Nightly recap – Saturday, October 30th

It’s the busiest night of the year. I look at it as the NHLs way of preparing for Halloween since everyone wears masks all the time anyway. Anyhow, lots of action to cover so here we go.

NY Rangers 2 – Toronto 0

The Leafs offense continues to sputter, meanwhile Henrik Lundqvist gets the benefit of a 36-save shutout for his efforts. Brian Boyle had a goal and Ryan Callahan scored on a penalty shot for New York. Toronto had plenty of shots, just no luck getting one by Lundqvist.

Florida 3 – Montreal 1

Tomas Vokoun spoiled the comeback of Habs defenseman Andrei Markov by making 40 stops in the win for Florida. Vokoun out-dueled Carey Price to earn the win. Shawn Matthias had a goal and an assist for Florida in the win. Markov played 23:03 and registered five shots on goal for Montreal in his first game back since injuring his knee last season.

Boston 4 – Ottawa 0

Tim Thomas continues to be the man in Boston. Another shutout for the goalie leads to his goals against average falling to an unreal 0.50 this season. Thomas stopped 29 shots in the win and is turning heads all over the league with his play. Meanwhile, Milan Lucic scored his fourth goal of the year and rookies Jordan Caron and Tyler Seguin each scored their third in the win.

Philadelphia 6 – NY Islanders 1

An all-around ugly game for the Islanders ends up being a destructive effort out of the Flyers in a 6-1 romp. Chris Pronger had two goals for Philly, while Sergei Bobrovsky made 30 saves in the win. Things got a bit ugly in the third period as the teams exchanged scrums, questionable hits, and fights leading to two game misconducts, and 61 penalty minutes. 114 penalty minutes in all and three players were kicked out of the game in all as Trent Hunter, Trevor Gillies and Daniel Briere all had their nights end early. Expect there to be repercussions for Briere’s cross check.

Pittsburgh 3 – Carolina 0

Brent Johnson continues to make life hard on opponents as well as Marc-Andre Fleury after pitching a 33-save shutout. Pascal Dupuis did the heavy lifting for the offense scoring twice while Max Talbot scored as well. Getting the offense going was important for Pittsburgh as they were without Evgeni Malkin.

Detroit 5 – Nashville 2

No Jimmy Howard, no problem for the Red Wings as they’ve got Pavel Datsyuk around to make up the difference. Datsyuk had two goals and an assist while Chris Osgood stopped 23 shots en route to the victory. Nick Lidstrom and Ruslan Salei added two assists each for Detroit while Joel Ward and Kevin Klein had a goal each for the Predators.

St. Louis 4 – Atlanta 3 (F/SO)

Jay McClement ruined the comeback game for Ondrej Pavelec. With Pavelec playing his first game since passing out on the ice opening night, McClement made sure to make the night more memorable for himself netting a hat trick. Pavelec had a solid outing nonetheless stopping 32 shots in the shootout loss. Jaroslav Halak saw his shutout streak end at 160:13 in the first period when Rich Peverley scored.  Halak made 25 saves in the win.

Chicago 3 – Minnesota 1

Troy Brouwer and Duncan Keith each had a goal and an assist in the game while Marty Turco stopped 25 shots in the win. Marek Zidlicky scored Minnesota’s lone goal, meanwhile Niklas Backstrom saved 29 shots in the loss.

Dallas 4 – Buffalo 0

Another stinker of a game for the Sabres, this time on the road in Dallas. Andrew Raycroft stopped 34 shots earning the shutout. Brad Richards lead the offense with two assists while four different Stars players chipped in goals. Things are going the wrong way for Buffalo who might be in need of a shake up. Patrick Lalime did save 37 shots in the loss.

Colorado 5 – Columbus 1

Chris Stewart’s hot season continues as the young power forward had his ninth goal of the year and added an assist in Colorado’s romp over the Blue Jackets. Paul Stastny also had a goal and an assist while Peter Budaj saved 33 shots in the win. Derick Brassard had Columbus’ lone goal in an otherwise sorry effort for the team.

Tampa Bay 3 – Phoenix 0

Perhaps there’s something to the Tampa Bay Lightning after all. Dan Ellis stopped 23 shots in earning the shutout. Meanwhile, Steven Stamkos scored his ninth goal of the season in helping to lead the Lightning to victory in front of an announced crowd of just over 8,000 fans in Arizona. Coyotes captain Shane Doan picked up an instigator penalty for starting a fight with defenseman Pavel Kubina after Kubina was busted for a kneeing penalty.

Washington 7 – Calgary 2

What started off well for Calgary being up 2-1 after the first period, ended horribly after giving up six goals in the second period including two quick ones to Alexander Ovechkin and an own goal courtesy of Cory Sarich. David Steckel also had a penalty shot goal after being hauled down on a breakaway by Mark Giordano. The Flames have now allowed six-plus goals in back-to-back games.

