Matt Larkin is an associate editor at The Hockey News. He's been part of the THN team since 2011, but he's been married to hockey since he got beat up for collecting NHL sticker books in the mid-1980s. If you like strong opinions on the game itself, fantasy hockey tips and a hefty dose of pop culture in your readings, he's your man. And yes, the eyebrows are real.
The NHL schedule makers were at their most poetic when they slotted Vancouver in for a Feb. 26 visit to Buffalo. Doing so would’ve put Canucks goalie Ryan Miller in town, and most likely slated to start, against his former team almost one year to the day after the Sabres traded him. He went to St. Louis in a pre-deadline blockbuster last Feb. 28.
Sadly, a leg injury sustained Sunday night against the New York Islanders cut Miller’s road trip short. He had to fly back to Vancouver for an MRI and is expected to be out four to six weeks. That means missing the Buffalo return altogether.
Sure, the “emotional return” to face a former team is sometimes a narrative constructed by journalists, but that is absolutely not so in Miller’s case. He and the Canucks practised in New York last Wednesday on an off day before facing the Rangers, and he was open and reflective about his time in Buffalo. Miller had plans to meet up with important people in his life he had left behind last year after the trade. He said he wanted his new teammates to tag along and meet some of his favorite people. He relished the chance to drag some Canucks out of their hotel and show them a different side of Buffalo. Miller speaks with pride about his former home. He clearly wants to dispel the myth perpetuated by, for example, Joffrey Lupul’s 2011 tweet from Buffalo in which he asked if there were any “windowless rooms” in his hotel.
What type of respect does a 73-point season earn you in today’s NHL? A lot, considering scoring has dipped sufficiently enough that we won’t have a 100-point scorer this season.
In 2013-14, Anze Kopitar had 70 points. Jonathan Toews had 68. Fourteen players had 73 or more points, including seven centers.
New York Rangers pivot Derek Stepan, 24, isn’t often if ever mentioned in the same breath as the elite at his position. And yet, after notching two more points in Thursday nights’s shootout loss to Vancouver, Stepan has 73 points over his past 82 games dating back to last season. He’s been even hotter if you shorten the timeline to last March onward, in which he’s amassed 62 points in his past 64 games. And that’s all the more impressive considering his 41 points in 42 games this season came after breaking his leg in a freak accident at training camp. It took three weeks of game action to feel comfortable, and Stepan told THN Thursday night he’s 100 percent now.
Bo Horvat strolled off the ice after the Vancouver Canucks’ Wednesday practice in New York as the quintessential rookie and anything but, all at once.
Horvat wore a turquoise, old-fashioned Jofa helmet emblazoned with teammate Henrik Sedin’s No. 33. The lid perched itself like a toupee, high on Horvat’s head, and looked like something any team would force a rookie to wear. But there was no hazing involved whatsoever. And here’s where Horvat’s contradictory nature comes into play.
“I saw it and wanted to try it on,” Horvat said with a smile. “It doesn’t even fit me, but it’s a cool helmet.”
He saw something he liked and he grabbed it. He wore it with the confident swagger of a seasoned veteran, looking very little like a 19-year-old that played in the OHL nine months ago and more like a filled out 25-year-old at six-foot and 206 pounds.
It’s been abundantly clear since the Canucks withheld Horvat from playing for Canada at the 2015 World Junior Championship that they believe he’s arrived. He’s been as hot as any Vancouver forward of late, amassing eight points in his past 10 games, delivering on the promise that made him the ninth overall pick at the 2013 draft.
He’s come along way considering coach Willie Desjardins didn’t think Horvat had a snowball’s chance in hell of making the team while conferring with GM Jim Benning just a few months ago.
Goaltender Malcolm Subban, promising Boston Bruins prospect and brother of P.K., will start his first NHL game Wednesday, according to speculation from Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman. Boston travels to Edmonton, and scuttlebutt suggests Subban, 21, will be showcased to an Oilers organization intent on acquiring him. Tuukka Rask has a day between games after playing Monday night, and backup Niklas Svedberg is perfectly healthy, so Subban’s call-up is interestingly timed. As of Tuesday afternoon he hadn’t been confirmed as the starter for the Edmonton game, however.
“If we’re bringing him back, which is what we had talked about at some point, it’s probably to give him an opportunity here along the way,” Bruins coach Claude Julien told the Boston Globe this week.
Subban’s debut has been highly anticipated. He went 24th overall in the 2012 draft, he represented Canada at the 2013 world juniors, and he’s running out of things to prove with AHL providence, posting a .920 save percentage two straight seasons.
What other drafted prospects can we not wait to see in the NHL? Here are five debuts we await with bated breath.
Full disclosure: it’s Friday the 13th, and I want any excuse to link (again) to this 20-minute chronological montage of every Jason Voorhees kill in all his movies. Viewer discretion strongly advised. NSFW.
Only on a calendar anomaly like today can we squish an immortal horror movie villian and “hockey news” into one topic. Who are the scariest Jasons ever to play in the NHL? Honorable mention to Jassen Cullimore!
Shock and awe! Wednesday’s blockbuster between the Winnipeg Jets and Buffalo Sabres was among the biggest in-season swaps in years. The average fan has a strong sense of what Buffalo received in Kane and Bogosian and what Winnipeg has in Myers and Stafford. But what about the other names involved in the trade? Here’s a scouting report on each.
It’s been a warm, classy week for the Sharks and Evgeni Nabokov. San Jose acquired ‘Nabby,’ 39, from the Tampa Bay Lightning for future considerations Monday. He officially retired Wednesday with his original NHL team at a press conference.
An emotional Nabokov expressed his gratitude toward Sharks GM Doug Wilson for the gesture of reacquiring him, and Nabokov thanked all his coaches over the years with the team, from Darryl Sutter to Ron Wilson to Todd McLellan. Nabokov tearfully praised his teammates for their support and paid tribute to his wife, Tabitha, laughing at her years of yelling profanities from the stands during games. Parents, fans, every other NHL team he played for – name the sect and Nabokov gave it a shoutout. He covered off everyone in a classy speech.
It’s only natural to review a player’s resume after he calls it quits. Sure, Nabby can’t sniff what recently retired Martin Brodeur did, but Nabby had quite a memorable career. What kind of legacy does he leave behind? Read more
Jori Lehtera or Roman Cervenka?
That’s the question to ask about Viktor Tikhonov’s and Artemi Panarin’s respective futures. According to a report from TASS, converted to English via Google Translate, the SKA Saint Petersburg teammates want to play in the NHL next season. Their KHL contracts expire after the league playoffs this spring. April 30, to be exact.
So the question is: who are these guys, and will their NHL futures go the so-far-successful route of Lehtera or the short-and-not-so-sweet way of Cervenka?