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.”
“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.
There was apparently an issue with a microphone used for the national anthems prior to Game 3 between the Ducks and Oilers in Edmonton.
Canadian country music star Brett Kissel was supposed to perform the anthems, however, as he stepped up to the mic, he soon discovered that there seemed to be a malfunction.
With some quick encouragement from Kissel, fans at Rogers Place stole the show with stirring renditions of both the American and Canadian national anthems.
Here is the Star Spangled Banner:
Here is O Canada:
Good news for the Anaheim Ducks, who trail the Edmonton Oilers 2-0 in their second round series.
Ducks defenseman Sami Vatanen returns to the lineup Sunday for Game 3 — his first game since April 13, which was the opener of Anaheim’s first-round series with Calgary, because of an upper-body injury.
However, the Ducks will be without Kevin Bieksa, who is dealing with a lower-body injury.
The Nashville Predators have snapped their one-game funk in these Stanley Cup playoffs, taking back the series lead over the St. Louis Blues.
For long stretches of Sunday’s contest, the Predators kept the puck away from and stifled the Blues, including a stretch of almost nine minutes at the beginning of the second period in which St. Louis failed to register a shot attempt.
The Predators’ 3-1 victory in Game 3 was eventually secured on an unbelievably dominant shift late in the third period.
Joel Edmundson‘s (costly) turnover led to a dizzying attack from Predators, who had sustained puck possession inside the St. Louis zone for about 1:10.
By the end, Edmundson and Colton Parayko had exhausted themselves as the Predators tossed the puck around with increasing ease before Roman Josi halted the madness with a slap shot to the top corner, giving Nashville a two-goal lead.
That continues an impressive trend for the Predators.
They have scored nine goals in this series, with at least one defenseman contributing directly with either a goal or an assist on eight of those goals. Nashville’s group of blueliners — including Ryan Ellis, who has been on quite a productive roll throughout these playoffs — have combined for 11 points through three games in this series.
This series resumes Tuesday in Nashville, with the Predators leading 2-1.
Playing in Nashville over the years it has been easy for Ryan Ellis to get overlooked, always playing in the shadow of bigger name stars on the team’s blue line.
Shea Weber (before he was traded). Roman Josi. P.K. Subban.
But Ellis has been a major part of the Predators’ blue line and he had a career-year in 2016-17, setting new personal bests in goals (16) and points (38) while matching his previous career high in assists (22).
He has continued that strong play in the postseason and is currently the team’s leading scorer after he netted his third goal of the playoffs (and eighth total point) on Sunday afternoon to give the Predators a 1-0 lead over the St. Louis Blues.
You can see it in the video above.
After being held without a point in the Predators’ first playoff game, Ellis has now picked up at least one point in every playoff game since them and is now riding a six-game point streak.
The first half of Sunday’s game has been a defensive clinic by the Predators, by the way, limiting St. Louis to just 10 shots on goal through the first 34 minutes, and none through the first 14 minutes of the second period.
The Predators extended their lead to 2-0 in the second period when Cody McLeod deflected in his first goal of the playoffs to give the Predators some unexpected scoring depth. He had just five goals in 59 games during the regular season between the Predators and Colorado Avalanche.