Growing up in Quebec, Joe Sakic was our only reason to cheer for the Nordiques.
His incredible hockey sense, seemingly magical passes and impressive clutch goals raised him to a deserving pedestal; he was our idol. His accomplishments never ceased to amaze us – the only player to score 100 points with a last place team in the NHL.
In 1995, we were traumatized as our team left Quebec City for Colorado, but we kept cheering for Super Joe. He won the Cup twice, brought back the Olympic gold medal to Canada; what a career for Joe Sakic!
His evolution as a player, improving his skating, developing the most devastating wrist shot in the NHL made him an invaluable asset to the hockey community, not to mention one of the greatest leaders in NHL history.
We will miss you, Mr. Sakic, what a gentleman, a classy player.
Winnipeg has allowed three or more goals against in eight of their past 10 games, and with Connor Hellebuyck and Michael Hutchinson struggling, the Jets have pulled the trigger and called up veteran Ondrej Pavelec.
It took 47 games and more than three months, but with the season potentially slipping away as their goaltending fails them, the Winnipeg Jets have pulled the trigger and called up veteran netminder Ondrej Pavelec from the AHL’s Manitoba Moose.
Pavelec’s recall from the minors comes the day following the Jets’ 5-2 loss at the hands of the San Jose Sharks, which is the fourth straight defeat Winnipeg has been handed and the eighth time in 10 games that the team has allowed three or more goals against. Bringing Pavelec up is a move the Jets certainly hopes can stop the bleeding, because right now coach Paul Maurice is likely aching for someone, anyone, to come in and stop the puck with some consistency.
As he comes up from the Moose, Pavelec is sporting an 8-7-2 record, 2.78 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage in 18 outings in the AHL, and he’s only two days removed from putting in his best effort of the entire season. Sunday evening against the Chicago Wolves, Pavelec was tested 44 times, but he allowed only one puck to elude him, turning aside 43 shots in a 4-1 Manitoba victory.
Pavelec’s trip back to the big league doesn’t come simply as a response to him having one good outing and yet another Jets loss, though. Over the past several weeks, the idea of calling up Pavelec has been bandied about, especially as both Connor Hellebuyck and Michael Hutchinson have struggled to piece together anything that resembles the type of run of play one would expect from a big league starter.
At times it was hard to fathom a scenario in which a young, growing team like Winnipeg wouldn’t stay all-in on their young netminders, hoping one or both would find a way through this tough stretch. With Pavelec available to possibly give the club a jolt, the Jets have decided that might be exactly what they need.
And if the move is one viewed to be out of desperation, that would be because it is. There’s a reason Pavelec has spent more than half of the campaign buried in the AHL along with his $3.9-million cap hit. But save pulling the trigger on a trade that would bring the Jets a starting netminder, what other options do the Jets really have? Eric Comrie is a promising prospect, but another young goaltender added to the mix is the last thing Winnipeg needed right now.
Don’t go thinking Pavelec will be the Winnipeg’s idea of a long-term fix, though. He is as stop-gap as stop-gap options come.
Over the course of his career, Pavelec has been a below-average netminder, boasting a career .907 SP and bloated 2.85 goals-against average. Though he had the best season of his career in 2014-15 — his .920 SP was substantially better than any year prior — he followed it up with a .904 SP mark in 2015-16. Comparatively, Hellebuyck’s difficult campaign has seen him post a .907 SP, and his career SP is .912. Hutchinson is a career .908 SP goaltender, with a tough .894 SP throughout this season.
All the Jets want right now is someone who can come in and stop some pucks. If that’s Pavelec, great. If that’s Hellebuyck or Hutchinson, better. But the fact of the matter is that with only a few months remaining, the Jets have the league’s third-worst points percentage during a season in which they were supposed to be taking a sizeable step forward. That needs to change, and maybe the increased competition in goal — or the veteran presence — is enough to turn things around.
