Nightly recap – Thursday, October 28th

Anyone disliking the game of hockey can’t be my friend. Since I can now say you’re all my friends for reading this, here’s how things shook out around the league tonight. It’s the nightly recap of all the great and mind-numbing performances from around the league.

Boston 2 – Toronto 0

Sure, the showdown between Tyler Seguin and Phil Kessel got all the attention, but it was Tim Thomas who stole the show. Thomas shutout the Leafs lowering his goals against average and raising his save percentage to even more ridiculous levels to start the year. Thomas stopped 20 shots in the win, meanwhile Seguin showed the Leafs what they could’ve had if they didn’t trade for Kessel by scoring a goal. Patrice Bergeron scored his 100th career goal as well for Boston. Lost in this is the great game by Leafs goalie Jonas Gustavsson who saved 30 shots in the loss.

Columbus 3 – Edmonton 2 (F/SO)

Despite playing in front of the smallest crowd in team history (again), the Jackets were able to hold off Taylor Hall and the Oilers in the shootout. Hall was able to score his first NHL goal to tie the game at two in the third period, but it would be Rick Nash and Nikita Filatov scoring in the shootout to ice the game for Columbus. Unsung hero of the game for Edmonton was backup goalie Devan Dubnyk. In seeing his first action of the year, Dubnyk stopped 39 shots in the loss. Meanwhile, Steve Mason got the win in stopping 25 shots for the Jackets.

Ottawa 5 – Florida 3

It was a bad night for Panthers goalie Tomas Vokoun. Vokoun was lit up for five goals against and made just 23 saves as the Panthers defense overall was helpless to stop the Senators offense. Five different Sens got on the board to supply the victory. Meanwhile, Brian Elliott stopped 28 shots in a solid effort to get the win. On the upside for Florida, their three goal scorers Bryan McCabe, Chris Higgins, and Mike Santorelli each got their first goals of the year.

Phoenix 4 – Detroit 2

With Jimmy Howard out thanks to back spasms, Chris Osgood got the nod in goal for Detroit and had a first period to forget giving up three goals and digging a hole for the Wings they couldn’t climb out of. Lauri Korpikoski had two goals for the Coyotes as they took out the Wings in Detroit. Ilya Bryzgalov was stellar in goal for Phoenix, meanwhile, stopping 43 shots in the win. Osgood closed things out with 32 saves, settling down well after a rough first. For Detroit, having to run with Osgood for an extended period of time might make life difficult if Osgood continues to be inconsistent.

St. Louis 3 – Nashville 0

Jaroslav Halak is playing every game like it’s the playoffs now. Halak earned his second consecutive shutout after stopping 24 shots in beating the hot Predators in Music City. Halak extended his shutout streak to 151:15 and the Blues are loving it. Matt D’Agostini, Alex Steen, and Patrik Berglund all scored for the Blues. For Steen it was his first goal of the season and a welcome slump buster. Pekka Rinne didn’t play too bad for Nashville either stopping 31 shots in the loss.

Minnesota 2 – Washington 1

The Caps struggles continue, dropping a fast-paced defensive slugfest with the Wild. For Minnesota, it’s about as solid of a game as they’ve played all year, allowing only a late goal to Alexander Ovechkin in the game. Niklas Backstrom stopped 21 shots in the win, while Chuck Kobasew and Mikko Koivu scored for the Wild. Michal Neuvirth had a quiet night in the loss, stopping just 15 shots. The Caps are going to have to get the offense going if they’re going to snap out of their funk.

Los Angeles 5 – Dallas 2

While Stars fans stayed home to watch the World Series, they missed out on seeing the Kings score goals on them in quick fashion as Alexei Ponikarovsky and Wayne Simmonds scored goals just nine seconds apart in the second period. Jon Quick stopped 30 shots in the win, meanwhile Kari Lehtonen and Andrew Raycroft split duties tonight after Lehtonen gave up four goals in 15 shots through 43 minutes of play. Hey, at least most Stars fans were spared having to watch it.

