The Penguins skate out onto the ice from before Game 6. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
A selection of the best images from June 4..
The Penguins skate out onto the ice from before Game 6. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
A selection of the best images from June 4..
The Blue Jackets have been the most pleasant surprise in the NHL this season, but it's still going to take convincing for the hockey world to believe they're for real.
We’ll totally understand if you’re having just a little trouble getting on board with the 2016-17 version of the Columbus Blue Jackets. After all, you’ve probably been burned before.
Their fan base certainly seems to be wary. Despite the fact the Blue Jackets are the surprise of the NHL and have emerged as one of the most dynamic and exciting teams in the league, they drawn fewer than 12,000 in three of their past four home games. Even their coach thinks the team has work to do to earn their fans’ trust. “I want our team to have a chip on their shoulder,” Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella told Michael Arace of the Columbus Dispatch recently. “I think they should. We’re trying to get respect in the league. Quite honestly, we should be disrespected because of where we’ve been.”
That won’t last long if the Blue Jackets keep this up. The league’s best power play continues to fuel one of the league’s hottest teams and has landed them at the top of thn.com’s weekly Power Rankings for the second time this season. Last week’s rankings in parentheses:
CREAM OF THE CROP
1. Columbus Blue Jackets (8)
2. Philadelphia Flyers (15)
3. Pittsburgh Penguins (6)
4. St. Louis Blues (2)
5. Chicago Blackhawks (5)
6. Montreal Canadiens (7)
7. New York Rangers (4)
8. San Jose Sharks (11)
9. Boston Bruins (20)
10. Calgary Flames (27)
Is there a bigger bargain or a shrewder off-season signing than Sam Gagner?...Steve Mason went from one of the worst goalies in the NHL early in the season to one of the best of late. His save percentage in his first 16 games was .892, but has improved to .947 in his past five… If Marc-Andre Fleury wants to get traded, he’s not doing himself any favor with his play lately…The Blues completed a 4-0-1 home stand with the game going into overtime…With Jonathan Toews and Corey Crawford already out, the Blackhawks lost defenseman Brent Seabrook in their 4-0 win over Arizona Tuesday night…How will the Canadiens and the surprising Alexander Radulov respond to the injury to Alex Galchenyuk?...The injury-ravaged Rangers saw Rick Nash go down with a groin injury and Matt Puempel to a concussion in their 4-2 loss to the Islanders Tuesday night…Joe Thornton passed Brendan Shanahan for 25th all-time on the NHL’s scoring list with an assist in a 2-1 win over Montreal last week…Anyone who predicted David Pastrnak would be in Rocket Richard Trophy contention a third of the way into the season is looking very bright at the moment…The Flames were already one of the hottest teams in the NHL without Johnny Gaudreau, then won their first two with him back in the lineup.
THE MUSHY MIDDLE
11. Washington Capitals (11)
12. Edmonton Oilers (14)
13. Ottawa Senators (12)
14. Los Angeles Kings (1)
15. New Jersey Devils (23)
16. Detroit Red Wings (16)
17. Nashville Predators (3)
18. Minnesota Wild (19)
19. Anaheim Ducks (10)
20. Winnipeg Jets (17)
Capitals coach Barry Trotz had some pointed words to Alex Ovechkin about his penchant for taking minor penalties of late. No cracks in the foundation, though. Just a frank discussion…The Oilers game Tuesday night against Buffalo was touted as Connor McDavid vs. Jack Eichel, the kind of narrative the Oilers have learned to accept. “Every night it’s Connor vs. Somebody,” said Oilers coach Todd McLellan…Goalie Craig Anderson started in the Senators’ 8-5 loss to Pittsburgh Monday night, but did not travel with the team for a three-game California trip to be with his wife as she undergoes treatment for throat cancer…The usually stingy Kings have given up 11 goals in their past three games. “That’s too many goals,” said Kings coach Darryl Sutter…Devils winger Taylor Hall on the aftermath of his clean, but devastating, hit on Philip Larsen Tuesday night: “I feel terrible.” Not to be trite, but Hall should not be feeling terrible about the way he has played since returning from a knee injury. He has five points in his past two games…Goalie Jimmy Howard will be back in uniform for the Red Wings when they host Columbus Friday night, but will have a difficult time pushing Petr Mrazek out of the crease…After missing four games with an upper-body injury, James Neal scored a goal in a 4-3 Predators’ win over Colorado Tuesday night…Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk, whose career was revived when he came to Minnesota, will make his 300th career start tonight in Toronto…Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle could not pull Jonathan Bernier during his team’s 8-3 loss to Calgary because backup John Gibson was battling a stomach virus…Over the past 30 years, only Teemu Selanne and Alex Ovechkin have scored goals at a better pace than Patrik Laine of the Jets is scoring them now.
