Two players with duelling superstitions sometimes need to find a resolution to their problem, and Mark Scheifele and Tyler Seguin decided to play a quick game for the right to leave warmup last.
Athletes are creatures of habit. Whether it be dressing right to left, a special handshake or a must-have pre-game meal, a tradition or superstition that leads to a good game can become something a player follows for the duration of their career.
Sometimes, though, those habits can collide.
Take Thursday night’s game between Dallas and Winnipeg, for instance, which featured a cross-ice standoff between Jets center Mark Scheifele and Stars center Tyler Seguin as the pre-game warmup came to an end. Both Scheifele and Seguin wanted to be the last player to leave the ice after warmup, so as Seguin took a knee next to the Stars’ exit and Scheifele stood waiting next to the Jets’ gate, the pair decided to do the only thing that made sense: rock-paper-scissors to decide who had to leave first.
Lest you think that was a best-of-three series, take another look. It took two draws before Scheifele could shake Seguin with a lethal scissors throw, booting Seguin off the ice for good.
It wasn’t just in the game of rock-paper-scissors that Scheifele got the last laugh, though. After the Jets suffered a 3-2 defeat at the hands of the Stars on Tuesday evening, Scheifele’s Winnipeg squad got their revenge Thursday with a 4-1 victory over their Central Division foe.
That said, maybe Seguin won’t be so set on leaving the ice first next time, because though Dallas took the loss, Seguin scored the Stars’ lone goal with a blast on the power play.
Zach Yuen made some history Thursday, becoming the first Chinese player to score for the KHL’s Chinese expansion team, the Kunlan Red Star.
In his 23rd game of the season, Yuen redirected a pass from teammate Tomas Marcinko eight minutes into the first period for the game’s only goal. It was his third point of the season and the Red Star went on to beat Amur 1-0 for their 11th win of the season.
Yuen is one of four Chinese players to have suited up for the Red Star this season, but is the only one averaging more than five minutes of ice time, logging just over 11 minutes per game.
Yuen was the first ever defenseman of Chinese descent to be drafted when the Winnipeg Jets made him a fourth-round pick in 2011. The 23-year-old blueliner had a three-game stint with the Toronto Marlies in 2013-14 and played three seasons in the ECHL before he signed with the Red Star this summer.
Although he was born in Vancouver, both of Yuen’s parents were born in China and immigrated to Canada.
In 2015, New York Islanders’ sixth-round pick Andong Song became the first Chinese-born player drafted to the NHL. Song moved from Beijing to North America at age nine and is playing this season with the USHL’s Madison Capitols.
The Beijing-based Red Star are now 11-12-0 on the season, and currently sit one point back of a playoff spot in the KHL’s Eastern Conference.
For the second time in one calendar year, Nashville Predators center Ryan Johansen has been kicked out of a faceoff and handed an unsportsmanlike penalty for voicing his displeasure.
Nashville Predators center Ryan Johansen was reminded Wednesday night that if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. And the reminder came in most bizarre fashion.
Johansen, 24, was lined up for a neutral zone faceoff just outside the Nashville zone during the Predators’ tilt against the Anaheim Ducks. Standing across from Antoine Vermette, Johansen seemingly pointed out to linesman Shandor Alphonso how the Ducks’ pivot was set up off center. Instead of Vermette moving, Johansen shifted away from the faceoff dot to mimic Vermette and it appeared that Alphonso didn’t take too kindly to Johansen’s actions, booting him from the dot.
After his ejection from the faceoff, Johansen set up on the wing, but his objections apparently didn’t end once he was lined up in the spot previously occupied by James Neal. Instead of dropping the puck, Alphonso turned around to address Johansen, which resulted in referee Kelly Sutherland getting involved and eventually led to Johansen taking a seat in the penalty box:
The call on the ice was unsportsmanlike conduct, though it will probably never be known exactly what went on between Johansen and Alphonso before the minor penalty was handed out by Sutherland. However, Johansen paid the price with more than just penalty minutes.
It didn’t help matters that Anaheim almost immediately rubbed salt in the wound by way of a Jakob Silfverberg power play goal a mere 10 seconds after Johansen took the penalty, but by the time the Predators center got back to the bench, he didn’t see another second of ice time until the start of the third frame. That’s a half-period benching for taking a bad penalty.
