Top 5 single-game performances from 2013-14

TJ Oshie

1. T.J. Oshie’s Olympic shootout
When the St. Louis Blue was tabbed for the U.S. Olympic team, his shootout prowess was in mind. Of the 29 NHLers with at least 10 shootout attempts this season, Oshie’s 75 percent conversion rate was tops. Imagine what his totals would have been if the NHL let any player shoot any time after the third round, as is the case at the Olympics. Because, in Team USA’s Sochi quarterfinal match against the host Russians, Oshie went up against Ilya Kovalchuk and Pavel Datsyuk in an incredibly entertaining skills competition. American coach Dan Bylsma kept putting Oshie on the ice to counter the two Russian stars and in six shootout attempts, he scored on four of them. ‘T.J. Sochi’ singlehandedly pushed the Americans into the semifinal, saving them from an early exit and earning public praise from U.S. president Barack Obama.

2. Ben Scrivens’ record-setting 59-save shutout against San Jose
In less than a year, Ben Scrivens was traded from Toronto to Los Angeles and from Los Angeles to Edmonton, so you wouldn’t expect a nomadic player like that to set any positive NHL records. But on Jan. 29, Scrivens established an expansion era, regular season standard for saves in a shutout – and he did it against the mighty San Jose Sharks. Scrivens made 20 stops in the first period and turned aside all 59 shots for a 3-0 win. He surpassed Phoenix goalie Mike Smith’s record of 54 saves in a 2012 shutout and, obviously, Scrivens also set an Oilers record.

3. Kristers Gudlevskis, cinderella man
Speaking of things no one saw coming, goalie Kristers Gudlevskis almost led an upset for the ages when his underdog Latvian team scared all of Canada silly and threw a major fright into the nation’s Dream Team. A prospect of the Tampa Bay Lightning who toiled for Florida in the ECHL and Syracuse in the AHL for most of 2013-14, Gudlevskis made 55 exhausting saves that game and had the Latvians in a 1-1 lock deep into the third period. But a Shea Weber goal with seven minutes remaining  gave the Canadians a 2-1 edge from which they didn’t look back and a country breathed again. Two months later, Gudlevskis appeared in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs for Tampa Bay.

4. Tomas Hertl’s four-goal magic
In just his third NHL game, San Jose Sharks rookie Tomas Hertl launched his campaign for the Calder Trophy, setting himself up as the early favorite. On Oct. 8 against the New York Rangers, the Czech scored four goals on seven shots in a 9-2 San Jose romp. But it wasn’t just the stats-packed night that got Hertl a ton of attention – it was the between-the-legs breakaway goal that put him in the spotlight. He scored it against Martin Biron, who retired less than two weeks later. If Hertl hadn’t have gotten injured, the Calder race between him and Nathan MacKinnon would have been ferocious.

5. Teemu Selanne’s bronze medal game
The ‘Finnish Flash’ had his ice time cut this season and his role has been less pronounced in his later years, but on the Olympic stage, Selanne remained the go-to guy for Finland. Selanne scored four goals and six points in six Sochi games, and saved his best for last against the Americans in the bronze medal game. Selanne scored twice in his final appearance to lead his country to a 5-0 win, which earned Finland its fourth men’s hockey medal in the past five Olympics. Though the Suomi has never captured gold, no country has medalled more in the NHL Olympic era – and Selanne was there for each one.

This article originally appeared in the May 26 edition of The Hockey News magazine. Get in-depth features like this one, and much more, by subscribing now.

Tale of the tape: Martin St-Louis vs. Marian Gaborik

St-Louis

They were both dealt just hours before the NHL’s trade deadline. One was a disgruntled veteran who wanted out because of his sour Olympic experience and chose his landing spot. The other was an injury-prone and unproductive winger whose skill set did not fit in with his blue-collar team.

And with Martin St-Louis of the New York Rangers and Marian Gaborik of the Los Angeles Kings emerging as major components of teams that are one win away from playing in the Stanley Cup final, they’re also emerging as the two best deals of the 2014 trade deadline.

