This search form (with id 1) does not exist!

4 Things We Learned in the NHL: Leafs Are Lost Without Matthews

Dec 16, 2017
0

Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk wasn’t pulling any punches, Brian Boyle had three points as the Devils topped the Stars to move into a tie for top spot in the Metropolitan Division, the Maple Leafs visited the Red Wings’ new home for the first time in an Original Six showdown, and Sharks forward Joel Ward earned his 300th career point in his 700th career game. One thing remains: The Leafs are looking lost without Matthews.

Here are four things we learned in the NHL Friday.

Maple Leafs Looking Lost Without Matthews

Auston Matthews has missed eight games this season and it’s becoming a real problem for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Earlier this month the Leafs were actually 5-0-0 without their star but the team has since dropped three straight games in which the franchise centre has sat out with an upper-body injury.

“We’re missing a pretty important player who generates a lot of offence for us but that’s no excuse. We have won games when he has been out,” Tyler Bozak told reporters in Detroit following a 3-1 loss to Mike Babcock’s former team.

Toronto was outshot for the fifth time in the past six games.

“Obviously, it makes it easier on the other team because you don’t have to worry about matchups as much, I’d assume,” Bozak said when asked about the effect playing without Matthews has on opponents. “Whenever he’s in they’re going to want to get their best defensive guys and defencemen against him so it makes it a little easier on the other team, for sure. … We’re just going to have to get back to what we do and create a little more offence. We can’t rely on our goalies as much as we have. I think our special teams have to be better as well.”

The Maple Leafs are off until a rare Tuesday afternoon home game when they host the Carolina Hurricanes on the 100th anniversary of the franchise’s first game. It’s unclear whether or not Matthews will be ready to return for that game, but it is clear the coach and management are being patient with the reigning Calder Trophy winner.

“I used to ask players questions [about injuries], but what it is, it’s perceived as pressure from the coach,” Babcock said earlier this week. “And especially anything that lingers, if that makes any sense. That’s not my job as coach. … When you’re putting pressure on the guy and he comes back and he gets injured – and you see it all the time, recurring injuries – it makes no sense. Like you’re better, especially in a situation like we are, you buy a little time. The other thing about it is no matter who’s away you’ve got to find a way to win games. That’s just it, you know? Suck it up, play right, find a way to win.”

The Leafs have just four goals in the past four games without Matthews.

Sabres Waste Eichel’s First-Career Hat Trick

It seems at times that Jack Eichel’s immense talent is being squandered playing for a team that constantly finds itself in the basement of the Eastern Conference standings.

The 21-year-old American recorded his first-career hat trick, tied a career high with four points and had a career-high 11 shots on goal against the Carolina Hurricanes. He was outstanding but his team ultimately fell 5-4 in overtime.

“It’s not good enough to get a point,” Eichel told reporters at KeyBank Center after the game. “It seems like it’s been the reoccurring them here of late.”

The Sabres can thank Eichel for the single point they earned, though, after the third-year centre scored his second and third goals of the game just 10 seconds apart midway through the third period to tie the game at 4-4.

“Jack took matters into his own hands a little bit there in the third and found a way to tie the game, which was a great effort on his part,” Sabres coach Phil Housley said of Eichel’s performance.

It was the first hat trick scored by a Sabres player on home ice since Thomas Vanek did it in April of 2011.

Eichel had four two-goal games as a rookie in 2015-16 and six two-goal games in 2016-17. He had just one goal in his previous nine games before lighting up the scoresheet Friday. The second-overall pick of the Sabres from 2015 now has 11 goals and 28 points in 33 games this season.

Gaborik Reaches Milestone but Cares Not for Symmetrical Statistics

Los Angeles Kings forward Marian Gaborik became the 18th active NHL player, and 314th skater in the league’s history, to play 1,000 career regular season games Friday in a 4-2 loss to the New York Rangers, one of his former teams.

Not only did Gaborik join the silver-stick club, but he did so in style, scoring the Kings’ first goal of the game and assisting on his team’s other goal.

It was a big night for Gaborik, yet if you’re a fan of round numbers and symmetry then the third-overall pick from 2000 might’ve ruined your night.

Hypothetically, if Gaborik had failed to register any points and still finished Friday’s game at plus-1 his career stats would look like this:

Games: 1,000
Goals: 400
Assists: 400
Points: 800
Plus/minus: 100

So nice, so clean, but nooooo he just had to go and have his third multi-point outing of the season in his milestone game.

