Ryan Lambert

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  • NCAA Hockey Tournament: Lowell is big, boring and bound for Frozen Four

    APIn which we recap the day's events in the NCAA tournament.

    UMass Lowell goaltender Connor Hellebuyck gets a lot of credit, and deservedly so. He made 28 saves on Saturday in picking up his sixth shutout in half a season, and ran his goaltending stats to being the best in the country.

    On the back of yet another stalwart performance, his River Hawks downed league rival UNH, 2-0, to advance to their first Frozen Four in school history.

    He's obviously drawing a lot of praise for having a 1.31 goals-against average and a .953 save percentage in 23 appearances this season, and again, it's all due. In his last four starts, all of them knockout games against nationally-ranked opponents, he's allowed a whopping two goals 131 shots (a .985 save percentage). And really, he's made it all look easy. But that's the plan.

    Hellebuyck often describes his own style, modeled a little bit after Olaf Kolzig's, as "big and boring." He's positionally sound, and a big boy at 6-foot-4, and consequently never has to make highlight-reel saves because everything hits him more or less where he wants it to. There nothing flashy about his game, but he's 20-2 on the season for the simple reason that it's all pretty much excellent.

    Read More »from NCAA Hockey Tournament: Lowell is big, boring and bound for Frozen Four
  • NCAA Hockey Tournament: Yale slays a giant on bad night for WCHA

    APIn which we recap the day's events in the NCAA tournament.

    Perhaps the nation's most consistently good team this season was also the first one sent back to their campus with a loss.

    Against seemingly all odds, Minnesota lost to Yale 3-2 behind a slow start and a bad overtime turnover, ending their second-seeded season far earlier than most thought would be possible.

    And yet here we are, with No. 15 Yale having slain the heavily favored Gophers and not even breaking that much of a sweat to do it. Of particular note was the play of Kenny Agostino, who went from being a relatively unknown Pittsburgh Penguins prospect to the answer to a Jarome Iginla-related trivia question to scoring the opener then setting up the OT game-winner in the space of about 36 hours. Not a bad way to impress your new bosses.

    Read More »from NCAA Hockey Tournament: Yale slays a giant on bad night for WCHA
  • Getty Images

    Trending Topics is a column that looks at the week in hockey, occasionally according to Twitter. If you're only going to comment to say how stupid Twitter is, why not just go have a good cry for the slow, sad death of your dear internet instead?

    In the wee hours of Thursday morning, the Calgary Flames finally pulled the trigger on a deal they've been sitting on, in outright defiance of all things logical or even reasonable, for two seasons now.

    Jarome Iginla: Shipped out of town. Saying adieu to the franchise's long-time captain, most beloved personality, greatest ambassador, and best player to ever put on the jersey couldn't have been easy, but it was the right decision. Kind of a circle of life thing, to some extent. Iginla himself was once a prospect traded for a well-liked, very good player, and so for this to happen now seems a little poetic if nothing else.

    However, the return the Flames worked out of Pittsburgh was, flatly, not good at all. The widely-held belief was that the Flames were seeking at least a passable prospect — not necessarily the top one in a team's system, but one that people have at least heard of — a roster player, and a first-round pick.

    They got one out of three, and that, to borrow a turn of phrase, ain't good. And that one might prove to be exceedingly underwhelming as well.

    Ben Hanowski and Kenny Agostino are perfectly good, not great, college players; but anyone who would confuse either for anything resembling a top prospect needs to call a doctor immediately, as they have suffered traumatic brain damage and been walking around, possibly for days, without realizing it. That they were the return for one of the most respected players in the league, a 500-goal and 1,000-point scorer, and the face of a franchise is just about right, considering it was the Calgary Flames that were involved. As for the pick that's probably going to end up being in the Nos. 27-30 area? The best thing you can say about it is that it will definitely be in the first round.

    People have said that Jay Feaster can't be blamed for this horribly mishandled situation, and the paltry return the Flames pulled for their best player ever. That seems like it's about half-true.

    Read More »from Flames got Jarome Iginla deal they deserved, not the one they wanted (Trending Topics)
  • APThe NCAA hockey tournament begins tomorrow afternoon, so why not do a bit of studying first?

    The last few years, when it's gotten to tournament time, you could usually pick out one, maybe two, and very occasionally three teams that have pretty credible chances to win the NCAA title. BC last year was the definitive favorite. BC and Michigan the year before. Miami, Denver, and BC before that. (Okay, so BC's in there a lot.)

    But this year, looking at the field, I wouldn't be shocked to see somewhere between six and eight teams win the title. It has, I think it goes without saying, been a very weird year for college hockey.

