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PHT’s NHL primer for disenchanted NBA fans

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Hello and welcome to ProHockeyTalk! This is a blog covering the game of ice hockey. Perhaps you’ve heard of it.

We realize today must be an especially difficult one for you as the NBA season was supposed to tip off. Is that the right term, tip off? The only other basketball term we know is chest pass and “the NBA season was supposed to chest pass” doesn’t sound right.

Anyway, we thought it’d be a nice gesture if we introduced you to the game of hockey. Oh sure, there are plenty of other sports to keep you occupied like professional football, college football, high school football, Pop Warner football or Canadian football, if you’re desperate. But there’s a chance you might want to step out of your comfort zone and try something new. So here’s a quick Q&A to get you up to speed on the wonderful game of hockey.

Who is the best team in the NHL?

The Boston Bruins won last year’s Stanley Cup (given annually to the NHL playoff champion), but they’re off to a bad start this year. In fact, they’ve been overtaken in their division by the Toronto Maple Leafs.

So, the Maple Leafs are the best team?

Hahahaha, no. They’ve probably got another two, maybe three weeks left in them. The teams you want to focus on are Pittsburgh, Washington, Chicago, Philadelphia, Vancouver, Boston, San Jose, Detroit, Los Angeles, Buffalo and Tampa Bay. Yeah, 11 teams. There’s a lot of parity in hockey.

Who is the LeBron James of the NHL?

If you’re talking about the most supremely talented player with unparallelled skill, that would be Sidney Crosby. If you’re talking about the most polarizing player with a knack for coming up small in the biggest moments, that would be Roberto Luongo. Some people actually call him “LeBrongo.” Seriously.

Boston is the NBA’s most storied franchise, having won 17 championships. Who is the NHL equivalent?

That would be the Montreal Canadiens, who have won 24 Stanley Cups. The Canadiens are one of the most revered franchises in all of professional sports and widely known as the NHL’s classiest organization. Last week they fired their assistant coach 90 minutes before a game.

Has the NHL ever had a similar labor dispute?

(*crickets*)

What about ethnic diversity? The NBA has tons of international players.

The NHL currently features Canadians, Americans, Russians, Finns, Swedes, Czechs, Slovaks, Austrians, Danes, Germans and Belorussians as well as players from France, Italy, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Latvia, Norway and Poland. The league is welcoming to all ethnicities, though Raffi Torres’ Halloween costume set the ol’ diversity program back a step or two.

Why, what did he do?

He dressed up as Jay-Z.

So?

With face paint.

Oh.

Yeah, it was kind of a thing.

Is that really racist though?

Let’s not get into that now.

Do they actually let the players fight in the NHL?

Well, they give them five minutes in the penalty box, so technically it’s penalized.

But it still happens?

Oh yeah, lots.

Why do they allow it?

Mostly because the fans like it. But it also holds players accountable on the ice. If they didn’t have fighting, there’d be all sorts of cheap shots out there.

So there are no cheap shots in hockey?

There are still quite a few cheap shots.

Why does hockey have to be so complicated?

What’s complicated about it? There’s a puck, there’s a net, each team tries to put the puck into the other team’s net.

Explain offside to me.

The puck has to enter the zone first.

Which zone?

The offensive zone.

Is offside like icing?

Maybe we could take this offline.

OK, but I’m still not convinced I’ll like hockey.

Look, just give it a try. If you’re not hooked once the Stanley Cup is awarded, we’ll give you a full refund.

But I never gave you money in the first place.

Then what’s the problem? Watch hockey. It’s awesome.

Pre-game reading: NHLers sound off on poor ice conditions

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— Up top, Danny Briere recalls that famous line brawl between the Flyers and Penguins in the 2012 playoffs. The two Pennsylvania rivals meet again Saturday, outdoors at Heinz Field.

— It has not been a good year for NHL ice, and a number of players are starting to get fed up. For example, Leafs forward James van Riemsdyk, who said, “It’s been awful. I don’t know what it is. Even in our building this year. I thought it was really good [when we came] back for World Cup and right after that for the first little bit. But the last little bit, it’s been so bad. The puck’s all over the place.” Guess we know how he’ll be filling out his survey. (ESPN)

— The days leading up to the trade deadline can be pretty stressful for players who may get moved. And if they do get moved, the days after can be pretty tough, too. “I saw my daughters four days out of three months when I went to Pittsburgh,” said Hurricanes forward Lee Stempniak, who’s been dealt three straight years at the deadline. “When I was traded to Winnipeg, I didn’t see my daughters for the two months or more I was there because of the schedule.” (The News & Observer)

— On the 2017 NHL draft, which may not have the star power of the last two drafts, but will still have some pretty good players available. Especially centers. (USA Today)

— San Jose’s Brent Burns is trying to become only the second defenseman in NHL history to win a scoring title. With 64 points, Burns is only three points back of Connor McDavid for the league lead, with Sidney Crosby in the mix as well. Bobby Orr won the Art Ross Trophy twice, the last time in 1974-75 when he piled up 135 points in 80 games for the Boston Bruins.  (Canadian Press)

— Another Shark, Joe Thornton, is just two assists from 1,000 in the NHL. Only 12 players have accomplished that, with Wayne Gretzky’s 1,963 helpers leading the way. Joe Sakic’s 1,016 are the closest to Thornton’s 998. (The Mercury News)

Enjoy the games!

