Into the Boards: Talking Puck with Danny Marino of The Agonist


Hey, hockey nerds, welcome to this week’s Into the Boards, with plenty of crushing hits, some monumental career accomplishments and a special interview with Danny Marino, fellow hockey lover and guitarist for The Agonist! Dive in as we get you caught up to speed with both conferences and coverage of the Winnipeg Jets, Alex Ovechkin’s latest milestone, our love for the Maple Leafs and the new King in Los Angeles.

Western Conference

All Hail King Carter

Earlier this season the Los Angeles Kings were dealt a major blow when their all-star goaltender Jonathan Quick went down with a lower-body injury in the first period of the season. This injury would require surgery and will keep the Stanley Cup winner off the ice until March. I know many (myself included) thought this would be the end of the Kings season. But here we are in January and Los Angeles is still in it, currently holding onto the number two spot in the Western Conference wild card race.

The Kings are keeping the possibility of playoff hockey alive with backup netminders Peter Budaj and Jeff Zatkoff sharing starts in net. With Quick out, LA knew they had to step up their offensive game and play tight defense to give themselves a shot at staying in the race. Luckily, veteran forward Marian Gaborik has returned from a foot injury and has found himself on the top line playing with Anze Kopitar and Trevor Lewis. The team also gained some solid defensive depth with the return of Brayden McNabb, who was also on the IR.

The real savior for the Kings in the first half of the season has been centerman Jeff Carter. Carter has been lighting the lamp all season and has been a beast on the stat sheet. He leads the team with 37 points which includes 22 goals and 15 assists, averaging just over 18 minutes of ice time. Jeff is doing whatever it takes to help his team win, finding himself on the top powerplay unit and the team’s penalty kill.

The Kings do have their work cut out for them before the fast approaching all-star break, though. With games against the Jets, Lightning, and Sharks coming up, this is definitely crunch time for the boys in black. Now is the time where LA can stack a few wins and gain ground while providing themselves a nice safety cushion before heading out to the east. The Kings are certainly not out, but they’re not in the clear either.

Woes in Winnipeg

If you’ve checked out even one highlight reel from the past week, you saw McCabe’s absolutely devastating (but clean) hit on the 18 year old phenom, Patrik Laine. I (Scott) was devastated when I saw that Laine was diagnosed with a concussion, because nobody wants to see one of the league’s most exciting young players miss any time, especially with a scary injury like that.

That being said, it is what it is at this point for the Jets and it’s time to worry about what they will do going forward without their most prolific goal scorer. Winnipeg currently sits with a -11 goal differential, but with a pretty impressive 122 goals-for counteracted by a 133 goals-against. The Jets have given up the third most goals in the entire league, behind only Colorado and Philadelphia, so with the built-in decrease in offense caused by Laine’s injury, the Jets will have to tighten up defensively to make up for it. Their goaltending certainly hasn’t helped the situation with Connor Hellebuyck sporting a 2.73 GAA and a .910 save percentage through 33 starts and Michael Hutchinson faring even worse with a 3.30 GAA and a .890 save percentage through 17 games.

The Laine-Scheifele-Ehlers line was starting to heat up and cause some serious damage, so Paul Maurice will have to do some re-tooling to find the right line combinations in Laine’s absence. The Winnipeg boys currently sit just two points behind Nashville who occupy the second wild card spot, so it is certainly rough timing for Laine to go down, but the playoffs are not out of reach. Given the goofy playoff structure and division system, they sit only four points out of third place in the central behind the St. Louis Blues, so if the Jets can hang on until Laine gets back, they have a shot to sneak in.

Eastern Conference

Lovin’ The Leafs

If you’ve been following ITB since the beginning of the season, it’s no surprise to you that Scott and I (Vin) are jumping on the Toronto train this year. Yes, it might be because our Islanders are completely underperforming and forcing us to find happiness elsewhere, but the Leafs are just so much fun watch this year.

As of late, this young team has been on fire, going 7-2-1 in their last ten games. The addition of young superstars Austin Mathews and Mitch Marner in the past two drafts seems to have brought new life and a new confidence to the team. Netminder Frederik Andersen has been stellar as of late, even though the defense in front of him hasn’t been that consistent.

What’s been helping Toronto in recent weeks is they’re winning games that they should win and also staying competitive against better squads. The Leafs are in 11th place in the eastern conference with just the Hurricanes and Panthers sitting between them and the Philadelphia Flyers, who currently occupy the second wild card spot. I’d personally like to see the Leafs make some moves before the trade deadline to acquire a solid D-man or two. They definitely have the offensive production, so a hard-nosed defenseman could go a long way for this team. Obviously the free agent market is limited and a solid defenseman seems to be the hot commodity this year as we know there are a few teams looking for the same thing, the Avalanche being one of them. The Eastern Conference has been highly competitive, especially with the Blue Jackets point cushion and the Senators heating up. The Lightning are also getting Big Ben Bishop back this week so I’m sure they will be turning their season around as well.

All in all I think the Leafs are definitely a team of the future. Even with their recent success I believe it’s still unlikely that they will make the postseason, but with some more consistent winning, they definitely have a chance to sneak in as a wild card.

The Great 8 At It Again

In the 2016-17 season, the Metropolitan Division sure is a shitty fuckin’ place to be, but man is it ever exciting. The Washington Capitals have spent much of the season in a wild card spot or even out of playoff contention entirely, but a recent tear has propelled the boys in red into second place in the best division in hockey.

The Caps are now the proud victors of seven straight games which has caused them to gain ground on the New York Rangers and the rivaled Pittsburgh Penguins (beating them this week in the process). You see Washington, you think offense — Ovechkin, Kuznetsov, Backstrom, Oshie — but I’ve been intrigued with the other side of the puck since Barry Trotz took over. You may be surprised to learn that the Washington Capitals are tied for first for the FEWEST (yes, fewest) goals against in the entire NHL with the Minnesota Wild at 86. This has been the key to their success and it makes perfect sense why Trotz has been such an excellent fit. You take him from Nashville, where he created a perfect defensive system for countless years, and stick him in charge of a team with all the offensive talent in the world and no defensive direction, which he quickly changed. Having a world class netminder in Braden Holtby certainly doesn’t hurt as he’s sitting pretty with a 1.90 GAA and a .932 save percentage.

Alexander Ovechkin joined the 1,000 point club this week, making him just the 84th player in NHL history and the second-fastest currently active player to do it, behind only Jaromir Jagr. Ovi has always had a flare for the dramatic, so perhaps this is what he needed to get back on track for a season up to his standards. Just two weeks ago it looked like Ovi would finish around the 35 goal mark, but just like that, he’s back on pace for 42 as of this writing. Look for Ovi to stay hot and Washington to turn it up in the second half of the season.

Players of the Week

Vin: The great Ovi Wan Kenobi of the Washington Capitals. Ovechkin notched two goals against the Penguins on Wednesday evening. These goals were his 1,000th and 1,001st career points, a tremendous milestone for the Russian superstar.

Scott: Brent Burns. Two goals and seven assists for a total of nine points on the week through just four games. I never get tired of watching this guy play. Total confidence all the time, and he generates endless offense from the back end. Burns currently sits fifth in the NHL in points with 44 and is doing so as a defenseman. It’s not often you see a defender on the points chart among the likes of Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

Top Plays

S: I’ll give it to Vin’s player of the week, the Great 8. He reached the 1,000 point mark, a tremendous milestone, especially in today’s NHL. Absolutely love the drag to the inside around Kris Letang’s stick, and Doc Emrick’s call is simply perfect.

V: This open ice hit on the youngster Patrik Laine. Laine had his head down and didn’t realize he was on the same tracks as the freight train, a.k.a Jake McCabe. Welcome to the NHL, kid…

ITB Interview

Danny Marino is the lead guitarist from The Agonist, a metal band from good ole’ Montreal, Quebec. Danny is a huge hockey fan like us, so we got to talkin’!

ITB: Hey Danny, thanks for taking the time to sit down with us to discuss some puck. It’s awesome to have you on ITB. Can you talk about how you got into hockey or what made you fall in love with the sport?

Thanks for having me on, guys! I’ve been enjoying following ITB so far. Growing up in Montreal, hockey was just always around, everywhere you go and on every news and radio station. I enjoyed that it was fast paced, aggressive and tactical. To me all the other major sports lacked at least one of those things. My older brother got into it first and was a huge Habs fan. As a little kid I really liked the Bruins. I think part of that was solely because they were the arch rival of Montreal at the time. I felt like competing with my brother and everyone else in town. I had a Cam Neely jersey I would wear around, which didn’t make people here too happy. My dad also took us to games at least once or twice a year at the old Montreal Forum. We went to a few playoff games when they won the cup in ‘93, because of course back then a normal family could afford tickets to a playoff game in Montreal.

Can you tell us what is was like being a Habs fan in a city with such a historic franchise?

I came around to actually being a Habs fan in my late teens, which was around 2000. To say hockey is taken seriously here is an understatement. I consider myself a big fan, but I’m nowhere near the levels of some people here. The level of fandom is on par with the highest level of patriotic pride in wartime. This is not only reserved for the crazy fans, but enough to fill the arena every game until the end of time. I guess it’s the same way every kid in NY is given a baseball glove as soon as he can hold it. As soon as you can walk here, you are given a pair of skates and a stick. It’s just part of the culture.

After a hot start to the 2015-16 season, the Habs success came to a screeching halt when Carey Price was injured and they ultimately missed the playoffs. This year they sit on top of the Atlantic with the all-star break looming. How much of their prolonged success this season do you attribute to a healthy Carey Price and to what extent does their offseason retooling play into it?

I think a great deal of it is Carey. He is the cornerstone for us as Roy was back in the day. As we can see, however, the staff is being careful and allowing him some time to rest, which is why they signed Montoya as an experienced backup. I think the edge really comes from the new dynamic on the team. I think although they were unpopular at the time, Bergevin’s moves for Weber and Radulov were by far the best in the NHL last offseason. It’s showing through now as they’re not only winning but are staying consistent. PK is one of the most skilled players in the world. However, Montreal really needed a strong defenseman that could minimize teams’ chances of scoring on the powerplay. Weber has done just that, and it’s proven not only by his 28 points but by his amazing plus minus and time on ice stats. Clearly the more he plays the more the puck goes the other way. Besides those two additions, the young players stepping up is the last difference maker. Danault, Lehkonen and Byron have come to be solid roster NHL players. I think they will all be a big part of the team this year.

Given their history, the Canadiens have been assigned a reputation for favoring traditionally mannered Canadian players over anybody else (despite many fans voicing their displeasure with the Subban trade). Do you think the ‘Old Canadian Boys Club’ feel around the organization has hurt their chances at success over the last two decades with the league seeing an influx of European and American talent?

I think by now that is finally over with. As you can see, our three top scorers are two Americans and a Russian. It was definitely a handicap for us, so I’m glad it’s over. And it wasn’t so much a need for Canadian player minimums as a need for French-Canadian player minimums. No other team takes birthplace or language into consideration. It’s just skill and heart. I’m really happy the administration seems to have finally left the old mentality behind, although it does still exist in the coaching for press reasons. I do hope that eventually they will just select the best coaches regardless of their language. For now, although I’ve had my moments with him, Therrien is doing a solid job.

The Vezina Trophy is up for grabs, who’s taking it home this year? Sergei Bobrovsky or Carey Price?

If things keep going the way they are, I think Bobs or Dubynyk. The Vezina is really based on stats like the Norris, but with defense and goaltending there’s a bit more to it than numbers. Even though statistically those two guys are better right now I think every coach in the world would take Price in a heartbeat. It’s his consistency and ability to save the day when it matters most. There’s no stat for clutch saves, unfortunately.

Where do you see the Habs winding up this year. Can you see them winning it all and taking home the Cup?

I see them finishing in the top three in the East, probably second or third. I do think they have the best shot they’ve had in as long as I can remember. They are still winning games with many of their top players hurt. So that is a good sign for depth, which is everything in the playoffs. However, to really ensure their shot, they really still need a top center. Everyone here is hoping Bergevin makes one final move at the deadline for a top six center. I personally hope it’s Matt Duchene, but Bergevin isn’t known for showing his cards.

If you could lay out any current player in the NHL with a clean open ice hit, who would it be and why?

Nazem Kadri because he’s always delivering cheap shots and trash talking on the ice. Never liked players like that. Also, he’s a Leaf, so that’s a bonus, but being a 6’2″, skinny metalhead I imagine if I hit him at open ice, I would be the only one getting hurt.

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