Haggerty: If NHL lockout hits courts, unknown awaits

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Haggerty: If NHL lockout hits courts, unknown awaits

Maybe this legal gambit will work out fantastically and end the lockout. Or maybe it will be the final nail hammered into the 2012-13 NHL regular season's coffin.

Those are the kind of wide-ranging legal opinions being tossed out as both the NHL and NHLPA weigh their arguments in case the lockout heads to court.

Legal experts can opine and give their educated takes on how things will play out if it does get to that point, but the truth is that nobody really knows. The NBA settled before things got to that point. And though the NFLPA decertified during last years lockout, the circumstances were different.

Both the NHL and NHLPA would probably like to avoid court. That would open up the possibility of a giant labor defeat for the NHL if the players win. Or, if the league wins, it could mean the voiding of all current contracts. Neither of those options are good ones for the long-term health and well-being of the NHL.

Heres what we do know: The NHLPA is currently holding an electronic vote among their 700 plus members on whether to give the Executive Committee permission to potentially file a disclaimer of interest that would essentially dissolve the union. The results of the vote should be known by Thursday, and then the NHLPA Executive Committee would have until Jan. 2 to decide on their action.

The players feel like they have done their part. They made the last offer and moved toward the NHL in CBA length, player contract rights and transitional rules. From day one, it hasn't ever felt like a negotiation to members of the NHLPA, and that certainly hasnt changed with the lockout hitting Day No. 93 on Tuesday.

The one message weve come away with over these last few months is that the league has no desire to negotiate, said a source on the players side of the table. In most negotiations both sides will give a reason why theyre standing pat on certain issues. Theyll tell you why they need something. With the NHL all you hear them say at the table is 'because thats what we need' when you try to find out what their thinking is. They dont want to have give-and-take to negotiations, and that can be difficult to deal with.

The lockout will hit Day No. 100, by the way, on Christmas Day. So theres a nice little yuletide kick in the Santa pants for hockey fans.

NHL owners, Gary Bettman and Bill Daly feel like they are done. The league has made their final offer with a 10-year CBA, a 300 million make whole provision to offset the 5050 split, five-year limits on personal player contracts and strict transitional rules with no escrow cap. Theyve repeatedly said it was the best offer they had to make, and its in the take it or leave it mode if its even still on the table. They also believe the NHLPA disclaimer of interest is a charade meant to create negotiating leverage.

Both the NHL and NHLPA feel like theyve done all they can do, and both sides are simply waiting for the other to end the stalemate.

Thats what everybody wants to hear, right?

At this point there are no winners. The owners and league are universally viewed as the entity responsible for both the lockout itself and the hard feelings that have characterized it. But the players are also taking a major hit, especially in Canada where the economy is feeling the bite of hockeys absence. Many hardcore Canadian hockey fans seem to view this as simply a battle of millionaires versus billionaires," and they've swung their support to the NHL owners, something players are keenly aware of.

The middle ground is still there for both sides, and they could hammer out a workable CBA within a few hours if thats what the NHL and NHLPA wanted. A conversation this week could make all of this moot, but sometimes the most difficult part of negotiations is when both sides sense the finish line is near.

Now it becomes about perceptions of winners and losers, and keeping promises that were made before this began in September. Realistically the NHL and NHLPA have until at least mid-January to finally agree on a CBA preceding a 48-game shortened hockey season. So neither side is in last ditch mode quite yet.

But if the union dissolves, lawsuits ensue, and the lockout moves to the federal court system, odds are that everyone loses. Then things could get awfully dark for the world of hockey. Once things are out of the hands of the players and owners, just about anything could happen.

That the situation could possibly get any murkier and gloomier than it has already become is a scary thought.

Win vs. Islanders 'a nice building block' for Bruins

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Win vs. Islanders 'a nice building block' for Bruins

BROOKLYN, NY – It wasn’t particularly entertaining and it won’t be all that memorable down the ride aside from the timing and importance of the meeting between the Bruins and Islanders. But it was a solid 2-1 team win for the Bruins over the Islanders at the Barclays Center on Saturday night with the B’s grinding all the way down to the end while protecting a one-goal lead through much of the third period.

Nearly everybody across Boston’s roster contributed in the major victory over the team trying to bypass them in the wild card standings, and it was a beautiful thing. Anton Khudobin stepped up when Tuukka Rask couldn’t start Saturday night’s showdown with a lower body issue, and Riley Nash supplied both Boston goals from a fourth line that’s played some of their best hockey lately.

