Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times,
The Hawks have lost three of four games, all to teams outside of the playoff picture, to fall to fourth place in the Central. They have two games in hand on the Wild (and on first-place Nashville, which is eight points ahead), but those two games come back-to-back against the Jets (who’ve won three of four against the Hawks this season) and the defending champion Los Angeles Kings.
Oddly enough, that might be the best thing for the Hawks, who have long had a penchant for playing to the level of their competition.
“I feel we’ve taken some teams lightly as of late, and they’ve taken it to us,” Andrew Shaw said. “Tonight’s a big game. We need the two points, they need the two points. When you’re playing a great team, everyone always steps up even more.”
“When the motivation is right in front of our faces, I think we’ve always been good at stepping up and being prepared for those types of games,” he said, adding that the urgency hasn’t been high enough lately. “We played some teams that have nothing to lose, and aren’t sitting in playoff positions, and they’ve been the ones playing the more desperate style of hockey. Tonight, there’s no excuse.”
Chicago plays tonight in Winnipeg.
from Stephen Whyno of the CP at Yahoo,
"Maybe it's just a better opportunity I need," Lecavalier said. "It happens to a lot of guys. Sometimes you just have to get out of it, try to get out of it and work hard through it and maybe another opportunity will happen."
Lecavalier is in the process of selling his home in Tampa, Fla., and is renting a house in the Philadelphia area. After 14 seasons as the face of the Lightning franchise, uncertainty has become the new normal for the Ile Bizard, Que., native.
Owed another $2 million roster bonus this summer, Lecavalier will have made $14 million of the $22.5 million from his contract before stepping onto the ice next season. Counting buyout payments from the Lightning that run through the 2026-2027 season, Lecavalier could earn the most money of any player in NHL history, with Jaromir Jagr the only active challenger.
Lecavalier said he wouldn't ask the Flyers to buy him out of this deal. He just wants to play.
"I feel like I've trained my whole career to extend those years and feel good when I'm 35, 36, 37 years old," he said. "I feel like it's not a matter of not having legs or anything like that. I was never a really fast guy. I've always been the same speed. I feel good."
from Tony Gallagher of the Vancouver Province,
For a guy who played just 26 games with the Vancouver Canucks during the team’s initial season in the NHL, Ed Hatoum is as well known as any player from that era.
Imagine the impact of a guy who scored just one goal having the nickname Ed ‘Sock’ Hatoum (Get it? sounds like “Sock it to ’em.”) — which was on the lips of every fan that 1970-71 season. Vancouver finally being admitted to the league was a very big deal in town and, for a short while, so was Hatoum.
“It’s amazing, really,” says Hatoum, now 67, some 38 years since his hockey career ended after more stops than any Allied Van Lines truck...
There’s a reason why Hatoum was so well remembered, and it had a little to do with the nickname and the promise with which he arrived. After having had a big year with the Detroit Red Wings’ Central League team in Fort Worth, Tex., he came to training camp with considerable promise and for good reason. The Canucks’ players were all new, there were jobs open, and Hatoum could skate, shoot and score.
DUCKS CLINCH PLAYOFF BERTH, TAKE OVER FIRST IN LEAGUE STANDINGS
Knotted at 1-1 after 20 minutes, the Ducks scored a pair of second-period goals – including the eventual winning marker by Andrew Cogliano – to clinch their third consecutive playoff berth and 11th in franchise history.
* At 48-22-7 (103 points), the Ducks also moved into first place in the NHL standings, where the top six teams are separated by four points.
from Michael Russo of the Star Tribune,
Back on Jan. 27, the Wild was buried in 12th place and 16 points behind the Chicago Blackhawks. This morning, at least for one day, the Wild kicked the Blackhawks into a wild-card spot, leapfrogged the star-studded rival for third-place in the Central Division and put itself in terrific mathematical position to make the playoffs for a third consecutive season.
With six games left in the regular season, that is quite an achievement when one considers how down and out this team was before Dubnyk came to the rescue Jan. 14. In the past nine weeks, the Wild is an NHL-best 24-5-1 to become the toast of the NHL. It hasn’t lost by more than a goal since Jan. 19, hasn’t lost consecutive games since Jan. 19-20 or consecutive games in regulation in 34 starts by Dubnyk (26-6-2).
Under Dubnyk, the Wild has outscored its opponents 104-57 for a league-best (by far) plus-47 goal differential. To be clear: 57 goals allowed in 34 games from a team that allowed 58 in the 14 games before Dubnyk’s acquisition.
“I don’t remember having this many games in such a short period of time,” captain Mikko Koivu said after he and linemate Nino Niederreiter each scored two goals against the Kings. “The last two months, it’s been a lot of hockey. I think this break will be good for us.
from Steve Fainaru of ESPN,
More than a quarter of all helmets worn by hockey players, from the NHL to youth leagues, are unsafe, according to an independent study provided to "Outside the Lines" that ranked hockey helmets based on their ability to reduce concussion risk.
Out of 32 helmets in the marketplace that were tested by researchers at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, nine failed to earn a single star on a five-star scale and were classified as "not recommended." Just one helmet, made by Warrior Sports, received three stars. The rest received one or two stars.
"In general, they're low performers," said Stefan Duma, the head of Virginia Tech's department of biomedical engineering and mechanics, which spent three years and $500,000 developing the ratings. The study did not receive funding from the helmet industry.
