David Steckel calls Matt Bradley’s criticisms of Alexander Semin ‘not shocking at all’

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In the NFL, teams will often pick up free agents from division rivals in hopes of getting some precious bits of intelligence about their opponents. When it comes to the NHL, it seems like reporters can squeeze some interesting comments about a team once a player no longer wears that sweater.

At least, that’s the way it seems with two former Washington Capitals. Earlier this month, we passed along Matt Bradley’s candid comments about his former team. To give you a quick synopsis, Bradley claimed that mercurial winger Alexander Semin ‘just doesn’t care,’ riffed on coach Bruce Boudreau’s tendency to coddle underachieving star players and was mostly complimentary toward Alex Ovechkin. While some dismiss Bradley because he was just a role player during his six seasons alongside Semin & Co., it was still a bit startling to see a hockey player tear apart his former teammates in such a brash way.

Of course, there were many who weren’t surprised at all since Bradley was backing up widely held (but maybe somewhat unfair) criticisms about Semin and the team as a whole. The Washington Post’s Lindsay Applebaum passes along remarks from another former Capitals and current New Jersey Devils grinder David Steckel, who didn’t seem all that shocked by what Bradley had to say.

“It’s not like he went out and told lies,” former Capitals forward David Steckel told The Post’s Tarik El-Bashir and other reporters Wednesday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. Bradley “didn’t really say anything bad about anybody. He just stated what he felt.”

(snip)

“First reaction was like, ‘Brads, what did you do?’” Steckel said. “Then I read the transcript and, I mean, it’s Brads. It’s not like he’s somebody breaking into the league telling things that nobody knows about already. He’s an elder statesman in the league; he’s been around and he’s in a different organization now.”

“The transcript I read, there was nothing there was nothing that shocking at all, that blew me away,” he added.

It must sting a little to hear former teammates be so dismissive, but Semin and the Capitals could harness that negative energy into bulletin board material to prove their doubters wrong. (If Semin and the Caps care at all, that is.)

Next season is a pivotal one for Boudreau – who’s likely on his last leg as their head coach – and contract-year players such as Semin, Mike Green, Tomas Vokoun, Mike Knuble and Dennis Wideman. Owner Ted Leonsis said that the team probably has a 10-15 year window to win the Stanley Cup, but that doesn’t mean that everyone will be around if they can’t get the job done soon. You can bet that there are plenty of players and coaches who will be fighting for their jobs next season, which should make Washington one of the NHL’s most interesting teams to watch in 2011-12.

For what it’s worth, Steckel also commented on his Winter Classic hit on Sidney Crosby, which might make him part of a sad trivia question some day.

“I see the ticker. It’s unfortunate,” he said. “I had no intent to injure him. I feel just as bad as anybody. I don’t want to see anybody out of the game for that long. It’s bad enough with everything that’s going around with other guys [and] head [injuries]. It’s just so uncertain. I feel bad. I wish him the best. I don’t wish that upon anybody.”

(H/T to Kukla’s Korner.)

Eddie Lack expects to be released from hospital on Monday night

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As scary as the situation was for Carolina Hurricanes goalie Eddie Lack, the good news continues to pour in.

First, the Hurricanes provided an update that he had “full feeling in his extremities” while under observation at a hospital. This followed the promising sign that he was able to give a “thumbs up” gesture while being taken off the ice on a stretcher after the Hurricanes’ 4-3 overtime loss to the Detroit Red Wings.

The best news came late on Monday night, however, as Lack himself tweeted that he expects to head back home as early as this late evening/early morning:

That’s fantastic news. Video of that scary collision with Andreas Athanasiou can be seen in the video above this post’s headline.

Blues, Flames take care of business (Islanders … do not)

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For a while there, it seemed like the idle Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs would be Monday’s “winners.” That changed when the Carolina Hurricanes salvaged a standings point and the Tampa Bay Lightning stormed back to beat the Blackhawks.

Still, there were some teams who came through (beyond the Lightning) and those who fell flat, so let’s cover some of the results in short.

West teams get it done

Unlike their counterparts out East, West teams jockeying for position avoided “unforced errors” in losing to non-playoff teams.

The St. Louis Blues beat the Arizona Coyotes 4-1 while the Calgary Flames topped the Colorado Avalanche 4-2. Johnny Gaudreau generated his 200th point (and 201st) in Calgary’s win, while Alex Steen generated four assists. (Vladimir Tarasenko also enjoyed a three-point night.)

