Puck Daddy - NHL

  • Since their inaugural season in 2000-01, the Columbus Blue Jackets have played in 1,037 games. That includes five in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, all of them losses.

    Game No. 1,038 was Saturday night.

    Three periods and two overtimes later, and the Columbus Blue Jackets finally received a stamp of validation as an NHL franchise.

    The first playoff win. The first time a Columbus Blue Jackets player was mobbed by his teammates as a postseason hero. The first time a series shifts back to Nationwide Arena with the Blue Jackets not facing a deficit. The first time a Columbus Blue Jackets fan wakes up the following morning – Easter Sunday, of course, because the “coming back from the dead of Game 1” allegories couldn’t be more on-the-nose – with that insatiable notion that creeps into the minds of every hockey fan in the Stanley Cup Playoffs:

    “We might actually do this.

    Matt Calvert played the hero, scoring two goals in the game including the definitive one at 1:10 of the second overtime on Saturday night at the Pittsburgh Penguins.

    Here's his shorthanded goal that cut it to 3-2, a goal Coach Todd Richards said was "the difference maker in the game. It gave hope to our guys."

    And here's the OT game winner at 1:10 of the second extra session.

    "It’s unbelievable. I think every year of my life I’ve watched NHL playoffs and you always dream about being the hero in OT," Calvert told Aaron Portzline.

    Three Penguins to the right of Marc-Andre Fleury and one behind him, and no one could prevent Calvert from taking his own rebound and elevating it home for the game winner. But that was symbolic of the game: The Jackets pushing just a little harder in the offensive zone, doing just a little more on every shift to make a difference.

    Look no further than Brandon Dubinsky, who set up the goal. He continued to hound Sidney Crosby, throw his body around and pepper the opposing net with nine shots. He was one of several Jackets that were wrecking balls in the offensive zone; the young duo of Ryan Johansen and Boone Jenner, for example, were terrors in the corners and behind the net.

    Dubinsky and Mark Letestu were also essential in another facet of this one: Versus the Penguins power play, which won Game 1 but went 1-for-8 in Game 2, including two missed chances in overtime. Dubinsky was 6-for-11 on defensive zone draws for the game, including 4-for-4 against Evgeni Malkin. Letestu was 10-for-12 on draws overall and 6-for-8 in the defensive zone, including 4-for-5 against Crosby.

    You can’t score if you don’t have the puck. The Penguins have 11 shots in 14:59 of power play time, but was a dismal 3-for-14 on power play faceoffs. Meanwhile, Columbus went 2-for-5 on their power plays.

    The Penguins can’t be happy with this one, knowing that a knockout blow could have been landed here. They had power play chances. They had a Columbus defense that lost Fedor Tyutin to injury after just 6:55 of ice time. They had another above average performance from Marc-Andre Fleury. They had Sergei Bobrovsky shaky in the first 20 minutes, and they twice had 2-goal leads over the Jackets on their home ice.

    But now, thanks to Calvert, they have a series.

    And Columbus, for the first time in franchise history, has a playoff win.

    With the expected mix of Penguins fan invaders and Blue Jackets loyalists, the atmosphere at Nationwide Arena is going to be unprecedented chaos for Columbus. It’s going to be loud, angsty and tense.

    It’s going to feel like playoff hockey.

    And it only took 1,038 games to get there.

  • Nathan MacKinnon is going to win the Calder trophy. He stands alone as the NHL's best rookie, and one of the reasons for that is that he never really looked like one. Heading into the playoffs, you had to wonder if his first NHL postseason was the moment he started to look his age.  

    In the parlance of most kids his age: LOL nope. On Saturday, MacKinnon scored his first career NHL playoff goal, and my lord if it isn't an incredible piece of business.

    The NBA postseason kicked off Saturday, but I submit that you won't see finer playoff ankle breakage than this today. Unbelievable.

    You knew the Wild were in trouble the moment MacKinnon received this pass. The only guy near him was Mikko Koivu, and MacKinnon blows by him with ease, leaving him most of the neutral zone to pick up speed, because this is no longer Jacques Lemaire's Wild, and the middle of the ice is wiiiiiiide open. By the time he hits the Minnesota blueline, he's a flux capacitor away from going back to 1955.

    That's when Jared Spurgeon gets blown right up. At first, MacKinnon looks like he's going to go right up the middle, but the moment Spurgeon turns to his right, MacKinnon turns to his right. Spurgeon is basically reduced to a pile of offal without skin, so inside out is he.

