Kukla's Korner

Kukla's Korner Hockey

What Changed With The Florida Panthers?

from Dave Hyde of the South Florida Sun Sentinel,

That sounds lofty, even theoretical. Here’s what it means: Patric Hornqvist, one of the veterans Zito brought in this season, said something as everyone moved off the ice after a pre-season practice.

“He said, ‘Where’s everyone going? We’re not done,’ " Zito said. “Did some players need to hear from a guy like him about putting in more work? He even said it to [goalie Sergei Bobrovsky], who’s one of the hardest-working guys I’ve seen. ‘Hey, we need to work on the penalty kill.’ "

Maybe the change in the standings started there. Maybe it started with coach Joel Quenneville getting some players he needed for this team. Maybe it just was Zito signing Hornqvist, Carter Verhaeghe, Radko Gudas — you can go down the roster of new, supporting names brought in before this season.

This moribund franchise had signed new players for years. Just the previous year, they brought in so many players the news conference had to have two shifts because there weren’t enough seats at the table to accommodate them all at once.

Here’s the difference: These signings led to wins. Again, serendipity? Again, luck? The nucleus of this team, the stars like Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Frank Vatrano and until his injury Aaron Ekblad, were brought in by previous general manager Dale Tallon.

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Hockey Notes On A Great Spring Sunday Morning In Motown

from Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun,

- On Saturday night, Patrick Marleau tied Howe by playing in his 1,767th game. (Marcel) Dionne is more impressed with Ovechkin than he is with Marleau, who on Monday, barring an injury, will pass Howe. “What is he scoring now, a goal or two a year? I’m not that impressed with that. I give him credit for playing that long. Just not how he’s doing it.” Marleau, for the record, has four goals this season.

- So if J.T. Miller doesn’t say anything, would the Vancouver Canucks have been playing on Saturday night? Would the NHL have turned its back on its players’ health and safety? Would the NHL Players’ Association have protected its membership? Would Canucks management and ownership have stepped in? Odds are the games would have gone on as scheduled without the Miller interview and to hell with the health of those putting their lives on the line.

- The top four goaltenders in all-time wins are Martin Brodeur, Patrick Roy, Roberto Luongo, and now Marc-Andre Fleury. All of them Quebecois. And there’s not a single Quebec goalie of consequence (apologies to Jonathan Bernier) playing in today’s NHL.

- Didn’t understand all the praise for GM Steve Yzerman for getting a first-round pick and more for Anthony Mantha. Mantha has a big shot to go along with big shooters like Ovechkin, John Carlson, Nikita Kuznetsov in Washington. The Capitals get a player now. The Red Wings get a player and a draft pick, who might be a player by 2024. Mantha can be a playoff series difference-maker now for Washington.

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NHL Short Notes

THREE HARD LAPS

* It's been a long road to the top, but Sharks forward Patrick Marleau finally matched “Mr. Hockey” on the NHL’s all-time games played list.

* The Coyotes overcame a 2-0 deficit to defeat the Blues after Oliver Ekman-Larsson guaranteed a win for Leighton Accardo, who the club honored in a pre-game ceremony.

* Sunday’s six-game slate opens with the Bruins facing the MassMutual East Division-leading Capitals on NBC.

Continue Reading »

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Video- Patrick Marleau Visits With Ron MacLean And Kelly Hrudey

Before Saturday's game.

via Sportsnet,

Patrick Marleau joined Ron MacLean and Kelly Hrudey to talk about tying Gordie Howe’s record for NHL games played, and looks back at his favourite memories of the legendary Howe.

 

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Video- Saturday Headlines

via Sportsnet,

Elliotte Friedman and Chris Johnston look at the latest news from around the NHL, with the Canucks recovering from COVID-19 and the playoff situation for all the Canadian teams.

 

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A Bad Look

from Larry Brooks of the New York Post,

The NHL and NHLPA have handled the unprecedented challenges posed over the past 13 months admirably, balancing the well-being of the industry with the safety of those under their charge.

But sending the Canucks back to work after the most serious outbreak of COVID-19 encountered by any NHL team so they can dutifully play out the string of a season gone horribly wrong seems a story that belongs under one of those generic headlines we’ve read all too often:

“CORPORATION ORDERS EMPLOYEES BACK TO WORK”

Please do not talk to me about the integrity of the schedule or the integrity of the playoff race in the Canadian division. Neither exists under these conditions. The five teams that have a sum of 19 games remaining against Vancouver will in essence be picking at the carcass of a club whose players, staff members and respective families have been struck, and struck hard, by the P1 variant of the virus.