Los Angeles 3 – New Jersey 1

Another offensively challenging game for the Devils, only this time Martin Brodeur couldn’t save them. Meanwhile, Jon Quick was stellar in stopping 39 shots in the win for L.A. Justin Williams, Michal Handzus, and Jarret Stoll all scored for the Kings while rookie defenseman Matt Taormina scored his third goal of the season for New Jersey. As for Ilya Kovalchuk, he was booed every time he touched the puck and held without a point. You win this round, Los Angeles.

San Jose 5 – Anaheim 2

Another bad night for the Ducks as backup goalie Curtis McElhinney had his hands full in dealing with a Sharks team that was too fast for Anaheim’s defense. To make matters worse, the Ducks couldn’t even win the battles with their fists. Five different Sharks players, including Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau scored goals while Antero Niittymaki held strong in goal to hold things down in net stopping 22 shots. For Anaheim, it’s another bad game for them, one that makes you think their season is going to be a consistent roller coaster of mayhem all year.

Canucks GM wants Miller back, bringing rebuild into question again

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For one fine trade deadline, it seemed like the Vancouver Canucks and GM Jim Benning saw the light.

They actually moved veterans for assets, and interesting ones in that. They were, gasp, considered one of the winners of the trade deadline. There was the indication that a rebuild might finally be in action. Better late than never, right?

Well … maybe that was just a brief reprieve.

The Vancouver Province’s Ben Kuzma reports that Benning threw the word “competitive” around when describing why he wants to re-sign 37-year-old Ryan Miller and why he isn’t looking to trade valued defenseman Chris Tanev and declining blueliner Alex Edler.

Sensible if debatable

His reluctance regarding moving the two defensemen is easier to understand. Tanev, 27, is in his prime at a nice cap hit ($4.45 million through 2019-20). A competitive team would want him, and if Benning is convinced the Canucks are close to being just that, then it makes sense.

Edler staying is a little simpler. He has a no-trade clause and doesn’t want to go.

Now, one can argue that Tanev would be best served being moved for high-quality pieces. And perhaps Benning should at least try to convince Edler to accept a trade.

A strange direction in net

But Miller?

“As we’re transitioning these young players into our lineup, I feel that if we have solid goaltending on a night-to-night basis, we can be competitive,” Benning said Thursday, according to Kuzma.

Now, that story discusses why Miller may or may not accept a return, but one would guess that he won’t have a ton of offers. At least not offers that would involve a chance for more “platoon” or even starter-type work rather than explicitly labeling him a backup.

Really, that’s beside the point, because it’s confounding that Vancouver wouldn’t want to go in a younger direction.

You can read that sort of discussion as the Canucks once again wanting to have their cake and eat it too. They seemingly want to “reload” instead of “rebuild.”

Perhaps there’s some smoke-screening going on here. Maybe Benning’s more interested in moving parts than he lets on; it could be that he wants to drive up Tanev’s price by playing coy about moving him.

Still, on their face, the comments don’t exactly inspire confidence for a fan base that must be getting a little irritated by management that, to many, seems delusional about this team’s potential.

Penguins’ Sullivan believes resiliency is ‘strength of this team’

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PITTSBURGH (AP) Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Chris Kunitz stood shoulder to shoulder at center ice as midnight approached, crowd on its feet, Prince of Wales Trophy in hand. Another shot at the Stanley Cup in the offing.

On the surface, it could have been a scene ripped from 2008 when the longtime Pittsburgh Penguin teammates earned their first crack at a championship together, the one that was supposed to be the launching pad for a dynasty.

A closer look at the weary, grateful smiles told a different story.

This team has learned over the last decade that nothing can be taken for granted. Not their individual greatness or postseason success, even for one of the NHL’s marquee franchises. Not the cohesion it takes to survive the crucible of the most draining championship chase in professional team sports or the mental toughness (along with a dash of luck) needed to stay on top once you get there.

So Crosby paused in the giddy aftermath of Pittsburgh’s 3-2 victory over Ottawa in Game 7 of the helter-skelter Eastern Conference finals to do something the two-time Hart Trophy winner almost never does. He took stock of the moment, aware of how fleeting they can be.

“Every series you look at, the margin for error is so slim,” Crosby said. “We’ve just continued to find ways and different guys have stepped up. We trust in that and we believe in that and whoever has come in the lineup has done a great job. That builds confidence. We’ve done it different ways, which is probably our biggest strength.”

And they’ll have to do it one more time in the final against swaggering Nashville if they want to become the first team in nearly 20 years and the first in salary-cap era to win back-to-back championships.

It’s a daunting task. When the puck drops in Game 1 on Monday night in Pittsburgh, the Penguins will be playing in their 108th game in the last calendar year, and that doesn’t count another half dozen for those who played in the World Cup of Hockey and a handful of exhibition games.

Pittsburgh, however, has survived to do something even Chicago and Los Angeles – who have combined for five of the seven Cups awarded since 2010 – could not in putting itself in positon for a repeat.

Credit coach Mike Sullivan’s ever-prescient tinkering with the lineups, including his decision to throw Kunitz back into the fray with Crosby as Game 7 wore on, an experiment that ended with Crosby feeding Kunitz for the winner 5:09 into the second overtime .

Credit goaltender Matt Murray, thrust back into the lineup when Marc-Andre Fleury‘s hot play that helped carry the Penguins through the opening two rounds finally cooled.

