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. Tyler Toffoli can’t miss right now. At least when the opponent is the Vancouver Canucks, that is. His prettiest tally was the solo effort off the rush on Tuesday night, pulling the puck to his backhand and going top shelf in the far corner of the net.
Toffoli’s lone goal so far this season against a team not from the BC coast, however, wasn’t exactly a sight for sore eyes.
I asked Brendan Gallagher what the analysis was in the room afterwards. “Just a real goal scorer’s goal. The way he faked the goalie out by making it seem like he almost lost it then managed to pull it back before stuffing it 5-hole,” Gallagher said before bursting into a laugh.
For all the money spent in the off-season and new faces brought in to get integrated under a condensed timeline, the Canadiens are making it look easy.
2. We had some fun during the broadcast last week after Claude Julien suggested there would be “growing pains” from time to time with three of his four centremen 24 years of age or under.
Cap tip to Sportsnet’s Mike Raso for his effort in putting the piece together that weaves the '80s sitcom and some modern-day Canadiens together.
3. You could see the qualities of a young leader come out of Rasmus Andersson last week as the Flames worked their way out of a three-game slide.
From making it clear that what was discussed in their players-only meeting stayed between the players, to offering some pretty honest advice to teammate Juuso Valimaki after the young defenceman fell victim to some tough luck last Thursday. Andersson followed that up with a game-high five blocked shots in Saturday’s 2-0 win over Montreal while showing plenty of the type of emotion that was lacking throughout the lineup two nights earlier.
GM Brad Treliving points to a pretty direct conversation he had with Andersson during his second Development Camp with the Flames. Treliving told him he already had all the tools and the skillset to be a player in the NHL. The issue was his conditioning.
“I thought it was a positive,” Treliving said. “The only thing holding him back was something completely controllable.”
Andersson took that conversation to heart. He’s now the player Treliving will use as an example with their prospects about having good habits off the ice and the commitment that involves.
Only the ageless Mark Giordano logs more ice time on the Calgary blue line so far this season.
4. Speaking of Giordano, he hit 900 career games last weekend. “A self-made player,” as Treliving put it.
Giordano was never drafted in the OHL and went undrafted in the NHL.
I asked Treliving for his favourite Giordano story. He brought up those fateful few days leading up to the 2015 trade deadline. Flames fans will remember their team was in the middle of a surprising run in the second half of that season to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Giordano, meanwhile, was becoming a front-runner for the Norris Trophy. Then, five days before the deadline, he tore his bicep late in a game in New Jersey.
“By the time I got from the press box to the dressing room his bicep had already curled up,” Treliving said. “It completely detached from the bone. He was done.”
Giordano was crushed. The Flames had just lost their captain in the middle of a playoff push, and the trade deadline was quickly approaching.
As Elliotte Friedman loves to point out, when a GM is taking on water the other executives around the league don’t throw out life preservers, they toss anvils.
Treliving didn’t want to pay through the nose for a defenceman. They kept the severity of Giordano’s injury under wraps initially and when they played in Long Island two nights later, he asked Giordano to take warmup to give off the impression he was just day-to-day. His captain obliged.
“He couldn’t shoot. He wasn’t that great of an actor,” Treliving said with a chuckle. But Giordano was willing to do whatever he could to help the team.
Four years later, at 35 years of age, Giordano got his Norris.
5. There are four current members of the Flames organization that were selected in the 1990 NHL Draft.
Craig Conroy, Brad Pascall, Eric Lacroix and Assistant Equipment Manager, Corey Osmak.
Osmak was drafted in the ninth round by Hartford that year. He never played a game in the NHL, but last weekend worked his 1,500th game as a member of the equipment staff. Helluva run.
6. If there is one thing to be optimistic of around the Ottawa Senators, it’s the steady improvement of Tim Stützle in his short time in the NHL.
The third overall pick from last October had all of four practices with the Sens and no exhibition games before turning 19 years of age the day of his NHL debut. He was also dealing with an injury from the World Juniors that kept him out of the lineup for three games.
Stützle’s three goals in seven games is nice, but maybe just as important is the fact he has seamlessly fit in to that locker room. Just as he did in Mannheim at age 17.
When I spoke to his good friend and Mannheim teammate, David Wolf, a few weeks ago, I asked him why he thought Stützle was able to gel with a group of players that were all quite a bit older than him.
“Because he never tried to be someone special,” Wolf said. “He is just a kid who loves the game. He was always himself!”
His development alone is worth tuning in for each night despite what appears to be another long season in the nation’s capital.