Shanahan explains how he’ll approach his new role as league disciplinarian

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There are plenty of things to look forward to next season. Will the Bruins be able to repeat? Will the Canucks be able to take the next step? Will all of the Panthers’ changes make a difference in the standings? The list goes on and on. But one of the most interesting changes has nothing to do with an individual team. How will Brendan Shanahan do as the NHL’s new head disciplinarian? It’s an important question that will shape the game as much as any individual play, player, or team on the ice next season.

Since the moment it was announced he’d be taking over for Colin Campbell, Shanahan has explained the importance of communication at all levels. Not only is it important to make the right decisions for each possible suspension, but it’s important that everyone knows what goes into each decision.

From his introductory press conference:

“I think communicating with the players, I think communicating with my peers at the NHL, and I think communicating with the NHLPA and some of my friends there. I think it’s just a matter of really building a consensus, moving towards next season, using the next few months to sort of prepare myself for when the season starts.

But I absolutely think that in this day and age constant communication is important. I remember as a player you really don’t think about supplemental discipline until it’s happening to you.”

Part of the communication process will be the transparency of the suspension process. Time and time again, fans and media members alike have been dumbfounded with the league’s decision making process revolving around controversial plays. Part of Shanahan’s plan is to make sure everyone knows the thought process that goes into each and every hearing—whether a suspension is warranted or not. Recently he told Nicholas Cotsonika of Yahoo! Sports his plans for the upcoming season:

“You might not agree with our decision, but you’re going to understand how we got to that decision. This is not a black-and-white job. It’s not completely predictive. But over a certain amount of time, I hope that they sort of start to understand what the strike zone is.”

Hopefully people will start to understand the guidelines by the end of the season. If Shanahan plainly explains what constitutes a hit, what doesn’t, and why they made each decision, the players will be able to adjust their games accordingly. Unfortunately, just because the league office aims to be more consistent and transparent, doesn’t necessarily mean that it will immediately trickle down to the players. Suspensions will be important to send messages, but not everyone will receive the message until it happens to them.

Again Shanahan talks to Cotsonika on Yahoo! Sports:

“I’m still a big believer that one- and two- and three-game suspensions for certain infractions to certain players are really effective teaching moments. Maybe a hockey play goes bad, or there’s a play on the edge and something happens. A two- or three-game suspension has a devastating effect on them, and they change their behavior.

“There are other players that sort of seem to keep reappearing, and the communication I’ve had from players and the union—for the sake of the game and the safety of the game—those are the guys that might be dealt with a little bit harsher.”

It’ll be interesting to see what happens the first time someone delivers a questionable hit next season. Instead of spinning the “Wheel of Justice,” next year, we should get a glimpse behind the curtain for the first time ever. We’ve always been left with questions like, “What were they thinking with that suspension?” Now, we’ll replace those questions with, “I can’t believe that is why they gave him a suspension!”

Hopefully down the road, those statements will finally be replaced with, “Yep, that decision makes total sense.” Hey, we can dream, right?

Ducks deny rally, end Penguins’ winning streak

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When Ondrej Kase cashed in on another breakaway opportunity for the Ducks to make it 4-1 in the second period, it looked like that goal would be icing on the cake for Anaheim. Even if it would be especially pretty frosting.

Instead, that stylish goal ended up being critical, as the Pittsburgh Penguins nearly rallied in the third period to at least send Wednesday’s game to overtime. John Gibson ended up holding down the fort, and with an empty-netter in the dying seconds, the Ducks ended up beating the Penguins 5-3.

You could call it a game of periods and close calls.

The Penguins entered the first intermission thanks to a 1-0 Evgeni Malkin goal, but the Ducks dominated the middle frame with their first four-goal period of 2017-18. The Penguins’ prolific power play helped them stay in the game (2-for-4, with both goals coming during that third-period comeback bid), but the rally fell short. Pittsburgh’s winning streak ended at four victories.

Some bounces went both ways, as Antoine Vermette nearly scored for the Ducks while Carl Hagelin suffered a near-miss. So maybe those missed opportunities cancel each other out?

