Mike Halford

You've heard the expression "let's get busy?" Well, Mike Halford is a blogger who gets "biz-zay!" Consistently and thoroughly.
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Marner becomes third Leaf to win rookie of the month

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What a year for freshmen in Toronto.

On Wednesday, the NHL announced Leafs forward Mitch Marner as January’s rookie of the month, putting him alongside teammates William Nylander (October) and Auston Matthews (December) as winners this season.

The only non-Leaf to capture rookie of the month honors this year? Columbus’ Zach Werenski, who did it in November.

More on Marner, who led all rookies with 11 assists and 15 points in 13 games last month:

Marner edged Carolina Hurricanes right wing Sebastian Aho (8-2—10 in 13 GP), Detroit Red Wings right wing Anthony Mantha (4-6—10 in 14 GP) and Winnipeg Jets right wing Patrik Laine (4-6—10 in 6 GP) for the honor.

Marner, who also paced all rookies with eight power-play points (0-8—8), registered at least one point in nine of his 13 January appearances, highlighted by five multi-point efforts. That included three assists/points Jan. 7 vs. MTL, matching career highs in both categories.

The fourth overall selection in the 2015 NHL Draft, Marner ranks in the top five among rookies in assists (1st; 29), points (2nd; 41) and goals (t-4th; 12) in 48 games this season. The 19-year-old Markham, Ont., native also places among the rookie leaders in power-play assists (t-1st; 13), game-winning goals (t-2nd; 4), shots on goal (t-2nd; 122) and power-play points (3rd; 14).

Marner’s win was also a historic one for the Leafs. With it, the franchise became the first in NHL history to have three rookie of the month winners in the same season.

Habs waive Barberio, who could be a useful pickup

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Montreal continued to re-jig its blueline on Wednesday, placing Mark Barberio on waivers.

Barberio, 26, is in the first of a two-year deal that pays $750,000 annually. He’s split this season between the Habs and their minor-league affiliate in St. John’s, and was picked to represent the IceCaps at the AHL All-Star Game.

At the NHL level, Barberio’s appeared in 26 games this year, notching four assists while posting pretty solid possession metrics. He’s also averaging just over 15 minutes per night.

Given he’s relatively inexpensive and has pretty good experience for a 26-year-old — over 150 career games with Tampa Bay and Montreal — it’s possible he could get scooped up by a team looking for depth on the back end.

Of course, the Habs also recently placed another relatively young, relatively experienced d-man on waivers in Zach Redmond. Redmond, a 28-year-old with 130 games on his resume, cleared Monday and was dispatched to the minors.

The waiving of Barberio and Redmond came after Montreal acquired d-man Nikita Nesterov from Tampa Bay, and learned of Andrei Markov‘s return to health.

 

No hearing scheduled for Marchand after Stralman trip

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Brad Marchand isn’t set to face a disciplinary hearing for his trip on Bolts d-man Anton Stralman last night, an NHL spokesman has confirmed.

Earlier, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported he was “hearing” no supplemental discipline for Marchand, who last week was fined $10,000 for a “dangerous trip” on Detroit’s Niklas Kronwall.

The latest incident occurred late in the second period of Tuesday’s game, when Marchand swept Stralman’s left skate out from under him. No penalty was called, though Stralman contended perhaps there should’ve been.

“I can’t say if he did anything or not, but I’m not the puck holder,” Stralman explained, per the Tampa Bay Times. I’m out in the neutral zone, and I get hit from behind. That’s all I got to say.”

Per Sportsnet, the Department of Player Safety disagreed with Stralman’s assessment. The DoPS suggested Marchand was going towards the puck, and didn’t clip the Bolts d-man intentionally.

While he may have avoided further discipline here, it’s safe to suggest Marchand is firmly on the league’s radar at the moment. The Kronwall incident marked the eighth time Marchand has been fined or suspended since the start of the 2011-12 season.

If the league was to reverse course and opt to schedule a hearing, it would (theoretically) have to do it soon. The B’s are back in action tonight, when they take on the Caps in Washington.

