Cross Checks: Max Pacioretty


TORONTO -- If you believe in symbolism on opening night, the Montreal Canadiens couldn't have scripted any better.

All four goals were scored by alternate captains -- the sport's most iconic franchise going without an actual captain this season, a decision that wasn't universally well-received in the hockey-crazed market.

It fueled a common talking point all training camp long: with the offseason departures of captain Brian Gionta, vocal assistant Josh Gorges and respected veteran Daniel Briere, among others, would the young Habs overcome the leadership void?

It's only one night, of course, but the alternate captains made one heck of a statement in Wednesday's 4-3 thriller over the host Toronto Maple Leafs: Max Pacioretty scored 4:42 into the season on a beauty of a rush that left Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf in his wake; Tomas Plekanec had a pair of goals on a night where he was an absolute beast, from the penalty kill to his 59 percent success rate in the faceoff circle; and P.K. Subban scored a big third-period goal and was electric all night long.

The fourth alternate captain, veteran Andrei Markov, was solid as well in leading the team with a game-high 26:17 minutes while helping to shut down Phil Kessel.

Who needs a captain when your four alternates play like that, right?

"Good call by the coaches, I guess, by management," smiled Plekanec, whose bank-shot goal with 43 seconds left gave Montreal the win.

Plekanec was a man possessed, easily the best player on either team, as reflected by being named the game’s first star. The Leafs could barely touch the puck when his line with Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher was on the ice.

[+] EnlargePlekanec
AP Photo/Darren CalabreseThe Canadiens, led by Tomas Plekanec, didn't seem to have a leadership void on opening night.


It's a reminder of just how important Plekanec remains on this team, despite the obvious growth plan of this team around the younger core.

The 31-year-old Czech center could easily have deserved the captaincy on his own. But he'd be the last guy to complain.

"Obviously, it's a great honor when you're talking about the captain of the Montreal Canadiens," said Plekanec. "Being in Montreal so long, I guess, a lot of people saw me as a top candidate. But I think they made a good call by going with the four A's. We'll figure it out next year."

Another key leader on this team, stud goalie Carey Price, had an interesting answer when asked by ESPN.com after his media scrum following Wednesday's game who was one of the more vocal players in the room between periods in the opening game.

"Manny, for sure, Manny Malhotra," said the Olympic champion goaltender.

The 34-year-old newcomer didn't get an "A" on his uniform, but it's clear from Price's comments that Malhotra will also have a major role to play in helping feel that leadership void.

But the most pleasing sight for the head coach? Michel Therrien, when asked about his alternate captains, directed his heaviest praise for one particular player.

"I thought P.K. was really good. He [made the] right decisions, jumped in the play at the right time. That's a good sign of maturity," Therrien said. "This is what we’re looking for with his game. He looked like a real quarterback for us tonight."

Playing in his first game since signing an eight-year, $72 million contract during the offseason, Subban looked carefree and
confident as he dangled in and out of traffic and controlled large moments of the game.

Looks like the $9 million man is going to be all right.

"Our attention to detail, just paying attention to the details in our structure, I thought guys did it well," Subban said of his team's game, deflecting individual praise. "And the times we didn't do it, there were guys on the bench letting guys know, saying, 'Hey, you've got to be better.' I said it at the start of the year: We need 22 leaders, not four. Today it seemed like there was no passengers on our team. Everybody was held accountable, and everybody was holding themselves accountable and doing what they're supposed to do."

If you're looking for signs of a young team responding to adversity, what better example than the Canadiens coming right back 96 seconds after the Leafs tied the game 3-3 on a fluky goal by getting one of their own bank goals to win it.

There were no evident signs of panic, despite the bedlam at Air Canada Centre when Morgan Rielly's goal tied it late for the Leafs.

"We're a resilient group in here," Subban said. "It doesn't surprise me that we came right back. We know how important the first shift is after you score a goal and after you give up a goal. I'm happy with the way our team played today."

Kozun, Percy impress
Leafs rookie Brandon Kozun did not look out of place in his first NHL game, using his speed and getting his first NHL point when his shot from the slot was redirected by Nazem Kadri.

"I would've felt better if we won the game," Kozun said of getting his first NHL point. "I think I can be better," he added of his overall game.

"I don’t know, I just don't think I had as much jump as I usually have."

The kid's being hard on himself; I didn't think he was too bad at all.

Blueliner Stuart Percy also looked good in his first NHL game, showing poise with the puck. He’s not flashy, but he makes good decisions.

"I thought Percy was very good," Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf said. "He plays well above his age. I thought that he, not only on the goal, but the way that he moves the puck out of our zone, the patience that he has ... he's a really good player for a young guy coming into the league. I think he showed that he's a very mature player, especially coming out of the defensive zone moving the puck and having the patience to do that. It’s not easy to do that in this league."

Tokarski goes Thursday
Therrien said backup netminder Dustin Tokarski would start Thursday night's game in Washington as the Habs open with back-to-back games.

MONTREAL -- Patrick Roy didn't sound like he was trying to stir the pot, but rather he seemed to matter-of-factly be explaining why last summer's trade between his Colorado Avalanche and Montreal Canadiens might just work out nicely for both teams.

But within his self-analysis of the P.A. Parenteau-Daniel Briere trade Thursday morning, the Avalanche head coach and executive inadvertently (or not?) made a comment that wasn't overly well-received by Parenteau.

"You want players that are happy," Roy told a media scrum when asked about the trade. "I’m not saying P.A. wasn't happy with us. I'm saying that this year, I mean, it would have been tough for him to play on the top two lines. I think he would have been unhappy with us. I believe this trade will serve him very well because he can play on the top two lines with Montreal and play on the power play. He's a very good hockey player, and I'm sure the people in Montreal will love him."

Hours later in the Habs' dressing room following a 3-2 preseason OT win over the Avs, Parenteau was asked about the "top-two lines" comment from Roy.

"If you ask me, I think I would have had my place in the top six in Colorado, but he's the coach and he makes the decisions in Colorado," Parenteau said in French. "So it is what it is."

Then he turned the page. Because that's exactly what he's trying to do.

"Un mal pour un bien," Parenteau said, French for "a blessing in disguise."

[+] EnlargeP.A. Parenteau
Karl Gehring/The Denver Post/Getty ImagesP.A. Parenteau is looking to light it up this season as a Hab.


It's worked out just fine for him, so for that, he's grateful.

He's playing for the team he grew up cheering for and has begun the preseason on the top line with David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty. Hence the smile on his face Thursday night.

"I've come home at 31, I'm playing with David and Patch, there's nothing much better than that. I'm very happy," said Parenteau.

He's hungry, motivated, determined to prove something this season.

"Yes, after a tough year with the injury and not getting as much ice time as I wanted, it's a season I want to forget," he said. "I'm just looking forward now. Things are looking up here."

Parenteau scored 32 goals in 103 games over two seasons in Colorado, so that's a 25-goal pace over 82 games.

He's getting a chance with the Habs to do just that -- score goals. It's a team that struggled at times last season to score at even strength, so the hope here is that Parenteau finds his stride wearing Habs colors.

