Pekka Rinne signed a two-year extension, John Stevens and Joel Quenneville were fired, Willie Desjardin’s back and there’s a new guy in Chicago (Jeremy Colliton), Philadelphia Flyers goaltending is in the news again, people in Ottawa are fired up about Uber, Lou Lamoriello reached 2,400 games as a GM as the New York Islanders lead the Metropolitan Division and is Halloween the new Thanksgiving? Nick and Connor discuss.
Injuries are scaring the masses across the league, while old ghosts haunt Colorado (then lose), the Los Angeles Kings’ reign of terror is spooked, Mark Borowiecki is back again, Nick and Connor do their best to talk about the Columbus Blue Jackets and the thing that goes bump in the night? That’s the Tampa Bay Lightning thundering their way to the top. We also reviewed Bohemian Rhapsody before it comes out.
Nick and Connor rant about retired numbers, anniversary patches, showing emotion in hockey, the Toronto Maple Leafs and William Nylander, coaches that might get fired, “the code” and Mike Matheson’s antics.
Detroit Red Wings
30-39-13, 73 points, 5th in the Atlantic Division
Subtractions: D Adam Almquist (signed, SHL), F Colin Campbell (signed with Grand Rapids Griffins, AHL), G Jared Coreau (signed with ANA), F Turner Elson (signed with Grand Rapids Griffins, AHL), F Matt Lorito (signed with NYI), G Matej Machovsky (signed, ELH), G Tom McCollum (signed with Milwaukee Admirals, AHL), F Zach Nastasiuk (signed with Charlotte Checkers, AHL), D Xavier Ouellet (buyout, signed with MTL), D Dan Renouf (signed with CAR), F Ben Street (signed with ANA), F Eric Tangradi (signed with NJ)
Offseason Analysis: Red Wings General Manager Ken Holland is standing put this offseason. Tell me if you’ve already heard this story before.
Despite finishing 5th in the Atlantic Division (only two spots out of a playoff spot), Detroit was not at all a playoff contender by any means last season. The same remains true for 2018-19, unfortunately for Red Wings fans.
However, unlike most rebuilding teams this offseason, Detroit had a tremendous draft– landing Filip Zadina at 6th overall. Both Zadina and the Red Wings are ready to prove at least two or three other teams that passed over him wrong.
Holland didn’t just land one great pick that slipped down the order, but two with his second pick of the first round at 30th overall in Joe Veleno.
Re-signing Andreas Athanasiou, Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha protected the Red Wings core, while bringing in Jonathan Bernier as a backup provides stability in the crease behind Jimmy Howard.
Rebuilding is a long, slow process, but Detroit is ready to speed things up a bit as they look to get younger in the right places. One thing that’s holding them back, however, is their commitment to lateral moves during this time period.
Thomas Vanek is back (for now– just wait until the trade deadline, though he really wants to stay in a winged-wheel sweater) and so is Mike Green. Frans Nielsen is still on the books with his NMC/NTC strapped contract and the blueline at Little Caesars Arena continues to age– without Xavier Ouellet in the picture after Holland used a buyout on the 25-year-old defender reaching his prime.
Holland’s plans for next offseason have to include some kind of restructuring on the back end with four defenders aged 32-plus.
Regardless, 2018-19 is poised to be an average disappointment as a placeholder season while Zadina and Co. gain experience. Detroit is at least competitive enough to lose games by one, two or three goals instead of 5-0 blowouts every other night.
Any experience is good experience, but playoff hopes should be on hold for at least one more season Red Wings fans (because otherwise, they’d be making an early exit for sure).
Offseason Grade: C
Ken Holland didn’t do much, but rather just enough to potentially set the Red Wings up for landing a goldmine in the 2019 offseason. With that in mind, Detroit should line themselves up for another high-end draft pick next June and trying to land a top UFA in 2019.
This season, however, the focus remains on finding a focus. Fix an aging defense, find the next Jimmy Howard and set sights on having younger guys inserted into the lineup.
Could Jeff Blashill be on the hotseat this season? Sure. For better or worse. It’s really not the coaching in Detroit that’s the problem. It’s an average to below average roster that’s continuing to age in a tight salary cap (but again, there’s hope for some serious restructuring next offseason).
The Original Trio splices together some thoughts on the 2018 Hockey Hall of Fame Inductees, Dan Bylsma, the 2018 Draft, recent trades and John Tavares. Go check out your local museums while you’re at it. It’s the offseason, surely you have nothing going on.
It happened again. The very day we detest the most: Monday.
