Calgary Flames forward Mikael Backlund recorded the first fight of his National Hockey League career on Friday.
He also had the instigator and misconduct for a whopping 17 minutes in penalties, after challenging Anaheim Ducks defenseman Ben Lovejoy in the first period of the Flames’ 3-1 victory on home ice. The fight didn’t last long. Backlund, a little out of his element, found himself off balance when he tried to land a right haymaker.
But what set Backlund off like that? In one play, his 12 penalty minutes on the season shot up to 29. He’s never had more than 18 penalty minutes in a season since he first entered the league in the 2008-09 season.
The video provides the answer. Lovejoy delivered a knee-on-knee hit on Flames forward Curtis Glencross, who left the game and did not return. Dropping the gloves with Lovejoy earned Backlund the nickname “Rocky” from head coach Bob Hartley afterward, according to the Flames official Twitter account.
Could Lovejoy, who was assessed an interference minor on the play, be expecting supplementary discipline from the league for the knee-on-knee hit?
Hitch’s recipe for more goals is a pretty simple one
Ken Hitchcock wants the Blues to spend more time attacking and less time defending.
Because hockey isn’t rocket science, that’s why.
“To score and win games in the National Hockey League…you have to spend as much time in the offensive zone as you can,” Hitchcock told the Post-Dispatch.
“When you’re occupying the offensive zone more, you’re forechecking more. When you’re occupying the offensive zone more, the goalie has to make saves. They’re having to defend more. And the opposing team takes penalties on you. So they’re all connected. … What I want to see from us is staying on the puck for longer stretches.”
According to the stats, the Blues have not been spending as much time in the offensive zone as we’re used to seeing from them. In fact, in their last 20 games, they rank in the bottom third of the league in score-adjusted Corsi. That compares to their first 20 games when they were in the top third.
The result is fewer shots, and more importantly, fewer goals. The Blues have fallen all the way to 25th in offense, averaging just 2.37 goals per game. Last year, they finished fifth (2.91).
“I don’t think he’s going to dazzle you with flashy plays, but I think he’s a guy who plays the game the right way. He’s hard to play against because of his size. He’s got a long reach, and he’s got a good stick.”
Sundqvist was selected 81st overall by the Pens in 2012. He’ll become the fourth player out of that Pittsburgh draft class to make his NHL debut, after Olli Maatta, Derrick Pouliot, and Matt Murray.