The Green Men of Vancouver: "We're kinda like folk heroes."

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GreenMen3.jpgBy now, you’ve most likely seen and heard about the Green Men. The
unofficial new mascots of Vancouver, they became internet
sensations back in December when they were caught on camera taunting
Dave Scatchard of the Nashville Predators
while he sat in the penalty box at GM Place. They have since made periodic
appearances at Canucks home games, mysteriously showing up to random
games and becoming something of a phenomenon in Vancouver.

On
April 15th, in a home playoff game against the LA Kings, the Green Men
rose to the ranks of hockey celebrity they never thought possible. With
Jack Johnson in the penalty box, two men dressed in green spandex
plastered themselves to the glass
in what seemed to be impossible
positions; the video was instantly put on YouTube and their ‘antics’
have been viewed over 1 million times in just over a week.

The “Green Man” phenomenon has stemmed from the popular show “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia”, spawning green men appearances all over the sports world. The Green Men in Vancouver have been able to take the meme to an extremely popular level, based on some crazy antics and the wonders of YouTube.

PHT was
able to talk with Sully and Force, as they prefer to be known, as they
prepare for another night at GM Place and another night of motivating an
already boisterous crowd. The two college students, preferring their
identities kept secret, never thought that this would become as big as
it has. They thought it would just be a one-time thing after the initial
game against Nashville in December, but after seeing the online
response to their appearance YouTube decided that if the people wanted
more, they’d give them more.

“We were in demand,” Sully says.
“Gotta keep the people happy.”

After a week of radio and
television appearances, multiple interviews and countless pictures with
strangers, Sully and Force have embraced their newfound celebrity. It’s
not something they expected.

“It’s really cool actually.
Originally, we just kinda figured that
this wouldn’t catch on. It was just a gimmick you know….a couple of
guys, a mascot kind of thing.”

Sully says that it’s become much
more than just fun as a mascot, however. It’s something…more.

“We’re
kinda like folk heroes out here now,” he says.
“I don’t want to say we’re superheroes, but we kinda fit that persona:
we wear spandex, we do what’s right for the community and everybody
kinda follows suit. We affect things when we’re at a game, and that’s
kinda cool.

“We can make them cheer at the drop of a dime and
that’s a
power that very few possess, I think.”

GreenMen.jpgThe crowds have certainly
started to respond to the two men in green, as they’ve taken on the job
of getting the fans at the game as loud and as boisterous as possible.
Taking up their seats next to the visitor’s penalty box, part of that
job is to make life miserable for the opposing players. It may not work
exactly as planned, but they certainly try.

“They try to ignore
us. We’ve gotten some pretty good reaction from them.
Drew Doughty was chirping at us a little bit. They try to ignore us,
but we try to obstruct their view of the play on the other end, we bang
on the glass so they can’t hear the countdown for when they’re supposed
to come out of the box.

“We just try to make it a rough atmosphere
for those two minutes.”

While Sully and Force were captured just
acting odd and banging on the glass against Nashville, they took it to a
completely different level against the Kings. Doing a handstand on the
seat, pressing yourself against the glass and being as obnoxious as
possible is one quick way to get thrown out of the game. Yet Sully says
that the officials haven’t been as rough on them as one might expect.

“In
the Nashville game the first time we banged on the glass the security
was tright there in our face. The next game, as they saw how big it was
they let us pretty much do our thing,” says Sully. “After the LA game,
when I went up
on the chair there and put my junk up on the glass in a headstand,
security was right there again. I think once they saw how big it was on
YouTube and stuff, they backed down a bit.”

“But they’re always
right
there in our face, we always have to deal with them.”

With their
popularity, which has turned into a nifty website and an incredibly
popular Facebook fan page
, has come more demand for their presence at
home games. They say they have a winning record at Canucks games, and
would love to keep doing what must be done to help out the team from the
stands. Yet for two college students, tickets on the glass in the
playoffs aren’t cheap. So while they go to as many games as possible,
they say that ” it would definitely help if we got some help from the
Canucks or
whomever.”

GreenMen2.jpgDespite the financial hardships involved in being local
heroes, there is also the added burden of becoming insanely popular.
When everyone knows who you are and you’re dressed in bright green
spandex, it can make getting around at the game fairly difficult, says
Sully.

“You have no idea.
After a game…it’s a lot better now that we’re in warmer weather. When
we went to games around Christmas, just to get from the building to the
parking lot…we get swarmed. We probably take another 50 to 100
pictures with people outside GM Place. Around Christmas time it was
freezing cold, so that’s a bit of an issue when you’re wearing tight
spandex.”

The Green Men will continue their quest to make life
miserable for opposing players, doing what must be done to get the crowd
into a game. They also haven’t limited themselves to Canucks games,
saying that they might make some appearances Seattle Seahawks games this
year as well.

“We go
where we’re needed,” says Sully.

“Like a true superhero.”

Photos courtesy of thegreenmenfanpage.com.

