Cross Checks: Shawn Horcoff

Rapid Reaction: Stars 3, Ducks 0

April, 21, 2014

DALLAS -- The Dallas Stars earned their first playoff victory since 2008, beating the Anaheim Ducks, 3-0. It was the Stars' first home game of the series, played in front of a sellout crowd of 19,120.

Some quick thoughts:

How it happened: The Stars got goals late in both the first and second periods. Jamie Benn, the Stars' second-leading goal scorer in the regular season, scored after Shawn Horcoff's shot from the left circle hit the pads of Ducks goalie Frederik Andersen and came right out to Benn on the right circle and he deposited it in the net. The goal was scored with 35 seconds left in the first period, allowing Dallas to take some momentum into the dressing room.

The teams were physical in the second period and both had some scoring chances. But it wasn't until the clock got under three minutes left that the Stars expanded their lead. Tyler Seguin's speed and puck-handling created the opportunity. He skated into the zone and left it for Valeri Nichuskin, who managed to get the puck through Andersen.

Dallas added another insurance goal midway through the third period.

What it means: The Stars earned their first shutout since April 10, 2008, at Anaheim in Game 1 of the first-round and in the process are back in the series. It was an opportunity lost for the Ducks to take a stranglehold in the series. The result also guarantees that the series will go back to Anaheim for Game 5 on Friday.

Player of the game: Kari Lehtonen was terrific when it mattered most. He made several key saves on some point-blank chances, including Saku Koivu and Nick Bonino early in the second period. That kept it a 1-0 game and the Stars were able to add to it later in the period. Lehtonen was in a good rhythm and not afraid to come out and challenge shots. And he saw a lot of them. The Ducks vastly outshot the Stars, but just couldn't get anything past Lehtonen, even when they got some traffic in front of him. He made 37 saves, earned his first playoff victory and did so in a shutout.

Stat of the game: The Stars' penalty kill was 5-for-5 and became a big momentum-booster for Stars goals late in the first and second periods. The Stars didn't allow rebound chances, blocked shots and Lehtonen was able to keep everything out. The Ducks haven't had a power-play goal since Game 1.

Injured defenseman: Stephane Robidas fractured his right leg early in the second period after getting tangled up with Ryan Garbutt in front of the Ducks' net. It's the same leg Robidas fractured in November when he was with Dallas, causing him to miss four months.

What's next: Game 4 is Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET at American Airlines Center before the series shifts back to Anaheim for Game 5 on Friday.
Oilers captain Shawn Horcoff has been deeply involved since the beginning in the NHLPA’s negotiations with the NHL over a new CBA. He was in Toronto when the NHLPA presented the league with three offers in mid-October. He was in New York when the players negotiated directly with the owners, before the talks went off the rails late in the week.

At this point, he’s not sure the NHLPA can serve the players any longer in its current form. He has already placed his vote that could give the NHLPA executive committee the ability to file a disclaimer of interest and dissolve the union. By the time votes are tallied at the end of the week, he said he’d be surprised if the disclaimer isn’t approved in a landslide.

"Guys are going to be pretty highly in favor of it," Horcoff told ESPN The Magazine. "I’ve been in conference calls with 200-300 players. We just feel at this point the union has done everything they can for us and we’re not getting anywhere. It’s time for us to go in a different direction."

Detroit’s Danny Cleary, another active NHLPA member, anticipates a lopsided vote, as well. He "overwhelmingly" thinks his fellow players will give the executive committee the ability to file a disclaimer of interest.

"Like, if it’s not 99.8 percent, I’d be disappointed," he said.

The NHL filed a pre-emptive lawsuit on Friday in an attempt to get a ruling that says the NHLPA’s decertification is only a negotiating tactic and not allowable. In that lawsuit, the league has requested that if the decertification is allowed, all contracts completed under the previous CBA be void.

It would ultimately make all players free agents.

"I find it surprising that teams would be in favor of that," said Horcoff, pointing out that his Oilers have some impressive young players who could hit the market.

Horcoff has two seasons left (through 2014-15) on his contract that averages $5.5 million per season, and isn’t concerned over the possibility of it getting wiped out.

"I’ve been fortunate enough to play long enough now where I’ve built security into my life and my family," he said. "For me, it’s just a matter of doing what’s right for the union and right for the players and just letting this thing play out."
TROY, Mich. -- Veteran forward Shawn Horcoff was one of the few on the ice still wearing the logo of his NHL team during informal player workouts Monday morning in suburban Detroit. But the fact that he wasn't wearing a NHLPA jersey wasn’t any sort of statement.

It was more about a jersey shortage.

"There’s only so many [NHLPA practice jerseys]," he said, smiling. "The [Oilers] never took mine back in time. I had it from the summer. I said, 'You know what? I’m going to wear this out of spite.' "

Horcoff is a veteran of multiple lockouts. The Oilers' captain has been active in the NHLPA for years, and even though he's not surprised that another round of regular-season games are expected to be chopped this week, it doesn’t make it any easier.

"It’s the same thing every time with the owners. [Commissioner Gary Bettman's] first defense is to cancel games and test the players. There’s been no effort to negotiate on his stance. Their negotiation is 'The players have to come down to us or we’re not moving at all,' " Horcoff told ESPN The Magazine. "Gary has forced the players' hand into this situation and frankly, he’s [ticked] us off. I think at the start, that first offer they gave out, that was a big, big mistake on Gary’s part."

But it’s not even the cancellation of games or the stalled negotiations that appear to irk Horcoff the most. He questioned the sincerity of the league when it comes to concern for hockey fans.

"I sit there and read Gary and Bill’s comments about, 'We feel sorry for the fans.' Well, I find that really hard to believe," Horcoff said. "I think it’s a blatant lie, personally. I don’t feel they feel sorry for the fans at all. Gary feels like no matter what, [the fans are] going to come back and couldn't care less if they're frustrated with this. He’s going to do what it takes to get the best deal and couldn't care less what they feel."

The 34-year-old Horcoff had offers to play overseas, including an offer from the KHL, but opted to stay in North America because of his family. The former Michigan State Spartan is one of a dozen or so NHL players skating regularly in the Detroit area. He said he’ll reconsider his options in mid-November but conceded that the jobs in Europe are drying up.

His plan now is to enjoy the time with his family, stay in shape and hope a deal is struck. The NHLPA and NHL are expected to pick up negotiations Tuesday, and Horcoff hopes the talks extend beyond the secondary issues that dominated talks last week.

"Until the core stuff gets settled, nothing is going to get done," he said. "If the core stuff got done, I think the other stuff would take two days. The league needs to state what they want most. ... If we knew what they wanted most, we could probably do something. But right now, they want everything and it's not going to happen."(