Lazy night in the NHL with just three games – let’s talk Olympics instead!


Note: scroll down the page if you just want last night’s recap.

 

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First off, let me say that if you want to debate the selection of players to Team Canada or any of the other nations you can do so in the forums here and here and there are a few more threads kicking around too. Point being, the best place to debate that stuff is going to be in the forums, which have been heating up of late since the big update.

 

I have made the completely boring decision to end any and all criticism of the Canadian team until after the games. Why? Because what’s done is done. This, whether we like it or not, is the team and if you are a proud Canadian hoping that they win the gold you’ll have no choice but to cheer for these 25 players.

 

I suppose you could go the evil route and wish injury upon the players you feel did not deserve to be selected but that’s a little overboard for me.

 

You could also wish that whichever player you feel didn’t deserve a selection finds his butt glued to the bench. And you know what, your wish might come true but I’d rather see a selection flourish because that means the team is more likely to win.

 

Now, to be fair, we all wanted to see our favourite players make their respective national teams. It just makes watching and cheering that much more fun. But I’m all about the Gold. I’d cheer for Canada even if it was headlined by Brad Marchand, Todd Bertuzzi and a flip-flopping Brett Hull.

 

 

And lest we forget that not all 25 players selected even needs to dress. I suppose there is something terrifying about the reality that unforeseen circumstances may force those players into action but it remains unlikely that the players at the fringe of the roster will see much action.

 

You also need to remember that even among the players who do dress there will be players who don’t see much action. Go ahead and look at the top nine forwards and top four defensemen for whichever nation you cheer for. Still got complaints? Because those are the guys who will do all the heavy lifting when the chips are down.

 

So my decision is to just chill out and root for this version of Team Canada. It may not be the team that I would have picked but it’s the team we have. I’d rather be able to sit back and say “I told you so,” when Canada wins than to use “I told you so,” as some kind of defense mechanism if they lose.

 

But hey, if you really want to keep debating the choices, I get it. It’s fun and mostly harmless. I’ll probably get sucked back in the second someone engages me at the local watering hole. Just know that I am bleeding red and white from here on out, which means I’m supporting each and every player on that 25-man roster. No exceptions.

 

And none of that is going to stop me from criticising the selections made by other teams, because I absolutely want to be able to say “I told you so,” when that nation is defeated by Canada. No Brodin, Sweden? What up with that?

 

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Having said all that, here is an excellent piece from SB Nation’s Adam Gretz on why Olympic rosters shouldn’t be built with NHL constraints:


When it comes to building an NHL team, having a checking line, or a shutdown line, is at least understandable. It's difficult to find enough scorers and enough cap space to make it work. If you can though, your team is probably going to be tough to beat (again, just ask the Chicago Blackhawks).

But what excuse do Olympic teams have? Why do they feel the need to go out of their way to bring in players that fill a checking line role, or turn away players like Bobby Ryan because they don't fit their own image of what a third-line player in the NHL should be?

An Olympic team does not need to be built with the same thought process that is used to build an NHL squad.

I agree with the premise of this piece but not necessarily the implication. The best hockey players aren’t necessarily the ones who score the most goals/points or even have the most ability in those areas. Last I checked, the game is played on both ends of the rink, which is why terms such as “complete player” exist.

 

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Oh and here’s something we should all debate because it’s completely hypothetical – Team Canada “snubs” vs. the World “snubs”, who wins? And more importantly, who got subbed from the snub teams?

 

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Justin Bourne’s piece on the differences in hockey played on NHL-sized ice and Olympic-sized ice is a great primer for the upcoming Olympics:


First off, the hockey is a lot more possession-based.

There’s a huge misconception that because there’s more ice, you need faster players. I think you need better decision-makers with the puck. On the small sheet, you need players with great instincts who get the puck to the right areas without much deliberation. On Olympic ice, it can be alarming when you get the puck and realize you have a full second or two to figure out just what you want to do. “Paralysis by analysis” can be a thing, so composed, smart players will take you further than spazzes. I like Taylor Hall a lot as a hockey player. Like, a ton. …Not sure he’d be right for an Olympic team.

 

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Check out this piece from the Wall Street Journal discussing how this may be the last Olympics with NHL players.

 

I have a few thoughts on the subject.

 

The first is that one of the things I love about the Olympics is that the NHL doesn’t control it for profit. I love NHL hockey but seriously, NHL, you don’t own hockey. I get that you pay your players quite handsomely to play this game and that vesting interest warrants some concern when they offer their services to play elsewhere for free but we’ve also had two work stoppages in the last decade all because you money grubbers can’t get enough. Why can’t they just leave well enough alone? This is a great event that everyone enjoys, just let it be. This obsession with profits and the bottom line is why we can’t have nice things.

