Maple Leafs’ Zach Hyman to have hearing for late hit on Bruins’ McAvoy

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Given all of the late hits that have happened around the NHL over the past couple of weeks that did not result in a disciplinary hearing, it was easy to think Toronto Maple Leafs forward Zach Hyman was going to avoid any supplemental discipline for his hit on Boston Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy on Saturday night.

But this one may have been too late to ignore.

The NHL’s Department of Player Safety announced on Sunday that Hyman will have a disciplinary hearing for interference.

Hyman was ejected from the game for the hit, while McAvoy, who just recently returned to the lineup, was injured as a result.

You can see the play in the video above.

[Related: Maple Leafs’ Hyman ejected for late hit on Bruins Charlie McAvoy]

There have been a number of controversial, late hits around the NHL in recent weeks from Ryan Reaveshit on Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson (that left Wilson concussed and still sidelined), to Tom Wilson’s hit on New Jersey Devils forward Brett Seney, to this hit by Dallas Stars forward Brett Ritchie on Pittsburgh Penguins defender Jusso Riikkola.

All were clearly late hits that were initiated long after their opponents had moved the puck.

While Reaves and Wilson were ejected for their hits, they did not rise to the level of supplemental discipline because they did not target the head or result in significant head contact. That is usually the line the NHL draws for late hits unless it is an egregiously late hit. This one did not appear to contact the head, but it was definitely late and sent McAvoy dangerously into the boards.

None of these hits are acceptable or examples of good clean hockey. They are not even examples of a player “finishing their check.” They are reckless hits on players that are not eligible to be hit, and in some cases are resulting in injuries. If those types of hits continue the NHL will have to start doing more than just ejecting and penalizing the players that distribute them.

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 injury roundup: Matt Duchene ‘week-to-week’ with groin injury

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The Ottawa Senators lost Matt Duchene and Bobby Ryan to injury in their most recent game against the Montreal Canadiens, and according to the team they are both going to be sidelined for the foreseeable future.

The Senators announced on Saturday that Duchene has been placed on injured reserve with a groin injury and is considered “week-to-week,” while Ryan is sidelined with a concussion.

There is no timetable for Ryan’s return to the lineup.

These are two pretty significant injuries for the Senators. Duchene, currently playing in a contract year, is having one of the best seasons of his career and is the team’s leading scorer with 34 points (12 goals, 22 assists) in 29 games. It is extremely unlikely that he will re-sign with the team before becoming a free agent, and given the nature of the organization’s ongoing rebuild he will be a prime trade candidate at some point this season.

[Related: 10 players helping themselves the most in contract years]

Ryan is the team’s sixth-leading scorer with 18 points.

The one thing the Senators have had going for them this season has been the fact their offense has been among the best in the league. Losing Ryan, and especially Duchene, is going to put a significant dent in that. The Senators have lost six of their past nine games entering Saturday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins and are currently 26th in the NHL with a .466 points percentage. They do not own a first-round pick in the 2019 draft as it was sent to the Colorado Avalanche as part of the Duchene trade a year ago.

Other injury news around the NHL this weekend…

— Ottawa’s opponent on Saturday, Pittsburgh, will be without one of its top forwards in Patric Hornqvist as he is dealing with an upper-body injury. He exited Pittsburgh’s win against the New York Islanders on Thursday after playing just one period. There is no word on what the injury is, except for the Penguins saying it is not related to the concussion that recently sidelined him. On Tuesday he recorded the fastest hat trick in Penguins franchise history.

— The Philadelphia Flyers will not have star center Sean Couturier on Saturday due to a lower-body injury. He is considered day-to-day.

— Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson will not play on Saturday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets, missing his second consecutive game due to a concussion. Wilson was injured on Tuesday night when he was hit by Vegas Golden Knights forward Ryan Reaves. Reaves was ejected for the hit but not suspended.

— The Chicago Blackhawks activated defenseman Connor Murphy from injured reserve and replaced him on the IR list (retroactive to Dec. 5) with Gustav Forsling who is out with a shoulder injury.

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.

Reaves: Autographed photos of Wilson injury destroyed

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However you feel about Ryan Reaveshit on Tom Wilson, the fallout hasn’t been pretty.

