Gary Bettman: NHL has "been extremely proactive"

bettman.jpgDavid
Haugh of the Chicago Tribune
was able to score a fairly lengthy
interview with NHL commissioner, asking him a number of questions
pertaining to the recent rule changes, suspensions and the future of the
NHL. Here are some highlights of what he had to say.

The
rash of nasty incidents since the Olympics had to factor into the NHL’s
decision Thursday to toughen its policy on review and discipline of
“lateral, back-pressure or blind-side” hits, especially to the head,
right?

Was it the post Olympics activity that caused this? No.
We’ve been extremely proactive on the issue of injuries in general and
concussions in particular going back to 1997. We were the first pro
sports league to do baseline testing, used as a diagnostic tool for
return-to-play decisions. Over the past year, we’ve had a group of
medical professionals looking at the videotape of 199 recent
concussions. We have constantly taken steps to do anything possible to
protect our players.

I’d like to just say here that
the NHL is far from proactive on these issues, especially when it comes
to punitive measures for illegal hits. This past week’s kneejerk
reaction and attempt to pass a new rule that was in direct response to a
rash of what should be illegal hits is the very definition of reactive.
If the NHL is so intent on being ‘proactive’ then the league should
have addressed all hits to the head two years ago.

More after the
jump.

Did the fact that Ovechkin is a superstar
affect the length of his
suspension?

No. Your history as a player and the number of times you’ve been
involved in an incident may, but no. The Ovechkin play, he was suspended
for being careless and reckless, not for doing anything malicious. The
fact is, when you look at lots of hockey plays, that was a hockey play. I
don’t think he was going out of his way to try and hurt Brian.

I
don’t think I’ve ever actually agreed with Bettman on something,
completely. The suspension was completely warranted based on Ovechkin’s
history and the play in question. It wasn’t an overtly dirty hit, just a
reckless one.

The issue is that while his star
status might not have come into play here, there’s no doubt that the NHL
has gained a reputation for coddling star players when it comes to
punishment. Maybe a form of a standardized punishment system would work,
which would fall under that ‘proactive’ approach Bettman is so certain
the NHL is using.

Bettman would also go on to talk about how great the Coyotes have
done this season, and the possibilities of Jerry Reinsdorf as a
potential owner. He also says the Chicago national anthem tradition is
far from unpatriotic, and says the NHL is far from making a decision on
the league’s involvement in the 2014 Winter Olympics.

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    Jets chase Dubnyk, eliminate Wild in Game 5

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    Tonight’s game against the Winnipeg Jets is do-or-die for the Minnesota Wild. It looks like someone may have forgotten to tell the Wild.

    Despite not having Josh Morrissey, Dmitry Kulikov, Toby Enstrom, Mathieu Perreault and Nikolaj Ehlers in Game 5, the Jets are off to roaring start. Through 20 minutes, Winnipeg has a 4-0 lead. They already managed to chase Devan Dubnyk from the Wild’s net, and although the game isn’t over yet, it sure looks like the Jets are heading to the second round.

    [NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

    Dubnyk lasted just 11:59, as he allowed four goals on 10 shots. Alex Stalock entered the game in relief of Minnesota’s starter. He stopped all three shots he faced.

    Jacob Trouba opened the scoring just 31 seconds into Game 5:

    Bryan Little, Brandon Tanev and Joel Armia also found the back of the net for the Jets. Mark Scheifele added a power-play tally early in the third frame to extend their lead to 5-0.

    The Wild were better in the second period, but they still couldn’t figure out Connor Hellebuyck.

    This is the third year in a row that Minnesota has been bounced in the opening round of the postseason. In 2016, they were eliminated in six games by the Dallas Stars and last year, they watched as St. Louis took them down in five.

    Even though they finished the year with over a 100 points, it’s another disappointing year for them. It’s tough to envision them making major changes to the roster because Zach Parise and Ryan Suter are under contract for six more years. It’ll be interesting to see what they can do to shake up this roster or their staff.

