James O'Brien

Hockey Daily Dose

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Coyotes ugly

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

When asked about how rough Game 2 of the Los Angeles Kings-Phoenix Coyotes ended up, Anze Kopitar had an amusing response: “I don’t think it was too dirty. I don’t think it was Pittsburgh-Philly like.”


Yes, it’s true that the Coyotes didn’t lose their composure in the same way that the Penguins did when they felt that their series was spiraling out of control. No one was headhunting like James Neal seemingly did when he delivered some highly questionable hits on Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier, but there still might be some pretty significant consequences for the Coyotes after they lost their cool on Tuesday.


Much like the Penguins after Game 3, the Coyotes might play a big game (albeit not an elimination one, barring a multiple-contest punishment) without some significant players. Shane Doan delivered a questionable boarding hit on Trevor Lewis that many believe won’t bring him any punishment beyond Doan being ejected from Game 2. That being said, there’s always the chance that “good guy” Doan could sit out a contest because he has a history of questionable hits, including a three-game suspension from March. You never really know with the NHL’s disciplinary ranks, although you can kind of make out certain patterns.


Now let’s move on to the guy who almost definitely won’t be suspended: Mike Smith. The Coyotes goalie (justifiably) hasn’t been very happy with the Kings crashing his crease with aplomb and he expressed that distaste with a slash to the back of Dustin Brown’s leg. Somewhat amusingly, Brown received a minor penalty (unsportsmanlike conduct – diving) to match Smith’s slash. Brown is known for having a talent to “draw” penalties yet this was actually a case when he was a victim of his own reputation. Either way, Smith is unlikely to get any more than the minor he received in Game 2.


Meanwhile, another painful moment for Brown will likely draw a suspension. During the third period, Martin Hanzal caught Brown from behind with a boarding hit that was far less defensible than the one Doan delivered. While one could argue that Lewis put himself in a dangerous situation by “turning in” to Doan’s hit (which is what Dave Tippett and Doan essentially), Hanzal’s hit from behind is the type of thing that the NHL is trying to get rid of. After taking the temperature of the Twitter populace, it sounds like Hanzal will probably get at least a one-game suspension.


There’s actually one other incident that might get some attention that slipped under the radar that might get some a little heat was Derek Morris’ knee-to-knee hit on Rob Scuderi. Not much has been made of this moment, but it’s at least worth noting if you have Morris in a league.


So, just to recap:


  • Hanzal will probably be suspended for a game or two.
  • Doan probably won’t get a suspension, yet there’s a chance.
  • Smith almost certainly won’t be suspended.
  • Finally, keep an eye on Morris because it’s a slight possibility.



As many speculated from almost the moment word got out that Dale Hunter only had a one-year contract, the head coach decided to step down from his fairly successful (or wildly successful, depending upon whom you ask) post as the Washington Capitals head coach. His time with the London Knights – or just getting away from questions about Alex Ovechkin’s ice time – proved more valuable than testing his chops in the NHL some more.


From a winning/playoff perspective, one can debate the merits of “Hunter hockey” until they’re blue in the face. (My take: it wasn’t the best way to take advantage of the personnel on hand, but even the biggest haters of the style probably will admit that the team was buying in to an impressive degree.)



The fantasy perspective is a lot easier to distinguish: it’s a sigh of relief. The Capitals’ talents were shackled in a system that occasionally gave bigger minutes to likeable (but far from explosive) players such as Jay Beagle than to the Ovechkin and Alexander Semins of the world.


It brings me to the first question: where does Ovechkin belong in next year’s fantasy hockey drafts? Oddly enough, the Crosby vs. Ovechkin question might be moot when it comes to the first pick next year. Considering the concussion worries for Crosby and the consistency/system/whatever questions for Ovi, I’d venture that it’s safer to rely on someone like Steven Stamkos.


My guess is that as much as he’s struggled, Ovechkin probably has to be at least a first round pick next year, but feel free to drop me an e-mail or message me on Twitter if you have a strong dissenting opinion.



The Capitals have a lot of more direct off-season questions, though. Replacing Hunter is the fundamental first choice for Capitals GM George McPhee. The next coach will determine style and probably a fair share of the personnel decisions ahead.


Alexander Semin is the first and most obvious question. Initially it sounded like he won’t be back and logic certainly dictates that. In the case of both Semin and definitely departing goalie Tomas Vokoun, the question isn’t so much about their futures with the Capitals but rather whether or not they’ll go to the KHL.


Beyond those rather significant scenarios, Mike Green and Dennis Wideman are other noteworthy guys whose futures are hard to place. Green – like not going anywhere gem John Carlson – is a restricted free agent while Wideman is unrestricted, which might increase Green’s chances of sticking around.


Long story short, things are going to be different in Washington – it should be fascinating to find out what exactly that means, though.



1. Jimmy Hascup - 365 points

2. Corey Abbott - 217.60

3. Jared O - 206.20

4. Michael Finewax - 187.30

5. Marc Lapierre - 172.10

6. My team - 158.30

7. Ryan Dadoun - 138.10

8. Brian Rosenbaum - 123.50

9. Gus Katsaros - 106.70

10. Kevin Brown - 88.80


Well, there seems like a pretty clear dividing line between the teams who have a shot to fit into the top three and the ones who are probably done: my team. If you’re above it, you still have a shot; if not, you might be out of luck. Jared has a great chance of eclipsing Corey because he has 18 remaining players versus Corey’s seven, but as usual, no one has a chance against Jimmy.



Am I the only one who thinks we need to lighten up on Patrick Kane, at least if he’s only doing any “damage” to his liver? If I’m a GM of any of the NHL’s other 29 teams, I’d gladly take that “problem” off the Blackhawks’ hands … Jay Beagle apparently broke his foot in Game 5 … Colin Fraser missed Game 2 for the Kings because of family issues. The way Los Angeles (and Fraser) played, he might not be back for a while … The Rangers won Game 1 against the New Jersey Devils, but the game was a lot closer to the 3-0 score indicated. Watch for New Jersey’s forecheck to create some havoc in this series. (Click here for the full list.)

James O'Brien is the Hockey Daily Dose's author and has been a contributor to NBC's Pro Hockey Talk for more than four years. Follow him on Twitter.
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