Riding the Zamboni – New Year’s Eve hangover edition

Vancouver 4 – Dallas 1

A battle between West powers involving the Stars once again turns against Dallas one more time. This time around it was penalties that did in the Stars as the Canucks scored three power play goals and chased Kari Lehtonen from the game in the second period. Kevin Bieksa and the Sedin twins each had a goal and an assist. Cory Schneider was outstanding for Vancouver stopping 44 shots.

NY Islanders 4 – Detroit 3 (F/OT)

Funny what a little confidence will do. The Isles have won five of their last six games and have beaten Pittsburgh and Detroit consecutively. P.A. Parenteau’s overtime goal lifted the Isles to the surprising victory. John Tavares lead the way for New York with a goal and two assists while Dwayne Roloson stopped 38 shots to help secure the win. Red Wings rookie Tomas Tatar scored his first NHL goal in his first NHL game while Johan Franzen scored his 17th goal. Jimmy Howard was less-than stellar stopping just 19 shots.

New Jersey 3 – Atlanta 1

Johan Hedberg stopped 28 shots in leading the Devils past his former team and helping get the Devils out of a six game slide. Ilya Kovalchuk, Jamie Langenbrunner, and Mark Fayne all had goals for New Jersey. Meanwhile, Dustin Byfuglien scored his 15th goal of the year for Atlanta as he continues his huge season.

Montreal 3 – Florida 2 (F/OT)

What’s a good way to become an instant legend in Montreal? Score two goals including the game-winner in overtime. James Wisniewski did just that for the Habs in getting Montreal past the Panthers. Wisniewski was acquired from the Islanders in a recent trade and his offensive skills are already paying dividends. Wisniewski also assisted on Brian Gionta’s goal in the second period. Alex Auld stopped 20 shots in getting a rare start. Tomas Vokoun was the hard luck loser saving 45 shots.

Anaheim 5 – Philadelphia 2

Think the Flyers are missing Chris Pronger? They certainly are on this road trip as the Flyers get dropped by the Ducks. Lubomir Visnovsky and Jason Blake each scored twice and helped make sure that Ryan Getzlaf’s absence wouldn’t be felt. The lack of defense hung Sergei Bobrovsky out to dry as he made just 22 saves in the loss. In their last four games (three of which were losses) the Flyers have given up a total of 20 goals. That’s not getting it done and the Flyers need to find answers as Pittsburgh has pulled ahead of them in the Atlantic Division and the Rangers are nipping at their heels.

Nashville 4 – Minnesota 1

Leave it to the Wild to play slump busters. Nashville broke their five game losing streak taking out Minnesota thanks to 22 saves by Pekka Rinne and goals from four different players, two of which were empty netters. All right, so sometimes box scores can be misleading. Still, a punchless effort from Minnesota is becoming a bit too regular for their liking.

Columbus 4 – Ottawa 3 (F/OT)

The Jackets are on a three-game win streak thanks to Jakub Voracek. Voracek’s overtime goal vaulted Columbus over Ottawa. Steve Mason was rock solid stopping 35 shots.

St. Louis 4 – Phoenix 3

Alex Steen had a goal and an assist as the Blues held on to beat Phoenix. The Blues had a 4-0 with 17 minutes left in the game after Steen’s unassisted goal but the Coyotes stormed back to get within a goal but couldn’t punch another one in to tie it up. Jaroslav Halak stopped 30 shots to secure the win for St. Louis. Shane Doan had two goals for the Coyotes.

Calgary 3 – Colorado 2

It was a night to celebrate grinders for Calgary. Tom Kostopolous and Tim Jackman each had a goal and an assist to lead the Flames past Colorado. Jarome Iginla also added a goal for the Flames who have now won three in a row. Miikka Kiprusoff had an unusually quiet night in goal stopping 19 shots. Daniel Winnik and Tomas Fleischmann scored third period goals for Colorado but weren’t able to get the equalizer late. Colorado has lost four of their last five games.

Rebuild on hold? Red Wings reportedly eye Girardi, Hainsey, Daley

Getty
6 Comments

For the first time in ages, the Detroit Red Wings missed the playoffs. To some, the sliver lining was that this might send a message to management to truly commit to a rebuild.

Perhaps GM Ken Holland & Co. aren’t quite ready for that.

Look, one or even a couple of potential free agent signings won’t disqualify the Red Wings from going younger. Still, the rumored defensemen they’re targeting aren’t exactly spring chickens.

