Nicholas J. Cotsonika
Surviving a Lightning strike: Bolts get defensive, stay in playoff race despite Steven Stamkos injuryNicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports19 hrs ago
Steven Stamkos slid into the goalpost hard – so hard that the net flew off its moorings. He struggled to his feet but couldn’t put weight on his right leg. He collapsed flat onto his stomach, buried his head in his hands and pounded the ice with his right fist. Once. Twice. Three times. Four times.
You knew it was bad even before you saw the replay of his leg bending the way a leg should not bend, before you heard the diagnosis of a broken tibia.
What a shame. Stamkos was tied for the NHL lead in goals (14) and points (23). But his quest for the Rocket Richard and Art Ross Trophies was over, and his chance to play for Team Canada at the Sochi Olympics was in jeopardy. The Tampa Bay Lightning led the Eastern Conference at 12-4-0. But this was a team most pundits had picked to miss the playoffs with one of the league’s best players. How was it going to survive without him?
- Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports1 day ago
Good. The Boston Bruins’ Shawn Thornton has appealed his 15-game suspension for his attack on the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Brooks Orpik on Dec. 7, and it is an important step for player safety in the NHL.
One of two things are about to happen:
— Commissioner Gary Bettman and maybe a neutral arbitrator will uphold the suspension, and that will cement it as precedent. Going forward, every player will know that if he does what Thornton did, the NHL’s department of player safety will have the power to give him 15 games – even if it’s a first offense.
— Bettman or the neutral arbitrator will reduce the suspension, and that will expose the real problem – that the department of player safety does not have the power to do what needs to be done, because the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association have neutered it, not mandating stiff enough penalties.
If Thornton is right, if 15 games is too much for hunting down someone, sneaking up behind him, slew-footing him and punching him in the head when he’s down, then something is wrong. Then the system is a joke, and so are both of the parties ultimately responsible for creating it – the league and the players.
- Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports3 days ago
Fifteen games. Is that enough for premeditated assault? Is that enough for the Boston Bruins’ Shawn Thornton, who hunted down the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Brooks Orpik to retaliate for a hit on a teammate? Is that enough for sneaking up from behind, slew-footing someone and punching him in the head twice with a gloved fist as he lay on the ice?
In this system? Yes.
Shanahan had never suspended anyone for more than 10 games in the regular season until he suspended Thornton for 15 games on Saturday.
Since taking over as the NHL’s disciplinarian in 2011-12, Shanahan has said that his job is not to send messages, but to change behavior. He has not had a mandate to give long suspensions – except to repeat offenders. He has maintained that if an act rises to the level of supplemental discipline, history and injury can make the suspension longer.
Three Periods: Burke's big challenge in Calgary; Quenneville's elite company; Crosby vs. Ovechkin all over againNicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports5 days ago
Nicholas J. Cotsonika’s weekly Three Periods column appears on Thursdays. This week’s topics include Brian Burke hiring someone other than himself to be Flames GM; Joel Quenneville joining elite company in the coaching record book; Jack Capuano surviving on Long Island; Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby creating another Hart Trophy debate; and, notes on the outdoor game preparations.
FIRST PERIOD: Can Brian Burke really hire a GM and stay in the background?
It was classic Brian Burke. His hair was unkempt, his tie loose and askew. He used words like truculence and hostility as he talked about building a big, tough team. Instead of preaching patience, he said he was impatient. Instead of managing expectations, he kept his eye on the Stanley Cup.
“This is all about having a parade,” Burke said Thursday. “It seems very distant on a day like today. Our team’s struggling. We’re near the bottom of the standings, and the guy’s standing up here talking about titles. People are saying, ‘Man, this guy needs a urine test.’ But that’s what this is about. I wouldn’t have come here if that wasn’t the ultimate goal.”
- Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports7 days ago
Tim Thomas is hungry again. He sits just inside the door of the dressing room after his 14th straight start, barechested, balancing a pizza box on top of his goalie pads as he wolfs down an entire cheese-and-pepperoni pie.
The man took a year off from hockey at age 38. He left the NHL while playing at an elite level for an elite team, the Boston Bruins, and said he did it because he was drained.
Now he has returned at age 39, and he’s trying to find his form for a struggling team, the Florida Panthers. He has the energy to play night after night after night, hoping maybe, just maybe, he can return to the U.S Olympic team, too.
It’s surreal. But at this moment, he has won back-to-back games, and he’s smiling.
“The reality is, it is an NHL season, so there are ups and downs even if you’re really ready to play,” said Thomas on Saturday night after a 2-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings. “But you know, I am enjoying myself. You go through time periods possibly where things aren’t going well, where you have to remind yourself just how lucky you are to even be in this league and to be playing.”
- Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports9 days ago
It should have been the best of the NHL – the Pittsburgh Penguins versus the Boston Bruins on Saturday night, a rematch of the Eastern Conference final, skill and speed and defense and toughness and all that good stuff.
Instead, it was the worst of the NHL – a seek-and-destroy hit, a concussion, a sneaky-dirty knee to the head, a vicious attack, another concussion and a stretcher, then finger-pointing and lies and apologies.
In the aftermath, it's like sorting garbage at the dump. This stinks. This stinks more. This stinks most. You have to draw distinctions, but the overwhelming overall stench leaves you holding your nose.
And it's going to get worse.
The Penguins' James Neal has only a phone hearing with the NHL's department of player safety for kneeing the head of the Bruins' Brad Marchand, which means he will receive a five-game suspension or less – which means the league is going to blow it at least in this instance.
- Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports11 days ago
Steve Mason sat on the plane in Columbus, waiting to take off for Philadelphia, ready to get off the ground again. He remembers thinking to himself: “This is your second chance. Some people don’t get second chances. You better make the most of it.”
It was April 3. The Blue Jackets had traded him to the Flyers at the deadline. He had won the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s rookie of the year in 2008-09, but his career and confidence had crumbled so badly, he had thought his first chance might be his last. Quitting had crossed his mind. Now he was headed to a goalie graveyard, of all places, to find new life.
“I was thrilled,” he said.
The Flyers had booing fans, critical media and a long list of failed goalies. Was Mason really the answer for Philly? Was Philly really the answer for Mason? Only one way to find out. Mason quickly signed a one-year extension worth $1.5 million even though he was due a $3.2 million qualifying offer, not knowing if that offer would come, knowing what he had to prove.
- Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports12 days ago
Nicholas J. Cotsonika’s weekly Three Periods column appears on Thursdays. This week’s topics include Sidney Crosby’s 500th NHL game; P.K. Subban’s Olympic chances; Claude Giroux’s confidence; Sean Couturier’s hot line; plus notes on Team Canada’s roster selection process, Steven Stamkos’ rehab, Henrik Lundqvist’s contract and the salary cap.
FIRST PERIOD: Taking stock as Sidney Crosby hits 500 NHL games
Of all the things Sidney Crosby has accomplished, reaching 500 regular-season NHL games seems pretty pedestrian. Until you stop and consider a couple of things. Like, wait a minute, isn’t he Sid the Kid, or wasn’t he not that long ago? He’s 26 already?
“He’s getting old in the league now,” said Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma. “He’s getting upward in age.”
On the other hand, shouldn’t he be on 600-something by now?
“Looking back,” Crosby said, “I probably think about how many I’ve missed more than playing 500.”
- Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports13 days ago
Remember something as you digest Henrik Lundqvist’s seven-year, $59.5 million contract extension: The New York Rangers did not just hand the King his ransom. The deal did not get done before the season started. The deal did not get done until Wednesday.
General manager Glen Sather did not give Lundqvist an $8.5 million salary-cap hit – not only the highest of any goaltender in history, but $1.5 million higher than any other goaltender has right now – until Lundqvist played hardball at the table and played below his standard on the ice. Lundqvist was just a healthy scratch in back-to-back games for the first time in almost two years.
Make all the arguments you want about this being too much term and too much money for a goaltender, especially a goaltender who turns 32 in March. Sather might even agree with you. He obviously wanted less term, less money or some other combination. That’s why he tried to hold firm.Wed, Dec 185:00 PM PSTPittsburgh at NY RangersPreview Game
Three Periods: Little rookie breaks out big-time in Boston; ex-Isles star Bob Bourne joins NHL concussion lawsuitNicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports19 days ago
Nicholas J. Cotsonika’s weekly Three Periods column appears on Thursdays. This week’s topics include Torey Krug’s rookie breakout for the structured Bruins; more former players joining the brain-trauma lawsuit against the NHL; how Jonathan Ericsson went from last in the draft to a “lifetime” deal with Detroit; what Clarke MacArthur, Kyle Turris and Bobby Ryan have in common as they click for the Senators; plus notes on the Ducks, Blues, Penguins and more.
FIRST PERIOD: Why is little Torey Krug scoring big for the Bruins?
Torey Krug is 22. He is 5-foot-9. He has played only 43 NHL games – 28 in the regular season, 15 in the playoffs. So how has he become an offensive dynamo on the blue line for a team known for its experience, toughness and structure?
Talent, of course. Confidence, of course. But it’s coaching and context, too.