Now his career stats look like this instead:

Games: 1,000
Goals: 401
Assists: 401
Points: 802
Plus/minus: 100

Boooooo!!

All jokes aside, it’s quite the accomplishment for the Slovakian winger, who ranks fifth all time in goals and points among his compatriots.

The Kings, currently in the middle of a four-game Metropolitan Division road trip, will honour Gaborik when they return home for a Dec. 21 contest versus the Avalanche. Interestingly enough, if Dustin Brown suits up against the Islanders Saturday and Flyers Monday then he will be playing in his 1,000th game on the night Gaborik is honoured.

Sedins Were in Vintage Form as Canucks Snapped Streak vs. Sharks

The Vancouver Canucks snapped a four-game losing streak with a thrilling 4-3 OT victory over San Jose and in the process picked up their first win at home against the Sharks since Jan. 21, 2012.

Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin shone in this one, both assisting on Vancouver’s three regulation goals. It was just the second time in their careers that the twins recorded the primary and secondary assists on three separate goals in the same game. The only other time they’ve done that was on Feb. 21, 2016 against Colorado.

Overall, it was the fifth time in their 17-year careers that both brothers recorded at least three assists in the same game. The first time they did it was in a 6-1 win over the Maple Leafs on Jan. 13, 2007. In that game, each brother had three assists but they only assisted on the same goal twice. That also happened on March 3, 2010 versus the Red Wings and Feb. 18, 2012 against the Leafs.

Also, rookie Brock Boeser continued making Canucks history.

http://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/nhl/4-things-learned-nhl-leafs-lost-without-matthews/

 

Different goalie, different results?

Sep 23, 2017
0

Goaltending is a premium position in hockey.  At the final buzzer, no matter how well a team plays in front of him/her, if the goalie isn’t solid, a loss will be the outcome.  That’s why teams make every effort to have a high level tandem in between the pipes, and they’re willing to pay dearly for it.  This year there were some big names shifting about, mostly via free agency, but also through trade, and it stands to reason that the acquiring teams believe they improved at the position by making their transaction.  Let’s break it down:

Ben Bishop | TB to DAL | UFA – 6yrs | $29.5m | $4.92m/yr cap

NHLFans.ca:  Things certainly are bigger in Texas these days!  Ben Bishop comes in on a nice deal that will see him through to retirement.  Dallas desperately needed an upgrade over last year’s duo of Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen.  Although blame for Dallas’ terrible season can’t be squarely excused away by blaming the Finnish red light re-treads, they weren’t singlehandedly winning any games either.

Bishop buys the team time to grow a prospect into a position to take over after the then 37-year old Bishop retires.  I see his injury history stopping him from playing beyond that.  Now, I believe the Stars would have been much better even without this move, but it won’t hurt them!  I believe the Stars are a top-3 team in the Western Conference this season, having made a fistful of significant additions (Bishop, Hanzal, Radulov).  Bishop won’t be winning any Vezinas, but he may enter the top-5 in voting!

GRADE: B+

Scott Darling | CHI to CAR | UFA – 4yrs | $16.6m | $4.15m/yr cap

NHLFans.ca:  The Hurricanes had a past-prime Cam Ward and a disaster aptly named Eddie Lack tending net for them last year.  Scott Darling earned his step up to a starting job in the NHL with repeatedly solid performances stepping in for Corey Crawford in Chicago.  This seems like almost a perfect fit!

Carolina will provide Darling with a pretty good, young defence, so he can ease into the heavier workload with a little more confidence.  Despite this addition, I believe Carolina will be a long way from making the playoffs, and think a better landing spot for Darling may have been the Arizona Coyotes, but alas, revisionist history…  Good value signing for the Canes, and a good start for Darling to showcase himself for his next big payday.

GRADE: B

Mike Smith | Trade – ARI | 2yrs. rem. | $5.67m/yr cap

NHLFans.ca:  Calgary gave up a lot to acquire the veteran out of the desert.  Chad Johnson (who played well enough last season, but not elite starter level), prospect Brandon Hickey and a third-round pick (cond.) were the parts sent to Arizona, and Calgary thinks they have the missing piece to get them deep into the postseason.  I have a really hard time putting my finger on this one, because Arizona is one of the toughest teams to figure out.

You can bet that Smith will face fewer shots per game, which can be good or bad, depending on the goalie.  Dominik Hasek was lights-out when he faced 40+ in a game, but was fairly pedestrian when he was facing 20-25 per game in Detroit.  How will Smith be with one of the most airtight defences in the NHL in front of him?

My belief is that the expectations are too high, and that the Flames will be fighting for wild card positioning from the word “go”.  Smith won’t be the reason if they do end up in the playoffs, it will be improved scoring (should that happen).

GRADE: C- (I believe this is the most likely to be a non-difference-maker)

Marc-André Fleury | Drafted – VGK | 2yrs. rem. | $5.75m/yr cap

NHLFans.ca:  The Vegas Golden Knights actually have a very good goaltending duo in Fleury and Calvin Pickard.  Well drafted by GM George McPhee, Fleury will be the reason the Golden Knights win on most nights when they do.  Fleury wasn’t left exposed by Pittsburgh because he is not a good goalie.  He was left available because they had too much money tied up in Fleury to let him be their backup to upstart Matt Murray.  Vegas is not the worst team at this position by any stretch, and I think Fleury will have a very good year (skewed to the talent in front of him).

GRADE: A

 

That’s all for now!

DR

 

THN’s 2017-18 Season Preview: New York Rangers

Sep 23, 2017
0
The Rangers’ signing of Kevin Shattenkirk was one of the summer’s biggest splashes and followed it up with some roster shuffling. New York’s hope is that a busy off-season allows them to keep their window open.

The Hockey News is rolling out its 2017-18 Team Previews daily, in reverse order of Stanley Cup odds, until the start of the season. Today, the New York Rangers.

Stanley Cup odds: 24-1

Key additions: Kevin Shattenkirk, D; David Desharnais, C; Anthony DeAngelo, D; Ondrej Pavelec, G; Neal Pionk, D

Key departures: Derek Stepan, C; Oscar Lindberg, C; Antti Raanta, G; Dan Girardi, D; Kevin Klein, D

null

BURNING QUESTION:
Is this Rick Nash’s final season on Broadway?

The veteran power forward is on the final year of a contract that carries a $7.8 million cap hit and a modified no-trade clause. With the Rangers in position to make another playoff run, there probably isn’t much fear in him being approached about a trade during the season, but whether Nash returns to New York in the future is obviously an important debate point.

By all accounts, the big sniper wants to remain in New York, but his performance this season will go a long way in determining whether it’s feasible from the Rangers’ point of view. Nash’s production has slowed down and considering he’s 33 with a lot of NHL miles on him, that’s not surprising. Possession numbers weren’t great last season either, so there is definitely all the motivation in the world for Nash to come back and make a splash in his contract year.

While the Rangers do have some nice young forwards pushing up on the roster (Jimmy Vesey, Pavel Buchnevich, Lias Andersson), they also didn’t have a single player crack the 60-point mark last season. If Nash can somehow return to earlier form, he’ll help his team – and perhaps earn himself another run in Manhattan.

BEST-CASE SCENARIO:
The last time we saw Henrik Lundqvist, he was backstopping Sweden to a gold medal at the World Championship, defeating Canada in a shootout. This was a good omen, assuming ‘Hank’ has recovered from William Nylander’s celebratory tackle. If Lundqvist can get back to his perch in the top echelon of NHL goalies, New York is in a great position. The Rangers landed the biggest free agent of the summer in puck-moving defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk and, along with his own talents, he’ll help captain Ryan McDonagh unlock another level to his blueline game. With Brady Skjei and Nick Holden coming into their own, the Rangers have a very strong and diverse blueline, with veteran Marc Staal and Brendan Smith rounding things out. In short, New York will be tough to score on.

Up front, the Rangers have an array of weapons, led by Mika Zibanejad, Mats Zuccarello, Kevin Hayes and Rick Nash. If youngsters Jimmy Vesey and Pavel Buchnevich can continue the trajectory they established as rookies, New York will give opponents all kinds of matchup problems thanks to its depth of talent.