"He's a natural goal scorer. I think it's worth a try for sure by Montreal," said an NHL scout from a rival team watching Thursday's game at the Bell Centre. "They need goals. He's got a great shot, a nose for the net. He's not very big and isn't very physical, and a bit of a liability defensively at times. But scoring goals is what he can do. Worth a look for them, for sure. I think he'll be a good fit for them."

Now the goal for Parenteau is to find his groove with his new linemates as soon as possible.

During an overtime play on Thursday night, Desharnais was down low and tried to feed Parenteau across the slot, except the pass went left while Parenteau went right. So the puck went sliding by.

"I went the other way, that's a question of chemistry," Parenteau said. "It’s about getting used to each other. I'm not used to playing with a center who passes the puck as much as him. I have to learn to be more patient with him and stay in my spot more."

Pacioretty, whose chemistry last season with Desharnais propelled both to great years, welcomes the addition.

"He's a dual-threat option," Pacioretty said of the newcomer. "Everybody knows what me and David are up to when we’re out there, but having P.A. being able to make plays and put the puck in the net makes our line way more dangerous."

The chemistry off the ice is already there. Turns out even though they had never played together before, Parenteau said he and Desharnais met at a golf tournament years ago and became buddies, spending time together each summer. So, to be teammates now for the first time, and linemates on top of it, is the icing on the cake.

"Honestly, I'm just so excited about this year," Parenteau said. "I'm feeling confident, and I think this is going to be a good fit."

A top-six forward fit, that is.
During their visit with us last week in New York for the NHL’s Player Tour, it was quite evident that Max Pacioretty and P.K. Subban very much desired the chance to be the next captain of the Montreal Canadiens.

There is no "C" with more history in hockey, after all. It’s an honor that both young stars on the Habs dearly yearn for.

With departing captain Brian Gionta in Buffalo via free agency, and veterans Josh Gorges and Daniel Briere traded in the offseason, there’s definitely a leadership void to be filled in Montreal, and Pacioretty and Subban feel up to the task.

They may still get the captain’s call a year from now, but for now, alternating wearing "A" on their jersey will have to suffice.

[+] EnlargeSubban & Pacioretty
Jerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsP.K. Subban and Max Pacioretty have both expressed interest in being named captain in Montreal.
The Habs announced Monday that Andrei Markov and Tomas Plekanec would be full-time alternate captains, while Subban and Pacioretty would share an "A," a decision few people saw coming.

For two weeks, all the talk in Montreal was about who would wear the "C."

I still feel that naming Plekanec captain would have been the safe choice, one that nobody would have argued and a way to bridge the gap to the next generation of leaders in Subban, Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher, among others.

Of course, I think many of us are in agreement that the No. 1 leader on this team is Carey Price, but given the Roberto Luongo experiment in Vancouver years back, the Habs aren’t going to put a "C" on their goalie, despite the fact no other voice carries as much weight as his in that Montreal dressing room.

So for this year, four alternates and no captain, a decision not particularly well received by some Habs observers Monday, many of whom felt it was avoiding a tough decision.

"It’s like there’s no clear-cut guy that’s ready to come out and take on the role, that’s the perception this decision gives," former Habs captain Vincent Damphousse told ESPN.com on Monday.

"Maybe they still have question marks about Subban or Pacioretty about their leadership role. I don’t like the fact the Montreal Canadiens, an historic franchise, doesn’t have a captain. I was a captain for this team, I remember how proud I was to get it. It’s important to have a captain. It’s weird not to have a captain, that’s just my opinion. But I will say this: [GM] Marc Bergevin and [head coach] Michel Therrien haven’t been scared to make tough decisions that haven’t been popular with the fans and media, but they’ve worked out well for them. They’ve had good success so far."

In Plekanec’s case, there’s also this to consider: What if he becomes trade bait later this season? I’m not saying that’s going to be the case, but eventually Alex Galchenyuk will need to move to center and I don’t see Lars Eller or David Desharnais going anywhere. Just food for thought on Plekanec, a very dependable two-way center who has two years left on his deal at $5 million a season.

Either way, I do think putting a "C" on a young player who’s not ready yet actually does more harm than anything else. Particularly in the crazy, frying-pan market that is Montreal.

In fact, the Habs may not be alone in this kind of decision this season. Just down the highway in Ottawa, the Senators are mulling the exact same situation after trading captain Jason Spezza to Dallas this summer.

"That’s the thing we’ve talked about a lot so far," veteran Senators GM Bryan Murray told ESPN.com on Monday. "We’ll [go] through a big part of training camp anyway before we decide. But our thought certainly has been that we’ve got two alternates right now in Chris Phillips and Chris Neil, and probably just add a third 'A,' not sure who it will be yet, rather than name a captain.

"But that’s not final yet. We may still decide at the end of the day a captain is necessary. We’ll see. We’ve got young guys like Erik Karlsson and Kyle Turris who are certainly coming [leadership-wise]. Having three A’s is a not bad thing, though."

Karlsson, one would think, will be captain of this team one day. But he’s probably not yet ready for that responsibility. So the Sens need a bridge decision here too.

Sometimes it can last more than a year. The Columbus Blue Jackets haven’t had a captain since trading away Rick Nash in July 2012, and they aren’t making apologies for it either.

"You got to make sure people are ripe and ready for it," Blue Jackets head coach Todd Richards told ESPN.com on Monday. "It’s a huge responsibility. You don’t want to get that decision wrong, because then I think it creates more of a problem. The merits of [not naming a captain], sometimes when someone is wearing a 'C,' and I know this isn’t true everywhere, but sometimes players are held back a little because they’re waiting for that guy [the captain] to take the ball, whether that’s his play on the ice or needing to say something in the locker room. Maybe other players don’t want to step on his toes, and sometimes that can hold back what needs to be said or needs to be done."

Colleague Aaron Portzline of The Columbus Dispatch believes young Jackets forward Boone Jenner is a strong candidate to eventually become captain in Columbus, but he’s just not ready yet.

So for now, there’s no "C" in Columbus.

"We’ve done it for two years in a row and it’s worked for us," said Richards. "It doesn’t mean we don’t do it one day; you just have to figure out what’s right. The history and the tradition of our game is that you always had a captain, and I think at times teams feel they just have to put a 'C' on somebody. But if you don’t get it right, it can create a problem."

It’s not ideal, but I don’t think the Habs made a terrible decision here.
NEW YORK -- Given the handshake line seen around the world last spring, you better believe many players on both the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins knew their first encounter this season was Oct. 16.

After a drama-filled seven-game series last spring between the two rivals, capped by Bruins winger Milan Lucic sharing his love for the Canadiens in the handshake line -- we jest, of course; heated words were exchanged with several players -- the Oct. 16 game in Montreal is certainly must-watch TV.

"Absolutely, it's going to be a lot of fun," Canadiens star winger Max Pacioretty told ESPN.com Tuesday during the player tour media event.

"After a series like that, there's tons of emotions. It might have been build up a little bit more than what it really was. But at the same time, they’re a great team. That’s our measuring stick team. We play against them so many times a year, they’re one of the best teams and you really can tell a lot about your team by how you measure up against the Boston Bruins. They contend every year. We get a little bit more of the juices flowing when we play against a team like that. We definitely have a lot to prove when we play a team like that."

Teammate P.K. Subban echoed the respect the Canadiens have for the Bruins, but also said the emotion and intensity between the two rivals is absolutely genuine.

