James O'Brien

Sidney Crosby
AP

Let’s nitpick Sidney Crosby’s slow start

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The responsible, reasonable thing is not to make a big deal out of two games. Not when the Pittsburgh Penguins have 80 more.

What about the fun thing, though?

After two games, the Pittsburgh Penguins have zero standings points, two losses and a single goal (by Phil Kessel).

When you’re not getting production from an entire team, everyone deserves some blame. Sports talk doesn’t always work that way, though, which is why the Hockey Internet is gaping in awe at Sidney Crosby‘s meek start.

Goals don’t go around very often in the extremely tight-checking NHL, so many times one can point out that a cold player is getting his chances. Crosby’s been unusually quiet even in that regard, with zero shots in those first two games.

Just notice how rare that is for Crosby, even taking into account that he may still lean a bit toward passing.

Is he just missing the net, though? Well …

Crosby is rarely an interesting quote, so it’s not surprising that his take might as well have been taken from @BoringMonahan:

… But at least he’s not in denial.

Let’s not forget that the Penguins boast plenty of other talented players, so to some extent, it might come down to finding the right mix. Evgeni Malkin saw a different linemate in David Perron as the Sergei Plotnikov experiment was placed on hold, for instance.

It’s early, and both the team and Crosby can make adjustments. There’s at least one that seems pretty obvious:

The Penguins must stew on these problems for some time, as they won’t play again until they begin a five-game homestand by hosting the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday.

Maybe Crosby just needs some home-cooking?

The NHL’s new coach’s challenge and timeouts

Alain Vigneault
AP
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For better or worse, NFL coaches often get critiqued for the way they challenge plays, with a big reason being that they may waste potentially precious timeouts.

NHL coaches only have one to work with per game, and with the new challenge system in mind, the New York Post’s Larry Brooks points out how that is changing a subtle-if-important coaching strategy.

How many bench bosses will take a time out earlier in a game, knowing that doing so will mean they lose their challenge option? Specifically, this comes into question when a coach would otherwise rest winded players on an icing call.

“You’d have to have five guys out there for such an extended period of time to call one, and even then, it would be an extremely difficult call,” Alain Vigneault told Brooks. “If you know that they have nothing in the tank, then you might have no other choice. … But I don’t know. … You don’t want to lose that [ability to] challenge.”

There’s already an example or two of coaches being thrifty with their single timeout per contest.

Brooks poses a fairly simple and logical tweak, then:

The league could — and I would suggest probably should — amend the rule so each team is given one challenge opportunity plus one timeout. Yes this likely would add another 1:30 or so to the game, but chances are icings will be followed by delaying tactics that only will frustrate everyone.

What do you think? Should the NHL stick with the current setup or adjust it based on Brooks’ suggestion?

Flyers players had a ‘little talk’ after Panthers blowout

Steve Mason
AP
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What do you say when your team gets blown out 7-1 in your second game of the season?

For the Philadelphia Flyers, the answer is: plenty of things, especially behind closed doors.

CSNPhilly.com shares some interesting quotes following that shellacking at the hands of the Florida Panthers, ranging from Jakub Voracek saying a bad word to Steve Mason taking the blame and Dave Hakstol trying to downplay the defeat.

“The one thing that is absolute is that nobody is going to overreact,” Hakstol said. “You take this situation and deal with it for what it is. Deal with it honestly. Most of those dealings will take place in the locker room.”

Special request: let some of the juicy stuff surface publicly. It will be fun, we promise.

The Flyers won’t need to wait long to try to avenge that drubbing on Saturday, as they host the Panthers in Philly on Monday.

Not to overreact, but many will call for a passionate response from the Flyers tomorrow.

More on last night’s game here.

Kings GM says Mike Richards went into ‘a destructive spiral’

Mike Richards
AP
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The Los Angeles Kings may owe Mike Richards money until 2031 (seriously), but in settling his grievance, the team and player more or less get to turn the page.

Not before Kings GM Dean Lombardi shares his sometimes startling perspective, though.

Lombardi has a tendency to be candid, especially in the press release-heavy world of sports management. Even by his standards, his account of Richards’ “destructive spiral” is a staggering read from the Los Angeles Times’ Lisa Dillman.

“Without a doubt, the realization of what happened to Mike Richards is the most traumatic episode of my career,” Lombardi said in a written summation he provided to the Los Angeles Times. “At times, I think that I will never recover from it. It is difficult to trust anyone right now – and you begin to question whether you can trust your own judgment. The only thing I can think of that would be worse would be suspecting your wife of cheating on you for five years and then finding out in fact it was true.”

Lombardi provides plenty of eyebrow-raising statements to Dillman, including:

  • He believed he “found his own Derek Jeter” in Richards, a player who “at one time symbolized everything that was special about the sport.”
  • Lombardi remarked that “his production dropped 50 percent and the certain ‘it’ factor he had was vaporizing in front of me daily.”
  • The Kings GM believes that he was “played” by Richards.

… Yeah.

Again, it’s a powerful read that you should soak in yourself, even if you’re unhappy with the way the Kings handled the situation.

Maybe the most pressing of many lingering questions is: will we get to hear Richards’ side of the story?

Coyotes exploit another lousy outing from Quick

Jonathan Quick
AP
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Despite owning two Stanley Cup rings, there are a healthy number of people who aren’t wild about Jonathan Quick.

Those people might feel validated through the Los Angeles Kings’ first two games, as he followed a rough loss to the San Jose Sharks with a true stinker against the Arizona Coyotes on Friday.

Sometimes a goalie has a bad night stats-wise, yet his team is as much to blame as anything else. You can probably pin this one on Quick, who allowed four goals on just 14 shots through the first two periods.

Things died down in the final frame, but let’s face it; slowing things down is absolutely the Coyotes’ design with a 4-1 lead (which ultimately resulted in a 4-1 win).

***

A soft 1-0 goal turned out to be a sign of things to come:

Many expected the Kings to roar into this second game after laying an egg in their opener. Instead, the Coyotes exploited Quick’s struggles for a confidence-booster, which included key prospect Max Domi scoring a goal and an assist.

It’s worth mentioning that Mike Smith looked downright fantastic at times, only drawing more attention to Quick’s struggles.

***

After a troubled summer and a failed 2014-15 season, Los Angeles was likely eager to start things off the right way.

Instead, they instead will likely focus on the fact that they merely dropped two (ugly) games.