2014 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game One

In praise of Justin Williams


Justin Williams rightfully earned the nickname “Mr. Game 7,” yet his overtime game-winner to open the 2014 Stanley Cup Final is just the latest argument for why he means much more than that to the Los Angeles Kings.

“I’ve said this many times. Justin is the most underrated player on our team by a mile,” Drew Doughty said after Game 1 on Wednesday. “He doesn’t get enough credit for what he does.”

“There are two guys on this team that I want to give the puck to, and that’s him and Kopy. When they have the puck, plays happen.”

A lot has been happening for Williams lately. The 32-year-old generated four goals and nine assists for 13 points in his last 11 postseason games. He has 20 points in 22 playoff games overall in 2014. It’s clear that he’s shining in every game as of late, not just the most important ones.

Over being underrated

The thing is, Williams isn’t just underrated; he’s one of those guys who continues to be underrated even after years of being considered underrated.

As Dustin Brown explained to the Los Angeles Times in 2012, Anze Kopitar draws a lot of the scoring attention and there’s the kind of heat Brown draws:

“And maybe I draw some attention,” Brown said. “Maybe not a threat-to-score standpoint. But I want-to-kill-you standpoint.”

Brown believes that Williams prefers to fly under the radar a bit. That’s a good thing because it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle on Kings team that employs Brown, Doughty, Kopitar and Jonathan Quick. Then again, a search of “Justin Williams underrated” spits out message board threads discussing how unappreciated he was with the Carolina Hurricanes back in 2007, so maybe it’s just a way of life for Williams.

Dominant in subtler ways

Along with having some bad injury luck over the years, Williams might also go unnoticed because he hasn’t generated huge regular season numbers. He’s far-removed from back-to-back 30+ goal seasons with Carolina in 2005-06 and 06-07, yet Darryl Sutter explained what makes Williams such a sneaky-dominant player when he isn’t scoring huge goals.

“He hangs onto the puck, goes to traffic, hangs onto the puck, makes the plays,” Sutter said in May. “Takes a beating to make plays. He’s a role model for young players, for sure.”

“That’s the big thing now is the stat, the possession stat, that guys talk about. Justin is for sure one of the top guys in the league.”

Indeed, Williams’ possession numbers are eye-popping. In fact, he’s been so dominant that some believe that he benefits linemate Kopitar more than the other way around.

Does Williams drive play more than Kopitar? That’s up to debate, but the fact that you could make an argument for Williams begs the question of where he might rank among the league’s elite:

The Kings have Williams locked up through next season at a bargain cap hit of $3.65 million, so GM Dean Lombardi likely hopes that the versatile forward remains “underrated” (and underpaid) for a little while longer.

For more “In praise of … ” posts, click here.

Don’t glare: Heritage Classic start time delayed

WINNIPEG, MANITOBA - OCTOBER 22: Cam Talbot #33 of the Edmonton Oilers skates during practice in preparation for the 2016 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic alumni hockey game on October 22, 2016 at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The Oilers play the Winnipeg Jets on Oct. 23, 2016. (Photo by Jason Halstead /Getty Images)
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Update: Puck drop is now scheduled for 4:53 p.m. ET.


It’s not a familiar situation for the NHL, but it has happened before: a weather delay for a hockey game.

The Winnipeg Jets confirmed that the start time for their Heritage Classic game against the Edmonton Oilers has been delayed. The glare of the sun appears to be too much.

At the moment, it is not yet known how severe the delay will be. Puck drop was originally scheduled for just after 3 p.m. ET.

That’s a bummer, but at least it inspired a joke that would probably make Ilya Bryzgalov smile:

Warm-ups were moved to 4 p.m. ET. PHT will keep you posted if there are any other changes.

Great news: Jacques Demers back at home after hospital stay

MONTREAL- NOVEMBER 22:   Former Montreal Canadiens goalie Patrick Roy embraces his former head coach Jacques Demers during his retirement ceremony before the game against the Boston Bruins at the Bell Centre on November 22, 2008 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  The Bruins defeated the Canadiens 3-2 in a shootout.  (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)
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OTTAWA, Ontario (AP) Former Montreal Canadiens coach Jacques Demers is back at home after going to a hospital Saturday.

