Greg Wyshynski at Puck Daddy 3 hrs ago
NHL teams find focus and motivation in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in different ways. Some will have a puzzle that gets filled with each win. Some hand out postgame hats or jackets. Others have locker-room traditions, like a particular pump-up or celebration song.
Which brings us to the unlikely, yet completely feasible, union of the Dallas Stars and country pop singer Shania Twain.
In waiting to speak to the Stars before Game 4 of their Western Conference semifinal series, reporters were delayed from speaking to players until the playing of (and singing long with) Shania Twain’s “You’re Still The One” was over. Stars center Jason Spezza did the policing, according to Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News:
Imagine their surprise when Spezza said they had to wait until the Shania Twain song was over. Captain Jamie Benn, reading the vibe from his teammate, walked over to the modern-day "boombox" and turned the volume up to 11.
Rituals, after all, are rituals.
Greg Wyshynski at Puck Daddy 7 hrs ago
The 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs have reached their second round, and that means it’s time to start really noodling through which players are candidates for the Conn Smythe Trophy, an annual award given by the Professional Hockey Writers Association to the most valuable player for his team in the playoffs.
(Or to Connor McDavid, whom we assume will be a finalist despite the Oilers missing the playoffs.)
Here’s how we see the field through Thursday night’s games. Please keep in mind that for the Conn Smythe Watch, we weigh candidates more if their teams appear headed to advancement. Also keep in mind that the PHWA's potential favorites were also factored in.
10. Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues
Joe Pavelski, Tyler Johnson and Colin Wilson were close here, but the No. 10 spot goes to Tarasenko for his 11 points in 11 games performance, including six goals. Five of them have come at even strength. A rough one-goal-in-four-game stretch prevents him from being higher.
9. Kris Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins
8. Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals
7. Brian Elliott, St. Louis Blues
6. John Tavares, New York Islanders
5. Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators
3. Jamie Benn, Dallas Stars
Greg Wyshynski at Puck Daddy 10 hrs ago
Portland, Maine, has only had two seasons without an AHL franchise since 1977.
The last time was the 2013-14 season, when the Pirates moved over to Lewiston during a protracted lease dispute with the city. The man who helped mend those feelings and bring the team back was businessman Ron Cain, who became the team’s majority owner and negotiated a five-year lease with Portland.
He’s also the guy who has deprived the city of an AHL for next season, and who knows for how long after that.
Cain sold the Pirates, the Florida Panthers’ AHL affiliate, to investors in Springfield, Mass., as a replacement for the Springfield Falcons, the Coyotes’ affiliate that will be moving out west next season. The sale is pending AHL approval.
The city was blindsided by the news this week. Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling was told first by a reporter. And then there was this scene, via the Portland Press Herald:
Locke “looked teary-eyed and upset,” Prue said. “It’s very disappointing. I’m completely shocked. It seemed like the Pirates staff was shocked as well. I don’t think any of them knew, either.”
Greg Wyshynski at Puck Daddy 20 hrs ago
Joe Pavelski put the puck over the Nashville Predators’ goal line with 15:52 left in the first overtime of Game 4 on Thursday night.
Unfortunately for the San Jose Sharks, he did so from his stomach, while laying on top of goalie Pekka Rinne, have barreled into him on a confusing, controversial play that ended with the Sharks have a goal waved off on the ice and then having the ruling confirmed by the NHL War Room.
It was a mess of a play.
The no-goal call was upheld, sending Sharks coach Pete DeBoer into a fury.
Was he checked from behind by a Predators player? Was he tripped onto Rinne by Shea Weber? Did he land on the goalie by his own volition?
According to the NHL Rulebook, a goal is allowed if it’s scored when the attacking player is shoved or fouled into the goalkeeper “after having made a reasonable effort to avoid contact, makes contact with the goalkeeper at the time a goal is scored.”
Two issues here. The first is whether Pavelski made a reasonable effort to avoid Rinne. The second is “at the time a goal is scored.” This isn’t a bang-bang play as the puck crosses the line, but rather a goal that was scored by the player literally pinning down the goalie with his body.
Like many hockey-obsessed 26 year olds, John Chayka would occasionally fire up his gaming system and play a little EA Sports NHL. Those games included a “Be A GM” Mode, in which you manage a team under the salary cap, make trades and even help facilitate locker room chemistry.
Unlike many hockey-obsessed 26 year olds, John Chayka now has a chance to do all of this in the actual NHL, rather than the pixelated one.
“I can certainly tell you from my experience here and around the league that, in general, it’s a much different approach to making a trade [than in a video game],” he said on Thursday, hours after being announced as the Arizona Coyotes new general manager.
Chayka becomes the youngest GM in NHL history, surpassing Gord Stellick, who was 30 when he was hired by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1988. He replaces Don Maloney, who was fired after nine years at the helm. He joined the team last season as an assistant general manager with a focus on analytics, involved in all areas of hockey operations and player development.
