Sun Dec 08 06:24pm EST
The Vent is a column that hands the mic on Puck Daddy over to hockey fans to rant, rave and react to everything in the game. If you have a pitch for an editorial, or have one written, and want it featured on Sunday, email email@example.com with the subject “The Vent.”
Here is Bill Winters, a USA Hockey referee and a hockey fan, with an open letter to the NHL and NHLPA:
"Dear NHL and NHLPA,
"You're putting me in a very awkward position. I feel like a parent who constantly has to justify their child's bad behavior.
"You see, I am a hockey fan. A die-hard. I've skated since I was 9 years old, dreaming of being the next great New York Ranger, played rod hockey on my parents' dining room table until it was too scratched up to eat off of, played every hockey video game ever made, realized after high school I couldn't play a lick so I got into scorekeeping and PA announcing for my local high school and college teams, then finally became a USA Hockey referee seven years ago.
"The public conception of hockey is always the same tired, old 'I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out.' We as hockey fans know that isn't the case, but then SportsCenter in the USA, which devotes maybe 90 seconds to hockey per night, gets to show James Neal purposely kneeing Brad Marchand in the head while he's down on the ice in a move straight out of WWE. Then we get to see the public mugging of Brooks Orpik by Shawn Thornton which starts with a textbook, instructional video worthy slew-foot, continues with jumping on top of a defenseless man and pounding him into unconsciousness, and ends with the sight of a stretcher leaving the ice.
"I don't want to hear any rhetoric about 'The Code' either. When John Scott went after Phil Kessel or Loui Ericsson all we heard was buys like Shawn Thornton were more honorable because they kept to 'The Code' and could score a little. I don't know of any "Code" that encourages what I saw in the Bruins/Penguins game.
"So as a hockey fan, I now have to justify this nonsense to all my non-hockey fan friends. I can't...and I won't. It's stomach-turning. The NHL puts the product on the ice, but I lay this on you, NHLPA. Your members are taking each other out like rival camps on "The Walking Dead".
"I'm sure you will defend James Neal in his hearing, but will you defend Brad Marchand? He was pretty defenseless as that knee clobbered him in the side of his head. I'm sure you will defend Shawn Thornton in his hearing, but will you defend Brooks Orpik? He was pretty defenseless as his feet were kicked out from under him and he was getting pummeled.
"Rant over. I have to go referee a 14U and a 16U game now and hope beyond hope that they don't take a lesson from what they saw in the NHL last night."
Sun Dec 08 04:14pm EST
“What do you want me to say? I was trying to hit him?”
Well, yeah, but that’s not something we expect to hear from you James Neal, Victim of Circumstance.
On Saturday, the Pittsburgh Penguins forward was skating out of his zone when teammate Sidney Crosby tripped Brad Marchand of the Boston Bruins. Marchand ended up on his stomach and was beginning to get up when Neal skated by and connected with Marchand’s head with his knee (or leg or shin).
Here’s the play again:
“I haven’t seen the replay of anything. I hit him in the head with my leg or my knee or my shin. He’s already going down. I guess I need to try to avoid him,” said Neal.
Yeah, guess so.
Was it intentional?
“No, I was going by him, I don’t get out of the way, like I said,” said Neal.
No, you didn’t.
“I’m not trying to hit him in the head or injure him or anything like that,” said Neal.
Nah, of course you weren’t, Just like when you were running around like a petulant idiot against the Philadelphia Flyers in 2012 when your team was down 7-4 in a road playoff game:
When Neal hit Sean Couturier without the puck with leaping check, he explained it away as an accident, claiming he was bracing for a hit he wasn’t intending to deliver.
“Yeah, I’m flying through the neutral zone, I’m regrouping, I didn’t even mean to hit him. I don’t know if the puck was in his feet or not or where it was. I let up as much as I could and it is what it is,” he told ESPN.
The NHL accepted he was a Victim of Circumstance on that play, but combined that hit with an attempted head shot on Claude Giroux later in the same shift to suspend him for one game.
Department of Player Safety boss Brendan Shanahan explained in the video that Neal had been fined once and warned twice by the NHL about the injurious way he was playing. (The fine was for a high stick on PK Subban.) One imagines he had readymade excuses for those, too.
Despite all of this, Neal has just a phone hearing with the NHL on Monday for the Marchand incident. Perhaps because Marchand wasn’t injured. Perhaps the NHL buys what Neal’s selling, again.
