Column: What we learned last week in the NHL
Lessons learned from the last week of play:
The bye week isn’t such a great idea
Players often say they like the rhythm of playing every other day or every few days, and there’s evidence that having too much time off could be worse than too little. Through Sunday’s games, the cumulative record of teams in their first game after the mandatory bye week was 4-12-4, a tally that was tipped dramatically last week by the Kings (regulation loss), Montreal (regulation loss), Washington (shootout loss), Chicago (regulation loss), Tampa Bay (overtime loss) and Nashville (regulation loss) before Boston beat San Jose in overtime on Sunday. The Kings are 0-3 since their break, but their problems go beyond being out of rhythm.
Healthy Panthers have bite
Forwards Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov feel fine now and so do the Florida Panthers, who have barged back into the playoff picture and extended a season-best winning streak to five games with a 2-1 victory Monday at St. Louis. Huberdeau had four goals and eight points in his first six games after returning from an Achilles’ injury and Barkov had four goals and eight points in six games after returning from an undisclosed injury. They’ve revitalized 45-year-old Jaromir Jagr, who is older than Huberdeau (23) and Barkov (21) put together.
Montreal isn’t afraid to recycle coaches
Just over 14 years after the Canadiens fired Michel Therrien as coach and replaced him with Claude Julien, they did it again last week. Uneasy after the team went south following a 13-1-1 start, General Manager Marc Bergevin hired Julien before other teams—including the expansion Vegas Golden Knights—could grab him. Therrien may have lost support in the locker room because of questionable personnel decisions and excessive criticism, but he reacted with total class. “The current team can aspire to great honors, and I wish my colleague Claude Julien every success in the future,” he said in a statement. Julien, who signed a five-year deal reportedly worth $5 million a year, lost his first game of his second Montreal coaching stint. The Canadiens’ lead over second-place Ottawa in the Atlantic division has dwindled to two points and the Senators have two games in hand.
Hockey is better with Dave Strader calling games
Dallas Stars broadcaster Dave Strader, who has been trying different forms of chemotherapy to treat his bile duct cancer, felt strong enough to call the team’s game against Tampa Bay last Saturday. Players saluted him with upraised sticks afterward, and he’s scheduled to do more games. “This is the first time, to be honest with you, that for four hours I didn’t feel like I was sick at all,” he told the Dallas Morning News. This has been a tough season for broadcasters, with Kings voice Bob Miller still recovering from a mild stroke he suffered during All-Star weekend.
Follow Helene Elliott on Twitter @helenenothelen
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