 

Secondly, if the NHL players aren’t allowed to go to the next Olympics I don’t really want to see men compete at all. It’ll just be a sham, like men’s soccer at the Olympics – as an aside, the women’s soccer in London was much more exciting than the men’s brand – but much worse since at least 90% of the best players are competing in the NHL. I still hope to see women’s hockey in the Olympics as well as sledge hockey at the Paralympics but maybe just do away with the men’s game all together because I’m not watching if the NHLers aren’t playing.

 

Finally, if the players aren’t going to the next Olympics it obviously means that the NHL will go ahead with some kind of a world cup tournament that they will put on for profit. Does anyone know if there was any agreement about this in the latest CBA? Because I swear, if there is another F@%*#&;@ work stoppage because the owners want to bend the players over once again I may just give up watching the sport entirely.

 

If they do go ahead with a world cup of some sorts I really hope they smarten up and go with NHL rules, including NHL-sized ice, NHL referees, and NHL-style playoffs. No more shootouts deciding playoff games. Now, the fact that the NHL still decides non-playoff games via shootout is still a problem they’d have to solve but at least no one would win the whole thing because of a skills competition.

 

I would actually like to see them move to a playoff format that is at the very least a two-game series where the score aggregate decides the winner, which would increase the sample size thus generating a more rigorously vetted winner. But that’s just me. I realize that there is great drama in a one-off deciding who moves on but I can’t for the life of me justify that when hockey is already such a small-sample sport given the low scoring nature of the game.

 

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Okay, let’s talk action from the NHL last night.

 

First up, the Flyers took it to the Canadiens last night, winning 3-1 in a game where Montreal couldn’t get much of anything going. That’s the second time the Habs have been shut down by the Flyers in Philadelphia in the last month.

 

Peter Budaj got the start for Montreal and actually played pretty well from what I saw. Still, he’s Budaj so expect the starts to continue to be infrequent.

 

Tomas Plekanec scored the lone Habs goal, a shorthanded marker. It was the only offense either team created on the power play all night. Plekanec has four points in the last three games and may be going on a little run here.

 

Check out the Canadiens’ line cominations from last night courtesy of FrozenPool:

 

19.33%

EV

51 DESHARNAIS,DAVID - 11 GALLAGHER,BRENDAN - 67 PACIORETTY,MAX

18.49%

EV

48 BRIERE,DANIEL - 21 GIONTA,BRIAN - 14 PLEKANEC,TOMAS

5.88%

EV

49 BOURNIVAL,MICHAEL - 17 BOURQUE,RENE - 81 ELLER,LARS

5.46%

EV

49 BOURNIVAL,MICHAEL - 81 ELLER,LARS - 8 PRUST,BRANDON

5.04%

SH

32 MOEN,TRAVIS - 14 PLEKANEC,TOMAS

4.62%

EV

17 BOURQUE,RENE - 81 ELLER,LARS - 32 MOEN,TRAVIS

4.62%

EV

17 BOURQUE,RENE - 81 ELLER,LARS - 8 PRUST,BRANDON

4.2%

EV

81 ELLER,LARS - 32 MOEN,TRAVIS - 8 PRUST,BRANDON

4.2%

EV

21 GIONTA,BRIAN - 32 MOEN,TRAVIS - 14 PLEKANEC,TOMAS

 

Safe to say they struggled to find the right combination on the third line with Alex Galchenyuk out?

 

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Steve Mason put up another strong performance for the Flyers as he continues to resurrect his value (fantasy and otherwise).

 

Andrej Meszaros is apparently alive and well (could’ve fooled me) as he assisted on all three Flyers goals. Do not rush out to grab him unless you play in a pool that rewards healthy scratches, incompetence and incontinence.

 

For some reason the Flyers decided it would be wise to reward their second power play unit with the majority of the power play minutes. So the Sean Couturier-Vincent Lecavalier-Brayden Schenn-Steve Downie-Mark Streit group skated nearly five minutes with the man advantage. While the big boys, most of whom are riding serious hot streaks, took a back seat. It’s no wonder then that Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell, Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds were all held off the board.

 

It’s worth mentioning that Lecavalier has been skating on the wing on the third line. I don’t know how long this has been going on but it doesn’t sound great for his fantasy prospects (though he does continue to skate big minutes).

 

Michael Raffl continues to skate on the top line for Philly. He doesn’t see power play time but I can say that he certainly passes the eye test. Very slick player and a good fit with Giroux and Voracek.

