4 things we learned in the NHL: Hibernation might be good for Blackhawks


"Wait, you mean there's no roof? At a hockey game? How are we supposed to play?" – Jonathan Toews, probably. (Nam Y. Huh/AP)

What happened in the NHL on Tuesday?

Nothing too unpredictable, really. A team that historically struggles out in the elements did just that, a consensus Cup contender looked the part, and arguably the league’s least-heralded sniper found the back of the net once again.

Oh, and a certain mustachioed someone’s legal-but-really-mean hit from Monday escaped discipline.

Here are four things we learned.


Even the Blackhawks might be sick of being chosen for Winter Classics

It’s become cliché to complain about the amount of outdoor games the Chicago Blackhawks play in.

They lead the way with six Classic/Series appearances (Pittsburgh will have five after visiting Lincoln Financial Field in February), and that number might not change for a while – which would be good news for everyone.

With the team near the bottom of the standings and no longer the reliable Cup contender it was for much of this decade, you have to assume the NHL might look elsewhere when it fills out its next slate of outdoor contests.

And after dropping a 4-2 decision to the Boston Bruins at Notre Dame Stadium on Tuesday, the Blackhawks fell to 1-5 in their six marquee appearances anyway.

A long hibernation might be good for them.

Plus, keeping Chicago away from all Winter Classics and Stadium Series for the next little while will open up a spot for a deserving, exciting team that’s never played in one.

Tampa Bay, Nashville, and Columbus, all have growing fan bases that you can be sure would jump at the chance to fill up a stadium and … screw it, Seattle-Vegas 2022, please.

The Predators are simply scary

The Nashville Predators had a rough go of things for the past month, but when they’re on, they’re as good as anyone.

They had an ugly 6-10-1 stretch from Nov. 23 to Dec. 29, but with star players P.K. Subban and Viktor Arvidsson back in the fold, the team appears to be back on track.

A 6-3 beating of the defending Cup champs on Monday was followed by a 4-0 thrashing of Philadelphia on Tuesday.

One thing that’s always fun to watch in Nashville is the handling of Finnish netminding duo, Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros.

Saros, “undersized” at 5-foot-11 has long been considered the heir apparent to Pekka Rinne, who at 36 years old has played some of his best hockey the past couple of years.

The understudy hasn’t played up to his standards in 2018-19, but he got the shutout against the Flyers, and received some well-earned love from his mentor.

The Predators, who moved within two points of Winnipeg for the Central Division lead, are still missing top-six centre Kyle Turris.

This isn’t even their final form.

Pirri scored, because of course he did

Brandon Pirri has always been one to shoot his shot.

Yet for whatever reason, the 27-year-old hasn’t been able to find a permanent NHL home.

He had 22 goals in just 49 games with Florida in 2014-15 (a 36-goal pace), then had 14 in 61 games split with the Panthers and Anaheim, before tallying just eight scores in 60 games with the New York Rangers in 2016-17.

The Toronto native nearly went to Switzerland ahead of last season before signing a one-year deal with Vegas for $650,000.

The Golden Knights dressed him in just two games last year, in which he scored three goals, before signing an identical one-year contract with Vegas this summer.

Injuries opened up a spot on the NHL club this year and his goal scoring might just be good enough to keep him there full-time.

Pirri scored the game-winning goal for Vegas against the rival Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday, giving him six goals and nine points in seven games since being called up. The Knights are 5-0-2 in that span.

Flames-Sharks on Feb. 7 is gonna be a good one

Hockey players are a lot like elephants.

Some of them hit to intimidate, some to gain possession of a puck or territory, while others are… just jerks.

Calgary Flames forward Sam Bennett was the latter on Monday, delivering a crushing hit to San Jose Sharks defenceman Radim Simek with less than 30 seconds left in an 8-5 Flames win.

The hit was maybe late, definitely a jerk move, quite entertaining, and also legal – as John Shannon reported on Tuesday.

The NHL might not have deemed the hit worthy of supplemental discipline, but you can bet the Sharks will keep the hit – which came as they were simply trying to run out the clock in a humbling, chippy loss – in the back of their minds when the two teams meet again in February.

They’re hockey players after all. They never forget.

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