Pavel Datsyuk; James Reimer; John-Michael Liles

Get your game notes: Winter Classic, Maple Leafs at Red Wings

2 Comments

Today on NBC, it’s the Detroit Red Wings hosting the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2014 Winter Classic. The game will be played at the University of Michigan’s Big House and begin at 1 p.m. ET. Following are some game notes, as compiled by the NHL on NBC research team:

• This is the 646th all-time regular-season meeting between Toronto and Detroit, in a rivalry that began on Jan. 4, 1927, when the Toronto St. Patricks (Canadian Division) edged the Detroit Cougars (American Division), 2-1, at the Border Cities Arena (“The Barn”) in Windsor, Ontario. In almost 87 years of hockey, the Original Six clubs have won the same number of head-to-head matchups in the regular season (276). Detroit has only one more playoff win (59-58).

• Since Mike Babcock became head coach of the Red Wings before the 2005-06 season, Detroit has the most regular-season wins in the NHL (394). The Maple Leafs have 299 wins (26th-most) under four head coaches (Pat Quinn, Paul Maurice, Ron Wilson, Randy Carlyle) during that span

• Maple Leafs forward James van Riemsdyk is slated to become the first to play in three NHL Winter Classic games, having already represented Philadelphia in the 2010 and 2012 Winter Classics. Before van Riemsdyk, only goaltender Ty Conklin had played in three official NHL outdoor games (2003 Heritage Classic, 2008 and 2009 Winter Classics).

• Red Wings winger Daniel Alfredsson leads all active players in career goals vs. the Maple Leafs. (Elias)

Games Goals

Alfredsson 81 33

Jaromir Jagr 49 31

Dany Heatley 42 27

Alex Ovechkin 31 26

• With his next goal or assist, Red Wings center Pavel Datsyuk (799 points) will become the sixth player in franchise history to register 800 points wearing the “Winged Wheel.” (Gordie Howe – 1,809, Steve Yzerman – 1,755, Alex del Vecchio – 1,281, Nicklas Lidstrom – 1,142, Sergei Fedorov – 954)

• Since joining the Maple Leafs via trade in 2009, winger Phil Kessel has the fifth-most regular-season goals in the NHL (136). Only Steven Stamkos (199), Alex Ovechkin (182), Corey Perry (151*) and Patrick Marleau (145*) have more. Kessel, who played with the U.S. national team development program in Ann Arbor from 2003-05, has 178 goals in his last 400 games. (* entering Dec. 31)

• The third period has not been kind for the Maple Leafs or Red Wings this season. The Wings are 9-2-4 (.600, 29th in the NHL) when leading after two, outscored 44-36 in third periods, while the Leafs are 1-10-0 (.091, 22nd) when trailing after two, outscored 45-34 in the final stanza.

• The Red Wings snapped their NHL-record 11-game losing streak in shootouts on Dec. 21 at Toronto. However, their active seven-game home shootout losing streak (since April 1, 2012) is the league’s longest since the Flyers went nine straight without a home shootout win (2010-12).

• The 2014 U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team will be announced immediately following the game. Three participants in this game – all with the Maple Leafs – have represented Team USA at previous Games: winger Phil Kessel (2010), defenseman John-Michael Liles (2006) and assistant coach Scott Gordon (1992). (Gordon also served as an assistant coach for the U.S. on the 2010 team).

Some tough decisions await the Blues

4 Comments

Yet again, the St. Louis Blues failed to achieve their ultimate goal.

And boy does it hurt right now.

“We’re all hurting,” coach Ken Hitchcock said last night after getting eliminated by the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Final.

“You don’t want this to be our best opportunity. You want this to be a building block. In this game, in this era, in this cap world, you don’t know where you’re going to be a year from now.”

Indeed, GM Doug Armstrong has some tough decisions to make this offseason.

At the top of the list is whether to bring Hitchcock back. Yes, the Blues did better than 26 other teams, and yes, they finally got past the first round. Still, there are people who believe this will be it for the head coach, that a new voice could help. Overall, Hitchcock has done a great job in St. Louis. But then, so did Todd McLellan in San Jose. Sometimes, change can be good.

Then there are the unrestricted free agents. Both captain David Backes and winger Troy Brouwer need new contracts. The former is 32, the latter 30. The former had seven goals in the playoffs, the latter eight. How much money will they want? How much term? The second question might be the most important.

On the back end, it’s Kevin Shattenkirk that will garner the most attention. He’s signed through next season before he can become an unrestricted free agent. Just 27 years old, and considering the demand for what he does, he’ll be very expensive to keep. And with the emergence of Colton Parayko, trading Shattenkirk could probably be justified, especially if the return is good. A team like the Boston Bruins might be willing to pay up.

Right now, the pain is still fresh for the Blues.

“It’s so hard to win in the league right now,” said Hitchcock. “It’s so hard to win a series. So hard to just get in the playoffs. When you get this far, you get this close, you think you got the opportunity.”

The challenge for Armstrong will be to give his team another opportunity next season. And with the draft less than a month away, all these tough decisions will need to be made very soon.

Goals of the Week get tougher as Cup Final approaches

1 Comment

The Stanley Cup Final is almost upon us and picking the very best Goals of the Week is a tough task. See how we did on this edition!

Just for Men: Mike Commodore

RALEIGH, NC - JUNE 14:  Mike Commodore #22 of the Carolina Hurricanes warms up before game five of the 2006 NHL Stanley Cup Finals against the Edmonton Oilers on June 14, 2006 at the RBC Center in Raleigh, North Carolina.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Getty
2 Comments

Maybe one would argue that time hasn’t been kind to the 2006 Stanley Cup-winning Carolina Hurricanes (at least compared to the pedigree of other winners), but Mike Commodore’s incredible red afro and beard rank as one of hockey’s most timeless combinations.

Seriously, just take a step back from your monitor* and bask in the splendor of that carrot-topped Commodore.

Even then-President George W. Bush remarked on Commodore’s bushy hair and beard (or its tragic absence) when the Canes visited the White House:

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all for coming. Have a seat. It’s a pretty big deal for a guy that doesn’t know how to ice skate — (laughter) — to welcome the Carolina Hurricanes to the White House. We appreciate you coming. You know, I’m not sure what is prettier, the Stanley Cup, or Mike Commodore’s hair. (Laughter.) A little disappointed you got a haircut. (Laughter.) But, welcome.

Good stuff.

And it really is kind of disappointing any time you see Commodore relatively clean-shaven. It’s like Superman without a big “S” on his chest or Metallica with short hair or any number of not-quite-right sights.

* – If you’re doing the Rumsfeld-style “standing at your desk” thing then … kneel for a second maybe?

Here’s your Stanley Cup playoffs schedule for tonight

Stanley Cup
1 Comment

There’s nothing better than a Game 7, especially when a spot in the Stanley Cup Final is up for grabs. The Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins will battle in a do-or-die game for the right to play the San Jose Sharks with Lord Stanley on the line. You can watch the game via the NBC Sports Group’s television and digital platforms.

Tampa Bay at Pittsburgh (8:00 p.m. ET)

The television broadcast of Game 7 will be on NBCSN. To stream the game using the Live Extra app, click here.

Here’s some reading material to get you ready for this one:

Penguins, Lightning prepare for ‘roller coaster’ Game 7

Penguins force Game 7 after holding off Lightning rally

Lightning lament Game 6 effort, Cooper doesn’t blame disallowed goal