Blog roundup: Devils vs. Bruins, fighting fallout and a shaky Sundin

January, 29, 2009
• If you want to know why the Boston Bruins and New Jersey Devils are leading their respective divisions, check out their 5-on-5 play. The B's and D's rank first and second, respectively, in 5-on-5 ratio. That's an underappreciated stat. On average, nearly 45 minutes per game are played at even strength. If your 5-on-5 game isn't good, you're probably struggling to win. The two division leaders test each other Thursday night in Boston. In December, the Bruins scored a 2-0 win over the Devils in New Jersey. I expect another tight game at the TD Banknorth Garden.

• Don't be confused -- Henrik Zetterberg received a 12-year deal ($73 million) from the Wings because it was the only way the club could keep his cap number at a manageable number. The club wasn't trying to send any messages to anyone. GM Ken Holland had one goal: keep the player, if possible. The Wings got to keep Zetterberg's cap hit to a reasonable $6.08 million, while the Conn Smythe winner got an extended term. Right now, it is a win-win situation for both sides. That said, I'm still not a big fan of such long-term deals. In life and sports, things can change pretty quickly. I wonder how we'll view this contract and other long-term deals (Alex Ovechkin, Mike Richards, Vincent Lecavalier and Rick DiPietro) in five or 10 years from now.

• Red Wings coach Mike Babcock says he's putting the Nicklas Lidstrom-Pavel Datsyuk All-Star fiasco behind him. With Lidstrom and Datsyuk sitting out Tuesday in Columbus, Detroit still managed to gain a point in the standings with a 3-2 overtime loss. Now, I wasn't privy to the conversations between the Wings and the league, but I have to believe there was some other way to resolve this issue. As far as I can tell, the only people who really benefited from the nonsuspension suspensions were the Blue Jackets.

• Some Canadian fans want to ban fighting in the NHL. That is the finding of a recent Harris/Decima poll, which says 54 percent of Canadians believe the league should impose a ban on fights. Of course, in the same poll, 68 percent of those who identified themselves as big hockey fans preferred to stick with the status quo. So, what does it all mean? I figure it doesn't mean much. The fighting debate -- if you can really call it that -- has been going on since I was a kid. (That was a long time ago!) Sadly, I'm convinced there will be no meaningful discussion until a player is seriously injured, or worse, as the result of a fight. Personally, I don't have a problem with a fight that results from hard competition between guys who can actually play. I could do without tactic fighting, when one team sends a player out to change the momentum or tenor of a game. Unfortunately, most fights are tactical.

• So far, Mats Sundin's arrival in Vancouver hasn't been all that. The big Swede looks slow as he struggles to get up to speed with the rest of the league. I have to figure he'll catch up, but how long will it take? Meanwhile, after blowing a two-goal lead in a 5-3 loss to the visiting Predators on Wednesday night, the Canucks are just 1-5-2 since Sundin's return and 0-6-2 overall in their past eight home games. The club's current slide has pushed it into fourth place (by virtue of having played more games than the Wild or Oilers) in the Northwest Division. If things don't get better, Sundin might be longing for those days when he could sleep in.

E.J. Hradek

Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
E.J. Hradek is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine, joining the staff prior to its launch in 1998. He began covering hockey as a writer/editor for Hockey Illustrated in 1989.




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