Playing these games — when they start Sunday night, the Canucks will be scheduled to play 19 games in 32 days, an insane burden even if placed on the healthiest and best conditioned of teams — will add mockery to the playoff race, not justify it....

continued plus more topics including...

So I hear or read about the Blue Jackets’ upcoming decision whether to “rebuild or reload,” and wonder if we are taking about the same Blue Jackets who have won one playoff round in their history. That one triumph came two years ago while they still had all the guys who left town as soon as they could.

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Be Prepared For Ads On The NHL Sweaters

from Mark J. Burns of SportsBusiness Journal,

NHL jersey advertising could become a reality as early as the 2022-23 season, multiple sources tell Sports Business Journal, cautioning that nothing has been finalized or approved by the league’s Board of Governors.

In recent weeks, NHL clubs have been conducting valuation work -- some with third-party sports sponsorship and marketing agencies as well as valuation firms -- to determine what a jersey patch and helmet decal could both be worth before eventually providing that data to the league, sources said. In other words, what’s the business and revenue case for formally adopting the new sponsorship assets, some sources described.

The exact location of a jersey patch, chest or shoulder, is also still being discussed and evaluated, sources said. Jersey patch sizing is unknown at this time.

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Patrick Marleau About To Replace Gordie Howe In Most Games Played

from Nicholas J. Cotsonika of NHL.com,

Growing up in Aneroid, Saskatchewan, Patrick Marleau looked to see which players from his province had made the NHL. At the top of the list was one of the greatest of all time, the one who had played more NHL games than anyone else, Gordie Howe.

"It gives you hope," he said. "It gives you hope that maybe that could be me one day playing in the NHL, since these other guys before me did it coming from small farming communities in Saskatchewan."

Playing in the NHL is an accomplishment in itself. Out of everyone who has laced up a pair of skates, only 8,102 have appeared in the League in more than a century, starting with its first season in 1917-18. The number is 8,074 including only the regular season.

Marleau is about to reach one of the greatest milestones in the sport considering that, and it's all the more special because he is passing none other than Mr. Hockey. Marleau is scheduled to tie Howe's record of 1,767 NHL regular-season games when the San Jose Sharks play at the Minnesota Wild on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; BSN, NBCSCA, NHL.TV) and break it at the Vegas Golden Knights on Monday.

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Poor Handling By The NHL

from Mike McIntyre of the Winnipeg Free Press,

COVID-19 is no joke. But the way the NHL has mishandled an outbreak on the Vancouver Canucks sure is, suggesting a tone-deaf league that will always put profit over people, including forcing a sickly bunch to hit the ice when it was unsafe to do so.

Only a player-led revolt and some public shaming forced a last-minute change of plans that is just slightly less egregious.

If NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and company had their way, the Canucks would have hosted the Edmonton Oilers on Friday night, their first game since March 24 and the start of a murderous stretch of hockey that would involve 19 games over 31 nights. It would have come after just one measly practice, with multiple players still in virus protocols and others still working their way back from battling serious symptoms that were a result of the more potent Brazil variant.

That, folks, was a recipe for disaster.

Instead, Vancouver was given an extra two days to gear up for what will now be 19 games over 32 days starting Sunday, which is still ridiculous.

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It’s All About The Playoffs For The Core Of The Toronto Maple Leafs

from Damien Cox at the Toronto Star,

So the Leafs are really pretty much the same team they were before the deadline, perhaps slightly improved, with the same strengths and same weaknesses. No. 1 on the list of those weaknesses is the uncertain situation in net, and while four different masked men have now earned points for Toronto this season, we all are pretty familiar with the NHL’s rule that you can only play one at a time.

Currently, that looms as a prickly problem for Keefe. He’s got lots of goalies hailing from lots of different places, and he just needs one of them to play well enough to get the club past the first round of the playoffs. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

The fate of this team in this bizarro season rests on Keefe identifying a goalie, and on whether Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews, John Tavares, William Nylander, Morgan Rielly, Jake Muzzin, Zach Hyman and perhaps one or two others have the ability to play much better in the playoffs this spring than they did in last summer’s bubble playoffs. Joe Thornton and Jason Spezza are nice stories and occasional contributors, as is Wayne Simmonds. But the big money boys have got to come through.

For 44 games, this team has performed very well. If it can hang on to first place, sometime next month it will likely face Montreal in the playoffs. That could be loads of fun and the stars will need to come out.

Dubas has so far declined to touch the core of this team, believing it will mature and eventually perform at a level that might get the Leafs to within striking distance of the Cup.

Soon, we will see if he was right. Or, more accurately, whether he was right within the context of a season like no other.

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About Kukla's Korner Hockey

Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.

Email Paul anytime at pk@kuklaskorner.com

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