Fortunately, the NHL is a true pal and hooked us up with a half-dozen hockey games to make it better. The action starts with three contests (Detroit at Carolina, Florida at Buffalo and Nashville at the New York Islanders [SN]) at 7 p.m., followed by Chicago at Tampa Bay (NBCSN/TVAS) half an hour later. 8 p.m. marks the puck drop of Arizona at St. Louis, trailed an hour later by Colorado at Calgary, tonight’s nightcap. All times eastern.
A game of note this evening is the Red Wings‘ first of two straight visits to PNC Arena, as this is the game that had to be postponed in mid-December due to an issue with the arena’s surface cooling equipment.
Since we haven’t featured the Hurricanes all season and they’re quietly in contention for the second wild card in the Eastern Conference, let’s make a trip to Raleigh!
You may not believe me, but it’s true: 33-27-13 Carolina is still in the playoff conversation with nine games left in their regular season. It may not look like it at quick glance since the Hurricanes have only 79 points, but that’s due in part to the reason they are active tonight.
Eleventh-place Carolina has two games-in-hand on 39-30-6 Boston (84 points) because of its rescheduled contest against Detroit. Should the Canes have played that game and lost, they’d be in much worse shape. Instead, they’ll trail the Bruins by only a point if they win both their games-in-hand and could be in prime position to end their seven-season playoff drought.
Of course, that ignores what the ninth and 10th place Islanders and Lightning do, but I don’t see them featured today!
Much of the reason the Canes are in the position they’re in right now is due to their three-game winning streak and their 7-0-3 record in their last 10 games. Carolina has been an offensive juggernaut since March 9, as their 37 goals for is the highest total in the league since then.
Though Jeff Skinner and his 54 points have been the Hurricanes‘ offensive leader for the entirety of the season, he’s been joined of late by rookie Sebastian Aho and Elias Lindholm, who both have 11 points during this recent streak.
Don’t read too much into that last graf though. Skinner is still the primary threat for 16-20-8 Petr Mrazek to focus on tonight. 10 of the left wing’s dozen points since March 9 have been goals, doubling Aho’s five and tying Nikita Kucherov for most in the league over that stretch.
To focus on Aho for a minute, the Fin has made a living on the power play with his five man-advantage points during this run – a top-five effort in that time-frame. That success has led the Canes to a 28% success rate with the extra man since earlier this month, the eighth-best mark in the NHL in that time and second-best in a dominant Metropolitan Division that features some elite offenses.
This offensive prowess is a change from what has been Carolina‘s priority all season: defense. In fact, the Canes have allowed only 203 goals against this year, which ties for the 16th-best mark in the NHL.
Nothing tells this story better than Carolina‘s 85.3% season penalty kill rate, the second-best mark in the league. The PK has been a major point of focus for second-year defenseman Jaccob Slavin. The Hurricanes selected him from Colorado College in the fourth round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, and all he’s done is lead the team with 37 shorthanded shot blocks this year. Not bad, kid (he’s almost exactly three months younger than me, I get to call him kid).
In fact, Slavin and Co. has been so good, 24-20-11 Cam Ward has faced only 155 shots against while his club is shorthanded, the lowest total among the 30 netminders with at least 39 appearances.
Other than Joe Louis Arena’s farewell season, the biggest story about the 30-32-12 Red Wings this season has been the prediction-turned-reality that they’ll miss the postseason for the first time in 25 years.
But that doesn’t mean the Wings are entirely incapable of good hockey. Though not as impressive as the Canes‘, Detroit is also riding a three-game streak of earning at least a point, and has a 4-1-1 record since March 16.
All but one of those six contests have been one-goal affairs, and it’s been a resurgent 9-8-1 Jimmy Howard, who just celebrated his 33rd birthday yesterday, that has led the charge. Sidelined for much of the season with a knee injury, he’s earned a .953 save percentage and 1.29 GAA since mid-March, the sixth and seventh-best marks in the league, respectively, during that stretch.
Howard has been especially exceptional when faced with an opposing power play. Though he’s faced 12 man-advantages since March 16, he has yet to allow a power play goal after saving all 12 shots he’s faced while his club is shorthanded.
As of publication of this article, it remains to be seen if Jeff Blashill will continue alternating goaltenders this evening. It’d be an odd time to stop the recent practice since the Wings played – and won – an overtime game yesterday before traveling from Michigan to North Carolina. I’d bank on seeing Mrazek in net this evening.
Offensively, nothing paints a picture like a 14% season success rate on the power play. It’s the second-worst rate in the NHL that still features Thomas Vanek – a current member of the Florida Panthers – as the third-best point-earner. Frans Nielsen and Henrik Zetterberg have been able to create symmetry at times this year, but now is not one of those moments. They’ve earned a combined three power play points since March 16. Three.
