After NHLers were not allowed to participate in the 2018 Winter Games, Nick and Connor decided to create USA rosters with NHL players anyway. Also discussed, All-Star weekend, Jaromir Jagr and the Winnipeg Jets.
Skater of the Week: Brad Marchand
The league’s premiere super-pest tallied two goals and five assists in four contests this week, made arguably more impressive by the fact that he started the week being held scoreless against Dallas before recording three consecutive multi-point games to close the week. Burning arch-rival Montreal for a goal and assist in the first meeting, then adding two helpers in the rematch, together with a three-point night against the Islanders, the former unheralded third round pick continues to prove all the critics wrong, as he’s currently on pace to shatter his breakout 85-point performance from last season.
Marchand’s 48 points in 37 games is good for 16th in league scoring, having played no less than seven-fewer games than any player ahead of him, and his performance over the last seven days is good for this award.
Tendy of the Week: Jonathan Bernier
Bernier’s NHL career has been a well-documented roller coaster of epic proportions, and the former 11th-overall pick has often seen the ‘Bust’ label floating near his name. But he seems to have really found a home with the upstart Avs this season.
In three starts this week, Bernier faced a ridiculous 110 shots and turned aside 105 of them to pick up three victories. On Monday he stopped 33-of-34 to down the Ducks, on Saturday he stifled 27-of-28 against the Rangers, and even when he gave up three to the Sharks, he managed a .938 save percentage on 48 shots faced. Of the Avs’ strengths, the defense is not high on the list.
Bernier is still shaking off some shaky performances earlier in the year, but in 21 appearances his 13-7-1 record, 2.61 GAA and .919 save percentage are more than respectable behind the run-and-gun Avs. If he continues this sort of play, the Avs could potentially use Semyon Varlamov as trade bait to solidify their D-corps come the deadline.
Game of the Week: Washington Capitals 3 @ New Jersey Devils 4 (OT), Thursday January 18th, 2018
A showdown between the top 2 teams in the stacked Metropolitan Division lived up to the hype, delivering seven goals, 51 shots, 48 hits, and 36 penalty minutes.
Drew Stafford would get things rolling 8:01 into the game, taking advantage of a misplay at the blueline by Dmitry Orlov to flee the zone and receive a breakout pass courtesy of Marcus Johansson, fighting off the back-checking Devante Smith-Pelly and going forehand-backhand-roof on Braden Holtby to give the Devils the early lead. Brett Connolly, who was stifled on a golden opportunity just seconds after the Stafford goal, would get his revenge and even the score at the 12:10 mark, pouncing on a long wrister from T.J. Oshie that deflected off of the skate of Jersey d-man Will Butcher right to his tape and burying it past Keith Kinkaid to give us a 1-1 game after one.
The second saw both the scoring and intensity ramp up, started off by Devils captain Andy Greene (playing in his 750th game) scoring on an almost-identical play to the Connolly goal, this time a Taylor Hall effort from the left point deflecting off the stick of Matt Niskanen and coming right to Greene who was just able to squeeze the shot between the left arm and torso of a sliding Holtby to regain the Jersey lead 3:33 into the frame. Then at the 8:33 mark came some shenanigans. Tom Wilson laid a hammering hit on Brian Gibbons along the boards in the neutral zone, leading Brian Boyle to come to the defense of his teammate and earn himself a misconduct and extra minor for instigating. I could go on a tangent about clean hits leading to fights (Gibbons himself appeared to try to wave off Boyle as he approached Wilson), but I’ll save that for another day.
Further into the secnd we go, and the Devils capitalize (see what I did there?) on another breakout pass, this time with Miles Wood sneaking behind the Washington defense and receiving some airmail from Sami Vatanen before getting one through five-hole of Holtby to give New Jersey the 3-1 edge at the 10:55 mark. But just 14 seconds later Dmitry Orlov would collect a long rebound off the boards and spanked the ‘Made In Slovakia’ lettering right off of the puck as it screamed past Kinkaid into the back of the net, sending us into the final frame with a 3-2 Devils lead after some strong netminding by Holtby in the closing stages of the middle frame.
