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January 22, 2019
NHL News and Notes
by Michael Menser Dell, Editor-in-Chief
The NHL had a media conference call with Kid Crosby on Monday. It was really a whole lot of nothing. Sid’s a bit too “mature” and “professional” to give any exciting quotes. But he was asked why he didn’t rip Alexander Semin.
“Because I don't feel like I really had to,” said Crosby. “I mean, I don't think I really have to defend myself with words. I play the game and play the way I feel I have to, the way I feel is the right way. If that's not up to someone's standards, that's fine. If they feel like they have to have their opinion heard, that's fine, too. But, you know, that's not really the way I go about it.”
Semin has missed the past eight games with an upper back strain. And he somehow managed to hurt his back without having to carry the league. But since Kid Crosby is the face of the NHL, does he feel any pressure to be more outspoken or opinionated?
“No, I mean, that's not who I am,” said Crosby. ”Because of the situation I'm in, I don't feel like I should have to change who I am. I mean, if there's guys that feel like they have opinions that don't mix well with everyone else, they need to be heard; that's their decision. You know, whether it's criticizing other guys or a certain opinion, if guys feel they need to share that, that's up to them. But I don't think that's something someone should feel automatically they have to give all the time.”
Well, Kid Crosby may be too nice to voice his opinion, but I’m not. Semin’s a punk. And I hope that doesn’t get lost in translation.
With his club mired in a 1-5-1 slump, Atlanta Thrashers head coach John Anderson has shaken up his line combinations, moving Ilya Kovalchuk alongside fourth-liners Marty Reasoner and Chris Thorburn.
Anderson is assuring everyone it’s not a demotion for Kovalchuk, who’s tied with Todd White and Slava Kozlov for the team lead in scoring with eight goals and 21 points in 23 games. The coach is merely trying to spread scoring throughout the lineup. He insists Kovalchuk will not see his ice time reduced.
But this begs the obvious question: had Kovalchuk truly been demoted to the fourth line, how would anyone know? Atlanta has four fourth lines.
Gee, I hope Kovalchuk doesn’t miss playing with Eric Perrin and Jason Williams. They’re very good.
After opening the campaign 4-0-0, Edmonton has gone 6-11-2 in its last 19 games, falling into the Northwest Division cellar.
Craig MacTavish has already publicly humiliated Dustin Penner, criticizing the overpaid winger for his lack of effort and conditioning. To his credit, Penner has responded with two goals and four points in his last five games. And even though he was held off the scoresheet in Edmonton’s 4-3 loss to Dallas Sunday night, he played a season-high 21:56, so he must be earning the ice time.
Erik Cole’s Alberta adjustment has been incredibly painful. Expected to provide 25+ goals and a physical presence up front, Cole has been abysmal, producing a mere three goals and seven points in his first 23 games as an Oiler.
Sam Gagner and Andrew Cogliano have fallen victim to wicked sophomore slumps. The 19-year-old Gagner, who produced 13 goals and 49 points as a rookie, has just one goal and five points, leading some to suggest he’d be better served skating in the World Junior Championships. But that’s crazy talk. The kid’s an NHLer. MacTavish is still giving him quality minutes. Gagner will just have to fight through it.
Cogliano, a grizzled old man of 21, has six goals and 10 points through his first 23, putting him on pace to approach his rookie totals of 18 goals and 45 points. But that’s not good enough. The bar’s been raised.
Robert Nilsson, the third member of last year’s talented young triumvirate, can’t blame his lack of scoring on a sophomore slump, but he’s been just as bad, mustering three goals and eight points.
Without production from the kids, Edmonton has scored two or fewer goals in nine of its past 19 games. First periods have been particularly troubling, with the Oil generating a league-low 11 goals in the opening frame.
It also wouldn’t hurt if Edmonton finally settled on a starting netminder. Dwayne Roloson, Mathieu Garon, and Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers are sharing the pipes, with Roloson seeing 11 starts to Garon’s seven and Drouin-Deslauriers’ five. Pick a horse already.
GM Steve Tambellini is preaching patience, but the natives are restless. The unwashed masses are demanding action. Unfortunately, there simply isn’t much demand for goaltenders these days, especially 39-year-old netminders making $3.6 million named Roloson. Teams certainly aren’t lining up to take on Penner’s contract. And Tambellini would be foolish to part with one of the youngsters.
Yet word on the street is something big could break this week, meaning either MacTavish gets the boot or perhaps a guy like Sheldon Souray finds a new address.
How ‘bout those pesky New York Islanders? The Fishstick Boys went 8-6-1 in November, proving they won’t be a doormat for Wales Conference powers. Joey MacDonald is getting much of the hype, and rightfully so, for securing the pipes in Rick DiPietro’s absence, but let’s not overlook the contributions of Trent Hunter.
Hunter leads the Isles with 10 goals, and he has 19 points through his first 24 games, putting him well on his way to eclipsing the career-highs he set in his rookie season of 25 goals and 51 points. As per usual, he’s also leading the Isles with 62 hits, which are 25 more than his nearest teammate.
Mason improved his record to 6-2-1 last night, stopping 30 shots to edge the visiting Canucks 3-2. At 6’4”, the 20-year-old Mason is an imposing figure in net, but he’s still pretty nimble between the pipes. Keep an eye on this kid. He’s got the goods.
Over in St. Louis, Chris Mason is making a run at the Blues starting gig. Mason has won his last three starts and has stopped 130 of 134 shots (.970 SV%) over his past four appearances. Manny Legace, who’s 2-6-1 in his last eight, is still the top guy, with Mason only seeing the pipes in back-to-back situations, but that could change in a hurry with the Blues currently occupying the Central basement.