Didn’t think Couturier would be there when he curled back to hit him 2012. Didn’t realize Marchand was laying on the ice when he skated by and kneed him to the head.
He’s either dangerously oblivious or completely devious. The NHL appears to believe the former.
Sun Dec 08 02:10pm EST
The Pittsburgh Penguins’ game against the Boston Bruins on Saturday night was so brutal and nasty that the brutality and nastiness was still being tabulated the following morning.
To wit: The Boston Bruins announced that center Chris Kelly has a fractured right fibula and will miss 4-6 weeks.
TSN’s Darren Dreger previously reported that Kelly suffered a broken ankle on a Pascal Dupuis slash during the game, and did not accompany Boston to Toronto for their game against the Leafs on Sunday.
Mike Cole of NESN believes the injury occurred on this play:
This is the second leg injury for Kelly this calendar year. Back in March, during last year's lockout shortened season, Kelly broke his left tibia, an injury that kept him out for a month and kept him ineffective until late in the postseason.
This injury follows the concussion Loui Eriksson suffered after a huge Brooks Oprik hit, and the injury Oprik suffered when Shawn Thornton attacked him later in the game. Brad Marchand wasn’t injured when James Neal “accidentally” kneed him in the head, however.
Sun Dec 08 12:19pm EST
It looked like your typical contact between a forward chipping the puck in deep and a defenseman trying to slow him down, but the hit Reid Boucher laid on Marc Staal as he was trying to battle his way past the New York Rangers defenseman could have terrible consequences.
Staal would leave the game after the third period hit amid fears he'd suffered another concussion:
Said Rangers coach Alain Vigneault afterward: "He took a shoulder to the chin and didn't feel quite right so they are evaluating him now and we'll have an update tomorrow."
As Larry Brooks of the New York Post wrote, it's another matter of bad luck for Staal. You'll remember he missed two months at the end of the 2013 regular season after taking a puck to the eye before playing one game in their series against the Boston Bruins. He also missed 36 games in 2010-11 after suffering a concussion from a hit by brother Eric.
Having been named to Team Canada's orientation camp in August, Staal is in the mix to head to Sochi in February. His name has been on some projections a month away from the final roster being announced, but if another concussion is the diagnosis, which we'll likely learn before the Rangers play Washington Sunday night, that would likely put and to his Olympic dreams.
UPDATE: According to the Rangers, Staal is dealing with "symptoms," but there was no specifying whether or not they are concussion-related. Vigneault said he's also dealing with "neck issues."
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Sun Dec 08 01:15am EST
Literal children's book monster Zdeno Chara roars at an approaching opponent, who immediately left the puck behind and scrambled to safety.
No. 1 Star: Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars
Seguin absolutely went off in the second period of the Stars 5-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers, turning a one-goal deficit into a three-goal lead with three goals and an assist in the middle frame. Valeri Nichushkin, who seems to be getting the hang of this hockey thing, was in on all 4 of those goals as well, scoring the one Seguin didn't. Here's the hat trick:
No. 2 Star: James Van Riemsdyk, Toronto Maple Leafs
Van Riemsdyk led the Maple Leafs to a 4-3 shootout win over the Ottawa Senators, scoring the game's first goal, assisting on two others, then scoring again in the shootout.
No. 3 Star: Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins
In addition to being his usual, terrifying force of nature and one of hockey's most dominant defenders, Chara was on the ice for all three Boston goals, including the two they scored in the final two minutes to turn a one-goal deficit into their 3-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. After tying up seemingly every Penguin in front on the game-tying goal, Chara scored the game-winner himself with just 13 seconds to go in regulation:
Honorable mention: Jonathan Huberdeau scored the game-winner early in the third period as the Florida Panthers topped the Detroit Red Wings, 2-1… The Montreal Canadiens' point streak hit 10 with a 3-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres… Mark Schiefele scored the 2-1 winner a minute into overtime as the Winnipeg Jets beat the Tampa Bay Lightning… The Nashville Predators lost their fifth straight, 5-2, to the Washington Capitals… Eric Gelinas' OT goal gave the New Jersey Devils a 4-3 win over the New York Rangers… Corey Perry scored his 18th of the season as the Anaheim Ducks handled the St. Louis Blues, 5-2… Jiri Hudler scored the OT winner as the Calgary Flames topped the Edmonton Oilers, 2-1… Martin Jones made 16 saves for the shutout in the Los Angeles Kings 3-0 victory over the New York Islanders.
