Milan Lucic

Our Line Starts podcast: Lucic suspension; Blues soldier on without Tarasenko

Liam McHugh, Keith Jones, and Patrick Sharp react to Milan Lucic defending the sucker punch that got him suspended. The Blues keep winning without Vladimir Tarasenko; are they built to contend for another Cup? Plus, an interview with Mathew Barzal of the Islanders, who talks about the influence of Lou Lamoriello and Barry Trotz, the challenge of having two home arenas, and his detailed recollection of Josh Bailey‘s OT goal against the Penguins last year. The guys also take a surprise call from a mysterious Dominik Hasek impersonator.

0:00-2:00 Intros
2:00-7:40 Milan Lucic defends his sucker punch
7:40-13:20 Blues winning without Tarasenko
13:20-16:45 The guys reveal their favorite goals of all-time
17:00-25:35 Michael Farber interviews Mathew Barzal
25:35-31:55 Reaction to the Isles’ 10-game winning streak
31:55-end Mystery phone call from “The Dominator”

Our Line Starts is part of NBC Sports’ growing roster of podcasts spanning the NFL, Premier League, NASCAR, and much more. The new weekly podcast, which will publish Wednesdays, will highlight the top stories of the league, including behind-the-scenes content and interviews conducted by NBC Sports’ NHL commentators.

Where you can listen:

Apple: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/id1482681517

Stitcher: https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/nbc-sports/our-line-starts

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/7cDMHBg6NJkQDGe4KHu4iO?si=9BmcLtutTFmhRrNNcMqfgQ

NBC Sports on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/nbcsports

Flames’ Lucic suspended two games for roughing Sherwood

Sportsnet
17 Comments

Milan Lucic has been suspended two games for his punch on Columbus Blue Jackets forward Kole Sherwood Saturday night.

The Calgary Flames forward took exception to Sherwood’s extra poke at the puck — which earned him a minor — as goaltender David Rittich covered it for a faceoff. As Lucic approached Sherwood he threw a punch and then a big scrum went down behind the net. Sherwood did go through concussion protocol but returned to the game.

Lucic was given a double-minor for roughing, and not long after the game ended 3-0 in the Flames’ favor the NHL’s Department of Player Safety announced there would be a Sunday hearing.

Here’s the NHL’s reasoning for the two-game ban, which sees Lucic’s recent history come into play:

Lucic will begin his suspension Sunday night and will be eligible to return Thursday against the Devils. He will also lose out on $64,516.12 in salary, which will be donated to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.

UPDATE: Flames GM Brad Treliving responds to the two-game suspension:

“I have the utmost respect for George Parros and the Department of Player Safety. They do a great job. But on this one, we vehemently disagree. I saw a player who poked, jabbed, whacked, speared, whatever you want to call it, the goaltender. I think 31 teams around the league, if you do that to anybody, there is going to be a reaction. We support our player 100%. We want our players to support each other, back each other up, and we felt that’s what Milan was doing in this case.”

MORE: Lucic delivers another questionable ‘sucker punch’

————

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.

Milan Lucic delivers another questionable ‘sucker punch’

26 Comments

At this rate, Milan Lucic might finish the 2019-20 season with more questionable punches than goals.

Much has been made about James Neal making Lucic look bad by comparison, but it’s increasingly clear that Lucic seems to think of himself as an enforcer for the Calgary Flames, as much as anything else. He had zero goals and three assists through 15 games this season heading into Saturday’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, and his biggest impact might be of the more literal variety.

Blue Jackets rookie Kole Sherwood made what seemed like a pretty innocuous jab for a rebound attempt at Flames goalie David Rittich, and that prompted Lucic to catch him mostly unaware with a very questionable punch.

Was it a sucker punch? Some might say no, but it certainly seemed ugly.

Curiously, Lucic was whistled with a roughing double-minor for the play, rather than something more substantial like a major penalty or misconduct. The NHL tends to let a lot of “after the whistle” things go, so it remains to be seen if anything comes of this, but you have to wonder if the league is comfortable with plays like these.

For what it’s worth, this exchange seemed worse than Lucic’s other borderline one-sided “fight,” although one could question his actions against Colorado Avalanche defenseman Nikita Zadorov from the two teams’ season-opener in October, too:

Should Lucic face supplemental discipline, or was that double-minor sufficient? It definitely helps Lucic’s cause that Sherwood was able to return to the game, which is just the third NHL contest of his career.

UPDATE:

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.

Stuck on zero: Notable NHL players still searching for first goal

Getty
7 Comments

We are a couple of weeks into the 2019-20 NHL season and there have been some surprising players at the top of the goal-scoring leaderboard, including James Neal, Anthony Mantha, Victor Olofsson, Brayden Schenn, and Erik Haula.

Perhaps just as surprising is the list of players still searching for their first goal, fighting through extended early season slumps.

Every player will go through hot streaks and cold streaks over the course of a season, and when those streaks happen now we tend to pay extra attention to them because there is nothing else around them to hide them. A first line player stuck on zero goals after six or seven games will stick out more than a six-or seven-game drought in the middle of March.