Thanks to the postponement of what became today’s game, these clubs have only met once this season. In what was the Canes‘ final visit to The Joe, Dylan Larkin scored two of Detroit‘s goals to lead the Wings to a 4-2 victory on October 25.
These teams will complete their three-game season series tomorrow night on the same surface, which adds even a bit more intrigue to tonight’s game.
Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Carolina‘s Skinner (30 goals for 54 points [both lead the team]) and Slavin (149 blocks for +19 [both lead the team]) & Detroit‘s Zetterberg (46 assists [eighth-most in the league]).
There’s not few, if any, hotter than the Hurricanes right now, and they’re doing it at the right time of the year. Especially given the fact that the Wings were involved in an overtime game yesterday, I like Carolina to continue its playoff push with a win today.
- Bryan Campbell (1944-) – Though this center spent most of his career in the WHA, he began his professional hockey career in the NHL. He played five seasons in the league, and spent most of that time in Chicago. He scored 106 points over 260 games, including a decent 1970-’71 season with 17 goals for 54 points.
- Dustin Byfuglien (1985-) – It’s hard to believe, but this season marks this defenseman’s seventh season with the Thrashers/Jets organization. It seems just yesterday he was hoisting the Stanley Cup over his head with the 2010 Blackhawks.
Last night’s 6-3 DtFR Game of the Day Duck victory over the Rangers was a big one, as they converted a game-in-hand on their fellow competitors for the Pacific Division title for two points to create a two-point lead with seven games remaining to be played.
The busiest period was the first, as it featured four goals. The icebreaker belonged to Rick Nash (Marc Staal and Mika Zibanejad) and New York on a wrist shot 5:54 after the initial puck drop. That lead didn’t last too long though, as Third Star of the Game Patrick Eaves (Second Star Cam Fowler and First Star Ryan Getzlaf) pulled Anaheim even 3:01 later on a wrister. Once again the Blueshirts took a lead, this time off a Derek Stepan (Chris Kreider and Mats Zuccarello) slap shot, but the Ducks had another answer. Ryan Kesler (Getzlaf and Fowler) scored a power play tip-in with two minutes remaining in the frame to tie the game at two-all, which held into the first intermission.
At the 9:39 mark of the second period, Anaheim finally claimed its first lead of the game when Josh Manson (Getzlaf) scored a wrister. Making that goal even more impressive, the Ducks were shorthanded. That didn’t seem to phase New York though, as Brady Skjei (Jimmy Vesey and Zibanejad) buried only his fifth goal of the season 3:31 later to pull the Rangers even at three-all. That score held into the second intermission.
Whatever Randy Carlyle said in the dressing room, it worked because Anaheim buried three tallies and held the Rangers scoreless for the final 20 minutes. Andrew Cogliano (Kesler) takes credit for the game-winner 2:19 after the beginning of the final frame, followed only 2:04 later by an insurance tally from Eaves (Rickard Rakell and Getzlaf). To ensure the Rangers could not stage a late comeback, Nick Ritchie (Corey Perry) scored a wrister on an empty net with 98 ticks remaining on the clock to clinch the win.
Thanks to the Ducks defending home ice, hosts in the DtFR Game of the Day series now trial the 81-57-23 road teams by only a lone point.
Wednesday schedules are always light, but that doesn’t mean the NHL doesn’t organize some decent matchups. The action starts, as it usually does, at 7 p.m. with Toronto at Columbus (SN/TVAS), followed an hour later by St. Louis at Detroit (NBCSN). Philadelphia at Calgary (SN360) drops the puck at 9:30 p.m., followed 60 minutes later by this evening’s nightcap: Florida at San Jose (NBCSN). All times eastern.
Break out your favorite throwback sweater for tonight’s old-school rivalry!
Winners of their past four contests, the Blues make their final trip to Joe Louis Arena (barring an improbable meeting in the Stanley Cup Finals) with a 29-22-5 record, which is good enough for third in the Central Division. When St. Louis has found success this season, it’s done it with the puck on it’s stick, as the Notes have struck 160 tallies in 56 games, which ties for the ninth-best scoring rate in the NHL.
You get two guesses as who the superstar forward is for the Notes, and you probably don’t need the second one. Vladimir Tarasenko has been nigh unstoppable with 53 points to his credit, including 26 tallies. Both numbers are the best in Mound City by a decent margin.
If the Blues are dangerous at even-strength, their power play is nearly lethal. St. Louis converts 21.8% of opponent’s penalties into goals, the sixth-best rate in the NHL. The Notes employ a two-headed attack when presented with the man-advantage, as both Kevin Shattenkirk and Tarasenko have 18 power play points apiece, but it’s been the blueliner that’s been most impressive – his seven extra-man goals top the squad.
The penalty kill is no slouch either. When the Blues commit a penalty, they don’t allow a goal 84.2% of the time, which ties for the fifth-best effort in the league. Captain Alex Pietrangelo is deserving of most of the credit, as his 26 shorthanded shot blocks are most on the team.
Blues fans thought they had it bad this season when their club wasn’t performing up to expectations. There’s probably still Red Wings ultras planning on buying playoff tickets for the 26th-straight year.
Unfortunately for them, 22-24-10 Detroit‘s chances aren’t looking bright as they currently sit in last place in the Eastern Conference. Of course, things can change in a hurry in that conference, as they trail second wildcard Toronto by only nine points. The reasons for the Wings‘ struggles are many (injuries being one of the more glaring issues), but the offense has certainly been the weaker facet of their game. Losers of their past three games, Detroit has managed only 135 goals in 56 games – the fifth-worst scoring rate in the NHL.
If Jeff Blashill and Red Wings management have learned nothing this season, it’s that Henrik Zetterberg is definitely the right man to wear the “C” for Detroit. He’s shown his leadership in countless ways since taking the job at the start of the delayed 2013 season, and this campaign is no different as his 41 points are tops on the team. Goal scoring responsibilities have been well distributed throughout the club, but Andreas Athanasiou and Thomas Vanek, who says he’s going to play tonight, have led the team with 14 tallies apiece.
Where the Wings have been especially horrendous is on the power play, as their 12% success rate is easily the worst in hockey. It’s not a good sign Vanek’s 10 points on the man-advantage are the most impressive on the team, although he has been solid at scoring the puck with five power play goals to his credit.
It’s not exactly saying much, but Detroit is definitely better on the penalty kill… but their 79.8% success rate is still 10th-worst in the league. That is no fault of Danny DeKeyser‘s though, as his 26 shorthanded shot blocks are not only the best on the team, but also tie for 16th-most in the NHL.
The Red Wings have already made their yearly trip to St. Louis, and it was certainly a pleasant visit for them. Although it required a shootout, they were able to beat the Blues 2-1 on October 27.
Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Detroit‘s Zetterberg (28 assists among 41 points [both most on the team]) and St. Louis‘ Tarasenko (26 goals [tied for sixth-most in the league]).
It’s never a good sign for the home team when Vegas has a positive number next to your team, but that’s where Detroit finds itself. A +100 in’t a huge line, but it’s enough to make me feel even more certain that the Blues will earn two points tonight.
- Tony McKegney (1958-) – Drafted 32nd-overall by Buffalo in the 1978 NHL Amateur Draft, this left wing played 13 seasons in the league – most of which with the Sabres. His 639 points were split as evenly as they could be between goals and assists, and he lit the lamp 320 times.
- Brian Propp (1959-) – Another left wing, this five-time All Star was selected 14th-overall by Philadelphia in the 1979 NHL Entry Draft. He played 15 seasons – most of which with the Flyers – and is one of the 85 men to register 1000 points in his career.
- Craig Simpson (1967-) – Although Pittsburgh drafted this left wing second-overall in the 1985 NHL Entry Draft, he spent most of his 10-year career in Edmonton – and how fortunate he was to do so. In the span of his first three seasons with the Oilers, he hoisted the Stanley Cup twice.
- Jaromir Jagr (1972-) – The man, the myth and the legend turns 45 today, and gets to celebrate in style in The Tank. The nine-time All Star was drafted fifth-overall in the 1990 NHL Entry Draft by Pittsburgh, where he hoisted two Stanley Cups and won the Hart Trophy, but he’s in his third season in Florida.
- Serge Aubin (1975-) – Pittsburgh selected this left wing in the seventh-round of the 1994 NHL Entry Draft, but he never suited up for the Penguins. Instead, he’s best remembered for his time in Columbus.
All those that had Justin Bailey being the Sabres‘ savior in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day, please raise your hand. I now consider everyone who raised their hands liars, as that was only the rookie’s second goal of the season.
The game started with a bang for Buffalo, as First Star of the Game Ryan O’Reilly (Kyle Okposo and Justin Falk) buried a snap shot only 24 seconds into the game to give the Sabres an early lead, but Second Star Bobby Ryan (Erik Karlsson and Fredrik Claesson) tied the game with 5:15 remaining in the first period.
