The Battle For Gloria concludes. The Jeff Skinner extension is analyzed. What to do with Corey Perry? As well as everyone’s favorite game returns.
Our offseason previews for all 31 National Hockey League teams concludes with the Washington Capitals and their outlook for the summer– headaches, lots of headaches and not the salary cap related kind.
It only took 13 NHL seasons, but Alex Ovechkin is finally a Stanley Cup champion– and once you’re a Stanley Cup champion, you’re a Stanley Cup champion. No more “annual Second Round exit” jokes, no more counting the number of seasons or games until Ovechkin finally wins the Cup.
Instead, we’re left counting the number of beers all of the Capitals can consume in one offseason– and that’s from winning, not being eliminated this time around.
Kidding aside, Barry Trotz led the Caps to a 49-26-7 record and 105 points on the season. That was good enough for 1st in the Metropolitan Division in a season when most thought they’d never be as competitive as years past.
This team wasn’t “supposed” to win the Cup. But they did.
Now, Trotz’s two-year extension clause that would’ve kicked in having won the Cup led Trotz to resign as head coach, leaving General Manager Brian MacLellan searching for the next best coach available to step in behind the bench.
Trotz has every right to test the waters of free agency like players can and coaches salaries have risen for top-notch talent (Claude Julien makes $5.000 million a year– guaranteed, while Mike Babcock and Joel Quenneville both make at least $6.000 million a year).
He’s the first head coach to not return to his team after winning the Cup since Scotty Bowman retired after winning with the Detroit Red Wings in 2002 and Mike Keenan left the New York Rangers after winning in 1994 to take the job as head coach of the St. Louis Blues.
2018 NHL Entry Draft
Washington has the 31st overall pick in Friday’s draft thanks to winning the Cup.
They’ll either a) keep the pick and use it on a player inside the first or second round rankings, then overcook said prospect until he is ripe for an NHL debut or b) trade the pick for some assets (more picks in lower rounds or replenish some holes on the roster within the tight cap space that they have.
Pending free agents
The Capitals currently have about $11.200 million free in available money to spend this summer. There’s good news and bad news that comes with that.
Good news, Washington will keep some of their glue guys. Bad news, John Carlson is for sure gone because he can make bank (probably around $9.000 million per year) with his next contract elsewhere and MacLellan’s going to trade backup goaltender and pending-RFA, Philipp Grubauer.
This begs the obvious question, can the Capitals go back-to-back?
Yes and no.
Trotz plays a huge role in the postseason run that Washington had. The buy-in, the chemistry in the lineups and the changing strategies that got them further than they had ever gone under Trotz’s tenure– all of that comes under a combo of Trotz and the roster MacLellan built (okay, tweaked, since most of the Capitals were drafted by George McPhee anyway).
And no, because Washington’s run might just be one of those one-off acts where a team slays the competition in the playoffs, then stays competitive in the first or second round(s) for another year or two before returning to Earth.
Chiasson, 27, had nine goals and nine assists (18 points) in 61 games in his first season in Washington. He’s been around the league (Dallas, Ottawa, Calgary and D.C.) and likely will find a new address for 2018-19.
Beagle, 32, had 7-15–22 totals in 79 games played this season. Compared to Chiasson, that’s not that much better in 18 additional games. Beagle’s been part of the bottom-six soul of Washington’s forwards, but in an increasingly younger and faster game, he may be outpaced and outdone by the salary cap for the Capitals to retain his services.
Smith-Pelly, 26, had seven goals in 75 games in the regular season. He had seven goals in 24 gams this postseason. There’s no greater time than now for Smith-Pelly to cash in as one of the most important glue guys to any roster and given Washington’s cash strapped outlook, only time will tell if he’s rocking the red next season.
Wilson, 24, has his antics, reputation and scoring ability? The controversial forward and 16th overall pick in the 2012 NHL Draft had his best season in 2017-18 notching career-highs in goals (14), assists (21) and points (35). Washington’s going to want to lock him up if they can, while Wilson may opt for a bridge deal to drive up his value with another productive season or two.
Boyd, 24, hasn’t had a fair shake at the NHL level, having finally reached the Capitals roster in eight games (one assist) this season. He’ll be a low-cost, potentially high-reward (though anything more than one assist is automatically more rewarding) extension if a deal gets done.
