Rick McNish, Petawawa, Ont.
Rick McNish, Petawawa, Ont.
Going into Thursday night, the previous couple of games had not been kind to Henrik Lundqvist. "It hasn’t been fun the last couple of days," he said. "I’m not going to lie."
It’s probably a toss-up as to what was more surprising – the way Henrik Lundqvist was playing going into Thursday night or how deeply it seemed to affect him. As far as the former was concerned, it was ugly. Really ugly. And the nadir for Lundqvist came Tuesday night when the New York Rangers faithful, who have had a decade-long love affair with Lundqvist, gave him the Bronx cheer in a terrible game against the Dallas Stars.
All of which pretty much led up to the latter. As accomplished and decorated as Lundqvist is, he’s a human being. And you post a .789 save percentage and a 6.94 goals-against average and you’re yanked in two games, it’s bound to do a number on your confidence, even if you’re almost certainly headed to the Hall of Fame one day.
So when Lundqvist pulled on the Broadway Hat – a fedora that Brad Richards bought from a Swedish model for $100 a few years back – to commemorate his status as player of the game, he did so with a little more gusto and a lot more relief than he has in a long time. Lundqvist’s 19th win of the season and the 393rd of his career will go down as a 23-save effort in a 5-2 New York Rangers win over the Toronto Maple Leafs, but in reality, it was so much more than that.
“Sometimes,” Lundqvist said after the game, “a win means a little bit more. You play 82 games and some wins, right away you put it in your bag, but I think today you enjoy it a little extra with what I’ve been through the last week or so. It’s not fun as a goalie to give up a lot of goals.”
Rangers television analyst Steve Valiquette, who played with Lundqvist and has been watching him for a decade, said there was little technically that Lundqvist was doing wrong in his recent slide, with the exception of perhaps not seeing the puck come off the stick as well as he usually does. “I think for the fans to turn there (in the Dallas game), I think that really hurt on a personal level,” Valiquette said. “You should have seen the building. It was a really tough building to be in. He came out of that game after the second period and I don’t think he picked his head up for the entire third. That’s as low as I’ve seen Henrik.”
Lundqvist reiterated a couple of times how difficult the last week has been for him. He seemed to be straddling that line between personal responsibility and acknowledging that like wins, losses are a team effort. He knows his teammates played poorly in front of him, but he’s also cognizant of the fact that he earns an average of $8.5 million a year to be the last line of defense. There are times when you have to bail your teammates out and Lundqvist, who has done it countless times, knows that as well as anyone.
“I’m not going to put everything on me,” Lundqvist said. “There have been a lot of breakdowns, but I know it’s my job to clean it up a little bit.”
The Leafs managed only 25 shots in the game, but there were a good number of high-quality attempts. The turning point of the game came in the middle of the second period when Lundqvist came out and aggressively challenged Mitch Marner on a partial breakaway and forced him to miss. On the next rush up the ice, the Rangers opened up a two-goal lead on a shot by J.T. Miller that Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen overplayed. And early in the third, with the Rangers clinging to a 3-2 lead, Lundqvist stopped Leo Komarov on a terrific opportunity.
“He keeps saying, ‘I’ve got to get back to playing on my toes,’ ” Valiquette said. “And what he means by that is getting out there and getting on top of the puck instead of being back and trying to protect the net behind you.”
Those were the plays Lundqvist wasn’t making in the three games after the Rangers came off their one-week furlough. And once they started piling up, it became more and more difficult to stop that train.
“I think every athlete and hockey player, you go through stretches where it’s just a lot harder to get it done, especially at this level” Lundqvist said. “All it takes is you lose five, six percent and that’s the difference between being OK and being great. Again, when you’re confident, that’s what you do. You clean it up, you make that extra save.”
So now all is presumably well in Ranger-land, a theme park where the roller coasters have gotten quite the workout this season. “We have a lot of confidence in Hank, we knew it was just a matter of time,” said Rangers coach Alain Vigneault, “and now he’s going to follow it up with another big game against Detroit.”
The breakaway challenge is gone, replaced by a long-distance target shooting competition. But wouldn't it be more fun if the players used their shots to break stuff?