NHL on NBCSN doubleheader: Lightning vs. Devils; Canadiens vs. Sharks

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2017-18 NHL season continues with a doubleheader on Tuesday night. In the early game, the New Jersey Devils host the Tampa Bay Lightning at 7:30 p.m. ET. To watch the game online, click here

The Lightning are coming off a 3-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings on Monday night. For the sixth game in a row, Nikita Kucherov managed to find the back of the net (he actually scored twice, including the game-winner).

When injuries were piling up for the Bolts last season, the Russian winger was the guy they relied on to get the job done. This season, that hasn’t changed. The Lightning are healthier than they were a year ago, but he just keeps on rolling.

Another player who’s performed well, is goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy. The young netminder became the full-time starter when the Lightning traded Ben Bishop to the Kings last season. Although he had some ups and downs last year, he’s been terrific this season.

His individual numbers might not jump off the page (3.00 goals-against-average and a .914 save percentage), but he’s come up with a number of big saves already in 2017-18. Last night’s game against the Wings was no different.

“He’s our starter for a reason,” head coach Jon Cooper said after the win over the Wings, per the Tampa Times. “If you want to win in this league, you have to check and you need your goaltender to bail you out on occasions. And the times we haven’t been checking, Vasy has bailed us out.”

After missing the playoffs last season, many expected the Lightning to be better now. The same can not be said for the Devils, but they’ve been one of the pleasant surprises so far.

New Jersey has a 4-1-0 record and they own a plus-8 goal differential. This young team has really come together early, and it’ll be interesting to see if they’re able to keep it together.

Rookies Will Butcher and Jesper Bratt have been nothing short of fantastic in the early going. Butcher, who the Devils signed as a college free agent this summer, has eight assists in five games. Bratt has accumulated six points in five contests, which isn’t bad for a 19-year-old drafted in the sixth round.

“He’s a good player,” forward Drew Stafford said of Butcher, per NJ.com. “You guys are seeing that. Doesn’t really surprise me anymore. He’s a heck of a player, so for him to have the success that he’s had so far — granted, it’s power play — but that’s something I feel like he can ride as far as he can.”

In the late game, the San Jose Sharks host the Montreal Canadiens at 10:00 p.m. ET. To stream that game live, click here

It’s been a tough start to the year for the Canadiens, as they’ve managed to come away with one win in their first five contests.

Despite adding Jonathan Drouin this off-season and having Max Pacioretty, Alex Galchenyuk and a few others, Montreal is still the only team in the league to has played five games and scored less than 10 goals.

They scored a season-high three goals against the Maple Leafs on Saturday night, but they fell 4-3 in overtime thanks to Auston Matthews‘ game-winner.

“I think our guys are focused on what needs to be done internally, inside the dressing room, and what we’re trying to accomplish here,” Claude Julien said, per the Montreal Gazette. “I think so far they’ve done a pretty good job of that. There’s no doubt when you got some guys that are goal-scorers that haven’t scored yet … it’s a normal thing that they might be squeezing the stick a little bit. But that’s what they got to overcome and that’s what we got to try and do and improve our game as we go along here.”

Pacioretty scored a goal in the season opener against Buffalo, but he hasn’t found the back of the net since. Drouin and Galchenyuk both netted their first goals of the season on Saturday night. Three goals in five games from those three players simply isn’t enough.

This will be the first of a three-game road swing in California that never seems to treat the Canadiens well.

Things haven’t been much better for the San Jose Sharks, as they have just one win in four contests.

“It’s on us as players,” Logan Couture said, per the San Jose Mercury News. “If we’re playing well, then the lines aren’t going to change. If we’re not, then they’re going to change them around. How we play will dictate what the lineup is.

“No one’s scoring. You could say our line’s not scoring and we’re not, but no one is. As a team, we’ve got to find ways to create some more offense.”

The Sharks have scored eight goals, like Montreal, but in one less game. Kevin Labanc has three of the eight markers.

If you’re a betting person, you may want to look at the under in this one, but weird things seem to happen when east coast teams go play out west.

Enjoy the hockey!

PHT Morning Skate: 5 players that are off to slow starts this season

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–The Score looks at five players that are off to slow starts in 2017-18. Brent Burns was incredibly productive in the first half of last season, but he’s been awfully quiet so far. (The Score)

–Speaking of players that are struggling, Antoine Roussel is off to a disappointing start with Dallas. He was one of the top possession players on the Stars roster, but the results just haven’t been there. There’s still plenty of time for him to turn things around though. (defendingbigd.com)

–The Montreal Canadiens are off to a rough start this season, but Montreal Gazette columnist Jack Todd believes they have what it takes to turn it around. Carey Price can be better, Jonathan Drouin can contribute more offensively and Max Pacioretty can score more goals. (Montreal Gazette)

