PHT’s NHL primer for disenchanted NBA fans

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Hello and welcome to ProHockeyTalk! This is a blog covering the game of ice hockey. Perhaps you’ve heard of it.

We realize today must be an especially difficult one for you as the NBA season was supposed to tip off. Is that the right term, tip off? The only other basketball term we know is chest pass and “the NBA season was supposed to chest pass” doesn’t sound right.

Anyway, we thought it’d be a nice gesture if we introduced you to the game of hockey. Oh sure, there are plenty of other sports to keep you occupied like professional football, college football, high school football, Pop Warner football or Canadian football, if you’re desperate. But there’s a chance you might want to step out of your comfort zone and try something new. So here’s a quick Q&A to get you up to speed on the wonderful game of hockey.

Who is the best team in the NHL?

The Boston Bruins won last year’s Stanley Cup (given annually to the NHL playoff champion), but they’re off to a bad start this year. In fact, they’ve been overtaken in their division by the Toronto Maple Leafs.

So, the Maple Leafs are the best team?

Hahahaha, no. They’ve probably got another two, maybe three weeks left in them. The teams you want to focus on are Pittsburgh, Washington, Chicago, Philadelphia, Vancouver, Boston, San Jose, Detroit, Los Angeles, Buffalo and Tampa Bay. Yeah, 11 teams. There’s a lot of parity in hockey.

Who is the LeBron James of the NHL?

If you’re talking about the most supremely talented player with unparallelled skill, that would be Sidney Crosby. If you’re talking about the most polarizing player with a knack for coming up small in the biggest moments, that would be Roberto Luongo. Some people actually call him “LeBrongo.” Seriously.

Boston is the NBA’s most storied franchise, having won 17 championships. Who is the NHL equivalent?

That would be the Montreal Canadiens, who have won 24 Stanley Cups. The Canadiens are one of the most revered franchises in all of professional sports and widely known as the NHL’s classiest organization. Last week they fired their assistant coach 90 minutes before a game.

Has the NHL ever had a similar labor dispute?

(*crickets*)

What about ethnic diversity? The NBA has tons of international players.

The NHL currently features Canadians, Americans, Russians, Finns, Swedes, Czechs, Slovaks, Austrians, Danes, Germans and Belorussians as well as players from France, Italy, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Latvia, Norway and Poland. The league is welcoming to all ethnicities, though Raffi Torres’ Halloween costume set the ol’ diversity program back a step or two.

Why, what did he do?

He dressed up as Jay-Z.

So?

With face paint.

Oh.

Yeah, it was kind of a thing.

Is that really racist though?

Let’s not get into that now.

Do they actually let the players fight in the NHL?

Well, they give them five minutes in the penalty box, so technically it’s penalized.

But it still happens?

Oh yeah, lots.

Why do they allow it?

Mostly because the fans like it. But it also holds players accountable on the ice. If they didn’t have fighting, there’d be all sorts of cheap shots out there.

So there are no cheap shots in hockey?

There are still quite a few cheap shots.

Why does hockey have to be so complicated?

What’s complicated about it? There’s a puck, there’s a net, each team tries to put the puck into the other team’s net.

Explain offside to me.

The puck has to enter the zone first.

Which zone?

The offensive zone.

Is offside like icing?

Maybe we could take this offline.

OK, but I’m still not convinced I’ll like hockey.

Look, just give it a try. If you’re not hooked once the Stanley Cup is awarded, we’ll give you a full refund.

But I never gave you money in the first place.

Then what’s the problem? Watch hockey. It’s awesome.

Islanders agree to terms with Mathew Barzal on 8-year extension

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
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Mathew Barzal has agreed to terms with the New York Islanders on an eight-year extension, a move that keeps the franchise’s top forward under contract for the balance of his prime.

The deal is worth $73.2 million with an annual salary cap hit of $9.15 million, according to a person with knowledge of the contract. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team did not announce terms.

Barzal has led the team in scoring, or been tied for the lead, every season since he became a full-time NHL player in 2017-18. He has 349 points in 411 regular-season and playoff games for the defensively stingy Islanders, who qualified for the postseason three consecutive times before an injury- and virus-altered last year.

“We feel recharged,” Barzal said recently. “We feel like everybody had good summers and worked hard, and we got that excitement back.”

Barzal, now 25, is coming off putting up 59 points in 75 games. The offensive star will now be asked to round out his game.

“I’m a fan because Mat has the ability to raise his game and to be a special player,” general manager Lou Lamoriello told reporters at the team’s practice facility on Long Island. “And now, with this contract and our faith in him, (it) puts that responsibility on him. We’re trusting that. It’s up to him to respond to that.”

Senators goaltender Cam Talbot out 5-7 weeks with injury

Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
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OTTAWA, Ontario — Ottawa Senators goaltender Cam Talbot is expected to be out five to seven weeks with what the team called an upper-body injury.

The Senators initially called Talbot day to day with what they hoped was a minor injury. Instead he’s now expected to miss at least the first month of the NHL season.

Ottawa claimed goalie Magnus Hellberg off waivers from the Seattle Kraken upon announcing Talbot’s expected absence. Hellberg, who played for Sweden at the Beijing Olympics could split time with countryman Anton Forsberg while Talbot is out.

The Senators acquired Talbot from Minnesota during the offseason to make him their starter after the Wild opted against bringing him back along with Marc-Andre Fleury. Talbot, 35, had a 2.76 goals-against average and .911 save percentage this season.

Losing Talbot is a blow to the Senators, who also acquired winger Alex DeBrincat from Chicago and signed longtime Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux as part of a move toward contending and ending their playoff drought.

Blackhawks’ Boris Katchouk sidelined by ankle sprain

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Harry How/Getty Images
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CHICAGO — Blackhawks forward Boris Katchouk will be sidelined for four to six weeks with a left ankle sprain, the team announced.

The 24-year-old Katchouk played almost 12 minutes during a 3-0 preseason loss to Detroit on Saturday night. He was acquired in a multiplayer trade with Tampa Bay in March.

The Blackhawks open the season on Oct. 12 at Colorado.

The team also said forward Jujhar Khaira is day to day with a right ankle injury.

Ducks’ Urho Vaakanainen crashes into boards, leaves on stretcher

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Ducks defenseman Urho Vaakanainen was taken off the Honda Center ice on a stretcher after he crashed into the end boards in the first period of Anaheim’s preseason game against the San Jose Sharks.

The Finnish defenseman was conscious and alert with full movement in his extremities at UCI Medical Center, the Ducks said.

The frightening incident occurred midway through the opening period when Vaakanainen smashed into the boards at a dangerous speed behind the Sharks’ net. Vaakanainen appeared to be concentrating on the pass he had just made to Derek Grant, who scored the Ducks’ opening goal on the assist.

Vaakanainen’s teammates came onto the ice and gathered around him as he was taken away on the stretcher.

The Ducks acquired the 23-year-old Vaakanainen from Boston last March in the deal that sent longtime Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm to the Bruins. After recording two assists in 14 games for the Ducks last season, Vaakanainen is attempting to win a top-six role on Anaheim’s defense this fall.