Minnesota Wild defenseman Mike Lundin (2) attempts to keep the puck away from Columbus Blue Jackets right wing Derek Dorsett during the first period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Feb. 11, 2012, in St. Paul, Minn. At left is Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom, of Finland. (AP Photo/Genevieve Ross)
Author: The Hockey News
After wasting strong start to season, Wild running out of time to end slump
By: The Canadian Press
Feb 12, 2012
ST. PAUL, Minn. - The Minnesota Wild were bewildered by their latest loss.
They shot 65 times, and 35 of them were on target. Only one went in the net. This is the way a once-promising season is going for the sputtering Wild, who not only wasted a Saturday night at home full of stellar scoring chances but suffered their second loss of the week to the NHL's worst team.
"I'm pretty sure we controlled that whole game," said right-winger Devin Setoguchi, who had the only goal in a 3-1 setback against Columbus. The Wild lost by the same score on the road on Tuesday.
More humbling for the Wild was the fact that this came against their former coach, Todd Richards. Fired after two seasons in charge of the Wild, Richards is now the interim coach for the Blue Jackets.
"Honestly, it's not about me. It's not about me feeling good. I'm happy that we won the game as a team," Richards said.
So for all the areas in which they could point out positives, the Wild were forced to swallow the bitter pill of another loss. In February, for teams with designs on playing in the post-season, forechecking, passing and skating well simply aren't enough. The only fundamental that truly matters at this stage is the standings.
"This time of year, we know we need wins. At this time of the year, outplaying a team unfortunately doesn't matter a whole lot," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "Deserving to win, unfortunately, doesn't count for a whole lot. We have to find ways to win. We have to win games where we outplay the team like we did tonight, and we have to win games sometimes where it's even or 50-50."
The Wild allowed only 19 shots on goal to Columbus on Saturday, but they didn't play with ferocity in front of either net. That's an attribute their game could use a lot more of, whether it's muscling for position for the rebound poke-in or moving a scoring threat out of the goalie's way.
There is a certain finishing touch they've been lacking since racing to a 20-7-3 record, the best in the league at that point in mid-December. Since then, they're 5-15-5.
Following Saturday's loss, they are 12th in the Western Conference. They're an insignificant four points out of the eighth and final playoff spot, but they're four teams behind now, and that is significant.
"This isn't the time of year for moral victories. We have to find a way to put points on the board," centre Matt Cullen said.
The Wild got captain and first-line centre Mikko Koivu back from a left shoulder injury last week, but they were outscored 8-3 in their first two games with him in the lineup. They've scored only six goals in the last five games.
"If I knew the answer to scoring goals, I'd have 50. It's a confidence thing for us right now," Setoguchi said.
There are no road trips longer than two games left on the Wild's schedule, so that should help their cause. After tearing into the team following a loss on Thursday to the Vancouver Canucks, Yeo has opted for the more-uplifting approach, trying to remind his players of what they're capable of.
"This team's not going to go away. We're going to get back to work and find a way to win," Cullen said.
Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky celebrate the Game 2 overtime winner at the 1987 Canada Cup.
Author: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Down Goes Brown: What was the best Game 2 in World Cup history?
By: Sean McIndoe
Sep 28, 2016
Five out of seven World/Canada Cups have been best-of-three finals, so let's take a look back at those five games, and rank them from worst to best.
Tuesday night's Game 1 of the World Cup final, which saw Team Canada earn a 3-1 win over Team Europe, sets up a do-or-die Game 2 Thursday night. A Canada win would end the tournament, and the trophy will be in the building, unless the league has come to its senses and thrown that ugly thing into a raging bonfire instead.
There have been seven World and Canada Cups in international hockey history, but we didn't get to see a Game 2 in all of those. Twice, in 1981 and 2004, the format called for a one-game final. But it's been best-of-three in the other tournaments, which gives us five Game 2 to work with. So today, let's take a look back at those five games, and rank them from worst to best.
As always, this is opinion only, and if you disagree, then you're wrong.
No. 5 – 1984: Canada 6, Sweden 5
The road there: Canada stumbled through the 1984 tournament, going 2-2-1 through the round robin and barely making the playoff round as the fourth seed. But Team Canada earned a trip to the final thanks to an overtime win over the Soviets in the semi-final, and they were facing an upstart Swedish team that had beaten them in their round robin meeting and had just embarrassed the Americans with a 9-2 blowout. The Canadians took the opener by a 5-2 final, but the second game proved closer.
