Going into the 2011 Stanley Cup finals, it seemed like the Boston Bruins were confronted with a pick-your-poison proposition. The feeling was that they’d either get shredded by the Sedin twins’ cycling game or fall victim to Ryan Kesler facing lesser defensive matchups much like the Nashville Predators did in Round 2.
Yet through five games, it seems like they haven’t been victimized by either of the Vancouver Canucks’ one-two punches very often. While they’re creating the odd chance here or there, Henrik and Daniel Sedin are getting bottled up by the Bruins’ responsible two-way forwards and the dynamic D duo of Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg. It would seem like that focus would open the door for Kesler, but it’s quite possible that he is simply too banged up to take advantage of what might normally be beneficial matchups.
While Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault said that “he’s fine” and was just receiving some rest, NHL.com notes that Kesler missed his first “non-optional” practice on Sunday. His absence probably emboldens many who wonder if Kesler is far from 100 percent, pointing to a possible groin injury suffered in Game 5 against the San Jose Sharks as a chief problem among other bumps and bruises.
Despite the Bruins’ reputation for strong defense (which admittedly has been shaken at times in the playoffs), many people think that injuries are the main explanation for Kesler’s Cup finals struggles. He has zero goals and just one assist – on Raffi Torres’ Game 1 winner – in five games against Boston. Those away games really hurt his plus/minus (-4 in those two losses, -3 overall in the last round) and his frustration is apparent in the 33 PIM he collected in the last three games.
That being said, Kesler is fighting through whatever pain and hindrance he’s dealing with quite admirably. He’s still receiving plentiful ice time and continues to win a nice amount of faceoffs on most nights. It’s a bit reminiscent of his performances against the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round, although he was able to collect more points in that series.
The Canucks have managed to get this far in this series with limited help from their star players, who must range from “running out of gas” to nursing injuries (or just bottled up by great defense). Yet if Vancouver wants to avoid a high-pressure Game 7 in front of what could be a fragile bunch of Canucks fans, they might need some more heroics from Kesler, a player who once seemed like a shoo-in for the Conn Smythe Trophy.
They’ll probably settle for him merely playing in Game 6, though.
Things haven’t been going well with Minnesota’s hockey team, but that doesn’t necessarily mean changes are coming via firings or trades.
On Saturday, Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher reiterated his confidence in his team and his coaching staff going forward.
The Wild have won just three of 15 games since Jan. 1 and they’re currently riding a four-game losing streak.
The Wild have been through mid-season slumps before.
Last year, Yeo lost it during a team practice and that seemed to spark his team, as they were able to turn things around and make it to the postseason.
Will a similar tactic work, again? Probably not.
As PHT pointed out earlier this week, this slump might not be like the previous ones.
The Wild are just one point behind Nashville (with a game in a hand) for the final Wild Card spot in the Western Conference, but will their top guns be able to get them out of this funk?
The numbers aren’t pretty:
—Zach Parise has no points in his last four games and just one goal in his last nine contests.
—Thomas Vanek hasn’t scored in eight games. He has just one assist during that span.
—Mikko Koivu has four assists in 15 games since the new year began.
—Mikael Granlund has two assists since Jan. 7 and he has a a minus-11 rating since then.
—Jason Zucker has one assist in 11 games. He hasn’t scored since Jan. 7.
How will Yeo get his team’s attention this time around?
Here’s your answer:
Marian Hossa isn’t a fan of the coach’s challenge.
The veteran winger ripped the NHL’s new challenge system after he had a goal called back in Thursday’s game against Arizona.
–To watch the overturned goal, click here.
“I thought that was [a] joke,” Hossa said, per the Sun-Times. “I tried to battle in front of the net and I don’t have any intention to touch the goalie, just try to battle through two guys and put the puck in the net. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the playoffs, if there’s going to be calls after calls after calls. But I don’t think it’s good for the league.”
The goal was called back because as Hossa was battling in front, he got tangled up with goaltender Louis Domingue‘s stick.
It’s safe to say that Joel Quenneville wasn’t pleased with the decision:
One of the main criticisms of the challenge system is that the review is conducted on a small tablet by the referees on the ice instead of someone in a war room in Toronto or New York.
Every time a goal is disallowed, the NHL writes a blog explaining why the decision was made.
Here’s what they said about the call on Hossa:
The Referee determined that Hossa interfered with Domingue before the puck crossed the goal line. According to Rule 78.7, “The standard for overturning the call in the event of a ‘GOAL’ call on the ice is that the Referee, after reviewing any and all available replays and consulting with the Toronto Video Room, determines that the goal should have been disallowed due to ‘Interference on the Goalkeeper,’ as described in Rules 69.1, 69.3 and 69.4.”
Therefore the original call is overturned – no goal Chicago Blackhawks.
Do you think the referee got the call right?
It looks like the battle of Pennsylvania will head outdoors in 2017, according to Scott Burnside of ESPN.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are expected to host the Philadelphia Flyers at Heinz Field next year. It’s still unclear if the game will be a Stadium Series tilt or the NHL’s annual Winter Classic game on Jan. 1.
Here’s an excerpt from Burnside’s story:
The two state rivals have been talking for months about a plan for an outdoor game or series of outdoor games. There was discussion about playing an outdoor game at Penn State, but it’s believed financial demands by the university soured the teams on the neutral site as an option, so the two franchises have been looking at a reciprocal arrangement with an outdoor game played one year in Pittsburgh and a second game in Philadelphia perhaps the next year.
Although the Steelers and Penguins have a good working relationship, there could be a scheduling conflict if the NHL wants to make this game the Winter Classic.
Jan. 1 will be the final day of the NFL’s regular season . Should the Steelers host a Wild Card game the following week, they’d likely decide that a hockey game on their field isn’t the wisest decision.
To avoid this dilemma, the league would just have to move the game to Dec. 31.
This would be the second time Heinz Field hosts an outdoor game (2011).
The New York Islanders got some good news on the injury front, as they’ve activated Johnny Boychuk off injured reserve.
The 32-year-old missed a total of 11 games because of an upper-body injury he suffered in a game against the Buffalo Sabres on Dec. 31 (above).
New York went 5-5-1 without Boychuk, and they conceded four goals or more in five of those contests.
In 38 games with Boychuk, the Islanders had allowed four goals or more just six times.
The Islanders currently sit in third place in the Metropolitan Division. They’re three points behind the Rangers (two games in hand) and 18 points behind the first place Capitals.
In a corresponding move, they assigned defenseman Scott Mayfield to the AHL.