Riding the Zamboni – Saturday, November 20th

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A busy night and if you’re a fan of the shootout, tonight was basically made for you. Doesn’t that make you feel special? You’re welcome. Anyhow, on with the recaps!

Los Angeles 4 – Boston 3 (F/SO)

The Kings blew a 3-0 lead but won thanks to Michal Handzus’ shootout winner and Jon Quick stopping 38 shots on the way to the win. Handzus’ goal was the only one in the six-round shootout. Handzus also had a regulation goal to get one that counts on the stat sheets. Tim Thomas may have stopped only 23 shots but many of them were dazzling saves. Don’t be too surprised if you see him show up in our “save of the night.” The win snaps the Kings’ mini-funk of three straight losses.

Tampa Bay 2 – Buffalo 1

It wasn’t pretty by any means and it wasn’t all that fun to watch, but the Lightning got one over on the Sabres with a little (a lot?) of help by Patrick Lalime. Lalime’s goaltending boner allowing Adam Hall to score the eventual game-winning goal was the lowlight of the game. As for good goaltending, Mike Smith stopped 29 shots for Tampa Bay. Thomas Vanek and Teddy Purcell also had goals in this one.

Montreal 2 – Toronto 0

Carey Price’s hot season continues as he stopped 30 shots en route to his fourth shutout of the season. Jeff Halpern and Mike Cammalleri had the goals for the Habs while they kept Jonas Gustavsson busy all night long throwing 39 shots on goal at him. Gustavsson did what he could to keep the Leafs in the game saving 37 shots. Highlight of the night came when the Habs paid tribute to former coach Pat Burns before the game with a beautiful tribute.

Florida 4 – NY Islanders 1

There’s only one real way we can sum things up for the Islanders after losing their 12th straight game.  Take it away Sesame Street.

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Mike Santorelli had two goals for the Panthers while Tomas Vokoun saved 39 shots. Good luck getting that song out of your heads though.

Philadelphia 5 – Washington 4 (F/SO)

A wild, back and forth game between these rivals was decided, sadly, in the shootout. Daniel Briere scored the lone goal in the shootout to give Philly the win. Meanwhile, Brian Boucher held strong in getting a rare start of late stopping 33 shots. Mike Richards stayed hot for Philly with a goal and an assist while Jason Chimera led the way for Washington with a goal and an assist himself.

Nashville 2 – Carolina 1 (F/SO)

Jared Smithson and Joni Pitkanen scored for their respective teams in regulation while Martin Erat had the winning goal in the shootout for Nashville. Cam Ward made 26 saves for Carolina while Pekka Rinne had a quiet night stopping just 21. The win makes four wins in the last five games for Nashville.

St. Louis 3 – New Jersey 2

The Blues took advantage of some good luck and good bounces tonight spoiling the NHL debut of Devils goalie Mike McKenna. The former St. Lawrence Universty standout and one-time Twitter superstar played strong despite the loss. Matt D’Agostini may not have scored a goal for St. Louis, but the team’s leading goal-scorer added two assists in the win. Lost in the game is the fact that Jaroslav Halak played outstanding in the win saving 35 shots in the victory to help the Blues snap out of their defensive funk.

NY Rangers 5 – Minnesota 2

The homecoming for Marian Gaborik ended with plenty of boos as was predicted and Gaborik netting just one assist and fellow former Wild favorite Derek Boogaard managed to help set up a goal with a crushing hit in the first period. An unusually sloppy game from Minnesota helped get Dan Girardi the first star of the night with two assists. Meanwhile Martin Biron stopped 26 shots in the win. Brandon Dubinsky scored his team-leading 12th goal, meanwhile Martin Havlat and Matt Cullen had a goal each for Minnesota.

Colorado 4 – Dallas 3 (F/SO)

Milan Hejduk’s two goals and Kevin Porter’s shootout winner helped pace the Avalanche past the Stars. Dallas overcame a 3-0 deficit early on to storm back and tie things up to get the loser point going to overtime, but Kari Lehtonen wasn’t able to pull out all the stops in the shootout to get the win. Brenden Morrow and James Neal each scored their eighth goal of the season in tying things up. Peter Budaj made 26 saves in getting the surprise start over Craig Anderson.

Chicago 7 – Vancouver 1

Remember when I said during the goalie preview that Roberto Luongo would have to get over his Chicago problem sometime? Yeah… That wasn’t tonight. The Hawks ran Luongo out of the game after getting up 4-0 and Cory Schneider didn’t provide much in relief. Fernando Pisani was the secret star of the game scoring two goals. Patrick Kane had a goal and two assists while Marian Hossa quietly added three assists. Corey Crawford had his shutout bid spoiled in the third when Mikael Samuelsson scored on the power play. After the game, the Canucks were upset that the Blackhawks were putting out their top power play unit while up 6-0 and on a 5-on-3 power play. Our advice to Vancouver: Suck it up and learn how to finally beat the Blackhawks. After all, we didn’t read about any complaining from Chicago after they were thumped 7-2 the night before in Calgary.

Columbus 3 – San Jose 0

Not a bad night for the Blue Jackets. Mathieu Garon stops 35 shots in earning his third shutout of the year and team captain and superstar Rick Nash scores a hat trick. This feels like a thesis paper kind of game wherein we finally get a shutout and a hat trick in the same game. Now I know how Pigman in the movie “PCU” felt when doing his thesis on the Michael Caine-Gene Hackman theory. The Blue Jackets might want to play the rest of their games on the road as they’ve now got a 6-1-0 record there this year and have beaten the Sharks twice.

Cullen signs with Wild, opting against retirement (and Penguins)

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Matt Cullen is going home, but that doesn’t mean that he’s retiring from hockey.

