NHL

PHT Power Rankings: Wildest goal celebrations

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As we mentioned last week we are going to do something a little different with our Power Rankings during the 2018-19 season by mixing in a more fun and offbeat ranking every other week in between the true Power Rankings of all 31 teams.

This is the first week for a fun ranking and we are going to use the first week of the season as a bit of a jumping off point for them. What exactly happened over the first week of the season? Celebrations! Fun! Personality!

Professional sports are a business (a huge business, yes), but they are also at their core still very much a game whose sole purpose is to entertain us. Athletes are entertainers, and the games are more fun when they are doing things to … well … entertain us.

Just one week into the season we’ve already seen more of that than we usually see in an entire season, with Sunday being an especially big day for it with the Carolina Hurricanes introducing their new victory celebration and Auston Matthews taunting the United Center crowd after a late goal (only to have it answered by Patrick Kane mimicking the celebration).

More of this! More I say!

[Related: Hurricanes’ new victory celebration is pretty awesome]

With all of this in mind, let’s take a look back at some of the wildest NHL goal celebrations.

Some of these made people angry; all of them were fun … unless you happened to be a part of the team that allowed the goal.

1. Teemu Selanne goes skeet shooting with his glove

Teemu Selanne, one of the most prolific goal-scorers in NHL history, started his career with an all-time great performance in 1992-93 with a record-setting rookie season that saw him score 76 goals and record 132 total points for the Winnipeg Jets.

On March 3 of that season he broke Mike Bossy’s rookie goal record with a two-goal effort in a 7-4 loss to the Quebec Nordiques and his record-setting goal was capped off with one of the all-time great celebrations as he flung his glove in the air and pretended to use his hockey stick to … go skeet shooting?

Is it over the top? Sure. But is it also amazing? Hell yes it is.

2. Artem Anisimov starts a brawl

This one was just totally wild.

In December of the 2011-12 season the New York Rangers dropped an otherwise forgettable 3-2 shootout decision to the Tampa Bay Lightning at Madison Square Garden. What made the game noteworthy wasn’t the result, but what happened in the second period when Rangers forward Artem Anisimov scored a shorthanded goal and then celebrated by pretending to shoot Lightning goalie Mathieu Garon, igniting a brawl on the ice that resulted in 36 combined penalty minutes, including 16 to Anisimov.

The great thing about this entire sequence is the Rangers were playing in the Winter Classic less than a month later against the Philadelphia Flyers, and because of that were being followed around by HBO’s cameras for the 24/7 documentary. This allowed us to get an up-close and uncensored look at what was said between the players, officials, and, of course, then-Rangers coach John Tortorella (watch all of that here but be warned there is some very not safe for work language in there)

3. Ilya Kovalchuk points at Sidney Crosby

This one might have been forgotten because it happened in Atlanta in a game featuring two teams that were, at the time, not very good, but it involved two of the biggest names in the modern era in Ilya Kovalchuk and Sidney Crosby.

The date: January 7, 2006.

At the time, Kovalchuk was the NHL’s most dominant goal-scorer and just entering his peak years as an offensive force. Crosby was the much hyped “next one” and in the middle of a dominant rookie season.

Kovalchuk was unhappy with the way Crosby was playing and a “stupid” penalty he had taken against Kovalchuk, and celebrated a power play goal by turning to the penalty box where Crosby was sitting and savagely pointing at him.

Kovalchuk did not stop delivering blows after the game, either, when he said of Crosby:

“He takes those stupid penalties all the time. He’s an 18 year old kid, and he can’t play like this. He starts yapping about his teammates in the newspapers … I don’t know, he should play really hard on the ice and keep it at that.”

The celebration itself is pretty understated, but it’s a level of taunting and “calling out” that you almost never see in hockey. And that’s what gets it in the top-three.

This incident was also mentioned by Penguins coach Michel Therrien after the Penguins’ following game when he went on his famous “I’ve never seen a team so soft” rant and lamented the fact that there wasn’t one guy (“not one guy…”) that did anything about it, except for “Maybe Max Talbot at the end … with about one second left … he’s about 5-foot-8.”

Just a remarkable sequence of events.

4. Sean Avery works out

Sean Avery was one of the NHL’s most notorious pests and trolls. His style was at times so outrageous that his actions actually forced the league to make a rule change during the playoffs (the Sean Avery rule).

Here he is in his early days with the Los Angeles Kings celebrating a bank-shot goal by dropping down to the ice and getting in a quick workout.

