caveat, an asterisk. Hell, their first Stanley Cup came in half-a-season. 

Brodeur is the best goalie of all-time in wins and shutouts, two records that will necessitate a series of very unique circumstances for anyone to eventually break. And yet there’s been a cottage industry of detractors, right up until the day of his retirement.

Those gripes, in short:

* “He’s not as good as Dominik Hasek or Patrick Roy.”

* “He was a product of the trap and the trap era.”

* “He was a product of Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer, Ken Daneyko and Brian Rafalski.”

* “Advanced stats tell us he’s an overrated goalie.”

Some of this has merit. Even as a Brodeur fan, I struggle with the chicken or the egg argument about the system he played, eventually settling on the oft-repeated rejoinder of “just like the West Coast offense worked best with Joe Montana, Brodeur was the perfect talent for the Devils’ system.”

But his save percentages were never stellar, especially in comparison with his goals-against. And there’s no question that as more of those elite defenders and coaches left the fold, his numbers ballooned; and yet that also happened in conjunction with him leaving his prime.

Brodeur’s heard all the criticisms, and in true Jersey fashion, his answer is defiance.

“You think I’m a product of a system and the talent in front of me? Here, lemme backstop a team with Bryce Salvador as my No. 1 defenseman to the Stanley Cup Final at 39 years old…”

“You wanna make a rule that restricts what I’m able to do as a goalie? Here, lemme win two more Vezina Trophies with a trapezoid behind me…”

“You wanna say my stats should be better? I can’t hear you with my face buried in this record book …”

There used to blog called Brodeur Is A Fraud. It was a chronicle of mainstream fawning over Brodeur, and an interesting counterpoint to that adoration. I checked back in with it on the day of his retirement, only to find it dormant.

“Martin Brodeur is one of the greatest goaltenders of all-time.  He may be overrated in some circles, particularly among members of the mainstream media, but he is certainly not a fraud,” wrote the editor, “The Contrarian Goalie,” in a farewell message.  

“There is good reason to believe that a basic save percentage analysis underrates him to the point that he does deserve to considered one of the top 6-8 goalies ever.  This is because Brodeur adds value in terms of non-save skills (I believe primarily through puckhandling and keeping the play going to reduce faceoffs in his own zone), and because his home-town scorekeeper cost him several points on his save percentage through undercounting shots relative to other rinks around the league.  Goaltending is about finding small edges that add up over time, and once those two things are factored in, Brodeur's initially good-but-not-necessarily-elite save percentage record looks a lot more impressive.”

A critic giving a second thought to anything New Jersey related is a first.

***

Brodeur didn’t mention the Devils in his retirement speech with the Blues, save for answering a question about his relationship with Lou Lamoriello. The last two years haven’t been exactly a happy ending between franchise and franchise player; sort of like Shane riding off into the sunset and then catching on fire.

As a Devils fan, I didn’t care. He’s not the first legend to have an awkward goodbye with his former club; and if a hockey player knows anything about wounds, it’s that they heal. He’s as legacy obsessed as any athlete I’ve covered. He’ll be a Devil again.

Jersey’s where he became a star. Became a champion. Raised a family. Taught a fan base how to appreciate defense, if even that appreciation didn’t extend further into the state’s populace. Gave us a chance to cheer victories, chant “Marty’s Better” and mean it no matter who was between the pipes at the other end. Made us buy “BRODEUR 30” jerseys to wear with pride, knowing that he’d be the constant in a business that encourages roster turnover.

He won us championships, but above all else he won us respect.

I say this as a kid who grew up surrounded by Rangers fans in school hallways and the upper deck of the Meadowlands, who read pundits from other cities crapping on the franchise and cheerleading for its relocation. For 21 seasons, we had something they couldn’t deny, something that they had to respect even as they trashed every other aspect of the team, the state and the fans. We had someone from a team a Hockey God called a “Mickey Mouse franchise” that, each year, moved closer and closer to joining that pantheon of immortality.

We had Martin Brodeur, goaltender, New Jersey Devils. And we will forever take pride in that.

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Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: January 29, 2015, 5:59 pm

Martin Brodeur stood in front of a St. Louis Blues backdrop and announced his retirement on Thursday. It wasn’t the scene we had pictured it would be while watching his 22-year NHL career; but after splitting with the New Jersey Devils last season, he didn’t want to say goodbye just yet. 

Brodeur felt he could still play, and after a long wait spent the final seven games of his career with the Blues. When Brian Elliott got healthy, the 42-year old netminder was relegated to third on the depth chart. That’s when the thought of the end began to creep into his mind.

“I know I can play,” Brodeur said. “I know I still can have fun with this game. For me, just the fact that they got healthy was harder for me to stay around. I’m a competitive guy. It was hard to stay on the sideline. That’s why I decided to take my retirement.”

The Blues had hoped that Brodeur would stick around and lend his veteran expertise, but it didn’t feel right. “I felt in a way a little bit,” he said.

Brodeur will join Al MacInnis as a Senior Advisor to Blues GM Doug Armstrong. He’ll travel with the team and get his feet wet working in a management capacity. He’s committed to the gig through the end of this season, but as far a return to New Jersey, that will be examined down the line.

While starting his post-NHL career in a suit with the Blues might raise a few eyebrows and lead to speculation about his relationship with Devils GM Lou Lamoriello, there's nothing to that. Brodeur said they spoke constantly during his time in St. Louis and was supportive in his decision to work for them. 

“For anybody that thinks that me and Lou are not on the same page,” Brodeur said, “everybody’s wrong.”

In three years the Hockey Hall of Fame will come calling for Brodeur. One Calder Trophy. Two Olympic gold medals. Three Stanley Cups. Four Vezina Trophies. Nearly 20 NHL records. It was a decorated career. One number he would have loved to have reached was 700 wins, but ultimately fell nine short.

“Yeah, 691. It’s not too bad,” Brodeur said with a laugh. “It would have been nice to be at 700, but it is what it is. I wish I could have played more games. It’s all these lockouts. I got killed on it.” 

Every athlete wants to go out on their terms. They want to control their goodbye to the sport. Brodeur’s ending may not have been how we wanted to see it, but it was good enough for him. 

“I’m leaving the game with a big smile on my face,” he said. “I don’t think if I would have done that last year it would have been the case.”

- - - - - - -

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: January 29, 2015, 5:26 pm

Dobber launched his fantasy hockey website DobberHockey back in 2005 and has been Puck Daddy's resident fantasy hockey 'expert' since 2009.

It's at this point in the season where, if you're competing for first, you should start scouring the waiver-wire for underperforming players who are on expiring contracts. Fantasy owners aren't exactly known for their patience, and they often drop players in December or January who could turn out to be hidden gems - if they're on a different team.

Last season in late January, someone in one of my leagues dropped Ales Hemsky. Yes, Hemsky was doing terrible in Edmonton. But it was no secret that he was being shopped and would almost certainly be traded. I picked him up and he sat on my bench for three weeks. Then he was dealt to Ottawa. I could afford to keep such a player on my bench for a couple of weeks and it paid huge dividends because, as you know, he was very productive playing with Jason Spezza down the stretch. We'll end Hemsky's story there, rather than drag it into the Dallas era…

Some things to look for:

• Contract is expiring. And he'll become an unrestricted free agent, rather than restricted.

• Playing on a weak or bubble team

• He's struggling or just doesn't fit

• He has shown enough upside to be of interest to contending teams in need of a complimentary player. That is to say - when he goes to a new team he stands a good chance of getting a long look on a line with their star.

Some suggestions: Tomas Fleischmann (Florida); Chris Stewart and Drew Stafford (Buffalo); Justin Williams (Los Angeles - not currently in the playoffs); Cody Franson (Toronto); Michael Ryder (New Jersey); Jiri Tlusty (Carolina); Andrej Sekera (Carolina).

Studs...

These fellas are wielding a hot stick. Take that into consideration when you go after them in trade talks...

Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames (13-8-5-13, plus-6, 0 PIM, 36 SOG, 2 PPPts) - Right now Johnny Hockey has nine power-play points. That's for the entire season. He's getting all his points at even strength and when the PPPts start to come, watch out.

Kris Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins (6-1-10-11, plus-1, 2 PIM, 11 SOG, 5 PPPts) - Letang's five-assist game on Tuesday was enough to shift the outlook of the standings of many a fantasy league. If Letang can stay healthy, which is a pretty tall order for him, he has a very strong chance of winning the defensemen scoring title.

Frederik Andersen, Anaheim Ducks (4-0-0, 1.22 GAA, 0.953) - Along with Jaroslav Halak, I consider Andersen one of the two more valuable goaltenders in fantasy hockey. Halak doesn't have a John Gibson nipping at his heels in the system, though. But Andersen will continue to hang onto the top job the old fashioned way. With numbers that kick ass.

Duds...

Somebody wake these guys up – their fantasy owners are counting on them...

Alex Edler, Vancouver Canucks (9-1-1-2, plus-2, 8 PIM, 17 SOG, 0 PPPts) - With 58 points in his last 154 games, it's hard not to write Edler off as a 30-point player. And that's exactly what you should do. Seven full seasons in the NHL and he's only managed to top 38 points twice. 

Ryan McDonagh, New York Rangers (9-0-1-1, minus-1, 6 PIM, 15 SOG, 0 PPPts) - McDonagh is still a great shutdown defenseman and up until several weeks ago he was still getting pretty good PP time. But lately Dan Boyle has been the sole PP blue-liner as the Rangers go with four forwards. So the prospects of McDonagh suddenly heating up aren't very good.

Kari Lehtonen, Dallas Stars (2-3-2, 0 SO, 3.79 GAA, 0.897 SV%) - Dallas has a 28.6% win percentage when they're outshooting the opposition. Only Edmonton and New Jersey are lower. This is because the shots that do get through to Lehtonen go in far too often. 

The Wire...

Mostly short-term grabs here, but as always some potential steals...

Justin Abdelkader, Detroit Red Wings (9-2-7-9, plus-2, 23 Hits, 14 SOG, 5 PPPts) - The 27-year-old has a great shot at 50 points, 150 shots and 175 hits. While each of those would be a career high, it's the offense that has taken a big step forward. Lately he's been lining up with Gustav Nyquist and Henrik Zetterberg.

Benoit Pouliot, Edmonton Oilers (7-6-1-7, plus-3, 6 PIM, 17 SOG, 2 PPPts) - Pouliot is seeing time on the top line with Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, as well as the bump in power-play time that goes with that. He's making big bucks in Edmonton, so they're not going to bury him on a checking line. He had a slow start, followed by an injury, so he's definitely under the radar right now.

Joe Colborne, Calgary Flames (5-3-2-5, plus-4, 4 PIM, 7 SOG, 1 PPPts) - The former Leaf had eight points in nine games before missing time on injured reserve. He struggled when he returned, but is slowly coming back around. The only concern is that he's been stuck playing with Mason Raymond and Josh Jooris. 

Adam Lowry, Winnipeg Jets (7-1-5-6, plus-4, 17 Hits, 7 SOG, 1 PPPts) - The 21-year-old freshman is just starting to really get comfortable playing at this level and his emergence has given the Jets an effective third scoring line thanks to his chemistry with Evander Kane.

Mikhail Grabovski, New York Islanders (1-0-1-1, plus-1, 0 PIM, 4 SOG) - He's only been back for one game since he missed five games with a lower-body injury, but that game was on the John Tavares line. Given that Kyle Okposo is out until late March, look for Grabovski to see extended time in this spot. 

Rickard Rakell, Anaheim Ducks (6-3-4-7, plus-3, 0 PIM, 12 SOG, 3 PPPts) - Just a shade above 0% owned in Yahoo leagues, Rakell is a rookie with two-way talent and he's primarily been used on a checking line. After his recent four-point game, he has seen a small bump in ice time and PP time. Since Rakell stopped having to share game time with William Karlsson and is no longer getting scratched, he has 12 points (21 games). 

Seth Jones, Nashville Predators (5-1-4-5, plus-2, 0 PIM, 11 SOG, 3 PPPts) - Jones has gone seven consecutive games with at least 20 minutes of ice time. Before that - just once in 39 games did he see that kind of action. Coincidentally, Ryan Ellis sustained a lower-body injury seven games ago and has been out ever since. Jones is 23% owned.

Milan Michalek, Ottawa Senators (6-3-3-6, plus-3, 9 PIM, 11 SOG, 3 PPPts) - Michalek has fallen hard since his 60-point season from 2011-12. This just may be the first six-game run of this sort that he's enjoyed since then. He's seeing time on the power play with Bobby Ryan and Mika Zibanejad.

For more fantasy hockey tips, take a gander at DobberHockey. And while you’re at it, follow Dobber’s fantasy hockey musings on Twitter

Author: Dobber Hockey
Posted: January 29, 2015, 4:08 pm

NHL fans have been debating some suspensions recently: Dan Carcillo’s six games, Zac Rinaldo’s eight games. Some said they didn’t go far enough in sending a message to repeat offenders. 

Meanwhile, in the ECHL, they’re dropping 20-game hammers.

Andrew Conboy of the Elmira Jackals was suspended 20 games by the League for a cross-checking incident against Brampton. He was given a major penalty and a game misconduct for cross checking another player in the face, and a match penalty for deliberately attempting to injure an opponent.

Conboy was a repeat offender, having been hit with a suspension last October and then having that suspension extended to four games. He was also suspended in Jan. 2014.   

The Jackals, having seen enough, waived Conboy after his suspension.

This is a bit of a reoccurring theme for Conboy, who was also dropped by the Cardiff Devils of the EIHL after his third suspension in his first season with the team. Said the team in a Nov. 2013 release:

"Andrew Conboy’s Elite League campaign has been a challenging one with three suspensions being carried at this early part of the season, and we feel Andrew is now a ‘marked man’ and will not be able to play to his full potential and we can’t risk any further suspensions.”

If Conboy’s name sounds familiar, it’s because he was the Michigan State freshman who helped Corey Tropp attack Steve Kampfer during a 2009 game against Michigan.  He punched him from behind, and Tropp slashed him in the neck.

Conboy then quit school and joined the Hamilton Bulldogs of the AHL after being drafted by the Montreal Canadiens.

Alas, the market for sociopaths in the NHL isn’t what it used to be, so he toiled in the AHL until 2012, bounced to the ECHL, had that regrettable season in the U.K. ad was on his second ECHL team in as many years until he was dropped.

But, c'mon, someone will hire him. They always do. And that's the real problem. 

