Bryan Mcwilliam

Bryan Mcwilliam is a a freelance sports journalist and editor who currently writes and edits for The Hockey News. He interned at THN in the summer of 2012 and was a big fan of the Calgary Flames run to the Stanley Cup in 1989. The Toronto, Ont., native enjoys contact sports, eating everything in sight and his favorite film is Terminator 2: Judgment Day.

Kopitar to return, Canes looking for second win

Bryan Mcwilliam
St. Louis Blues v Los Angeles Kings

Well, Saturday night’s match-up prediction didn’t pan out as written. Some aspects were predicted correctly. As expected, a lot of goals were scored, but Steven Stamkos and Alex Ovechkin did not light the red lamp, although they did have an assist each. Ryan Callahan did provide a spark in his return to the Lightning line-up with a first period goal, so there’s that. Let’s give Stamkos the win simply because his team walked away victorious.

Sunday, the NHL has seven games games scheduled, with two late afternoon affairs, one of which is a 5 p.m. contest between the Carolina Hurricanes, who are coming off their first win of the season, and the Los Angeles Kings who are winless on their current road trip.

The Kings have been without centre Anze Kopitar, who has been out of action with an upper body injury, but the 27-year old expects to return tonight, “”I’m planning on it unless there is something really drastic that happens,” he told the NHL after practice Saturday. “But I don’t think I’m going to be doing anything this afternoon. Hopefully it stays that way and hopefully I feel like that [Sunday].”

The return of Kopitar will be a major addition to a Kings team that has not looked good lately. After a heart-breaking 3-2 overtime loss to the Flyers Tuesday, the Kings were shutout by the Penguins and dismantled by the Red Wings. With the exception of Tyler Toffoli, Jeff Carter and Tanner Pearson, the scoring hasn’t been there for the Kings, who currently rank 25th in the NHL in goals per game, so Kopitar will be welcomed back with open arms.

The Hurricanes looked like a completely different team in their win over Arizona last night. They looked fresh, worked hard and took home a team win backed by a beautiful shutout performance from Cam Ward. Alexander Semin was a healthy scratch which lead to speculation that not having him in the line-up was a good thing for Carolina. Tonight, the Canes will see if the win was just a stroke of good luck, or if they’ve figured things out.

Prediction: Kopitar makes his return to the Kings’ line-up; doesn’t have an effect on the scoreboard, but gives his team the positive mental boost they need as the team looks energized. Hurricanes’ forward Elias Lindholm found his scoring touch on Saturday and it will continue on Sunday, as the centre nets another goal. It’ll be a lower scoring affair, in the 2-1 range, but the contest will be upbeat with some nice defensive work. Going out on a limb here and saying Carolina walks away victorious for their second win of the season and Lindholm’s lone goal is the game-winner.

Lindholm, Ward help Hurricanes secure first win of season

Bryan Mcwilliam
Arizona Coyotes v Carolina Hurricanes

Finally, the day has come. The Carolina Hurricanes earned their first win of the season Saturday in a 3-0 shutout of the Arizona Coyotes.

Elias Lindholm scored two goals early, Justin Faulk had two assists and Cam Ward stopped 25 shots for his 22nd career shutout, but it was a definitely a win that the team earned as a group.

Maybe it was the return of forwards Nathan Gerbe and Patrick Dwyer or maybe making Alexander Semin – a player earning $7 million – a healthy scratch was the smartest move of the season so far, but something looked different about the Hurricanes in the first period. They had a different kind of energy, almost a swagger on the ice, and it certainly transitioned over to their play.

The Hurricanes burst out of the gate, scoring early after Lindholm pounced on a rebound, putting it by a helpless Mike Smith. Lindholm followed that goal with another at 17:22, grabbing another rebound opportunity and wristing it by Smith.

After securing the lead, it was all Ward. The goaltender had the best performance of recent memory, shutting down the Coyotes offence, who didn’t play poorly. They had opportunities to keep the game close, but Ward wasn’t having any of it. He looked locked in. His most impressive save of the night came in the second period when he robbed Antoine Vermette, who broke in on a two-on-one.

The group looked fresh and they played well, but was it a stroke of good luck? Or are things going to change as the season moves on?

Sitting Semin could indicate that they’re willing to make some changes. When asked about Semin possibly being a healthy scratch for Saturday night’s game head coach Bill Peters told the Hurricanes website that “Right now, he’s not in the lineup.”

“We’ve got a couple guys back from injury so we’ve got the ability to take some guys out.”

Sounds like a harmless response, but teams don’t normally sit a player making $7 million a season if unless they’re unhappy. It’s not like Gerbe or Dwyer are stud prospects who are being given a chance to show the Hurricanes’ brass what they can do. This move reads that the organization is not satisfied with Semin and rightfully so. The Russian forward had two points in eight games and already a plus-minus of -7. Add in the fact that a poor attitude and work ethic have always been attached to him and it’s clear that an issue arose somewhere. Maybe Semin is reverting back to having a bad attitude, or maybe he’s not as healthy as the Hurricanes are letting on, but something is up and it’s certainly not his point totals. The Capitals cut ties with the talented winger because of a terrible attitude and work ethic, despite the talented play maker having seasons of 40, 38 and 34 goals, so maybe Carolina is thinking the same thing, or maybe this is the kick in the pants that Semin needs to turn things around.

Speculation aside, the Hurricanes won Saturday and the group effort was a refreshing site to see. They should stick with what worked against Arizona, ignore all of the Connor McDavid talk, and try and win some hockey games because the fans deserve it. The goose egg is gone, it’s time to move on.

