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Jamming The Crease: Capitals crime; Wild scare no one; more notes

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Braden Holtby of the Washington Capitals

Capitals goalies have faced no shortage of shots in recent seasons. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

By Allan Muir

Maybe Capitals GM George McPhee knows what he’s doing. Maybe winger Dustin Penner will turn out to be a deadline day steal and his inconsistent offensive production will spark Washington to a dramatic run to the playoffs. But probably not. Although their past two games might suggest otherwise, offense isn’t the issue for the Caps. Their problems begin on the defensive side of the puck where, apparently, they have no clue how to get stop a steady stream of shooters attacking their net. McPhee’s club allows 33.5 shots per game,  27th-worst in the NHL. That’s a shot per game worse than last season, when Washington ranked 28th (32.3) and, not coincidentally, was brushed aside by the Rangers in the first round of the playoffs.

It doesn’t take a stats geek to understand that if you consistently allow more shots than you unleash on the opposing team, you’re more likely to lose consistently as well. McPhee’s only priority at the deadline should have been a blue-line upgrade. That he didn’t make it happen ensures that the Capitals will be an early postseason casualty … again.

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  • Published On Mar 07, 2014
  • GIF: Fan throws cowboy hat on ice after hat trick in Dallas, ref tries it on

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    By Darian Somers

    On Thursday night, the 10-gallon hat topped the hockey world as Tyler Seguin of the Dallas Stars scored his fourth career hat trick. While regular ball caps rained down from the stands, one spectator threw a black cowboy hat onto the ice.

    It was picked up by referee Derek Amell, who was on the lookout for a new lid:

    GIF via Darian Somers

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  • Published On Mar 06, 2014
  • Jonathan Toews, Team Canada grace Sports Illustrated cover after Olympics

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    02-25-team canada

    By Stanley Kay

    At the 2014 Sochi Games, Team Canada took home both men’s and women’s ice hockey gold medals for the second straight Olympics.

    First, the Canadian women rallied from a late two-goal deficit to top Team USA 3-2 in overtime of the final. Then the Canadian men — after a quarterfinal scare against Latvia — shut out the U.S. and Sweden, respectively, to capture the gold medal.

    In this week’s issue, Michael Farber writes about Team Canada’s gold medal triumph, calling the men’s team the “greatest Olympic squad ever assembled.”

    PHOTOS: 2014 Sports Illustrated Covers

    Blackhawks forward Jonathan Toews, on the cover of Sports Illustrated for the second time, scored Canada’s first goal in a 3-0 victory over Sweden in the gold medal game.

    CAZENEUVE: Canada sings solid gold after yet another Olympic hockey triumph


  • Published On Feb 26, 2014
  • Takeaways from the Sochi Olympics for the NHL stretch drive and beyond

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    Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens

    Goalie Carey Price now has to contend with Montreal’s not-so-golden corps of blueliners. (Gerry Broome/AP)

    By Allan Muir

    Some closing thoughts as the world’s best hockey players return from Sochi for the closing stretch of the NHL season:

    High Price

    Is anyone due for a bigger shock upon returning to the NHL than Canadiens goalie Carey Price? After two weeks of playing behind Team Canada defensemen Shea Weber, Duncan Keith and Drew Doughty, he now has to deliver with Josh Gorges, Alexei Emelin and Douglas Murray butchering the puck in front of him. Still, he might be the one player who benefits the most from his Olympic experience and, by extension, so might Montreal. Price wasn’t the reason Canada won gold, but he was a reason. He was sensational in Sochi, where he literally made every single stop he was supposed to make and weathered early challenges in both medal round games on the way to shutting out the U.S. and Finland. Price left the tournament with a GAA of 0.59, a save percentage of .972 and the confidence that comes from measuring yourself against the best in the world and finding out that you belong in that club. He’ll be a beast down the stretch.

    Grand Granlund

    Everyone was happy to see 43-year-old Teemu Selanne named the MVP of the Olympic hockey tournament, but he’s not in the mix for that honor without the playmaking skills of the breakout star of the Sochi Games: Mikael Granlund. “This is his business card for the world to show that he is hungry and can’t wait to get out there,” Selanne said after Granlund ladled out the sauce twice while leading the Finns to their bronze-medal clinching 5-0 win over Team USA. The Wild’s young star stepped up to fill a void on Finland’s top line and powered the team’s offense (3 goals, 4 assists) with his quick reads and creativity. One NHL team exec told SI.com that a younger Selanne would have scored 10 goals thanks to the way Granlund was feeding him the puck. The same exec also said that Granlund might benefit from “calling his own number more often,” but Minnesota will likely be happy if he keeps working the same magic that he did with Zach Parise and Jason Pominville in the weeks leading up to the break.

