Atlanta Thrashers v New York Rangers

Nightly recap – Wednesday, October 27th

The NHL’s ad campaign this year stressed that “questions will be answered” and tonight was loaded with questions. Could the Rangers stay hot? Could Steven Stamkos continue scoring points like Gretzky? Could the Devils get things turned around? Could the Hurricanes remember where the heck their home arena was? All these questions were answered tonight, here’s your recap of the night’s action.

Atlanta 6 – NY Rangers 4

So the Rangers couldn’t keep the hot streak going. It’s fair though since they ran into an Atlanta team playing pretty well themselves. A schizo effort out of the Rangers ran the gamut from looking great to looking abysmal defensively watching both Evander Kane and Bryan Little skate through the defense to score effortless goals. Starter Martin Biron wasn’t immune either getting beat a couple times badly up high. That said, the Thrashers continued to do their thing and playing tough hockey getting other goals from Niclas Bergfors, Dustin Byfuglien, Eric Boulton, and Andrew Ladd. Rangers forward Artem Anisimov suffered an ankle injury and may end up being out for some time.

Washington 3 – Carolina 0

Perhaps the Hurricanes would like to go back out on the road. After being terrors on their long bi-continental road trip to start the season, the Hurricanes returned home for the first time this season only to get shutout by Michal Neuvirth and the Capitals. The shutout was Neuvirth’s first in his NHL career and he made 29 shots to earn it. The Caps got a pair of third period goals from Nicklas Backstrom to seal the deal. The eventual game-winner went to Matt Hendricks.

Montreal 5 – NY Islanders 3

The Canadiens continue to do well and stopping a very game Islanders squad made for a good test for the Habs. Montreal got five goals from five different players and never trailed in the game. The Islanders had a great game by James Wisniewski spoiled as the defenseman had a goal and two assists in the loss. Meanwhile, the Habs had goals each from Mathieu Darche, Andrei Kostitsyn, Travis Moen, and Tomas Plekanec. Carey Price made 18 saves in the win for Montreal, meanwhile Dwayne Roloson stopped 3o in the loss.

Tampa Bay 5 – Pittsburgh 3

You could say this was a roller coaster of a game for both teams. The Lightning’s Dana Tyrell scored on the first shot of the game, only to see that followed up by Pittsburgh scoring shorthanded twice on the same power play to get ahead 2-1 thanks to Craig Adams and Matt Cooke. Pascal Dupuis followed up shortly after that to make it 3-1 and chased starter Mike Smith from the game. From that point on, Dan Ellis would shut the door and the Lightning would rattle off four straight goals to win. Martin St. Louis scored twice while Vincent Lecavalier and Teddy Purcell added goals as well. Wondering about Steven Stamkos? Sure, he didn’t score a goal but he had three assists in the win.

Chicago 3 – Los Angeles 1

Patrick Sharp stays red hot for the Blackhawks as he netted his ninth goal of the year in the Hawks victory. Marty Turco did a stellar job in stopping 33 Kings shots for the win, allowing just a goal to Justin Williams in the first period. Marian Hossa left the game with an unknown injury to this point. The Hawks have done well given the limitations on their roster but losing Hossa for an extended amount of time would be a tough blow. As it is, the team expects to get defenseman Brian Campbell back this weekend so things are looking up elsewhere. For the Kings, rookie netminder Jonathan Bernier took the loss and stopped 25 shots.

San Jose 5 – New Jersey 2

The Devils tough start to the season continues and tonight it was Joe Thornton casting all the daggers in their defeat. Thornton finished the game with a hat trick and two assists, figuring in on all the Sharks goals in the win. Thornton’s linemates Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau also got paid off from Thornton’s good night as each had a goal and three assists. Antero Niittymaki stopped 27 shots in the win while Martin Brodeur stopped 34 shots in the loss. Something is going to give soon for New Jersey, it’s a just a question of when. If there’s an upside for New Jersey it’s that they broke their road power play 0-for-the-season as defenseman Andy Greene netted a power play goal in the third period.