This keeps the Blues and Flames in position to advance. St. Louis is one point behind the Nashville Predators for third in the Central while the Flames are a point behind both the Sharks and Oilers for second and third in the Pacific (while remaining in shouting distance of the division title).

East teams stumble, some get over it

Again, the Lightning fought through hurdles to win and the Hurricanes managed that “charity point.”

Overall, East teams struggled. The New York Islanders fell to the Predators by a score of 3-1. Your mileage may vary on the Florida Panthers’ chances, especially after they fell 4-2 to the Buffalo Sabres.

Brian Gionta scored in his 1,000th game as Buffalo won, by the way.

Here’s what the race for the final spot in the East looks like after tonight:

Final wild card: Bruins – 84 points in 75 games played

Lightning – 83 points in 75 GP
Islanders – 82 points in 75 GP
Hurricanes – 80 points in 74 GP

Victor Hedman might just force his way into the Norris argument

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For quite some time this season, the Norris Trophy race felt a bit like “Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson and [insert token finalist].” As it turns out, Victor Hedman is making it a pretty interesting three-horse race.

With Burns and Karlsson idle on Monday, Hedman continued to go on the best offensive tear of his already-impressive career, contributing three assists to the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 5-4 overtime win against the Chicago Blackhawks.

As much credit as forwards Nikita Kucherov and Jonathan Drouin deserve in pushing Tampa Bay in Steven Stamkos‘ absence, Hedman has been an all-world blueliner for a Lightning team with a defense that isn’t really surrounding him with great talent.

He’s serving as a workhorse when his team needs him the most:

Now, when you look at the numbers, it’s probably fair to say that Hedman comes in third among the likely finalists in simple categories:

Brent Burns: 27 goals (!), 72 points in 75 games, +16 rating, 24:52 time-on-ice average

Erik Karlsson: 14 goals, 67 points in 74 games, +7, 26:53 minutes per game (fourth highest average in the NHL)

Victor Hedman: 15 goals, 65 points in 72 games, +2 rating, came into Monday with average of 24:15 minutes per game.

Looking at those breakdowns, you might wonder why someone wouldn’t just flippantly hand Hedman the “bronze medal” and a pat on the back … but things get more interesting if you ponder the all-around impact of those three.

Now, traditional-thinkers who slam risky defensemen for their mistakes often overstate such arguments. Both Burns and Karlsson tilt the ice in their teams’ favors, usually to profound degrees.

Still … Hedman locks opponents down to a truly elite degree and scores at a similar rate. Hedman could very well own the “two-way” argument; you could perhaps see his case most clearly when you compare his “HERO” chart to those of Burns and Karlsson, especially from the perspective of conceding shots.

Again, Burns remains the likely winner, and he would be a deserving one. You could make a solid Hart Trophy argument for Burns, in addition to tabbing him as the Norris frontrunner.

Even so, voters would be wise to take Hedman’s case seriously, especially as the Lightning continue their improbable playoff push.

Lightning storm back against Blackhawks, finish one point out of playoffs

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Who would have thought that the Tampa Bay Lightning would rally back from a 4-1 deficit tonight? Then again, who expected them to be so close to a playoff spot mere weeks ago, when they were sellers at the trade deadline?

The Lightning continue to show that they won’t just roll over and die, scoring four unanswered goals to beat the Chicago Blackhawks 5-4 in overtime on Monday.

While Jonathan Drouin was a catalyst for the second-period rally, it was an unlikely scorer who clinched the victory, as Yanni Gourde ended a thrilling run of 3-on-3 chances with the overtime-winner.

Really, it might have been fitting. Things looked glum when Tomas Jurco scored his first goal of the season against the Lightning, then the mood was totally flipped when Gourde’s second tally of 2016-17 grabbed a huge win.

With the Islanders losing to the Predators, the Hurricanes only managing a “loser point” against the Red Wings and the Bruins idle, Tampa Bay is a breath away from a playoff berth:

Final wild card: Bruins – 84 points in 75 games played

Lightning – 83 points in 75 GP
Islanders – 82 points in 75 GP
Hurricanes – 80 points in 74 GP

Yes, all of a sudden, a long-shot postseason run seems quite attainable.

Maybe the Lightning would prefer it if we kept counting them out, though?