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What We Learned: What hath the Northeast Division arms race wrought?

Ryan Lambert
Puck Daddy

Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend’s events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.

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Over the summer, most teams in the Northeast Division took part in the very odd trend of trying to muscle up as a means of competing with the Boston Bruins.

The Sabres signed slugger-not-a-skater John Scott and traded big ol' softie Derek Roy for rough and ready Steve Ott. Montreal backed a dump truck full of money and years into Brandon Prust's driveway for somewhat mystifying reasons. The Maple Leafs added borderline guys with lots of penalty minutes like Mark Fraser and Frazer McLaren (though the latter was claimed on waivers a few weeks ago). The Senators didn't do any of that, and good for them.

But isn't it funny that the most embarrassing period of any game this season came as a direct result of trying to keep up with Boston's toughness, but did not in any way involve the Bruins? It came, instead, in a game involving Montreal, which is odd considering that apart from Prust, the number of Canadiens you'd expect to get involved in any sort of rough stuff can more or less be counted on zero fingers.

But on a team of roughnecks built — not altogether successfully — with "truculence" and "being tough to play against" in mind, who would have thought that Nazem Kadri, of all people, would be the one that ended up sparking the whole mess? It was Kadri who railroaded Alexei Emelin with a good, hard, clean hit as the Habs defenseman, who was wearing a full cage after being hit in the face with a puck last month, tried to clear the zone.

As the puck went down the ice, and created a scoring opportunity for the Habs, Dion Phaneuf came back and committed a penalty, which would have given Montreal a power play.

Instead, Prust, in an attempt to get back at the team whose player had just crushed his teammate, threw a gloved punch and negated the opportunity before it even started. Things devolved from there, in no way helped by the fact that Toronto was also creaming Montreal on their home ice. As the lead grew from 3 goals to 4 to 5 to 6, it got uglier and uglier, and the final 20 minutes in particular stood as being particularly pathetic and unflattering for all involved.

If the Kadri hit and subsequent Prust roughing minor at 10:08 and 10:37 of the second period was the dry leaves and hot summer day that could potentially turn into a forest fire, Prust's ludicrous insistence on fighting Fraser at 1:09 of the third was the discarded cigarette butt on the whole mess. Prust, by the way, accomplished little to nothing in that fight, either in the way of punching Fraser or firing up his team.

Including those two fighting majors, there were 94 penalty minutes doled out in the third period alone (after the officials already hit the teams with a combined 22 in the first two). That included three fights, five 10-minute misconducts, and a biting incident involving Mikhail Grabovski chomping down on Max Pacioretty's forearm, which found its way across his mouth during a scrum involving at least eight people, for which Prust was obviously on the ice, because why wouldn't he be?

All of this goes back to the role Brandon Prust thinks he has to play for this team, and how ill-equipped the Habs are to handle situations like this in general. Prust is not John Scott, the kind of player who gets five minutes a night if he's lucky and whose only purpose on earth is to punch people in the face. He gets about 12 minutes a night, and that seems about right because he's a somewhat useful hockey player more in the vein of Shawn Thornton. Fighting is a component of his game, but certainly not the whole thing.

No one likes to see their teams getting crushed at home by the Maple Leafs. No one likes to see their teammates getting run over by Nazem Kadri. And for guys like Prust, that goes double. He was brought in specifically for this reason, because when he's not there to fight people, it falls to guys like Josh Gorges to do it instead. Guys like Gorges, by the way, are the guys that guys like Frazer McLaren laugh at during fights.

All of this goes without mentioning Colton Orr — already a useless thug — trying to kill people in the neutral zone because his stick got knocked out of his hands, or exploring in-depth the Grabovski bite, except to say that both incidents are entirely the consequence of the game getting completely out of hand, on the scoreboard and on the ice.

Everyone involved should be embarrassed. The players, the coaches, the officials, even the executives.

Hockey shouldn't look like this. But Montreal and Toronto play each other again in a little more than two weeks, and after a few days of media furor around the rematch, you can bet it almost certainly will. What a joke.

What We Learned

Anaheim Ducks: Teemu Selanne had four point in Anaheim's shootout win on Saturday night, becoming just the third 42-year-old to have a four-point night twice in a season, and first since Tim Horton did it in 1972. Moreover, since 1987-88, players north of 40 have 13 four-point games. Five of them were Teemu.

Boston Bruins: Did you know Boston Bruins defenseman Douglas "Dougie" Hamilton is playing in the NHL as a 19-year-old? It's true. I looked it up.

Buffalo Sabres: I love this Bucky Gleason article about what an embarrassment the Sabres are so much I could cry. However, I can't believe it took anyone in Buffalo this long to start ringing the "Fire Ruff and Regier" bell. That one should have been clanging like Notre Dame years ago.

Calgary Flames: Speaking of general managers who should be fired, how many times does Jarome Iginla have to say, "Yeah, they worked harder than us," before Jay Feaster gets shown the door? At some point it becomes an issue of just not being good enough, rather than not working hard enough, and the Flames honestly and truly aren't good enough in any way to compete for anything.

Carolina Hurricanes: Boy I like watching this Jeff Skinner kid play hockey. This shot is awesome.

Chicago Blackhawks: Gotta love the Blackhawks being all nervous that their 9-0-2 run to start the season (which, by the way: wow!) will be a harbinger of trouble to come. Last time they led the league in points, they immediately lost nine in a row. Hard to see history repeating.

