Nicholas J. Cotsonika
- Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports23 hrs ago
You’re an NHL defenseman. You’re playing the Anaheim Ducks. You’re facing the line of Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Dustin Penner.
What do you do?
Perry is 6-foot-3, 212 pounds. Getzlaf is 6-foot-4, 221. Penner is 6-foot-4, 247.
Coming at you on your left is a right winger who has won the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s most valuable player, a goal-scorer with a mean streak. In the middle is one of the league’s best centermen, a leader who makes plays and scores himself. On your right is a left winger who crashes the net and puts the puck in it at his best.
Do you play keep-away? Get out of the way?
“We’re all big-bodied guys that can handle the puck,” Penner said. “We all complement each other.”
They have been one of the best lines in the league this season, if not the best, and they have been the driving force for the Ducks, who have won six straight games, lead the ultra-competitive Pacific Division and rank behind only the defending Stanley Cup-champion Chicago Blackhawks in the overall standings.
Perry, Getzlaf and Penner have combined for 48 goals and 100 points – 36 goals and 73 points at even strength.
- Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports1 day ago
Nicholas J. Cotsonika’s weekly Three Periods column appears on Thursdays. This week’s topics include the amazing start to Martin Jones’ NHL career; the Penguins’ defensive improvement; Cam Fowler’s maturation; mea culpa on Wilson-Schenn hit; and notes on the Ducks, Senators, Rangers.
FIRST PERIOD: Martin Jones shines brightest in Year of Backup Goalie
Martin Jones went undrafted. He had never played in the NHL before. Now here he was on Dec. 3 after three-plus seasons in the minors, starting in goal for the Los Angeles Kings against the Anaheim Ducks – crosstown rivals and fellow Western Conference contenders.
The 23-year-old stopped 26 of 28 shots through three periods and overtime, then came to the bench as the crew cleared the ice for the shootout. He took off his mask.
“You think you might see a little bit of … not so much panic, but a little bit of worry in his eyes,” said Kings goaltending coach Bill Ranford. “And he was just on the bench smiling, very laid-back and casual.”
Jones faced nine Ducks in the shootout and stoned them all. The Kings won, 3-2. And that was just the beginning.Sat, Dec 214:00 PM PSTAnaheim at NY IslandersPreview Game
Surviving a Lightning strike: Bolts get defensive, stay in playoff race despite Steven Stamkos injuryNicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports4 days 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?Sat, Dec 214:00 PM PSTCarolina at Tampa BayPreview Game
- Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports4 days 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 Sports6 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 Sports8 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.”Sat, Dec 2110:00 AM PSTCalgary at PittsburghPreview Game
- Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports11 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 Sports13 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.Sat, Dec 214:00 PM PSTBuffalo at BostonPreview Game
- Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports15 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 Sports15 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.”