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Tanev lifts Canucks over skidding Flames 3-2 in OT (The Associated Press)
(Sat, 20 Dec 2014 23:32:53 PST)
VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) -- Chris Tanev celebrated his 25th birthday in style Saturday night with a game-winning goal that snapped the Canucks out of their slump.

Canucks' Hansen taken to hospital after hit (The Associated Press)
(Sat, 20 Dec 2014 23:14:33 PST)
VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) -- Canucks forward Jannik Hansen is expected to be OK after it appeared he collapsed on the bench Saturday night after taking a hit during Vancouver's game against the Calgary Flames.

NHL-Highlights of Saturday's NHL games
(Sat, 20 Dec 2014 23:01:35 PST)
(Adds late games) Dec 20 (The Sports Xchange) - Highlights of Saturday's National Hockey League games: - - Penguins 3, Panthers 1 Sidney Crosby scored his first goal in nearly a month to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins to victory over the Florida Panthers. Crosby, who had gone eight games without scoring and missed three contests with the mumps, broke his drought with the game's final goal in the third period. It was his 10th goal of the season. ...

Dennis Wideman feathers own-goal 200 feet against Vancouver (Puck Daddy)
(Sat, 20 Dec 2014 21:18:02 PST)
There are few more enjoyably uncomfortable plays in hockey than when a team passes a puck into its own net on a delayed penalty. Wait ... no. That is the most enjoyably uncomfortable moment in the sport.  Just see what pure joy looks like when Flames defenseman Dennis Wideman zips a puck 200 feet with Jonas Hiller pulled on a delayed call. A little too much mustard on that one, eh Dennis? The video ...   Earlier in the night Alexander Ovechkin staked his claim to the unofficial 'Goal of the Year' with a brilliant inside-out backhand move. But Yannick Weber's goal (yes, the official credit was given to him) may be more impressive -- simply because of the sheer hilarity of the situation.  There is little reaction from the Canucks, which is fantastic. I mean, how do you celebrate when you don't even know who officially scored? Such goals are somewhat rare, and when they happen we must laud their praises, because of their awesomeness. Wideman shouldn't feel too bad. It happened to Steven Stamkos last year, and he’s amazing so it's all good.  In case you were wondering, Calgary did not score on the ensuing power play.  - - - - - - - Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @joshuacooper MORE FROM YAHOO HOCKEY

Jannik Hansen OK after mid-game collapse (Update) (Puck Daddy)
(Sat, 20 Dec 2014 20:54:22 PST)
There was quite the scary scene at Rogers Arena on Saturday night.  Canucks forward Jannik Hansen collapsed on the Vancouver bench following a big hit by Calgary defenseman Dennis Wideman. The above photo is of Hansen collapsing via HockeyWays on Twitter.  Below is the video: It appears that Wideman slammed in Hansen's chest. Hansen looked winded as he skated to the bench. The broadcast said Hansen was able to walk to the Canucks dressing room with some help following the scene on the bench.  According to the Canucks official Twitter  account, Hansen was helped to the Vancouver locker room and was being kept out of the rest of the game as a "precautionary measure." No matter what, such scenes prompt memories of Jiri Fischer's collapse with the Red Wings and Rich Peverley last year with the Dallas Stars. Fortunately, it seems Hansen is going to be OK.  Update:  Canucks coach Willie Desjardins gave an upbeat report on Hansen after his team's 3-2 overtime win over Calgary.  From the Vancouver Sun: “I think everything’s good,” Desjardins said following the Canucks’ 3-2 overtime win over the Calgary Flames at Rogers Arena. “He was at the hospital, everything’s checking out though, and I don’t think there’s going to a problem — everything looks real good.” - - - - - - - Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @joshuacooper MORE FROM YAHOO HOCKEY  

Top 10 hockey social media moments of 2014 (Puck Daddy's Year In Review) (Puck Daddy)
(Sat, 20 Dec 2014 15:50:03 PST)
(Puck Daddy presents its annual look back at the year in hockey. Check back every day through the New Year for our many lists and hot takes.) "You'll laugh. You'll cry. You'll hurl." Is that a byline for the 1992 cinematic masterpiece "Wayne's World" or a description of social media as we know it? (Answer: It's both.) 2014 had a helluva lot of social media news, both good and bad. In this post, we look back at the lighter side of the medium. Later on we'll cover the more controversial issues that grabbed our attention. 10. Buckle Up Baby This little Penguins fan, Ty, is about as intense as they come. If the Penguins win another Stanley Cup in his lifetime, he just might explode.