Bolts rule out Callahan indefinitely following second hip surgery

Ryan Callahan
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Tampa Bay forward Ryan Callahan, who’s only played 18 games this year while recovering from offseason hip surgery, has undergone a follow-up procedure and will be sidelined indefinitely.

The Bolts made the announcement on Wednesday, just hours after a big 4-1 win over Edmonton. Callahan wasn’t in the lineup to face the Oilers — he hasn’t played since early January, when he skated just under 15 minutes in a loss to Philly.

The nature of this ailment has to be concerning.

Callahan, who turns 32 next month, is in the third of a six-year, $34.8 million deal with a $5.8M average annual cap hit. And this lingering hip problem comes on the heels of a disappointing ’15-16 campaign, in which Callahan scored just 10 goals and 28 points — the lowest marks since his rookie campaign.

As such, Tampa Bay is now bracing for an immediate future without a huge part of its leadership group. Captain Steve Stamkos has resumed skating, but there’s no set date for his return from major knee surgery.

Callahan, who’s been an alternate captain in each of the last three seasons, won’t be playing anytime soon either.

 

Kadri ‘not worried’ after Chiarot predicts revenge for big hit (Video)

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Toronto forward Nazem Kadri drew the ire of Jets d-man Ben Chiarot on Tuesday night for a big — albeit questionable — hit in the Leafs’ OT win.

Chiarot was visibly displeased following the game and alluded to getting even.

“It’s not the right time or place to chase him down, but there will be a time down the line,” he said, per Sportsnet. “Might not be this year, might not be next year.

“But there will be a time where the shoe will be on the other foot.”

Today, Kadri responded.

“I’m not worried at all,” Kadri said, per TSN. “I’ll be here for hopefully a few years. But like I said, if that was one of my teammates getting hit like that, I probably wouldn’t be too happy, so I expect that kind of reaction.”

Kadri’s hit, which went unpenalized, drew the ire of Chiarot’s head coach as well. Jets bench boss Paul Maurice was also visibly displeased following the game.

“He’s six inches in the air when he makes contact,” Maurice said, per Sportsnet. “In my mind, from the rear view, the first thing that moves on Benny is the helmet. Didn’t like it.”

Kadri’s been involved in a few high-profile collisions this season. He pasted Sabres captain Brian Gionta in a game earlier this month, and avoided suspension for a controversial hit on Vancouver’s Daniel Sedin back in November.

Have the Blackhawks finally found their first-line LW?

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A three-point night for Nick Schmaltz, which included a nifty pass to Jonathan Toews for the game-winner, must have Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman wondering how to approach the trade deadline.

The way the 20-year-old rookie has been playing, does Bowman really need to add a first-line left winger before next Wednesday?

It’s a valid question. Only a month ago, Bowman was reportedly sniffing around the likes of Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist.

But Schmaltz has since caught fire, with two goals and five assists in his last six games. The rookie from Wisconsin had one goal and two assists in Tuesday’s 5-3 victory over Minnesota.

“He’s been really good,” head coach Joel Quenneville said, per the Chicago Sun-Times. “[Tuesday] was the most we’ve ever seen him with the puck. I don’t know how many times he evaded coverage, and all of a sudden he loses the guy on him and a play develops. That play against the grain to [Toews] was spectacular.”

Toews, of course, has been through a whole host of linemates this season, and only in the last month has the captain really started to produce offensively. Richard Panik and Marian Hossa are two veteran options to skate on his right side, but the left side has been a running audition.

Schmaltz, a first-round draft pick in 2014, only got called back up to the NHL in mid-January.

One month later, Toews is liking the chemistry that’s developed between himself, Schmaltz and Panik.

“We’ve been given the chance to spend a few games together, get some consistency, get some feel and some confidence,” said Toews. “The biggest thing for the three of us is if we go through a game without scoring, we’re given a chance to go out in the next game and try and redeem ourselves and contribute offensively.

“It’s a lot of fun, because I think we’re feeling it. [Schmaltz and Panik] are playing so well at both ends of the rink. They’re playing with a ton of confidence with the puck.”

The ‘Hawks have two games left before the March 1 deadline. They host Arizona tomorrow and St. Louis Sunday.