This week’s episode is chock full of coffee infused, Seattle inspired, artisanal Seattle expansion discussion in addition to William Nylander’s new deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Plus, waivers and trades are rampant this time of year, Tom Wilson: The Bad and the Bad Things That Happened This Week, Chuck Fletcher was hired as General Manager of the Philadelphia Flyers and a 15-year first round draft pick look back of the Los Angeles Kings.
Enjoy your last Friday before the NHL trade deadline! Hopefully your boss doesn’t trade you across the country this weekend.
We start the day in South Korea at the Olympics, as there’s one remaining semifinal in the men’s tournament to be played. Dropping the puck at 7:10 a.m. Eastern time, Canada and Germany will be squaring off for their chance to qualify for the gold medal game.
Back in the lands of the NHL, we have five games on the NHL schedule – one of which I’ll be in attendance at. The action starts at 7 p.m. with Minnesota at the New York Rangers (NHLN), followed half an hour later by Pittsburgh at Carolina (TVAS). Staggered starts seems to be the theme tonight, as Winnipeg at St. Louis is slated to start at 8 p.m., while San Jose at Chicago waits 30 minutes before dropping the puck. Unfortunately, Vancouver at Vegas bucks our half-hour trend, as that tilt waits until 10:30 p.m. before closing out the night’s action. All times Eastern.
What games have my attention? I thought you’d never ask!
- Canada vs. Germany: The chance to play for a gold medal is tantalizingly close for these teams, but only one will get the chance to compete for the most desired prize.
- Pittsburgh at Carolina: This game literally will have my attention since it will be happening right in front of me. Watch for me and my dad on TVAS, Canadians!
While it would be fun to do a preview of the game I’ll be at, I’m sure it goes without saying that the Olympic semifinal is far more pressing.
Not to give away my pick, but the clear favorite in this game is 3-0-1-0 Canada. The Canadians took second place in Group A after tilts against Switzerland (5-1), the Czech Republic (3-2 shootout loss) and South Korea (4-0), followed by beating Finland in a tight 1-0 quarterfinals matchup.
Entering semifinal play (as will be the case for all statistical rankings in this preview), no team has had more success on the defensive end than Team Canada. Not only is their defense allowing a third-best 22.5 shots against per game (second-best among the four semifinalists), but G Ben Scrivens has also been solid, posting a .929 save percentage for a 1.61 GAA.
Mix those impressive together and you get a team that has allowed only one goal against per game, tops in South Korea.
Of course, Team Canada has more to offer than simply a strong defense. The team with the leafs on their sweaters have averaged an impressive three goals per game, the (t)third-most of any team at the Olympic Games and (t)second among the semifinalists.
While an impressive 15 different Canadians have found their way onto the scorecard, two NHL veterans have stood above the rest: D Maxim Noreau (2-3-5 totals) and F Derek Roy (0-5-5). Both are averaging more than a point per game, and pairing their success with production from almost every skater makes every Canadian line a threat to score.
Meanwhile, 0-3-0-2 Germany is the Cinderella story of this Olympic tournament, as it finished a lowly third place in Group C after tilts against Finland (5-2 loss), Sweden (1-0 loss) and Norway (2-1 SO).
However, the group stage has no bearing on how a team can perform in the playoffs, and Head Coach Marco Sturm has done an excellent job of getting his team to believe just that. Träger der Adler – The Eagle Carriers – have beaten Switzerland (2-1 OT) and Sweden (4-3 OT) – the tournament’s top seed following the group stage – to qualify for the semifinals and ensure the chance to compete for their first Olympic medal since West Germany took bronze at the 1976 Games in Innsbruck, Austria.
Similar to Team Canada, Germany’s expertise in its first five games has been on the defensive end. The Eagle Carriers’ defense has allowed 26 shots against per game (sixth-worst among all Olympic teams, worst of the semifinalists), a manageable number for G Danny aus den Birken who’s posted a .904 save percentage and 2.43 GAA.
Putting those numbers together, the Germans have allowed only 2.2 goals against per game, the sixth-worst of any team in the Olympics and worst of the four semifinalists.
