The NHL’s GM’s met in Boston today to discuss the state of the league and the one subject that came up big once again was shots to the head. After all with what happened to Nathan Horton and his severe concussion suffered in Game 3 that took place here in Boston, it was necessary for something to be discussed.
Coming into focus was Rule 48 that was added by the NHL before this season meant to punish any player who targeted the head of an unsuspecting opponent with a blindside shot to the head. Today, a panel made up of Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk, Lightning GM Steve Yzerman, and NHL executive office members Brendan Shanahan and Rob Blake proposed removing “blindside” from the description of Rule 48.
The motivation behind that is to better protect all players and get rid of a loophole that somewhat existed with the rule as it was written. After all, if a player suffered a head shot that wasn’t a blindside blow it’s possible it could’ve been worked around that it didn’t fall under Rule 48.
For instance, the hit Horton took from Aaron Rome in Game 3 wasn’t considered for Rule 48 at all by NHL VP of Hockey Operations Mike Murphy and was judged simply as an interference penalty. You could argue that his handing down of a four game suspension to Rome for his hit was effectively the start of that line of thinking. Trying to make this rule as clear as possible in a situation where sometimes the causes and results can be blurred out by circumstances helps out in the long run to help protect the players.
There are steps before this can be approved, however. The NHL competition committee will meet on Monday to discuss the matter and then it’ll be up to the Board of Governors to approve the alteration when they meet on June 21. Don’t expect there to be too much debate amongst everyone over this issue as the NHL has taken enough heat for resisting change for as long as they have on these matters. After all, NCAA hockey and some junior hockey leagues have rules in place that outlaw shots to the head at all. Having the premiere professional league in the world be resistant to change there doesn’t look good to many fans. The fact that this subtle change to Rule 48 still doesn’t totally ban shots to the head may still irk some fans.
These changes are happening slowly over time, but we can be thankful that they’re happening at all and moving forward to protect the players on the ice. It should come as no surprise that those that are helping push these things forward are players-turned-executives who want to see current players staying in the game longer and avoiding potentially career-ending or life-debilitating injuries. Now if they could do something about making the players have a better sense of respect for one another we’d be really getting somewhere.
Another night, another hat trick, and another dominant offensive showing from the Chicago Blackhawks.
On Thursday night it was Patrick Kane becoming the second Blackhawks forward in as many games to record a hat trick — following the three goal (and five point) effort Jonathan Toews had on Tuesday night — to help lead the Blackhawks to a 6-3 blowout win over the Arizona Coyotes.
Along with Kane’s three goals, Toews picked up to more assists to continue his recent scoring surge that has seen him pick up 23 points in his past 15 games. Keep in mind he only had 21 points in the 37 games prior to that.
Even more than Toews is the fact the entire Blackhawks team is clicking right now offensively.
Their win on Thursday is their eighth in the past nine games and every one of those wins has been a display of total offensive dominance, scoring 40 goals during that stretch. That is more than four goals per game. Everybody is contributing to it at this point as seven players (Toews, Kane, Richard Panik, Artemi Panarin, Nick Schmaltz, Artem Anisimov and Duncan Keith) all have at least eight points during this run.
It’s a stretch that has helped the Blackhawks gain some ground on the Minnesota Wild in the Central Division race, as they now sit three points back of the top spot.
Just about the only bad news for the Blackhawks on Thursday night was defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson leaving the game with what coach Joel Quenneville described as an upper body injury.
The Blackhawks knew he wasn’t 100 percent going into the game and dressed a seventh defenseman, Michal Rozsival, as a precaution in case Hjalmarsson could not finish. After skating just four shifts in the first period — a first period that saw the two teams combine for six goals — he exited the game and did not return. Rozsival ended up playing a pretty significant role in the game scoring his first goal of the season just two minutes into the second period for what ultimately prove to be the game-winner.
Remember those few weeks earlier this season when Henrik Lundqvist was struggling, he was losing playing time to Antti Raanta, and everybody in the NHL was freaking out about the Rangers’ goaltending situation?
At this point it seems like an eternity ago.
Lundqvist has been on an absolute roll over the past month and has helped the Rangers finally gain some ground in the Metropolitan Division.
After his 32 save performance — in the Rangers’ 2-1 shootout win in Toronto on Thursday night, the Rangers are now in the third spot in the Metropolitan Division, moving ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets who for the time being move down to the top Wild Card spot. The Rangers are now just two points back of the Pittsburgh Penguins for a spot that would get them home ice in the first round.
Leading the way lately during this recent surge has been Lundqvist as he plays his best hockey of the season. In his past 13 starts the Rangers own a 10-2-1 record, while Lundqvist is carrying a .938 save percentage.
Even though the Rangers took huge steps over the summer to improve their forward depth — and it has absolutely paid off — it is still a team that is weak on the blue line and is only going to go as far as Lundqvist can carry it in the playoffs.
But with the way he is playing right now, and with the way the Rangers can roll four solid lines and score (3.28 goals per game, fourth best in the NHL) this could be a potentially scary team come playoff time.
Overall this season the New York Islanders have really struggled away from the Barclays Center, a point of concern when you consider how many road games they have down the stretch as they try to overcome their miserable start to climb back into the playoffs.
Their current nine-game road trip is off to a promising start with wins in the first two games, including a 3-0 shutout win over the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night to improve their record to 12-4-2 under new coach Doug Weight.
The Islanders received goals from Anthony Beauvillier, Anders Lee and John Tavares in the win, while Thomas Greiss stopped all 24 shots he faced to record his third shutout of the season.
With the win the Islanders hold sole possession of the second wild card spot in the East for the time being, two points ahead of Florida and Boston (the Bruins are in action right now) and continue their stunning second half turnaround.
But while things are going great for the Islanders right now, the struggles in Montreal continue.
With their loss on Thursday they failed to put any extra distance between themselves and the rest of the Atlantic Division that has suddenly closed the gap on them. They remain just two points up on Ottawa and only four points ahead of Toronto. The loss also continues what has been a particularly brutal stretch over the past couple of months that has seen the team win just seven of its past 20 games.
It’s probably too early to start fully panicking in Montreal, but given the way the end of last season went this can’t be a promising development for Canadiens fans.
After taking just four shifts in in the first period of Thursday’s game against the Arizona Coyotes, Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson had to leave Thursday’s game with what was later revealed as an upper body injury.
Coach Joel Quenneville said after the game that they will no more on Hjalmarsson’s status when he is evaluated again on Friday.
Fortunately for the Blackhawks they dressed seven defensemen for the game when Michal Rozsival drew back into the lineup, so they still have a full lineup of defenders to finish the game. Surprisingly, Rozsival scored his first goal of the season just two minutes into the second period, breaking what had been a 3-3 tie following a wild first period that saw the teams combine for six goals.
In 59 games this season Hjalmarsson had five goals and nine assists while playing more than 20 minutes per night, mostly on a pairing with Duncan Keith.