Ryan Lambert

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  • Inside Chicago Blackhawks’ gloriously weird season (Trending Topics)

    ST. LOUIS, MO - APRIL 21: Jonathan Toews #19 of the Chicago Blackhawks celebrates after the Blackhawks scored a goal against the St. Louis Blues in Game Five of the Western Conference First Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Scottrade Center on April 21, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/ Getty Images)
    Jonathan Toews celebrates a goal by the Chicago Blackhawks. (Getty)

     

    Over the past week a lot of people have started to take notice of what the Columbus Blue Jackets are doing.

    Specifically, they’re winning a lot. And they shouldn’t.

    Greg covered it pretty well the other day: They’re a lot like the Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche, Minnesota Wild, Dallas Stars, Ottawa Senators, and every other over-performing team before them. They get outshot pretty consistently, and are driven by a huge shooting percentage and sky-high save percentage.

    The latter might be more sustainable because, when healthy, Sergei Bobrovsky has often proven himself a competent goaltender. “When healthy” is a tough caveat there, because at any second his groin might rip in half with the force of a Saturn V rocket trying to slip the earth’s surly bonds. But so far so good for Bobrovsky, and even when Nick Foligno and Scott Hartnell stop shooting 20-plus percent, he might keep them in more games than they “should”

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  • NWHL, Rangers, Oilers and Vegas (Puck Daddy Countdown)

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    8 – The NWHL

    Can you even imagine if Gary Bettman was like, “Well we unilaterally decided everyone gets paid half as much now.”

    Riots in the streets. Mobs with pitchforks out front of the NHL offices. Guillotines, maybe.

    But the NWHL does it and no one really seems to care that much. Very messed up. Especially because if you cut even an league-minimum salary in half you’re still pulling in the multiple-six-figures range. If you’re making the NWHL minimum and your salary gets cut in half, you’re better off taking a few days of shifts at Starbucks for the rest of the year.

    A professional hockey player earning the new league minimum of $5,000 for their services is, one supposes, better than nothing. But it’s still bad.

    There are many reasons why this happened, and why the NWHL is different from the NHL in terms of how and how much it pays its players. But for this move to have been made without input from the Players’ Association is straight-up garbage.

    Dani Rylan should let players

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  • NCAA Hockey 101: Big Ten also-rans off to hot starts

    Via Ric Kruszynski
    Via Ric Kruszynski

    Maybe it’s that the college hockey media is getting smarter. Maybe it’s that years of underperformance have engendered significant skepticism.

    But whatever the reason, it’s a little weird that a big-name program in a quote-unquote power conference with an 8-1-4 record is only 13th in the national polls as the nation approaches Thanksgiving.

    That team is the Ohio State Buckeyes, and they’re one of only three teams in the top 20 with just a single loss. The others are conference-mate Penn State (11-1-1) and Harvard (which, as usual got a late start on the season and is 5-1-1). None are higher than eighth in the polls.

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    These two Big Ten schools are interesting insofar as they’re winning a hell of a lot of games and it’s tough to tell whether they’re actually all that good. It’s been a weird year in college hockey in general to this point, because the teams you’d think would do well are mostly doing well, but to varying

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  • What We Learned: Tuukka Rask is back, but are the Bruins?

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    One of the things that seemed like a foregone conclusion coming into the season was that the Boston Bruins would miss the playoffs again, potentially prompting wholesale changes for an organization that seems to badly need them.

    On paper, the blue line is terrible. On paper, there’s a Grand Canyon-sized drop between Patrice Bergeron’s line and the next-best one. On paper, it seemed like their offseason signings weren’t going to make much of a difference. On paper, you had to think their crop of AHLers who got promoted wouldn’t move the needle.

    And yet, 18 games and more than 20 percent of the way into the season, they’re sitting third in their division and have a positive goal differential. More to the point, the shot attempt and scoring chance and expected goals numbers are very much there for them as well. Everything seems to be going well enough.

    Dig a little deeper, though, and the cracks show up almost immediately. When the top line of Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak —

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  • Success and perception in the NHL today (Trending Topics)

    PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 18: Shayne Gostisbehere #53 of the Philadelphia Flyers takes a shot in the second period against the Washington Capitals in Game Three of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Wells Fargo Center on April 18, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.The Washington Capitals defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 6-1. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
    PHILADELPHIA, PA – APRIL 18: Shayne Gostisbehere #53 of the Philadelphia Flyers takes a shot in the second period against the Washington Capitals in Game Three of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Wells Fargo Center on April 18, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.The Washington Capitals defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 6-1. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

    Last week in this space I wrote all about Patrik Laine’s hot start and why I see it being something he can keep up.

    What I didn’t talk about is that Laine is scoring all these goals despite the fact that his possession numbers are flat-out not very good. He’s been outshot in his 5-on-5 ice time to this point, and he’s not particularly close to 50 percent. To reiterate the point made several times last week: He has a talent level that will allow him to outperform his expected-goals number in much the same way Alex Ovechkin always does.

