Andrei Kostitsyn shouldn’t blame Jacques Martin for his struggles

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It’s been a rather strange week when it comes to European players and their relationships with various Canadian NHL front offices. At first, it seemed like it was just going to be isolated to the whacky old Ottawa Senators, as Alex Kovalev blasted former coach Cory Clouston on his way out the door while GM Bryan Murray reportedly “promised” unproven forward Nikita Filatov a spot on the team’s first or second line.

Now it looks like a similarly strange situation is brewing with Andrei Kostitsyn and the Montreal Canadiens. In a way it’s a combination of the worst parts of those two previous stories. Like Kovalev, Kostitsyn is griping about his relationship with his coach – the only difference is that Kostitsyn will actually play for that coach next season. In something of a reverse of Filatov’s situation, it appears that Kostitsyn’s main issue with Jacques Martin is where he’s playing in the Habs lineup. Kostitsyn told Belarus Web site Goals.by that his struggles can be traced back to his third or fourth line duties.

“I can’t guess about next season,” Kostitsyn told the site. “My relationship with the coach is not too good.”

(snip)

“It wasn’t me who started to play badly,” Kostitsyn explained to Goals.by. “It’s just that I was being put into (the) third and fourth line…I’ve tried talking to (Jacques Martin) more than once. But he doesn’t care.”

Andrei’s brother Sergei Kostitsyn found his way even deeper into Martin’s doghouse during his fleeting moments in Montreal, but it’s apparent that both forwards clash with the taskmaster of a coach. To be fair, lower line duty would be a solid reason to complain, but is it totally accurate?

To get an idea of who he played with, I took at a look at Andrei Kostitsyn’s most common even strength linemates during the 2010-11 regular season using Dobber Hockey’s tools. The results don’t exactly speak well to Kostitsyn’s complaints.

Most common linemates: Mike Cammalleri and Tomas Plekanec (26.24 percent)

Second most common combo: Plekanec and Brian Gionta (11.25 percent)

It isn’t until you get to his third combo of Travis Moen and Lars Eller that you see why Kostitsyn is complaining, yet that combo only took place 8.62 percent of the time.

Perhaps Kostitsyn’s memory is simply selective. Either way, it’s kind of hard to feel bad for the winger for complaining about a role he might not be willing to earn. It’s easy to blame your coach for not giving you playing time, but for whatever alleged preferences a coach might have, Martin ultimately wants to win more than anything else. If he viewed Kostitsyn as his best option, he’d play him there. (And, again, the numbers indicate that he had plenty of chances with top linemates.)

At this point, I’m starting to wonder if some of these European players are familiar with going “off the record.” Maybe Kostitsyn was just venting to someone he thought he could trust, because his complaints are soaking with a sense of entitlement.

He averaged a bit under 16 minutes per game last season, which is slightly higher than his career 15:18 per minute average. His point per game average in 2010-11 (.56 via 45 points in 81 games played) is almost an exact match for his .57 per game career average. What do all these numbers indicate? To me, it says that he doesn’t want to accept his own shortcomings.

Either way, it wouldn’t be surprising if this is the last season Kostitsyn appears in Montreal (if he even makes it through the campaign).

Video: Getzlaf, Perry, Kesler lose cool in scuffle with Kassian, Oilers

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In the first round, Zack Kassian reminded the hockey world why he came into the league with considerable hype as a first-rounder, as he scored some big goals for the Edmonton Oilers.

Of course, there’s a reason why Kassian has 522 penalty minutes in 313 career regular-season games. He can be a nasty presence who straddles the line.

He did as much late in Game 1, getting into it with Ryan Kesler, and then things really got out of hand. Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and others were involved in “histrionics.”

(Who wants to start a Patreon to find out what Getzlaf and Andrej Sekera were saying to each other, by the way?)

It looks like the players involved were only whistled for roughing minors rather than fighting majors. This caps a tough night for Anaheim, who lost 5-3 and saw Kevin Bieksa suffer a troubling lower-body injury.

King Leon: Draisaitl collects four points vs. Ducks to give Oilers a Game 1 win

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So far, the Edmonton Oilers had been showing that they can win tight, low-scoring playoff games. And then the third period of Game 1 against the Anaheim Ducks happened.