 

Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: January 29, 2015, 3:03 pm

Martin Brodeur is retiring on Thursday after a career that saw him set a few dozen records for NHL goalies, from wins to shutouts to goals scored (!).

Yahoo Sports Puck Daddy blog editor Greg Wyshynski looks back at this Hall of Fame worthy career and gives us five reasons why we'll miss the St. Louis Blues legend. 

(Well, he is retiring as a Blue. But you may remember him from such teams as the New Jersey Devils.)

What will you remember most about Brodeur?

 

Author: Yahoo Sports Staff
Posted: January 29, 2015, 2:18 pm

No. 1 Star: Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals

The Caps star sniper pumped in two goals in a 4-0 Washington victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins. The victory for the Caps broke a four-game losing streak. The two scores gave Ovi the NHL-lead at 29 on the year. Behold his glorious one-timer. 

No. 2. Star: Jeff Carter, Los Angeles Kings

The Kings center scored two goals and added an assist in a Los Angeles 4-3 come-from-behind victory over Chicago. Los Angeles had lost its previous four games and is about to embark on a five-game Eastern Conference roadtrip. Sick wrister ...

No. 3 Star: Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals

The Washington goaltender shut out the Penguins and made 27 saves in the process. In Holtby’s previous three games, he had allowed a total of 12 goals. His last win? Another shutout Jan. 14 against Philly.  

Honorable Mention: Cory Schneider stopped 29 of 30 Toronto shots on goal in a New Jersey victory over the Maple Leafs … Adam Larsson scored a goal for New Jersey … The Devils went 2-for-3 in the shootout … Washington’s Nicklas Backstrom notched two assists. Teammate Mike Green scored a goal and added an assist … Chicago’s Patrick Sharp scored a goal and added an assist in a loss to the Kings. Teammate Patrick Kane also scored a goal and added an assist … Kings forward Anze Kopitar notched two assists. Teammate Tyler Toffoli scored one goal and added an assist.

Did You Know?: Chicago's Corey Crawford was not pleased with this Kings game-tying goal per the Twitterverse.

Dishonorable Mention: Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury allowed four scores on 36 Washington shots on goal including two third period scores that put the game away. Teammate Sidney Crosby played 19:42 after snubbing the NHL All-Star Game and missing the following contest with a “lower body” injury … The Maple Leafs have lost seven games in a row … Chicago's Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad were each a minus-2 for Chicago against the Kings.

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Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: January 29, 2015, 6:40 am

A #rivalrynight game that actually fit the blood and guts feud hype? No way? Sweet! Helps when you have actual rivalries.

The Washington Capitals beat the PIttsburgh Penguins 4-0. The game included four total fighting majors. And a scrum after Alex Ovechkin tossed Christian Ehrhoff to the ground. 

Your browser does not support iframes.

This Steve Downie/Michael Latta brawl led to a cut on Downie's nose. Roar!

Said Latta to The Washington Post:

“When you get down four goals, you get really frustrated,” forward Michael Latta said. “Whether they just lost their tempers or were down enough, I don’t know. I don’t agree with some of the stuff they did, but it’s hockey. Everyone’s okay. So we’re good.”

And there was Latta's partner in crime Tom Wilson who just crushed Zach Sill. Check out his upper cuts. Yikes. Not even close on the fight card. 

Per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Part of the problem was that the Capitals consistently fared better in one-on-one confrontations, whether they were along the boards, in front of the net or off of faceoffs.

The Penguins have had some issues with toughness in their recent history, hence their deals for Patric Hornqvist and Maxim Lapierre. And Washington's beat-down did nothing to ease the criticism.

This looked like the Bash Brothers from D2. But it was just #rivalrynight, and a desperate and physical Washington team that had lost four in a row. 

- - - - - - -

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: January 29, 2015, 4:37 am

One of the knocks on advanced stats in the NHL is that they’re not treated as official numbers by the League -- we can find goals and assists on NHL.com, but not Corsi and PDO. This allows critics to treat them like some kind of crazy nerd voodoo rather than an increasingly legitimate means through which to evaluate players, teams and games. 

Well, it appears to the nerds won.

“Absolutely,” said NHL COO John Collins, at least weekend’s All-Star Game.

Collins confirmed that while the League waits to standardize the new player-tracking system that will eventually quantify puck possession stats more accurately, NHL.com is adding “enhanced stats” to its collection of player and team statistics. 

The addition is scheduled for late February.

“You’re going to see a big change in the way we present our stats, in terms of the depth and the utility of how to do it. And that’s before the puck tracking [system],” said Collins.

Among the 30 or so advanced stats being added to the NHL.com stats pages:

* Corsi, which estimates puck possession by totaling shots on goal, missed shots and blocked shots

* Fenwick, which does the game minus the blocked shots

* PDO, a combination of shooting and save percentage while on the ice at even strength

* Zone starts, which designate what percentage of a player’s shifts begin and end in each zone.

* Average shot distance

* Goals and assists per 20 minutes and 60 minutes 

* Penalties drawn and taken per 20 minutes and 60 minutes

The possession stats (Corsi, Fenwick) will also be presented in several ways, including game situations and as percentages in comparison to other players on the team.

The plan is to have all of this ready to roll next month, with the numbers going back to the 2010-11 season in its own stats table. The NHL says real-time enhanced stats for every game are in the plans.

How did the nerds win? By convincing the NHL that there’s a consumer base for these advanced stats.

The League has watched a cottage industry of different stats sites gain prominence, using the NHL’s own game sheets to scrape data and compute it. In some cases, the founders of these sites have found employment in the League.

Last summer, the League changed its terms of service agreement on NHL.com to ban “unauthorized spidering, scraping or harvesting of content” from the site. The speculation at the time was that the NHL was preparing its own advanced site, and that’s come to fruition.

To combat those competing sites, the NHL can boast that these are the “official” advanced stats, based on the ice time numbers the League collects from games. 

(Keep in mind the advanced stats coming to NHL.com next months are still from the current game sheets, not from the puck tracking software.)

The fact is that Collins and others in the League see these metrics as a way to better sell their players and tell their stories. Same goes for the puck-tracking data, some of which we saw for the first time at the All-Star Game.

“It’s going to be able to help them to tell stories. It’ll give them a frame of reference in comparison to football and soccer. How fast a goalie moves in comparison to a pitcher’s fastball,” he said.

These additions are like the opening whistle for major changes on NHL.com in the coming months, maybe years.

“We need to create a digital record of what happens on the ice. That’s standard across the league, and goes much deeper than the current real-time scoring system,” said Collins. 

When that player tracking data is standardized, it’s possible that Corsi and Fenwick turn into some other possession metric as the need to project those numbers becomes outdated. 

But for now, the NHL is giving the validity of these fan-driven "fancy stats" an undeniable endorsement.

Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: January 28, 2015, 11:35 pm

Several American Hockey League franchises have been rumored to be moving to the West Coast. The league is having a press conference Thursday at San Jose’s SAP Center with brass from the Sharks, the Flames, the Ducks, the Kings, the Oilers and NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly present. 

What could this possibly be about?

Unless it's the latest Stonecutters inductions I’m sure we’ll know at 12:30 p.m. Pacific time.

Relocation for next season. Duh... 

Though we don’t know the exact locations of the new teams, this likely means the end of Calgary’s affiliation with Adirondack, San Jose’s with Worcester, Anaheim’s with Norfolk, Los Angeles’ with Manchester and Edmonton’s with Oklahoma City.

Cities rumored as part of AHL relocation in the past included Stockton, San Jose, Bakersfield, Ontario, Long Beach and San Diego amongst others. All spots are in California.  

While this stinks for the teams in the east that are losing affiliations, it simply makes sense for the more westerly squads. Just think, if a Ducks player gets hurt, a call-up must fly from Norfolk to Anaheim.

According to Yahoo Maps, that’s 2,705.23 miles. And Norfolk doesn’t have a major international airport. Per Orbitz, if you needed a player to get from Norfolk to the Los Angeles/Anaheim area tomorrow, there are 0 direct flights.

It’s a competitive disadvantage for those teams, and creates greater cost to fly players across the country.

From the Minneapolis Star-Tribune in early December:

It’s an advantage the Anaheim Ducks (Norfolk is their affiliate), Arizona Coyotes (Portland, Maine), Colorado Avalanche (Erie, Pa.), Los Angeles Kings (Manchester, N.H.), San Jose Sharks (Worcester, Mass.) and even the Calgary Flames (Glens Falls, NY), Edmonton Oilers (Oklahoma City) and Vancouver Canucks (Utica, N.Y.) don’t have.

That’s why as early as next season, there could be a titanic transformation in the AHL. The NHL’s chief development league is well on its way toward several relocations of eastern markets to western markets that’ll include some and eventually maybe all of the above teams.

That’s just the difficulties the western franchises face, rather than say the Buffalo Sabres, whose AHL affiliate is in nearby Rochester.

Also, it shows hockey finally embracing California as a growing hotbed for the game. Good, because it is. And the weather is nice and … we could go on and on for more advantages by having teams out there. Thank you Wayne Gretzky! 

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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: January 28, 2015, 11:01 pm

[Author's note: Power rankings are usually three things: Bad, wrong, and boring. You typically know just as well as the authors which teams won what games against who and what it all means, so our moving the Red Wings up four spots or whatever really doesn't tell you anything you didn't know. Who's hot, who's not, who cares? For this reason, we're doing a power ranking of things that are usually not teams. You'll see what I mean.]  

8. Zac Rinaldo, why don't you come to your senses?

So Zac Rinaldo got eight games for hitting Kris Letang from behind and more or less gloating about it afterward, as though eight games is going to serve as any sort of deterrent to the kind of behavior that makes him so corrosive to the idea that this is or ever was a game for classy professional athletes who don't want to severely hurt each other.

There's no good reason a no-talent dirtbag like this should be on an NHL roster here in 2015 and if you think there is you are, flatly, living in the past. If ever a time when such a player's presence in this league could be tolerated, it is certainly not in the era of Player Safety, concussion awareness, and analytics, all of which suggest that players of Rinaldo's quality and ilk are better left out by the curb with the rest of the garbage.

Broad Street Hockey had a nice post on the subject of Rinaldo being an “embarrassment” which attracted the usual low-functioning cretin to bang on about grit and being hard to play against and not being a real hockey fan. But how do we know, really, that Rinaldo — who now has three suspensions and a fine to his name in just 201 games (in which he plays an average of fewer than eight minutes a night because he's awful) — is the worst kind of actor in the league? The total lack of contrition.

That guileless smirk on his face, and his, “We won the game, didn't we?” justification for his actions after the fact probably didn't sit well with anyone at league office. Next time, they might actually have the courage of their convictions to throw the book at him.

But the good news is that in the amount of time he would have played in the eight games for which he was suspended, Rinaldo will almost be able to bang out a binge-watch three whole episodes of Two and a Half Men.

7. The Okposo injury

Just in time for the publication of my column espousing the virtues of the New York Islanders as favorites in the East, Kyle Okposo is put on the shelf for as long as two months.

This is extremely troubling for the club, who now have a big hole in the lineup to fill. He's second on the team in points, third in goals, and second in minutes among forward. It goes without saying that he and John Tavares have formed a potent attack that, when on the ice together, drives possession at more than 55 percent and results in a whole hell of a lot of goals.

The idea of the Isles going even a week without him is difficult to see, but eight might just be a bridge too far in terms of them keeping things going at quite the same pace as before. It's difficult to underscore how impactful this is likely to be, because not only does Okposo deliver in attack, but he also plays the most difficult competition of anyone on the team.

All that having been said, it's not a death blow. It's not a Halak or Tavares injury, which would probably be impossible to come back from. But it's extremely difficult nonetheless, and we're probably going to learn a lot about the Islanders both in terms of overall quality and depth in the next six to eight weeks.

6. Stamkos to Toronto!!!!!!!

How quaint it was, just a few months ago, when people started conjecturing about the idea of Steven Stamkos “coming home” to the Greater Toronto Area to play for his beloved Maple Leafs just as soon as his current contract is up in Tampa.

You know that many in the Toronto media had July 1 circled as the day to watch, because that's when Tampa will officially be able to sign him to what you can only assume is going to be a huge extension for the maximum length of time allowable. If he didn't sign by then, buddy, you knew he was TO-bound! Fulfilling his destiny to lead the club he presumably cheered for as a kid back to glory and all that.

Except he just said this weekend that he wants to get a deal done in Tampa as soon as he possibly can. Which kind of puts a sword through the whole “Stamkos to the Buds” balloon that's been bobbing around hopefully for the last several months.

Because here's the thing no one thought of: Why on earth does Stamkos want to go be The Guy in Toronto, where if he doesn't score 55 a year with what I'm sure would be the No. 2 minutes he gets behind Tyler f'n Bozak, media goons start calling him a lazy coach killer at every turn? Oh and also why would he want to go to the Leafs — who suck and probably will for at least a few more years to come while they fix this badly broken organization — in the prime of his career, when Tampa is a good organization filled with terrifying young talent and doesn't require any sort of extensive rebuild. What are the Bolts, like, two half-decent pieces away from being legitimately Cup-competitive? The Leafs are two lines away.

This was never gong to happen, Leaf fans. Eh, but maybe you still have a shot with John Tavar... haha just kidding.

5. “Hey nerds corsi is gonna die soon heh heh heh”

Another thing that happened over the weekend was the NHL unveiled its big new stats system, which tracks players and the puck in real time and was really damn cool to watch in action. It will make tracking games much easier and more interesting.

This, of course, led the usual media dullards to joke about how this is going to make corsi look ridiculous by comparison, and how it's so great that corsi will be dead and everything like that.

Which, well, yes and no.

It is going to make corsi ridiculous, probably, but it's also going to make stat tracking more complicated and deeper, and it will still take people who are too dumb to understand the value of shot attempt-based metrics a long time and probably a decent amount of frustrated pointing at graphs for them to understand what the new data is meant to be showing them.

This data will supplant corsi, fenwick, et al, not subvert it.

Do these people honestly think that if they cannot understand how corsi correlates to goalscoring and therefore winning — and how easily it is tracked and compiled into one number that actually tells you an awful lot about how good a team is — that they're going to pick up on how important something like, say, pass completion rates correlate to corsi which correlates to goals which correlates to winning.

The reason these people really ought to be excited is that it's going to start spitting out player speed data, which will give them something else to criticize Phil Kessel and Alex Ovechkin for when these new metrics further prove how great they are.

(No one tell them that NHL.com is going to start displaying corsi data in the next few weeks, either.)