28-year-old pending-UFA defender, John Carlson, will be the hottest blueliner on the market and unless MacLellan dumps some salary in a trade, Carlson won’t be back in the U.S. capital.
Michal Kempny, 27, on the other hand, has the chance to become more than a rental player, proving his worth over the course of 22 games in the regular season with Washington after being traded by the Chicago Blackhawks and 24 games in the postseason. He’s a top-6 defenseman that can play top-4 minutes, but like everything in Washington, only time will tell.
Given when this post runs, maybe some of these guys will have signed their name on the dotted line to stick around?
In a lesser sense, near-trade deadline acquisition, Jakub Jerabek, 27, could become more important this season if he’s re-signed as a top-6 guy to fill in behind Kempny, as Kempny fills in for Carlson (assuming both Jerabek and Kempny re-sign).
Madison Bowey, 23, is the only pending-RFA defender for the Capitals.
Star-goaltender, Braden Holtby, 28, has two-years remaining with a $6.100 million cap hit on his current contract and is Washington’s surefire starter for at least another seven years (probably).
Pheonix Copley, 26, likely will inherit the backup role with one-year remaining on his current contract ($650,000 cap hit) as MacLellan finds a trading partner to send 26-year-old backup turned probable starter (and pending-RFA) for a team in need of a goaltender, Philipp Grubauer.
While the Caps have to make the move for salary reasons, there’s a big potential to nail the perfect return.
Other pending free agents throughout the organization include:
Shortly after their last game of the season on Saturday, the New York Rangers relieved Alain Vigneault of his head coaching duties. In his fifth year with the organization, the Rangers went 34-39-9 (77 points) and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2010.
It was Vigneault’s worst year in the Big Apple. It was a transition year for a team retooling on the fly– trading away Rick Nash, Ryan McDonagh, J.T. Miller and others for centerpieces in Ryan Spooner and Vladislav Namestnikov (among other assets).
Now it’s time for someone else to take the reins behind the bench of King Henrik’s team.
The clock is ticking in goaltender Henrik Lundqvist‘s quest for his first Stanley Cup. Vigneault was almost the man to do it having brought the Rangers all the way to the 2014 Stanley Cup Final in his first season with New York.
That was the closest Lundqvist has ever been– just three wins away– but the Los Angeles Kings had other plans, given it only took them five games to beat New York for the Los Angeles’s second Stanley Cup championship in three years.
It was the closest the Rangers had come to winning its first Cup since defeating the Vancouver Canucks in 1994.
The 2014-15 season witnessed a franchise record 113 points in the regular season– good enough to notch the President’s Trophy as the NHL’s best record that year. Vigneault’s team knocked out Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins in five games in the First Round in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Then New York got behind in the Second Round series with the Washington Capitals, 3-1. Chris Kreider tied Game 5, McDonagh scored the game winner in overtime and the Rangers rallied back in the series to force the first Game 7 at Madison Square Garden since Game 7 in the 1994 Stanley Cup Final against the Canucks.
For the first time in Stanley Cup Playoff history, the Rangers were to battle the Tampa Bay Lightning for the Prince of Wales Trophy in the 2015 Eastern Conference Final.
Despite a decisive 7-3 victory in Game 6 on the road at Amalie Arena, New York was shutout, 2-0, in Game 7 on home ice.
They wouldn’t get another chance to come that close to the Stanley Cup Final with Vigneault behind the bench.
The 2015-16 Rangers finished third in the Metropolitan Division with 101 points and battled Mike Sullivan‘s Penguins in the First Round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs. It only took five games for the Rangers to be eliminated in Pittsburgh’s tear through the playoffs to their first Cup since 2009.
In 2016-17, New York regrouped with a 102-point season, but was cursed by the NHL’s current playoff format.
The Rangers were relegated to the first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference since three teams finished ahead of them in the Metropolitan Division with at least 108 points or more.
New York had four more points in the regular season than the Ottawa Senators (98 points)– who finished second in the Atlantic Division– and seven more points than the Boston Bruins (95 points, 3rd in the Atlantic) and Toronto Maple Leafs (95 points, second wild card in the Eastern Conference by virtue of having three fewer regulation-plus-overtime wins than Boston).
Vigneault’s team got by Michel Therrien’s Montreal Canadiens in six games of the First Round in what was touted as a rematch of the 2014 Eastern Conference Final.
