Mueller injured after 'questionable' hit by Blake

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[Updated: Check after the jump for screen caps of the hit]

The big Colorado Avalanche victory last night over the San Jose
Sharks
— in which the Avs came back from a two-goal deficit, allowed two late
goals and then won in overtime — is tainted a bit as the team waits on
word on the condition of Peter Mueller.

Mueller was injured late in the third period when Rob Blake pasted him
into the boards, who says it was just a normal play. From Adrian
Dater of the Denver Post:

“I
haven’t seen it, but I didn’t think it
was too bad,” said Blake, a former Avalanche defenseman. “We were both
going in there together and there were no elbows or anything like that.

“I
haven’t seen it, and it happens quick, so hopefully he’s all
right. I don’t want to see anyone get hurt by any means.”

Mueller had to be helped off the ice, and it looked like he injured
either his head or his shoulder after colliding awkwardly into the
boards. Blake collided with Mueller as they went after the puck behind
the net, with the larger defenseman sending Mueller off balance and into
the boards. Mueller has become an integral part of the Avs, scoring two big goals in yesterday’s win.

Of course, Avalanche fans are calling the hit a cheap
shot by Blake. It’s a hit that certainly rides the fence on being
illegal, but it was from the side (although Mueller had no clue it was
coming), but it was a few feet from the boards and the puck had not come
close to either player yet.

As much as I want the players to
stay safe on the ice, I still want this to be a physical game. Injuries
are going to happen when hockey is played, and big hits are going to
happen. If this hit occurred 18 inches closer to the boards, then we
wouldn’t be talking about it today. It was shoulder to shoulder, from
one big, strong hockey player to a smaller one. If a penalty
was called for, it would be interference for Blake hitting Mueller
before the puck came around to him. Was it a cheap, uncalled for hit?
No.

What will be interesting is to see how the NHL handles such a hit. Since it came 3-4 feet from the boards, on a hit you normally see right along the glass, the outcome was much more severe that what you normally see. And if Mueller hadn’t gone so awkwardly into the boards and got up and skated away, then nothing happens. I doubt we talk about it.

But the NHL wants to crack down on such hits, so there may be a suspension. That Mueller was injured goes against Blake. This is hockey, some players are bigger than others and we can’t just cry foul over every single big hit. It wasn’t from behind, just early and bit unnecessary.

We’ll update you on Mueller’s status when we learn more later
today.

 


Since there’s no video of this hit anywhere just yet, here are some screen caps of what happened.

Blake1.jpgHere you can see Blake and Mueller going for the puck. Both are pretty much shoulder to shoulder, with Mueller having position on Blake. You can also see Blake getting ready to make the hit, as he comes from the side and bit to the rear of Mueller. Notice how far away the puck is. This is the biggest issue with the hit.

Blake2.jpgThis is right as Blake makes the hit, sending Mueller off balance. Four feet from the boards, with the puck no where near the players. I still don’t believe it to be a dirty or ‘classless’ hit, but it’s certainly one the NHL will take a look at.

Blake3.jpgBlake extending his arm after the hit. Danger close.

Blake4.jpgOuch.

Suspension worthy? What’s your call?

Report: NHL has already made adjustment on slashing, faceoff calls

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The NHL preseason began with the league trying to crackdown on slashing and faceoff violations.

The early results were a lot of confusion, a ton of penalties, and a lot of griping from players, former referees and media about the confusion and the number of penalties.

Former NHL referee Paul Stewart griped on Twitter that it was taking away from the officials ability to call a game by feel and hockey sense. The Winnipeg Jets brought in retired referee Paul Devorski to work with their players in an effort to help them gain an understanding of what the league was looking for and to cut down on penalties.

It was obvious that something was going to have to give.

Either the players would have to adjust to the new standard implemented by the league, or the league would make its own adjustment and scale things back a bit.

In most matters like this in the NHL, it usually tends to be the latter.

That also seems to be the case here as Sportsnet’s John Shannon Tweeted on Saturday morning that the league has already sent a note to its officials to “dial it back” a bit when it comes slashing and faceoff violation calls.

