After Laperriere horror show, should NHL make visors mandatory?

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Laperriere.jpgEverytime I see a player take a puck to the face or a stick to the
eye, just inches from a brutal and career-ending injury, I wonder
exactly why these players aren’t wearing a visor. I understand that
hockey is supposed to be a “man’s game” and that everytime we attempt to
add to the safety of the game there are some who are concerned that we
are taking away the toughness of the sport.

Not so. This is about protecting a player’s well being after
he is done playing hockey. Ian Laperriere, dropping down to block a shot
and getting hit in the face with a puck, could have easily lost an eye.
We want better head-shot rules to protect players now so they have a
decent life after they are finished with the NHL, as head injuries can
take years to really affect a person’s health.

After seeing Laperriere bleeding profusely on the ice, asking
trainers if he still had his eye, I immediately asked myself “should the
NHL make wearing visors mandatory?”. If the NHL is truly concerned
about player’s safety, although they’ve yet to really act on changing
the game to match their public concern, then perhaps requiring all
players to wear visors would be a logical next step.

Laperriere says that this was a tough lesson to learn, and that he
was “stupid” for not wearing one before. If you want to see the
aftermath of the injury, and to hear what Laperriere had to say after
the game, here’s the first part of his post-game interview:

After the jump, we look at whether mandatory visors is a good idea or
not.

The issue with making visors mandatory is the backlash coming from
the established players in the NHL. For those that choose not to wear
them there are various reasons they have for forgoing the safety of the
visor: comfort, visibility, etc. Some are just so used to not wearing
them after so many years, they’re worried they won’t be the same if they
suddenly attach a visor to their helmet.

What is interesting is how after facial injuries, players that are
forced to wear cages and/or visors while healing immediately go back to
wearing none as soon as cleared to do so. So obviously, their concern
about their own safety is trumped by a desire for comfort.

So how should the NHL handle this?

After conducting an informal poll on Twitter, I tend to agree with
the suggestions: make mandatory visors a part of the next CBA, and
grandfather current players into the rule. Eventually, in ten years or
so, all players in the NHL will be wearing visors and it will be just as
normal as when the NHL switched to mandatory helmets three decades ago.

There are plenty of other safety issues that need to be addressed as
well, the least of which is no-touch icing. I understand that the NHL is
worried about keeping it’s own brand of hockey separate from the way
it’s played around the world, but the thought that international hockey
rules keeps the game from being physical was downplayed by the
incredible hockey we witnessed in the playoffs this year.

The IIHF has some great, subtle rules that definitively makes hockey a
safer game. Mandatory visors. No-touch icing. No head shots. No
freaking trapezoid. The NHL will be wise to take notes.


NBC and NBCSN have you covered for Hockey Day in America

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With two games on NBC and then two more on NBCSN, your Sunday should be jam-packed with Hockey Day in America action. A look at the hockey hotbed of Warroad, Minnesota adds a delectable cherry on top, too.

If you need a guide to this party of pucks and patriotism, look no further than this post.

Washington Capitals at New York Rangers, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC

John Carlson, T.J. Oshie and the dominant Capitals take on Ryan McDonagh and the Blueshirts. The Metropolitan Division represents some of the NHL’s upper crust, so don’t be fooled by the Rangers being the first wild card while the Caps are tops in the East; both of these teams can go. Kenny Albert and Brian Boucher will be there to call the action.

MORE: For Oshie, ties to Warroad run deep

Detroit Red Wings at Pittsburgh Penguins, 3:30 p.m. ET on NBC

Mike “Doc” Emrick and Eddie Olczyk will be in the booth for this battle between teams that met in back-to-back Stanley Cup Final series in 2008 and 2009. Along with usual suspects like Sidney Crosby and Henrik Zetterberg, these teams feature American scorers such as Dylan Larkin and, of course, Phil Kessel.

Chicago Blackhawks at Buffalo Sabres, 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN

The action shifts to NBCSN as Patrick Kane and the Blackhawks hope to teach Jack Eichel and the upstart Sabres a lesson or two. The Blackhawks are in playoff position, as usual, while Buffalo is rallying to try to make a push of its own. Gord Miller and Joe Micheletti will be your guides.

