Every other Thursday, Sportsnet’s Kyle Bukauskas will give you a peek behind the curtain and share stories about what he sees and hears in his job as a rink side reporter.
Here’s this week’s collection:
1. Plenty of talk in Ottawa this week about Pierre Dorion re-assigning Pierre Groulx and bringing in Zac Bierk as the new goalie coach. What flew under the radar before this season was the Sens hiring Justin Peters to be the goalie coach with Belleville.
Peters was at one time the goalie for a Hershey Bears team that was coached by current B-Sens bench boss, Troy Mann. He’s fresh off his playing days, retiring in 2020. Peters is just 34 years old and has more than a handful of young goalie prospects to work with in the system.
He laughed when I asked if he’s the sole reason the netminders that have been called up to Ottawa this year have done so well. But there is no question he has made a positive impact early. Filip Gustavsson has spoken highly of him a few times already.
Peters said Gustavsson is like a “goalie school’s goalie” meaning he has a perfect stance in the net. Peters challenged him to take ownership of his game. To figure out what his foundation is as a goalie tactically and technically, and hold himself to that standard every time he goes on the ice.
“Gus has a calm demeanour, he’s easygoing, polite, but there is that fire inside,” Peters said. “He’s the same ‘Gus’ every day.”
It’s uncertain how many more starts Gustavsson will get in the NHL this season as Marcus Hogberg and Matt Murray are getting healthy again, but his progress this year has to be encouraging for an organization trying to find stability in their crease.
2. Tyson Barrie put up two more assists Wednesday night, bringing his point total to 34 in 40 games.
He never truly got comfortable in Toronto last season. Got off to a slow start, felt the pressure mounting, then came the coaching change, later the pandemic, hit followed by a short stint in the bubble. Despite all that, Barrie still had 39 points in 70 games from the backend.
As he went into the free agency process after last season, he jokingly wondered, “How did I become the worst D-man in hockey?”
Barrie zeroed in on Edmonton as a possible landing spot. The chance to play with two of the game’s best players and the potential to quarterback the Oilers power play were among the selling points. He turned down more money and more term elsewhere to sign in Edmonton for one year.
After a season that beat him up a bit in Toronto, Barrie bet on himself to find his game again. It’s paying off.
3. Caught up with Henrik Sedin last week (massive assist to colleague Dan Murphy for making it happen) to talk about his old linemate, Alex Burrows.
The former Canucks captain saw plenty of clues over their playing days that indicated Burrows had a mind for coaching when the time came.
“He put in a lot of time to understand his role,” Sedin said. Burrows was a penalty-kill specialist before he got a chance on the power play, but would still sit in on the man-advantage meetings because he wanted to learn more about the strategy and mindset in those situations.
Both Henrik and Daniel have kept tabs on Burrows’ work as an assistant coach in Laval and now as part of Dominique Ducharme’s staff with the Canadiens. As Henrik put it, “When you play with someone that meant that much to you over your career, of course you follow him.”
“Even players that played against him could appreciate his passion for the game and that’s why I think he’s going to make such a great coach.”
4. Ever notice when Nick Suzuki scores, he barely celebrates? At most he’ll throw a little fist pump, maybe a “Woo!” here and there, otherwise it’s pretty tame.
That stems from when he was a kid and he used to be a little more showboat-y after scoring. Until one day his grandfather, Arthur, who was a heck of a basketball player in his day, pulled him aside and told him, “When you score, act like you’ve done it before and you plan on doing it again!”
Suzuki has carried that mindset with him ever since. Montreal needs him to find his scoring touch again down the stretch.
5. Pierre-Luc Dubois learned from a young age losing is unacceptable.
When he was 3-4 years old and his father, Eric, was finishing his pro career in Germany, Pierre-Luc loved being in the dressing room as much as possible. Running around with a stick always in his hand or stopping to chat with different players, it was heaven for him at that age. The rule was, however, he was only allowed in after the team won.
As Dubois got a little older, he had to learn to better handle defeat. Eric tells the story of taking away his son’s hockey equipment and PlayStation for a week because he refused to shake hands with the other team after a game.
With time came maturity, but that hatred for losing has helped fuel the competitive fire he plays with today.
Dubois is still finding his footing in Winnipeg and I’m really curious to see what kind of impact playing with Paul Stastny will have on him. Paul Maurice told us last month it was something he was going to try eventually as he firmly believed Stastny did wonders for a guy like Mark Scheifele when they were paired together in the past.