The NHL All-Star festivities are fast upon us and there will be change again this year. Gone is the breakaway challenge, which, let's face it, ran the gamut from uplifting to supremely awkward. You could see the pained expressions on some of the players who took part and it's fine to blame humble hockey culture as the problem, but it was never going to be the NBA's slam dunk contest anyway.
The new event this year in Los Angeles will be a the four-line challenge, which invites players to hit targets from the blue line, center ice, the far blue line and the far goal line. Goalies can take shots from the far goal line too, in search of extra points.
This sounds OK to me, particularly if the players are winging the pucks at the target (imagine someone taking a slapshot from center ice and hitting a bullseye?), but I actually had another idea the other day, which I humbly present to you, the fan.
Let the players break stuff.
"it was really fun," Matthews said. "You don't get an opportunity to do that all the time. It was a blast – we were shooting at veggie trays and chocolate fondue and cameras."
For me, the random objects are fun, but what I'd really like as an event is for the divisional all-stars to have a competition in which they see who can do the most damage to a car, just by shooting pucks at it. Yes, Gen Xers, I am proposing that the NHL adapt the bonus level from Street Fighter II:
Now, I don't expect the competitors (two guys per team, shooting at the same time) to actually take apart the car like our good friend Ryu, but I bet they could do some pretty good damage in, let's say, one minute of shooting. Obviously you'd have tarps on the ice to catch any broken glass and obviously it would be an old car with no fluids in it (we don't want it to blow up…or do we?). And hey, we can even toss in a charitable element – like whichever teams wins, they get to donate 10 new cars to the cause of their choice. Admit it: you're a little curious about what Shea Weber or Dustin Byfuglien could do to an old Volkswagen Jetta.
Because most Toronto writers flocked to Frankie Corrado this morning (#FreeFrankie), I wasted a minute of Matthews' time by asking him what he thought of my All-Star car smash challenge. Would it be fun for players?
"I guess so, I don't know," he said with a laugh. "I hit my car a few times growing up – my parents weren't too happy about it – but I guess if it was a car no one cared about, it would be fun to do some damage to it."
Sounds like a resounding "yes" to me. And if the NHL needs a judge for a damage panel? I'm willing to volunteer.
Gabriel Landeskog (right) and Matt Duchene
A look at the latest speculation surrounding Avalanche forwards Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog, and which teams might be a fit.
The Colorado Avalanche may be struggling at the bottom of the NHL standings, but they continue to dominate the NHL rumor mill. As usual, center Matt Duchene and left winger Gabriel Landeskog are the focus of trade speculation. On Tuesday, TSN unveiled their trade board for the March 1 deadline, with the 26-year-old Duchene topping the list and Landeskog, 24, coming in at No. 5.
Appearing on Edmonton's 630 CHED last Thursday, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman believes the asking price for Duchene, a 30-goal scorer last season, is higher than for Landeskog. However, he can see a team that thinks it can win this season pursuing Duchene.
Friedman also said he hasn't heard many rumors involving Colorado's puck-moving defenseman Tyson Barrie. As the Avs need to bolster their blueline, he feels it doesn't make sense to trade the 25-year-old.
Avalanche GM Joe Sakic reportedly seeks a good young defenseman as part of the return for Duchene or Landeskog. That type of deal won't be easy to find this season. NBC Sports' Jason Brough observes a high number of teams are also in the market for young blueliners. There aren't many available and teams carrying those assets will set high prices for them.
Recent trade chatter links Landeskog to the Boston Burins. It was thought the Bruins were unwilling to part with rookie rearguard Brandon Carlo, but Bleacher Report's Adrian Dater claims the 20-year-old could be available after all. CSNNE.com's Joe Haggerty thinks it would be a big mistake by the Bruins to swap Carlo for less than a genuine superstar.
Last weekend, the New York Post's Larry Brooks suggested New York Islanders GM Garth Snow should offer up blueliner Nick Leddy as part of a deal for Duchene or Landeskog, Brooks felt that move could provide the Isles with a significant boost.
Leddy, 25, is under contract through 2021-22 with an annual salary-cap hit of $5.5 million. Sakic, however, could have his eye on younger options.
