PHT at Wachovia: My first day in the media

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Everyone has a first time. First step. First day at school. First day
at college, away from the parents. First sip of a brewski. First..well,
you know.

Yesterday was my first day as a member of the
credentialed media.

Despite what they might say, most members of
the hockey media were one-time hockey fans just like you and me.
Covering the sport from the vantage point of the media means entering a
world you never thought you would have had the chance to. Despite
outwardly being as calm, professional and as even-keeled as possible
it’s still amazing to think you have access to speak with players you’ve
been watching, playing the sport you’ve devoted so much time to.

I
had the opportunity to attend yesterday’s game between the Philadelphia
Flyers and the Detroit Red Wings as part of NBC’s Game of the Week
coverage. It was a two-part trip; for one, I had the chance to meet with
and visit with the NBC production crew with whom Pro Hockey Talk has
been working so closely with each week. I also had the chance to cover
the game for PHT from the press box and the locker room, getting some
inside access to a big game with major playoff implications.

First
off, I want to point something out. I know that the NBC broadcast
catches a fair amount of flak from hockey fans, but I can tell you that
this is a group of people that truly care about putting the best product
they can on your screen. It’s not easy to cater to the hardcore hockey
fan while trying to present the game to the casual viewer as well.

Of
everything that happened yesterday, getting to meet Doc Emrick was
easily the highlight. The man has command of the room, despite how
low-key he is. Everyone around him has tremendous respect for the man
and it was easy to see why: he treats everyone exactly the same. He
knows everyone’s name and he acknowledges every person he comes across.
Truly and honor and a delight to meet the man.

The other part of
the trip was covering the game from the press box. For every fan that
may be jealous of the media getting to see every game, know that they
aren’t seeing the game from the best viewing angle. We were pretty much
looking straight down on the ice from the highest spot in the arena; I
couldn’t see the ice unless I put my laptop screen down and leaned
forward. Not complaining, far from it. Just saying.

Aside from the
free popcorn and coffee, not much else to share about the press box.
Some observational notes: the Red Wings scouts sitting behind me were
very vocal, and it made watching the game that much more interesting.
They were outwardly critical of anything happening on the ice; very
entertaining. It was also great to get to see a number of long-time
media members in person, after following their work for so long.

After
the game, came the part of the day I was dreading: the locker room.
I’ve covered a number of NHL events before, but never a game, and was
unsure exactly what the eitiquette was for approaching players in the
locker room after the game. Obviously, they’re tired, sweaty and just
want to take a shower and go home but we also want to get some nice
quotes from them. That’s just how it works. And post-game generally
isn’t the best time to get good stuff from players, unless you’re just
looking for some stuff about the game that was just played. Or if you’re
talking to R.J. Umberger, I hear he’s great for post-game quotes.

I
needn’t worry, however. With a such a big game being played, in Philly
no less, there was a large contingent of media present. When I got down
to the locker room, there was already sizable crowds around Dan Carcillo
and Chris Pronger. So I just joined them. What I found funny was that
as soon as Pronger started talking, after Carcillo had talked for a bit,
he was instantly deserted for the defensemen. It was just a mass exodus
from one side of the locker room to the other.

I couldn’t get close.

Pronger.jpg

Everyone is
crowding around Pronger, while Brian Boucher quietly takes his pads off
right next to them. No one even approaches him.

When everyone left
Carcillo’s locker, I stuck around to see if I could get some extra
one-on-one stuff. He was very talkative, and I was able to get some
great quotes from him about what was going on during the scrum he was
having with Tomas Holmstrom. I headed back up to the press box to type
up the quotes for the recap, only to find out that my recorder didn’t
record anything. Not a sound, not even static. The file was there, when I
was recording the red light was one, I could see the time ticking
away…just no sound. That’s what I get for using a brand new recorder, I
guess.

I took notes, but the last thing I wanted on my first day
with credentials was to get accused of mis-quoting a player. So I used
what I had, and was unable to use what I wanted.

To finish, here
are a couple of lessons I learned yesterday:

-If you dress nicely,
you will not be mistaken to be a member of the media. Nope. In fact,
you will constantly be asked if you are the PR director for the Flyers.