    As for the Jets, they’ll face either the Nashville Predators or the Colorado Avalanche (the Preds are up 3-1 in their best-of-seven series). Winnipeg definitely looked explosive in Game 5, and they’ll need to keep rolling if they want to reach the Western Conference Final.

    Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

    Michal Neuvirth gets Game 5 start for Flyers; Couturier returns to lineup

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    With their season on the line on Friday night the Philadelphia Flyers are making a change in goal.

    Michal Neuvirth, who has played just 59 minutes of NHL hockey since Feb. 18, will get the Game 5 start in goal when they take on the Pittsburgh Penguins.

    Neuvirth replaced Brian Elliott in Philadelphia’s Game 4 loss on Wednesday night after Elliott gave up three goals on 17 shots, the second time he was benched in the first four games. The Flyers have already used three goalies in this series with Elliott, Neuvirth, and Petr Mrazek all getting playing time. None of them have played well.

    [NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

    When healthy Neuvirth had the best numbers out of the group during the regular season, but health has been a constant battle for him the past few years.

    The other big lineup news for the Flyers on Friday will be the fact that center Sean Couturier will be returning after sitting out Game 4 with a lower body injury. He may not be 100 percent, however, given that he took pregame line rushes on the team’s third line between Scott Laughton and Wayne Simmonds. Valtteri Filppula was skating on the first line alongside Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek.

    Among the other changes for the Flyers: Robert Hagg will replace Travis Sanheim on defense, while Dale Weise will play on the fourth-line instead of Oskar Lindblom.

    Related: Penguins will not have Patric Hornqvist in Game 5

    ————

    Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

    Barkov, Karlsson, O’Reilly are 2018 Lady Byng Trophy finalists

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    Aleksander Barkov of the Florida Panthers, William Karlsson of the Vegas Golden Knights, and Ryan O’Reilly of the Buffalo Sabres have been named as the three finalists for the 2018 Lady Byng Memorial Trophy, the NHL announced on Friday. The award, voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers Association, is given “to the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.”

    The winner will be announced during the NHL Awards show in Las Vegas on June 20.

    [NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

    The Case for Aleksander Barkov: The Panthers center certainly has the “high standard of playing ability” part down with a season that saw him lead the team with 78 points and finish tied for third in goals with 27. Barkov played the fifth-most minutes (1,743:32) among NHL forwards and only picked up seven minor penalties. This is the second time he’s been named a finalist in the last three seasons.

    The Case for William Karlsson: Karlsson had a monster of a season with 43 goals and 78 points during the Golden Knights’ historic first year. In playing 1,534:47, the 25-year-old forward racked up only 12 PIMs. Should Karlsson win, he would become the first player to win an end-of-season trophy for a team in its inaugural season since Wayne Gretzky of the Edmonton Oilers won the Byng and Hart Trophy and in 1979-80.

    The Case for Ryan O'Reilly: O’Reilly missed one game this season and logged 1,686:10 of ice time for the Sabres. He recorded only one penalty all season, way back on Oct. 24 versus Detroit, a slashing call. His one penalty is the fewest among NHL players who suited up for at least 41 games this season. He’s a previous winner having taken home the trophy in 2014 while a member of the Colorado Avalanche.

    2018 NHL Award finalists
    Bill Masterton Trophy (Saturday)
    Norris Trophy
    Selke Trophy
    Vezina Trophy

    ————

    Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

    WATCH LIVE: Penguins, Jets, Predators look to advance

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    Game 5: Philadelphia Flyers at Pittsburgh Penguins, 7 p.m. ET (Penguins lead 3-1)
    NBCSN
    Call: John Forslund, Pierre McGuire
    Series preview
    Stream here

    Game 5: Minnesota Wild at Winnipeg Jets, 7:30 p.m. ET (Jets lead 3-1)
    USA
    Call: Dave Randorf, Louis Debrusk
    Series preview
    Stream here

    Game 5: Colorado Avalanche at Nashville Predators, 9:30 p.m. ET (Predators lead 3-1)
    NBCSN
    Call: Kenny Albert, AJ Mleczko, Brian Boucher
    Series preview
    Stream

    [NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]