Quick Shifts: Loving the Subban-JVR hate

A quick mix of the things we gleaned from the week of hockey, serious and satirical, and rolling four lines deep.

1. The more Martin St. Louis impresses, the uglier his Olympic snub looks.

Since not being named to Canada’s national team on Jan. 7, the Tampa Bay Lightning captain has yet to be kept off the score sheet — 12 points during his eight-game streak (still ongoing). (For comparison’s sake, Claude Giroux — the forward said to be Canada’s first call should a roster player go down with injury — has six points in his seven games since the disappointing day.)

On Saturday, St. Louis had a mellow four goals against one of the league’s best teams, San Jose, including a behind-the-back beauty. The professionalism of this guy is incredible.

“There’s not much else he could’ve done to deserve a spot on that team. We can’t do anything about it now,” Steven Stamkos said over the phone. “You never want to see a teammate or, for me, one of my best friends — a guy who’s really been a mentor to me — disappointed and down like that. It’s tough. I wish he was on the team.”

Stamkos and GM Steve Yzerman have not discussed St. Louis’ Sochi omission.

“What happens behind closed doors is their business. Certainly a tough decision considering his position with Tampa and his position with Team Canada. Marty’s such a true professional, and it doesn’t seem to be affecting his play. He’s a huge part of our team in Tampa and a guy I really look up to, so it was definitely tough to see him go through that.”

2. Love that the Boston Bruins organization respects the importance of the Olympic Games enough to give captain Zdeno Chara the go-ahead to leave for Sochi early. All set to use his long reach on the big ice, the three-time Olympian was tapped as Slovakia’s flag bearer at the Opening Ceremonies. Bruins coach Claude Julien will have to fill out a lineup without Chara in key games against the St. Louis Blues and Ottawa Senators, a bitter rival. But some things are bigger than a shoving match with Chris Neil.

3. John Tortorella said his only regret about the Canucks-Flames 204-penalty-minute line brawl game Saturday was pushing recently called-up centre Kellan Lain out for that opening draw.

Lain is a 24-year-old Oakville, Ont., native who was making his long-awaited NHL debut. Lain’s parents and little sister flew across the country to see the game (checked out Toronto-to-Vancouver plane ticket prices lately?), only to watch Kellan play two seconds of “hockey” before being ejected.

Lain was prepared to take the face-off, but when heavyweight Kevin Westgarth moved into the dot for the Flames, Canucks defenceman Kevin Bieksa took Lain’s spot at centre ice in attempt to protect the rookie.

Nevertheless, Lain and Westgarth would end up exchanging blows:

4. Thursday’s Sens-Habs game was a beauty, and the latest installment of what’s quickly shaping up to be an appointment-viewing rivalry. Much more thrilling than the Caps-Pens game last week.

When P.K. Subban scored the winner 23 seconds into overtime and celebrated so hard he nearly shook his beard off, it reminded me of two things: (a) Some fans and most analysts (present company included) get so caught up in playoff races and roster changes that we can forget to enjoy a midseason victory simply on its own merit — and that was fun hockey to watch. (b) That is why Subban is on Team Canada. Not just the game-breaking clutch goal, and the way he followed up his own shot just to be sure. But also for the passion he showed afterward, rushing toward his teammates (not the glass, not to open ice) and popping the crest on the front of his jersey. He’s genuine, kids:

5. So, yes, count me among the “dumb-head reporters” who loved Subban’s OT celebration in Ottawa. I also loved James van Riemsdyk’s crest-pulling Saturday night after he scored his winner. (Does any Leafs fan miss Luke Schenn?)

Both of these are in-the-moment expressions of joy and pride. As for the fear that all these overt celebrations do is irk and inspire the opposition, great. That spells more desire to win on both sides and makes the game more exciting to watch. But since I never played in the NHL, my opinion doesn’t count.

6. After the Canadiens participated in another playoff-calibre gem disguised as a regular-season game Saturday night in Toronto (can we all agree those Winter Classic sweaters are the business?), it’s safe to say that of all the rivalries between the three Canadian teams in the Atlantic Division, the Battle of Ontario has slipped all the way from first to third in terms of hate and excitement.

7. “It’s not easy to win hockey games right now. The closer and closer you get to the playoffs, you can just feel the intensity ramping up,” said Montreal’s Brendan Gallagher, whose crease-crashing aggression drew the ire of mild-mannered ping-pong player Phil Kessel of all people. “I think we did play better [in Toronto] than we did in Ottawa, even though we won the game in Ottawa and lost tonight.”

Speed and fore-checking, according to Gallagher, are the Habs’ strengths and keys to victory. If the reports are to be believed, GM Marc Bergevin is looking for some size up front to complement that speed.

8. With less than 30 seconds to play in Saturday’s Red Wings-Kings game, Detroit’s Niklas Kronwall blasted a point shot that was tipped and flew, oh, about 30 feet above the back glass and off the meshing. Out of play, the commentator said before the puck bounced back to the ice, off L.A. goalie Jonathan Quick’s back and into the net.

Because such a play was not reviewable and none of the officials on the ice were apparently looking at the puck, it was inexplicably ruled a good goal. Tie game, 2-2, and Detroit rode its good fortune to a shootout win.

Yet another good reason to institute a coach’s challenge:

“Coaches get fired, GMs get fired, but somebody’s got to be held accountable,” said GM Dean Lombardi, whose Kings will need every point they can get as they jostle for Pacific Division supremacy.

“That’s embarrassing for the league,” added coach Darryl Sutter. “It doesn’t matter if we’d have scored, or if they had scored it. That’s embarrassing.”

9. Anson Carter, who played for the defensive shaman in Columbus, did his best Ken Hitchcock impression Thursday. Made me chuckle:

10. A colleague shared this video. It’s titled “14 Minutes of Pissed Off Goalies” and features 14 minutes of goalies getting pissed off:

11. Young Toronto centre Nazem Kadri isn’t the only forward who has responded favourably to a challenge from the man who hired him.

In his first season of a five-year, $35-million deal, Carolina Hurricanes sniper Alex Semin has been shooting blanks. Heading into the weekend, he had just six goals in 34 games and was on pace for his worst showing since he was a rookie for Washington a decade ago. After three consecutive pointless games, GM Jim Rutherford called his $7-million man out.

“He came off a great year, and we are all very disappointed with his production at this time,” Rutherford said. “He’s a guy who is paid to score goals and put up points, and he hasn’t done that. He’s trying to play an east-west game when the rest of the team is playing a north-south game, and he needs to get his act going pretty soon.”

Pretty soon? How about the next day? Semin took eight shots and scored twice Saturday, including a shorthanded game-winner, against Florida.

That’s why execs strategically put frustrations out to the media. Sometimes it works.

12. Are you like me? Do you like a good time-lapse video and hate cheesy canned soundtracks? Here’s a double header. Sorry about the music.

Dodger Stadium installs outdoor rink:

Yankee Stadium does the same:

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