The shifting of the calendar from December to January doesn’t just mean the end of one year and the beginning of another. It also means the IIHF World Junior Championships has come to an end, and in this week’s look at what’s happening in hockey, we look back at an instant classic between the USA and Canada, a near-historic win streak comes to an end, an Original Six team says goodbye to the oldest living former NHL player, and the Atlantic Division leaders are dealing with another injury. It’s time to take a look Around The NHL.
TEAM USA BEATS TEAM CANADA IN A GAME FOR THE AGES
Just one day after beating Russia in a shootout in the semifinals of the World Junior Championships, Team USA found themselves in the gold medal game head-to-head with their arch-rivals and tournament favorites, Team Canada. It was one of those games that had all of the intensity of a Game 7 during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, only it was on a Thursday night in January. Canada jumped out to a 2-0 lead, only for Team USA to tie it up. The Canadians then went up 4-2, only for the Americans to rally and tie the game 4-4. Sixty minutes of heart-pounding hockey weren’t enough. A 20-minute overtime period wasn’t enough, so it went to a five-round shootout. Say what you will about the format, because nobody in the world that was watching this game wanted it to go to a shootout, but that’s what we got. And for the second game in a row, it was Troy Terry who was the shootout hero, beating Canadian goalie Carter Hart through the five-hole for the only goal of the skills competition. Team USA goalie Tyler Parsons, who made 44 saves in regulation and overtime, stopped all five shooters for Team Canada, clinching the victory when Nicolas Roy’s deke attempt saw the puck roll off his stick. It was the fourth gold medal for Team USA in the history of the tournament. After the game, Team USA coach Bob Motzko summed it up perfectly.
“Either team could have won,” said Motzko after it was all said and done. “What a game. It was an awesome game. It was a terrific heavyweight fight between two great hockey programs.”
BLUE JACKETS’ BID FOR HISTORY COMES UP JUST SHORT
Over the last month, the Columbus Blue Jackets have been the talk of the hockey world, making the transition from a nice early-season story after a solid start to legitimate Presidents’ Trophy and Stanley Cup contenders. All thanks to a 16-game winning streak that came to an abrupt end in a 5-0 loss at Washington on Thursday night. The streak is the second-longest in NHL history behind the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 17-game winning streak in the 1992-93 season. Throughout the streak, which began following a 2-1 shootout loss in Sunrise to the Panthers, the Blue Jackets have gotten some great goaltending from Sergei Bobrovsky and some timely scoring. They got neither in the streak-busting loss to the Capitals, as Bobrovsky was pulled after allowing five goals on 23 shots, but Columbus’s play in the defensive zone did him no favors. Jackets head coach John Tortorella believes his team still has a lot of work to do despite their impressive streak.
“We have so much hockey to be played,” Tortorella said. “I still don’t know who we are. We have got to keep on playing and we’re going to start playing within our division, probably the toughest division in hockey right now, playing a number of games there. We have a long ways to go here to really define who we are. But I’m pleased the way they have handled especially the past week where it really got focused. It’s a good experience for our team.”
BRUINS’ LEGEND MILT SCHMIDT PASSES AWAY
On Thursday night, the Boston Bruins said goodbye to former captain, coach, and general manager Milt Schmidt, who died the day before at the age of 98. Schmidt, a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, had been the oldest living former NHL player. During their game against the Edmonton Oilers at TD Garden, the Bruins’ PA announcer asked for “A moment of celebration and applause” instead of the usual moment of silence.
Schmidt helped the Bruins win a pair of Stanley Cup titles before enlisting in the Royal Canadian Air Force months after the attacks on Pearl Harbor. After World War II, he returned to claim the 1951 Hart Trophy, later going on to be the architect of the Boston teams that won two more championships with Bobby Orr in the 1970 and 1972. Schmidt also served as the team’s head coach when they made back-to-back trips to the Stanley Cup Final in 1957 and 1958. Schmidt brought Bobby Orr into the fold in 1966, and his most well-known trade was when he picked up Phil Esposito from the Chicago Blackhawks before they brought home the Cup in 1970.
Fittingly, Schmidt and Orr dropped the puck for the Bruins’ home opener in October, just a couple of months before Schmidt passed away.
CANADIENS’ GALLAGHER TO MISS AT LEAST EIGHT WEEKS
Earlier today, the Montreal Canadiens announced on that winger Brendan Gallagher will be out for at least eight weeks after having surgery on his fractured left hand. Gallagher suffered the injury in Wednesday night’s 4-3 overtime win in Dallas when he took a Shea Weber shot off his hand during the third period. Yep, the same Shea Weber that’s won the hardest shot contest at All-Star weekend multiple times. The last guy whose shot you’d wanna get hit by. Gallagher has six goals and 18 points in 39 games so far this season. This is not the first time he’s suffered an injury in that hand, as he fractured two fingers in the same hand last season after blocking a shot against the New York Islanders, causing him to miss 17 games.
Gallagher’s absence leaves Montreal without seven regulars in their lineup, including winger Paul Byron, who suffered an upper body injury in that same game in Dallas. The Habs have also been missing forwards David Desharnais and Andrew Shaw, along with defenseman Greg Pateryn. Center Alex Galchenyuk and defenseman Andrei Markov, who have each missed extended stretches of time, also have yet to return to the lineup.
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