While the action was light yesterday with just three games, we certainly weren’t lacking on storylines. Here’s our five thoughts on what shook loose yesterday.
1. I know that everyone is worked up into a lather about Raffi Torres’ hit on Brent Seabrook and that’s fine. It looks like a textbook violation of Rule 48 but as TSN’s Bob McKenzie made note of on Twitter last night, the area behind the net is given some leeway over areas on the open ice because it’s such tight quarters and action there gets hectic quickly. If Torres doesn’t get suspended for that hit, don’t be too surprised. I realize it may seem like a “loophole” in the rules, but it’s not. That’s not to say I agree with Torres’ hit, I don’t, just that that’s the way it is.
2. The more concerning part of that series of events for me was how Brent Seabrook was able to return to the ice so quickly and without anyone so much as raising an eyebrow. Blows to the head and concussions are being taken seriously, but that makes three pretty serious shots to the head Seabrook has taken In just the last week. He took an elbow from Justin Abdelkader in the final game of the regular season that saw him dazed and then a pair of hits last night. Perhaps Seabrook is a lot more hard-headed than other players out there and that’s just how it goes or the new concussion protocol that’s been put into place isn’t being taken very seriously.
3. For as easy as the Capitals made Game 2 look, they’re still going to be caught in battles like they did in Game 3. Some might think that the Capitals have things to worry about now, but if they stick to their game plan and stay out of the penalty box they’ll do just fine. Sometimes the bounces just don’t go your way in hockey. It happens. Caps coach Bruce Boudreau during a mid-game interview with NBC’s Darren Pang referring to some of the penalties they were being called for as “ticky tack calls” might’ve been correct, but they can’t put themselves in the position to make the officials be a factor in the game.
4. Ever since the Predators acquired Mike Fisher they’ve been waiting and hoping for him to look like their #1 center. Pretty sure the fans in Music City, U.S.A. are going to be OK with Fisher showing up huge in the playoffs. It’s not surprising that the Predators are winning the games in which he’s a big factor offensively (like Game 1 and Game 3), they play tough enough defensively and getting Fisher to lead the way offensively makes a world of difference for them. Without Fisher’s leadership there, Nashville is lacking some direction. Fisher fixes that. Now if they could just stop giving the Ducks power plays to score on they’d be dominating the series.
5. Safe to say the John Scott experiment to deploy him as a distraction for Roberto Luongo didn’t work for Chicago. The move to put him into Game 3 reeked of desperation for a team that found themselves frustrated with not being able to break through and beat Vancouver and some of the quotes from captain Jonathan Toews following their 3-2 loss in Game 3 to go down 3-0 in the series prove that. With all the talent the Hawks have up front, they shouldn’t need a side show like Scott out there to run interference. They gave it a shot and it failed and now they could be swept on home ice. At least they’ve got last year’s Cup run to reflect on and learn lessons from.
Sabres fans hoping Robin Lehner would return early from his high ankle sprain received some tough news on Tuesday — per ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, Lehner suffered a “little setback” in his recovery.
Lehner was hurt in Buffalo’s opening game of the year and, originally, slated to miss 6-10 weeks. Six weeks have now passed, but optimism he’d be able to return in the earlier part of the timeframe has been dashed — LeBrun says Lehner’s projected return is now for mid-to-late December.
(So, closer to the 10-week estimate.)
While it’s not great news for the Sabres, it’s a positive development for the club’s other Swedish netminder, Linus Ullmark.
Recalled from AHL Rochester shortly after Lehner got hurt, Ullmark is on a really nice run in November — just check his last five games played:
The last Lehner update from the Sabres came in early November, when head coach Dan Bylsma told the News his goalie was “doing really well,” but “not close yet to getting back on the ice.”
Well, this kind of seemed inevitable — there are now trade rumblings involving Columbus center Ryan Johansen.
This evening, TSN’s Darren Dreger revealed that teams have been calling Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen about the talented pivot, adding that one team classified Johansen as being “softly” in play.
More (transcribed from video):
“That doesn’t mean [Kekalainen] is calling teams, saying ‘what are you going to give me?’ However, when teams call, he’s not dismissing the interest. He is saying ‘well, what’s your offer?’
“What that tells you is there’s at least some interest in considering the trade of Ryan Johansen and, as we saw on the weekend, his minutes dropped, he was demoted to the fourth line — so if the right deal comes along, they’ll consider it.”
The incident Dreger referred to occurred during Sunday’s 5-3 loss to San Jose, in which head coach John Tortorealla limited Johansen to just 13:52 TOI — his lowest total of the season.
It’s the latest incident from what’s already been a tumultuous year; not long after getting hired, Tortorella told the reigning All-Star MVP he was out of shape.
Johnansen was then away from the team for a pair of games dealing with an undisclosed illness. During that absence, the Dispatch reported Johansen had been hospitalized this summer because of an accelerated heart rate.
All this, of course, came one year after an ugly contract dispute at the start of last season, during which the Jackets and Johansen’s representation engaged in a public spat before agreeing to a three-year, $12M deal.
One of the driving forces behind the NHL’s growth over the last decade is moving on.
John Collins, who’s served as the league’s chief operating officer for the last seven years, will be leaving his post to embark on a new business opportunity.
More, from the League:
Collins, who joined the NHL in November 2006, had been COO since August 2008.
“John leaves a lasting mark,” said Commissioner Bettman. “His energy, creativity and skill at building strategic partnerships helped drive significant revenue growth for our League. We are grateful for his many contributions and wish him the best in his new endeavors.”
Said Collins, “I’m grateful to Commissioner Bettman for his leadership and friendship over the past nine years. He had a vision for extending the reach of the NHL and supported us completely as we set out to make the game as big as it deserves to be.
“The NHL’s future is filled with promise and potential and I will admire and cheer the League’s successes to come on the global stage.”
Collins, 53, was regarded as one of main presences behind a number of the NHL’s most successful initiatives, including the Winter Classic and Stadium Series, the HBO 24/7 collaboration, the relaunched World Cup of Hockey, Canadian and American television deals and partnerships with companies like SAP, Adidas, Major League Baseball Advanced Media and GoPro.
During Collins’ tenure, the NHL was twice named “Sports League of the Year” by the SportsBusiness Journal and SportsBusiness Daily — once in 2011, and again in 2014.
Columbus will have some reinforcements up front when it takes on the Devils tomorrow in New Jersey.
Brandon Dubinsky, who’s missed the last six games with an elbow injury, and Alexander Wennberg — who’s also missed the last six games, but with a foot ailment — have both been activated from injured reserve, and should be available for selection on Wednesday.
It wasn’t all good news for the Jackets, though. Defenseman Cody Goloubef and right wing Rene Bourque were placed on IR.
The biggest return for Columbus is Dubinsky, who had four goals and 11 points in 16 games prior to getting hurt, while averaging nearly 19 minutes per night.
That said, getting Wennberg back is key as well; the former first-round pick has been plagued by injuries recently but showed well during his rookie campaign in ’14-15, with 20 points in 68 games.