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Top Line: Crosby vs. Lemieux, surging Blue Jackets, more links

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Is Sidney Crosby better than Mario Lemieux? The debate about two Pittsburgh greats may be more complicated than you think. (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

By Allan Muir

A notated guide to this morning’s must-read hockey stories:

• How does Sidney Crosby match up against Mario Lemieux? TribLive breaks it down. Really, that Pittsburgh has had both of them is as ridiculous as John Derek marrying Bo Derek after Ursula Andress. (Note: you must be at least 50 to appreciate those references.)

• The Blue Jackets have earned points in 10 straight? Unbelievable. Sergei Bobrovsky took it to another level last night, making 39 saves to win a game in which his team didn’t score. Check out this number: his save percentage over the last eight games is .976.

• You know how routs are usually kinda boring? Last night’s 8-1 pantsing of the Stars by Chicago was the exact opposite. It was like watching the Globetrotters pull out every trick to humiliate the Washington Generals, a jaw-dropping display of skill and effort that showcased the best the NHL has to offer. What a perfect night for Dallas owner Tom Gagliardi to fly in his family from Vancouver for the game. Oh, well maybe not…

• BREAKING NEWS: Chicago GM Stan Bowman thinks his team is pretty good. “I’d be comfortable [going into the playoffs] with the group we have,” he said when asked about what his team needs ahead of the trade deadline.

• Speaking of fun to watch, today’s Boston-Pittsburgh matinee stacks up as a beauty. It goes at 12:30 EDT on NBC.

• The Pens should put up a far better fight than the Caps did yesterday. That meek effort made it four losses in five for Washington and has to give GM George McPhee reason to question whether he has the right mix to move into next season.

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  • Published On Mar 17, 2013
  • My all time top 10 NHL power plays

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    Jari Kurri, Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier

    Where would you rank a power play that could unleash Hall of Famers Jari Kurri, Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier? (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    By Allan Muir

    Yesterday, as part of SI.com’s Power Week, I ranked my top 10 NHL power forwards of all time. Today, it’s on to the power play.

    I’ve always thought that the effectiveness of a power play is directly proportional to the fear it inspires.

    The best  don’t simply score goals every third chance or so. They’re a looming specter that buys time and space during 40-odd minutes of even strength play — a constant, overhanging threat that forces defenders to hesitate, to keep sticks and elbows to themselves in order to not take the trip to the box that their coach specifically warned them to avoid.
    It’s been a few years since the NHL has seen a truly frightening power play, but there have been some holy terrors in the past.

    Click here for my 10 greatest in league history:


  • Published On Mar 07, 2013
  • Two Minutes For Booking: The secrets of the C; more hockey reading

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    Scott Stevens

    Hall of Fame defenseman Scott Stevens knew full well the motivational value of a big hit — in games or practice — while serving as the captain of the Devils’ three Stanley Cup championship teams. (Photo by Lou Capozzola/SI)

    By Stu Hackel

    Unless the owners and players restart negotiations, the closest that NHL fans may come to their favorite sport this season is by reading a book. If you are still stumped about what to give the fans in your life this holiday season, you might select one of these, or from our earlier list of gift books.

    Wearing The C: Hockey’s Highest Honor, by Ross Bernstein. Triumph Books, 272 pages. $22.95 — The question of leadership among players has always been an essential part of hockey, often discussed and cited as a key reason why teams win or lose. “Putting a C on natural leaders,” Scotty Bowman says in this book, “is what sets average teams apart from the great ones.” There are different reasons why a player is selected to be a captain — some inspire and instill confidence with words in the dressing room and on the bench, some lead by example on the ice, some get the C on their sweater by virtue of their playing talent, some by virtue of their physical play — and this book explores all of that and more. Here’s SI.com’s photo gallery of its top 10 NHL captains of all time.

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  • Published On Dec 19, 2012
  • NHL season hostage to power struggles

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    Billy Daly and Gary Bettman

    Possible fallout from last week’s collapse in the CBA talks is that if they resume, Commissioner Gary Bettman and his deputy, Bill Daly, will go back to doing the bidding of the league’s most hardline team owners (Mary Altaffer/AP)

    By Stu Hackel

    In the early afternoon on Monday, Lockout Day 86, Gary Bettman opened his jar of vanishing cream, rubbed it on the schedule pages in The NHL Guide and Record Book and made another chunk of games disappear.

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  • Published On Dec 10, 2012
  • Josh Harding’s courageous battle

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    Josh Harding is determined to join the ranks of other NHL stars who made it back from serious diseases or ailments. (Bill Streicher/Icon SMI

    By Stu Hackel

    The measure of a man’s character comes when he has to summon it in the face of a crises. By that standard, Minnesota Wild goalie Josh Harding ranks among the top character athletes in all of sports.

    The 28-year-old Harding disclosed on Wednesday that he has been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, an incurable disease that can cause problems with balance, fatigue and vision, three necessary elements to play any sport, no less goaltender — the toughest position in what may be the hardest sport of all. But he’ll endeavor to continue his career and remain in training for whenever the league returns. His desire to keep at it demonstrates all anyone needs to know about him.

