Last season, I thought Roberto Luongo and the Vancouver Canucks would probably not be able to win the Northwest Division thanks to an NHL record 12-game road trip before and after the 2010 Olympic games. Instead, the Sedin twins played the kind of hockey that would help earn Henrik Sedin an unexpected Hart Trophy while the team managed to win their division despite that challenge.
Of course, the Canucks were (and are) the kind of Stanley Cup contending team that stands well above their division mates. The Buffalo Sabres will deal with a similar – though nowhere near as long – bit of turmoil thanks to the 2011 World Junior Championships being held at HSBC Arena. (And the city won’t even receive the benefit of uniform good press, judging by the fact that Emerson Etem called Buffalo a “ghost town” on Twitter today.)
Stu Hackel of Sports Illustrated thinks that the Sabres are getting “screwed” by the schedule makers during this upcoming stretch. Here is how it breaks down for Buffalo:
- A back-to-back out in Western Canada, as they lost a road game against the Calgary Flames tonight and will play the Oilers in Edmonton on Tuesday.
- Then the Sabres get the one home game that Hackel said they requested during the WJC tournament’s “off-day,” a contest against the Boston Bruins on New Year’s day.
- After that, they “boomerang” right back to the Western Conference, with road contests against the Avalanche on Tuesday, Sharks on Thursday and Coyotes on Saturday.
Hackel explains how the league handled a similar situation differently with the Ottawa Senators before and how these types of tough road trips hurt – and will continue to hinder – even some of the league’s best teams. (Let alone a struggling bunch like the Sabres.)
Now, when the Ottawa Senators hosted the WJC in 2008-09, they went west for three games, then came back to play in Toronto and New Jersey. That’s a reasonable schedule, but, for some reason, it was no template for this year. The Sabres are eight points south of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, and 1-4-2 in their past seven road games while being outscored 22-11.
To make matters worse, the Sabres will begin their boomerang trip and what could be the defining portion of their schedule by adjusting to the loss of their top offensive player, Derek Roy. Roy tore his left quadricep tendon on Thursday after being checked by Florida’s Dmitry Kulikov and falling into the boards. Roy is scheduled for surgery this week.
The road has also been treacherous this season for other clubs. The Kings, for example, were on top of the Western Conference earlier this season, went on an extended trip and lost five of six. The Canadiens have dropped three of the first four games on their current seven-game voyage (including Sunday night to the Islanders who — gasp! — have now grabbed nine of a possible 10 points in their last five games, led by NHL First Star of the Week, goalie Dwayne Roloson). The Flyers are about to embark on their biggest road trip of the season and will play nine of their next 10 away from Philly. Without Chris Pronger, it should be a very telling stretch.
Hackel points to quotes from Sabres GM Darcy Regier, who rightly points out that every team has to deal with its share of road challenges. Yet, when you consider Buffalo’s tenuous position as a playoff hopeful team – and the potential destructive effect of Derek Roy’s injury – this could be the end of the road for the Sabres’ shaky postseason dreams.
Ryan Johansen played 309 games with the Columbus Blue Jackets before a blockbuster trade to Nashville last January.
On Sunday, he finally made his return back to Columbus as a member of the Predators. However, he did not receive any sort of tribute whatsoever from the team that originally selected him fourth overall in the 2010 draft, and that is something that apparently bothered him.
“I am a little disappointed they didn’t put anything on the Jumbotron and say ‘thank you’ or anything like that,” Johansen told the Columbus Post-Dispatch. “I think we all know who made that call, but whatever.”
While Johansen enjoyed some productive seasons with the Blue Jackets, his time in Columbus, particularly his final months, were dogged with contentious headlines about his contract negotiations with the club and then his working relationship with coach John Tortorella.
Johansen, now 24 years old, has nine goals and 40 points in 58 games this season for Nashville. Currently in the final year of his three-year, $12 million contract, he’s a restricted free agent at the end of this season.
Brent Burns turned in a dominating performance. But Brad Marchand had the last laugh.
Marchand scored his 25th goal of the season and, more importantly, the overtime winner for the Boston Bruins as they defeated the San Jose Sharks 2-1 on Sunday.
That’s Boston’s fourth consecutive win since the controversial coaching change — which took another twist earlier in the week when the rival Montreal Canadiens fired Michel Therrien and hired Claude Julien. Off a defensive zone faceoff, Marchand bolted up the ice for the breakaway pass, on what appeared to be a set play, beating Martin Jones through the legs.
The Bruins move back into third in the Atlantic Division, and are now only four points back of the faltering Habs for first.
Meanwhile, the Sharks were unable to fully capitalize on another freakish Brent Burns outing. He’s been dubbed ‘an unstoppable force’ in recent posts at PHT — a defenseman possessing great size at six-foot-five-inches tall and 230 pounds, but no shortage of mobility and offensive talent with 27 goals and 64 points in 60 games. Um, and did we mention he’s a defenseman. . . ?
Against the Bruins, he had 20 shot attempts — by far the most of any player in this game — in just over 26 minutes of ice time.
Given the final score, that probably doesn’t mean much to Brad Marchand.
It appears Jacob Trouba will face supplemental discipline from the NHL.
The league’s Department of Player Safety has said in a Twitter statement that Trouba, the Winnipeg Jets defenseman, will have a hearing tomorrow for his head shot on Ottawa Senators forward Mark Stone during Sunday’s game.
Trouba was assessed only a minor penalty on the play. Stone, who dealt with a concussion prior to the beginning of the season, stayed down on the ice before he eventually made his way to the dressing room.
The incident occurred when Trouba stepped up to throw a hit on Stone, but instead caught him in the head as he followed through, sending Stone to the ice.
Stone was one of three Ottawa forwards to leave the game because of injuries, which are piling up for the Senators.
The Tampa Bay Lightning needed overtime to defeat the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday, but it’s a critical win for the Bolts as they try to chase down a playoff spot.
The hero? Jonathan Drouin, and he did so with a thrilling individual effort — making moves, then losing the puck and then immediately getting it back before he finally scored on the backhander.
That’s his 17th goal of the season. Tampa Bay gets a 3-2 win, which keeps them five points back of Toronto for the final wild card spot in the East.