Related: ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ Marchand knows he’s never going to be liked

Gretzky’s coaching return a success, as Metro wins $1M All-Star prize

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LOS ANGELES — For all the accolades Wayne Gretzky received this weekend as part of the NHL100 gala event, little was made of his ill-fated career as a head coach.

Which made sense, really. Gretzky’s success as a player far outweighed his accomplishments in four years behind the bench.

But, fittingly, the Great One set about changing that narrative on Sunday — filling in for absent head coach John Tortorella, Gretzky led the Metropolitan Division to victory at the 2017 NHL All-Star Game, as the Metro defeated the Pacific 4-3 in the finale at Staples.

With the win, Gretzky’s squad — captained by the reigning NHL MVP, Sidney Crosby — captured the $1 million grand prize.

Though it’s a stretch to say he “led” the team to victory, Gretzky did play a fairly integral role in the deciding the outcome. His coach’s challenge of what appeared to be a good Pacific Division goal proved successful, as it was overturned due to a missed offside.

“Helped us win, right? That was the play,” All-Star Game MVP Wayne Simmonds said afterward. “That was the game changer. That was the decision. Obviously he’s got a great hockey mind.

“He pulls that card, it’s offside, and come back, we score two goals and we win the game, so obviously it was a great decision.”

The official ruling, from the NHL:

At 3:24 of the second period in the final of the NHL All-Star Game, the Situation Room initiated a review under the terms of Coach’s Challenge to determine whether the Pacific Division was off-side prior to their goal.

After reviewing all available replays and consulting with the Linesman, NHL Hockey Operations staff determined that Connor McDavid was off-side prior to the goal. According to Rule 78.7, “The standard for overturning the call in the event of a ‘GOAL’ call on the ice is that the Toronto Video Room, after reviewing any and all available replays and consulting with the Linesman, determines that one or more Players on the attacking team preceded the puck into the attacking zone prior to the goal being scored and that, as a result, the play should have been stopped for an “Off-side” infraction; where this standard is met, the goal will be disallowed.”

Therefore the original call is overturned – no goal Pacific Division.

With that goal taken off the board, the Metro responded by netting a pair of second-period markers. The first came courtesy Columbus forward Cam Atkinson — who, like Gretzky, was participating in the game as a replacement (for the injured Evgeni Malkin) — and the second, the eventual game-winner, was scored by Philly winger Wayne Simmonds.

It was Simmonds’ third goal of the tournament, which netted him MVP honors. Blueliners Seth Jones and Justin Faulk also scored for the Metro.

For the Pacific, Johnny Gaudreau and Bo Horvat continued to click in their second game of the tourney, especially on a late first-period goal that gave their squad a 3-2 lead. Gaudreau and Horvat combined for eight points over the two games, and looked consistently dangerous playing together at 3-on-3.

In the end, though, Kings fans received an amusing finish — the guy that put hockey on the map in L.A., once again making his presence felt.

It’s Crosby versus McDavid in the All-Star Game final

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LOS ANGELES — The two players widely considered to be the league’s best will go head-to-head in the final of the 2017 NHL All-Star Game.

The Metropolitan Division, captained by Sidney Crosby, advanced to Sunday’s finale with a 10-6 win over the Atlantic — setting the stage for this afternoon’s game against the Connor McDavid-led Pacific.

The two sides will do battle for bragging rights.

Oh, and the $1 million grand prize.

The ‘Crosby vs. McDavid’ debate has been front and center this weekend, as the NHL unveiled its list of the 100 greatest players. Crosby was part of that group, and it’s widely expected McDavid will be by the time his career is finished.

In their Friday night press conference, both Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky agreed that Crosby was currently the NHL’s top player.

Gretzky, though, suggested that McDavid was closing in on No. 87.

“He’s the best player in the game,” Gretzky said of Crosby. “He’s earned that mantle, and his work ethic is as good or better than anybody in hockey. We encourage, and I know Bobby [Orr] is very close to Connor, that that’s the guy that he’s chasing, and Connor sees him in his vision, and that’s what makes the game wonderful is that you want to be as good as the best player.

“Right now Crosby is the best player, and you have to earn your stripes.”