Puck Daddy Countdown: Practice fights, predictable Vegas and ruining 3-on-3

The Golden Knights have come back down to earth the last few months. (Jeff Bottari/NHLI via Getty Images)
The Golden Knights have come back down to earth the last few months. (Jeff Bottari/NHLI via Getty Images)
7. Ruining 3-on-3

If teams start doing this to McDavid and other elite players on a regular basis in overtime, the league needs to step in and tell them to cut the crap.

Remember when they first instituted the 3-on-3 OT and everyone was like, “It’s gonna take six months to ruin this?” Well it took a lot longer than that, and leave it to Randy Carlyle, whose teams are always like watching particularly dirty paint dry, to finally figure it out. Failing to exit your own zone for 35 seconds or whatever it was is basically the definition of anti-hockey, and it’s not what anyone wants.

That same night, the Preds and Jets had a wonderful, fun 3-on-3 that was the reason such overtimes should exist in the first place, so perhaps the cynicism hasn’t really spilled over elsewhere. But this is a copycat league and the Ducks won in OT eventually, so the idea that other teams are gonna start doing this just became a very real concern.

I hate it.

6. Writing it again

So Vegas finally clinched a playoff spot after really dropping off over the last month. As noted in yesterday’s Power Feelings, Monday night’s victory over the Avs was their first win — of any kind: regulation, overtime, or shootout — against a Western Conference playoff team since Feb. 8.

This led a lot of people to go, “Ah, hmm, let us say how Vegas is actually good,” for the first time in a month or more. Lots of fun, non-PDO theories for why they’re north of 100 points were floated. They’re 17th in the league in expected-goals percentage across all situations over the last month, but at 5-on-5 they’re dead last. A PDO-heavy team getting by on special teams all year flattening out at the end of the season then getting walloped in the playoffs? I’ve never heard of that before!!

The word “intangibles” is flying around a lot again. Lost in the win over Colorado was the fact they got shelled and only Marc-Andre Fleury being .930 for the last month kept them afloat both in that game and overall. And the fact that literally like 80 percent of the team is in a contract year probably helps Wild Bill Karlsson get to 40 goals or whatever. But it’s like, c’mon man, if the collective wisdom around this team on Oct. 1 was that they weren’t very good, well, that’s probably gonna end up being right. Especially if I say it, ha ha ha.

There’s something to be said, I guess, for people buying the narrative, and contrary to expectations I really don’t want to be the guy who has to array my arguments against fun stories in the league.

But people in the media have such a collective delusion around all these teams, most of which share a similar profile in one way or another to some previous season’s white-hot-team-that-crashed-and-burned, that it needs to be refuted. I don’t know how many times skepticism around these teams needs to be quadruple-underlined and then proven in the postseason, but apparently the answer is, “At least one more.”

5. The Weber trade

Great news, gang: Shea Weber is gonna be healthy for the start of training camp next season!

He played a whopping 26 games this year, a good chunk of them not-healthy to begin with, and he turns 33 in August. He’s signed for another eight seasons at $7.857 million AAV. This is working out great.

Just as a side note, P.K. Subban is the best defenseman on maybe the best team in the league and has an outside shot at 60 points this year.

Who saw this coming? Oh right, a bunch of people, including the stats guy the Canadiens fired who works for the Preds now. Huh!

4. Nick Foligno

I’m sincerely very curious to see what the Blue Jackets do in the next couple weeks (at least) with Nick Foligno on the sidelines.

Foligno is, of course, overpaid and overrated — he only has 33 points this year because he’s not shooting 15-plus percent and makes $5.5 million against the cap — but he’s also a solid player for them in all situations and isn’t that so helpful. At some point, it doesn’t matter how much you pay a guy as long as he’s helping and you’re under the cap. Foligno, demostrably, helps.

Thus, it’ll be interesting to see what Columbus, which has been winning a lot and playing extremely well for a while now, does in his absence. No matter what you think of him in the grand scheme of things, he’s not an easily replaceable guy.

3. College signees

Normally when a bunch of college players get scooped up all at once and people are like, “Is this guy going to make a difference at the NHL level,” I have to break the bad news to them that, probably they aren’t.

This year, I don’t have to be that Bad News Bear(er). Almost every guy who’s getting signed in the past few days, I’m saying to myself, “Yeah he’s probably an NHLer right now.”

There are a few notable exceptions here: Dylan Gambrell, Will Borgen, the defenseman from Michigan Tech the Blues just signed, probably Erik Foley, who the Blues are about to sign as I write this but may have already done so by the time you read it, maybe Nolan Stevens. (Boy, I guess I don’t love these Blues signings.)

But for the most part, guys like Dylan Sikura, Casey Mittelstadt, Adam Gaudette, Henrik Borgstrom, Troy Terry, Ryan Donato (obviously), maybe Jordan Greenway, these are NHLers. Pretty wild to think about how good of a crop the NCAA produced this year.

2. Kyle Connor

Hey speaking of college guys, where did Kyle freakin’ Connor come from in the Calder race, eh?

Mat Barzal is still the likely winner — scoring a point a game helps, I suppose — and Brock Boeser really opened things up by getting injured, but Connor and Clayton Keller have really come on late. Connor’s up to 29 goals in 69 games and he’s currently fifth in points per game among rookies.

One wonders if it’s gonna help his cause that he’s doing all this scoring in the thick of a playoff race while Barzal, Boeser and Keller are all miles out of a playoff spot. After all, how can you be the best rookie if your team isn’t in the playoff convo? Shoutout to Yanni Gourde too then, I guess.

1. “It’s actually good to fight in practice”

This is the kind of insane baby-boomer-brain-speak that needs to be driven out of hockey immediately. Like the other day when the Red Wings’ Twitter account said, “Hey it’s the anniversary of when all the guys on the Wings and Avs beat the crap out of each other, pretty cool right?” And I’m like, “Ahh, not really, since it’s 2018.”

I’m not sure exactly who, demographically speaking, thinks fighting is good any more, but I bet a lot of them are very mad at the teens who don’t like gun violence. I bet that’s a pretty round Venn diagram, yeah.

***

(Not ranked this week: Georges Laraque.

Let’s go with the premise, for a minute, that the “info” Laraque got about “Taylor Hall” “going” to “rehab” was actually 1 million percent true and definitely a real thing that happened.

Okay, so if it’s true, this is a guy who has a drinking problem and who seems to have overcome it to some extent and is having a great year in New Jersey. Why is it any of some retired goon’s business to go on the radio and be like, “Here’s what the deal is, folks!” just because he can?

Let’s use a real example. Suppose Scott Darling, who is famously an actual alcoholic, fell off the wagon. Should someone who heard that go on the radio and say, “Well sure, his save percentage stinks, but he’s drinking again so what do you expect?” Even if that were true, that would be a really crappy thing to do to him and his family and his team.

I don’t have a solution here, I just think it sucks to do this to someone with a substance abuse problem, even if you totally made it up.)

Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.

(All statistics via Corsica unless otherwise noted.)

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