Down the Frozen River Podcast #94- Twenty Years Golden

The USWNT won gold in PyeongChang– defeating Canada 3-2 in a shootout– and Nick and Connor are thrilled. Jarome Iginla might be coming back just in time for trades, playoff talk and more on this week’s episode of the DTFR Podcast.

Listen to this week’s podcast on our Libsyn page (and/or on your favorite podcast listening app that snags our RSS Feed).

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts (iTunes) and/or on Stitcher.

TRADE: Boston sends Vatrano to Florida

Unknown-7

No, just because you’re from Massachusetts doesn’t mean you’ll be playing with the Bruins forever.

The Boston Bruins traded F Frank Vatrano to the Florida Panthers on Thursday in exchange for a 3rd round pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft.

Florida_Panthers_logo_2016Vatrano, 23, had two goals in 25 games this season with Boston. The 5’9″, 201-pound native of East Longmeadow, Massachusetts had career-highs in goals (10), assists (eight) and points (18) in 44 games last season.

He had one goal in six career postseason games with the Bruins in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Signed by Boston as a free agent out of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst on March 13, 2015, Vatrano has 20-11–31 totals in 108 career NHL games.

2018 Trade Deadline Preview: Atlantic Division

Unknown-3

1. Tampa Bay Lightning– 40-17-3 (83 points, 60 GP)

Though the Tampa Bay Lightning have been on top of the Eastern Conference all season, the Boston Bruins are catching them and sure to give the Bolts a run for their money in the Eastern Conference Finals.

What do you mean that will never happen because of the current playoff format? Way to be a buzzkill, NHL.

Tampa general manager, Steve Yzerman, worked his magic on the ice for years in Detroit and his magic has gotten even better as a GM. The Lightning don’t need older guys like Dan Girardi or Chris Kunitz on the team and yet– here they are– sitting in 1st in the Atlantic Division with those guys on the roster.

The Lightning have about $2.000 million in cap space right now with some pretty important pending-RFAs to re-sign this offseason. Then again, when isn’t that the case for them?

Just try not to make a bad move at the deadline (or any moves, really) and Yzerman will find a way to keep Vladislav Namestnikov and Slater Koekkoek around for a few more years.

Potential assets to trade: F Ryan Callahan (if he’ll waive his NMC), D Braydon Coburn, F Erik Condra, F Adam Erne, D Dan Girardi, F Chris Kunitz

Potential assets to acquire: F Max Domi (ARI), F Benoit Pouliot (BUF), F Michael Grabner (NYR), D Ryan McDonagh (NYR), D Johnny Oduya (OTT), F Thomas Vanek (VAN)

Unknown-7

2. Boston Bruins– 37-13-8 (82 points, 58 GP)

At the time of this writing, I had the Boston Bruins pinpointed on Nick Holden as an option in case they aren’t able to pull off a Ryan McDonagh trade with the New York Rangers. Holden’s cheaper, a year removed from his best season in his career and a clear top-six defenseman that’ll boost not only Boston’s depth, but solidify their blue line as contenders.

Look, it didn’t cost the Bruins much, considering Rob O’Gara was stuck in the midst of an overcrowded pool of defensive prospects and not every third round pick is making the NHL for more than half a season. Holden has the chance of becoming the next Tomas Kaberle for Boston (and let’s check where Joe Colborne is these days, oh right San Antonio).

Or Holden could stick around for a little longer if things work out just right.

If general manager, Don Sweeney, is confident in his roster, he’s set. If he’s looking to add without subtracting that “necessary” one or two more pieces to put the Bruins over the edge and into Stanley Cup favorites, then sure, he’ll find it.

Sweeney is all about holding onto his cards and being tactically smart. He’s improved in each of his three years as general manager around this time of year.

They really shouldn’t part with Jakub Zboril so early, considering he must be next in line behind Jeremy Lauzon. Yet if there’s an offer that’s too good to refuse and all indications point towards finding your next veteran defenseman for the post-Tom Brady 2.0 (at least in terms of age and playing ability) Zdeno Chara days, then sure, go for it.

Potential assets to trade: F Frank Vatrano, D Jakub Zboril

Potential assets to acquire: F Max Domi (ARI), F Benoit Pouliot (BUF), F Derek Ryan (CAR), F Tommy Wingels (CHI), F Boone Jenner (CBJ), F Gustav Nyqvist (DET), D Xavier Ouellet (DET), F Patrick Maroon (EDM), F Michael Grabner (NYR), D Nick Holden (NYR)– acquired on Tuesday, D Ryan McDonagh (NYR), D Ben Hutton (VAN)

Unknown

3. Toronto Maple Leafs– 37-20-5 (79 points, 62 GP)

Despite having immense youth and talent, the Toronto Maple Leafs find themselves at a crossroads. Do they go for it this season (without any cap room)?

Or should they move some pieces to make the future work to their advantage (at a time when Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander and crew are ready for their Stanley Cup Final debut)?

With these questions in mind, it seems a guy like James van Riemsdyk‘s time might be running short. Alas, van Riemsdyk has a modified-no trade clause and carries a $4.250 million cap hit– all while being a pending-UFA this July– but that’s nothing that can’t be overcome.

There’s still 21 teams he can be traded to and up to 50 percent of his salary can be retained if that’s a concern for anyone.

Joffrey Lupul‘s contract expires at the end of this season, so the Maple Leafs won’t have to go back and put him on the long-term injured reserve every September. It might be a smart idea to move Nathan Horton‘s contract elsewhere *ahem, Arizona* to try to get something out of it and not have to go through the LTIR motions. Neither of those situations is pressing, just food for thought.