4. The Bobrovsky injury

So Sergei Bobrovsky is hurt again and expected to miss at least a month. The good news is that the Blue Jackets were never going to close a 14-point deficit in the standings to begin with. Might as well try to out-tank New Jersey.

3. Waiving Mike Richards

Well Mike Richards hit the waiver wire this week and no one even bothered claiming him because he is expensive and bad. Which is one of those things where the wheels really just fell off a guy over the course of two or three seasons and at first everyone wanted to act like these were hiccups and not a trend, even though the signs were there all along.

And now the Kings are stashing so much cap hit in the AHL and only getting the slightest bit of relief, which is only fair and makes sense. The fact that anyone even had a discussion with the Kings about a trade is insane to me, but if you're talking swaps for bad contracts, Calgary and Toronto both have plenty of 'em to go around.

This was a decision that absolutely had to be made, but I'm shocked LA actually took that step. The team's cap crunch this season has been well-publicized, of course, but this is possibly the most drastic step they could have taken even if it's also the most logical.

The real question is how much of a desire they have to keep Richards, who still has a few years left on his deal, in the AHL at that price point for that long. Would it be altogether shocking if he, say, starts next season with the big club again? What if the Kings put him on re-entry waivers just to get rid of him? Does anyone step up then with the knowledge that at least they wouldn't have had to worry about cap recapture hitting them too hard? This is a frankly bizarre situation.

Especially because amnesty buyouts were a path a team could pursue as recently as last summer. Buy a guy out, nothing owed but money, and see ya later. Let Richards figure it out on someone else's time, while this team with pretensions of winning Stanley Cup yet again pursued that goal unencumbered by his $5.75 million cap hit for the season. You could get a better center just about anywhere in free agency.

Boy wouldn't a compliance buyout have solved all these problems? Gee whiz.

2. Rallying around Phil Kessel

Loved the jokes about how coachable and good Phil Kessel is, and how much they seemed to not like the way the media treats him in general. I think it's telling that while the players clearly like giving him a bit of a hard time — picking him last in that first-ever fantasy draft, trading him for Tyler Seguin this time around — they clearly value his talent and seem to like him personally.

Team Toews' Tyler Seguin (91) of the Dallas North Stars doesn't get the goal as Team Foligno goalie Brian Elliott (1) of the St. Louis Blues falls on top of the puck during the third period of the NHL All-Star hockey game in Columbus, Ohio, Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015. Team Toews won 17-12. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

1. Everything about All-Star weekend that wasn't the All-Star Game

The thing with people complaining about how big of a joke the All-Star Game is, is that it's always that bad, and it's always totally not the point.

All-Star weekend is about having fun, and if you leave out how big of a hung-over mess Sunday always is, what part of the NHL season is more fun than this? No one takes it seriously because it cannot be taken seriously, and as a consequence everyone spends literally two straight days laughing and having a good time. This is a miserable league a lot of the time, with all the perceived scandals and hand-wringing about trying hard and stats-versus-the-eye-test and so on and so on every season and beyond, 363 days a year. You can't even count the All-Star Game because it makes miserable morons bemoan, like, a lack of backchecking and trying hard or something. I'm never going to understand it.

But the draft, where players clearly more than a little liquored up and making fun of each other? It's great. The Skills Competition, where players are not only showing off the dazzling talents that make them the best in the world — shooting a puck 108.5 miles an hour! Skating around the rink at 30 miles an hour! Stick handling the best goalies on the planet out of their pants! — but also trying to light their sticks on fire and letting little kids take penalty shots against NHL goalies in front of 16,000 people.

Everyone has a good time for 48 straight hours, and that never happens in this stupid league. So of course everyone complains about it. Of course they do.

(Not ranked this week: People complaining about Alex Ovechkin.

Likewise, Alex Ovechkin spent the whole weekend campaigning for Honda to give him a $30,000 car. “Haha, the millionaire wants a decent import sedan that he could buy several times over with a single week's pay. Good one Ovie.”

But then it turns out he wants it so he can donate it to a hockey program with kids for developmental disabilities, and you'd have thought he wanted it so he could drive onto the ice in the middle of their practice and run them over.

“If he wanted it so bad, he should have just bought it instead of begging for it! He can afford it!”

You know who else can afford it? A company that saw its net profit more than double to $1.6 billion in the final quarter of 2013.

And guess what else? Let's say he gets the car at the Fantasy Draft, or even if he wins MVP of the All-Star Game. He then goes, “Cool thank you for the car, I'm going to donate it to a hockey league for kids with developmental disabilities.” And everyone goes, “Wow, what I nice guy Alex Ovechkin is.” But because he made a big show of wanting it, he is somehow selfish. People actually think like this, huh? Good lord.)

Author: Ryan Lambert
Posted: January 28, 2015, 10:51 pm

It’s late January and the Los Angeles Kings are outside the playoffs. But they’re still at 14-1 odds to win the Stanley Cup per vegasinsider.com – ahead of teams such as the Nashville Predators Vancouver Canucks and Winnipeg Jets who are ahead of the Kings in the standings.

Should we at all be surprised?

Los Angeles is on pace for 90 points as it enters its #rivalrynight game against Chicago. That likely won’t do it to make the postseason in the Western Conference. They’re three points out of the playoffs Wild Card, behind Calgary, which won again Tuesday night.

But it just doesn’t seem real that the defending champs – who make an art of meh regular seasons and playoff success – are going to miss the NHL’s annual spring fling.

Said Dustin Brown to NHL.com

"If it doesn't [anger you] as a player, you shouldn't be playing at this level," Brown said. "But as individuals, as teams, as coaches, you pore over video and stats and this and that. We need to figure it out. Again, it's something we're going to have to figure out very quickly here because of the situation and how many road games we have.

"But ... historically, our team, when our backs are against the wall, we dig down and find a way. It's one of those situations. It's going to be an important 30-or-so games left."

Though Brown used one of the most used desperation clichés in the history of desperation clichés (backs against the wall … ugh) he does have a point. The Kings of Darryl Sutter lore seem to do their best when all hope is lost.

They made the 2012 playoffs as an eighth seed and came back from a 3-0 deficit against San Jose to beat the Sharks in the first round of the 2014 playoffs. Both years ended with Sutter's bizarro smile and a Stanley Cup win.

From the same story:

They finished the 2011-12 season with a 9-2-3 run to squeak in and went on to win their first Cup. Last season they went 15-6-2 after the Sochi Olympics en route to their second Cup.

But could this finally be the year the Kings regular season rope-a-dope doesn’t work? There are arguments that say yes. 

The Slava Voynov situation has sapped Los Angeles of its defensive depth, and also given the Kings a distraction. The waiving of Mike Richards again added an annoyance to the year at a critical time. This group has gone to the Conference Final or Stanley Cup Final three straight years. Is it just time for exhaustion to creep in? Los Angeles is just 5-9-6 on the road, in contrast to 23-14-4 away from Staples Center last season. In the playoffs a year ago only one team from the Western Conference made it with a losing road record. 

Said Sutter to The Los Angeles Times:

"They have to keep understanding and listening to what I'm telling them about how tough it is," he said. "The train has got to be a work train, not the Stanley Cup train. The Stanley Cup train was last year and some guys just have to get off that train."

But The Times also points out in the story that the Kings’ aren't in an unfamilair position.

In each season from 2005-06 through 2013-14 (excluding the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season) at least one but no more than three teams made the playoffs after being outside a qualifying spot at the All-Star or Olympic break. The Kings did it in 2010-11, making the playoffs after being one point out at the All-Star break. It should be noted that the 2010 and 2014 Olympic breaks were about two weeks later — and nearly two weeks longer — than All-Star breaks during that span.

Also, it’s likely that the Kings squad we’ve seen all year won’t be the same after the March 2 trade deadline. General Manager Dean Lombardi is known for making the right deal to get his team into playoff mode. Whether it was acquiring Jeff Carter in 2012 or making the move for Marian Gaborik in 2014. Both guys helped push the Kings into the postseason and were major factors in their playoff runs.

Is it possible that this year could be different?

Sure. Calgary has yet to fall off. Winnipeg seems stable. Vancouver is also in a playoff spot. All three teams weren’t expected to continue their early-season staying power. And they’ve given us every reason to believe they’re going to stay strong. Yay Canada!

But the Kings are the Kings. They have the formula. That formula has worked. And until it doesn’t, expect them to make the tournament in April … even if they cause a few heart palpitations along the way. 

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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: January 28, 2015, 9:58 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 Montreal Canadiens official Twitter account

• Let’s Talk everyone! [Montreal Canadiens Twitter]

• Cal Clutterbuck is the latest player fined for diving/embellishment [NHL]

• Could the Predators win the Central Division if they keep this up? [ESPN]

• The Capitals are scoring, but losing. This is confusing. [Japers Rink]

• The Islanders basically own the Rangers right now. [The Pink Puck]

• Chris Sutter was the big winner All-Star weekend. [LA Kings]

• Mike Richards is off to the minors. [LA Times]

• The Wild need more production from their second PP line. [Russo’s Rants]

• Bill Guerin visits the White House. [Pensburgh]

• Daniel Alfredsson will receive the key to the city in Ottawa in March. [Sportsnet]

•  The Chicago Blackhawks have a few thoughts on Martin Brodeur’s career. [Second City Hockey]

• The next $10 million player? Anze Kopitar maybe? [The Fourth Period]

• More injuries in Columbus with Jeremy Morin placed on injured reserve. [Blue Jackets]

• The Predators seem to have trouble closing out other teams. [Nashville Post]

• Marty Brodeur is with the Blues, but he will one day return a Devil. [Yahoo]

• Leon Draisaitl rockets into Oil Country. [Buzzing the Net]

•  Mike Ribeiro is on pace to eclipse Nashville’s franchise record for helpers. [Rinkside Report]

• Could Milwaukee join the NHL expansion mix? [Sports Illustrated]

• The Todd Nelson factor for the Edmonton Oilers. [Oilers Nation]

• Mike Richards may end up in Calgary if the Flames and Kings can work out a deal. [Calgary Sun]

• Finally, Tic-tac-toe to Grabo

 

Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: January 28, 2015, 8:02 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: Darren Pang on the retirement of Marty Brodeur.

• NHL prospects talk. 

• Carey Price and the Hart

• The World Cup of Hockey.

• News and notes. 

Question of the Day: 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: January 28, 2015, 7:03 pm

Jarome Iginla is a legend.

He ranks 47th overall in points with 1,199 in his career and 20th overall in goals with 575. And he’s at it again for Colorado. His 15 goals leads the Avalanche.

The 37-year-old Iginla has had extraordinary level of consistency. Since 2000-01 he has had 30 goals every year – with the exception of the 2012-13 lockout-shortened season.

The only element lost on his resume is a Stanley Cup. He hasn’t won one, and in his back-to-back years with powerhouses Pittsburgh and Boston, those two teams flamed out in the postseason. 

Regardless, his legacy is secure. He is one of the true ambassadors for the game – a guy who is smart, talkative and enjoyable to watch on the ice.

Iginla carved out a decent chunk of time for us after a morning skate in Nashville to answer many questions, which is cool because players try to scram quickly after morning skate.  Thanks Jarome!

Q: You smile a lot when you talk to us, but you’re a nasty SOB on the ice. Explain this Hulk-like transformation…

IGINLA: "On the ice I think it’s a competitive, intense game. We all have different styles. We try to win more battles and try to get engaged and usually try to get yourself a little bit grumpy out there. I know I do. We all have different styles, so it’s part of the game trying to be competitive and compete and be determined."

You’ve played with Joe Sakic on Team Canada, now he’s your boss in Colorado. You’ve played against Patrick Roy, now he’s your coach. You’ve played with and against almost every big-named Canadian hockey player from the last era. That must feel interesting.

"I think it’s cool. Part of the attraction to come to Colorado was to play for Joe and Patrick and I believe in what they’ve done in their careers as players and on teams and I believe we’re going to find a way to be successful. They have so far and I wanted to come and be a part of it. I do think it’s pretty funny.

"(Alex) Tanguay is a little more unique situation because he played yearly with them and won a Stanley Cup with them. It’s a neat dynamic. Once you come in … it’s not that much different.

Have you and Joe talked about having Patrick put on some pads and trying to organize a shootout against him?

"He was definitely one of the best goalies to play, but I always found him to be one of the hardest guys to score on. He was one of the guys I was most excited when I did get one past him because he was a great goalie, but also very competitive and if one got past him, no matter what he was pissed and that was pretty cool." 

After being in Calgary for most of your career, with three teams in three years now you’re like a hockey nomad. What has that been like after playing one place for so long?

"It has gotten easier. It has been great. I’ve had a lot of fun. It has honestly been … my family and I have really enjoyed it. They have been fun adventures and having a chance with Pittsburgh … it was an adjustment leaving and being in such a familiar environment for so long and being unfamiliar and a new thing. But it was a great challenge. It was fun. We made it to the conference final, I hadn’t been in there in a long time. Going to Boston we won the Presidents’ Trophy, it was a fun year, we had a lot of success during the regular season, the most success I’ve had during the regular season, made the second round of the playoffs. That was fun, playing the Canadiens. It has been great.

"Now coming to Colorado, I don’t really want to move again, but it has been a fun year. It’s a great place to play its’ a wonderful city. The guys here are great. It’s a wonderful energy, and I think we’re going to keep getting better. I enjoyed all my time in Calgary. Every year, it’s the NHL. It’s something I’ve dreamed about since I was seven years old. It has been as good as I could have dreamed and a lot better.

"Each one of those … I’d love to win the Stanley Cup. But as far as moving it has been great. It has been interesting and I’ve learned a lot and experienced a lot."

Do you have any regret about leaving Boston?

"No, I don’t really think like that. I’ve really enjoyed … we’re a few points behind Calgary for the last playoff spot. Our game is starting to come. I think I’m where I’m supposed to be and no complaints and I’m enjoying it. I’ve been very fortunate. My family has enjoyed it and I’ve enjoyed it, there’s no ‘what-ifs, shoulda coulda.’ I’m extremely fortunate and no complaints." 

You’ve played in every incarnation of the modern-day NHL and done so successfully. How have you been able to adapt?

"I’ve been very blessed to play as long as I have. I’ve gotten to play with some very good players and good situations and keep trying. I’m fortunate and keep trying to learn more and get better and I still like it and I still enjoy playing and competing and having fun, so you try to stay … as a whole it’s a more skating league. Guys are in better shape overall with more knowledge about taking care of their bodies and just different stuff than when I started 18 years ago. There were guys who did it in pockets when I started, but it wasn’t a whole group. Now it’s rare if you see a guy who isn’t in good shape." 

