Could Eric Staal’s sluggish start be related to his hit on brother Marc?

1 Comment

Eric Staal has been the unquestioned leader on the Carolina Hurricanes since the day Rod Brind’Amour hung ‘em up. He wears the “C,” he’s annually among their top scorers, and sets the tone for his team in all three zones. But while the Hurricanes have gotten off to an average start, Staal has been a disappointment.

Pierre McGuire wondered one NHL Live this evening if there was more to his poor start. “I’m worried about Eric Staal,” McGuire said. “He’s a minus 13, he’s kind of mired in a huge slump… the ‘go-to’ guy on this team right now is Jeffrey Skinner and he’s 19 years of age. The second ‘go-to’ guy is Brandon Sutter. They need more from the captain—and I love the player.”

Mike Milbury asked the question that a lot of people are wondering. Is Eric Staal’s slow start related to the hit that he threw that knocked his brother (Marc) out with a concussion since last season? McGuire agreed that that the Carolina captain hasn’t been right in the early going. “There’s something wrong,” he said. “He’s not the same player.”

Staal’s numbers were alright in October. But the Hurricanes need him to be better than a 20 goal, 50 point player if they want to succeed this season. And that plus/minus rating? People can argue about the validity of the stat, but minus 13 is unacceptable for a guy that is supposed to be the leader. Is he shying away from the physical side of the game because of last year’s results? Only Staal can answer that question.

Going into tonight’s game against the Lightning, the Hurricanes are right about where a lot of people thought they’d be. They’re sitting a point out of the 8th spot with a record hovering right around .500. They’re average. Not an elite team, but not a cellar-dweller. They’re a team that has the potential to fight for one of the last playoff spots in the Eastern Conference—but they’ll need to maximize every bit of potential if they want to make it to the postseason this year.

Remember, they were the team that missed the playoffs on the last game of the regular season in April. If anyone knows the importance of every single point, it’s the Hurricanes. Getting Staal back on track will go a long way towards Carolina taking the next step.

Measure of revenge: Kings delay clinching efforts for Flames, Blues

2 Comments

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.

Seriously, that fight with Deryk Engelland:

That goal included a bit of luck, but hey …

Iginla was named the first star of the contest, and cameras captured his big smile in enjoying a special night. For all the nastiness of that game, it was refreshing to see such a heartwarming moment.

For more on the violence, check out this post on the early stuff and this one on Tkachuk’s missed missile launch on Drew Doughty.

Kings and Canucks will square off in first NHL exhibition games in China

graphic via NHL
1 Comment

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.”

The press conference inspired some jokes tonight.

Some of the best bits came in roping in … Kobe Bryant and David Beckham?

Alrighty then.

Click here for more details.

 

Video: Drew Doughty (mostly) avoids massive Matthew Tkachuk hit

8 Comments

Hockey is such a fast sport that it’s probably not so easy to make someone your “target.” Instead, a big hit often comes down to the right combination of circumstance and timing.

Still, there’s no denying that Matthew Tkachuk is gunning for Drew Doughty (and the Kings are gunning for Tkachuk) on Wednesday.

Doughty isn’t oblivious to that notion, either, as you can see him avoid what looked like a pretty terrifying hit above.

We’ve already covered the early violence in this game, and it’s quite possible that there will be more carnage going forward. Stay tuned.

Blackhawks bolster Central lead, shine harsh light on Penguins’ struggles

2 Comments

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.