    For one thing, exactly one top seed won its respective conference tournament, with only UMass Lowell knocking down Hockey East after winning its regular-season title. All four other regular-season winners faltered, some of them massively, in their conference playoffs.

    Niagara bowed out to eventual champions Canisius in the Atlantic Hockey semifinals. Miami got creamed by Michigan in the semis but the Wolverines didn't win the title in the final against Notre Dame, or even make the NCAAs. A truly mediocre Brown team embarrassed top-seeded Quinnipiac in the ECAC semifinals, 4-0. And in the WCHA, sixth-seeded Wisconsin took the Broadmoor because Minnesota was shutout 2-0 by Colorado College.

    What to take from that? Not that these aren't good teams, because with a few very notable exceptions, most of the teams in the tournament this year are very good in one way or another. Would it be a total shock for No. 1 Quinnipiac to run to the title? No, but also maybe yes. They tend to lose to some exceptionally bad teams but you don't win 27 games accidentally, no matter how weak the ECAC was. But others in the field look very strong indeed.

    Read More »from NCAA hockey tournament preview: Breaking down unpredictable battle for Frozen Four
  • Getty ImagesHello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend’s events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.

    The Boston Bruins have been going through a bit of a tough stretch lately: Losing three of their last four, blowing third-period leads in a way that few Claude Julien-coached Bruins teams have, and causing the entire city to have a crisis of confidence about whether the team is good enough to compete for a Stanley Cup.

    All the nail-biting and finger-pointing in the world — and there's been a lot of both in the last week — does little to actually get to the heart of the issue: There's no really good reason why the Bruins aren't playing especially well right now, or why they can't hold a third-period lead.

    Let's start with the very basic fact that none of this, no matter what the media wants to believe, has to do with how "clutch" Tuukka Rask is or isn't. Claude Julien made a comment after the loss in Winnipeg last Tuesday, in which Rask gave up goals less than a minute apart, that the team wasn't getting "timely saves." That was all anyone needed.

    Anton Khudobin got a start at Ottawa after that, and the Bruins won 2-1, leading many in the local media, sage surveyors of the sport, to wonder if it was time to start splitting time between the two. This despite the fact that Rask's goals-against average is below 2, and his even strength save percentage is among the best in the League.

    Now Rask knows how Roberto Luongo feels, because people are trying to squeeze him out of his job for not being "clutch" with almost 20 games to go in the regular season, despite the fact that his team scored one (1) goal to support him.

    And as for Khudobin, the media's heir apparent to Rask's shortly-held throne? Got the hook after giving up three goals on 11 shots to Toronto Saturday night. So it's back to the drawing board there.

    When can they call up Malcolm Subban?

    Read More »from What We Learned: There’s nothing wrong with Boston Bruins time won’t fix
  • Common sense NHL rules make no sense to GMs, players (Trending Topics)

    Getty ImagesTrending Topics is a column that looks at the week in hockey, occasionally according to Twitter. If you're only going to comment to say how stupid Twitter is, why not just go have a good cry for the slow, sad death of your dear internet instead?

    Maybe the absolute worst thing about the NHL is how hypocritical it is about nearly everything it does.

    It wants to protect players, but not really and certainly not if guys are playing Honest Hockey and happen to give them a concussion as a consequence. It's a game rooted in tradition, going all the way back to when people played on a pond, but there's a two-minute minor for putting the puck over the glass and also the definitions of what constitutes a stick infraction seems to change on a yearly basis on the whims of the league's decision-makers. That kind of thing.

    And every year, we seem to get the most vibrant display of this wild disparity between what makes sense for the NHL to adopt, and the things it will actually do at the annual general managers' meetings.

    This year, there are a number of things up for discussion that seem to have a little more traction than they did in 2012, most notably grandfathering in mandatory visors. And it probably wouldn't be that way except for Marc Staal catching a puck in the eye a few weeks back. But the fact remains that they're actually talking about this like it's a thing that might happen.

    It makes perfect sense, so of course the NHL is taking the path of most resistance to the process.

    Read More »from Common sense NHL rules make no sense to GMs, players (Trending Topics)
  • Getty ImagesHello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend’s events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.

    Ever since the Blackhawks collapsed into a juddering mass of two losses in a row followed by as many wins, it seems all anyone can talk about with regard to the Central Division is how well the Blue Jackets are doing.

