PHT at Wachovia: My first day in the media

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Everyone has a first time. First step. First day at school. First day
at college, away from the parents. First sip of a brewski. First..well,
you know.

Yesterday was my first day as a member of the
credentialed media.

Despite what they might say, most members of
the hockey media were one-time hockey fans just like you and me.
Covering the sport from the vantage point of the media means entering a
world you never thought you would have had the chance to. Despite
outwardly being as calm, professional and as even-keeled as possible
it’s still amazing to think you have access to speak with players you’ve
been watching, playing the sport you’ve devoted so much time to.

I
had the opportunity to attend yesterday’s game between the Philadelphia
Flyers and the Detroit Red Wings as part of NBC’s Game of the Week
coverage. It was a two-part trip; for one, I had the chance to meet with
and visit with the NBC production crew with whom Pro Hockey Talk has
been working so closely with each week. I also had the chance to cover
the game for PHT from the press box and the locker room, getting some
inside access to a big game with major playoff implications.

First
off, I want to point something out. I know that the NBC broadcast
catches a fair amount of flak from hockey fans, but I can tell you that
this is a group of people that truly care about putting the best product
they can on your screen. It’s not easy to cater to the hardcore hockey
fan while trying to present the game to the casual viewer as well.

Of
everything that happened yesterday, getting to meet Doc Emrick was
easily the highlight. The man has command of the room, despite how
low-key he is. Everyone around him has tremendous respect for the man
and it was easy to see why: he treats everyone exactly the same. He
knows everyone’s name and he acknowledges every person he comes across.
Truly and honor and a delight to meet the man.

The other part of
the trip was covering the game from the press box. For every fan that
may be jealous of the media getting to see every game, know that they
aren’t seeing the game from the best viewing angle. We were pretty much
looking straight down on the ice from the highest spot in the arena; I
couldn’t see the ice unless I put my laptop screen down and leaned
forward. Not complaining, far from it. Just saying.

Aside from the
free popcorn and coffee, not much else to share about the press box.
Some observational notes: the Red Wings scouts sitting behind me were
very vocal, and it made watching the game that much more interesting.
They were outwardly critical of anything happening on the ice; very
entertaining. It was also great to get to see a number of long-time
media members in person, after following their work for so long.

After
the game, came the part of the day I was dreading: the locker room.
I’ve covered a number of NHL events before, but never a game, and was
unsure exactly what the eitiquette was for approaching players in the
locker room after the game. Obviously, they’re tired, sweaty and just
want to take a shower and go home but we also want to get some nice
quotes from them. That’s just how it works. And post-game generally
isn’t the best time to get good stuff from players, unless you’re just
looking for some stuff about the game that was just played. Or if you’re
talking to R.J. Umberger, I hear he’s great for post-game quotes.

I
needn’t worry, however. With a such a big game being played, in Philly
no less, there was a large contingent of media present. When I got down
to the locker room, there was already sizable crowds around Dan Carcillo
and Chris Pronger. So I just joined them. What I found funny was that
as soon as Pronger started talking, after Carcillo had talked for a bit,
he was instantly deserted for the defensemen. It was just a mass exodus
from one side of the locker room to the other.

I couldn’t get close.

Pronger.jpg

Everyone is
crowding around Pronger, while Brian Boucher quietly takes his pads off
right next to them. No one even approaches him.

When everyone left
Carcillo’s locker, I stuck around to see if I could get some extra
one-on-one stuff. He was very talkative, and I was able to get some
great quotes from him about what was going on during the scrum he was
having with Tomas Holmstrom. I headed back up to the press box to type
up the quotes for the recap, only to find out that my recorder didn’t
record anything. Not a sound, not even static. The file was there, when I
was recording the red light was one, I could see the time ticking
away…just no sound. That’s what I get for using a brand new recorder, I
guess.

I took notes, but the last thing I wanted on my first day
with credentials was to get accused of mis-quoting a player. So I used
what I had, and was unable to use what I wanted.

To finish, here
are a couple of lessons I learned yesterday:

-If you dress nicely,
you will not be mistaken to be a member of the media. Nope. In fact,
you will constantly be asked if you are the PR director for the Flyers.

-Ever
been the brand new kid at high school, starting at a brand new school
in the middle of the semester? Everyone knows everyone, everyone knows
where to go and you don’t know jack. I’ve been there when I was 16, and I
was right back there again yesterday.

-If you get lost, ask
someone. They’re helpful.

-Carcillo is nowhere near as big as I
thought he was.

-Never, ever bring a brand new recorder to the
biggest day of your life.

-If you dress nice, act professionally
and keep to yourself…players, PR and the team will treat you just
fine.

The Buzzer: Crawford comes up big for Blackhawks

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Three stars

1. Esa Lindell, Dallas Stars

Lindell scored his second and third goals of the season on Sunday, with the latter being the game-winner as the Stars demolished the New York Islanders 6-2.