Flames-Canucks Preview (The Associated Press)
(Fri, 19 Dec 2014 23:26:08 PST)
Facing the Vancouver Canucks may not be a boon to the Calgary Flames, who are riding their longest losing streak since setting a team record nearly three decades ago.

2-1 The Theme of the Night (Rotoworld)
(Fri, 19 Dec 2014 23:05:00 PST)
The 2-1 score was prevalent on Friday as three of five games ended in the score. Read more in the Saturday Dose.

Benn leads Stars to 2-1 win over Flames (The Associated Press)
(Fri, 19 Dec 2014 22:36:46 PST)
CALGARY, Alberta (AP) -- Jamie Benn provided the Dallas Stars with all the offense they would need Friday night.

NHL Three Stars: Hutchinson leads Jets; Elias haunts Nabokov (Puck Daddy)
(Fri, 19 Dec 2014 20:47:14 PST)
No. 1 Star: Michael Hutchinson, Winnipeg Jets The Jets’ netminder kept rolling by stopping 29 shots as Winnipeg downed the Boston Bruins 2-1. Hutchinson won for the third times in four starts. Mathieu Perreault’s goal late in the second period snapped a 1-1 deadlock and stood as the game-winning tally.  No. 2 Star: Patrik Elias, New Jersey Elias scored his second goal in three games and later put home the only goal in the shootout as the Devils beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2. After his goal in the first period fooled Evgeni Nabokov, he later helped New Jersey earned the extra point with some lovely deking:  No. 3 Star: Mike Hoffman, Ottawa Senators Hoffman scored twice as the Senators cruised to an easy 6-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks. He was one of five Ottawa players record a pair of points, joining Mika Zibanejad, Kyle Turris, Bobby Ryan, and Erik Karlsson. Craig Anderson made 32 saves for his third win in four starts. One of Turris' two points came via this nasty shorthanded goal:  Honorable Mention : Good Long Island boy Keith Kinkaid earned his first NHL win with a 26-save night for the Devils … Ryan Getzlaf netted both Anaheim goals in the loss … Brock Nelson tied the game at one late in the first period and then set up Anders Lee’s go-ahead goal in the secod as the New York Islanders edged the Detroit Red Wings 2-1 … Newly acquired Jay Harrison recorded an assist in his first shift with the Jets … Kari Lehtonen made 21 saves and Jamie Benn and Trevor Daley provided the goals as the Dallas Stars beat the Calgary Flames 2-1 for their third win in a row.  Did You Know? The Islanders have won five in a row at Joe Louis Arena, dating back to 2003. (AP) Dishonorable Mention : Detroit is now winless in their last five games, with three losses coming via the shootout … Calgary has lost seven straight ... Jimmy Howard left the game after the first period with a lower-body injury . There was no update available after the game … Making his first start of the year, Ilya Bryzgalov allowed six goals on 31 shots … Good job, good effort, Lance Bouma: MORE FROM YAHOO HOCKEY :

