The NHL’s best and worst this week

When the Chicago Blackhawks publicly admitted last season that they wanted to rebuild, speculation was rife as to whether the core group of Chicago veterans would follow suit.

Maybe we were asking the wrong questions. A month into the 2021 season, the Blackhawks are much more competitive than expected; with a score of 7-5-4, Chicago is tied with the Columbus Blue Jackets for fourth place in the Central Division playoffs. And while the youth movement has been a driving force, we had to wonder: will the veteran core accelerate this recovery?

Captain Jonathan Toews remains absent from the squad, while Brent Seabrook has not played this season as he is still recovering from a back injury.

However, two of the Blackhawks’ top players – aside from rookie goalie Kevin Lankinen – are Patrick Kane, who is third in the league in points with 22:16 games played, and Duncan Keith, who leads the team in playing minutes while playing a top defense. Neither will slow down anytime soon.

“I feel like my energy level has never been higher,” Keith said Sunday night.

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For the record, Keith is 37 years old. But in sports, we are beginning to recalibrate athletic longevity. While the obsession with youth is ever-present, especially in field hockey, we are inundated with more and more examples of athletes defying their fathers’ time.

When the Patriots broke up with Tom Brady, they may have thought he would be under 40 because quarterbacks usually are, but that was not the case. Brady believes his work off the field, the TB12 approach, contributed a lot to his success. In a season where many expected LeBron James to take it easy thanks to an unprecedented 71-day off-season, the 36-year-old found himself back in the NBA top 10 within minutes of playing and building to a legitimate MVP record. A few years ago, James’ business partner, Maverick Carter, said the Lakers star spends about $1.5 million a year on his body.

A few years ago Keith said he wanted to play until he was 45. The defense admits he seemed a little cranky. “I said it because I’m tired of being asked by the media,” he said. “It started a few years ago, when I was 34 or 35. I felt young, I didn’t know why I was being asked these questions. Now that I’m 37, I look around and I’m the oldest on the team and there aren’t many guys my age [in the league].

When asked if he could play until he was 50, Keith laughed. “I don’t know if I could go that far,” he said. “But I feel pretty good right now.”

Ask anyone who has played with Keith and they will tell you that he is obsessed with his off-ice diet. Many young players try to learn from him, while others are just terrified.

“My first year I was very impressed with the work [Keith] does off the ice, especially in the area of recovery,” Kirby Dach told me last year. “He puts so much work into something you don’t see behind closed doors. ”

In 2019, the New York Times wrote an article about Keith’s routine, calling himself a “biohacker and part-time field hockey player.” Keith says he lies on an electric mat for eight minutes each morning and regularly spends time in front of Jovvah lights to aid in recovery.

“I’ve always trained well,” Keith says. “But now I feel like I have it all under control. I’ve learned a lot over the years about what my body needs,” he says.

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Since Keith’s debut in the 2005-06 season, only Ryan Suter has played more minutes than his 28,839 minutes. Perhaps most impressive is Keith’s consistency. As a rookie, he led the Blackhawks in ice time with more than 23 minutes per game. Sixteen years later, he still leads the team with an average of 24 minutes per game.

According to Keith, the aspect of his routine that has changed the most as a pro is his diet. “I thought my eating habits were pretty good,” he said. “But now I’m at the point where I really am, and I know how to get my energy level back when it’s down – by eating healthy, nutritious foods that I add to my body because I know what my body responds well to,” he said.

And for Keith, the answer isn’t always complicated. “I eat a lot of steak, a lot of meat and potatoes,” he says.

In addition to his diet, he is constantly concerned with his energy level.

“I think I’m more aware of what’s draining my energy,” Keith said. “Whether it’s staying up late, looking at my phone, watching TV or the computer screen. I don’t think it’s necessarily a gadget that helps me. They have Normatec boots that help with lymphatic drainage, which is a good thing. There are a lot of little things like that that you can spend money on, but I think it’s always important to master the basics that no one really has or that I don’t know about. These are your sleep, food, hydration and breathing. So I focus on those, and after that, they start to disappear”.

