Nicholas J. Cotsonika

  • Terrific night, tough loss as NHL playoff hockey returns to Winnipeg after 19 years

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports 8 hrs ago

    WINNIPEG — Silence. The puck came out to the point, Francois Beauchemin fired it and Rickard Rakell deflected it into the net 5:12 into overtime Monday night. Just like that, the MTS Centre went from one of the loudest arenas of all-time to one of the quietest.

    As the Anaheim Ducks celebrated their 5-4 victory and 3-0 first-round series lead over the Winnipeg Jets, you could hear their whoops and hollers all the way up to the rafters. Fans started filing out. After maybe a minute, some chanted, “Go, Jets, go!” But soon they faded, and there was no sound again. Hundreds stayed in their seats, stunned.

    Nineteen years they had waited for this. Nineteen years they had waited to see an NHL playoff game in Winnipeg. Now they had to process a bittersweet mix of emotions – pride, excitement, frustration, disappointment.

    “That’s one you’ll always remember,” said Jets winger Blake Wheeler. “Just too bad it wasn’t a more fond memory.”

    There were roars like you’ve never heard before. They didn’t just cheer Winnipeg goals. They cheered Anaheim icings.

    * * * * *

    Fans wept. Even players wept. The problem wasn’t a lack of passion for the team or the game. The problem was economics and politics.

  • No NHL Las Vegas team yet, but expansion process could start in June

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Puck Daddy 13 hrs ago

    WINNIPEG – The NHL will not announce the awarding of an expansion franchise to Las Vegas when the board of governors meets there in June. But the league could announce the start of a formal expansion process if the board decides to proceed. It is unclear how long that process would take.

    Potential Las Vegas owner Bill Foley has been running a season-ticket drive to gauge the viability of the market since Feb. 10. His stated goal has been to gather 10,000 commitments from everyday people and land a franchise that would begin playing in 2016-17 after a new arena is completed on the Strip.

    Foley announced March 16 he had reached 9,000 commitments. He hasn’t announced anything since, but ESPN.com reported March 30 he had gathered more than 10,000 commitments and now was reaching out to large corporations, including casinos. 

    Asked directly if Foley had reached 10,000 commitments, Bettman said: “I’m not commenting on the count. Ultimately that will be for him at the appropriate time, but he’s doing well – very well.”

    There is no indication Foley or the NHL has lost interest in Las Vegas.

  • Habs' PK Subban steps up in Game 2 in front of Elise Beliveau: 'I want to be better for her'

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports 3 days ago

    MONTREAL — It was the second intermission of the playoff opener Wednesday night, and P.K. Subban was standing outside the Montreal Canadiens’ dressing room. He had slashed the Ottawa Senators’ Mark Stone and received a major penalty and a game misconduct. He was in a suit, not his uniform.

    Elise Beliveau, the widow of the late Jean Beliveau, came by as she often does. She sits in the family seats three rows behind the bench in Section 101 and retreats to a lounge underneath the stands at the Bell Centre.

    “I know you’ll be better next game,” she told him.

    Subban said he was worked up for Game 2 on Friday night and got even more worked up when he saw Mrs. Beliveau behind the glass. She rarely wears jerseys, and she stood up to show him she was wearing a jersey this time.

    His jersey.

    “I want to be better for her,” he said.

    And so Subban played his best. He was the first star of a 3-2 overtime victory that gave the Canadiens a 2-0 series lead. He logged 29:06 of ice time. He attempted 13 shots. He scored a goal with a slapshot so wicked, it made the goaltender duck.

    Elise Beliveau sat next to an empty seat afterward.

    Jean Beliveau was known for class even more than his talent.

    Pause.

  • Slash aftermath: Subban, Stone and the hack heard 'round the hockey world

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports 4 days ago

    MONTREAL — Well, it all worked out for P.K. Subban and the Montreal Canadiens, didn’t it?

    Subban slashed the Ottawa Senators’ Mark Stone in the playoff opener Wednesday night. He received a major penalty and a game misconduct. But the Canadiens survived without their best defenseman for half the game – when they were already without their best forward, Max Pacioretty – and won, 4-3.

