A quick mix of the things we gleaned from the week of hockey, serious and less so, and rolling four lines deep.
Kopitar gets it.
“Both left shot, pretty big body, like to hold onto the puck,” he says.
I asked Kopitar whom he got compared to as a rookie, and he needed time to think.
“I heard Mats Sundin a few times,” he said. “Circle of Life” played in my head.
How do those lofty comparisons make a young player feel when there’s still so much to prove?
“It feels great,” Kopitar says. “It gives you a sense that you’re doing something right, that you’ve got to stay on the path. Work hard and try to be like them at some point. In the beginning, there’s always comparisons, but at the same time, you’re quite a ways away. So you try to establish yourself and do the best you can.”
2. Sweden’s Sedin twins and Loui Eriksson exhibited such beautiful chemistry as a top line at the World Cup of Hockey that Eriksson’s needing 14 games to score his first as a Vancouver Canuck was especially shocking.
“They were so good in the World Cup, I was so excited with him coming in. At the start, it didn’t go the way we thought,” says coach Willie Desjardins, who replaced Eriksson on the first unit with Jannik Hansen for a spell. “If you leave him on there, [opponents] kinda just have to shut down that one unit. We don’t have as much.”
With Morgan Rielly cracking Hansen’s rib, Eriksson is back with the twins.
But how did that trio lose some magic from the best-on-best tournament?
“When you play in the NHL, every team is so defensively sound,” Daniel Sedin explains. “The World Cup, you meet up and play games right away. It’s more of a read-and-react game than in the NHL.”
3. Desjardins has said any and all options are on the table for igniting the NHL’s worst offence.
Captain Henrik Sedin was asked if that includes splitting up the twins.
“I don’t think that’s the right way to go about it,” Sedin said. “For me, that’s not an option.”
4. John Tortorella’s outspokenness and disdain for analytics make him an easy target, but his Columbus Blue Jackets have the league’s best power play (32.4%) and the East’s best penalty kill (91.9%).
5. Calgary Flames president Brian Burke delivered some insight on the early struggles of his big-money young stars Sean Monahan (six points) and Johnny Gaudreau (10 points). Both are minus-10 players, worst among Flames forwards.
“I’ve seen this happen probably 50 times. You give a player a new contract. He had 70 points the year before and in his mind he thinks, ‘Well, now I gotta get 90 points.’ And he ends up squeezing the stick or trying to do too much. He goes Lone Ranger on you, and now he’s not going to get 60 points,” Burke told Sportsnet 960 The Fan this week.
“There’s no lack of effort. If I felt this was a sweat issue and the players weren’t working hard, I’d be frying them right now. I’d be frying them by name and number.”
After a four-game point drought, Johnny Hockey has three points in his last two games.
6. Twenty years separate the two members of Boston’s shutdown pair.
Zdeno Chara, 39, is an easy target when citing personal or franchise decline, but he’s been critical to the development of 19-year-old partner Brandon Carlo.
Combined, the duo has plus-20 rating, while Boston as a team is even in goal differential.
It’s not Chara’s fault the Bruins’ offence ranks 23rd overall. Because Boston is so thin along the blueline, you sense the Bruins appreciate him more this season than in the past couple of years. And Chara’s gratefulness for the game has also deepened.
“I’m proud of where I’m at. It doesn’t matter what age you are, you have to appreciate the game. If you’re not going to appreciate the game, the game won’t appreciate you. You have to take it with a great appreciation and be humble. Everybody, no matter who you ask, is happy to be playing at this level,” the big man said recently.
“You always hear people talking about how fast it goes by, but you don’t realize how fast it goes by until you’re 10, 15 years into the league. Wow, it’s going really fast. You have to sit and take a deep breath. It’s one of those things you don’t notice when you’re younger. All of a sudden you’re in your midlife and you forget about childish things you did in the past.”
7. Asked Maple Leafs defenceman Frank Corrado — forever a healthy scratch — why he’s not in the lineup.
“I don’t know,” he said. Period.
Even with Matt Hunwick injured, he couldn’t get into the Toronto lineup last weekend against his former team, Vancouver, which would have added a bit of theatre.