Kinkaid and the Devils would hold the fort for most of the third, but finally with just 3:48 remaining it would be Connolly (who had himself a very good game, I might add) who collected a terrific Evgeny Kuznetsov feed from below the goal line and slid the puck right underneath the left pad of Kinkaid to knot the score at three and send the game to overtime (though not before Kinkaid would shake off a ‘Nisk-cannon’ to the noggin that removed his mask in the dying seconds).
The crowd at ‘The Rock’ would have little to fret over, though, as just 34 seconds into the extra frame it would be Taylor Hall receiving a chip pass from Sami Vatanen, before giving himself a second chip pass to get around Kuznetsov and streaking in on Holtby, roofing a quick wrister over the glove hand and sending the Jersey-faithful into a frenzy.
News, Notes, & Nonsense:
The Golden Knights are, at the time of this writing, the #1 team in the NHL. I don’t actually have anything clever prepared for this, I just wanted to say it out loud.
A couple of high-profile injuries struck this week, with Edmonton losing Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to a hand injury for at least a month, and the Rangers losing Kevin Shattenkirk to a meniscus tear, an injury that could sideline the defenseman for quite some time.
The Senators have supposedly made it their #1 organizational goal to re-sign Erik Karlsson. I’m not sure how much money it will take to keep him with a franchise that doesn’t appear to be set up for major success any time soon, but if anyone has any suggestions for convoluted schemes to marry into his family, I’m all ears.
Dustin Brown was fined (but not suspended) for brutally cross-checking a helpless Justin Schultz face-first into the boards, in a move the Department of Player Safety referred to as “We have no idea who this Andrew Cogliano person you speak of is, and we’re not sure what two-game suspension you could be referring to.”
The Colorado Avalanche have won nine consecutive games, which might be the only thing less people would have bet on at the beginning of the year than Vegas spending time at #1 in the league.
Rene Rancourt has announced that he will retire from his position as the Bruins’ longtime anthem singer. Personally, I never actually thought he was that good of a singer, but his showmanship has always been absolutely second-to-none, and anyone legendary enough to be referenced in a Dropkick Murphy’s song gets a pass in my book, so congrats to Rene on an incredible career and best of luck in retirement.
Finally, I’ll close on two sombering notes. First, I extend my sincerest condolences to Matthew Murray and his family, as the Pittsburgh goaltender has taken a leave of absence from the team to mourn the passing of his father, and I’ll repeat the sentiment to the family of USA Hockey executive and two-time Olympian Jim Johannson, who passed Sunday morning at just 53 years of age.
Some of the biggest news and notes (and bad takes) from this week in hockey.
Wednesday was full of surprises as most people probably were distracted by hockey games on TV or at their local rink on Tuesday night.
First, if you didn’t see the news late Tuesday night, then you probably woke up delighted to hear that USA Hockey and the US women’s national team came to an agreement that will 1) pay women’s players more, 2) established a Women’s High Performance Advisory Group to help oversee and assist USA Hockey with fundraising and promoting girls and women’s hockey at all levels to help grow the game and 3) sends the original Team USA members to the 2017 IIHF Women’s World Championship being held in Plymouth, Michigan (which starts on Friday, by the way).
To summarize, it’s a four-year contract that’s a step forward, but ultimately, probably still not enough to be perfectly ideal and equal. We’ll all keep working on that, right?
I mean, let’s not forget the foolishness of USA Hockey to have contacted members of the U16 team to play against professionals before this agreement was made. Absurd!
US games will be carried on NHL Network and streamed on NHL.com, so check your local listings for times and more– I’ll be busy watching USA vs Canada on Friday night, thank you very much.