The Process vs. The Results for Oilers, Flames (Trending Topics) (Puck Daddy)
(Fri, 19 Dec 2014 13:39:52 PST)
The thing you hear people who have come to understand the game more fully in the past few years talk about a lot is “The Process.” The Process, in hockey, is everything. It's hard to define exactly what The Process is or isn't, because people may see it as different things. For some people, it's defined by wins and losses: If you're winning, you're doing things right, and if you're losing, you're doing things wrong. For others, it relates to goals: If the goals are going in, or being kept out, for any given length of time, that too is an indicator that a team is good or turned a corner from being bad or has had something go horrible wrong. And for some, something as simple as possession numbers indicate whether things are going right or wrong for a team. It's unfair to wholly dismiss any one of these as being important. You can be like the Devils the last few years, and have a ton of bounces go against you all season long and lose games you should have won and not make the playoffs but still have strong possession numbers. You can be like the Avalanche last season and get every single bounce for 82 games to go in your favor, despite the fact that you never have the puck. Hockey teams are ultimately evaluated on wins and losses, and nothing more, no matter how much lip service or actual attention is paid to peripheral things. That, in essence, is why the Oilers fired Dallas Eakins this week. They had to, at some point. No matter if he had the possession trending in the right direction, and it was obvious that his team wasn't getting a single bounce to go its way, but this is a results-oriented business and the results were a 3-15-4 record after starting the season 4-4-1. It's stupid that the team couldn't look past the actual W's and L's in the standings, but that's the reality of professional sports. The Process only gets you so far if The Results don't follow after a certain amount of time. But if you really look under the hood on that woeful stretch of 22 games for the Oilers, from which they wrung just 10 of 44 available points, you see that no amount of coaching would have saved that team. “Luck” in the NHL, for lack of a better term, is quantified largely by PDO; that is, the addition of shooting percentage and save percentage at 5-on-5, with 100 being the normal number. When your PDO is high, you tend to win a lot of games because your team is scoring on a large percentage of its shots and allowing goals on a low percentage of the opposition's. When your PDO is low, you lose a lot for the opposite reasons. Every team in the league understands this fundamentally. Suffice it to say that the Oilers' PDO during their losing streak was an abysmal 96.1, because the goalies couldn't save anything and the team couldn't put the puck in the net. Only Minnesota was worse from Oct. 29 to Dec. 12, and even then just marginally, at an even 96 rating, because their goaltending was considerably worse in that stretch (and what do you know: they only went 10-8-1 during that time because hockey's funny that way). If the Wild had fared as poorly as the Oilers, Mike Yeo would have been fired, without question. But Minnesota is undoubtedly a better team than the Oilers, both in terms of actual on-ice product and in roster construction: They have better players at nearly every slot of the lineup. They are a clear playoff team, where the Oilers are very much not. Even at 10-8-1, people in the Twin Cities often acted as though the sky were crashing down around them. And what's important to keep in mind about PDO, too, is that teams don't actually have a lot of control over it. If you were to theoretically put together a team of fourth-line guys who were barely at NHL replacement level, and put a career backup behind them, you could reasonably expect your team's PDO to come in lower than the expected, normal 100 by a pretty decent margin. But teams aren't built like that, obviously, and if anything, the Oilers actually tried pretty hard to do that (two NHL centers, two NHL defensemen, and a career backup). The resulting PDO was only a little surprising. But what no one talked about, really, is that over those 22 games, Dallas Eakins' team had the puck more often than it didn't: 51.7 percent of the time, in fact. That's 12th in the league in that stretch, and it's not nothing. The Process states that he must have been doing something right to get a team that was that bad on paper to possess the puck more often than its superior opponents. And okay sure they obviously spent a lot of time in those games trailing, often by a wide margin — but even with the score close, they were at 51 percent. Coaches always get fired when their team's PDO is bad for a decently long length of time. Claude Noel was fired last January, when the team's PDO for the year had been 98.8. In the month before he was fired, it was 96.4. Paul Maurice, who looks like he's transformed the team, has enjoyed a totally neutral PDO of 100 since then. That kind of improvement in player performance will help a lot. And just as a low PDO can make good coaches (and it's hard to argue that's what Claude Noel was, at any rate) look like fools bereft of solutions for their teams' problems, high PDOs can make bad coaches look like geniuses who have found a way to turn chicken excrement into a full-course meal with the world's greatest chicken dish as the entree. And that's why Bob Hartley signed a multi-year extension on Wednesday. Obviously, the Flames were in a bit of a skid at that point, having lost six games straight, but it's pretty clear this was a deal that had been in the works for a while. After all, the Flames started out 17-8-2, and with the roster as it was and is constituted, plus all the injuries to key players suffered to start the season, the fact that they spent any time at all north of .500 and in a playoff spot made Hartley look like a miracle worker despite miserable possession numbers (43.5 percent). All anyone noticed in Calgary was the comebacks — surely the result of work ethic and going to the contested areas — and the winning, and how close even the losing effort were. Hartley had instilled in his club a sense of hard work that allowed it to outperform its meager expectations. And all they needed for that first 27 games of the season was a PDO of 102. Which is not the result of hard work, or the talent that comprises the Flames roster. (Also of note: The Leafs recently went on a 10-1-1 run in which their PDO was sky-high and their possession was in the toilet. Randy Carlyle, former president of the Wins Are All That Matters Club, told reporters after that 10th win that he was in no way satisfied with the performance; could it be that a hard lesson or three from Kyle Dubas and the last few seasons showed him the light? If Carlyle of all people can learn that this is the actual way in which the world works, then anyone can.) Teams can, generally, have high PDOs only if they have elite-level goaltending and a strong top-six. The Bruins almost always turn in a season-long PDO north of 100 because Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask have been Vezina-quality for years, and because they generally have forward groups that can make things happen at the other end. (The latter, plus a traditionally strong defense, also leads to good possession numbers, which underscore the job Claude Julien has typically done in this era of Zdeno Chara as captain.) The Flames have none of those things, relying instead on a mix of Jonas Hiller and Kari Ramo in net, and a top-six that's headlined by Jiri Hudler, Johnny Gaudreau, and Sean Monahan. This is not the stuff of teams that can post a 102 PDO all year, and indeed, in this six-game losing streak, it's been 94.4. Funny how that works. The problem with Hartley is that apart from lucking into that PDO, and consequently all those wins, he's done nothing to improve The Process. For the entire season, the Flames have possession just 45.2 percent, 28th in the league ahead of only Buffalo and Colorado. Last year: 26th at 46.3 percent. The year before: 24th at 47.4 percent. This is a team that's actively getting worse (which you'd expect to some extent because for the most part they're not bringing back veterans, and so on), and started from a pretty pathetic position to begin with. Over Hartley's three seasons with the team, he's won just 71 of 163, and lost 13 more in overtime or the shootout: That's a .475 winning percentage. They've also allowed 77 more goals than they've scored at even strength, and their possession numbers are 27th out of 30 at 46.4 percent. By any measure, this is a man for whom The Process has not gone anything resembling well. And to be fair to Flames fans, who say the team has really turned a corner in terms of on-ice performance since the start of last January or so — they're 38-34-3 since then — let's also keep in mind that they're on 46.7 percent corsi during those 75 games, and that's 26th of 30 in the NHL. Calgary has also been outscored by 14 goals (133 for, 147 against) during that time, good for 24th in the league. They're making no headway, regardless of how you want to view things beyond wins. So why, then, the rush to get him locked up for at least a few more years? They had 27 good games, driven almost entirely by good fortune. Dallas Eakins had 22 bad ones, and was plagued by rotten bounces. But only the latter had his team moving in the right direction after years of hopelessness, and was given his walking papers anyway. The former's team, which continues its slide, just ensured more of the same hopelessness for years to come. Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here .