Demers’ Senate office would only confirm that the 72-year-old Demers, a Canadian senator, was at home Sunday, but didn’t provide any details about the reason he went to the hospital.

Demers had suffered a stroke in April, but he was at the Canadiens’ home opener Tuesday night, smiling in a wheelchair while handing a torch to captain Max Pacioretty to close out a pregame ceremony.

Demers led the Canadiens to their most recent Stanley Cup in 1993. He also coached the Quebec Nordiques, the Detroit Red Wings and the St. Louis Blues.

Demers was appointed to the Senate in 2009 by then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper, but later left the Conservative caucus in December to sit as an Independent.

At the time, he said he was uncomfortable with some of the fallout from the Senate expenses scandal and didn’t like to have to vote the Conservative party line all the time.

Goalie nods: Talbot vs. Hellebuyck vs. the elements

WINNIPEG, MANITOBA - OCTOBER 22: Cam Talbot #33 of the Edmonton Oilers skates during practice in preparation for the 2016 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic alumni hockey game on October 22, 2016 at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The Oilers play the Winnipeg Jets on Oct. 23, 2016. (Photo by Jason Halstead /Getty Images)
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So, let’s assume that the Edmonton Oilers and Winnipeg Jets will eventually play in the 2016 Heritage Classic at Investors Group Field on Sunday.

Every indication is that Cam Talbot and Connor Hellebuyck shall get the nods for their respective teams. Most assume, with the firepower on hand, that this could be a high-scoring game.

Hellebuyck isn’t flustered about all the goals the Jets have allowed so far, as he told NHL.com.

“It’s not something you’re really worried about,” Hellebuyck said. “It’s early in the year, it happens to a lot of teams. If you look at the trends in the past 10 years, there’s always a lot of goals being scored at the beginning of the year.”

They’re not just facing dangerous offenses. They’re also dealing with the conditions, as the game was already delayed by the glare of the sun.

Goalies are already accustomed to having their views compromised by screening forwards. Will Hellebuyck and Talbot squint through the Heritage Classic?

Elsewhere …

Wild at Islanders – Darcy Kuemper vs. Thomas Greiss

Coyotes at Rangers – Louis Domingue vs. (probably) Henrik Lundqvist

Canucks at DucksRyan Miller vs. (likely) John Gibson

Get set for the Heritage Classic with hot dog facts and more

WINNIPEG, MANITOBA - OCTOBER 22: Morris Lukowich #12 of the Winnipeg Jets alumni moves the puck in front Steve Staios #24 of the Edmonton Oilers alumni during the 2016 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic alumni hockey game on October 22, 2016 at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Jason Halstead /Getty Images)
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The Winnipeg Jets host the Edmonton Oilers at the 2016 Heritage Classic at Investors Group Field this afternoon. You can watch it on NHL Network, Sportsnet, TVA Sports 2 or NHL.tv at 3 p.m. ET.

With that in mind, let’s get prepped with super-important stats about unhealthy food, interesting photos and fun facts.

  • Want to get an in-depth look at the rivalry between the Jets and the Oilers? NHL.com and Sportsnet both have some great retrospectives.
  • The CBC notes that there was rain ending in the morning but it’s expected to be cloudy. Overall, sounds like a nice climate for an outdoor hockey game. NHL.com’s Nick Cotsonika wonders if the sun’s glare might cause some issues.
  • No doubt about it, the futures of both franchises will be on display, from Connor McDavid to Patrik Laine.
  • The league’s PR department tweeted out some silly facts: 425 lbs. of cheese curds “will top poutine” during the event and 2.5 kilometers (about 1.55 miles) of hot dogs and “smokies” will be consumed.

(Imagines one enormous cheese dog.)

Now that you have important food facts in mind, here are a few fun photos as promised.

Should be a great time.

Oh, and in case you missed it, here is a recap of Saturday’s wonderful alumni game: