Going into the Stanley Cup finals, one of the most-hyped matchups was Dustin Byfuglien vs. Chris Pronger (hey, we hyped it up on Pro Hockey Talk, too). Of course, there was that one nagging problem: Byfuglien can be a bit, um, flighty.
If the Philadelphia Flyers have their own hot-and-cold answer to Byfuglien, it’s the mop-haired wonder Scott Hartnell.
Sure, there are some key differences between the two. For one thing, Hartnell is listed at 6-2, 210 lbs, while Byfuglien is 6-3 and given the (optimistic) weight of 243 lbs. Hartnell came into the league with much higher expectations as the No. 6 selection in the first round of the 2000 NHL draft while Buff was selected in the eight round in 2003.
Subtle – and significant – differences aside, they both still have a lot in common. They each play a rough and tumble style, often get in the heads of goalies and can be pesky without strictly playing a “pest” role. People tend to chide on them for effort, but being that they fight “in the trenches” I can’t help but wonder if their sporadic success might have more to do with bounces than effort.
Right now, Hartnell is beating Byfuglien at his own game and it seems like the two switched roles. Hartnell recorded 2 goals and 3 assists in three SCF games while Buff only has one assist. Compare that to their night-and-day performances before the finals. Byfuglien scored points in 6 out of 7 of his last games before the finals with 10 overall in that span; Hartnell went four games without a point against Montreal.
Sports teams depend heavily on stars, no doubt, but the Hartnells and Byfugliens of the world often make the difference between wins and losses. The Flyers might be down 2-1 so far, but Hartnell is a big reason why they’re still in the series.
Late in the third period of Friday’s game against the New York Rangers, things were looking good for Columbus.
Brandon Saad, who the team acquired from Chicago this off-season, scored his first goal of the season to give his team a 2-1 lead with under four minutes remaining in the contest.
Unfortunately for the Jackets, that’s as good as it would get.
The Rangers responded with three unanswered goals from Oscar Lindberg, Kevin Hayes and Mats Zuccarello to spoil Columbus’ home opener.
“When something like that happens at the end, I think we’re gonna be a better team because of it,” defenseman Ryan Murray told reporters after the game. “It’s a harsh lesson, but it’s a good one.
Luckily for Columbus, they won’t have to wait very long to try and get their revenge.
The Blue Jackets and Rangers will finish off their home-and-home series at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night, which might not be such a bad thing for Columbus.
“It’s good that we get another chance tomorrow,” Saad said after Friday’s game. “We were high on emotions (after the go-ahead goal) and they scored and it took the wind out of our sails, but we have to keep playing. We have to learn to keep doing our thing, regardless of the score.”
The Los Angeles Kings may owe Mike Richards money until 2031 (seriously), but in settling his grievance, the team and player more or less get to turn the page.
Not before Kings GM Dean Lombardi shares his sometimes startling perspective, though.
Lombardi has a tendency to be candid, especially in the press release-heavy world of sports management. Even by his standards, his account of Richards’ “destructive sprial” is a staggering read from the Los Angeles Times’ Lisa Dillman.
“Without a doubt, the realization of what happened to Mike Richards is the most traumatic episode of my career,” Lombardi said in a written summation he provided to the Los Angeles Times. “At times, I think that I will never recover from it. It is difficult to trust anyone right now – and you begin to question whether you can trust your own judgment. The only thing I can think of that would be worse would be suspecting your wife of cheating on you for five years and then finding out in fact it was true.”
Lombardi provides plenty of eyebrow-raising statements to Dillman, including:
- He believed he “found his own Derek Jeter” in Richards, a player who “at one time symbolized everything that was special about the sport.”
- Lombardi remarked that “his production dropped 50 percent and the certain ‘it’ factor he had was vaporizing in front of me daily.”
- The Kings GM believes that he was “played” by Richards.
Again, it’s a powerful read that you should soak in yourself, even if you’re unhappy with the way the Kings handled the situation.
Maybe the most pressing of many lingering questions is: will we get to hear Richards’ side of the story?