5. Alex Ovechkin‘s hot stick

It was the 2008-09 season and Alex Ovechkin, coming off of a 65-goal season the year before, hit the 50-goal mark for the third time in the first four years of his career.

Then he did this.

The Hot Stick.

Naturally, all of the usual suspects were angry about it, from the opponents to Don Cherry.

6. Tie Domi/Tiger Williams go for a ride

Former Vancouver Canucks forward Tiger Williams used to have some over the top celebrations during his playing days, with this one probably being the most noteworthy.

Tie Domi, during his days as a New York Ranger, brought it back.

7. Nail Yakupov goes wild

Nail Yakupov may not have panned out as the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, but he did give Oilers fans some brief excitement in his rookie season when he scored a game-tying goal in the final seconds against the Los Angeles Kings and went sliding across the ice.

It was all very reminiscent of the next one on the list…

8. Theo Fleury’s slide

You are probably asking, Adam, you stupid idiot, why don’t you have the original version ahead of the cover version? 

My answer to that is simple: I feel like Yakupov’s was even more outrageous because it was a game-tying goal in some early regular season game that you have already forgotten about, while Fleury’s was an overtime winning goal in the playoffs. I feel like going that wild for a regular season game is just taking it to an entirely different level. It is natural to go wild when you score an overtime winner in the playoffs. But the regular season? In the first month of the season? No one does that.

9. Milan Hejduk goes for a swim

The Colorado Avalanche were one of the NHL’s powerhouse teams in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and Milan Hejduk was one of the cornerstone pieces of that team. On March 26 of that season he scored an overtime winner against the Dallas Stars and decided to celebrate by going for a swim across the ice.

This game was part of a season-ending eight-game winning streak for the Avalanche. They continued rolling through the first two rounds of the playoffs (winning eight out of 10 games against Arizona and long-time arch-rival Detroit) before running into the Stars in the Western Conference Final. The Stars would end up getting their revenge, eliminating the Avalanche in six games on their way to their second consecutive Stanley Cup Final appearance.

The Avalanche would come back the next season to win their second Stanley Cup.

10. Marek Malk’s understated greatness

There is nothing really wild or outrageous about this celebration, and that is kind of what makes it great.

Marek Malik played more than 750 games in the NHL (regular season and playoffs) and managed to score just 35 goals during that time.

That is why it was so stunning that he ended up scoring one of the best shootout goals we have seen in the shootout era and he celebrated by … acting like it was no big thing and he had done it 1,000 times before that.

Honorable mention: Brad Marchand‘s fake Stanley Cup lift

This is not a goal celebration but I still wanted to include it because … just look at this.

That is Brad Marchand skating in front of the Vancouver Canucks bench and pretending to lift the Stanley Cup in front of them because, well, Marchand and the Bruins defeated the Canucks in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final in a pretty intense series.

It is also noteworthy because during the NHL’s opening night this season Marchand took exception to Capitals forward Lars Eller skating in front of the Bruins bench and celebrating a little too much and then proceeded to pummel him later in the game.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

NHL renames GM of the Year Award after Jim Gregory

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The NHL’s GM of the Year award will now be known as the Jim Gregory GM of the Year Award.

Gregory passed away on Oct. 30 at the age of 83. Gregory was a longtime NHL executive, including serving as Toronto Maple Leafs GM from 1969 to 1979. Gregory was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2007.

The name change was unanimously approved during the annual November GM meetings.

“This is a terrific tribute to a wonderful man by a group uniquely qualified to appreciate his many contributions to our game,” Gary Bettman said. “During his tenure as general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Jim Gregory transformed the art of team-building. Through the many years he spent at the League, our general managers regularly sought his counsel. They universally revere his lifetime of service to the NHL.”

NHL.com notes that Gregory stood out for many reasons, including having an eye for international talent.

Gregory was a hockey ambassador around the globe and among the first NHL general managers to sign and import players from Europe — most notably, the legendary defenseman Borje Salming. Steeped in the game’s traditions, he was integral to the implementation of some of the League’s most transformational innovations — including the use of video to review goals and the expansion of the role of the Central Scouting Bureau.

The NHL’s GM of the Year award was first handed out in 2009-10. Boston Bruins GM Don Sweeney was the most recent recipient in 2018-19.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Appreciating Stamkos’ underrated career at 400 goals

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Tuesday’s matchup between the St. Louis Blues and Tampa Bay Lightning. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Calling Steven Stamkos “underrated” never really feels right, but you might argue that his greatness is “too easily forgotten.”

Maybe you can chalk it up to Alex Ovechkin‘s even-more-impressive goal-scoring pyrotechnics, or perhaps to some mid-career injuries that diluted some of his career peaks, but either way, Stamkos’ career achievements can sneak up on you.

