Pre-season quick recaps – September 22nd

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Here’s your recap of tonight’s pre-season action. Please try to contain your excitement reading these scores and remember, nothing actually counts. It’s nice to have hockey to talk about at least.

orpik-franzen-9-22.jpgPittsburgh 5 – Detroit 1

Plus: New Penguins Mike Comrie, Brett Sterling, and Ryan Craig all made great first impressions in the first game at CONSOL Energy Center. Ruslan Salei had the only goal for Detroit, so that was nice.

Minus: Brooks Orpik getting kicked out of the game for a knee-on-knee hit with Johan Franzen. Chris Osgood letting in five goals on 27 shots is deflating for Detroit. Future Grand Rapids Griffin Brian Lashoff was a -4 on defense for the Wings.

Toronto 4 – Ottawa 1

Plus: Leafs line of Nikolai Kulemin-Tyler Bozak-Phil Kessel clicked well all night. That bodes well for the season as that will likely be the Leafs top line. Clarke MacArthur and Luca Caputi also had two point nights. Nick Foligno had the lone goal for Ottawa. Jay Rosehill had yet another fight to improve his cult hero status in Toronto.

Minus: Sens goalie Brian Elliott looked shaky making 26 saves in the game. TSN and NBC’s Pierre McGuire gets a thumbs-down for his lack of poise when Leafs defenseman Mike Komisarek dumped Senator Francis Lessard into his broadcast spot between the benches. We kid because we love, Pierre.

Washington 6 – Columbus 2

Plus: Caps forward and future Hershey Bear Matt Hendricks had a hat-trick. Tomas Fleischmann played a strong game in an effort to prove to everyone he can be the team’s #2 centerman adding a goal and two assists. Caps goalie Semyon Varlamov stopped all 20 shots he saw in 30 minutes of play. Rick Nash and Nikita Filatov scored for Columbus. They’ll need those two to get it done a lot this year.

Minus: Columbus goaltending was barf-tastic. Steve Mason stopped 11 of 13 shots while Daren Machesney stopped 12 of 16 shots. Jackets defensemen Teddy Ruth and Fedor Tyutin were both -3 on the night.

Boston 4 – Montreal 2

Plus: Nathan Horton made a good impression for Boston scoring 93 seconds into the game. Tyler Seguin had an assist and Patrice Bergeron stepped up in a big way with two goals including one shorthanded. Tomas Plekanec had a goal and assist while Josh Gorges had two assists for Montreal.

Minus: Carey Price had a rough night stopping six out of 10 shots he saw. Montreal fans had a worse night after booing Price off the ice when Curtis Sanford took over halfway through the game in a scheduled replacement. For the love of Henri Richard, Montreal – it’s the preseason!

boynton-durno-9-22.jpgTampa Bay 4 – Chicago 2

Plus: Simon Gagne makes a great first impression scoring a goal and getting two assists. Speaking of good impressions, Blair Jones of Tampa makes an impression on Hawks defenseman Nick Boynton’s face with his fist. Winnipeg natives Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews scored for Chicago.

Minus: Nick Boynton’s knee-on-knee hit with Chris Durno that earned him a face-beating via Blair Jones. Not cool, man. NHL veteran defenseman Jassen Cullimore looked lost out there for Chicago. Another season in Rockford awaits for him.

St. Louis 5 – Minnesota 1

Plus: Son of former NHL goon extraordinaire Basil McRae, Phillip McRae, scored for the Blues. David Backes and David Perron each had two points for St. Louis. Blues prospect Ben Bishop made 23 saves in the win. Martin Havlat scored the only goal for the hapless Wild.

Minus: The Wild didn’t sell out the game. Not usually a big deal for most teams in the preseason, but for the Wild this was their first non-sellout game in franchise history. Ouch, babe. Nicklas Backstrom stopped just 13 shots out of 18 in earning the loss.

Los Angeles 4 – Colorado 2

Plus: The Kings won after getting down 2-0. Four different Kings scored goals. Spreading the wealth is a good thing. Jonathan Bernier stopped 21 shots in the win. Kyle Quincey had a goal and an assist for the Avs.

Minus: The Avs gave up 42 shots to the Kings. The defensive plan for Colorado that reads “let them shoot at will” might not pan out this year. John Grahame (remember him?) was uninspiring stopping 21 of 24 shots in his 30 minutes of work for Colorado.

Edmonton 3 – Vancouver 2

Plus: Give it up for the underdogs. A mostly pedestrian lineup of Oilers pulled out the win having only Shawn Horcoff and Martin Gerber to really rely on. Ben Ondrus, Chris Vande Velde, and Gregory Stewart scored for the Oilers. Daniel Sedin and reclamation project Peter Schaefer scored for Vancouver.