Did You Know? The Maple Leafs allowed 50 shots on goal for the third time this season Saturday night. Incredibly, they've won all three games.
Dishonorable mention: Shawn Thornton and James Neal did awful things tonight… Nice play by Zemgus Girgensons, but it probably won't help P.K. Subban's bid to make the Canadian Olympic team:
Sat Dec 07 11:21pm EST
Shawn Thornton didn't do much on Saturday night that could be deemed admirable. His punches to a prone Brooks Orpik were disgusting and completely over the line, and he deserves the lengthy suspension the recently-announced in-person hearing would suggest he'll be getting.
Shawn Thornton will have an in-person hearing for violating Rule 46.2 - Aggressor. Date & time TBA.
— NHL Player Safety (@NHLPlayerSafety) December 8, 2013
You can at least give the Bruins' enforcer credit for facing the music, however.
A lot of players might have avoided speaking after an incident like this one, at least until the morning. But Thornton didn't, addressing the media, apologizing, and answering questions after the game:
CSNNE has the same video from the other angle, and you can see that Thornton is near tears as he speaks.
Thornton, asked if he was just out to protect his teammates:
"It's always my job, I guess, to defend my teammates, but I've prided myself for a long time to stay within the lines. It's hard for me to talk about it right now. I can't say I'm sorry enough. I'm sure I'll be criticized for saying it. It's true. I hope he's doing all right."
That's something, and kudos to Thornton for refusing to take the bait on a question where he might have been tempted to say an unkind word about the Penguins' antics, defend his role, or really do anything beyond apologize profusely.
It doesn't exculpate Thornton, however. The NHL's mention of the aggressor rule makes it perfectly clear what he did, and how serious they consider it.
Sat Dec 07 08:20pm EST
The growing rivalry between the Boston Bruins and the Pittsburgh Penguins, two of the Eastern Conference's best teams -- and two teams that know the road to the Stanley Cup Final goes through the other -- has been mostly a treat to watch.
But on Saturday, it took a truly ugly turn.
Midway through the first period, Shawn Thornton, looking for a fight with Brooks Orpik, plucked the Penguins' defenceman from a scrum and started delivering blows. The problem: in between these two actions, Orpik lost his balance and fell to the ice.
Thornton started hitting him anyway. Orpik left the game on a stretcher.
Shades of Todd Bertuzzi -- the definition of a moment that's gone too far.
Thornton left the game as well after being assessed a match penalty, and he won't be back for awhile. The look on his face as he's led away says it all. He's as concerned for Orpik as anyone else, and he knows it's his fault.
Here's another look at the punches:
Sat Dec 07 04:37pm EST
Hawks don't have many natural predators, but on Friday, we learned of a new one: the Nashville Predators.
How rough have things been for the Predators at home of late? Even leaving the state is problematic for them all of a sudden. As the team charter attempted to take off from Nashville for Washington on Friday afternoon, it hit a hawk and had to turn back around.
At least I think that's what happened. It's tough to understand Rich Clune's tweets sometimes:
Our plane got hungry kids and it ate a hawk now the hawk is in birdie heaven our flight is delayed Keanu Reeves and Jesus have the same DNA
— Rich Clune (@richcluneshow) December 6, 2013
(Clune also pointed out that this wouldn't have happened if he was the pilot, as per his original contract demands.)
It was a fitting end to a terrible four-game home stand that saw the Predators drop all four games, dragging just one, a shootout loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, into the land of loser points before doing so. The team now sits dead last in the Central and 13th in the Western Conference -- which may as well be last place, since the Oilers and Flames no longer count.
It's enough to make one wonder if we might be seeing the last days of coach-for-life Barry Trotz.
Sat Dec 07 11:36am EST
It’s the third seasons since the Winnipeg Jets were born from the ashes of the Atlanta Thrashers. Heading into Saturday, Jets 2.0 has gone 75-69-17 – over .500, bolstered by their stay in the Southeast Division, but not a playoff team.
They likely won’t be again this season, barring a torrid run or some Western Conference collapses. The Jets have 30 points in 30 games, 10 points behind third-seeded Colorado in the Central and seven points away from the final wild card spot.
All of this has Winnipeg Free Press columnist Gary Lawless thinking: What is fundamentally wrong about this franchise?
His determination: The Atlanta Association, a core of five players who form the core of an underachieving (in his estimation) team.