    The Blue Jackets are doing very well indeed. They've gotten points in their last 10 games and climbed to 28 points in 29 games, which is nothing to sneeze at considering they started the year 5-12-2. They're now just one game below .500, and routinely making good accountings of themselves against good teams. They famously swept the Red Wings in a home and home, took three of four points from Vancouver, and lost a pair of games to Chicago though those were in overtime and a shootout.

    And now everyone's dreaming big. They're just two points out of a playoff spot and are currently one of the hottest teams in the NHL, if not the hottest, depending upon whom you ask and how much you value winning in regulation. Certainly, for a team that was so phenomenally bad last year to go 10 games in a row without losing is an admirable feat.

    But any people trying to sit there and tell you this is a playoff team, or even one that should be in the discussion for making it, are kidding themselves.

    Read More »from What We Learned: Are people who believe in Blue Jackets playoff push for real?
  • Getty Images

    Trending Topics is a column that looks at the week in hockey, occasionally according to Twitter. If you're only going to comment to say how stupid Twitter is, why not just go have a good cry for the slow, sad death of your dear internet instead?

    Heading into last night's game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Toronto Maple Leafs were firmly in a playoff spot, and just one point back of the Senators for the fifth seed in the East.

    This was the case despite the fact that they'd lost their last three games, and allowed four goals or more in six of their last seven. People saw this latter trend as a sign that the Leafs had, in jumping out to an 11-8-0 start this season, gotten extremely lucky. They'd had a good start last season, too, and finished really poorly as everyone expected, so wasn't this just a function of them once again being bad and getting all their wins out of the way early?

    The short answer, from what I've seen of the Maple Leafs' games this year, is no.

    I picked Toronto to make the playoffs with a low seed this season, and I've seen very little from this team to dissuade me of that belief, at least when they play well. That hasn't been very often in the last week, admittedly, but when you're looking for reasons why, it sure isn't that James Reimer and Ben Scrivens are bad goalies (both entered last night with even strength save percentages above .920). Or that Phil Kessel and Nazem Kadri (both had 25 points in their first 27 games) and James van Riemsdyk (14 goals in 27) aren't effective forwards. Or even that the Leafs' defense beyond Dion Phaneuf and Carl Gunnarsson is about as deep as a kitchen sink.

    It's because Randy Carlyle is managing the team like a first-time NHL13 player, and people only recently began to raise a serious stink about it.

    Read More »from Can anyone stop Randy Carlyle from ruining the Maple Leafs? (Trending Topics)
  • Jack Parker and the complicated legacy left behind at Boston University

    Getty ImagesLegendary Boston University coach Jack Parker announced his retirement today after 40 years behind the bench, and it's a strange day for college hockey.

    He is an institution at BU, to the point where the rink on which his team plays is named Jack Parker Rink at Agganis Arena. For tens of thousands of people, perhaps more, in the greater Boston area and throughout the country, Jack Parker is BU hockey, and it's easy to see why.

    His 894 wins and counting is the third-largest total in NCAA history, behind only retired Michigan State coach Ron Mason (924) and current Boston College bench boss Jerry York (933), Parker's professional archrival.

    But unlike both of those guys, Parker did everything at one school, which is also his alma mater. It doesn't seem like anyone's going to get anywhere near that mark any time soon.

    At the same time, I find it difficult to sit here and listen to all this stuff about what a great guy Jack Parker is because his legacy is also what happened off the ice for BU.

    Read More »from Jack Parker and the complicated legacy left behind at Boston University
  • Getty ImagesHello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend’s events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.

    One of the lazier narratives you see thrown around in all of sports happens when a player who has played his entire career in a small market moves to a big one, whether it's by trade or free agency.

    Given the tendency of the New York Rangers to acquire such players in the last several years, like Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards and now Rick Nash, it's getting to be a pretty familiar song and dance for that team in particular. All three have handled the transition remarkably well; but even after Gaborik scored 42 in his first season on Broadway, it's starting to look like you have to consider Nash the Rangers' best breakout acquisition in recent memory.

    The numbers at this point are very, very good. Nine goals and 14 assists in 20 games, including two helpers in yesterday's win over Washington, and he's really only beginning to forge a cohesive partnership with Richards and Carl Hagelin. He started the season with all the criticism that you might expect for a name player making the small-to-big transition, because he had just two goals and seven points in his first 10, but since then? Lights out. Ten games. Seven goals. Nine assists. And that's despite missing nearly two weeks with an injury that definitely wasn't a concussion wink-nudge.

    At this point, Nash has five two-point games in his last six outings, and it's impossible to envy the defensemen who have had to line up across from this top Rangers trio.

    Read More »from Yup, Rick Nash can handle big-city pressure with Rangers (What We Learned)

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