This isn’t the year to cash in if you’re Toronto.

That might be painful for a guy like Patrick Marleau to hear, then again, he did sign a three-year contract last summer. He’s in it for the long haul and so is the Maple Leafs front office as they navigate what Matthews, Marner and Nylander’s second contracts will be.

Nylander, by the way, is a pending-RFA this summer.

Potential assets to trade: F Tyler Bozak, F Nathan Horton, F Josh Leivo, F James van Riemsdyk

Potential assets to acquire: F Antoine Vermette (ANA), F Frank Vatrano (BOS), F Benoit Pouliot (BUF), F Tommy Wingels (CHI), D Xavier Ouellet (DET), F Matt Cullen (MIN), F Alex Galchenyuk (MTL)

Florida_Panthers_logo_2016

4. Florida Panthers– 26-25-6 (58 points, 57 GP)

The Florida Panthers have about $7.100 million in cap space currently and the opportunity to be the best of the worst teams in the Atlantic Division.

They can’t buy in bulk, but they can buy the right pieces to make themselves playoff contenders again since they blew whatever plans they had in the dismissal of Gerard Gallant as head coach and losses of Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith to the Vegas Golden Knights last June.

Another top-four defenseman and one or two of the right top-nine forwards should really make an impact on the Panthers. This is where Florida has a decent chance at being a sleeper pick for Evander Kane.

They’ve got the cap space and the right amount of talent waiting for a complementary player.

Or Florida could become sellers and move on from everything they had built to bring themselves to the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs and, well, nothing since.

Potential assets to trade: F Nick Bjugstad, F Derek MacKenzie, D Mark Pysyk, G James Reimer, F Radim Vrbata

Potential assets to acquire: F Max Domi (ARI), F Evander Kane (BUF), G Jon Gillies (CGY), F Jeff Skinner (CAR), F Boone Jenner (CBJ), D Jack Johnson (CBJ), F Gustav Nyqvist (DET), F Max Pacioretty (MTL), F Derick Brassard (OTT), F Mike Hoffman (OTT), F Zack Smith (OTT), G Aaron Dell (SJ)

Unknown

5. Detroit Red Wings– 24-26-9 (57 points, 59 GP)

The Detroit Red Wings have a plethora of no-movement-clauses, expensive cap hits and everything else to sort through as they enter full-on rebuild mode.

As an Atlantic Division team outside of the playoff picture, they’re not going anywhere.

It’d make sense to go for a dive in the standings, but at what cost, since the draft lottery exists? A defenseman from Sweden leading the Red Wings to glory? Stop me if you’ve heard that one before, Nicklas Lidstrom.

Yes, it might sense to embrace the tank and give yourself a shot at Rasmus Dahlin, Detroit. This is your year– until the Edmonton Oilers win another lottery and then have Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Dahlin on a team that’s still scraping out of the basement next season.

Everyone’s at play at this year’s deadline– except for Henrik Zetterberg (because he still believes for some reason, a.k.a. he’s the new Shane Doan).

Potential assets to trade: F Luke Glendening, D Mike Green, F Darren Helm, D Niklas Kronwall, F Gustav Nyqvist, D Xavier Ouellet, F Tomas Tatar

Potential assets to acquire: Draft picks, prospects, F Max Domi (ARI), F Frank Vatrano (BOS), F Benoit Pouliot (BUF), F Jeff Skinner (CAR), F Derek Ryan (CAR), D Tyson Barrie (COL), F Alex Galchenyuk (MTL), D Ben Hutton (VAN)

Unknown-1

6. Montreal Canadiens– 22-29-8 (52 points, 59 GP)

The Montreal Canadiens aren’t good.

Claude Julien‘s behind the bench, their scoring is down, Carey Price is fatigued (at times), Max Pacioretty’s probably going to be traded and Andrew Shaw might become the new poster boy in bleu, blanc et rouge as a result.

Nothing makes sense anymore. The Canadiens are rebuilding, about to rebuild or should rebuild.

There’s nothing else to it really. This is more than just a bad year for them, save for Buffalo and Ottawa sitting beneath them in the division. Wait, the Senators are how close?

With almost $7.200 million in cap space, the Habs can make something happen and retool on-the-fly. Though if they’re smart, they’ll try to maximize their return on any trades without jeopardizing their pending-RFAs from re-signing.

Potential assets to trade: F Alex Galchenyuk, F Max Pacioretty, D Jeff Petry, F Tomas Plekanec, F Andrew Shaw

Potential assets to acquire: F Max Domi (ARI), G Jon Gillies (CGY), F Patrick Maroon (EDM), D Jack Johnson (CBJ), F Michael Grabner (NYR), F Jordan Kyrou (STL), F Nic Petan (WPG)

Unknown-6

7. Ottawa Senators– 21-28-10 (52 ponts, 59 GP)

If you thought things were bad in Québec, just wait until you see how the Ottawa Senators have been this year.

After nearly reaching last year’s Stanley Cup Final, the Sens thought they had a chance of making “boring” hockey exciting again. There’s just one problem– none of their players are any good, save for Erik Karlsson (who’s slumping this season), Mike Hoffman (who’s definitely going to be traded, even though GM Pierre Dorion keeps indicating he will/won’t), Mark Stone and that’s about it.

Karlsson’s a free agent after the 2018-19 season and surely won’t stick around if Ottawa doesn’t turn things around. Or worse, the Senators just might go ahead and trade their franchise defenseman.

