Look, I realize that Gary Bettman is just a figurehead for the NHL’s 30 owners. Like any other sports commissioner, he’s more or less a representation of what a somewhat shadowy group of rich guys want.
Even so, this is one of those weeks that drive up my desire for the league to put up someone, anyone other than Bettman. The results can be the same, yet it would be a move in the right direction just to have the speaker play a slightly different tune than the one hockey fans have absorbed for the last two decades.
He provided two examples why he’s loathsome this week, defying the weird undercurrent of hockey hipsters who are strangely eager to remodel his image.
The first was the usual speaking up for the owners/etc. work of trying to pressure the city of Calgary to waste (er, spend!) public money on CalgaryNEXT. There was some visceral joy in soaking in the response from Calgary’s mayor, even without knowing a single other thing about the guy criticizing Bettman, aka the dude from New York.
This is one of those moments where I wonder if Bettman’s getting revenge for all those times he was serenaded with boos as he continues to hand out the Stanley Cup.
It’s as if he’s absorbed all that abuse over the years, and yet he brings along a message from the owners but more from himself, straight to the fans: “I hate you, too.”
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BLACKHAWKS 4, PREDATORS 1
-- This marks 12 straight wins for the Blackhawks, setting a new franchise record. During that time, Chicago outscored its opponents 47-22. After some stretches where they seemed to rely on Patrick Kane a touch too much early in the season (not that he’s slowed down, really), the Blackhawks present the frightening thought to the rest of the league that they might just be as good as ever.
-- Speaking of Kane, he tied a career-high with his 30th goal of the season. Being that we’re still in January, he looks like he’ll crush his career-high total of goals, not to mention points (which is 88).
-- Corey Crawford often gets lost in the shuffle as far as core Blackhawks go, but the Predators forced him to work pretty hard on Tuesday night. He made 38 out of 39 saves to improve his record to 27-10-2.
-- It’s fairest to spread the blame, but Pekka Rinne still deserves about half of the pie if you ask me. He’s now 16-15-7 with a downright pitiful .902 save percentage. Those numbers would be disappointing for Carter Hutton, let alone a guy pulling in $7 million. Is Nashville really going to continue to sleepwalk through this situation?
CAPITALS 6, BLUE JACKETS 3
-- This one smelled like it could be a little lopsided, but man, there were times when it seemed unfair. The standout moment for me came when Marcus Johansson forced a turnover and fed Jason Chimera for Washington’s second goal, one of those “these kids can’t hang”-type moments.
-- Evgeny Kuznetsov is just on fire right now, grabbing four assists on Tuesday alone. He now has seven helpers in his last two games and 11 points in his last five contests, pushing him to 48 points overall.
/The rest of the NHL lets out an unsettled whimper.
Oh yeah, he’s just 23.
-- Kerby Rychel opened up the scoring with his first NHL goal, with a big-time assist by William Karlsson (Rene Bourque was also credited with a helper there). Rychel’s getting a shot to prove he’s worth all of the trade speculation.
-- Sergei Bobrovsky returned from injury, and likely took some of the starch out of excuses that Columbus would be better shape if he wasn’t hurt (Bob wasn’t very good, you see).
-- Washington would probably gloat about its place in the East/league right now if they didn’t observe the smoldering corpse of the Canadiens’ confidence. So, instead, they probably whisper.
BRUINS 4, CANADIENS 1
-- Montreal seemed to play well enough, generating 39 SOG. They faced a similar fate as Nashville, right down to losing 4-1 in a game that was closer than the score might indicate. Granted, at least the Canadiens don’t have their highly expensive netminder in the lineup right now …
-- Is there a fan base in sports that’s as blameworthy as the Habs’ group is? Michel Therrien gets, what, +20 job security because of the linguistic/cultural hang-ups of the people rooting for the team? I can’t think of many other examples of fans hampering their teams anywhere near this level, especially in the NHL.
(Side note: Google Docs suggested blameworthy over “blame-worthy.” You learn something every day.)
-- As of today, the Bruins are fairly comfortable in an East playoff spot while Montreal is on the outside looking in. Tuukka Rask was a big reason why those opposite trends continued, stopping 38 out of 39 shots (a very similar performance to Corey Crawford vs. Nashville).
