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Top Line: Seabrook suspension coming; MacKinnon makes Wild look silly; more links

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By Allan Muir

An annotated guide to this morning’s must-read hockey stories:

• The St. Louis Blues got payback the smart way after a vicious cheap shot by Brent Seabrook left captain David Backes crumpled in the corner in the dying minutes of Game 2. Just a brain-dead play by the veteran defender … and not a real good look on Jonathan Toews, either. I expect a little more from him than to be seen chirping the obviously dazed Backes.

• Honestly, we can’t be surprised at this point to hear that Seabrook will have a phone hearing with the Department of Player Safety, meaning his suspension won’t top five games. If a hit as dangerous, as injurious and as blatantly offensive to common sense as that doesn’t merit a more serious response, it’s time to dismantle the department and start from scratch.

• They’re even questioning the dirty, stupid play of the Blackhawks in Chicago after this one. What does that tell you?

• It’s not often I get to link to the great Michael Enright in this column, but his essay on the complicity of the NHL in the build-up of hockey violence fits nicely today.

• Nathan MacKinnon’s nickname is silly, but not as silly as he’s making the Wild look in his NHL playoff debut. Gotta hand it to this kid. The bigger the game, the better he plays.

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  • Published On Apr 20, 2014
  • Top Line: Lucic spear defended; race an issue in Kane criticism; more links

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    Top Line: Milan Lucic spear defended; race factor in Evander Kane criticism; more links

    Corey Perry (10) and Jamie Benn (14) sparked one of Friday’s below-the-belt controversies. (Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

    By Allan Muir

    An annotated guide to this morning’s must-read hockey stories:

    • Jerard Fagerberg isn’t just a beer-league goalie. He’s also a moral gymnast, judging by his defense of Milan Lucic’s cup-check on Danny DeKeyser. Strictly for Bruins fans or those who enjoy spikes in their blood pressure.

    • It was one of those nights. Corey Perry gave Jamie Benn an equipment adjustment as well.

    • No word on whether Lucic or Perry will face league discipline for jabbing another man’s midsection, but we do know the NHL frowns on grabbing one’s own junk.

    • Adam Proteau says you’re being naive if you don’t think criticism hurled at Evander Kane, Dustin Byfuglien and P.K. Subban is at least in part racially motivated. No one should be naive enough to assume it’s not a factor for at least some people, but that doesn’t mean it’s the prevailing influence. Still, it is a take worth reading. Read More…


  • Published On Apr 19, 2014
  • Top Line NHL playoff update: Martin St. Louis ready for Broadway; more links

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    Martin St. Louis of the New York Rangers

    Little Martin St. Louis (26) may finally be ready to come up big for the Rangers. (Scott Levy/Getty Images)

    By Allan Muir

    An annotated guide to this morning’s must-read hockey stories:

    • After a slow start in New York, Martin St. Louis says he’s ready for his game to be judged.

    • There could be a new man behind the mask for the Flyers when they take on the Rangers in Game 2 on Sunday.

    • Maybe Wayne Simmonds was right. Maybe gingers should stick to being gingers.

    • Maybe the offensive explosion we’ve seen over the first two nights of the playoffs isn’t such a surprise, considering the questions that were being asked coming into the tournament.

    • Bruce Arthur argues the subtle genius of Steven Stamkos could be the difference in the series with the Canadiens.

    • Poise under pressure eluded the Lightning in their Game 1 loss to the Canadiens. Sean Gordon explains how negating Montreal’s aggressive forecheck will be the key to addressing that in Game 2.

    • Two months after they teamed up to lead Canada to gold in Sochi, coaches Mike Babcock and Claude Julien will match wits as the Red Wings take on the Bruins. Are there any secrets left between them?

    Boston has had a fairly stout penalty kill for years now, but it’s not the Bruins penalty killers who are worrying Babcock.

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  • Published On Apr 18, 2014
  • Top Line: Sidney Crosby dives again; Is shotblocking worth it? More links

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    Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins

    Diver down: Only this time, Sidney Crosby committed no crime in the Penguins’ playoff opener. (Gene J. Puskar/AP)

    By Allan Muir

    An annotated guide to this morning’s must-read hockey stories:

    • There goes Sidney Crosby diving again.

    • After watching the Ducks’ Ryan Getzlaf take a biscuit in the mush, Jason Kay asks the obvious question: Does shot blocking do more harm than good?

    • It’s not always easy to predict which teams will get great goaltending or have their stars go on hot streaks in a series, but James Mirtle says controlling possession is one trait that defines a long playoff run.

    • It’s been a dozen years since the Blues and the Blackhawks last met in the postseason. Jeremy Rutherford says built-up hostilities should make their first-rounder a nasty affair.

