Jason Brough

Benning: overtime record could cost Canucks a playoff spot

No team has left more points on the table than the Vancouver Canucks have this season.

And it’s not even close.

Not even a quarter of the way into the schedule, the Canucks have already blown five third-period leads.

They’ve also lost a whopping six times in three-on-three overtime.

“It could be a big part of defining our season,” Vancouver GM Jim Benning told The Province. “Because last year, in games that went to overtime and the shootout we were (12-5). That’s the difference between making the playoffs and not making the playoffs.”

One problem for the Canucks is that their two best forwards — Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin — are neither fast nor have particularly dangerous shots. The early evidence suggests that that’s not the greatest fit for three-on-three, and Benning conceded that coach Willie Desjardins should consider playing his younger, faster players more in overtime.

Vancouver’s seven-game road trip comes to an end tonight in Winnipeg. The Canucks went 1-3-2 in the first six games. They’re still in a playoff spot in the Pacific Division, but only barely now.

A tale of two seasons

Canucks when leading after two periods
2015-16: 5-1-4
2014-15: 30-1-3

Canucks in one-goal games
2015-16: 2-5-6
2014-15: 22-4-5

Carolina GM: ‘In five of our losses, we clearly were the better team’

Jakub Voracek, Cam Ward
2 Comments

Carolina GM Ron Francis believes his team deserves better than a 6-10-2 record.

“The frustrating thing for us is that in five of our losses we clearly were the better team but did not win,” Francis told the News & Observer. “That’s 10 points. That’s the difference of where we are in the standings and where we could be.

“I also know if ifs and buts were candy and nuts, we’d all have a Merry Christmas. This is an outcome-based industry and you have to win.”

We touched on the Hurricanes’ scoring issues last week. Statistically, they’ve been one of the best puck-possession teams in the NHL. Right up there with Los Angeles, Montreal, Chicago, and Washington.

But there’s more to hockey than simply possessing the puck. The key is actually doing something with the puck. (It’s sort of like that Seinfeld bit about rental-car companies. “You know how to take the reservation; you just don’t know how to hold the reservation.”)

Another key is goaltending, which Francis admits “needs to be better.” Neither Cam Ward nor Eddie Lack have been very good. In fact, Carolina is tied with Calgary for the lowest team save percentage (.880) in the NHL.

The ‘Canes host Toronto on Friday.

Video: Nash, Fiddler, Vanek star in Goals of the Week

That shot by Fiddler was ridiculous. Not sure that’s exactly where he was aiming, but hey, that’s where it went.

Report: Winning All-Star team could get a million bucks

10 Comments

The NHL has come up with a unique way to make the players try harder in the All-Star Game.

It’s going to bribe them.

From TSN’s Bob McKenzie, who has the details of the new 3-on-3 tournament format:

It’s believed there’ll be a significant sum on the line for the 11 members of the winning team, perhaps as much as (say it in your best Dr. Evil voice) one million dollars. That’s almost $100,000 per player on the winning team. Is that enough motivation to play at a brisk, entertaining pace for 40 minutes of 3-on-3?

Again, we’re going to find out, and that’s really the takeaway here: if this doesn’t work, nothing will.

Well, I’m not sure “nothing” would work. Didn’t Homer take Bart’s turtle hostage in The Simpsons’ hockey episode? (“Well, boy, you won. So I’m going to live up to my side of the agreement: Here’s your turtle, alive and well.”)

Do any NHLers have turtles? I feel like Brent Burns definitely has a turtle.

Anyway, I wrote yesterday that the biggest problem with last year’s game was the pace. Nobody wants to see the best hockey players in the world mess around for 60 minutes. After the first five or six goals, it gets kinda repetitive. And last year, there were 29 goals scored. That damn cannon in Columbus.

The NHL is expected to officially announce the format later today.

The All-Star Game is scheduled for Sunday, Jan. 31, in Nashville.

No suspension for Niederreiter; Maatta remains in hospital (Updated)

44 Comments

Wild forward Nino Niederreiter will not be suspended for shoving Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta into an open door on the Minnesota bench. The Star Tribune’s Michael Russo confirmed that this morning.

Despite the injury suffered by Maatta, the NHL likely agreed with Niederreiter that it was an “unfortunate” result that would not have occurred if the door had remained closed. (Update: Yep, that was the reasoning.)

“I pushed him and went for a change and I think he toe-picked the same time and the door was open,” Niederreiter said. “You never want to see anything like that. Obviously I feel bad.”

As for Maatta, here’s the latest on his condition, per the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta remains in an area hospital following a hit from Minnesota Wild forward Nino Niederreiter Tuesday night during the Penguins’ 4-3 win at Consol Energy Center, general manager Jim Rutherford said Wednesday morning.

Team physician Dr. Dharmesh Vyas is in the process of performing surgery on other patients, Rutherford said, and the Penguins hope to learn more about Maatta’s condition later today.

We’ll pass along more information when it becomes available.

Update from the Penguins:

Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta suffered an upper body injury in Tuesday’s game and spent the night in the hospital.

He remains in the hospital today for observation and will be re-examined later in the day.

The upper body injury is not related to previous injuries Maatta has suffered.

Another update:

And another one, from TSN’s Bob McKenzie:

Injured Pittsburgh Penguin defenceman Olli Maatta did not sustain any internal injuries, as was first feared when he was shoved through an open bench door by Minnesota’s Nino Niederreiter Tuesday night, but there’s enough soft tissue and muscle damage to his mid-section that he’s likely to be considered more week-to-week than day-to-day.

It’s still too early, though, to put a precise timeline on his absence from the Penguins’ lineup