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  • Published On Nov 29, 2012
  • Will Therrien’s second time be a charm?

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    If Michel Therrien does not adapt to the current NHL game, his next stint in Montreal will end as unhappily as his first one did. (Photo by Paul Chiasson/AP)

    By Stu Hackel

    It’s unusual when big hockey news intrudes on the Stanley Cup Final, but fittingly in this unusual playoff year, there’s already been a lot: the announcement that the NHL and NHLPA will start CBA negotiations shortly, Nick Lidstrom retiring, Tim Thomas saying he’ll sit out next season, the Flames hiring Bob Hartley as coach, Marian Gaborik’s surgery and the Penguins acquiring Tomas Vokoun.

    Now there’s another story, and it’s a curious one — the Canadiens hiring Michel Therrien as their coach, a move that returns him to the Habs’ bench for the second time.

    The curiosity stems in part from Therrien’s penchant for installing a passive defensive system on the teams he coaches. Both the Canadiens players and their fans groused at Jacques Martin’s passive approach to the game and it’s pretty obvious that when teams wait for the opposition to make errors and then counterpunch, they don’t have much success in the NHL anymore. The Kings and Devils reached the Cup final because they abandoned that style of hockey. The Bruins and Canucks, last year’s finalists, did as well.

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  • Published On Jun 05, 2012
  • Was Lidstrom the MVP of his era?

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    By Stu Hackel

    Of the many things that Nick Lidstrom said Thursday morning while announcing the end of his remarkable playing career (video), it was perhaps the last one in his prepared remarks that spoke the loudest: “Retiring today,” he said, “allows me to walk away from the game with pride rather than have the game walk away from me.”

    This is a player who for much of last season was considered the best defenseman in the NHL, and if he returned next season, he’d still be one of the best players. But after being slowed by injuries and unable to raise his level of play in this year’s postseason, Lidstrom has his own standard of excellence to uphold. He knows he’s lost the inner drive to train as hard as he must this offseason in order to bounce back and reach that level of greatness again. He won’t cheat himself, he won’t cheat his teammates and he won’t cheat the fans if he can’t play with the same determined excellence that made him, without question, the best defenseman of his era.

    That’s not just me making that evaluation of Lidstrom’s talent and legacy, that’s the opinion of Scotty Bowman.

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  • Published On May 31, 2012
  • Is Steven Stamkos Hart-worthy?

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    Steven Stamkos still has a legitimate chance to become only the second 60-goal scorer since 1995-96. (Scott Audette/Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    Should a player whose team fails to make the playoffs get consideration for the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP? That’s a question voters for the award may be faced with this season because Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning has been so valuable player to his club.

    It’s possible that the question won’t need to be asked, though, because Tampa Bay’s improved play during the last six weeks has given them a shot at the postseason. A main reason they have, however, it is Stamkos.

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  • Published On Mar 06, 2012
  • Ailing Beliveau one of a kind

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    Big and tall, yet a graceful skater, the legendary Jean Beliveau was the personification of a classy player. (Denis Brodeur/Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    In this darkest of seasons for Canadiens fans, the bad news continues to pile up. Their loss to Tampa Bay on Tuesday night dropped them three points behind the Islanders and Hurricanes for last place in the East. They were unable to peddle anyone other than the disappointing Andrei Kostitsyn on Monday’s trade deadline day, prompting The Montreal Gazette’s Red Fisher to write, “Once, teams would line up looking for help from this franchise. The view was that if a player was good enough to wear the CH, he surely had something to offer. Now, the franchise is in disarray from the top down. Now, it’s an embarrassment unworthy of attention. Where has the talent gone? Where has the pride gone?”

    And then the news came that Jean Beliveau, the man who personifies talent and pride — not just for the Canadiens, but all of hockey — had suffered a stroke, the latest of his many health setbacks. The living symbol of everything this franchise has wanted to stand for — excellence, achievement, dignity, class, respect — had been laid so low that Fisher concluded his Wednesday Gazette article on Beliveau with the three words he often reserves for those whose health is at grave risk: “Pray for him.”

    Those of you born well after Beliveau’s playing career ended in 1971 may well wonder, “Who is this man I’m asked to pray for?” and it’s a legitimate question.

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  • Published On Feb 29, 2012
  • Red Wings’ streak only guarantees a place in record book

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    The 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens of Ken Dryden rattled off an NHL record 34-game home unbeaten streak, but most importantly also grabbed the Stanley Cup. (Photo by Melchior DiGiacomo/Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    Detroit’s mark of 21 consecutive victories at home has stirred up the beehive of naysayers who, not without at least some justification, believe an asterisk should accompany the Red Wings’ new entry into the NHL Record Book. But no one should lose sight of the bigger picture here and confuse what the Wings have done as an indication that they are so formidable that winning the Stanley Cup is their inevitable fate. Far from it.

    The Red Wings certainly know this and that while their home record is pretty amazing, their road mark is rather mediocre at 15-15-1. They’re hardly invincible. And when you look at all the teams that have put together record streaks of one sort or another during the regular season, almost none of them won the Cup.

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  • Published On Feb 15, 2012


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