If you thought Montreal was a dumpster fire, you’re right, but Ottawa is a thousand dumpster fires.

With about $1.315 million in cap space approaching the deadline the Senators shouldn’t have to worry. If they’re smart, that is. They’re sellers and they have to admit that they keep messing up.

In a league that’s getting younger and faster, the Sens are doing just the opposite.

Potential assets to trade: G Craig Anderson, F Derick Brassard, G Mike Condon, F Mike Hoffman, D Erik Karlsson (I don’t understand how I should even have to put him here, but I do, because it’s Ottawa we’re talking about), D Johnny Oduya, F Jean-Gabriel Pageau, F Bobby Ryan, F Zack Smith

Potential assets to acquire: Draft picks, F Benoit Pouliot (BUF), F Jeff Skinner (CAR), F Tommy Wingels (CHI), D Tyson Barrie (COL), D Xavier Ouellet (DET), F Mark Letestu (EDM), F Patrick Maroon (EDM), G Aaron Dell (SJ), D Ben Hutton (VAN), F Nic Petan (WPG)

Unknown-2

8. Buffalo Sabres– 17-32-11 (45 points, 60 GP)

Figure it out, Buffalo. One of these years.

The Buffalo Sabres have about $5.600 million in cap space approaching Monday’s trade deadline. They’ll likely have more room to work with heading into the offseason, given Evander Kane and his $5.250 million cap hit is all but assured of being on its way out of upstate New York.

The pending-UFA is the biggest prize the Sabres have to offer to a playoff contender or any team with enough cap room looking to reignite their offense.

Other than that, the goalie market looks slim at the deadline– especially after the Philadelphia Flyers already went out and got Petr Mrazek from Detroit– so Robin Lehner probably isn’t going anywhere. Yet.

Lehner is a 26-year-old pending-RFA this July and could certainly prove worthy to a team looking to overhaul its goaltending. If Sabres general manager, Jason Botterill, can’t find the right trading partner now, he’ll have plenty of opportunities to do so at the NHL Entry Draft in June.

As for the rest of the roster, Buffalo might take a page from Ottawa and the New York Rangers in that everyone– save for Jack Eichel and Ryan O’Reilly— just might be available.

Don’t count the Sabres out (of the trade market, that is). They just might go all in on landing a big name or two looking for a reset.

Potential assets to trade: D Nathan Beaulieu, F Evander Kane, F Zemgus Girgensons, D Josh Gorges, G Robin Lehner, F Matt Moulson, F Benoit Pouliot, F Sam Reinhart, F Scott Wilson

Potential assets to acquire: F Antoine Vermette (ANA), F Frank Vatrano (BOS), F Jeff Skinner (CAR), D Tyson Barrie (COL), D Xavier Ouellet (DET), F Tomas Tatar (DET), G James Reimer (FLA), F Max Pacioretty (MTL), F Tomas Plekanec (MTL), D Ryan McDonagh (NYR), F Mike Hoffman (OTT), D Erik Karlsson (OTT), G Aaron Dell (SJ)

February 22 – Day 134 – Russian to Czechmate

It’s the best day of the hockey week! A dozen games are on this Thursday’s schedule!

We begin today’s slate in North America with 11 NHL tilts, starting with three (the New York Islanders at Toronto, Minnesota at New Jersey and Columbus at Philadelphia) at 7 p.m. and four more (the New York Rangers at Montréal [RDS/TSN2], Tampa Bay at Ottawa [RDS2], Buffalo at Detroit and Washington at Florida [TVAS]) half an hour later. San Jose at Nashville drops the puck at 8 p.m., followed an hour later by a pair of Western Conference matchups (Colorado at Edmonton [SN1] and Calgary at Arizona). Finally, Dallas visits Los Angeles at 10:30 p.m. to close out the league’s action. All times Eastern.

Of course, there’s also the Olympics to keep in mind. The first men’s semifinal between the Czech Republic and the OAR is scheduled for 2:40 a.m. Eastern time Friday morning.

Of those games, I’ll have my eye on three:

  • New York at Montréal: Not only is this an Original Six rivalry, but it’s also a rematch from last season’s Eastern Quarterfinals.
  • Calgary at Arizona: G Mike Smith (injured) and D Michael Stone are making their first trips back to Glendale to take on the Coyotes, the team they both spent six seasons with before joining Calgary.
  • Czech Republic vs. the OAR: The top two remaining seeds are going at it for a chance to play for a gold medal!

We’ve featured Olympic action the past six days, and I see no reason to stop that trend now. Let’s see who’s advancing to the gold medal game!

 

Let’s start with the 3-1-0-0 Czech Republic, which posted a 2-1-0-0 record in Group A against the likes of Canada (3-2 SO), Switzerland (4-1) and South Korea (2-1) to clinch a first round bye into the quarterfinals, where it beat the United States in a 3-2 shootout victory.

Offensively, there are few teams in this Olympic tournament that can rival the Czechs, as their three goals-per-game is (t)third-best among all 12 participating nations and (t)second-best of the four squads remaining.

For those wondering: no, you will not witness any of the Czech Republic’s legendary right wings in this game. Instead of Jaromir Jagr, Martin Prochazka and David Vyborny, you should be looking forward to witnessing F Michal Repik (3-1-4 totals) and F Jan Kovar (2-2-4) continuing their stellar tournaments, as both are averaging a point per game.