Only one goal was struck in the second period, and it belonged to the Senators. Dion Phaneuf (Ryan) takes credit on a wrist shot with 5:27 remaining in the second period to set the score at 2-1 going into the second intermission.
Just like in the first frame, the Sabres attacked quickly in the third. Only 51 seconds after resuming play, Matt Moulson (Sam Reinhart and Jack Eichel) lit the lamp with a wrister to tie the game at two-all. 6:47 later, that’s when Bailey (Jake McCabe and Rasmus Ristolainen) struck with his game-winning deflection.
Road teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series, and specifically the Sabres, are on quite a tear. Buffalo takes credit for two of the visitors’ four victories in the past five days, pulling the roadies within four points of the 62-41-18 hosts.
Bold Predictions will be a two-part series where I, Colby, will discuss who I think will and won’t make the playoffs this season and why. The second part will be the teams who will not make the playoffs and why not. Now remember, these are my opinions. If you disagree, feel free to leave a comment; we always appreciate feedback.
Atlantic Metropolitan Wild Cards
- Tampa Bay Lightning 1. Washington Capitals 1. Columbus Blue Jackets (M)
- Montreal Canadiens 2. Pittsburgh Penguins 2. New York Islanders (M)
- Ottawa Senators 3. New York Rangers
The two teams people will be surprised to see missing from the playoffs are the Detroit Red Wings and the Boston Bruins.
Boston Bruins: Aging core with weak blue line equals no playoffs for the city of Boston for the 2nd year in a row. Zdeno Chara is by far the best defenseman on the Bruins’ team this year. The 38-year-old is just coming off an injury, and because he is getting up there in age he has people in Boston questioning when he will hang up his skates. It’s not surprising that the older he gets, the number of injuries he has and the time he misses increase also. As he gets older, though, the Bruins seem to be leaning on him more as they get rid of their other defenseman like Johnny Boychuk and Dougie Hamilton. Dennis Seidenberg and Patrice Bergeron grow another year older as they remain part of this Bruins core. Injuries have already plagued the Bruins on the defensive end and will likely result in them playing three young men in the back: Zach Trotman, Colin Miller and Joe Morrow. The three of them together only have 44 games played in the NHL. I don’t even see the Bruins being close to the wildcard spot, as some Bruins fans have been joking about. #AustintoBoston
Detroit Red Wings: New coach, different results. The Detroit Red Wings hired Jeff Blashill when Mike Babcock left during this offseason. I was a big fan of hiring from within the organization, as Blashill was the coach for the Red Wings affiliate last season. The Jump from AHL to NHL is big, you can ask all the players who never transition. Some coaches have been successful in this jump, like John Tortorella. However, I feel like Wings fans will truly see how much Babcock did for their organization and the core they have there. The Wings are also dealing with a goaltender battle between Petr Mrazek and Jimmy Howard. Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg will have to have wide shoulders if the Wings want a chance at making the playoffs, along with help from Tomas Tatar and Mike Green. The Wings will compete for the wildcard at the end of the season, but will fall short.
Pacific Central Wild Cards
- Anaheim Ducks 1. Dallas Stars 1. Chicago Blackhawks (C)
- Calgary Flames 2. St Louis Blues 2. Colorado Avalanche (C)
- Los Angeles Kings 3. Minnesota Wild
The two teams people will be surprised to see missing from my playoffs are two teams that made it last season, the Nashville Predators and the Winnipeg Jets.
Nashville Predators: Same tricks don’t work twice Nashville was a top team in the west last season due to big performance from James Neal, Filip Forsberg, Shea Weber and Pekka Rinne. I am calling that Forsberg will have the crucial sophomore slump. I also don’t see Rinne having the same numbers as last season. He and Weber got help this off-season from Barrett Jackman, however I don’t think this will be enough. The Preds will have a bad year because that division is just so good now and teams like Dallas added a lot of talent.
Winnipeg Jets: Off ice causes issues on it Winnipeg is dealing with a lot, what with all the trade rumors surround
ing star defenseman/winger Dustin Byfuglien. It seems like reports are linking him to just about any team out there. Byfuglien had some issues with Evander Kane, back when Kane was in Winnipeg. There seems to always be tension inside that locker room. Another reason I feel Winnipeg doesn’t make the playoffs is in between the pipes. Michael Hutchinson and Onderj Pavelec are not number one goalies in the NHL. The reason they made the playoffs last season was because of Hutchinson’s amazing play down the final stretch of the season. I don’t see him doing this again this year. I actually have Winnipeg last in this division. I would say they finish about 10th in the conference, however, because the Pacific is so weak.