Is it about learning about the new rules along with talent?

"I guess the style of game, you try to adapt, but still at the same time you keep your strengths. I want to be shooter, be competitive, go to the net, so it has changed, but it hasn’t changed that much. It’s more skating than it used to be for sure. Every guy, for the fourth line, seventh D-man, they can all skate. It wasn’t always like that. You had big, tough guys and things like that. It wasn’t as skating back then.

"It’s also about training and trying to make sure you stay fit and not make any excuses like ‘Because I’m getting older to let myself get out of shape’ or whatever. You still work as hard every day and keep shooting pucks keep listening to coach. I wouldn’t say a lot has changed. I more just keep trying to improve."

Players like Sidney Crosby pulled out of the All-Star Game at the last minute. Do you have a take on that, and is it important for stars to play in such events?

"There’s no point for me to weigh in on that …

"They have their rules and stuff and I think some guys are dinged up and some want a break. I couldn’t tell you who wants what or wants where, but I don’t know. That’s part of the thing. Erik Johnson on our team couldn’t go, he would have loved to go. Each guy, it’s too hard to say where people are at or what they’re feeling and stuff, so I don’t want to guess."

Mike Richards, another former Team Canada teammate, was recently put on waivers and sent to the minors. Weird seeing a name like that on the waiver wire? 

"He’s had a lot of success. He’s a good player and won a couple of Stanley Cups. There’s a business to it and our contracts are part of it. But as players who play against him, we definitely have a lot of respect for him and what he has accomplished and the success he went to LA and had. Who knows where it’s going to go, but it’s definitely … we see it and all the different players who go on waivers. It’s part of the business side of it."

I’ve heard you have a home office. What does Jarome’s office look like? Wayne Manor perhaps?

"Probably not a lot different than most other people’s. Not exciting I have a desk, some chairs."

Books?

"Not really on display anymore. It’s not the look we’re going for.

"I have the different Olympic torches from all the Olympics I got to participate in. That type of thing, nothing too crazy. My wife doesn’t like a lot of clutter or anything."

- - - - - - -

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: January 28, 2015, 5:49 pm

If you’ve been monitoring Twitter Wednesday or watching television up in Canada, you’ve probably noticed the Let’s Talk campaign by Bell, in order to bring awareness to mental illness with the hashtag #bellletstalk. 

From a string of tweets by NHL Department of Player Safety voice Patrick Burke, it has been all over the mainstream and social media universe.

9 years later, I am still in hockey. I have great family and friends. And I carefully monitor my mental health daily. #BellLetsTalk

— Patrick Burke (@BurkieYCP) January 28, 2015

Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock has joined the fight.

In this video provided by TSN, Babcock explains how two families close to him recently lost members because of mental illness. Most startling is that in his entire coaching career he says only two hockey players have come forward to him to chat about mental issues with him. Think the NHL has a ‘tough guy’ problem?

“How is a man or woman supposed to be the best they can be if they have something bothering them and they can’t talk about it? That makes no sense,” he is quoted in the video. 

He said once the players opened up to him, he noticed a difference.

"As soon as they talk about it, it’s therapeutic” he added.

Mind blowing that only two hockey players have ever talked with Babcock – a coach of over 20 years about this issue.

Either way, it’s good to see someone with a higher profile come out and say this is an issue and not just say ‘tough it out.’ 

Let’s talk everyone!

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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: January 28, 2015, 5:48 pm

The disconnect between the NHL All-Star Game’s entertainment value on-site and on television grows forever wider.

Having covered the weekend in Columbus, it was a blast. OK, the actual game wasn’t – that was pretty unwatchable. But the NHL All-Star Fantasy Draft and Skills Competition delivered and were a riot to watch. 

Having now seen the TV ratings for these events … woof.

NBCSN in the U.S. reports that the All-Star Game on Sunday delivered 1.194 million viewers, which was a 14-percent drop from the 2012 game on NBCSN (1.317 million). The Skills Competition delivered 895,000 viewers, down 15% from the 2012 competition on NBCSN (1.104 million). The Fantasy Draft on Friday delivered 310,000 viewers, down 24% from the 2012 Fantasy Draft (408,000).

The good news for NBC, such as it is, was that the All-Star Game was the most-watched NHL game on NBCSN since the Stanley Cup Final and the 1.194 million viewers were up 240 percent vs. the network’s regular-season average from last season 351,000.

The ratings picture in Canada wasn’t all that sunnier. From Kevin McGran of the Toronto Star:

Sunday’s game that featured an absurd 29 goals drew 1.479 million viewers to CBC, nearly one million viewers less than the last all-star game in 2012 when 2.454 million people watched and 2011 when 2.363 million tuned in.

The ratings for the rest of the weekend were also down significantly compared to previous years. Saturday’s super skills drew 1.7 million viewers to CBC, down from 2.5 million in 2012 and 2.4 million in 2011. And Friday’s fantasy draft on Sportsnet drew a hair over half-a-million viewers, compared to 1.33 million in 2012 on TSN and 1.5 million in 2011.

Again, it’s a shame, because the weekend on a whole was pretty entertaining for the NHL.

So what was it? Too much of a transition year as far as star power, with familiar names like Crosby and Malkin and Datsyuk and Zetterberg and Jagr and Lundqvist not in the game? Were the jerseys just too fug? Did Fall Out Boy fail to light enough mups?

We’re not sure how the NHL reacts to this. On the one hand, what happens inside the host city – from a revenue perspective – will always be paramount, and the all-star weekend seemed to work in Columbus.

On the other hand … well, the All-Star Game itself was like watching paint dry while sitting next to a jackhammer. Will they consider a format change to the event or to the game itself? Or do we just chalk this one up as being a bad finish to a good weekend? 

Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: January 28, 2015, 4:01 pm

Our friend Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News wonders if Carey Price should win the Hart Trophy this season:

In reality, it’s the player most valuable to his team as long as that team is good and since Montreal is a near-lock for the playoffs already, the Habs qualify. But the Canadiens have just one player among the top-60 scorers in the NHL and that’s Max Pacioretty, who ranks 34th right now with 38 points in 46 games. 

The power play – one of the few aspects of the game Price has no effect on – is bottom-10 in the league, clicking at just 17.1 percent.

Price has a compelling case. He’s third behind Brian Elliott (.944) and Michael Hutchinson (.942) in even-strength save percentage, coming in at .939. That’s with having faced the fourth-most shots at 5-on-5 (914). He’s 25-10-2 overall with a 2.15 GAA.

But we all know how this Hart Trophy thing works, right?

First, it’s that voters feel like the NHL already has a goalie MVP award called the Vezina, so goalies are like pitchers placed in the Cy Young ghetto in baseball. Seven times a goalie has won the Hart; Jose Theodore’s dramatic turnaround of the 2002 Montreal Canadiens and Dominik Hasek’s one-man show for the Buffalo Sabres from 1996-98 are the only post-expansion examples.

You can be the best skater on an elite team and win the Hart – Wayne Gretzky collected nine of them for those plucky underdogs from Edmonton – but the only way a goalie can win is if he qualifies for the Jack Adams Award One Guy Turned Crap Into Champions status.

Look at Roberto Luongo of the Florida Panthers, a player that’s had my Hart Trophy support for most of the season. They’re scoring 2.36 goals per game. Their power play (14.5 percent) is No. 27 in the League. And at last check, they’re the Florida Panthers. And yet he’s the sole reason they have a sniff of the playoffs, seven points in back of Boston and Washington.

Pekka Rinne has been mentioned as a potential Hart candidate from the Nashville Predators, at least before his injury. But again: The Predators were expected to be hot dog poop, so Rinne gets enormous credit even as the team has three others probable awards finalists.

Price’s problem is that people think the Canadiens are a good hockey team because they made the postseason last year and have 63 points so far this season. And so the only way Price gets Hart love is if the Canadiens are reconsidered as a mediocre team propped up by its goalie.

And to that end, Price has a compelling case.

Their 2.63 goals per game is actually ahead of last year’s pace but still bottom 10 in the league. Their power play is in the same neighborhood. They give up 30.7 shots per game, and yet Price has them fifth in the League in winning percentage when being outshot (.600).

From a possession standpoint, they’ve been atrocious: 25th in the NHL in Corsi-percentage (48.4).

So the argument can be made that the Canadiens are being carried by Carey this season. The question then becomes whether voters will feel they’re be that worse without him, or if his accomplishment is so unparalleled this season that it trumps anything a skater accomplished.

Which, judging from the field, it could this season. There's no breakout favorite, and a lot of those top scorers might not make the postseason cut. This could be the season for a goalie to take the Hart. 

Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: January 28, 2015, 3:29 pm

Watching Minnesota Wild forward Charlie Coyle’s goal from Tuesday night vs. the Edmonton Oilers in real time, you’re left awestruck. 

The Oilers defenders were on him. Goalie Viktor Fasth came out to the top of the crease to challenge him. Coyle looked like he ran out of real estate before sliding into the boards. And yet … it was a goal, the game-winner in the Wild’s 2-1 victory over the Oilers.

How’d he pull that one off? Logic would dictate that he banked it off Fasth as the goalie scrambled back to his crease. But no – Coyle actually tucked the puck in from behind the goal line after beating three Edmonton defenders on a breakaway. That’s nuts.

Although Coyle said after the game that the goalie’s aggressive reaction surprised him, Fasth played the challenge correctly – not his fault that he followed the backhand deke to its logical conclusion.

There may have been just a slight miscommunication with the defenders as Andrew Ference came blazing in on the backcheck, but they mostly had this played correctly. And Coyle barely got the puck around the near post before running out of time.

Sometimes guys make plays. Coyle made a heck of one there.

Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: January 28, 2015, 2:27 pm

No. 1 Star: Kris Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins

Notched five assists in his first game back after being slammed into the boards by Zac Rinaldo before the All-Star break in a 5-3 win over the Winnipeg Jets. Forward Patric Hornqvist also returned for the Pens in the victory after missing a month of action.

No. 2 Star: Jaroslav Halak, New York Islanders

Halak has turned into Rangers kryptonite, stopping 40 of 41 shots on goal in a 4-1 victory over the Islanders’ rival. This comes on the heels of a shutout over the Rangers before the All-Star break. Overall on the season, Halak is 3-0-0 against the Rangers. 

No. 3. Star: Frederik Andersen, Anaheim Ducks

The slick Danish netminder stopped 17 shots on goal in a 4-0 blanking over the Canucks. The victory for the NHL-leading Ducks was Anaheim’s sixth in a row and the shutout was Andersen’s third this season and second this month.

Honorable Mention: Minnesota’s Charlie Coyle scored a goal in a win over Edmonton … Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk stopped 23 of 24 shots on goal … Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau scored two goals in a win over Buffalo. Teammate Jiri Hudler notched two assists … Nashville’s Craig Smith scored the game-winner over Colorado in overtime … Predators forward Mike Ribeiro picked up three assists in the victory … Detroit’s Stephen Weiss scored one goal and added two assists in a win over Florida … Panthers forward Aleksander Barkov scored a goal and added two assists … Luke Glendening scored two goals for Detroit and was a plus-4 … Montreal goaltender Carey Price stopped 40 of 42 Dallas shots on goal in a win over the Stars … Brendan Gallagher scored the game-winner for the Habs … Fresh off an All-Star appearance, Carolina’s Justin Faulk scored a goal and added an assist in a win over Tampa … The Staal brothers combined for four points in the victory … Columbus forward Nick Foligno notched two assists and was a plus-3 in a win over Washington. Teammate Cam Atkinson scored a goal and added an assist … Penguins forward David Perron scored a goal and added an assist … Jets forward Evander Kane notched three assists … Philadelphia’s Wayne Simmonds scored a goal in a victory over Arizona … Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk notched two assists in a win over the Rangers. Teammate John Tavares scored a goal.

Did You Know?: With an overtime win over Colorado, the Nashville Predators matched a franchise record with eight straight home wins, set from Jan. 6 through Feb. 8, 2007.

Dishonorable Mention: Colorado’s Brad Stuart was a minus-3, as the Avalanche allowed 39 shots on goal to the Predators … Florida’s Sean Bergenheim was a minus-3. Panthers goaltender Roberto Luongo was yanked after allowing five goals on 17 shots on goal … Washington’s Braden Holtby allowed four scores on 30 shots on goal … Arizona’s Mike Smith actually played OK, saving 39 of 42 Flyers shots on goal but still lost … Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist allowed four goals to the Islanders … Rangers forward Tanner Glass picked up 14 penalty minutes … Vancouver’s Dan Hamhuis was a minus-3.

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Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: January 28, 2015, 6:24 am

Montreal defenseman Alexei Emelin slammed Stars forward Jason Spezza into the boards from behind. 

He pushed him, Spezza flew, and he bled after the play. Which meant ... boarding of course and a game misconduct for the blueliner. 

Take a look at the video from Tuesday night’s showdown between the two teams:

So in regards to this hit and Department of Player Safety …

Emelin was given a five-minute major and a game-misconduct for boarding. He’s a repeat offender, after being fined $11,021.51 for an illegal check to the head of Brian Gionta on Nov. 29. He was also fined $5,000 for a butt-end of Pascal Pelletier of the Canucks the prior February. 

But … Spezza only suffered a cut on his nose and returned after being stitched per Stars beat scribe Mike Heika. 

Could be one of those ‘looks worse than it is’ type plays. Either way, when a player has space from the boards like Spezza, there needs to be some level of accountability from the defending player. Also, the prior history plays a role. 

DoPS, ball is in your court. We know you look at everything. 

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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: January 28, 2015, 4:50 am

Did you ever like Zach Parise's smile? Did you ever think his pearly whites emanated sunshine, rainbows and happiness. Then today is a bad day for you.

Take a look at what happened to Parise in Minnesota's Tuesday evening game against Edmonton Parise took a puck in the face and lost a tooth. Ouch. The video please. 

 

And then Parise had the wherewithal to pick up said Chiclet and skate off the ice with it. How nice of him. Look at the concern on Ryan Suter’s face as he watches his partner in 13-year $98 million contract crime go through pain. And then as Parise skates off, Suter gives him a stick-tap on the behind. How cute. 

Anyway, Parise returned. Because he’s tough. He’s a hockey player. And losing teeth is a badge of honor for these guys.

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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: January 28, 2015, 4:11 am

In exchange for a two-way defensive center, the PIttsburgh Penguins acquired another two-way defensive center. On Tuesday, after a win over WInnipeg the Pens picked up Maxim Lapierre from St. Louis for Marcel Goc. 

