Jason Brough

Remembering the last (and only) time no Canadian team made the NHL playoffs


Only once in NHL history has no Canadian team participated in the playoffs.

That was the 1969-70 season, when both the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs missed. The league had just two Canadian teams back then. It only had 12 teams overall, having recently expanded beyond the Original Six.

It actually came down to the final game for the Habs. All they had to do was score five goals against Chicago and they’d win the tie-breaker with the Rangers. It didn’t matter if they lost. Just score five goals and they were in.

Predictably, things got a little wacky, as the New York Times recounted with the help of former Rangers star Vic Hadfield:

Sure enough, the Canadiens fell behind by 5-2 early in the third period. They needed three more goals. So they put goalie Rogie Vachon on the bench for the extra man — and proceeded to surrender five empty-netters without adding to their total. Montreal lost, 10-2, and missed the playoffs for the only time from the 1948-49 season to the 1994-95 season.

Hadfield remembered the evening, saying: “Emile Francis was able to bring in Tim Horton to strengthen our blue line. Timmy and myself, we took our wives after the matinee game to the Copacabana to see Tom Jones. We were going in and out of the Copacabana to find out who was winning and what the score was” in Chicago.

There is so much to like about that second paragraph.

Anyway, we only mention this because if the Montreal Canadiens of 2015-16 don’t find a way to turn things around, there’s a very real chance that no Canadian team will be in the playoffs this spring.

Currently, the Habs are the only Canadian team in a playoff position, and they’re barely hanging on to that spot:


Slumping Wild hitting ‘tough’ part of schedule

Nashville Predators defenseman Roman Josi, of Switzerland, bottom right, scores a goal against Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk (40) as Predators' Mike Ribeiro (63) and Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon (46) watch the puck during the third period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. The Predators won 3-0. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)

The Minnesota Wild have hit a bit of a rough patch.


Yes, this is something the Wild do from time to time. The last time was in November, when they went 1-4-2 over a seven-game stretch and Ryan Suter said some things he later regretted.

The Wild also had a monster slump last season, during which coach Mike Yeo had a monster tantrum.

Their latest slump has seen them lose four straight in regulation, including their last two via shutout. Possession-wise, they haven’t been very good in their last 10 games. They’re 2-5-2 in January.

“No matter how much it frustrates you and how much you’re not happy with it, it happens to everybody,” Wild GM Chuck Fletcher told the Star Tribune. “So you battle through. For us it tends to happen when we get tired and run down, and unfortunately we’re going through a tough part of the schedule.”

Indeed they are. Minnesota’s next three games are on the road in Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Jose, against three Pacific Division teams that are playing some pretty good hockey lately. After that, they return home to play Arizona, before leaving on another tough three-game trip, this one at the Islanders, Rangers, and Blues. And when they get home from that, Dallas, Washington, and Boston pay visits.

The good news is that, in the past, the Wild have emerged from these slumps.

But they’d better start emerging soon, because their playoff cushion is down to four points.

‘The Goal’ by Ovechkin still resonates 10 years later

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ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) Watching from the Glendale Arena press box, George McPhee saw his young star’s every move. He watched as Alex Ovechkin got tangled up with Phoenix Coyotes defenseman Paul Mara, fell to the ice and shot the puck into the net from a near-impossible angle on his back.

McPhee, then the Washington Capitals’ general manager, said to himself: “This is going to resonate.”

It did. The highlight-reel goal on Jan. 16, 2006, exemplified the 20-year-old Ovechkin’s absurd ability.

“You could really feel the announcement of the superstar,” Capitals teammate Brooks Laich said. “That moment, it was against Wayne Gretzky’s team, who was the best player the game had ever seen, and all of a sudden, a young guy that was really, really good, makes a play that really announces his superstardom like, `I’m here and I’m the next generation of the league.’ You could feel it in the building as clear as day.”

Ten years later, “The Goal” still resonates.

Among the 500-plus Ovechkin has scored in his career, many have been more significant, but the acrobatic goal on Jan. 16, 2006 remains his most spectacular.

At the time, Ovechkin called it the best goal he ever scored – and he still believes that.

“Obviously lucky, but I’ll take it,” Ovechkin said. “For that moment, it was unbelievable time. My dream was come true: I play in the NHL, I did that kind of special goal and Gretzky was there, as well.”

The “Great One” witnessing Ovechkin’s goal in his first season as Coyotes coach is part of its lore.

“As he’s skating to the bench, Gretzky was coaching and right on the bench said, `Good goal,”‘ former Capitals coach Glen Hanlon said. “Even their players commented on it.”

After the game, a 6-1 Washington victory, Gretzky said the goal was “pretty sweet.” High praise from the NHL’s all-time goals leader who scored 894 of them.

“He’s a phenomenal player, and he’s been a tremendous influence in the game,” Gretzky said. “It’s great to see because he is that good.”

Even though Washington didn’t win many games that season on the way to another last-place finish, teammates knew Ovechkin was special. The goal just validated their beliefs.

It was 5-1 when Ovechkin streaked down the ice looking for his second goal of the game and 32nd of the season. Coyotes goaltender Brian Boucher prepared for Ovechkin to shoot off the rush and instead watched helplessly as he one-handed the puck in.

