Ilya Kovalchuk trade impact on Devils, Thrashers

Kovy.jpgIlya Kovalchuk was supposed to be the Moses of the Atlanta Thrashers. Even from his first season, few could doubt the left winger’s all-world goal scoring abilities. Before Alex Ovechkin came along, it seemed like “Kovy” was going to be the heir apparent to Pavel Bure as an unstoppable Russian goal scoring machine. Either way, he was supposed to be a superstar who led the Thrashers to the Promised Land.

Of course, that already-cratering dream came crashing down forever in February 2010 when Kovalchuk forced the franchise’s hand (or did GM Don Waddell finally lose his patience? Or something in between?) and the team moved Kovalchuk to Newark. Tonight will provide an awkward reunion for the sniper and his former team, especially since a Kovalchuk goal could drive the final nail into the coffin for Atlanta’s playoff hopes.

Rather than discussing the merits of Atlanta fans booing (or applauding) the former star, I thought it would be more constructive to take a look at how Kovalchuk, the Devils and the Thrashers played since the big move. The first spreadsheet includes Kovalchuk’s stats along with New Jersey’s win-loss record. The second provides the Thrashers’ results without the face of their franchise. Notice how similar the two team’s records are (despite Atlanta’s horrible powerplay). Naturally, click the two spreadsheets to better read the results.

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Again, the two teams’ results are strikingly similar; New Jersey is 10-9-4 with Kovalchuk while Atlanta is 10-8-5 without him. Numbers-wise, Kovalchuk is still a point per game player (9 goals, 14 assists for 23 points in 23 games) and hasn’t hurt his team with costly penalties. I heard some rumors from sources including The New York Post that the Devils will wait until after the playoffs to negotiate with Kovalchuk. That seems like a reasonable train of thought to me; after all, Devils GM Lou Lamoriello isn’t exactly known for handing out big contracts, particularly to seemingly one-dimensional players. That being said, Kovalchuk has a chance to prove his value during the playoffs (although he might prove himself so valuable that he prices himself out of New Jersey).

In other words, there’s a decent chance that he might have yet another awkward reunion next year – only that time around it would happen in Newark.

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    The Buzzer: Eichel beats McDavid; More Vegas gold

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    Player of the Night: Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres

    So far in their careers, Connor McDavid comparisons haven’t been kind to Jack Eichel. To be fair, just about every other NHL player pales in comparison to McDavid, but Eichel gets it the worst because he was selected right behind McDavid in the 2015 NHL Draft.

    McDavid’s enjoyed a deep playoff run and piled up some impressive hardware, yet Eichel got the best of number 97 for at least one night. As part of a 5-0 win for the Sabres against the Oilers, Eichel generated a goal and three assists.

    If you haven’t noticed, Eichel’s been playing some of the best hockey even before Tuesday. With 10 points in his last five games, he’s enjoying the most productive stretch of his young career.

    It was outrageous to place Buffalo’s blame on Eichel, so hopefully this torrid run at least turns down the volume on his critics.

    Highlights of the Night:

    We saw the nasty side of Brad Marchand with this questionable hit, but this goal was very, very nice:

    This Shea Theodore outlet pass is so slick, it’s almost tough to keep your eye on it. William Karlsson scored yet again, and the Golden Knights won once again.

    You may also enjoy Travis Konecny’s overtime game-winner, which you can check out here.

    Factoids

    The Boston Bruins’ run continues, while the Avalanche’s winning streak ended.

    Vegas Golden Knights zero in on more records for expansion teams. Remarkable stuff.

    From remarkably great to almost unspeakably bad: how can the Oilers’ penalty kill be this ineffective?

    Some key bits from tonight

    Panthers, Stars brawl.

    Canadiens end Avalanche’s winning streak at 10.

    Flyers edge Red Wings in OT.

    Possible injury for Joe Thornton?

    Goalie injuries also cause for concern.

    Scores

    Bruins 3, Devils 2
    Penguins 3, Hurricanes 1
    Canadiens 4, Avalanche 2
    Flyers 3, Red Wings 2 (OT)
    Blues 3, Senators 0
    Lightning 4, Predators 3 (OT)
    Stars 6, Panthers 1
    Sabres 5, Oilers 0
    Canucks 6, Kings 2
    Golden Knights 6, Blue Jackets 3
    Ducks 6, Rangers 3
    Jets 5, Sharks 4 (OT)

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

    Fights: Stars, Panthers pile up season-high 138 penalty minutes

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    When you think of the Dallas Stars against the Florida Panthers, a few things might come to mind:

    • No state income taxes, if you’re an unrestricted free agent.
    • “Non-traditional franchises.”
    • Going further on that point, arguably examples of Gary Bettman’s vision in expanding the league’s scope.

    You probably don’t think “blood rivals,” but maybe Tuesday will change that. Perhaps it was triggered in part by a misunderstanding about James Reimer‘s injury, or maybe because Antoine Roussel is Antoine Roussel, yet either way, things got pretty nasty between the Stars and Panthers on Tuesday.

    The two teams piled up a whopping 138 penalty minutes in this one, which is great for lovers of chaos and/or fantasy hockey owners.

    According to Sportsnet’s stats, that’s the highest combined PIM for a game so far in 2017-18. Somehow Matthew Tkachuk wasn’t even involved.

    Again, it was a little senseless, which admittedly is sometimes the most entertaining form of violence.

    ¯_(ツ)_/¯

    The Stars pummeled the Panthers 6-1, by the way.

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

    Sharks’ Hertl ejected; Joe Thornton injured?

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    Brad Marchand isn’t the only player who delivered a questionable hit on Tuesday, as Tomas Hertl of the San Jose Sharks is also likely to draw the attention of the Department of Player Safety.

    Hertl received a game misconduct and major penalty for boarding Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dmitry Kulikov, as you can see in the video above this post’s headline.

    For whatever it’s worth, Hertl, 24, hasn’t been suspended in the NHL. It seems like Kulikov suffered at least some ill effects from the hit.

    Some put at least a portion of blame on Kulikov for turning his back before the check.

    Is the major penalty sufficient or should Hertl sit for that hit?

    Update: The Jets ended up beating the Sharks 4-3 in overtime, but the bigger concern for San Jose is that Joe Thornton might be injured. More information may not come for a while.

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

    Should Brad Marchand be suspended for elbow on Marcus Johansson?

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    Much has been made of Brad Marchand cleaning up his act, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the Boston Bruins forward has totally stopped blurring the line between “physical” and “illegal” play.

    Marchand was everywhere in the Bruins’ 3-2 win against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday, and that was mostly in a good way, scoring a goal and an assist, easily leading all forwards with 20:06 time on ice.

    Devils fans were unhappy when Marchand wasn’t penalized for a highly questionable elbow on forward Marcus Johansson. You can watch the infraction in the video above this post. You can also see it in GIF form below.

    NBC Sports Boston’s Joe Haggerty reports that the Department of Player Safety is aware of the elbow, and supplemental discipline may come:

    Again, many recall other incidents with Marchand, so plenty were unhappy with the situation:

    What do you think? Is a suspension appropriate in this case?

    More on the Bruins:How will they cope without Charlie McAvoy?

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.