On the offensive end, the similarities in style between the Canadians and Germans continue, as 15 different skaters have registered at least a point. Of those, F Patrick Hager has been their biggest star with his team-leading 2-2-4 totals.
The Germans and Canadians last tangled on May 18, 2017 at the 2017 IIHF World Championships in Cologne, Germany. Canada’s defense was on full display in that game, limiting the Germans to only 20 shots on goal while the Canadians fired a whopping 50 at G Philipp Grubauer of the Washington Capitals. Grubauer performed well, but Winnipeg’s F Mark Scheifele and Carolina’s F Jeff Skinner were able to sneak a goal apiece past him to earn a slim 2-1 quarterfinals victory for Canada (Yannic Seidenberg scored Germany’s lone goal with 6:39 remaining in regulation) en route to a silver medal.
You’ll notice all but one player listed in that recap has an NHL team associated with his name. The fact that those players – and not Seidenberg – are preoccupied in North America is a major story in this game.
While doing our Olympic preview in a recent DtFR podcast, I pointed out that Germany has achieved a #8 world ranking from the IIHF without the luxury of multiple players from the top professional league in the world.
It is my opinion that this fact, which is usually to the Germans’ detriment, has become an advantage.
How could that be?
All of Team USA and Team Canada’s biggest stars are stuck in the NHL. The same can be said for a majority of the best Russians, Finns and Swedes. Meanwhile, Germany (and, perhaps unsurprisingly, fellow semifinalist Czech Republic) has fielded almost entirely its usual roster. Undoubtedly, that consistency and the chemistry associated with it is a major reason for Germany’s run to the semifinalists.
But is that continuity enough to beat the Canadians?
I certainly think this is going to be the more competitive of the two semifinal matchups, but the talent on Canada’s roster looks like it still exceeds that of the Germans. As such, I think Canada squeaks by Germany for the chance to win its third-consecutive gold.
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.
With the All-Star Break on the horizon, the NHL is loading up on games all week. This Monday, we have a half-dozen contests to choose from.
As it usually does, the action starts at 7 p.m. with two tilts (Colorado at Toronto [TVAS] and Detroit at New Jersey [SN]), followed an hour later by Ottawa at Minnesota (RDS). Tampa Bay at Chicago (NBCSN) gets underway at 8:30 p.m., while tonight’s co-nightcaps – Buffalo at Calgary and the New York Islanders at Arizona – wait until 9 p.m. before closing out the evening. All times Eastern.
I’d highlighted two of tonight’s games before the season started…
- Colorado at Toronto: With 13-9-2 G Semyon Varlamov still on injured reserve, 13-7-1 G Jonathan Bernier is lined up for his first start in Toronto since April 4, 2016 when he was a member of the Maple Leafs.
- Buffalo at Calgary: 1-8-3 G Chad Johnson is also returning to his former home stadium, but he’s more likely to draw the start tomorrow in Edmonton.
Adding in Bernier’s return to The Queen City, there’s no doubt that the Avs’ lone visit of the season to Air Canada Centre (barring a Stanley Cup Finals meeting) will be the best matchup of the day!
Amateur drafting is hard, and that’s made especially known when netminders are taken as early as Bernier. Since 2000, only 10 goalies have gone in the top 11 picks, and only two of those (Marc-Andre Fleury and Carey Price) are regular starters.
Enter Bernier, the 11th-overall pick by Los Angeles in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, and current starter – by default – for the Avs.
To say Bernier was a bust for the Kings is slightly unfair. After all, he didn’t start his first NHL game until the 2007-’08 season, the same year G Jonathan Quick made his NHL debut. A year later, Quick had already assumed starting duties for the Kings while Bernier was still spending his time as Manchester’s starter in the AHL.
Benier would eventually ascend to the role of Quick’s backup, but the American would further cement his position as Los Angeles’ starter with his Stanley Cup victory in 2012. Though Bernier’s name is also inscribed alongside the rest of those Kings, he must have known his time with the club was running out.
Following the 2012-’13 season, Bernier was traded to Toronto in exchange for RW Matt Frattin, G Ben Scrivens and a second-round pick in the 2015 draft that eventually ended up back in the hands of the Leafs after being involved in another trade between the Kings and Blue Jackets.
