Pekka Rinne got to live out every goalie’s dream on Thursday night. With time winding down in the third period of Nashville’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks, Rinne controlled the puck behind his own net and launched it down towards an open net. The rest, as they say, is history.
Category Archives: NHL
The other night I was watching the Leafs vs. Jets tilt and was just wowed by the speed and entertainment. A match-up once dubbed as potentially this generation’s Crosby vs. Ovechkin, Matthews vs. Laine has been more like Crosby vs. Bobby Ryan. But nonetheless between, Auston, Marner, Nylander, Laine, Scheifele, Ehlers and Connor, there was no shortage of prime-time, next generation talent. While the Leafs lost the match-up, Matthews put on an absolute show.
Between the game against the Jets and the game against the Oilers this week, my buddy Blake texted me asking “if you could start a franchise and could have any one player to build around where would Auston Matthews be on your list.” Well last night I dusted off the keys and hammered out a list of the NHL’s best and brightest young stars.
To help make sense of the best building blocks in this topsy turvy NHL landscape, here’s the a list of my top 10 current NHL players to build a team around. I’ve limited the list to under age 27 (the NHL’s RFA age). The age limit is to put a focus on a player’s upside and not hypotheticals like “would you take 10 years of Matthew Tkachuk’s prime or the end of Ovechkin’s prime?” That’s a conversation for another day.
1. Connor McDavid
Imagine building your organization with the best scorer since Gretzky? Imagine if he also had the engine of a Ferrari? And he’s also just 22 years old? Just so long as you don’t pair him with**checks notes** some combination . of Milan Lucic, Patrick Maroon, Kailer Yamamoto, plus one of the most shallow supporting casts in the league, a leaky blueline, and a revolving door of goaltending mediocrity, then you should be well on your way to contention.
The guy is an absolute cheat code.
2. Nathan MacKinnon
Now this list of mine is strictly some gut-feeling/analytical mix of a players production right now, crossed with upside, skillset, age and position-based value. If I was to factor in cap hit into the conversation, MacKinnon would leapfrog McJesus and place #1 with a bullet. I’ve poured over the numbers and found that $6.3 mil AAV is significantly less than than $12.5 mil. Dubious as you may be, I’ve double checked the math.
But in my hypothetical world I’m just talking about skill. Shred the contracts and put everyone in a fantasy draft. Who are you starting a franchise with? MacKinnon is a world-class skater, has great hands in-tight and is simply too strong to knock off the puck. He was Hart trophy finalist in 2017-18 and had at least 95 points in each of his last two seasons. And he’s only 24 years old. Cheque please!
3. Auston Matthews
Here’s where I’ll get roasted for “being a homer” or “not watching enough non-Leafs games”. Here are five blind resumes of up and coming star players. Who would you take?
Personally Player A looks rather appealing. Definitely the best scorer per 60 minutes and leads the pack in even strength goals despite being the youngest and playing by far the fewest games. AND he’s a center? Now we’re cooking with gas. Now let’s take a look behind the curtain to get a look at who this mystery sniper is.*
*the other players listed are:
Player B: Leon Draisaitl
Player C: David Pastrnak
Player D: Aleksander Barkov
Player E: Jack Eichel
In a league where a premium is paid for goal-scoring and elite centers, Matthews is a premier player scoring at a historic clip. Facts are facts.
4. David Pastrnak
With Ovie and Patty Kane both closer to the end of their careers than the beginning, Pastrnak and Kucherov look like the heirs apparent to the pinnacle of the sniping wing archetype. As with MacKinnon above, if I took cap hit into account, Pastrnak and his criminally underpaid $6.66 AAV would probably slide him up ahead of Matthews, maybe even McDavid, on this list. I for one do not cheer for underpaying players at the benefit of the fat cats upstairs, but maybe that’s just me. The math geeks, nerds and Bruins fans mocked the contracts Toronto has handed out in the last calendar year. I for one celebrate it as a victory for the common Joe firing pucks at their garage door.
5. Nikita Kucherov
Only McDavid and Kucherov and McDavid have 100+ points in each of their last two seasons. Between the two right wingers, I gave Pastrnak the slight nudge in the rankings since he’s three years younger and is currently having a better season than Kuch.
6. through 8. is some combination of Aleksander Barkov, Leon Draisaitl and Jack Eichel
Honestly my rankings on these three elite centers varies from day to day. It really depends on what you’re jonesing for. Looking for a future Bergeron-esque perennial Selke candidate? Barkov’s your man. Looking for a dynamic offensive weapon who can single-handedly carry a team’s scoring? Eichel’s your man. Looking for some kind of hyrbid of the two? Can I interest you in the new model of Draisaitl?
9. Andrei Vasilevskiy
While he’s having a bit of a down year, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more dynamic goalie than the 25 year-old reigning Vezina trophy winner. While Binnington won a Cup with St. Louis last year, I give Vasilevskiy the edge since Binnington has yet to show that he can dominate over the course of a full regular season schedule. Vasilevskiy has been the backbone of a Tampa Bay squad that has been best regular season team over the past three seasons.
10. Seth Jones
I wanted to include one defenseman and Seth Jones seems to check off all of the boxes. At age 25 Jones still has his best years ahead of him, yet already has already has two top-10 finishes in Norris Trophy voting.
I also considered Ekblad for his early career goal-scoring prowess, but he hasn’t even come close to Jones’ heights yet. I considered Chabot since he leads all NHL defensemen in ice-time despite only being 22 years-old. My qualms with Chabot–while he’s still amazing–is that he’s being force-fed minutes by a lackluster Senators team and is still a long way from establishing the two-way dominance that Jones has. The other d-man that I considered for this list is Cale Makar who has been nearly a point-per-game player as a rookie, which is absurd. The only caveat I can throw at him is that Makar has 64.8% of zone starts in the offensive zone. For context Erik Karlsson–who has long been criticized as a purely offensive defenseman–is a career 55.6% oZS% and only had one season where he surpassed 60%. While Makar has been impressive, he’s largely been used as a specialist and has a long way to becoming an Erik Karlsson rather than a Mike Green or Tyson Barrie.
Among defensemen age 27 or under, I think Jones has the best combination of two-way play, dynamic skill and ceiling to grow. Any team would be ecstatic to have him as a building block.
Honourable Mentions: Elias Pettersson, Mark Scheifele, Filip Forsberg, Sebastian Aho, Mitch Marner, Brayden Point, Johnny Gaudreau, Jonathan Huberdeau, Jake Guentzel, Kyle Connor, Miko Rantanen, Nikolai Ehlers, Patrick Laine, Williams Nylander, Dylan Larkin, Aaron Ekblad, Cale Makar, Zach Werenski, Thomas Chabot, Morgan Rielly, Dougie Hamilton, Rasmus Dahlin, Ivan Proverov, Jordan Binnington, John GIbson, Ilya Samsonov, Carter Hart, Matt Murray, Joonas Korpisalo
Early on Friday morning, the Detroit Red Wings have confirmed that the worst kept secret in hockey is indeed coming to fruition. The team will introduce Steve Yzerman as the new general manager in the Motor City during a press conference at 3:00 p.m. ET. Ken Holland, who has been running the ship since 1997, will remain with the organization as the senior vice president.
Yzerman’s reunion with his former team has been speculated since the summer of 2018, if not earlier. Once he relinquished his GM duties to Julien BriseBois at the start of the 2018-19 season, rumours ran rampant. Alas, the prodigal son has returned to the city he led to glory back in the late-1990s and early-2000s, although, the franchise is in a much different state. The Red Wings were synonymous with success for much of Yzerman’s playing career, but the team has missed the playoffs in each of the past three seasons. They have not won a playoff series since 2012-13. Likewise, gone are the familiar faces that carried the torch when Yzerman retired in 2006. Nicklas Lidstrom has been out of the league since 2011, Pavel Datsyuk has been in the KHL since 2016, and Henrik Zetterberg’s wonky back forced him to retire after the 2017-18 season.
In their place, stands a new young core that Yzerman will attempt to build around. Dylan Larkin is the unquestioned leader of the team at 22-years-old. His 73 points in 2018-19 were the most by a Red Wings’ player since Zetterberg tallied 80 points back in 2011-12. Larkin is the odds-on favourite to become the team’s captain heading into next season and has blossomed into a legitimate NHL center. Anthony Mantha, Tyler Bertuzzi, and Andreas Athanasiou showcased they are capable of being difference-makers in the waning stretch of the season as they collectively produced 71 points from February to April. Taro Hirose, the Big-10 player of the year in the NCAA, showed promise during a 10-game trial with the team while Filip Zadina, the sixth-overall pick from 2018, is still a tantalizing prospect that will make the jump to the NHL next season.
The defensive side of the roster is a mess, aside from the emergence of Filip Hronek, as aging veterans like Mike Green and Niklas Kronwall are relied upon far too much. This is the largest area that Yzerman will need to overhaul in the coming years if the team is going to regain relevancy. Kronwall does not have a contract for the 2019-20 season yet, and at 38-years-old, it may be best to utilize his roster spot on a younger rearguard like Dennis Cholowski. In goal, Jimmy Howard signed a team-friendly deal for the upcoming season while NCAA-stalwart Filip Larsson is still a few years away.
The team’s salary cap situation is drastically improving, even though there are still some albatrosses on the roster (looking at you, Justin Abdelkader). The Red Wings could have upwards of $19 million in cap space assuming they do not re-sign Kronwall and Thomas Vanek. Furthermore, the Trevor Daley and Jonathan Ericsson will come off of the books at the culmination of the 2019-20 season. While snagging a premium free agent like Artemi Panarin or Erik Karlsson this summer is a fantasy to consider, it does not seem likely that one player will change the fortune of the franchise overnight. With that being said, Yzerman has not shied away from making a big splash in the past. Regardless, financial flexibility allows Yzerman to shape his roster how he pleases.
Yzerman will also have plenty of picks at his disposal for the upcoming NHL Entry Draft. While the lottery balls did not fall the Red Wings’ way, they own the sixth-overall pick as well as three picks in the second round. If anything was proven during Yzerman’s tenure with the Lightning, it was his savvy drafting ability (although some credit must be offered to their scouting department). He produced players like Nikita Kucherov (58th overall), Ondrej Palat (208th overall), Brayden Point (79th overall), and countless other NHL-caliber players outside of the draft’s top round. In today’s NHL, drafting well is the only way to build a sustainable winner and Yzerman will be leading the war room come June 21.
All of this equates to one word: hope. Yzerman, a fresh-faced center out of Peterborough, gave the Red Wings hope when he was drafted back in 1983. He blossomed into a star and gave them hope in the 1990s when they had not won the Stanley Cup in 42 years. Now, he is back to the lead the team, albeit in a different role, but with hope riding on his shoulders yet again. It may not be a quick fix, but Yzerman is the man for the job, and he has Red Wings fans daydreaming about the future once more.
Hello, beautiful Bench-Lifers. I am back again for another look at the biggest NHL storylines from the past week. There was a ton to talk about during the past seven days so let’s jump right in.
A new day has dawned for the Chicago Blackhawks. On Tuesday morning, in the midst of a five-game losing streak, the team fired long-time head coach Joel Quenneville. The mustachioed bench boss was the longest-tenured coach in the NHL at the time of his firing and had won three Stanley Cup championships over his 10 seasons with the team. Jeremy Colliton, who was coaching the Rockford IceHogs in the AHL, was named his successor and became the youngest coach in the league at 38-years-old.
