“Three (News) Stars of the Week” will run every Friday. It’s our way of acknowledging the week’s big NHL stories that gave us lots of page views, thereby increasing PHT’s attractiveness to advertisers.
Third star: Hitch is back and bluer than ever
The NHL’s first coaching casualty brought the return of Ken Hitchcock. But not to Columbus, where it was rumored he’d replace Scott Arniel. Rather, Hitch took Davis Payne’s job in St. Louis. The Blues started the season as a young team with playoff potential. Now they’re a young team with playoff potential and a coach that doesn’t mess around. Some think this is a good thing. Others disagree. The Ottawa Senators demoted Nikita Filatov to the AHL on Monday. There was some irony there. Hitchcock says he’s been studying new ways to relate to young athletes. Just don’t expect him to start playing video games with TJ Oshie.
Second star: Goalie conundrum in T.O.
Toronto goalie James Reimer hasn’t played since getting clipped in the head by Brian Gionta on Oct. 22. Reimer has been suffering concussion-like symptoms; however, the Leafs are adamant it’s not a concussion. It’s all very confusing. Even his mom isn’t sure what’s going on. Reimer’s agent says it shouldn’t be long before his client is healthy again. The Leafs sure hope so, because Jonas Gustavsson is lost and Ben Scrivens is a wildcard.
First star: Two teams just standing there looking at each other
The Flyers and Lightning engaged in a curious affair Wednesday in Tampa Bay. It all started in the first period when the Flyers had the puck in their own end looking to break out. The Lightning players responded by dropping into their coach’s infamous 1-3-1 zone, to which the Flyers responded by doing…nothing. They just stood there holding the puck, daring the Lightning players to come after it. But the Lightning players held their positions. The referee eventually blew the whistle because the Flyers failed to advance the puck. But the Flyers had an answer for that, too. They just skated in circles in their own end. No rule against that. Meanwhile, the crowd booed, everyone on Twitter went nuts, and the future of hockey came into doubt. The next day people debated who was to blame for the debacle. Was it Lightning coach Guy Boucher for employing a tactic that was bad for the game? Or was it Flyers coach Peter Laviolette for being a bit of a jerk about it? All sorts of solutions were brought forth. Maybe the NHL should penalize the trap. Maybe it needed a shot clock. The general managers will discuss the issue next week. Nothing’s going to happen though.
You know, with Connor McDavid hogging so much attention, it’s about time that Jack Eichel provided us with another awesome goal.
That tally came at the Colorado Avalanche’s (and especially Semyon Varlamov‘s) expense as that was the Buffalo Sabres first shot of the game.
Patrick Roy apparently felt like this just wasn’t Varlamov’s afternoon, as Colorado’s head coach decided to pull him after Varly allowed two goals on as many shots. Evander Kane nabbed the other goal for Buffalo.
You can watch the goal in the video above, which reminds us that “Eichel Tower” might not be a unique pun.
Another shot of it:
Check out Kane’s goal, too:
To be fair to Varlamov, Calvin Pickard has already allowed a goal as well. The Sabres are currently off to a 3-0 lead, and maybe a small roll considering how well they played against Montreal on Friday?
Both the Detroit Red Wings and Boston Bruins are finding new ways to win these days, and while they might not be as obvious contenders as they once were, each team can still be dangerous.
Sunday’s NBC game proves enticing for plenty of reasons, yet the most obvious is that if the postseason began today, these two squads would face off in an intriguing first-round matchup.
The Bruins have taken the first two games between these teams in 2015-16, but they might be forced to face the Red Wings without crucial forward Patrice Bergeron, who may have been injured during an unlikely fight with Blake Wheeler.
Detroit features Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk as usual, although Dylan Larkin is a new, ultra-speedy forward who is worthy of plenty of attention in his own right.
While Jeff Blashill continues to establish himself following up Mike Babcock, Claude Julien recently hit a milestone with his 500th win and earned plaudits from CSNNE.com as one of the best coaches in the league.
(Speaking of milestones, Brad Richards is expected to play in his 1,100th game.)
Boston currently holds the second spot in the Atlantic with 66 points in 55 games played, but Detroit is right behind them with 65 in as many contests. With the Tampa Bay Lightning hovering nearby, each team likely recognizes this as an important game.
The New Jersey Devils and Los Angeles Kings prefer to lean on workhorse goalies Cory Schneider and Jonathan Quick respectively, but Sunday presents a change of pace.
In the Kings’ case, Jhonas Enroth is playing in part because of (what Los Angeles hopes is) a minor injury to Quick.
It’s true that the under-sized goalie sports a mediocre 4-4-1 record, but he’s given the Kings legitimate chances to win games considering his impressive (especially for a backup) save percentage of .925. Perhaps he can earn a few more reps if he plays well in what may be a tight game?
Speaking of earning more reps, Keith Kinkaid must continue to work to prove that he’s able to make the jump from AHL goalie to at least an NHL backup. The Kings aren’t likely to make it easy for him, either.
Avalanche at Sabres: Semyon Varlamov vs. Robin Lehner
Bruins at Red Wings: Possibly Tuukka Rask vs. Petr Mrazek
Blues at Lightning: Best guess – Brian Elliott vs. Ben Bishop
Flyers at Rangers: Steve Mason vs. (possibly) Henrik Lundqvist
Bummed out on this holiday? Look on the bright side: at least you’re not as sore as Florida Panthers defenseman Alex Petrovic likely is right now.
Not long after suffering three defeats at the hands/fists of Evander Kane, Petrovic likely lost another bout to Nashville Predators tough guy Anthony Bitetto.
(Note: some might consider this more of a draw, for what it’s worth. You can watch that latest fight in the video above.)
Hey, at least Bitetto didn’t taunt Petrovic after their fight …
It was a rough night for the Panthers overall, as they suffered a gruesome injury or two and fell to the Predators by a score of 5-0.