From the PIttsburgh release:

The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Lapierre has played 579 games in a 10-year NHL career with Montreal, Anaheim, Vancouver and St. Louis, recording 65 goals and 72 assists for 137 points with 570 penalty minutes.

And

The Penguins acquired Goc from Florida late in the 2013-14 season. He had two goals and six assists for eight points in 55 games over two seasons in Pittsburgh.

It's not exactly a major swap for either team -- just a move to bring in assets with different skill sets at the same position. As TSN's Darren Dreger tweets, Lapierre gives the Penguins fourth line depth. Goc won almost 54 percent of his face offs, but wasn't much of a scorer. Lapierre 55 percent, and has more of a physical presence. 

Said St. Louis Game Time:

Is this an upgrade? A lateral move? Just a shake-up to the fourth line for fun? Goc really can't play anything but fourth-line center. He's a solid guy who won't be disappointing, I suppose, because no one's really sure what to expect out of this

Just a minor trade, and that's about it. 

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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: January 28, 2015, 3:43 am

Radek Dvorak was one of the few bright spots for the New York Rangers circa 1998 through the first lockout. He Petr Nedved and Jan Hlavac made sweet, sweet music as New York’s ‘Czech Mates’ line and were pretty much the only reason to watch the Rangers back then, unless you were a Valeri Kamensky fan. Gaaa, forgot about that guy.

Now, he has retired from the league per an NHLPA release. 

Dvorak carved out quite a lengthy career -- mostly because he could skate incredibly well. He played 1,260 contests in his career for the Florida Panthers, Rangers, Edmonton Oilers, St. Louis Blues, Atlanta Thrashers, Dallas Stars, Anaheim Ducks and the Carolina Hurricanes. 

Sadness, we lose another Thrasher. 

“It was an honor for me to play in the best league in the world for 18 seasons,” Dvorak said in the release. “I would like to thank to all the organizations, coaches and teammates I played for or with. Also, thank you to my parents, wife and kids who have always supported me and helped me throughout my whole career. At last I would like to thank to my fans who believed in and followed me all these years.”

Holy hell, Dvorak played 18 seasons in the NHL? Where has the time gone. He was also a rookie on the 1995-96 Florida team that went to the Stanley Cup Final that year. His best season was 2000-01 with the Rangers were Dvorak teamed with Nedved and Hlavac to score 31 goals and 67 points. It was the only time in his career hitting the 30-goal mark (or 20 for that matter), never hitting the full level of his talent. 

That being said 1,260 games through two lockouts is a lot. 

Cheers Radek on a solid NHL career. And adios to the final 'Czech Mate' in the NHL. 

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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: January 28, 2015, 1:43 am

Seriously. You had ONE JOB. 

At the risk of throwing a stone in a glass house – and acknowledging that our own adventures in editing can sometimes read like a junior Jumble puzzle – the editors of the official game program of the Pittsburgh Penguins made a rather egregious error on their cover on Tuesday night. 

The Jan. 27 game between the Penguins and the Winnipeg Jets didn’t feature Sidney Crosby, who’s out with an injury. But neither did the cover of their game program … although it did feature a “Sindey Crosby,” making us curious if they’re outsourcing their copyediting to Philadelphia.

Dejan Kovacevic of Pittsburgh Sports, who snapped the image, said that the Penguins pulled the program off arena stands. Congrats to anyone who snagged a collector’s item. It'll go well with the Crosby bobblehead they handed out as well.

Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: January 28, 2015, 12:48 am

Remember Mike Richards?

Not the fourth-liner that cleared waivers for the Los Angeles Kings and was demoted to AHL Manchester on Tuesday. That’s not the guy we’re talking about here.

The Mike Richards we remember was a Selke-worthy defensive center with offensive upside, a player that could be mentioned in the same breath as Jonathan Toews and Patrice Bergeron for that duality and not have many scoff at it. A player who drove possession for his teams, even when pressed into situations that weren’t exactly corsi-friendly as a defensive forward. A player with an edge to his game that allowed him to piss off players like Sidney Crosby as he was shuttering them offensively.

We miss that guy.

Figuring out where he went … well, novels could be written. Justin Bourne has a nice take on it last year, a year that earned Richards his second Stanley Cup ring:

He’s moved out of his scoring prime, which for offensive players is roughly the 22-27 range, and he’s played a ton of hockey compared to most 29-year-olds. He’s laced up the skates for 758 NHL games including 101 brutally physical post-season battles (over only eight NHL seasons), most of which have come towards the latter half of his career. And, that style he’s played isn’t exactly one that’s allowed him to float around and get through many games without contact. He’s never been the most fleet-of-foot guy in the league, so losing a half-step is bound to affect his game more than most.

And that’s the thing: For whatever reason, at a certain age and mileage, guys lose something off their game. We look at Richards’ age (30 on Feb. 11) and his games played (just 704) and wonder why there’s been this downgrade in his career. We see him hit the waiver wire as a capable center – ideally a No. 2 for a good team – and wonder why no one will take him at $5.75 million through 2020; or through a trade with the Kings in which they’d pick up some of the salary.

We can’t believe that his game has fallen off that steeply. Neither can the people employing him.

A talent evaluator like Kings GM Dean Lombardi puts it this way:

“The way I look at this, Mike’s, in his career, he’s shown he can be a .330 hitter and get you 80 RBIs as an All-Star player. So, maybe at this stage, maybe it’s not there. But I still assume he’s capable of being a .280 hitter and doing a lot of those things for you that only he can do. Let’s face it – right now he’s batting .200, but I don’t see any reason why he can’t get back to that. He’s got to do what he’s got to do. “

And then Lombardi really makes you think when he says:

“The only analogy too, you can come up [with] – there’s a lot things that I saw that reminded of where Teemu Selanne was at this stage. I remember when he had fallen off the map, it looked like, in Colorado. It looked like he was done, and then he started changing some things and then went on to two great 10 years, for crying out loud. It’s up to Mike. There’s no [doubt] in my mind, I believe that if he wants to, that he can get back to that. But it’s going to be up to him.”

Will we have a Mike Richards lovefest in 10 years like we did with Teemu? Eh, probably not. But the idea that a veteran player can suffer a dip around this time in his career and then morph into something else? That’s intriguing.

But Lombardi has to say this because, essentially, he blew it. He had a chance to buy out Richards last summer without any cap repercussions, and opted for loyalty and the hope that he’d put in the work to elevate himself about the fourth line and healthy scratch-dom. And Richards couldn’t get it together, and now he’s being Wade Redden’d to the AHL at a time when the Kings need a kick in the rear.

Let’s be honest: That’s a huge facet of this. “It’s just not very often that you see a player of Rick’s stature go on waivers,” said captain Dustin Brown, and that’s an understatement. The Kings are in a muddle for the last wild card with the Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche and Dallas Stars, trailing the Vancouver Canucks by three points for third in the Pacific. They entered the All-Star Break limping with a 2-3-5 record in their last 10.

They get back to work and BOOM, Lombardi lowers the hammer on Richards. He would have traded him if there was a taker. In any case, he's gone from King to Monarch. 

It’s frustrating for all involved because, again, there’s been this inexplicable decline in Richards’ game. Was it one concussion too many? The concussion he suffered in June 2013 is looking more and more like a career-altering event.

Simply a matter of being in statistic decline at his age? Losing a step, getting down about it, and not giving the effort in and out of the season to make up for it?

That other Mike Richards was a special player. The kind you’d expect to have two Stanley Cup rings by 30. But not the kind you’d expect to see demoted to the AHL, unclaimed on waivers and with an uncertain future in the NHL. Which is where this Mike Richards resides.

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Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: January 27, 2015, 11:24 pm

Carolina Hurricanes' Alexander Semin, right, is checked by Edmonton Oilers' Jeff Petry during the first period of an NHL hockey game Friday, Oct. 24, 2014, in Edmonton, Alberta. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jason Franson)Having covered Alex Semin with the Washington Capitals for several seasons, the Carolina Hurricanes’ decision to hand him a 5-year contract in 2013 was fraught with potential disaster. 

One the one hand, Semin’s line with Eric Staal and Jiri Tlusty was downright dominant in 2012-13; at the time of the contract, he led the team with 22 assists and was second in points and plus-minus. Then the injury bug hit, and hit again the following season, when he was limited 65 games, scoring 22 goals.

On the other hand, he’s a player whose motivation and preparedness have been at issue throughout his career. So far this season, it’s been disastrous: One goal in 22 games, several healthy scratches and Coach Bill Peters calling out his effort in what’s been a lost season for the Canes.

From the News & Observer, Peters torched Semin on Tuesday:

Asked Tuesday how frustrating it has been to get so little out of Semin this season, Peters said, "Well, it's not frustrating for me. We just play the guys who dig in and work and play with speed in both directions and play hard. It's not hard."

Peters said he has had several discussions with Semin but said, "Obviously something's not right. Talk is cheap, though, right? We left the lineup the same way we had it in Toronto and Ottawa, for a reason. Back-to-back wins on the road. The goaltender (Anton Khudobin) who was in against Toronto and Ottawa is in again tonight.

"I talk about competitive people being in a competitive environment and we want to win. We are playing our best 20 players in order to win hockey players. That's the lineup. It's not hard."

This was always the risk with Semin. He teases brilliance, promises consistency and then ends up making you pound your head against the wall as he squanders some of the best god-given talent in hockey. There’s nothing “enigmatic” about it: There are those that “dig in and play with speed in both directions and play hard” and then there’s what Semin is in the majority of his games when he’s not doing that.

For what its worth, GM Ron Francis says that the team isn’t looking to sever its relationship with Semin:

"Alex is a part of the Hurricanes and we'll continue to work with him and try to help him be the player we think he can be," Francis said. "Things are different now in the way we are running things and what we expect. Our job is to continue to work with him and get the message through. We think we can do it. We're not giving up on him at all."

The Capitals used to say the same things.

 

Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: January 27, 2015, 9:55 pm

COLUMBUS, Ohio — At this time last season the Washington Capitals were on the outside of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, a photo they wouldn’t get a chance to be in come mid-April. After a summer of change, they sit in a pretty comfortable position as the second half begins.

The Capitals didn’t head out on their All-Star Weekend vacations on a good note. They lost three in a row, allowing 13 goals in that stretch after winning six of seven. Two of those losses came at the hands of the Dallas Stars and Edmonton Oilers, two teams not in playoff position in the West. The other defeat came against head coach Barry Trotz’s old team, the Nashville Predators. The homecoming ended with a sour taste after Matt Niskanen’s turnover allowed James Neal to pot the winning goal with 1:40 left in the game.

But the the six-day break did allow for them to rest up, decompress and take their minds off those losses. Washington re-grouped Monday in Columbus ahead of their game against the Blue Jackets, a team desperate for points. 

If you look at the East, unless the Florida Panthers have a second half surge in them, the top eight are just about set. A year ago the Capitals were looking up, trying to grab points to make the playoffs. Now, they’re still looking up, but doing so in a much better position.

“It seems to be starting to shrink a little bit more in the East than maybe the West,” said Trotz. “If you win your hockey games you don’t have to worry about anybody behind you. You’re just trying to look forward, and I want to get the mindset let’s look at the team that’s in front of us and try to catch that team, try to leap-frog that team, not worry about the team’s behind us.

"We have to win our hockey games. Lately, we haven’t done that.”

“It’s kind of situation you don’t want to be in this position again when you’re going [miss out] by a couple of points,” said Alex Ovechkin. “That’s why this kind of period right now for us is important.”

The vibe in the room compared to last year is also different. Despite how they entered the break, the Capitals are confident, according to Joel Ward. There’s excitement that the changes that have been made will pay off with a return trip to the postseason after this 82-game grind. 

“We have a good shot to do something special,” Ward said. “The good thing about it is we control our own destiny. We’ve done a lot of good things. Just try and eliminate all of the few mistakes out of the game. Just being more aware of situations and stuff. 

"For us, puck management at certain times has been key. We’ve had a couple lapses that’s killed us the last couple games, but other than that we still feel good about ourselves.” 

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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: January 27, 2015, 9:13 pm
Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) and Philadelphia Flyers center Zac Rinaldo (36) collide in the second period of an NHL hockey game in Pittsburgh, Sunday, March 24, 2013. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

The NHL hasn’t released a video explaining Zac Rinaldo’s eight-game suspension, which was for “charging and boarding” Kris Letang of the Pittsburgh Penguins last week. But one assumes Rinaldo didn’t do himself any favors with his behavior after the game. 

Please recall Rinaldo making light of the incident after the game, an incident that sparked a fight-filled second period between the Penguins and the Philadelphia Flyers. “Yeah, I changed the whole game, man. [Expletive], who knows what the game would have been like if I didn’t do what I did?” he said.

The NHL Department of Player Safety quickly announced he’d have an in-person hearing for the hit.

Rinaldo later tweeted he was sorry for the hit on Letang, which is something he didn’t say while defending the hit and glibly noting the subsequent violence it created.

And Sidney Crosby, Letang’s captain, says that’s the problem.

“It’s a fast game. Guys make mistakes out there, and they’re pretty quick to apologize,” said Crosby on Tuesday, after Penguins practice.

“But he didn’t seem to be too apologetic. We’ll see if that changes.

Crosby said he felt the suspension was a “strong message” from the NHL

“You hope that the number of games sends a message but at the end of the day it doesn’t matter how many games it is, it’s about whether it’s enough for that guy to change his ways,” he said.

Crosby’s due back in the Penguins’ lineup this week, potentially against the Washington Capitals on Wednesday.

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Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: January 27, 2015, 9:01 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.

