It’s Halloween weekend and it’s time to dole out the tricks and treats on a Friday night in the NHL. Thankfully, hockey is the one sport where wearing a goalie mask isn’t indicative of being a camp-roaming serial killer. As always, all times are Eastern thanks to our raging Eastern bias.
Montreal @ NY Islanders
The Habs go rolling into Long Island on a three-game win streak and will get to have backup Alex Auld try to lead the way for them in goal. The Habs have been playing tough defensively of late and with timely goal scoring thanks to the likes of Andrei Kostitsyn and Jeff Halpern, they’ve done well. The Isles, meanwhile, have James Wisniewski leading the way for them, he of his 11 points this year. Of course, Wisniewski could be on the hunt for payback against Travis Moen who laid a questionable hit on him when these two met up the other night.
Carolina @ NY Rangers
With Derek Boogaard being questionable for the game, young Russian forward Evgeny Grachev will get his first shot of the season on the ice for the Rangers. Of course, Grachev is a scorer and not a face-pounder so don’t expect the same kind of action there. The Rangers will have to be a lot more consistent if they’re going to contain the Hurricanes. After losing in disappointing fashion to Atlanta, another Southeastern team looking to be a playoff contender comes to New York looking to show up the Blueshirts. The Canes aren’t scoring a lot, but they’re keeping teams off the board well. Hello, recipe for Rangers disaster.
Philadelphia @ Pittsburgh
Suffice to say, the Mike Comrie experiment isn’t going well for Pittsburgh. After already ending up as a healthy scratch once this year, Comrie is set to be on the fourth line tonight. That’s not good for Pittsburgh’s offense, but lately it’s the goaltending that’s gone under the microscope for the Pens. As for Philly, they’ll be looking to get Nikolay Zherdev going as he was counted on being a top six performer for them and as of now, he’s got just two goals. Instead, he too will be mired on the fourth line in the doghouse. Ouch.
Buffalo @ Atlanta
These two teams just met up in Atlanta last week with the Sabres coming out on top. Atlanta will look to change things up a bit as they come into the game coming off a nice win over the Rangers on Wednesday. The Thrashers will get defenseman Zach Bogosian back into the lineup tonight so that should help. Buffalo, meanwhile, would like to put their loss to Philly on Wednesday behind them. The Sabres will need to stiffen up the defense if they’re going to win as they’ve been rather miserable there sitting 24th in the league in goals allowed. After Ryan Miller carried them last year while the offense sputtered, the script has been flipped so far this season. Hockey is funny that way.
Edmonton @ Chicago
The Blackhawks start their stint without Marian Hossa having to deal with the Oilers who are coming off a bummer of a defeat in the shootout against Columbus last night. Taylor Hall will hope that breaking out of his goal funk last night will lead to breaking things open for him, but against Chicago that might be asking a lot as Marty Turco has been solid this season. The guy the Oilers will really need to be worried about is Patrick Sharp. Sharp so far has been an offensive revelation for Chicago and unafraid to both dish it off or shoot the puck.
New Jersey @ Anaheim
The Devils struggles this year have been discussed ad nauseum as have the Ducks’ defensive woes. Something has to break here, right? The Ducks have been a tough home team this year and the Devils have been banged up for most of the season with little flexibility to make changes. This almost reads like a depressing novel. Getting Ilya Kovalchuk going would be a huge help for the Devils and against the Ducks porous defense, all things are possible. Speaking of porous defense, the Devils are 28th in the NHL in goals against. Rolling with that while the offense is dead last in the league shows how badly the Devils are hurting.
Jaromir Jagr hits the ice with Kladno, eyes return this season
The owner of Rytiri Kladno of the Czech Republic’s WSM Liga hit the ice on Wednesday with his players and stated a goal of being ready to play games at some point in September.
That owner wasn’t a random rich person playing out a fantasy beer league dream, however. The No. 68 on the back of his helmet and the tied mullet would give away his identity to any fan since it was Jaromir Jagr.
“It’s not easy. I was glad I survived the first training, but I’ll do the best to make it better every day,” Jagr told reporters after practice (via iSport).
“I would be more happy if I was in the NHL now, but as a second option, this is the place I want to be,” he told the New York Times in April. “I got an opportunity and for whatever reason I didn’t play my best and I got injured.”
In his return to Kladno, Jagr played only five games as the Knights fell short of winning promotion to the Czech first division for the first time since the 2013-14 season.
