Illegal is illegal, regardless of injury

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booth.jpgWith the hockey world still awaiting news of Ovechkin’s suspension,
it seems that everyone is weighing in with their opinion on the legality
of hits and whether a suspension is worthy and why is Ovechkin getting
punished while Matt Cooke got off without one.

Well, here’s my
take on this whole mess.

The NHL takes injuries into account
when handing out punishment.

Here’s my biggest issue with the
entire system. If a play commits an egregious and illegal act on the
ice, he should be punished the exact same way each time. Every player
should be suspended in the same manner for the same hits, regardless of
whether they are a superstar or not and no matter what team they might
play for.

Of course, repeat offenders would be punished
accordingly and on a tiered system. They currently — supposedly — act
more harshly towards repeat offenders but it’s not the same way each
time.

That’s not the way the NHL works, however. It doesn’t matter
if one hit is just as dangerous and illegal as the next, if there
wasn’t an injury involved it’s not punished as harshly.

Witness
the Steve Downie slew foot of Sidney Crosby. There was about a half-inch
worth of movement to either side during that hit and we’d be having a
completely different conversation today. If Crosby’s knee had buckled
and his season was potentially over, Downie would be standing right
behind Ovechkin in line to talk to Colin Campbell. But Crosby was fine,
and it appears Downie will escape further punishment. Does that fact
that an injury did not occur make the play any less illegal?

The
NHL was supposedly content with letting the game misconduct stand as
Ovechkin’s only punishment, until we learned today that Brian Campbell
is potentially out for the season with a broken collarbone. Now Ovechkin
could be facing a multiple-game suspension. Does Campbell’s injury
suddenly make the play worse?

What about Matt Cooke?

Some
of you say the NHL didn’t suspend Cooke, with Marc Savard likely out
for the season with a concussion. Well, the issue here is that the
league currently does not have a rule in place to deem what Cooke did
was illegal. As stupid as that is, it’s the reality of the situation
and  as reprehensible as the hit was the NHL’s hands were tied. Can’t
punish him for a hit that technically wasn’t illegal; the NHLPA would be
all over that one.

Of course, the NHL is trying to correct their
mistake with a proposed rule change but that doesn’t alter the
punishment that Cooke should have received. Now we have talk of player
retribution and the fact that Matt Cooke and other Penguins players
might have a bounty of their heads.

Boy, that sure is a better
alternative.

The punishment should be the same, regardless of
injury.

This is where a standardized punishment system would
work. Everyone knows what the punishment is for such and such hit, and
every subsequent violation results in a lengthier suspension. There is
far too much subjectivity involved to make any punishments feel correct.
The fact that teams are actively lobbying in one way or the other —
and getting their way — is the perfect evidence that the system is
broken.

And for the record, I believe that Ovechkin should be
suspended for his actions. It was a reckless play, not malicious, but
reckless. It was dangerous. I’d say the same thing now if Brian Campbell
had walked away fine from the play. But if Ovechkin is suspended then
Steve Downie should be as well, and the fact that won’t happen is the
exact reason things need to change.

Another shutout for Bobrovsky as he steals one for Blue Jackets

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Sergei Bobrovsky continued to make his case for the Vezina Trophy on Saturday afternoon when he stopped all 36 shots he faced in a 1-0 win over the Philadelphia Flyers.

The win helped the Blue Jackets avoid what would have been their first three-game losing streak of the season.

In a game where his team was outshot by a 36-21 margin and managed just a single goal (an Alexander Wennberg tally in the second period), it would not be unfair to say that he probably stole a couple of points for his team as the Blue Jackets continue to compete with the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins for the top spot in both the Eastern Conference and the entire NHL.

Bobrovsky being the difference in a game is nothing new for the Blue Jackets lately because he has been a brick wall in their net for much of the season. But for as good as his performance has been overall, it is over the past few weeks where he has really started to establish himself as a Vezina Trophy front runner.

With his win on Saturday the Blue Jackets are now 9-0-2 in his past 11 starts.

Bobrovsky remains the NHL’s leader in pretty much every major goaltending category, collecting his 40th win (first in the NHL), raising his overall save percentage to .934 (also first in the NHL), his even-strength save percentage to .940 (also first in the NHL), and recording his seventh shutout (tied for second, just one behind Braden Holtby).

He has four shutouts in the month of March alone.

There are a lot of factors you can point to for the Blue Jackets’ massive turnaround this season, but none of them have been bigger at this point than the play of Bobrovsky.