Draft season is fun that way.
Bernier brought with him a .912 save percentage and 2.36 GAA in 62 career NHL games and was thrown into a competition with G James Reimer for Toronto’s starting job for the 2013-’14 season. Bernier certainly won the gig, as he earned 49 starts (17 more than Reimer) and posted a superior .922 save percentage and 2.7 GAA. He ended up starting 55 games during the the following campaign, but watched his numbers drop to .912 and 2.87.
Of course, the 2013-’14, 2014-’15 and 2015-’16 Maple Leafs are never going to go down in history as the best teams Toronto has put on the ice (I mean, they got C Auston Matthews for a reason). Bernier was effectively the Leafs’ lone line of defense, and I would argue that he performed fairly well given the circumstances. In all, he posted a .915 save percentage and 2.81 GAA during his three seasons in Toronto even though he faced an average of 33.12 shots per start.
However, Bernier once again became expendable when the Leafs traded for G Frederik Andersen‘s rights. Andersen had enjoyed a .914 save percentage and 2.38 GAA in his lone season as the Ducks’ starter, but he was relegated to the backup role when G John Gibson assumed the starting position in 2015-’16.
In an odd twist of fate, Bernier was traded to Anaheim to fill Andersen’s vacated backup spot 18 days after the Maple Leafs traded for the former Duck. He started 33 games on the final year of his two-year, $8.3 million contract, earning a 21-7-4 record on a .915 save percentage and 2.5 GAA.
After not being offered another contract by Anaheim this offseason – not to mention G Ryan Miller signing with the squad – Bernier signed a one-year, $2.75 million deal with the Avalanche to backup Varlamov.
To put things bluntly, Bernier had been performing terribly in his limited time this season. Before the calendar turned to 2018, Bernier had posted a miserable .898 save percentage and 3.12 GAA in 14 starts for a 6-7-1 record.
But then Varlamov got injured in Colorado’s first game of the new year – a scary matchup against the mighty Winnipeg Jets. He strained his groin to land himself on injured reserve, where he’s likely to remain until February.
Considering how Bernier had performed all season, it seemed Colorado’s then-flailing season was likely headed even further down the tubes. Instead, the backup led the Avs to a victory over those Jets. And then shutout the Blue Jackets. And then he beat the Wild, Stars, Ducks, Sharks and Rangers too.
Instead of leading Colorado towards a top-five draft pick, he’s actually sparked a nine-game winning streak to propel the 26-16-3 Avs into the second wild card. During the eight games he’s responsible for, he’s managed an incredible .958 save percentage and 1.47 GAA.
Huh. Maybe he was worth the 11th-overall pick after all.
And just in case anyone would like to argue that F Nathan MacKinnon, who’s posted 8-11-19 totals during this run, has been the biggest reason for the Avs’ nine-game winning streak, I’d like to direct them to Colorado’s defense.
To call the Avalanche’s defensive corps Swiss cheese would be an insult to Roger Federer’s (who’s killing it at the Australian Open right now, by the way) home land. The Avs’ blue line has allowed a whopping 34.89 shots against-per-game during this run, the fifth-worst average in the NHL since December 29.
It’s that statistic that makes Bernier’s performance even more special. Nothing has been easy for him during this month-long hot streak, but he’s risen to the challenge exactly 300 times, allowing only 14 goals on 314 shots against.
Short of the Jets, Bernier may face his toughest task yet of his newfound starting role, as the 26-17-5 Maple Leafs – who sit in third place in the Atlantic Division – definitely know how to score the puck.
Or, at least they usually do. On the season, the Leafs have averaged a seventh-best 3.1 goals per game. That effort has been led by Matthews, who tops the Toronto charts in goals (20) and points (35).
However, that offense has dried up since January 4. Even though Toronto has posted a 3-1-3 record over its last seven tilts, it has averaged only 2.29 goals per game – the (t)fifth-worst mark in the league since then. Matthews is still posting goals (he’s scored three in his last seven games), but the rest of the squad simply cannot find the back of the net.
The Leafs have already made their annual trip to Pepsi Center, and they almost came away with two points. However, F J.T. Compher‘s overtime winner gave Colorado the 4-3 victory on December 29, the first in the Avs’ run of nine-straight.