Despite battling through the knee injury, Jagr wasn’t ready to retire. He’s stated he wants to play beyond the age of 50 and that was looking like a decent bet after two years with the Florida Panthers where he played 79 and 82 games, respectively. Only time will tell if last season was reality at age 46 or an aberration for the legendary fitness freak.
Kladno has a 10-game preseason schedule which begins July 31 before the regular season opens up on Sept. 8. Jagr said his goal is to be ready for the season opener.
“I believe that before the season begins I can prepare enough to be able to play the whole game. That’s at least in my plan,”he said.
Jagr, who made his NHL debut during the 1990-91 season, noted that at the moment he does have some restrictions when it comes to training, but added, “I believe that when the leg and the whole body strengthens with more frequent workouts and those outside the ice, it will only improve.”
It’s been a busy summer for Subban, but that’s just how the Nashville Predators defenseman likes it.
“I just do my thing. I don’t really know what a low-key off-season. I just do my own thing,” he told Pro Hockey Talk recently. “I don’t ever go into an off-season being like Oh, I’m going to do this or do this. I share a lot of my off-season on social media, so people can be in-tune with what I’m doing. But that’s for your fans, right? They want to know what you’re doing. They want to know what you’re up to, so I share all my stuff on social media.
“I don’t share it so that TSN or NBC or ESPN picks it up, but they do, and people love to talk about what I’m doing in my off-season. It’s great and so far it’s been a very, very enjoyable one.”
We caught up with Subban recently to talk about (allegedly) cheating at video games while playing against his brothers, the state of the NHL and more.
PHT: What made you want to participate in the class at Harvard this summer?
SUBBAN: “First of all, you have to have the time to do it and this was an off-season where I had the time to be able to go and take the course. It’s been mentioned to me a few times by other athletes and other people in the business and entertainment worlds that this would be a great course for you to take if you’re interested in wanting to learn more about business, sports and entertainment. It was something I had on my radar but was hoping I wasn’t able to do it until the end of my career, meaning that I’d be in long playoff runs every year. But this year our playoff run ended a little shorter and I had time to register for the class. I did it late and am very thankful that they allowed me to still be in it. It was a great experience; I learned a lot. And it was fun to be around other successful people in their line of work.”
PHT: How jealous are [your brothers] Malcolm and Jordan of you having the NHL 19 cover?
SUBBAN: “I don’t know about them being jealous. I think they’re very happy and they’re very supportive of me being on the cover. I know they love to play video games, probably a little bit more than I do, but I know that for them it’s probably a little surreal just like it is for me. I still have to pinch myself every now and then when I see the cover. It is a pretty cool honor to do that. I know that they’re very excited to see me on the cover and hopefully one day they’ll both get their opportunity to be on the cover of the EA Sports game. It’s not an easy thing to do but I think for them that’s definitely a goal in their minds is to one day be on the cover and I think that’s well in their crosshairs to accomplish it, for sure.”
PHT: The NHL posted a video last month of Malcolm talking about how you were a bit of a cheater when you guys played video games growing up — something about using your toe to reset the console. True?
SUBBAN: “Well, first of all let’s put this out here — it’s all alleged, right? There’s no video proof. Everything’s alleged as far as I’m concerned. I’m in no position to confirm or deny anything, really. I don’t have to. But I will say this — if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying, I guess, when it comes to video games. Put it this way — I do whatever it takes to win when it comes to my brothers and video games and I always won. That’s all the information we need to know is who won it for the day. Nobody wants to know how it happened, just know the result.”
PHT: Who are the big gamers on the Predators?
SUBBAN: “Tony Bitetto’s a big gamer. [Roman] Josi plays video games. He thinks he’s really good at it but he’s mediocre. Ryan Hartman’s in; Nick Bonino’s really good, kind of a smart guy in terms of hockey and it translates well to video games; Yannick Weber plays a little bit. Ryan Ellis is like an undercover gamer. I didn’t really know how good he was until towards the end of the year when guys were telling me… Kevin Fiala, another guy who thinks he’s unreal at video games but he really isn’t. Filip Forsberg’s good.
“We’re a tight group. I’m not even a big video game guy, but because I love my teammates so much I’ll get involved whenever they ask me. I think they just like the theatrics on the headphones that I bring to our group game nights. I think they like it when I’m yelling and screaming when I’m dying [in Fortnite].”
