Well, here we go again. Another day, another questionable hit, as Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Robert Bortuzzo caught Toronto Maple Leafs forward Jerry D’Amigo up high.
On the slightly bright side, it won’t draw supplementary discipline from the league, but it didn’t exactly come at the best time, as unfortunate moments - innocent, accidental or malicious - never seem to dry up. The NHL is starting to resemble what the Wild West must have been like in reality, rather than in Hollywood: a lawless place where justice is spotty, danger is abundant and it’s all one big grind.
(The Penguins at least slightly sidestepped hypocrite labels, as they didn’t really condemn Shawn Thornton following his 15-game suspension. It almost felt like GM Ray Shero and head coach Dan Bylsma were admitting that it could have been one of their guys.)
At this point, it’s pretty difficult to find new ways to skin this dirty-hit cat. If you’re a fan of the sport who also finds career/life-threatening hits repulsive, then there might be some moments that make one wonder if the good times are really worth fighting through these dark moments.
I’ll say this, though. If you’re someone who wants to make an impact with a splashy new blog, I’d recommend this project: chart the league’s questionable hits and other debatably suspension-worthy moments on a day-by-day basis. That would go a long way toward answering the uncomfortable question: “How many days/weeks can we go without someone threatening another player with a dirty hit that could damage that opponent’s season (if not career)?” Again, if you include moments that had the potential to draw a suspension rather than just ones that actually did, the results would probably be staggering.
In a given month, how many days go by without incident? I’d probably be happy if the answer was “one out of every three.”
Let’s move on to game summaries, shall we?
Editor's Note: Rotoworld's partner FanDuel is hosting a $2,000 Fantasy Hockey league for Tuesday's NHL games. It's just $10 to join and first prize is $400. Starts Tuesday at 7pm ET. Here's the FanDuel link.
PITTSBURGH 3, TORONTO 1
-- For those wondering how this season stacks up to Sidney Crosby’s best work …
Crosby's 19 goals in 35 games are impressive. In fact, they top his 15 in 36 from last season. Still, his .54 goal-per-game average more or less matches his career mark of .51, which really underscores his dual threat status.
He'll need to up the pace in the goal-scoring area to match his career high of 51 tallies. He's not on pace to match his career-best 120 points, either, as he's projected to hit the 109-10 point range right now.
-- While Crosby has been great but arguably not at his greatest (although scoring points gets tougher each season as conservative play is encouraged and infractions are increasingly ignored), it's easy to imagine this being the best season of Marc-Andre Fleury's career. His .925 save percentage would top his career-best mark of .921 from 2007-08. He leads the league in wins with 19, only four short of his wins from last season. He already has two 40-win seasons to his name, including his career high of 42 from 2011-12. That mark could be in his sights.
-- That James Neal - Alex Goligoski trade only seems to get more lopsided with time. Now it seems like Matt Niskanen might have comparable (if not greater) value to the Penguins as Goligoski has for the Stars. Yikes.
-- Jonathan Bernier has lost four of his last five games, yet it’s difficult to blame him instead of his teammates and coach. The door might open a bit for James Reimer, as the Maple Leafs require elite netminding almost every night.
-- Congrats to Morgan Rielly on his first career goal. Good luck to proofreaders if his career takes off, as many expect.
COLORADO 6, DALLAS 2
-- Paul Stastny ended his nine-game pointless streak in a big way, generating four points (two goals, two assists) on Monday. He’s far from an excellent peripheral guy, so stomaching such slumps isn’t easy.
With his bloated $6.6 million cap hit set to expire, Stastny would be wise to assume he won't have the same kind of spending money after this contract year.
-- It seems like Nathan MacKinnon is getting a decent look with Matt Duchene. While 2013's first overall pick seems to be a quick study, he's still probably best labeled a depth guy.
-- Speaking of promising rookies, Valeri Nichushkin is definitely a guy to watch. He has nine points in his last seven games, including an assist last night. He's getting a nice look (although not a ton of ice time) with Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn, which could very well keep the good times rolling.
-- P.A. Parenteau has been a little inconsistent this season, as he only had two points in his last 10 games before Monday's three-assist outburst. Maybe this will rejuvenate him?
-- My "Cory Sarich is still alive!" jokes seem less funny lately, as the 35-year-old quietly has a four-game point streak (four assists) going.
-- Six of Sergei Gonchar's 11 points have come in the last four games. I'm not sure how much of that is really just luck, but you might want to follow his progress for a while, at least.
OTTAWA 3, ST. LOUIS 2 (OT)
-- Bobby Ryan continues to live up to some lofty expectations this season, with 32 points, 12 PIM, 96 SOG and 65 hits. The Anaheim Ducks are still getting things done - for now - but that doesn't mean that trade was the right move. I think history will dramatically be in the Senators' side for that trade a few years down the line.
-- Chris Stewart (45 percent owned, four goals and one assist in a red-hot three games) and Derek Roy (24 percent owned, one goal, four assists in his last four contests) are both generating a lot of offense lately. Each player is streaky, but Stewart is a Dose depth favorite because he has that goal-scoring potential alongside strong PIM (73) and solid hits (49). It would be nice if he started shooting more often, however.
-- Erik Karlsson might not be outright spectacular this season, but he's still really good. Nothing wrong with that.
-- Robin Lehner owners might dream that he's following Carey Price's path. The Montreal goalie's record didn't reflect his great individual efforts for a big chunk of the season before he turned things around. It's possible that similar things might happen for Lehner, though likely on a smaller scale.
WINNIPEG 3, COLUMBUS 2
-- The Jets experienced some injury headaches on Monday, but on the bright side, Evander Kane returned to action. He looked sharp, too, as the budding power forward scored a goal and an assist, delivered one hit and generated six SOG.
-- It's difficult to deny that Al Montoya has been better than Ondrej Pavelec lately. He's won three straight games in which he wasn't playing in relief and has solid numbers, including a .920 save percentage on the season.
-- If you can stomach plus/minus issues, Dustin Byfuglien is a top-tier fantasy defenseman. How many other D can notch 125 SOG in 35 GP, for instance?
-- Todd Richards isn’t the only problem in Columbus, but if I were in the Blue Jackets front office, I’d probably place a phone call or 20 to Peter Laviolette. This team needs a boost.