Image (1) brianburkescowl-thumb-250x173-18264.jpg for post 14921

NHL GMs say NFL lockout likely won’t help

3 Comments

Conventional wisdom goes like this: NFL is big, NFL lockout gives other sports a chance to get some attention, NHL steps into the spotlight, everyone falls in love with the fastest sport on earth, and everyone lives happily ever after. There’s no question that an NFL lockout will help get more eyeballs of the general sports fan to focus on hockey at the beginning of next year – just like more eyes would be focused on college football and the NBA (assuming they start their season on time). The NFL dominates today’s sports landscape to such a degree that even a sliver of their portion of the pie would be a marked increase to the NHL’s brand.

However, some folks inside the NHL see a hidden pitfall to the NFL’s labor struggles. From the incomparable Craig Custance over at the Sporting News:

“Labor unrest in professional sports is damaging across the board. I don’t think anyone benefits,” Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke told Sporting News. “There is a fan fatigue factor. They don’t understand why professional athletes would strike, they don’t understand why wealthy owners would lock them out.”

In Burke’s opinion, labor negations gone bad in any sport reflect poorly on all the others. When the NHL collective bargaining agreement expires after next season, the three other major professional sports in the States will have gone through their negotiations and the possible work stoppage that comes with them.

It’s easy to conclude that a Sunday afternoon in which the Flyers and Penguins game is the only sport worth watching on national television is a win for the NHL. But that win wouldn’t necessarily translate to a long-term benefit for the sport of hockey.

“I just think lockouts in sports aren’t good,” Blues GM Doug Armstrong told Sporting News. “I like the sport being the topic and not the business being the topic. If they lock out and miss three or four weeks, is it really going to move the needle on our sport that much? I don’t buy it.”

It’s an interesting point that both Burke and Armstrong point out when talking about the NFL’s labor strife. Most hockey fans look at their sport and simply see an opportunity—but both are correct that there’s a backlash directed at ALL sports when there’s a lockout or strike. There are everyday sports fans – we’re talking about the casual observer who casually enjoys sports, not the season-ticket holding diehards – who will watch football’s problems and see it as a bunch of billionaires fighting with even more millionaires about how to divide up a sum of money that most third-world countries would kill for. It happened when hockey had its problems a few years ago and it happened when baseball had its problems in the 1990s. Whenever it happens, there’s a carry-over effect that goes from “there’s something wrong with football” to “there’s something wrong with sports.” Fans may not be concerned with the potential backlash, but it’s interesting to see that a couple of GMs have thought about it.

Once again, it’s great to see someone like Brian Burke speak out on a subject with such honesty and candor. With the NHL still recovering from the lockout that cost fans the 2004-05 season, the last thing hockey executives want to do is bring attention to a lockout. For some hockey fans, talking about owners and players who can’t agree on a suitable agreement will rip open the healing scars that are finally getting better.

One thing both Burke and Armstrong can probably agree on today—it’s better that it’s the NFL with these problems than the NHL. Hopefully Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr agree as well.

The Predators are on a roll

DENVER, CO - MARCH 05:  Filip Forsberg #9 of the Nashville Predators awaits a face off against the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center on March 5, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. The Predators defeated the Avalanche 5-2.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Getty
1 Comment

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) Filip Forsberg scored twice, including the tiebreaking goal in the third, and the Nashville Predators rallied from two goals down to beat the Minnesota Wild 4-2 Sunday night.

Forsberg took a pretty feed from Ryan Ellis and one-timed it from the left circle past Darcy Kuemper with 6:36 left to put Nashville up 3-2.

It was Kuemper’s first-career loss in five starts against the Predators, who have won six of seven and wrapped up a five-game road trip with four wins.

Ryan Johansen added an empty netter for Nashville, and James Neal also had a goal. Pekka Rinne stopped 21 shots for Nashville.

Mikael Granlund and Jason Pominville scored for the Wild. Kuemper, starting in place of regular starter Devan Dubnyk, had 28 saves as Minnesota fell into a first-place tie with Chicago atop the Western Conference.

Forsberg tied it at 2:20 of the third on a backhander past Kuemper’s stick side.

Minnesota started fast, pulling ahead 2-0 just 7:31 into the game. Granlund scored his 11th just over two minutes in. Pominville added his seventh five minutes later.

But seven games in 10 days appeared to catch up with the Wild in the second as Nashville outshot Minnesota 10-4 in the period and controlled the puck effectively.