Saturday night match-up: Ovechkin vs. Stamkos

Bryan Mcwilliam
Tampa Bay Lightning v Winnipeg Jets

As always, Saturday night hockey will be a busy one with 12 games scheduled for tonight. On Friday, the match-up of the night was the Anaheim Ducks’ Corey Perry taking on the Dallas Stars’ Tyler Seguin. The Ducks walked away with a 2-1 victory thanks to a goal and an assist from Perry, so the match-up win goes to him.

Tonight, two of the great goal scorers in hockey square off as Alex Ovechkin’s Washington Capitals take on Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

The Capitals, under new coach Barry Trotz, are off to a so-so start with a record of 4-3-2 and this could be due to adjusting to a new style of play with more of an onus on playing defence, which Trotz was known for in his days behind the Nashville bench. They’ve also seen a recent dip in production from their biggest offensive gun Ovechkin.

After earning six points – five of which were goals – in his first four games, Ovechkin has been ice cold in his last five games with zero points and the Caps have lost three of those five games, while one of their wins was in the shootout over a bad Florida Panthers squad. Defence is great, but you need to put the puck in the net to win hockey games, so ‘Ovi’ needs to figure things out fast.

On the other side of the ice is Steven Stamkos, arguably the best goal scorer in the NHL and he’s not struggling one bit. After missing 45 games last season with a broken leg, the Lightning centre returned to close out the season on a high note. That momentum has followed through into this season and Stamkos is making goaltender’s lives miserable once again. He has 12 points in 11 games, eight of which are goals and the Lightning have established themselves as an early Stanley Cup contender. No one in the NHL has shot the puck more than Stamkos and there’s a very good chance that won’t change during the season, so expect to see the puck on his stick a lot tonight when the Lightning enter the Capitals’ zone.

Two goal scorers, one is on fire, while the other is an ice cube, who takes this match-up?

Prediction: Fire melts ice and that’s exactly what Stamkos and the Lightning are going to do to the Capitals. Stamkos will score at least one goal; look for two, and the Lightning will walk away with a big home win over the Capitals, improving their home record to 5-1-1 and increasing their winning streak to three games. Ryan Callahan, who is making his return to the Lightning line-up, will give them an added spark and Braden Holtby will be shaking his head after being pelted with shot after shot.

Top ten: Scariest NHL mascots

Bryan Mcwilliam
Winnipeg Jets v Columbus Blue Jackets

The crew at the THN office recently discussed making a list of the scariest NHL mascots to get into the Halloween spirit and this assignment fell on my desk, so today we’ll take a look at just that, the top ten scariest NHL mascots.

The criteria could have contained a number of things from the ferocity of the animal character to its name to the mascots origin, but what was used in this piece was the actual look of the outfit the mascot wears. Is there something about the way this mascot looks that just doesn’t sit well with you? Would your kid start to cry if this mascot came to say hello? Here are the scariest mascots stumbled upon, in no particular order:

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Halloween match-up: Ducks’ Perry vs. Stars’ Seguin

Bryan Mcwilliam
Dallas Stars v New York Islanders

There are four games on a spooky Friday night Halloween schedule for the NHL, the biggest belongs to a match-up between the Anaheim Ducks – tops in the Western Conference with 16 points – and the Dallas Stars at the American Airlines Center in Dallas.

The squads feature formidable line-ups that include stars such as: Jamie Benn, Jason Spezza, Ryan Kesler and Ryan Getzlaf, but tonight’s big match-up will feature the top goal scorer in the NHL in the Ducks’ Corey Perry – who is tied with Rick Nash – and the Stars’ Tyler Seguin, who is tied for most points in the league.

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The series favors the New York Rangers thanks to goaltending

Bryan Mcwilliam
Henrik Lundqvist (Francois Laplante/FreestylePhoto/Getty Images)

Going into game two between the Montreal Canadiens and New York Rangers, there was a lot of attention on who would start in net for the injured Carey Price. The Canadiens went with unproven 24-year-old goalie Dustin Tokarski – who had three career NHL games under his belt – over regular season back-up Peter Budaj – who had 296 games of NHL experience. One can only wonder why this decision was made. Perhaps it was Budaj’s lacklustre appearance in game one where he allowed three goals on eight shots, or perhaps the Canadiens were hoping for some kind of lighting in a bottle effect with Tokarski.

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Guelph Storm dominant in win over Val-d’Or

Bryan Mcwilliam
Val'Dor Foreurs v Guelph Storm - Game Four

The Guelph Storm outplayed the Edmonton Oil Kings on Saturday in a 5-2 win and nothing changed in their contest this evening against the Val-d’Or Foreurs.

Scott Walker’s Storm came out firing on all cylinders and were up 3-0 after one period, thanks to goals from Kerby Rychel – who has been a monster in the Memorial Cup so far – Zack Mitchell and Jason Dickinson.

In the second, Pius Suter made it 4-0 for Guelph with his first goal of the Cup, putting the game out of reach.

The Foreurs finally got a stroke of luck when a slashing penalty on Guelph’s Brock McGinn led to a power play goal for Randy Gazzola. They would add a second goal less than a minute later when Timotej Sille put one passed Guelph goaltender Justin Nichols.

The two goals by the Quebec team was not enough to withstand the onslaught known as the Storm, with Guelph increasing the deficit to four goals once again thanks to Robby Fabbri and Tyler Bertuzzi – who like Rychel – is playing great.

After giving up six goals, Val-d’Or coach Mario Durocher saw enough of starting goaltender Antoine Bibeau and pulled him from the game in favour of Keven Bouchard. The back-up netminder held his own, stopping 13 shots in the third and centre Anthony Beauregard added a third goal for the Foreurs, but the gap was just too much as the Storm walked away with the victory 6-3.

Guelph will play their next game against the London Knights on Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. EST, while Val-d’Or play tomorrow night against Edmonton.