It’s Calgary Flames day at PHT

PHILADELPHIA, PA - FEBRUARY 29: Sean Monahan #23 of the Calgary Flames celebrates his goal with teammates against the Philadelphia Flyers during the first period at Wells Fargo Center on February 29, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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If you want to boil the Calgary Flames’ past two seasons down simply, you could do worse than this:

In 2014-15: Bob Hartley won the Jack Adams Award.

In 2015-16: The Flames fired Bob Hartley.

The Flames finished this past season with 77 standings points, missing the playoffs for the sixth time in the last seven years.

While Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan survived the sophomore curse, the Flames couldn’t survive in their own end. No team allowed more goals than the 260 Calgary surrendered last season. It cost people some jobs, most notably that of Hartley.

Off-season

Naturally, the first big change in Calgary comes with Glen Gulutzan replacing Hartley behind the bench.

Much like the team he’s coaching, Gulutzan needs to get over some past failures (he failed to make the playoffs during his two seasons coaching the Dallas Stars) but is young enough (45) to argue that the best days are ahead.

To little surprise, the Flames decided that Karri Ramo, Jonas Hiller and Joni Ortio isn’t necessarily the group of goalies to get things done. The Flames brought in two-time All-Star Brian Elliott to try to right the ship.

The Flames didn’t stop there, adding Chad Johnson as Elliott’s backup. With a .917 career save percentage, Johnson could very well keep Elliott on his toes.

Aside from big improvements behind the bench and in the net, the Flames’ most noteworthy work came in extending Sean Monahan,* picking up Troy Brouwer and landing Matthew Tkachuk in the draft.

Calgary is making a lot of strong moves, but did they make enough to climb back into the postseason in 2016-17? PHT will explore these factors on Saturday.

* – Naturally, the biggest move needs to come soon: also handing an extension to Gaudreau.

Avalanche’s new head coach Bednar is at least saying the right things

jaredbednaravalanche
via Colorado Avalanche
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Look, there are exceptions, but new head coach press conferences feature the same basic terms and buzzwords.

After witnessing the high-octane Pittsburgh Penguins skate opponents ragged on their way to the 2016 Stanley Cup, any reasonable coach would throw “speed” into their phrasing.

Still, the Colorado Avalanche have been so deeply buried by even the most basic of modern measurements that you had to wonder: would they learn from Patrick Roy’s struggles? Can someone come in and at least attempt to keep up with the pack?

We won’t know for sure anytime soon, but hey, at least Jared Bednar seems to be saying the right things as he transitions from the AHL to the Avalanche’s head coaching gig.

When discussing his hire with NHL Network, Bednar seemed confident that his style in the AHL – “Up-tempo, aggressive style in all three zones of the rink” – will translate well in Colorado.

That interview hits the beats you’d expect from job interviews beyond hockey. There’s even a “detail-oriented” bit.

(If you space out, you might just assume there’s a mention of thinking outside the box, like every corporate interview in human history.)

Still, it’s OK to settle for baby steps, especially considering the tough situation Patrick Roy created in abruptly skipping town. For many, it might just be comforting to note that Bednar doesn’t outright dismissive “analytics” or “fancy stats.”

Mile High Hockey brings up a great point: if nothing else, the spotlight will shift from the Avalanche’s flamboyant head coach to the talented core of young players.

So, not only is Colorado bringing in a coach who is as savvy with spreadsheets as he is with the wipe-off board, but he’s going to allow the players to crawl out from under Roy and finally earn their own accomplishments. This is every bit as important as fixing the breakout play or eliminating the Collapse-O-Rama™ defensive system.

(Collapse-O-Rama, huh? Can we stash that term for future use regarding another coach or two?)

Bednar isn’t a retread, so we only know so much about what to expect.

There are positive early signs. Roll your eyes all you want, we have seen more than a few successful transitions from AHL glory (Bednar just won the Calder Cup) to the NHL.

He’s not necessarily anti-information and seems at least interested in implementing modern, attacking systems. Attacking systems that, theoretically, would best suit the talents of a gifted-but-flawed group.

It all feels a little vague, but then again, it’s not even September yet. So far, so good.

