Brian Costello joined The Hockey News in 1990 when the likes of Bruce Boudreau, Randy Carlyle and Joel Quenneville were players, not coaches. Costello covered major junior hockey for five seasons before getting called up to THN. He likes to focus his attention on pre- and post-NHL careers, following closely the progress of the draft, up-and-coming prospects and fancying himself a Hall of Fame expert.
Matt Nieto scored his first career Stanley Cup playoff goal for the San Jose Sharks last night and there was his longshoreman dad, looking very much like a Long Beach longshoreman, watching from the stands in Los Angeles.
The story of Nieto and his ascension from Long Beach street blading brat to NHL regular is one worth hearing. It’s a story mainly about Nieto and his mother and the circle of hockey that eveloped their lives. It is told well by The Hockey News correspondent David Pollak in the April 7 edition of the San Jose Mercury News.
Nieto asked for rollerblades at the age of 2 and his mother Mary said she could later always hear where he was in the neighborhood by the clicking sound of his wheels. He rarely took them off. Nieto’s love for hockey kept him out of trouble, growing up in a dangerous district where drive-by shooting were not uncommon.
“Probably everybody he hung out with is either in a gang or on drugs or something,” Mary Nieto told Pollak. “I think hockey saved his life, absolutely. Hockey became a way out for a Mexican-American kid in Southern California.”
Nobody could sleepwalk through a season the way Dustin Penner did the past few years in California. Then come the Stanley Cup playoffs in the springtime and Penner would come to life.
Is Montreal’s Rene Bourque the Dustin Penner of this year’s playoffs? With three goals in three Canadiens wins – and probably nary a mention in a hockey pool from coast to coast – Bourque is up from his season-long slumber.
If the Canadiens are to do any damage in the second round of the playoffs (yes, this is getting ahead of things slightly, but it’s just postulating), they’re going to need secondary scoring and physical play from the big body of the big man from Lac La Biche, Alta. At his best, Bourque can be Milan Lucic. Problem is, Bourque has rarely been at his best in recent seasons.
Turnabout is fair play for the Florida Panthers. At last year’s draft lottery, the second-to-last Colorado Avalanche leap-frogged the Panthers to win first overall pick. This year, it was the Panthers who did the leap-frogging.
Florida moved up one spot in the draft and won the right to select first overall in the 2014 NHL draft June 27 in Philadelphia. The Panthers had an 18.8 percent chance of winning the lottery, held Tuesday night in Toronto. The last-place Buffalo Sabres had the best chance of winning – 25 percent – but will slip to the second overall spot.
The remainder of the top 13 picks follow in reverse order of NHL standings. Edmonton picks third followed by Calgary fourth and the New York Islanders fifth. Vancouver is sixth, Carolina seventh, Toronto eighth, Winnipeg ninth, Anaheim (from Ottawa in the Bobby Ryan trade) 10th, Nashville 11th, Phoenix 12th and Washington 13th. The New Jersey Devils slip to the 30th spot as league penalty for trying to circumvent the NHL salary cap.
Winning the lottery is nice for the Panthers, but it doesn’t mean as much in a draft that is considered very equal among the top three, four, even five prospects according to most scouts. Florida is weakest on the blueline and will surely be tempted to select Barrie defenseman Aaron Ekblad first overall.
Canadian teams will be well-represented in Tuesday’s NHL draft lottery.
Hey, we have to find something nice to say as the Montreal Canadiens are the only team north of the border to make the playoffs. The other six Canadian cities are among the top 10 teams vying to win the lottery and earn the right to select first overall.
Below you’ll see a listing for the 14 non-playoff teams and their chances to select first overall in the June 27-28 draft in Philadelphia. Most interesting is the likely outcome column which shows the varying percentage chances your favorite team will place.
The New York Islanders should take their nasty medicine now so they can start moving forward without an albatross around their neck.
Even with the Islanders projected to pick in the top five of this year’s draft, they should give it away to the Buffalo Sabres as compensation in the Thomas Vanek trade. There are just too many things that could go wrong if New York decides to put off the inevitable until next year.
In case you hadn’t heard, the Islanders last October traded their first-round pick in either 2014 or 2015, a second-round pick in 2015 and Matt Moulson to Buffalo for Vanek. It was a dreadful deal at the time and got horribly worse when Vanek, a pending UFA, rejected a contract extension with the Islanders. (Vanek has since been traded to Montreal for pennies on the dollar.)
The Islanders have the option to give either this year’s or next year’s first-rounder to Buffalo. With New York sitting in fourth-last place going into the final weekend of the season, it almost seems like a no-brainer the Isles would keep this year’s top-five pick and delay the compensation until next year.
Here’s a few reasons why I think New York must forsake this year’s pick.
With age comes experience. With experience comes wisdom. With wisdom comes being lousy in the shootout.
That’s how it unfolded this season for the New Jersey Devils, the oldest team in the NHL. If the Devils weren’t the King of Suck when it comes to the shootout, they’d probably be in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
New Jersey lost all 12 games it played in the shootout. The Devils scored on just three of 43 shootout attempts for a shooting percentage of just 7.0. If the Devils were just league average in the shootout, they’d still be battling Detroit and Columbus for one of two wildcard playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.
When the Columbus Blue Jackets visit the Dallas Stars tonight, Nathan Horton will go down in history as the first player to score in a game in which he didn’t play. In fact, Horton might be sitting on his couch at home in Columbus, 911 miles away, when he gets credit for the game’s opening goal in Texas.
That’s because tonight’s game is a makeup one for the March 10 encounter in which Stars center Rich Peverley collapsed on the bench due to a cardiac event.
Horton scored in the March 10 game for Columbus before it was postponed at the 6:23 mark of the first period. So his tally will go in the books as official and a full 60 minutes will be played tonight. Matt Calvert and James Wisniewski will also be credited with official assists, while the rest of the March 10 game’s statistics such as shots, hits and penalties, will be washed away. Whoever plays in goal for Dallas has no chance for a shutout.
The Samuel Beckett play Waiting For Godot features two characters who wait endlessly for someone named Godot to arrive. To occupy themselves, they talk, argue, sing, eat, exercise, sleep, play games, even contemplate suicide.
It’s not quite that bad in Calgary Flames’ country where team management and Flames fans play the part of two characters waiting for Gaudreau to turn pro. It’s either going to happen within the next week – after Saturday’s Frozen Four final – or the wait will continue for another year.
But here’s the rub that has Flames fans worried the most. What if Gaudreau, who is heavily favored to win the Hobey Baker Award Friday as top player in U.S. college hockey, decides he wants to play his final season with the Boston College Eagles, even if they win the NCAA title Saturday?