Predators steal the show, Senators still stuck with Spezza

James Neal

PHILADELPHIA – In the end, the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NHL draft stayed put and so did Jason Spezza. So there you go, all you armchair GMs out there, making trades in the NHL aren’t quite as easy as they look.

Unless, of course, you’re the Nashville Predators. Once the draft started, it was Predators GM David Poile who made the biggest splash on the trade front, acquiring James Neal from the Pittsburgh Penguins for Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling. It’s a trade that won’t go over real well with Penguins star Evgeni Malkin and it’s hard to see how this deal makes the Penguins a better team, but this is a team that needed a shakeup in the worst way and trading Neal for a couple of guys who might provide this group of fancy-pants with some grit might not be the worst idea in the world. Read more

Photos: Senators-Canucks Heritage Classic in BC Place

Rory Boylen
Heritage Classic

The Heritage Classic between the Vancouver Canucks and Ottawa Senators closed out this year’s series of specialty NHL games. Though rain spoiled the BC Place game from being an outdoor one, the fact it was played at such a stadium indoors was a unique occurrence for the league.

It didn’t have snow, it didn’t have frigid weather and it didn’t have palm trees. But the Heritage did have drama – all around the Canucks. Read more

Ottawa Senators beat Vancouver Canucks 4-2 in Heritage Classic

Ottawa Senators

VANCOUVER – Cody Ceci’s second-period goal stood up as the winner as the Ottawa Senators downed the Vancouver Canucks 4-2 before a disappointed crowd of more than 50,000 people Sunday in the NHL Heritage Classic.

The Senators (27-23-11) posted their first win in three games and kept pace in the race for the eighth and final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference. The Canucks (28-25-10) suffered their ninth loss in 10 games and remained on the bubble in their quest for eighth in the Western Conference.

Clarke MacArthur, Erik Karlsson and Colin Greening, into an empty-net with 1:33 left in the game, also scored for Ottawa.

Ceci put the Senators ahead 3-2 midway through the second. He took a pass from Jason Spezza and fired home a shot from right wing during a three-on-two breakaway.

Ottawa overcame an early 2-0 first-period deficit with four unanswered goals. The score was tied 2-2 after the first period before Ceci decided the outcome in the second and Greening closed out the scoring in the third.

Jason Garrison and Zack Kassian scored for the Canucks in the first five minutes before Ottawa goaltender Craig Anderson shut them out the rest of the game. Anderson posted his 20th win of the season, recording 29 saves as Vancouver outshot the Sens 31-28.

Canucks goalie Eddie Lack suffered the loss as he drew his third consecutive start following the NHL’s Olympic break. Nominal No. 1 Roberto Luongo watched from the bench while sporting a toque and replica vintage pads and gloves.

The game was designed as a tribute to the 1915 Stanley Cup final series between the eventual-champion Vancouver Millionaires and Ottawa Senators. The Canucks wore maroon and cream-coloured Millionaires replica jerseys while the Senators sported duds similar to those of their predecessors.

Coaches wore varsity-styled jackets rather than their usual suits.

The NHL’s outdoor series was forced to go indoors as the B.C. Place Stadium roof was closed due to rain. The weather teased Vancouver and Ottawa players who had hoped the roof would remain open. Although Vancouver received a light snowfall overnight, a morning drizzle forced the closure of the stadium’s retractable dome.

Vancouver’s two first-period goals matched its offensive output for its pair of previous games.

Garrison opened the scoring on a power play 4:54 into the contest as he put a slapshot from the point over Anderson’s shoulder. Kassian doubled Vancouver’s lead about six and a half minutes later, squeezing in a quick shot after he and Brad Richardson forced a turnover along the boards in Ottawa’s end.

MacArthur put the Senators on the scoreboard at 15:15 with a mid-air deflection of an Erik Condra shot. On the way towards the net, the puck bounced in off Canucks defenceman Kevin Bieksa’s hand. Karlsson drew the Sens even on a power play at 17:03, beating a screened Lack with an on-ice shot from just inside the blue-line.

The Canucks lost winger Daniel Sedin in the second period after he took an elbow to the head from Ottawa defenceman Marc Methot. A woozy Sedin was helped by two trainers from the bench on a long way to the dressing room. No penalty was called on the play.

Notes: Canadian music star Sarah McLachlan sang the national anthem. Members of the 1994 Canucks team that reached the Stanley Cup final and Canada’s 2014 Olympic gold-medal-winning women’s hockey squad were saluted before the game. a NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was in attendance. a The stadium’s field was covered with fake snow and featured vintage Vancouver and Ottawa logos. a Officials did not stop play after one side of the Vancouver net was knocked widely off its mooring following a collision between an Ottawa player and Lack in the third period. As the play went back the other way, Lack left the net as it was for several moments before straightening it. Officials made sure it was back on both moorings during a TV timeout.

Photos: Blackhawks-Penguins outdoor game in Soldier Field

Rory Boylen
Outdoor game

The last Stadium Series game of the year took place in Chicago Thursday night between two of the NHL’s premier teams. And on the eve of the Heritage Classic between Vancouver and Ottawa Sunday, this Penguins-Blackhawks game was a sight that will be a challenge to live up to.