    After unlocking "playoff mode", MacKinnon remained in it for the second period, setting up Gabriel Landeskog for two more goals that were almost as beautiful. Ilya Bryzgalov got the hook after the third goal, but it seems downright unfair to blame him for MacKinnon going super-saiyan.

    Terrifying thought: what if he stays in this mode... forever? What if this is who he is now? God help us all.

  • The St. Louis Blues have found the recipe for success against the Chicago Blackhawks: Score dramatic game-tying goals with less than two minutes remaining in regulation, and then win in overtime.

    Granted, this recipe is about as stable as one for homemade nitroglycerin, but it’s worked in Games 1 and 2, as Vladimir Tarasenko’s power-play goal with just over six seconds left in regulation tied it and Barret Jackman’s seeing-eye shot at 5:50 of overtime won it on Saturday.

    Here’s the Tarasenko goal:

    And here’s the Jackman game-winner:

    Obviously, the game turned as David Backes turned into a Brent Seabrook hit in the third period, knocking the Blues captain out of the game with an injury and the Blackhawks defenseman out of the game with an ejection for charging. Tarasenko’s goal came with 16 seconds remaining on the Seabrook penalty.

    The Blackhawks are in trouble. (Thanks, Captain Obvious.) You can talk all you want about having faced playoff adversity before and yadda yadda, but losing consecutive games in this manner is a kick in the stomach. They limp back home for a Game 3, searching for someone to play the hero. Or just not do something stupid – 41 PIMs in Game 2, after just eight in Game 1.

    A few thoughts:

    * We covered the Seabrook hit here. The severity of Backes’ injury will likely determine his punishment from the Department of Player Safety, but two games is probably the verdict based on recent playoff rulings. Which means he'll get one, of course.

    * Blues fans are likely also screaming about the knee-on-knee hit from Bryan Bickell on Sobotka, but that looked like unfortunate body positioning from both and at the very least an attempt by Bickell to deliver a full body check.

    * Corey Crawford was screened well on the game-tying and game-winning goals. He has a .904 save percentage facing 83 shots for the series. His reaction after the game-tying goal showed him devastated, and he should be: Ryan Miller has been inconsistant to a fault in the first two games but is still outplaying Crawford.

    * Secondary scoring was always going to make or break the Blues this postseason, and Vladimir Tarasenko's return from injury might prove to be the biggest factor if they indeed win the series.

    * Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp are scoreless in two games, as Hossa has a minus-3 and Sharp has a minus-2. Credit Vladimir Sobotka’s line for some of that shutdown play.

    * As Mike Kelly noted before the game, “teams that go up 2-0 in a best-of-seven Stanley Cup Playoffs series are 287-45 all-time (86.4%).”

  • Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabook was ejected from Game 2 of their Central Division semifinal game against the St. Louis Blues after lining up and hitting center David Backes in the head late in the third period on Saturday.

    The Blues tied the game with 16 seconds remaining on the 5-minute major penalty and 6 seconds left in regulation.

    Here’s the hit, which earned Seabrook a game misconduct:

    It was a charging major at 15:09, which might have been an easier call than Illegal Check To The Head, which has that tricky “head targeted” aspect. Clearly, Seabrook traveled to hit Backes, who was prone and didn’t have the puck.

    Backes left the game after attempting to get up and exact revenge on the hitter. The Blues' trainer smartly held him back.

    The larger issue here is whether Seabrook will be available for Game 3 and beyond. The Department of Player Safety will review the hit, and it’s hard to imagine Seabrook won’t miss at least the next game in this contentious series for the hit on Backes. Question is, will it be more than that? Eric Gryba and Justin Abdelkader were both given two games last postseason for dangeorus hits.

  • In an unprecedented move, the National Hockey League allowed its Chicago franchise to change its team nickname just two games into the postseason, in an attempt to convey to their opponents just how rough and tough they really are.

    That, or someone at CBC Sports forgot to clear out a template with some hilarious results before Game 2 between the St. Louis Blues and the Chicago “Unsportsmanlike" on Saturday:

    Full stop: That’s actually an incredible name for an NHL team.

    Picture Oakland Raiders-like jerseys and a starting lineup of Raffi Torres, Patrick Kaleta and Zac Rinaldo, coached by Bob “Orchestrated Line Brawl” Hartley.

