The downside to playing hurt

savarddown.jpgWhen a star hockey player is struggling, it’s not crazy to wonder “Is he hurt? Is he injured?” Some might respond with a token “that’s just an excuse” but in the realm of hockey, playing injured isn’t just common. It’s practically expected.

So whenever you can get a little perspective on what it must be like to deal with pain and play such a violent and demanding sport, it’s fascinating. Former player Justin Bourne provided a great take on the subject in a column for The Hockey News.

In my junior days, I had nearly broken my wrist in the first game of a playoff series against the Merritt Centennials. Merritt had the type of little punk you could backhand in front of his own parents and they’d shake your hand. Sure enough, he isolated my injury. Little slash. Tiny hack. Mini whack – for games on end. And before long, not only was I enraged, I didn’t want to skate anywhere near the kid. I was like Daniel Sedin on David Bolland in Round 2: completely out of my element.

These nagging, pestering aches and pains make you a different player, not because you’re consciously afraid of getting hit, but because you’re somewhat aware there’s more than one way to skin a cat, or in this case, play the game. You always have the option to play a safer way without getting singled out for hurting your team, but when “not hurting your team” is the goal, you’ve set the bar exceedingly low and your play suffers.

A decline in play caused by injuries is something that is sometimes overlooked. A player can actually cause harm to his team by playing injured if his effectiveness is limited to nothing. It’s kind of like showing up to work with the flu; sure, in your mind you’re being a “trooper” but you might also get your co-workers sick.

So, on some level, we need to keep some perspective. These athletes already fight through a grueling 82-game season and few are at 100 percent at this time of year. Still, that doesn’t change the fact that they’re also getting paid millions to do so. It’s interesting to wonder who is playing with what, though. I guess that’s why depth is so important in hockey …

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    Habs’ win was a showcase for P.K. Subban, Connor McDavid

    Montreal Canadiens defensemen  P.K. Subban (76) holds off Edmonton Oilers' Connor McDavid during the third period of an NHL hockey game in Montreal, Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016. (Graham Hughes /The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
    AP
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    Times have been tough for Montreal Canadiens and Edmonton Oilers fans lately, even if they’ve been frustrating in different ways.

    Saturday’s 5-1 Habs win highlights a few things, but the most tantalizing thought for those fans is that it’s likely that we’ll see more great things from P.K. Subban and Connor McDavid … sometimes against each other.

    Perhaps this will be a confidence booster for Montreal. More than anything else, it directed attention to Subban, who’s quietly been absolutely fantastic for the floundering Canadiens.

    Consider how much of an offensive burden he’s currently carrying:

    From one current All-Star to someone who could be a perennial one: McDavid certainly seemed to grab Subban’s attention.

    Then again, when you make moves like these, who won’t notice?

    The Oilers did lose, mind you, so it’s not surprising that Todd McLellan mentioned that the team can’t depend upon McDavid for everything.

    That said, the funny thing about that quote is that McDavid might just carry the Oilers for two decades, at least if health and other factors go the right way.

    If that’s true, Subban vs. McDavid could be a fun matchup to watch a few times per season for a long, long time.

    Rangers beat Flyers in a shootout, but lose McDonagh

    Philadelphia Flyers goalie Steve Mason, left, looks towards New York Rangers' T.J. Miller, center rear, as his teammates finish celebrating Miller's goal during the first period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Jan 16, 2016 in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Tom Mihalek)
    Associated Press
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    The New York Rangers got a big divisional win on Saturday afternoon, but it came at a price.

    Captain Ryan McDonagh was knocked out of the game after he took a sucker-punch from Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds.

    McDonagh wasn’t innocent here. He delivered a cross-check to Simmonds’ head moments before the punch.

    To watch the entire sequence, click here.

    Getting back to the game…

    With the Flyers leading 2-1 in the dying moments of the game, defenseman Keith Yandle beat Steve Mason to force overtime.

    Philadelphia’s struggles continued in the shootout.

    They missed on both their attempts (Sam Gagner and Claude Giroux) while the Rangers converted on both their attempts (Mats Zuccarello and Derek Stepan).

    After the game, both sides addressed the Simmonds/McDonagh incident.

    It’ll be interesting to see how the NHL’s Department of Player Safety handles this situation. Both McDonagh and Simmonds are at fault here, but Simmonds’ action caused an injury.

    The shootout loss puts an end to Philadelphia’s three-game winning streak. The Flyers are three points behind the Red Wings for the final Wild Card spot in the East.

    Capitals’ Carey ties it late before Ovechkin beats Devils in the shootout

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    The 2015-16 Washington Capitals always seem to find a way to get the job done.

    That’s exactly what they did in Saturday’s matinee against the New Jersey Devils.

    The Capitals opened the scoring when Andrei Burakovsky beat Cory Schneider in the second period, but the Devils answered with back-to-back goals by Joseph Blandisi and Adam Henrique.

    Washington got the game-tying goal from an unlikely source as Paul Carey scored his first career goal with under six minutes remaining in regulation.

    In overtime, Ovechkin dished out this huge hit:

    And in typical Ovechkin fashion, he finished the game off in the shootout (top of the page).

    The Caps have now won back-to-back games and they remain 15 points ahead of the Rangers, who beat Philadelphia 3-2 in a shootout this afternoon, with two games in hand.

    For the Devils, the loser point allows them to move ahead of the Islanders for third place in the Metropolitan division, but New York still has four games in hand.

    Here’s an updated look at the division standings:

    division

    Video: Flyers’ Simmonds gets tossed for sucker-punch after retaliating to McDonagh’s cross-check

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    Some rough stuff in Saturday’s matinee between the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers.

    Wayne Simmonds was thrown out of the game after he punched Ryan McDonagh.

    As you can see from the video at the top of the page, McDonagh nails Simmonds with a cross-check to the head before the Flyers forward went after him.

    McDonagh left the game with a possible concussion.

    Here’s how the referees handed out the penalties:

    penalties

    Simmonds received a five-minute major and was tossed from the game while McDonagh received two separate two-minute penalties.

    The Rangers were unable to score on the ensuing power play, and that’s when more weird stuff happened.

    Here’s how the New York Daily News described the moments after the penalty expired:

    The Rangers were already upset with Simmonds’ sucker punch, but then Alain Vigneault lost his mind all over again at the end of the Rangers’ unsuccessful power play: The Flyers had forgotten to put a player in the penalty box, with Simmonds having been sent off.

    Illegally, during the flow of play, forward Jake Voracek just jumped off Philly’s bench as the power play expired and was sprung on a breakaway. Lundqvist made the save but the Rangers were flabbergasted at the officials’ lack of control or apparent knowledge of the rule book, which would require the Flyers in that situation to wait until a whistle to put their fifth man back on the ice.

    By the way, the referees for this game are Dave Lewis and Kelly Sutherland.