Instead, the Minnesota native decided to sign a one-year, $1 million deal with the Minnesota Wild. It’s unclear why, precisely, Cullen didn’t ink a deal to try to “threepeat” with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Wild note that his deal also includes $700K in potential performance bonuses.

This will be the 40-year-old’s second run with the Wild. His first run came from 2010-11 through 2012-13, where he appeared in 193 regular-season games and five postseason contests for Minnesota.

Cullen managed back-to-back 30+ point seasons with the Penguins while providing useful all-around play as a veteran center. If he can maintain a reasonably high level of play, this gives the Wild quite the solid group down the middle, even with Martin Hanzal gone.

Oilers ink Draisaitl to monster eight-year, $68 million deal

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The Edmonton Oilers have locked up their cornerstone players for the foreseeable future.

They didn’t come cheap.

Just weeks after signing Connor McDavid to a eight-year, $100 million deal, the Oilers signed fellow forward Leon Draisaitl to an eight-year, $68 million deal. The contract carries a $8.5M average annual cap hit and, combined with McDavid’s $12.5M, will now cost the Oilers $21M annually through 2025.

McDavid certainly warranted his payday. The same can be said of Draisaitl.

The 21-year-old just wrapped his three-year, entry-level deal, and couldn’t have done so in finer fashion. Draisaitl enjoyed a terrific season, platooning between the second-line center position and the wing alongside McDavid, and finished with 29 goals and 77 points.

Then, the playoffs happened.

Draisaitl had a terrific postseason, racking up six goals and 16 points in 13 games. At the time of elimination he was sitting second among all scorers — trailing only Evgeni Malkin — and was downright brilliant in Edmonton’s seven-game loss to Anaheim, finishing with 13 points.

More to follow…

 

Report: Vegas among teams in on Pens draftee Byron

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Will Butcher isn’t the only college free agent garnering interest in free agency.

University of Maine senior Blaine Byron, Pittsburgh’s sixth-round pick in ’13, has passed on signing with the club and can now ink with a team of his choosing. Per The Hockey News, the four “lead suitors” for Byron are Vegas, New Jersey, Ottawa and Buffalo.

Byron, 22, is coming off a great year. He racked up 18 goals and 41 points in 36 games, finishing tied for 18th in the country in scoring. It’s unclear where he would’ve fit in the Pittsburgh organization, though, and one has to think the signing of Northeastern’s Zach Aston-Reese might’ve played a factor in his departure.

In a recent Tribune-Review piece, Byron did make a list of the club’s top-20 prospects, coming in at No. 17.

Yesterday, Butcher — the reigning Hobey Baker winner — announced that he wouldn’t sign with Colorado, the team that drafted him four years ago. Instead, Butcher will parlay a successful senior campaign at Denver University into interest on the open market.

Under Pressure: Barry Trotz

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This post is part of Capitals Day on PHT…

When the Capitals hired Barry Trotz three years ago, they said he was “the only coach we coveted,” calling him “an ideal fit to help lead our club.”

And in many ways, Trotz has been an ideal fit. He’s led to the club to consecutive Presidents’ Trophies, racking up 156 wins over the course of three seasons. He won the 2016 Jack Adams as coach of the year. Players have performed exceptionally well on his watch: Braden Holtby won his first-ever Vezina, Alex Ovechkin racked up a pair of Rocket Richard trophies and both Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov were named All-Stars.

Despite all this, Trotz is now coaching for his job. Essentially.

A string of disheartening playoff failures — each more painful than the last — have put him in an uncomfortable and pressure-packed situation. He’s heading into the the last of his four-year deal with no contract certainty beyond.

Yes, it’s true Caps GM Brian MacLellan didn’t make any changes with Trotz or to his coaching staff following the Game 7 loss to Pittsburgh.

But MacLellan didn’t offer an extension, either.

Brian Burke once likened this scenario to being a lame duck. Trotz refused to see it that way, insisting that he wasn’t worried about the spot he was in.

“No,” he told CSN Mid Atlantic in June, when asked if not having a contract changes his approach at all. “It has 0.0 effect on me, actually. Not at all. I think it might have [had] an effect 10, 12 years ago for me. Not now. It has zero effect.

“I’m not worrying about that at all.”

This is pretty much on par with Trotz’s messaging from the moment Washington crashed out of the playoffs. While his players were visibly dejected and downright hurt during locker clean-out day, the 55-year-old was upbeat.

Defiant, almost.

Trotz talked about how the team’s window wasn’t closed, and how it would eventually “break through that barrier.” He suggested “laughing at the past” could “ease us into the future.”

The assembled media took note of this, which contrasted the vibe of his visibly distraught players. So it was asked — why did he seem more upbeat than his players?

From the Washington Post:

“Put it this way — I haven’t slept in two friggin’ days. To say that I don’t feel very distraught, that really sort of angers me, because talk to my family to see if I’m distraught.

“I have to be positive in terms of, ‘do I think we’re going in the right direction?’ Yes, and I’m positive of that. But we haven’t broken through. That’s why I’m probably the way I am. I also said we didn’t get to where we wanted to get to.

“That angers me. When something doesn’t go your way, you can roll up in a ball and feel sorry for yourself. I don’t.”

That Trotz took this approach isn’t surprising. Coaching is a leadership role, and there didn’t seem to be any point to piling onto what was already a fairly miserable day in D.C.

So hey, why not keep that vibe going when it comes to contract uncertainty?

Trotz will likely continue to do so, even in the face of growing pressure. And pressure will continue to grow. Remember, there’s one final and very important dynamic at play — right next to Trotz behind the Washington bench is assistant coach Todd Reirden. The same Todd Reirden who’s thought to be a head-coach-in-waiting, and has been tied to previous openings in Colorado and Florida.

Fun times in Washington. As they always are.