Then they ran into the streaking Senators who had beaten the Bruins in their own six game series.
Ottawa jumped out to a 2-0 series lead with home ice advantage– despite having the worse of the two teams’s regular season records, but the Rangers seemed unfazed having won Games 3 and 4 at Madison Square Garden 4-1 and 4-1, respectively.
Kyle Turris ended Game 5 almost six-and-a-half minutes into overtime at Canadian Tire Centre and the Rangers found themselves in a 3-2 series hole heading home for Game 6.
Senators captain, Erik Karlsson, had a goal and an assist in Ottawa’s decisive 4-2 victory on road ice and New York hit the golf course after just two rounds of the 2017 postseason.
Time kept ticking. Lundqvist got older.
Management grew more frustrated with the lack of a direction.
Dead last in the Metropolitan Division after all 82 games this season and under .500 for the first time since the 2003-04 season, Vigneault’s dismissal comes as no surprise.
It’s what is expected of any organization that expects to finish first, but fails in a rather large fashion.
Even more so with the league getting younger, skaters getting faster and teams placing more of an emphasis on a constant attack, a constant barrage of offense.
Lias Andersson, Pavel Buchnevich, Spooner, Namestnikov and crew have already showcased a new face of the game in “The World’s Most Famous Arena”, while Vigneault’s systems might have been the only thing slowing them down in the waning days of the season.
It was time to shake things up and head in that new face of the game’s direction.
For the first time since the 1967-68 season only one coach was fired in-season (thanks to Mother Nature having played a part in extending the season by a day due to Boston’s rescheduled matchup from January with the Florida Panthers).
Unfortunately for Vigneault, he was that coach.
New York will be just fine.
They’re stockpiled with prospects and have already integrated youth, skill and speed into their lineup.
Now general manager Jeff Gorton will look to patch the blue line and give Lundqvist a high-caliber backup goaltender to ease the workload of the grueling regular season schedule.
It might not be the quickest turnaround, but it shouldn’t turn out to become an annual groan-fest watching the Blueshirts next season.
For Vigneault, there will be other opportunities.
He led Vancouver to the 2011 Stanley Cup Final in the midst of President’s Trophy seasons. He led New York back to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in a generation. He’ll be studying hard, but he’s still in demand.
Somewhere there’s a team looking for his veteran coaching presence– like Buffalo– or a team that just missed the cut this season, but is on the brinks of a breakout year that very well might end up with their first Stanley Cup Final appearance since 1970– like St. Louis.
But alas, this is all merely speculation.
More coaches will be fired for their team’s shortcomings (of their own fault or otherwise) this offseason upon diligent review in front office’s league-wide.
Rangers fans may be glad and it should be a mutual feeling of respect and good luck. They had a good run that lasted a while, but ultimately came up empty handed. Times have changed, players moved on and the game evolved.
Somewhere, Vigneault is that missing piece a franchise is looking for and it won’t just be a team finally getting over that mountain, but a head coach too.
As the 2018 NHL All-Star Break comes to an end, it’s the perfect time to unwind and catch up on some movies outside of the jam packed All-Star weekend festivities in Tampa and 60th annual GRAMMY Awards that were on Sunday night.
While searching through movie titles something very obvious occurred to me– there are no good hockey movies.
Okay, Miracle (2004) is the only exception, but The Mighty Ducks series, Goon (2011) and its sequel Goon: Last of the Enforcers (2017), Youngblood (1986) and Slap Shot (1977) are all trash as far as this hockey-fan/movie-watcher is concerned.
In retrospect, this post would’ve made more sense on the heels of last year’s All-Star Game in Los Angeles– because, you know, Hollywood— but it is what it is.
There are great parts in every hockey movie, but none of them (again, except Miracle) really capture all the highs and lows of the sport without grossly romanticizing them to the point that they become overly commercialized fads (looking at you Mighty Ducks).
Lesser known hockey documentaries, Ice Guardians (2016) and Pond Hockey (2008) are lightyears beyond hockey comedy, Slap Shot, and all of its sequels (that’s right, there’s a Slap Shot 2: Breaking the Ice (2002) and a Slap Shot 3: The Junior League (2008) and they never should have happened).
But I get it, not everyone’s going to theaters or logging into Netflix for documentaries.