“Considering I haven’t played a game, sure, I’d love to play that game. I’d love to get in any game right now,” Corrado said. “It’s one of those things where you have to do what’s best for the team and be a good team guy while the team’s playing well.”
The 23-year-old is being diplomatic publicly, but the frustration is getting harder to hide. He believes he had a good camp and can help his hometown team win.
“If you don’t play and don’t get a good shot at it, you don’t really know,” he said. “It’s different from last year where they might not have known much about me. I think they have a good idea.”
This is what Mike Babcock told reporters Thursday:
“Last year we didn’t have [Connor] Carrick and we didn’t have [Nikita] Zaitsev, so that’s the problem with life — the truth today isn’t the truth tomorrow. If you’re working in your job and someone else comes and is a little smoother at it, guess what happens to you? So, it’s the same thing here.
“What Frankie’s done, he’s done a real good job being a good pro, gotten bigger and stronger, worked real hard this summer. When he gets his opportunity, he’s got to seize it.”
#FreeFrankCorrado is now a thing. Put him on waivers.
8. Claude Julien won his 400th game as head coach of the Boston Bruins, in part because he played bad cop with a $19-million core player.
Julien healthy-scratched Matt Beleskey, who had gone pointless in the team’s first 10 games. The winger was an impact player in Monday’s 4-0 win versus Buffalo, breaking his drought with an assist.
“I don’t want to say it helped me. I don’t want to get scratched again, you know?” Beleskey told reporters. “It’s a reset. It’s a time to think about the game, look at it and come back with an open mind.”
9. Sometimes the mere threat of a healthy scratch can spark a player.
Tortorella sounded off on a few anonymous “top players” who weren’t trying hard enough Sunday night.
“I keep putting them out in the ice, and I kick myself in the ass now,” Tortorella said.
The next morning at practice Brandon Saad was booted off the power play and skated on the fourth line, leading some to believe he’d be watching from the press box.
Saad not only participated in Wednesday’s 3-2 overtime win over the Ducks, he scored a goal and added an assist.
If we’ve learned nothing else this week, kids, fear is a powerful motivator.
10. Memo to general managers: Please make more trades.
Instead of letting third goaltender Mike Condon’s glutes seize up in the press box, GM of the Year Jim Rutherford trades him to Ottawa and gets a fifth-rounder in return for a freebie he picked up off waivers from Montreal just a few weeks prior. The Senators get a capable 26-year-old backup who is now 2-0-0 with a shutout, a 0.48 goals-against average, and a .983 save percentage.
The Florida Panthers didn’t have a spot for 19-year-old Lawson Crouse, who’s good enough that he made the Coyotes this week as an entry-level slide candidate. Because Crouse played his 10th NHL game Thursday, the Cats get a second-round pick instead of a third-rounder, as per a condition of the deal.
These aren’t blockbusters, but small, cap-easy deals in which everybody wins.
So, let’s go, Garth Snow. Your team is second-worst in the East, and J.F. Berube is getting cold.
11. Great talking to L.A. Kings forward Devin Setoguchi this week. So refreshing when a player is an open book and has perspective on life beyond the rink. You can tell he’s really savouring his job.
Something that didn’t make the story: He spends his off-seasons in San Jose and is still tight with former Sharks teammates Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton. John Thornton, Joe’s brother, is Setoguchi’s agent and he golfs with “Big Joe” all the time.
Joe had Setoguchi over for dinner in Round 1 of the playoffs last spring. Of course, the Sharks won that round, so Setoguchi was invited back for dinner at the Thorntons in Round 2, and again in Round 3, etc.
What did Setoguchi think of the photo of Thornton walking around shirtless in Pittsburgh?
“If you know him, that’s typical Joe.”
Gardiner: “I just haven’t got around to it. No reason.”
Brown: “If you’re on Twitter, that’s all anyone tweets about. I know today is a big day. I did not vote. I could do a mail-in vote, but I’m in California, so Hillary or Trump, it doesn’t make a difference in that state. I voted every other year because we weren’t traveling and it kinda snuck up on me. Not snuck up on me, but I’m comfortable with who’s going to win. At least I hope so.”
Matthews, who dressed up like Ken Bone for Halloween: “I didn’t vote or anything. I don’t pay attention to that stuff much. It’ll be interesting to see what happens today.”