Every Monday morning The Ice Sheet will take a close look at everything that's happened in the NHL since Friday night at 5:00 p.m. To read them all, click here.
If you haven't already, it might be a good idea to take a few moments to watch the hit that Phoenix's Kurt Sauer delivered to the head of Montreal Canadiens winger Andrei Kostitsyn on Saturday night at the Bell Centre. In particular, you should listen to the commentary that accompanied the hit on Hockey Night in Canada. As far as I'm concerned, I'm just about 100% down with Stu Hackel's commentary from Sunday morning over at Slap Shot:
On the English-language "Hockey Night in Canada" telecast, the immediate reaction from Bob Cole, Greg Millen and Yvon Pedneault was to repeat a number of times that this was a clean hit without question, and Kostitsyn was caught making one too many moves with his head down.
And they continued to repeat that as they reviewed the play and the stretcher came out, more concerned with proving that it wasn't a late hit.
By the fourth or fifth replay, Millen started calling it a "dangerous hit" and then Pedneault finally noticed that Sauer maybe had his hands "a little bit high," although he still thought it was still a clean check.
Eventually, the broadcast team got around to admitting that a shot like this was pretty heinous, although it took them a heck of a long time to get there. As for me, I'm beyond raising the alarm anymore about hits like this one.
After sitting all the way through last season watching the sort of hits that took down players like Patrice Bergeron and Andrew Alberts, I've come to the sorry conclusion that we're going to have to see a player killed or paralyzed before the league finally cracks down on dangerous hits like these. I dearly hope I'm wrong, but I'm afraid that I'm not.
John Stevens Next on the Hot Seat? After taking the Philadelphia Flyers all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals last season, it's safe to say that expectations were high in Philadelphia, but a couple of unfortunate injuries have depleted the team's blue line, helping the Flyers off to a brutal 0-3-2 start. So what's the problem? Philly's power play -- which was one of the best in hockey last season -- is worse than anemic, ranking 26th in the league at just 10.7%. But the real killer is the number of pucks finding their way into the Philadelphia net. Thus far, the Flyers are giving up 4.40 goals per game, third most in the entire league.
Worse yet, the schedule doesn't get any easier this week, with the Flyers hosting red-hot San Jose on Wednesday before getting a home and home matchup with New Jersey on Friday and Saturday. Come next Sunday morning, the Flyers could very well be 0-6-2, and owner Ed Snider might very well be looking for somebody new to jump start a team with one of the largest payrolls in the league once it appears that Philly head coach John Stevens has run out of answers.
Avery Returns to Madison Square Garden, Albeit Quietly: The Dallas Stars are in New York to play the Rangers tonight, which means that the return of Sean Avery to the Big Apple is the story that's going to be on the minds of most of the New York press corps. Unfortunately for them, it looks like Avery won't be cooperating. Here's what Rangers beat writer Steve Zipay wrote in Sunday's Newsday about the impending return to New York of hockey's resident bad boy:
"Thank you all for your inquiries and requests for interviews," Avery said in a response to e-mails from reporters yesterday. " . . . In my effort to focus on the game at hand, I would prefer not to do a lot of interviews, so please accept this statement in lieu of fullcourt press.
"I extremely enjoyed my time in NY playing for the Rangers. Jim Dolan runs a first-class organization, the fans are as passionate and as tough as they come, and they make MSG a very special place to play and call home. I wish the Rangers all the best and I hope that they have a great season. I have no animosity towards anyone in [the Rangers] organization for not bringing me back; that is sometimes how things work out."
You know, for as much grief as Avery takes -- and I've dished out more than my fair share -- I have to admit that his statement was actually pretty classy. Who knew?