WORST-CASE SCENARIO:
The Rangers traded away Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta to Arizona in the summer, and both moves could stagger the franchise. Lundqvist showed big cracks in his armor last season, and if that happens again, the team no longer has Raanta to clean up the mess. Is Ondrej Pavelec the answer as backup?  No. He was Winnipeg’s third-string goalie in a non-playoff year. In a division featuring the likes of Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, John Tavares and Artemi Panarin, goaltending cannot be a weakness.

Losing Stepan also exposes a hole in the depth chart at center. Can Zibanejad take on enough responsibility to mitigate the departure of the two-way stalwart? The only pivot addition was David Desharnais, and he’s a depth guy at best. Perhaps Hayes and J.T. Miller can step into bigger roles, but again: there are some fantastic centers in the Metro, and New York can’t afford to be outgunned. The offense was dynamite last season – fourth overall – but did so by committee. No player hit 60 points, so the ceiling is low with this group. In a tough division, the Rangers could struggle to make the playoffs.

THN’s PREDICTION: 4th in the Metropolitan. The Rangers have enough talent to be one of the top-end teams in the division. Once they get to the playoffs, the fun really begins: can Lundqvist make one more magical run, or has that window closed?

Previously: Arizona Coyotes | Boston Bruins | Buffalo Sabres | Carolina Hurricanes | Colorado Avalanche | Detroit Red Wings | Florida Panthers | Los Angeles Kings | Montreal Canadiens |New Jersey Devils | New York Islanders | Ottawa Senators | Philadelphia Flyers | San Jose Sharks | St. Louis Blues | Vancouver Canucks | Vegas Golden Knights | Winnipeg Jets 

From The Hockey News | http://www.thehockeynews.com/news/article/thn-s-2017-18-season-preview-new-york-rangers

 

Habs, Bruins, injuries…

Sep 21, 2017
0

There’s no secret that the Habs and B’s aren’t the best of franchise friends.  But during the preseason, where rosters are largely filled up with players who have yet to participate in the heated rivalry, so there should be expectations of a lower-impact game, right?  WRONG.

This week, the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins squared off in Quebec City (to a shockingly only half sold-out crowd).  Boston had played the Red Wings on Tuesday.  The game in itself was not a violent affair, but that didn’t stop the pre-season injury count from rising by one more.

The casualties of these meaningless contests were Montreal’s defenceman Noah Juulsen and Boston’s Torey Krug.

Krug took a nasty puck to the face against the Wings on Tuesday, leaving him in a crumpled heap on the ice.  He will miss the rest of the preseason with a non-displaced fracture of the jaw.  He should be cleared to play when the regular season officially begins on the 4th of October.

Juulsen will miss the rest of camp and some extra time, as he is out for six weeks with a broken foot.  It is a shame, as he was on the fast track to making the big team after two seasons with Everett Silvertips of the WHL, where last season he tallied 12 goals and 12 assists in a career-low 49 games.

“We like the way he skates and his transition game,” [Claude] Julien told reporters after the game in Quebec City. “He’s going to get a chance to make this team and if he doesn’t he’s not going to be too far away.”

All of the injuries piling up in these meaningless games makes me question whether the NHL should reduce the number of games played, or perhaps add two games to each team’s regular season and wipe out the exhibition schedule altogether.

Speedy recovery to both players!

DR

 

Things I missed – catching up

Sep 18, 2017
0

I can only watch, read and write so much, so periodically I fall behind.  I’m sorry, but I do have some extra time coming up, so expect me to be posting up a heck of a lot more stuff and far more regularly.  Anyway, here’s what I think is important stuff that I have missed:

  • Bryan Little agrees to 6-year extension with Jets | I really think Bryan Little is a very over-looked and under-rated player.  He consistently puts up solid numbers and has been a solid leadership presence on what was once a very young Jets team.  From the Jets’ perspective, I think they know what they are paying for, and got reasonable value for their money here.  I believe a bit of it is a payment for past performance, but repaying loyalty is something I applaud.
  • David Pastrnak signs 6-year, $40 million deal with Bruins | Boston got great value here.  I am stunned that it took so long, as the Bruins had been offering pretty much this package from the very beginning.  Either way, they needed to get this done, as Pastrnak is their most gifted offensive talent and a complement to Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.  Pastrnak’s camp showed class by accepting significantly less than the Leon Draisaitl numbers that had been bandied about in the press.  He’ll still get a shot a bigger money as a UFA while he’s still in peak playing years.
  • Clarke MacArthur fails medical test after concussion plagued seasons With the Ottawa Senators saying that they don’t know why he failed, some have suggested they are trying to bury him on injured reserve a la Joffrey Lupul.  I have a hard time believing that, as MacArthur has always been known as a good team guy, well liked and coach-friendly.  Hopefully he gets better soon.
  • Wild agree to terms with LW Foligno on 4-year, $11.5M deal | I think again, Minnesota got good value for an every occasion player who still has untapped upside.  Foligno is nothing flashy, but fits in well as a third line winger who can move up if needed.
  • Avalanche agree to 2-year deal with defenseman Nikita Zadorov | Second most urgent thing on Joe Sakic’s to-do list is now in the books.  This in no way impacts the much discussion Duchene situation.  Zadorov is one of those guys who I think could still bolt to Russia if he doesn’t see the Avalanche improving.  He is too good of a player to waste of a team being run into the ground by an incompetent GM.  This is really Sakic’s proving ground.  If he mishandles Zadorov, he will be removed as GM.  Write that down!
  • Wild, captain Mikko Koivu agree to 2-year, $11 million deal | I think Koivu’s on the down-slope of his career, but out of respect for their captain, they paid more in order to pay him for less years.  He will continue to be extended like this in perpetuity until he can play no longer.  It is a decent value extension for both sides, and I think the next one will be around the $4.5 million mark.

Well, that’s the important stuff.  I’ll be back to posting tomorrow, so until then, be safe and be sane!  Well, at least safe!

DR

 

Panthers send Demers to Arizona for McGinn

Do the chainsaw!

Training camps are underway, and teams are starting to sort out what they have and what they still need.  Early into preseason, the Florida Panthers and Arizona Coyotes made a deal they hope will help their fate in 2017-18’s quest for the Cup.

The Panthers have sent defenceman Jason Demers to the desert in exchange for left winger Jamie McGinn.

A native of Dorval, Que., the 29-year-old Demers appeared in 81 games for the Panthers a season ago, scoring nine times and adding 19 assists. Demers was heading into the second year of a five-year, $22.5 million deal signed with the Panthers in the summer of 2016. TSN Hockey Insider Pierre LeBrun reports the Panthers will retain 12.5 per cent of Demers’ salary.

Demers has played in 504 career NHL games over eight seasons with the San Jose Sharks, Dallas Stars and Panthers.

McGinn, 29, joins his sixth organization. A veteran of nine NHL seasons, McGinn appeared in 72 games for the Coyotes last year, scoring nine times and adding eight assists.

A native of Fergus, Ont., McGinn has appeared in 522 NHL contests for the Sharks, Colorado Avalanche, Buffalo Sabres, Anaheim Ducks and Coyotes.

He has two years remaining on his current deal.

NHLFans.ca:  I really don’t know what the Panthers are doing.  Starting with the unceremonious dumping of Jaromir Jagr, to the odd move of leaving a 30-goal scorer (Marchessault) exposed for the expansion draft, to cleaning house behind the bench and in the front office, to thinking that Jamie McGinn is going to provide more offence than even Demers!  I sincerely hope they are setting up for a major move (Duchene?) or something.

It seems like last season’s high expectations turned into such a let-down that the bar is now being buried in the sand.  

As for Arizona, I believe they won this deal in spades.  Demers isn’t flashy, but he outscored McGinn nine to eight, and that tells me all I need to know.  For some reason, the Panthers are eating 12.5% of the cap hit Demers has, which is a reasonable $4.5 million for another three seasons.  Looking at their depth chart, I’d say he slots in at the four or five position and I believe his salary is in line with players of the same role.

 

Monday Musings – Sept. 18/2017

Sep 18, 2017
0
Oh, it's in! Tyler Wong scores leading Vegas to a 9-4 win over Vancouver | Photo: The Province

First off, did anyone else overdose on lackluster pre-season hockey?  Thought so!  Anyway, at least we know there isn’t going to be a lockout or other form of work-stoppage, and real hockey is just around the corner!  That said, I won’t bore you with any real “game analysis” or the like, rather, let’s just peek at some highlights of the weekend.

So, Friday was pretty tame, with only anticipation of hockey to come.  Dialed in some TV pre-season shows, and generally had a stress-free day (well, after I got back from the hospital for a checkup).  Saturday is always hockey day in this Czech-Canadian household, so needless to say I was up at the crack of dawn, eager and ready to turn on the television and take in my heroine-like fix of the greatest game on ice!