Incredibly, though, this isn’t the first time Johansen has found himself in this situation. During a game midway through the 2015-16 season against the Winnipeg Jets, Johansen was hit with an unsportsmanlike call for getting angry with a linesman for failing to drop the puck during a faceoff.
“The linesman’s job on a faceoff is to drop the puck,” Johansen said at the time, via the Tennessean’s Adam Vingan. “I didn’t say anything to hurt his feelings. I actually wish I said something else. I don’t want to get in trouble for saying anything. It’s a tough play. We’ve got our empty net, one-goal game late in the game like that, it’s pretty wild to get a penalty for getting mad at him for just not dropping the puck.”
But after getting tagged a second time for faceoff frustrations, don’t be surprised if Johansen is physically holding his tongue next time around.
Some of the teenagers playing in the NHL this season have made decisions about their futures easy with their fine play. It's not so clear-cut with others, though.
The Year of the Teenager continues in the NHL, which means a lot of teams will be faced with some vexing decisions in the next week or so. Or not. With the 10-game threshold for burning a year on entry-level deals coming closing in, some of those decisions have already been made and the players aren’t going anywhere. Rather than list the players among to top 10 rookie scorers who are still teenagers, it would probably be more efficient for us to rhyme off the ones who are not – William Nylander, Devin Shore and Jimmy Vesey. Perhaps at no time in its history has the league boasted such a wealth of young talent.
And the line between staying and going, at least at this point in the season, is becoming clearer for a lot of young players. Obviously, the notion that Mitch Marner of the Toronto Maple Leafs is going anywhere other than on the next road trip is laughable. Travis Konecny has proved he deserves a much longer look in Philadelphia and it would be a surprise if Anthony Beauvillier is sent back to junior anytime soon.
Part of the reason for that is because those outside of the NHL make a bigger deal of the 10-game threshold than those inside it. The collective bargaining agreement stipulates that any player 18 or 19 years old is considered to have played a full professional season if he plays 10 or more games in the NHL. (To be clear, he has to play in 10 games, not simply be on the roster for 10 games.) But the important distinction to make is that 10-game provision only counts for burning a year off his entry-level contract. It does not accrue a season for the purposes of unrestricted free agency. The player has to play 40 games before that happens, so the teams actually have quite a bit more time to make a decision. A player such as Jakob Chychrun would be one that would fall into that category. As long as he proves he belongs in Arizona's top-six defensemen, he'll be around. But if his play falls off, the Coyotes effectively have a half a season to determine what to do with him.
And in some cases it might actually be beneficial to burn that year on a player’s contract. Take Sean Monahan for example. In his first year with the Calgary Flames, he played 75 games, scoring 22 goals and 34 points. Then he followed that up with back-to-back 60-point seasons that led to a seven-year deal worth $44.6 million dollars. If the Flames had returned Monahan to junior hockey in the first year of that deal, he’d be entering his third year of the contract this season and who knows how much more the Flames would be paying for him after this season? On the other side of the coin, that year in the NHL likely prepared him much better and led to him being able to score 60 points each of the past two seasons. There’s no real right or wrong with it.
Which is why teams don’t get too worried about it when it comes to players who are playing regularly and producing. Where it becomes much more of a dilemma is with a player such as Dylan Strome of the Arizona Coyotes. Strome has scored 240 points in just 124 games of junior hockey last season, but found himself a healthy scratch for the fourth time in seven games when the Coyotes played the Philadelphia Flyers Thursday night. Joining him in the press box was Lawson Crouse, a 19-year-old with a man's body whom many thought would be NHL-ready this season.
The Coyotes have a real dilemma on their hands with Strome. They know they’ll get killed even more than they are if they keep throwing a rookie-heavy lineup out there every night. So with Strome, do they keep spotting him in every other game, which would buy them a little more time before sending him back to junior? And even if they do, is there anything to be gained by having Strome dominate at the junior level? But do you keep him around for this season and have him in spot duty, then risk the embarrassing proposition of perhaps sending him to the minors next season?
And what of players such as Pavel Zacha and Matthew Tkachuk? Mikhail Sergachev has played just three of eight games for a Montreal Canadiens team that finds itself in first place overall and has an abundance of veteren defensemen. Those are the ones where the next week or so are going to provide the most difficult decisions for NHL teams. The ones at the top of the rookie scoring race and those who are making regular contributions probably aren’t going anywhere for the time being.