Via KidElls1 on Twitter

• Brian Elliott had quite the All-Star weekend [Brian Elliott on Twitter]

• Kings center Mike Richards clears waivers. Manchester is the next stop for the expensive center. [Los Angeles Times twitter]

• Dean Lombardi explains the Richards move the only way he can … using a baseball analogy. [Orange County Register]

• The NHL All-Star Game is horrible for many reasons but that's not a big deal. [Sporting News]

• NHL All-Star weekend is perfect the way it is. [SB Nation]

• In defense of the World Cup of Hockey [Arctic Ice Hockey]

• Adios to Mike Richards, we hardly knew you. We fear for Jeff Carter's sanity. [Royal Half]

• Hockey lawsuit exposes the dark underbelly of ownership. [Globe and Mail]

• Erik Johnson is out 3-8 weeks with a knee injury. [Colorado Avalanche]

• Don’t think that Saskatoon will be Gordie Howe’s final public appearance. [Fox Sports]

• Nikita Zadorov got stuck in the Dominican Republic over the All-Star Game. [Buffalo Hockey Beat]

• Are the Canucks better without Kevin Bieksa? [Canucks Army]

• A look at the Capitals ups and downs around the All-Star break. [Japers Rink]

• Mike Richards during his time with the Kings had some interesting moments. [Mayors Manor]

• What’s up with that World Cup of Hockey trophy? [Idea Grave]

• The NHL’s top All-Star jerseys of all time. [Hockey by Design]

• The ‘Go-Pro’ NHL partnership actually makes a lot of sense. [Hockey Writers]

•  How to solve the NHL’s goon problem. [Ketts’ Corner]

• Gauging the Mike Gillis era, and trading Roberto Luongo. How did it work out? [Vancitybuzz]

• A 46-year-old pond hockey player collapses and dies. [Minneapolis Star-Tribune]

• Craig MacTavish’s to-do list. Hint, there’s a lot to do. [Oilonwhyte]

• Jonathan Quick is quite a good goaltender. [Puckology]

• Behold the glory of the KHL mascot shootout from its All-Star Game. 

Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: January 27, 2015, 7:43 pm

NASHVILLE – There has always  been symmetry between Colorado coach/HOF goaltender Patrick Roy and former New Jersey/St. Louis goaltender Martin Brodeur. The records, the style of play, the French Canadian bravado all come into mind.

But when Roy retired after the 2002-03 season at the age of 37 it was a shock. He had a 2.18 goals against average and .920 save percentage. Sure, his body was breaking down, but he was still effective.

With Brodeur, at the age of 42 and failing stats – it wasn’t a surprise at all. What is odd is that Brodeur has taken a job with the St. Louis Blues front office and not with his long-time team, the Devils (we'll get to that in a second).

Roy had a messy split with the Montreal Canadiens in the 1995-96 season and was traded to Colorado but eventually had his jersey retired by Montreal. Brodeur has taken subtle digs at the Devils since he signed with St. Louis. Are there any parallels?

“(New Jersey general manager) Lou Lamoriello is a super man. I mean … I’m sure the relation is very good with Marty. On my side it went really well as well,” Roy said. “They retired my jersey and met Bob Gainey and Pierre Boivin It was fun for me to be back in the family. It’s hard for me to answer that question because I’m not aware of anything else. I’m sure there’s a lot of respect between the two men.”

It seems like a confusing situation for Lamoriello and Brodeur, but it sounds like he will return to the Devils eventually per the Bergen Record:

The position will last through the remainder of the season. After that, Brodeur is expected to return to the Devils and become part of their front office.

In fact, Brodeur and Blues general manager Doug Armstrong both discussed this position with Lamoriello before Brodeur made his decision.

Also, Patrick … if you thought Lamoriello was a ‘super man’ you didn’t read this blog about him laughing at fired employees.

Anyway, does this make Brodeur a Devils spy in St. Louis? Is this a ceremonial position? In all honesty it's probably the NHL old boys network thing, which makes it unexplainable. 

After his first game with the Blues in Nashville, Brodeur said, “We have skilled players and they make plays. It’s so different … I played in an organization that we were pretty limited in skill so we got the puck moving north all the time and didn’t really make plays. These guys, they’re talented, they’re making plays. Sometimes it’s good and sometimes we make mistakes. But I’m really happy with the way the boys played in front of me.”

As for Roy’s own personal decision, he wasn’t one of those ‘hanger on’ type guys. When he was done, he knew it was over.

“When I made my decision it was clear in my head,” Roy said. “It seems like Marty wanted to play more and he played I don’t know how many games with the Blues and he played well. He had a shutout against us and I think he wanted to give it another shot and I respect that as well. When you’re not ready I’m sure it’s a tough decision. But when you’re ready when I was, it was a lot easier. The tough part is you always need a ‘B’ plan – something to do after hockey and I was fortunate enough to remain in the game of hockey at the junior level and certainly helped take the transition a lot easier.”

And as for Brodeur’s ‘Plan B’ for himself? It just adds to Marty’s strange and wild ride this year. But he officially enters the pantheon of players who looked extremely weird in different uniforms during unforgettable tenures.  

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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: January 27, 2015, 7:19 pm

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Columbus Blue Jackets face a daunting task in their final 37 games. They sit 14 points out of a playoff spot. They have six players currently on injured reserved. Included on that list is goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, who will miss 4-6 weeks after injuring his groin last week. 

Last season, the Blue Jackets had a reported 169 man-games lost to injury. This year they’re already at 170, as of last week, third-most in the NHL.

Since before the regular season even began, starting with Nathan Horton, the hits have just kept coming for Columbus. Seemingly every week there’s a player getting dinged and needing to miss time. No team will ever use injuries as an excuse, but what’s happened to the Blue Jackets this year has definitely stalled the momentum built up from last season’s playoff appearance.

While general manager Jarmo Kekalainen is projecting the number of wins -- 25, he believes -- they'll need in the second half to potentially have a shot at a postseason return, head coach Todd Richards isn’t looking that far ahead.

“Just one day at a time; simple as that,” Richards said Tuesday. “You can’t start thinking about we got to get this many points. We’ve got to be here … All it is is about tonight’s game. That’s it. And after tonight’s game we’ve got to focus and start getting ready for the next game.”

Typical coachspeak, of course; especially in the situation the Blue Jackets are in. They don’t control their own destiny. They can win those 25 games that Kekalainen is aiming for, but where Columbus finishes will depend on how the 12 teams ahead of them fare. Take care of your business and hope the rest falls in your favor.

Life Without Bob and The Big Climb begins Tuesday against the Washington Capitals with Curtis McElhinney in net. Richards and Blue Jackets players expressed confidence in the 31-year old netminder, noting his play last season when Bobrovsky was injured.

“Obviously Bob’s a world-class goaltender,” Ryan Johansen told Blue Jackets TV, “but we know McElhinney can get the job done for us and we have full trust in him. We just got to make sure we’re going out there and playing well in front of him. I think if we do that we’ll be successful.” 

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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: January 27, 2015, 7:10 pm

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

It's a Tuesday 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: Rich Hammond on the LA Kings. 

• Brodeur retires. 

• The World Cup of Hockey.

• News and notes. 

Question of the Day: Your thoughts on Marty Brodeur as he retires. 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: January 27, 2015, 6:59 pm

Martin Brodeur is finally calling it a career.

The NHL’s all-time winningest goalie will announce his retirement on Thursday. Sportsnet, which broke the story, reports that he’ll join the St. Louis Blues front office.

Yes, the Blues. Not the New Jersey Devils, where he spent 24 seasons and a team that has been fairly consistent in bringing back the franchise’s legendary players work with the organization. Which is a little awkward, considering Devils GM Lou Lamoriello’s comments about Brodeur just last September: 

“Yes. He knows that he will be a Devil for the rest of his life. He’s said it publicly and we’ve talked about it,” Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello confirmed. “What Marty has done, the type of personality he is and what his experience has been, it’s really a no-brainer. He’s a Devil.”

Hmmm…

If this sounds a little awkward, Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record said it's still in the cards for Brodeur to join the Devils: 

Brodeur's position with Blues will be for the rest of season. He felt part of that team after playing for them/working with coaches, players. Both Brodeur and Doug Armstrong discussed with Lou Lamoriello before decision was made. Brodeur will be back with Devils after that. That Brodeur and Armstrong both discussed this Lamoriello first shows the relationship he still has with Lamoriello and Devils.

OK, stand down everyone ...

Brodeur, 42, signed with the Blues after starter Brian Elliott went down with an injury in November. He took a leave of absence before the All-Star break to consider his next steps. The Blues’ goalies were healthy and there wasn’t exactly going to be a market for his services. He played in seven games, with a 3-3-0 record, an .899 save percentage and a 2.87 goals-against average.

Oh, and one shutout. No. 125 in his career, also an NHL record.

Brodeur holds his share of them, and now that his career is over the discussions about his legacy can finally return their focus to those accomplishments. Among them:

  • The all-time leader in NHL wins by a goalie with 691.
  • The all-time leader in NHL shutouts: 125
  • The all-time leader in games played for a goalie (1,266) and saves (28,928).
  • Three Stanley Cup championships and five conference titles.
  • Two Olympic gold medals.
  • The distinction of being perhaps the best stick-handling goalie in hockey history, to the point where they invented a new rule (the trapezoid) to combat his skills set. Oh, and he’s the only goalie in NHL history to score a game-winning goal, one of his three career goals. 

Did he hang on too long? Totally. Was the split with the New Jersey Devils, who brought in Cory Schneider to replace Brodeur one year after Brodeur re-signed with the team, too contentious? Apparently.

Are either of those things vital enough to detract from the enormity of his achievements, his impact on the game or the goaltending deity he’ll justifiably be lauded as?

Outside of some lamenting that he didn't retire a Devil, they're ultimately not; and beginning on Thursday, they’ll be a frustrating coda to a Hall of Fame worthy career.

Much, much more on this in the coming days. 

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Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: January 27, 2015, 6:39 pm

 (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.)

As we begin the second half (and really it's more like the second two-fifths, but don't worry about it), there are a lot of questions facing a lot of teams in the league. The biggest one is, “What does the future hold?”

Most teams in the league have about 35 games or so remaining on their schedules and some serious decisions to make as the trade deadline approaches over the next six weeks, we're almost certainly going to learn a lot about the quality of various teams around the league.

The weird thing is both the East and West are kind of boring already; a lot of what we're going to see in the season's remaining games is a lot of jockeying for position. There aren't too many teams that are really going to be able to pry a playoff spot out of anyone's hands at this point, because already 13 of the league's playoff spots are all but assured (that is, that many teams have at least a 92 percent chance of making it according to Sports Club Stats and its invaluable projections). But even after that, there are really only teams in the West that have a lot to figure out, as Boston has a 70.8 percent chance of making it in the East, and the next-closest team is Ottawa with 16.7 percent.

The jockeying out West is mainly between Calgary, San Jose and Los Angeles, three teams fighting for two spots, and while LA's the underdog in that race (46.8 percent) you still have to believe a lot more in their chances to pull things together than Calgary's, especially because the reigning champions trail the possession-deficient challengers by a single point in the standings (due entirely to their having gone 1-7 in shootouts this year).

So neither of the races at the bottom are all that interesting, and it sure looks like Anaheim's going to run away with the top spot in the West as Nashville goes through its perhaps inevitable Rinne-less stretch. In the East, though, it's an entirely different story.

Here we have three teams within a point of each other for the top spot, and two more within four. Five teams separated by a mere four points, and with the caveat that the leader has at least one game in hand on everyone behind it. Tampa's 64 points from 48 games is the third-best total in the league, but in terms of points taken per game, but it's seventh in the league.

No one is saying the Lightning aren't a very good team, because they are. They're the second-best possession team in the league (54.8 percent fenwick for, even after adjusting for score effects) and they're dramatically outscoring their opponents at evens despite the fact that Ben Bishop hasn't really been that good this year. The effect of the team's shooting percentage — a second-in-the-league 9.3 percent — helps a lot. Mediocre special teams have been a problem, too, but not so much of one that it really matters all that much. They're the best team in the East.

For now.

Right behind them are the Islanders and Red Wings, and these are teams that also seem poised to overtake them. This is for two reasons. First, the Islanders and Red Wings have generally had more success in the games they've played, and have a better foundation for it than do the Bolts. Both are right around where they should be in terms of PDO (100.1 for the Wings, 99.5 for the Isles), as opposed to Tampa having been a little lucky. And likewise both are elite possession teams in the league (a No. 1 score-adjusted 55.3 percent for the Isles, and a No. 5 53.5 percent for the Wings). They're not simply getting the bounces, as Tampa kinda-sorta has, and they have the puck far more often than their opponents, which tells you a lot about how sustainable their success is.

The other teams that are theoretically in the hunt for the East are, of course, Montreal and Pittsburgh, but I kind of reject the idea that they could make a push out of hand. While Pittsburgh has the possession numbers (ninth-ranked in score-adjusted fenwick), Montreal certainly doesn't (they're No. 21 in the NHL right now). That doesn't do a lot to guarantee the Habs' ongoing success, even in a relatively soft conference.

And while Montreal at least gets by with the sustainably excellent goaltending of Carey Price, a proven elite netminder, Marc-Andre Fleury has kind of spent the last month regressing to what we know he is: a little better than average in the regular season. The Penguins have built their case of being one of the better teams in their conference mostly on the basis of Fleury being a .928 goalie for the first three months of the season, a full 17 points above his .911 over the first 514 games of his career. That he's gone .891 in the month of January, a tough stretch we can probably expect to continue as he regresses to his career average, should come as no surprise. With him go the Penguins' chances of realistically seizing the East by the scruff of its neck.

(It should also be noted here that the Rangers are charging hard of late, and certainly putting in a credible performance, but their deficit is probably a little too big to overcome; six points is actually a lot, unless they keep up this recent run for another two months.)

So the question here is whether it's the Wings or Islanders who sit in the catbird seat to overtake the Lightning and win the East.

I think the answer is obvious.

Even aside from Jimmy Howard's injury potentially putting a damper on the Wings' chances — which it unquestionably does — Detroit's underlying numbers haven't been good lately. In fact, like Tampa's, they've dropped of considerably while the Islanders remain more or less where they've been all year.

That's not a direction in which a team wants to be headed, and ascribe any reasons to it you like, but the fact is that slipping down toward 50 percent, or beneath it, significantly reduces your chances to win. The above chart shows possession over five-game segments, and obviously just going by “the start of January” is a small sample size, but the point is that the Islanders (orange and blue) aren't dropping off anywhere near Detroit (red) or Tampa (blue and white).

Jaroslav Halak has been steadily decent to good in net, and while the team allows a lot of goals (their 89 conceded at even strength is the 11th-largest total in the league) they can probably be expected to pick up his game a little bit; Halak has only allowed 38 of those 89, and his even-strength save percentage is only five points higher than his pre-Islander career average.

And here's one last thing that should be a point of concern for all non-Islanders contenders in the East: Among them, only the Penguins have played a harder schedule to this point. For the Wings and Bolts, the schedule only gets harder from here on out. There's not a lot of quality on this remaining schedule (two more with the Sabres, Leafs, Flyers, and Hurricanes, three more with Columbus, etc.) and the difficulty in beating those teams they otherwise might have had is only going to diminish as those teams sell off useful assets or resign themselves to fate. Their longest road trip left is six days, and they play Dallas, Nashville, Florida, and Toronto in that stretch; not exactly daunting.