One way or another, Al Montoya will be important to Canadiens

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 02:  Goalie Al Montoya #35 of the Florida Panthers looks on in the second period against the Washington Capitals at Verizon Center on February 2, 2016 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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This is part of Canadiens day at PHT …

Here’s an unsolicited opinion: a good backup goalie is often underrated.

Yes, getting a quality Plan B is easier said than done – goalies are an unpredictable lot – but it’s simple to see when it pays off.

(There are plenty of examples, but Matt Murray winning a Stanley Cup for the Pittsburgh Penguins is the shiniest one.)

Even if injuries aren’t a big issue, a No. 2 goalie is a pretty safe bet to play 20 games for a given team. In that regard, Al Montoya could be a significant upgrade over Mike Condon, and that could be important.

Waning workhorses

In 2015-16, no goalie played 70 regular season games. Jonathan Quick was the workhorse of the NHL with 68, while only 10 played at least 60. So, more than two-thirds of last season’s teams needed at least 24 games from their lesser-paid goalies.

Even in Carey Price‘s dominant 2014-15 campaign, he played 66 games while Dustin Tokarski was in net for 17.

Let’s ponder the outlook for a variety of scenarios as Price hopes to rebound from injury:

If Price resumes Vezina-caliber form

As PHT notes, Price seems confident that he’s at 100 percent.

That’s great … but what else is he going to say? Knee injuries can beguile just about any athlete.

He does admit that he’s getting up there in age a bit – relative to the sport, mind you – at 29. Earlier this summer, the Hockey News went over Montreal’s plan to scale Price’s workload a bit, injured or not.

So, even in a dream scenario, Montoya and/or Condon will still see plenty of reps.

If Price falters

The Canadiens are expected to live or die by Price. Let’s not kid ourselves.

The leash might not be very long for Michel Therrien if Price really falls on his face, however. A Condon-led Habs team stumbled terribly, but what might we see from Montoya being thrust into the spotlight for performance reasons?

  • With a .909 career save percentage, Montoya’s experienced his stumbles in the NHL. Montreal has to hope he follows more of the path from strong showings in 2013-14 (13-8-3, .920 save percentage with Winnipeg) and 2015-16 (12-7-3, .919 save percentage with Florida).

Long story short, there were flashes of the brilliance you’d expect from a guy who went sixth overall in 2004.

  • The good news is that he’s accustomed to a fairly heavy backup duty. He set a career-high with 31 games played and 26 starts with the Islanders in 2011-12. Including that season, he’s enjoyed 20+ appearances in five of his last six seasons.
  • The bad news is that he hasn’t ever even carried half of a season’s workload so …

Yes, a Price re-injury would be disastrous

Montoya hasn’t been “the guy” before, certainly not in a pressure-cooker like Montreal. Condon’s opportunity didn’t go especially well.

One can understand ownership giving Therrien and GM Marc Bergevin something of a “Price pass” after 2015-16, but would there be the same level of acceptance if they couldn’t thrive without their star goalie again? You’d have to ask about lessons learned.

***

Long story short, Montoya matters to Montreal. The Canadiens just have to hope that he doesn’t matter too much.

 

Ducks lock up 2016 first-rounder Max Jones

BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 24:  Max Jones poses for a portrait after being selected 24th overall by the Anaheim Ducks in round one during the 2016 NHL Draft on June 24, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Jeffrey T. Barnes/Getty Images)
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The Anaheim Ducks handed their 2016 first-round draft pick Max Jones an entry-level contract on Friday.

Anaheim selected Jones 24th overall. It looks like he’s getting a pretty typical rookie deal, according to reporters including NHL.com’s Curtis Zupke.

In PHT’s “Get to Know a Draft Pick” series, THN’s Ryan Kennedy described Jones as “a power forward who can make you look silly with his offensive moves or simply plow you through the boards.”

Jones was one of three London Knights players who went in the first round in 2016, following Olli Juolevi (fifth overall) and Matthew Tkachuk (sixth overall). He certainly seemed to enjoy the team’s Memorial Cup victory:

You never really know for certain, but one would imagine that Jones may take a season or two to make it to the NHL level with the Ducks. From the sound of things, he’s in the sort of power forward mold that the team’s had a lot of success with.