Monday night’s NHL games marked the official passing of the first quarter of the season and like Nathan MacKinnon, time flies, doesn’t it? It seems like just yesterday we were waiting for the league to rubber stamp the Las Vegas expansion application and allow Bill Foley into the annual owners’ croquet game. We’re still waiting on that and, if Jeremy Jacobs’ comments have any merit – and they do – we’ll be waiting a lot longer.
Off the ice, that was one of the big surprises of the season so far. Between the boards, here are some of the others that have surfaced after the first quarter:
The naysayers of Chicago netminder Corey Crawford have made a point of picking out his glove hand as his greatest weakness over the past several seasons, but it was that very same glove that was a game-saver for the Blackhawks Wednesday night.
After the Oilers had clawed back twice in the third period and knotted the game at three, Chicago and Edmonton headed to overtime. And it was in the extra frame that Crawford came up huge and almost singlehandedly helped the Blackhawks extend their winning streak to three games.
Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl was streaking down the left wing when he fired a perfect pass to Taylor Hall who had nearly the whole net to shoot at. Hall loaded up, fired and watched as Crawford flashed the leather to take away what very well should have been the overtime winner: Read more
Travis Hamonic is 25 years old. He’s a mobile, physical defensemen who can munch minutes and has a reasonable amount of offensive potential. He’s a steal against the salary cap, currently leads all defensemen in hits, is a right-shot defenseman and has favorable numbers when it comes to analytics. And his best years as an NHL player could very well be in front of him.
So from the standpoint of New York Islanders GM Garth Snow, there could never be a better time to trade him. But when the player not only asks for a trade, but limits his destination to one of four teams, any leverage Snow had over his possible trade partners is wiped out. There’s nothing the drops a player’s trade market value more dramatically than a desperate need to move him and a limited number of destinations.
Could anyone have drawn up the Edmonton Oilers’ 2015-16 season worse to this point? Expectations weren’t particularly high for the struggling franchise, yet the hockey gods have still managed to crush its dreams again.
Few prognosticators had the Oilers making the playoffs after nine consecutive misses, but this season was still supposed to be different in its own way. New GM Peter Chiarelli instantly put his stamp on the team. Coach Todd McLellan replaced Todd Nelson. The Oilers signed blueliner Andrej Sekera and defensive pivot Mark Letestu. They traded for D-man Griffin Reinhart, goaltender Cam Talbot and left winger Lauri Korpikoski. Most importantly, they drafted Connor McDavid. And then…
Right winger Jordan Eberle injured his shoulder at the end of the pre-season. Edmonton started the season 0-4. Top puck-moving defenseman Justin Schultz injured his back Oct. 25. Korpikoski sustained an undisclosed head injury, clearly a concussion, the game after that on a hit from Minnesota’s Matt Dumba. Neither Oiler has played since then, though both are close to returning.
And then, just as Eberle prepared to rejoin the lineup and seriously bolster Edmonton’s top six, McDavid went down with a broken collarbone two weeks ago.
“He went in really hard, and you knew he was struggling, but he got up and picked up his stick, and I didn’t really think much of it,” Eberle said. “It was the end of the period, and you expect him to come out the next, and then he didn’t. And then you get down there and you find out the severity of the injury. It’s tough. Connor has shown he’s that player who’s been touted. It definitely hurts our team.”
Can you sense it, folks? It’s almost world juniors time. Sure, the tournament is a month and a half away, but players need to be making impressions on national team brass all the time and for Canadian hopefuls, the CHL-Russia Super Series can be a big boost – just as Lawson Crouse, who caught eyes last year and turned his efforts into gold.
So far, Russia has been blanked, losing all four games to the WHL and OHL. Now it’s the QMJHL’s turn to defend home turf. One player honored with that duty is in our spotlight today. Let’s take a whirl around the world of prospects.
The Oilers got a much-needed win last night, thanks to big contributions from Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. But it was the quick thinking of goalie Anders Nilsson and defenseman Andrej Sekera that made the difference, as the pair helped set up Teddy Purcell’s sweet overtime goal against Anaheim:
* Both the Blackhawks and Lightning slow waltz from the starting gate should not cause alarm. Both Joel Quenneville and Jon Cooper understand the Punch Imlach Theory: that is, the real NHL season doesn’t start until January.
* Whether it was a trip or a toe-pick on Connor McDavid, it’s senseless to suggest that there was any hint of a deliberate attempt to injure the whizkid. The tragedy of it all comes down to this — pardon the bromide — A Hockey Play Gone Bad. That said, the Oilers have to hope that Leon Draisaitl has the goods to at least adequately replace McDavid.
During what is now a Hall of Fame career, Nicklas Lidstrom garnered so much respect that he earned the nickname, The Perfect Human. Not The Perfect Hockey Player. Not The Perfect Defenseman. The Perfect Human. People called Chris Pronger lots of things during what is now a Hall of Fame career, too. None of them is suitable for publication on a website that might be viewed by young people. Many of those words begin with the letter ‘F’.
It was not easy to play the game the way Lidstrom did, but he made it look that way. Playing the game and preparing for it the way Lidstrom meticulously did and maintaining a ridiculously high standard on and off the ice presented its fair share of challenges. But it’s also not easy going to the opposing rink from the time you’re a kid and knowing that you’re going to be the most hated guy there. But like Lidstrom, Pronger embraced his role and status. Lidstrom wore the white hat and Pronger donned the black, and both of them managed to do it while becoming two of the most dominant defensemen of their generation.