Scott Arniel

PHT presents: Three Duds of the Week

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Every Monday, we’ll highlight (lowlight?) three of the NHL’s biggest duds from the past week.

1st Dud: Pick a Jacket, any Jacket.

Key Stats: Columbus is 0-4-1, 24th in goals for, 25th in goals against, 28th on the power play and 28th on the penalty kill.

It’s hard to pin the Blue Jackets’ woes on a single individual, but not because there’s a lack of candidates.

— Steve Mason has an .889 save percentage and already been hooked once in favor of Curtis Sanford.

— RJ Umberger, Antoine Vermette and Derick Brassard have combined for one point and a minus-6 rating.

— With James Wisniewski suspended, the defensive workload has been forced upon Grant Clitsome (team-high 23:15 a night) and Radek Martinek (22:39). Just to clarify: Columbus GM Scott Howson spent $74 million on his defense this offseason, yet the high-minute blueliner is Grant Clitsome.

— After the Jackets put a season-low 15 shots on goal in a 4-2 loss to Dallas on Saturday, head coach Scott Arniel bag-skated them for an hour, a tactic that, according to Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Post-Dispatch, “hasn’t been used in Columbus since Gerard Gallant stood behind the bench.” Good times in C-Bus.

NB: Rick Nash (2G-3A-5PTS) and Vinny Prospal (3G-2A-5PTS) could be exempt from being picked, although Nash is the captain of this mess and Prospal has been a real penalty magnet.

2nd Dud: Marco Sturm, LW, Vancouver Canucks

Key Stats: Sturm has zero goals, zero assists and zero points. He is minus-4, however.

Vancouver’s lone notable free agent signing on July 1, Sturm was brought in on a one-year, $2.25 million deal with the hopes of 1) Recapturing the form that made him a seven-time 20-goal scorer, and 2) Being a top-six forward to start the year, given the injuries to Ryan Kesler and Mason Raymond.

In retrospect, these expectations might’ve been a tad high given 1) Sturm’s torn his ACL twice since 2008, and 2) The Canucks are his fourth team in 12 months. But neither of those facts prevented the always-compassionate Vancouver media from eviscerating him after just five games!

The Province: “How much time is Marco Sturm going to get to make something happen?”

Vancouver Sun: “Sturm, a free-agent acquisition signed largely because second-liners Ryan Kesler and Mason Raymond were injured in the Cup final, may be the most disappointing forward so far.”

The Province (again): “It’s nearing mid-October and we’re still unsure what it takes to get Marco Sturm going.”

The Province (yeah, again): “Marco Sturm, who had two knee surgeries the past three years, has been a bust with no points, two shots and a minus-4 rating after five games.”

On the bright side, Sturm was Vancouver’s best German-born player this past week.

[Update: One of our top-secret inside sources in Vancouver says Sturm is “likely” to be scratched tomorrow night against the Rangers.]

3rd Dud: Bryan Little, C, Winnipeg Jets

Key stats: Little has zero goals, zero assists, zero points and is also minus-4. Sound familiar?

Much like in Columbus, there are numerous people to blame for Winnipeg’s awful start (in no particular order: Ondrej Pavelec, Johnny Oduya, Dustin Byfuglien, anyone wearing a Jets jersey.) But right near the top is Little, the only member of the Jets’ first line without a point. Blake Wheeler and Andrew Ladd got theirs on Saturday in Phoenix.

Little’s struggles aren’t for a lack of opportunity, as he’s Winnipeg’s No. 1 centre on the power play, most active faceoff man and playing over 17 minutes a night. He just isn’t getting anything done. Case in point: Little’s only registered three shots on goal through three games, with two of ’em coming in the season opener against Montreal.

If you’d like to weigh in with your duds of the week, add ’em in the comments section below.

Sharks flip the script, tie Penguins heading into third period

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 30:  Tomas Hertl #48 of the San Jose Sharks celebrates with teammates after scoring a second period goal against Matt Murray #30 of the Pittsburgh Penguins (not pictured) in Game One of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Consol Energy Center on May 30, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The Pittsburgh Penguins dominated the San Jose Sharks in the first period of Game 1, no doubt about it.