-Ever
been the brand new kid at high school, starting at a brand new school
in the middle of the semester? Everyone knows everyone, everyone knows
where to go and you don’t know jack. I’ve been there when I was 16, and I
was right back there again yesterday.

-If you get lost, ask
someone. They’re helpful.

-Carcillo is nowhere near as big as I
thought he was.

-Never, ever bring a brand new recorder to the
biggest day of your life.

-If you dress nice, act professionally
and keep to yourself…players, PR and the team will treat you just
fine.

The Buzzer: Monahan the man, torrid Tavares

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Choice PHT Cuts:

Canadiens, Maple Leafs did NOT play nice.

If you didn’t think Alex Ovechkin was tough …

*Rubs eyes* A winning streak … for the Coyotes?

Connor McDavid and Oilers are sad pandas.

Players of the Night

  • Anthony Duclair‘s hat trick is well-covered here, so check that out. Duclair gets one edge on Sean Monahan in that Duclair scored all of his team’s goals on Saturday, but Monahan combined his first career hat trick with an assist, helping his Flames win in OT much like Duclair did for Arizona.

Monahan slightly upstaged Johnny Gaudreau (one goal, two assists) who was pumped to play in front of a crowd in Philly.

  • Paul Stastny collected three assists to help the Blues beat the Canucks in overtime. Check PHT on Sunday morning for an in-depth look at Brayden Schenn, who kept his hot streak going with the OT-clincher.
  • John Tavares just continues to ride high with a goal and two assists. The real stars might be the Islanders as a whole, however, as they beat the Lightning and kept Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov pointless in a 5-3 Isles win.
  • Frederik Andersen has achieved back-to-back shutouts, helping the Leafs make the Habs extra-miserable. He made 33 saves, so you could argue Montreal deserved better than a 6-0 fate.

Heel of the Night?

While Connor McDavid absorbed an odd portion of the Oilers’ blame in defeat despite a three-point night, Antoine Roussel really played up his villain cred. He collected three points of his own and did this:

Highlight of the Night

Going off script a bit here, let’s go with Alex Ovechkin bouncing back from this:

And Corey Crawford being OK despite this bump from Evgeni Malkin.

Both players helped their teams seal up wins as a bonus. (Feel free to share your favorite highlights from tonight, even if they don’t involve near-injuries.)

Factoid of the Night

Congrats, Antti Niemi. Kind of.

Here’s a free joke regarding that situation.

Scores

Flames 5, Flyers 4 (OT)
Stars 6, Oilers 3
Coyotes 3, Senators 2 (OT)
Jets 5, Devils 2
Kings 4, Panthers 0
Hurricanes 3, Sabres 1
Maple Leafs 6, Canadiens 0
Islanders 5, Lightning 3
Blackhawks 2, Penguins 1
Capitals 3, Wild 1
Predators 5, Avalanche 2
Blues 4, Canucks 3 (OT)
Bruins 3, Sharks 2

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Nasty hits, fights, and a blowout in Maple Leafs vs. Canadiens

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First, the Edmonton Oilers fell 6-3 to the Dallas Stars. Next: the Toronto Maple Leafs absolutely throttled the fledgling Montreal Canadiens in a game that was ugly even beyond the 6-0 score.

It’s been a bad day for embattled GMs of teams who’ve made polarizing moves in hopes of solidifying Stanley Cup contenders. The Oilers (7-11-2) and Canadiens (8-11-2) even finish the night with nearly identical records, just to really hammer home their parallel pains.

You almost wonder if something is in the air this week (spoilers: not love), as nastiness has really ratcheted up since the Calgary Flames – Detroit Red Wings line brawl. The Canadiens and Maple Leafs boast one of the NHL’s richest and bitterest rivalries, and it showed on Saturday.

As you can see from the video above this post’s headline, Nazem Kadri played a major role in one of the most explosive moments, taking his frustrations out on Shea Weber. Weber and Jordie Benn wasted no time in going after Kadri.

(Criticisms of the hit are totally fair, but it seems strange to go too heavy on “turtling.” Who would be able to stand up to both Weber and Benn? In the heat of the moment, I’d wager most people would go with flight over fight.)