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  • Published On Feb 24, 2014
  • Don Cherry’s Greatest Hits in honor of his 80th birthday

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    By Allan Muir

    My favorite Don Cherry moment? It was at the grand opening of his bar in Windsor, Ontario, back in the early ’80s. The man was standing at the back of the room holding court when he saw me walking up looking like a David St. Hubbins starter kit. He stopped, stared and let me have it. “Whaddaya doin’ with that hair?” he said. “You look like a sheepdog! Get a haircut, fer cryin’ out loud!”

    That’s Grapes, right? The man has never shied away from sharing his honest opinion, and whether you love him or hate him, you know he’s not going to pull his punches. He always gives it to you straight.

    And, truth be told, I probably could have used a trim.

    Our interaction came to mind with the news that the ageless wonder is celebrating his 80th birthday today. And since we can’t get him what he really deserves — a spot in the Hockey Hall of Fame — let’s honor his first day as an octogenarian with a look back at eight memorable Don Cherry moments — for better or worse — that we’ve all shared:

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  • Published On Feb 05, 2014
  • Jamming the Crease: Thomas Vanek snubs Isles; Adams dark horse; more

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    Thomas Vanek of the New York Islanders

    Thomas Vanek has put Islanders GM Garth Snow in a difficult and dangerous position. (Kathy Kmonicek/Icon SMI)

    By Allan Muir

    Looks like the chance to continue playing on the NHL’s hottest line wasn’t enough to convince Thomas Vanek to commit to the Islanders long term. Arthur Staple of Newsday is reporting that Vanek turned down “a substantial contract offer” from New York, leading GM Garth Snow to put the winger on the market ahead of the March 5 trade deadline.

    There’s just no way to put a positive spin on this. It’s a disaster for the Isles and a gut punch for Snow, who was heavily criticized for the October deal in which he sent Matt Moulson, a conditional 2014 first rounder and a 2015 second rounder to the Sabres for Vanek, a pending UFA. Even if Snow had been able to re-sign Vanek, the trade still would have tilted in favor of the Sabres. But now? Snow has to hit, and hit big, on this next swap in order to save face … and maybe his job.

    GALLERY: Islander follies

    Snow will likely want to recoup at least a solid prospect and a couple of picks, including a first rounder. The problem is, everyone knows that Snow is up against it and they’ll be looking for a bargain. Unless someone equally desperate (ahem, Dean Lombardi of the Kings) calls in a panic, it’s unlikely that anything will happen before Vanek heads to Sochi to represent Austria in the Olympics. After that, things will probably go down to the wire, with Snow forced to swallow an unappetizing offer rather than let Vanek get away for nothing in July.

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  • Published On Feb 03, 2014
  • Mailbag: Readers ask about Steven Stamkos’ comeback, NHL trades

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    Steven Stamkos

    Despite promising progress in his recovery, Steven Stamkos’ status for Sochi remains unknown. (Fred Kfoury/Icon SMI)

    By Allan Muir

    It’s been awhile since we’ve dug through the ol’ mailbag, but with the letters piling up and sports problems to be solved, this seems like as good a time as any to address this matter. Here are a few representative examples of the questions that many of you have been asking:

    I’m really getting worried about Steven Stamkos and his availability for Team Canada. Wasn’t Tuesday night’s game against the Maple Leafs one of the targets for his return to action? If he can’t go, who is his replacement?
    – Rachel Rosenfeld, Mississauga, Ont.

    During the next two weeks, the attention that will be paid to Stamkos and his broken leg will likely make the kerfuffle over royal baby No. 2 pale in comparison. Problem is, his healing rate is in no way commensurate with the number of cameras that are following him, or with the questions he’s being asked. He’ll be ready when he’s ready, but there’s a growing sense that he might not be ready before the Lightning’s final pre-Olympic break game on Feb. 8. And if that’s the case, it puts Team Canada’s brass in a tough spot.

