gyi0062067567-burmistrov

Should he stay or go? Atlanta Thrashers forward Alex Burmistrov

As six NHL rookies near the nine game cut-off point from “burning” a year off their entry-level contracts, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of keeping each one at the NHL level vs. moving them down to the AHL. Sometimes the decision will already be made and we’ll just be sharing our two cents while in other instances the moves will come down to a near-coin toss. Either way, we hope you’re entertained and would love to hear your thoughts.

First up: Atlanta Thrashers forward Alex Burmistrov.

The Basics

  • Burmistrov was drafted eighth overall in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.
  • He is tiny, at 5’1″ and 170 lbs.
  • He will play in his ninth game against the Rangers tonight.
  • Basic stats: zero points in eight games played.
  • He’s average a little under 15 minutes per night.
  • Burmistrov’s junior rights belong to the Barrie Colts in the OHL

What people are saying about him

If you ask Thrashers GM Rick Dudley, he’s almost guaranteed to stay at the NHL level. Here’s what Dudley said to the Sporting News.

“It’s 99 percent that we’ll keep him,” Dudley said. “There’s never been any talk of sending him back.”

There’s been growing speculation that Burmistrov, a center, might be headed back to OHL Barrie because he’s still looking for his first NHL point, but that speculation isn’t coming from the Thrashers’ front office. Dudley has been impressed with Burmistrov’s play without the puck, his efforts on defense and his strong play in key situations.

“He’s been one of our three or four top forwards every game,” Dudley said. “We’re not worried about points.”

James’ take:

I haven’t been able to watch every game very closely, so maybe Burmistrov really has been useful on defense and is “strong in key situations.”

It’s still difficult to get over that whole zero points thing. Why not let Burmistrov get an extra year of seasoning – and maybe improve his scoring confidence by playing in the minors – instead of burning an entry-level year in which the team is still a work in progress?

This isn’t a slam dunk, but I’m going with my gut on this one.

James’ verdict: Send him down.

Joe’s take:

Burmistrov is an interesting character. He hasn’t been thrown to the wolves to play on a top two scoring line. In fact, he’s been playing on the fourth line with a pair of grinders in Ben Eager and Chris Thorburn.  Burmistrov doesn’t have any points this season but he’s still played relatively well and it reflects upon his linemates as Thorburn has three goals and an assist  while Eager has a goal and a helper. He’s getting steady time on the ice, averaging over 14 minutes a game so he’s not being buried on the bench. Still, you’d like to see him do a bit more for himself offensively and that hasn’t happened as of yet. Perhaps he needs a few more games to get it going, but perhaps he just needs to grow up a little bit more. There’s a lot of hope and potential here for Burmistrov and getting him to develop the right way is important for Atlanta. The memories of former top pick Patrick Stefan failing to live up to his potential are still lingering as a reminder.

Joe’s verdict: Begrudgingly, send him down.

Capitals, Penguins nearly perfect at stopping third period comebacks

Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) and Washington Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen (2) chase down the puck during the first period of Game 2 in an NHL hockey Stanley Cup Eastern Conference semifinals Saturday, April 30, 2016 in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
AP Photo
1 Comment

Pittsburgh only won by a single goal in Game 2 on Saturday and that deciding marker came with 4:28 minutes remaining in the third, but that contest had the potential to be far more one-sided.

The Capitals were outshot 28-10 through 40 minutes and were consequently leaning on goaltender Braden Holtby to keep things close.

“First two periods, I thought they were way better than us,” Washington coach Barry Trotz told CSN Mid-Atlantic. Or has Justin Williams put it, the Capitals “were getting embarrassed out there” during the first 40 minutes.

Washington did rebound in the third period, though it wasn’t enough to prevent the Penguins from evening this series at 1-1. That puts the pressure on Washington to take at least one game in Pittsburgh before the second round’s over.

Starting the game off strong is always going to be important, but that’s particularly true when talking about the Penguins and Capitals. Pittsburgh was 39-0-0 in the regular season when leading after 40 minutes while Washington was 37-0-1. So far in the playoffs, both teams are 4-0-0 when they have the lead after two periods.