Well, that was fast.

The enforcement of the faceoff rule seemed like a minor thing that really wasn’t going to make much of a difference, but the emphasis on slashing is one that needs to be kept (and extended to interference, holding, hooking or any other sort of obstruction), especially given the way some of the league’s star players are defended where slashing down on their hands or stick seems to be the preferred way of playing them. Not only from a player safety standpoint to help reduce injuries (getting hit with a stick can break bones … or fingers) but because the drop in power plays over the past decade (the “let them play” mindset) has been one of the many factors in the continued decline in goal scoring across the league.

If the NHL is serious about changing this stuff the onus needs to be on the players to adjust, not the officials. Set the standard. Call it consistently. The players will figure out what they can and can not do.

Anything less than that basically just amounts to the league saying, “hey guys, we would really like you to cut down on the slashes” and hoping that the players listen. But as long as they can get away with it, they will not listen.

Capitals’ Tom Wilson has a discipline hearing today for interference

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The NHL’s department of player safety announced on Saturday morning that it has scheduled a disciplinary hearing with Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson as a result of his late hit on St. Louis Blues forward Robert Thomas on Friday night.

It will be the first hearing for the department under the direction of its new leader, George Parros.

This particular incident happened early in the third period of the Blues’ 4-0 win on Friday night.

Here is a look at the entire sequence, including the fight that Wilson found himself in with Dmitri Jaskin in response to the hit.

It is clear that Wilson delivered his hit long after Thomas was in possession of the puck.

Even though Wilson always seems to be getting attention for some of his hits and physical play he has never been suspended in his career. His only punishment from the league has been in the form of two fines — one for diving/embellishment, and another for kneeing Pittsburgh Penguins forward Conor Sheary during the 2015-16 playoffs.

The fact that he has a hearing for his hit would seem to indicate a suspension might be on the horizon. The only question is whether or not it will just end his preseason (the Capitals still have four more games) or if it will carry over into the regular season.

Antti Niemi had to make a save with his bare hand

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Antti Niemi made 31 saves in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 4-3 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night, and 30 of them were pretty standard.

The one that wasn’t came in the third period when he lost his glove during a scramble around the net and still managed to instinctively make a save on the puck. With his bare hand.

Niemi said after the game, via the Tribune Review, that he thought the referees would stop the play after his glove came off, and when they didn’t “I just kept playing.”

You can watch the play by clicking here.

Probably not the type of thing you want to see happening because that looks like a great way to break a bone (or the entire hand) and get sidelined for extended period of time. Niemi said the officials told him there will no longer be an automatic whistle for goalies losing a glove or a blocker, but that one will remain for when they lose their helmet.

The Penguins signed Niemi to a one-year contract this summer as a replacement for Marc-Andre Fleury after they lost him in the expansion draft to the Vegas Golden Knights. Niemi is looking to rebound from a tough year in Dallas. He will serve as Matt Murray‘s backup for the season.

‘A good start’ — Stamkos stands out in preseason debut

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The Tampa Bay Lightning and National Hockey League unveiled the 2018 All-Star Game logo Friday.

Far more importantly for the Bolts this evening was the return of their all-star center Steven Stamkos, as he made his preseason debut in what was his first game in 10 months.

His 2016-17 season was abruptly ended in the middle of November because of a knee injury and subsequent surgery, making it the second time in four years his regular season had been disrupted by a major injury.

It may still take a while before Stamkos feels truly comfortable coming back from this injury.But his performance on Friday proved to be a very promising start for No. 91, the Bolts and their fans in Tampa Bay.

He didn’t score, but he assisted on two first period goals, including a nice set-up to linemate Nikita Kucherov, and the Lightning beat the Nashville Predators by a score of 3-1. Stamkos also received a healthy dose of ice time, playing more than 19 minutes, including 5:32 on the power play.

His pass to Kucherov resulted in a power play goal.

“It was exciting to get out there, I was pretty anxious about it… It was a good start, something to build on,” said Stamkos afterward, per the Lightning. “It was nice to just go through a game day, I haven’t done it in a long time… I was glad with how the first one went.”