Some random thoughts to end the work week:
• If you’re going to have fighting in the NHL, I thought the manner in which the New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers handled it Monday night – by staging three fights after only three seconds of play – was perfect. I was almost as pleased about it as the folks over at nhl.com, who couldn’t contain their glee by the fact they had it up as a “Must Watch” item at the top of their website.
The way I see it, the best way to take care of this nonsense is to let the mouth-breathing dancing bears get all that aggression that was pent-up over the course of the first three seconds out of the way. That then leaves the real players free to begin playing a real hockey game.
If I’m John Tortorella, I’m looking at who the Devils are using to start the game and I put out a forward line of Derek Stepan between Marian Gaborik and Ryan Callahan with Brad Richards and Michael Del Zotto on the blueline and skate circles around them. By responding with his enforcers, Tortorella allowed Devils coach Peter DeBoer to dictate the ground rules rather than establishing them himself.
• Count Jason Spezza of the Ottawa Senators among those who feel the standard on obstruction has slipped. He acknowledges that’s partly because referees are calling fewer penalties and players have learned how far they can push the boundaries.
Two things Spezza has noticed are in a big decline are power plays and scoring chances.
“I can’t remember the last time we had a clear-cut 2-on-1,” Spezza said. “You get 3-on-2s and 4-on-3s, but you don’t get a lot of 2-on-1s or breakaways anymore unless you’re one of those real speedy guys.”
Whatever the case, offense is suffering. Thursday night there were a total of just 27 goals (not including the four goals awarded in shootout victories) in eight games for an average of just 3.4 per game.
• Resilient bunch, those Calgary Flames. They finally claw their way into a playoff spot, then respond to their good fortune by losing to Edmonton in regulation, Colorado in overtime and Columbus and Minnesota in shootouts.
The loss to the Wild Thursday night must have had Flames fans hurling objects at their television sets. Not only did the Flames blow a 2-0 lead in the game, coach Brent Sutter left everyone scratching their heads by using Matt Stajan, Lee Stempniak, Blair Jones and Blake Comeau in the shootout.
The shootout is a skills contest. No reason Sutter would want to take the opportunity to use people who have, you know, skills.
• The word from someone with an intimate knowledge of such matters: The NHL is currently or has been propping up five teams financially this season – the Phoenix Coyotes, Dallas Stars, New Jersey Devils, Florida Panthers and Columbus Blue Jackets. The league still owns the Coyotes, of course, and has advanced the other four their shares of broadcast and revenue sharing money. When asked to comment, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly denied this was the case.
Ray Whitney of the Phoenix Coyotes must get four points in his last seven games in order to hit the career 1,000-point mark this season. The way the 39-year-old has been playing lately, don’t bet against it. Whitney has 2-6-8 totals in his past five games and is on pace to record the fourth-highest scoring totals of his NHL career.
• Am I the only person who thought Marcus Johansson of the Washington Capitals should have been awarded a do-over on his penalty shot against the Philadelphia Flyers Thursday night?
After being awarded a penalty shot for being brought down on a breakaway by Matt Carle, Johansson was denied on the penalty shot. But that was because Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov stuck his stick out to poke check Johansson, missing the puck completely before tripping Johansson before he had a chance to get a shot off.
Rule 24.4 of the NHL rulebook states: “When an infraction worthy of a minor penalty is committed by the goalkeeper during the penalty shot that causes the shot to fail, no penalty is to be assessed but the Referee shall permit the shot to be taken over again.”
Johansson was clearly tripped by Bryzgalov and it impeded a legitimate scoring chance. In a game down the stretch in which the Capitals eventually fell 2-1 in a shootout, that missed call could have enormous repercussions in Washington’s chase for the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Ken Campbell is the senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com with his column. To read more from Ken and THN’s other stable of experts, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.