Unless the Leafs can rediscover their offense, it’s hard to believe they have a shot at beating Colorado tonight.
The San Jose Sharks absolutely steamrolled the Anaheim Ducks in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day, winning 6-2 at Honda Center.
A good strategy on the offensive end is to score as many goals as the period’s number. That’s exactly what the Sharks did, scoring one goal in the first period, two in the second and three in the finale.
The attack continued in the second, as San Jose found its eventual game-winning marker before the Ducks were even on the scoreboard. Kevin Labanc (Joe Thornton and Timo Meier) set the score at 2-0 on a snap shot 3:38 into the period, followed 10:18 later by Third Star of the Game Mikkel Boedker‘s (Vlasic and Chris Tierney) deciding power play snapper.
Brandon Montour was only four seconds away from completing his sentence for slashing Labanc, but Boedker decided to post his bail early. Taking advantage of Meier’s screening G John Gibson, Boedker scored his 100th NHL goal by sending his snapper from the right face-off circle past the netminder’s blocker to the far post.
Rickard Rakell (Ryan Getzlaf and Adam Henrique) provided Anaheim a spark of life with 27 seconds remaining in the second period. With both Joel Ward (for tripping Montour) and Joe Pavelski (for slashing Cam Fowler) in the penalty box, he scored a wrister to pull the Ducks back within a 3-1 deficit.
The comeback gained real life 1:47 into the third period when Getzlaf (Second Star Ondrej Kase and Rakell) buried a wrister to pull Anaheim back within a tally, but that hope was dashed only 60 seconds later when Thornton (Brent Burns and Logan Couture) scored a slap shot to return a two-goal advantage to San Jose. Boedker (Melker Karlsson) and Karlsson (Boedker and Tierney) both tacked on insurance goals in the remaining time to set the 6-2 final score.
First Star G Aaron Dell earned his second victory in as many days by saving 33-of-35 shots faced (.943 save percentage), leaving the loss to Gibson, who saved 17-of-22 (.773). With 7:52 remaining in the game, Gibson was lifted in favor of G Ryan Miller, who saved three-of-four (.75) for no-decision.
Road teams have earned points in four-consecutive contests in the DtFR Game of the Day series. However, the 59-35-13 hosts still have a dominating 21-point lead in our featured games.
The Original Trio reunite for a very fun-filled podcast. The Carolina Hurricanes were sold, Jaromir Jagr is soon to be unsigned, All-Star Rosters were scrutinized, US and Canada men’s national teams were analyzed and more in this action packed episode. #HealthBeforeHockey
By: Nick Lanciani
12:01 PM ET on July 1st (precisely) marks the start of the NHL’s free agency period, so of course, you’ve found yourself scavenging the Internet for the freshest hot takes and the best indications of where players will end up. Likewise, you probably just want to know who’s available out there (and I’m not talking about Tinder).
Well fear not, because I’m here to set things straight with a short series of posts about the Top-5 free agents in every category you can think of (UFA forwards, UFA defensemen, UFA goalies, RFA forwards, RFA defensemen and RFA goalies) in this latest edition of Numbers Game posts. Also, I have bad news, if you came here expecting to find a starting goaltender, you won’t find one.
1. G Chad Johnson (22-16-0-4, 2.36 GAA, .920 SV% with the Buffalo Sabres)- $1.300 million cap hit, 29 years old
Chad Johnson is the closest thing to a starting goaltender, compared to the majority of the rest of the pending UFA goalies. Goalies are weird. They have no timetable for development, they’re unpredictable and most everyone seems to make whatever conjecture imaginable about whether or not a goalie is good or not, worthy of starting or a lifetime backup (or #AHLLifer, but that might just be a running joke here).
Johnson is a solid backup (dare my circa 2010 self say it). In 45 games played for Buffalo this season, he racked up 22 wins, a 2.36 GAA and a .920 SV%. While that might not look elite compared to other goaltenders around the NHL, Johnson has been an entirely different goaltender since his 2.10 GAA and .925 SV% in 27 games with the Boston Bruins in 2013-2014. Granted, his goal against average crept past the 3.00 mark in 2014-2015 with his 19 game stint with the New York Islanders, with the right team, Johnson can solidify your crease.