"We don’t need to sugar coat it, there was a big deal made about the comments that Lucic made in the line," Subban told ESPN.com Tuesday during his player tour interview. "But I mean, this is hockey, this is professional sports. There’s mutual respect between all players. That series got heated. And I think it’s good for the game, it’s good for the fans to know that these guys are making millions of dollars but it’s real, guys want to win. It’s competitive. At the end of the day we still want to send kids the message of sportsmanship, but this is professional hockey. I'm not going into that game thinking about was said in the handshake line. We're just trying to win. Lucic is a big enough guy anyway that I’m sure if anyone wanted to justify it, he’d be willing to answer it. But all in all, the rivalry that's rekindled over the last few years has been great for hockey."

Asked about Shawn Thornton no longer being with the Bruins (he signed with the Panthers) to squirt him with a water bottle, Subban didn't miss a beat: "Well, I don't mind him squirting me with water in Florida because it's hot there."

The Habs upset the Bruins last spring in the second round before losing to the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference finals, a successful season by any measure for a Habs team not picked by most to contend.

And yet, lots of changes in the offseason, the team getting younger after parting ways with veterans such as Brian Gionta, Josh Gorges and Daniel Briere.

Gionta’s free-agent departure opens up the captaincy in Montreal, and it’s expected head coach Michel Therrien will name his new captain at the end of the training camp or around that time.

Both the names of Pacioretty and Subban have been in the mix from fans and media as far as candidates to be the next captain, along with the likes of Tomas Plekanec, David Desharnais, Andrei Markov et al.

"It’s already an honor just to be in the conversation, but I know I have to step up and help lead this team no matter if there’s a letter on this sweater or not," said Pacioretty, 25, Montreal's leading scorer last season. "I feel like I'm ready for it. When Gorges and Gio were here, you don’t want to step on any toes, you want the leaders to lead and want them to be able to do their thing. But now that they’re gone, I think there’s a big gap to fill right now. I hope to be able to do so. Whoever does have the 'C' on their sweater, he's going to have a lot of help. We know a lot of guys in the room that can lead, guys who have been on Stanley Cup teams. So I think whoever gets the letter, he’ll get help."

Like Pacioretty, Subban didn’t hide what it would mean to him if he were ever named captain of the Habs.

"Obviously, I would want that honor," Subban said. "I don't think anybody sees me as a player that would shy away from that type of responsibility. Not more money, not more ice time, but more responsibility given to a player, in my opinion, makes him better. For a player that’s going to be in Montreal for a minimum eight years time, to be considered a leader of this franchise and a leader of this team, would be a great deal of responsibility but it’s exciting you could be a guy to help lead your team to a Stanley Cup."

Subban recalled a phone call he got after signing his new contract this summer from the wife of Habs legend Jean Beliveau.

"She congratulated me on the new contract, was very complimentary, and very excited to know that she'll be watching me for the next eight years," said Subban. "She spoke on Jean's behalf as well. To me that was very flattering. To be able to wear the 'C' like one of my idols Jean Beliveau, that would be a great honor."
From the official NHL release:

HALL, VARLAMOV AND PACIORETTY NAMED NHL ‘THREE STARS’ OF THE WEEK


NEW YORK (April 7, 2014) – Edmonton Oilers left wing Taylor Hall, Colorado Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov and Montreal Canadiens left wing Max Pacioretty have been named the NHL’s “Three Stars” for the week ending April 6.

FIRST STAR – TAYLOR HALL, LW, EDMONTON OILERS

Hall led all players with seven assists and nine points, finding the scoresheet in four consecutive games to help the Oilers (28-42-9, 65
points) pick up a pair of wins. He matched a season high with 1-3—4 in a
5-4 loss to the San Jose Sharks April 1. Hall then collected an assist in each of the next two games: a 3-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks April 2 and a
3-2 shootout victory over the Phoenix Coyotes April 4. He capped the week by recording 1-2—3, his sixth game of three or more points this season, in a 4-2 win over the Ducks April 6. The 22-year-old native of Calgary leads the Oilers and ranks seventh in the NHL with a career-high 77 points this season. He also has posted career highs in goals (27, tied), assists (50), shots on goal (244) and games played (72).

SECOND STAR – SEMYON VARLAMOV, G, COLORADO AVALANCHE

Varlamov compiled a 3-0-1 record with a 1.42 goals-against average, .950 save percentage and one shutout to help the Avalanche (50-21-7, 107 points) move two points ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks (45-19-15, 105 points) for the No. 2 seed in the Central Division. He opened the week by making 24 saves in a 3-2 overtime win against the Columbus Blue Jackets April 1. Varlamov then made 29 stops, and denied all three shootout attempts he faced, in a 3-2 triumph over the New York Rangers April 3. He followed that up with 31 saves for his second shutout of the season in a 4-0 victory over the St. Louis Blues April 5, before closing the week with 30 saves in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins April 6. The 25-year-old native of Samara, Russia, leads the League with 40 wins this season, matching Patrick Roy’s franchise record established in 2000-01. He also places fourth in the NHL with a .927 save percentage and has a 2.41 goals-against average in 62 appearances.

THIRD STAR – MAX PACIORETTY, LW, MONTREAL CANADIENS

Pacioretty tied for the League lead with four goals and also contributed two assists to help the Canadiens (45-27-7, 97 points) move four points ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning (42-27-9, 93 points) for the No. 2 seed in the Atlantic Division. After being held off the scoresheet in a 3-1 loss to the Lightning April 1, Pacioretty recorded a career-high 3-2—5, including his third hat trick and League-leading 11th game-winning goal of the season, in a 7-4 victory over the Ottawa Senators April 4. He then added his team-leading 39th goal of the season, tied for third in the NHL, in a 5-3 triumph over the Detroit Red Wings April 5. The 25-year-old native of New Canaan, Conn., leads the Canadiens with 60 points in 70 games, five off his career high set in 2011-12, and also is the first Montreal player to post three hat tricks in one season since Pierre Larouche in 1980-81.

SOCHI, Russia -- Just for a moment, Max Pacioretty thought it was bad. As in, miss the Olympics bad.

Pushed awkwardly into the goalpost during the Montreal Canadiens’ final pre-Olympic break game, Pacioretty left the ice wondering if he was also leaving behind his position with the U.S. Olympic hockey team.

"It was a little bit of a scare," said Pacioretty, whose collision with the post looked worse than it turned out to be.

"As soon as I got diagnosed during the game, I knew things were going to be OK. After I got the treatment I needed, had that been an important game, I probably would have able to come back if it was late in the game. They decided to hold me out, and I’m thankful they did it in my best interests."

The first-time Olympian showed no signs of being the worse for wear as he skated on a line with Ryan Callahan and Paul Stastny during the U.S. team's first practice in Sochi on Monday evening.

Having flirted with disaster, Pacioretty is determined to embrace his moment in the Olympic sun. He sat next to Czech legend and future Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr on the NHL shuttle from the U.S. to Sochi.

"It’s definitely overwhelming. If I went back 15 years ago and said I would sit next to Jaromir Jagr on the way to the Olympics in Sochi, everyone would have thought I was crazy," Pacioretty said. "Obviously I’m like a deer in headlights when I see guys like that and I’m put on the same stage as them. But at the same time, I’ve got to play my game."

Did Jagr engage him during the flight?

"Said a couple of words here and there. I was a Rangers fan growing up. He was one of my idols," Pacioretty said.

The Montreal forward who emerged on the U.S. Olympic radar with a strong surge after some early-season injuries has more than a passing knowledge of the Russian dynamic of hosting the Olympics, having married former NHLer Max Afinogenov's sister, Katia.

"I think it’s neat, because I think I know more about Russia than the average American," he said.

"Her brother used to play for the Olympic team, now that he isn’t playing anymore her family has a reason to cheer for the Americans. I made her dad promise that he’s cheering for me."
IIHF President Rene Fasel stood firm during an IIHF council meeting Tuesday in Zurich that the Dec. 31 Olympic roster deadline would not be altered, a source told ESPN.com.

Top European countries such as Russia, Sweden, Finland and the Czech Republic have been pushing to change the rule to allow only a partial roster to be named by Dec. 31 and the rest of the players to be named closer to the Olympics.

I’m sure it’s not the last we’ve heard of this, but Fasel indicated to all the countries in Tuesday’s meeting that the rule won’t be changed. The IIHF meeting continues Wednesday, so perhaps this isn’t quite over yet.

The United States was given an exception to announce its roster at the Winter Classic on Jan. 1.

CAROLINA TRADE TALK
The Carolina Hurricanes are working the phones diligently, with the likes of defenseman Tim Gleason and forward Tuomo Ruutu being discussed with other teams.

Sources around the league suggest Gleason is getting more traction at this point.

Both players have no-movement clauses and have two more years on their respective contracts past this season, Ruutu for $4.75 million a year and Gleason for $4 million per season.

One source suggested that, if the Hurricanes move Gleason, they’d be perhaps willing to take on John-Michael Liles from the Leafs in return for Ruutu. But another source pointed to Ruutu’s cap hit being too much for Toronto to take on.

PACIORETTY TRADE TALK
TSN's Bob McKenzie dropped a real interesting nugget Tuesday evening, reporting that Montreal Canadiens winger Max Pacioretty's name has been mentioned in trade talks.

A Habs source forcibly told ESPN.com that Pacioretty is not being shopped, but that obviously the team can’t prevent other clubs from calling. And teams have.

Pacioretty, a Team USA Olympic hopeful, recently fired his agent, which raised eyebrows given that he’s in the first year of a six-year deal paying him on average $4.5 million a year. That might have been the impetus for other teams calling Montreal.

ERAT ASKS FOR TRADE
Martin Erat wants out of Washington. The veteran Czech winger never really found his niche with the Capitals after coming over last April 5 in the deal that sent prospect Filip Forsberg to Nashville.

Erat, in fact, asked Caps GM George McPhee for a trade in the first week of this season, both McPhee and Erat’s camp confirmed to ESPN.com; then Erat asked McPhee once again for a trade late last week.

So the Caps are trying to accommodate him. The Vancouver Canucks are among the teams that have shown mild interest so far, one source said Tuesday.

With no goals in 23 games, he’s hardly a hot asset, but the belief with some teams is that he’ll be a motivated player who has a track record of performing in Nashville.

His contract is also alluring for some teams; while his cap hit is $4.5 million, his actual salary is $3.75 million this season and lowers again to $2.25 million next year.

PHANEUF CONTRACT TALKS
Dion Phaneuf's representation from Newport Spots made the opening presentation in contract talks (ballpark offer) about two weeks ago, and word is the Leafs will counter in the next week. While term may be a sticking point, I’m guessing the dollar amount in the end will actually be the biggest obstacle. The next three to four weeks in this negotiation are going to be important. I don’t think Phaneuf wants this negotiation to drag on all season long.

BACKLUND ON MARKET
The Calgary Flames are listening to offers for 24-year-old center Mikael Backlund, a former first-round pick (24th overall in 2007) who hasn’t found his stride.

The Flames already turned down an offer, a source told ESPN.com, and won’t move him for the sake of it.

Backlund has one more year on his deal at $1.5 million.

RINNE UPDATE
The original plan was to have Pekka Rinne undergo an MRI this week, but that’s now been pushed back to Dec. 5. Nothing to read into it, a team source said, just a scheduling thing.

What doesn’t change is how important that MRI will be. If it’s good news and his recovery is on target, I don’t think the Preds need to trade for a netminder. But if it’s horrible news, that might change things.

Having said that, rookie Marek Mazanec -- he’s 3-1-0 with a 1.61 GAA in his past four starts -- is certainly doing his best to suggest the answer lies within.

As I’ve reported before, the Ducks and Predators have talked, but Viktor Fasth's injury makes it unlikely anything will happen for the time being. The plan in Anaheim now would be to hold tight to Jonas Hiller until further notice.

CANADIAN TV DEAL
The NHL’s new Canadian TV deal with Rogers will help raise the salary cap.

The 12-year deal, announced Tuesday morning, is worth $436 million per year for the league and its 30 teams.

Divided by the 30 clubs, that’s an average of $175 million over 12 years per team ($14.5 million per year), although not every team will get the same share, a source said. The seven Canadian NHL teams will get a bigger share of the TV pie due to "invasion fees."

Invasion fees are designed to compensate the Canadian teams for the local inventory lost to the national TV deals.
From the official NHL release:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE / NOVEMBER 25, 2013


MALKIN, PACIORETTY AND DUBNYK NAMED NHL ‘THREE STARS’ OF THE WEEK


NEW YORK (Nov. 25, 2013) – Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin, Montreal Canadiens left wing Max Pacioretty and Edmonton Oilers goaltender Devan Dubnyk have been named the NHL’s “Three Stars” for the week ending Nov. 24.

FIRST STAR – EVGENI MALKIN, C, PITTSBURGH PENGUINS

Malkin led all skaters with seven assists and eight points as the Penguins (15-9-0, 30 points) won three of four games to re-claim first place in the Metropolitan Division. He posted a pair of assists in each of his first two games of the week: a 3-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks Nov.
18 and a 4-0 triumph over the Washington Capitals Nov. 20. Malkin then snapped a 15-game goal drought, recording 1-1—2 in a 4-3 win over the New York Islanders Nov. 22. He closed the week by collecting two assists, his fourth consecutive multi-point game, in a 3-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens Nov. 23. The 27-year-old native of Magnitogorsk, Russia, has recorded at least one point in 10 of his past 11 games (1-15—16) and is tied for first in the NHL with 22 assists while also placing seventh in the League with 26 points in 24 contests.

SECOND STAR – MAX PACIORETTY, LW, MONTREAL CANADIENS

Pacioretty led all players with five goals, including two-game winners, in three games to help the Canadiens (13-9-2, 28 points) pick up a trio of victories. He opened the week by recording a natural hat trick, his second career three-goal game and first since Feb. 9, 2012, in a 6-2 triumph over the Minnesota Wild Nov. 19. After being held off the scoresheet in a 3-2 win over the Washington Capitals Nov. 22, Pacioretty twice found the back of the net, including the game-winning goal, in a 3-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins Nov. 23. The New Canaan, Conn., native has totaled 7-2—9 in 15 games this season, tying for second on the Canadiens in goals and game-winners (2).