People want to see drama, blood, sweat, violence, tears, heartbreak and well… stupidity– like any Will Ferrell movies that involves Mark Wahlberg.
It might just be my particular taste in film, but there’s so many better options for hockey movies that mimic real life or are based on true stories. In the interest of time (and so nobody steals my ideas and makes a film without me involved), here’s a few quick ideas based on things that have actually happened/are part of hockey lore.
Leatherheads (2008) directed by and starring George Clooney (also starring Renée Zellweger, Jonathan Pryce and John Krasinski) was a fun comedy set in the 1920s focusing on the early days of professional football in America.
Sure it was a comedy, but if you’re a history buff, you appreciate everything Clooney and crew did to make it feel like history was alive and well– both in the production of the film and its plot that was loosely based on both George Halas’s signing of University of Illinois star turned Chicago Bears-pro, Red Grange, and the Duluth Eskimos.
Hockey has its own comedic elements in the early days of the sport and it’s got a lot of history.
Like the time the Dawson City Nuggets tried to dropkick the Stanley Cup over the Rideau Canal after losing the 1905 Stanley Cup Challenge to Ottawa. It really wasn’t that much of a comedic affair, but it’s fun to think about how the Stanley Cup was almost lost 113-years ago. Especially considering the circumstances.
But the Nuggets shouldn’t have even been in Ottawa to begin with– and that’s besides the travel interruptions the team overcame.
Some of the players on the Dawson City club set out from Yukon Territory by dogsled while the rest left via bicycle to get to Whitehorse in mid-December. The plan was to get to Whitehorse and catch a train to Skagway, Alaska, then board a steamship to Vancouver, British Columbia and finally ride a train from Vancouver to Ottawa with plenty of time to spare before the Challenge best-two-out-of-three series would begin on Friday, January, 13, 1905.
It did not go as planned.
Players had to walk several hundred miles from Dawson City to Whitehorse because the weather turned warm enough to thaw the roads. In Whitehorse, the weather worsened and trains did not run for a few days, which caused the team to miss their boat to Skagway. Seasickness, ice build up and another three days of delay led to the a foggy Vancouver coastline that forced the steamer to Seattle.
From there, the Nuggets rode a train to Vancouver, then boarded another one to from Vancouver to Ottawa– finally arriving in Canada’s capital on January 11. Ottawa Hockey Club refused to reschedule the date of the first game, but let the visiting club from Dawson City use their facilities for the duration of the tournament.
Anyway, Dawson City’s best player couldn’t get to Ottawa in time for the games and the Nuggets lost the first game 9-2.
Then the most lopsided Stanley Cup victory occurred in game two.
Ottawa defeated the Nuggets, 23-2. Ottawa superstar and inaugural Hockey Hall of Fame member, Frank McGee (who would go on to serve and be killed in action in World War I), scored 14 goals in the Cup winning game.
After the traditional banquet, some players got a little carried away and well, the Cup was found on the frozen canal the next day, so all is good.
Then there’s the time NHL president Clarence Campbell suspended Montreal Canadiens forward, Maurice Richard, for the remainder of the 1954-55 season– including playoffs.
Long story short, after a violent series of incidents in a game against the Boston Bruins at Boston Garden on March 13, 1955, Richard punched linesman, Cliff Thompson, twice in the face.
Boston police attempted to arrest Richard in the dressing room after the game, but were stopped by Canadiens players and eventually persuaded by Bruins management that the league would handle everything.
Thompson was knocked unconscious and the league felt they needed to get their message across to the fiery-tempered, gifted-goalscorer, Richard after having fined him $250 earlier that season for slapping a linesman in Toronto.
Campbell called for everyone involved to be part of a hearing at his office in Montreal on March 16.
At the hearing, Richard admitted he was dazed and thought Thompson was a Boston player. The ensuing suspension was the longest ever handed out by Campbell.
Richard had actually tried to ease Montreal fans’s tensions and accepted his punishment.
But the story doesn’t end there.
French-speaking Quebecers were subject to many ethnic slurs and squalid conditions in 1950s Québec. Most of Québec’s industries were controlled or owned by Americans or English Canadians at the time.
The largely Francophone fan base in Montreal protested the suspension, viewing Richard’s French Canadian ethnicity as motivation for its severity.
Outside of the Canadiens fan base, many thought it was justified.