O Canada: Holiday gifts and stocking stuffers for the Great White North's seven NHL teams (Yahoo Sports)
(Fri, 19 Dec 2014 13:32:41 PST)
It's that time of year: We offer one big gift to each of Canada's seven NHL teams, plus a few stocking stuffers for select players.

Rangers-Hurricanes Preview (The Associated Press)
(Fri, 19 Dec 2014 12:54:03 PST)
Rick Nash and the Rangers appear to be rounding into form, so far rolling through a strong road trip to give them four straight wins overall.

All-Mumps vs. All-Stars (Rotoworld)
(Fri, 19 Dec 2014 10:23:00 PST)
Michael Finewax looks at the players who lead in All-Star voting and those who have the mumps and except for a lack of a goalie, the mumps are better.

Hot fantasy topics: Rinne, Shattenkirk shining (NHL)
(Fri, 19 Dec 2014 09:00:00 PST)
Here's a look at five of the hottest topics in fantasy hockey right now.

Stars-Flames Preview (The Associated Press)
(Fri, 19 Dec 2014 07:21:24 PST)
The Calgary Flames are in danger of losing seven straight games in regulation for the first time in 15 seasons, but management still believes Bob Hartley is the right man to end that skid and guide the team for years to come.

Three Periods: Blue Jackets back from the brink; misery and milestones for Elias; NHL notes (Yahoo Sports)
(Thu, 18 Dec 2014 13:49:47 PST)
The Columbus Blue Jackets refused to tank despite onslaught of injuries and now they're back in the playoff hunt; New Jersey Devils lifer Patrik Elias closing in on 400 goals, 600 assists and 1,000 points; NHL news 'n' notes.

