9:09 PM CST, January 20, 2014
Saturday won’t be remembered as the NHL’s finest hour.
The league absorbed a one-two punch of ridicule for the line brawl that erupted two seconds into the Vancouver-Calgary game, Canucks Coach John Tortorella’s attempt to invade the Flames’ locker room between periods and the failure of four on-ice officials in Detroit to see a shot by Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall hit the netting before it caromed off Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick and into the net for a tying goal.
Addressing the ugliest blot first, the NHL on Monday suspended Tortorella for 15 days without pay, retroactive to Saturday. He will miss six games. Calgary Coach Bob Hartley, who sent out two enforcers to start the game — presumably not telling them to dance — got off easy with a $25,000 fine.
“Mr. Tortorella’s actions in attempting to enter the Calgary Flames locker room after the first period were both dangerous and an embarrassment to the league,” said Colin Campbell, NHL senior executive vice president of hockey operations, in a statement. “Coaches in the NHL bear the responsibility of providing leadership, even when emotions run high, and Mr. Tortorella failed in his responsibility to the game.”
True. But Hartley, whose feuds with Tortorella go back to their American Hockey League days, put Tortorella in an untenable position by starting his goons. Tortorella couldn’t start skill players for fear they’d get hurt. Tortorella had to be punished for trying to physically confront Hartley, but Hartley deserves the most contempt.
As for the Detroit goal that shouldn’t have counted, NHL general managers probably will discuss expanding the list of reviewable plays to include out-of-bounds plays such as the puck hitting the mesh. Imagine the uproar if the Red Wings make the playoffs on the points they shouldn’t have earned. It’s impossible to anticipate every situation, but this one should have been considered and can be remedied before next season.
Being chosen captain of a hockey team means more than in other sports, maybe because it’s a rare instance when it’s acceptable to single out an individual in a team-oriented game.
So it was significant, though not surprising, when Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby was appointed captain of Team Canada for the Sochi Olympics, with Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews and Nashville Predators defenseman Shea Weber to serve as alternate captains.
Crosby is accustomed to wearing the “C” for the Penguins but his duties won’t be the same during the Olympics, according to former Ducks defenseman and recent Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Scott Niedermayer, the captain of Canada’s gold-medal team at Vancouver.
“The whole experience is quite different. Some of your teammates you know well, others only met briefly and you are getting to know,” said Niedermayer, who retired in June 2010 and is now a Ducks assistant coach.
“There is not a lot of time, so you aren’t dealing with the little things that you may with your NHL team over the course of the year. You focus on the team as a whole, mostly addressing the whole team.”
Niedermayer said Crosby should lead as he knows best.
“The best advice would be to be himself and not change anything because of the magnitude of the Olympics,” Niedermayer said. “He has been in plenty of big games and knows what it takes for success.”
The Red Wings’ 22-season playoff streak is in jeopardy because of the flood of injuries they’ve faced, which has forced them to patch their lineup with young players. Through Sunday’s games they were just behind the second wild-card spot in the East.
Coach Mike Babcock said management analyzed the medical treatment, conditioning and strength-training regimens in search of an explanation but found nothing.
“The interesting thing is when we were old, we never got hurt. And now that we’re young we get hurt all the time. So why is that?” he said, not expecting an answer.
The Red Wings did escape a precarious position last season, making a late push to grab the No. 7 seed in the West, upset the No. 2 Ducks in the first round and take a 3-1 series lead over the Chicago Blackhawks in the second round before losing Game 7 in overtime. Can they do it again?
“Absolutely,” said forward Henrik Zetterberg. “Last year is a good example that we had a lot of new guys coming in and it took a while for us to play the way we wanted to.
“We had some injuries last year too, and most of the guys came back for that last 20 games before the playoffs and played well, and we carried that over in the playoffs. Hopefully guys will come back before 20 games this year and we can start a little earlier.”
Rib and finger injuries will end Vancouver center Henrik Sedin’s ironman streak at 679 games. He has been ruled out of the Canucks’ game Tuesday, ending the sixth-longest consecutive games-played streak in NHL history. He last missed a game late in the 2003-04 season. The record is 964 by Doug Jarvis. Sedin had become a slave to the streak and will benefit more from rest than from playing 20 seconds to keep the streak going.
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