Stars’ Nemeth gets puck under visor, has rubber eye patch as potentially scary moment turns hilarious

Jared Clinton
Patrik Nemeth (via NHL/YouTube)

It’s all fun and games until someone gets a puck in the eye. But it’s fun and games once again if that puck happens to get stuck and appear to be a rubber eye patch, like it did for Dallas Stars defenseman Patrik Nemeth.

Early in the second period of Monday’s game against the Flames, a bouncing puck entered the neutral zone and was chopped at by Calgary’s Jiri Hudler. The puck went sailing up and into the face of Nemeth, but somehow, instead of hitting off of his visor or catching him in the cheek, the puck managed to get wedged between Nemeth’s visor and cheek. The puck remained stuck until Nemeth pulled it out, all the while laughing at the ridiculousness of the situation: Read more

Raphael Diaz dekes, fakes, waits and scores beautiful wraparound goal

Jared Clinton
Raphael Diaz celebrates his wraparound goal (Glenn James/Getty Images)

When Jaromir Jagr scored a dazzling wraparound goal Sunday night, it was fun to watch but not all that unexpected. He is, after all, one of the five top scorers in NHL history. Seeing Calgary Flames defenseman Raphael Diaz – he of one goal this season heading into Monday’s game – bury a skillful wraparound, however, is about an unexpected as it gets.

During the second period of a must-win game for the Flames, the puck got worked back to Diaz on the blueline. A massive hole opened in the Dallas defense, allowing Diaz to walk into the zone unimpeded. With a fake shot, Diaz shook Stars winger Curtis McKenzie. By holding his shot, he pulled Kari Lehtonen all the way out of the net. And with a quick curl, Diaz pivoted around the net and buried the go-ahead tally. Read more

Suspend him or not: Brett Ritchie nails Sean Monahan with hit to the head

Jared Clinton
Brett Ritchie (Glenn James/Getty Images)

For the Calgary Flames to hold onto third place in the Pacific Division and ward off the Los Angeles Kings for a playoff spot, they’re going to need all their stars in the lineup. That’s why it was a scary sight when young center Sean Monahan was knocked to his knees following a hit to the head from Dallas Stars winger Brett Ritchie.

In the waning moments of the second period, Monahan and Ritchie came together towards a loose puck in the neutral zone. Ritchie reached the puck first, chipped it with one hand back to the Stars defensemen and then delivered an elbow/punch/butt end to the head of Monahan. Courtesy of Sportsnet, you can check out the play below: Read more

Wild-card primer: who makes it and who misses in the East and West?

Loui Eriksson (Andre Ringuette/Getty Images)

When the NHL changed the playoff format to include wild-card teams last season, it’s unlikely even they could have imagined a scenario in which the races for the final playoff berths in each conference would be this tight.

With less than 10 games remaining on the schedules of all playoff hopefuls, only six points separate teams in the Western Conference, while a three-team race separated by five points in the Eastern Conference could come down to the final night.

What’s on the horizon for each of the teams, and who stands the best shot at making it in? Read more

Watch Jason Spezza’s magic hands set up Jamie Benn for tap-in

Jared Clinton
Jason Spezza (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

It may seem like this hasn’t been the kind of season we’ve come to expect from Jason Spezza, but rest assured he still has an incredible pair of hands and he put them on display Wednesday night.

Midway through the second period of Dallas’ tilt with Calgary and with the Stars on the power play, Spezza received a pass in the right wing circle. As Flames defenseman Kris Russell slid out to attempt to shut down Spezza’s passing lanes, he perfectly toe-dragged the puck around Russell, waited for a passing lane to open up and put a tape-to-tape feed past Calgary’s Dennis Wideman and onto the stick of Jamie Benn for a tap-in: Read more

Mark your calendars – the date has been set for the NHL’s most anticipated draft lottery in years

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly announces the Buffalo Sabres as holders of the second pick in the 2014 entry draft. (Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

For months now, hockey fans have slowly built their anticipation for one of the most highly-consequential NHL draft lotteries since the process was introduced in 1995. And now it appears the league has settled on a date people can circle on their calendars.

According to a Sportsnet.ca report, the league has decided to hold this year’s draft lottery Apr. 18, as part of a Hockey Night In Canada playoff broadcast. That leaves a little more than three weeks for fans of sad-sack teams to firm up viewing party plans and binge on lottery simulation websites – and when you look at some of the teams with a decent chance of drafting nascent superstars Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel (and the stakes involved if they fail to win the lottery), you’ve got near-perfect conditions to deliver what could very well be hockey’s most drama-packed off-ice night in history.

For one thing, the increasingly-improving chance the Maple Leafs have at McDavid is going to push TV ratings to record levels. Like them or not, the Leafs have millions of fans, and after their brutal free-fall through the NHL standings this season those fans are going to try every superstitious trick in the book in the hope it allows fortune to smile on their beloved Buds. If that does happen, the city of Toronto is going to instantly explode in the biggest hockey-related celebration since a Stanley Cup was won here in 1967.

And for as dramatic as that result would be for the Leafs franchise – it would almost certainly tempt team management to fast-track their rebuild – think of the ripple effect it would have on the rest of the league, and on Toronto rivals in particular: Read more

The 10 most surprising struggles of 2014-15

Joe Pavelski (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

As much as a story like the resurgent New York Islanders or the Andrew Hammond-led Ottawa Senators pleases us, there will always be teams or players that fail to meet expectations.

Be it simply a down year or a minor – or major, when it comes to a team – injury, no NHL season goes by without teams and players facing their fair share of difficulties. If they respond positively, they’re heralded for their efforts. But, if things go sideways in a hurry, we’re left wondering how exactly our predictions could have been so wrong.

And these are the predictions that were the farthest off — the teams and players still making us wonder how prognostications could have been so misguided. These are the 10 most surprising struggles of 2014-15:

Read more

Backchecking: Russian star Sergei Makarov speaks (very) softly but carried a huge stick

Sergei Makarov (Allsport /Allsport)

By Denis Gibbons

Terry Crisp bent over backwards to show Sergei Makarov respect when the great Soviet winger came to play in the NHL for Calgary in 1989. One day the Flames coach was drawing up a play on the board, illustrating to Makarov how to position himself. Suddenly, Makarov grabbed the chalk, crossed everything out and started making his own diagrams.

“Tikhonov bad guy, good coach,” he said to Crisp (in reference to the late Soviet bench boss). “You? Good guy, bad coach.”

Crisp, who had led the Flames to a Stanley Cup the year before, said Makarov, who played in the Soviet Union on the KLM line with Vladimir Krutov and Igor Larionov, probably had more talent than anybody he had ever coached. Read more