Wrong!!! Not specified.only does the film specified.Duncan Keith playing a lot of minutes this season, but he’s also playing at a high level. Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Of course, we have heard countless athletes talk about sleep, nutrition and hydration, but much less about breathing.

“It’s very underrated,” Keith said. “We need to talk about it more. Breathing and brain power are two things that don’t get enough attention in field hockey or sports. I don’t know why. Muscular strength and aesthetics are mentioned – everyone wants to look good – and that’s certainly important. There’s meditative breathing to bring the nervous system into a parasympathetic state where you can relax, recover and calm down. But for me, I work a lot on my breathing and mechanics. In fact, I started breathing properly eight years ago, and especially last year, I took another step. So I’m going to continue to work on it”.

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Entering the 2021 season, Keith was not as intimidated by the team’s approach as some Blackhawks fans might have been. “My attitude hasn’t really changed because it seems like it’s been going on for a while,” Keith said. “As a player who goes through the ups and downs of the season every day, through wins and losses, the rebuild doesn’t just start this season. I just think the organization is trying to be a little more transparent to people. Some of these young people coming into the NHL are excited about playing field hockey and being in the NHL, and it’s inspiring to be a part of that energy.

It gives Keith a chance to be transparent about his own situation. Because he is still playing at a high level and is under contract – he is at the end of a 13-year contract that pays him $5,538,462 annually through 2022-23 – many have speculated that Keith might give up his no-bruil clause to play for a competitor. But Keith insists he has no intention of doing so.

“Why should I go anywhere?” said Keith. “Where better than Chicago? It’s a great city, I’ve been lucky enough to play there my whole career, great real estate, and I love it. My goal is to win another Stanley Cup in Chicago. That’s what I want to do”.

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1 This week, a group of 27 student-athletes, coaches and administrators announced the formation of a group called Diversity, Equity and Inclusion College Hockey.

“It’s a group of people who came together and really wanted to change something about field hockey,” said Ayodele Adeni, a first-year student at the University of Alabama in Huntsville who is part of the coalition. We say, “One shift at a time. ‘ Because it may not be the biggest change at any given time, but we always try to make a change in some way.

Adeniyi himself has an interesting story. He was born in Ohio in 1999, a year before the Blue Jackets’ debut. So he grew up in the area where the Blue Jackets raised him. Adeniyi began playing in the local NHL “field hockey for everyone” program, the Columbus Hockey Club. “Until I was six or seven years old, I played with most of the black kids,” he says. “But when I went from lower level field hockey to a higher level, I became the only one.”

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Varsity field hockey,” Adeniyi explained, “is not very diverse. I have a teammate [Peyton Francis] who is African-Jamaican-Canadian,” Adeniyi said, “but other than him, I haven’t seen any other black players in our league. I saw one other colored player this year when we played [at Robert Morris University]. I’m actually in a group on Instagram of all the black kids who play NCAA field hockey, and I think there are only 15 or 16 of us.”

Adeniyi chose UAH in part because his parents moved to Alabama when he was 16. UAH is the only Division I program in the southern state. “Since I was 16, my mom hasn’t seen me play much,” he says. “So I knew I would be closer to her and my family. ”

When he heard about the creation of the College Hockey for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, his interest was piqued. Adeniyi contacted a journalist he knew who had the phone number of Jennifer Flowers, a WCHA Women’s League Commissioner, who was organizing the group. “I contacted them and told my coach that I wanted to be part of the group, and they accepted me,” he said.

The group meets on Sundays, via Zoom, and always focuses on the “first shift.” Members send each other resources they find online about systemic racism. Their first goal is to produce an educational video that can be viewed in every college field hockey locker room next season. Adeni also has his own ideas.

“There’s not a lot of grassroots field hockey in Alabama,” says Adeniyi, “there’s not a lot of hockey programs there, and we certainly don’t have diversity programs or anything like that. When VIDOC is done, I hope to come to the city where there has traditionally been no field hockey and spread the game.” I already have some teammates who want to support me. I’m going to call it African Floor Hockey Fanatics, and we’re going to go to the local boys’ and girls’ clubs to teach them how to play field hockey, give them tickets to the games, and spread the game throughout Huntsville and the South, making it a more inclusive game.

2) It’s been a long time coming for the best players in the world – Marie-Philip Poulin, Shannon Sabados, Hilary Knight, Kendall Coyne-Shawfield and Brianna Decker. We’ll see them in PWHPA games at Madison Square Garden starting Feb. 27, but the event they all revolve around is the Nova Scotia Women’s World Ice Hockey Championship in April (which is getting its second chance to host the tournament after the 2020 tournament was canceled).

The players I have spoken with are cautiously optimistic that the World Championships will go ahead this year – especially since the IIHF and Hockey Canada were able to host the World Juniors in Edmonton in December. However, we have heard very little about the adult women’s tournament. I have heard that Hockey Canada has asked the IIHF to move the tournament to May, and that teams may be able to move it to August. Last week, I asked Hockey Canada to keep me informed. In a statement, the organization revealed that it is in constant contact with the IIHF and the province of Nova Scotia.

“At this time, on behalf of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), the hosting of the 2021 Women’s Ice Hockey World Championship in Halifax and Truro, N.S. remains a priority for Canada,” the statement said. “All of our partners in field hockey, venues and events remain committed to finding a solution for a successful world championship.”

So stay tuned…

Three stars of the week

1st RAdm Atkinson, RW, Columbus Blue Jackets.

After a slump in 2019-20, Atkinson seems to have regained his scoring touch. The Blue Jackets’ veteran scored three goals and provided four assists in three games this week. Atkinson has scored three shorthanded goals and 15 assists in his career this season, which is currently the most in Columbus franchise history (after Rick Nash scored 14 goals).

2. Mike Smith, G, Edmonton Oilers.

He missed the first month of the season due to a lingering injury, and some fans were unhappy with the Oilers’ decision to bring the 38-year-old back (rather than look for an upgrade for the postseason). But Smith has been a stabilizing factor for Edmonton this week. He stopped 65 of 66 shots in two games (.985 stopping percentage), including a shutout against Montreal.

3. Marc-André Fleury, G, Golden Knights of Las Vegas.

The Golden Knights are 8-1-1 at home this season and Fleury played a big part in that success. Sunday (63rd in his career), he stopped 100 of 106 shots in four games this week (.943 save percentage), three of which he won.

What we enjoyed this week.

1. Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask is one of the best personalities in the game. He doesn’t take himself too seriously. He has human moments, and he likes to talk about them. And that’s exactly what happened Wednesday night when Rask left the Bruins’ net with one minute left to play.

“I honestly thought we were down 2-1,” Rusk admitted afterward. “That’s all. I thought we were down 2-1. I was waiting for [Coach Bruce Cassidy] to give me the sign. And why the hell isn’t he here? … I think Chucky [Charlie McAvoy] said, “Dude, it’s 2-2, so…”

Fortunately, the Bruins survived the jam and won in overtime thanks to Brad Marchand.

“I think it’s the entertainment industry,” Rusk said. “That’s what we’re trying to provide, entertainment for the fans. I’m sure people were shocked at first, but I hope they had a good laugh. That’s for sure.

Speaking of Fleury, this is the best save I’ve seen this year:

Marc-André Fleury is of another level @SinBinVegas

– i reporter Liam 🦖 (@Blutman27) February 12, 2021

3. The Los Angeles Kings recognized Black History Month on Tuesday, and all the players wore warm-up jerseys with Willie O’Ree or Blake Bolden’s name on them. That’s what allied looks like, and it was cool to see how moving that was for Bolden, 29, who works for the Kings and is the first black female scout in the NHL.

Literally a highlight of her career #BHM

– Blake Bolden (@SportBlake) February 10, 2021

What we didn’t like this week.

1- When I know that the new president of the Pittsburgh field hockey team, Brian Burke, and General Manager Ron Hextall are renowned hockey players with experience managing NHL teams-something the Pittsburgh Penguins wanted given the urgency to maximize the end of the Sidney Crosby era-you have to wonder: are there really only 40 people qualified for this kind of work, and when are we going to stop? But this is no small thing for the Penguins, what they did is simply emblematic of the practice of hiring field hockey players.

Last year Neil Glasberg, an NHL coach and proponent of diversifying the front office, including considering more European candidates, called the issue an NHL “groupthink.” We’ve talked about the coaches, but the leadership positions are just as bad.

“The simplest thing is to not want to take into account – let alone listen to – someone who is not well known to hiring managers, whether it’s a general manager, deputy general manager, owner or someone doing a search,” Glasberg said. “Who, in my opinion, are selling themselves short. ” Why wouldn’t you want to talk to as many qualified people as possible? Instead, most NHL teams have this “hire a friend” mentality. I hear it all the time from my guys: “It’s not the best candidate who gets hired. It’s the candidate who has the best network or the most exposure”. That’s not how you build success. No company would ever be successful if it only hired people it knew.

2nd Greg Wyszynski and I will know more about the NHL’s plans for the end of the season later this week, but it should be noted that we are only in August and the NHL has already had to amend its safety protocols twice – each time to restrict players’ movements. The latest order, sent to teams this week, “urges members of the player’s family” to limit their activities as much as possible. At the same time, players must stay at home unless they are attending practices and games, training outside, performing basic activities (such as going to the doctor), caring for their families or dealing with other emergencies.

There remains optimism about the possibility of ending the season in its current form, and sources within the NHL and FNLA have indicated that they are willing to adjust protocols as often as necessary to accommodate this. There is no question of a return to the “bubble” – and we know what the players think of the bubble, so it would be a hard sell – but we are concerned that we are in a situation where some teams (like the Vancouver Canucks, who played 18 games) have played twice as many games as others (the New Jersey Devils played only nine games).

That’s why everyone you talk to in the NHL insists on one thing: pay attention to the percentage of points. Not every team will be able to reach 56 games, but it will be important for each division to get about the same number of points.

The best games of the week

Please note that all times are eastern.

Monday, February 15: St. Louis Blues vs. Arizona Coyotes, 4 p.m.

It comes down to this: in an unprecedented run of seven consecutive games against the same opponent, the seventh game is at stake on Monday. The Yotes have started well, but the Blues have won their last two games by a stroke of luck. The combined goals are 20-19, St. Louis. After that, both teams look forward to the break.

Friday, February 19: Edmonton Oilers against the Calgary Flames, 9 p.m. (ESPN+).

Although the entire season was built around competitive games, each Battle of Alberta match looks like a snapshot. Both teams are still trying to find their way, with Edmonton firing veteran James Neal (sent to the cab team for cap flexibility) over the weekend.

Saturday, February 20: Las Vegas Golden Knights against the Colorado Avalanche, 3 p.m.

The first of two NHL games in Lake Tahoe will feature these two western powerhouses. Breathe in the breathtaking scenery – the rink is built on a golf course on the shore of a lake – and enjoy the panoramic views and intensity of the playoffs (this is the third time these teams have played this week). Fortunately for Colorado, star Nathan MacKinnon is back after being sidelined by a lower-body injury three weeks ago.

Social media post of the week

The chirping doesn’t stop when you hang up your skates. Classic troll work by Kevin Bixa:

Why not talk about @kbieksa3 with an ESPN photo of Ryan Kesler in the background 😂 @Sportsnet @hockeynight

– Daniel Michaud (@SNMichaud) February 14, 2021

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