THIRD STAR – DEVAN DUBNYK, G, EDMONTON OILERS

Dubnyk backstopped the Oilers (7-15-2, 16 points) to a pair of wins, posting a 2-0-0 record with a 0.50 goals-against average, .974 save percentage and one shutout in helping the team extend its season-long winning streak to three games. He made 14 saves for his first shutout of the season and the seventh of his career in a 7-0 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets Nov. 19. Dubnyk then posted 24 stops in a 4-1 triumph over the Florida Panthers Nov. 21. The 27-year-old native of Regina, Sask., has appeared in 18 games this season, compiling a 6-10-1 record with a 3.17 goals-against average and .896 save percentage.

Pacioretty does it the natural way

November, 20, 2013
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Canadiens 6, Wild 2
* Max Pacioretty (MTL): natural hat trick in 2nd period (5) - 2nd career hat trick
* Canadiens: 6 goals are team single-game high this season
* Wild: loss ends 4-game winning streak

Kings 5, Lightning 2
* Justin Williams (LA): 8th goal of season (had 11 goals in 48 games last season)
* Anze Kopitar (LA): 6th goal in past 12 games (0 goals in 1st 10 games this season)
* Kings: 6-0-1 in 7 straight games, allowing just 5 goals in that span
* Lightning: have lost 2 straight games (lost just 2 of previous 11 games)

Avalanche 5, Blackhawks 1
* Paul Stastny (COL): goal (8), assist (4th multi-point game this season)
* Avalanche: snap 3-game losing streak
* Blackhawks: 1-2-0 in last 3 games (7-0-1 in previous 8 games)
* FROM ELIAS: It was the Avalanche’s largest margin of victory in a regular-season game against the defending Stanley Cup champion since Oct. 27, 1987, when the Quebec Nordiques shut out the Edmonton Oilers, 5–0.

Bruins 2, Rangers 1
* Tuukka Rask (BOS): season-high 43 saves
* Bruins: 6-1-0 in last 7 games (won last 2)
* Rangers: 1-3-0 in last 4 games following a 3-game winning streak
* FROM ELIAS: Rask has won the past 6 regular-season games in which he faced 40 shots on goal, and has allowed only 5 goals while racking up 243 saves in those games.

Blues 4, Sabres 1
* Brenden Morrow (STL): 2 goals (4) (had 2 goals in 1st 13 games entering Tuesday)
* Blues: 3-1-0 in last 4 games
* Sabres: lost last 2 games; 2-9-1 at home this season

Maple Leafs 5, Islanders 2
* Phil Kessel (TOR): 2 goals (12); snaps 5-game goalless streak
* Maple Leafs: 8-2-0 at home this season (won last 5 home games)
* Islanders: lost last 5 road games (last road win: Nov. 1 at Senators)

Flyers 5, Senators 2
* Kimmo Timonen (PHI): 1st goal of season; also had 2 assists (had 2 assists in 19 games entering Tuesday)
* Flyers: 4-0-1 in last 5 games
* Senators: 1-3-0 in last 4 games following a 3-game winning streak

Predators 2, Red Wings 0
* Marek Mazanec (NSH): 27 saves, 1st career shutout (5th NHL game)
* Predators: 2nd straight win following a 4-game losing streak
* Red Wings: winless in last 7 games (0-2-5)
* FROM ELIAS: Mazanec is only the 3rd goaltender whose 1st NHL shutout came as a visiting player at Joe Louis Arena (Guy Hebert for the Blues in January 1993 and Joey MacDonald for the Islanders in March 2009).
Watch a game at the Bell Centre with a blindfold on and you'll know who has the puck by the buzz in the crowd. As the sense of anticipation grows, you picture people getting out of their seats, waiting to see what happens next.

By then, you know that defenseman P.K. Subban is on one of those rushes up the ice. It’s one thing to watch on TV, but it’s a different sensory experience to be in the rink itself.

When it's one of the better rushes that electrifies the crowd, the chants of "P.K., P.K., P.K." come cascading down from the rafters of the Bell Centre.

The reigning Norris Trophy winner, who once again leads all NHL defensemen in scoring early this season with 11 points (2-9) in nine games, has tried to tone down some of the antics that aggravated traditional hockey people when he entered the league. But at the end of the day, he only knows how to play the game one way.

[+] EnlargeP.K. Subban
Derek Leung/Getty ImagesP.K. Subban's work with the puck excites Montreal fans, but his style rubs some others the wrong way.
"I still play the same game that I played when I was 16 years old in Belleville [OHL]," Subban told ESPN.com this week. "The difference now is that I'm 24, not 16; I'm into my fourth NHL season, I have some experience under my belt, I've played for multiple coaches now, I'm just a little bit older and that helps you.

"But in terms of how I play my game, I haven't changed much. I've grown as a person, I think I've matured a little bit, and I still have more maturing to do just like most players, especially young players. But I still play the game like I always have."

He's a polarizing figure, to be sure. Bring up his name with hockey people around the league and you get two extremes in opinions. Some absolutely love his explosive game and the way he backs up opposing teams and impacts games, while some old-school folks don't appreciate what they believe is an over-the-top, "flamboyant" demeanor on the ice, as one scout put it to ESPN.com.

His Norris Trophy nod last season created mixed reactions around the league. There are people who believe Ryan Suter should have won, pointing out in particular that Subban didn't kill a lot of penalties last season and didn't have the kind of all-around season that Suter had in Minnesota.

On the other hand, it's hardly new territory that a blueliner with a big offensive season won the Norris; that's often been the case in the past. But there's no question the last thing Subban himself expected was a Norris Trophy so early in his career.

"You know what, I didn't [expect it], I have to be honest with you," 24-year-old Subban said. "Especially last year, the first game of the year comes and I'm sitting on my couch without a contract. The last thing on my mind was that I was going to come back and win the Norris. But when I look at it, and look at my preparation for last season, I believe I prepared better than most players.

"Even though I missed the first two weeks of the season, I was in tip-top shape," Subban continued. "I worked out twice a day, skating every day, throughout the whole lockout. I was in peak condition. When I hit the ice, I’m sure a lot of people thought I would be coming in out of shape because I was sitting at home waiting for my contract and that I wouldn't be sharp; they were wrong, I was sharp and I was ready and I was in good shape."

Subban tied for the NHL lead among defensemen with 38 points (11-27) in 42 games while sporting a plus-12 rating and playing 23:14 a game. He missed the first six games of the season because of a contract dispute with the Habs, one in which the dividing line was Subban wanting a long-term deal and general manager Marc Bergevin standing firm that Subban's second contract would be a short one, just like Carey Price and Max Pacioretty.

Both Price and Pacioretty signed two-year deals out of their entry-level years before getting longer-term security with their third contracts. In the end, Subban also submitted.

The flip side now is that Subban and powerful agent Don Meehan of Newport Sports will have a Norris Trophy under their belt when the two-year deal expires after this season. The Newport firm has negotiated long-term deals for other young blueliners such as Drew Doughty ($7 million per year), Erik Karlsson ($6.5 million) and Alex Pietrangelo ($6.5 million), so you can imagine where the conversation will begin when the two sides get serious in talks.

