Minnesota 1
NY Rangers 4 (Recap)

Winnipeg 1
Vancouver 2 (Recap)


Notable Numbers

* Winnipeg Jets forward Evander Kane scored 1 power-play goal against the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday night, a rare blemish for the remarkably spotless Vancouver penalty-kill. Making the feat even rarer: Kane scored his goal with Canucks defenseman Chris Tanev on the ice. The “goal against” brought Tanev’s on-ice four-on-five goal differential – and the 24-year-old defenseman has spent nearly 93 minutes playing in four-on-five situations this season – back to even.

* The Nashville Predators have released promising 19-year-old forward Filip Forsberg to the Swedish U20 men’s ice hockey team for the World Junior Hockey Championships. This year’s tournament will be Forsberg’s third, as the former first round pick won a gold medal at the 2012 tournament and captained the Swedish side to a silver medal in Ufa, Russia this past January.

* The Blackhawks have gone 7-1-2 without Corey Crawford and their incumbent starter is poised to return to the lineup shortly.

* Cam Talbot stopped 24 of 25 shots in a 4-1 Rangers victory over the Minnesota Wild. Might Talbot’s strong play earn him the start in back-to-back games (in favor of struggling perennial Vezina candidate Henrik Lundqvist)? Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault wasn’t tipping his hand after the game

* The Minnesota Wild have seen their once strong underlying numbers go in the wrong direction over the past four or five weeks…


What Happened

The Worst Goal of All Time

New York Rangers forward Chris Kreider scored a scored that, y’know, I think Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom would probably want back:

Canucks Goaltender Roberto Luongo Injured

It doesn’t sound too serious, but Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo is day-to-day with a lower-body injury after getting tangled up with Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien and colliding with Blake Wheeler in the first period of Sunday night’s Jets v. Canucks game.

Derick Brassard is pretty skilled

This Derick Brassard pass to Mats Zuccarello – who gets a shot off within arms length of all five Minnesota Wild defenders – is a jaw dropper:

Ondrej Pavelec had a strong game and the Jets still lost…

Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec has been the NHL’s least effective workhorse starter this season, but he was excellent on Sunday night in Vancouver. Pavelec stopped 23 of 25 shots in the losing effort, including this vaguely larcenous stymieing of Ryan Kesler:


An Opinion

The exchange between Leafs defender Dion Phaneuf and Penguins forward Sidney Crosby on the latest episode of HBO’s 24/7: Road to the NHL Winter Classic was a highlight, right up there with Brad Richards mocking Tom Sestito in the pantheon of funny on-ice exchanges from the HBO series. In the exchange, which you can watch below, Crosby calls out Leafs forward Nazem Kadri as a diver, “a dummy”, and a “joke”:

Look, there’s no denying that Nazem Kadri has a bit of rat to his game. Kadri was a deserving jerkpuck all-star last season and his ability to get under the skin of opponents and draw penalties – whether by way of embellishment, or retribution – is a big part of what has made him effective in the NHL.

But like anything in life, it’s all about striking a balance. Responding to Crosby’s criticism, Kadri told the National Post’s Sean Fitz-Gerald: “I think (Crosby) lost a little respect for me.” My general sense of this is that if you’re losing the respect of fellow players across the league, you probably need to get back to the jerkpuck golden mean.

To be clear: I don’t approach this as a value judgement. It’s not that “embellishing” or “being obnoxious” or “getting in a generational talent’s face” is offensive or unseemly. It’s just that if you don’t straddle the line with precision and maturity you run the risking of neutering your jerkpuck effectiveness with an emergent bad reputation. This is essentially the difference between Dustin Brown, who has maintained his sterling stature around the league despite being a knee-on-knee hit artist and frequent flopper; and oft-gif’d Ryan Kesler who has not maintained a similarly unblemished reputation.

Kadri has the raw tools to be one of the league’s best rats, the Ralph S. Mouse of the NHL if you were. I talked to him about this on the record in late November – shortly after he was suspended for incidentally colliding with Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom – and he told me, essentially, that he thinks his skill-level makes his occasional antics that much more infuriating for his opponents. It’s an edge he’s told me he tries to take advantage of, as a way of helping his team.

For the most part, Kadri has been enormously successful on that front in his career, and he remains in the black in terms of “penalty differential” this season. But he’s beginning to incur some measurable diminishing returns here. The Don Cherry favorite is drawing almost a full penalty fewer per sixty minutes of even-strength ice-time this season in comparison with the 2012-13 campaign, and he’s also taking penalties at roughly double the rate. In other words: Kadri’s jerkpuck “edge” appears to have been dulled relative to the high-standard he set in his first full season in the league.

From my observation, and in talking to him about it, I don’t think he’s taking more lazy penalties or finding himself out of position more often this season. And I don’t think he’s struggling to draw penalties because he’s not “going to the dirty areas of the ice” anymore, or any similarly childish explanation. Most probably the young Leafs forward has just been marginally less fortunate this year, and has also been more regularly victimized by ticky-tack calls. But those are the fruits, I suspect, of struggling to strike that ephemeral balance between playing on the edge in a helpful, productive way and losing the respect of on-ice officials and opponents.


Other News

* BREAKING: talented young player on team friendly deal is a valuable asset on the trade market. Apparently multiple teams are considering taking a serious run at Montreal Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty.

* The Dallas Stars are quickly morphing into “Pittsburgh Penguins south.” No, no, not because they’re a fun and talented offensive team. It’s because with Sergei Gonchar battling concussion-like symptoms, the Stars are down almost their entire top-four.

* Boston Bruins assistant general manager Jim Benning is reportedly  the leading candidate to fill the vacant general manager position with the Buffalo Sabres.

* Canadian U20 defenseman Matt Dumba is facing suspension due to a kneeing incident that occurred in a pretournament game against Sweden on Sunday.  If you’re interested, we might add, you can follow scores, news and all the action from this year’s World Junior Hockey Championships with your trusty neighborhood theScore app. Just add “WJHC” under “More Leagues” in the menu page.

* Finally Edmonton Oilers fans appear to be taking the club’s latest blowout loss (the Oilers fell 6-0 to the St. Louis Blues buzzsaw on Saturday night) particularly hard. Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins described his club in masochistic terms; the Edmonton Journal’s David Staples wrote about why fans are losing patience with the teama long-time Oilers fan threw his jersey on the ice after Saturday night’s game; and a savvy video-editing Oilers fan set two years worth of the team’s defensive miscues and goaltending mistakes to an impossibly sad song. The result is kind of amazing, actually: