Ryan O'Byrne: Missing in action

obyrne.jpgWe’re not sure if you knew this, but a lot of folks in Montreal were clamoring for defenseman Ryan O’Byrne to get the call in the Eastern Conference finals against Philadelphia. O’Byrne is a big, bruising defender and more than capable of laying a hit or five. Going against an overly physical team like Philadelphia it would seem like having a physical presence of your own would make sense.

While there’s always a method to a coach’s madness, fans in Montreal have struggled with some of Jacques Martin’s choices and his decision to bench Ryan O’Byrne after playing just 1:34 of the first period is high on that list for the folks at All Habs.

Jacques Martin’s handling of Ryan O’Byrne only supports his reputation as a coach who picks favorites and destroys the confidence of younger players. With O’Byrne having been held out of the past three games, adrenaline got the better of him early in the game.

O’Byrne accidentally cleared the puck into the crowd earning him a penalty for delay of game. He rarely saw the ice after that playing only 1:34. O’Byrne’s mistake was certainly far less egregious than the dozens made by Marc-Andre Bergeron but to no avail.

It appeared to me that Martin nailed O’Byrne to the bench not for fear of another error but in case he did something right. The coach has been second-guessed and peppered with questions about not using O’Byrne in this physical series.

With O’Byrne’s penalty, and no further chance to redeem himself, Martin was able to make himself look like he was right all along. It’s a sad way to manage a team, and partly responsible for the coach’s mediocre career record.

There’s damning criticism and then there’s that scathing rundown. O’Byrne is a tough kid and he’s certainly had his ups and downs with Montreal but you have to wonder if maybe playing O’Byrne a bit more would’ve helped save Roman Hamrlik the ignominy of having to fight Scott Hartnell in a blowout game in the Eastern Conference finals. After all, isn’t that the exact specific sort of role Ryan O’Byrne fits in the first place? I know it’s tough for Habs fans to find something to get worked up about after a 5-1 win for their team, but Martin’s choice to bench O’Byrne is certainly worth questioning.

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    Milbury, Jones: Tkachuk walked the walk; Kings’ response was embarrassing

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    The Los Angeles Kings got revenge on Matthew Tkachuk and the Calgary Flames on the scoreboard on Wednesday. But was that 4-1 win enough?

    Mike Milbury and Keith Jones provided a lengthy “overtime” segment on NBCSN that brought about some really fascinating takes on the situation between Tkachuk and the Flames versus Drew Doughty and the Los Angeles Kings.

    Watch the full video above, as it’s worth your time.

    A few interesting lines if you’re (tsk tsk) skipping it:

    Milbury: Believes that Doughty didn’t “do enough,” noting that star players sometimes have to stick up for themselves. On the other hand, Tkachuk showed that he can “walk the walk.”

    He also gave the Kings a “C-, D+ if not worse” for their overall response. “Fight your own battles,” Milbury said of Doughty.

    Jones disagreed to some extent, believing that Kings teammates won’t look at Doughty differently. But Jake Muzzin? He believes that Muzzin’s frequent defensive partner (at least over the years, maybe not this season) backing down from a fight was an embarrassment.

    Spicy stuff.

    For what it’s worth, Drew Doughty has one career fight (against Joe Thornton [!] in 2011-2) while Jake Muzzin’s lone bout came against Andrew Desjardins in 2012-13, according to Hockey Fights. Does that mean they shouldn’t have dropped the gloves on Wednesday? Milbury and Jones seem to believe that they should have answered the bell.

    For more, check out a collection of the early violent moments and Tkachuk’s attempted shot at Doughty. The Kings win is summarized in greater detail here.

    Measure of revenge: Kings delay clinching efforts for Flames, Blues

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    Deep down, the Los Angeles Kings probably realize that their season will end on game 82. Still, they kept their slim playoff hopes alive on Wednesday night … and managed to spite a team they’re growing to hate.

    OK, maybe the hate is almost totally focused upon Matthew Tkachuk, yet the disdain for that talented-but-tormenting rookie was palpable.

    It didn’t feel like the Kings exacted physical revenge on Tkachuk, but beating his team 4-1 ranked as classic scoreboard vengeance. With that, the Calgary Flames (and by extension the St. Louis Blues) will need to wait to clinch a playoff berth.

    Now, as much as tonight was about Tkachuk, the focus was also on a pugnacious player who once dazzled for the Flames: Jarome Iginla.

    In what might be Iginla’s final visit to Calgary – at least as an active NHL player – he was one of the best players on the ice. His fitting curtain call included a “Gordie Howe hat trick” with a spirited fight, an assist and a goal.

    Seriously, that fight with Deryk Engelland:

    That goal included a bit of luck, but hey …

    Iginla was named the first star of the contest, and cameras captured his big smile in enjoying a special night. For all the nastiness of that game, it was refreshing to see such a heartwarming moment.

    For more on the violence, check out this post on the early stuff and this one on Tkachuk’s missed missile launch on Drew Doughty.

    Kings and Canucks will square off in first NHL exhibition games in China

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    It’s official: the NHL will hold preseason games in China before next season.

    The league made the announcement on Wednesday night: the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks will play two exhibitions: one on Sept. 21 (Shanghai) and Sept. 23 (Beijing). How cool is that?

    “It is a privilege and an honor for the L.A. Kings to represent the National Hockey League in China as part of these two games against the Vancouver Canucks,” Kings president Luc Robitaille said. “Growing the game of hockey is something we take great pride in and it is a big priority for our hockey club and AEG as a whole. This will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our players and our staff, and we are looking forward to the games taking place in two tremendous facilities in two remarkable cities.”

    The press conference inspired some jokes tonight.

    Some of the best bits came in roping in … Kobe Bryant and David Beckham?

    Alrighty then.

    Click here for more details.

     

    Video: Drew Doughty (mostly) avoids massive Matthew Tkachuk hit

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    Hockey is such a fast sport that it’s probably not so easy to make someone your “target.” Instead, a big hit often comes down to the right combination of circumstance and timing.

    Still, there’s no denying that Matthew Tkachuk is gunning for Drew Doughty (and the Kings are gunning for Tkachuk) on Wednesday.

    Doughty isn’t oblivious to that notion, either, as you can see him avoid what looked like a pretty terrifying hit above.

    We’ve already covered the early violence in this game, and it’s quite possible that there will be more carnage going forward. Stay tuned.