    • But Bernie Miklasz thinks that puck possession, not punishment is St. Louis’ key to victory against Chicago.

    Sochi snubs may have dinged some egos in San Jose, but the downtime they provided may be the key to the Sharks’ Stanley Cup aspirations.

    Marian Gaborik produced a 61.4 percent Corsi rating over the regular season’s final seven games. Ian McLaren says that stat suggests that the veteran winger could be a difference maker for the Kings against San Jose.

    • Steve Mason is out for the Flyers’ opener against the Rangers, and that suits an old buddy just fine.

    • Philly won’t have much of a home ice advantage when the series shifts to the City of Brotherly Love.

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  • Published On Apr 17, 2014
  • Top Line: Future is now for Marc-Andre Fleury; more NHL playoffs links

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    Marc-Andre Fleury of the Pittsburgh Penguins

    All eyes will be on Marc-Andre Fleury as the Penguins try to avoid another playoff pratfall. (Gene J. Puskar/AP)

    By Allan Muir

    An annotated guide to this morning’s must-read hockey stories:

    • With one year left on his deal and his 30th birthday coming up fast, Marc-Andre Fleury’s performance in the playoffs will determine whether he has a future with the Penguins.

    The Blue Jackets’ Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov might want to go online and check out Steve Kasper’s highlight reel before they take on their Game 1 assignments.

    Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau has led teams to six division titles and won 300 NHL games faster than anyone in history, but he’s never gotten past the second round of the playoffs … and it’s killing him.

    • Just 22, Tyler Seguin has a Stanley Cup ring and 42 playoff games under his belt, but he’s a different player for the Stars than the one who stumbled through a one-goal-in-22-games drought with the Bruins last spring.

    • The adaptability of coach Darryl Sutter has the Kings poised to challenge for their second Stanley Cup in three years.

    Matt Moulson of the Wild isn’t asking for much. Just a Stanley Cup and his own bed.

    Nathan MacKinnon of the Avalanche says that he was “pretty successful” during two playoff runs as a junior — yeah, a Memorial Cup with 24 goals and 61 points in 34 games is pretty successful. Now the challenge is to prove that he can be a big-game player in his first shot at the NHL postseason.

    • One Flyers player will stand up during the wedding of a Rangers player this summer. He’s hoping to bring a buddy named Stanley as his plus one. The groom objects.

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  • Published On Apr 16, 2014
  • Top Line: NHL playoff goalie shocks; Blackhawks’ marked men; more links

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    Goalie Jonas Hiller of the Anaheim Ducks

    The shaky play of Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller has him on the bench to start the playoffs. (John Cordes/Icon SMI)

    By Allan Muir

    An annotated guide to this morning’s must-read hockey stories:

    • After being the Ducks’ starter for the better part of the past five years, goalie Jonas Hiller was stunned to learn that he won’t be in net when Anaheim opens its first-round series against the Stars on Wednesday. Can’t blame coach Bruce Boudreau here. Veteran or not, Hiller is his third-best option right now.

    • Here’s one more reason why Teemu Selanne is just the best.

    • There’s a good ol’ fashioned goaltending controversy brewing in San Jose. Even though Antti Niemi struggled down the stretch, I really didn’t see this coming.

    • Here’s why, for Tomas Hertl, beating the Kings is personal.

    • The Canadiens are set in net, but Montreal still has a big problem that needs to be straightened out if it’s going to get past the Lightning.

    • With goalie Ben Bishop still ailing, the Bolts are going to Plan B for their opener against the Canadiens on Wednesday.

    Henrik Zetterberg will practice with the Red Wings on Tuesday, an amazingly quick return just eight weeks after his back surgery. But his presence forces the big question: When will he be ready for game action?

    • For weeks, Nathan MacKinnon and the Avalanche assumed that they were on course for a first-round meeting with the Blackhawks. The collapse of the Blues changed all that, forcing Colorado to abruptly change its focus to a different kind of challenge — the Minnesota Wild.

    Chicago mainstays Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane were back on the ice on Monday and should be ready to go for the series opener against St. Louis on Thursday. The Blackhawks might want to keep their heads up in that one. The Blues could decide to target their injuries.

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  • Published On Apr 15, 2014
  • Top Line: NHL playoffs doom regular season powers; more links

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    Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks

    Someone’s gotta lose: And that means the Kings or Sharks will be one and done. (Don Smith/Getty Images)

    By Allan Muir

    An annotated guide to this morning’s must-read hockey stories:

    • The postseason is always cruel, but never quite like this year. At least two teams that rang up 100 points will be gone by the end of the first round. And that number might be low.