As we said in the opening round, the annual ritual for Washington Capitals fans in the last several postseasons has been figuring out the worst case scenarios for their team’s seemingly inevitable departure from the playoffs.
Previously, the worst case scenario in the Capitals' series against the Pittsburgh Penguins might have been a Game 7 loss on home ice, with Alex Ovechkin getting stopped on a breakaway and Justin Williams going scoreless and a minus-2.
However, that was before Game 4 on Wednesday night. That was before the Capitals faced a Penguins team that was missing Kris Letang, arguably their most irreplaceable player, as well as defenseman Olli Maatta and Eric Fehr, whose made his presence known in this series.
The weight of importance on this game was doubled – alright, tripled – by the weight of playoff disappoints of yore. Outside of the Capitals’ various Game 7s, it was the most must-win playoff games of the Ovechkin Era.
And they lost. In overtime.
How could they not take advantage of this?
The flames have consumed houses, businesses and everything else standing in the path of the raging wildfire. Over 88,000 people have fled Fort McMurray, the quiet oil town in Alberta that’s become international news as the ash of 18,500 scorched acres continues to blanket it.
The videos emerging from the fire look like they could have been scenes from a disaster movie.
“A movie that I don’t really want to watch,” said Scottie Upshall of the St. Louis Blues. “I saw the freeway I usually used to drive in from the airport. Both sides of the road had 100-foot flames. I saw a couple of restaurants I used to go to, and they’re just … gone.”
Upshall grew up in Fort McMurray, playing with the city’s AJHL team the Oil Barons as a 16-year-old and leading them to a Royal Bank Cup championship.
He’s attempting to win a different kind of Cup with the Blues in the 2016 NHL playoffs. But his mind is back home.
“We’re in a real great spot here in the playoffs. But when lives are at stake, when a community has its backs against a wall, fighting for survival, it’s tough,” he said on Wednesday.
All in the spirit of helping those in need.
“The good thing is that the city will get through it.”
Greg Wyshynski at Puck Daddy 2 days ago
There’s no question that Connor McDavid is a better player than Artemi Panarin.
It’s entirely possible, in 10 years, that McDavid is en route to the Hall of Fame and Panarin has left for the KHL after several years toiling on lines that had a distinct lack of Patrick Kane.
There’s every chance that if the Chicago Blackhawks rookie is given the Calder Trophy this season, we’ll look back on it with the head-scratching curiosity that we do THE ENGLISH PATIENT defeating FARGO for Best Picture 20 years ago.
But none of this should matter in voting for the 2015-16 Calder, which is handed to “the most proficient player in his first year of competition in the National Hockey League.” It’s about one rookie season, not a legacy. And when it comes to the seasons posted by Panarin and McDavid, the issue is that one had a season and the other is just over half of one.
Panarin played 80 games, scoring 30 goals and 47 assists for 77 points. McDavid, due to his broken collarbone, played 45 games with 16 goals and 32 assists for 48 points. Had he played 80 games, he probably wins this in a walk. But he didn’t.
Which, in the eyes of some, is just a technicality:
MORE FROM YAHOO HOCKEY
Greg Wyshynski at Puck Daddy 2 days ago
Brendan Shanahan was five months into his stint as the NHL’s vice president of player safety when we asked him how the department’s mission could be described.
"We're not in the business of punishing. We're trying to change behavior," he said.
Four years later, it’s obvious that the education facet of that mission has been successful. Blindside hits, thanks in no small part to Rule 48, are rare. Hits that target the head significantly are rare – many suspensions seem like they’re on head-shots caused by a combination of factors rather than Matt Cooke-ish head-hunting. Stretchers on the ice, thank the gods, are rare.
But let’s be honest: It was true four years ago as it is today that the NHL Department of Player Safety is in the business of punishing.
Then Kris Letang was given a one-game suspension for his hit on Marcus Johansson. The NHL said there was no injury on the play, but Letang was banned for a late, high hit that didn’t earn a major for interference in the game. Was this an attempt to change behavior? Was this a punishment that went beyond the ruling on the ice? Was this evening things out after Orpik?
Court of Appeals
Greg Wyshynski at Puck Daddy 3 days ago
When we last heard hockey talk from WFAN radio icon Mike Francesa, a.k.a. The Sports Pope, he was trashing the New York Islanders’ public relations efforts and calling it a “third rate” organization.
That prompted Rick DiPietro, former Islanders goalie-turned-radio host on rival 98.7 FM, to fire back that Francesa was a “fatso.”
On Tuesday, it was Francesa’s turn to lob some grenades in this New York sports talk radio war, first taking a shot at the Islanders, saying tickets were still available for their Game 3 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“They don’t know how to market, and the rink is run by a bunch of clowns. But otherwise, I think they’re OK,” he said.