Welcome to Black Friday. Or, as we call it up here in Canada, "Wait, why are they playing NHL games on a Friday afternoon?" Weekday afternoon hockey always has a different feel, so today we're going to try something different to go along with it. I'll be live-blogging today's action, updating this post throughout the day with bad puns, observations, expert analysis ... well, mostly the bad puns, to be honest.
6:45 ET -- And with that, we're tapping out. Thanks to everyone who followed along, joined in down in the comments, tweeted or just yelled at their screen. After six straight hours of Black Friday hockey, it's time for this Canadian to punch the clock on a hard day's work and do something for fun.
[Watches hockey for six more hours.]
6:40 ET -- With our third final of the day in the books, let's hand out some awards.
Best goal: Colin McDonald's
Clutch moment: Matt Read's OT winner
Most predictable moment: Brad Marchand's interference penalty
MVP: Connor Hellebuyck
Most exciting moment: The first time I successfully typed "Connor Hellebuyck" by memory
Second-most controversial moment: 2:27 ET, when Stepan actually made that pass
6:35 ET -- Nikolaj Ehlers gets a long breakaway in Minnesota and buries it, putting the Jets up 3-1 with three minutes left, all but clinching the win. The Wild press, but that's all they can do, and the score holds up as the final.
This one is huge for Winnipeg, which moves within a point of the Wild for the Central's last playoff spot. The Wild hold three games in hand, so there's still a cushion there, but this was a chance for the Wild to pull away on their home ice, and the Jets snuffed it.
Next topic: Connor Hellebuyck -- this year's Hart and Vezina winner? Or does he get the Norris, too?
6:26 ET -- Flipping back to the Wild and Jets, I see that it's now 2-1. I'm assuming Hellebuyck scored on himself just to make the win more dramatic. That's some veteran presence from the kid.
6:21 ET -- The Ducks extend their lead to 2-0 on a goal by Chris Stewart. Hey, hasn't Stewart been in Anaheim for roughly 20 games now? Isn't it about time for him to once again starting showing up in trade rumors again? I haven't had an "Ottawa Senators reported to be very close on Chris Stewart deal" update in months, and I'm starting to go into withdrawal.
6:19 ET -- Meanwhile, the Capitals still lead the Lightning 1-0. It's a crucial game for Washington, which can move to within one point of the Rangers for first place in the Metro with a win, which is nice and all, but I think we can all agree that this is the most important thing happening with the Capitals right now.
6:11 ET -- Midway through overtime, the Predators get whistled for too many men on the ice. Is that the first time in NHL history that having four guys was considered "too many men"? Somebody check with Elias. Either the Sports Bureau or Patrik; I don't really care at this point. Either way, the Flyers make the Predators pay on a goal by rookie Shayne Gotsi ... Gostib ... Goistb ... You know what, I've been at this for six hours, I'm not typing that name. The Flyers win on a goal by Matt Read.
6:06 ET -- The Predators get a goal from Mike Fisher in the dying seconds to tie things up in Philadelphia. Who's up for some 3-on-3 overtime? Everybody? Awesome.
6:05 ET -- The Jets have expanded their lead in Minnesota to 2-0. I didn't see the goal, but I'm going to just go ahead and assume it was Connor Hellebuyck, from Connor Hellebuyck and Connor Hellebuyck.
5:56 ET -- By the way, we're looking to wrap this up in the next hour, probably when the Jets-Wild game ends. As per NHL tradition, I will try to be as boring as possible down the stretch to make sure I secure the loser point.
5:52 ET -- Three of the four games are in intermission, and the other (Flyers-Predators) is on a commercial break. This is unacceptable. It's like when all the NFL games go to halftime simultaneously. The commissioner needs to have the power to order somebody back out there. Where are you when we need you, Bruce?
5:46 ET -- Classic "fight between two guys who don't want to fight" in Philadelphia, as Barret Jackman takes on Colin McDonald. Was probably mad about how he deked out everyone for three full laps around the rink before scoring his end-to-end goal. I agree that was unnecessary.
Meanwhile, in Anaheim, Jonathan Toews and Ryan Kesler very nearly square off, presumably over an argument about who hates the Canucks more. This has been a feisty day in the NHL. Someone throw a discounted Xbox on the ice and see if we can get a bench-clearer.
5:38 ET -- Still 1-0 in Washington with five minutes to go in the first. In other words, the game is at the quarter pole.
5:34 ET -- The Jets have taken a 1-0 lead in Minnesota, thanks to a Mathieu Perreault snipe. You're feeling the Connor Hellebuyck Era, aren't you? It's OK to go buy a custom jersey, Winnipeg fans. You're under no obligation to wait until the third period.
5:33 ET -- Penalty in Anaheim, as Marcus Kruger is viciously hauled down by the back of the net. The minor will be served by Sami Vatanen for some reason. The Ducks kill it off, maintaining their 1-0 lead.
5:32 ET -- The Flyers have taken the lead in Philadelphia on a goal by Colin McDonald. I wasn't watching, and I'm not entirely convinced anyone is reading at this point, so I'm going to say it was on a spectacular end-to-end rush. Everyone good with that? Awesome.
5:29 ET -- Back to Jets-Wild game, where we're still scoreless late in the second. (Devan Dubnyk is still in net and looks fine, by the way.)
If you were putting together a list of the most fascinating, interesting players, Dustin Byfuglien is high on the list, right? The guy is borderline ridiculous. He can be dominant physically and offensively, sometimes in the same game, and does it while playing two different positions. His best game is downright scary.
He's also a guy who doesn't give you his absolute best game all that often, and normally that means you start talking about a guy's attitude or commitment level. But I wonder if that's the case here. It seems just as likely that he's smart enough to know that if he goes Full Byfuglien all the time, he'll end up injured or suspended for most of the season. So he picks his spots, which is probably the right call even though it would be frustrating for Jets fans.
So what do you do if you're Kevin Cheveldayoff and you need to get this guy signed before he hits free agency this summer? He'll turn 31 years old by then, and we really don't know what the aging curve looks like for power forwards/offensive defensemen who play at 260 pounds, if not more.
5:19 ET -- We have goals! Andrew Cogliano opens the scoring in Anaheim, and Alex Ovechkin does the same in Washington. Young goalie alert: The Lightning are resting Ben Bishop in favor of Andrei Vasilevskiy, while the Ducks are giving another start to John Gibson.
5:10 ET -- But help is on the way, as we're now under way with two more games: Chicago Blackhawks at Anaheim Ducks, and Tampa Bay Lightning at Washington Capitals. Hey, wait, are these conference finals previews? It wouldn't be completely ridiculous, would it?
5:08 ET -- The Predators and Flyers head to the second intermission still tied at 1-1. Given that both goals came early, before the end of the Bruins and Rangers game, that means we've yet to actually see a goal in either of two games that are on right now. This is my fault for calling the Rangers-Bruins game "fun," right? It won't happen again.
5:03 ET -- The Predators' blueline is very good. The Flyers' blueline will be impressive some day, assuming their current impressive crop of prospects are as advertised. But today? Not so much.
All of which, of course, is just a thinly disguised excuse to bring up that time the Flyers tried to steal Shea Weber away with an offer sheet. That was back in the 2012 offseason, when the Flyers gave the defenseman a stunning 14-year, $110 million offer sheet that was heavily front-loaded with salary and bonuses. It was a fascinating move -- conventional wisdom is that offer sheets are always matched, but this one was designed to be as painful as possible for Nashville.
In the end, the Predators matched, calling the move "the most important hockey transaction in franchise history." Three years later, that looks like the right call; Weber has been in the top 10 in Norris voting in each season since, and he is worth his $7.8 million cap hit. The actual salary is another matter, and the small-market Predators are surely still gritting their teeth over that part, but even that pain starts to lighten after this season. The Predators would have received four first-round picks in compensation, but without knowing what kind of impact Weber would have had in Philadelphia, we can't assume they'd have been high picks.
The Flyers were criticized for the move in some quarters, but that's nonsense. They tried to address a need, and they made that attempt as aggressively as possible while staying within the rules. But it's always fun to play "what if," and Weber will be a great one for a long time. He's 30 years old and still has another decade to go on the deal, so there's lots of runway left on this one, but today it looks like two teams doing what they needed to do.
4:42 ET -- Devan Dubnyk just made a save and appeared to get up awkwardly. Could be nothing. Could be the Wild's entire season going down the drain. No biggie.
We're scoreless after one in Minnesota. Back to Philadelphia for the second period of Preds-Flyers.
4:35 ET -- Still scoreless in Minnesota. The big news in this game is the NHL debut of Winnipeg's Connor Hellebuyck, who was called up this week after Ondrej Pavelec got hurt. Helebuyck has been widely considered one of the best goalie prospect in the world for a while, and he was a standout for Team USA at last year's World Championships. He's the Jets' goalie of the future, but is the future now?
It could be because Pavalec is out until January (and also isn't very good, but we'll be nice because he's injured). The Jets need points, so they can't play politics if the kid becomes hot. On the list of ways that the Jets climb back into the Central playoff picture, "Connor Hellebuyck pulls a Steve Penney" is pretty high up there.
Today feels like the start of something. Is that something "The Hellebuyck Era" or "Jets fans having their dreams crushed"? Stay tuned!
4:32 ET -- Back to the Rangers for an update on Derek Stepan, and it's not good. According to Alain Vigneault's postgame media conference, Stepan has broken ribs and is out indefinitely. So now the suspension debate begins. It's a tough call, because there's really no middle ground here. If you think the hit is late, then it's a dirty play that caused a significant injury, so you'd expect something harsh. If it's not late, then it's a clean hit and, hey, sometimes guys get hurt.
4:18 ET -- We're scoreless in Minnesota in a Central Division battle between the sixth-place Jets and fifth-place Wild. Is it too early to say that one of these teams definitely isn't making the playoffs? It feels too early, but I'm saying it anyway.
4:13 ET -- The first is over in Philadelphia, and we remain tied 1-1. Let's flip over and check in on the Wild and Jets.
4:10 ET -- Interesting call by Flyers' coach Dave Hakstol, who sees a group of tired players caught out for a defensive shift after icing the puck. In previous years, that was pretty much an automatic timeout. Here, late in the first, Hakstol doesn't make the call. The new coach's challenge rule could be having an impact, as Hakstol needs to keep his timeout if he wants the option to challenge anything later in the game. The Flyers get the puck out off the draw, and nothing else comes of it. File that away if the Flyers challenge later in the game.
4:05 ET -- OK, so here's what we've missed in Philly: Filip Forsberg scored two minutes in, but Michael Del Zotto equalized at the four-minute mark. We're tied at 1, late in the first. The goalie matchup is Pekka Rinne and Michal Neuvirth.
3:52 ET -- Nope. The Bruins hang on and earn a comeback win with a 4-3 final. Seven goals, three lead changes, plenty of drama. ... Goals are fun. I'm sure both these teams will get bag-skated tomorrow for playing an entertaining game, but for now, I'm just going to enjoy it.
On to Philadelphia!
3:49 ET -- Spoke too soon. David Krejci with a shot from the point that deflects past Lundqvist, and the Bruins have the lead. Two late, third-period goals in a Bruins game? This really does have a playoff feel.
Lundqvist heads to the bench in the final minute. Let's see if they can tie it up.
3:47 ET -- And we're tied again, as Ryan Spooner bangs home a rebound with just under four minutes left. This has been a really fun game. It's probably like 7-5 in the Flyers-Preds game but I don't care, I'm sticking with this one.
The Bruins are buzzing for the go-ahead goal, but the Rangers are (just barely) hanging on.
3:45 ET -- By the way, change that Yandle goal to J.T. Miller. Yandle is back to non-superstar status. Sorry, Keith, I don't make the rules.
3:41 ET -- Random Bruins thought: I feel as if we've all just glossed over how weird the whole Dougie Hamilton situation is. In June, the Bruins trade him to the Calgary Flames for draft picks, and we all unanimously agree that the deal is a disaster for Boston. How do you trade one of the best young defensemen in the entire league for magic beans? Even if he wants out, surely you can get more for a future Norris winner?
Five months later, Travis Hamonic asks for a trade, and everyone starts speculating that the Flames might move Hamilton for him. Would Garth Snow do that? Probably not. He'd want more, for sure. The Flames would need to sweeten the offer.
Um ... what? Look, I like Hamonic as much as anyone. He's a solid player, an underrated workhorse who can eat top-four minutes on any team in the league. But didn't we all have him and Hamilton as the second coming of Denis Potvin like three weeks ago? Weren't we ready to have general manager Don Sweeney institutionalized for moving Hamilton? Now he's barely the starting point for Travis Hamonic?
What I'm trying to say is: I bet Sweeney reads this stuff and throws his laptop out the window.
3:37 ET -- Meanwhile, we're under way in Philadelphia, where the Flyers are hosting the Nashville Predators. Work your remote controls accordingly.
3:33 ET -- "He wasn't trying to interfere, and we know this because it's Brad Marchand, and if he wanted to interfere, he probably would have butt-ended Lundqvist in the face and then dove to try to draw a penalty." -- A wise, handsome man in the first period. Would you accept a knee to the head instead of the butt-end? It's close enough, right? Marchand gets two, and the Rangers score on the power play to make it 3-2. Keith Yandle gets the goal. See? I told you he was a superstar.
3:20 ET -- We're into the third period with the score still tied at 2-2. And according to the Rangers, they'll be without Derek Stepan for the rest of the game. Again, I understand that the Matt Beleskey hit might be clean by the rulebook -- and I say "might be" because late hits aren't really defined anywhere. And most of the rules of thumb you hear mentioned aren't really based on anything. But we could do without those kinds of hits, no? It's one thing if a player has initiated the hit before the puck leaves, but in Stepan's case, the puck was clearly gone. I'll never understand why a hit that arrives 0.01 seconds before the puck arrives is unquestionably dirty, but one that comes well after the puck leaves is just good, clean hockey.
2:58 ET -- Speaking of the alumni rosters, it's always fun to play a game of "Wait, he played for them?" The Bruins are stacked with guys such as Brian Leetch, Al Iafrate and Tom Fergus. The Habs aren't too bad themselves with Sergio Momesso, Lucien DeBlois and Donald Audette, not to mention Francois Bouillon, who becomes this year's "Wait, I thought he was still playing" guy. But while we're on the topic: Can we talk Chris Nilan? He's on the Montreal roster and rightfully so, since he spent a decade with the Canadiens. But he had a solid, two-season run in Boston in which he put up an astounding 463 PIMs in just 80 games. And if you look at the current rosters, the Canadiens currently have two more players than the Bruins do. I mean ... let's just call it now: Nilan is turning face in the middle of this game, right? He's tearing off the Habs jersey DDP-style, revealing the Bruins' version underneath, and then pummelling Lyle Odelein. It's totally happening. But try to look surprised.
2:55 ET -- I enjoy a well-executed trolling as much as anyone, so congratulations are in order to the Bruins for this week's announcement of this year's Winter Classic alumni rosters. Rolling out Andrew Raycroft in an old-timers' game the day before Tuukka Rask (presumably) starts in the main event? That's borderline cruel. I'd compliment you on your ability to make Toronto Maple Leafs fans sad, except that's pretty much their permanent state.
2:51 ET -- This one has a big-game playoff feel to it. Which is to say that the Bruins just took a too-many-men penalty.
2:40 ET -- All of this will no doubt lead to another discussion of the instigator rule, and whether it led to a dirtier game and players having less accountability to each other. This seems like a good time to mention that players used to hit one another over the head with their sticks.
2:37 ET -- Derek Stepan gets caught admiring his pass by Matt Beleskey, which is a polite way of saying he gets drilled long after the puck is gone. He gets drilled into the corner and stays down for a while, but eventually heads back to the bench and looks like he's staying in the game. The hit brings Dylan McIlrath in, and he pummels Beleskey while earning an instigator penalty, sending the Bruins to a power play, and they capitalize when Brett Connolly beats Lundqvist five-hole from the top of the circle. We're tied at 2.
2:23 ET -- And now it's 2-1 Rangers, as Rick Nash gets a weird one right off a faceoff. The Bruins win the draw and head out of the zone, but a turnover at the blueline results in Nash being all alone in front of Rask. He grabs the puck, dekes nicely, then gets hit from behind and plows into the goaltender. The ol' Mario Lemieux hat trick!
2:19 ET -- Oscar Lindberg with the ol' "bounce off everyone, cut in front and go far post" move from NHL '94 to tie the game 1-1. Nice to see the old classics never die.
2:15 ET -- As we get ready to start the second, let's go back to that Bruins' goal.
Two things here: First, I don't remember Doc Emrick sounding like that. And second, more than a few Rangers fans are arguing for goalie interference on the goal. Brad Marchand skates by Lundqvist and pretty clearly makes contact with his stick, pushing it out of the way as the puck arrives. None of the Rangers complained, and the play wasn't challenged, but it probably should have been.
These sorts of calls are always a little puzzling to fans. Many will point out that Marchand isn't in the crease, but that doesn't mean he can't interfere with the goalie. The league's rule 69.1 is extensive and more than a little confusing, but it makes it clear that the goalie isn't fair game just because he's outside the crease. And in this case, Lundqvist still has his heels in the crease at the time of contact. By the letter of the law, that's probably waved off.
But all that said ... that's a goal. I mean, maybe not a rulebook goal, but it's a hockey goal -- if you understand the distinction. Marchand is just trying to skate to the net, and it's not his fault that Lundqvist wants to come all the way out to cut down the angle. He wasn't trying to interfere, and we know this because it's Brad Marchand. If he wanted to interfere, he probably would have butt-ended Lundqvist in the face and then dove to try to draw a penalty. There's nothing dangerous going on here. It's just one of those plays; bad luck for the Rangers, but that's all.
In a league where nobody can score and we've been complaining about it for 20 years, we shouldn't be waving off goals like that. If that's no goal by the rulebook, then we should change the rulebook.
1:57 ET -- The Rangers nearly tie it with a minute left, as Keith Yandle misses a partially open net with Tuukka Rask down and out. We go to intermission with a 1-0 Bruins' lead. That was a pretty decent period. Side note: How do we all feel about Yandle wearing No. 93? In theory, anything that high is a star's number, and Yandle is not quite in that territory, but I think it's OK. If Darren Puppa and Alexander Godynyuk could do it, I think Yandle can get away with it. Related: If he said he chose it in honor of the last New York Islanders' playoff series win, where does he immediately rank among most popular Rangers? Top five? Maybe top three?
1:45 ET -- Patrice Bergeron opens the scoring after a blocked shot bounces right to him and Henrik Lundqvist can't reset. This was one of those goals created by an icing, as the Rangers got stuck with a bad matchup because they couldn't change. I always liked that rule. Considering I've spent the entire week complaining about the NHL's dumb rule changes, I figured I should get that on the record. (Now just start applying the same rule to puck-over-glass instead of making it an automatic penalty, and I'll stop complaining for a while. I promise, NHL. I'm willing to commit to like a whole day.)
1:31 ET -- This being a national game, our play-by-play voice is, of course, Doc Emrick. He is a hockey legend, and last night during the Bears-Packers game, commentator Al Michaels dropped a neat bit of trivia: Emrick had the call on Brett Favre's first-ever completed pass. That pass was completed to a future Hall of Famer: Brett Favre, thanks to a tipped ball. That has become a well-known NFL trivia question, one that probably just about every football fan knows by now because they've heard it a hundred times. But it got me wondering: What's the NHL equivalent to the NFL's Favre question? In other words, a trick question that doesn't trick anyone because we all know it by now. I'm thinking it's, "Which players hold the record for most combined points by two brothers?" but I'm open to other suggestions.
1:10 ET -- As the game gets under way, let's set the stage. The Rangers come in holding down first place in the Metro, three up on the Washington Capitals. But they're recovering from Wednesday's thumping at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens, a 5-1 loss on home ice in which Henrik Lundqvist was pulled for the first time this season. Remember: If they win against the Bruins, it's because they were fired up to avenge that loss. If they lose, ignore everything I just wrote. The Bruins have won four straight, good enough to earn them a spot in a three-way tie for third in the Atlantic. That's better than most of us expected; the Bruins were a finalist for this season's "team that was recently good but is now teetering on the brink of total collapse" award, losing in a close vote to the Vancouver Canucks. Hey, cool, the Canucks finally beat the Bruins at something!
1:00 ET -- The New York Rangers and Boston Bruins are first up, starting right now, with the Predators and Flyers joining them at 3:30 p.m. ET and the Winnipeg Jets and Minnesota Wild tagging in at 4 p.m. ET. That leads into a packed evening schedule, although I'll probably be too
drunk exhausted to make it out of the afternoon slate. But who knows? Like a Colorado Avalanche defensive-zone system, we're just kind of winging this as we go along. So settle in and get ready to refresh the page as we go. And feel free to dive into the comments section, where I'll be dropping by throughout the day -- it's a comment section on a sports site, what could possibly go wrong?