Game 2: The game looked like a laugher early on, with Canada scoring four times in the first seven minutes and adding a fifth before the first period was over. A Paul Coffey goal early in the second made it 6-1, setting the stage for a furious Team Sweden comeback. They scored three unanswered goals to close out the second period, and draw to within 6-5 early in the third. But that was as close as they came, as Canada held on for the win and the series sweep.
The aftermath: This turned out to be the first of three straight Canada Cup wins for Team Canada, and remains the only finals appearance by Team Sweden.
The bottom line: What looked like a laugher wound up being a reasonably entertaining contest. But the game everyone remembers from the 1984 Canada Cup will always be that semi-final thriller with the Soviets.
No. 4 – 1991: Canada 4, USA 2
The road there: Coming on the heels of the 1987 tournament, fans were probably hoping for yet another final between Canada and the Soviets. But with the team in turmoil, partly due to the political situation back home, the Soviets failed to even make the playoff round. That left Canada looking for a new challenger, and the Americans were happy to step in for their first ever Canada Cup final appearance. The two teams met in the round robin, with Canada winning 6-3 to hand the Americans their only loss of the stage, and Canada followed that up with a 4-1 win in the opening game of the final.
Game 2: This game may best be remembered for who wasn't playing. Team Canada captain Wayne Gretzky was knocked out of action in Game 1 on an ugly hit from behind by Gary Suter. The check left Gretzky unable to suit up for Game 2, and contributed to the back problems that slowed him down for much of the early 1990s.
Looking for the sweep, Canada jumped out to a 2-0 lead before the Americans clawed back with a pair of second-period goals. But Steve Larmer earned some revenge on Suter by stripping him of the puck during an American powerplay and then scoring on a breakaway for the winning goal.
The bottom line: This game, much like the 1991 tournament itself, was an entertaining one that for some reason isn't all that well remembered by many fans.
No. 3 – 1996: USA 5, Canada 2
The road there: The Americans swept through the round robin with a perfect 3-0-0 record, including an impressive 5-3 win over Canada that featured a wild early brawl. That win earned them a quarter-final bye, and after knocking off the Russians 5-3 in the semis, Team USA came into the final looking like they had a real shot to wrestle the international crown away from Canada. But Steve Yzerman's overtime winner in Game 1 in Philadelphia handed the Americans their first loss of the tournament, and left them needing a pair of wins in Montreal to take the tournament.
Game 2: Team USA jumped out to an early lead, but Canada came back to tie the game before the first intermission. Goals by John Leclair and Brett Hull gave the Americans a 3-1 lead, and Mike Richter stood on his head to keep it that way until a late powerplay goal by Joe Sakic made it 3-2 with five minutes to play. That was as close as they came, and a pair of Team USA empty net goals padded the final score to 5-2.
The aftermath: Team USA completed the comeback in Game 3, winning by another 5-2 score to capture their first (and so far only) best-on-best championship.
The bottom line: Despite the two empty netters making the score more lopsided than the game was, this was a fun matchup that featured lots of star power, some bad blood, and a raucous Montreal crowd. You can watch the highlights here.
No. 2 – 1976: Canada 5, Czechoslovakia 4 (OT)
The road there: Four years after the legendary Summit Series, the Canada Cup was born in an effort to create the first true international best-on-best tournament. There was no semi-final back then, with the top two teams heading directly to the finals. Canada grabbed one of those spots, finishing first in the round robin with a 4-1-0 record. But while many had expected a Summit Series rematch in the final, the Soviets were edged out of a spot by Czechoslovakia.
The opening game of the final was a blowout, with Canada earning a relatively easy 6-0 win. Game 2 ended up proving to be a bigger challenge.
Game 2: Canada grabbed a 2-0 lead just two minutes in, but Czechoslovakia fought back to tie the game early in the third. A Bobby Clarke goal restored the Canadian lead, but two quick Czechoslovakian goals gave them a 4-3 lead with four minutes to play. Bill Barber tied it with two minutes left, and that set the stage for Darryl Sittler to deliver the first ever Canada Cup with what still stands as one of the most famous goals in the tournament's history.
