Paul Byron

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WATCH LIVE: Capitals host Canadiens on NBCSN

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Thursday night’s matchup between the Montreal Canadiens and Washington Capitals. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Montreal scored a huge win on Tuesday with a 4-2 victory over the Presidents’ Trophy winning Lightning. The Habs rebounded from 1-0 and 2-1 deficits before outscoring Tampa 2-0 in the third. Their previous win came against the Central-leading Jets. They face their third straight division leader tonight.

The Canadiens enter Thursday one point behind the Hurricanes for the first Wild Card and tied with the Blue Jackets in points for the second Wild Card, but still on the outside looking in due to the ROW tiebreaker. After their game against Washington, they’ll end the season at home against Toronto.

With two games to play, the Capitals lead the Metro by three points over the Islanders. Washington is vying for its fourth consecutive division title.

Three-time MVP and reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner Alex Ovechkin is aiming to break a tie with Bobby Hull (7x) to become the first player in NHL history to finish atop the goal-scoring race eight times. Ovechkin (33 years old) can also become the first player since Phil Esposito in 1975 to lead the league in goals at age 33 or older.

On Saturday against Tampa, Ovechkin found the net twice, registering his 50th and 51st goals of the season. Those 51 goals are the most in the league, four ahead of Toronto’s John Tavares and Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl, who both have 47. Ovechkin joined Wayne Gretzky and Mike Bossy as the only players to record eight or more 50-plus goal seasons.

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS AT 6 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

What: Montreal Canadiens at Washington Capitals
Where: Capital One Arena
When: Thursday, April 4, 6 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
Live stream: You can watch the Canadiens-Capitals stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINES

CANADIENS
Tomas TatarPhillip Danault –  Brendan Gallagher
Artturi LehkonenMax DomiAndrew Shaw
Jonathan DrouinJordan WealJoel Armia
Jesperi KotkaniemiNate ThompsonPaul Byron

Victor MeteShea Weber
Brett KulakJeff Petry
Jordie BennChristian Folin

Starting goalie: Carey Price

CAPITALS
Alex Ovechkin – Nicklas BackstromTom Wilson
Jakub VranaEvgeny KuznetsovT.J. Oshie
Carl HagelinLars EllerBrett Connolly
Andre BurakovskyNic DowdTravis Boyd

John CarlsonNick Jensen
Dmitry OrlovMatt Niskanen
Brooks OrpikChristian Djoos

Starting goalie: Braden Holtby

John Walton (play-by-play) and Joe Micheletti (‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst) will have the call from Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. Pre-game coverage begins at 6 p.m. ET with NHL Live, hosted by Paul Burmeister alongside Jeremy Roenick and Anson Carter.

Blue Jackets get huge win; Torts calls Shaw hit ‘ridiculously suspendable’

AP
6 Comments

Since going all in at the NHL trade deadline the Columbus Blue Jackets have been … confusing.

Honestly, that is probably the only way to describe the past month as they have failed to consistently play up to the expectations they created with a flurry of blockbuster trades and have been unable to make any kind of a significant move in the standings.

Their game against the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night was probably the most significant one remaining on their schedule, simply because this is one of the teams they are directly competing with for a playoff spot. A regulation win would result in a four-point swing in the standings for one of them.

It was the Blue Jackets that ended up coming out on the positive side of that swing.

They managed to shake off an ugly first period performance and stormed back for a 6-2 win that brought them even with the Canadiens in the standings at 90 points and, for now, gives them possession of the second Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference. They are also now just one point back of the Carolina Hurricanes, who lost again to the Washington Capitals on Thursday, for the first Wild Card spot.

Oliver Bjorkstrand was the biggest offensive star for the Blue Jackets with a pair of goals, while Artemi Panarin, Brandon Dubinsky, David Savard, and Riley Nash also found the back of the net.

The other big story in this game was a hit by Canadiens forward Andrew Shaw that knocked Blue Jackets defender Adam McQuaid out of the game. Have a look.

Shaw was given a two-minute minor for interference during the game, but the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is already looking at it for potential supplemental discipline.

Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella, who went absolutely ballistic on the bench after the hit, called it “Suspendable. Ridiculously suspendable” in his post-game press conference.

Shaw was announced as the Canadiens’ nominee Masterton Trophy earlier in the day. He has 18 goals and 43 total points in only 57 games has been one of the Canadiens’ most productive forwards this season.