He has already won the Vezina Trophy once in his career, and he is putting together a pretty convincing argument to win it again this season.

Goalie nods: It’s Anderson vs. Price for first place in the Atlantic

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The Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators are locked in a fierce fight for the top spot in the Atlantic Division, and they will have one more chance to take advantage of a head-to-head matchup on Saturday night.

It will be the fifth and final meeting of the regular season between the two teams — and third in the past eight days — as the two teams enter the night separated by just a single point in the standing (Montreal has a one point lead).

Montreal won the previous two head-to-head meetings this month, topping Ottawa in a shootout on March 18 then coming back the next night with a 4-1 win.

As expected, both teams will be going with their No. 1 goaltenders on Saturday night with the Senators turning to Craig Anderson and the Canadiens starting Carey Price.

With wins in eight of his past 11 starts, a stretch that has seen him surrender more than two goals in a game just two times, Price is once again playing at that Vezina Trophy level we have seen from him in years past. His overall numbers for the season may not be quite as dominant as we have seen over the past couple of years but right now he is one of his zones where he looks nearly unbeatable.

Anderson has been on a similar roll for the Senators in recent weeks and has only lost three of his past 12 starts … two of them came at the hands of the Canadiens.

Elsewhere on Saturday…

— It was Richard Bachman vs Darcy Kuemper in Minnesota for the Vancouver Canucks-Wild game, while Sergei Bobrovsky went against Michal Neuvirth in the Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Philadelphia Flyers game.

Braden Holtby will be in net for the Washington Capitals when they host Mike Smith and the Arizona Coyotes.

— With Tuukka Rask out for the Boston Bruins’ huge game against the New York Islanders, Anton Khudobin will get the call. No word yet from the Islanders on who they will start after going with Jaroslav Halak on Friday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Eddie Lack was the first goalie off the ice for the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday and is expected to start against Cory Schneider and the New Jersey Devils.

— No word yet from the Chicago Blackhawks or Florida Panthers for their game.

Frederik Andersen looks for his third shutout in a row when he starts for the Toronto Maple Leafs in their game against the Buffalo Sabres. Robin Lehner gets the call for the Sabres.

Brian Elliott is back in net for the Calgary Flames after having his personal 11-game winning streak snapped against the Washington Capitals this past week. He faces his former team, the St. Louis Blues, who will be starting Jake Allen.

Martin Jones gets the start for the San Jose Sharks when they visit Pekka Rinne and the Nashville Predators.

— It is a rare night off for Cam Talbot in Edmonton as Lauent Brossoit will make his first start since Feb. 21 when he gets the start against the Colorado Avalanche. He has made just two relief appearances since then. It will be just his third start of the season. The Avalanche have yet to announce their starter for the game.

Antti Raanta goes for the New York Rangers when they visit the Los Angeles Kings. Jonathan Quick is in the crease for the Kings.

VIDEO: Canucks’ Brock Boeser scores first goal in NHL debut

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What a day it has turned out to be for Brock Boeser.

Just hours after signing his first NHL contract with the Vancouver Canucks, the 2015 first-round draft pick was making his NHL debut in his hometown against the Minnesota Wild.

As if that wasn’t enough, he also ended up scoring his first career goal in the second period when he pounced on a loose puck that was sitting in the goal crease to give the Canucks a 3-0 lead. You can see the entire play in the video above.

Along with the goal Boeser also recorded a team-high four shots on goal through the first two periods while mostly skating on a line with Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi.

Jack Skille would add another goal for the Canucks just two minutes later to give them a 4-0 lead against a Wild team that has lost nine of its past 12 games heading into Saturday.

Flames sign free agent defenseman Josh Healey

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The Calgary Flames announced on Saturday that they have signed undrafted free agent defenseman Josh Healey to a two-year entry level contract. He will join the Stockton Heat of the AHL for the remainder of this season on an Amateur Tryout contract before his entry level deal begins next season.

Healey, 22, has spent the past four seasons playing for Ohio State and has developed a reputation for being one of the biggest hitters and most physical players at the NCAA level.

“Hits too hard for college,” is how one NHL scout described his play back in February.

That style of play has resulted in him getting himself into hot some water in the form of several ejections and suspensions over the past two seasons.

Along with his willingness to play a physical game, Healey’s offensive game took off a bit during his junior and senior seasons, including the 2016-17 season when he finished as the top scoring defenseman on the Buckeyes with 25 points (four goals, 21 assists) in 35 games.

In 133 games over four years at Ohio State he has accumulated 212 penalty minutes, leading the team by a pretty wide margin the past two years.