Neal pulled the Predators to 2-1 with his team-leading 16th goal of the season 2:25 into the period.

Late letdown costs Canucks versus their old rivals from Chicago

CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 22: Jonathan Toews #19 of the Chicago Blackhawks celebrtaes a third period goal against the Vancouver Canucks at the United Center on January 22, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. The Blackhawks defeated the Canucks 4-2. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Getty
2 Comments

Sure, the Vancouver Canucks clawed back against an old rival, the Chicago Blackhawks, on Sunday.

But, thanks to a late letdown in regulation, they missed out on a great opportunity to move into a playoff position.

Down a pair of goals in the third period, the Canucks managed to come back in hostile territory. It started with a Troy Stecher power play goal. Bo Horvat, in the lineup two days after getting hit in the back of the head with a slap shot, tied it up for Vancouver just 46 seconds later.

But the chance for at least a single point slipped at the worst possible time, as Jonathan Toews scored with 1:18 left in regulation and then set up an empty net goal from Marian Hossa just a few seconds later to secure the 4-2 win.

The Canucks remain stuck at five wins — just five wins — on the road. They have the 29th-ranked road record in the entire NHL. Only the Arizona Coyotes have been worse away from home ice. So, that’s a problem that needs to be fixed down the stretch.

Vancouver had a chance to move into a wild card spot. Instead, they let the Blackhawks regain momentum as the period went on, and as a result, they remain on the outside of the Western Conference playoff picture for right now.

Corey Crawford earned his 200th career win, making 26 saves. That’s a milestone night for him. For Toews, that’s his most productive night of the season, as he factored into all four Chicago goals, which, of course, included the winner.

This has been a difficult year for Toews. He’s been injured. His point production has been down.

Video: Giroux bumps scoring slump to give Flyers the OT win

2 Comments

The Philadelphia Flyers needed a win.

So overtime against the New York Islanders seemed like a perfect time for captain Claude Giroux to bust his scoring slump.

Without a goal in his last 12 games, or since Dec. 21 before the holiday break, Giroux finished the Flyers comeback with an overtime goal to give Philly a 3-2 victory on Sunday. Jakub Voracek did great work along the boards to force a turnover from John Tavares, and Shayne Gostisbehere followed up his chance with a quick pass to a wide-open Giroux at the top of the crease.

That comeback win — Philly trailed by two goals early in the second period — bumps the Flyers back into a wild card spot.

Steve Mason had a big game in net for Philly, with 36 saves, while the Flyers fired 47 shots on goal toward Thomas Greiss, although it’s a difficult task trying to re-set and stop Giroux — an accomplished scorer in the NHL — on the doorstep.

Goals, goals and more goals! Blue Jackets outlast Senators for overtime win

COLUMBUS, OH - JANUARY 19:  Mike Condon #1 of the Ottawa Senators stops a shot from Cam Atkinson #13 of the Columbus Blue Jackets as Mike Hoffman #68 of the Ottawa Senators skates back on defense during the third period on January 19, 2017 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. Ottawa defeated Columbus 2-0. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
Getty
Leave a comment

Plenty of goals. A little three-on-three overtime. Seemed like an enjoyable afternoon of hockey between the Ottawa Senators and Columbus Blue Jackets.

Well, maybe the goalies, Mike Condon and Joonas Korpisalo, didn’t enjoy it as much.

The Blue Jackets prevailed for a 7-6 overtime win, with Cam Atkinson scoring just 1:09 into the extra period. That’s his 23rd goal of the season. Only two players — Jeff Carter (24) and Sidney Crosby (28) — have scored more goals than Atkinson this season.

With the win, and the Capitals sitting idle today, the Blue Jackets move back into a tie with Washington at 68 points in the fight for first place in the Metropolitan Division.

There were some anxious moments for Columbus.

Rookie defenseman Zach Werenski was hurt blocking a shot in the third period. He briefly left the game, unable to put any pressure on his right leg as he was helped off.

The good news: He only missed a few minutes, returning late in regulation and for the overtime as well, which is important for the Blue Jackets.

Despite his rookie status, and being a 19-year-old blue liner, Werenski is having an impressive season with six goals and 26 points in 45 games before Sunday.

“The thing that has impressed me the most about him is he’s a bit unflappable,” coach John Tortorella said earlier this season.

“He’s made a couple of huge mistakes in a game and he comes to the bench, shakes it off and then goes out and makes a great play. For a 19-year-old playing that position and the amount of time he’s getting in key situations with this organization, it’s pretty impressive.”