With Paul Byron already injured as a result of his fight on Tuesday night the Canadiens could find themselves without two key forwards at a pivotal point in their season.

Given that their remaining schedule is absolutely brutal (their final four regular season games are against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs, Washington Capitals and Winnipeg Jets — four teams that are not only playoff teams, but are also legitimate Stanley Cup contenders) the timing of all of that could not possibly be worse.

UPDATE:

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.

Paul Byron shouldn’t have been expected to fight

YouTube
25 Comments

Montreal Canadiens forward Paul Byron is not a player you expect to see in a fight.

Listed at only 5-foot-9, 163 pounds, the 29-year-old Byron entered Tuesday’s game against the Florida Panthers having been involved in only four NHL fights in more than 450 career games (including playoffs and preseason). It is not something he does, and on the rare occasion he has, it has happened against players that are comparable to him in stature.

But there he was, early in the first period, dropping the gloves and squaring off with the significantly larger and presumably stronger MacKenzie Weegar.

It went horribly for Byron, who stumbled off the ice, did not return to the game, and is not joining the Canadiens on its current road trip for Thursday’s massive game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, a game that could very well decide which team gets the eighth and final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.

[Related: Panthers’ Weegar knocks out Byron with nasty uppercut]

He was no doubt only fighting Weegar because that is what was expected of Byron as part of the NHL’s “code.”

You see, earlier this season Byron concussed Weegar with an ugly hit to the head that resulted in Byron being suspended three games by the NHL Department of Player Safety.

But because there is still a culture of on-ice retribution in today’s NHL game, it was expected that Byron was going to have to answer the call and drop the gloves with the player he had previously wronged, no matter how ridiculous it may have seemed physically.

Byron’s agent, J.P. Barry, was extremely critical of this whole mindset when he told The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun on Tuesday, “This was not a hockey fight,” while pointing out the massive size difference between the two players.

Weegar said after the game, via The Athletic, that he simply asked Byron if he wanted to fight, and that if he had declined he would have been willing to let it go. Obviously Byron didn’t decline, likely because he felt he was doing the right thing and the thing he was supposed to do given the circumstances.

Unfortunately, he ended up suffering the consequences.

There are no doubt a lot of people in hockey that will salute Byron for doing this, even after seeing the ugly result.

This is wrong.

This is wrong because Byron was already given his punishment when he was handed one of the longest suspensions the league has issued this season for a player safety incident, also costing him more than $18,000 in salary.

But it is not just the suspension itself that matters here.

The hit itself was very bad and deserving of every game and penny it ended up costing Byron. Maybe even more, you could argue.

What matters here is that the Department of Player Safety worked exactly the way it was supposed to work and, ultimately, designed to work. You can quibble with the number of games they ended up giving him for the hit. Maybe you think it deserved more, especially since Weegar was injured as a result of the play.

But the purpose of the department isn’t to just hand out suspensions for an arbitrary number of games, randomly punishing players for their wrongdoings.

As I wrote earlier this season regarding the Department’s continued dealings with Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson, it is not there for you or your team to get a pound of flesh and feel better about what happened to your player.

It is there to improve the safety of the game and the players by changing the way the play, and ultimately eliminating the types of play that result in suspensions.

The hope, in an ideal world, is that they have no suspensions to issue because players have learned how to play the game in a way that they are not deliberately out to hurt people. Obviously that will never happen because it’s a fast, chaotic game with a lot of collisions for 60 minutes a night, and there are some players that, unfortunately, do not have that mindset.

Sometimes the line will be crossed. Sometimes players will do bad things.

But you still want to make them more aware of how they are playing, where they are hitting people, and how they are hitting people, so the department has to exist and sometimes has to hand out punishments.

Byron understood that immediately.

On the day he was suspended he issued the following statement on Twitter.

In short: A normally clean player delivered a bad hit that had a bad result.

That player was punished by the league for delivering the bad hit, while that player also accepted responsibility for it, apologized for it, and tried to learn from it.

That should have been the end of it because the system worked.

Just because what unfolded on Tuesday night was an accepted practice 25 or 30 years ago, when there was no such department to police these things, no standard for what was illegal, and when the game was the wild west in terms of cheap shots and goonism, does not mean it should be accepted today.

