By the usual standards of NHL discipline, this is a noteworthy, shot-across-the-bow statement – and not likely to be the end of the matter either.
THE OLYMPIC WATCH: That little scene late in Saturday night’s 6-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks, in which Boston Bruins’ forward Brad Marchand mocked the Canucks’ bench by mimicking raising the Stanley Cup, is the latest in a long list of reasons why Marchand won’t make the 2014 Canadian men’s Olympic team, after earning an invitation to the summer orientation camp. Marchand isn’t playing well enough anyway, but the larger issue has to do with comportment overseas – and the need for the coaching staff to believe that every player in uniform can keep their cool if things start to go off the rails in a game. The Olympics features a round-robin prelim that comes for nothing other seeding and sorting out your team play, followed by a series of sudden-death, one-game, winner-take-all showdowns. There is no room for undisciplined play.
Canada doesn’t want to be embarrassed internationally, on the ice or off.
It’s a different matter when it comes to the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Chris Kunitz, who plays hard but isn’t a disciplinary risk; has some chemistry with the Pittsburgh Penguins Sidney Crosby; and is putting up good numbers again, largely because of that partnership. Crosby is not an easy player to play with early because he does so many creative things, so Kunitz would have the advantage of that familiarity they’ve developed with each other, something that might be difficult for two players to achieve in the fortnight or less they’d be together.
The other advantage is that Kunitz also has a history with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, who are having fabulous seasons with the Anaheim Ducks. If, for whatever reason, you wanted to play a couple of speedsters with Crosby – say Matt Duchesne and Martin St. Louis –you could still always play Kunitz with two of his former linemates in Anaheim. So you wouldn’t necessarily to be putting him on in one role and then be stuck if you wanted to try something different. I still think he’s not in the top 14 at the moment, but it’s because they have tentatively got Steve Stamkos still penciled in. If Stamkos proves to be too risky – or if he’s named and then unable to play because he isn’t 100 per cent healthy – Kunitz seems as if he’d be the perfect 11th hour addition.
MR. JONES AND ME: It’s hard not to hear the Counting Crows rattling around your brain whenever you watch the former Calgary Hitman goaltender Martin Jones play goal for the Los Angeles Kings these days. Even though Ben Scrivens had done a credible job playing in place of the injured Jonathan Quick, the Kings switched to Jones in mid-December, with startlingly good results. After patiently on the bench for the better part of three weeks waiting to play, Jones rattled off a 5-0-0 start to his NHL career, posting a 0.99 goals-against average, a .969 save percentage plus two shutouts in his first five NHL games. The Kings’ victory over the Senators Saturday made it six wins in a row and extended an amazing run in which they had not surrendered a first-period goal in 18 consecutive games. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that had not happened since the 1927-28 season, when the original Ottawa Senators team managed the feat.