Minus: Roberto Luongo was a bit rusty. Rebounds scattered all over the place and he played with relative unease in goal. Let’s hang a big minus overall on Vancouver for using a lineup loaded with regulars and losing to a team full of future Oklahoma City Barons. I know it’s preseason, but you should at least be able to come out on top in this game.

Anaheim 5 – San Jose 2

Plus: Ryan Getzlaf and Matt Beleskey each had two points for the Ducks while Jonas Hiller stopped all 20 shots he saw in 30 minutes of play. Torrey Mitchell had a goal for San Jose.

Minus: Antero Niittymaki was shaky as shaky can get stopping just eight out of 12 shots in 40 minutes. Sharks defensemen Nick Petrecki and Jason Demers were each -3 on the night.

It’s Florida Panthers day at PHT

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 20: Nick Bjugstad #27 of the Florida Panthers reacts to the game winning goal by Alex Petrovic #6 against the Florida Panthers in Game Four of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Barclays Center on April 20, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  The Panthers defeated the Islanders 2-1. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The Florida Panthers have a new look, a different general manager and heightened expectations following an ambitious offseason.

After claiming the Atlantic Division with 103 points, the Panthers were knocked out of the playoffs in the first round. But with a young, skilled nucleus of players mixed with productive veterans — including 44-year-old Jaromir Jagr, who had 66 points last season — the Panthers have served noticed to the Eastern Conference that they are an emerging force.

Their summer has consisted of re-shaping the front office by promoting Dale Tallon to president of hockey operations and Tom Rowe to general manager. They also fired their director of player personnel Scott Luce, which was a controversial move for the team, as it shifts to a more analytics-based approach. They also completely revamped their scouting staff.

During the height of the playoffs, the Panthers and Vancouver Canucks made a trade, as Florida acquired 20-year-old center Jared McCann — a former first-round pick — and sent defenseman Erik Gudbranson to Vancouver.

The Panthers also freed up a substantial amount of cap space by trading Marc Savard‘s contract, and a draft pick, to New Jersey.

And that’s when things really started to pick up. The Panthers acquired the rights to puck-moving defenseman and pending UFA Keith Yandle — a “risk worth taking,” said Rowe at the time of the deal — and eventually signed him to a seven-year deal. The Panthers also traded defenseman Dmitry Kulikov, while Brian Campbell signed as a free agent in Chicago.

The signings continued from there:

— Stud defenseman Aaron Ekblad signed an eight-year contract extension.

Defenseman Jason Demers signed as a free agent.

— Forward Vincent Trocheck, 23, emerged last season with 25 goals and was rewarded with a six-year deal.

Reilly Smith got a five-year contract extension.

So, yeah, a busy offseason in Florida.

Now, can the Panthers live up to the heightened expectations?

Red Wings approach training camp with an expensive goalie situation

Detroit Red Wings' Petr Mrazek (34) replaces goalie Jimmy Howard (35) during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015, in Winnipeg, Manitoba. (Trevor Hagan/The Canadian Press via AP)
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This post is part of Detroit Red Wings day at PHT…

There was a stretch in January when Petr Mrazek wasn’t unbeatable, but it may have felt that way. He allowed only 12 goals during a nine-game stretch. Subsequently, he posted a 7-1-1 record that month.

Then, there was a stretch in February and into March when he gave up 24 goals in eight appearances, including a trio of five-spots and that got people talking. His coach, Jeff Blashill, said at the time that such a run in January — citing a .956 save percentage — simply wasn’t sustainable and that Mrazek’s struggles a short time later were part of the ebb and flow of a season.

When the playoffs began, Jimmy Howard started the first-round series versus Tampa Bay but gave up seven goals in two games, before giving way to Mrazek for the final three games.

Over the summer, the Red Wings and Mrazek were able to come to an agreement on a two-year, $8 million deal just before the two sides were to have a scheduled arbitration hearing.

That is a large raise from the $737,500 average annual value Mrazek was making on his entry-level contract. The Red Wings now have more than $9 million dedicated to both Mrazek and Howard in the salary cap.

Howard, 32, is signed for three more years at $5.29 million. He posted a 14-14-5 record, with a .906 save percentage, which is well below his career average of .915.

General manager Ken Holland — he’s under pressure — has offered conflicting takes on Howard’s future prospects in Detroit, saying he had thought about trading the veteran goalie but then he made the case to keep Howard almost as insurance in goal, as Detroit continues to develop Mrazek as the true No. 1.