The joke was on me, however, as I had completely forgotten that I had moved to the West coast, and that we were three hours behind the action.  Even though it was only 4:30am, it meant I would have to shuffle my viewing schedule to omit some soccer.  Not a big sacrifice, right?  DONE!  Now, come on time – please fly by and get me to my game of the day:  Vegas at Vancouver.

I had watched an almost complete Canucks team play against an almost complete Kings team the night before (not really worth going into much detail about it), and it was nothing but a parade to the penalty box, as the officials are apparently going to crack down hard on faceoff infractions and stick taps around the hands (slashing?).  The players, apparently, had not been properly informed or instructed or even told what the criteria for the call would be, and thus ended up really giving both coaching staffs a chance to view what might well end up being 8th liners at best.

But this would be different, right?  Because it’s the first opportunity to see what the motley assortment Vegas GM George McPhee cobbled together in Sin City.  To see how many defencemen one team could actually ice in a given game!  So many new things!

It went pretty much as expected.

17 total power plays were called, and I would estimate about 65% of infractions would not have been called last season.  The penalties were evenly doled out, with Vegas enjoying nine man-advantage situation’s to Vancouver’s eight.  The Golden Knights converted three times, while the Canucks potted two.

The standout players were all on Vegas, as part of the Canucks was likely either packing or on their way to China (Boeser was good, with a goal and an assist, Jordan Subban was also solid).  The biggest notable was likely Tyler Wong, an undrafted right winger, who is a tad undersized but very determined.  He scored three goals and added a helper, but his tenacity and nose for the puck…  The drive he showed (and the scoring touch) make me believe he has very good chance of breaking camp with the big club.

Another player who really showed some promise was right winger Tomas Hyka, who was drafted in 2012 by the Kings in the sixth round.  He had a previous sniff in North America, but never found traction, went back to Europe to develop, and now wants back in to the NHL.  I think Vegas presents just the perfect opportunity for him to play useful minutes, and entrench himself into a full-time NHL job.

Finally, only because I could blurb a bit about everyone which would be painfully uninteresting, Cody Glass is someone who is a high-risk/high-reward player that I think will emerge a masterstroke for McPhee.  If he ever fills out his 6-foot-2 frame, he has the potential to become one of the cornerstones of this franchise moving forward.  Great skating ability, good view of the game and smart decisions was all I saw from him.  Scrappy, if not feisty at times during the game, we can only hope he develops into at least a second line center.

The game was borderline hockey, but it did the trick in terms of hearing the commentary, the arena sounds, the fans…  At least you wouldn’t get looked at funny if you called it hockey in public.

Duh – Golden Knights win 9-4.


Sunday is always awkward, with football being another household religious affair.

Football won out the day (CFL first, then NFL), so I won’t bore you with anything but the fantastic news that the Falcons beat the Packers!

Monday is still going on, and I’m watching the “Battle Of Ontario“, part 0.1 (pre-season notation).

The Senators look really good, despite missing captain and defenceman supremo, Erik Karlsson, who is now expected to be out until possibly late November, early December.  All eyes are on 20-year old defensive stud prospect Thomas Chabot, who looks solid, but unspectacular on a pairing with Dion Phaneuf.  I think the reality is that Phaneuf is simply not the right fit, and we won’t be able to properly evaluate Chabot’s immediate role on the team until we see him with Karlsson.  Shame that it won’t be until later in the season.

Among forwards, Mike Hoffman looked like he’s ready to go, with two nice goals.  He had a comedic moment that you hope is only a preseason thing though…  (Not posted to youtube yet, will update hopefully!)

The Leafs don’t look quite right, although they are icing a deep forward corps.  Curtis McElhinney was a sieve, and is now in peril of losing the backup job to Garrett Sparks, who didn’t look much better.  But this team isn’t going anywhere if Frederik Andersen goes down for any length of time.

Matthews seems like he’ll pick up where he left off last season, and I believe he will benefit from Patrick Marleau‘s presence on the powerplay, where he scored an astonishingly low eight goals last season.  The rest of the contingent looks impressive, and I believe the Leafs may well win their division this season.

The Senators, once fully configured, will have a slight setback from last season.  It is just my belief, but when a team over-achieves one season, they often come crashing back to EArth the following year, and that involves cratering – i.e going further down than the surface.