29-year-old Repik’s performance is of particular interest, as he’s managed his impressive marks from the Czechs’ fourth line and, more importantly, from both special teams. All three of his goals have been scored in different situations: one at even strength, one on the power play and one on the penalty kill. He’s a dangerous Swiss army knife of a player that should be taken seriously on every shift.

The Czechs have also played decently in their own zone, as they’ve held their opponents to an average of only 25 shots against per game – the (t)fifth-lowest mark of all Olympic teams and third-lowest among the semifinalists.

That’s left G Pavel Francouz to shine, and shine he has. Having been the lone goaltender Head Coach Josef Jandac has employed throughout this tournament, he’s posted a solid .94 save percentage for a 1.41 GAA.

Mix all that defensive work together and you get a Czech Republic team that has allowed only 1.5 goals per game for the entire tournament, the (t)third-best mark in comparison to all 12 teams that have participated in PyeongChang and (t)second-best among the semifinalists.

One final advantage the Czech Republic has in its back pocket is its support in the stands. With the exception of the South Koreans, no team has enjoyed larger crowds than the Czechs, who average 5460.25 fans in attendance at each game – almost 450 more than the Russians, who rank fourth in attendance. With both teams bringing their large fanbases, Gangneung Hockey Centre could very well sell each and every one of its 10,000 seats.

Of course, that’s not a knock on fans of the Olympic Athletes from Russia, who’ve had the pleasure of cheering one of the most dominant teams in South Korea. After dropping their first tilt against Slovakia 3-2, the OAR has earned a 3-0-0-1 overall record, beating Slovenia (8-2) and the United States (4-0) to win Group B, and then Norway (6-1) in the quarterfinals.

Not a bad rebound for Красная Машина – The Red Machine – after pundits were already accusing them of choking as favorites at a second-consecutive Olympic tournament.

The strength in the OAR’s game relies heavily on their dominant offense maintaining almost constant possession of the puck, similar to the style the Boston Bruins have employed in the NHL this season. Not only is this a great way to generate goals – which the OAR does, averaging an Olympic-leading five goals per game – but it also limits opposing opportunities. The 19.25 shots faced per game by G Vasili Koshechkin are the fewest any of the 12 defenses in South Korea have allowed, and he’s been able to post a cool .929 save percentage for a 1.37 GAA as a result.

Pair all that together, and the 1.5 goals against per game the OAR has allowed in their first four games is the (t)third-best mark at the Olympics and (t)second-fewest among the final four.

Anyways, back to the offense. The OAR has more than a few stellar skaters at its disposal, but none have been better than F Nikita Gusev, a Vegas Golden Knights prospect should he choose to join them when his contract expires after next season. During this stint with the Red Machine, he’s posted incredible 1-6-7 totals to average almost two points per game.

But the Czechs shouldn’t focus all their efforts on Gusev, or else one of the other six Russians averaging at least a point per game will fly right by them. F Ilya Kovalchuk, Minnesota Wild prospect F Kirill Kaprizov, F Sergei Mozyakin, D Vyacheslav Voinov, F Sergei Andronov and F Pavel Datsyuk have united to form what may be the strongest Russian team since its days as the USSR.

It’s like they should have been favored to win this tournament or something.

Usually this is where I jump into recent matchups, but I’d instead like to point out how each team handled a common opponent: Team USA. The OAR manhandled the United States in their Group B finale, dominating the game to a 4-0 final score. By comparison, the Czechs required not just overtime, but also a shootout to knock off the Americans 3-2 in the quarterfinals.

There’s certainly much to be said about how the Americans approached either game. The US appeared nervous when playing the OAR, remembering the stories their parents, coaches and just about any other American hockey fan had told them about that fateful day 38 years ago.

There was no second act of the Miracle on Ice for Team USA in this tournament against the OAR, and the Russians made them pay for their inability to string together more than a pass or two.

Comparatively, the rivalry between Team USA and the Czech Republic ranks just above the rivalry between the American and Mexican hockey teams – in other words, its non-existent. Pairing the lack of heightened emotion with G Ryan Zapolski’s excellent play, the Americans rode out the Czechs’ stellar play and countered at just the right times to stave off elimination as long as they could.

Now, this is not supposed to be a summary of Team USA, even if it did seem that way. Instead, I simply pose the question: if the Americans weren’t so riled up to play this game, would they have been as big a thorn in the Russians’ side as they were to the Czechs?

I feel the answer is yes, but the OAR still would not have needed a shootout to knock them off. With that in mind, I feel safe in my prediction that the Olympic Athletes from Russia will be playing for the gold medal after beating the Czech Republic.


With a 3-2 shootout victory in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day, the curse has been lifted on the United States’ women’s hockey team as it beat Team Canada to clinch the gold medal at the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Penalties were the big story in the first period, as Team USA earned a whopping three power plays. The first two opportunities amounted to only a combined two shots on goal, but F Sarah Nurse’s interference infraction with 1:34 remaining in the frame turned into a F Hilary Knight (D Sidney Morin and F Brianna Decker) deflection 68 seconds later to give the American’s a 1-0 advantage going into the first intermission.

It didn’t take long for the Canadians to level the game. Only two minutes into the second period, F Haley Irwin (F Blayre Turnbull) set the score at 1-1 by deflecting a Turnbull pass pass past G Maddie Rooney out of mid-air. 4:55 later, who else to give Team Canada than F Marie-Philip Poulin (F Meghan Agosta and F Melodie Daoust)? With Agosta firing a reverse pass from the goal line, Poulin lifted her snap shot from the left face-off circle to the near post.