PHT: Since your video game cheating history is alleged, who are the biggest sore losers on the Predators when it comes to gaming?
SUBBAN: “Nobody really gets too rattled about it. I think when we play cards guys get a little bit more upset. But in video games guys don’t really get rattled. It’s pretty fun. It’s like little bragging rights but video games is just to kill time for us on those long plane rides for us when you don’t want to read or play cards anymore. We’re a pretty chill group when it comes to that.”
PHT: NHL 19 has a mode where users can play some pond hockey. Give me your best story playing outside with your brothers growing up?
SUBBAN: “Just playing on the backyard rink, not so much a pond, but our backyard rink that my dad used to put in every winter. Malcolm would always been the one to go in net, so it’s fitting that he transitioned to a goaltender. But he would be the one always willing to go in net and Jordan and I would be playing against him and it would like pass-and-play and we’d try to fool Malcolm. He was pretty good back then and obviously he’s really good now being a full-time NHLer now.”
PHT: The game also has over 200 NHL legends in it. I’m giving you the chance to be reincarnated to come back as a current or former player. Who are you choosing?
SUBBAN: “That’s a great question but it really comes down to two players. Anyone who picks anyone other than Wayne Gretzky and Bobby Orr… Maybe as a defenseman I’d probably come back as Bobby Orr, but when you think about it Wayne Gretzky being probably the best player of all-time, I guess you’d probably want to come back as him… There hasn’t been a player to do it like he has. So definitely would take Wayne.”
PHT: Finally, I’m granting you power to be NHL commissioner. What would you change about the game as it is today?
SUBBAN: “I think we make changes as we go. I don’t necessarily think that we need to change a lot of things about our game. If you look at our game, the NHL, compared to other pro sports, we’re probably the only sport right now that’s on the up and up consistently from year to year. We’ve continued to grow, maybe not at the pace in terms of revenue from what the other sports are going.
“Maybe that doesn’t please everybody but we are continuing to grow and I think that hockey has so much room for growth. That’s the exciting thing about the NHL and where it’s at now is that I don’t even think the NHL’s tapped into how they can compete with the other professional sports. I’m very excited to be a part of the NHL and be a part of that growth.
“The changes that are going to come are going to come organically. I don’t think there’s anything that pops out in my mind like Oh, my God we’ve got to change this. I think the game’s exciting and it’s continuing to get better every year. Fans are enjoying it, that’s why they continue to show up and that’s why we’re able to put teams in markets like Las Vegas and there’s rumors of other markets that may be coming in. The interest wouldn’t be there unless the game wasn’t continuing to trend in the right direction.
“I’m satisfied with where it’s at now but I’m also very optimistic and excited about the future and where the game can be in five, 10, 15, 20 years. It’s all good.”
His first Stanley Cup (and the Washington Capitals first Stanley Cup) and his first Conn Smythe Trophy were major accomplishments that one of the league’s all-time greats had yet to accomplish before the beginning of June.
But up until Wednesday night, no NHL player had ever been handed the ESPY for Best Male Athlete.
And so when Alex Ovechkin’s name was pulled out of the envelope, he added another first to his incredible year.
Ovechkin beat out the likes of Houston Astros first baseman Jose Altuve, who was instrumental in his teams’ World Series win, Houston Rockets guard James Harden and five-time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady of the New England Patriots.
He wasn’t on-hand to accept the award as he was back home with his wife Nastya, who is about to bring the couple’s first child into the world.
Presenter, actress Kate Beckinsale, thought it was "quite funny" that she had to accept the award on Ovechkin's behalf.
Ovechkin’s season was special even before the Stanley Cup win, scoring 49 times to win the Rocket Richard Trophy for the seventh time and reached the 600-goal milestone to become only the 20th player in NHL history to hit the mark. He also played in his 1,000th NHL game on April 1.
Ovechkin also took home the ESPY for Best NHL Player, which wasn’t a surprise given his year.
Hockey’s good night at the ESPY’s continued with the United States women’s ice hockey team winning the ESPY for Best Game after their 3-2 shootout triumph over Team Canada at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
The Americans trailed 2-1 in the third period before Monique Lamoureux-Morando’s breakaway goal forced overtime and the eventual shootout, where twin sister Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson scored the winner in the sixth round to seal gold.
The win was sweet revenge for the American team, who had come up short against the Canadians in recent Olympics.