If you even have a better blue line than most teams around the NHL, perhaps Johnson could be the next Martin Jones to emerge as a goalie that never really had a chance to fully take control of a number one starting job, without any competition, and run with it.
Look, at $1.300 million this season, Johnson is not much of a risk to take in the coming years if you sign him to a multiyear contract. The hope is that he continues his upswing as long as you balance his time and/or have a good enough team in front of him. Johnson is one of those underrated, feel good stories and who wouldn’t want to see him succeed?
2. G Jhonas Enroth (7-5-0-1, 2.17 GAA, .922 SV% with the Los Angeles Kings)- $1.250 million cap hit, 27 years old
Jhonas Enroth is not a starting goalie. Now that that’s out of the way, here’s why. He had his best career save percentage with the Los Angeles Kings this season at a .922 in 16 appearances and he even had his best goal against average (2.17) in 10 games played or more of his career.
Compared to the time Enroth split time with the Buffalo Sabres and the Dallas Stars in 2014-2015 when he had a 18-26-0-2 record in 50 games played with a .904 SV% and 3.07 GAA, he’s a changed goaltender when he has 1) a defense in front of him and 2) a backup role that limits him to around 20 games a season. The 2014-2015 season was his worst campaign since his first career NHL start in the 2009-2010 season, when he debuted his NHL career with a .892 SV% and a 4.12 GAA.
The moral here is that Enroth is better than most people give him credit for, however, many still question his stature in a 6′ by 4′ net. And with smaller pads coming to the league, his play is bound to be affected by that. But alas, the old days of 3.00 GAA and .800 SV%’s being tremendous might finally return if you like offense. We’ve come to know low 2.00 and high 1.00 GAA’s as standard, when in actuality, pretty much any goalie under a 3.00 is better than you would think.
Again, it all boils down to the role of the goalie and how much usage they get. Another season like this season for Enroth would be respectable if he continues to be a top-notch backup that plays in anywhere from 20 to 25 games a year.
3. G James Reimer (17-14-0-7, 2.31 GAA, .922 SV% with the Toronto Maple Leafs/San Jose Sharks)- $2.300 million cap hit, 27 years old
Don’t laugh, but James Reimer might finally be starting to turn the corner and become a good goaltender. In 40 games played with the Toronto Maple Leafs and the San Jose Sharks this year, he had a 17-14-0-7 record, 2.31 GAA and a .922 SV%. His GAA and SV% this year were both career bests in the most number of games he’s played in a single season.
Granted, his record could still use some room for improvement in the “wins” column, Reimer is ready to make a run at being a number one goalie on the right team. If Calgary tightens their defense and feels like making newly acquired goaltender, Brian Elliott, compete for his number one spot, similar to how he battled Jake Allen in St. Louis, then Reimer is their man.
Then again, they probably should stick with what they’ve got. But my point remains, James Reimer can be good after all. I’ve said it before, goalies are weird. In six NHL seasons, Reimer has had a goal against average of 3.10 or more three times, all with the lackluster Maple Leafs. Of note, his 2.31 GAA performance beat his 2.46 GAA in 2012-2013 when he played in 33 of the 48 game lockout shortened season.
Take it or leave it, Reimer is a solid choice for your net if you have the right guys in front of him. He might not be a starter (yet), but his skills can still be honed in before it’s too late. At only 27 years old, he likely has at least 10 more years of playing in front of him.
4. G Anton Khudobin (3-3-0-0, 2.69 GAA, .909 SV% with the Anaheim Ducks)- $2.250 million cap hit, 29 years old
Chalk Anton Khudobin up as another solid backup goaltender— if you have the right defense for him. He might not be stealing wins in the “wins” column, but Khudobin has shown flashes of quality stats in both goals against average and save percentage.
Last season, Khudobin made only nine appearances before the Anaheim Ducks settled on Frederik Andersen and John Gibson as their goaltending tandem. Of course, Andersen was traded to Toronto earlier this month and Gibson is now considered their number one guy, so why would they risk the chance of losing out on a decent backup when you consider their other option (they have none).