    Picture the scene on draft day: “It’s been my dream every day since I was a child to become an Unsportsmanlike …”

    If nothing else, we’re down with this name for the eventual irony party if one of the Unsportsmanlikes ever wins the Lady Byng …

    This was a great gaffe. But it's still not the best flattering graphic blooper in NHL history ... right, Gary Roberts?

    s/t Ian

  • It's been a nutty start to the NHL playoffs, as for the second straight day, the NHL has handed out a fine for a testicle-related incident.

    Just one day after Joel Quenneville was left reaching for his wallet for reaching just left of his wallet, Milan Lucic of the Boston Bruins was dinged $5000 for dinging Danny DeKeyser with a stick to the de keysers during Friday night's series opener between Boston and Detroit. Here's another look:

    The league called it spearing. That seems generous.

    Lucic also defended his own honour by pointing to his relatively clean record, which is customary in Boston:

    The man has a point. He's only averaging one cheap, cowardly crotch shot every 2.3 years. If he has a 15-year career, he's only going to do this three or four more times. That's it. Seems like an honorable player to me.

    Lucic wasn't the only one defending Lucic, absurdly enough. Since he plays in Boston, he had his local defenders. From Boston.com:

    Though many will bemoan Milan Lucic's grape-busting stick work on Detroit's Danny DeKeyser in the second period of Game 1, the simple fact is that in the Stanley Cup Playoffs the ends do justify the means.

    Of course, most incidents like this aren't caught on camera, and most aren't perpetrated by someone as widely disliked as Milan Lucic, but anyone who has ever laced a pair knows how much cheap stuff behind the play can take an opponent off their game.

    Let's move on.

    You'll note that $5k is one-fifth of what Joel Quenneville received for grabbing his own package, so the lesson here is simple: it is five times worse to attack your opponent's junk than your own. Be excellent to one another, but be especially excellent to yourself.

    Or perhaps the league feels Lucic was influenced by Quenneville, who is an authority figure. Who deserves more punishment? The kids that went over the cliff, or the pied piper than led them there? Look what you've done with your pipe-pieng, Quenneville. Stop pieing your pipe.

    In all seriousness, though, Quenneville's fine was more because the CBA limits the fines for players in a way that it doesn't for coaches. The max fine for Lucic's incident was only $10,000. The fines were also handed out by different arms of the league. The Department of Player Safety handles player incidents, but not coach incidents.

    But it's still fun to compare these two moments, disingenuous as it is, because they share a common thread, and that thread is gonads.

  • The Detroit Red Wings are making their 23rd consecutive appearance in the NHL playoffs, but that wasn't the only streak they kept alive by winning the second Wild Card spot. Also saved: Detroit rapper Baby G's run of annual hip hop playoff anthems.

    Back in 2011, the emcee released original cut "Throw Your Wings Up", and he's been re-releasing the track with roster updates every postseason since. On Friday, just prior to Game 1 between the Red Wings and Bruins, Baby G dropped version four, "Octopi 2014 edition", and in so doing, gave Detroit the early frontrunner for best hip hop fan anthem of the 2014 playoffs. 

    "We're going 23 consistent, 11 rings too, that's playoffs my whole existence, can't say the same for you." 

    This guy has never seen a Red Wings team that didn't make the playoffs. I'm probably not the only one seething with envy and spite right now.

    The Red Wings won Game 1 of their series, and while most would argue that it was Pavel Datsyuk who propelled them to victory, I am willing to hear arguments that it was actually Baby G and his dope flow.

    That said, "throw your wings up" sounds like more like it should be an Applebee's anthem.

  • It was the kind of loss that could have left another team devastated: Seeing a lead disappear with 1:46 left in the third period, and then losing in triple overtime in Game 1 on the road.

    But this isn’t the Chicago Blackhawks’ first rodeo.

    Please remember all the way back to 2013, when the Blackhawks dropped their first road game against the Minnesota Wild, Detroit Red Wings, Los Angeles Kings and Boston Bruins, and ended up winning the Stanley Cup.

    “We've gone through some stretches where we've lost opening games. We've lost last year all four first games in their buildings and seemed to recover,” said coach Joel Quenneville, via ESPN.com. “That's something we can build on. It's a long series. We expected a tough series against this team. There's going to be no easy games, but it's a good example that going forward we've got to find a way to overcome our opponents."