That 2-1 Canadian advantage lasted into the second intermission and through the midway point of the final frame. If any doubt was beginning to creep into the Americans’ minds that they couldn’t beat G Shannon Szabados one more time to level the game, it was dashed with 6:21 remaining in regulation when F Monique Lamoureux-Morando (F Kelly Pannek) scored to tie the game and force overtime.

With no goal struck in the 10-minute four-on-four overtime period, the gold medal would be awarded to the team that won the six-round shootout.

  1. F Natalie Spooner was the first Canadian to try to beat Rooney, but the netminder stood tall to keep her off the board.
  2. F Gigi Marvin gave Team USA an early lead in the shootout by beating Szabados.
  3. Facing an early hole, Agosta leveled the shootout score at one-apiece, but Szabados still had to face her second shooter to complete the turnaround.
  4. She did just that by keeping F Hannah Brandt’s attempt out of the back of her net. The shootout score read 1-1 through two rounds.
  5. Having already beaten Rooney in regulation, Poulin was Canada’s third shooter. However, she didn’t find the same success, as the American kept her net clean.
  6. Usually playing defense, Emily Pfalzer was given her opportunity to make an offensive contribution in the third round. Her shot was saved by Szabados, leaving the shootout tied through three rounds.
  7. Canada’s next hope was Daoust, and she made good on her opportunity by beating Rooney.
  8. However, that advantage didn’t last long, as F Amanda Kessel was able to level the shootout at 2-2 in her half of the fourth round.
  9. With the opportunity to force a miss-and-lose situation for the Americans, F Brianne Jenner’s attempt to set the shootout score at 3-2 were nullified by Rooney.
  10. That gave Team USA its first opportunity to win the shootout. Who else to send to center ice than Knight? However, her attempt was saved by Szabados, forcing an extra shootout frame.
  11. The Americans won the coin toss and elected to shoot first. F Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson made good on that decision, employing a triple move against Szabados to force a miss-and-lose on Team Canada.
  12. The Canadians called on Agosta to find the leveling goal, but Rooney was there to clinch the Americans’ second gold medal in women’s ice hockey.

Rooney earned the shootout victory after saving 29-of-31 (.935 save percentage), leaving the shootout loss to Szabados, who saved an impressive 39-of-41 (.951).

TRADE: Wedgewood and Rieder to L.A., Kuemper to Arizona

On Wednesday, the Arizona Coyotes and the Los Angeles Kings completed their first trade with each other since March 9, 2006 (remember the Tim JackmanYanick Lehoux trade, anyone?).

Arizona traded F Tobias Rieder and G Scott Wedgewood to the Kings in exchange for G Darcy Kuemper.

Kuemper signed a two-year contract extension with the Coyotes as part of the transaction and Arizona retained 15% of Rieder’s contract. Rieder is a pending-RFA this offseason.

Unknown-3Rieder, 25, has 51 goals and 60 assists (111 points) in 292 career NHL games– all with the Coyotes. The 5’11”, 188-pound, native of Landshut, Germany was originally drafted by the Edmonton Oilers in the 4th round (114th overall) of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.

He had a career-high 37-points in 2015-16 after making his NHL debut in the 2014-15 season. The right-winger had a career-high 16 goals last season with Arizona.

In 58 games this season, Rieder has 8-11–19 totals.

Wedgewood, 25, has a record of 5-9-4 with a 3.45 goals against average and .893 save percentage in 20 games played this season with Arizona. Additionally, he has one shutout this season.

The 6’2″, 195-pound, native of  Brampton, Ontario made his NHL debut in 2015-16 with New Jersey and went 2-1-1 with a 1.24 GAA and .957 SV% in four games played that season. Wedgewood notched his first career shutout with 39 saves at Pittsburgh on March 24, 2016.

He was originally drafted by the Devils in the 3rd round (84th overall) in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft and has a career 3.05 GAA and .903 SV% in 24 NHL games.

Unknown-3Kuemper, 27, has a 10-1-3 record with a 2.10 GAA and .932 SV% in 19 games this season for Los Angeles. With three shutouts on the year, the 6’5″, 215-pound, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan native was in his first season with the Kings since signing with the team as a free agent last summer.

He has a career record of 51-35-17 with a 2.52 GAA, .913 SV% and 10 shutouts in 104 NHL games with Los Angeles and the Minnesota Wild. Kuemper spent the previous five seasons with Minnesota and was originally drafted by the Wild in the 6th round (161st overall) of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.

TRADE: Habs send Jerabek to Washington

The Montreal Canadiens traded D Jakub Jerabek to the Washington Capitals on Wednesday in exchange for a 5th round pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.

Unknown-1

Jerabek, 26, had one goal and three assists (four points) in 25 games with Montreal this season. He had one goal and ten assists (11 points) in 17 games with the Canadiens’s AHL affiliate, Laval Rocket this season as well. The 5’11”, 200-pound, native of Pilsen, Czech Republic signed as a free agent with the Canadiens on May 1, 2017.

Washington Capitals LogoIn 308 games with Plzen HC in the Czech League, Jerabek had 16-83–99 totals. He also had 5-29–34 totals in 59 games with Podolsk Vityaz in the KHL.

Poised to make a deep run (save your Second Round jokes for now, folks), Washington solidifies their defensive depth with this trade.

February 21 – Day 133 – Round four

Six games on this Wednesday’s schedule might be a low number, but don’t misinterpret that as a bad night of action – there’s more than a few games to be seen!

Like we have the last week or so, we begin our hockey day in PyeongChang at the Olympics. Canada vs. Finalnd and Sweden vs. Germany, the final two quarterfinal matchups in the men’s tournament, are scheduled to drop the puck at 7:10 a.m. Eastern time.

Back in the NHL, it’s a typical light Wednesday schedule with only three tilts on the board. The action starts at 8 p.m. when Ottawa at Chicago (NHLN/SN/TVAS), but the next game – Dallas at Anaheim – isn’t slated to begin until 10 p.m. Finally, the league’s nightcap features Calgary at Vegas and gets underway at 10:30 p.m. All times Eastern.

Back at the Olympics, there’s only one game being played and it’s a doozy: Team Canada is squaring off against Team USA in the women’s gold medal game, scheduled for 11:10 p.m. Eastern time.

Of note in NHL action this evening, D Johnny Oduya is making his return to Chicago after spending five seasons with the Blackhawks. However, there’s nothing – not even what should be an excellent matchup between the Canadians and Finns in the men’s tournament – that can distract us from what is sure to be another excellent game between the powerhouses of the women’s game!

 

Let’s talk stats before we even think about jumping into the arguably even more important narrative associated with this game.

Having won Group A, 4-0-0-0 Canada enters this game as the top-seeded team in the women’s Olympic tournament even though it is currently second in the IIHF rankings behind the USA.

The reason for the Canadians’ success is easy to see. Their four goals per game and .5 goals against per game are both the best of any team in the tournament, and the 25 shots against they allow per game is fourth-best.

There have been few lines in the women’s tournament as dominant as Team Canada’s top-three forwards. Of those, none have shined brighter than F Melodie Daoust, who’s posted incredible 3-3-6 totals in only four games played. She’s joined by F Meghan Agosta (2-2-4) and F Marie-Philip Poulin (2-3-5) on the line, making them a dangerous threat to score on every shift they take.

F Rebecca Johnston has also been impressive from the second line with her 3-2-5 totals, but where she really earns her roster spot is on the power play. Two of her three goals have been struck while the Canadians have an extra skater, and she accounts for half of her team’s power play goals.

As mentioned before, Canada’s defense has been only average in this Olympic tournament, but average is all Head Coach Laura Schuler needs when she has not one… not two… but three stellar goaltenders at her disposal. Ann-Renee Desbiens, Genevieve Lacasse and Shannon Szabados have all been tremendous when they’ve taken to the crease, as they’ve combined to allow only two goals in four showings (Desbiens and Szabados both have one shutout apiece) with save percentages that are all above 97 percent.

Considering she was in net for the elimination game against the OAR in the semifinals, it would seem likely Szabados will get the nod tonight with Lacasse as her backup, but I’m under the impression Canada could find success with any of these three commanding the crease.

If Canada is in the red corner, 3-0-0-1 Team USA is in the blue. Having counted the days since February 20, 2014 (more on that in a moment), the Americans are more than excited to play this game, and they have just the strengths to win this game.

The Canadians may be able to claim the best offense and goals-against, but Team USA is right behind them in the rankings. America boasts scoring an average of 3.5 goals per game, led in large part by the incredible efforts of second-liner F Dani Cameranesi, who leads the team with her 3-2-5 totals in four showings. Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson has also been exemplary, averaging a point per game with her 3-1-4 marks from the third line.

While the offense is good, the Ice Yanks’ defense is even better. Having allowed only 18.5 shots against per game, Team USA’s defense tops all teams at the Olympics. That’s made life all too easy for G Maddie Rooney, who’s posted a solid .951 save percentage for a 1.01 GAA in three games. Pair her effort with the defense, and Team USA’s .75 goals against-per-game is second-best in PyeongChang.

As mentioned before, the stats are only half the story in this game as the rivalry between these two nations is easily the world’s fiercest and most competitive in the women’s game.

Looking back at recent results of the world’s biggest tournaments, the Americans should be the clear favorites to win the gold medal. They’ve won four-consecutive IIHF World Championships (2013, 2015-’17) and three-consecutive Four Nations Cups (2015-’17).

However, that success has not extended to the Olympic Games, and it’s a curse that extends way back to 2002. After winning the inaugural gold in women’s ice hockey in 1998, Team USA has had to settle for three silvers (including the last two in 2010 and 2014) and a 2006 bronze.

Well, curse is the right word only if you’re from the United States. For one team to win all those World Championships and Four Nations Cups, another team has to lose.

Enter Canada, the four-time runners-up at the IIHF World Championships (2013, 2015-’17) and three-time runners-up at the Four Nations Cup (2015-’17). While those results are undoubtedly disappointing, the Canadians will gladly take those lumps if it prepared them to win their fifth-consecutive Olympic gold.

Team Canada has dominated Olympic competition over the past 20 years. In addition to winning four-consecutive gold medals (2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014), Canada also took silver in the inaugural 1998 competition. That means this is Canada’s sixth-consecutive appearance in the gold medal game, a streak better than most teams’ medal counts in this tournament.

The Olympic Rings are on the ice tonight, but does this mean it’s going to be an easy victory for Team Canada? Hardly so, as they – just like Team USA will have to do to win – will have to earn every inch of the ice in what should be an incredibly competitive match.

Just take into account the preview to this game that we witnessed only a week ago. Behind an incredible 44-for-45 save effort (.978 save percentage) from Lacasse, Team Canada was able to hold on to a 2-1 victory. Both teams showed great resilience in that game to register one even-strength goal apiece, but it was D Megan Keller’s interference penalty 7:18 into the second period that ultimately cost the Americans the victory, as Agosta (F Natalie Spooner and F Brianne Jenner) was able to turn the resulting power play into a goal 1:30 later.

Of course, maybe the even more important preview might have occurred four years ago (almost to the day) in the Sochi gold medal game. With goals from F Meghan Duggan and F Alexandra Carpenter, the Americans had a 2-0 advantage with five minutes separating them from the championship.

However, the Canadians are never eliminated until the fat lady sings. Jenner began the comeback with 3:26 remaining in regulation, setting the score at 2-1.

That’s okay, right? Team USA still has a one-goal lead and is inches from the finish line! In fact, the defense and G Jessie Vetter were keeping Canada at bay, holding on to that lead with only a minute until the final horn…

And then it happened. With Szabados pulled for the extra attacker, Poulin leveled the game with only 55 ticks left on the clock, setting up an overtime period that lasted 8:10 before Poulin would score again to clinch her second Olympic gold in as many tries.

It goes without saying, but Team USA cannot afford another collapse like that.

Now comes the tough job of picking the winner of this game. In case it wasn’t brutally apparent, I certainly have my rooting interests in this game and desperately want to see the Americans succeed. However, having seen Team Canada already win Group A and knowing the Americans’ history at the Olympics, I know this will be a very difficult game to win.

If the Americans are going to win this game, they’re going to need their defense to continue to play lights out like it has all tournament, and they also just might need a little bit of luck to beat Szabados. It’s certainly possible for that to happen, but Canada’s success at this tournament year after year (well, four years after four years) will leave me doubting until the clock officially reaches 0:00.

TRADE: Toronto flips Fehr to San Jose for a draft pick

A minor move could pay off for the San Jose Sharks after they acquired F Eric Fehr from the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for a 2020 7th round pick on Tuesday.

San Jose has been looking for a fourth line center all season and they just might have gotten their man.

UnknownFehr, 32, has 17-11–28 totals in 34 games with the San Diego Gulls (AHL) this season. He has two penalty minutes in four NHL games with Toronto in 2017-18.

A native of Winkler, Manitoba, the 6’4″, 208-pound center has 103 goals and 99 assists (202 points) in 566 career NHL games with the Maple Leafs, Pittsburgh Penguins, Winnipeg Jets and Washington Capitals.

He won a Stanley Cup championship with Pittsburgh in 2016 and has eight goals and two assists (ten points) in 60 career Stanley Cup Playoff games. Fehr was originally drafted by Washington in the 1st round (18th overall) of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft.

Unknown

Toronto now has eight picks in the 2020 draft as a result of this trade.

That might seem irrelevant now, but rest assured, someone’s going to have to remember the number of draft picks each team has for something in 2020.

TRADE: Bruins acquire Holden from Rangers

It’s not the left-shot defenseman many Bruins fans had been hoping to acquire by the NHL’s Trade Deadline on February 26th, but it’s a defenseman nonetheless.

The Boston Bruins traded D Rob O’Gara and a 2018 3rd round pick to the New York Rangers in exchange for D Nick Holden on Tuesday.

Unknown-7Holden, 30, recorded three goals and nine assists (12 points) in 55 games with the Rangers this season. He established career highs in goals (11), assists (23) and points (34) in his first season with New York (last season) in 80 games played. As well, Holden had two goals and two assists in 11 postseason games.

The St. Albert, Alberta native was previously acquired by the Rangers in exchange for a 4th round pick (Petr Kvaca) in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft in a deal with the Colorado Avalanche on June 26, 2016. He was originally signed by the Columbus Blue Jackets on March 28, 2008 and has appeared in 356 career NHL games– amassing 35-72–107 totals with the Rangers, Avalanche and Blue Jackets.

At 6’4″, 214-pounds, Holden will more than likely slide into a bottom-pair defensive role for Boston as they continue their march down the stretch towards the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Holden will be a healthy scratch until Saturday as Boston is in Edmonton for a Tuesday night tilt.

downloadO’Gara, 24, has yet to record his first career NHL goal in 11 career NHL games (all with Boston). In 43 games with the Providence Bruins (AHL) this season, O’Gara had two goals and six assists (eight points) and a plus-five rating.

A native of Massapequa, N.Y., the 6’4″, 207-pound blue liner was selected by the Bruins in the 5th round (151st overall) of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft and completed a four-year collegiate career at Yale University from 2012-16. He is the only defenseman in Yale history to be a three-time winner of the John Poinier Award as the team’s Best Defenseman.

O’Gara made his NHL debut with the Bruins on October 13, 2016 at Columbus.

As a result of the trade, the Rangers now have seven picks in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft.

Merkle’s Weekly Bumblings: Week 19

Skater of the Week: Nico Hischier

Boy, what a devil of a week for this kid, huh? HUH? (not even crickets chirp for this pun)

In four games, the 19-year-old centerman put up four goals (one in each game) and three assists for seven points, and is currently riding a five-game point streak overall. A +8 through the first three games was marred slightly by a -2 in the final game of the week, but any coach would gladly take a +6 week for any of his players. Perhaps the best stat in all of this, though, is Hischier’s shooting percentage throughout the four-game goal streak. In those four games, Hischier has only fired seven total shots at the net, leaving him with a ridiculous .57 shooting percentage.

With 39 points in 59 games, the league’s most recent first-overall pick is having himself a very solid year. With his Devils entrenched in the knock-down, drag-out dogfight that is the Metropolitan playoff race, he’ll need to continue his strong play to help New Jersey go from the basement to the playoffs.