The two teams entered the final frame tied 1-1, with smaller breaks and bounces being the story. Then just about everything happened in the third, with Leon Draisaitl guiding the Oilers to a 5-3 win to take a 1-0 series lead.

Draisaitl ended up with a goal and three assists, extending his point streak to three games (seven points during that span).

He wasn’t the only Oilers player to raise some eyebrows, and actually, the other two starring members were a lot more surprising. Mark Letestu seemed to make the early difference with two power-play goals, while low-scoring defenseman Adam Larsson found the net twice, including on the game-winner.

Phew, that’s a lot to absorb, right? This video captures the wildest scoring stretch of that period, even if there would be more:

While Connor McDavid hasn’t been bad, he’s been quiet – by his lofty standards – so far in the Oilers’ run, and that was mostly true on Wednesday. He ended up with a mere secondary assist in this one,

Yet, that might just be part of the good news for the Oilers. They advanced after McDavid had spotty series against the Sharks, and they just gave the Ducks their first postseason loss of 2017 with Draisaitl and others stealing the headlines.

Things got nasty at the end of this game, with key Ducks such as Ryan Getzlaf being prominently involved. Such moments make it clear that Anaheim isn’t likely to bow out of this one easily (and perhaps not gracefully?) but that should only make for a captivating Game 2.

That Game 2 airs Friday at 10:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN; you can watch online or via the NBC Sports App. Click here for the livestream link.

Keep an eye on Oilers’ Slepyshev (the Ducks certainly should)

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The breaks and breakaways frequently went the Edmonton Oilers’ way as they eliminated the San Jose Sharks in Game 6 of their first-round series. Those results have been more of a mixed bag for Edmonton against the Anaheim Ducks in Game 1 tonight, though.

Anton Slepyshev is a great example of those ups and downs.

In Game 6 against the Sharks, Slepyshev used his speed to score a breakaway tally that ended up being the game-winner. (See here for those friendly breakaways.)

Slepyshev’s been burning the Ducks with his speed on Wednesday, but the Oilers have been burned in the process. For one thing, John Gibson turned aside this big chance shortly after Ryan Getzlaf gave Anaheim a 1-0 lead:

Later on in that same second period, Slepyshev got a step on the Ducks defense again. This time, he didn’t just fail to score; he took a goalie interference penalty for bumping Gibson.

With Ryan Nugent-Hopkins being among those hitting posts, it might feel like it’s all against the Oilers this time around, but crossbars/postsanother theme from Edmonton’s Game 6 win vs. San Jose – have more or less balanced out.

And, one break really went Edmonton’s way: a Ducks defender broke his stick on the Oilers’ 5-on-3 opportunity, opening the door for a crucial Mark Letestu goal:

The end result is a 1-1 tie, but give the Oilers credit for not getting rattled. If Slepyshev can keep up his efforts, his speed could be a factor in a series that looks like it could be a real tug-o-war.

Jake Allen takes blame for Predators’ game-winner vs. Blues

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Let’s be honest: the St. Louis Blues owe a lot to Jake Allen‘s work against the Minnesota Wild in that first-round series.

He probably bought himself a significant amount of goodwill for that outstanding work, but Allen isn’t resting on his laurels. He admitted that “a little mistake by me cost” the Blues the 4-3 decision against the Predators, leaving St. Louis down 1-0 to Nashville.

The goal in question was Vernon Fiddler‘s unlikely 4-3 tally, which came after an unsuccessful poke check attempt by Allen:

Now, to be fair, that wasn’t even the only failed poke check that turned into a goal, as Pekka Rinne also got beat after making such an attempt:

Then again, Allen is wise to score points with teammates for taking the blame. As far as his team, head coach Mike Yeo believes that it was the second period that really made the difference.

Regardless, Allen and the Blues hope to carry over the momentum from their third-period dominance in Game 1 to Game 2 to tie the series 1-1.

That contest airs on NBCSN at 8 p.m. ET on Friday. (You can also watch online and via the NBC Sports App; here’s the livestream link.)