The Islanders have basically done nothing but impress since the season began, and given what's in front of them, it doesn't seem as though they're about to start.

This was basically unthinkable in September, but now it's the expectation.

What We Learned (Second half preview edition)

Anaheim Ducks: The thing with the Ducks is that they're not going to keep winning these one-goal games. They're somehow 22-0-6 in them. But if they can keep the special teams rolling, they might end the year with fewer than five losses in such games.

Arizona Coyotes: Sell, sell, sell. Sell everything. This is the only way for this team to get ahead. Who wants one slightly used Mike Smith?

Boston Bruins: The Bruins are better than their record and they're going to keep improving, which is good news for everyone because it probably keeps Charlie Jacobs off their backs. They're obviously too far back to catch up with most of the “best” teams in the conference, but they could be terrifying underdogs if things go as they should come playoff time.

Buffalo Sabres: They're still not tanking, guys. So expect a big ol' turnaround in the second half. They might win 10 more games this year!

Calgary Flames: This team is baffling. Every goalie they have goes through stretches of either being white-hot or turd-brown, with almost no in-between. The latest of these is Joni Ortio, whose AHL numbers suggest he's not that good, but the Flames are probably going to keep riding him until his save percentage hits .900 too. I sincerely doubt this team makes the playoffs.

Carolina Hurricanes: This legitimately could be the year that Eric Staal and Cam Ward get traded. Wouldn't that be something? They have to clear out some roster space, though. Or hey maybe they keep wining now that Jordan Staal's back healthy and they keep rolling with this roster (but that would be dumb).

Chicago Blackhawks: Yeah this is, was, and will be one of the best teams in hockey. There's no reason they're going to drop off at all. They might actually get better, and that's a scary thought.

Colorado Avalanche: One thing this team is definitively not doing is getting anywhere close to the playoffs. A potential Ryan O'Reilly trade awaits. The return should be fascinating.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Just the fact that this team cannot get away from injuries to key players basically means the only focus they ought to have for the second half should be getting healthy and hoping Ryan Johansen doesn't spontaneously combust. Try again next year, gang.

Dallas Stars: The chances that this team makes the playoffs are slim, but all the indicators say they're heading in the right direction. They'd need to get almost 60 percent of the points available to them to reach the playoff threshold, and you can put this fumbled season squarely on the goalies' shoulders.

Detroit Red Wings: Would you believe the Red Wings continue to target a right-shot defenseman for the stretch run? Yeah, maybe that'll fix whatever's gone wrong the last month.

Edmonton Oilers: They're trading everyone, don't worry folks. The rebuild continues, hilariously.

Florida Panthers: The Panthers are in a real interesting spot here. The playoffs are theoretically possible but not all that likely for them. The interesting thing is they have enough veterans to sell that it might be worth their while to do so. Buying, though? I don't Buy It!!!!!

Los Angeles Kings: Here's another team in an interesting spot, and they at least seem more likely to make the playoffs than not, given the quality of that roster. And while they don't have a ton of ground to make up, the recent run of losses can't be encouraging.

Minnesota Wild: This is a fundamentally decent team for which their best option in net is either Darcy Kuemper or Devan Dubnyk. They're too far out of it to do anything at this point, so you might as well start planning for the summer now. Wonder if they keep Mike Yeo, but I think he's done a good enough job with this club to get one more spin around the parking lot.

Montreal Canadiens: Now, this certainly isn't saying much, but the thing with the Habs is that they're really not that good. Carey Price is that good. And thus any ability to make another strong run in the playoffs goes more or less entirely through him. Neither this roster nor its play screams, “Cup contender.”

Nashville Predators, America's Favorite Hockey Team: The Preds are likely to take a bit of a hit in terms of winning percentage during Pekka Rinne's absence (given how tied it often is to save percentage for teams that rely on goaltending so heavily). But when he comes back, if he's 100 percent, they could seriously crack some skulls in the final month and a half or so.

New Jersey Devils: That Adam Oates' coaching has been a highlight of late tells you everything you need to know about this season for the Devs. The less said the better.

New York Islanders: Weird that having a goalie who isn't among the worst in the NHL is now leading to the Isles being a team that isn't abjectly terrible. Weird.

New York Rangers: Run a search for news stories on the Rangers and basically everything you're going to see about them is that they're looking to buy at the deadline. And they should. They're a very good team, with some fairly obvious holes that shouldn't be too difficult to fill via the trade market. The question is whether they have the cap room without moving another valuable piece.

Ottawa Senators: This tells you everything, really. Not a great franchise, just spinning its tires, no ability to improve by spending. This season is already a lost cause. Woof.

Philadelphia Flyers: Yeah, when your team is this good you gotta stand pat.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Obviously this is still a good team and everything. Maybe Fleury rebounds to the kind of numbers he was posting earlier this year (but I doubt it). They don't have a lot of space to add anyone of note without shipping a deal out, and if you're “Stanley Cup or bust,” err on the side of the latter.

San Jose Sharks: The Sharks will almost certainly be looking to buy something at the deadline because they're basically assured a playoff spot. They're really good, but what they need is defense, and the line for it stretches around the block. I don't see how they improve that much without ripping someone off. Sticking with what they have won't leave their chances beggared, though.

St. Louis Blues: This is certainly a team on the upswing after a disappointing start, but I'd guess their quality is somewhere in the middle of what they've done in various stretches this year. Probably on the higher end of that, but I can't see them as being legitimate Cup contenders when it comes right down to it.

Tampa Bay Lightning: When this is what the locals are worried about at the All-Star break, you're in pretty good shape. They're hoping Ben Bishop picks it up in the back half, but it's not going to be easy if the possession keeps dropping.

Toronto Maple Leafs: The only question left in Toronto is, "Do you really blow up the Leafs?" So weird how all these Toronto media people are suddenly so down on a roster they loved, like, two months ago.

Vancouver Canucks: Of all the truly good teams in the league, this is the one that seems to have been the quietest. I have no idea what they're going to do, especially with Kevin Bieksa out indefinitely, because you can see this group either going on a nice little run in the back half or collapsing altogether, and neither would be much of a surprise.

Washington Capitals: Alex Ovechkin is “definitely more mature” now that his coach is actually good. And also they're winning by the strangest coincidence. You wonder how much consideration Barry Trotz really ought to get for Jack Adams considering that Peter Laviolette's only real accomplishment is “watched Pekka Rinne play out of his mind for three and a half months.” The Caps look like a totally different, and very threatening, club.

Winnipeg Jets: The Jets are really good, and would be in much better shape if they hadn't started Ondrej Pavelec so much. They've sorted out that latter problem, though, and could be a real problem for the rest of the West as long as Michael Hutchinson can keep it up. (How much longer that will be, though, isn't clear.)

Play of the Weekend

Brilliant play by Max Domi in the OHL the other night.

Gold Star Award

Team Toews head coach Peter Laviolette, second from right rear, takes a picture of his daughter, left, who joined him behind the bench during the first period of the NHL All-Star hockey game in Columbus, Ohio, Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015. Team Toews won 17-12. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

I absolutely love everything about All-Star weekend that isn't the All-Star Game. Hockey can be so fun if people let it be fun.

Minus of the Weekend

Team Toews' Johnny Gaudreau (13) of the Calgary Flames, stretches during warm ups before the NHL All-Star hockey game in Columbus, Ohio, Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Let him light the damn stick on fire.

Perfect HFBoards Trade Proposal of the Week

User “nucksauce” is sniping all the ginos and providing sick flow with this proposal.

NJD trades
D. Severson
T. Zajac
1st 2016
One of Ruttu, Salvador, Ryder
2nd 2015 (can downgrade pick based on salary retained)

EDM trades
Hall
3rd 2015 (2nd 2015 if salary is reatained)

Signoff
Yeah, whatever, if you want. Hey J.J., save me a waffle, man.

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

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Author: Ryan Lambert
Posted: January 27, 2015, 5:45 pm

You know, the NHL and the KHL have a lot in common. Alex Radulov. Shady ownership. Hatred of the IIHF.

And, of course … MASCOTS!

They’re a little creepy. Some of them have the dirty charms of a Times Square costumed performer, and some of them look like generic versions of other better mascots, and some of them are OMG DEMONIC SNOWMAN!!!!

The KHL All-Star Game was last weekend, and the League’s furries were front-and-center during the event. Featured in the clip above: a mascot shootout. Which, in all honesty, should probably replace the regular-season shootout.

How does one measure the effectiveness of a shootout move? When the goalie literally loses his head:

In which thousands of young fans run screaming from their seats at the arena, and thousands of ice cream bars are purchased by nervous parents.

But here’s the thing: When you try to bring demon snowmen and a moose and a bear and a puma with a butterfly face together on the same ice, you can’t expect them to all get along.

Which brings us to another highlight of the KHL All-Star Game – MASCOT BRAWL! 

Needed some confetti. That would have clinched it.

Ah, the mascot brawl. Providing sights we never thought we'd see, or wish we hadn't. 

The End. 

Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: January 27, 2015, 5:38 pm

John Tavares warned people not to let the New York Islanders’ 31-14-1 record at the All-Star Break obscure how much hard work it took to get there. 

“There have been some ups and downs.  But that is part of the process, part of the journey. It's still important to remind ourselves as a team with our group to remind ourselves there is still much we haven't accomplished,” he said.

And now, a down: Kyle Okposo, the team’s second-leading scorer, will miss up to two months with an upper body injury of an undisclosed nature.

"We had an idea something was bothering him before the break, but when you get the news, it's tough," said coach Jack Capuano to Newsday on Monday. "Kyle was leading the team in a lot more ways than just his production on the ice. His enthusiasm on the plane, in the room, he's been terrific in that regard."

In other words, he does everything, and does everything consistently well. He’s second among Islanders forwards in even strength and power-play ice time. He’s scored 29 points in their 31 wins, and 15 points in their 15 losses. He’s about a point-per-game against each division. He’ll he score 11 points in October, 11 in November, 11 in December and 12 in January.

He’s been as steady a hand at the wheel as a team can have, and had been established during his tenure with the Islanders, a leader behind the scenes.

So can the Islanders maintain their success through this injury?

Yes, and much like the rest of their success this season, they have Garth Snow to thank for it.

The Islanders will first turn to Mikhail Grabovski, acquired by Snow in the offseason, to replace Okposo on their most important line, and Lighthouse Hockey makes the point that while he might not be able to match Okposo’s production he’s a better possession player:

Well, they're probably going to get less goals from the right wing position than they would with Kyle Okposo there. That's plain. All that said, Grabovski's better possession play is likely to make up for it and then some in two ways:

1. Increasing the time Tavares and Bailey spend in the offensive zone, increasing THEIR goal totals (even if Grabovski isn't getting an assist on each of those points.

2. More significantly, decreasing the amount of time Tavares is caught in the defensive zone defending play.

In short, having Grabovski there instead of Okposo means the first line -- which is not a particularly great defensive line -- should spend less time defending, and thus give up less shots and goals. So even if the goals-for go down, opponents' scoring should drop by a greater amount.

That obviously has to be seen, but the combination of Grabovski on the top line and Ryan Strome taking Okposo’s spot on the power play, the Islanders can probably maintain for the next 6-8 weeks. And that's because Snow went out and got himself a veteran scorer that, in a pinch, can move up the lineup. 

But like Tavares said, it’s a season of ups and downs. And adversity hitting the Islanders now is a good test for a young contender to prove itself. 

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Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: January 27, 2015, 4:16 pm

NCAA(Ed. Note: Ryan Lambert is our resident NCAA Hockey nut, and we decided it’s time to unleash his particular brand of whimsy on the college game every week. So NCAA HOCKEY 101 will run every Tuesday on Puck Daddy. Educate yo self.) 

Last weekend's North Star College Cup — or, let's be honest, Minnesota Beanpot — featured four teams this year, all playing at different levels.

Clearly top of the heap and the heavy favorite was No. 1 Minnesota State, riding high in its admittedly weak conference and brushing aside nearly all foes this season with relative ease. They are one of the most dominant teams in college hockey over the last three years or so.

A little farther back, you'd have to say, were No. 7 Minnesota Duluth and No. 17 Minnesota. Both very good on paper, both having a little more trouble than you'd probably expect, and in this regard Minnesota might have even been farther back in terms of public perception (and certainly the polls, which as always are stupid) if not actual performance. Personally, I prefer the Gophers to the Bulldogs, but people are always going to look at “wins!” as the ultimate arbiter of team quality.

Definitively in last place for this four-team field, however, was Bemidji State. The Beavers may be beloved in many corners of the country thanks to that improbable Frozen Four run a few years ago, but the success there is a distant memory now; they're a lowly 7-12-3 this season, even if the underlying numbers (50 percent goals for, and 52.8 percent shots for) indicate they should be better than that. Even taking the possession numbers into account — and even if you skew them for the fact that they trail more often than not and play in a poor conference, where they're still only 5-8-3 — you'd have to say that this unequivocally was the team that was going to get pummeled first by Duluth in the opening round, then whichever team lost the Minnesota/Minnesota State game the next night.

So of course Bemidji won the damn thing.

Friday, they beat Duluth 4-0, then Saturday they beat Minnesota State 3-1. Yup, they went 7-1 on aggregate for the weekend against the Nos. 7 and 1 teams in the country, with freshman Michael Bitzer (.909 in 13 games before this weekend) stopping 53 of 54, and all 42 he saw at even strength. Five different guys scored the goals, with Gerry Fitzgerald and Kyle Bauman the only two to strike twice.

And yeah, of course, they got pushed around in both games at 5-on-5, as you'd expect: 36-22 versus Duluth, and 44-32 versus Mankato. For a team of this caliber, going 80-52 (39.4 percent) sounds about right given their quality of competition. But with that having been said, it couldn't matter less.

Two wins are two wins, especially for a team struggling this badly to get them this season. That they were against two of the teams adjudged by media types to be among the seven best in the country headed into that weekend is massive and cool and nice for the Beavers. That they also get a trophy out of the deal is even better.

Hopefully, and I'm not particularly counting on it, this is the kind of thing that can propel Bemidji forward. They're in a deep hole in their rather poor conference but basically everyone else is bad enough that their sound fundamental process can net them several more wins in the WCHA. They still train Mankato, and Michigan Tech, and Bowling Green by insurmountable point totals (and they play all three in the next six weeks), but edging ahead of Ferris is certainly possible, especially given that the teams play each other on the penultimate weekend of the season.

That said, it might just be too late for them. In which case this is a nice little accomplishment in an otherwise tough season.

But the worst team in the field already won this tournament, which instantly makes it more interesting than the stupid Beanpot.

Why is Lowell slipping?

One of the few teams that has looked pretty strong for more or less the entirety of the season is finally starting to slide back into the morass of a hyper-competitive conference. 

As UMass Lowell moves toward February, it carries one of the worst losing skids it has seen in years; the River Hawks have dropped four of the last five games, all to conference opponents, after starting the year 14-3-3. It went from undefeated in Hockey East (9-0-1) to having four losses in the space of three weeks, with only a win against a deeply poor Maine club mixed in to break up the otherwise dismal run.

But you could say, with a large amount of certainty in fact, that this was probably always coming for Lowell. They started the year with 31 of a possible 40 points, despite the fact that they lost four of their top six scorers, including current Minnesota Wild defenseman Christian Folin. They also lost the best goalie in recent memory in college hockey, Connor Hellebuyck (.946 save percentage in 53 career games) to Winnipeg's system, and he's already a legitimate AHL All-Star.

They have 14 freshmen on the roster, including two goalies, meaning lots of inexperienced players are being forced into big roles. But those netminders haven't played the bulk of Lowell's minutes this year: junior transfer Kevin Boyle has (.896 in two seasons with UMass).

And yet they won. But it was because basically every bounce went their way for the first three months of the season: They outscored their opponents in those first 20 games 78 to 48 (61.9 percent), and only outshot them 617 to 560 (52.4 percent). Their PDO in all situations was 104.1. With a career .896 guy being the most proven of their three goalies, and more than a dozen freshmen on the roster.

And so you might have expected a drop-off. Many Lowell fans are saying the goaltending is catching up with them, and that's certainly how it appears when you give up 15 goals in your last three games. But here's the thing: their possession numbers are chugging along pretty convincingly after they were woefully outshot for the first part of the season. The problem overall is the fact that they're taking more penalties — something they did at one of the lowest rates in the country — and their save percentage when they're on the penalty kill has absolutely hit the skids.

Graph via Ryan Lambert

Over their last five games, the River Hawks are allowing one goal on every three shots the opposition takes when they're down a man. The number of shots they're allowing really isn't changing very much, but when 1 in 3 shots is finding the back of the net, you're in trouble.

The other issue is that their goaltending this year doesn't have the same baseline level as last season, when Hellebuyck was the best goalie in the country by a mile. Back then, the team's save percentage occasionally dropped this low on the PK, but what they were doing at even strength was at a much higher level, and it therefore didn't matter as much. 

Graph supplied by Ryan Lambert

Now, I've seen Lowell's last three games, in which they've conceded eight goals out of their 14 allowed, not counting ENGs, on the PK. This penalty kill has been atrocious, and it's not just goaltenders fanning on shots. Boyle's big problem, all season, has been the fact that he cannot control rebounds, nor can he absorb the first shot. These crucial goaltending talents seem to escape him altogether. But at even strength, it doesn't matter because Lowell's defensive system is to collapse like a house of cards in a hurricane, and the defense excels at taking away any hope of a second-chance opportunity for teams at 5-on-5.

When they're down a man, though, you can clearly see that this becomes far more difficult, and thus if Lowell isn't diligent in lifting sticks, blocking shots, clearing out the front of the net, and winning draws when they're shorthanded, they're going to get clobbered and have stretches that look like this. There's no Hellebuyck, who seems to have been born getting square to every shot he sees, to bail them out.

The good news for Lowell is that, apart from a single game at home against lethal BU, they're playing Merrimack and UMass Amherst for five of their next six games. These are teams currently ranked 35th and 44th in the country in efficiency on the man advantage, with talent levels to match those rankings. If these games don't get them out of the funk, nothing will.

Penn State goes off

Finally, I want to talk about something that is hilarious to me. You know that corsi-related panic where stats-phobic people are like, “Well then why don't you just shoot the puck every time you come over the blue line?” 

That's what Penn State does in actual practice. Despite the fact that they don't have the talent level of most other teams in college hockey (that's what only having two years of actually being a Div. 1 program will do for you), they lead the nation in shots on goal with 963 in just 23 games this season (41.9 per game). They understandably also concede a pretty decent amount (710, or 30.9 per) but if you don't have the talent level, that's certainly going to go a long way toward helping you win.

This past weekend in a pair of home games, the Nittany Lions took their strategy to its logical extreme. Playing Northern Michigan, a team playing without its head coach due to his having been placed on administrative leave and which doesn't have positive possession numbers to begin with, they really drew some blood in attack.

Final goals for the weekend were 10-9 to the hosts, who won and tied. Final shots, 117-59 also to the hosts. Final shot attempts at even-strength, 146-83.

In fact, in all situations for Saturday's OT game, Penn State out-attempted Northern 117-45. In 65 minutes of hockey. I cannot begin to understand that number. It made the 85-56 difference the night before look like a joke.

If this team had any type of goaltending, it would be one of the best in the country.

A somewhat arbitrary ranking of teams which are pretty good in my opinion only (and just for right now but maybe for a little longer too?)

  1. North Dakota (swept Colorado College)
  2. BU (swept at Vermont)
  3. Minnesota State (beat Minnesota, lost to Bemidji)
  4. Miami (split with Denver)
  5. Minnesota Duluth (lost to Bemidji, beat Minnesota)
  6. Michigan (swept at Wisconsin)
  7. Harvard (lost at Cornell, won at Colgate)
  8. UMass Lowell (swept by Providence)
  9. Denver (split at Miami)
  10. Boston College (beat Merrimack, won at UConn)

Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist and also covers the NCAA for College Hockey News. His email is hereand his Twitter is here

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Author: Ryan Lambert
Posted: January 27, 2015, 2:58 pm

What is it about long suspensions and players with the letter ‘o’ in their last names recently? Probably a coincidence between Dan Carcillo’s recent six-game ban and Zac Rinaldo’s eight-game suspension for charging and boarding, which was announced Monday. 

The Rinaldo hit in question occurred Jan. 20 when he charged and slammed a defenseless and puck-less Kris Letang into the boards of a Flyers/Penguins game. Left his feet, shoulder to face ... awful

Here is a look at the video – we don’t have an official NHL suspension vid at the moment … may have something to do with that pesky Northeastern snowstorm and stranded NHL personnel in Columbus from last weekend’s All-Star Game:

Completely and utterly brutal play by Rinaldo – who most of us picked for most-suspended player this year.

Last season Rinaldo, who waived his right to an in-person hearing, was suspended four games for a head-shot on Buffalo blueliner Chad Ruhwedel.

He was also suspended two-games for charging Jonathan Ericsson (2012), and was fined for a late hit on Jacob Josefson and tripping Zach Parise in the same game. Not quite in Carcillo territory, but getting there.

As for Letang, who missed one game, and his injury, the blueliner appears to be recovered per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Earlier today, following his team's practice at Consol Energy Center, Letang said he passed all concussion testing and was optimistic he will play in the Penguins' next game at home Tuesday against the Winnipeg Jets.

So eight games? Players like Rinaldo and Carcillo are interesting cases, as we pointed out recently. And the shifting dynamic away from oafish enforcers – see Scott, John – to more skill-type goons like Rinaldo and Carcillo has created an interesting wrinkle in how the game needs to be policed.

The fact that Rinaldo boasted about it afterwards is kind of absurd. Crushing someone’s skull … not a laughing matter, nor is being docked $73,170.72.

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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: January 27, 2015, 1:16 am

Sergei Bobrovsky was forced to pull out of the NHL All-Star Game last week after he suffered a groin injury during a loss to the Winnipeg Jets. And now that the weekend is over and players are returning to their teams, we’ve learned that this season for the Columbus Blue Jackets is definitely cursed. 

The team announced on Monday that Bobrovsky will miss the next 4-6 weeks because of the injury. Goaltender Anton Forsberg has been recalled from Springfield.

As of last Tuesday, Columbus was third the NHL in man games lost to injury with 170. Only Pittsburgh and New Jersey reported more. After a thrilling 2013-14 season which ended with the franchise’s second playoff berth, 2014-15 has been a nightmare. Seemingly every week there’s someone on the Blue Jackets getting hurt, a major reason why the team sits 14 points out of a playoff spot as the second half gets set to begin. 

Being forced to miss All-Star Weekend was tough for Bobrovsky, as he told the Columbus Dispatch. His father had flown in from Siberia to see him participate, and we would have likely been treated to a patented Bob/Nick Foligno celebratory hug during the Fantasy Draft at some point. 

“It is sad, really sad,” he told Michael Arace of the Dispatch. “I wanted to play in front of my fans, with my teammates (Ryan Johansen and Foligno). It’s the first time (as an) All-Star for me. It was the first time for my city. It was so special, and I am so disappointed right now.”

The Blue Jackets weren’t the only team hit by injury. New York Islanders head coach Jack Capuano dropped a bombshell after practice on Monday when he announced forward Kyle Okposo would miss the next 6-8 weeks with an upper body injury.

The team’s second-leading scorer and John Tavares’ wingman played 19:33 during a 7-4 win over Philadelphia and then participated in a full practice last Tuesday. Capuano didn’t reveal what happened to Okposo. 

Obviously it’s bad news for the Islanders, but it’s a blow that the team is in better position to handle than in year’s past. With GM Garth Snow beefing up their depth up front, there’s confidence that Mikhail Grabovski or one of their young forwards can fill Okposo’s slot while he’s gone. 

New York faces a tough test right out of the break with the visiting New York Rangers Tuesday night, a game that may be postponed due to the east coast snow storm.

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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: January 26, 2015, 10:01 pm

Did you hear the news that the Devils reportedly put Tim Sestito on waivers? Oh and Mike Richards as well.

Wait, THE Mike Richards?

Yes, that Mike Richards, who has been extraordinarily unproductive this year in spite of having a $5.75 million salary cap hit over the next five seasons.

Said the Los Angeles Times:

Richards was an integral part of the Kings'  2012 Stanley Cup championship win, and although his role was diminished last spring when they won the Cup again, he did manage 10 points in 26 playoff games. This year, Richards has five goals and 15 points in 47 games and is a minus-7; since Nov. 22, he has managed to score just once.

The move will give the Kings cap relief on a player that they were getting absolutely nothing out of. Will someone claim him? The answer is probably no … mostly because he does not have the one ring to rule them all.

In all sincerity the Kings have gotten a lot out of Richards. Two Stanley Cups? Depth down the middle. Stinks for him that at the ripe young age of 29, he looks so completely donezo. And the Manchester Monarchs suddenly got way deeper at center.

Some general manager would have to be nuts to pick him up. The issue isn’t exactly the cap number, it’s the amount of years. That’s just too many for a guy who has fallen off so far like Richards.

And what if Richards decides to call it quits before the end of the deal? Unless the Kings try Flyers-like cap circumvention ... the below per TSN's Bob McKenzie.

If Richards retires before end of contract, especially in penultimate or last year, LA gets dinged with significant cap recapture penalty.

— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) January 26, 2015

According to the Orange County Register, the Kings toyed with the idea of parting ways with Richards over last summer:

Lombardi had a chance, last June, to buy out the final six seasons of Richards’ contract. Instead, he kept Richards, encouraged by what he believed to be Richards’ re-dedication to training and fitness.

Per The Times, the Kings would like to re-sign Justin Williams to an extension this summer and need cap space to do so. Also, this should enable Los Angeles general manager Dean Lombardi to do his usual deadline deal that propels the Kings from a meandering regular season to yet another Stanley Cup.

They really have a very interesting formula for this.

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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: January 26, 2015, 9:35 pm

Like many six-year-olds, little Alex is losing his baby teeth.

Like any hockey player, he knows losing a Chiclet on a slap shot is a rite of passage.

So with some parental supervision -- and kids, don't try this at home without some -- Alex combined his passion for the game with some amateur dentistry and yanked his own tooth out.

By tying it “super tight” to a puck and then firing the disc at the goal.

(Has Shea Weber considered this as a side job?)

According to his father, the experiment was a success, and Alex now has an official hockey smile. And, not for nothing, an incredible hockey set-up in his basement. Things have come a long way since Sidney Crosby fired pucks at a washer/dryer. 

Question is, does this moment put him on the road to becoming an oral surgeon or winning the shot accuracy contest at the 2030 NHL All-Star Game?

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Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: January 26, 2015, 3:17 pm

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Florida defenseman Aaron Ekblad sat on the Team Toews bench at the 2015 NHL All-Star Game and started to get a little nervous. There was such anxiousness in the 18-year-old’s body that he started to shimmy a little.

“I was sitting on the bench getting the shakes a little bit. I was trying not to try too hard,” he said. “That’s kind of like the thing to do almost. It is hard to do. I got chirped a little bit for trying too hard.”

An All-Star Game for a first year player is tough. You want to play at your regular season pace. You want to look good in front of your boyhood heroes. You don’t want to embarrass yourself. But really, it’s just a glorified exhibition.

“That was like summertime hockey,” Ekblad later said.

With several players pulling out at the last minute before the mid-winter classic/sponsor-fest, there were few replacements close and available. So the league had to add its pool of rookies it originally designated for the Saturday skills competition.

Ekblad, Nashville's Filip Forsberg and Calgary's Johnny Gaudreau all found their way into the big game Sunday and all found out about it during the weekend. This led to some interesting emotional drama for the youngsters and some travel rearrangements.

“I heard some rumors I was playing at first and I got kind of a little bit excited. I heard I wasn’t playing, which wasn’t very fun,” Gaudreau said. “Then I got a chance to play and I was extremely excited about it.”

Ekblad led the way with four assists. Forsberg notched two goals and ‘Johnny Hockey’ notched two assists. Interestingly, Gaudreau and Forsberg played on a line with one another.

“You just have to try to make plays when they’re there,” Forsberg said. “Just try to have some fun out there and I think everyone did a pretty good job at that.”

At points, the two rookie forwards were lined up with crafty veteran Patrik Elias, the oldest player in the game at age 38. And Elias didn’t need to calm down the youngsters. In fact they brought him up to speed when he notched an assist on Forsberg’s first goal.

“I think they fit in fine. I think we had a really good group of guy here and made it easier for them to be around us,” Elias said. “Their skills, their hands. You can see the game they play, the vision. It was pretty impressive.”

But all in all they were still rookies and still got the young guy treatment. When it was brought up to Florida's Roberto Luongo that Ekblad had four assists, he gently ribbed his Panthers teammate.

"Did he? But how many was he on the ice for against?" Luongo said.

Ekblad was a minus-2 in a game with no penalties, Bobby Lu.

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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: January 26, 2015, 3:32 am

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