Hockey Hearsay compiles stories from around the hockey world and runs weekdays, 12 months a year.
OVECHKIN CHASES ELUSIVE 50-IN-50 MARK
The NHL-recognized achievement for snipers is a player scoring 50 goals in his team’s first 50 games. Alex Ovechkin has missed two games with an injury and has 26 goals in his 29 games after his four-goal outburst Tuesday night, although the Caps have played 31 times so far this season.
Can the superstar tally 24 goals in the Capitals’ next 19 games for the official 50 in 50 mark, or even 24 in 21 for a still-impressive feat?
Via CSNWashington.com: “Of course it would be nice to score that [many] goals in that [many] games,” Ovechkin said. “It’s really hard and it’s almost impossible to do it right now because the level of hockey is so high. You almost have to score every game or two a game to do that.
“We’ll see what’s going to happen. My job is to score goals. Every opportunity I have I’m going to try to put it in the net.”
The Washington Post notes Capitals coach Adam Oates was with Brett Hull in the early nineties when the goal scorer potted the official 50 in 50 in back-to-back seasons with the St. Louis Blues. Oates was then with Cam Neely in Boston when the rugged Bruins winger banged home 50 goals in his first 44 games, though with injuries that worked out to the Bruins’ first 66 contests.
Can Ovechkin find a way to join that elite company?
“I think he has the capability of doing it, with the guys he plays with, the minutes and the [power play],” Oates said, acknowledging that today’s NHL doesn’t lead to as significant offensive production as it did during his career. “I think it’s harder now, no question.”
CROSBY PREDICTS ‘STEEP’ SUSPENSION FOR BRUINS’ THORNTON
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review relays that Penguins captain Sidney Crosby was asked for a prediction regarding what the league will do with Bruins forward Shawn Thornton, who faces suspension for his attack on Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik over the weekend.
“I have no idea. It’s hard to guess. Nealer (James Neal) got five. If I had to guess a number, I’d say 10. Right around there. Maybe even more. I’m sure they have a lot of different criteria to look at when they’re giving guys suspensions. I’m sure it’s going to be up there. It’s going to be steep.”
OUTDOOR GAMES PROVIDE NHL HUGE BOOST
The Globe and Mail takes an intriguing look at how with an increasing outdoor game presence and the recently-announced monster TV deal, the NHL is becoming less and less a poor cousin of the NFL, MLB and the NBA.
The outdoor games add spice.
“These games are parties,” said Rick Powers, a professor at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. “It’s an event, it’s the glitz. People don’t want to miss it.”
The NHL has become an expert in erecting what marketers call “tent poles,” events that elevate the business as a whole, said AJ Maestas, president of Navigate Marketing, which specializes in sports and sponsorships. The league-run events promote the NHL and the money helps all 30 teams, rather than just the big names. This underpins the ideas to stage events in Europe, and a World Cup of hockey.
“Hockey’s biggest moments were traditionally the playoffs. The NHL has done a terrific job of creating new events,” said Maestas, who noted outdoor games are “highly visible” for potential viewers.
“There’s more in store,” said Maestas, “and I don’t just mean more outdoor games.”
OLYMPIC CAMP SNUB MOTIVATED SHARKS’ MARLEAU
CSNBayArea.com recalls that Sharks forward Patrick Marleau wasn’t part of Team Canada’s Olympic orientation camp in the summer and he admits he’s used the snub as motivation
“Yeah, definitely. You want to be considered one of the elites, and have people recognize that,” Marleau, who will also be an unrestricted free agent this summer, said. “That’s one of the things I’ve thought about.”
“I was disappointed. I would have liked to be part of that [orientation] group, but then, I guess, [you] maybe refocus and get back at work and try and come out and have a good start.”
Marleau admits to pondering the possibility of playing for his country again.
“Yeah, you think about it. You want to be playing well, that’s the biggest thing, game in and game out. By you doing well and the team doing well, it usually leads to better things.”
KASSIAN READY FOR OILERS’ REVENGE-SEEKERS
The Vancouver Province points out Canucks winger Zack Kassian might face some revenge-seeking Edmonton Oilers Friday when the two teams meet. A preseason Kassian stick swing broke the jaw of Sam Gagner and resulted in Kassian being suspended for eight games.
“Who knows? I’m happy [Steve] MacIntyre is not in the lineup, that’s for sure,” Kassian said of the Oilers’ demoted enforcer of whom he said: “I don’t even think he can skate.”
“I’m not too worried about somebody coming after me — I have no problems standing up for myself. I’m going to play the game hard. If they want to get some kind of revenge, the door is open. Go ahead.”
Kassian, on the incident itself: “Obviously, things are going to be said, but look at the replay. He stops up and I lose my balance. But I have to do a better job controlling my stick and I definitely didn’t mean to hit him in the face by any means. If you look at it from the other team’s point of view, I could understand why they’re a little angry and want to get some sort of payback.”
EAKINS ADJUSTS COACHING STYLE TO OILERS
Telling quotes from Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins to The Edmonton Sun when asked about the concept that a first-time NHL coach coming in with his own philosophies untried at this level and with such an incomplete assembly of players might require significant readjustment.
“Well, yeah. I came in and I had a way that I thought this team was going to play. ‘This is how we’re going to play.’ I thought it was important to stick with that.
“But then, when you get to learn your personnel a little bit better, you can do one of two things as a coach.
“You can dig your heels in and say ‘We’re going to play this way!’
“But if your group isn’t suited to play that way, I think that’s pretty damn stupid of the coach.
“You have to adapt and go ‘You know what? Maybe this way is a little bit better for the group.’
“And as we progress and as we get a stronger group, then maybe you can go back to how you really envision your team.
“Maybe I was a little bit ahead of myself and where I thought we could go right away.
“But I just thought it was not a very intelligent way to go about coaching — imposing your will on something that’s not going to work for the players you have at that moment.
“So, yes, we have changed certain things.
“We have changed our philosophy on a few different system things. The hard work, carry water part of it doesn’t change. But how we’ve gone about playing on the ice, has.”
HARTLEY: FLAMES PLAYING SCARED
The Calgary Herald notes Flames forward Michael Cammalleri referred to this shortcoming of passive play the Flames have had as a complex: “Just man up about it. (There’s) got to be a little more pride that way.”
Bench boss Bob Hartley doesn’t deny that aspect of the recent letdowns.
“We’re facing a mental block,” said the coach. “My feeling — we’re playing scared to make a mistake. If you’re going to make a mistake, make a mistake being over-aggressive. The risks are much lower than being on our heels.”
JETS’ KANE TO MISS MORE TIME
The Winnipeg Sun reports it appears Evander Kane, after already having missed four games, will miss the remainder of the Winnipeg Jets’ homestand.
“You know what, he’s more than day-to-day because he hasn’t skated with us for a while” said Jets head coach Claude Noel. “We were hoping that, by this point, it would be moving along. We’re just kind of doing our due diligence. It’s coming along slower than we anticipated.
“So, he’s not a player in the next few games, I don’t anticipate, not until he comes back and skates with us. I can’t go into much more detail than that.”
TROTZ’S ANALYSIS OF PREDATORS’ JONES
Nashville coach Barry Trotz on super rookie defenseman Seth Jones, via The Raleigh News & Observer: “There are times when he looks like he’s 29 and times when he looks like he’s 19,” Trotz said. “He’s still learning the game and there’s times when he wants to take the foot off the gas pedal, if you will, and the league eats him up. This league is a very good league and if you’re not going at full rpm’s, it can humble you very quickly.
“He’s done a great job but I never in my wildest dreams thought I’d play him 30 minutes as a 19-year-old. Not many get that opportunity.”
SABRES’ NOLAN WANTS MORE FROM LEINO
The Buffalo News indicates Sabres coach Ted Nolan is looking for work ethic and consistency from Ville Leino, who was a healthy scratch Tuesday night.
“It really was but not only that game but the way he practiced yesterday,” Nolan said. “He didn’t practice all that well. I think we’re a product of our environment. If we don’t practice hard how are we going to play hard? It’s one of those things that we have to set a certain standard here that you have to be accountable for. Not just Ville but everybody.”
Leino: “I’ve been playing the game the way I’ve always been playing it. It just hasn’t gone it. There’s a lot of good chances, a lot of scoring chances. I don’t know. Sometimes it doesn’t go your way.”
THEY TWEETED IT