Fantasy top 30 goalies: Panthers' Luongo underrated (NHL)
(Thu, 18 Dec 2014 09:12:00 PST)
Every Thursday during the season, NHL.com's Evan Sporer will provide you with in-depth analysis of goaltenders. From updated weekly top-30 rankings to trending players and more, Sporer will be your go-to guy for advice on fantasy goalies all season long.

Stars blank Canucks 2-0 behind Lehtonen's 27 saves (The Associated Press)
(Thu, 18 Dec 2014 00:12:36 PST)
VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) -- Kari Lehtonen was tested immediately by the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday night.

Flames, coach Hartley agree to contract extension (The Associated Press)
(Wed, 17 Dec 2014 19:08:14 PST)
CALGARY, Alberta (AP) -- Calgary Flames coach Bob Hartley reached an agreement with the team on a multiyear contract extension on Wednesday, a clear signal he and new general manager Brad Treliving can work together.

Bob Hartley’s extension with Flames comes at a great time for Bob Hartley (Puck Daddy)
(Wed, 17 Dec 2014 16:56:23 PST)
The Calgary Flames have been one of the NHL’s feel-good stories during the first two months of the 2014-15 season. The scrappy bunch have posted a 17-14-2 record and are tied with the Los Angeles Kings for the last wild card spot in the Western Conference. Mark Giordano is again in the Norris Trophy conversation; youngsters Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan are producing; and Jonas Hiller is providing quality goaltending, something the team hasn’t seen since Miikka Kiprusoff retired. If you’re Bob Hartley, despite a current six-game losing streak, then you’d want to parlay that early-season success into a contract extension. And that he did. The Flames announced on Wednesday that they’ve signed Hartley to a multi-year extension after guiding the team to a 71-79-13 record over the last three seasons.  “I said a couple of years ago that I felt that this was the biggest challenge of my career, and I still believe it,” said Hartley, via the Calgary Sun . “I love the direction that this organization is taking. I'm just very grateful to be part of this great organization, great city, and I'm looking forward to many more wins to come.”  But the thing about the Flames this year is that their current fall was predictable. Their PDO, a stat that is the combined total of a team’s even-strength save percentage and shooting percentage and should average out to 100, was sky high, well above 100, a telling sign that a decline was about to come. It currently sits at 100.6, according to War on Ice .  As their PDO drops, their possession numbers remain poor under Hartley, currently hovering around a 47-percent Fenwick , which measures shots on net and missed shots. That number hasn't improved during Hartley's tenure. It's great that Calgary owns the league's top defensive pairing and has a number of young players producing for them, but they're quickly slipping out of the playoff hunt as they come back down to Earth. Why the rush to extend Hartley's stay and not wait and see how this plays out by April? - - - - - - - Sean Leahy is the associate editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Sean_Leahy MORE FROM YAHOO HOCKEY :

Fantasy top 60 'D': Ducks defensemen making impact (NHL)
(Wed, 17 Dec 2014 09:00:00 PST)
Every Wednesday during the season, NHL.com fantasy hockey correspondent Brian Metzer will provide you with in-depth defensemen analysis. From updated weekly top 60 rankings to trending players and more, Metzer will be your go-to guy for fantasy blue line advice all season long.

Nash scores twice to reach 20; Rangers top Flames (The Associated Press)
(Tue, 16 Dec 2014 22:47:40 PST)
CALGARY, Alberta (AP) -- Rick Nash is enjoying the best scoring stretch of his career, and the New York Rangers are reaping the benefits.