MORE: Islanders forward Brock Nelson’s journey from Warroad to the NHL

Boston Bruins at San Jose Sharks, 8:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN

Hockey Day in America’s coverage closes off with this matchup between David Backes‘ Bruins and Joe Pavelski‘s Sharks. Randy Hahn, Andy Brickley and Bret Hedican will take you through this match between the Pacific Division’s top team and a Bruins team fighting to stick in the East playoff picture.

Barkov’s beautiful goal pushes Panthers into playoff position

SUNRISE, FL - NOVEMBER 26: Aleksander Barkov #16 of the Florida Panthers circles the net with the puck against the Columbus Blue Jackets at the BB&T Center on November 26, 2016 in Sunrise, Florida. The Panthers defeated the Blue Jackets 2-1 in a shoot out. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
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The Florida Panthers just won’t be denied as they end the night in the East’s top eight.

It’s fitting, then, that Aleksander Barkov wouldn’t be denied on his game-winner against Los Angeles on Saturday.

Barkov bursts beyond multiple Kings, fights off what would have been an obstruction penalty and then beats Peter Budaj by the narrowest of margins to give the Panthers a 3-2 lead 15 seconds into the third period. They would never relinquish that edge to Los Angeles, winning their fourth game in a row.

In the process, the Panthers – a team that seemed to be fledgling when it fired Gerard Gallant – now find themselves in the East’s top eight. Heck, they’re actually above the wild card fray by a hair.

Before we get to that … just bask in the glow of this Barkov goal:

Again, it was such a small window to beat Budaj, too:

(If the Panthers’ place in the standings doesn’t sway you into taking them seriously, maybe note plays like that and the fact that Barkov has 20 points in his last 17 games.)

OK, so with this win, the Panthers did some serious leapfrogging. They now rank third in the Atlantic Division (thanks to a game in hand on Boston) and have more points than Toronto as far as wild card concerns go, anyway.

Atlantic Division rankings

1. Canadiens – 70 points in 59 games
2. Senators – 68 points in 56 games
3. Panthers – 64 points in 57 games

Bruins – 64 in 58
Maple Leafs – 63 in 47
Sabres – 62 in 59
Lightning – 58 in 57
Red Wings – 56 in 58

From a wild card perspective

Third in Atlantic – Panthers – 64 points in 57 games
Second wild card – Bruins – 64 in 58

Maple Leafs – 63 in 47
Islanders – 62 in 57
Sabres – 62 in 59
Flyers – 61 in 58
Devils – 60 in 58
Lightning – 58 in 57
Hurricanes – 56 in 54
Red Wings – 56 in 58

Everything’s so close that the Panthers can’t pop champagne bottles, but they’re also very much in control over their hopes. While it never hurts to see your competitors stumble, the Panthers can take care of business. They “control their own destiny,” to use silly sports parlance.

And considering how they’ve been playing lately, they might be as tough to handle in the playoffs as Barkov was to stop on that outstanding 3-2 goal.

Stars made Dave Strader’s return to the booth special

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It was a special night as the Dallas Stars beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3 in overtime, but the most memorable moment wasn’t the win or Antoine Roussel‘s hat trick.

Instead, it was how the team embraced Dave Strader’s return to the broadcasting booth as he continues to fight cancer.

Don’t be ashamed if his comments to the Dallas Morning News leave you emotional:

“This is the first time, to be honest with you, that for four hours I didn’t feel like I was sick at all,” Strader said after the game. “Maybe it was the adrenaline high, but I really, really feel great right now.”

Again, the team really did some great things to welcome him back, but the highlight was saluting him after the game. Incredible stuff.

“What a gesture by the boys … meant so much to me and my wife! Thank you.” Strader tweeted after the game.

As this post notes, Strader is expected to do play-by-play for four more Stars games.

Add allowing center-ice goal to Brian Elliott’s rough season

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So far, there’s just one goal in tonight’s Calgary Flames – Vancouver Canucks game. And it wasn’t a good one.

The Canucks couldn’t manage a shot on goal for more than half of the first period, maybe putting Brian Elliott to sleep … as Alexander Edler scored the 1-0 goal from center ice on Vancouver’s first shot that actually got on net. Ouch.

It’s already been a tough season for Brian Elliott, who came into Saturday with an .898 save percentage.

Elliott was perfect through the rest of the first two periods, so we’ll see if Calgary can overcome that gaffe.

Update: The Canucks ended up winning 2-1 in overtime. Ryan Miller was the better of the two goalies in this one.