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NHL Insider

Year in review: Top 14 hockey moments in '14

Sunday, 12.28.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

Every year is filled with great games and great performances, but there are certain moments that stand out.

These moments can give fans goose bumps, or make them cheer and scream as loud as they can or even elicit tears. Whether it is a point in a game where the electricity of the sport wows everyone, or communal support in a time of tragedy, hockey brings people together.

Here are the top 14 hockey moments of 2014:

January 1: A sea of blue (and red) at the Big House

The anticipation for the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic centered largely on the venue. The NHL was going to play at Michigan Stadium, and a crowd of more than 100,000 was expected.

As the players stood and waited for the national anthems to be completed, the full scope of the spectacle set in. A record number of fans, half dressed in red for the Detroit Red Wings and half in blue for the Toronto Maple Leafs, sang the anthems and created a college-football like atmosphere as the snow fell in Ann Arbor. The Maple Leafs won in a shootout, and the images from the largest crowd to ever watch an NHL game were spectacular.

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Devils focus on positives of unique coaching trio

Sunday, 12.28.2014 / 12:37 AM / NHL Insider

Jon Lane - NHL.com Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- Game 1 under the New Jersey Devils' coaching triumvirate is in the books, and it yielded similar results to the previous 36 games played under former coach Peter DeBoer.

One day after firing DeBoer, Devils president and general manager Lou Lamoriello unveiled his three-man operation Saturday against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Adam Oates and Scott Stevens were added to the coaching staff to work behind the bench with Lamoriello, who is in a supervisory role for an undetermined about of time.

Although the tune was familiar, a 3-1 loss that dropped the Devils (12-18-7) to second-to-last in the Eastern Conference and 11 points out of the second wild-card spot, the vibe on the bench was positive.

"First of all, it was interesting watching and listening and seeing what was transpiring," Lamoriello said. "I thought it was extremely positive. The bench was extremely alive. We never got overly frustrated at any given time."

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Big events, venues made up 2014 hockey

Saturday, 12.27.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

Outdoor games and the Olympic Games made 2014 the year of the big event in the NHL.

Before the hockey world turns its full attention toward Washington, D.C. for the next big event, the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on New Year's Day, a trip down memory lane of the year that is soon to be takes us to The Big House, Chavez Ravine, the Bronx, a resort city on the coast of the Black Sea, Vancity, and a venerable football stadium along the shoreline of Lake Michigan.

Beyond the big events, the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs featured historic comebacks, emotional lifts, and overtime heroics. A modernized approach to evaluation became popular. Legends were lost, and others retired or moved on. Coaches and general managers were hired and fired.

Here is an overview of what 2014 was to the NHL:

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Lightning rookie Drouin adjusts to learning curve

Tuesday, 12.23.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

You can imagine Tampa Bay Lightning rookie Jonathan Drouin's reaction when he found out he was going to be scratched Nov. 15 against the New York Islanders. Think of a look of perplexity and surprise, and you'll have an idea.

"It's the first time I ever got scratched, so it was weird," Drouin, the No. 3 pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, told NHL.com.

But not totally unexpected based on how Drouin had been playing.

"We had gone over a lot of things with him and ultimately I think he knew it was coming, to be honest," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "Was he surprised? I'm sure he was in the sense that he was getting scratched, but I don't think that he argued. He wasn't like, 'I can't believe it.' I'm sure he was more like, 'I can't believe it has come to this.'"

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Zepp's odyssey results in first NHL win with Flyers

Monday, 12.22.2014 / 1:07 PM / NHL Insider

NHL.com

Rob Zepp was just looking for an opportunity.

After 13 seasons bouncing around hockey leagues in North America and Europe, the 33-year-old finally got his chance to play in an NHL game Sunday. Making his debut with the Philadelphia Flyers, he made 25 saves in a 4-3 win against the Winnipeg Jets at MTS Centre.

"I said to [my teammates] that I appreciate this more than anyone knows," Zepp said after the game Sunday. "I've been playing hockey for 26 years trying to get here. To be able to be here and play, the game wasn't perfect, but then to get the win at the end like that was perfect."

Zepp was born in Scarborough, Ontario, and grew up in nearby Newmarket. He starred for the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League, leading the OHL in goals-against average twice and winning the Canadian Hockey League scholar-athlete award. He was drafted twice by NHL teams; by the Atlanta Thrashers in the fourth round (No. 99) of the 1999 NHL Draft and by the Carolina Hurricanes in the fourth round (No. 110) of the 2001 NHL Draft.

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Sabres turning early struggles into current gains

Sunday, 12.21.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Joe Yerdon - NHL.com Correspondent

BUFFALO -- Expectations can be a funny thing.

Before the season began for the Buffalo Sabres, it was expected by most outside of the organization they would be one of the worst teams in the NHL and a season-long contender to earn the first pick in the 2015 NHL Draft.

Through the first month-and-a-half of the season, the Sabres fit that description perfectly. Buffalo won three of its first 18 games and appeared to be well on the way to having the best shot to select top prospect Connor McDavid.

"We obviously didn't get the start we wanted this season but we stuck with it," Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers said. "We stuck with coming to the rink trying to improve every day. We knew it wasn't going to be a quick fix, we just had to keep doing the right things, the little things, and it's been a lot better of late for sure, but there's always room for improvement."

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Positioning, speed keys to Red Wings' stingy defense

Friday, 12.19.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Paul Harris - NHL.com Correspondent

DETROIT -- A big part of the Detroit Red Wings' success this season has been limiting their opponents' shots on goal and scoring chances.

Detroit (17-7-8) is allowing an average of 27.4 shots per game entering Friday against the New York Islanders. That's fourth in the NHL, trailing the Minnesota Wild (25.9). Tampa Bay Lighthing (27.2) and St. Louis Blues (27.2).

A key component of that is the spacing between the Red Wings' forwards and defensemen when they are forechecking and their opponents are attempting to come out of their own zone with the puck.

"I think their defensemen are really good in the way they play in the offensive zone," Columbus Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said. "And the defense play up in the neutral zone and they force you to dump it in. They don't spread out a lot when they're in the offensive zone."

That's the goal, according to Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall.

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DeBoer, Devils positive despite injuries, losses

Friday, 12.19.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Jon Lane - NHL.com Staff Writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- Before the calendar turns, the New Jersey Devils need a turnaround.

Eight points out of the second Stanley Cup Playoff wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, the Devils are back at Prudential Center after playing 15 of their previous 20 games on the road.

A 5-11-4 record during that stretch did not deter coach Peter DeBoer. Combined with the upcoming three-day Christmas break and a road game against the New York Rangers on Dec. 27, the Devils will remain in the New York metropolitan area until a New Year's Eve game at the Detroit Red Wings.

"Six points out with 50 games left (before a 2-0 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday), I don’t care what anybody says about history or anything like that. That's not an insurmountable amount of points," DeBoer said. "But we have to start winning games. We have to string four or five wins. We've played 10 more road games than home games, so the table is set for us. We have to make sure that we get it done."

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Pickard opens eyes as feel-good story for Avalanche

Thursday, 12.18.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Rick Sadowski  -  NHL.com Correspondent

CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- There were no great expectations for Calvin Pickard when he reported to Colorado Avalanche training camp in September, not with Vezina Trophy finalist Semyon Varlamov and recent trade acquisition Reto Berra as the top two goalies.

"I wanted to make a good impression and make a statement that I'm close and ready to play at this level," Pickard said this week.

He probably didn't do either in his one preseason appearance, a 5-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks when he allowed four goals on 27 shots, but circumstances can change dramatically, and they certainly have for Pickard.

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Canadiens to honor Koivu for work on, off ice

Thursday, 12.18.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Arpon Basu - Managing Editor LNH.com

MONTREAL -- The similarities are striking, albeit unmentionable.

A week after the Montreal Canadiens did a masterful job celebrating the life of the franchise's greatest ambassador and captain, they will attempt to do it again Thursday for another giant figure in Canadiens history prior to their game at Bell Centre against the Anaheim Ducks.

No, Saku Koivu cannot be compared to Jean Beliveau. Nobody can.

But if there is one Canadiens player who has come close since Beliveau's retirement as a player in 1971, or as close as can be reasonably expected of a human being, a strong argument could be made that it is Koivu.

Beliveau and Koivu captained the Canadiens for 10 years and was the best player on his respective team for a number of those years.

But the biggest legacy in the cases of each man is his spirit of generosity, involvement in the community, and genuine desire to make a difference in people’s lives.

"I think [Koivu] was a great captain," said Dr. David Mulder, the Canadiens' longtime chief surgeon who had unique relationships with Koivu and Beliveau. "I think there was only one Jean Beliveau."

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Quote of the Day

The fans love it, and it looked like they were having fun. It was great to see this city [Columbus]. They had been waiting a couple years for this game. They did it right.

— Lightning captain Steven Stamkos after the 2015 Honda NHL All-Star Game on Sunday