–A lot of Nikita Kucherov‘s success comes from being unpredictable. One thing he worked on this off-season was improving his backhander. “It’s a tough league, you have to make chances out of nothing. Look at those guys, Kane, Crosby, watch them and it’s a huge part of their game. It’s something I want to add to my game and be better at.” (Tampa Bay Times)

–Even though the NHL added concussion spotters in 2015-16, their system is far from perfect. On Friday night, Marc-Andre Fleury took a knee to the head and he was allowed to stay in the game. Fleury is now out indefinitely. It’s time for the NHL to improve this whole process. (fanragsports.com)

–The Toronto Maple Leafs are one of the rare teams that are loaded with young depth at the AHL level. They’re so deep that some are wondering if they should loan out some of their prospects to other AHL teams instead of sending them to the ECHL. (faceoffcircle.ca)

–The Nashville Predators were one of the few eight seeds that made a run to the Stanley Cup Final. Before you draw hope for your team based on the Preds’ accomplishments, you might want realize that they weren’t your typical eighth seed based on the numbers they put up last season. (ontheforecheck.com)

–Every fall, EA Sports releases a new NHL video game that gets people excited for hockey season. Operation Sports looks at ways EA can improve game play. Better passing control? More elaborate dekes? Sign us up. (operationsports.com)

Taylor Hall is known for his play on the ice, but his social media game is pretty strong, too. Just ask former teammate Jordan Eberle, who found that out the hard way after he chirped Hall on Twitter. (Sports Illustrated)

–We don’t know if Matt Duchene will ever be traded. But regardless of where he plays this season, what kind of upside does he have? Although Duchene is off to a good start, there’s a good chance his numbers will come down a little bit. (milehighhockey.com)

–NHL.com’s Dave Stubbs sat down with former defenseman Hal Gill to ask him five questions. They discussed how the game has changed, what it’s like to win the Stanley Cup and they also talked about P.K. Subban. (NHL.com)

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.

MORE FROM NHL ON NBC SPORTS:

SPHL gets creative, adopts ‘pick your opponent’ playoff format

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PHT Power Rankings: Making sense of the early standings

The Buzzer: Nikita Kucherov just keeps scoring goals

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Player of the night. Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning

The Tampa Bay Lightning have played six games this season. Forward Nikita Kucherov has scored a goal in all of them.

He continued that goal scoring streak on Monday night in the Lightning’s 3-2 win in Detroit by scoring a pair of goals, including the game-winner to help lift them to their eighth consecutive win over the Detroit Red Wings.

With that win the Lightning now have the best record in the NHL, while Kucherov’s seven goals are the second most in the league, trailing only Alex Ovechkin (nine).

Kucherov has seen his production increase every year he has been in the NHL. He set a career-high with 40 goals a year ago and seems like he is on track to top that mark this season. Now playing in his age 24 season he should be right in the thick of his prime years in the NHL. When it comes to pure skill and offensive production there are only a handful of players in the league that can top what Kucherov is doing.

Highlight of the Night.

Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilievsky stopped 29 shots on Monday night but perhaps none were better than this pad save to rob Tomas Tatar right on the door step.

Vasilevskiy had a slow start to the season but has been outstanding in his past two games, stopping 57 out of 60 shots in the Lightning’s wins over the St. Louis Blues and Red Wings.

Factoid of the Night.

Justin Abdelkader scored on a penalty shot for the Detroit Red Wings on Monday night becoming the first Red Wings player to do that in nearly 10 years.

Ten years?! That seems like a heck of a long time between penalty shot goals for a team.

Misc.

Mike Green continued his incredible start to the season by scoring his first goal of the season for the Detroit Red Wings. He is now up to nine points in five games this season.

Steven Stamkos picked up a pair of assists in the win for the Lightning, giving him eight on the season. Once he starts scoring goals (he only has one so far) he is going to be a force. His absence a year ago was a big reason why the Lightning fell just short of the postseason. With him back healthy they now have two of the top offensive players in the league (Nikita Kucherov).

Scores

Tampa Bay Lightning 3, Detroit Red Wings 2

Leon Draisaitl lands on injured reserve for Oilers

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After missing his team’s 6-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night, the Edmonton Oilers announced on Monday that forward Leon Draisaitl has been placed on injure reserve.

He was injured one week ago in a game against the Winnipeg Jets and has been sidelined with an eye injury and concussion symptoms ever since. It’s a big blow to an Oilers team that is off to a slower than expected start having won just one of their first four games.

Draisaitl signed an eight-year, $68 million contract over the summer making him a significant part of the Oilers’ core alongside Connor McDavid. He finished the 2016-17 season as one of the top offensive players in the league and is going to be counted on to help carry the offense again when he is healthy. The Oilers don’t have a ton of forward depth and are going to need McDavid and Draisaitl to be the focal points once again if they are going to live up to the preseason hype that made them one of the odds on favorites to win the Stanley Cup.

Before he was injured this season Draisaitl had recorded one assist in three games.

The Oilers host the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday night.

It is not yet known how long he will be sidelined.