Despite death threats, on March 17, Campbell attended Montreal Forum for the Canadiens’s first game since Richard’s suspension.
Hundreds of angry Canadiens fans and those who were upset with the perceived slight against French Canadians gathered in the Forum lobby in protest. The crowd grew to thousands, police got involved and tensions went south.
Inside the arena, a fan attempted to shake hands with Campbell, then promptly slapped and punched the league president. Shortly thereafter a tear-gas bomb was set off.
A full-scale riot ensued.
It even has its own Wikipedia page and some consider it to be a factor in Québec’s Quiet Revolution of the 1960s.
Talk about something that’s made for its own two-hour feature film.
Finally, do you love love? Do you love more riots
and love-able losers?
Hockey has its own Fever Pitch (2005) love story.
After the Vancouver Canucks lost Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final on home ice to the Boston Bruins, fans in the viewing area outside Rogers Arena became unruly.
Cars were flipped over and set on fire, businesses were damaged and windows were smashed, meanwhile a Canadian woman, Alex Thomas, with her Australian boyfriend, Scott Jones, were caught in the fracas.
You might remember the photo from the night. You know, the one of the two of them kissing on the ground after Thomas was knocked over by police and Jones attempted to calm her down.
Chaos all around them, but love, man. Real, true love.
Anyway, it’s a story that writes itself for Hollywood, considering the Fever Pitch makers were hoping that’s how it would’ve gone (or something similar) with the Boston Red Sox in 2004, whereby two fans would’ve suffered through the usual lows and disappointment of yet another Red Sox season only to have each other after one of them almost gives up their season tickets and love the for game.
But the Red Sox won the World Series that year and Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore got to celebrate on the field or whatever… the point is Vancouver has been part of the league since 1970, made the Stanley Cup Final in 1982, 1994 and 2011 and lost all three of them.
And these two fans were there through it all (at least in 2011) and for each other.
They could totally pull off what Fever Pitch was meant to do, but for hockey.
Fridays usually aren’t too eventful in the NHL, but that’s not true tonight with half a dozen contests being played. The action starts at 7 p.m. with Tampa Bay at Pittsburgh (NHLN/SN/TVAS), followed half an hour later by Arizona at Carolina. The staggered starts continue at 8 p.m. with St. Louis at Winnipeg, trailed 30 minutes later by the New York Islanders at Chicago. Detroit at Calgary drops the puck at 9 p.m., with tonight’s nightcap – Toronto at Anaheim – waiting an hour before getting underway. All times eastern.
- Tampa Bay at Pittsburgh: The Penguins needed seven games to get past the Lightning in the Eastern Conference Finals en route to their fourth Stanley Cup victory.
- New York at Chicago: For four years of Andrew Ladd‘s career, he wore the Blackhawks‘ red-and-black. But now, he dresses for the Islanders.
- Toronto at Anaheim: Frederik Andersen also returns to his former stomping grounds, as he called the Honda Center home for the first three years of his career.
Since Ladd only played 19 regular seasons with the Hawks last year, lets focus in on Andersen’s trip west.
*Author’s note: All statistics were accurate at the time of composition. Three games (NYI@DAL, TOR@LAK and VAN@SJS) had yet to finish. My apologies for the inconvenience.*
Although originally drafted by Carolina in 2010, Andersen elected for re-entry after being unable to reach a contract with the Hurricanes and was selected by Anaheim 87th-overall in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.
Only a season later, he was the Ducks‘ primary backup. He made 24 starts during that 2013-’14 rookie season, and earned a 20-5-0 on career-bests .923 save percentage and 2.29 GAA.
That good impression earned him the starting job in his sophomore season, and he retained it through last year. Over his entire career in Anaheim (aka, the first three years of his career), he earned an impressive 114-77-26 record on a .918 save percentage and 2.33 GAA, and helped lead the Ducks to a 2015 Western Conference Finals appearance.
He looked to be the goaltender of the Ducks‘ future, but Bob Murray had other ideas. With the quick coming of age by John Gibson (Andersen’s backup from 2014-’16), he was presented with the perfect situation: two fantastic goaltenders both under the age of 30. Looks like it’s time to make a trade, but who to ship off?
Murray decided to stick with the younger Gibson, leaving Andersen as the odd man out. That’s how he ended up in Toronto. He was traded to the Maple Leafs this offseason in exchange for two draft picks (one of which became Sam Steel of the Regina Pats).
It’s easy to say it’s been a seamless transition. Andersen’s play has, for the most part, remained consistent to what he exhibited in Anaheim and the Leafs are in playoff contention for the first time since 2012-’13.
While Andersen has been good, the 28-21-13 Maple Leafs‘ offense has been better. They’ve buried 189 goals in 62 games this season – the sixth-best effort in the NHL – and that success has led them to fourth place in the Atlantic Division and eighth in the Eastern Conference.
Of course, when you have the incredible Auston Matthews, that shouldn’t be that difficult to do. The rookie has been absolutely unstoppable this season, as he already has an impressive 55 points to his credit to lead the team. 31 of those points have been goals, another total that paces Toronto.
The Leafs are especially potent on the power play. Led by rookie William Nylanders‘ 20 power play points, Toronto leads the NHL with a 23% success rate with the man-advantage. If Gibson picks one Maple Leaf to pay extra attention to when his club is short a man, it should be Nazem Kadri. The center has 10 extra-man goals to his credit – the most on the team.
Toronto has also been solid on the penalty kill. Properly defending 83.5% of their infractions, the Leafs are ninth-best in the league in that situation. Much of that success is the fruit of Roman Polak‘s labor, as his 29 shorthanded blocks are best on the team.
Though playing without him, Andersen’s former club is still finding wins this season. They currently occupy third place in the Pacific Division with their 32-21-10 record, and most of that success is directly due to their impressive defense and goaltending, as the Ducks have allowed only 159 goals against this year – that ties for the sixth-fewest in the NHL.
It turns out keeping Gibson was, at minimum, a good choice. He’s earned an impressive 23-15-8 mark so far this year on his season .922 save percentage and 2.24 GAA, the (t)seventh and sixth-best effort in the league among the 43 goalies with at least 23 appearances.
Of course, it never hurts to help a 23-year-old netminder with one of the league’s better defenses. Led by Cam Fowler‘s 105 shot blocks (he’s on pace to best his former career-high 122 blocks by 15), Anaheim has allowed only 29.3 shots-per-game to reach Gibson’s crease – the ninth-best effort in the league.
As you’d expect from a team that does almost everything regarding the defense well, the penalty kill is fairly solid. The Ducks properly neutralize 84.9% of opposing power plays, the fourth-best rate in the league. Fowler deserves a lot of the credit, as his 23 shorthanded shot blocks are tops on the club.
The Ducks have already made their yearly trip to Toronto, and it was certainly a successful trip. Thanks to Fowler’s game-winning power play tally, Anaheim won December 19’s contest at the Air Canada Centre 3-2.
Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Anaheim‘s Gibson (five shutouts [tied for fourth-most in the leauge] and a 2.24 GAA [sixth-best in the NHL] on a .922 save percentage [tied for seventh-best in the league]) and Toronto‘s Matthews (31 goals [tied for second-most in the NHL]).
I like the Ducks to win tonight not only because they have home ice, but also because I trust their offense more than I trust the Leafs‘ defense. It should be a tight game, but Anaheim should prevail.
- Andy Murray (1951-) – A head coach with 10 years of experience, Murray’s longest tenured position was with the Los Angeles Kings from 1999 to 2005. He has a career 333-278-127 record.
- Brian Leetch (1968-) – Probably the best hockey player from Texas all-time, this Hall of Fame defenseman was selected ninth-overall by the Rangers in the 1986 NHL Entry Draft and played 18 sesaons. A nine-time All-Star, he won the 1994 Stanley Cup as well as two Norris Trophies, the 1989 Calder and the 1994 Conn Smythe.
- Stephane Robidas (1977-) – Selected in the seventh round by Montréal in the 1995 NHL Entry Draft, this defenseman played 15 seasons in the league, spending 11 of those years in Dallas. He finished his career with a +16 rating and earned one All-Star Game appearance.
- Colton Orr (1982-) – He may not have been drafted, but that didn’t stop him from playing 11 years in the NHL. Spending most of that time in Toronto, he was known as an enforcer and has 641 career hits to show for his work.
- Alexander Semin (1984-) – Washington selected this left wing 13th-overall in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft, and that’s where he’s spent the most of his 11-year NHL career. Currently, he plays for the Metallurg Magnitogorsk in the KHL.
