Hot and not
Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals
Holtby allowed four goals on 30 shots in a 4-3 loss to the Los Angeles Kings, and has finally looked somewhat human while going 1-2-1 in his past four starts, all against current playoff teams.
Has the NHL scheduled too many outdoor games?
@Real_ESPNLeBrun: Are four outdoor games next season too many, or just right given the NHL's and the Toronto Maple Leafs' 100th birthday? The league rolled out the rest of its outdoor slate for next season after earlier this week announcing the Edmonton Oilers-Winnipeg Jets matchup for Oct. 23. We'll get the Centennial Classic on Jan. 1 at BMO Field in Toronto, with the Detroit Red Wings visiting; the Winter Classic goes the next day at Busch Stadium with the Chicago Blackhawks-St. Louis Blues rivalry taking center stage; and 1967 expansion teams the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins tangle Feb. 18 at Heinz Field in the lone Stadium Series game of the season. I'm ready to accept that given the league's 100-year anniversary -- and the Leafs', too -- four outdoor games are necessary for next season. But moving forward, I'd like to see it cut to one or two games per season. A Winter Classic every year on Jan. 1, plus the odd Heritage Classic every couple of years in Canada. I think the league and NHL Players' Association need to preserve the feel for these outdoor games. I know teams are lining up to host them, but there's nothing wrong with leaving them wanting more. You've created the demand, and you should continue to fuel it. But for next season? I'm on board. And it's going to be quite the year in Toronto with the World Cup of Hockey, the CFL's Grey Cup, the world junior hockey championships, and so on. I know my town has deep pockets, but that's going to stretch the entertainment dollar, to be sure. Thoughts, gang?
@ESPN_Burnside: Remember when the NHL had six outdoor games in 2014, during the season after the 2012 lockout, and everyone went ballistic? Too many! Snivel, snivel, whine, whine. You know the venue that struggled most to sell tickets? Vancouver, in Canada. Of course, it was a game doomed from the outset because it wasn't really outdoors, but I digress. As was the case then, you need to look at each case individually. You're not trying to sell tickets nationally to four different games, but the question is whether each game will capture the imagination and wallets of fans specific to those teams. Will Detroit fans flood Toronto to swoop up tickets, as Toronto fans did with the Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium in 2014? Of course. Will Pennsylvania fans fill Heinz Field? Yes. Just keep the Flyers and Penguins fans well-separated, please. Will Canadians fill up that CFL stadium in Winnipeg early in the season? My guess is the party started last week. You know St. Louis will put on a show with Chicago coming to town. So, what's with the worrying? My guess is that the whimpering comes mostly from people who won't attend any of the games. To me, the argument is moot until you've got a stadium half-full, and so far that hasn't come close to happening. And by the way, if Jan. 2 looks at all like the titanic tilt between Chicago and St. Louis Wednesday night -- won 3-2 by St. Louis in a shootout -- count me in. And you can count fans in, too.
@CraigCustance: I'm with you, Pierre. Celebrate the centennial and then start to prune these down. I'm still most excited about the alumni game being played in Winnipeg and seeing Wayne Gretzky take on Teemu Selanne. I think it'd be really fun if they turned this into a tournament of sorts with these alumni games. Have four alumni games attached to these outdoor games, and then have a final four tournament with each of the winning alumni teams at another venue. It's too bad the timing of the All-Star game doesn't work out, because it would be the perfect stage to set up an alumni games finals. You could give a $1 million prize to the winning alumni team -- hey, it's not my money -- and also set up a huge donation to the pension fund for retired hockey players. It would definitely give these games a little more juice and give back to former players who could use it.
@ESPNJoeyMac: I don't think the league should scale back the outdoor games. Pierre, we had this conversation while we worked together at the 2016 NHL Winter Classic between the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins at Gillette Stadium. I understand the philosophy of not ruining a good thing, but I enjoy the outdoor games and have zero issue with multiple ones each winter. Or, maybe one season the NHL and NHL Players' Association figure out a way to have some sort of winter festival where all the games are played on the same day at the same venue, like one big pond hockey championship. The Centennial Classic is going to be an outstanding event, and I like the fact that other organizations are getting a chance to host an outdoor game. Too bad the Flyers and Penguins couldn't play at Penn State, though, instead of Heinz Field again.
Around the league
The New York Islanders got some bad news Wednesday when starting goalie Jaroslav Halak was ruled out for at least six weeks due to a lower-body injury suffered Tuesday against the Pittsburgh Penguins.