    But what that doesn’t mean is that Laine should in any way

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  • Puck Lists: 8 reasons not to worry about the Auston Matthews slump

    TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 11: Auston Matthews #34 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Air Canada Centre on November 11, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. The Maple Leafs defeated the Flyers 6-3. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
    TORONTO, ON – NOVEMBER 11: Auston Matthews #34 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Air Canada Centre on November 11, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. The Maple Leafs defeated the Flyers 6-3. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    Have you heard the bad news?

    Auston Matthews hasn’t scored since Oct. 25. Everyone is extremely concerned about what that means for the Toronto Maple Leafs both now and in the future.

    Because if Matthews isn’t producing the Leafs aren’t winning a whole lot this year. Plain and simple, he’s a big key to their success for next 15 years or so, and to get off on the wrong foot here may not portend good things.

    Of course, the Leafs themselves don’t really see this as a big deal. Would they like him to score more? Of course. Are they concerned that he’s never going to score again? Obviously not. Mike Babcock said earlier this week that they’re trying to ease him into the NHL game over the next few months, and that if he’s not a more

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  • NY Rangers, Carey Price and ‘haters’ (Puck Daddy Countdown)

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    (In which Ryan Lambert takes a look at some of the biggest issues and stories in the NHL, and counts them down.)

    8 – Packing for a long trip

    Remember a while ago when the Vancouver Canucks sent Jake Virtanen down because he wasn’t scoring? But first they said they would limit his ice time until he scored, which is a self-defeating talent management strategy. But once that shockingly didn’t work either, they sent him to the AHL.

    Well, in two games he finished with six shots on goal. No goals, no points, but six shots. And that was in his second game. He didn’t do anything to get on the scoresheet in the first game.

    And okay yeah six shots is a lot to take in a single regulation game. And scoring or not-scoring is not necessarily the sign of success for a player. So it makes sense that the Canucks would call him up again. Did he learn his lesson? Well, that’s tough to say, because his recall to the NHL was not performance-based. It was I-should-have-brought-a-bigger-suitcase-based.

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  • NCAA Hockey 101: Parker Gahagen, the best darn goalie around

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    College hockey is normally loath to give players Atlantic Hockey and the WCHA too much credit for producing big numbers.

    It’s understandable. Guys who would be perfectly good players in, say, Hockey East or the NCHC can go to an Atlantic Hockey or WCHA club and dominate the lesser talent they face on a regular basis. It seems like every year there’s the one token player from that conference, some junior from Canisius or something who put up 58 points, but that’s as far as one ever gets in terms of national recognition.

    Again, rightfully so. Zac Lynch was a great player for Robert Morris, for instance, but his 55 points in 39 games were not seen as being anywhere near as legitimate as, say, Drake Caggiula’s 51 in 39 for a North Dakota team is a significantly better conference.

    But with all that in mind, it is perhaps time to start talking about how damn good Army goaltender Parker Gahagen is and has been.

    Gahagen led the nation in save percentage last season at .937. That was ahead of

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  • What We Learned: Is Connor McDavid going to win the Pacific or what?

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    (Hello, 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.)

    While everyone likely thought a worst-case scenario for Edmonton was “Connor McDavid only turns into the second-best player alive” this year, there couldn’t have been too many who had them pegged as the top team in their division by mid-November.

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    And yet here we are, with the Oilers seemingly in the driver’s seat ahead of San Jose (no shocker they’re near the top of the division) and Anaheim (another minor surprise) and. Los Angeles being off to another slow start — below .500 — doesn’t help the predictors either.

    The Oilers lost on Friday night, despite putting 42 shots on net. McDavid had another point. They lost again on Sunday to the New York Rangers. McDavid had another point.

    Nonetheless, they

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  • A closer look at Patrik Laine's start (Trending Topics)

    WINNIPEG, MANITOBA - OCTOBER 13: Patrik Laine #29, playing his first NHL game, of the Winnipeg Jets looks to make a pass against the Carolina Hurricanes during NHL action on October 22, 2016 at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, Manitoba. (Photo by Jason Halstead /Getty Images)
    WINNIPEG, MANITOBA – OCTOBER 13: Patrik Laine #29, playing his first NHL game, of the Winnipeg Jets looks to make a pass against the Carolina Hurricanes during NHL action on October 22, 2016 at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, Manitoba. (Photo by Jason Halstead /Getty Images)

    On Tuesday night, Patrik Laine scored his second hat trick of the season. After Thursday night’s 0-fer against the Jets Coyotes, his total goals number in 15 games is still a whopping 11.

    Here in 2016 we understand this kind of production to be — all together now! — “unsustainable,” but clearly this is a player with an incredibly high skill quotient and a deadly shot. The fact that, 14 games into the season, he’s already a third of the way to 30 goals is hard to wrap one’s head around.

    Only 16 times in history has a rookie scored at least 30 as a teenager; Jeff Skinner and Sidney Crosby are the only two to do it in recent memory, with Eric Lindros and Jason Arnott’s rookie campaigns in a much more high-scoring era also

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