Colorado 6 – Calgary 5

The night’s wildest game was the last one of the night as the Avs and Flames traded goals all game long just to see the Avs come out on top with Doug Winnik scoring with just over two minutes to go in the third. Chris Stewart’s hot season continues as he scored yet another hat trick tonight as the Avs were able to keep Flames backup goalie Henrik Karlsson flustered all game long. Olli Jokinen was able to snap out of his goal scoring funk netting his first of the year. While the Avs ran with Peter Budaj in goal tonight, the offense was able to bail him out nicely to keep him from taking a tough loss. Meanwhile, expect the night’s off for Flames starter Miikka Kiprusoff to be a bit rarer after this stinker from Karlsson.

Predators first-rounder Tolvanen becomes youngest to score hat trick in KHL

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Talk about making a great first impression.

Nashville Predators prospect Eeli Tolvanen became the youngest KHL player to score a hat trick while adding an assist in his debut for Jokerit against Dinamo Minsk.

Tolvanen turned 18 in April. It’s ludicrously early, but with a night like this, people are already wondering if the forward was a steal; the Predators nabbed him with the 30th pick of the 2017 NHL Draft.

Here’s some footage of his performance:

If that Jokerit debut is any indication, he could have a special season, especially for an 18-year-old in the KHL.

A scouting report from Pension Plan Puppets touted Tolvanen’s shot as the best in the 2017 draft, and they believed he could be one of the big steals. And that was if he ended up landing in the teens, let alone No. 30.

BREAKING: Predators GM David Poile and his staff know what they’re doing.

Hextall deserves to see Flyers rebuild through

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This post is part of Flyers day at PHT…

If you look at GM Ron Hextall’s playing career, you might have expected the Philadelphia Flyers to continue their charming-yet-maddening run of impulsive, often-reckless moves. After all, Hextall echoed Billy Smith in goalie-stick-swinging rage.

Instead, Hextall’s almost writing the blueprint for how to rebuild a team in a tasteful way. Almost to the point where you wonder if his absence may partially explain the erosion of the Los Angeles Kings’ salary structure.

(Hextall was even rebuilding on the fly without the typical run of lottery ball luck, but that trend changed in Philly’s favor when they ended up with the second pick and Nolan Patrick.)

Let’s consider the great job Hextall is doing, even if there’s some fear that someone else might ultimately get the greatest credit if management grows impatient with this incremental approach.

Cleaning up

Hextall inherited an absolute mess in Philly, and he’s been making lemonade out of Bobby Clarke’s lemons.

Moving Vincent Lecavalier and Luke Schenn for Jordan Weal and a third-rounder felt like wizardry. The assets he managed for Kimmo Timonen, Brayden Schenn, and Braydon Coburn brought the Flyers a mix of picks, solid roster players, and financial breathing room.

Even mixed moves seem to point to better things in the future.

One imagines the Flyers getting a little more than they did when they took Valtteri Filppula off of Tampa Bay’s hands, especially since the Bolts didn’t retain salary in the process. You’d expect Jori Lehtera‘s time with Philly to be short, as the team seemingly took on his contract merely to get nice picks from the Blues for Schenn.

Prospects and picks

Hextall has assembled quite the war chest of prospects that mixes quantity with, ideally, quality choices.

Even heading into the 2018 NHL Draft, the Flyers currently hold an extra choice in the first, fifth, and seventh rounds. That’s promising, especially since they’ve already made a lot of picks.

Take a look at their draft history during the last three years.

2015: two first-rounders, zero second, two third-rounders, two fourths. Nine picks.
2016: Normal number of picks, except: three second-rounders and two sixth-rounders. Ten picks.
2017: two first-rounders, plus Isaac Ratcliffe, who was close to a first-rounder at 35th. Also two fourth-rounders. Nine picks.

And, again, they currently hold 10 choices in 2018. If the Flyers can aim those “darts” with even any accuracy, things look good for the future.

Still some problems

The troubling thing is that the Flyers don’t exactly look like a no-brainer playoff team in 2017-18. (Vote on that subject here.)

They’re standing as something of a fringe team even as they still spend quite a bit of money; they’re only about $5 million under the cap ceiling right now, according to Cap Friendly.