Credit a maturity – or maybe it’s wisdom – from the team leaders who watched the first half of the decade come and go with plenty of gaudy regular-season numbers but no Cup banners to join the one they captured in 2009.

Pinning down what changed is difficult. General manager Jim Rutherford’s ability to remake the team on the fly to build one of the fastest lineups in the league helped. So did Sullivan’s ability to cut through the noise when he replaced the professorial Mike Johnston in December 2015.

Yet the Penguins understand there’s something else at work too, a resiliency and accountability they lacked while falling to lower-seeded teams every year from 2010-14.

“I believe that the resolve and the resilience of this team is the strength of this team,” Sullivan said.

Both were on full display in Game 7.

Kunitz, who missed the first-round series against Columbus with a lower-body injury, returned to see himself bumped from the first line to the fourth, scored his first two goals of the playoffs. Conor Sheary, a blurring revelation last spring who suddenly found himself a healthy scratch in Games 5 and 6 against the Senators, returned to set up Kunitz’s first goal .

Justin Schultz, who has assumed the as the minute-hogging, puck-moving defenseman role held by the injured Kris Letang, returned from his own health scare and scored a go-ahead goal in the third period.

If the Penguins were a force of nature last spring while earning the franchise’s fourth Cup, this one is more of a throwback. More blue collar. More anonymous.

Some of the key cogs that helped Pittsburgh get to this point – rookie forward Jake Guentzel, 37-year-old playoff newcomer Ron Hainsey and career grinder Scott Wilson – weren’t even around last spring. Yet they and so many others not named Crosby or Malkin have become equal partners in pursuit of a title.

“This year it’s been back and forth, it’s been tough,” Kunitz said. “We’ve had great individual performances. We had great goaltending. It’s something every night.”

It hasn’t been pretty. So what? Perhaps the biggest sign of the team’s growth is it has abandoned the pursuit of style points for something far more tangible. Like a 34-pound piece of hardware, one Pittsburgh has no intention of handing off anytime soon.

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

Breaking: Predators’ Laviolette has not tried Nashville’s ‘hot chicken’ yet

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Nashville Predators head coach Peter Laviolette dropped a bombshell on “The Dan Patrick Show.” Some of us are still reeling from the revelation.

It turns out that Laviolette hasn’t tried “hot chicken” yet.

Laviolette explained that, if he had the “bird that bites back” before a game, he’d be on fire behind the bench. Sadly, Dan Patrick let him off the hook and didn’t ask “Well, what about off days, Lavi?”

(They might not be on a lazy hockey nickname basis yet, though, to be fair.)

All kidding aside, Laviolette provided more insight on the Predators’ Stanley Cup Final run – and not a lot more hot chicken hot takes – in the longer interview below.

Note: This post’s author may or may not have gone a year in Nashville without trying hot chicken either. Hey, Laviolette’s been there for three seasons now. Way worse.

‘Making Gretzky’s head bleed’ wasn’t so easy for ‘Swingers’ filmmaker

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Remember that classic (and very NSFW) video game hockey scene from “Swingers?” The one where Vince Vaughn espouses the virtues of Jeremy Roenick? It was pretty great, right?

There was something so organic about two friends getting up to video-game shenanigans (and discussing which 16-bit era game featured the best pixelated violence), but apparently it was easier to set the scene that it was to “make Wayne Gretzky’s head bleed.”

The Ringer’s Achievement Oriented podcast caught up with Doug Liman (pictured with Jon Favreau in this post’s main image) for some hysterical background information on getting that highly amusing scene right.

“I had never actually seen Wayne Gretzky draw blood, but Vince [Vaughn] claimed he could do it repeatedly, so we put it in the script,” Liman said. “The actors are reacting to that. And then we’re editing the movie and I bring the [game console] into the editing room and we start playing it and we’re recording it onto a videotape so that when we get the one piece we need we’ll play that back on the TV and shoot it. [We do this] for, like, weeks. Nobody can draw blood. And I’m like [to] Nintendo, ‘Hey, can you give us the backdoor key to doing this?’ It wasn’t like we were having fun playing the game, because all we would do was pass the puck down and set it up for Gretzky to get the puck and then we would, you know, try to slam him into the boards.”

Like a rare athletic feat, they got it right, but don’t ask Liman to pull it off on a whim. Liman sure made it seem like they were lucky to ever commit that moment to film.

Liman explained that it was “infuriatingly fleeting” and not the sort of video game trick that you could make work over and over again once you learned the right combination of button presses.

This is some really funny, fantastic background information on the movie that launched the careers of Favreau and Vaughn. It also helped remind us of that golden 16-bit era of EA NHL games, whether you preferred NHL ’94, ’95, or ’96. (And so on.)

Liman also shares a very amusing story about how hockey video game skills don’t exactly translate to the real sport, so check out the transcript and the full podcast for more.

And, if you’re playing a modern game like NHL ’17, don’t pick on “Super Fan 87.” Be nice to your friends. That’s the money move.

Here’s the scene itself. Again, a warning: there is strong language and 16-bit “gore.”