Do you believe in miracles?
Well, if not miracles, then how about conspiracy theories, the paranormal or the supernatural?
How else can one explain the Rangers not only finding a taker for Scott Gomez’s contract in the off-season, but a taker for Ales Kotalik’s and Chris Higgins’ contracts in-season?
Or separate deals involving Dion Phaneuf and Ilya Kovalchuk that on the surface sound like they were generated by call-in shows on sports-talk radio.
I’ll say this: Acknowledging that Kovalchuk is clearly a rental player for the Devils, if the package of players Atlanta got is all the Thrashers could muster in return, it doesn’t bode well for much excitement on trade deadline day March 3, does it?
Other items that could fall under the headings of rarities, revelations or really odd would be:
• Steven Stamkos.
If they haven’t already, shouldn’t the Lightning resurrect the “Seen Stamkos?” campaign?
If they’re not pumping his tires publicly right now, what are they waiting for? (Aside from an ongoing ownership struggle to be resolved…)
It’s hard not to put him beside Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby now as players most worth watching every night.
• Colorado rookie Matt Duchene has more goals than…every Bruin, Sabre, Red Wing and Blue.
Not to mention, everyone else on his own team.
• Will the Senators and Capitals still be on winning streaks when they meet Feb. 11?
If so, Ottawa will be at 13 straight wins and Washington at 15 prior to puck drop at Verizon Center.
Different approaches to be sure: The Capitals are wildly entertaining almost every night, whereas the Senators seem almost mechanical. The Sens are still exciting at times because of the high-end skill of Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson, but Ottawa’s success clearly comes from being in the right position in all areas of the ice.
• Jonathan Quick has 33 wins to lead the league. The NHL record is 48, held by Martin Brodeur. The Los Angeles Kings have 25 games remaining. Should he continue at his current pace, it will be very, very close.
• Seven years after being drafted, Jimmy Howard of the Red Wings will be a finalist for, and perhaps the winner of, the Calder Trophy.
• With one-third of the season to go, nearly 50 percent of last year’s playoff teams are on the outside looking in (subject to change nightly, of course).
• How about some kudos for the back referee?
Like in every sport, NHL officials take a beating from fans and media on a nightly basis, most of it unwarranted.
But I’m finding more and more the trailing ref, even though he’s usually furthest from the infraction or situation, often comes through with the right call.
A great example was in the Jan. 30 game between the Islanders and Flyers where Philadelphia’s Scott Hartnell interfered with the Islanders’ Dwayne Roloson as the puck went in the net.
Kerry Fraser, closest to the action, ruled it a goal, but after consulting with Rob Martell, the back referee, the right call was made – no goal and a penalty to Hartnell.
Every night, there are many examples of why a second referee is required in today’s fast-paced NHL and while it still frustrates some when the closest official doesn’t make the call, think of it this way – the back referee often has a better view of the big picture. If the right call is made, should we care who made it?
• Jussi Jokinen is having a career year in Carolina and is a shootout specialist. How is he not on Finland’s Olympic team? Especially when a player like Jarkko Ruutu makes the grade ahead of him.
• Still with the Olympics, anyone who questioned Eric Staal’s inclusion on Team Canada based on his rather ordinary stats in late December, needn’t worry about Mr. Yzerman’s selection now.
A 10-game point streak, the past eight of which coincided with him taking over as captain in Carolina, has shown to everyone that he can be a difference-maker every night.
But beyond the points, have you ever seen him more intense than he was Feb. 3 against Calgary?
Granted, he was on the wrong end of a lot of blood-letting thanks to a high-stick to the mouth and a flying skate to the face from an airborne teammate, but it was after a stick to the cup from Daymond Langkow that we were given a further example of what kind of leader he can be.
Langkow and Staal squared up for a faceoff shortly after the incident and Staal just tore into him. With his eyes in an ultimate stare-down – and probably a sharp tongue as well – the verbal jousting was spectacular.
Sitting next to former NHLers Kevin Weekes and Mike Johnson, as we were in the midst of NHL On The Fly, they, like me, were stunned at how intense this confrontation was and how Staal just would not let up.
Good for him, good for the Hurricanes, and good for Canada.
Brian Duff is a host of On The Fly on the NHL Network. Like his minor hockey days (playing goalie, defense and forward) his broadcasting career has been all over the map. In radio and TV from Medicine Hat to Edmonton, Toronto to Ottawa and back, Brian has been with the NHL Network since 2007 and has been covering the game for nearly 15 years. Read more of his THN.com Blog HERE.