The aftermath: To this day, Sittler and Team Canada assistant coach Don Cherry are still arguing over who's idea that move was.
The bottom line: You could make a great case for this game being No. 1 on the list. I think it’s a coin flip, but I'll take the game that directly led to one of the greatest moments in hockey history.
1987: Canada 6, Soviet Union 5 (2OT)
The road there: Canada and the Soviets finished in the top two spots in the round robin, then knocked off Czechoslovakia and Sweden, respectively, in the semi-finals to set up the first best-on-best multi-game series between the two rivals since the 1972 Summit Series.
Game 2: With the Soviets looking to clinch their second Canada Cup in three tournaments, the series shifted to Hamilton for the second game. The two teams resumed the all-out offensive pace, with Canada leading 2-1 before the game was even four minutes old. Then it got better.
Canada took a 3-1 lead to the first intermission, but the Soviets tied it in the second before Mario Lemieux quickly restored the lead. The Soviets tied it again early in the third, but Lemieux scored again midway through. That set the stage for a frantic end to regulation that saw Valeri Kamensky score with a minute left to send the game to overtime.
With the trophy on the line, the two teams went back and forth through one scoreless extra period. But midway through the second overtime, Canada finally ended it. Guess who.
The aftermath: This game was so good that the hockey gods decided to re-use the same script for Game 3: A back-and-forth thriller that ends with a 6-5 Canada victory on a Mario Lemieux winner.
The bottom line: The series finale was quite possibly the greatest international game ever played. And it was made possible by this one, which was almost as good. That's enough to earn it the top spot on our list, narrowly ahead of Sittler's fakeout.
Sean McIndoe has been writing about the NHL since 2008, most recently for ESPN and Grantland. He spends most of his time making jokes on twitter, where you may know him as @downgoesbrown. He appears weekly on TheHockeyNews.com.
Brad Marchand, Alex Pietrangelo and Jonathan Toews.
Author: (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/World Cup of Hockey via Getty Images)
Marchand's last-minute goal helps Canada clinch World Cup title
By Matt Larkin
Sep 29, 2016
Canada wasn't the dominant team for a change but managed to pull out a late third-period comeback and clinch the World Cup on a shorthanded goal by Marchand.
TORONTO – The greatest hockey nation on Earth won 15 straight games of best-on-best hockey by playing almost flawlessly. For win No. 16, though, Canada finally did things differently. It won ugly.
Canada was the inferior team for about 57 minutes against the plucky Europeans in Game 2 of the World Cup final but found a way to create magic when it really mattered. It survived with a 1-0 deficit thanks to an urgent, meaningful performance from Carey Price and stopped hearts at the Air Canada Centre with a third-period blitz that included a power play goal and, with less than a minute to go, a shorthanded goal from Brad Marchand which stood up as the game winner. The Euros didn’t know what hit them. They had Canada on the ropes, but when 60 minutes ran off the clock, they’d lost 2-1. Canada repeated as World Cup champion.
Game 2 started much like Game 1 did – with the Euros the aggressor. Only this time, Canada didn’t calmly flick a switch and quell the uprising. Instead of rallying after what they admitted was their weakest effort of the tournament, they came out even emptier Thursday night. It took them six minutes to record their first shot on goal. At 6:26 of the first, European blueliner Zdeno Chara streaked in at the top of the left faceoff circle and rifled a perfect wrister into the far top corner past Price’s glove. The puck bounced out, looking like it hit the crossbar, but it was a legitimate goal.
Typically, Canada had been almost godlike during this tournament in its ability to answer after any hint of adversity was tossed at its feet. The Canadians trailed against the U.S. for 1:29 in the round-robin and against Russia for 1:12 in the semifinal. But the answer just wasn’t there for two periods in Game 2 against Europe.
Part of it was Canada’s fault. It played an uncharacteristically sloppy game. We saw some of the sport’s most fundamentally sound players – Alex Pietrangelo, Ryan Getzlaf, even Sidney Crosby – attempt lazy home run passes and cause turnover after turnover, granting the Euros multiple odd-man rushes. Aside from a glorious chance for John Tavares early in the second, in which he hit the post from point-blank range with a wide-open cage, Canada struggled to generate 10-bell scoring chances.
And as much as Canada might’ve want to shoulder the blame on itself, Ralph Krueger’s Team Europe earned the lead after two periods. Nothing about Thursday’s performance was fluky. The forwards, led by two-way maven Anze Kopitar, were dogged all night long, harassing the Canadian puck-carriers, forcing them into rash decisions.
"They've got a good team," said Canada coach Mike Babcock. "You put a whole bunch of countries together, Kopitar is a good player and Roman Josi is a good player…the perception is that we're miles better than everyone else. I think our country is deeper, but you only get to play five guys at a time. I thought they did a real nice job. I thought they made it tight. They worked hard. They believed in what they were doing. To me that's what hockey is about.
It’s been 15 games since we could say it, but the Canadians were outplayed. They weren’t the better team. And Price actually had to be The Man for them, something Canada hasn’t needed him to do often in best-on-best competition. The Euros tested him with 33 shots, and he remained his usual icy-cool self, particularly sharp making pad saves on low shots.
And that effort gave Canada the base it needed for a proper late push. In the second half of the third period, the ice finally tilted. Jaroslav Halak robbed Crosby in alone after Marchand sprung him with a feed into the slot. But Kopitar of all people took a holding penalty with just 3:35 remaining. Canada had the opening it needed. Brent Burns one-timed a Crosby feed and Patrice Bergeron deftly tipped it past Halak, tying the game 1-1 and eliciting the type of roar we hadn’t felt from the fans at the World Cup throughout Canada’s games. The stakes had finally been raised, and this goal finally felt like it meant something.
Drew Doughty took a potentially deadly high-sticking penalty with 1:50 to go, and the Euros got the golden opportunity with Marian Hossa all alone five feet from Price, but he denied Hossa.
"When he made that save, that kind of brought it to another level," Marchand said. "And we feed off of that energy, there's no question about that. You could tell the boys were confident, and you definitely want to help him out when he makes a save like that. You've got to play your part, too, and fortunately we were able to return the favor."
They sure were. On a 2-on-2 rush shorthanded, Jonathan Toews threaded a feed to Marchand…and Marchand couldn’t have placed the shot better. It was a laser to the top corner, Halak's blocker side, over the diving Josi, the perfect shot at the most opportune moment.
"So you're thinking, 'All right, let's just get this to overtime, see what we can do,' and 'Marchy' comes in with a big goal, an unexpected one but much needed," Crosby said. "A real change of emotions there pretty quickly, but it made it exciting and definitely special."
Marchand's dagger ended a Cinderella run for Europe, a team that drastically defied prognosticators' expectations. Even though the series ended in a 2-0 sweep, it was highly competitive, and Krueger was pleased.
"When you see the minutes on some of the guys, and you see the effort of players that reached for their potential all the way through the game, it's extremely painful to see the final result," Krueger said. "But I feel nothing but pride in the way this group performed today, the challenge they put up against Canada. This group just continued to surprise and beat the odds and beat the thoughts of everybody that was watching."
Canada was its old, clutch, unstoppable self for just a five-minute window, and that was enough. Price was the MVP of Game 2, but Crosby, who led the tournament with 10 points in six games, earned overall MVP honors. He became the third player ever with a Hart Trophy, a Conn Smythe Trophy and a Canada Cup/World Cup MVP. The other two: Bobby Orr and Wayne Gretzky. Sounds about right.
Troy Stecher brings hope for Vancouver – and the little guy
By Ryan Kennedy
Sep 29, 2016
The undersized but feisty defenseman made a statement in his first exhibition game and while he may not be an overnight success, he is helping blaze a trail
Vancouver Canucks fans got a treat last night – a glimpse of the possibilities that come with defenseman Troy Stecher. An undrafted free agent signing out of the University of North Dakota, Stecher is competitive, a pain to play against, offensively dangerous and brings an active stick on the defensive end. Why was Stecher undrafted, you ask? Well, he was only 5-foot-10 and 179 pounds back then (now he’s up to 190).
Despite the fact he was putting up great numbers in the BCHL for Penticton (where he won the national Jr. A championship RBC Cup in 2012), the call never came and size is the most obvious factor. But timing was also against Stecher.