Take scoring 400 goals, for example.

Stamkos hit that mark in his last game, and with Tuesday’s Lightning – Blues contest soon to air on NBCSN (livestream link), this seems like a great time to consider what we’ve seen from Stamkos, and what else we might see going forward.

Rare company

Stamkos didn’t just hit 400 goals in Tampa’s Nov. 16 loss to the Winnipeg Jets; he also did it before age 30 (he’ll turn 3-0 on Feb. 7). Less than 20 players have reached 400 goals before age 30.

He’s one of only nine active players to hit 400, and did so the second-quickest among those nine, managing the feat in just 763 games. (Alex Ovechkin is first, getting there, somehow, in just 634 GP). Stamkos is also only the 98th player to reach 400+ goals, period.

Stamkos’ .52 goals-per-game average places him at 16th all-time among players with at least 300 games played, by Hockey Reference’s measures. That average is higher than the likes of Guy Lafleur (.50) and Eric Lindros (.49).

With 786 points in those 763 games, Stamkos ranks ninth among active players, and his 1.03 ppg average fittingly ties him with teammate Nikita Kucherov for sixth-best among active players.

Stamkos is a two-time Maurice Richard Trophy winner, and became a rare 60-goal scorer in 2011-12. Pretty lofty stuff.

And, naturally, it’s not all in the past.

Stamkos comes into Thursday’s game on a tear, having generated a five-game point streak (two goals, six assists). He already has 20 points (seven goals, 13 assists) in 17 games this season. The 2018-19 season ranks among his best, too, with 45 goals and a career-high 98 points.

[COVERAGE OF BLUES-LIGHTNING BEGINS AT 7 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

Passing fancy

It’s a bit absurd to ding Childhood Stamkos for not having much of a shot, but it’s kind of an adorable way to illustrate the point that the Lightning forward has grown his game over the years — which might come in handy if his shot becomes slightly less terrifying.

“When he was a kid, he couldn’t shoot,” his father, Chris Stamkos, told The Athletic’s Joe Smith (sub required) in a great story about Stamkos’ shot. “He could skate and pass, but he couldn’t shoot.”

Stamkos’ former partner-in-crime Martin St. Louis praised Stamkos to Smith, stating that Stamkos isn’t just a “one-trick pony.”

There was some concern that Stamkos’ shot might have been diminishing, but his 45 goals quieted a lot of worries. Normally a 19.2 shooting percentage would make you think fluke, but with a career average of 16.9, maybe he still has time as a an elite sniper?

Some of this comes down to the inevitable drive to create plays for Nikita Kucherov. Of course Stamkos will start to get his playmaking to sniping ratio closer to 1:1 when he’s paired with a winger who’s arguably already even more dangerous than him, right?

After all, his shot volume is still there.

Overall, his partnership with Kucherov should be heartening for the Lightning when it comes to Stamkos’ future. If Stamkos does indeed become less dangerous at sniping as he passes 30 — a common thing for mortal snipers, aka those not named Ovechkin — then he can conceivably tweak the dials to set up Kucherov more. He’s found quite the player to grow old with, as Kucherov and Stamkos even fit each other as left and right-handed shots respectively. It’s the ideal mix for one-timers, basically making them the hockey equivalent of a couple where one spouse prefers drumstick chicken wings while the other digs the flats.

Evolving game

Again, Stamkos has found ways to improve his overall game, which is promising if his scoring does drop off.

Amusingly, Stamkos noted how low his faceoff rating was when EA Sports named him the cover star for NHL ’12, and we’ve seen his acumen in that area rise — probably coincidentally. Stamkos’ early career faceoff percentage was just 46.4. Stamkos improved gradually over the years, and has really took off in that area since 2015-16, winning 53.7 percent of his draws. This season, Stamkos has won a whopping 60 percent.

While the impact of faceoff dominance can be overblown, the point is really that Stamkos continues to refine his game. He won’t be mistaken for a Selke frontrunner anytime soon, but by becoming more well-rounded, Stamkos faces a strong chance of mitigating the aging process by bringing more to the table than just scoring.

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So, yeah, it can be easy to forget how special Stamkos is in. Maybe winning that elusive Stanley Cup might shine that spotlight on him a bit more?

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

NHL on NBCSN: Year after elevating Berube, Blues’ success continues

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Tuesday’s matchup between the St. Louis Blues and Tampa Bay Lightning. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

One year ago Tuesday, the St. Louis Blues fell to the Los Angeles Kings 2-0 and dropped to 7-9-3 on the season. The defeat was their fourth in five games and the Blues’ offense was blanked for a third time in four games. 