VYING FOR THE PARTICIPATION BADGE
21. New York Islanders (26)
22. Tampa Bay Lightning (22)
23. Carolina Hurricanes (25)
24. Buffalo Sabres (29)
25. Florida Panthers (24)
26. Vancouver Canucks (18)
27. Toronto Maple Leafs (13)
28. Dallas Stars (28)
29. Arizona Coyotes (21)
30. Colorado Avalanche (30)
With points in each of their past five games, four of them wins, the Islanders are easily on their most successful string of the season…The Lightning could get Ryan Callahan, Jason Garrison and Jonathan Drouin back for their home game against Vancouver Thursday night…Jordan Staal, sidelined for the past four games with a concussion, likely won’t be available to the Hurricanes for a three-game road trip through California that begins tonight…After playing almost 500 games in the minors, defenseman Erik Burgdoerfer made his NHL debut in the Sabres’ 3-2 overtime win over Washington Tuesday night… Panthers have gone to overtime in four of their five games GM Tom Rowe has been behind the bench. They’ve won one in overtime, lost two in OT and one in a shootout…Philip Larsen, who was taken off the ice on a stretcher after a hit from Taylor Hall Tuesday night, was released from hospital in New Jersey Wednesday morning and was cleared to return to Vancouver while the Canucks continue on a five-game road trip…After waiving Jhonas Enroth, the Maple Leafs search for a backup goalie continues. They signed Karri Ramo to a professional tryout contract and assigned him to their farm team. That should cure everything…The Coyotes have been outscored 14-6 and have averaged 41 shots against per game in an 0-3-1 month of December…All nine of Matt Duchene’s goals this season have come on the road. The Avs could use that kind of production at the Pepsi Center, where they’re 4-8-1 this season and recently went 0-4-1 on a five-game homestand.
Philip Larsen got knocked unconscious, the Canucks retailiated without knowing what happened, and they could have hurt their teammate even worse in the process.
The incident was horrific. We can all agree on that.
Tuesday night in New Jersey, Vancouver Canucks blueliner Philip Larsen skated behind his net to retrieve a puck. He had no idea Devils left winger Taylor Hall was pursuing the same puck. They collided heavily. Larsen bashed his head on the ice and was knocked out cold.
It was a scary scene, undoubtedly, one that understandably evoked a ton of emotion from Larsen's teammates. It was hardly a surprise to see a flurry of Vancouver players swarm Hall and make him fight.
It was a shame, however, for multiple reasons. First off, the hit wasn't dirty. It wasn't even a deliberate bodycheck. Hall leaned back on his skates to slow his momentum and held out his arms as if protecting himself from imminent impact. It was more of a crash than a bonecrushing hit. We can debate whether Larsen's head was the principal point of contact – I don't believe it was at all – but it's irrelevant when assessing Hall's guilt. There was no intent there. He won't be disciplined by the NHL for an accident.