“I was like, `That’s ridiculous,”‘ Boucher said. “I was mad, and I’m looking at it and I’m like: `That’s ridiculous. How does a guy do that?’ Maybe (fans) didn’t even realize in real time how amazing that goal was. But I know that once they showed the replay, the crowd went like, `Woah.”‘

Laich remembers the arena going silent in stunned amazement. Jeff Halpern, the Capitals’ captain in 2005-06, was out with a knee injury watched as former NHL goalie Darren Pang went over the replay repeatedly in the Coyotes’ broadcast booth.

“Like everybody else, they couldn’t figure out how he scored and what even just happened,” Halpern said. “To hear Panger get excited by it every time he watched it and trying to figure it out, that was pretty neat.”

Everyone, Ovechkin included, needed to watch the replay to appreciate it. Laich described Ovechkin as “tumbleweed and dust – and all of a sudden the puck was in the net” and Hanlon could only muster, “Holy mackerel.”

“He never gave up on that,” McPhee said. “That’s why he’s a great goal-scorer: He just has a phenomenal shot, but it’s the desire to score. He’s always been so hungry to score.”

Ovechkin finished with 54 goals in his first NHL season and beat out Sidney Crosby for the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year. While Crosby was considered a generational talent, “The Goal” against the Coyotes likely turned the tide in that rookie of the year race.

In the decade since, Ovechkin has joined the 500-goal club and won three Hart Trophies as NHL MVP. And on every NHL highlight reel about amazing feats or recapping his career, there is Ovechkin, on his back, scoring the goal that announced his arrival as a star. And the goalie who gave it up, doesn’t mind all the reruns.

“Whenever you see highlight shows, ‘Most famous goals’ or whatever, it always seems to crack the top 10,” Boucher said. “Even though I’m on the bad end of it, it’s always pretty cool to see it.”

Goalie nods: Lehner makes long-awaited return to Sabres’ crease

Matt Puempel, Alex Chiasson, Robin Lehner

Approximately three months after he was knocked out of his Buffalo Sabres debut, Robin Lehner will finally be in goal again.

Lehner — who suffered a high-ankle sprain all the way back on Oct. 8 — will be Buffalo’s starter at home versus Boston tonight.

It hasn’t been an easy rehab for the 24-year-old netminder.

“He spent a lot of time in the gym the best way he could but not being on his feet,” Sabres coach Dan Bylmsa told The Buffalo News. “It’s really been a process like training camp, getting back on his feet — seven full practices and he used the conditioning stint in Rochester to get some game time in the net. Three games, much like you would in preseason. We’re almost starting at the beginning of the season for Robin when he gets in net tonight.”

Lehner, who came to Buffalo through an offseason trade with Ottawa, cost the Sabres a first-round pick, which the Senators used to select Boston College star forward Colin White.

Jonas Gustavsson is expected to start for the Bruins.


Marc-Andre Fleury for the Penguins in Tampa, where the Lightning will start Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Jacob Markstrom for the Canucks in Carolina, where the Hurricanes will likely go with Cam Ward after Eddie Lack played last night in St. Louis.

— No official word on a Blackhawks starter in Toronto. Corey Crawford faced 40 shots last night in Montreal, so it may be Scott Darling‘s turn to keep Chicago’s winning streak alive. James Reimer will start for the Maple Leafs.

— No official word on a Jets starter in Minnesota. Connor Hellebuyck played last night versus Nashville, so it’s possible Michael Hutchinson could be in there. Devan Dubnyk will start for the Wild.

Kari Lehtonen is likely for the Stars in Anaheim, where Frederik Andersen is likely for the Ducks.

All-Star John Scott traded to Montreal

during the NHL game at Gila River Arena on November 12, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona.

It’s not everyday an All-Star is traded in the NHL.

But that’s exactly what happened today, when the Arizona Coyotes sent big John Scott to the Montreal Canadiens as part of a three-team deal that also involved the Nashville Predators.

The Canadiens, in addition to getting Scott, received 27-year-old defenseman Victor Bartley.

The Coyotes got 23-year-old defenseman Jarred Tinordi, plus minor-league forward Stefan Fournier.

The Predators got 24-year-old defenseman Stefan Elliott.

Obviously, Scott is the most recognizable name in the transaction. We all know he was voted an All-Star Game captain by the fans. We all know why that was done. The fans thought it would be funny. Because John Scott.

It’s not clear if Scott will still participate in the All-Star Game. He’s not a Coyote anymore, and he’s not in the Pacific Division.

But from a pure hockey perspective, this deal is more about the other players. Elliott cleared waivers prior to the trade today and was assigned to the AHL. The Habs had been reluctant to expose Tinordi to waivers, lest they lose him for nothing. He’s only appeared in three games for Montreal this season, plus a conditioning stint in the minors.

The hope for the Coyotes will be that Tinordi can develop into the kind of player the Habs thought he would when they drafted him 22nd overall in 2010.

Elliott was a second-round pick in 2009 who had 40 points in 64 games last season for AHL Lake Erie. The Coyotes acquired him this summer from Colorado in exchange for Brandon Gormley.

Bartley was in the AHL when the trade went down, a victim of the Predators’ deep defense. Both him and Scott are expected to start with Montreal’s minor-league affiliate in St. John’s.

Update: Bartley has actually been recalled by the Habs:

Also, don’t count on Scott playing in the All-Star Game:

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