5 big-time playoff performers shorter than Tyler Johnson

Theo Fleury

Tyler Johnson is short and good at hockey. After two-and-a-half rounds of watching the guy lead his Tampa Bay Lightning in the playoffs, we’ve been hearing the same thing on every nightly broadcast. He’s pretty darn talented, but he’s not the first small guy to do big things.

There have several big-game, undersized players who’ve stepped up in the playoffs over the years. Some played back in the black-and-white TV days. Others skated when radio was high-tech. One of them is stilling playing in Martin St-Louis, but we’ll leave him off the list because he’s still not done writing his legacy.

He’s also the same height as Johnson, and as much as we praised these two 5-foot-8 players for overcoming their size deficiencies, there are other historic playoff standouts who were even smaller.

Here are some of the best.
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Pro wrestler-turned-UFC fighter CM Punk isn’t shy to show his true colors – Blackhawks’ red

UFC star, former pro wrestler and diehard Hawks fan CM Punk reacts after shooting the puck between periods of an NHL game between his favorite team and the L.A. Kings March 30 in Chicago. (Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)

You’ve got to understand this about Phil Brooks, professionally known as CM Punk: he was never handed anything as a blue-collar kid coming out of Chicago, as a student, as a pro wrestler who rose to the pinnacle of the industry or in his current line of work as a nascent mixed martial arts fighter. Punk, 36, has had to grind and scrape for everything he’s earned, and he’s plied his trade (often injured) in hockey arenas across North America and around the world.

No wonder Punk has a love for the NHL, and no wonder he’s come to be acquaintances with many NHL players. There’s a camaraderie at play here, an understanding of serious and constant physical sacrifice and a respect for performing through pain that both parties endure on the regular. “A lot of the physicality is the same, and I was always drawn to hockey because of that physicality,” Punk said. “There’s definitely similarities between what I did, what I’m currently doing, and what hockey players do. And there’s an appreciation there that goes both ways.” Read more

Top 10 coaches by points percentage: Where does Mike Babcock sit?

Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock

The Toronto Maple Leafs have been mired in the basement of the NHL for several seasons, but the hiring of coach Mike Babcock is giving Leafs Nation a reason for hope for a better and much brighter future.

While he hasn’t coached long enough to make the top 10 all-time wins list, Babcock does have the most of any coach to be behind the bench for fewer than 1,000 games. As such, he has managed to become one of the effective coaches in the history of the game.

In order to better represent who exactly the top 10 coaches by points percentage are, however, we have to set a limit of at least 100 games as an NHL bench boss. Otherwise some coaches, like Cap Raeder, who was the fill-in coach for the San Jose Sharks for one game – a victory – have near perfect winning percentages without really having control of the club.

Here are the top 10 best coaches by points percentage: Read more

Rumor Roundup: Next step for Oilers is building their blueline

Justin Schultz  (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)

Things certainly seem to be looking up for the Edmonton Oilers. After naming Bob Nicholson as their CEO, hiring Peter Chiarelli as GM and Todd McLellan as head coach plus winning the 2015 Draft lottery, there’s a sense this long-moribund team has finally turned the corner. While seemingly “winning” the off-season, the Oilers need to turn that into on-ice success.

Despite their plethora of promising youth, soon to be augmented by wunderkind Connor McDavid, significant roster issues remain to be addressed. The Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson reports bolstering their porous defense is their main priority. Read more

Memorial Cup preview: How each team wins or loses

Leon Draisaitl (Melissa Baecker/Getty Images)

We know our four teams for the Memorial Cup now. Thanks to Oshawa’s ousting of Connor McDavid and the Erie Otters, the Generals will represent the OHL, joining Kelowna of the WHL, plus Quebec (the hosts) and Rimouski in the QMJHL. So who is favored to win it all? Ah, that’s a thorny question in a tournament that often surprises. But let’s take a look at what you should know about the four worthy squads in contention.

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Rumor Roundup: How will the Canadiens add scoring this summer?

Lyle Richardson

Following the Montreal Canadiens’ elimination from the 2015 playoffs by the Tampa Bay Lightning, the overwhelming media consensus indicates the Habs must improve their offense. It’s easy to understand why. The Canadiens were 20th in goals-for during the regular season, making them the lowest-scoring team to reach the playoffs. After two playoff rounds, the Habs were 12th out of sixteen teams in scoring and 15th in power-play percentage.

SI.com’ s Allan Muir was among those who believe the Canadiens must bolster their scoring depth. Muir suggests the Habs need a first-line center and “at least” two top-six scoring wingers. The Montreal Gazette’s Jack Todd also thinks the Canadiens need a scoring center and winger, while colleague Dave Stubbs feels GM Marc Bergevin will have to “shed a few assets” to find a scorer. Read more

Erik Karlsson fractured Nathan Beaulieu’s sternum with thundering Round 1 check

Jared Clinton
Nathan Beaulieu (Andy Marlin/Getty Images)

Before Washington’s Brooks Orpik delivered his thundering check to New York’s Dan Boyle in Game 7 of the series between the Capitals and Rangers, the biggest hit of the post-season belonged to Ottawa’s fleet-footed defenseman Erik Karlsson.

Karlsson isn’t exactly known as the most devastating hitter in hockey and hasn’t often been confused with Scott Stevens, but in the first round Karlsson absolutely blasted Montreal Canadiens blueliner Nathan Beaulieu with an open-ice check that put Beaulieu out of the series and into the second round. It wasn’t until Game 5 of the second round against the Tampa Bay Lightning when Beaulieu returned to the Habs’ lineup.

In Game 6, the Lightning eliminated the Canadiens, with Beaulieu skating just 13:15 in the contest, far from the nearly 16 minutes he averaged in the regular season. But once the Canadiens revealed the list of injuries players were dealing with, things started to make a bit more sense: Karlsson’s hit broke Beaulieu’s sternum and he was playing through it. Read more

Price is wrong, Subban is right when it comes to what felled Canadiens

Jared Clinton
Carey Price (Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

After a season in which Carey Price was the best goaltender in the entire world, led his team to the post-season, came up big when necessary and did everything in his power to help the Canadiens win, he still blamed himself for the team’s failure to win the Stanley Cup.

Following Montreal’s Game 6 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning, Price was the one to shoulder the blame for the Canadiens’ early exit.

“I didn’t play well enough for us to win the series,” Price told reporters following Montreal’s 4-1 loss Tuesday. “I think that’s basically more or less what it comes down to.” Too bad for Price that no one, including teammate P.K. Subban, is buying it. Read more