Brian Burke: “We’ll be the guinea pig”

Over the last few days, the term “bear hug” had Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke making headlines as the NHL tested his rule where defensemen could “bear hug” a player near the boards to limit potential for injury. Coming out of the RDO Camp, Burke is back in the headlines as he’s offered up the Maple Leafs as guinea pigs during the preseason to further test some of the potential rule changes. Hopefully there won’t be anymore animal references for the rest of the offsesaon.

GM Brian Burke told QMI Agency that he and the Toronto Maple Leafs were willing to help:

“We’re willing to try it in our pre-season games, the rule changes, the nets and the cameras. The other team has to consent, but if (the league) needs a guinea pig, we’ll be the guinea pig.”

It would be good to see some of the potential rule changes in action with NHL players during live game action in the preseason. The HD cameras and curved glass look like they could instituted around the league as early as this season—but some of the other rules could get a look as well. Burke specifically mentions the shallow nets getting a look; would NHL defenseman make use of the extra space when making outlet passes? Would offensive players utilize the extra room and better passing angles to create scoring opportunities?  These are things that we’d find out as the NHLers played a handful of games under the new conditions.

The more we see these changes in the place, the better equipped the league would be to make decisions that affect the game. It would be nice for fans to be able to have another reason to watch the meaningless games since the preseason is more about preparation than the results. Watching new rules being tested is a better sales pitch than telling fans that the ECHLer on the 4th line has a legitimate shot at making the team next year.

It would be great if the NHL takes Burke up on his offer to try out some of the prospective rules. Put the cameras in the Leafs preseason games to see exactly how much of a difference they’ll make. Find the best camera angles in the preseason so once the cameras are utilized in the regular season, they’re already in the proper location. Put the verification line in just to make sure the referees on the ice have no issues when calling a goal on the ice. None of these rule changes should present a huge problem—but why not make sure in games that don’t matter? There’s no such thing as “too much information” when tweaking the game, right?

Brian Burke just presented the league with an opportunity to test out changes on a grander scale. Hopefully they’ll take him up on the chance to get things right.

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.

Video: Rick Nash scores 20th goal in sprawling style

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Rick Nash has his critics stemming from his playoff struggles in the past, but for those who support him, moments like these are satisfying.

Why? Because you’d be absurd to discredit how hard he tries when Nash scores goals like he did for the New York Rangers against the New York Islanders on Wednesday.

Nash went all-out for his 20th goal of the season, sprawling after scoring against Thomas Greiss. It’s quite a sight, and Getty Images really was on top of that one.

via Getty Images

The Rangers may need more from him tonight, however, as the Islanders just went up 3-2. Watch the remainder of the contest on NBCSN.

Leafs pass Bruins for third in Atlantic after gutsy win against Columbus

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It wasn’t pretty – especially if you’re disgusted by that Roman Polak hit – but the Toronto Maple Leafs keep generating big wins as a playoff return looks increasingly likely.

Toronto managed a 5-2 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday, passing the Boston Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division:

Maple Leafs: 83 points in 72 games
Bruins: 82 points in 73 games

This leaves the currently in-action New York Islanders four points behind the Bruins for the final wild card in the East.

The Maple Leafs aren’t just grabbing key points; they’re doing so against some strong opponents who’ve had plenty on the line, too. They beat a Metro contender in Columbus tonight, the Bruins on Monday, grabbed an OT point against Chicago on Saturday and handled the desperate Lightning last Thursday.

This game was all about William Nylander‘s brilliant start:

And also Toronto surviving a long penalty kill after that Polak hit:

Nazem Kadri‘s 30th goal really put the game out of reach, helping Toronto nab a significant victory.

The Blue Jackets can wallow in this defeat and Oliver Bjorkstrand‘s injury, either, as they turn around to face the Washington Capitals in a big one tomorrow.