Breaking the Ice: Let’s get you up to speed on the NHL

Marchand broke a rowdy record, Tuukka hung up his helmet and beware the Avalanche.

A photo of Boston Bruins left wing Brad Marchand.

“Breaking the Ice” is a column by Kyle Frankel about the NHL.

Welcome to the first installment of Breaking The Ice. In this biweekly column, I will cover everything about the NHL, whether that be news, predictions, impressive performances, hot players and teams, exciting upcoming matchups and anything else worthy of being discussed. It doesn’t matter if you are a die-hard hockey fan or don’t know the difference between a blue line and a hairline, this is the perfect place to sharpen your hockey expertise or learn about a new sport. In LA there is not an abundance of hockey coverage so I am going to use this first edition to catch you up on the latest news around the league.

Marchand made history

Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand has held a mixed reputation around the hockey world since he was drafted in 2006. People associated with his team love him and people associated with any other team cannot stand him.

He is a pest: small, scrappy and impossible to get rid of. He is an alternate captain and leader in Boston. Along with his longtime linemate, Patrice Bergeron, he has been a scary sight on the ice for many years, playing a major role on the 2011 Stanley Cup Champion Bruins.

He currently leads Boston in points and assists, with 49 and 28 respectively. He also leads the Bruins in penalty minutes with 67 on the season. This unique combo is what makes Marchand such a frustrating player to face. He will play dirty, trash talk and do just about anything to get under his opponents’ skin, all while putting up impressive numbers on the stat sheet.

Marchand was suspended six games for his actions during the Bruins game on Feb. 8 against the Pittsburgh Penguins. He did not make the day easy on Pittsburgh goaltender Tristan Jarry, punching him in the head before using his stick to slash the goalie’s helmet later on in the contest.

This recent suspension earned Marchand a place in the NHL record books. He became the most suspended player in NHL history with eight individual suspensions. He has had to pay quite the price for his offenses, missing out on a total of 28 games and having to pay over $1.4 million in fines to the league.

This is not necessarily a record to be proud of, but it only adds to Marchand’s infamous legacy as the league’s most skilled pest. He has since appealed the suspension, and while there is no ruling yet, based on his actions I do not foresee him receiving any leniency from the league.

Boston’s netminder no more, Tuukka Rask calls it a career

On Feb. 9, the Bruins made an emotional Instagram post and announced goalie Tuukka Rask’s retirement from the National Hockey League. Rask has been the man between the pipes in Boston for a long time, calling the city home for all 15 of his years in the NHL.

The 34-year-old from Finland was a backup goalie to Bruins legend Tim Thomas on the 2011 Stanley Cup team. When Thomas left the Bruins, Rask took over as the starter and never looked back, becoming the winningest goaltender in Bruins’ franchise history with 564 as well as holding the highest career save percentage (.921) in franchise history.

Rask was electrifying in the postseason, leading the Bruins to the Stanley Cup Finals in both 2013 and 2019, recording 57 playoff wins and seven postseason shutouts. His most impressive accolade of all was hoisting the Venezia trophy in 2014 for being named the league’s best goalie.

Rask received hip surgery this summer and spent the first half of this season rehabbing and preparing to play in a Bruins sweater again. He was able to make his return to the net on January 13 and played four games this season. His record this year was 2-2 and his .844 save percentage and 4.28 goals against average in those games were both career lows.

In his retirement announcement, Rask stated that his body had not responded to the surgery too well. “Over these last few weeks, I’ve realized that my body is not responding the way it needs to for me to play at the level I expect of myself and that my teammates and Bruins fans deserve.”

Rask is being the ultimate team player and hoping that his retirement will aid his former team in making a Stanley Cup run.

Though the “TUUUUUUUUUKK” chants will no longer echo throughout TD Garden, the netminder will forever hold a special place in the hearts of both Bruins fans and the greater hockey community.

Avalanche warning

For anyone who has not kept up with the NHL this season, the Colorado Avalanche are an absolute wagon. They were a great team last year with high aspirations heading into the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Despite this, they were knocked off early in the second round by one of the league’s youngest franchises: the Vegas Golden Knights.

They did not take this loss lightly and are on a revenge tour. They are the top dogs, in first place of the entire league, and have no glaring weaknesses.

They don’t look to be slowing down anytime soon either, coming out of the All-Star break with a big win over two-time defending champions, the Tampa Bay Lightning, and steamrolling the Dallas Stars in the Lone Star State.

They have an incredible roster and are playing championship hockey. If you want to see the best representation of the sport, the Avalanche is the place to look.

This should give you a good bearing of what is going on in the league recently and some of what, or who, to look out for the rest of the season. As the second half of the season gets rolling, there are some awesome games coming up that could have large implications down the stretch. One game I am especially looking forward to is the Friday night ESPN+ Hockey Night matchup between the Florida Panthers and the Minnesota Wild.

This should be one of the best cross-conference games all season as the Panthers rank atop the Eastern Conference and the Wild are second in the West behind only Colorado. These are two talented offensive teams; the Panthers average 4.09 goals per game while the Wild average 3.72.

I think it will be a high-scoring affair, but left winger Kirill Kaprizov and the Wild will pull through in the end and get a statement win in their home arena. I will definitely be tuning in, and I’ll be right back here in a couple of weeks to talk about all things NHL (and say “I told you so” when the Wild win).

“Breaking the Ice” runs every other Tuesday.