Tendy of the Week: Antti Raanta

The Arizona Coyotes have won four consecutive games. This is not a drill.

For the first time since January of 2016, the ‘Yotes have strung together four straight, and Raanta is arguably the entire reason for it. In three starts and one relief appearance throughout the week, Raanta managed to string together a 3-0-0 record with a .976 save percentage and 0.91 GAA. The Finnish netminder started the week stopping 37-of-38 against Chicago, before stopping all 12 shots he faced against San Jose, turned aside 34-of-36 attempts by Montreal, and capped the week with a 40-save blanking of Edmonton.

Obviously Arizona is in no position to even entertain the idea of a playoff run, but they can at least have some confidence in the performance of Raanta this year. He currently holds a .924 save percentage and 2.45 GAA on the season, and is two wins under .500 on a very bad team.

Game of the Week: New Jersey Devils 5 @ Philadelphia Flyers 4 (SO), Tuesday February 13th, 2018

Who would have guessed that two bitter rivals fighting for position in the division standings would produce a fun game?

71 shots and 51 hits in a game that saw no major penalties looks a lot like a playoff stat line. Just good, hard hockey.

Things would get rolling shortly into the opening frame, as Claude Giroux fed a speeding Travis Konecny with a beautiful backhand stretch pass, allowing Konecny to steam past Will Butcher across the New Jersey blueline before firing a beautiful wrister past the blocker of Keith Kinkaid and putting the Flyers up 1-0 just 1:54 into the game.

The rest of the first and first few minutes of the second would pass scoreless, due in part to solid netminding, and arguably moreso to a symphony of goalposts. But 4:06 into the second the Devils finally knotted the scored, as Taylor Hall streaked down the left wing side and found just enough daylight between Michal Neuvirth and the post to squeak in the 1-1 tally. Hall would get absolutely buried by Radko Gudas just as the puck was finding its way into the net, but the hit was clean and Hall shoo’d away the tweetie birds in short order and looked none the worse for wear. Just 43 seconds later the Flyers would reestablish their lead as Michael Raffl took an indirect pass off the end boards from Andrew MacDonald and fed a turnaround pass to Scott Laughton in the slot, who managed to get just enough of it to get it past the pad of Kinkaid and across the goal line. Then about six minutes later a Radko Gudas point shot would redirect off of a New Jersey stick past Kinkaid to put the Flyers up 3-1, before John Moore would answer at the 13:17 mark with a bomb from the point that blurred past the glove of Neuvirth and drew the Devils back within one. Just under three minutes later it would be Philly captain Claude Giroux firing home a power-play goal from the left circle, but just 10 seconds later Nico Hischier would again cut the lead to one heading into the third.

Neuvirth and co. held the fort for nearly the entire third period, but a jam play in front would create a loose puck for a circling Taylor Hall who would pounce and send the game to overtime. The extra frame saw a pair of dazzling glove stops (Neuvirth on Hall just seconds in, and Kinkaid on a Voracek redirect with just over a minute remaining), but no more pucks would find twine until Drew Stafford continued his shootout mastery in the second round of the skills competition, and a Kinkaid stop on Voracek would end the game and give the Devils the victory.

News, Notes, & Nonsense:

Four ‘Blackhawks fans’ (I use the term loosely, as no one I’ve ever encountered that roots for the Hawks deserves to be lumped in with these lowlifes) were booted from the arena and later issued a permanent ban by the organization for shouting racial taunts at Capitals forward Devante Smith-Pelly as he was serving a penalty. Personally, I think they should have been invited into the penalty box with DSP as part of their punishment, but that’s just my opinion.

Speaking of the Blackhawks and Capitals, the two teams made a deal that sees defenseman Michal Kempny head to D.C., while a third round pick finds its way back to the Windy City, likely to be turned into a superstar player because Stan Bowman is a wizard.

Also on the trade front are rumors of Petr Mrazek being dealt to Philadelphia, who are currently relying upon third-stringer Alex Lyon after injuries to Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth. As someone who owned Mrazek on their fantasy team at one point this season, I feel I am qualified to ask the Flyers why in the name of all that is holy they would want to do such a thing.

Editor’s note: Pete’s crystal ball was on point Monday night. Mrazek was shipped to Philadelphia in return for two draft picks: a conditional fourth-round pick in 2018 and a conditional third-round pick in 2019. Detroit retained half of the goaltender’s salary. Read our recap here.

Nick Foligno is out for what looks to be a couple of weeks, and I’m not crying, you’re crying.

The Olympic men’s hockey tournament has been even weirder than we could have predicted, but after an early hiccup it looks like the Artists Formerly Known as Russia are set to steamroll everything in their path just as it appeared they should on paper.

Barry Trotz became just the fifth coach in league history to coach 1,500 games. Don’t let his ‘angry Russian mob boss’ looks fool you, Trotz is one of the nicest humans I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet, and I’d like to extend a sincere congratulations to him.

Dion Phaneuf and Marian Gaborik changed places, in a move that would have been landscape-shifting in the NHL in about 2008. Phaneuf did score in his first game as a King, because the hockey gods are just having all sorts of fun at Ottawa’s expense this year.

 

It’s looking more and more likely (depending on who you ask, anyway) that we could see Erik Karlsson dealt at the deadline. I’m not sure what sort of return that would yield, but considering some believe Jack Johnson is worth a first round pick, I’d have to assume that the Sens would legally own the first-born child of the other involved GM.

Down the Frozen River(.com!)