Even so, the Sharks entered the middle frame down 2-0, and responded rather than shriveling up. They basically switched roles with the Penguins in the second period, ultimately tying things up 2-2.

The first goal was one Matt Murray would probably like back (even more than a goalie would want any goal back, mind you), as Tomas Hertl beat him five-hole for a power-play goal.

Witness the Sharks’ first-ever goal in a Stanley Cup Final:

Fittingly, a grizzled veteran and longtime face of the Sharks’ franchise tied it up, as Patrick Marleau made it 2-2 with a clever wraparound:

Which team will win the third period? Could we see overtime? Find out on NBC.

Report: Blues will bring back Hitchcock with one-year deal

SAN JOSE, CA - MAY 21:  Ken Hitchcock of the St. Louis Blues walks on the ice in game four of the Western Conference Finals against the San Jose Sharks during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at SAP Center on May 21, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Yes, the St. Louis Blues fell short of the Stanley Cup Final, but they still broke some playoff hexes in 2015-16. Apparently Blues management saw enough to bring back Ken Hitchcock.

That’s the word from Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman and Nick Kypreos, who report that the Blues are expected to announce a one-year deal with the veteran head coach on Tuesday.

Friedman wonders if these one-year pacts (Hitchcock was on one for 2015-16 as well) may chase away other staffers:

When asked about these scenarios, Hitchcock seemed like he was in favor of experiencing a perpetual “contract year.”

“I scare myself because I think if I take long-term deal, I’m gonna get sloppy,” Hitchcock told Hockey Central at Noon and Sportsnet back in mid-May. “I want to stay on one-year deals.

For plenty of fans, it makes perfect sense to bring Hitchcock back after the Blues took steps forward.

Others wonder if Hitchcock’s style (which leans toward dump-and-chase and “gritty” hockey more than some other teams) may leave the Blues in the dust, however.

That’s a debate for a bar or a message board, yet one can see deeper logic in giving Hitchcock one more shot.

While the Blues have decisions to make – including what to do with free agent captain David Backes – the team is also structured to make another run. Brian Elliott, Jake Allen, Kevin Shattenkirk and Colton Parayko all have deals that will expire after 2016-17, and each contract is a bargain.

If St. Louis believes that Hitchcock is the right fit for that personnel group, then it makes sense to give him another go.

Crosby, Rust and Sheary lead Penguins’ early charge

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 30:  Bryan Rust #17 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates with Evgeni Malkin #71 after scoring a first period goal against the San Jose Sharks in Game One of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Consol Energy Center on May 30, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
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Generally speaking, the strategic talk heading into Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final focused on the San Jose Sharks’ deeper defense vs. the Pittsburgh Penguins’ blinding speed.

It’s very early, but so far: advantage Penguins.

Pittsburgh came roaring out of the gate in front of a boisterous Consol Energy Center crowd, but it took them a while to break through.

Once the Penguins did, they raced ahead to a 2-0 lead thanks to goals just 1:02 apart.

First, Bryan Rust kept his red-hot streak going with the 1-0 tally.

Moments later, Sidney Crosby made a beautiful pass to Conor Sheary to put the Penguins up two.

There were a few other moments in which the Sharks looked like they were really struggling with the Penguins’ speed, but Martin Jones made some saves that could be big if San Jose can gather its wits.

Beard breakdown: Burns vs. Thornton (Video)

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Sometimes you need to ask important questions, breaking down positional battles and strategies.

Other times you can’t help but ask “Which guy has the better beard?”

In the case of Joe Thornton and Brent Burns, the San Jose Sharks boast two players with elite beards to match their elite skills. “Jumbo Joe” drew a lot of attention for his wild facial hair, yet Burns may very well have inspired Thornton to go heavy-whisker in the first place.

The video above breaks down those two beards, in case you’re itching for a comparison.

One thing that sparks little debate? Both players’ wives are real troopers.