Here are eight notable players still trying to find that first goal. We are limiting this to players that have played in at least six games.

William Karlsson, Vegas Golden Knights
Games played entering Tuesday:
6
Shots on goal: 16

After scoring 67 goals over the past two seasons Karlsson has gone six games without a goal to open the 2019-20 season. The good news for him: He started each of the past two seasons with zero goals in his first six games before scoring in his seventh game each year.

Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers
Games played entering Tuesday: 6
Shots on goal: 14

Barkov has become one of the NHL’s best all-around players over the past couple of years and is one of the reasons for optimism in Florida. He has not scored yet this season but he is doing literally everything else, having already recorded five assists while the Panthers are attempting more than 54 percent of the shot attempts when he is on the ice. Only a matter of time before the puck starts finding the back of the net for him.

Nino Niederreiter, Carolina Hurricanes
Games played entering Tuesday: 6
Shots on goal: 13

Getting a full season of Niederreiter is a big reason to like the Hurricanes this season. He was a significant addition in the middle of the 2018-19 season and is an outstanding two-way winger that can defend, drive possession, and help create offense. He is still helping to drive possession at an elite rate. He is not a big-time goal-scorer, but he is always a lock for at least 20 goals.

Joe Pavelski, Dallas Stars
Games played entering Tuesday: 7
Shots on goal: 10

The Stars have been one of the league’s most disappointing teams so far and Pavelski might be their most disappointing player through the first seven games. Not only as he failed to score a goal, but only generating 10 shots on goal in seven games is a concerning sign. Some regression had to be expected from his 38-goal campaign a year ago (he had a career-high shooting percentage at age 34, which was never going to be repeated) but this has to be discouraging. He also has just one assist.

Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes, New Jersey Devils
Games played entering Tuesday: 6
Shots on goal: 21 (combined)

The two recent No. 1 overall picks are two of the most important players on the Devils’ roster from a big picture outlook, and so far both have struggled. Hughes has failed to record a point in his first six games and can not seem to buy a goal. Just another thing that has gone wrong for the Devils in a season where nothing has gone as expected.

Jaden Schwartz, St. Louis Blues
Games played entering Tuesday: 6
Shots on goal: 6

Schwartz had a bizarre 2018-19 season, struggling through one of the worst regular season performances of his career (mostly due to a terrible shooting percentage) before being unstoppable in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The trouble for Schwartz this season (unlike last season) is he is not yet generating shots.

Milan Lucic, Calgary Flames
Games played entering Tuesday: 6
Shots on goal: 4

The Flames will try to sell you on the idea he is doing exactly what they want, providing physical play and serving as some sort of protection for their stars. But man, zero goals, zero points, only four shots on goal, a lot of penalty minutes, a huge contract, and the guy he was traded for (James Neal) can not stop scoring goals for their biggest rival. There is no way that trade is a win at this point.

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.

James Neal keeps scoring goals as Oilers remain unbeaten

Getty
6 Comments

Not even the most optimistic Edmonton Oilers fan could have drawn up a start this good for the 2019-20 season.

With their 4-3 shootout win over the New Jersey Devils on Thursday night, the Oilers remained perfect on the young season and improved to 4-0 for just the fourth time in franchise history, and the first time since the 2008-09 season.

It was their big stars doing the damage on Thursday.

Connor McDavid sent the game to overtime with a late power play goal while Leon Draisaitl (who also scored in regulation) scored the lone goal in the shootout to help the Oilers extend their season-opening winning streak.

But the big story to come out of this game, again, is the continued resurgence of offseason acquisition James Neal as he scored in his third consecutive game and has already matched his goal output (seven) from the entire 2018-19 season. It has taken him just four games to do it.

His seven goals are also the most for any Oilers player through the first four games in franchise history.

After signing a huge contract with the Calgary Flames in free agency, Neal was a massive flop in his first year with the team scoring just seven goals in 63 games, quickly falling out of favor with the organization and the fanbase. Looking for a change — and some added toughness — the Flames dumped his contract on the Oilers in exchange for their biggest albatross contract (Milan Lucic). Given the construction of the two contracts it was a financial win for the Oilers, and it also had a great chance to be a win on the ice since Neal always seemed like the more likely player to have a bounce-back year.

So far, that gamble is paying off.

Neal has now scored in three consecutive games for the Oilers and is giving them exactly what they needed — a forward not named McDavid or Draisaitl that could put the puck in the back of the net on occasion.

Is he going to keep scoring at such a ridiculous pace all year? Of course not. But if he can at least get back to being a 25-30 goal player that is going to be a huge upgrade to the Oilers’ lineup. He has already been a major difference-maker in three of the team’s first four wins this season with two goals in a one-goal win against the Kings, four goals in a 5-2 win against the Islanders, and a goal in a shootout win on Thursday.

As for the Devils, Thursday’s defeat drops them to 0-2-2 on the season for what has to be a bitterly disappointing start after such a huge offseason.

MORE:
• Your 2019-20 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.