Saturday, Jan. 7: Does Matthews have Leafs playoff-bound?

Saturday, Jan. 7: Does Matthews have Leafs playoff-bound?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while ready for some NFL playoff football.

*PHT writer James O’Brien says that Auston Matthews is red-hot, and that the Maple Leafs sure look like a playoff team right now. That’s what the Bruins are afraid of.

*There has been patience in Tampa Bay with the Lightning, but it sounds like that is starting to run out as the Lightning remain stuck in neutral.

*Taylor Hall admits it’s going to be weird facing his former Edmonton Oilers teammates when they come to New Jersey to face the Devils.

*The Seth Jones deal has paid off handsomely for the Columbus Blue Jackets as they’ve built a rock-solid winning roster that’s now paying dividends.

*With the Colorado Avalanche languishing at the bottom of the NHL, the trade rumors are really starting to swirl for the Avs.

*A NHL buyout can be a traumatic thing for a player, but things have worked out very well for Antoine Vermette with the Anaheim Ducks.

*Evgeni Malkin is quietly having a magnificent season for the Pittsburgh Penguins while Sidney Crosby gets most of the attention.

*For something completely different: a cool story about the much-hyped reshoots for Rogue One, and what they ended up adding to the movie.

 

 


 

Tuesday, March 28: 1,000 games for Sabres' Gionta

Tuesday, March 28: 1,000 games for Sabres' Gionta

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while forgetting that Nancy Kerrigan is on Dancing with the Stars.  

*Here’s the rundown on Brian Gionta celebrating his 1000th NHL game played with the Sabres on Monday night.

*Congrats to good guy Chad Johnson, who was appropriately given the “Good Guy Award” by the Calgary Flames media this week.

*Brock Boeser showed his abilities in a fantastic NHL debut after leaving the college ranks for the Canucks.

*I hope the fancy stats crowd is listening to this: The NHL playoff forecast is raining on the Corsi and fancy stats parade.

*Hope that Eddie Lack is okay after he had to be taken off the ice in a stretcher following a collision at the end of Carolina’s game.

*ESPN’s hockey crew breaks down some expansion mock drafts and have either Adam McQuaid, Jimmy Hayes or Malcolm Subban headed to the Vegas Golden Knights.

*The Benn brothers are gearing up for their first match-up against each other with the Canadiens and Stars set to meet.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Jen Neale nails a Philly columnist for a hot take on USA Hockey and says the column illustrates just how much a change is needed there.

*The Winnipeg Jets have officially been eliminated from the playoffs, so now the Colorado Avalanche don’t have to feel so bad about themselves.

*For something completely different: One thing I’ve never wondered is what Tony Robbins thinks about politics.


 

'Healthy' Rask ready to go with a lot to prove

'Healthy' Rask ready to go with a lot to prove

BRIGHTON, Mass. – Tuukka Rask went through morning skate Tuesday at Warrior Ice Arena and proclaimed himself “healthy” to start against the Nashville Predators at TD Garden after sitting out Saturday with a lower body injury.

So, Rask will play his 60th game of the season tonight and the Bruins will hope that a dominating performance will douse some of the brush fire that’s cropped up around the Black and Gold’s goaltending situation. 

After Boston’s No. 1 goaltender coughed up five goals in a rough loss to Tampa and then sat out the must-win against the Islanders on Saturday night, questions about Rask’s big-game reliability are absolutely there after he also sat out last season’s pivotal finale against the Ottawa Senators.

Still, Rask said he hasn’t paid attention to the media scrutiny and is instead looking forward to locking up against fellow Finn Pekka Rinne of the Preds.

“I haven’t listened to the [media scrutiny], but I’m sure they’ve been very nice to me,” said Rask. “I don’t listen. I don’t read it. Doesn’t affect me. You know where you stand, and how good you play and when you don’t play good. That’s all you need. You don’t need to listen to the outside voices because it’s just going to distract you. People have opinions and they can say whatever they want.

“This is what we play for, right? It’s fun. It’s going to come down to the wire again and it’s going to be another battle tonight. I don’t even know how many games I’ve played. I feel good. I think I’ve said all throughout the year there’s going to be ups and downs, and you just try to stay even-keeled. It’s something that you learn not getting too high or too low, and just win as many games as you can.”

The bottom line with Rask is that there are major question marks about his standing as a No. 1 goaltender that he needs to address in these final seven games, media scrutiny or no media scrutiny. A No. 1 goalie worth $7 million per season can hold up with a 60-plus game workload and not fade down the stretch while in need of mental and physical breaks. 

The slender Rask has shown signs of slippage in his performance when the workload is heavy, and coach Bruce Cassidy admitted as much on Tuesday while not guaranteeing that his No. 1 will be able to play in six of the final seven games down the stretch.

“We’re trying to write our own story this year. I know how the last few years have ended, and we’d like a different ending,” said Cassidy. “I think this group should be afforded that right to write their own stories, and we’ll see how it plays out. Obviously last week did not play out well for us and we heard about it, and that’s part of the business.

“Saturday, hopefully we turned a corner, but we won’t know that until we get going forward here. I’m asking [Tuukka] to play well tonight, and I’m asking the players in front of him to play well tonight. The workload for Tuukka has to be monitored, and whether the whole world agrees with it or not, that’s the situation. I think the data backs up that he’s better with ‘X’ amount of rest and that’s just the way it is. It’s an inexact science and we’re trying to do a better job with that. The second half we’ve really tried to monitor it and last week was a bit of an exception. At crunch time things change a little bit, and that’s what we’re trying to balance.”

In an ideal world, a hockey team scratching and clawing for the Stanley Cup playoffs wouldn’t have to so closely monitor whether a goaltender is about to break down because he’s pushing 60 games in a season, especially when he’d enjoyed a five-day bye just a month earlier.

There are also questions about Rask’s reliability after sitting out last weekend, whether it was by his choice, the team’s choice or a mutually agreed upon decision after his lower body discomfort cropped up. A No. 1 goalie is no longer worthy of that lofty mantle when a team can’t rely on big-game performances from him, or even if he'll be available, once the pressure is on in the final weeks of the season.

So, there are plenty of questions to answer for Rask down the stretch here and they may go a long way toward determining his long-range future with an organization that invested heavily in him a few years ago. Those answers begin on Tuesday night against the Predators and it certainly feels like it will be game-to-game with him for final seven contests of the regular season.