Enough was enough for Doug Armstrong, who later that evening fired Mike Yeo and replaced him with Craig Berube. Originally, the Blues general manager planned to cast a wide net in his search for a new head coach. He said he planned to have coaches from the European, junior and college ranks, along with names with NHL experience, like the recently fired Joel Quenneville.

It took some time, but it was clear that Yeo’s full-time replacement was already under contract with the organization, as we all eventually found out.

“He answered the bell,” Armstrong said last spring.

One year later, the Blues finally have a Stanley Cup title and the Blues are lacking any sort of championship hangover as they sit atop the Central Division with a 12-4-5 record and tied for the most points in the Western Conference with 29. They’ve maintained a strong start even after losing Vladimir Tarasenko for likely the rest of the regular season last month. In the 11 games since the winger underwent shoulder surgery St. Louis has a 7-2-2 record.

[COVERAGE OF BLUES-LIGHTNING BEGINS AT 7 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

Jordan Binnington, who’s recall last January helped spark the Blues’ second half run, had a goal this season to prove the doubters wrong. His five-month hot streak has continued into this season with his .923 even strength save percentage in the top 10 among all NHL goaltenders with at least 10 starts.

The Blues haven’t been scoring the lights out since Tarasenko exited the lineup, as they’ve averaged 2.72 goals per game. In fact, their 35 even strength goals are the third-fewest in the NHL this season. They done it with a strong power play (25%) and another balanced approached — much last season. Through 21 games, only Brayden Schenn (11) has hit double digits in goals scored and 18 different players have lit the lamp.

Berube’s message has stayed with the Blues and after a long search to find their identity, success has followed. When he took the job, he saw a team lacking in confidence. It was a good team he was inheriting, but there was one thing missing.

“Just got us to believe,” Schenn said during the Stanley Cup Final in June. “Believe in one another, believe we’re a good hockey team. He took down the standing board in the room and worried about one game at a time, and that’s really all it was.”

Players know where they stand under Berube, and that plays a huge role in earning their trust. That attribute is what turned an interim gig into a championship run and a full-time opportunity.

“He’s an honest guy,” Armstrong told Jim Thomas of the Post-Dispatch. “He speaks from the heart. He doesn’t waste a lot of words. I think he’s accountable to himself and accountable to the team as a whole. And I think he requires each individual to be accountable to the team as a whole also.”

Kenny Albert and Pierre McGuire will call the action from Enterprise Center in St. Louis, Mo. Paul Burmeister will host Tuesday’s coverage of NHL Live alongside alongside analysts Jeremy Roenick and Anson Carter.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

PHT Morning Skate: Babcock betting on himself; impact of Fabbri trade

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• Mike Babcock on the pressures he’s currently facing with the Maple Leafs struggling: “I’m going to do (the job) as hard as I can for as long as I can. I’ve always bet on Mike Babcock. I’m going to continue to bet on him.” [Toronto Star]

• It’s not been a fun season if you’re employed as a Maple Leafs backup goaltender. [One Puck Short]

• Brady and Matthew Tkachuk have turned into phenomenal NHLers. [TSN]

• It’s been a pretty good first 20 games for the Panthers under Joel Quenneville. [Miami Herald]

• ‘Scrappy’ Jets gaining an identity at season’s quarter-mark. [Winnipeg Free Press]

• Morgan Frost, one of the Flyers’ top prospects, has been recalled. [NBC Sports Philadelphia]

• How Barry Trotz went from 50/50 sales to winning the Stanley Cup. [Sportsnet]

• What’s bugging the Predators of late? [A to Z Sports Nashville]

• The Bruins are eager to see Charlie McAvoy reached another level. [Boston Herald]

• Fun story from the NCAA over the weekend: Nine minutes before pregame warmups started, North Dakota’s Josh Rieger was eating a pound of buffalo wings. He got the call, rushed to the rink and scored his first goal. [Grand Forks Herald]

• How Robby Fabbri trade impacts Detroit Red Wings, Andreas Athanasiou. [Detroit Free Press]

• Five women who should be inducted next into the Hockey Hall of Fame. [Sporting News]

• Kris Versteeg asked to be released from his contract with the AHL’s Rockford Ice Hogs. [NBC Sports Chicago]

Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Coyotes are benefitting from the addition of assistant coach Phil Housley. [NHL.com]

• Looking at the best and worst in the history of Flyers jerseys. [Hockey by Design]

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.