LIGHTNING 6, OILERS 4
-- Really not THAT bad of an effort for Edmonton, considering that the Oilers were closing off a back-to-back set and lost Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for a long time. They actually charged back from a 4-2 deficit to tie it 4-4 in the third period, but Brian Boyle exploited a gaffe to make it 5-4 and then Tampa Bay iced with an ENG.
-- This marks a six-game winning streak for the Bolts. Can’t ask for a much better way to spice up a 2015 Stanley Cup Final rematch with the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday: a six-game winning streak versus a 12-game winning streak. Maybe Tampa Bay’s really turning it around?
-- Steven Stamkos went crashing into Chicago’s net in a scary reminder of what could happen on any given, unlucky day, but seems to be OK. He also generated two assists, which is much better than OK.
-- No surprise that it was a nice team scoring effort for the Lightning, what with the six goals and all. Alex Killorn probably had the best night with a goal and two apples.
-- Zack Kassian scored his first goal as a member of the Edmonton Oilers. Quite a jagged path to semi-redemption for the troubled power forward. Maybe he can make Edmonton a semi-permanent home?
RANGERS 3, CANUCKS 2 (OT)
-- Ryan Miller didn’t get the win, so he’s still a little short of .500 with a 12-11-7 record. He absolutely stole a point for Vancouver, however, stopping 46 out of 49 shots. Miller was called upon to face 47 SOG last time (Jan. 17), so I guess the Canucks are just trying to get their money’s worth after he needed to miss some time?
(Seriously though, they need to help the guy out.)
-- Nice spike for Henrik Lundqvist, who has wins in three of four, allowing seven goals overall.
DEVILS 4, FLAMES 2
-- Mike Cammalleri grabbed an assist in this, his return to New Jersey’s lineup after missing eight games with a hand injury. It probably felt that much sweeter for him to beat his former team in the Flames.
-- Lee Stempniak now has 33 points after generating a goal and an assist. Honestly, I think the Devils would have been pretty pleased if he finished with that many points in April, so it’s impressive that he’s already there now.
-- Maybe Adam Larsson just finishes off the season hot after starting cold? He scored two points (1G, 1A) on Tuesday, giving him five in four contests. That’s already promising, and then you consider what he did before: just eight points in his previous 43 appearances in 2015-16.
My guess is luck is at least somewhat involved, as he only has one SOG per game during this hot streak of four games.
-- Cory Schneider nabbed his third win in four games, a span in which he’s allowed just five goals. He’s good.
MAPLE LEAFS 3, FLYERS 2
-- This win ends a lengthy losing streak for the Buds and thwarts Philly’s efforts to get closer to the East’s eight. Kind of counterproductive for both teams’ aims in the long run, although there are moments when even a tanking team wants to generate a dollop of dignity.
-- Joffrey Lupul scored his 10th goal of the season, ending a pointless streak that stretched back to Dec. 21. He only has two points (both goals) in his last 16 games. Hey, at least he’s really bad by the simple stats he loves, and not just the “fancy” ones he doesn’t understands/hates, right?
-- James Reimer grabbed his first win since Nov. 20, which might be the best “James Reimer is really unlucky” stat in some time. During that stretch of time, he’s only allowed three goals in a game twice. Again, he’s not a very lucky cat.
KINGS 3, STARS 2
-- Yes, Dallas is struggling, but it might actually be for the best. Wouldn’t the Stars be better off coming in with some doubts rather than the “can they keep this insane pace going?” talk? Either way, there’s no shame in losing to a high-end team like Los Angeles. I think the Stars are just fine, and really needed that post-holiday breather.
-- Vincent Lecavalier continues to make an argument for the fountain of youth being located in Los Angeles (I thought they just had a lot of Botox!). This is now three straight games with a goal for Vinny, who really slammed it home on the PP.
Again, I don’t really expect him to be a long-term option, but if you’re tickled by the situation, why not give him a shot? Just don’t be delusional with him (i.e. David Poile’s approach top not even trying to find Pekka Rinne some help, seriously wth)
-- Anze Kopitar managed two assists in this game, including setting up Milan Lucic’s GWG. He now has eight points during a blistering five-game point streak and has failed to score just once since after Christmas.