Ilya 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.
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.
There will be no 0-8 start in Columbus this season.
The Blue Jackets were 3-2 winners against the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday night to earn their first win of the season thanks to goals from Zach Werenski, Nick Foligno and William Karlsson. The first two of those goals came on the power play as the Blue Jackets were the latest team to feast on Chicago’s dismal penalty killing unit this season. Those two power play goals came on Columbus’ only two power play opportunities of the night.
Right now everybody is scoring against the Blackhawks on the power play.
With the two more goals against on Friday, Chicago’s penalty kill has already given up 11 goals through the first five games of the season, becoming just the 18th team in the past 30 years to do that.
Their early season penalty kill success rate has been so bad that as Daily Herald beat writer John Dietz pointed out on Friday that even if they successfully kill off their next 20 shorthanded opportunities their PK would still only be at 71.8 on the season. The worst penalty kill in the NHL a season ago was 75.5 percent. In other words: That is not ideal.
After falling behind 3-1, the Blackhawks attempted to rally thanks to a goal from Richard Panik (already his fifth of the season) to cut the deficit from one. They pretty much took over the game in the third period and threw everything they could at the Blue Jackets’ net, but Sergei Bobrovsky was sensational and holding down the fort and helping the Jackets get their first win of the season.
It was a costly win for the Blue Jackets in some ways though as they lost defenseman Ryan Murray to an upper body injury in the first period. Injuries have been a problem for him throughout his young career.
As for the Blackhawks, the loss drops them to 2-3-0 on the young season. There are a lot of new faces on this year’s team, and a lot of young players filling out the bottom half of the roster. Early on it has been a struggle for pretty much everybody.
Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Ryan Murray had to leave his team’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday night with an upper body injury, the team announced.
He will not return to the game.
Murray, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2013 draft, seemed to be injured when his arm was pinned against the boards when trying to finish a check on Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook behind the net.
Murray played only 4:38 on Friday night before exiting the game.
The No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 draft, Murray played in 81 games for the Blue Jackets a year ago, scoring four goals to go with 21 assists.
He had played in one of the Blue Jackets’ two games this season entering Friday and did not record a point.
After spending the past eight years moving around the NHL, Zach Boychuk is moving overseas.
On Friday it was announced that the 27-year-old forward has signed a contract with HC Sibir of the KHL.
Boychuk was a first-round draft pick by the Carolina Hurricanes in 2008 and has also spent time with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators in his career.
He did not play in the NHL during the 2015-16 season, spending the year split between the Charlotte Checkers and Bakersfield Condors of the American Hockey League.
In 127 NHL games he has scored 12 goals and added 18 assists.
Boychuk was in camp in September with the Arizona Coyotes on a tryout contract but did not make the team.
The Philadelphia Flyers are going to be without forward Dale Weise for the next three games as a result of a suspension handed out by the NHL’s department of player safety on Friday evening.
The league announced that Weise has been suspended due to an illegal check to the head of Anaheim Ducks defenseman Korbinian Holzer during their game in Philadelphia on Thursday night.
Weise was not penalized for the hit.
The incident happened midway through the second period of the Ducks’ 3-2 win, and came just as Holzer was skating with the puck in his own zone.
Here is a look at the play, as well as the NHL’s explanation for the suspension.
Holzer was not injured as a result of the hit.
The Flyers have been hit hard by suspensions so far this season. They played the first three games of the season without forward Brayden Schenn as he served a suspension that carried over from the 2016 playoffs. Defenseman Radko Gudas is still sidelined as he serves a six-game suspension for a hit this preseason.
Weise has yet to record a point in four games for the Flyers this season. He scored 14 goals and added 13 assists a year ago for the Montreal Canadiens and Chicago Blackhawks.
This suspension will cost him $39,166.68 in salary.
He will be eligible to return to the Flyers’ lineup on Oct. 27 when they host the Arizona Coyotes. He will miss games against Carolina, Montreal and Buffalo.