Nicholas J. Cotsonika

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

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports 6 hrs 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 This is a rink where the video screens are small and in standard definition, not HD, a decade out of date.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 1 day 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.

  • Something to prove: Better than ever, Bolts seek playoff redemption

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports 2 days ago

    There was nothing he could do.

    In the regular season, Ben Bishop had played so well, he was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy. The Tampa Bay Lightning had gone 3-0-1 against the Montreal Canadiens. But Bishop was injured and Anders Lindback was in goal as the Bolts faced the Habs in the first round of the 2014 playoffs.

    Bishop watched a game in the press box. He watched another in a suite. He watched another underneath the stands.

    “I was trying to change the luck last year,” Bishop said. “So I watched everywhere.”

    It didn’t work. The Bolts got swept.

    The lesson was simple: No matter what happens in the regular season, it can come undone quickly in the playoffs thanks to injuries, bounces, whatever. It had to be sickening for the Lightning to watch defenseman Jason Garrison and winger Cedric Paquette suffer injuries Saturday in a 4-0 loss to the Detroit Red Wings. Garrison’s was bad; he’s out three to four weeks. Paquette’s looked bad but shouldn’t cost him much time, if any.

    Now consider that Ryan Callahan, a deadline acquisition last year, has had a full season in Tampa Bay. Now consider the addition of Brian Boyle, a big, two-way, bottom-six centerman.

    The key, though, is the roster.

  • Three Periods: The tanking paradox; dramatic drop in power plays; NHL notes

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports 6 days ago

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika’s Three Periods column appears on Thursdays. This week’s topics include the dueling agendas when teams tank; the reason for the lack of power plays across the NHL; an interesting idea for the draft lottery; another potential angle for video review; and a funny exchange between coaches Todd McLellan and Mike Babcock.

    FIRST PERIOD: When a team tanks, coaches and players aren’t trying to lose

    GMs tank. Coaches and players don’t.

    “As a player,” said Coyotes captain Shane Doan, “there is not a chance in anything that I ever want to be last. As a competitor, it makes you sick to think that, embarrassed and disgusted that you’re even in the situation. The fact that’s even a possibility is just disgusting.”

    Remember that as the Sabres and Coyotes, the leaders in the race for last place, play Thursday night in Buffalo and Monday night in Arizona. There are dueling agendas in each organization.

    General managers have a long-term view. The ultimate goal is to win the Stanley Cup, and if their team isn’t in position to compete for it, their job is to maneuver within the system to put their team in position to compete for it.

    THIRD PERIOD: Notes from around the NHL

  • Paul Stastny finally at home in St. Louis: 'Part of me felt like I was a rookie again'

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports 8 days ago

    Paul Stastny was one of the biggest free agents on the market last summer and signed a four-year, $28 million contract with the St. Louis Blues. He had spent eight seasons in the NHL as a skilled, two-way centerman, averaging 0.85 points per game.

    But in early December, he was coming off an injury, and he was struggling, and he was still trying to prove himself to coach Ken Hitchcock.

    “You’ve kind of got to earn your trust and your respect all over again,” Stastny said. “Part of me felt like I was a rookie again and I’d never played 500-plus games in this league.”

    As the season has gone on, Stastny has become more comfortable in Hitchcock’s system. He’s playing in all situations. He’s winning faceoffs. He’s producing more – in time for the stretch run and the playoffs.

    Bottom line: He helps give the Blues three balanced lines, and they have one of the best records in the league.

    Still, he’s slotted as the Blues’ No. 3 centerman, averaging 0.66 points per game. It has been hard to find his niche and his game for several reasons.

    Stastny said that was understandable.

  • Believe the hype: 2015 NHL draft prodigy Connor McDavid is a tank-worthy talent

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports 9 days ago

    PLYMOUTH, Mich. — Steve Ujvari loves the Buffalo Sabres. He remembers The Aud and The French Connection. He rattles off players of the future like Evander Kane and Sam Reinhart. And whenever the Sabres score these days, he yells at the television.

    “Nooooo!”

    He knows every goal hurts the Sabres’ chances of finishing last in the NHL, and so every goal hurts their chances of drafting Connor McDavid.

    Yes, the last-place team will have only a 20-percent chance of drawing the No. 1 overall pick in the draft lottery, which means, at best, it will still have an 80-percent chance of not drafting McDavid. But those are the best odds available, and McDavid is supposed to be the best player available in a long time, and hope is a powerful thing.

    Ujvari wanted to see for himself. The 46-year-old Buffalo native dug in his closet, found an old Robyn Regehr sweater and replaced the name and number with “McDAVID” and “97.” He drove from his home in Cleveland to suburban Detroit, where the Erie Otters played the Plymouth Whalers on Saturday night on the final weekend of the Ontario Hockey League regular season.