Here are nine photos from the game in Chicago’s famous Soldier Field. Read more

Watch the 2014 Heritage Classic and join #THNLive to win an official Team Canada Olympic jersey

B.C. Place in preparation for The Heritage Classic

It’s not often that you can say in sports that a meeting between two teams is the most significant event in their rivalry in 99 years, but that happens to be the case with the 2014 Heritage Classic game featuring the Ottawa Senators and the Vancouver Canucks.

When you go back that far in history, you’re talking pre-NHL days. In this case, we’re referring to the 1915 Stanley Cup Finals between the Pacific Coast Hockey Association champion Vancouver Millionaires and the National Hockey Association champion Ottawa Senators. The Millionaires swept the best-of-five series in three games, with a combined score of 26-8. We can only hope this year’s Heritage Classic will be more competitive.

While hockey fans will be tuning in for the novelty of watching world-class hockey players performing outdoors, the Senators (12th in the Eastern Conference) and Canucks (tied for eighth in the Western Conference) are both fighting to get back in the playoff picture. Vancouver is tied with Dallas and Winnipeg for the final playoff seed in the West, but they are 2-7-1 in their last 10 games so they must hope that the biggest crowd to ever watch them play — over 50,000 are expected to attend this year’s Heritage Classic at B.C. Place — will inspire them to snap out of their funk.

You can tune in to the Heritage Classic at 4:00 pm Eastern on CBC in Canada or on NBC Sports Network in the U.S. While you’re watching, join Adam Proteau on The Hockey News’ Twitter account for our #THNLive coverage of the game, presented by Honda. You could win a Honda prize pack valued at $600, including an official Team Canada Olympic hockey jersey and a $100 gas card.

Blackhawks goalie Antti Raanta honors ‘Eddie the Eagle’ with outdoor mask

Rory Boylen
Antti Raanta

The last leg of the NHL Stadium Series takes place this weekend in Chicago. Sunday’s Ottawa-Vancouver game in B.C. Place falls under the Heritage Classic banner, but still, Saturday’s Pittsburgh-Chicago game at Soldier Field could be the final outdoor game this year (West Coast weather permitting).

Goalies have kind of made the outdoor games their playground to show off some creative style. Henrik Lundqvist wore pinstriped pads, while Evgeni Nabokov went with the Jose Theodore look by sporting a toque on his helmet at Yankee Stadium. Toronto’s Jonathan Bernier chose the toque as well, but added an old-school look to his pads. It’s what the goalies do for these events. Read more

What advanced stats say about NHL outdoor game scoring chances

Matt Pfeffer
Yankee Stadium

NHL outdoor hockey is here to stay. Before the Rangers-Islanders game at Yankee Stadium, I broke down the data to see if there was anything advanced stats could tell us about how playing outdoors has affected the games. Although we only have nine games to work with (the 2003 Heritage Classic in Edmonton was played before the RTSS era), there have been some noticeable effects on the way those games have been played. I’m going to focus on shooting, because that seems to be a place where we can see a discernable difference between indoor and outdoor.

Shooting percentages at even strength have been dramatically reduced on outdoor ice. The average even strength shooting percentage indoors since 2007 has been 8.2 percent, while the nine outdoor games played over the same time period has been 6.8 percent. To give you an idea of how drastic a difference this is, the worst shooting team in the league since 2007 has been the New Jersey Devils: they have an even strength shooting percentage of 7.2 percent. Teams playing outdoors have had worse shooting success than any team in the NHL playing indoors.

An obvious place to start when trying to figure out the reason for this drop is the condition of the ice. There will be more snow on the ground when playing outdoors. This can cause a larger amount of resistance on the stick when attempting a shot. But teams also seem to be intentionally changing their shooting patterns, too. The average shot attempt in a normal NHL game comes from 36.3 feet out. Average shot attempts in outdoor games have come from 38.8 feet from the net. Two and a half feet may not sound like much, but we know the chance of scoring is reduced the farther from the net you shoot. And of course, the farther out you shoot, the more prone you are to miss the net or have your shot blocked. But the data from outdoor games tells us this hasn’t been the case.

outdoorgraph

In fact, although outdoor shots have come from farther out than they usually do in NHL play, the percentage of shots that are blocked is 4.03 percent lower. Tip-in shot prevalence is also reduced by 2 percent outdoors, suggesting forwards are less willing to put themselves in the line of fire outside. Hockey players are tough, but they seem to get less tough in the cold.

Outdoors, teams seem to be taking chances from farther out and they’ve paid for this with lower shooting percentages. Goaltenders, rather surprisingly, have had an easier time outdoors than in normal NHL play. With less physicality and fewer bodies in front of the net, teams playing outdoors might benefit from working harder to get the puck in better scoring locations before they shoot.

Coaches have tried to test the goaltenders more on outdoor ice, but they haven’t gotten much out of it.