And yet, thanks to the sport's culture of immediate and forceful vengeance, Hall had to fight anyway. In the spur of the moment, in the heat of elite competition, players are simply too jacked up to take a breath and assess the situation. They see a comrade fall and, in mere milliseconds, seek and destroy whoever caused the harm.
“You always have a problem with a hit when one of your guys gets hit hard," Canucks coach Willie Desjardins told the Vancouver Province's Jason Botchford after the the game. "It doesn’t matter if it’s a clean hit. You have a problem when a guy gets hit that hard. I think all coaches would.”
The ironic thing about this tough-guy mentality is that it could end up pushing one of the toughest things about hockey out of the game: good, clean hits. If the swarm mentality goes on much longer, the only guys willing to lay opponents out with big hits will be those ready and willing to drop the gloves right afterward. Sooner or later players might decide it's not worth sitting five minutes and/or risking injury just to put a lick on a guy. And, in Hall's case, he wasn't even trying to drill Larsen.
Will we ever stop seeing players attacked after clean hits? I doubt it. The revenge assault is a crime of passion, a snap decision. But maybe, just maybe, the Canucks and players all over the world can learn a bit from what happened right after Larsen got hit. Watch:
The first instinct, sadly, is not to help Larsen, but to destroy Hall. Center Michael Chaput immediately starts a fight. That causes a pileup of players from both teams – all around the unconscious Larsen. It's downright disturbing to see him getting kicked in the head by his own teammates’ skates. Canucks goalie Jacob Markstrom tries to box out Larsen and keep him safe. Markus Granlund tries as well but has to step over and onto Larsen in the process. It’s a miracle Larsen wasn’t cut. None of that would've happened had Chaput thought of Larsen first.
The ugly scene is a reminder that, right after a teammate takes a massive hit, the first priority should be to protect him. The best way to do that isn't to attack his attacker. It's to attend to the teammate first. There's plenty of time to review what happened and take down the perpetrator's number for later in the game. That's what jumbo-tron replays are for. And, in cases like Hall's, the violence would be averted altogether if players watched the replay and realized it was an accident.
Sadly, the idea is a pipe dream, and I don’t expect players to learn from Larsen's fate anytime soon. But we can always hope.
Matt Larkin is a writer and editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to thn.com. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin
Peter Holland the Toronto Maple Leafs prepares for a face-off at Air Canada Centre.
The move gives Leafs GM Lou Lamoriello the flexibility to sign goaltender Karri Ramo and activate Josh Leivo off non-roster injury reserve.
The Toronto Maple Leafs finally unloaded Peter Holland on Friday sending the center to the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for a conditional 2018 draft pick.
Holland had been left in Toronto as the Maple Leafs opened a three-game western road trip in late November and has not suited up for the Leafs since Nov. 26. The 6-foot-2, 195-pound forward was a healthy scratch in 17 of the Leafs first 25 games this season.
In eight games, Holland has one assist and a minus-2 rating while averaging 10:43 in ice time a night. Holland is on a one-year, $1.3 million contract this season, and according to CapFriendly, is owed $881,111 for the remainder of the season.
"Peter is a big, solid centerman with good NHL experience," Coyotes general manager John Chayka said in a statement. "We look forward to having him join our team."
Acquired from the Anaheim Ducks in November 2013, the Caledon, Ontario native appeared in 174 games with the Leafs, over parts of four seasons, scoring 25 goals and 63 points.
The 25-year-old also played a role in the American Hockey League’s Toronto Marlies reaching a seventh game of the conference finals during the 2014 Calder Cup playoffs.
For the Leafs, the move gives general manager Lou Lamoriello another contract spot to work with. Prior to the deal, Toronto had 48 contracts – two shy of the maximum of 50.
Friday’s move gives the Leafs the flexibility to sign goaltender Karri Ramo to a contract for the remainder of the season. The 30-year-old signed a professional tryout with the Marlies on Tuesday and made 33 saves in 3-2 loss to the Utica Comets on Wednesday night.
