Around the rink – Wednesday, November 17th

Happy hump day folks – here’s your beefy rundown of games in the NHL tonight with 12 games rocking your eyeballs across the continent. All times listed are Eastern because that’s just how we roll.

7:00 pm

Tampa Bay @ NY Islanders

Jack Capuano makes his NHL head coaching debut for the Islanders and he gets to deal with a Lightning team that could use a win themselves. A battle between two teams that are trending down of late, the Isles more so having lost 10 straight, doesn’t usually mean there’ll be headlines to be had, but this one’s a bit different.

Boston @ NY Rangers

The Rangers get to debut their 85th anniversary jerseys tonight and doing so against a Bruins team that’s looking for their offense to come back. The Rangers have been playing some solid and tough hockey of late and Marian Gaborik’s return to action has been worth the offense his presence demands. Boston meanwhile may have Johnny Boychuk back in the lineup on defense.

Vancouver @ Pittsburgh

Had this game happened last year, the story line would be “Sid vs. Lou in a battle of gold medalists.” It’s not happening then, and it’s happening now so forget it. Vancouver’s east coast tour is treating them with a .500 record and trying to get one over the Penguins will be tough.

Buffalo @ Washington

The Caps will look to get one back on Buffalo after the Sabres overtime win on Saturday thanks to Thomas Vanek’s crazy overtime winner. The Sabres are winners of four of their last five but beating the Caps in Washington is a tough order to fill. For the Caps, the loss to Buffalo on Saturday was the one hiccup in what’s been a stellar run of late winning seven of their last eight.

Ottawa @ Carolina

The Hurricanes are looking to bounce back after two ugly losses in a row in which they gave up 15 goals total to Philadelphia and Montreal. The Senators would approve if Carolina decided to continue not stopping shots as they’ve scored five goals in their last three games including a 5-1 drubbing by Philly.

Florida @ Atlanta

The Panthers have won two of their last three games and dealing with an Atlanta team in search of a break in goal might be the cure to an ailing offense for Florida. Atlanta has lost five of their last six and in all those losses they’ve given up a ton of goals, an average of 4.6 goals per game in those losses. Ugly.

7:30 pm

St. Louis @ Detroit

The Wings come into tonight’s game winners of six of their last seven and while Mike Babcock has taken his power play players to task, the Blues come into the game looking to turn things around. The Blues have lost four in a row and the great goaltending that was guiding them before has evaporated as the Blues have allowed 22 goals in the last four games. They’ll need Jaroslav Halak to be playoff-good to take down the streaking Wings.

8:00 pm

Anaheim @ Minnesota

After a tough loss last night in Dallas, the Ducks will try and bounce back against the Wild. What’ll be making that difficult is the Wild goaltending which has been outstanding of late. Both Niklas Backstrom and Jose Theodore have been solid-to-stellar this year. Also playing great of late for Minnesota is Martin Havlat. Havlat’s got points in five of his last six games and is coming off a three assist night against Tampa Bay.

9:00 pm

San Jose @ Colorado

The Avs are playing about as well as you can when you’re down as many defensive players as they are. They’re on a streak of winning one then losing one that stretches back to October 30th, a span of seven games. If the trend continues, they’re due to lose tonight and playing a hot Sharks team won’t help their chances. The Sharks are coming in winners of three straight including a thumping of the Kings in their last outing.

9:30 pm

Phoenix @ Calgary

The struggling Flames have lost six of their last seven and dealing with a Coyotes team that’s on a three-game win streak likely isn’t going to help the Flames get their act together. At least they’ll have home ice to keep them warm (cold?) tonight.

Chicago @ Edmonton

Do we think that maybe once the Blackhawks can beat the Oilers this year? Chicago is already 0-2-0 against Edmonton this season with both losses coming in Chicago, all while the Oilers have been able to score at will on the Hawks. Perhaps home ice will treat Edmonton as well as it did Chicago in their previous meetings.

10:30 pm

Columbus @ Los Angeles

The Jackets look to get Mike Commodore back in the lineup tonight and while they’ve been playing well, they’ve lost two of their last three. The Kings, meanwhile, saw their win streak snapped the other night against the Sharks and will be hoping to get back on top of things against the Jackets as they begin their three-game swing through California.