First Star of the Game Paul Byron didn’t really feel like playing overtime last night, so he buried an unassisted wrist shot with nine seconds remaining in regulation to give Montréal a 2-1 victory over the Predators in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.
Not only would that tally last to the first intermission, but it would also hold through the entire second period.
With 9:05 remaining in regulation, things started to get interesting. Brendan Gallagher (Alex Galchenyuk) potted a wrap-around goal to pull the Habs even with the Preds. Then madness happened, as Byron won the game with fewer than 10 seconds on the clock.
Montréal‘s victory is the second-straight by a home team in the DtFR Game of the Day series, no small task given how successful the 70-45-22 visitors have been of late. Hosts now trail the visitors in the series by only eight points.
Friday is finally here! Time to sit down and watch some hockey.
While there may be only four contests tonight, there’s certainly some quality matchups. The action starts at 7 p.m. with Edmonton at Washington (NHLN/SN/TVAS), followed half an hour later by two more games (Ottawa at Carolina [RDS] and Calgary at Florida). Finally tonight’s nightcap – Arizona at Dallas – drops the puck at 8:30 p.m. All times eastern.
I know Alex Goligoski is making his return to Dallas, but the playoff push is already in full swing – especially in the Eastern Conference. Instead, we’ll turn our attention to Sunrise, Fla. for a game between teams scrapping for their postseason lives.
Thanks in part to their two-game winning streak, the Flames make their annual visit to Florida in fourth place in the Pacific Division and eighth in the Western Conference with a 31-26-4 record. Although good enough for the second wildcard, the Flames are an interesting team as they aren’t exactly among the league’s elite on either end of the ice. If you had to pick Calgary‘s forte, I’d choose it’s offense, which has managed 159 goals so far this season, which ties for 18th-most in the NHL.
So far this season, it’s been the Mikael Backlund show on offense in Calgary, as his 43 points currently lead the way for the Flames. Nearing the peak of his career, he’s getting very close to succeeding his current personal-high of 47 points (I’d expect him to do that in Winnipeg next month). That being said, Sean Monahan is probably the biggest reason Calgarians make their way to the Saddledome on a nightly basis, as he’s scored a team-leading 20 goals this campaign.
Playing host tonight is 28-21-10 Florida, the fourth-best team in the Atlantic Division and ninth-best in the Eastern Conference. As I said Monday, the Panthers can blame the fact that they are on the outside of the playoff picture looking in squarely on their offense, which has managed only 149 goals so far this season, the ninth-fewest in the NHL.
As he made evident Monday night in St. Louis, there’s no doubt that Vincent Trocheck is the leader of Florida‘s offense (sorry Jaromir Jagr). His 42 points top the team, and just like Backlund, he looks like he’s going to achieve his previous career-mark in the statistic this season. He’ll need 54 points to do just that, and I expect him to achieve that goal late next month in Toronto.
Part of the reason Trocheck has been so successful is because he’s not afraid to shoot the puck on his own. His 21 goals lead the team, and he’s only four tallies shy of tying that personal best. March should be a special time for the center, as he’s on pace to bury his 26th goal against Arizona on March 23.
While Trocheck is preoccupied with the even-strength efforts, Jon Marchessault has taken up a power play specialty. Yet, even though he leads the team with 13 power play points, and Reilly Smith has a team-high six extra-man goals, the Panthers still only convert 15.8% of their man-advantages, the fifth-worst rate in the league.
Fortunately, Florida is much better on the penalty kill. In fact they’re one of the elite clubs in the league, as their 85.2% success rate is third-best in the NHL. Mark Pysyk can take a lot of credit for that, as his 12 shorthanded blocks are most on the team.
The Panthers have already made their yearly trip to the Saddledome, but it wasn’t a pleasant visit for them. Led by Backlund’s three-point, two-goal night, the Flames beat Florida 5-2 on January 17.
Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Calgary‘s Mark Giordano (+16 with 133 shot blocks [both lead the team]) and Florida‘s Trocheck (21 goals for 42 points [both lead the team]).
The Panthers come into tonight’s game with Vegas’ blessing and a -150 line, but I actually like Calgary to win. Both have won at least seven of their past 10 games, but the Flames have been quietly solid on the road this year and I think they can continue that success in Sunrise.