NHL Three Stars: Hat tricks for Galchenyuk, Tarasenko; Bob blanks Red Wings (Puck Daddy)
(Tue, 16 Dec 2014 21:10:00 PST)
No. 1 Star: Alex Galchenyuk, Montreal Canadiens The young Hab netted his first career hat trick as Montreal downed the Carolina Hurricanes 4-1. All three goals were assisted by Max Pacioretty. Galchenyuk’s opening goal was definitely the prettiest one of the night after some slick passing in the Carolina zone: No. 2 Star: Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues  After Marian Gaborik helped the Los Angeles Kings race out to a 2-0 lead, Tarasenko and Blues answered five times en route to a 5-2 victory. The forward netted his second career hat trick and reached the 20-goal plateau for the second straight season: No. 3 Star: Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets The Detroit Red Wings couldn’t solve Bob as the Blue Jackets grabbed the extra point after a 1-0 shootout win. Bobrovsky made 30 saves for his first shutout of the season and 10th of his career. Boone Jenner and Ryan Johansen scored Columbus’ only goals in the shootout.  Honorable Mention: Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 23 shots and won his NHL debut as the Tampa Bay Lightning edged the Philadelphia Flyers 3-1. Steven Stamkos and Tyler Johnson scored five minutes apart in the second period to help pace Tampa to their sixth straight win over the Flyers … Four third period goals, including a pair from Phil Kessel, helped the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Anaheim Ducks 6-2 for their sixth win in a row. Jonathan Bernier made 40 saves for his fourth win in a row. Nazem Kadri had a goal himself in lovely fashion: It took 20 rounds, but Nick Bjugstad finally ended things as the Florida Panthers got by the Washington Capitals 2-1 after a historic shootout … Derek Roy scored the only goal in the shootout and Pekke Rinne made 33 saves as the Nashville Predators defeated the Boston Bruins 3-2 … Mark Scheifele scored twice and assisted on another and Ondrej Pavelec made 27 saves as the Winnipeg Jets beat the Buffalo Sabres 5-1. Michael Frolik and Evander Kane each chipped in two points … Three points each from Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews were enough to survive a Minnesota Wild comeback as the Chicago Blackhawks were 5-3 victors. Annti Raanta made 26 saves and won his fourth straight start. Despite the loss Nino Niederreiter contributed this highlight-reel penalty shot: Rick Nash reached the 20-goal mark with a pair of goals and Henrik Lundqvist stopped 29 shots as the New York Rangers beat the Calgary Flames 5-2 ... Oliver Ekman-Larsson's goal with 0.3 seconds left in overtime helped the Arizona Coyotes snap a nine-game home losing streak and give them a 2-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers.  Did You Know?  "Toronto improved to 14-0 when scoring first and 13-0 after leading through two periods. The Leafs also haven't lost to Anaheim since Oct. 21, 2008, a 3-2 shootout decision." (AP) Dishonorable Mention: Via the AP, Philadelphia is 2-13-1 against the Lightning since 2010-11 … Detroit has dropped four in a row, while Carolina hasn’t won in six …  LA has dropped five of six. MORE FROM YAHOO HOCKEY:

Bishop 'day-to-day'; Ekblad embracing stardom; 'Metallica Night' in San Jose (Puck Headlines) (Puck Daddy)
(Tue, 16 Dec 2014 11:19:17 PST)
Here are your Puck Headlines: A glorious collection of news and views collected from the greatest blogosphere in sports and the few, the proud, the mainstream hockey media. Expect those guys at next @NHLFlyers games. Some of them are former Czech league soccer players. pic.twitter.com/nsaQsOxzv6 — Roman Jedlicka (@jedli) December 11, 2014 • It's the Traveling Voraceks! Meet your rivals, Traveling Jagrs . [ @jedli] • While the Tampa Bay Lightning are saying Ben Bishop’s injury isn’t serious and he's day-to-day, they’ve recalled Andrei Vasilevskiy from Syracuse. [ Tampa Bay Times ] • Dallas Eakins is out in Edmonton, but the Edmonton Oilers shouldn’t stop there. [ Cotsonika ]  • Taylor Hall on his name being in trade rumors : ”You hear things. Whether the rumours are true, you never really know (but) the best teams in the league don’t break up their core. They’re not trading guys because they’re winning so it’s on us to improve and do whatever we can to get respectability back this year.” [ Edmonton Journal ]  • “He doesn’t play like an 18-year-old. He plays like he’s been in the league 18 years.” Aaron Ekblad is embracing stardom in his rookie season. [ Yahoo ] • Connor McDavid has been given the green light for contact during World Junior camp after breaking his hand last month in a fight. [ Yahoo ] • The ESPN 30 for 30 documentary on the Soviet side of the “Miracle on Ice” will air Sunday, Feb. 8. [ ESPN ] • What does shot location say about the current state of Winnipeg Jets centers? [ Arctic Ice Hockey ] • Where does Minnesota Wild forward Erik Haula’s love for American football come? His dad, who coaches the game in Finland. [ Pioneer Press ] • Why did the NHL schedule only two outdoor games this season? Blame Philadelphia Flyers fans. [ Broad Street Hockey ] • The New Jersey Devils are not what they used to be. Blame terrible drafting for their lack of success. [ Bleacher Report ] • What’s the deal with the recent Vancouver Canucks’ struggles? [ PiTB ]  • When the San Jose Sharks host the LA Kings on Jan. 21, it’ll double as “Metallica Night,” featuring the legendary rock band. [ Ultimate Classic Rock ] • On giveaways, big takeaways and the Washington Capitals. [ Japers’ Rink ] • The logjam was so tight that trading Jeremy Morin was the right move by the Chicago Blackhawks. [ Second City Hockey ] • Some ways the Calgary Flames can smarty spend to the salary cap ceiling this season. [ Flames Nation ] • Finally, get to know Barry Trotz and his family:

