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.

Stanley Cup Final Preview: Who has the better defense?

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Leading up to Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final (Monday, 8 p.m. ET, NBC), Pro Hockey Talk will be looking at every aspect of the matchup between the Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues.

Part of the reason the Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues are the last two teams standing is because they’re deep at every single position. Both squads are dealing with key injuries on defense, but they also have quality difference-makers on the back end that can help lead their team to victory.

So let’s see who has the advantage on the blue line:

Boston Bruins:

The Bruins have been without one of their regulars, Kevan Miller. The 31-year-old is a solid penalty killer and he brings a level of physicality to Boston’s defense. But without him, the Bruins haven’t missed a beat.

Their top pairing is made up of 42-year-old Zdeno Chara and the best defenseman on their roster, Charlie McAvoy. Chara missed Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final against Carolina with an undisclosed injury, but he’s expected to be ready for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. The Bruins captain has clearly slowed down as he’s gotten older, but he’s also capable of turning in strong shifts in his own end and on the penalty kill. He’s also averaged almost 23 minutes of ice time per game in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

As for McAvoy, he missed Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final due to a suspension but he’s arguably been the most important defender on the team. The 21-year-old averages over 24 minutes per game and he’s picked up seven points in 16 games this postseason.

The second pairing has also been solid for Boston this spring as Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo have meshed well together. Krug is smaller and he’s the puck-mover that accumulates points and contributes on the power play, while Carlo is a bigger body that plays a sound defensive game.

These two have played together for just over 219 minutes during the playoffs. When skating on the same pairing, they have a CF% of 53.72 percent. When Carlo isn’t on the ice with Krug, his CF% drops to 45.93 percent. They’ve shown an ability to work well together and they’ll be an important part of shutting the Blues down in this series.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Matt Grzelcyk has been the one constant on the third pairing, and he’s played relatively well. He has seven points in 17 games including a two-goal effort in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final. Connor Clifton, John Moore and Steven Kampfer have also contributed this postseason. Not many teams can say that they have a player like Moore sitting in the press box on most nights, so the Bruins clearly have some depth at the position.

St. Louis Blues: 

The Blues have been without Vince Dunn over the last three games. The 22-year-old had accumulated two goals and five assists in 16 games before being hit in the jaw with a puck. It’s unclear if he’ll be available for Game 1 on Monday night, but getting him back would be a boost.

Captain Alex Pietrangelo has been skating with Joel Edmundson, who’s been a solid partner for him. With Edmundson, Pietrangelo’s CF% is 52.61 percent. Without him, his CF% drops to 47.25 while Edmundson’s increases to 57.63 percent. That’s not to say that Pietrangelo’s been bad this postseason. He’s accumulated two goals and 13 points in 19 postseason contests this spring. The 29-year-old is also averaging 25:34 of ice time in the playoffs this year.

The second pairing is made up of Colton Parayko and Jay Bouwmeester, who have played over 316 minutes together during the playoffs. Together, they have a CF% of 48 percent. In their 83 minutes apart (small sample size), Parayko’s CF% leaps to 60 percent while Bouwmeester’s falls to 36.97 percent.

Bouwmeester, 35, is like the Blues’ version of Chara. He’s older and not as effective as he once was but he’s still trusted to play significant minutes for his team.

If Dunn can’t play, St. Louis will roll with Robert Bortuzzo, who scored the game-winning goal in Game 2 of the Western Conference Final, and Carl Gunnarsson, who is a pretty good depth player to have on the roster.

Advantage: St. Louis Blues

As good and as deep as the Bruins are on defense, I still think the Blues have a slight edge in this category. Pietrangelo and Parayko are both valuable parts while Edmundson, Bouwmeester, Bortuzzo and Gunnarsson are nice complementary pieces of the puzzle. We also can’t forget a young puck-mover like Dunn, who can easily push one of these players out of the lineup whenever he returns from injury. The Blues have an advantage, but it’s not by much.

Who do you think has the better group of defensemen?

STANLEY CUP FINAL PREVIEW
Who has the better special teams?
Who has the better forwards?
PHT Power Rankings: Conn Smythe favorites
Stanley Cup Final 2019 schedule, TV info

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

PHT Morning Skate: Players with most at stake in Cup Final; Bergeron’s postseason

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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.

• Rotoworld’s Gus Katsaros breaks down Patrice Bergeron‘s performance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. (Rotoworld)

• Travis Yost explains why getting an early lead in hockey is a good thing, and it’s not for the reason you might think. (TSN)

• Which team should you root for in the Stanley Cup Final? (ESPN)

• Which players have the most at stake in the 2019 Stanley Cup Final? (NBC Sports Boston)

Mats Zuccarello could be an intriguing addition for the New Jersey Devils. (All About the Jersey)

Nolan Patrick will have to take a big step forward next season. (Broad Street Hockey)

• As good as Morgan Rielly was for the Leafs this season, there’s a chance he might continue to get better. (Leafs Nation)

• There have been rumblings about Phil Kessel being traded to Minnesota, but is that a wise move for the Pens? (Pensburgh)

• D.J. Smith has had to pay his dues on his way to becoming an NHL head coach. (Ottawa Sun)

• Chicago Wolves head coach Rocky Thompson has an interesting strategy when it comes to pulling his goaltender. (Sinbin.Vegas)

• The Winnipeg Jets have to find a way to stop taking so many penalties. (Arctic Ice Hockey)

• The Stars will benefit from the increase in the salary cap this off-season. (Blackout Dallas)

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Marchand appears to avert injury scare in Bruins Cup tuneup

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BOSTON (AP) — Boston Bruins scoring leader Brad Marchand returned without missing a shift after appearing to hurt his left hand Thursday night when the team held an intrasquad scrimmage to tune up for the Stanley Cup Final.

Marchand bumped into Connor Clifton in front of the net ”and jammed his … I don’t know what he jammed,” coach Bruce Cassidy said.

”Injury risk was our biggest concern tonight. It will be Saturday when we practice at the regular time, and Sunday,” Cassidy said. ”He’s fine.”

With 10 days off between their sweep of the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference finals and Monday night’s opener of the best-of-seven Cup final against the St. Louis Blues, the Bruins scheduled the scrimmage to stay sharp.

”It was good to get out there, and we appreciate the support,” forward David Pastrnak said. ”It’s starting to feel real.”

Tickets were $20 and the 17,565-seat TD Garden was sold out, with the proceeds going to the Boston Bruins Foundation. Fans chanted ”We Want the Cup!” and ”Let’s Go Bruins!” and gave the team a standing ovation after Patrice Bergeron tipped a puck between his legs during a six-on-five, pulled goalie simulation before the buzzer.

Captain Zdeno Chara and Bergeron, the alternate captain, thanked the crowd after the scrimmage.

Marchand skated off flexing his hand near the end of the first 25-minute half. He appeared to be in discomfort on the bench, but was back for his next shift.

Cassidy left it up to the players to decide how much work they needed.

Goaltender Tuukka Rask played just one half. Chara, who missed the clincher of the East finals for undisclosed reasons, played the entire game. David Krejci showed up at the arena with an illness and was sent home, but he should be fine for Monday’s game, Cassidy said.

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Sharks head into uncertain offseason with key free agents

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SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — If Joe Thornton comes back for a 22nd season in the NHL, it would only be with the San Jose Sharks. Captain Joe Pavelski is confident he will get a deal done to stay with the franchise he joined as a draft pick back in 2003.

The situation with the other major potential unrestricted free agent is far less certain. After Erik Karlsson‘s injury-plagued first season in San Jose ended with him sitting at home with an injured groin during a Game 6 loss at St. Louis in the Western Conference final, the star defenseman said he hasn’t thought yet about his plans for the summer.

”I’ve been treated with nothing but class and respect here,” Karlsson said Thursday. ”I’ve seen the best side of what this organization and this city has and I like everything I’ve seen. Now I have to kind of regroup and assess everything. A lot of things can happen. It’s a weird business we’re in. I enjoyed my time here. Whatever happens is going to happen for a reason.”

Karlsson had a less-than-ideal season after being acquired as potentially the final piece needed for a championship in a trade from Ottawa on the eve of training camp. He struggled to adjust to his new team early in the season before playing at an elite level for about six weeks when the Sharks looked as good as any team in the league.

Karlsson then injured his groin and missed 27 of the final 33 regular-season games before returning for the playoffs, lacking his usual burst as a skater. Even at less than 100% in the postseason, Karlsson showed flashes of his playmaking with 14 assists and two goals, including the overtime winner in Game 3 against the Blues.

But he was unable to play for a long stretch late in a Game 4 loss and was limited in a Game 5 loss before sitting out the third period. He couldn’t go at all in Game 6.

In the final game, the Sharks were also without Pavelski, who re-injured his knee in Game 5, and forward Tomas Hertl, who had a concussion. That left little in the tank for a team that won a pair of Game 7s already in the playoffs, including an epic three-goal comeback in the final game of the first round against Vegas after Pavelski left with a bloody concussion.

”If you lose your difference-makers, it’s difficult,” general manager Doug Wilson said. ”But this group always bounced back and found a way, for that we’re extremely proud. No excuses, line up, next man up, all those things that you hear, this group lived that. I’ll be honest: I’ve been in this business 40 years. I think the thing that epitomizes this group is the Vegas game, Game 7 where you see the emotional chaos of your captain going down, being carried off and how the group responded, showed you everything you needed to know about this group. I’ll remember that moment forever.”

Pavelski and Thornton have been integral parts of the Sharks for years. Pavelski was a seventh-round draft pick in 2003 and has scored 355 goals in 13 seasons, becoming captain and a fan favorite during his journey.

Thornton arrived in a franchise-altering trade from Boston on Nov. 30, 2005, turning the Sharks into a perennial Cup contender that can never quite win it all.

”They drive the environment,” coach Peter DeBoer said. ”They drive the messaging every day in here. From a coach’s perspective, those guys are invaluable people for us.”

Whether they come back is not yet certain.

The Sharks opted not to extend Pavelski’s contract last summer when he came off a 22-goal season hampered by injuries. But his level of play rose this year with a team-leading 38 goals and he will be eligible to hit the open market in July, shortly before his 35th birthday.

”I know I’m going to be playing hockey next year. Hopefully it’s going to be here,” he said. ”We love it here. I think something will happen, who really knows, but coming off a lot of emotions coming through the playoffs and that round, we’ll sit down and take a look at what will happen here.”

The situation with Thornton is simpler. If he wants to come back for another season at age 40, it would only be with the Sharks. He plans to sit down with his family and Sharks management before making his decision.

Thornton finished this season for a change after needing major knee surgery the past two years. He’s accomplished almost everything in a career, ranking eighth all-time with 1,065 assists and 14th with 1,478 points but hasn’t won a championship.

His teammates and coaches talked all postseason about wanting to win for Thornton and came close before ultimately falling six wins short.

”I didn’t buy into that,” Thornton said. ”I think that was more for you guys. I think this whole area needs a Cup. They’re definitely on the right track, and just disappointing for this area not to be playing, like I said, next week, but this was a really fun team to watch, entertaining team to watch, and an inspirational team to watch.”

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports