Mike Modano: “I think that was the swan song”

2 Comments

It’s not the most surprising news of the offseason, but it looks like Mike Modano may have reached the end of his playing days. Even though it seemed like the perfect time for Modano to hang ‘em up at the end of the 2009-10 season with the Dallas Stars, he felt like he still had a little bit left in the tank. He put his chips in the pot for one more go-around with the Detroit Red Wings instead of retiring with the Stars in a scene straight out of Hollywood. Things couldn’t have gone worse.

In an injury-plagued season with the Red Wings, Modano had 4 goals and 11 assists in only 40 games last year. In November, he suffered a gruesome injury to his wrist that cost him the next three months of the season. Even in the games where he was available to head coach Mike Babcock, he still only averaged 12:26 minutes per game. For a point of reference, the former #1 overall pick played 15 seconds less per game than Patrick Eaves. Needless to say, he wasn’t exactly Babcock’s “go to” guy.

In a radio interview on The Ticket 1310 in Dallas, Modano talked about the some of the difficulties he encountered with the Red Wings last season:

“When I came back in March, there’s the heated race for the playoffs, the lineup is almost solidified. [Wings coach Mike] Babcock is pretty hard-headed when he likes something and it works. It’s very hard to change his mind, so I knew I was going to be the odd-man out for the playoffs.”

Modano explained in the same interview playing near his hometown was something that he felt like he had to try before he retired:

“I would have really kicked myself if I didn’t take the chance to go there, play in Detroit, play with those players, and be around them daily. Kenny Holland was great, the coaches were great, the Ilitches. Playing in front of the family, being around them all winter long was great. I saw the parents twice a week. I thought if I didn’t do it, I could say I tried it, at least I could say I did it.”

I guess it’s true: you can never go home. Thomas Wolfe would be proud.

This time last season, there was a bit of a bidding war between the Detroit Red Wings and San Jose Sharks for the 20-year veteran’s services. When Detroit acquired his services, it seemed like the quintessential Red Wings move: talented veteran accepts reduced role at a cheap price in Detroit for a chance to go out on top.

Fast-forward to this season and it’s a much different situation. There aren’t any teams knocking down his door clamoring for his services. In fact, there isn’t even an aura around his possible retirement. Whether he decides to give the NHL one last shot or take leap into retirement, the NHL community should give the man the respect that his career deserves. He’s scored more goals and points than any American-born player in the history of the NHL. His 813 assists and 1,499 games played rank second on the all-time American list. Statistically speaking, he’s easily the best American-born player in the history of the NHL (note: Brett Hull was born in Belleville, Ontario).

Hopefully he gets the respect he deserves if this is the end of the line.

Leafs chase Rask, but Bruins make things interesting

Getty
3 Comments

The Toronto Maple Leafs came into Saturday’s game facing elimination, but they turned in a relatively solid performance in the first two periods of the game.

Connor Brown opened the scoring at the 6:36 mark of the first period before Andreas Johnsson, who was a healthy scratch in the first game of the series, made it 2-0 for the Leafs. Nazem Kadri made an immediate impact in his first game back from a suspension, as he fed Johnsson with a great feed.

David Backes got a goal back for the Bruins, but Tyler Bozak and James van Riemsdyk extended Toronto’s lead to 4-2 in the middle frame. That’s when Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy decided to give Tuukka Rask the hook.

After failing to convert on a long 5-on-3 power play, Sean Kuraly scored to make it 4-2 with under three minutes remaining in the second period.

This should be an interesting final 20 minutes at TD Garden. The Maple Leafs need this victory to stay alive in the series.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Backstrom provides OT winner as Capitals take 3-2 series lead

4 Comments

The Washington Capitals are on the verge of the second round.

Yes, the Capitals, who began the series with back-to-back losses in Game 1 and 2 to the Columbus Blue Jackets, are now on the brink of eliminating Ohio’s team after Nicklas Backstrom‘s deft deflection in overtime gave the Capitals their third straight win and a 3-2 series lead.

It was the fourth time in the series both clubs played to a tie in regulation. After Columbus won the first two in OT, Washington replied with a win in double-overtime in Game 3 before Backstrom ended Game 5 at the 11:53 mark of the first frame of free hockey.

Backstrom scored his first goal of the series to open the scoring for the Caps and assisted for the sixth time in the series on the go-ahead goal in the second period before Oliver Bjorkstrand tied it in third.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

Braden Holtby had to be sharp, especially in the third period as, inexplicably, the Caps were outshot 16-1. At home. Holtby made 40 saves when it was all said and done.

Two-hundred feet away, Sergei Bobrovsky was up to the task, making some silly stops including a big one on Alex Ovechkin earlier in overtime and a bigger one in regulation time off the same man’s stick.

Game 6 of this series is slated for Monday in Columbus, with a start time still to be determined.

In his post-game comments, Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella said, twice, that his team will be back in the capital for Game 7.

The promise has been made.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Kucherov, Vasilevskiy shine as Lightning eliminate Devils in 5

1 Comment

One’s up for the Hart as the NHL’s best player while the other is up for the Vezina as the league’s top goaltender. Both combined their talents to eliminate the New Jersey Devils with a 2-1 win in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Saturday.

Nikita Kucherov was once again on point for the Tampa Bay Lightning in Saturday’s matinee. Leading 1-0 in the third period, Kucherov scored a clutch goal — his fifth of the series — to put the Lightning from just inside the blue line to put the Bolts up two with seven minutes and change remaining.

It proved vital, Kucherov’s goal, as the Devils attempted a late comeback with Kyle Palmieri scored with three minutes remaining after Devils pulled Cory Schneider for the extra attacker 30 seconds earlier.

Andrei Vasilevskiy stood tall in the final 180 seconds, stopping 26-of-27 to help usher the Lightning into the second round.

Tampa, the Atlantic Division winners in the regular season, will face the winner of the series between the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs, who play later on Saturday in Game 5. The Bruins lead the series 3-1.

Kucherov was as immense for the Lightning as he was oppressive for the Devils, adding five assists to bring his series total to 10 points. His usual scoring touch was supplemented by his play in the physical department, including this bone-crushing hit on New Jersey defenseman Sami Vatanen.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

For the Devils, it was hard-fought series from a young team still trying to find its way in the playoffs.

The Devils abandoned goalie Keith Kinkaid after dropping the first two games. Cory Schneider, who hadn’t won a game in 2018 before Game 3, came in and provided the spark in goal, one that seemed to get the Devils going at the other end of the rink as well as they rolled to a 5-3 win.

But that well ran dry in Game 4 as the Devils produced just one goal in a 3-1 loss. Game 5 was much the same, production-wise, with the Devils only managing one goal.

Fellow Hart Trophy candidate Taylor Hall provided two goals and six points in the series after a 93-point regular season. Rookie Nico Hischier managed just a goal after scoring 20 in his rookie campaign.

For Vasilevskiy, after looking far more human in the second half of the season, finding his mojo again can only be mean bad things for future playoff opponents.

The young Russian finished with a .941 save percentage in the series.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Blue Jackets’ Matt Calvert scores unusual breakaway goal

Leave a comment

We’ve all see some breakaways go horribly, horribly wrong in the past.

Patrik Stefan reigns supreme here. Devin Setoguchi didn’t fare too well on this one. And then there was this gaffe by Dennis Wideman once upon a time.

But sometimes one screws up, only to rebound quickly and turn a near-blunder into a nice-ish goal.

Columbus Blue Jackets forward Matt Calvert did that today, in what’s already being called the best/worst breakaway attempt of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

As you can see in the video above, Calvert gets a nice clean breakaway. As he attempts to first a wrist shot, he whiffs on the attempt but manages to corral the puck back, doing the whole spin-o-rama thing, and deposit the puck past Braden Holtby for his second goal of the game.

Sometimes it just all works out.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck