Author: James O'Brien

Zachary Fucale

Canada tabs Fucale for WJC opener

Canada will roll with Zachary Fucale instead of Eric Comrie in net for its 2015 World Junior Championships opening game against Slovakia on Friday, TSN reports.

The logic seems simple enough: Fucale’s been through this before.

“We’re comfortable with both goalies, but we just think it was normal to start with the goalie who was there last year and give him a chance,” Canada coach Benoit Groulx said.

Fucale, 19, said that he doesn’t think “the guys in the room will care that much” regarding whether it will be him or Comrie, also 19, in net after today. (Groulx wouldn’t commit to a starter on Saturday just yet.)

The Montreal Canadiens selected Fucale in the second round (36th overall) of the 2013 NHL Draft. The Winnipeg Jets selected Comrie with the 59th choice of that same draft.

If this post’s main image of Fucale being surrounded by a horde of media doesn’t sell the point that these guys are under quite a bit of pressure, note NHL.com’s look at the seemingly struggling Canadian goaltending development system.

(For the record, Fred Brathwaite told the Canadian Press that such a issue was a “crock.”)

This tournament just takes on a different feel when it happens in Canada, so this could be a really fascinating situation to watch.

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    PHT Morning Skate: The year in gross

    burish
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    PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

    We’re getting heavy into 2014 lists season (PHT ran some great ones yesterday), but few will turn your stomach quite like Sportsnet’s 10 gross moments collection. The nasty Adam Burish finger shot that serves as this post’s main image is probably the most palatable of the bunch. You have been warned. (Sportsnet)

    Puck Daddy shared some pretty wild reader-submitted Christmas decorations. (Puck Daddy)

    A look at the assorted Christmas cards NHL teams have sent out through the years. (Greatest Hockey Legends)

    Nick Cotsonika explores the Colorado Avalanche’s struggles this season. (Yahoo)

    An update on the 2015 NHL All-Star Game voting. (NHL.com)

    A gift for every NHL team. (The Hockey News)

    The Washington Capitals might as well be a completely different team when they’re trailing and when they’re leading in games. (Japers Rink)

    PHT’s top 14 of ’14: Teemu Selanne retires

    Sochi Olympics Ice Hockey Men
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    Teemu Selanne’s age-defying talent inspired #TeemuForever, but the 2013-14 season was ultimately the last NHL campaign for “The Finnish Flash.”

    It wasn’t a picture-perfect ending, as Selanne bitterly sat out some Anaheim Ducks playoff games and finally stopped playing as if he was 10 years younger.

    Still, it’s quite likely the passage of time will soften some of those memories, and we’ll look back at his Olympic swan song as a fitting conclusion to a fantastic career. Selanne shined for Finland in the 2014 Winter Olympics, scoring two goals to help his country take home bronze by defeating the United States 5-0.

    “Twenty-six years ago I played my first game for the national team,” Selanne told USA Today. “I’ve been carrying this jersey with a lot of pride and love. Winning this game, I’m so happy.”

    It was an outstanding end to one of the great international runs. Finland chose Selanne to be its flag bearer during the closing ceremonies. He was named the MVP of the tournament. You couldn’t write an ending that was much better than the one Selanne lived out.

    Selanne, 43, still had his moments with the Ducks, too. One of the more memorable ones came when he became the third-oldest player to score a playoff goal in NHL history:

    It says a lot that Selanne was given a send-off by the Ducks’ local rivals, the Los Angeles Kings, after the two teams finished a seven-game playoff series.

    “It’s unbelievable, so much class and respect. That’s what this game is all about,” said Selanne during a post-game interview. “It has been a pleasure to be around for so many years.”

    Of course, Selanne also received a special goodbye from Ducks fans.

    The greatest Duck in franchise history decided to hang ’em up, but there are still moments to come. The team plans on retiring his No. 8 jersey on Jan. 11.

    PHT’s top 14 of ’14: Kings stage historic comeback vs. San Jose

    Los Angeles Kings v San Jose Sharks - Game Seven
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    It’s likely that a good chunk of the teams who have been down 0-3 in playoff series have put on brave faces.

    Still, hindsight has a way of making seemingly throwaway comments seem like much more. At the time, many probably rolled their eyes when Los Angeles Kings head coach Darryl Sutter said his team would not “go away quietly” against the San Jose Sharks after falling behind 0-3. With the Kings’ stunning “reverse sweep” and subsequent championship run in mind, Sutter looks more like a soothsayer.

    That’s not to say that the Kings were going into Game 4 with a ton of swagger.

    Captain Dustin Brown described that hole as “the most dire situation” the Kings had been in.

    Let’s look back at the four games the Kings ended up winning and some of the fallout:

    Game 4

    Tyler Toffoli, Marian Gaborik and Justin Williams helped Los Angeles win 6-3.

    Even early on, it seemed like the Kings were planting seeds that they might be able to overcome the deficit, as 3-0 leads were deemed a little less foreboding than they once were.

    Game 5

    The Kings “went into the cage” and forced Antti Niemi out of the Sharks’ net for a second consecutive game. Bitter San Jose fans will note that this was the game in which key defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic was injured. Los Angeles ended up winning 3-0.

    Dan Boyle wondered if the Sharks were taking their series lead for granted.

    Game 6

    Los Angeles became the ninth team to force a Game 7 after being down 3-0, an accomplishment in its own right. The Kings once again won decisively, taking this one 4-1. There was some nastiness in this one:

    There were plenty of negative reactions to the Sharks’ sudden slump.

    Game 7

    Once again, the Kings survived. Once again, the final score wasn’t particularly close, as Los Angeles beat San Jose 5-1 to become the fourth team in NHL history to erase a 3-0 deficit and win a playoff series. Incredibly, Jeff Carter and Mike Richards were on the Philadelphia Flyers team that accomplished such a feat against the Boston Bruins during the 2010 playoffs.

    Fallout

    Williams remarked that the Kings should not “do that again,” yet it seemed like they used that big-game experience to become serious survivors in elimination situations.

    Los Angeles ended up moving on and winning their second Stanley Cup, although not without remarking that they saw fear in the Sharks’ eyes during their comeback. To some extent, the Sharks are still dealing with the reverberations of that loss as the organization waffled on the subject of rebuilding, awkwardly stripped Joe Thornton of the captaincy and generally seemed to send mixed messages about how it would deal with that crushing defeat.

    While the Kings’ 0-3 story ended with the Stanley Cup hoisted in the air, it appears that there are still a few chapters remaining in San Jose’s version of the story.

    PHT’s top 14 of ’14: Oshie’s shootout mastery in Sochi

    Sochi Olympics Ice Hockey Men
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    At the time, it seemed like T.J. Oshie’s shootout heroics against Russia would be spoken about in hushed tones as a prelude to something bigger.

    Would it spur the U.S. on to greater heights? Could the loss wake up Russia on its way to winning gold?

    Nope.

    Few would have predicted how poorly things would go for the two proud countries after that thrilling finish. In a way, the Americans’ 3-2 preliminary-round win over the Russians was the unexpected high point for both as far men’s hockey went during the 2014 Winter Olympics.

    By the tournament’s end, the U.S. flopped against Finland to fall short of a bronze medal while Russia didn’t even sniff the podium to the shock of hometown fans.

    Looking back, all we have is that moment in which Oshie became something of a mainstream star … but oh, what a moment it was.

    source: AP
    Source: AP

    As Russia trotted out high-end stars such as Ilya Kovalchuk and Pavel Datsyuk, American head coach Dan Byslma tabbed Oshie over and over. Again and again. Simply put, Oshie’s simple-but-deadly shootout move was the best bet in Bylsma’s mind. Considering the results, it was pretty difficult to quibble with such a thought process.

    Oshie scored four shootout goals in that game. He received six total opportunities and five in a row. It was the kind of moment that just begged for “Miracle” references.

    Things really took off when he got the “meme” treatment, though.

    “It was very surreal,” Oshie told PHT days after that memorable run in the shootout. “I’m very humbled by it. It was a crazy night for me.”

    Ultimately, the U.S. fell well short of expectations. Considering their offensive struggles against elite teams (they didn’t score at even strength against Russia, Canada or Finland), there’s something uncomfortably fitting about the fact that the United States’ best moment came in a “skills competition.”

    That kind of nitpicking certainly wasn’t happening on the day Oshie became a household hockey name, though.

    More on that great moment:

    Oshie called it “very surreal”

    He was humble about it

    Reactions on Twitter

    Why Bylsma kept going back to Oshie