Allan Maki wraps up the previous night’s NHL action and looks at the early news of the day Monday through Friday during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
So, if the opposition already thinks he’s a bug-eyed, time-out-calling, disrespecting fat walrus of a hockey coach, what does Paul MacLean do to expand his growing reputation?
Easy. The Ottawa Senators’ head man dresses Eric Gryba for Tuesday’s Game 4 against the Montreal Canadiens. Gryba was the defenceman whose hit on Lars Eller left the Habs’ forward sprawled and bloodied on the ice before he was wheeled away on a stretcher. The incident sparked hot debate – good hit, reckless head shot – drew a two-game suspension and set off an emotional maelstrom that led to Game 3’s eruption in the nation’s capital.
That offering was one vicious affair, with fights, a line brawl and more insults hurled at the mustachioed MacLean, who has clearly gotten under the skin of the Canadiens, from their players to their head coach, Michel Therrien. It’s made for great theatre and heaps of hostility, a point the league has monitored and spoken to both teams about.
Putting Gryba back in the lineup could further inflame the Canadiens, especially with Eller out for who knows how long. But here’s the pant kicker: MacLean really doesn’t have a choice.
Patrick Wiercioch played in Ottawa’s Game 3 trouncing of Montreal but didn’t skate Monday. He’s officially sidelined with a lower-body injury, which means Gryba’s the best available man to fill the roster spot. Should that happen – and know that it will – MacLean told reporters exactly what he expects from the 6-foot-4, 222-pound rookie.
“We just want him to come back in the lineup and pick up where he left off and be who he is,” said MacLean. “We don’t want him to try to be more than he is. He’s a big, strong guy who can play physical and he can dominate the middle of the rink. We want to make sure he continues to do that.”
Was there a little something left open to interpretation in that comment? Was MacLean saying to the Habs, “Come through the middle with your head down and you’ll get more of the same?” You know the Canadiens are taking it that way. They’re seeing MacLean in their bathroom mirrors these days and they don’t like it. But as their goaltender Cary Price explained, a win and a 2-2 series tie are the putdowns that matter most, and it had better happen Tuesday.
After reviewing the play …
With blood on the ice and all this toothless aggression, it may seem as if this year’s opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs has turned into a Quentin Tarantino film. But let’s look back – w-a-y back –a whole year ago to the first round of the 2012 playoffs.
Carl Hagelin of the New York Rangers drew a three-game suspension for elbowing Ottawa’s Daniel Alfredsson in the head. Three Pittsburgh Penguins were suspended in one game and their coach, Dan Bylsma, fined $10,000 (US) for one of his players instigating a fight in the last five minutes. We saw Andrew Shaw of the Chicago Blackhawks suspended three games for running goaltender Mike Smith of the Phoenix Coyotes then we watched as Nashville Predators’ defenceman Shea Weber was fined for slamming the head of Detroit Red Wing Henrik Zetterberg into the glass, WWE-like.
And don’t forget Chicago’s Marian Hossa getting blindsided by a leaping Coyote thus earning Raffi Torres a 25-game suspension (later cut to 21 games), the third-longest in NHL history.
Halfway through this year’s opening round there have been three player suspensions, one player hospitalized and true bile between Montreal and Ottawa. It’s not pretty and it’s not nearly over. But if you want to call this spring an improvement, go ahead because it can always be worse.
Out there havin’ fun, in the warm California sun
The Los Angeles Kings evened what’s already been a tremendous series by beating the St. Louis Blues 4-3 at the Staples Center Monday. Earlier in the day, the NHL announced the defending Stanley Cup champions will be playing an outdoor game at Dodger Stadium against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Sorry, make that the Anaheim Ducks.
The L.A. date for the league’s Stadium Series is Jan. 25, 2014, which has usually been a lovely day and evening in Southern California, the historic average high being 18 degrees C and the low coming in at 9 degrees C.
The NHL has the ice-making technology to ensure its players aren’t skating on in-field dirt. We know that. But do we have to keep doing this hockey-game-in-a-baseball/football-stadium thing over and over? What’s the end game – milking every last dime from a good idea until things turn mushy?
That’s how the NHL handled expansion.
Linden Gaydosh had the best line from Monday’s CFL Draft. Asked how he was going to celebrate being named the first pick overall, the mammoth University of Calgary defensive lineman answered: “I’m going to have a beer. I have a couple on the table.” It was shortly after 10:30 a.m. MT.
Only in the CFL is the thought of a Canadian toasting his good fortune with a brewski met with knowing smiles all around. Had offensive lineman Eric Fisher celebrated his No. 1 selection in the NFL draft with a similar comment, commissioner Roger Goodell would have investigated the matter and put Fisher on repeat-offender notice. They take their player drafts seriously in the NFL.
Notable CFL doings: the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Toronto Argonauts and Edmonton Eskimos drafted players who had already signed with NFL teams while the B.C. Lions made a smart pick, taking linebacker Bo Lokombo in the third round. Lokombo was the top-rated prospect heading into the draft but had already stated his intention to return to Oregon for a final season. Given the Lions depth, they can wait for the Abbotsford, B.C, native. They could even have a beer while they wait.