Vigneault careful to praise Kevin Bieksa

Kevin Bieksa played his best game of the playoffs on Sunday night in
Chicago, an overall inspiring effort that his team will need more of as
the series heads back to Vancouver tonight. While Sami Salo hasn’t
exactly been ruled out for tonight’s game, you have to think he’s likely
out as he tries to recover from a direct shot to his tender area.

While
Alain Vigneault was quick to share his unabashed opinion early in the
series, he’s turned to a more tight-lipped approach as the team
approaches Game 6 tonight.

When asked about Bieksa’s big game, he
was quick to move on.

“He played under control, played real hard, gave us a good game,”
Vigneault said.

“Under control” is the key word here, especially for a player like
Bieksa who has succombed to his emotions one too many times during his
stint with the Canucks. He’s been labeled as inconsistent and a bit
hotheaded at times, but if Salo is indeed going to miss time the Canucks
will need more of the Bieksa they witnessed in Game 5.

You have to think that Vigneault is wanting to keep Bieksa hungry,
not ready to prop him up with too much praise just yet. If he continues
to play like he did on Sunday, there’s no doubt that Vigneault will be
more willing to sing the praises of who he hopes to be his best
defenseman.

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    Should Erik Johnson be suspended for ugly play on Namestnikov?

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    Vladislav Namestnikov has been the Mikael Renberg equivalent on the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Legion of Doom with Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov for much of this season, complimenting those two scorers with strong work of his own.

    The Lightning were lighting up the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday night, perhaps frustrating Erik Johnson and others. Whatever the explanation might be, it was a pretty ugly sight when Johnson slashed and then boarded Namestnikov, earning those two penalties plus a game misconduct.

    Plenty of people believe that supplemental discipline would be merited for Johnson’s actions. For what it’s worth, “Names” did return to action in the third period. We’ve seen instances where players return only to be hurt anyway, so we’ll see if the nifty winger sees any delayed issues.

    Johnson, 29, was suspended for two games by the NHL back in 2014, but has a generally clean history otherwise.

    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.

    Senators blank Canadiens in NHL 100 Classic

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    One win, even in the frosty outdoors for the NHL 100 Classic, only means so much.

    Still, the Ottawa Senators probably experienced some ice-cold relief on Saturday, beating the Montreal Canadiens 3-0 during a tightly defended outdoor bout.

    It was 0-0 for much of the game until Jean-Gabriel Pageau tipped an Erik Karlsson shot for the first goal with about five minutes remaining in the second period. Bobby Ryan then capitalized on a rough Jonathan Drouin turnover to make it 2-0, while an empty-netter iced the icy evening for Ottawa.

    For a night, it was a fun time, and Karlsson reminded us what all the fuss is about, as he logged a ridiculous 32:55 of ice time. And he seemed to be having a good time doing it.

    This night laid the “Canadian” on thick, with Bryan Adams performing during the event, and Gary Bettman posing for photos with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau?

    via Getty

    Weird, but OK then.

    Generally speaking, things haven’t been that OK for the Senators lately. Such headaches did surface during this frosty-mug-on-ice event, as owner Eugene Melnyk inspired a #Melnykout hashtag on Twitter, not to mention icy barbs like these.

    Fair criticisms about the Sens’ bigger picture aside, Ottawa looked nice tonight, with Karlsson shining and Craig Anderson pitching a rare shutout outdoors (shutoutdoors)?

    Carey Price generated some nice saves of his own, but couldn’t will Montreal to win in his 10th consecutive start. The Habs rarely got things going against the Senators, seen most easily in Ottawa’s 38-28 advantage in shots on goal.

    Nights like these make a bigger impact on fans’ memories and bottom lines, but this marks consecutive wins for the Senators either way. Considering the fact that the Senators hadn’t put back-to-back wins together since they faced the Avalanche in two contests in Sweden, it might not be a big deal, yet it’s far better than the nothing they’ve been coming up with far too often lately.

    Also

    In other news from the event, Mario Lemieux’s “five goals, five different ways” was named as the NHL’s greatest moment, voted by fans:

    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.

    Sadly, Capitals aren’t selling this collection of Christmas songs

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    Let’s be honest, virtually any time a team gets its players to embrace a holiday theme, it’s in the name of goofiness. And bless NHL teams for this.

    When it comes to Movember, you get the fantastic combination of mustaches and charitable contributions.

    The holidays are rapidly approaching (hey, I see that Amazon tab open), so we’ll start to see various New Year’s/Christmas/Festivus/etc.-themed fun. Even with that in mind, the Washington Capitals will be tough to top with their collection of Christmas tunes.

    Sadly, there’s no Volume 1:

    Question: which performance stood out to you the most? While Braden Holtby was fantastic (with a Tomas Plekanec-level turtleneck game), the simple entertainment of watching Alex Ovechkin sing is tough to top.

    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.

     

    Video: Michael Grabner totally meant to do this for Rangers

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    Depending upon how things go for each team, the New York Rangers and Boston Bruins may very well grapple for a wild-card spot in the East.

    Thankfully, it won’t come down to Michael Grabner‘s deeply weird, memorable, and fun goal against Tuukka Rask, a “bank” goal that Grabner totally meant to do. Right?

    (Watch that goal in the video above this post’s headline.)

    That was Grabner’s 16th goal of 2017-18, which isn’t half-bad for a guy carrying a $1.65 million cap hit this season. Prediction: the speedy winger will cost quite a bit more than that in 2018-19.

    As you can see in this video, Alain Vigneault points to Grabner gathering steam in his second season with the Rangers as part of the reason this team is turning things around:

    J.T. Miller added a beauty of a goal to make it 2-0, but the Bruins dug deep to tie it 2-2, so we’ll see how the rest of that game goes.

    Update: The Rangers ended up edging the Bruins 3-2 in overtime thanks to Mats Zuccarello‘s patient, OTPPGWG.

    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.