Khudobin’s 2013-2014 season campaign with the Carolina Hurricanes resulted in 36 games played with a .926 SV% and a 2.30 GAA. Since then he has not seen the same action or numbers, but there’s a good chance that with the right mix of players, Khudobin could bail a team out in a game or two and play as a backup in 20 to 25 games.
By now I’m sure you’ve recognized my trend. Backup goalies should only play 20 to 25 games, depending on who they are. If they prove more value to you, based on their performance, up their appearances to 30. But if you’re considering splitting time between your goalies, get two starters. Don’t waste your time mismanaging a position you can’t fully manage in net.
5. G Jonas Gustavsson (11-9-0-1, 2.72 GAA, .908 SV% with the Boston Bruins)- $700,000 cap hit, 31 years old
Before you start breaking out the jokes about Jonas Gustavsson, consider this; Gustavsson only has one losing season as a backup goaltender in seven seasons in the NHL since 2009-2010 with Toronto and stops with the Detroit Red Wings and Boston Bruins. His career save percentage has hovered right around .900 and he’s only had a season that ended with a GAA of more than 3.00 once (a 3.28 in 2009-2010).
When there’s not much else to choose from, sometimes it’s best to take a stab at someone who can hold you over for a year or two as a quality backup. He should play nowhere near 40 games, nor should he only play seven, as he’s done twice in his career, both with the Red Wings (once in the shortened 2012-2013 season and again in 2014-2015). Actually, you know what? His numbers don’t really show how much you should use him one way or another.
I’ll admit, I was scratching for a fifth goaltender to include in my top-5 pending UFA goalies (no offense to Gustavsson). The fact of the matter is that the talent pool in the crease is extremely thin this offseason, so it’s best to just get what you’re money can buy to hold you over without overpaying and/or develop your guys in the system.
G Ben Scrivens (5-8-0-0, 3.07 GAA, .906 SV% with the Montreal Canadiens)- $2.300 million cap hit, 29 years old
Ben Scrivens has never had a GAA less than 2.55— and that was when he split the 2013-2014 season with Los Angeles and the Edmonton Oilers. So that pretty much explains everything, given that he’s also played for Toronto and most recently Montreal in his career that spans all the way back to the 2011-2012 season.
He’s certainly not a starter and he’s definitely not worth $2.300 million as a back up, but if there’s no one else left, he’s going to be paid whatever amount of money to stand in the net for some team (like what Montreal did before they had Mike Condon take the brunt of the work and handle it as well he could with what little the Canadiens had going for them while Carey Price was hurt).
G Karri Ramo (17-18-0-1, 2.63 GAA, .909 SV% with the Calgary Flames)- $3.800 million cap hit, 29 years old
It appears the Calgary Flames are ready to throw in the towel on trying to develop the once considered top prospect of the Tampa Bay Lightning. In six NHL seasons, broken up by a stint in the KHL, Ramo has never had a season with a GAA better than 2.60 or a SV% better than .912.
It’s not the save percentage that bothers me, but rather, it’s that goals against average that’s a little concerning for any team that chooses to sign a goalie that made 37 appearances this season and surmounted a 2.63 GAA and a .909 SV%. Perhaps there’s one more shot left for Ramo, but at whatever price is under a million dollars and for a backup role. Again, if you had to, he’s someone to take in free agency over whatever might be left for a year.
G Anders Lindback (5-7-0-1, 3.11 GAA, .894 SV% Arizona Coyotes- $875,000 cap hit, 27 years old
In 2011-2012, Anders Lindback proved he could be a decent backup with a 16 game performance that resulted in a career best 2.42 GAA and a .912 SV% that season, despite a 5-8-0 record.
When he was with the Nashville Predators, he had blue liners in front of him to prevent chances and Pekka Rinne to play more than the majority of the games of the season. Lindback’s bounced all around the league and might have settled in with the Arizona Coyotes if it weren’t for Louis Domingue as an up and comer for the Coyotes. For a low-risk, high reward opportunity, why not take a 27 year old backup goaltender for a year or two and see if he can improve with a better team in front of him?