[+] EnlargeP.K. Subban
Tasos Katopodis/Getty ImagesWinning the Norris Trophy could soon give Subban millions more reasons to smile.
"To be honest with you, I'm just focused on playing hockey and not worrying about anything," Subban said. "I don't know what the plan is from the hockey team's perspective, I haven't heard much. But at the end of the day, it's something I don't really think about too much. I have more than enough trust in Donnie to make sure something is put in place that we’re comfortable with.

"But we've got lots of time for that. At the end of the day, my focus has to be on hockey. If Montreal comes to me with something, then we’ll sit and talk. As of right now, I'm just focused on hockey and I haven't heard much. And this is probably the most I've said about it all year. I'm just going to continue to play."

There’s another debate percolating around Subban, too, involving his potential place on Team Canada.

"Geez, he's an awful good player. I don't know how he’s not on that team," one Western Conference team executive said.

On one hand, how can you not want a player with his dynamic skating ability on the larger international ice? On the flip side, there's concern among some about Subban's high-risk style of play in a tournament where the smallest mistakes can be the difference between winning and losing.

At play as well is the ridiculous depth Team Canada has to choose from when it comes to right-handed defensemen: Dougthy, Pietrangelo and Shea Weber to start with, then Kris Letang, Dan Boyle, Brent Seabrook and Mike Green, among others.

Certainly, Subban fits right in that discussion near the top choices.

"It's a good problem to have if you're Team Canada," Subban said. "They have so many players to pick from. Obviously I want to be on the team, I've won gold medals while playing for my country before [world juniors], all I can do is hope for it. But there's a lot of great players to choose from."

All things being equal, it seems hard to imagine that if Subban is leading all NHL blueliners in scoring, or close to it, come mid-December, that he won't somehow be among the eight D-men in Sochi for Canada.

"At the end of the day, Steve Yzerman has played a long time in the NHL, he's one of the most respected players to play the game, he's had a great career, and he's a very smart and intelligent individual," Subban said. "All I can do is play my game, do the best that I can, and hope that I get the opportunity to represent my country.

"A lot of people will say to me, 'Well, P.K., you won the Norris Trophy, there's no way you can't be on the team.' Well, at the end of the day, I don't make those decisions, I don't look into those things. All I can do is help my team win every night and hopefully I get noticed. I don't pick the team."

And Subban insists it won’t affect his play one iota.

"I don't have many distractions," Subban said. "Would there have been a bigger distraction last year than coming in six games late with our team 5-1 and I'm back from a contract negotiation? I'm sure you can imagine what the distractions would have been in Montreal at that point. But it never bothered me.

"I highly doubt that the selection of Team Canada will bother me, either."

Subban does know for sure that there's nowhere else he'd rather be.

"It's a very special place playing in Montreal," he said. "It doesn't matter how my day went or how I felt coming to the rink. The moment we come out to start the game, it's like you're in a different world. It's unbelievable. It's a feeling you can only experience playing in Montreal. Every time I step on that ice it gives me energy."


MONTREAL -- Years ago, in another era for the Ottawa Senators, they were the talented team that found ways to lose.

Now, they're the team that refuses to die.

The old Senators, loaded with the likes of Zdeno Chara, Marian Hossa, Martin Havlat, Daniel Alfredsson, Chris Phillips, Wade Redden and Mike Fisher, somehow never got their bang for their buck, talentwise. They always lost to the rival Toronto Maple Leafs, always left you wanting more.

Today's Senators, born out of the surprising team that made the postseason last year and pushed the New York Rangers to seven games, and further transformed this season by a ridiculous injury list that should have ended their chances -- well, these guys just find a way.

They are forging a reputation as a team with tremendous character.

Two different eras for this organization, two vastly different teams.

"You're right," the veteran Phillips said when provided with that context and question. And he should know, being in his 15th NHL season -- all spent in Ottawa.

"I look back at my own career and the time I've been in Ottawa, there's a few years there that you look up and down the lineup and you think, 'We have a really good chance here.' And we didn't get very far at all. This year, it's been about proving people wrong. I got to say, it feels pretty good."

[+] EnlargePhillips
AP Photo/Ryan RemiorzVeteran Chris Phillips once again has good reason to celebrate in the postseason.
It felt mighty good Thursday night in Montreal as the Senators wrapped up a five-game, first-round win over the Canadiens, with the Senators players overheard singing "Ole, Ole, Ole" as they triumphantly entered the visitors room at the Bell Centre after a 6-1 win.

Perhaps a little mocking gesture after a supercharged, emotional series with the rival Habs.

For the Senators, it was their first playoff series win since their 2007 trip to the Cup finals.

It’s been awhile.

"It has been," said Alfredsson, the team's captain. "Everyone knows the story about our team, going to the [Cup] finals in '07, and struggling for a few years and then really changing the whole makeup of the team and going in a new direction. Last year was a great learning curve for a lot of the guys just to get into the playoffs.

"Now continuing and building on that, we believe in what we do. We know we're not going to be pretty every night, but we seem to find a way -- and we always believe."

It cannot be ignored, of course, that the Senators took advantage of an injury-depleted Habs team to help secure their first-round win. That's not to say they would not have won otherwise, but it sure didn't hurt.

Montreal in this series would lose center Lars Eller; captain Brian Gionta; center Ryan White; inspirational leader Brandon Prust; and, of course, star goalie Carey Price, who couldn't finish Game 4 after suffering an apparent knee injury and being ruled out for the rest of the series.

First-line winger Max Pacioretty revealed afterward he was playing through a bum shoulder as well.

The Habs were the walking wounded.

It's too bad, because a healthy Canadiens lineup would have given the Senators a tougher test, probably worthy of a seven-game series.

"It's no excuse, it's the playoffs and everyone is banged up," Pacioretty said in refusing to let himself and his team off the hook, despite the injuries.

And don't expect any violins on the Ottawa side for the poor Habs.

For the Senators, the reversal of injury fortunes is proof that the hockey gods do indeed exist.

Their season written off by so many people because of their own seemingly crippling injuries during the regular season -- Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson, No. 1 center Jason Spezza, star goalie Craig Anderson, top-four blueliner Jared Cowen, winger Milan Michalek -- the Senators got all of their guys back (save for Spezza) late in the season and transformed themselves from a team worthy for a seeding far exceeding No. 7 in the East.

Think back to when Karlsson & Co. were all out with long-term injuries. Imagine their reaction had somebody told them they'd be in the second round of the playoffs a few months later. Think any player on the team would have believed that a true possibility?

"Not likely," Alfredsson admitted. "But not out of the question, either."

Alfredsson talked about a conversation he had with Senators head coach Paul MacLean after the injuries to Karlsson and Michalek in the Pittsburgh game early in the season.

[+] EnlargeDaniel Alfredsson
Francois Laplante/NHLI/Getty ImagesLongtime Senator Daniel Alfredsson remains a cornerstone in Ottawa.
"I remember talking with Mac, and he talked about whether he should address the situation with the team, because we were missing everybody. He just came in and said, 'We have a lot of good hockey players right here. We can't do anything about anything else, we got to believe in ourselves.' Once we started to win some games there, we got confidence."

Chapeau to Mr. MacLean. He sure knows how to coach. And he kept the team's spirit and focus in line despite what seemed to everyone else like a hopeless situation earlier this season.

Player by player, the AHL call-ups became NHL regulars. And, astonishingly, it worked.