Jaromir Jagr’s open to many things, but not retirement or a tryout

Getty
2 Comments

Yes, Jaromir Jagr is 45-years-old. He’ll turn 46 in February.

So, yes, even for a fitness freak like Jagr, it’s likely that he’d probably not be the best fit for a team that plays at a frenetic pace. To get the most out of the living legend, a team would have to provide a nurturing environment. There are also questions about what sort of role he’d accept and how much money he’d settle for.

Even with all of those disclaimers under consideration, it’s maddening that we’re in late September and Jagr continues to put out semi-sarcastic cry for help videos.

So, what’s the latest on Jagr, then?

Well, to some extent, it’s useful to consider the process of elimination.

Sports-Express’ Igor Eronko reports that Jagr is open-minded about the KHL, though the NHL is first choice. Jagr acknowledged that participating in the 2018 Winter Olympics would be a draw in the process.

One thing he isn’t open to: a PTO with an NHL team.

While there’s actually some logic to a tryout – teams might want to see how well he can move/what kind of immediate chemistry Jagr could find – it does seem a little … demeaning to a first-ballot Hall of Famer who, frankly, is still producing solid numbers.

Eronko reports that Jagr said he’s talking to three-to-four teams, while Pierre LeBrun reports that two-to-three NHL teams are speaking with Jagr’s reps in the latest edition of TSN’s Insider Trading.

(Hey, both could be correct if Jagr’s including KHL suitors in his estimate.)

LeBrun also notes the idea Jagr is ruling out, beyond a PTO: retirement.

Jagr doesn’t want to hang up his skates, even if it means not playing in the NHL, which would bum out a slew of hockey fans (raises hand).

Naturally, there are creative “have your cake and eat it too” scenarios. Perhaps Jagr could sign a KHL contract with an NHL out clause of some kind, playing in the 2018 Winter Olympics, and then ink a deal with a contender who a) he wants to play for and b) is now convinced he still “has it?”

There are plenty of possibilities, and many of them are fun to think about.

Jagr needing to try out for a team – or worse, retire – is not so fun to think about.

Flyers experiment with Claude Giroux at LW, Sean Couturier as his center

Getty
1 Comment

Last season, Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier were on the ice at the same time during even-strength situations for just a bit more than five minutes. Depending upon how a Philadelphia Flyers’ pre-season experiment goes, they could line up together a whole lot more often.

Of course, if you missed this post’s headline, you might be asking: “But how? They’re both centers.”

Well, under this experiment, Giroux would move to left wing, Couturier would play center, and Jakub Voracek would assume his familiar role at RW.

Giroux came into the NHL primarily as a right-winger before moving to center, so he’s clearly versatile enough to theoretically work out on a wing. It also might allow the Flyers to try to duplicate some of their mad science from the power play to even-strength, as that’s often the role he finds himself in on that locomotive of a man-advantage unit.

As Dave Isaac of the Courier-Post reports, Giroux doesn’t seem against it, really.

“It was actually a lot of fun,” Giroux said. “It’s not like I’m against it or I’m not happy with it. If it makes the team better, we have a lot of centermen and I’m up for it for sure.”

Giroux is right. The Flyers have a glut of pivots, especially if head coach Dave Hakstol views additions Nolan Patrick and Jori Lehtera (or fairly recent addition Valtteri Filppula) as better fits down the middle.

NHL.com’s Bill Meltzer reports that Hakstol is impressed by Giroux’s willingness to move around as need be.

“When your captain is as selfless as ‘G’ is, he [goes] all in,” Hakstol said. “Whatever the role is, he’s going to attack it… It’s early, but he’s had a very high-level camp.”

Giroux’s been, at times, a bit more dependent on the PP to get his numbers. In 2016-17, five of his 14 goals and 26 of his assists (31 of 58 points) came on the power play.

Perhaps Couturier could do the “dirty work” associated with a center while two gifted wingers exploit their chemistry and get to have the fun? It’s the sort of hypothesis that can make sense in a hockey laboratory, and it would be entertaining to see if it works out in reality.