    Now Subban has not been suspended, and Pacioretty might play in Game 2 on Friday night.

    Meanwhile, Stone – one of the best players in the NHL down the stretch, a main reason the Sens rallied to make the playoffs – is “very questionable for the series” with a microfracture and ligament damage in his right wrist, according to general manager Bryan Murray. Even if he can return, how well will he be able to perform? His biggest strength might be his release. He kind of needs his wrists.

    “It’s a huge loss to our hockey team,” Murray said.

    There is no debate about that. There is debate about almost everything else, though, and we need to take a deep breath, be objective and cut through all the spin, BS and gamesmanship on both sides one step at a time:

    “Even if they do,” he said, “whatever.”

  • Instant playoff drama for Canadiens, Senators after 'vicious slash' by Subban

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports 5 days ago

    MONTREAL — It was the opening night of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The late Jean Beliveau had held the torch on the video screens. The iconic Ginette Reno had sung “O Canada” like only she could. The Montreal Canadiens had scored two goals in a 15-second span to take the lead over the Ottawa Senators, and they had just gone on the penalty kill.

    P.K. Subban lives for these moments. Often they bring out the best in him. But this time he lifted his stick high with two hands and brought it down on the right wrist of Mark Stone, the 22-year-old rookie who put up 14 goals and 35 points in the last 31 games of the regular season as the Senators went on an incredible run to make the playoffs. Stone immediately recoiled, dropped and yelped.

    Subban held out his arms and hopped up and down as referee Steve Kozari put up his right arm, then gave Kozari a look as if to say, “You’re calling that?” Kozari emphatically signaled it was slashing and pointed Subban off the ice.

    If one of their best players get slashed …

    “Obviously it was a pretty big whack,” Stone said. “It looked like he wanted to hurt me.”

    Does Subban deserve a suspension?

    “Of course,” Stone said. “There was some intent there.”

  • NHL Playoff Power Rankings: The 16 co-favorites to win the Stanley Cup

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports 6 days ago

    Each year we issue our playoff power rankings, listing the teams in order of their chances to win the Stanley Cup. Usually we go 1 through 16. This time we’re going 1(a) through 1(p).

    We’re exaggerating to make a point, but not much. The Calgary Flames don’t have the same chance to win the Cup as the New York Rangers. But this is the tightest the field has been in the modern era.

    Only 16 points separated the 16 teams in the regular season. The gap hasn’t been narrower since 1964-65, when the NHL had six teams, four made the playoffs and Gary Bettman was just a kid, not yet the commissioner who fought for the salary cap.

    Not only that, but the winners of three of the past four Cups – the Boston Bruins (2011) and Los Angeles Kings (2012 and 2014) – are 1(q) and 1(r). They’re out.

    There is no favorite. Good luck with your bracket.

    “Sixteen teams make it,” said St. Louis Blues general manager Doug Armstrong. “I wouldn’t say I’d be shocked if any of those teams won.”

    1(a). New York Rangers

    1(b). St. Louis Blues

    1(c). Tampa Bay Lightning

    1(d). Chicago Blackhawks

    1(e). Minnesota Wild

    1(f). Anaheim Ducks

    1(g). Montreal Canadiens

    1(h). Nashville Predators

    1(i). Washington Capitals

    1(j). Ottawa Senators

  • Sinking feeling in San Jose as Sharks' playoff streak comes to end

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports 13 days ago

    Now that the San Jose Sharks have missed the playoffs for the first time since 2002-03, expect general manager Doug Wilson to reference the “rebuild.” He called the Sharks a “tomorrow team” almost a year ago.

    “I’m not happy with where we are, but I’m not surprised with where we are,” said Wilson on March 17 at the NHL GMs’ meetings, when the Sharks were five points out of a playoff spot. “We knew the transition of this year would have its challenges and its moments.”