Reaves was ejected from the Vegas Golden Knights’ 5-3 win against the Washington Capitals on Tuesday, and that ended up being the extent of discipline, as he was not suspended. Wilson needed to be helped off of the ice following that check; it was an ugly sight, as Wilson’s helmet came off during the fall, leaving him without protection when his head hit the ice.

In the locker room after the win, Reaves addressed the hit as such: “[H]e was looking at his pass and ran into a lion in the jungle.”

It’s bad enough to say that in the locker room after the game, when emotions can still be high, and before it was essentially confirmed that Wilson suffered a concussion.

The ill-advised decisions didn’t stop there, however, as Russian Machine Never Breaks’ Ian Oland reported that Reaves autographed photos of the aftermath of the hit for a company named “Inscriptagraphs.”

The Washington Post’s Scott Allen tracked down some screengrabs of Inscriptagraphs’ Instagram page (say that five times fast), noting that the company described the autographed photo as “the must-have Christmas gift of the year.” Yikes.

Inscriptagraphs

If nothing else, Reaves & Co. realized that it was not wise to go down that road.

As the first sign that cooler heads prevailed, the Inscriptagraphs website took down the listing. Reaves told Jesse Granger of The Athletic that he did indeed sign those photos, but eventually had a change of heart, prompting them to be destroyed. It was noted that the photos were destroyed:

The Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Ed Graney had a bit more, including Reaves hinting that it’s not unusual to sign bad things?

“I’ve signed a lot worse, but in this age of social media and concussions, and the fact (Wilson) was hurt, you never want to see that,” Reaves said. “I called the guy (at Inscriptagraphs) right away, and we took care of it before it got out.”

Vegas Golden Knights PR rep Eric Tosi also told ESPN and the Washington Post that they “were not distributed and they have been destroyed.”

One would think that this will be the end of this sordid saga, beyond Wilson’s recovery process stemming from that concussion, as the two teams won’t meet again during the 2018-19 regular season. With Reaves avoiding supplemental discipline, it’s tough to imagine more coming from this.

Keeping this ugly story in the headlines does bring to mind the NHL’s wider confusion with supplemental discipline, though.

With Matt Dumba avoiding a suspension for a highly questionable hit in Thursday’s Flames – Wild game, it’s sometimes difficult to work out through the league’s muddled messages about what “the line” really is. It’s something Capitals players discussed following that Reaves hit on Wilson Tuesday, as Granger reported (sub required).

“Who knows anymore? I don’t feel like anyone knows what’s going on anymore,” Brett Connolly said. “I don’t know if it was to the head or the top of the shoulder, but it’s still one of those hits they’re trying to get out of the game. They have a tough job, those refs. It’s a quick game. They have a tough job and they’re trying to call it the way they’re being told from people a lot higher than me and you. So we’re just trying to as players figure it out too. It’s tough.”

Connolly hits on a point about hits by Reaves, Dumba, and Wilson too: there are a lot of frame-by-frame breakdowns of checks that blur the line. Was the head the primary point of contact? Did the offending hitter’s skates leave the ice? How late was it?

But are we losing sight of the big picture by diving into the hyper-specific details?

Capitals coach Todd Reirden believed that Reaves was targeting Wilson all game long, and the situation devolved into that hit. As we learn more about the impact concussions have on the lives of athletes (and everyday people), you wonder if the league might need to take less of a laissez-faire attitude when it comes to these “feuds.”

Sure, there’s a “nature of the beast” element to all of this, as hockey’s a violent, physical game. Yet, plenty of these hits can feel predatory in nature. Was an offending hit really a hockey play? Perhaps the Department of Player Safety needs to consider setting new precedents about how they police interference, as just one example of contexts when dangerous hits can happen. The league should at least consider common sense ways to try to cut down on these cloudy, borderline situations.

It’s unclear how long Wilson will be sidelined with this concussion. The winger (who scored 14 points in 11 games in a red-hot run returning from his lengthy suspension) missed Thursday’s Capitals win against the Coyotes, and the Washington Post’s Isabelle Khurshudyan believes that Wilson will miss Saturday’s action, too.

He’s currently labeled day-to-day, a descriptor that’s even hazier than the league’s stance on borderline hits.

Hopefully NHL players will be more clear-eyed when it comes to how they conduct themselves following controversial hits in the future, though.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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.

Seven stunning NHL numbers through first two months

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Every month we will take a look around the NHL at some stunning (or even bizarre) numbers that jump out at us.