Despite only signing a PTO, Ramo was quick to get a new mask in Leafs colors.
Since waiving goaltender Jhonas Enroth on Tuesday, and assigning him to the Marlies, the Leafs are looking for a suitable veteran presence behind Frederik Andersen and Ramo could fill the void.
The trade with the Coyotes also gives Lamoriello roster flexibility to activate forward Josh Leivo off non-roster injury reserve. Leivo has yet to play this season due to a lower body injury. The 23-year-old played five games with the Marlies earlier in the season as part of a conditioning assignment, but was deemed not ready to return to NHL action with the Leafs.
The Coyotes are reportedly looking to move out Anthony Duclair, and that was the case as early as this past summer. Duclair was reportedly part of a trade offer Arizona made for Flames defenseman Dougie Hamilton.
Last week, Calgary Flames president Brian Burke publicly dismissed mounting speculation suggesting his club could be shopping defenseman Dougie Hamilton. Burke also said a club made what he called an insulting offer for Hamilton last summer.
That team, apparently, was the Arizona Coyotes. According to TSN's Darren Dreger, Coyotes GM John Chayka approached Flames GM Brad Treliving around the 2016 NHL Draft with an offer of young winger Anthony Duclair and a draft pick for the 23-year-old Hamilton. Dreger said the talks didn't go very far and doesn't know why this story recently resurfaced, though Burke obviously had enough.
The Flames might not be moving Hamilton, but NHL insider Pierre LeBrun last Friday told Vancouver's TSN 1040 that Treliving had talks about other players with several teams in recent weeks. Given the Flames' improvement over the last couple of weeks, those discussions have cooled.
While Burke's comments should put an end to the Hamilton trade chatter for a while, this story should further stoke conjecture over the 21-year-old Duclair's future with the Coyotes. He was thought to be a key part of their rebuilding program, with a respectable 20-goal, 44-point rookie performance last season.
Of late, however, there's talk the Coyotes could entertain offers for Duclair, who's managed only four points in 24 games this season. It was believed they wanted a good young player, preferably a center, as a return. Given their pursuit of Hamilton last summer, a promising blueliner could also fit the bill.
SENATORS SEEKING DEPTH FORWARD
TSN's Pierre LeBrun reported last Thursday Senators general manager Pierre Dorion was working the phones for a versatile bottom-six forward. The Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch also reports Dorion's shopping for a forward after placing winger Bobby Ryan on injured reserve.
While the Coyotes are reportedly willing to listen to offers for winger Anthony Duclair, LeBrun claims the Senators aren't interested. That's understandable, as the Coyotes apparently seek a good young player who can help them right away. Dorion can't spare that type of player.
Another option could be Boston Bruins forward Ryan Spooner, who can skate at center or on the wing. The Bruins are apparently talking with several clubs. Spooner's $950K salary-cap hit is certainly enticing, plus he had a 49-point campaign in 2015-16. While Dorion's looking for someone to play on his checking lines, Ryan's injury might make him reconsider.
Bruins winger Jimmy Hayes could be another option. Garrioch reported Sunday the Bruins would like to move him, but Dorion could balk at his poor production (one goal in 23 games) and $2.3-million annual cap hit through 2017-18.
Garrioch also reports Edmonton Oilers left wing Benoit Pouliot could be available. He said the Oilers weren't shopping the 30-year-old veteran, but had spoken with several clubs to gauge their interest. He also notes the New York Islanders are trying to move winger Nikolai Kulemin.
Both players, however, carry rather pricey cap hits. Pouliot is pulling in $4-million annually through 2018-19, while the 30-year-old Kulemin's is earning $4.187 million through 2017-18.
A more affordable option could be Toronto Maple Leafs center Peter Holland. With a $1.3-million cap hit for this season, the 25-year-old is reportedly on the trade block. The Sens and Leafs have a recent trade history, so perhaps this could be a move that helps both sides.
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.). For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.