That is the point Barry tried to make with LeBrun on Tuesday. An excerpt, via The Athletic (subscription required):

“I truly believe this exact situation is Exhibit A for re-examining our current rules for fighting,” continued Barry, one of the game’s most influential player agents. “If the fight is patently retribution for something that happened long before this game was ever played how is that allowed to occur without being addressed?”

Again, pretty strong points.

“I’m sure we will hear from many others tomorrow (Wednesday) who see things much differently than me and will say ‘look at Paul Byron, what a warrior, he answered the bell.’ These are the people that believe in the old `code.’ It’s time for Player Safety to be the new `code.’ What really matters is eliminating avoidable concussions wherever we can in our player safety rules going forward.”

Byron had no business fighting Weegar on Tuesday night, and there was no reason for him to feel pressured into doing it because everything about the incident was already handled and settled three months earlier.

Now Byron himself is out, dealing with the effects of an unnecessary blow to the head (which is the most important thing here), and also potentially impacting the Canadiens’ chances of making the playoffs.

The entire thing is extremely frustrating.

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.

Panthers’ Weegar knocks out Habs’ Byron with nasty uppercut

Sportsnet
3 Comments

Knockout blows are a rarity in fighting in the NHL these days. But every so often, a left or a right lands flush and down goes one of the combatants.

Montreal Canadiens forward Paul Byron could barely stand and needed to be held upright and helped off the ice after Florida Panthers defenseman MacKenzie Weegar clocked him with left-handed uppercut during a first-period fight on Tuesday night.

Here’s the fight:

There’s a backstory here.

Back January, Byron drilled Weegar in the head on a nasty charging call.

Byron was suspended three games while Weegar was concussed on the play.

So Tuesday’s fight was a little bit of retribution, followed by what appeared to be some instant regret from Weegar, who looked quite concerned for the state he left Byron in after the one-sided bout.

The Canadiens announced that Byron wouldn’t return following the game (not in the least bit surprising).

The debate will now rage whether or not Byron had to answer the bell. Weegar seemed to ask Byron if he wanted to go and Byron turned around, dropped his mitts and they were off to the races. While admirable that he owned his transgression, the Canadiens are in one hell of a fight for a playoff spot and they need Byron, who has 15 goals and 30 points this season.

Given the way Byron left the ice, he might have to miss some time down the stretch here, including an uber-important game against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday.

Perhaps sometimes you should just turn the other cheek.

Meanwhile, it’s not the first fight Weegar has featured in recent days.

On Saturday night, Weegar was on the receiving end of a pummeling at the hands of Boston Bruins forward Noel Acciari.


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

PHT Morning Skate: Ovi’s signature one-timer; Canadian university brawl

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.

• The Hockey News gives us a list of five bargain-bin defensemen that could be interesting acquisitions for contending teams. (The Hockey News)

• Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones talks about how expensive hockey can be, the money that comes with being a pro and he also opens up about what it’s like to be a black player in the NHL. (Wealth Simple)

• Sportsnet’s Gare Joyce took a deeper look at how former OHLer Akim Aliu’s refusal to accept being part of a rookie hazing incident affected his hockey career. (Sportsnet)

• ESPN sat down for a Q & A with former Sharks forward Jonathan Cheechoo, who some may describe as a one-hit wonder. “I didn’t quite get to 60 goals, but I was close. And I got to share (the Rocket Richard Trophy) with the people that were there for me all the way up. My parents. My brother and sister. A few of my uncles that used to take me to hockey school when my parents couldn’t.” (ESPN)

• Find out how Alex Ovechkin‘s signature power-play one-timer became so unstoppable. (NHL.com)

• How will the next expansion draft affect the way the Los Angeles Kings make trades? (Mayors Manor)

• The solution to the Colorado Avalanche’s goalie troubles might be in the AHL. (Denver Post)

• Check out this brawl during a Canadian University Hockey game. 13 players and both head coaches were ejected. (CBC.ca)

• The Flyers would make NHL history if they were to sneak into the playoffs. (Philly.com)

• Rangers forward Jimmy Vesey isn’t exactly on his coach’s good side right now. (New York Post)

• The Montreal Canadiens beat the Edmonton Oilers on Sunday, but they lost forward Paul Byron in the process. Byron clearly showed his frustration as he skated off the ice. (Habs Eyes on the Prize)

• ICYMI on Saturday night, there was a touching family moment prior to the game between the Leafs and Penguins: