Welcome back to our weakly feature on the good, the bad and the ugly of hockey. Yes, once more I am a day late but in my defence: I have coursework to do, I had to go see Little Women yesterday evening and, I don’t know about you lot, but it doesn’t feel like a whole lot has happened in hockey this week?
(Featured image from the Washington Capitals’ instagram.)
1. The Great Outdoors
On New Year’s Day, one of the NHL’s (alleged) highlights took place, in the form of the 2020 Winter Classic, between the Dallas Stars and the Nashville Predators. Now, having been to an outdoor game (the Stadium Series in 2018, between the Capitals and the Maple Leafs, in Annapolis), I can confirm that outdoor games genuinely are a lot of fun.
It does seem that they often have to overcome some adversary though. In this instance, the ice was pretty much washed away, by rain and high temperatures. There’s a great article over on NHL.com about how the ice crew had to deal with some serious challenges.
Even though the more cynical amongst us made sure to point out how low the television viewing numbers were for the game, it was a sell-out with the second-biggest attendance for an outdoor game (85,630). For a non-traditional market, it certainly seemed to be a resounding success, with some interesting entertainment, including pig racing, documented here by our friends over at Puck ‘Er Up.
Honestly, I was rooting for Gabriel Landeshog too.
Of course, the day wasn’t without its on-ice controversey. Corey Perry did what we can only call Corey Perry things, by elbowing Preds’ defenceman, Ryan Ellis, right in the head, within the opening minutes of the game. He has subsequently been suspended for five games, which seems appropriate, but it would be super swell if there was any level of consistency regarding suspensions and discipline for out-right dangerous plays.
2. The Comeback
I think a lot of people were a little surprised when the LA Kings signed Ilya Kovalchuk to a three-year deal, with an AAV of more than $6 million, not least because he was on the wrong side of thirty-five and hadn’t played in the NHL since the 2012-13 season. To say that his time with LA was not a resounding success is something of an understatement, and his contract was terminated, via unconditional waivers.
The Ilya Kovalchuk sweepstakes didn’t really impact much on my consciousness, or so I thought. I genuinely believed that I had dreamed that he signed with the Montréal Canadiens.
Reader, it wasn’t a dream.
This is a pretty solid addition by the Canadiens, who’ve had a more disappointing season than might have been expected, given their lineup. November wasn’t great and things have been pretty patchy (ah, Patches) (too soon?) but the addition of Kovalchuk, at the low low price of $700 000 (NHL salary) may just bolster them. They’re currently six points and four places out of a wild card spot but stranger things have happened to teams who’ve been struggling in January…
3. The Other Comeback
As a Caps fan, I’d be totally remiss if I didn’t mention yesterday’s game between the San Jose Sharks and the Washington Capitals.
For once, the game was at a very accessible time for those of us on this side of the Atlantic. Of course, I had booked tickets to see Little Women. I managed to watch the first period. Yes, the scoreless one. During dinner, I furtively checked my phone and, by the time I was going into the cinema, it was 3-2 to the Sharks.
Now. I am the first to uphold phone etiquette in the cinema but, in my defence, the pre-trailer ads are interminable and I really wanted confirmation of the result before the movie started. At 4-2, I figured that was that (as did most people in Capital One Arena, I suspect).
Cinemas being cinemas, my coverage was patchy so I was entirely reliant on Twitter. The Capitals, somehow, are great at 6 on 5 hockey, so it wasn’t a complete surprise when Jakub Vrana got them within one.
Then my timeline exploded into a wall of TJ Oshie love. He only went and equalised, with about fourteen seconds left in regulation.
I absolutely could not have afforded it to go to a shootout but I was delighted when Lars Eller scored the winner in OT, and I didn’t even miss the trailers. (Can’t wait to see David Copperfield, eh?)
Now, anyone who’s spent any time watching NHL hockey will know that there is a great grá for random statistics that really mean nothing, but I did like this record, I won’t lie:
That’s it for this week, boys and girls and babes. Oh, and go see Little Women. It’s phenomenal.