    • The Sharks’ long memories ensure that the hostility will be ramped up for their first rounder against the Kings.

    • This piece by Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News…wow. He’s been on a roll this season, but this column suggesting the young Dallas Stars find inspiration in the film Streets of Fire might be his best of the year. Personally, I’ll never forgive Jim Steinman for ruining Sisters of Mercy, but that’s me.

    “Detroit? Why did it have to be Detroit?”

    • Fluto Shinazawa thinks the Boston Bruins will get through their opening round playoff series just fine. It’s the Stanley Cup Final against these guys that’ll be tough.

    • The Flyers don’t have enough margin of error to allow for stupidity like the kind Scott Hartnell displayed in their season finale.

    • Candiens goalie Carey Price says most Canadians will be rooting against his team in the playoffs. Which makes sense, given that most Canadians do not reside in or around Montreal.

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  • Published On Apr 14, 2014
  • Top Line: Latest on Ryan Malone; Ryan Smyth’s memorable exit; more links

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    By Allan Muir

    An annotated guide to this morning’s must-read hockey stories:

    • As goodbyes go, Ryan Smyth’s couldn’t have gone much better. Everything, from the fan reaction, to the captain’s C to the the longest shift in recent memory to Vancouver’s salute…it was an elegant tribute to a man who always played the game the right way.

    • Steven Stamkos says Ryan Malone’s Tampa Bay teammates will be there for him as he deals with the aftermath of his cocaine possession and DUI charges.

    • Here’s another amazing moment from last night when the Los Angeles Kings put aside their rivalry with the Anaheim Ducks to honor the great Teemu Selanne. Classy move, L.A.

    Read More…


  • Published On Apr 13, 2014
  • Top Line: Stars complete playoff picture; Captain Canada calls it quits; more links

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    The Dallas Stars snapped a six-year playoff drought with a 3-0 win over the St. Louis Blues on Friday.

    The Dallas Stars snapped a six-year playoff drought with a 3-0 win over the St. Louis Blues on Friday. (LM Otero/AP)

    By Allan Muir

    An annotated guide to this morning’s must-read hockey stories:

    • It was fitting that Trevor Daley, the only player remaining from Dallas’ last playoff team, scored the goal that clinched a 3-0 win over the St. Louis Blues and returned the Stars to the postseason for the first time since 2008. And what a game that was by Tyler Seguin: 11 shots, 16 attempts, a breathtaking power play goal and a relentless defensive effort. Easily the best I’ve seen him play as a pro.

    • Clinching a playoff berth might finally allow the Stars to move on from the past and boldly into the future.

    • The loss was the fifth straight for a St. Louis team that is falling apart at the worst possible time. Injuries are killing the Blues. They could have as many as seven regulars out of the lineup for this weekend’s finale.

    • Ryan Smyth, who announced his retirement Friday night after 18 seasons in the NHL, will be remembered for a tireless work ethic and some of the best flow hockey has ever seen.

    • He retires as an Oiler, but Smyth will always be Captain Canada.

    • Matt Larkin makes the case for an Alexander Ovechkin/Evgeni Malkin trade…and it’s not anywhere near as crazy as it sounds.

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  • Published On Apr 12, 2014
  • Top Line: Sidney Crosby dazzles; Lousy Leafs appeal to Shanahan; more links

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    Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins

    The runaway scoring champ, Sidney Crosby will likely add another Hart Trophy to his collection. (Gene J. Puskar/AP)

    By Allan Muir

    An annotated guide to this morning’s must-read hockey stories:

    • Dejan Kovacevic reminds us to take a moment to appreciate just how amazing Sidney Crosby has been this season. Even his detractors have to tip their caps after this one.

    • The hiring of Brendan Shanahan is the first of many changes coming for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

    • Eric Duhatschek explains why taking over the hapless Leafs would appeal to Shanahan.

    • The misguided optimism — or perhaps it’s sports naivete — of Capitals owner Ted Leonsis is being called out in Washington. It’s forced him to take a couple bites of crow and promise a thorough review of all team operations. Yeah, we’ll see about that. From this vantage point, Leonsis has made the fatal error of falling in love with players who don’t deserve it.

    • So, what exactly did Colorado accomplish with its win over the Vancouver Canucks last night? They’re guaranteed to finish ahead of Chicago in the Central, goalie Semyon Varlamov set a franchise record with his 41st win of the season, and they tied the franchise mark with their 52nd win. And now they have a chance to actually go from worst to first with a win in their finale. Not bad.

    • Nothing like making a good impression on the new boss, eh Vancouver?

    • Is it time to start worrying about the St. Louis Blues? Yes. Yes it is.

    Read More…


  • Published On Apr 11, 2014


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