    Where can the Hawks improve as they take on the St. Louis Blues in Game 2 on Saturday?

    Mark Lazerus of the Sun-Times on one of Chicago’s Game 1 regrets:

    The Hawks’ biggest regret was the power play. After Brent Seabrook scored on the Hawks’ first chance, they came up empty on their last five. The two relatively easy third-period kills seemed to embolden the Blues, who got more aggressive on the forecheck after that, with defensemen regularly pinching in while they chased the tying goal. Meanwhile, coach Joel Quenneville put Michal Rozsival — his third-period security blanket — on the point for those two power plays, and the Hawks essentially ran clock rather than go for the kill.

    And that’s the other issue for the Blackhawks in Game 1: They tried to play a conservative road game, curating their lead rather than expanding it. From CSN Chicago:

    Their standard game plan is clearly effective judging by their past results, and they have the personnel to pull it off. Where they struggle is when they deviate from that plan and try to play cautiously, because it takes away the very things that make them great. Their speed and ability to hold onto the puck for long stretches makes it virtually impossible for opponents to score, and if they keep attacking even with a one goal lead, they will be in a much better position to win Game 2 and tie this series up heading back to Chicago.

    The Blues are expected to be without T.J. Oshie again for Game 2. UPDATE: What do you know, Oshie's back!

  • No. 1 Star: Jimmy Howard, Detroit Red Wings

    The Red Wings went into TD Garden and upset the Boston Bruins 1-0 in Game 1 thanks to a 25-save shutout from Howard. The game was scoreless until late in the third period when Pavel Datsyuk pulled some sorcerey for the game's only goal.

    No. 2 Star: Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks

    The Anaheim captain has had an eventful three days. On Wednesday, he took a puck to the face. Then Thursday night, he and his wife had a baby girl. During Game 2 Friday night he scored a first period goal and assisted on what would eventually stand as the game-winner as the Ducks went up 2-0 on the Dallas Stars with a 3-2 victory.

    No. 3 Star: Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens

    Montreal took control of home ice against the Tampa Bay Lightning with a 4-1 win in Game 2 to take a 2-0 series lead. Price stopped 26 shots and Rene Bourque scored a pair of goals for the Canadiens. Bourque now has five goals in his last 12 playoff games.

    Honorable mention: P.K. Subban recorded a pair of assists on Montreal's first two goals ... Bourque's first goal came in pretty fashion ... Tuukka Rask stopped 23 shots in a losing effort ... Frederik Andersen made 34 saves for the Ducks.

    Did you know? "Reilly Smith became the first Bruin to face his brother in a playoff games since Phil Esposito played against Chicago goalie Tony Esposito in 1975. Brendan Smith plays defense for Detroit." (AP)

    Dishonorable mention: Milan Lucic will probably be fined for this cup check on Danny DeKeyser ... Anders Lindback allowed three goals on 23 shots and was pulled late in the third period.

  • The way goaltenders Jimmy Howard and Tuukka Rask were playing in Game 1 between Boston and Detroit, you knew it was going to take something special to break the scoreless tie. Fortunately, that's sort of where Pavel Datsyuk excels.

    The Red Wings stole Game 1 of series with a 1-0 win Friday, and the difference, as he often is, was the wizardly Datsyuk, who scored the game-winner on a dazzling, beautiful individual effort with just over three minutes remaining.

    I was going to go out tonight. I think I may just stay in with this goal.

    So much beauty here, and it begins at the moment that Datsyuk corrals this puck. The play begins with a truly terrible pass from Johan Franzen, who tries to flip it to Datsyuk to start the breakout and winds up losing it in traffic. 

    But no matter. Already dashing through the neutral zone like a one horse open sleigh, Datsyuk reaches back behind him and snags the puck, dragging it between all three Bruins' forwards, then slingshotting it through his legs and up to his stick. He does all this at full speed.

    From there, he rocks into the Bruins' end, pulling the puck away from a Zdeno Chara pokecheck attempt before dancing across the zone and shooting it through a Justin Abdelkader screen and past Rask.

    Just an unbelievable play, and one of the reasons you shouldn't count the Red Wings out of this series. They may not have Boston's record, and they may not have Boston's depth, but as long as they have Pavel Datsyuk, they're a scary team.

    Game 2 goes Sunday afternoon.

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