Still-troubling spending is part of the reason why Claude Giroux ($8.275 million per year) is under pressure. It’s not necessarily that Giroux and Jakub Voracek ($8.25M) are bad, but there are questions about one or both of them slipping, and with contracts that begin to look frighteningly long.

Combine those deals with Andrew MacDonald‘s $5M punchline of a cap hit and that’s about $21.5M on the books, just like that.

There’s a path to greater financial freedom, especially if they part ways with Filppula ($5M) and Lehtera ($4.7M). Hextall’s run of strong goalie moves continues with the cheap pairing of Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth after Steve Mason‘s surprisingly impressive run, and Philly isn’t locked into any Bryzgalovian deals in net.

So there are a lot of positives, even if it still feels like Hextall is hitting the “backspace” button on some salary cap death sentences.

Who gets to see the light at the end of the tunnel?

The Flyers boast a bounty of prospects, especially on defense; plenty of teams likely look at that farm system with some envy.

Will everything fall into line at the right time, though? Key forwards such as Giroux, Voracek, and Wayne Simmonds might see declines in the near future, to the point that Hextall must be willing to at least consider bold moves there, too.

Philly is getting close to the finish line as far as cap struggles go, which means that, sooner or later, they need to start making bigger gains toward being a stable contender. Hextall deserves to see it through, but we’ve seen more than a few examples of a GM laying the groundwork for someone else to put together the finishing touches.

Maple Leafs may look to Russia to improve defense (again)

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Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reports that the Toronto Maple Leafs confirmed that Mike Babcock and Lou Lamoriello recently made a visit to Russia, but they didn’t admit why they went.

It turns out that they were scoping out KHL defenseman Igor Ozhiganov, who plays for CSKA, according to Johnston and others.

Ozhiganov, 24, did not go drafted. He does, however, have some interesting NHL connections. For one thing, he suited up for the same team that Nikita Zaitsev did, so that experiment has already worked out quite well for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

As you can see from the tweet above, Ozhiganov will play in the KHL through 2017-18. That’s impressive due diligence from the Leafs’ brass, although you wonder if such maneuverings might put the defenseman higher on the radars of other teams hoping to add depth to their bluelines in the future.

Raw Charge notes that Ozhiganov is a buddy of Tampa Bay Lightning star Nikita Kucherov, who definitely sings the defenseman’s praises. Even with Mikhail Sergachev in the mix, the Bolts are a group that will probably want to bolster their mix (especially in the uncomfortably likely event that Dan Girardi disappoints).

Either way, NHL fans will need to wait at least a season to see what Ozhiganov is capable of … and where he lands.

Devils give Jimmy Hayes a shot with PTO

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The New Jersey Devils have made dramatic moves to improve their forward group over the last few years, but even with Taylor Hall, Marcus Johansson, and Kyle Palmieri in the mix, there’s still plenty of room for improvement.

With that and the Devils’ recent struggles in mind, it only makes sense for GM Ray Shero to be open-minded to “reclamation projects.”

Perhaps that will be the case with towering forward Jimmy Hayes, then. The Devils announced that the winger has been invited to training camp on a PTO.

Look, there’s no doubt that Hayes has frequently struggled to make a difference at the NHL level. Not that long ago, he broke a 35-game pointless streak.

Still, it’s probably fair to give him an incomplete grade instead of a failing mark from 2016-17. After all, there are only so many players who can produce much offense when they’re receiving 9:14 TOI per game.

Hayes went from averaging 15:09 per contest in his best season (2014-15, when he scored 19 goals for Florida) to 13:50 TOI with Boston in 2015-16 and then that new low last season.

So, no doubt about it, Hayes’ stock couldn’t get much lower.

We’ve seen fringe guys become valuable assets after getting clean slates, including with bigger forwards. Zack Kassian resurrected his career following some significant struggles, just to name a recent example.

The Devils could use another NHL-caliber forward, particularly with valuable center Travis Zajac slated to miss a chunk of 2017-18. Maybe Hayes can be part of the solution.