“Some teams have goalies that make $8 million, $7 million,” Holland told the Detroit Free Press. “We’re on the higher end in terms of the money we’ve got in net, but we see goaltending as a strength for us.”

Blashill told MLive.com during the winter that he went into last season with a three-week plan to alternate between Howard and Mrazek, to see which of those two goalies could separate themselves and take charge of that No. 1 position.

The plan this time around will be one to keep an eye on when the season begins. It’s shaping up right now to be an expensive one.

Coyotes hire skating guru Dawn Braid, believed to be first full-time female coach in NHL history

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GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) The Arizona Coyotes have hired Dawn Braid as skating coach and say she is believed to be the first full-time female coach in NHL history.

Braid has a long association with the NHL.

She worked part-time for the Coyotes last year and has served as a skating consultant with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Anaheim Ducks, Buffalo Sabres and Calgary Flames.

Braid also spent seven years with the Athletes Training Center as director of skating development. Among the skaters she worked with while there is New York Islanders center John Tavares.

From NHL.com:

“Dawn has wanted to put me in to make myself a more powerful and efficient skater,” Tavares told NHL.com in 2012. “Dawn always says, ‘If you didn’t train properly and do the certain things you need to do, you’re not going to be strong enough to do the things I want you to do.'”

Braid’s hiring continues the trend of full-time female coaches in men’s pro sports; she follows Becky Hammon of the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs (2014) and Kathryn Smith of the NFL’s Buffalo Bills (2016) as the first full-time women’s coach in their respective leagues.

It’s all about experience for Red Wings sophomore bench boss Blashill

Detroit Red Wing training camp, day one
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This post is part of Detroit Red Wings day at PHT…

Let’s be honest: It’s probably not easy to replace a coach of Mike Babcock’s repute.

More than a year ago, Babcock went to the rebuilding Toronto Maple Leafs and is being paid a lot of money — an estimated $50 million over eight years — to coach in that market. Meanwhile, back in Detroit and with Babcock out of the picture, the Red Wings turned to Jeff Blashill as their new bench boss.

True, Blashill had spent time as a head coach in the USHL, college ranks and with the Grand Rapids Griffins of the AHL. But he had no experience as an NHL head coach prior to the 2015-16 season and just one season as an NHL assistant when he was part of Babcock’s staff in 2011-12.

After a 41-30-11 regular season record and another playoff appearance, the 25th straight in Detroit, the Red Wings were bounced in the first round. One of the priorities for general manager Ken Holland this offseason was to insulate Blashill by bringing in more experienced assistants.

The Red Wings hired John Torchetti, previously the interim head coach in Minnesota, and long-time Boston assistant Doug Houda. Those moves were part of a larger coaching shake-up within the organization, as Tony Granato left for a head coaching job at Wisconsin, goalie coach Jim Bedard was not brought back and assistant Pat Ferschweiler, who ran the team’s 13th-ranked power play last season, was reassigned.

Blashill told MLive.com that “player development” will be a large part of Ferschweiler’s role going forward.

“I think it’ll be a real benefit,” Blashill told the Detroit Free Press of the additions to the Red Wings staff. “Lots of years behind NHL benches. I’ve only had two years on an NHL bench. That’s a scenario where I can learn from their past experiences.”

It’s all about experience.

Two years ago, Blashill was touted by Holland as an “NHL coach in the making.” A month later, he was given a three-year contract extension to coach the Griffins, so clearly they thought highly of Blashill by keeping him as opposed to potentially losing him to another NHL club. A year later, he was tapped on to replace Mike Babcock.

In this case, patience may be required, too. That may be easier said than done from a fan’s perspective because as impressive as Detroit’s current run of consecutive playoff appearances is, they haven’t made it out of the first round in their last three tries.

“I think he’s a tremendous coach and I think he’s going to be in the League a long time. He’s had a lot of success at every level he’s been at except the NHL,” Holland told NHL.com.

“He did guide us to a playoff spot in a League when it’s hard to qualify for the playoffs, but I also think as you looked at our team last year, there were lots of decisions to be made and I think the experiences of last year are going to be important for Jeff.”

If the Red Wings place such a great deal of value on Blashill gaining experience, and leaning on the experience of veteran coaches beside him, it would seem then that they are willing to invest a substantial amount of time in him as he continues to grow and establish himself as an NHL coach.

But with such experienced assistant coaches having joined his staff this offseason, it makes you wonder about what could happen if the Red Wings struggle significantly or fail to make the playoffs.

“I think there’s always pressure in this job and there always will be and I welcomed that when I took the job,” Blashill told MLive.com this summer.

“But really, I don’t spend lots of time worrying about what could happen bad. I spend all my time worrying about how we’re going to do things to make sure we win.”