Five More Interesting Stats (Rotoworld)
(Tue, 16 Dec 2014 10:43:00 PST)
What player is leaned on the most on the dot?

Fantasy top 100 forwards: Seguin, Nash fit the bill (NHL)
(Tue, 16 Dec 2014 09:00:00 PST)
Every Tuesday during the season, NHL.com fantasy hockey insider Pete Jensen will provide you with in-depth forward analysis. From updated weekly top 100 rankings to trending players and more, Jensen will be your go-to guy for fantasy forward advice all season long.

Toronto Maple Leafs’ defiant win streak: For real or fooling us again? (Puck Daddy)
(Tue, 16 Dec 2014 07:56:20 PST)
There is perhaps no greater motivator in the NHL this season than defiance. The Detroit Red Wings were going to lose a coach and age out of the playoffs; instead, they lead the Atlantic. The Winnipeg Jets and Calgary Flames were written off in the West; they’re on the bubble. The Florida Panthers play to empty seats and might fill them in the postseason. Even the Buffalo Sabres have suddenly shifted their tank into reverse.  Then there are the Toronto Maple Leafs. A team that hit rock bottom, had sand kicked in their faces as they were defecated upon, before brushing themselves off, ignoring those that maligned them and beginning the long climb back. Nov. 15, 2014: The Leafs lose 6-2 to the Buffalo Sabres, then the worst team in hockey. The story after the game was that Phil Kessel snubbed a reporter. Thus began the debate about his leadership. Again. Nov. 18, 2014: The Leafs lose 9-2 to the Nashville Predators on home ice.  Calls to fire coach Randy Carlyle were deafening. They were a festering dumpster fire and the worst kind of mess. It very much felt like we were one more loss away from Brendan Shanahan sitting down with the media holding a glass of scotch and shrugging as he says “I got nuthin’.” Nov.  20, 2014: The Leafs post a 5-2 win over a very good Tampa Bay Lightning team. A win! New momentum! Everything’s coming up Randy! Oh, wait … the story after the game is that the team didn’t raise their sticks to salute the fans that had been booing and jeering and hissing and throwing jerseys on the ice and generally calling for the team to be demolished and rebuilt. HOW DARE THESE SELFISH MILLIONAIRES HAVE HUMAN FEELINGS. Since then, the Leafs have lost two games: One to the Pittsburgh Penguins in overtime and one to the New Jersey Devils on home ice, in one of those “our opponent has everyone injured and so this should be easy and oh crap we just lost” trap games. Including the Lightning game, the Leafs are on a 9-1-1 streak, which is an appropriate number to follow the absolute crime of giving up nine goals on home ice.  They’ve outscored opponents 43-25 during that stretch; and with 39 points in 30 games, they’re currently seven points up on the second wild card and two points away from the top of the division. Repeating our top story: Two points away from the top of the division. It’s a hell of a roll that naturally has the few, the proud, the Randy Carlyle supporters participating in that grand Toronto tradition of the December victory lap. But the essential question remains: Are you buying into this Leafs team? Or is that other one, the feckless mess of ill-fitting parts that was destined for an off-season reimagining, the team you believe they are? *** Let’s begin with the superficially obvious: The Leafs were pissed off and embarrassed after the Predators loss. In themselves. In the media. In their supporters. It manifested in that decision not to salute the fans … ahem, sorry , in a “change in their routine.” What could have been another petty tangent from the media ended up being a rallying point for the team. Whatever “us against the world” mentality crept into the Toronto room, it’s lingered there for 11 games. Nine of the 11 games in the streak were played on home ice. They won eight of them. Prior to that, they were a middling 6-5 on home ice. Something changed, and they’ve taken advantage of their home ice. But it’s not just attitudinal. The fact is that the Leafs were set up better this season than last from a personnel standpoint, and that’s played a role here too. Which is to say they shockingly don’t miss Colton Orr’s six minutes on the ice and seven in the box every game. Mike Santorelli (22 points, plus-17), Daniel Winnik (12 points, plus-11), Richard Panik (six goals, and a shrewd fourth-line pickup in-season) have all made this forward group better. So did Leo Komarov before his injury. Speaking of injuries: Roman Polak has missed the entirety of this streak. He’s their second-leading ice time defenseman. But his loss hasn’t been humbling. And speaking of defense: Dion Phaneuf has actually been asked to do less this season. From Jonas Siegel of TSN: He’s had the lowest offensive zone start percentage of any defender in hockey a year ago – 22.7 per cent – but that number has risen closer to 30 per cent this year. His defensive zone starts, meanwhile, have dropped nearly five percentage points to less than 32 per cent. That's meant just a few less onerous shifts slogging it out in the defensive zone against the likes of Crosby, Stamkos and Ovechkin and more opportunity for offence (though Phaneuf has just six even-strength points so far). Phaneuf still absorbs the lion's share of matchups against opposing top lines, but the presence of Roman Polak as a secondary option has helped ease that burden slightly. Prior to going down with a strained left knee, the 28-year-old Polak was able to absorb some of the tougher minutes from Phaneuf and perform adequately in doing so. His partnership with Cody Franson’s helped too. All of this is in support of the team’s top offensive players like Hockey’s Goofy Older Brother Phil Kessel, who has nine points in the 11 games. Amazingly, his interactions with the media haven’t hit the front page during it. What a wild coincidence. *** Of course, it helps that Kessel has a 15.6 shooing percentage. And Tyler Bozak has a 15.9. And Peter Holland has a 17.9. And Panik has a 26.1. Their PDO, which combines shooting and save percentage, is 101.7 for the season overall and their on-ice shooting percentage at 5-on-5 is 9.4. Neither of these would seem to be sustainable. And while their possession numbers are improved over last season, they’re 28th in corsi percentage (36.6) when leading by a goal and 26th when trailing by one (48.4). This speaks to the all-or-nothing nature of this beast: They’re 13-6 in games in which they’ve won by two or three goals. In one-goal games, they’re 5-3-3. This makes sense when you look at the second period scoring for the Leafs, where they have a goal differential of plus-14. They're also 12-0-0 when leading after two periods.  *** So do you buy into these Leafs? Toronto fans, god bless them, are enjoying the ride. But they’ve been down this road before with Randy Carlyle teams. Last season, in fact. From Jan. 12 through Feb. 1 earlier this year, the Toronto Maple Leafs won nine games, lost one in overtime and lost a clunker to the Dallas Stars. Yes, that’s right: 9-1-1. Make that 11-2-1 overall before the Olympic break hit. They’d end up with 84 points, nine off the last wild card spot. So this streak is great. It’s wonderful. It’s a chance for the franchise to shake off the stink of death for a while, and a chance for Team Randy to shake their pom-poms while saying “told ya so!” But in the end, this is a 90-point team. Does that get you a playoff spot? Potentially, given the general underwhelming nature of the conference. It all comes down to how long Toronto wants to keep this streak rolling, and how they react when the Leafs do what it is leafs always do annually, which is plummet back to earth. 

Rangers-Flames Preview (The Associated Press)
(Mon, 15 Dec 2014 12:32:51 PST)
The Calgary Flames' offense has become dormant during their longest losing streak of the season.

JVR is AOK on the pp (Rotoworld)
(Mon, 15 Dec 2014 09:17:00 PST)
James van Riemsdyk led all scorers with three power play goals this past week. This and more in The Power Play Report.

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