This spot could have easily gone to either Alexander Radulov, Tyler Seguin or Jamie Benn, each who came away with three-point nights in the win. Dallas has won two straight and are 6-2-2 in their past 10 games.

Gotta love on the defensemen sometimes though.

2. Corey Crawford, Chicago Blackhawks

Crawford was struggling pretty bad prior to this past week after losing five straight. Since then, Crawford is 2-0-1 and has allowed just two goals in those three games.

Crawford’s recent surge was highlighted on Sunday after he stopped 39 shots on Sunday en route to a 3-1 Blackhawks win against the Minnesota Wild. The Hawks are just 2-5-3 in their past 10, so a better Crawford could go a long way as they try to position themselves in a tough Central Division.

3. Jonathan Marchessault, Vegas Golden Knights. 

It looks like every game in the Pacific Division is going to have deeper meaning this year with how poor those teams can be at times.

Marchessault, with two goals and an assist, ensured that Vegas got back to winning ways with a three-point night in a 6-3 win against the Edmonton Oilers. Marchessault was riding a three-game pointless streak coming into Sunday.

Other notable performances: 

  • Nathan MacKinnon had two goals and an assist and Mikko Rantanen padded his stats with two more apples and the game-winner on the power play in overtime. That line is just silly.
  • Three-point night in a losing effort for Ducks defenseman Brandon Montour.
  • Leon Draisaitl had a goal and an assist in a losing cause himself.
  • Curtis McElhinney steered aside 33 shots to help the Hurricanes to a 2-1 win.

Highlights of the night

Tremendous:

Slick feed:

Factoids

Scores

Stars 6, Islanders 2

Hurricanes 2, Devils 1

Blackhawks 3, Wild 1

Avalanche 4, Ducks 3 (OT)

Golden Knights 6, Oilers 3


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

The Buzzer: Jarnkrok, Atkinson post hat tricks; Karlsson gets first for Sharks

Associated Press
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Three stars

1. Cam Atkinson, Columbus Blue Jackets

Three goals for the hat trick and an assist to cap off a four-point night for Atkinson in a 4-1 win for the Blue Jackets against the Carolina Hurricanes. Not too shabby. Atkinson helped Columbus to its second-best start through 20 games in franchise history. The Blue Jackets have won three in a row and are sitting in the top spot in the Metropolitan Division.

Atkinson is rocking a four-game point streak now with six goals and nine points during that time. He’s currently on pace to eclipse the 40-goal mark, which would be a career-high. He had 35 two years ago.

Atkinson is now tied with Rick Nash for most hat tricks in franchise history at five.

2. Calle Jarnkrok, Nashville Predators

Jarnkork scored quite the hat trick himself on Saturday.

One of his goals came at even strength, another on the power play and one shorthanded. There should be a special name for that, like the hat-hat trick or something (terrible, right?) or maybe the three-phase hatty? I’m striking out.

Whatever ever way you slice it, it was no small feat. Since 2013-14, only seven players — including Jarnkrok — have done it. Not bad for your first hatty.

3. Aaron Dell, San Jose Sharks 

San Jose got a Dell on Saturday night, and it stopped 30 shots for his fourth career shutout in a 4-0 win against the St. L

Not a bad purchase.

Dell exacted a bit of revenge after he was between the pipes on Nov. 9 when the Sharks were blanked by the same Blues team 4-0 on Nov. 9.

Other notable performances:

  • The Edmonton Oilers and the Calgary Flames can both take a bow. What a game.
  • We almost need to create a ‘Mike Hoffman Streak Watch’ section or something like that. Regardless, the man pushed his point streak to 15 games on Saturday with a goal and an assist, extending the franchise record.
  • Carey Price is taking a beating in the media but he’s been solid over his past two games, including stopping 36-of-38 in a 3-2 win.
  • Henrik Lundqvist captured win No. 438 to pass Jacques Plante for seventh on the NHL’s all-time list.
  • Mark Stone had two goals in a 6-4 win for the Ottawa Senators over the slumping Pittsburgh Penguins.
  • Chris Kreider is a big reason why the New York Rangers are near the top of the Metropolitan Division. He had a three-point night, scoring and adding two assists.
  • Speaking of the Metropolitan, Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 30-of-31 and has now won in his past four appearances. His Blue Jackets are in first place.
  • The Buffalo Sabres are good. Rasmus Dahlin is also good and he had a goal and an assist to help the Buffalo Sabres to their fifth straight win.
  • Elias Pettersson scored again, so Vancouver can breathe again.
  • Erik Karlsson finally scored his first of the season in his 21st game, so San Jose can also stop holding its breath.
  • Jaroslav Halak continues to defy anyone and everyone’s expectations. He stopped 31 shots for his seventh win of the season. He’s got a .935 save percentage and a 2.07 goals-against average.

