LCS Hockey: Born Again
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June 19, 2019
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Whitney Responds





Michel Therrien is a genius, I tell ya! A genius!

Two days after publicly excoriating Ryan Whitney, blaming the 24-year-old blueliner for the team's 4-3 OT loss to New Jersey, Therrien watched his determined defenseman respond like a champ in scoring two power-play goals and an assist in a 4-3 win over the visiting New York Islanders Thursday night.

Yes, sir, Therrien is a regular Knute Lombardi, knowing just the right buttons to push with his young charges. A lesser coach would have never considered blaming a player for a loss, thus humiliating him into a renewed effort. But Therrien is a true visionary, always willing to shirk responsibility and place blame when it can distract from his own coaching inadequacies.

"He responded exactly the way I expected," said Therrien following the game. "Give him credit. He upgraded his game not only offensively -- it is great to get two goals tonight -- but defensively he was sharp. This is what I want from him."

Therrien then went on a five-minute tirade against donuts and cookies, blaming them for his loss of willpower and an inability to get chicks.

Listen, this isn't about Therrien. Whitney had a great game last night because he's a great player; so great, in fact, he can overcome terrible coaching. Both goals displayed his keen hockey sense and remarkable skill. On the first one, he jumped in from the left point and finished a sweet pass from Petr Sykora, snapping a one-timer behind a helpless Rick DiPietro. The second goal was even more impressive, as he again raced in from the left point, only this time he collected a rebound in the slot, stickhandled through traffic, and then flipped home a backhander.

All credit goes to Whitney. A lot of kids his age would have either crumbled beneath the criticism or become sour, bringing the entire team down with him. Not Whitney. He took Therrien's personal attack in stride, deciding to elevate his game instead of allowing the abuse to tear him down.

Basically, Therrien screwed up, and Whitney bailed him out. This situation could have gotten real ugly.

Alex Goligoski, who was recalled from Wilkes-Barre on Tuesday, was a healthy scratch. The timing of his recall was certainly peculiar, but the Penguins insist they had been planning to bring him up for more than a week, and the move had absolutely nothing to do with Therrien's comments regarding Whitney.

There was some fear Goligoski's promotion was proof GM Ray Shero was backing Therrien's stupidity, providing the caustic coach with a replacement for Whitney. But both Therrien and the team stressed that the move was purely coincidental. There's no guarantee Goligoski will even see playing time with the Pens. He may have been recalled simply to give him a slight taste of life in the NHL. Barring injury, he could have a tough time cracking the lineup, especially with the team performing so well in the wake of Sidney Crosby's injury.

The Penguins are 4-2-2 without Kid Crosby. That's better than anyone could have imagined, especially considering Marc-Andre Fleury, Gary Roberts, and Mark Eaton have also been out the entire time.

While guys like Ryan Malone and Maxime Talbot have continued their strong seasons, and Jordan Staal has really picked up his play, Evgeni Malkin has been simply incredible the past eight games, collecting five goals and 14 points while dominating both ends of the ice. He had three more assists against the Islanders, giving him a team-leading 66 points. Malkin is special. Crosby's injury could turn out to be a blessing, especially if it teaches the Pens once and for all that Malkin needs to play center. It's who he is; it's where he belongs.

By the way, the magic in Ty Conklin's old silk hat is about up. He surrendered two more soft goals against the Isles. Thankfully, Fleury is skating and could return to the pipes within the next week or so.


HEATLEY HEALED
Dany Heatley returned to the Ottawa lineup last night, notching two goals and an assist in a 5-4 win over the surging Florida Panthers. I'm just glad I didn't activate him in my fantasy hockey league. But Heatley looked like his old self, showing few signs of missing 11 games with a shoulder injury. He logged 20:32 of ice time and registered five shots.

The win snapped a three-game losing streak for the Sens, who are now just three points ahead of Montreal in the Northeast. Ray Emery was in net for Ottawa, stopping 29 of 33 shots to post the victory. It was Emery's first win since January 12. The Senators will commemorate the occasion by giving Emery a gold watch... an alarm clock.... and a rooster.


AND DOWN GOES TOLLEFSEN
Columbus beat Phoenix last night, 2-1. But the real story was a wicked right hand from Craig Weller that nearly decapitated Ole-Kristian Tollefsen.

At 6:09 of the first period, Weller drilled Rick Nash from behind into the boards. Knowing retribution would be quick, Weller stood his ground and prepared for the inevitable, which came in the form of an onrushing Tollefsen. Weller had already dropped his glove and timed a perfect straight right hand, blasting the Norwegian blueliner in the face and sending him spiraling into a heap along the boards.

Yeah, I know violence is bad and all, but it was a beautiful punch. I mean, c'mon, that was good stuff. And what was Tollefsen thinking? Give him full marks for wanting to defend Nash, but leading with your chin is never a good idea.

The incident was similar to Jordin Tootoo's punch on Stephane Robidas last season. Weller was given two minutes for boarding Nash and a 10-minute match penalty for attempting to injure Tollefsen. For his part, Tollefesen got a two-minute unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for head-butting Weller's fist.

Unfortunately, Tollefsen was helped off the ice and didn't return. He looked fairly concussed. After all, you can't spell Ole-Kristian Tollefsen without TKO.


FORSBERG NEARING RETURN
The great Peter Forsberg appears only days away from returning to the NHL. Forsberg has reduced his list of potential teams to Anaheim, Colorado, Ottawa, Philadelphia, and Vancouver.

Philadelphia would seem to be the favorite, but I'd love to seem him go back to the Avalanche. It would be swell seeing him and Joe Sakic together again. And give the Avs credit, they're still right in the thick of the playoff hunt despite losing Sakic (hernia surgery), Ryan Smyth (broken ankle), and Paul Stastny (appendectomy). If Sakic were healthy, I'd like Colorado's chances of landing Forsberg a lot better. As it is, I doubt he'll want to join an injury-riddled lineup.

And if he's looking to win another Cup, Colorado and Vancouver would be at the bottom of the list. If I had to put money on it, I'd say he ends up in Anaheim. They've got a veteran team ready to compete for a championship. Brian Burke will figure some way to cook the books. And it would be nice seeing Forsberg and Teemu Selanne working together to bridge the terrible Sweden-Finland rivalry. Maybe they could serve as a positive example to the Bloods and Crips.

But the coolest part of the Forsberg story is that he told the Detroit Red Wings to beat it. Petey said he'd feel like a traitor if he signed with the Wings. Aw, that's beautiful. Just when I thought the rivalry was dead, good ol' Foppa reminds us what life's all about.

(Sunshine) Detroit!





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