    We’re already near a point where even if his leg is up to the challenge of playing, Stamkos won’t have the strength or the wind to be truly effective playing at the Sochi tournament’s pace. Still, I think there’s a strong desire on Canada’s part to bring him to Russia and push off any decisions until Feb. 11, the last day that a roster change can be made.

    That would be a risky call. Not only would it require flying another player over in order to have a replacement ready (as Canada did in 2010, keeping Jeff Carter on stand-by in case Ryan Getzlaf couldn’t go), but it also sets up a possible repeat of the mistake that Canada made in Turin in ’06, when Chris Pronger played at less than 100 percent … and played poorly.

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  • Published On Jan 30, 2014
  • The 13 biggest, most notable NHL team impact moves of 2013

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    Patrick Roy, Nathan MacKinnon and Joe Sakic restored hope to the Colorado Avalanche in 2013.

    Trio Grande: Patrick Roy, Nathan MacKinnon and Joe Sakic restored hope in Colorado. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    By Allan Muir

    Change, for lack of a better word, is good. It brings focus to an organization. Keeps a room fresh. Creates competition. Brings a team closer to its goal. Gives the fans reason to believe … if not now, then next year.

    Here’s our list of the 13 most noteworthy, impactful changes that were made during the course of 2013.

    MORE: 13 best players | Hits | Goals | Games | Memes | Tweets | Weird moments | Most painful |

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  • Published On Dec 27, 2013
  • Top Line: Tom Wilson dodges Shanaban, Kings rookie rolls on, more links

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

    By Sarah Kwak

    • Just two days after taking a nasty hit into the boards by Capitals rookie Tom Wilson (who dodged a suspension), Flyers forward Brayden Schenn played on Thursday night against the Blue Jackets. He also didn’t take a concussion test, claiming that he was not experiencing symptoms. Right. No sense in chancing it with a test. Never mind that sometimes the onset of apparent symptoms can be delayed for days …

    • Meanwhile, Capitals coach Adam Oates continued to defend Wilson. Said the coach: “[Schenn] had every opportunity to resist the hit, and he chose not to.” When will “blame the victim” cease being the standard hockey person’s logic? Probably never.

    •  Late in the first period on Thursday night, Kings captain Dustin Brown received a five-minute major and game misconduct for a nasty knee-on-knee hit on Sharks rookie Tomas Hertl, who didn’t return to the game. The league will probably look at it.

    •  Kings’ rookie goalie Martin Jones remained undefeated and continued to amazingly keep pucks out of his net. His extraordinary emergence has some observers saying, “Jonathan who?” and is fueling speculation that L.A. could dangle Ben Scrivens as trade bait.

    • Philadelphia put together a feverish comeback on Thursday night against Columbus, scoring five goals in the third period. Highlight? Claude Giroux lifting a filthy backhand with a man draped on his back while falling down. The goal was the 100th of his career, and the game-winner. Philadelphia is now in playoff position. Then again, the Metropolitan Division is not very good.

    • It’s official. The Ottawa Senators have entered The Crisis Zone.

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  • Published On Dec 20, 2013
  • NHL strikes new 12-year, $5.2 billion Canadian TV deal; HNIC safe; TSN out

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    TSN is out under the terms of the NHL's new Canadian TV deal

    James Duthie, Bob McKenzie and the TSN crew are odd men out under the NHL’s new deal. (Getty Images)

    By Allan Muir

    Canadians are about to lose their second national anthem. But in return, they’ll gain access to more NHL games than ever before.

    The league announced this morning a lucrative new 12-year, multi-platform deal with Rogers Communications for the rights to broadcast games in Canada.

    The package is worth a reported $5.2 billion. The Globe and Mail reports that Rogers will make annual payments to the NHL of $300 million, with the amount increasing incrementally until it reaches $500 million in the final year of the deal. Rogers will also pay $150-million up-front to the league.

    While this deal only covers Canadian TV rights, the windfall is split equally among all 30 teams. Each share is worth approximately $173 million per club over the life of the agreement.

    Rogers Sportsnet will have exclusive English-language NHL TV rights, but will sub-license to CBC, ensuring that Hockey Night In Canada, the gold standard in Canadian sports broadcasting since 1952, will continue to be a staple of free Saturday night viewing.

    However, the CBC’s broadcasting role will be diminished. In its own press release, the network stated that it is committed to “320 hours of prime-time hockey [per season], including games in the choice Saturday night-time slot and the Stanley Cup Final,” but only for the next four years.

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  • Published On Nov 26, 2013


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