Quenneville is the second-winningest coach in NHL history (890 wins), trailing only the legendary Scotty Bowman (1,244 wins). Ironically enough, the Bowman regime has a massive part to play in this whole scenario. Stan Bowman, the Blackhawks general manager (and Scotty’s son), butted-heads with Quenneville over organizational matters throughout the entirety of their working relationship. Mark Lazerus has a fantastic piece about the whole situation on The Athletic, but basically, there were three main points of contention that the article covered.
- In the 2011-12 season, Bowman forced Barry Smith upon Quenneville as an assistant coach. Scotty Bowman was a senior advisor in the organization at the time and Smith was an old friend who had coached with him for over 15 seasons. The decision infuriated Quenneville and started a theme of resentment between him and the Bowman clan. Interestingly enough, Smith was immediately brought back this past week as an assistant coach once Quenneville was canned.
- At the end of the 2016-17 season, Quenneville’s best friend/assistant coach Mike Kitchen was fired by Bowman. The two started coaching together in 1998 with the St. Louis Blues and had spent over 12 seasons alongside one another behind the bench.
- Bowman had made some trades that Quenneville vehemently disagreed with over the past few years, most notably, the Niklas Hjalmarsson and Artemi Panarin deals.
The way I see it is that Bowman saved his own ass by firing Quenneville. Apparently, that is how former Blackhawks’ tough guy Daniel Carcillo sees it too.
Now, the head coach was not perfect by any means. He was not some infallible deity that could do no wrong with the hockey gods. Quenneville routinely frustrated fans by showing blind loyalty to veteran players while youthful talent waited for their chance. The Blackhawks had first-round exits in both the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons before completely bottoming-out last year. Due to this, changes definitely had to be made. With that being said, Bowman is more responsible for an under-performing roster than Quenneville was.
The head coach did not trade Hjalmarsson to the Coyotes nor did he make the Panarin for Brandon Saad swap. He did not trade Teuvo Teravainen, Philip Danault, or Vinnie Hinistroza in the past two years. The general manager is responsible for those moves. Furthermore, Bowman inherited his Cup-winning core from Dale Tallon when he was hired in 2009. He did not draft Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, or Corey Crawford. Likewise, Bowman responded to the Blackhawks’ worst season in a decade by signing Chris Kunitz, Brandon Manning, and Cam Ward this past offseason. Talk about some real game changers.
Negativity aside, I fully believe Bowman deserves credit for the moves he made during the 2012-13 and 2014-15 Cup wins. Players like Johnny Oduya, Michal Handzus, and Antoine Vermette were integral playoff pieces and shrewd acquisitions.
All of this adds up to the Blackhawks losing the first two games of Colliton’s NHL coaching career. Their losing streak now sits at seven games. After a 6-2-2 start, their record sits at 6-8-3. Quenneville was caught up in a power struggle, and he ultimately deserved a better fate. Regardless, he will be able to coach again any time he wants to as certain teams are likely drooling at the thought of bringing him in. Quenneville will be fine. I am not sure the same can be said about the Blackhawks.
Comebacks And Curly Fries In The Motor City
Before saying anything else, the Detroit Red Wings are not a good team. I am a diehard fan myself, and while they have been incredibly fun lately, I am not mistaking them for a team with realistic playoff aspirations.
With that being said, OH MY GOD THE RED WINGS REBUILD IS IN FULL SWING! WE’LL BE BACK IN NO TIME! IN LARKIN WE TRUST!
Yes, the Red Wings have won six of their last seven games after a dismal 1-7-2 start to the year. They have won three straight games despite trailing by multiple goals in each contest. It is the first time in franchise history that the team has accomplished such a feat. Up front, there have been fantastic performances from some of their young leaders. In particular, Dylan Larkin is playing like an absolute stud. He has seven goals and 10 assists through 17 games this season including the overtime winner against the New York Rangers on Friday.
Similarly, Andreas Athanasiou has been dangerous on a nightly basis. He has four points in his past two games and 10 points through 13 games this season. On Saturday, Anthony Mantha single-handedly spearheaded the comeback against the Carolina Hurricanes with two goals in the third period. Tyler Bertuzzi has shown he belongs at the NHL level and 2017 first-round pick Michael Rasmussen has delivered tantalizing flashes of his power-forward potential.
With that in mind, perhaps the best part about the whole start to the season has been 2016 first-round pick Dennis Cholowski on the back end. On draft night, many fans (including myself) were skeptical when the team traded down, jettisoning Pavel Datsyuk’s contract to the Arizona Coyotes, but passing on Jakob Chychrun in the process. Cholowski was a moderately unknown commodity at the time as he played in the BCHL during his draft year. On the other hand, Chychrun had been considered a top-10 pick early on in 2016 while playing for the Sarnia Sting in the OHL. Cholowski surprised many people out of training camp this season and ultimately wound up on the team for opening night. Since then, all he has done is impress with two goals, six assists, and a poise that far exceeded expectations.
Again, the Red Wings are not good. This is a team that was so bad early on in the season, that Arby’s changed a decade-old curly fries promotion. In years past, fans would get a free order of curly fries whenever a Red Wings player scored a hat trick. All they had to do was bring in a box score of the game. Now, Arby’s is giving away a free order of curly fries whenever the Red Wings score three goals in a game. There is lowering the bar, and then there is that. But hey, since the changeover the Red Wings have scored at least three goals in seven of eight games. All praise the power of the curly fry.
The Uber Ride Heard ‘Round The World
At this point, I hope we all know what happened. If not, here is the video. During a road trip to Arizona in late October, several Ottawa Senators players were unknowingly recorded by their Uber driver as they mocked their coaching staff in a five-minute rant. Matt Duchene was the most vocal of the bunch and continuously mentioned how clueless assistant coach Martin Raymond was while Chris Wideman and Thomas Chabot laughed at the team’s inefficient penalty killing.
Now, this is not a great situation, especially for a franchise that has had such a tumultuous year. It is embarrassing for the players and provided an unnecessary headache in an already challenging season. With that being said, I thought this whole ordeal was blown way out of proportion. I mean, who hasn’t badmouthed a co-worker, customer or boss before? The difference is, if you knew you were being recorded, you probably would have kept your opinions to yourself. Gerard Gallant, head coach of the Vegas Golden Knights, had a great take on the situation when asked by a Toronto Sun reporter.
“All the players talk about coaches all the time, believe me, and vice versa.” He paused to laugh. “We talk about them too.”
Obviously! It is cliche, but you cannot please everyone. A hockey team consists of a ton of individuals having to try and work together to achieve a common goal. Not everybody is going agree with the methods, and in return, they will vent about it in privacy. This video never should have surfaced because all it is are athletes voicing their frustrations.
Thankfully, the Senators won two of their four games this week, including a wild comeback against the powerful Tampa Bay Lightning. Things would have been brutal if they went on a massive losing streak after this media firestorm.
I will say, one positive from the whole situation is that this tweet was made (sorry Sens fans).
These players scored the first NHL goal of their careers this week: Denis Gurianov (DAL), Brett Seney (NJD), Jeremy Lauzon (BOS).
The Boston Bruins top line of Brad Marchand (2G,3A), Patrice Bergeron (2G,4A), and David Pastrnak (5G,2A) absolutely dominated during four games this week. The trio has accounted for 58% of the Bruins goals this season (31/53). They are simply terrific.
Continuing on with the Bruins, shoutout to Jaroslav Halak who has been downright magnificent with Beantown this season. Halak has posted a 6-1-2 record with a 1.77 goals-against average, .945 save percentage, and two shutouts to start 2018-19. Aside from a five-goal clunker against the Canucks on Thursday, he has been practically unbeatable. Tuukka Rask remains on personal leave which means Halak is manning the crease for the near future.
The Minnesota Wild have been quietly formidable through their first portion of the season. They are riding an 8-2-0 record in their last 10 games and sit at 11-4-2 on the year. Zach Parise’s resurgence has been a big part of their success. He has delivered seven goals and nine assists through his first 17 games after posting back-to-back seasons with less than 50 points. Here’s hoping he stays healthy!
William Nylander continues to play the waiting game with the Toronto Maple Leafs. The slick Swedish forward has until 5PM on December 1st to sign a contract or else he will be ineligible to play this season. Both parties are apparently still quite far apart with the financials. I understand the hesitation from Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas. 1). This is his first big contract dispute as an NHL general manager. If he caves and gives Nylander a big contract, agents will prey on him for years to come. 2). He has to try his best to get Nylander signed to a reasonable contract that will not handcuff the team’s financial abilities in the future. Apparently, the Leafs have reached out to possible trade partners in recent days. Dubas has continuously stated that he will not trade Nylander, but with the clock ticking, desperation may set in during the coming weeks. Not having Nylander playing and/or not having assets in return would severely hurt the Leafs chances of getting past Tampa Bay and Boston in the playoffs this season.
A couple of streaks were extended for Florida Panthers players on Sunday evening. Mike Hoffman and Evgenii Dadonov both picked up an assist during a 5-1 win over the Ottawa Senators. This extended their point streaks to 12 and 11 games, respectively. The two have formed a daunting unit with Aleksander Barkov on the top line.
The Nashville Predators have become the third team in NHL history to win their first eight road games of the season. Last year’s President Trophy winners are well on their way to another magnificent campaign. They sit atop the NHL standings with a 13-3-0 record and are currently rolling on a five-game win streak.
About three weeks ago, New Jersey Devils center Brian Boyle announced that his leukemia was in remission. Boyle was diagnosed with the disease back in 2017. On Tuesday, which was coincidentally Hockey Fights Cancer night in Pittsburgh, Boyle scored the first hat trick of his 705-game NHL career. Sometimes sports can be pure poetry. What a touching moment for Boyle and his family. Good luck to him the rest of the season.
San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton played in his 1500th career game on Thursday night during a 4-3 loss to the Dallas Stars.
Minnesota Wild left wing Zach Parise scored the 700th point of his career on Thursday night during a 3-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings.
Toronto Maple Leafs left wing Patrick Marleau picked up the 600th assist of his career on Friday night during a 6-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils.
Thanks for reading and see you next week!
Hello, beautiful Bench-Lifers. It has been a while. Yes, I Raymond Harrison have been a bit of a degenerate lately when it comes to producing content for this blog… BUT THAT CHANGES TODAY. I am motivated, I am keen, I am three coffees deep, and I am excited to bring you my new weekly feature where I go over the big storylines from the past week in the NHL.
This week has been a doozy with a ton of topics to address so without further ado, let’s do that hockey *insert Chance The Rapper gif here*.
Elias Pettersson And The Cardiac Canucks
I mean, sure, Elias Pettersson was one of the Calder Trophy favourites coming into the season, but my goodness, this guy is going straight for the MVP. Pettersson was downright dominant during Friday’s game against the Colorado Avalanche. The 19-year-old set several Canucks franchise records during the wild win. He is the youngest Canucks player to ever tally five points in a game, the first Canucks rookie to ever have five points in a game, and the first Canucks player to ever make people forget that this team signed Jay Beagle and Antoine Roussel to multi-year deals this summer.
Pettersson has been a massive success story as he leads all NHL rookies in scoring despite missing six games due to injury. He has nine goals and six assists through nine games this season, and most of his points have come via a highlight-reel play. A further point that should be made is that he has formed a formidable duo with Brock Boeser on the top line. Boeser had a four-point game during the back-and-forth affair versus the Avalanche and the two connected on a goal that would have made the Sedin twins proud.
All of this has led to a surprising surge from the Canucks that has them sitting at second place in the Pacific Division with a 9-6-0 record. They have won three games in a row heading into a six-game road trip. The team was expected to finish at the bottom of the standings, and while it is still early in the season, there is a definite reason to be optimistic about the future of this team. Jim Benning’s faults aside, the Canucks have drafted quite well over the past half decade and are amassing an impressive collection of young talent. In the wise words of Dimitri Filipovic, you cannot spell elite without Elias Pete™.
Desert Dogs Dashing Up The Standings
The Arizona Coyotes are actually good folks!!! No, pigs are not flying, hell has not frozen over, and Joe Thornton has not won a Stanley Cup (yet). The Coyotes are rolling on a five-game winning streak right now where they have outscored opponents 24-7. They have held a 3-0 first-period lead in each of the past three games. The team had one of the most offensively inept starts in NHL history to begin the season, but they have completely turned things around and sit with a 7-5-0 record.
While the offense has been producing, the defense has been even better. They are the stingiest team in the NHL as their 2.00 goals-against per game is the lowest mark in the league. They have the second-best penalty kill percentage in the NHL at 92.1% and they have scored a remarkable SEVEN shorthanded goals through their first 12 games of the season.
Perhaps the biggest reason for their success has been the play of goaltender Antti Raanta. The Finnish netminder has won four of his last five starts, posting a 2.01 goals-against average and .942 save percentage in the process. Raanta was fantastic during the second half of last season once returning from an injury. Clearly, he has continued that success into 2018-19.
The 6-5-0 record the Coyotes posted in October was their best October record since the 2013-14 season. The win streak has allowed them to quickly gain ground in a shaky Pacific Division. The Ducks have lost seven of their last eight after a 5-1-1 start, the Kings just fired their head coach, and the Golden Knights are missing key contributors. Skeptics have wondered for years when the Coyotes would start to perform at a higher level. They have an offensive attack spearheaded by Clayton Keller and Alex Galchenyuk, a defensive core headlined by All-Star Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and a reliable goaltender with a career .922 save percentage. This is not a claim saying the Coyotes will steamroll opponents en route to a Stanley Cup, but they are actually going to be playing meaningful hockey in the second half of the season for the first time in a long time. Must be the power of the Kachina.
The NHL Goes Global and Patrik Laine Goes Off
The Winnipeg Jets and Florida Panthers played a two-game set in Helsinki, Finland this week as part of the NHL Global Series. It was the seventh time in league history that the NHL has played regular-season games in Europe. Both games were sold out and international fans were treated to some exciting hockey.
In the first game, the Jets arose victorious on the back of Patrik Laine. The Finnish sniper had a hat trick in front of droves of roaring fans, pacing the Jets to a 4-2 win. Laine’s wicked release was on full display throughout the contest.
The Panthers responded in the second game with a 4-2 win of their own. Roberto Luongo returned from an MCL sprain and made 32 saves in his first game action since October 6. The Panthers had stumbled out of the gate without their starting netminder so his return will be a massive boost for their playoffs aspirations. The power-play also continued to dominate as the Panthers were three-for-five with the man advantage in the game. Evgenii Dadonov and Keith Yandle both had a goal and an assist in the victory while Patrik Laine scored again for the Jets. Mike Hoffman also extended his nine-game point streak with this filthy wrister.
Anytime the NHL goes overseas it is always an enjoyable experience. Seeing other countries celebrate hockey as much as us Canadians is a heartwarming spectacle. They plan to visit several new countries in future years which has me wondering when the Norwegian series pits Mats Zuccarello against Andreas Martinsen in a BATTLE OF THE AGES.
These players scored the first NHL goal of their careers this week: Rourke Chartier (SJS), Michael Rasmussen (DET), Alex Formenton (OTT), Jesperi Kotkaniemi (MTL), Vladislav Kamenev (COL), Sheldon Dries (COL), Nick Seeler (MIN), Mathieu Joseph (TBL).
The Buffalo Sabres (9-2 win over the Ottawa Senators, 3-1 loss to the New York Rangers) outscored the Buffalo Bills (41-9 loss to the Chicago Bears) this weekend.
The Sabres also have the new best line in the NHL. The top combination of Jeff Skinner, Jack Eichel, and Jason Pominville have more points than any other trio in the league since October 20.
Slava Voynov is thinking about an NHL comeback as he applied for reinstatement by the league this week. In case you forgot, Voynov was suspended indefinitely by the NHL after he pleaded no contest to a domestic violence incident in 2015. He reportedly choked and beat his wife with regularity, including a situation that required her to get eight stitches above her eye. I’ll keep things blunt. Fuck Slava Voynov and I pray the NHL’s moral compass is intact because he should never be able to play in the league again.
New Jersey Devils goaltender Cory Schneider made his first start of the 2018-19 season and subsequently lost 4-3 to the Detroit Red Wings. Schneider is currently riding a ridiculous 13-game winless streak when making a start in the regular season. He is 0-11-2 in that span and has allowed three or more goals in every single game. The futility is honestly kind of impressive.
The New York Islanders have produced a five-game winning streak out of nowhere. The team lost John Tavares in the offseason, but they look no worse for wear as they sit in first place in the Metropolitan Division. All five of the games were against fellow Metropolitan teams which make the streak even more important. Thomas Greiss has been remarkable with a 4-2-0 record, 1.85 goals-against average, and .944 save percentage this season. Josh Bailey has also quietly put together an eight-game point streak. The Islanders were expected to be basement-dwellers in the East, but the addition of Barry Trotz behind the bench has done wonders for the team.
Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mikko Koskinen has been magnificent in his return to the NHL. After a six-season hiatus, Koskinen has won his first three starts of 2018-19. He has produced a 2.02 goals-against average, .935 save percentage, and one shutout. Cam Talbot has been mediocre to start the campaign which should lead to more appearances for the Finnish netminder.
Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury picked up the 50th shutout of his career on Saturday night during a 3-0 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes.
Minnesota Wild center Eric Staal scored the 400th goal of his career on Saturday night during a 5-1 win over the St. Louis Blues.
Jason Pominville (BUF), Ron Hainsey (TOR), and Jason Spezza (DAL) all played in their 1000th career regular season game this week.
The Montreal Canadiens set an NHL record by scoring two goals in two seconds (!!) during a 6-4 win over the Washington Capitals. The second goal was an empty-netter, but impressive nonetheless.
See ya next week and god bless Dennis Cholowski!
This is Kyle Dubas’ first draft at the helm of the Toronto Maple Leafs warship. Toronto has the 25th overall pick, and as the following list will show you, this range of the draft is incredibly hit or miss. If the Leafs are going to make the jump from first round playoff fodder to full-blown contender, they will have to hit on these picks in order to give their core of Matthews, Marner and Nylander a solid and affordable supporting cast.
2017 Ryan Poehling, Montreal
Poehling was the youngest player in the NCAA when the Habs took him in last year’s draft. It seemed like a weird pick at the time, but the center from St. Cloud State had an excellent 2017-18 that saw him score 31 points in 36 college games as well as center the US’s top line at the World Juniors. April’s Hockey News “Future Watch” has him ranked as the 37th best prospect in hockey and Montreal’s top prospect. Read more
Tonight is the NHL Awards ceremony in Las Vegas and, while I’m sure people are itching for some Lady Byng talk, the Hart Trophy for the league’s MVP usually garners the most interest. This year you will be shocked to not see a Crosby, Malkin or McDavid (actually I’m really surprised to not see a McDavid) on the finalist list for the award. All three of the 2018 candidates have never been a finalist for the award before and all three have an equally legitimate claim to win the thing. In what should be the most open race for the MVP in years, here’s the case for Taylor Hall, Anze Kopitar and Nathan MacKinnon to each win the Hart.