- Mike Vernon (1963-) – Selected in the third-round of the 1981 NHL Entry Draft by Calgary, this goaltender was one of the best in his day. Retiring with a career 385-273-92 record, he hoisted the Stanley Cup twice to go with his five All-Star appearances, the 1996 Jennings and the 1997 Smythe.
- Brian Savage (1971-) – This left wing was picked by Montréal in the eighth-round of the 1991 NHL Entry Draft, and that’s where he spent most of his 12-season career. By the time he retired, he had accounted for 192 goals and 359 total points.
- Alex Kovalev (1973-) – Picked 15th-overall by the Rangers in the 1991 NHL Entry Draft, this right wing was a member of New York‘s 1994 Stanley Cup winning team. He was also selected to three All-Star games.
They needed a shootout to get it done, but the Rangers were able to best Toronto 2-1 in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.
Connor Brown (Tyler Bozak and Jake Gardiner) gave the Leafs a lead on his wrist shot with 9:04 remaining in the first half. That 1-0 score held not only to the first intermission, but also all the way through the second period.
Being unable to find an insurance goal finally cost Toronto when J.T. Miller (Kevin Hayes and Brandon Pirri) found the back of the net with 9:10 remaining in regulation. Although the game went to the always unpredictable three-on-three overtime period, neither club could find a winner, which led to the shootout.
- Rookie William Nylander was the first to try his hand, but his snap shot was saved by First Star of the Game Henrik Lundqvist.
- That proved to cost the Leafs, as Mats Zuccarello gave New York a 1-0 shootout lead on his attempt.
- Next up for Toronto was rookie Auston Matthews, who leveled the shootout 1-1.
- It didn’t last long though, as Third Star Mika Zibanejad scored the Blueshirts‘ second-straight shootout attempt.
- All the pressure was on Nazem Kadri to keep the shootout alive, but Lundqvist was up to the task to earn New York the bonus point.
Lundqvist earned the victory after saving 32-of-33 shots faced (97%), leaving the shootout loss to Second Star Frederik Andersen, who saved 37-of-38 (97.4%).
They got close, but the Leafs couldn’t snap the road teams’ six-game winning steak in the DtFR Game of the Day series. The 66-43-21 roadies now have a six-point lead over the hosts in the series.
By: Nick Lanciani
What will retired numbers look like around the league in the future? While there’s only a finite set of numbers to utilize on the back of a jersey, many teams choose to retire (or honor) some numbers based on extraordinary circumstances, dedication to the organization, or legendary status.
With that in mind, I explore what each team around the NHL might do in the coming seasons. Feel free to speak your mind and drop us a line in the comments or tweet to @DtFrozenRiver using #DTFRNumbersGame.
For each team, I thought of former and current players that should have their numbers retired now or once they hang up the skates.
New York Rangers
Current Retired Numbers- 1 Eddie Giacomin, 2 Brian Leetch, 3 Harry Howell, 7 Rod Gilbert, 9 Andy Bathgate/Adam Graves, 11 Mark Messier, 35 Mike Richter
Recommended Numbers to Retire
18 Marc Staal
There’s a chance that if the New York Rangers could ever win a Cup one of these years and the stars align for Staal, then maybe his number 18 could hang from the rafters of Madison Square Garden one day.
27 Ryan McDonagh
This is just a reminder that the Montreal Canadiens got Scott Gomez in return for McDonagh, who is arguably the New York Rangers number one defenseman when Marc Staal isn’t playing up to his potential. So yeah, about that Cup thing again- it’d further solidify the chances of McDonagh’s number being retired, provided he sticks around the Big Apple for a long time.
30 Henrik Lundqvist
One of the greatest goaltenders in the world, Lundqvist has yet to find out how to win a Cup. When he does, the world will rejoice. He’s a face of the franchise for the Rangers and without a doubt will see his number ascend to the rafters of MSG. Need I say more? This one is rather self-explanatory.
61 Rick Nash
If Nash puts in at least a decade with the Rangers and is able to snag a Cup or two, as well as perform well in scoring, then there’s a good chance New York would retire his number and further enlarge the divide between Rick Nash and his former fans in Columbus.
If the Rangers finally pull off a Cup win for the first time since 1994, I fully expect either Staal, McDonagh, or Nash will have played a large enough role to put their numbers in consideration for retirement by New York some day. Maybe Derek Stepan too.