    And if the Sabres don’t get him?

    * * * * *

    The hype is legit.

    But beware.

    Pause.

    * * * * *

  • Three Periods: Blues seek playoff breakthrough; GMs on Crosby, Kane & Calgary; NHL notes

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports 13 days ago

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika’s Three Periods column appears on Thursdays. This week’s topics include the St. Louis Blues’ surge in the Central, the Chicago Blackhawks’ success without Patrick Kane, Sidney Crosby’s “perfect” play recently, the Calgary Flames’ loss of Mark Giordano, the Detroit Red Wings’ long look at Marek Zidlicky, the Boston Bruins’ less-than-stellar season and notes from the GMs’ meetings this week.

    FIRST PERIOD: Armstrong thinks Blues are ready to take next step in playoffs

    The St. Louis Blues have overtaken the Nashville Predators for the Central Division lead. That seems important for one simple reason: They wouldn’t face the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round if the playoffs started today.

    Looking back at the last three years, the Blues have been burned by bad matchups. In 2012, they lost in the second round to the Los Angeles Kings, the eventual Stanley Cup champions. In 2013, they lost in the first round to the Kings, the defending champions. Last year, they lost in the first round to the Blackhawks, the defending champs.

    SECOND PERIOD: Blackhawks move on without Kane; Crosby’s ‘perfect’

    THIRD PERIOD: Notes from the GMs’ meetings in Boca Raton, Fla.

  • No cure for concussions, but the headache fades for NHL: 'It's a lot better'

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports 14 days ago

    BOCA RATON, Fla. — For three straight years, the NHL’s general managers were consumed by concussions at their annual March meeting. They debated ideas. They made changes.

    The last two years? The subject wasn’t discussed much, if at all.

    “It doesn’t need to be,” said Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford. “It hasn’t been 100-percent fixed. Nothing gets 100-percent fixed. But the players have done a good job adjusting to it, and it’s a lot better.”

    The GMs did receive an update Wednesday on concussion lawsuits filed by former players, who claim the league didn’t do enough to inform them about and protect them from brain trauma in the past.

    The legal and moral issues aren’t going away. The science isn’t, either.

    And to be sure, there are still hits to the head. There are still suspensions. There are still fights. There are still players who lie about concussions and teams who don’t follow protocol strictly enough, and the problem tends to increase down the stretch and into the playoffs.

    But the league’s efforts have had an effect.

    Bettman has always refused to give hard data for privacy and legal reasons.

    It’s not because the referees have been lax.

  • Sharks GM on Joe Thornton: ‘Our relationship is at really good place’

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Puck Daddy 15 days ago

    BOCA RATON, Fla. – First things first: San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson has never asked center Joe Thornton to waive his no-trade clause – the no-trade clause in the three-year extension to which he signed Thornton little more than a year ago – and Thornton has given no indication he wants out.  

    “Joe is not going anywhere,” Wilson said Tuesday at the NHL GM meetings. “Joe is a San Jose Shark. We talked this past summer about the direction we were going. He wants to be a part of it, and he’s followed through on his end of the bargain. He's played extremely well, taking great care of the kids, integrated them in. He’s a good man.”

    But Wilson and Thornton have been at odds since the Sharks blew a 3-0 series lead to the Los Angeles Kings in the first round of the playoffs last year. The Sharks took the captaincy from Thornton before this season.

    Thornton responded by saying Wilson needed to “stop lying” and “shut his mouth.”

    Owner Hasso Plattner stepped in afterward and asked Thornton to call Wilson.

    How much damage needed to be repaired?

    Did Thornton explain to Wilson why he called him a liar?

    Thornton declined to comment to reporters in Winnipeg.

  • NHL coach’s challenge gets GM approval, with concerns

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Puck Daddy 15 days ago

    BOCA RATON, Fla. – There will be no red flag tossed onto the ice. There will be no white towel waving from the blade of a stick, a la Roger Nielson.  

    “We’re not going to do something fancy like throwing a flag or setting off fireworks,” said NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.

    But if the competition committee and the board of governors approve the recommendation the general managers made Tuesday, the NHL will have a coach’s challenge for the first time next season.

    It will be available in two instances: goaltender interference on scoring plays and delay-of-game calls when the puck goes over the glass.

    In the case of goalie interference, the challenge will cover only goals and non-goals, not penalties. It will be based on contact with the goaltender, not crease presence. The referees will still use their judgment and make the final call, but they will look at video replays and talk to the hockey operations department in Toronto.

    In the case of delay-of-game calls, a challenge can only remove a penalty, not call one. The hockey ops department will overturn a penalty call if video replays are conclusive.

    The league came up with a new standard and a new term.