 

Philly is rolling right now having won nine of their last 11 and look like a lock to make the playoffs. They are starting to put some distance between themselves and the muck that is the Eastern Conference Wild Card race.

 

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Another team starting to emerge from the muck (though still very much in it) is the New York Rangers who came away with a VERY impressive regulation win on the road in Chicago.

 

The Rangers got up early but as you can expect the Blackhawks were able to push back and tie the game. The Blackhawks carried the play for stretches but I was genuinely impressed by the Rangers’ resolve. They didn’t just sit back and let the Blackhawks take over after tying it. They pushed back and started to carry the play themselves ultimately taking the lead for good late in the third period, which meant we got to see the most exciting thing in hockey: the Blackhawks’ six-on-five power play with the net empty.

 

The Blackhawks are so dangerous when they pull the goalie I would honestly give consideration to doing it in non-desperation situations. Like, the opposing team ices the puck with dog-tired players. Pull the goalie and hem them in like crazy! It’s so insane it just might work.

 

Henrik Lundqvist had to be sharp stopping 35 of 37 shots though he did allow a pretty weak one to Brandon Bollig.

 

Don’t look now but Michael Del Zotto has a three-game scoring streak on the go. I know, I shit my pants out of shock too. All three points in his recent streak have been power play markers, which is a good sign seeing as that is the one area he is supposed to be most effective.

 

Don’t worry, Ryan McDonagh owners, McD is still the main man on the top power play unit leading the team in power play ice time once again. It might take a million-game scoring streak for Del Zotto to usurp McD considering the hole he has dug for himself.

 

Brad Richards has a three-game streak of his own on the go. This one feels much more legitimate considering Ryan Callahan is back healthy and also has points in three straight.

 

Carl Hagelin completes that line and while not officially “streaking” he does have three points in the last three games, including last night’s game winner.

 

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Marcus Kruger got bumped up to center the second line between Patrick Kane and Kris Versteeg. He managed an assist in 14 minutes of ice time. Before you get all hot and bothered, realize that he still saw zero power play time, which marginalizes his fantasy prospects no matter who he skates with at evens.

 

I never thought Duncan Keith would have another season like 2009-10. After all it involved him firing over 200 shots and scoring 14 goals, on top of the absurd number of assists. Keith is once again on pace to top 200 shots but has just three goals. Those 40 assists though, I guess those are okay. The race between him and Erik Karlsson is close and if I were betting I’d bet on Karlsson but that doesn’t diminish what Keith is doing.

 

Here’s a question worth asking though: Keith or Ryan Suter for the Norris Trophy?

 

There is still half a season to go and other candidates may emerge but in my mind those are the only two worth discussing right now. Not that there aren’t great defensemen out there. Seriously, look at that scoring race again. I just think those two are a notch above. If the Senators can make a playoff push Karlsson starts becoming a real candidate for me again.

 

And that’s not saying that Karlsson isn’t a good candidate. I just believe that the year-end trophies should accurately reflect what storylines were most important in a given season. Karlsson just hasn’t registered because of the Senators’ mediocre play.

 

Keith going bonkers again in an Olympic year and Suter skating all the minutes for the Wild are the two stories that resonate most with me. That's why they are my 1-2 for the Norris.

 

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In the late game the Ottawa Senators were downed in overtime by the Colorado Avalanche.

 

Craig Anderson’s five-game winning streak was snapped but his seven-game point streak continues, which I guess is still pretty important considering where the Senators stand in the Eastern Conference Wild Card muck. Still, the loss has to sting considering a win would have pulled them into a tie with Toronto for the final playoff spot. Toronto would have held the tiebreaker by virtue of having played one fewer game however the next tiebreaker (regulation/overtime wins is held by Ottawa). So yeah, that muck is going to be no end of interesting over the next three or so months.

 

The aforementioned Karlsson notched two assists to gain ground on Keith. Karlsson also sits third in the NHL in minutes per game so if it comes down to it he has a pretty good argument against Suter in the Norris conversation.

 

Jason Spezza skated for the first time in 2014, scoring a goal. He skated on the top power play unit but was on the third line with Mark Stone and Colin Greening at evens.

Stone, by the way, skated double digit minutes for the first time this season. I don’t know how long he sticks with the big club but he has two points in three games so far.

 

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Tyson Barrie scored the overtime winner for the Avalanche and notched two points on the night. He has a three-game scoring streak going but with some healthy scratches mixed in for good measure. He was back to leading the team in power play time last night, though it was a mere 51 seconds worth as the Avalanche scored on their lone opportunity.