Charlie McAvoy joined the Providence Bruins (AHL) on an ATO for the rest of the season, thereby forgoing his remaining career at Boston University, much to the dismay of Terriers fans (okay, maybe not). Boston Bruins general manager, Don Sweeney, was smart not to burn a year off an entry level contract while trying to get McAvoy up to speed in the professional game.
In fact, this is something most general managers have been doing at this point of the season, with the exception of University of North Dakota product and Colorado Avalanche prospect, Tyson Jost’s signing with the Avalanche. Colorado GM Joe Sakic indicated that Jost will be inserted immediately in the lineup– for the remainder of the regular season– in the midst of a season to forget for the Av’s.
As noted by Mike Kelly (NHL Network, TSN, LeafsTV), the Avalanche are really, really bad. Like, really, really, really bad this year.
Tough year for Avalanche, who with 1 more loss, would not have enough points to make playoffs in 48-game, lockout shortened 2012-13 season. pic.twitter.com/OlmnpWUoNo
— Mike Kelly (@MikeKellyNHL) March 30, 2017
In other news, Los Angeles Kings forward, Jarome Iginla picked up the game winning goal (his 100th of his career) and the Gordie Howe Hat Trick in a 4-1 victory over the Calgary Flames on Wednesday night.
Good for him, though I’m sure Flames fans felt uneasy for their favorite adopted son knowing that their team is probably going to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs instead of the Kings. Just like everyone predicted back in October.
Not so long after everyone was gleaming about the US national women’s team agreement with USA Hockey, University of North Dakota cut their women’s hockey program on Wednesday.
In addition to women’s ice hockey, UND also got rid of their swimming and diving team (both men’s and women’s). SB Nation’s Joe Barbito (per The Ice Garden), reported that the team was already on the ice preparing for next season as news about the program’s demise began circulating. Even a recruit was on campus for an official visit, only to find out about the disappointing news from one of the most competitive programs in the country.
Several former UND hockey players have spoken out and expressed their displeasure with the university.
Also making waves on Wednesday was the miracle that nobody expected from a league otherwise known for secrecy.
The NHL announced that the Expansion Draft lists for protected and available players for the Vegas Golden Knights’s choosing will be made available to the public around June 18th. This is good. This is what fans like. Fans also like salary cap information and stuff like CapFriendly, but we’ll see if the league will ever make more of a shift towards being more open and informative than what’s already surprised many with the Expansion Draft lists announcement.
Wednesday’s surprise announcement wasn’t the only thing from the league, as NHL Commissioner, Gary Bettman was on hand along with members from the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks for the official announcement of the 2017 NHL China Games presented by O.R.G. Packaging that will be played at Mercedes-Benz Arena and the Huaxi LIVE Wukesong’s Le Sports Center in Shanghai on September 21st and September 23rd, respectively.
Expanding the game, good. The whole Kings and Canucks matchup, not as good. I mean, Vancouver is destined for a turnaround, but it just seems like they won’t be competitive enough for Los Angeles, even for preseason games. Then again, the Canucks are quietly gaining ground (on a developmental level).
Last week the league announced the 2017 SAP Global Series matchup between the Colorado Avalanche and the Ottawa Senators to take place in Stockholm, Sweden in November. Those regular season games make sense, as long as the Avalanche don’t trade Gabriel Landeskog before then.
But if anything, think of the huge draw for Erik Karlsson fans in his homeland alone.
Both global preseason and regular season games will be the first of their kind since the last regular season games played in Europe in 2011.
And so far through Thursday, looking past matchups and injuries, we’ve been reminded that on this day 38 years ago, the NHL voted on the merger of four World Hockey Association (WHA) teams to begin play in the league for the 1979-1980 season.
Only the playoff bound-for-the-first-time-since 2006, Edmonton Oilers remain in the same location since the merger, as the Winnipeg Jets jettisoned for Arizona, Québec Nordiques left for Colorado and the Hartford Whalers became the Carolina Hurricanes 20 years ago.