Whenever you see a team winning the Stanley Cup and you take a look at their roster to see just who helped them reach hockey’s ultimate prize, there’s always one or two players who may not have found the stat sheet too often that helped lead the charge. Would the Bruins have been so successful last spring without the efforts of Daniel Paille on the penalty kill or Chris Kelly stepping up? It’s debatable.
Role players do their part for every team to bring them success and one guy that’s hoping to play that part is Jamal Mayers. Mayers played a tough role for the San Jose Sharks last season, but this year he brings his sandpaper-like game to Chicago with the newly toughened up Blackhawks. For the soon-to-be 37 year-old forward, he’d like to be one of those “missing piece” type players to help bring the Stanley Cup back to Chicago.
“I realize what my role is,” said Mayers, who had 124 penalty minutes in 78 games with the Sharks last season. “I want to create energy, be physical, use my speed and put some pressure on the other team’s defense.
“I like to think I’m a good teammate in the sense that I stick up for guys when it has to happen. It’s a physical sport and you want to allow your skill players to do their work. Sometimes you have to send a message and be physical on the other team’s top players as well.”
Mayers is part of the wave of physical players Bowman stockpiled from the free-agent market — including Daniel Carcillo and Sean O’Donnell — with the GM saying, “When you come to line up against the Blackhawks you know what you’re going to get. We’re going to come to play.”
We’ve talked a lot about Chicago’s rediscovered toughness this offseason. Everyone from Bowman to Patrick Kane have been raving about how tough the team is going to be this season compared to last and that’s all by design. Mayers has been one of those gritty irritating players through his whole career from his days in St. Louis on through stops in Toronto, Calgary, and San Jose. Getting a shot with a team that is certainly going to be one of the best in the Western Conference is something Mayers got used to last season with the Sharks.
With Mayers mixed in with the likes of Carcillo, O’Donnell, and Steve Montador gives Chicago the particular kind of snarl that helps teams in the West when it comes to playoff time. As long as he’s cozy in his role as a third or fourth line guy, the Blackhawks will have all parts of the game there to touch on. One thing’s for sure, as long as the injury bug stays away, Chicago is going to be a major pain to deal with. For Mayers, he’d like to see it all pay off in his first Stanley Cup. At his age, this might be his best chance yet to lift the hardware at season’s end.
Measure of revenge: Kings delay clinching efforts for Flames, Blues
Deep down, the Los Angeles Kings probably realize that their season will end on game 82. Still, they kept their slim playoff hopes alive on Wednesday night … and managed to spite a team they’re growing to hate.
OK, maybe the hate is almost totally focused upon Matthew Tkachuk, yet the disdain for that talented-but-tormenting rookie was palpable.
It didn’t feel like the Kings exacted physical revenge on Tkachuk, but beating his team 4-1 ranked as classic scoreboard vengeance. With that, the Calgary Flames (and by extension the St. Louis Blues) will need to wait to clinch a playoff berth.
Now, as much as tonight was about Tkachuk, the focus was also on a pugnacious player who once dazzled for the Flames: Jarome Iginla.
In what might be Iginla’s final visit to Calgary – at least as an active NHL player – he was one of the best players on the ice. His fitting curtain call included a “Gordie Howe hat trick” with a spirited fight, an assist and a goal.
It’s official: the NHL will hold preseason games in China before next season.
The league made the announcement on Wednesday night: the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks will play two exhibitions: one on Sept. 21 (Shanghai) and Sept. 23 (Beijing). How cool is that?
“It is a privilege and an honor for the L.A. Kings to represent the National Hockey League in China as part of these two games against the Vancouver Canucks,” Kings president Luc Robitaille said. “Growing the game of hockey is something we take great pride in and it is a big priority for our hockey club and AEG as a whole. This will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our players and our staff, and we are looking forward to the games taking place in two tremendous facilities in two remarkable cities.”
Blame it on injuries if you want, or emphasize the Chicago Blackhawks’ overall hot finish to the season. Either way, Chicago scorched the Pittsburgh Penguins by a score of 5-1, a contest that felt more or less over by the time the first period ended 4-0 in the Blackhawks’ favor.
The Blackhawks scored by committee on Wednesday, with Artemi Panarin (goal, assist) and Patrick Kane (two assists) being the headliners. Meanwhile, former Penguin Marian Hossa has quietly climbed to 25 goals on the season.
Meanwhile, the Penguins limped through this one and have now lost four consecutive games.
With this result, the Blackhawks look like close to a lock to win the Central Division title. Meanwhile, the Metro crown is virtually unthinkable for Pittsburgh, and the Penguins might also need to accept the likelihood that they may not enjoy home-ice advantage in the first round.
They’d probably accept that more easily if they can get healthier and get back on track. Wednesday was a little worrisome in those regards.