Around the rink – Monday, November 15th

So Colin Campbell might be having a bad Monday, but that doesn’t mean you have to have one too. Hold off on sending a profanity-filled e-mail to your co-workers and try not to complain too loudly to your friends about things because you’ve got actual hockey to watch tonight and, damn it, you’re going to enjoy it. All times listed are Eastern because that’s where the NHL home offices are based from.

7:00 pm

New Jersey @ Boston

Boston’s found themselves in a bit of a mini-slump having dropped their last two games and four of their last five games. The Bruins have hit an offensive outage the last couple games but the Devils might be the solution they’re looking for. The Devils are coming off a comeback win over Edmonton, but the Bruins are not the Oilers so the Devils will have to be a lot better to win this game. The Bruins offense will like hearing this bit of statistical news: In five of the last six Devils games, they’ve given up exactly three goals in each game. That one game that was the outlier? They gave up five goals.

Vancouver @ Buffalo

Perhaps the Sabres are getting things turned around. They’ve won three of their last four games, and have gotten seven out of a possible eight points in those games. Not too bad. With Thomas Vanek scoring overtime winners and Ryan Miller back in goal, this could be the start of a run for the Sabres. Having to deal with Vancouver, however, will be their biggest test to date. The Canucks are 2-1-0 so far on their east coast trip and they’ve looked strong against both Ottawa and Toronto. If they’re for real, they can take care of Buffalo. One fun side show to look out for is how the Sabres fans treat Raffi Torres. Torres turned out to be a bust of a pickup last year at the trade deadline and helped make the Sabres stay in the playoffs a short one.

NY Rangers @ Pittsburgh

The Rangers got things right in a big way against Edmonton yesterday but dealing with the Penguins means that life should be a little harder. The Pens are playing better and Marc-Andre Fleury is perhaps getting his own mojo back. Meanwhile, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are firing on all cylinders. This could turn out to be a special game if the big performances the Rangers got from Marian Gaborik and Alex Frolov carry over to tonight.

Ottawa @ Philadelphia

So the Senators shutout the Bruins in their last game, meanwhile the Flyers have been an offensive wrecking crew in their last two outings scoring 13 goals in the last two games combined. Does Brian Elliott stay hot for Ottawa and keep the Flyers off the board, or will it be a reality check for the Sens and the Flyers continue to pile up goals? It should be fun to see how things shake out. The sneaky superstar in this game could be Sergei Bobrovsky if he gets the call in net again. He’s been the rock the Flyers have relied on and his steady play seems to be making the rest of the team settle down and feel at ease to open things up. Scary, eh?

8:00 pm

St. Louis @ Colorado

Two injury-riddled teams square off in Denver. The Blues ride in losers of three in a row while the Avs will be looking to bounce back after losing to Detroit on Saturday. After getting off to such a hot start, injuries (and perhaps statistical correction) may have caught up to St. Louis. They weren’t giving up lots of goals during their hot start, but lately it’s been a different story having given up 16 goals in their last three games. To be fair, eight of those came against Columbus. The run-and-gun Avs might give the Blues gimpy defense all they can handle.

10:30 pm

Los Angeles @ San Jose

The potential game of the night comes from out west so if you want to see it, you gotta want to see it if you’re out east. The red-hot Kings roll into San Jose looking to teach their rivals a lesson and let them know that they’re the big shots in the Pacific Division this year. The Kings have won six in a row and they’ve been doing it thanks to stellar goaltending. The Kings are tops in the NHL in goals allowed but the Sharks are no slouches either coming in fifth in that category. During their win streak, the Kings have given up just seven goals. It’s not all snazzy goaltending though, the offense has been stellar as well scoring 21 goals during the six-game streak. Dealing with the Sharks in San Jose won’t be easy, they’re 5-2-1 so far this year at the HP Pavillion at San Jose.

Report: Canadiens to sign KHL defenseman Jakub Jerabek

Getty
Leave a comment

Just four days after being eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it looks like the Montreal Canadiens’ front office is already hard at work.

The Habs have reportedly agreed to terms with Chekhov Vityaz defenseman Jakub Jerabek, according to KHL reporter Aivis Kalnins.

No official announcement has been made because Jerabek still has four days remaining on his current KHL contract.

The 25-year-old isn’t big (5-foot-10, 180 pounds), but his numbers suggest he’s got a good blend of offensive ability, while playing with an edge.

In his first KHL season, Jerabek scored five goals, 29 assists and accumulated 56 penalty minutes in 59 games.

He had spent the previous eight years with Plzen HC over in the Czech League.

Montreal has plenty of defensemen on their roster, but with the expansion draft and free agency on the horizon, that could change fairly quickly.

Veteran Andrei Markov is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent, but it would be shocking to see him go. Alexei Emelin, Shea Weber, Jeff Petry, Jordie Benn and Brandon Davidson are all signed, while Nathan Beaulieu and Nikita Nesterov are both set to become restricted free agents.

In Beaulieu and Nesterov’s case, there’s a decent chance they won’t be back with the club next year.

Last year’s ninth overall pick, Mikhail Sergachev, will also be looking to make a full-time leap to the NHL in 2017-18, so Jerabek isn’t a slam dunk to become a regular.

PHT Morning Skate: Five under-the-radar coaching candidates

Getty
1 Comment

–We don’t often see franchise players hit the open market, but next summer could be intriguing in that regard. Elliotte Friedman’s “30 Thoughts” blog focuses on the Islanders’ future with or without John Tavares, and what direction the team could be heading in. Friedman also touches on Joel Quenneville’s job security in Chicago and much more. (Sportsnet)

–Some hockey fans have begun questioning the importance of winning faceoffs, but the Anaheim Ducks aren’t among those who doubt the importance of winning draws. “If you start with the puck, you can use it to your advantage on the offensive side of the game. When you’re trying to protect a lead and starting with the puck, you’re killing their momentum that they’re trying to build.” (OC Register)

–Even though it’s been almost 30 years since Wayne Gretzky has suited up for the Edmonton Oilers, he still gets pretty intense during their playoff games. We’ve all gotten to see the footage of a nervous-looking Gretzky watching the Oilers play, and he’s definitely not just putting on a show. “It’s an emotional game and I’ve always been sort of an emotional guy. It’s exciting. Back in Edmonton, the city is on fire. The Oilers are playing with a great deal of passion. You can’t help but get caught up in that passion. That’s what it’s all about. (Edmonton Journal)

–There’s a couple of teams still looking for new head coaches at this point, and Sportsnet’s Ryan Dixon brings up five off-the-board candidates that could step in and get an NHL job very soon. With the success the Capitals have had over the last few seasons, it’s not surprising to see their associate coach Todd Reirden and assistant Lane Lambert get some recognition. (Sportsnet)

–Speaking of people flying under the radar, USA Today looks at eight players that could surprisingly make a huge difference for their teams in the second round. With the injury to Karl Alzner in Washington, Nate Schmidt could eat up some important minutes for the Caps. Pens forward Jake Guentzel, who was terrific in the first round against Columbus, may need to help shoulder the offensive burden. (USA Today)

–Smaller goalie equipment was supposed to make life harder for netminders, but has it had the opposite effect? Since the equipment change became mandatory on Feb. 4, scoring went down by 0.03 goals-per-game. The Hockey News’ Ken Campbell suggests that if the NHL wants to add more scoring, they may be better off making goalies wear bigger equipment. (The Hockey News)

Bruce Cassidy officially named head coach of the Bruins

Getty
6 Comments

Bruce Cassidy wanted it, and now he’s got it.

On Wednesday morning, Cassidy was officially named the 28th head coach of the Boston Bruins.

He really helped turn Boston’s season around after taking over for Claude Julien, who was fired on Feb. 9. Cassidy led the Bruins to an 18-8-1 record in 33 games behind the bench.

Despite being without a number of key players like Torey Krug, Brandon Carlo, David Krejci and others, Cassidy’s Bruins managed to push the Senators before eventually being eliminated in six games in the opening round of the playoffs.

“Obviously we’re talking (the players) about pretty much everything when we’re out shooting the bull, and a lot of guys liked him,” forward David Backes said on Tuesday, per NESN. “He was put into a tough situation — being out of the playoff race, maybe just chasing at the point he takes over to try to take a team and get in … and you figure the way the business works, that he’s probably coaching for his life to make a splash and show that he can be a difference-maker or else who knows what the future holds for him? I think he did a heck of a job, and his results are what a coach should be judged on.”

Cassidy did some impressive work over the final three months of the campaign. Under his watch, the team finished first in goals-per-game (3.37), first in fewest shots allowed (741), tied for second in wins (18), tied for second in power play percentage (27.8), tied for third in goals allowed per game (2.30), and they ranked sixth in takeaways (229).

Prior to joining Julien’s staff as an assistant at the start of the 2016-17 season, Cassidy spent five years as head coach of Boston’s AHL team in Providence.

This is the second head coaching job for the 51-year-old at the NHL level. He previously served as head coach of the Washington Capitals for parts of two seasons (2002-03 to 2003-04).

After surgery, Joe Thornton should be ready for 2017-18 (Wherever he plays)

Getty
2 Comments

On Monday, we found out that Joe Thornton made the “courageous” (or … outrageous?) decision to fight through tears to his ACL and MCL and suit up for the playoffs.

(That still warrants a moment of reflection, because, wow.)

The San Jose Sharks sent out a positive update in that regard: after successful surgery yesterday, Thornton is expected to be ready to play by the start of the 2017-18 season.

So, that answers one big question. It doesn’t settle an even bigger one, though: where will Thornton play next year?

Patrick Marleau indicated that he believes he has “at least five good years” left, a fine thought that becomes trickier when you consider San Jose’s salary structure problems for 2018-19 and on. The impression is that Thornton wants to come back, too, but what if he – justifiably – seeks security in a longer term deal?

That situation is currently unclear, but at least it sounds like he’ll be healthy to start next season, whether he remains a member of the Sharks or joins a different roster.