That was the most bombastic moment, but there was also this seemingly unlikely bout between Nikita Zaitsev and Paul Byron:

This absolute dismantling comes after Claude Julien was steaming mad from a 5-4 loss to the Arizona Coyotes. It’s tough not to read all of this as an indictment of the moves Marc Bergevin has made, especially considering the fact that their rivals dominated them for their sixth win in a row. If you’re the type to draw big conclusions from about a month of a season, you’d look at it as how to build a contender vs. how to waste Carey Price‘s prime.

That’s a little harsh … but either way, these are tough times for Bergevin.

ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski passed along an interesting take from Julien, who wishes he could bag skate his bumbling players. OK, then.

Auston Matthews was definitely part of the fun for Toronto in his return from injury, including scoring this goal:

(You almost wonder if Mike Babcock was rolling the dice even having his star players out there amid all that carnage, but that goal was a sweet reward.)

[MORE: Why Toronto needs Matthews back for a tough stretch]

Yes, this is an 82-game season, and we’re only at about the first-quarter-mark. Still, teams like the Oilers and Canadiens came into 2017-18 with big expectations and big questions, and so far fans and management can’t like the answers.

By the way, asking for a well-dressed GM: what’s the opposite of, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?”

Yikes.

Ovechkin returns after being badly bloodied by puck to face

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It’s still relatively early on Saturday night, and both the Chicago Blackhawks and Washington Capitals could eventually provide further updates that derail this optimism.

With that out of the way, at the moment, the theme of the night might just be teams dodging big injury bullets, even if the star players in question can’t dodge actual damage.

In the case of Corey Crawford, he bounced back for the Blackhawks after Evgeni Malkin‘s thigh area clipped him in the head. Maybe it looked worse than it was?

Now, any time you see people scrape blood off the ice, you get a reminder of how dangerous – and yeah, occasionally strange – hockey can be. That only becomes more disturbing when that blood is coming from a player as important as Alex Ovechkin:

Remarkably, Ovechkin is returning for the third period of the Capitals’ game against the Minnesota Wild.

So:

  • This is a reminder that Ovechkin is tough, in case you foolishly think he isn’t because … his teams have lost in big games or something? Considering how recklessly he often throws his body around, and how infrequently he misses games due to to injury, you’d think that debate would have died a long time ago. Moments like this make it seem that much sillier.
  • Ovechkin must really want to help the struggling Capitals turn things around.
  • Maybe he wants to hang an L on his old boss Bruce Boudreau?

Anyway, PHT will keep an eye on these situations. Sometimes there are more answers the night of events, and sometimes it takes a little longer.

Right now, it’s reasonable for Capitals fans and Blackhawks fans to feel some relative, even if it’s only in the interim.

Update: The Capitals ended up winning 3-1, thanks in large part to Braden Holtby‘s strong night.

Ovechkin logged 8:18 TOI in the third period, so it seems like he’s OK. This post will be updated if he shares a nasty battle scar.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Crawford avoids injury, helps Blackhawks beat Penguins

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The Chicago Blackhawks have been up-and-down so far in 2017-18, but Corey Crawford has been brilliant almost every night he’s been in net. It’s to the point that he might be a little underrated, as people assume that Chicago will keep finding ways to win, possibly missing how big a part he’s playing in its successes.

Crawford’s been able to clean up a lot of messes, so Saturday brought a scare, as he seemed to take head contact from Pittsburgh Penguins star Evgeni Malkin.

You can see the contact in the video above. It seemed like quite a collision, as part of Malkin (thigh? middle-boy) seemed to connect with Crawford at a fairly high speed.

The penalty call drew at least some complaints from Penguins fans, but the important thing either way is that the Blackhawks took a look at Crawford before allowing him to return to the game.

Now, we’ve seen players return to action only to miss games in the future, so it’s still worth monitoring Crawford. Considering how important he is to the Blackhawks, they have to hope that it was one of those plays that looked more painful than it actually was.

Also, with some justifiable complaints about players not going through concussion protocol lately, a lot of people are pleased with Chicago for at least assessing Crawford. We’ll see if anything changes, but right now, this seems like a dodged bullet (but not a dodged Malkin).

Update: Not only did Crawford stick with it, he made a big difference in the Blackhawks beating the Penguins 2-1, including making this save:

Chicago sure seems to have an edge on Pittsburgh lately, by the way:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.