Anyways, one last thing to touch on is Joffrey Lupul‘s Instagram post insinuating that the Leafs are cheating the cap system by keeping him (and others in the same boat) buried on Injury Reserve, while he has declared himself fit to play.

First off, if he’s fit to play, he can go get that confirmed by his own doctor, and apply for reinstatement.  Secondly, he should stop accepting paycheques to make a point.  He wants to play, not just be paid.  The Leafs, of course, don’t want his ridiculous contract on the books, in case they need to fill up at the trade deadline.  $5.25 million is a deadline-type budget, so unless the Leafs can find a trade partner (Duchene?), Lupul should quit his bitchin’ and not make things worse for the NHL.  You can’t have this type of discussion publicly as it detracts from both sides.  First, the Leafs aren’t going to accommodate a trouble-maker.  Do Lamoriello and Babcock strike anyone as the type of men who respond well to allegations of improper behaviour in the pubic eye?  Me neither!

Secondly, Lupul is a veteran, and as such should know the basics of the business.  If you want to be traded, make yourself an attractive commodity.  Lupul’s actions do not accomplish that at all, again because teams don’t want to be part of the court of public opinion when it comes to cheating or circumventing the rules.

Next time slam a cheeseburger in your cyber mouth Joffrey!

See you all again next Monday!  Enjoy your week!

DR

 

Prospect Victor Mete opening eyes at Canadiens camp

Sep 16, 2017
0

BROSSARD, Que.— The whistle blows and Victor Mete pivots backwards, collects the puck, turns 180 degrees on a dime and fires a cross-ice bank pass off the boards to Max Pacioretty to start a 3-on-2 rush drill. In another sequence, he straddles the blue line at full speed, playing pitch and catch with his defence partner before taking a one-timer, and then he sneaks down into the crease and finishes off another pass—this one into the opposing corner of Michael McNiven’s net.

On breakout drills, Mete’s motoring, his skates crossing over frenetically as he transitions the puck efficiently to the forwards. On break-ins, when the puck’s coming towards him, he’s well-positioned to defend the rush, punching his stick into the passing lanes, his head swivelling to ensure he’s marked his opponents.

Two days into Montreal Canadiens camp, the 19-year-old defenceman from Woodbridge, Ont., who has shown considerable improvement in each of his three seasons with the OHL’s London Knights, is offering everyone in attendance a glimpse of why he’s become one of the team’s most intriguing prospects. He has an NHL skating stride, makes confident decisions with the puck, and he hasn’t looked remotely out of place on a pairing with superstar Shea Weber.

It’s not a stretch to say that there isn’t another defenceman in attendance at this camp that fits Mete’s profile, and therein lies the rub. While this kid may very well prove over the next three weeks that he’s prepared to be an NHL-calibre player, the chances that he’s prepared to log over 20 minutes a night, play in all situations and play against the best opposing forwards on every shift—as he’d have to do as Weber’s partner—are astronomical.

“It’s really good to play with him for the reason of being able to compete against top guys on other teams and see how I can do against them,” said Mete after Saturday’s workout.

But no simulation—not an intra-squad scrimmage like the Canadiens will have on Sunday, or an exhibition game like they’ll have on Monday—will give Mete a true sense of what that challenge will resemble when the puck drops on the regular season and the games begin to matter. And while Canadiens coach Claude Julien said after the team’s first on-ice session Friday that you always want to evaluate a player by putting him in a position where you can best evaluate him, it seems apparent that part of the reason Mete’s stationed where he currently is has to do with the fact that his skills fit well (probably better than anyone else’s) with what Weber brings to the table.

“Ideally, if you had a player who’s a puck carrier, that’s always nice to pair with a guy like Shea, who’s capable of moving the puck well and is capable of being so reliable that his partner won’t be scared to start the rush because he knows Shea is there,” said Julien.

Mete might be the Canadiens’ best fit to skate alongside Shea Weber. (Paul Chiasson/CP)

You look at David Schlemko, who the Canadiens acquired from the Vegas Golden Knights, and it’s hard to say he fits that description—even if his advanced statistics suggest he’s a reliable puck mover. Ditto for Karl Alzner, who signed as a free agent and will likely serve as a defensive anchor for the more offensive Jeff Petry.