Highlights of the night

Erik Karlsson dropped his first goal with the San Jose Sharks. It was quite the rocket.

Jarnkrok’s hatty:

And Atkinson’s:

Factoids

Scores
Lightning 6, Flyers 5 (OT)
Red Wings 3, Devils 2 (OT)
Sabres 3, Wild 2
Canadiens 3, Canucks 2
Senators 6, Penguins 4
Rangers 4, Panthers 2
Blue Jackets 4, Hurricanes 1
Bruins 2, Coyotes 1
Predators 5, Kings 3
Flames 4, Oilers 2
Sharks 4, Blues 0


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Saturday’s Battle of Alberta was gloriously epic

Associated Press
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Hate.

At times on Saturday night at the Saddledome in Calgary, it seethed.

And it was glorious. Mightily, brilliantly, glorious.

Saturday night was alright for mayhem and the Battle of Alberta had it in droves.

A great game of hockey bookmarked massive hits, fights and hate. Did I mention hate?

The montage above was just first-period highlights.

Let’s recap:

  • The Leon Drasaitl hit on Matthew Tkachuk knocked the latter out of the game for a while
  • Nurse clearly threw another bomb after the linesmen go in between him Sam Bennett
  • Nurse was telling the linesman to let him and not in those exact words
  • Connor McDavid and Mikael Backlund wrestled

The hit that led to Nurse and Bennett scraping is here:

The hate resumed in the second period, because of course it did.

Milan Lucic was engaged in this game, a sight for sore eyes for Oilers fans.

Here’s a sample of that engagement:

Now, if Lucic can bottle that and take some sips before each game going forward…

Oilers Twitter seemed quite pleased with No. 27 during the game.

Calgary prevailed in the game, winning 4-2 after scoring four unanswered as the Oilers squandered a 2-0 lead.

Neither team started their struggling No. 1 netminders. David Rittich for Calgary was the better of the two backups in the game, stopping three breakaways in the game. Edmonton simply couldn’t douse the Flames, who kept it coming in the third frame when the Oilers started to fizzle out.

Bonus: For old times’ sake, here’s the scrap of all scraps in the Battle of Alberta:

John Tortorella would have been proud.

Let the hype begin for the next game in the famed series on Dec. 9 in Edmonton.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Soak it in: Buffalo Sabres are good

Associated Press
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Remember when the Buffalo Sabres were bad?

The answer is we all do. You don’t have to go that far back in the annals of hockey history to find some woefully bad Sabres teams.

But those days of Buffalo being the butt-end of jokes and all of that sort of thing seem to be over with. The western New Yorkers aren’t simply toiling as an embarrassing team anymore. It’s been a bit of a process to turn the ship around, but the fruits of that labor seem to be flourishing so far this season.

Case and point: Buffalo has now cobbled together five straight wins, including triumphs over the Tampa Bay Lightning — tops in the Atlantic Division — and the Winnipeg Jets and Minnesota Wild, teams sitting second and third in the Central Division, respectively.

They’ve embraced the grind, have learned to weather storms and are still standing at the end of it.

In Winnipeg on Friday, the Sabres were outshot 12-4 in the first period and survived. In Minnesota on Saturday, they were again pelted in the opening frame, doubled up 18-9 on the shot counter, and still found a way to only be down by a single goal.

And in both games, they battled back in the third, tied the game and then won it late in regulation or in extra hockey, as was the case in Winnipeg. And they did it on back-to-back nights when you’d have forgiven them for packing it in early against Minnesota after Friday’s game, which needed 65 minutes and seven rounds of a shootout.

Summer acquisitions of Jeff Skinner and Carter Hutton have played massive roles in Buffalo’s ascent up the standings a month-and-a-half into the season.

Skinner has 14 goals and 21 points in 20 games this season after coming over from the Carolina Hurricanes.

Hutton is 4-0-0 in his past four games with a 1.42 goals-against average and a .950 save percentage.

Linus Ullmark is 4-0-1 in his backup role and Buffalo had the 11th best team save percentage coming into Saturday. 

Their penalty kill is in the top 10

Jason Pominville has turned back the clock with nine goals and 17 points thus far. Thirty-five years old and the wear and tear of 1,000 games? Pfft. Pominville is laughing at Father Time. 

And most importantly, they’re resilient.

“I just think we bent a little bit but we didn’t break,” Sabres head coach Phil Housley said after Friday’s win in Winnipeg. “I think last year we maybe would have broke a little more and gave the game away. We hung in there. That’s what’s great about this group, that they stick with it. We make some adjustments in between periods and they follow through with those adjustments. But it’s great for them, they’ve shown the resiliency up to this point in the season.”

The Sabres are simply an exciting team to watch these days and they’re positioning themselves to be in the playoff hunt, both this year and in the future.

Imagine that.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck