Chris Osgood’s retirement also marks the likely end of his distinct mask

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Ever since Jacques Plante defied the NHL’s He-Man culture by donning a mask, people have taken notice of a netminder’s headgear. From the inventive stitching scheme worn by Gerry Cheevers to Gilles Gratton’s out-there tiger mask, many goalies are remembered for the creative designs that adorned their masks.

Artwork is really the only way to spot much personality in a goalie’s mask anymore, which seems fitting since most netminders share the same butterfly techniques on the ice. You can’t really blame goalies going with the modern framework of masks, however, because the bottom line is that they provide unprecedented (though not perfect) protection from the vulcanized rubber that can travel toward their heads.

Chris Osgood will be remembered for notching 401 wins and being the on-and-off starter for the dynastic Detroit Red Wings, but his retirement could also mean the end of his old school helmet. That’s something that the Toronto Star’s Denis Grignon discussed in this interesting story.

“We’d look at our reflection in the glass and think, ‘yeah, this is cool,’ ” reminisces Osgood about his time playing junior in Medicine Hat, about wearing the helmet and cat’s eye cage combo, which morphed into Bauer and Winwell versions in later years.

(snip)

“I was always laid back,” said Osgood. “(Other goalies) would get their masks painted. I never wanted any attention on myself. And that’s what my helmet represented.”

Former Maple Leaf Glenn Healy, who wore The Helmet for his entire career until he retired in 2001, concurs.

“We weren’t one of those guys who gets his fancy little mask airbrushed with your superheroes on it,” says Healy, now a colour commentator with Hockey Night in Canada. “Dressing yourself up like some kind of rock star . . . you got KISS on your helmet? Give me a break. Just play the game.”

Sometimes it’s a matter of preference, but the article reveals that this particular fashion choice came with some pretty painful disadvantages. Grignon explains that while modern headgear is shaped to make pucks deflect off the head and face, Osgood and Healy’s preferred style absorbs the full impact of a shot. Healy admitted that he dealt with more than a hundred stitches because of that choice, while Dan Cloutier – one of its last proponents – said that Los Angeles Kings management asked him to change his mask for “insurance reasons.” (Cloutier’s career ended soon after anyway, but his problems weren’t related to his choice of headgear.)

Beyond “The Helmet” being a preference that produces extra pain, the nearly-obsolete model follows the path of other things that go out of circulation: replacement parts are hard to find. That created a “constant quest” for Healy and other users, who were forced to “scrounge” for parts at beer leagues and other atypical outlets.

Osgood apparently had a little better luck as he received masks and spare parts for various benefactors, with the Red Wings’ play-by-play guy Mickey Redmond even asking fans to help out. That being said, Osgood’s equipment situation was still a bit unusual.

And when the team masseuse remembered he had two HM30s in his garage back home in Moscow, Boyer promptly had them shipped.

“Yeah,” saids Boyer. “Ozzie finished his career with a helmet from the Red Army.”

While Craig MacTavish is known for being the last NHLer brazen enough to play without a helmet, Osgood might be the final high-level practitioner of “The Helmet.” It’s a bit sad to see something that unique go away, but considering the safety risks involved with wearing that type of mask, it might be better off as a relic of the past.

(H/T to Kukla’s Korner.)

PHT Morning Skate: Ovechkin will be rocking incredible custom skates for Russian Heritage Night

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–With only a few weeks remaining in the regular season, we’re starting to get a better idea of who will be in and out of the playoffs. With that being said, The Hockey News put together a list of five players that could benefit from playing on another team. Devils goalie Cory Schneider is at the top of the list. Schneider’s been solid since joining New Jersey, but the team hasn’t had much success. (The Hockey News)

Erik Karlsson has always been known as an offensive defenseman, but this year, he’s made several defensive improvements to his game. The changes have made him so effective that his head coach, Guy Boucher, believes he should be in the running for a Hart Trophy. (Canadian Press)

–The Washington Capitals will be hosting a Russian Heritage Night tonight. During the pre-game warmup, Alex Ovechkin will be rocking these custom skates honoring his home land and his American home. He’ll be auctioning off the skates too. (CSN Mid-Atlantic)

–The New York Islanders trailed the Rangers 2-1 heading into the third period, but thanks to goals by Nikolay Kulemin and Andrew Ladd, they were able to come out on top. You can watch the highlights from last night’s “Battle of New York” by clicking the video at the top of the page.

–Vegas GM George McPhee chatted with Sportsnet’s Gene Principe about being able to build a team from scratch. McPhee called the experience “fantastic” and “really neat”. He also discussed his vision for the team and how he’s approaching the expansion draft. (Sportsnet)

–The Detroit Red Wings have been a model franchise for quite some time, but they’ve on the verge of going through some pretty big changes. First, Joe Louis Arena will be closing its doors and secondly, their long playoff streak will be coming to an end this season. Sports Illustrated takes a deeper look at the old barn and the third-longest playoff streak in pro sports. (Sports Illustrated)

–Many people feel like the Calder Trophy race will come down to Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine, but Bob McKenzie says there’s more than two worthy candidates because Zach Werenski has been equally good this season. But who is McKenzie leaning toward?

Ducks take control of second in Pacific after edging Oilers

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Connor McDavid was fantastic on Wednesday, but the Anaheim Ducks overcame his strong showing for a significant win in the Pacific.

McDavid scored a goal and two assists, yet Ryan Getzlaf was right there with him with three assists, helping the Ducks win 4-3.

With that, Anaheim is clearly ahead of Edmonton for second in the Pacific. The Ducks would hold home-ice over the Oilers if the playoffs began today, and better yet for them, a division title isn’t out of the question:

1. Sharks – 91 points in 73 games played
2. Ducks – 89 points in 73 GP
3. Oilers – 87 points in 73 GP
4. Flames – 86 points in 73 GP

As you can see, the Oilers aren’t exactly far ahead of the Flames for third, either.

Going forward, the Oilers have an interesting schedule: a mix of games against cellar dwellers (two apiece against the Canucks and Avalanche) plus two games apiece versus the Kings and Sharks.

The Ducks’ schedule includes two matches against the Flames, one against the Kings and one more match at Edmonton on April 1.

Long story short, the jockeying for position is far from over, but this was a pretty significant win for the Ducks.

Video: Connor McDavid shows off speed and skill (again)

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Connor McDavid‘s 26th goal of 2016-17 was a lot like many others: an impressive display of skill and speed. He didn’t blaze past the Anaheim Ducks like has against opponents on other occasions, but his rare wheels still came in handy.

Maybe more than sheer speed, this tally is a reminder that McDavid could do impressive things while losing little or no momentum. It’s one thing to have straight-line speed, but he has the hands and hockey IQ to take advantage of his swift skating.

McDavid already has two points in this one, pushing him to 84 points. He also extended his point streak to five games (three goals, six assists if he stays at one of each on Wednesday).

Islanders grab precious points by beating Rangers

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The goal posts might move from time to time – now they’re chasing the Boston Bruins more than the Toronto Maple Leafs – but the bottom line is that the New York Islanders need to get it done to make the playoffs.

They still have some climbing to do, but Wednesday represented a step in the right direction with a tough 3-2 win against the New York Rangers.

The Rangers built 1-0 and 2-1 leads in the second period as John Tavares struggled with a “hat trick” of penalties, but Tavares & Co. wouldn’t give up. They managed two power-play goals in the third (one by Nikolay Kulemin, the winner by Andrew Ladd) to turn things around for a significant win.

Anders Lee was also a big part of the win, grabbing a goal and an assist. The biggest difference-maker may very well have been Thomas Greiss, who stopped 34 of 36 shots (including all 11 in the third) as the Rangers created a lot of offense.

The Islanders now have 80 standings points, placing them two behind the Bruins for the East’s final wild card spot.

The Rangers’ hold over the first wild card seems quite secure, but they do have to worry ever so slightly about their play at home. With this defeat, they’ve now lost seven straight (0-5-2) at Madison Square Garden.