This month we look at the crazy stat lines for Patrik Laine, Mitch Marner, and Blake Wheeler, take another look at the ridiculous Arizona Coyotes penalty kill unit, and marvel at Alex Ovechkin‘s ability to get pucks on the net. 

Patrik Laine scores all the goals — He has not even played three full seasons in the NHL but the Winnipeg Jets forward is already one of the top-three (probably top-two) goal-scorers in the league.

He has already topped the 100-goal mark for his career, is on track to be one of the league-leaders again this season, and is as dangerous as any other player in the league when the puck is on his stick.

Entering play on Friday he has 21 goals on the season, an incredible number through 27 games.

Also incredible? He only has three assists this season, producing one of the funniest stat lines in the league. He is on pace to score more than 60 goals this season while recording only nine assists!

The fewest assists any player has had in a 50 goal season was the 21 Ovechkin had during the 2015-16 season.

Since the start of the 1987-88 season (via the hockey-reference database) Laine’s three assists are the fewest assists a player has had through the first 27 games of the season while scoring at least 20 goals.

During the 2008-09 season Thomas Vanek had 20 goals and only five assists for the Buffalo Sabres through his first 27 games. He finished that season with 40 goals and 24 assists.

At some point things will start to balance out a bit for Laine (his goal-scoring pace will almost certainly slow down, at least a little bit; he will get more assists) but it is still amazing to look at that stat line in the first week of December.

Wheeler and Marner are the Anti-Laines — At the complete opposite end of the offensive spectrum we have Laine’s Winnipeg teammate Blake Wheeler and Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner.

Let’s start with Marner who has already recorded 34 assists through the Maple Leafs’ first 29 games, putting him in some elite company. It is only the 24th time since the start of the 1987 season a player has recorded that many helpers this far into the season, and 10 of those instances belong to either Mario Lemieux or Wayne Gretzky (five times each).

What stands out about Marner’s performance is that he only has six goals to go with those assists.

Craig Janney (seven goals) during the 1992-93 season is the only player on that list to have fewer than 10 goals at this point.

It is certainly possible that Wheeler could join him on that list. Through the Jets’ first 27 games he has already recorded 32 assists, while scoring only four goals.

The Arizona Coyotes’ penalty kill still has a positive goal differential — We touched on this a month ago but it is still true today and it is still absurd so we need to look at it again.

We are more than a quarter of the way through the NHL season and the Coyotes have already scored 11 shorthanded goals this season, more than double any other team in the league.

During the entire 2017-18 season only one team scored more than 11 shorthanded goals all year, and none scored more than 12. Arizona is on pace to shatter that number.

Even more incredible than the number of shorthanded goals is the fact they have still only allowed eight power play goals and are still successful on more than 90 percent of their penalty kills. No other team in the league has allowed fewer than 13 power play goals at this point, while the Coyotes’ plus-three goal differential on the penalty kill is still by far the best in the league.

The Vegas Golden Knights, currently at minus-8, are the only other team in the NHL that are currently better than minus-10 while shorthanded.

The worst Chicago Blackhawks start in 15 years — The window is officially closed.

After missing the playoffs a year ago the Blackhawks have won just nine of their first 30 games to start to the 2018-19 season, making it their worst start since the 2003-04 season when they won just seven of their first 30 games.

It is only the second time since 2000 they have won fewer than 10 games at this point in the season.

That is a lot of shots on goal — Ovechkin recorded his 5,000th shot on goal during the Washington Capitals’ win over the Coyotes on Thursday night, becoming the fastest player in league history to reach that mark.

Only seven other players have ever recorded that many shots on goal (at least since shots on goal have been an official NHL stat).

The player immediately behind Ovechkin on the list is Brett Hull, who finished his career with 4,876. The next player on the list that Ovechkin will pass, probably in a couple weeks, is Brendan Shanahan with 5,086.

Hull played 1,269 games in his career. Shanahan played 1,525.

Ovechkin has currently played in only 1,031.

Connor McDavid is being asked to do even more — For the first three years of McDavid’s career he has been asked to be a one-man team in Edmonton, so why should year four be any different?

If anything, he is being asked to do even more this season.

Through the Oilers’ first 28 games he has already contributed to 49 percent of the team’s goals (scoring or assist on 36 out of 76). After the same number of games a year ago he had “only” contributed to 42 percent of the team’s goals (scoring or assisting on 34 out of 80).