But which one was better? Here’s the tale of the tape: Read more

Jaromir Jagr ends a quarter century of international greatness

Jagr-2

Two of the greatest careers in international hockey ended this season. One of them, Teemu Selanne’s, went out in a blaze of glory with a goal in Finland’s bronze medal win in the Sochi Olympics. The other, Jaromir Jagr’s, ended with a loss and no points in the bronze medal game of the World Championship amid complaints about the refereeing in the tournament.

But When Jagr announced his retirement from international play after the Czech Republic’s 3-0 loss to Sweden Sunday, it marked the end of a career that spanned a quarter of a century and – with all due respect to Dominik Hasek, Jiri Bubla and Robert Reichel – was the best in that country’s history. Once again, Jagr answered the call for his country and like so many times before, he led the Czechs offensively. Read more

Why Rick Nash is regular season rich but post-season poor

(Photo by Gregory Shamus/NHL)

There’s a curious coincidence when it comes to cash and Rick Nash. When the money stops flowing, so does his production.

Come playoff time, when players play for glory instead of green (aside from the occasional, obscure post-season bonus), the New York Rangers’ most expensive regular season asset of $7.8 million scores at the pace of a minimum wage NHLer.

Read more

Victor Hedman is not snubbing the Swedish world championship team

Ryan Kennedy
Victor Hedman

I don’t know about you, but when I saw twitter posts last week saying Sweden asked Victor Hedman to play at the world championship and he declined, I assumed it was because of the Olympic snub. And while the Tampa Bay defenseman would have been well within his rights to do so, that’s not the true story: Hedman is simply too banged up with undisclosed injuries from his recently finished NHL campaign.

“My body wasn’t anywhere close to 100 percent,” Hedman told me. “It would have been too much of a risk.”

Read more

Top 5: Feel-good stories of the 2013-14 season

Josh Harding (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)

By Jared Clinton

1. JOSH HARDING’S COMEBACK
During the first half of the season, there was no story that struck a chord quite like Harding’s. In his second season since a shocking Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis, Harding, last season’s Masterton Trophy winner, put the Wild squarely on his shoulders. Before the end of December, the 29-year-old goaltender had racked up an 18-7-3 record to go along with a league-leading 1.65 goals-agasint average and .933 save percentage.

Harding, drafted 38th overall in 2002, battled his way to the starting role, after being one of the best backups in the league. But Harding’s story became his health problems again as 2013 came to a close. Harding was shelved, albeit temporarily, with GM Chuck Fletcher citing a change in the goaltender’s medication. However, after just two starts, Harding again left the team for medical reasons. He has yet to return to the Wild lineup but continues to work out and practice with the team. Another return for the inspirational netminder seems to be in the cards. Read more

Team USA’s Meghan Duggan, Red Sox fan, mocks Yankee pitcher Michael Pineda before opening pitch

Matt Larkin
duggan

Score one for the trolls.

Meghan Duggan, captain of the American women’s Olympic team, did an ingenious job poking fun at a controversy surrounding the New York Yankees Thursday night. Duggan, a Massachusetts native, was on hand at Fenway Park to throw the game’s ceremonial first pitch, clad in a Red Sox jersey. Before she popped the mitt, she made a cheeky little gesture, touching her neck:

 

Duggan first pitch

Photo by Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY sports

 

She did so in reference to Yankees starting pitcher Michael Pineda, who was busted a night earlier for having pine tar on his neck. He was dabbing his fingers with it to improve his grip on a cold night. It’s a wise move in theory, but it’s technically cheating and he did so with the subtlety of How I Met Your Mother (Yep, I went there. Vastly overrated show.)

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Why Martin St-Louis doesn’t deserve the Lady Byng

st-louis

For Ryan O’Reilly to be passed over for the Lady Byng Trophy this season would require members of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association to blunder almost as badly as they did last year when they made Alexander Ovechkin an first-team all-star at both left and right wing.

O’Reilly plays big minutes – 24th in the league in 5-on-5 ice time per game – against the opponents’ best lines and led the league in takeaways, all the while only getting two penalty minutes this season. In his 72nd game, he broke his stick on a faceoff against Logan Couture and kicked the puck back to his defenseman before being called for playing with a broken stick. O’Reilly led his team in goals, logged more ice time than any other forward on the team and manages to get the puck away from his opponents without going on the wrong side of the rulebook. Read more