Assuming such a scientific method even makes it to October.

Brad Marchand: NHL crackdown on face-off cheating is ‘absolute joke’

8 Comments

Earlier today, PHT’s own Cam Tucker discussed the early returns on the NHL’s plan to increase penalties for slashing and to cut down on cheating during face-offs.

(The video above this post’s headline provides a helpful primer on how officials plan on policing draws.)

So far, the face-off tweaks have one especially vocal critic in Boston Bruins agitator-star Brad Marchand, as CSNNE.com’s Joe Haggerty reports.

“The slashing [penalties] is one thing, but this face-off rule is an absolute joke. That’s how you ruin the game of hockey by putting that in there. They’re going to have to do something about that because we can’t play all year like that,” Marchand said. “Basically you have to be a statue. You can’t move. It takes away from the center iceman. I think there was even a play [in the game I was watching] last night where a penalty was called on a 4-on-4 before play on the first penalty had even started because of a draw.”

Gotta love the line “Basically you have to be a statue.”

Edmonton Oilers center Mark Letestu backed up Marchand in the “we can’t play all year like that” stance, asserting that he doubts a penalty like that would get whistled during a high-stakes game, as Sportsnet noted.

Here’s another perspective, via Edmonton Oilers head coach Todd McLellan.

Now, the new face-off rule might not have that huge of a direct impact on Marchand’s daily hockey life.

In 2016-17, Marchand went 13-23 in the dot.

It may, however, affect his fantastic center, Patrice Bergeron. The dynamic two-way center has been one of the best volume winners of draws over the years. Smarts, strength, studying tape and other factors go into winning as many as 60-percent of one’s face-offs, yet Bergeron and other top centers know how to “bend the rules,” too.

As much as analytics-minded people grumble about excessive attention being paid to face-offs, they’re events that can set up rare opportunities for set plays and other advantageous moments.

One can imagine that Marchand wouldn’t be pumped about the idea that, maybe, Bergeron’s dominance in the circle could be blunted, even ever-so-slightly or briefly.

Naturally, potential self-interest doesn’t disqualify Marchand and others from being correct.

At the same time, this is the pre-season, an opportunity for the NHL to work out its own kinks, which in this case means trying to manage rule tweaks while not disrupting the flow of games. Marchand is merely the loudest to say that … it sounds like the league might have some work to do.

Despite cancer diagnosis, Devils’ Brian Boyle doesn’t want to miss games

Getty
6 Comments

New Jersey Devils forward Brian Boyle shared frightening news on Tuesday, yet he’s showing resounding courage and optimism in also plotting his “plan of attack.”

Boye, 32, announced that he was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia on Tuesday.

Chronic myeloid luekemia (or CML) is a type of bone marrow cancer. Here’s an explanation of the disease via the American Cancer Society:

Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), also known as chronic myelogenous leukemia, is a type of cancer that starts in certain blood-forming cells of the bone marrow. In CML, a genetic change takes place in an early (immature) version of myeloid cells – the cells that make red blood cells, platelets, and most types of white blood cells (except lymphocytes). This change forms an abnormal gene called BCR-ABL, which turns the cell into a CML cell. The leukemia cells grow and divide, building up in the bone marrow and spilling over into the blood. In time, the cells can also settle in other parts of the body, including the spleen. CML is a fairly slow growing leukemia, but it can also change into a fast-growing acute leukemia that is hard to treat.

Despite that scary news, Boyle is very positive about his chances; in fact, he hopes to live a “normal life,” right down to playing in the Devils’ season-opener on Oct. 7.

Back in 2014, Boyle discussed his father’s battle with cancer to ESPN. It’s quite an inspiring read.

We’ve seen multiple instances of hockey players showing resilience while fighting cancer during the active career. Mario Lemieux and Saku Koivu stand as some of the most memorable examples, while Phil Kessel also comes to mind.

Jason Blake bounced back from CML, specifically:

The number one thing isn’t playing hockey, of course. It’s most important that Boyle emphasizes his overall health, even if that means taking some time off.

The Devils seem to be very supportive of Boyle as his fight begins. Here’s hoping he wins this one.