"The job that our scouting staff has done in finding players that are out on the ice playing for us now, I get lots of credit for playing these young players and having these young players in these situations, but believe me, if they're not good young players -- if they're not good enough -- we wouldn't be in this situation," said MacLean, crediting general manger Bryan Murray and scouting gurus Pierre Dorion and Tim Murray, along with the rest of the staff.

"Their ability to find solid hockey players, that's the reason why the Ottawa Senators are here today in the second round," the head coach said.

Well, there's another major reason, of course.

"Our goaltending probably was the best in the league this year," Alfredsson said. "That gave us some confidence that we don't have to be perfect out there. We seemed to always find a way, and that's a good feeling."

Craig Anderson was superb this season and would have been nominated for the Vezina Trophy had he not missed a significant amount of time due to injury. Ben Bishop was terrific before getting dealt to Tampa, and what should scare everyone else in the league is that young backup Robin Lehner might be even better than Anderson when all is said and done.

"A lot of times I talk with my coaching staff and also my boys around the cottage and I say, 'We should change the game [name] of hockey to goalie,'" MacLean said. "Because that makes the difference. And I think for our team, Craig Anderson was the MVP of this playoff series.

"He was outstanding in every game. He gives us a chance to bend but not break. And gives us a chance to recover and get our bearings. And once we do that, we seem to be able to establish our game, and I think he's a big part of it."

Come to think of it, when recalling those old Senators teams of the late 1990s and early 2000s, goaltending was often a part of their downfall.

So there's another wrinkle between eras.

The best part for Senators fans is that well-respected holdovers from those old teams like Alfredsson and Phillips now get to enjoy a different feeling.

It's nice to win when you're not expected to.

It's nice to overachieve.

It's nice to prove people wrong, as Phillips said.

It rocks to be the new Senators.
From the official NHL release:

NHL DEPARTMENT OF PLAYER SAFETY ASSESSES
NO SUPPLEMENTAL DISCIPLINE TO MAPLE LEAFS’ MIKHAIL GRABOVSKI


NEW YORK (February 11, 2013) – Following a telephone hearing conducted this morning, the National Hockey League’s Department of Player Safety has decided not to assess Supplemental Discipline to Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mikhail Grabovski for an incident that occurred during NHL Game No. 160 Saturday night in Montreal.

After interviewing both players involved in the incident and reviewing all of the available video and medical reports, the League could not determine conclusively that Grabovski bit Montreal Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty.

The Department of Player Safety has concluded that there was not sufficient evidence to support imposing Supplemental Discipline.

Max Pacioretty recognized for comeback

June, 20, 2012
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LAS VEGAS -- Montreal left wing Max Pacioretty has won the Masterton Trophy for his remarkable comeback from a serious back injury.

Pacioretty won the award Wednesday night at the NHL's annual postseason awards ceremony.

Pacioretty broke a vertebra in his back and incurred a concussion on a hit from Boston captain Zdeno Chara on March 8, 2011, knocking him out for the season.

Pacioretty returned to the Canadiens last season, and had 33 goals and 32 assists for his most productive pro season.

The other Masterton Trophy nominees were Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson, who returned from offseason back surgery, and Toronto forward Joffrey Lupul, who became an elite NHL scorer after missing a year of hockey with back surgery and a blood infection.
From the official NHL release:

ALFREDSSON, LUPUL AND PACIORETTY NAMED MASTERTON TROPHY FINALISTS


NEW YORK (April 24, 2012) -- Right wing Daniel Alfredsson of the Ottawa Senators, left wing Joffrey Lupul of the Toronto Maple Leafs and left wing Max Pacioretty of the Montreal Canadiens are the three finalists for the 2011-12 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, which is awarded “to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey,” the National Hockey League announced today.

A $2,500 grant from the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association
(PHWA) is awarded annually to the Bill Masterton Scholarship Fund, based in Bloomington, Minnesota, in the name of the Masterton Trophy winner.

The local chapters of the PHWA submitted nominations for the Masterton Trophy at the conclusion of the regular season and the top three vote-getters were designated as finalists. The winner will be announced Wednesday, June 20, during the 2012 NHL Awards from Encore Theater at Wynn Las Vegas. The 2012 NHL Awards will be broadcast by NBC Sports Network in the United States and CBC in Canada.

Following are the finalists for the Masterton Trophy, in alphabetical
order:

Daniel Alfredsson, Ottawa Senators

The NHL's longest-serving captain (1999-2000), Alfredsson returned from off-season back surgery for his 16th NHL campaign and was a key contributor to the Senators' successful Stanley Cup Playoff drive.
Alfredsson was the leading vote-getter among NHL forwards in All-Star balloting, selected by his peers as an All-Star captain and the recipient of a thunderous standing ovation from hometown fans at Scotiabank Place following his two-goal outburst against Team Chara. Alfredsson finished the season with 59 points -- 27 goals, including the 400th regular-season goal of his career, and 32 assists.

Joffrey Lupul, Toronto Maple Leafs

Returning to health after his career had been threatened in 2010 by two back surgeries and a blood infection, Lupul earned a spot on the Maple Leafs' top line and enjoyed the most productive season of his eight-year NHL career. Teaming with wing Phil Kessel to form the highest-scoring duo in the NHL, Lupul did not go more than one game without a point until January and was selected as assistant captain for Team Chara at the NHL All-Star Game. He notched a career-high 67 points in 66 games before a shoulder injury ended his season in early March.

Max Pacioretty, Montreal Canadiens

Pacioretty returned to action this season after missing the team’s last 15 regular-season games and the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2010-11 due to injuries suffered on March 8, 2011 against Boston. The 23-year-old left wing set single-season career highs in goals (33), assists (32), points (65), game-winning goals (five) and shots on goal (286). His 29 even-strength goals ranked fourth in the League. On March 8 at Edmonton, the New Canaan, Connecticut native became the first U.S.-born player in Canadiens history to notch 30 goals in a season.

History

The trophy was presented by the NHL Writers’ Association in 1968 to commemorate the late Bill Masterton, a player with the Minnesota North Stars who exhibited to a high degree the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey and who died on January 15, 1968.

Habs fans were up in arms over Max Pacioretty's suspension, while the anti-Sidney Crosby faction is out in full force over his elbow to Nick Foligno. And Ducks fans? Ouch, that's a sore subject. A look at this week's rants!


pymp01: I'm in Montréal and I've been a Habs fan for a very frustrating 29 years on this planet. I'm not one of those who thinks there is a conspiracy against the Habs but now ... with the Pacioretty suspension, I'm starting to believe all the conspiracy theorists out there! THIS is the guy that almost got decapitated by Chara. Chara got 0 games. MaxPac 3. What gives??? No, I mean, c'est quoi le rapport?

My take: First of all, there is no conspiracy. Second of all, it is apples and oranges when you compare any hit from this season to any hit from last season. The league changed Rule 48 to expand its capability. Of course Habs fans would be frustrated that Boston's Zdeno Chara received no discipline last season and Pacioretty received three games Monday; but it's a different disciplinary sheriff this season in Brendan Shanahan and it's a different set of parameters in governing illegal head shots. One hit has nothing to do with the other.