Colorado Avalanche: Gabriel Landeskog expects to be back in the lineup "very soon" and that's something that is "very good" for the Avs.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Speaking of guys getting back into the lineup, James Wisniewski, who'd been out a week after suffering a concussion and injuries to his left hip flexor, lower back, neck, right shoulder and right elbow, was ready to go last night. How someone recovers from all that in one week is something I don't really understand.

Dallas Stars: The Stars are now taking flights the morning after games rather than taking red-eyes as a means of staying fresher, and it seems to be working. I wonder if other teams adopt such a policy if the Stars have a lot of success on the road this year ('course, they're currently 3-4-0 away from home so I mean, y'know.)

Detroit Red Wings presented by Amway: Jonathan Ericsson scored the game-winner for Detroit with just 4.5 seconds to go, and one person in the building was happier than even he was. Said the defenseman: "One of the linesmen was thanking me after I scored. He said, 'Thank you so much, I really had to go pee. I wouldn't last overtime.'"

Edmonton Oilers: Ralph Krueger had the bright idea to put Nail Yakupov on a line with Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for Sunday's game against the Blue Jackets, a move prompted by the team having lost five in a row. Also probably prompted by the fact that those three are probably going to get a lot of points together I bet.

Florida Panthers: When you're getting demolished by the Capitals, you are just not a very good hockey team. Oh, but this was the end of a four-game road trip in which they gave their opponents (none of whom were particularly good) five of a possible eight points. Yeah, that's the issue, they weren't at home.

Los Angeles Kings: "Fame hasn't changed goalie Kings Quick." It has, however, changed his GAA and save percentage and win total and chances of winning a Stanley Cup again for the worse.

Minnesota Wild: This, if you can believe it, is Devin Setoguchi's first goal and third point of the season. There's a reason he's getting about 14 minutes a night.

Montreal Canadiens: Good thing this Grabovski biting incident is distracting everyone from the fact that the Habs got friggin' destroyed by the Leafs at home on Hockey Day in Canada. Even before the game got ugly, it was very ugly indeed.

Nashville Predators: The Predators are really proud of their shot-blocking ability (through Saturday's games they were tied for seventh in the league with 177 blocks in 11 games) but that also effectively underscores why their offense is just 29th in the league with two goals a game: They just don't have the puck enough.

New Jersey Devils: So this happened in real life…

I could watch Marty Brodeur fall down like that forever.

New York Islanders: The Islanders should have demolished the Sabres, but instead lost 3-2 in regulation. How one-sided was it? Shots were 43-15.

New York Rangers: The Rangers sure do love J.T. Miller (a great American hero, by the way!). Two goals in his second NHL game. Pretty easy to see why.

Ottawa Senators: "Spezza aims for return before season ends." Yeah I hate to break it to you but if this offense doesn't get going without him pretty soon, it will effectively end in about two weeks.

Philadelphia Flyers: Danny Briere scored the overtime winner against the Hurricanes on Saturday and don't look now but the Flyers have seven points in their last four games.

Phoenix Coyotes: Today is Day No. 185 since Jude LaCava of Fox 10 in Arizona said Greg Jamison would have the deal for the Coyotes sewn up within the next five days. Fortunately, Saturday's 1-0 shootout win over San Jose was just their first road win all year. They're now 1-2-1 away from Jobing.com Arena.

Pittsburgh Penguins: The Penguins are now 12 games into the season, one-quarter of the way through. They're also 8-4-0 despite only playing four home games. That's, umm, not good news for the rest of the East.

San Jose Sharks: Brent Burns returned to the Sharks lineup on Saturday, but his beard didn't make its NHL debut. So disappointing.

St. Louis Blues: Whatever do you mean Brian Elliott wasn't able to replicate the 1.56/.940 season he turned in a year ago? He's now at 3.51/.853, you say? Regression to the mean sure does suck, huh?

Tampa Bay Lightning: The reason Tampa's game with the Bruins was postponed on Saturday was that 25 inches of snow prevented most people who live less than a few miles from the rink from getting there safely. Roads were closed until the late afternoon, and local transit was shut down for the whole weekend. Hell, the Lightning's bus got stuck in the snow going the few blocks from the hotel to the rink for a morning skate.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Hey guys, Phil Kessel isn't worried about that new contract with the Leafs when his contract expires this summer. He's more worried about having six points and two goals in his last three games because Phil Kessel is awesome. Get into that.

Vancouver Canucks: I'm not so much concerned about the shot on this Kevin Bieksa goal but man that pass from Daniel Sedin is making me cry.

Washington Capitals: The Caps have no plans to "blow anything up," and that 5-0 win likely reaffirms their incorrect beliefs that the team is in any way capable of being competitive any more. Dumb dumb dumb.

Winnipeg Jets: When Al Montoya is giving you something to think about with regard to your goaltending situation, your goaltending situation is garbage. Remind me again how much Ondrej Pavelec is being paid.

Play of the Weekend

Valentine's Day is on Thursday and I wanna take this Pavel Datsyuk goal out for a romantic dinner.

Gold Star Award

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Teemu forever.

Minus of the Weekend

More realignment talk. I bet none of what eventually happens makes any sense.

Perfect HFBoards Trade Proposal of the Week

User "Zhamnov10" doesn't really understand how trades work I don't think.

To Pit: Evander Kane

To Wpg: James Neal + Scott Harrington

Signoff

Which idiot made it illegal to install a working toilet in your own bathroom?

Ryan Lambert publishes hockey awesomeness almost never over at The Two-Line Pass. Check it out, why don’t you? Or you can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter if you so desire.

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