Only now are we really seeing smaller defensemen get a fair shake and I predict that the next two drafts will be watershed moments. Some of the most exciting blueliners available will, barring a growth spurt, come in at 5-foot-10 or less: Erik Brannstrom and Clayton Phillips in 2017 and Quinn Hughes in 2018.
I call it the “Jared Spurgeon Effect.”
The Minnesota Wild defenseman has managed to carve out a nice career for himself, despite coming in at 5-foot-9 and 176 pounds today, as a 26-year-old. Spurgeon was picked late by the New York Islanders in 2008 (he was their 12th pick, 156th overall), but went unsigned, inking a deal with the Wild instead. Last season, he played the toughest minutes of any Minnesota player while also ranking second in scoring and ice time (Ryan Suter was first in both cases) among Wild blueliners. Dude can play, even if he’s not built like a cement-mixer.
Which is where Stecher comes in. Will he make the Canucks this season? Hard to say right this second, but he’s definitely making great noise for the future. Just check out his poise and vision on this set-up from last night against Edmonton:
All told, Stecher had a goal and two assists in a 5-3 exhibition win over the Oilers. Vancouver can look at what Spurgeon has done and see Stecher’s future. The game is faster now and puckmoving defensemen are at a premium. If you can carry it and dish it, you’re a lot more valuable than the old-school bouncer who made sure the crease was a no-fly zone for opponents. And hey; you still need that element to an extent, but hockey smarts and an active stick can be just as effective.
While GMs have been reticent in the past to draft small early, Arizona made a big statement this summer when the Coyotes took center Clayton Keller (5-foot-10, 168 pounds) with the seventh pick overall. Now that the forwards taboo has been broken, can defensemen be next? It’s tricky, because traditionally progress has been slow. But with more teams employing analytics gurus, or execs with that background, perhaps the future will come sooner than expected.
And if Stecher should see time with the Canucks this season, even as a call-up in his first year of pro, then excuse the cliché, but he’ll be winning one for the little guy.
After injury-filled season, Blues relieved Schwartz, Fabbri are only day-to-day
By: Jared Clinton
Sep 30, 2016
The St. Louis Blues lost almost every roster regular to injury for some amount of time in 2015-16, but, thankfully, that bad fortune doesn’t appear to be repeating itself. Injuries to Jaden Schwartz and Robby Fabbri are minor.
You could run down the list of injuries the St. Louis Blues were forced to miss time in 2015-16 due to injury, or you could simply read a list of players to suit up for the squad this past season. The lists, as it turns out, are almost identical.
In fact, the injuries were so bad during the past campaign that it took until the opening game of the playoffs, Game 83 of the season, before St. Louis was finally was able to ice its “optimal roster,” meaning a team free of any injury replacements. And though things turned out quite all right for the Blues, who earned their way to the Western Conference final, the hope was that this season would be a healthier one for all involved.
With that in mind, it’s easy to understand why the players and coaching staff have been holding their breath whenever someone is forced to leave the ice in training camp or pre-season action, but it already appears the Blues are catching more breaks when it comes to potential injuries already.
During practice Thursday, winger Jaden Schwartz, who missed 49 games in 2015-16 with a fractured ankle, left the ice early and was later said to have suffered an upper-body injury. The ailment appeared to be to do with his wrist, but the Blues could breathe easier when coach Ken Hitchcock announced that Schwartz won’t be forced to miss any meaningful action.
Schwartz, 24, has become one of the Blues’ go-to scorers over the past few seasons, and though St. Louis remained successful during his absence in 2015-16, his presence on the ice was sorely missed. Schwartz had scored 53 goals in 155 games over the first two full campaigns of his career, and there was hope that he’d chase the 30-goal mark this past season. He’ll have his shot at doing so in 2016-17, though, especially as he looks set to take on a first-line role in St. Louis.
But Schwartz isn’t the only injury the Blues are dealing with as 20-year-old Robby Fabbri has also been sidelined since the start of the week with an unspecified upper-body injury. Like Schwartz, though, there’s good news to report in that Fabbri’s injury isn’t one the Blues are considering serious.
According to Hitchcock, Fabbri will be out through the weekend and will continue to be monitored, but he has been on the ice skating. Fabbri missed 10 games this past season — six with a concussion, four with a lower-body injury — but the hope is he can remain healthy this season and take a shot at winning a consistent top-six role as a sophomore scorer for the Blues.