Pacioretty made contact with Kris Letang's head. End of discussion. However, where there's a legitimate beef -- I think there should have been a whistle in overtime when Carey Price had the puck in his pads just before Pittsburgh scored. That was a blown call in my opinion. And for that, Habs fans are correct in their right to complain.


prashanthiyer: Suspend Sidney Crosby. His actions against Foligno were inexcusable and I'm actually a bit perturbed that there was zero coverage of this on ESPN. Crosby threw a dangerous and intentional elbow directly to the head of Foligno and yet there was no suspension and just a minor penalty. Where is the discipline that Shanahan preached? Crosby is not a repeat offender, but this was a dangerous play, making direct contact with the head, the opponent did not change his head position in any way, so this should definitely be a 2-3 game suspension under Shanahan's rules so far. Instead nothing, because Crosby is our poster boy. Ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous. If Ovechkin makes this same play or any other play for the matter, he is suspended.

My take: I don't think it was worth a suspension, but it was certainly worth an elbowing penalty.

The bigger-picture story here is that Crosby has to be mindful of his actions when it comes to hitting an opponent near the head given his well-publicized comments regarding banning all head shots. I think his shoving match with Foligno illustrates why it's hard to do just that (an all-out ban).

After Ottawa's 6-3 loss last week against Pittsburgh, Foligno was not pleased with the play.

"It's not a big deal, but it is something that he preached all summer about that we should limit that and then he goes and does it, so I was just a little disappointed," Foligno said of Crosby. "But, you know, that's a small part of the game and it's over now."

Crosby's response: "I don't what he's talking about. I was preaching about the hits like the one we saw here tonight, not a scrum. I don't know what he expects after he runs a goalie three times. He's probably lucky it was me that was handling it and not someone else. I think if he's going to do that, he should be ready to expect a response. Like I said, that's a hockey scrum and he should expect that if he wants to play that way. If given the opportunity again, I would get my hands up the same way. I've got to stick up for my goaltender as well."

You had two guys engaging in an old-fashioned shoving match in front of the net; arms can slip up the shoulder, things can happen. It's why, in the end, the league will always have to take each incident case by case and determine the severity, the intent, etc., when it considers any supplemental discipline under Rule 48.

In this case, my sense is this was just two players going at it in front of the net. It happens every night in the NHL.


DTMinBflat: The Ducks should not be playing this bad, is it carlyle's fault? Is it Hiller's? who gives a crap! just freaking win already and be the team you're suppose to be and beat the crap out of the west ... so sick and tired of watching close games just to lose in OT or a shootout. Or they get completely stomped in the second period. this is ridiculous! im gonna go barf now. peace.

asutter33: So the Ducks came into the season with one of the most hyped offenses in the league and they look horrible. Pierre, you have always come to the defense of Randy Carlyle, but why? After winning the Cup, they always barely limp into the playoffs. Boudreau was great for the Capitals up until the past month, why wouldn't the Ducks can Carlyle? Isn't it time for a coach who knows more about the offensive side of the game?

My take: I do believe coach Randy Carlyle is possibly on thin ice in Anaheim. You can't be one point out of the basement in the entire NHL with that kind of roster and not be. My sense from talking to people around the league Monday is that the Ducks were going to make a big trade or fire Carlyle, and that a decision on either was looming. Stay tuned.


jaguar0413: After watching the Caps get throttled by a heavily AHL laden Buffalo squad on Saturday, I'm not surprised that Boudreau was fired. The complete lack of effort of the core players like Ovechkin and Semin was downright embarrassing. They should be ashamed. Bruce's firing was as much an indictment of their lack of commitment to the team as his own deficiencies as a coach. How does Dale Hunter turn this ship around? At this point are Ovechkin and Semin even coachable?

My take: Well, for the short term, you'll see the usual bounce back that a coaching change traditionally brings. As for Ovechkin, one of the concerns I had when he signed that long-term deal a few years back was whether he had the internal motivation to push himself the rest of his career despite not having to ever play for the next contract for a long, long time. In other words, is he a self-starter? Perhaps he is and just needed a new coach pushing his buttons. We'll find out. But if he's lacking motivation, that's a concern no coach can fix.


ancientmariner909: Why are the Kings still on last season's streaky pattern? They're either unstoppable or just plain bad. Some of their losses are close games, but you'd think that this team with so much potential could do much more. I have a lot of faith in this team to get things together and develop some consistency, but I don't know when that will happen.

My take: I know one concern the Kings have is their home record; they want to get better at Staples Center. A 2-0 win over San Jose on Monday night improved their home record to 7-6-1, and that's not good enough. Fellow contenders such as Chicago (7-1-2) and Detroit (9-2-1) show how you're supposed to take care of business on home ice. For the Kings to be true contenders, they have to make Staples Center a tough place to win for the visiting team.


ManUtdRule63: The Sabres need to fire Lindy Ruff and Darcy Regier, especially Regier as he's the worst GM in hockey and constantly flops at the trade deadline with his terrible trades, even since Pegula bought the Sabres and brought money with him, he managed to waste it on Ville Leino and Christian Ehrhoff. Darcy needs to go if the Sabres want to win the cup.

My take: Deep breaths, sir, deep breaths. If you had to fire all the GMs that had interest in Leino and Ehrhoff this past summer, there would be a long list of GMs out of work today. Leino has struggled the most, and it's important to know it's the first time he's ever made big money in the NHL and I think that can weigh on a player. But his record shows he can play clutch minutes (see the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs and finals with the Flyers). I don't think firing the longest-tenured coach or his GM would solve anything. And I don't see it happening, either.


Samuel Lamoriello Jackson: I'm very upset about Parise's called back game tying goal against the Isles. The guy was battling for it right up against the goalie, lost his footing, and the puck slid right it. The refs called it back after reviewing a few minutes, but (call me biased) I think the kick was clearly accidental as Parise could hardly see the puck in all that scrum. I think there is a serious need to clarify rule 49 regarding a "clear kicking motion." What does that actually mean? I think Parise's goal was at most an accidental kicking motion, and not a "clear" motion by any means. The rule should be clarified, or possibly instate some kind of coach challenge, although the challenge might not fly in hockey.

My take: Here's how the NHL's situation room explained its decision upon video review Saturday:

"At 19:59 of the third period in the Devils/Islanders game, video review used the overhead angle and the side camera to determine that Devils forward Zach Parise used his right skate to propel the puck into the net. According to Rule 49.2, 'a goal cannot be scored by an attacking player who uses a distinct kicking motion to propel the puck into the net.' No goal New Jersey."

This isn't as clear as most, but I still think the league made the right call here. I think as upset as the Devils are that it wasn't allowed, Islanders fans would have had a bigger beef if the goal would have stood.


twobyfour162: Joe Sacco and Greg Sherman need to go in Colorado. Sacco hasn't kept the lines together for more than a few games and is it really smart to sign Varlamov and not have a full time goalie coach to help the kid out? Get rid of them both, they won't get the Avs to the playoffs.

My take: It wouldn't surprise me if Joe Sacco eventually took the fall, but the problems are more deep-rooted than the coach. Where's the leadership/vision from president Pierre Lacroix? This franchise needs fresh blood at the top, in my opinion. That's where the problem begins.


JazzyJ40: My rant is about other rants. Why do people continuously 'rant' about how their team gets no 'love' when it's streaking?

My take: It does get repetitive, doesn't it?

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