 

Amid concerns of injury Nathan MacKinnon was back in the lineup for the Avalanche and skated on the top line with Jamie McGinn and Matt Duchene.

Both MacKinnon and Duchene were held scoreless though the pair did land 10 shots on goal.

 

McGinn, skating on the second power play unit scored his fourth goal in the last five games.

 

Most of the offense came from the surging second unit with Paul Stastny and Gabriel Landeskog each registering three points. Stastny now has eight points in the last three games while Landeskog has an eight-game scoring streak on the go.

 

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As usual some great nuggets in Elliotte Friedman’s latest 30 Thoughts:

 

14. Randy Carlyle chewed out Nazem Kadri on the bench at the Winter Classic for a bad giveaway. It's clear the Maple Leafs are frustrated with him, but here's a stat they should be aware of. Kadri had 44 points in 48 games last season, an average of .92.  It wasn't a full season, which is important, but, since 2005-06, here is the list of players who averaged .92 points per game playing at least 48 times as a 22-year-old: Malkin, Ovechkin, Crosby, Spezza, Kovalchuk, Backstrom, Stamkos, Stastny, Getzlaf, Mike Richards, Patrick Kane, Kopitar, Tavares, Semin, Toews, Hemsky and Stepan. Do not give up on him easily.

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There is something all too funny about seeing David Clarkson as a grocery store clerk.

 

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Puck Drunk Love takes a look at the 10 best lines in the NHL.

 

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Kyle Turris with a wicked clapper:

 

 

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You can follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.


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Comments (5)add comment

rataylor22 said:

rataylor22
... @BigEv - You're the biggest Sens fan in hockey, so I will defer to you and trust what you say. But knowing most votres go to NHL.com, filter by position, and then sort by points to make their selections, so I'm sure Karlsson will be in there even with his sub-par play.

@Aleco83 - Just sayin', Karlsson wasn't in the lineup for most of the last year and the Sens this year are doing much worse than the Sens last year. Not saying that Karlsson isn't great or that the Sens are better without EK, but your argument really loses a lot of weight based on that. Secondly, you're clearly an east coast guy and don't watch Minnesota, because there's no chance they are even in contention for a playoff spot without Suter. Of the three Suter is certainly most important to his team, Keith is definitely the best Dman right now based on their play. Also the Norris isn't most valuable defenseman, it is best defenseman, and that right now that is clearly Keith. Lastly, Karlsson likely would need to be putting up 90+ to finish top 5 in scoring, and sorry but even on Chicago he isn't doing that.

Laidlaw - great ramblings dude. In terms of Olympics, I think the KHL might be the fans greatest asset in keeping NHL players in the Olympics. The league clearly isn't going away, and I don't see a lot of North American stars going to the KHL regardless, but if the NHL wants to keep it's foreign stars and keep foreign stars coming over, they will have to follow a similar Olympic protocol as the KHL. I can see a lot of Russian and other nationality stars defecting to the KHL to keep playing in the Olympics if the NHL stops going. I don't see the KHL pulling out of the Olympics anytime soon and I don't see the IIHF or IOC banning professional players anytime soon, so hopefully that means us as fans are safe,
January 09, 2014
Votes: +0

Big Ev said:

Big Ev
... There is not a a chance Karlsson is even nominated for the Norris. He has not had a good year if people have watched the games.
January 09, 2014
Votes: +0

Spec7ral said:

Spec7ral
... What the hell has happened to Derek Stepan?
January 09, 2014
Votes: +0

Rodgort said:

Rodgort
Flyers PP The high number of pp time for the 2nd unit was more a blip on that season than anything. The 2nd unit was out for an entire 2 minutes because Montreal could not get it out of their end or freeze the puck. And the Giroux and Schenn lines drew most of the penalties making the 2nd unit the first to come on. So I would not expect that again
January 09, 2014
Votes: +0

aleco83 said:

aleco83
Norris Karlsson and its not even close. You remove any one of Keith, Suter, or Karlsson out of their respective lineups and estimate who will have the most impact on that team's results and I wager that EK's would be the most popular response. He's the Crosby of defenseman and he doesnt depend on anyone else for offense. That Keith has 40 assists is fantastic but if EK had Toews, Kane, Sharp, Hossa (3 in the top 10!!!!) etc finishing his passes than we'd likely be looking at a D in the top 5 in overall scoring. Suter is solid in his own zone and is posting solid offensive numbers but there is nothing outworldly of what he's doing. I suggest posting a poll smilies/smiley.gif
January 09, 2014
Votes: -1
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