Hemsky finds his groove on third line

DALLAS, TX - APRIL 11: Ales Hemsky #83 of the Dallas Stars handles the puck against the Nashville Predators at the American Airlines Center on April 11, 2015 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images)
NHLI via Getty Images
1 Comment

When the Dallas Stars inked Ales Hemsky to a three-year, $12 million deal, the hope was that he would be a valuable secondary scorer and help round out their top-six. Things haven’t gone as predicted, but Hemsky has emerged as a significant player for Dallas lately.

Hemsky is now playing on the third line with Radek Faksa and Antoine Roussel and he’s gone on to record 15 points in his last 16 regular season games as well as another four points in seven playoff contests.

“We had hard conversations about how I felt the game needed to be played, where I felt his game needed to go,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff told the Dallas Morning News. “Did it always go his way? No. But from his defensive responsibilities to really buying into shooting the puck a little bit more, I think he’s been a real good asset for us this year.”

The Morning News goes into much more detail about Hemsky and his resurgence, but taking a step back from that, having a third line that’s both impactful without the puck and capable of chipping in offensively is important, especially as we get deeper into the playoffs. There’s no question that the Stars have big time players on their roster, but that’s obviously not all you need in the playoffs.

A lot of the time when talking about the Stars’ areas of concern, their defense and goaltending come up and understandably so given that Dallas allowed more goals in the regular season than any other team that made the playoffs. But the value of a strong bottom-six shouldn’t be understated and perhaps Hemsky’s recent resurgence will play a role in the Stars having that going for them throughout the playoffs.

Dallas has taken a 1-0 lead over St. Louis in the second round and has an opportunity to build on that in Game 2 this afternoon (3:00 p.m. ET).

NHL schedules hearing with Orpik over Maatta hit

Maatta
15 Comments

Brooks Orpik‘s late hit in Game 2 on Saturday might keep him out of Monday’s contest.

At the very least, the NHL Department of Player Safety intends to discuss the matter with Orpik today, per the department’s Twitter feed.

The incident occurred early in the first period when the Capitals forward smashed into Olli Maatta. The Penguins blueliner collapsed and needed some assistance getting off the ice. He didn’t return to the game.

You can see that hit below:

“I thought it was a late hit,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan told CSN Mid-Atlantic. “I thought it was a target to his head. I think it’s the type of hit everyone in hockey is trying to remove from the game.”

The Penguins didn’t have an update on Maatta’s condition immediately following the contest.

‘I don’t know if it has sunk in yet,’ Jets GM Cheveldayoff gets lucky with draft lottery

Kevin Cheveldayoff, general manager of Winnipeg Jets, speaks to members of the media after winning the second selection of the NHL hockey draft lottery in Toronto, Saturday, April 30, 2016. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
The Canadian Press via AP
3 Comments

The Toronto Maple Leafs may have won the draft lottery, but an argument can be made that the luckiest team last night was the Winnipeg Jets.

After all, Toronto had the best odds to get the top pick, but Winnipeg jumped from sixth to second in the draft order.

“I don’t know if it has sunk in yet,” Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff told the Winnipeg Sun. “I was doing my scrum at the end (of the show) with the media that was here, I said at one point, ‘Moving from six to two…’ and I had to catch myself and go through the mental notes in my head that it had just really happened.”

It’s likely, though not guaranteed, that the Maple Leafs will take Auston Matthews with the first overall pick. Assuming that’s the case, moving up to the second overall pick means that Winnipeg will have the option of choosing one of the two promising Finnish forwards available: Patrik Laine or Jesse Puljujarvi.

That’s potentially a big break for Winnipeg, especially after this campaign where the Jets went from making the playoffs for the first time since relocating to posting a 35-39-8 record. Through five campaigns in Winnipeg, the Jets have missed the playoffs four times.

The last time this franchise drafted this high was back when the then Atlanta Thrashers took Kari Lehtonen with the second overall pick in 2002. That was the final year in a string of four straight drafts where the Thrashers always had the first or second selection. The previous three years they took Patrik Stefan (1999), Dany Heatley (2000), and Ilya Kovalchuk (2001).

Related: Shanahan: Leafs earned No. 1 pick ‘the hard way’