Tag: Florida Panthers

Steve Yzerman

Tire pump? Yzerman says Toews is ‘bigger, stronger, better’ than he was


TAMPA — In 2011, Roberto Luongo and Tim Thomas brought tire pumping to the forefront at the Stanley Cup Final.

Four years later, the practice may be back in vogue.

During Tuesday’s media availability, Lightning GM Steve Yzerman was effusive in his praise for Chicago captain Jonathan Toews, claiming Toews is the superior player of the two.

“The reality is Jonathan’s bigger, stronger, better,” Yzerman said. “He just is. He’s just a tremendous all-around player, great person.

“Over the course of my career my play evolved and through Scotty Bowman. The way he wanted our team to play, we all became more defensive-minded players, more well-rounded players. Jonathan’s been that from day one.”

The Yzerman-Toews comparisons are nothing new (Chris Chelios noted it a while back): No. 19s, Canadians, centers, top-five draft picks (Yzerman fourth overall, Toews third) with each having won Stanley Cups, Olympic gold medals, Selke and Conn Smythe awards.

Yzerman’s point, however, is interesting. The knock on him prior winning the Cup in ’97 was that he didn’t have the complete game necessary to lead the Red Wings to a championship; Yzerman broke into the NHL as an offensive player, a scorer by trade, and his early point totals (155 points in 1988-89, remember) reflected as much.

Toews, meanwhile, isn’t the same offensive dynamo — he’s never broke the 80-point plateau — but attained playoff success far quicker than Stevie Y. Toews was a captain before he turned 21 and Stanley Cup winner before he was 23, whereas Yzerman didn’t hoist Lord Stanley’s Mug until he was 32.

That said… it’s Steve freaking Yzerman.

A first-ballot Hall of Famer and three-time Cup winner, Yzerman is now regarded as one of the greatest leaders in NHL history. He was the longest-serving captain of any team in North American major league sports upon retiring, and is an icon in Detroit. That reputation of winning has extended to his front office work, where he’s led Tampa Bay to an Eastern Conference and Stanley Cup Final in just five years on the job.

And this could be why he said what he did today.

Yzerman’s a shrewd guy, and knows how to work the media. The quiet, humble, aw-shucks-he’s-better-than-me routine fits into the narrative that many have written already, where the Bolts are the young, inexperienced, new kids on the block, underdogs against a Chicago team that’s been here before, done this before and is now looking to win a third Cup in the last five years.

To wit, I asked veteran Tampa forward Brenden Morrow — at 36, one of the few guys in this series to play against both Yzerman and Toews — what he thought of his GM’s remarks.

“They’re both competitors, but that’s just Steve being Steve,” Morrow said, smiling. “He’s a very modest and humble guy.

“He was a pretty special player.”

Panthers leading goalscorer Bjugstad (back surgery) ‘feeling 100 percent’


For the most part, this was a tremendous year for Nick Bjugstad, who scored a career-high 24 goals and inked a six-year, $24.6 million extension.

The only downer was the way it ended.

In late March, Bjugstad underwent season-ending back surgery, a procedure that kept him out of Florida’s playoff push and from representing Team USA at the World Hockey Championships.

Thankfully for Bjugstad and the Panthers, recovery is going well.

“Basically, I’m feeling 100 percent,” Bjugstad said this week, per the Panthers website. “I don’t feel any tingling or soreness in my back. They just have to remind me all the time that you can’t rush it, you can’t overdo it right now.

“Just trying to get back into shape which is nice. I feel like I could play a game right now, but obviously they’re not letting me get to that extent.”

The club’s first-round pick (19th overall) at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, Bjugstad has been rock solid for the Panthers sign becoming a regular last season, in what was his rookie campaign; the University of Minnesota product led the Panthers in points, with 38, and finished 13th in Calder voting.

This year, Bjugstad proved a quality scorer at even strength — his 17 goals put him on par with the likes of Ryan Johansen, Jeff Carter and Phil Kessel — and averaged a career-high 16:35 TOI under new head coach Gerard Gallant, while gaining invaluable experience from playing alongside veterans like captain Willie Mitchell and future Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr, who joined the team at the trade deadline.

“Obviously a big help from the older guys, the team was a whole different dynamic, as far as leadership,” Bjugstad explained. “Who we had playing, we had a lot of winners, Stanley Cup winners on the team. It changed the whole morale and attitude of the team.

“It was good learning a lot from those older guys, they’re all really good with the younger guys. It did nothing but help me this year.”

All eyes on Lundqvist


According to Rangers coach Alain Vigneault, Henrik Lundqvist “would be the first to say that six goals against is very uncharacteristic.”

So how uncharacteristic would it be if that happened two games in a row?

That’s why all eyes will be on Lundqvist tonight in Tampa Bay, as the Rangers try to even the Eastern Conference Final at two games apiece.

Vigneault was even asked if Lundqvist would, indeed, be his starter.

The coach laughed.

Of course The King would be the starter.

“Hank is very accountable and very demanding on himself,” said Vigneault. “He is going to do what any good goaltender does. He is going to put [Wednesday’s] game behind him.”

The thing about being one of the best goalies in the world is that you end up playing in a lot of big games, with everyone watching. Lundqvist leads all active goalies with 107 playoff appearances, most of which he’s played very well in.

But you play enough big games, you’re going to have some stinkers. Marc-Andre Fleury has appeared in the second-most playoff games among active netminders, followed by Jonathan Quick, Corey Crawford and Roberto Luongo.

All five have been at least as far as the Stanley Cup Final, if not won it. But each has also had a few nightmares under the spotlight.

“Sometimes stuff happens,” Vigneault said after Game 3, when asked about the long-range shot that beat his franchise goalie in overtime.

Lundqvist still has a .926 save percentage in these playoffs. He could still end up winning the Conn Smythe Trophy.

But the Rangers know the size of tonight’s game.

“It’s absolutely a huge game, you know,” said captain Ryan McDonagh. “Being tied 2-2, going back to MSG or being down 3-1 is quite a hole.”

So they’ll need The King to play like one.

Sharks sign Finnish scorer Donskoi

Finland v Russia - 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship

The San Jose Sharks have agreed to terms with Finnish forward Joonas Donskoi, per Sports Consulting Group agent Scott Bartlett.

It’s a two-year pact, with Finnish news outlet Ilta-Sanomat reporting an average annual value of $925,000.

Donskoi, 23, is coming off a banner 2014-15 campaign in which he scored 49 points in 58 games for SM-liiga club Karpat, then captured the Jari Kurri Trophy as playoff MVP.

A former Florida draftee (99th overall, 2010), Donskoi followed up his successful season with Karpat by scoring eight points in eight games for Finland at the World Hockey Championships. Donskoi finished third on the team in scoring, three back of Florida’s Jussi Jokinen.

This is the second young veteran San Jose has scooped out of Europe in as many years. Last summer, the club did very well in getting Swedish forward Melker Karlsson out of SHL club side Skelleftea; Karlsson went on to have a solid freshman campaign for the Sharks, scoring 13 goals and 24 points in 53 games.

Hasek says NHL should ‘embrace’ Olympics

Dominik Hasek

As the NHL, NHLPA and IIHF look to work out a deal, which would see NHL players participate in the 2018 Olympics, one former NHLer believes the league should send its players.

Dominik Hasek, who was inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame on the weekend, says the NHL should “embrace” the idea of going to PyeongChang, South Korea.

“To win it all for your country is to win for everyone and everything that is at the heart of who you are,” said Hasek. “To bring back the gold medal from Nagano was indescribable. I encourage the NHL to embrace it and give players like Jaromir Jagr one more shot at a party in the Old Town Square.”

There is currently no deal in place between the IIHF, NHL and NHLPA for players to participate at the 2018 Olympics.

Hasek participated in four Olympic games winning gold at Nagano in 1998.