    Just remember this team was one of the best in the NHL last season and a win away from sweeping the eventual Stanley Cup champions. Yes, the Sharks blew a 3-0 series lead and lost to the Los Angeles Kings in the first round, San Jose’s worst playoff failure in a decade of playoff failures. But now they won’t even have a chance to fail in the playoffs.

    Even if the Sharks didn’t expect to be as good as they were before because of the moves Wilson made, they expected to be better than this. There was too much turmoil and too much inconsistency. There was too much underachievement once again.

  • Three Periods: Why it's so hard to score in today's NHL; Miller thought he'd lost eye; news & notes

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports 18 days ago

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika’s Three Periods column appears on Thursdays. This week’s topics include the difficulty in scoring in today’s NHL; Drew Miller’s comeback from a scary skate cut; the time a player had a piece of his face reattached and returned to a game; the Detroit Red Wings’ struggles beyond goaltending; and Nikita Kucherov’s breakout season with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

    FIRST PERIOD: Why it’s so hard to score in today’s NHL

    The NHL almost certainly will have only one 50-goal scorer this season – the amazing Alex Ovechkin – and no 100-point scorer. Scoring is down, right? The game has gone backwards, right?

    Yes, scoring is down compared to 10 years ago. But it has been essentially flat for five years. Here are the goals per game from 2010-11 to 2014-15 through 92 percent of the schedule (where we were entering the week): 5.6, 5.5, 5.4, 5.5, 5.5. It’s a 3-2 league and has been for a while.

    Listen to St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, who has taught defense to different teams in different eras in different ways.

    That’s not much different than the past four seasons.

    SECOND PERIOD: Miller plays two nights after scary cut almost cost him an eye

    What’s the word?

    Crazy? Courageous?

  • Time running out on Senators' sensational playoff push: 'There’s still some magic left'

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports 19 days ago

    The worst place in the NHL to scoreboard watch might be Joe Louis Arena, the old barn by the Detroit River. The out-of-town scoreboards have been broken for years and covered with banners advertising a tire store. Sometimes out-of-town scores flash on pixelated message boards, but only sometimes. This is a rink where the video screens are small and in standard definition, not HD, a decade out of date.

    “You can barely see the main scoreboard,” said Ottawa Senators winger Clarke MacArthur.

    So as the Senators faced the Red Wings on Tuesday night, they couldn’t find updates on the Boston Bruins’ game against the Florida Panthers. They just kept playing, kept grinding, kept believing until MacArthur broke through with a goal late in the third period and they ended up winning in a shootout, 2-1. They entered the dressing room and finally got the news: the Bruins had won, too.

    “It doesn’t deflate you, because you want to roll with the momentum,” said Senators winger Bobby Ryan. “But at the same time, you see the numbers dwindling.”

    Ottawa’s schedule down the stretch: Tampa Bay, Washington, at Toronto, Pittsburgh, at New York Rangers, at Philadelphia.

    But it ain’t over yet.

  • Pressure on Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard to find his game and reclaim No. 1 role

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports 20 days ago

    DETROIT — With Jimmy Howard in danger of losing his starting job heading into the playoffs, Detroit Red Wings goaltending coach Jim Bedard tried to put the situation in perspective.

    Howard became the starter in 2009-10. He’s signed through 2018-19. If he stays in Detroit through the end of the contract, he will have played 10 seasons for the Wings.

    “Did you think nobody was going to come here and try to knock you out of your spot?” Bedard said to Howard in a chat the other day. “Come on. I’d like to see it happen more.”

    Bedard told Howard the Wings were fortunate to have him and Petr Mrazek, a young talent. He told him he needed to embrace the fact the Wings have two good goaltenders. The challenge can become a positive if he rises to meet it.

    “Obviously he’s feeling the pressure,” Bedard said. “I’m glad. Let’s see what’s he’s made of. Let’s see what he’s made of. I think what he’s made of is all good. Sometimes you’ve just got to hit the reset button.”

    There is no need to hit the panic button. Yet.

    “Obviously one of these guys have got to grab it,” Babcock said.

    Obviously. As the old adage goes, if you have two goalies, you have none.

    He didn’t back down, either.

    Laugh.