Steve Yzerman, Zenon Konopka offer different takes on Mario Lemieux’s comments

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Just about anyone with an interest in hockey and a half-functional computer probably offered the world their take (make sure to read Joe’s well-reasoned piece) on Mario Lemieux’s fuming release regarding the ugly New York Islanders-Pittsburgh Penguins donnybrook. Let’s take a look at two people who are a little closer to the action, though.

On one side, there’s one of the Islanders who was on the ice during the mayhem: 2009-10 penalty minute leader Zenon Konopka. To the surprise of few, Konopka was not on Lemieux’s side when he shared his perspective on the situation. In fact, Konopka went as far as to say that he would tear the Mario Lemieux poster off his bedroom door the next time he gets home. Zonopoka also said that the all-time great might be so far removed from the game that he forgot what happens “in the heat of the moment.”

(Quick aside: color me surprised that Konopka’s bedroom door isn’t adorned with Bob Probert posters instead.)

Switching gears, Steve Yzerman’s pro-Lemieux reactions shouldn’t surprise anyone, either. After all, the Detroit Red Wings great and current Tampa Bay Lightning GM has been adamant about playing a style in which fights are infrequent. That being said, his statements focused on getting Lemieux more directly involved in improving the game, rather than the issue of fighting itself.

“I think Mario is one of the most well-respected, intelligent people in the game,” the Tampa Bay Lightning GM said Monday on a conference call. “I would encourage him (and) I think we should all encourage him to get more involved with the league because he has a lot to offer.”

(snip)

“Specifically, I don’t know (what more he could do),” said Yzerman. “Again, Mario is really a bright guy and he’s really a good guy and he’s been around the league and carries a lot of weight.

“I think everyone would encourage to be more involved in everything we do as a league.”

Yzerman makes an interesting point, as it is obvious that Lemieux can bring attention to some of the league’s biggest issues. While discussing Matt Cooke’s presence on the Penguins roster is understandable, it clouds the issue at heart. As exciting as a truly passionate fight can be, the NHL needs to avoid its games becoming a steady stream of these line brawls. Getting Lemieux and others to discuss the league’s issues are the best way to make progress toward finding the right compromise between welcomed aggression and sloppy chaos.

Leafs pass Bruins for third in Atlantic after gutsy win against Columbus

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It wasn’t pretty – especially if you’re disgusted by that Roman Polak hit – but the Toronto Maple Leafs keep generating big wins as a playoff return looks increasingly likely.

Toronto managed a 5-2 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday, passing the Boston Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division:

Maple Leafs: 83 points in 72 games
Bruins: 82 points in 73 games

This leaves the currently in-action New York Islanders four points behind the Bruins for the final wild card in the East.

The Maple Leafs aren’t just grabbing key points; they’re doing so against some strong opponents who’ve had plenty on the line, too. They beat a Metro contender in Columbus tonight, the Bruins on Monday, grabbed an OT point against Chicago on Saturday and handled the desperate Lightning last Thursday.

This game was all about William Nylander‘s brilliant start:

And also Toronto surviving a long penalty kill after that Polak hit:

Nazem Kadri‘s 30th goal really put the game out of reach, helping Toronto nab a significant victory.

The Blue Jackets can wallow in this defeat and Oliver Bjorkstrand‘s injury, either, as they turn around to face the Washington Capitals in a big one tomorrow.

Tortorella was irate after Roman Polak boarded Oliver Bjorkstrand

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John Tortorella was left enraged after Roman Polak delivered a dangerous boarding hit on Oliver Bjorkstrand, and he probably wasn’t too pleased after the Columbus Blue Jackets failed to make Toronto pay for Polak’s misdeeds.

Polak received a game misconduct and boarding major for the hit, but the Blue Jackets failed to score on a lengthy power play. Tortorella played to script, as cameras caught him expressing his anger at the situation.

First, take a look at the hit:

Next, behold Tortorella’s anger:

Again, Columbus couldn’t capitalize on its opportunities, so that didn’t make things any better.

Right now, the Maple Leafs lead the Blue Jackets 3-2. If Toronto ends up winning, this will stand as one of the game’s pivotal moments.

It’s far from the only exciting moment, however, with these goals and big hits also standing out.

Video: Josh Ho-Sang’s creativity gives Islanders a shot in the arm

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Honestly, after 10 games, the question shouldn’t be “can Josh Ho-Sang stick with the Islanders full-time?” Instead, the feeling is … what took so long for him to get this chance?

For all the grumbling about Ho-Sang sporting number 66, he’s provided serious bursts of brilliance and creativity for the Islanders, whether he’s been supporting or even setting up John Tavares.

The video above is some really good stuff, as it walks through his confident comments – and undeniable uncertainty – during the night he was drafted, all the way through him getting his chance with the Isles this season. Some of the best stuff comes from Doug Weight, who raves that Ho-Sang is a “five out of five” from an offensive standpoint.

Leafs’ Nylander puts on show with breakaway goal, assist on Matthews’ 33rd

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This wouldn’t have been worth a chuckle if not for the correction. (Well, maybe a chuckle at Auston Matthews‘ expense.)

On the 33rd goal of his brilliant rookie season, Auston Matthews made it 2-0 for Toronto on the power play. Crusty “act like you’ve been there” types might grumble that he actually celebrated before a goal really happened, only to tap it in for real the second time around. The rest of us, again, get a mild chuckle.

William Nylander‘s pass was nothing to laugh at, however. That one just gets a big thumbs up.

Hnnngmgghh indeed.

That goal could end up being key as the Blue Jackets quickly scored to start the second period, shrinking Toronto’s lead to 2-1 on Wednesday.

Update: OK, so Nylander’s really stealing the show. This is stupendous.