It was unlikely heroes all around for the Black and Gold in the tightly-wound contest, but that diversity of talent and production can be a very good thing for a team looking to make that playoff push.

“You have to stay with it. You have to stay in the moment and stay with the game no matter what’s happening during the game. That’s how you get results, and that’s how you find ways to persevere through adversity,” said Patrice Bergeron. “We just got back to playing stingy, especially in the neutral zone. We got away from it the last few games, and it was nice tonight to be back playing a low-scoring game like what we’re used to playing.”

When it was all said and done the Bruins only allowed 19 shots on net and also killed off six penalties in the kind of grinding defensive showdown that you haven’t seen all that much out of the Black and Gold lately. It was exactly what Cassidy was looking for to snap the four-game losing streak, and once again start pushing the Bruins upward into the playoff chase.

“That’s the type of win that goes a long way in the room when your goaltender is battling hard and fighting that hard to see pucks and find pucks and your D are blocking shots. And you kill that many penalties. It was a nice building block for us,” said Cassidy. “From the goalie on out, everybody was in there [in the win]. It was a tough game. It was a nice Bruins win. We had been doing it with offense earlier, and we’ve got to be able to do it both ways. You need to be able to win 2-1 hockey games, and it had been awhile.”

Now it’s simply up to the Bruins to be feeling good about their latest win while going back to basics, and looking for more next time around after ending their worst losing streak of the season.

Anton Khudobin battles for a huge win filling in for Tuukka Rask

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Anton Khudobin battles for a huge win filling in for Tuukka Rask

BROOKLYN, NY – Things didn’t go so well last season for the Bruins when Tuukka Rask suddenly wasn’t well enough to play in the last game of the season, so there was good reason for the B’s to be a little nervous when their No. 1 goalie again couldn’t answer the bell Saturday night vs. the Islanders.

Anton Khudobin had won four games in a row headed into Saturday night, of course, and in his previous start he’d helped snap a 10-game winning streak for the Calgary Flames. So perhaps it wasn’t all that surprising when Khudobin stood tall for the Bruins making 18 saves in a tight, nervy 2-1 win over the Isles at the Barclays Center.

“You don’t have that many shots, but maybe 10 scoring chances…that can be tougher than seeing 30 shots and same amount of scoring chances,” said Khudobin. “But I’m glad got the job done, we got our points and we got the ‘W’.”

It wasn’t wall-to-wall action in a game where both teams combined for 37 shots on net, but it was still impressive that Khudobin and the B’s special teams killed off six Islander power plays in such a tight hockey game. After the B’s backup netminder was lauded for the way he battled in the crease and competed for pucks like his team’s very life was on the line in a pivotal game.

“That’s the type of win that goes a long way in the room when your goaltender is battling hard, and fighting that hard to see pucks and your D are blocking shots. And you kill that many penalties. It was a nice building block for us,” said Bruce Cassidy. “I loved his performance. He’s a battler. He got swimming a couple of times, but that’s Dobby. He keeps it interesting for you. He’s a battler and he always has been. That’s what we needed tonight.”

One could spend days analyzing Cassidy's words and wondering much of that was deserved, appreciative praise for Khudobin, and how much of that might have been a veiled message to Boston's No. 1 goaltender sitting back home in Boston. 

The best save of the night probably won’t even count as a save for the Russian netminder. It was John Tavares, after having beaten Khudobin once in the first period, moving into the offensive zone with speed during a third period power play, and getting an open look at the net front in the high slot. Khudobin thought quickly and dropped into the unconventional double-stack pad save that seemed to throw Tavares off just a little, and the Isles sniper smoked the shot off the crossbar rather than tying up the game.

“I didn’t touch it. I didn’t really have time to get there, so the only thing I tried to do was the two-pad stack, old school Bob Essensa-style,” said Khudobin, who has now improved to 6-5-1 with a 2.60 goals against and an .899 save percentage this season. “Then he hit the crossbar. You need to get some luck in this league, and if you don’t get luck you’re going to lose games.”

A little luck and a little good, old-fashioned battling between the pipes was enough for Khudobin and the Bruins in Saturday night’s mammoth win. Now the questions become whether or not to go right back to Khudobin again on Tuesday at home against the Nashville Predators.