Should the NHL do anything about Bruins’ late-game message-sending?

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One of the curious things about watching a hockey game is how teams handle themselves in a blow out or when the decision in the game seems very apparent. Sometimes a team will give up completely and lose every battle possible. Other times teams look to light a fire for future games by starting up with some of the rough stuff both legal and not legal. At the end of last night’s Game 1 between Boston and Tampa Bay, the Bruins didn’t take kindly to being down  5-2 in the closing seconds and ultimately losing Game 1.

With 37 seconds remaining, players came together along the boards. Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic were caught up with a pair of different messy plays. Horton caught Dominic Moore with a sucker punch intended to start things up while Lucic came out of nowhere to blast defenseman Victor Hedman. Both Horton and Lucic were given roughing minors and ten-minute misconduct penalties. The Lightning then responded by putting their third and fourth line players out on the resulting 5-on-3 power play that wrapped up the game.

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Normally you’d chalk these things up as a “boys will be boys” scenario except that in 2009, Philadelphia’s Dan Carcillo was fined for his late-game antics in trying to send a message to the Pittsburgh Penguins after Carcillo went after Maxime Talbot. Clearly Boston was looking for some kind of spark against Tampa Bay to carry over into Game 2, but is this a situation that calls for the league to step in? Given the edict that went out two seasons ago to try and curtail the so-called message sending, it should but we all know how good the league is at fully practicing what they preach.

Boston played a miserable Game 1, one that saw them play poorly in their own end and get beaten up on the scoreboard and the Bruins feed off the physical play. Giving themselves something to latch on for Game 2 to give themselves a spark makes sense because it can get the Lightning to do something they didn’t do in Game 1: Retaliate.

Some coaches will complain to the media about getting calls to get the attention of officials, others call players out, sometimes a team needs to light a fire in a different way. If motivation to win the Stanley Cup isn’t enough to get a team going then perhaps that team has more issues than they’re letting on.

In this case, Boston was frustrated with how Tampa Bay turned the game on them and forced them to play catchup all night. Boston doesn’t want to play that game and while the Bruins’ power play has been awful, getting the Lightning to take more penalties is never a bad thing.

Should the NHL step in here? It seems clear what the Bruins were intending to do but is it enough to warrant the league’s attention?

Antti Niemi had to make a save with his bare hand

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Antti Niemi made 31 saves in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 4-3 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night, and 30 of them were pretty standard.

The one that wasn’t came in the third period when he lost his glove during a scramble around the net and still managed to instinctively make a save on the puck. With his bare hand.

Niemi said after the game, via the Tribune Review, that he thought the referees would stop the play after his glove came off, and when they didn’t “I just kept playing.”

You can watch the play by clicking here.

Probably not the type of thing you want to see happening because that looks like a great way to break a bone (or the entire hand) and get sidelined for extended period of time. Niemi said the officials told him there will no longer be an automatic whistle for goalies losing a glove or a blocker, but that one will remain for when they lose their helmet.

The Penguins signed Niemi to a one-year contract this summer as a replacement for Marc-Andre Fleury after they lost him in the expansion draft to the Vegas Golden Knights. Niemi is looking to rebound from a tough year in Dallas. He will serve as Matt Murray‘s backup for the season.

‘A good start’ — Stamkos stands out in preseason debut

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The Tampa Bay Lightning and National Hockey League unveiled the 2018 All-Star Game logo Friday.

Far more importantly for the Bolts this evening was the return of their all-star center Steven Stamkos, as he made his preseason debut in what was his first game in 10 months.

His 2016-17 season was abruptly ended in the middle of November because of a knee injury and subsequent surgery, making it the second time in four years his regular season had been disrupted by a major injury.

It may still take a while before Stamkos feels truly comfortable coming back from this injury.But his performance on Friday proved to be a very promising start for No. 91, the Bolts and their fans in Tampa Bay.

He didn’t score, but he assisted on two first period goals, including a nice set-up to linemate Nikita Kucherov, and the Lightning beat the Nashville Predators by a score of 3-1. Stamkos also received a healthy dose of ice time, playing more than 19 minutes, including 5:32 on the power play.

His pass to Kucherov resulted in a power play goal.

“It was exciting to get out there, I was pretty anxious about it… It was a good start, something to build on,” said Stamkos afterward, per the Lightning. “It was nice to just go through a game day, I haven’t done it in a long time… I was glad with how the first one went.”

Golden Knights assign 2017 first-round picks Glass, Suzuki to junior

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The Vegas Golden Knights continue to make roster moves during their inaugural training camp.

On Friday, the expansion club assigned four players to junior. That includes 2017 first-round picks Cody Glass of the Portland Winterhawks and Nick Suzuki of the Owen Sound Attack.

The Golden Knights made franchise history by taking Glass with the sixth overall pick and then selected Suzuki at 13th overall. Both players appeared in two preseason games for Vegas, each recording two points in the exhibition opener versus the Vancouver Canucks.

“Nobody is going to rush (the rookies), that’s for sure,” Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant told the Las Vegas Sun following the club’s 9-4 win over Vancouver on Sunday.

“We are in a position where we want to make sure they are ready to play. They are going to be good players when they’re healthy and strong enough to play in the league.”

Vegas has all three 2017 first-round picks — Glass, Suzuki and Erik Brannstrom — signed to three-year entry-level contracts.

Mitchell signed PTO with Blue Jackets — shortly after getting cut by Blackhawks

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When the Chicago Blackhawks announced their roster moves yesterday, John Mitchell was among the cuts.

His professional tryout with the Blackhawks had come to an end, as it did for veterans Mark Stuart and Drew Miller.

It can be an uphill battle to make an NHL roster for veterans on professional tryouts. But for Mitchell, he quickly received another opportunity to attend a camp and try to land a spot, signing a PTO with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Mitchell, 32, has appeared in 548 NHL regular season games with 70 goals and 177 points.

Meanwhile, the Blue Jackets are still without forward and restricted free agent Josh Anderson, as the two sides are stuck in a contract impasse right now. It was reported on Thursday that his representatives have been in contact with Hockey Canada about the 2018 Olympics.