Joe Morrow was signed to be a depth puck mover and is currently practising alongside Brandon Davidson. Both of them appear to be on the fringe of the roster.

Eric Gelinas is on a tryout and is currently paired up with Zach Redmond, who spent the majority of last season as a member of Montreal’s AHL affiliate. And Jakub Jerabek, a prolific offensive defenceman who signed out of the KHL this summer, has also been paired with an AHL regular in Brett Lernout.

And while Mark Streit was signed to show he can still be a valuable contributor at this level, it would be inconceivable that his 39-year-old body could handle the rigours of being a top-pairing defenceman on a nightly basis. That’s probably why he’s started camp on what most have presumed would be the team’s third pairing, alongside Jordie Benn.

“We want to see different players play with [Weber] and we’ll go with the best combination,” said Julien.

When Weber was asked on Saturday who the ideal fit would be, he smirked and said, “Bobby Orr.”

Ryan Dixon and Rory Boylen go deep on pucks with a mix of facts and fun, leaning on a varied group of hockey voices to give their take on the country’s most beloved game.

Picking arguably the greatest defenceman to ever play the game is obviously a comment made in jest, but in picking Orr, who was known for his explosive skating and his elite and unique decision-making ability, Weber reveals that he’s well aware of what made his previous partnership with Nashville’s Roman Josi such a success.

He can see how Mete could be a fit.

“He’s good,” said Weber. “I didn’t realize how young he was. He’s really good with the puck, he’s mobile, and at that age it’s pretty good. I thought he was older than he was. For him to be that young, he should have a good career ahead of him.”

Perhaps it’ll start sooner than anyone expected.

But if Mete isn’t ready for all that comes with playing as Weber’s partner, it seems clear the Canadiens are going to have to find someone with a similar profile who can handle that duty. And even though they have $8.4 million available to spend under the salary cap, they have no guarantees such a player will be available anytime soon.

Sportsnet.ca | http://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/nhl/prospect-victor-mete-opening-eyes-canadiens-camp/

 

Penguins sign forward Jordy Bellerive to entry-level deal

Sep 16, 2017
0

The Pittsburgh Penguins have signed forward Jordy Bellerive to a three-year, entry-level deal, the team announced on Saturday.

The 18-year-old led the Penguins at the 2017 Prospects Challenge in Buffalo with four goals and three assists in the three games, including a hat trick against the New Jersey Devils.

The five-foot-10, 194-pound native of North Vancouver, B.C., put up a combined 92 points in the last two seasons with the WHL’s Lethbridge Hurricanes, including 27 goals in 2016-17. Bellerive contributed 14 points in 20 games during Lethbridge’s run to the 2017 WHL championship.

September 16, 2017

|

Takeaways:  The Penguins have a few holes to fill, especially the third line center not sure this does anything to address that, but may as well give your prospects a sniff of the big leagues, if only for nine games.  The reality is that it is an entry-level deal with no guarantee of making the team, but it does start the contract ticking.


Jordy Bellerive

Centre

AGE: 18

LENGTH:

3 Years

CONTRACT TYPE:

Entry-Level Deal

SALARY CAP HIT:

N/A

TOTAL:

N/A


Sportsnet.ca | http://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/nhl/penguins-sign-forward-jordy-bellerive-entry-level-deal/

 

Fiddler retires after 14 seasons

Sep 14, 2017
0

Fiddler announced his decision Wednesday in a story for The Players Tribune.The 5-foot-11 center says he thought the New Jersey Devils would be his final team when he signed during the 2016 offseason. But, Fiddler wrote, Nashville general manager David Poile and Devils GM Ray Shero, who launched his professional career, worked out a trade sending him back to the Predators where he started in the NHL.

Fiddler says coming full circle was special with the Predators’ run to the Stanley Cup Final a “perfect way to finish my career.”

He finished with 104 goals and 261 points and also played for the Coyotes and Dallas.


Takeaways:  I have always liked Fiddler as a third line role-player.  He didn’t bring anything flashy to the game, just good solid work ethic and a willingness to drop the gloves for his teammates.  The hat-trick in the video was the first game I ever saw him play in, having only learned about him through EA Sports, and once I watched that, I always expected him to score more.  But, I’ll always settle for a good knuckle-duster!

 
ChatClick here to chat!+
Skip to toolbar