Some short and not-so-short thoughts on the week ahead:
The Boston Bruins finally showed some signs of life with a shootout win over the Chicago Blackhawks but judgment on whether their Stanley Cup hangover is clearing up has to be reserved until this week's three-game homestand is over.
Slow starts and an impotent power play are bedevilling the Bruins, who are 2-3 after the win Saturday over the Blackhawks. Once again, the Bruins came out of the gate poorly against the Blackhawks and their power play is now 1-for-20 in five games.
With Tomas Kaberle gone to the Carolina Hurricanes, Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg are the No. 1 defence pair on the power play and head coach Claude Julien criticized them for being slow to recognize and exploit scoring opportunities.
Julien also thinks his players as a group are not thinking clearly.
"Right now, our mental state is hurting us the most," Julien told reporters in Chicago. "It just doesn't seem to be clicking, whether it's the transition game or fore-check. The intention and will is there. We have to push past and find our game again."
Things may look much better by the end of the week, as the Bruins play three times at home against two teams that aren't doing much better than them – the Hurricanes and San Jose Sharks – and one that is – the mighty 3-0 Toronto Maple Leafs. But the Garden is not often a friendly place for the Leafs.
An interesting fight is taking place behind the scenes between the NHL and the National Hockey League Players' Association that is a preview of collective agreement negotiations, which union boss Donald Fehr said should begin by the all-star game in January. The fight means the players are still waiting for their escrow payments from last season because the union and the NHL cannot agree on how much hockey-related revenue the league took in last season. Word from the union is there will not be any cheques in the mail this week.
CBC reporter Elliotte Friedman brought up one of the most interesting arguments on Hockey Night in Canada. He said the union told NHL commissioner Gary Bettman the $25-million the Glendale politicians paid to cover the Phoenix Coyotes' losses is revenue and the players should get 57 per cent of it as per the current labour agreement. The league considers it operating capital, not revenue.
If you happen to be walking around downtown Los Angeles this week, keep an eye out for billboard pictures of all your favourite Kings players. It seems with the NBA and the Lakers locked out, baseball's Dodgers and Angels both done for the season and still no NFL team in sight, the Kings quite rightly think now is the time to chase the fans who usually put hockey farther down on their must-see lists.
Finally, defenceman Craig Rivet, 37, is the front-runner in hockey's biggest pay cut contest, at least among those players still working. He made $3.5-million (all currency U.S.) last season with the Buffalo Sabres and Columbus Blue Jackets. When no one wanted him as a free agent, Rivet signed on with the ECHL's Elmira Jackals in upstate New York. The average salary in the minor league is $620 a week and no team can pay more than a total of $12,400 a week to its 20 players.
TALE OF WOE
New York Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro, who is in the sixth year of a 15-year contract that pays him $4.5-million (U.S.) a year, is once again out indefinitely with a concussion. Courtesy of Newsday, here is his amazing injury history since signing that contract:
Oct. 14, 2005: Mild concussion, missed one game.
Oct. 29, 2005: Sprained knee, missed one game.
Dec. 30, 2005: Mild knee sprain.
March 13, 2007: Minor concussion, missed two games.
March 25, 2007: Second concussion, missed last seven games of season April 30, 2007: Arthroscopic hip surgery.
Dec. 26, 2007: Sprained knee, missed three games.
March 19, 2008: Season-ending hip surgery, missed nine games.
Oct. 27-Dec. 23, 2008: Arthroscopic knee surgery, missed 27 games.
Jan. 8-April 12, 2009: Swollen knee, missed final 41 games of season.
Oct. 3-Nov. 28, 2009: Knee surgery, missed 27 games.
March 6-April 11, 2010: Swollen knee, missed final 12 games of season.
Dec. 22, 2010: Swollen knee, missed three games.
Jan. 3, 2011: Adductor injury, missed five games.
Feb. 2, 2011: Facial fractures in fight, missed 20 games.
Oct. 12, 2011: Concussion from errant shot in practice.
FIVE GAMES TO WATCH
Penguins at Jets
Maybe it's a good thing this isn't available on the full TSN network. The Jets are still looking for their first win and it isn't likely to come here, even if Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin aren't playing for the Penguins. Monday, 8:30 p.m., TSN-Jets.
Sabres at Canadiens
The media critics are sharpening their knives in Montreal as the Habs are floundering with a 1-2-1 start. It should get worse after this game as the Sabres are a team on the rise. Tuesday, 7:30 p.m., TSN, RDS.
Jets at Maple Leafs
It would be poetic justice for Winnipeggers to see their Jets get their first win at the expense of the big-city slickers in Hogtown. Then again, there are still a lot of Leafs fans in the 'Peg, as I recall. Wednesday, 7:30 p.m., TSN.
Predators at Canucks
These two teams had a spirited playoff series last spring in which the offensively-challenged Predators fall short. But the seeds of a rivalry were planted. Thursday, 10 p.m., Eastern, Sportsnet-Vancouver.
Maple Leafs at Canadiens
My oh my, if the Leafs are still undefeated and the Habs are still struggling, this has the makings of much better bun-toss than the usual intense meeting between these two. Saturday, 7 p.m., Eastern, CBC.
All times Eastern