The Chicago Blackhawks superstar is climbing up the scoring charts again and his ability to beguile goaltenders with his intentions is helping him get there
Don't look now, but Patrick Kane is gunning for another Art Ross Trophy. The Chicago Blackhawks superstar has 10 points in his past six games and currently sits just behind Edmonton wunderkind Connor McDavid for the NHL scoring lead.
The Blackhawks just dropped a 3-2 contest to Minnesota (no shame there; the Wild are a heavy outfit), but Kane was a terror, throwing two goals past Vezina favorite Devan Dubnyk. What's most interesting about Kane's attack is how he put the shots past Dubnyk. Here's the first one, which admittedly, probably came with some luck:
OK, Kane's not an evil genius for knuckling one under Dubnyk because the puck was rolling, but let's go to the second goal for a better example of his craftiness:
There we go. Firing a rocket that Dubnyk clearly wasn't prepared for, and doing so amidst a bunch of skates when most shooters would have pulled the puck out of the fray first. Few players are as confident as Kane is with the puck and that's a weapon he uses to exploit goaltenders time and again. Historically, just look back to the most famous goal he ever scored, the overtime Stanley Cup game-winner against Philadelphia – as we've all seen countless times, Kane was basically the only person in the arena who knew the puck had gone in. Interesting side note – Colorado's Matt Duchene once told me that he knew the puck had gone in right away because he had been studying the older Kane and seen the trick once before. But for those of us who aren't elite hockey players, Kane's maneuvers are consistently quite impressive.
In an era where goal-scoring is at a premium, there's a reason why Kane has still been successful and his obfuscation is a big part of it. Same goes for Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby and Auston Matthews – they're thinking about offense on a different level from mere mortals. On the other end of the spectrum, you still have a couple of elite scorers who can overpower netminders with their shots: Patrik Laine and Alex Ovechkin, who are currently tied in both goals and points, which I believe is a nice bit of cosmic alignment.
Last year, Kane won the scoring crown with 106 points and he was the only NHLer to hit triple digits. Right now, no one is on pace to break 100, though Crosby is in the ballpark if he has a hot second half. Defensive schemes and excellent goaltenders are suppressing offense right now, but at least we still have a few artists like Kane working on the assembly line.
The Breakaway Challenge is no more, but the often ridiculous event at the skills competition offered up some fantastic moments and great laughs. Take a look back at the five best attempts.
The highlight of the NBA’s all-star weekend, almost without fail, is the Slam Dunk Contest. The event has delivered moments like Michael Jordan’s foul line dunk, Vince Carter’s forearm in the rim jam and last season’s phenomenal showdown between Aaron Gordon and Zach LaVine.
It would only make sense then that the NHL would try its hand at imitating the event, creating the Breakaway Challenge as its version of the dunk competition. The goal was simple: wow the crowd with incredible displays of puckhandling or win them over with props and creativity. Most players went for the latter, and it’s been one of the more ridiculous and comical events at the all-star weekend over the past six skills competitions.
However, after its six-season run as one of the weekend’s events, the NHL has decided to do away with the Breakaway Challenge, according to Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos. The news only a couple of weeks before the league is set to head to Los Angeles for the All-Star Game and is at least a slight indication that some new competitions could be part of the format.
With the Breakaway Challenge no more, though, let’s take a look back at five of the very best and most memorable moments from the contest:
5. Johansen gets some help, but Voracek one-ups him
Ryan Johansen had the Columbus crowd in the palm of his hands by using an Ohio State jersey as a prop, and he really got the crowd on its feet by getting a youngster to help bury a shot. It was a great moment, for sure, but Jakub Voracek really got the crowd laughing by stealing Johansen’s idea with the help of another kid on hand: diminutive Flames star Johnny Gaudreau.
4. Ovechkin is the new Captain Canada
If this is the end of the Breakaway Challenge for good, then Alex Ovechkin will go down as the greatest participant the competition has ever had. He won the first ever event in 2008 and with the chance to defend his crown in 2009, he pulled out all the stops, getting a hand from fellow countryman Evgeni Malkin and endearing himself to the Montreal crowd with an interesting choice of headwear.
