Hockey Notes – 11/8

By Jon Swenson - Last updated: Monday, November 8, 2010 - Save & Share - Leave a Comment



- In Saturday night’s 5-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, right wing Jamie McGinn took umbrage with a second period hit along the endboards on linemate Torrey Mitchell. As Mitchell played the puck in the offensive zone, defenseman Randy Jones released coverage to a closing 6-foot-2, 220-pound Ryan Malone. A discombobulated Malone check first crunched Mitchell’s body, but the followthrough trapped his head up against the wall.

McGinn immediately grabbed the jersey of Malone with his left hand, and unloaded a quick series of 7-8 right hands. McGinn landed at least 3 haymakers, but the last right hand dropped his opponent flush. Malone may not be a true heavyweight but he has a meanness quotient similar to Ryane Clowe. He has fought quality competition at the NHL level with 30 fights in his last 7 seasons, including a trio of fights against Aaron Voros and a win in Tampa over Ryane Clowe. This was Jamie McGinn’s first recorded fight in the NHL during the regular season.

Hockeyfight.com’s John Chandler noted, “it was a relatively inexperienced fighter who stood out the most. Jamie McGinn scored an upset over Ryan Malone, hammering Malone with punches and knocking him down.” 93.9% of voters on HF awarded the decision to McGinn.

Skating past the penalty box and straight to the visiting locker room, Malone looked stunned at what just happened.

Joe Thornton joins Comcast Sportsnet California broadcast with Randy Hahn Drew Remenda
THORNTON JOINED RANDY HAHN, DREW REMENDA IN 2ND PERIOD


- Serving the first of a 2-game NHL suspension for a hit on David Perron, Joe Thornton joined the Comcast Sportsnet California broadcast team of Randy Hahn and Drew Remenda during the second period of the game on Saturday night. Thornton discussed the suspension, the appeals hearing held with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman on Saturday morning, Logan Couture, and the fans in San Jose among other topics.

In my opinion, it was a clean hit. We had a talk the other day. They thought my intent was to hit him in the head. My intent is never to hit anybody in the head, unless we are obviously in a fight. I don’t intent to hit anyone in the head with my shoulder. (Did the size differential make a difference?) It has to. I am 6-foot-4, I don’t know how tall he is, maybe 5-foot-9ish.

Gary Bettman was on the phone (for the appeal hearing), Bill Daly, Doug Wilson, coach (Todd McLellan), the NHLPA, my agent and myself. Going over it again, coach (McLellan) and Doug Wilson didn’t see it the way the league saw it. They wanted to revisit it, but it didn’t work.

There was really no answer to what I should have done differently. I think as players, you want them to tell you, “you did this wrong, you should have done this instead”. They really didn’t have an answer for me.

(On Logan Couture replacing Thornton on the top line with Marleau and Heatley) He has played with them in the past. Logan is such a smart player. I think Patrick and Dany like playing with him because he is a good goal scorer, he has a good shot, but he is a good playmaker as well.

(On the fans in San Jose after a number of “Free Jumbo” signs were shown) These fans are the best. It is one of the reasons I signed back here. They sell out every night. These fans love hockey here.

- Patrick Marleau’s shorthanded goal at 12:16 of the first period on Saturday night broke a 156:59 goalless drought, the third longest in team history according to CSN. The Sharks road goal drought is still on at 185:15 after three straight shutout losses. The next opportunity to break that drought will come after the current 5-game homestand, November 16th at Colorado.

- San Jose Mercury News beat writer David Pollak reports more on the backlash against embellishment claims after David Perron missed 2 subsequent games with concussion symptoms. All involved expressed concern for Perron’s safety, but several questioned the Blues and their medical staff for allowing him to return to the game so quickly. “If a player goes down motionless like that, if the league is really serious about concussions, he shouldn’t really be able to come back into the game,” Thornton told Pollak.

David Pollak also noted that several members of the Blues were not happy with a blog post written by radio analyst and former player Jamie Baker — The NHL was wrong. In the post Baker wrote that the NHL used the suspension to back the call of its referees, and that he believed Perron embellished the effects of the hit to draw a major penalty. “It is a trend that I am starting to see; players diving or faking injuries to draw penalties,” Baker said on the initial blog.

Pollak followed up with Baker and received an apology for making the claim. “I was wrong in saying Perron was faking an injury and I owe him an apology for that,” Baker said. The apology should also be repeated in a subsequent blog post on sjsharks.com.

- Blues forward David Perron scratched from Saturday night game against Boston with headaches – Sharkspage.

- In an interview with Damian Cristodero of the St. Petersburg Times, defenseman Dan Boyle described the former Tampa Bay Lightning ownership tandem of Oren Koules and Len Barrie as poison. “They got rid of the poison at the top,” Boyle told Cristodero. Refering to new owner Jeff Vinik and new GM Steve Yzerman, Boyle added, “I couldn’t be happier for the organization and the people back there that they’ve turned it around.”

- In addition to defenseman Dan Boyle, goaltender Antero Niittymaki also faced his former team and he came out on top. Niittymaki was tested repeatedly by former teammate Steven Stamkos. Stamkos is the current NHL leader in points with 22, and in goals scored with 11. Last year he earned a Rocket Richard trophy for the NHL scoring lead, tying Sidney Crosby with 51 goals.

Saturday night Stamkos finished with 6 shots on goal and 22:18 of ice time, but his best scoring opportunities came at the end of each period. Shorthanded with less than 15 seconds left in the first period, St. Louis broke Stamkos out of the zone with a bank pass off the boards. The first overall draft pick in 2008 had 3 or 4 steps on a backchecking Ryane Clowe, and 15 feet of open space.

At full speed Stamkos broke his wrists to fake a forehand shot, then tried to wait out Niittymaki and lift a backhand far side. Niittymaki’s pad got a piece of the initial shot, but the followthrough kept the blade behind the puck and lifted it over. The puck deflected off the back handle of Niittymaki’s goalie stick, and both the stick and the puck fluttered wide of the post. Possibly his best save of the season to date.

With less than 2 minutes left in the second period, Stamkos and Downie criss crossed at the blueline. Stamkos created room with a burst of speed to the left of defenseman Niclas Wallin. Using a long reach on his backhand, he cut towards the front of the net. Niittyamki waited for Stamkos to make the first move, but the puck trickled off his stick and was kicked wide. The Sharks goaltender was halfway out in the crease, not giving Stamkos a lot of options other than a move to his forehand. A late whack by Wallin may have been enough to break up the play.

Moving your feet is a good rule of thumb for the modern NHL, but Stamkos finally broke through for a goal with his feet planted in the offensive zone. On the power play, down 5-1 with less than 2 minutes left in the game, Vincent LeCavalier tried to move the puck from the boards back out to the point. The puck deflected off of the leg of Jamie McGinn, and traveled across the slot to Stamkos. The stationary sniper wasted no time cocking his stick, and blasting a 1-timer by his former teammate.

- ESPN Suits Up for NHL Rights Brawl – Media Week.

In a move that would serve to kneecap the ambitions of Comcast-NBC Universal, ESPN is poised to take a run at the rights for the National Hockey League. And the battle for the NHL could function as a dry run for ESPN’s pursuit of a far bigger prize: the Olympics. That said, Bristol does not have an open field spread out before it; as the incumbent cable rights holder, Comcast’s Versus has first dibs.

Since signing a three-year, $207.5 million NHL deal in 2005––one that came front-loaded with a three-year renewal option––Versus has boosted its sub count by 11 million households while quadrupling its ad sales revenue. Per Kantar Media estimates, Versus took in $107.4 million in sponsor dollars in 2009, notching a 5 percent gain in the thick of the recessionary doldrums.

- Tonight at 4:30PM (PT) on Versus, the Phoenix Coyotes at Detroit. Tuesday at 4PM on Versus, the Washington Capitals visit Madison Square Garden for the New York Rangers.

- Five Things: Coaching hot seat, Kings’ strong start – Scott Burnside for ESPN.

Burnside points to former Columbus Blue Jackets head coach Ken Hitchcock as the leading candidate for a turnaround if Calgary, Toronto or New York Islanders teams continues to struggle. Hitchcock was on the NHL Live radio program this afternoon, and as usual he was one of the more informative and insightful guests that have had on.

After killing host Don Lagreca, “you can dress like you are in the hunting lodge, but you can’t look like the moose”, Hitchcock offered a few thoughts on the Western Conference. Describing teams that stretch out defenses and play with a quick transition attack, he pointed to St. Louis, Detroit, Los Angeles and Vancouver as teams currently playing playoff-style hockey. “There is common ground among all those teams because they play so quick. When you have the puck, they are on you so fast. They never spend any time in their own zone. When they are out, the defenseman are head manning the puck and everybody is gone.” He added that the speed on defense makes an impact on both sides of the ice. “Even though it may be 1-0, 1-1 or 2-1, you just know you are not going to get too many scoring chances when they are playing this way.”

It is hard to to look at this from a San Jose Sharks perspective. While the win over the Colorado Avalanche on October 21st was a notable one, San Jose put the game out of reach late with all 4 lines getting the puck deep and playing physical defensive hockey for 200 feet. Shift after shift, they got the puck low and Colorado could not get it past the neutral zone. The next game the Sharks earned a 6-1 win over the struggling Oilers, but it was against a limping Edmonton team that would lose 4 or their next 5. Their young forward corps repeatedly burned the Sharks defense with speed on the wings, and it was a warning sign that would surface in three subsequent road shutout losses.

General manager Doug Wilson and his hockey staff remain in contact with all 29 other NHL teams during the season to keep track what is available, and they are rumored to have a ghost roster of each opposing lineup. In a salary cap hobbled league, room for general managers to move has been severely limited. Wilson may see the success speed on the backend has had for St. Louis, Detroit, Los Angeles and Vancouver, and it may result in activity before the NHL trade deadline at 12PM (PT) on March 2nd, 2010.

- According to Hockey Night in Canada, topics on the docket for the NHL General Manager’s meeting Tuesday in Toronto: review of illegal hits to the head, rwitter/social media policy, review of OT/shootout, trash talking or instigation during warmups, Allstar Game in Carolina 2011, coaches request/challenge for video review, NHL scouting combine.

- Debating Rule 48, plus 30 thoughts – Elliotte Friedman for CBC.ca.

1. (Doug) Wilson did raise one interesting issue: that the Thornton hit was very similar to Willie Mitchell/Jonathan Toews, which is considered acceptable under the new guidelines. This is going to lead to a lot of debate about hitters coming out of the penalty box. Players will tell you that anyone skating by is extremely vulnerable because you’re not expecting someone to come from there. David Perron was much closer to the boards than Toews, which gave him less time to react.

2. The St. Louis training staff deserves credit for pulling Perron off the ice the moment he reported dizziness Saturday morning, but I still wonder how anyone who goes down and stays down after a hit like that is allowed to return in-game so quickly. A second collision would have been very serious.

- Flames Corey Sarich doesn’t expect to hear from NHL – Montreal Gazette.

- An NHL press release details several online success stories for the league’s digital strategy: NHL Gamecenter Live subscriptions up 25%, one million fans on facebook.com/NHL, unique visitors up 29% on NHL.com, video starts up 155%, Versus up 18% in total households, 12% in viewership over this time last season, and the announcement of a new HBO 4-episode series previewing the Winter Classic between Washington and Pittsburgh among other points of interest.

[Update] Accountability – Part 1 – Sharks radio analyst Jamie Baker for SJsharks.com.

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