Hockey players wearing the "not recommended" helmets risk incurring at least six concussions per season, and in some cases more than eight, according to Virginia Tech.
"We don't think anybody should be playing in these helmets," Duma said of the non-recommended models.
via Dave Hodge of TSN,
Thumbs down to the ongoing confusion about what constitutes a "good goal" that is propelled into the net by a skate.
The first goal in yesterday's 4-2 win by the Boston Bruins over the New York Rangers was a deliberate attempt by Boston's Milan Lucic to score a goal that way. He slid his right skate to make contact with the puck, thus, changing its direction, and sending it into the net. "No goal" was the call on the ice. Video review changed the call and the Bruins were ahead 1-0.
The ref's opinion was easily supported, but so was the decision to award the goal. If that sounds crazy, it fully explains the problem the NHL has dealt with for what seems forever. And there is only one solution, which is to allow all goals scored directly from skates.
You hear it said that players, especially goalies, would be in danger if kicking at pucks became legal, but kicking at pucks is legal. You just can't kick them into the net. It doesn't mean players don't use their skates to try to control pucks, to free them from scrums. What players don't do is kick wildly with their skates, near the crease or anywhere else on the ice. They wouldn't start doing that if a rule said they could score goals with their skates in any fashion. As it is, they try to score goals with their skates and hope they get the benefit of the rule that nobody really understands.
You can review the goal here...
from Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times,
Tampa Bay will be in the playoffs. The biggest question that remains is how far it can go once it gets there.
In one word: deep.
This team is noticeably better — and more playoff-ready — than the one that got swept in the first round by the Canadiens last April.
"It's night and day," coach Jon Cooper.
The difference starts in net. Had Ben Bishop, a Vezina Trophy finalist last year, not dislocated an elbow shortly before last year's playoffs, Tampa Bay might have had a different fate. Sure, Bishop doesn't have playoff experience, but with him and touted rookie Andrei Vasilevskiy as his backup, Cooper feels like he has two No. 1s.
There's also better depth. Tampa Bay, the league's highest-scoring team, can wear teams down by rolling four lines. The "Triplets" — Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson and Nikita Kucherov — form one of the most productive, dynamic lines in the league. Steven Stamkos has 40 goals. Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said the Lighting's third line is like a first line. And fourth-line center Brian Boyle has 15 goals. Usually in the playoffs secondary scoring is vital, and few teams have more of it than Tampa Bay. Every forward is a threat and responsible defensively.
from Fluto Shinzawa of the Boston Globe,
- Cam Ward, Mike Smith, Kari Lehtonen, and Antti Niemi are examples of well-paid goalies who are not doing enough to earn their salaries. At his current pace, Jimmy Howard may join that group. The ex-Maine Black Bear, under contract with the Red Wings through 2019 at nearly $5.3 million annually, is not up to his previous standard of play following a groin injury. Howard missed most of January and part of February. He’s been struggling to catch up. On Thursday, Howard was pulled after letting in three goals on 10 shots to San Jose. Petr Mrazek, who relieved Howard, could be the starter in the playoffs at this rate. Detroit is a good team. But below-average goaltending will sink anybody in the playoffs.
- Dougie Hamilton has missed four games because of an undisclosed injury suffered March 21 against Florida. The Bruins remain optimistic that Hamilton will return before the end of the regular season. They could use his three-zone presence. This has been a strong third NHL season for Hamilton (10-32—42, 21:20 of ice time per game). Hamilton’s growth only increases the odds that a desperate team such as Edmonton will sign him to an offer sheet. The Bruins will match at any price, but an offer sheet of $6 million annually would throw off the Bruins’ budget. They’d prefer to sign him to a second contract more in line with what Minnesota gave Jonas Brodin ($4,166,667 per season over six years). This may be wishful thinking.
more hockey topics...
from Kevin Paul Dupont of the Boston Globe,
So, how to bring back the scoring? Cutting down the size of goalie equipment would be the place to start, but that has become a fool’s discussion. The league has talked about it for nearly 20 years, the goalies have pushed back, and tiny nips and tucks have led to status quo offensive stifling. The goalies won’t give up their pads and the Lords of the Boards don’t have the temerity or common sense to stand up to the puck-stopping brotherhood who have taken the game’s offense hostage. Sad, really.
I see two ways out of this:
1. Maintain the icing standard throughout the game. If a team must kill a penalty, it gets no relief — it must play the puck just as if the sides had equal manpower. No question it will result in more power-play goals. The team that committed the penalty will suffer the consequences. How novel. As of late last week, 22 of the league’s 30 teams failed to score on more than 80 percent of their power plays.
2. Borrow from lacrosse’s rulebook a bit and prohibit clubs from skating five players in their defensive end during five-on-five play. In this scenario, the team that advances the puck into the attacking zone will have five skaters battling against four skaters and one goalie. That sounds like even strength to me. Truth is, under current rules, all clubs are really shorthanded in the attack zone during five-on-five, with five skaters opposed by five skaters and one goalie (who wears the pads of nearly two skaters). We call that an even deal?
For a game that often appears to be in a state of mayhem, with players darting around faster than ever before, there rarely is much mayhem around the net. Passing and shooting lanes are typically sealed up, and goalies, overpadded and too influential in the game’s outcome, too easily prevent fat rebounds. The two changes suggested here would bring on the mayhem.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org