The Montreal Canadiens need depth at center. TSN's Frank Seravalli thinks Habs GM Marc Bergevin could be interested in Duchene, though a deal of that nature probably wouldn't happen until the off-season. However, the Montreal Gazette's Pat Hickey questions if Bergevin can afford the high asking price for either Avs star.
Are the Canadiens willing to sacrifice promising 18-year-old defenseman Mikhail Sergachev in a package deal for Duchene? With 38-year-old blueliner Andrei Markov's career winding down, moving his possible replacement is a risky notion.
Ottawa Senators GM Pierre Dorion is shopping around for a forward. Seravalli's colleague Bob McKenzie believes Dorion could have interest in Duchene or Landeskog. Given the Sens need for scoring depth at left wing, McKenzie speculates Landeskog could be Dorion's preference. However, he guesses the asking price for either player is too high.
Dorion could be asked to part with 23-year-old Cody Ceci as part of the return for Landeskog. That would be a deal breaker for the Sens GM.
The Carolina Hurricanes could be the best fit as a trade partner for the Avalanche. The Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson notes they have plenty of depth in good young defenseman, are in need of scoring punch and possess the salary-cap room to take on Duchene or Landeskog.
If Sakic is talking with Hurricanes GM Ron Francis, they're keeping those discussions well below the radar. With the Hurricanes jockeying for playoff contention in the Eastern Conference, Francis could be unwilling to engage in a major roster shakeup.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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A bus carrying the 24 people, including the SPHL’s Columbus Cottonmouths, rolled over Thursday afternoon. All were taken to hospital, but no one aboard the bus suffered life-threatening injuries.
The Columbus Cottonmouths were only minutes away from reaching their destination, the Carver Arena in Peoria, Ill., when the bus carrying the team rolled over, but all 24 people aboard the charter have escaped the accident without life-threatening injuries.
The crash occurred Thursday afternoon as the Cottonmouths’ bus was travelling into Peoria via Interstate 74, and, according to the Peoria Journal-Star, it appears speed was the cause of the crash. Illinois State Police trooper Ross Green told the Journal-Star that the driver of the bus, Allen W. Dawlford, was “cited for failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident.”
The northbound ramp to 74 from I-155 remains closed. pic.twitter.com/ayl5JCMvYc— Andy Kravetz (@andykravetz) January 19, 2017
As a result of the crash, the bus everyone aboard the bus was taken to hospital, including two people who were trapped following the crash. In order to remove the two people who were trapped, firefighters on the scene had to cut holes in the top of the bus. The Journal-Star reported that only Dawlford and Cottonmouths goaltender Brandon Jaeger sustained injuries that did not allow them to be treated and released shortly thereafter.
Jaeger, 26, is the starting goaltender for the Cottonmouths, and according to the Journal-Star’s Dave Eminian, the netminder has suffered a broken leg. Meanwhile, Dawlford reportedly required surgery for his injuries.
Initially after the crash, the league had not announced any postponement for the weekend set between the Cottonmouths and Rivermen, but it was later determined that the game set to take place Friday would be played at another date. Despite many of the players being released from hospital without serious injury, it appears many of the players are nursing ailments that will likely keep them out of action for a few days.
"There are players on crutches, players with broken hands, injured tendons, ligaments,” Rivermen co-owner Bart Rogers told Eminian. “It looked as if they might only have 8-10 players who would be OK to play.”
Despite the Friday postponement, the Cottonmouths could be planning to suit up on Saturday. Rogers told Eminian that Columbus coach Jerome Bechard was “confident” he could bring in players for Saturday’s game.
Speaking with the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer’s Dana Barker, Bechard couldn’t say enough about the support the Cottonmouths received following the accident from everyone from first responders to the Rivermen.
“The Rivermen, (owner) Bart (Rogers) and (head coach) Jean-Guy (Trudel) asked what we needed, clothes, transportation,” Bechard told Barker. “They’re bringing us a meal at the hotel right now because we don’t have any of our belongings, no money, no phones, nothing. They’ve been really great. As far as the support from Peoria, I can’t say enough.”
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