Andrew Ladd, Blake Wheeler, Bryan Little, Toby Enstrom and Dustin Byfuglien: Is the core the problem?
Don't tell me Ladd can't see the difference in the work ethic and will to win between this group and those he won Stanley Cups with in Carolina and Chicago. Ladd is both perceptive and a player, who for the most part, personifies the characteristics required to win. He works hard at practice, goes to the tough areas on the ice and is willing to put his body into the action. Maybe he has his off nights, but if the Jets had 10 Andrew Ladds they'd be a playoff team.
And I don't think Ladd is a bad captain. But I have to question whether he's the right man for this situation. Ladd isn't the problem. But he hasn't been able to effect a solution. Given a couple of veterans who could demand respect in the room and push for change, Ladd might succeed.
But his support group isn't helping him. They don't have the personalities for it and it's not going to change. Good people? Sure. But leaders? The type to stand up and tell his best friend he's not getting it done? Nope.
Oh, and this line on Blake Wheeler:
This year, it's Wheeler playing like a point guard and firing up one three-pointer after another. The crease? That's something in Wheeler's pants, not an area on the ice with which he's familiar.
But doesn’t this problem speak to the overall clubby atmosphere of the Jets under GM Kevin Cheveldayoff? The core from Atlanta – and kudos to Lawless for not making this another reason to publish an Evander Kane hit piece in the Winnipeg press – has made it through two non-playoff years in Winnipeg and more back in Atlanta.
We’re still waiting for the first bold, roster redefining move from Cheveldayoff, who has been living the same honeymoon as his comfortable players.
This franchise obviously needs something to push it over the top, and especially now in an exponentially tougher division and conference. Essentially, Lawless is right: The core might be the issue. But they’re not breaking themselves up.
Sat Dec 07 12:58am EST
No. 1 Star: Curtis McElhinney, Columbus Blue Jackets
With a 20-save night during a 4-0 win over the Minnesota Wild, McElhinney earned his first shutout since Nov. 5, 2011. Nick Foligno, R.J. Umberger and Ryan Johansen helped out by each chipping in two points as the Blue Jackets won their second straight game for the first time since late-October. It was McElhinney's third career NHL shutout.
No. 2 Star: Elias Lindholm, Carolina Hurricanes
A night after getting five hung on them by the Pittsburgh Penguins, the San Jose Sharks allowed five more in a 5-3 loss to the Hurricanes. The rookie Lindholm broke a 3-3 tie with six minutes left in the third period and assisted on two other goals as Carolina won their third in a row. Riley Nash, Jay Harrison and Jordan Staal each recorded two points.
No. 3 Star: Chris Higgins, Vancouver Canucks
The pride of Smithown, New York put home the winner 3:41 into overtime to give the Canucks a 3-2 win over the Phoenix Coyotes. The goal was his first in eight games and the 21st game winner of his career. Roberto Luongo made 37 saves.
Honorable mention: Joe Thornton's assist extended his points streak to eight games ... Manny Malhotra went 10-for-13 in the dot. He's now 115-for-182 (61.3%) on the season, good for second-best in NHL ... Johan Franzen's goal with 7:20 left in the third period broke a 1-1 tie and helped give the Detroit Red Wings a 3-1 win over the New Jersey Devils. Franzen added an assist and Tomas Tatar, who put home the insurance marker with 1:03 left, also had two assists. Jonas Gustavsson, who made a wild save in the second period, finished with 10 saves to improve to 8-0-1 ... Kyle Palmieri and Nick Bonino scored in the shootout to give the Anaheim Ducks a 3-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks and drop the defending champs to a third straight loss ... Colorado scored three unanswered goals and hung on for a 3-2 win over the Calgary Flames. Nathan MacKinnon's sixth of the season early in the third period would end up the game winner. Max Talbot scored a goal and assisted on another as the Avalanche scored twice in a 54-second span in the second period ... Nice leg save here by Alex Stalock:
Did You Know? Columbus is 35-0-0 when leading after two periods under Todd Richards. (AP)
Dishonorable mention: The Red Wings scored five seconds after Cory Schneider was wrongly whistled for playing the puck outside the trapezoid ... Chicago's three-game losing streak is their first since Feb. 2012 ... The Ducks had a clear goal in overtime waived off for goaltender interference. Replays showed Duncan Keith checked Saku Koivu into Antti Raanta ... Does J.S. Giguere have a case for goaltender interference here on Lee Stempniak?