Keep in mind he actually missed one of the team’s first 28 games this season.

In terms of the raw numbers it’s not that big of a difference, but it is still stunning that four years into the career of the most dominant offensive player in the league the organization that was lucky enough to get him has not given him any kind of help. When you combine this with Ken Hitchcock’s approach to playing him and Leon Draisaitl seemingly every other shift the Oilers are counting on him to single handedly carry the team even more than before.

Somebody help Craig Anderson — If you like games with a lot of offense and no defense you really need to start checking out the Ottawa Senators.

For as bad as things seem with the organization overall, they do at least have some promising young players that are putting up big numbers. They also have a completely invisible defense. That combination of young, skilled players results in a lot of high-scoring, action-packed games that may not be the best hockey, but are at least very exciting.

One player that is probably not loving it is starting goalie Craig Anderson, who has already had to face 936 shots this season!

Since the start of the 1987 season no goalie has had to face more shots through their team’s first 30 games, while only two (Ken Wreggett in 1995 with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Marc Denis with the 2003 Columbus Blue Jackets) topped the 900-shot mark (both faced 906 shots).

He is currently facing 36 shots per game! If he maintains that pace and plays in the same number of games he did a year ago (58) he would face more than 2,000 shots on goal this season.

That is a lot of shots, but it’s not totally unheard of as it’s been done 108 teams in league history. But almost every goalie that has been a part of the 2,000 shot club in a season did so by playing more than 60 games.

The overwhelming majority played 65 or more.

The only ones that faced more than 2,000 shots while playing in fewer than 60 games were Gump Worsley (59 games in 1960-61),  Bernie Parent (58 games) 1968-69, and Al Rollins (58 games) 1955-56. Somebody help Craig Anderson before he joins that list.

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.

Tom Wilson out with concussion from Reaves hit

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Ryan Reaves didn’t receive a suspension for his hit on Tom Wilson, but Wilson is sidelined with a concussion nonetheless.

However you feel about the Washington Capitals’ forward and his history of hits, it’s painful to watch the result of Reaves’ hard check. As you can see, Wilson’s helmet came off during the exchange, causing his head to hit the ice without that protection. It’s an unsettling sight, to say the least.

Some onlookers believed that Reaves had been “going after” Wilson for much of the game. It’s unclear if this had anything to do with Wilson’s controversial hit on Vegas Golden Knights forward Jonathan Marchessault during Game 1 of the 2018 Stanley Cup Final, but either way, Reaves didn’t seem apologetic after Vegas beat Washington 5-3 on Tuesday.

Via Sin Bin Vegas’ video of the scrum after the game, you can see that Reaves mentions that Game 1, and then comments on the hit as: “he was looking at his pass and ran into a lion in the jungle.”

It seems like that comment wasn’t a one-off after a game, either. Russian Machine Never Breaks’ Cara Bahniuk reports that Reaves was autographing photos of the aftermath (Reaves standing next to a fallen Wilson), complete with the “lion in the jungle” quip. The “Inscriptagraphs” page has been removed from the company’s website, but a Twitter user took a screenshot of the signed image.

Reaves was ejected from the game, and that was as far as the discipline went.

It’s currently unclear how much time Wilson will miss with this concussion. The Washington Post’s Isabelle Khurshudyan reported that it was a concussion in the first place, noting that the Capitals are only deeming it an “upper-body injury” while labeling Wilson day-to-day. After seeing footage of Wilson’s head hitting the ice and needing help off the ice, it’s pretty tough to imagine that it would be anything less than a concussion.

He’s expected to miss Thursday’s game against the Arizona Coyotes, at minimum.

That Tuesday contest against Vegas broke a blistering eight-game point streak (seven goals, six assists for 13 points) for Wilson, who’s generated 14 points in his 11 games back from a 14-game suspension.

For more background on the Wilson – Reaves beef, check this Sportsnet video:

UPDATE: Reaves apologized for signing the photos, which the team says were destroyed. From the Review-Journal:

“The picture was probably in bad taste,” Reaves said. “I apologize that it even got started.”

“I’ve signed a lot worse, but in this age of social media and concussions, and the fact (Wilson) was hurt, you never want to see that,” Reaves said. “I called the guy (at Inscriptagraphs) right away, and we took care of it before it got out.”

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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.