1. The Honda Center Bounce is having a breakthrough season. For years we've watched as the Bounce has gone months without making an impact on a game, only occasionally jumping up into the play and contributing. We all knew it had the ability to make big plays, as shown in this 2009 video, but its biggest issue had always been consistency.
Now, it seems as though the Bounce has finally reached the next level. It's been very active in each of the last four games at Honda Center, ever since that great pass it delivered to a wide open Martin Hanzal on December 28. It's Corsi numbers improved steadily during the games against San Jose and Edmonton, and it did everything it could to get the Vancouver Canucks on the board. Too bad Mike Santorelli can't bury an empty-netter.
2. Francois Beauchemin is still a very smart hockey player. Much has been made of his post-surgery lack of speed, and deservedly so, but what hasn't slowed down is the way he processes the game. Take a look at his goal against the Sharks. One second into the clip, Freddie Hamilton makes a good play to prevent Beauchemin from getting a shot off, and the puck goes to Ryan Getzlaf. Keep your eye on Beauch.
He turns his head to watch Getzlaf prepare to shoot, noting that both Getzlaf and Hampus Lindholm are in good defensive position should a turnover occur — all five Shark players are in front of them. Once Beauchemin recognizes this, he makes the decision to skate toward the net rather than peeling back to the point. This has nothing to do with the score — it's a tie game halfway through the second period — so he isn't driving the net because his team desperately needs a goal. He's doing because he knows it's the best play available to him. Given Getzlaf's position on the ice, Beauchemin's play would be the right one even his team was leading with time ticking down in the third.
3. Kyle Palmieri makes pretty plays with the puck. He's scored nine points in his last nine games, including four in his last three. Prior to the last nine, he scored three points in sixteen games. As is the case with most developing offensive talents, consistency does not come easily. Luckily, his team doesn't have to rely on him as much as many other teams would, so the dry spells don't hurt as much. All the same, I wouldn't be opposed to seeing plays like this one more often. Neither would Matt Beleskey.
4. You know who's been awesome lately? Tim Jackman. And not just because of that one goal he scored. Check out his recent Corsi for percentage (pucks directed for/(pucks directed for + pucks directed against)), courtesy of extraskater.com.
|Jan 5 vs Vancouver||70.6%|
|Jan 3 vs Edmonton||92.3%|
|Dec 29 at San Jose||55.0%|
Counterpoint: This article argues fourth liners might owe their CF% to the team they play on, not to how good they are.
5. Barring injury-related roster changes (which are certainly a possibility), Keith Yandle and Bobby Ryan will not compete for Team USA in Sochi. The argument that Ryan doesn't fit because he's not one of the top four wingers only makes sense if you accept the limitations of most NHL rosters, i.e. not enough cap space to pay for three scoring lines. As for Yandle, he's the guy you need to have on the ice when time is running down and you're down a goal. Only a handful of players in the world, none of which are on the US squad, get the puck from the D zone to the O zone as efficiently and consistently as Yandle. Let's hope David Poile and Co. know something we don't. Oh, and congrats to Cam Fowler. Very well deserved.
6. The World Junior Championship always produces some spectacular hockey, and this year was no different. Congratulations to the Finns; that Gold Medal game was as entertaining as any I've seen all year, which seems to be par for the WJC course.