3. The transformation of Burns
It almost doesn’t matter which team you support when it comes to Brent Burns. He’s an absolute stud on the blueline for the Sharks, he’s one of the most exciting players in the game, he’s got a unique love of animals and he has a Harry Potter tattoo. That last one will only please a certain generation of fan, but it’s indicative of the personality he brings. Burns also isn’t afraid to make light of his grizzled appearance, and he pulled off the perfect gag at the 2016 All-Star Game.
2. SuperKane takes center stage in Ottawa
Ovechkin was the king of the Breakaway Challenge for three straight All-Star Games, and it took a superhuman performance by Patrick Kane for someone to finally take the crown from the ‘Great 8.’ Kane went prop heavy with his attempts, but the clever use of an “exploding” puck was really the topper.
1. Subban pays tribute to greatness
As he continues his career well into his 40s, Jaromir Jagr’s status as one of the game’s most beloved players grows, and that seemingly goes for both players and fans alike. So, how do you win over an entire crowd and one of the greatest players the game has ever seen in one breakaway attempt? Well, you throw on a mullet, a Jagr jersey, some Cooperalls and cap it off with a salute.
If you want to win a Stanley Cup, you need speed. And for players on their way up through the ranks, skating acumen is going to be the price of admission for an NHL job
I was having a conversation with an NHL team scout yesterday, which is one of the best parts of my job. I learn so much from these chats and not just about the draft prospects we are discussing, but of the bigger picture as well. While discussing the pros and cons of some prospects, we began to talk about skating and its place in the game today. Simply put, it's becoming a must-have.
"The No. 1 priority is skating," said the scout. "Even if your hockey sense or skills aren't the greatest, at least we can point you in the right direction."
We all know it's a fast game today and you just have to look at all the recent champions to validate the skating argument. Team Canada's World Cup squad suffocated opponents with their skating, taking away time and space at both ends of the ice – though their excellence in the puck possession department dramatically narrowed the amount of time they had to use their speed on the defensive end.
The Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup this past summer thanks to a team that had speed up and down its lineup. Think about it – how many Penguins from that team would you characterize as slow, by NHL standards? Maybe a couple, at most? Meanwhile, teams had to contest with Sidney Crosby, Carl Hagelin and Kris Letang, among many others.
At the world juniors, Team USA won gold with a similarly dangerous lineup, trotting out the likes of Colin White, Clayton Keller and Jack Roslovic to terrify teams.
What's really interesting for me is how speed is going to change bottom-six roles in the NHL. We're already seeing it, with teams employing fewer enforcers, but how far can the concept be pushed? Roslovic might be the perfect case study to keep an eye on, because as a prospect of the Winnipeg Jets, he's got a lot of talent ahead of him in the form of Mark Scheifele, Patrik Laine, Nikolaj Ehlers, Blake Wheeler and Kyle Connor. But if Roslovic, who is leading AHL Manitoba in scoring as a rookie, despite missing games due to the world juniors, is ready for the NHL leap next season, why hold him back if he can contribute from the third line? If defense is coming from speed these days anyway, it seems like a pretty nice way to get more skill in the lineup.
Tampa Bay will have a similar query to address in a year or two when prospects such as Mitchell Stephens, Anthony Cirelli and Mathieu Joseph come knocking on the door. All three have skill, but they can also skate and play with grit. It's a great problem to have if you're the Lightning.
What happens to prospects that aren't blessed with foot speed? Well, it's going to take them a little longer. We're seeing it with Dylan Strome, whom most of assumed would be full-time in Arizona this season. But thanks to his abundance of other talents and attributes, Strome can zero in on improving on his speed and strength, knowing that an NHL career is close. It can certainly be done, but he'll have to watch out for all the young burners out there on the fast-track while he does it.