Takeaways and Talking Points: The NHL Week That Was and Will Be at Dec. 2

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Takeaways and Talking Points: The NHL Week That Was and Will Be at Dec. 2
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From the moment Daniel Alfredsson signed with the Detroit Red Wings, the city of Ottawa anticipated their longtime captain's return game. That contest arrived Sunday, but there was an overriding question surrounding Alfredsson's homecoming—would Senators fans offer a warm welcome or would emotions be mixed after his shocking departure?

An extended standing ovation following a video tribute at Canadian Tire Centre proved there were no hard feelings between fans of the city's most popular athlete.

Alfredsson got everything he could've wanted from his return. He had an assist and an empty-net goal that sealed the Red Wings' 4-2 victory. He also grabbed the puck at game's end, a memento for what was an emotional day for the Senators' all-time leader in almost every category.

Alfredsson had a difficult time putting the night into words, per NHL.com.

Well, it's hard to describe. How do you feel you deserve to be cheered on like that after all you do is play hockey? It's kind of surreal at times to have that feeling, but it's a mutual feeling. I feel I definitely respect this city, this team as well, and I thought once the puck dropped the crowd also did the right thing and cheered on their team.

Will Alfredsson ever forget this night? Probably not.

More importantly for the Red Wings, they appear to have righted their ship. After losing seven straight (0-2-5), they have won five of six and have the third-most points in the Eastern Conference.

Here's a look back at four other notable events from the previous week and a look ahead at five potential happenings in the NHL this week.

 

LOOKING BACK

• The death of Evgeni Malkin was greatly exaggerated. As little as two weeks ago, the hockey world wondered aloud what was wrong with Penguins star Evgeni Malkin. Sure, he's one of the game's best players, but for some reason, three goals and 15 assists in 20 games was cause for concern.

Not only is the "slump" over, but Malkin is now second in the NHL in scoring with 35 points—one behind teammate Sidney Crosby—after a monster week in which he posted three goals and six assists in four games. He had a four-point game (three assists) Saturday night against the Florida Panthers and scored this beauty of a goal in the win.

If one of the game's greats is slightly off a point-per-game pace through a quarter of the season, maybe we all agree going forward to take a deep breath and find a word besides "slump" to define it.

 

• Class-action lawsuit to keep concussions in conversation. It started six days ago when 10 former players filed a lawsuit in U.S. federal court against the NHL, claiming the league has not done enough to protect players against concussions. It's been less than a week, but there have already been developments in the case.

Two days later, four-time Stanley Cup winner with the New York Islanders Bob Bourne was among 200 players who joined the lawsuit. Then on Friday, ex-Toronto Maple Leafs captain Rick Vaive withdrew his name from the lawsuit, and his lawyer, Trevor Whiffen, offered an explanation, according to CBC/Radio-Canada.

Mr. Vaive misunderstood the nature of the proceeding being brought, and believed this claim was similar to the worker's compensation claim being advanced in California on behalf of several former NHL players. Rick has no interest in suing the National Hockey League and has advised that he will not be pursuing the claim in Washington. He has therefore instructed me to take the necessary steps required in order to remove his name from the lawsuit.

This thing is less than a week old, and people are choosing sides and speculating what will happen with this potentially massive case. The NFL and its players took nearly two years to reach a settlement in that league's concussion lawsuit, so don't expect this to go away for the NHL any time soon.

 

• Stephane Robidas injury a massive loss for Stars. There might not be a more underrated, under-appreciated defenseman in the NHL than Robidas, which is why this horrific injury could be so devastating for Dallas.

The 36-year-old is consistently among the Stars' ice-time leaders every season and has been incredibly healthy throughout his career but will miss four to six months with a broken leg. Since 2005-06, he has never missed more than 10 games in a season and played a full slate of games three times. According to ExtraSkater.com, Robidas was putting up positive Corsi and Fenwick numbers.

There's never much fanfare around a player like Robidas, but for a Stars team fighting to reach a playoff spot in the loaded Western Conference, it could be an impossible loss to overcome.

 

• The Maple Leafs are crashing back to earth. On Nov. 8, the Leafs were 11-5-0 and sitting atop the Eastern Conference despite being outshot in 14 of 16 games. As the calendar turns to December, the Leafs are fading and enter the new month after losing four straight games (0-2-2) last week.

Graig Abel/Getty Images
After a blistering start, Leafs goaltender James Reimer has allowed nine goals on his past 50 shots.

The Leafs were smashed 6-0 by the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday, lost 6-5 in a shootout to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday, suffered an embarrassing 3-2 overtime loss to the league-worst Buffalo Sabres on Friday, then fell 4-2 to the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday.

The Leafs were outshot in all four games and have only outshot their opponents three times in 27 games this season. They are now 14-11-3 and hanging onto the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference with a difficult schedule looming in December. How difficult is it? Glad you asked.

 

LOOKING AHEAD

• The Maple Leafs have rough sledding this week. On Tuesday, the Leafs welcome the San Jose Sharks to Air Canada Centre. The Sharks have the second-best record in the NHL and have won five straight. The Stars come to town Wednesday, and while they have fewer points than the Leafs, they have a better points percentage than the Leafs and are 6-3-1 in their past 10.

The so-called "easy" game of the week is a road game against the Ottawa Senators, who are having a rough season but will have plenty of incentive against their Ontario rivals. The week ends with a home game against the Boston Bruins, who enter the week with the best record in the East.

The Leafs aren't playing for their season this week, but another winless seven-day stretch could be detrimental to their confidence.

Elsa/Getty Images

 

• Will Jaromir Jagr surpass two more legends? The 41-year-old Jagr enters this week tied for eighth with Steve Yzerman in career goals with 692. Jagr is two behind Mark Messier for seventh place on the list. If Jagr has any sense of dramatic timing, he could pass the Hall of Famers in poetic fashion.

The Devils will host the Detroit Red Wings on Friday night. Yzerman played his entire 22-year career with the Red Wings.

The following night, the Devils will pay a visit to the New York Rangers. Messier spent 10 seasons with the Rangers and was the captain when the team won the Stanley Cup in 1994.

 

• Doug Weight, Bill Guerin heading to the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame. Joining Weight and Guerin will be Ron Mason, former head coach of Michigan State's ice hockey team, Cindy Curley, a member of the U.S. women's national team on four occasions, and Carolina Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos Jr.

Weight and Guerin were part of the U.S. team that won the 1996 World Cup of Hockey, defeating the Canadians in the best-of-three series. In this excellent read about the series, current U.S. Hall of Famer Keith Tkachuk talks about the ripple effect it had on American hockey.

The '80 Olympics had a huge impact on that '96 World Cup team, and that '96 World Cup team I know made an impact, because you look at some of the Americans that are in the game now and it's just crazy. Look around, it's not just American players, it's star American players. I love that I see more Americans making an impact in the NHL. That's how you know you did your job.

 

• Wild desperate for goals, wins this week. Much like the Leafs, the Wild are entering this week losers of four straight and trying to avoid losing their grip on a wild-card spot. The Wild have scored a grand total of four goals in their past four games despite getting Zach Parise back after he missed two games when he was originally said to be out two to three weeks with a foot contusion.

The Wild host the red-hot Philadelphia Flyers and the league-leading Chicago Blackhawks to start the week, then get a reprieve in the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday before finishing the week by hosting the San Jose Sharks. 

As a group, the Flyers, Sharks, Jackets and Blackhawks are a combined 27-9-4 in their past 10 games.

Unlike the Leafs, who rank near the bottom of the league in most puck-possession numbers, the Wild have been a strong possession team this season. They'll need to right the ship in a hurry with some stiff competition on the docket.

Don Smith/Getty Images

 

• Sharks-Penguins in a potential Stanley Cup Final preview. Entering the week, the Sharks and Penguins are second within their respective conferences and dominating of late. The Penguins are 6-1-1 in their past eight and have scored 13 goals in their past three games, all victories. The Sharks have won five straight and eight of nine, holding opponents to two goals or fewer in six of those games.

When the teams meet Thursday in Pittsburgh, they will be mostly healthy. The Penguins will have the biggest absence, as defenseman Paul Martin is out four to six weeks, but otherwise each team's key players will be healthy.

In a long season where games can run together and turn into a blur, this is one well worth watching.

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