From the Ducks’ perspective, this is the latest argument in favor of this team being a threat now that key pieces have returned to the lineup. This win begins what they hope is a successful five-game homestand, as Anaheim still needs to battle for its own playoff hopes.

The Penguins can’t ruminate on this loss for very long. They head to Los Angeles to face what must be a frustrated Kings team (four straight defeats, only two wins in their last eight games) on Thursday, with little reason to expect any mercy.

This last stretch of wins improved the Penguins’ outlook, but dropping games in back-to-back nights could make things tense again in a hurry. You can check out that Penguins – Kings game on NBCSN Thursday.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Willie O’Ree celebrates 60th anniversary of debut with Bruins

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BOSTON (AP) Hockey pioneer Willie O’Ree was honored in Boston on Wednesday on the 60th anniversary of the Bruins forward breaking the NHL’s color barrier.

At a news conference at the TD Garden before the Bruins game against the Montreal Canadiens, Mayor Marty Walsh declared Jan. 18, 2018 to be “Willie O’Ree Day”. O’Ree made his debut in 1958 during a 3-0 victory against the Canadiens at the Forum in Montreal.

Walsh called O’Ree a Boston legend who changed the city for the better and thanked him for his courage. As part of the celebration, the city dedicated a new street hockey rink in the Allston-Brighton neighborhood to be known as Willie O’Ree Rink.

A native of Canada, O’Ree, 82, had four goals and 10 assists in 45 games over parts of two NHL seasons. He spent a total of 21 years in pro hockey.

For the past two decades, O’Ree has served as the NHL’s Diversity Ambassador, spreading the message that hockey is for everyone.

More AP NHL hockey at https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

Bruins cruise vs. Canadiens in Julien’s return to Boston

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Don’t blame Claude Julien if Wednesday made him think of better times, and not just because it was his welcome back night in Boston.

Coming into this one, it was a tale of two teams going in opposite directions, and the teams stuck to their scripts. The Boston Bruins remain red-hot with a 4-1 win, while the Montreal Canadiens are mired in mediocrity .. or worse?

When you’re as disappointing as the Canadiens have been, plenty of things are going wrong. It was a weak start even with a 1-0 lead and 1-1 first period in mind, and it obviously didn’t get any better.

Nights like these have to sting for Julien, a coach known for his sophisticated systems and eye for defensive detail.

There are questions about Max Pacioretty possibly being trade bait. People wonder if Jonathan Drouin or Alex Galchenyuk fit as centers, or if neither work that way. Yet, these performances make you realize that as exasperated as management must be, they may also appreciate more specific distractions.

Because, frankly, this was a team … non-effort.

Then again, the Bruins are a red-hot squad, so maybe they shine an especially harsh light on the Habs’ haplessness?

Boston generated a 32-22 shots on goal advantage in this one, with multiple contributors stepping up. Big guns came through (Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak were among the goal scorers, Patrice Bergeron collected two assists), while David Backes and others added to the fun.

It was the kind of effort Julien would have been very happy with, if it didn’t come at his expense.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

WATCH LIVE: Pittsburgh Penguins at Anaheim Ducks

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PROJECTED LINEUPS

Pittsburgh Penguins

Dominik SimonSidney Crosby — Daniel Sprong

Carl HagelinEvgeni MalkinPatric Hornqvist

Conor ShearyJake GuentzelPhil Kessel

Tom KuhnhacklRiley SheahanRyan Reaves

Brian DumoulinKris Letang

Olli MaattaJustin Schultz

Matt HunwickJamie Oleksiak

Starting goalie: Tristan Jarry

[NHL on NBCSN doubleheader: Canadiens vs. Bruins; Penguins vs. Ducks]

Ducks

Rickard RakellRyan GetzlafCorey Perry

Derek GrantRyan KeslerJakob Silfverberg

Nick RitchieAdam HenriqueOndrej Kase

Chris WagnerAntoine VermetteJ.T. Brown

Cam FowlerKevin Bieksa

Hampus LindholmJosh Manson

Francois BeaucheminBrandon Montour

Starting goalie: John Gibson