Three names floating out there are Trevor Daley, Dan Girardi, and Ron Hainsey.

Daley was mentioned by The Athletic’s Craig Custance, MLive.com’s Ansar Khan, and the Detroit Free-Press’ Helene St. James. Khan and Custance both mention Hainsey and Girardi, too.

Even in one-case mentions, the “veteran” theme continues, with Brian Campbell‘s name coming up while forward Thomas Vanek seems like at least a remote possibility to return to Detroit.

Let’s look at the ages of the defensemen mentioned, noting that Daley is older than some might have expected.

Daley – 33
Girardi – 33
Hainsey – 36
Campbell – 38

In the case of Daley and Girardi, you could also argue that each blueliner also has a lot of “mileage” for their age. Girardi, in particular, plays the sort of grinding, shot-blocking style that might have accelerated his troubles with the Rangers.

As great as experience might be, even for a “final push,” this sends a troubling signal. In Mike Green (31), Jonathan Ericsson (33), and Niklas Kronwall (36), the Red Wings already have an aging group of defensemen. Kronwall and Ericsson are dealing with injuries that may hinder them for the remainder of their careers, too.

When you also note that Holland exposed 25-year-old goalie Petr Mrazek instead of 33-year-old Jimmy Howard, the picture isn’t especially pretty.

Maybe the Red Wings can have their cake (push for a playoff rebound) and eat it too (start to transition to youth), yet it’s not necessarily the aggressive move toward a rebuild that many likely hoped to see.

At least there’s time for Holland to prove these early worries wrong.

Note: In other Red Wings news, the team signed Ben Street to a one-year extension.

Blue Jackets sign Schroeder after trading for him

Getty
1 Comment

Not long after acquiring him in a minor trade from the Minnesota Wild, the Columbus Blue Jackets signed Jordan Schroeder to a two-year contract.

The team confirms that it is a two-way deal for 2017-18 and then becomes one-way in 2018-19.

Schroeder is guaranteed $350K for the first year of that contract and then $650K in 2018-19, according to the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline.

The 22nd pick of the 2009 NHL Draft receives a fitting contract: he’s been a “tweener,” bouncing around the NHL and AHL. He hasn’t been able to make much of an impact, Schroeder at least provides some organizational depth.

That could come in handy, as Portzline indicates that Sam Gagner – not so surprisingly – is expected to garner a lot more attention this time around in free agency. Perhaps Schroeder could serve as insurance for Gagner?

NCAA star Spencer Foo chooses the Flames

4 Comments

NCAA standout forward Spencer Foo decided to sign with the Calgary Flames, as The Sports Corporation and team confirmed. The signing might not be official until free agency kicks off on Saturday, July 1, but he apparently made his decision.

After managing 25 points in each of his first two seasons with Union College, Foo exploded in 2016-17, racking up 26 goals and 62 points. You can see some of his highlights in the video above.

He didn’t go drafted, so this could be a case of another scorer blossoming late.

Foo is an Edmonton native, so playing close to home in Calgary likely factored into his decision. He was connected to the Edmonton Oilers in earlier rumors while MLive.com’s Ansar Khan indicates that his final choice came down to the Flames or the Detroit Red Wings.

Calgary is already classifying him as a RW. Perhaps he’ll be that long-desired fit for Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan? There’s another positive aspect for the Flames, as this might help to soften the blow of giving up a bundle of assets in the Travis Hamonic deal.

The Sports Corporation tweeted out a photo of Foo, 23, in a Flames jersey:

Which NHL teams face toughest, easiest schedules in 2017-18?

Getty
1 Comment

For NHL schedule nerds, Tuesday felt a bit like Christmas.*

On the Forecheck’s Dirk Hoag is mostly retired from hockey blogging, but he still puts out his beloved “super schedule,” and he combined with Alex Daugherty to do a 2017-18 version, which you should absolutely check out here.

Hoag and Daughtery listed all 31 teams’ total miles traveled and also their number of back-to-back games for next season.

Here are the top five teams for most miles:

1. Avalanche – 48,639
2. Flames – 47,931
3. Blackhawks – 47,926
4. Coyotes – 46,856
5. Oilers – 46,815

Note: the Panthers are the sixth-ranked team and face easily the most travel among East teams with 44,395, up from 41,891.

Now, here are the bottom five for travel time:

31: Penguins – 34,041
30: Devils – 34,052
29. Sabres – 34,175
28. Red Wings – 34,759
27. Maple Leafs – 35,689

The Los Angeles Kings tend to be frequent flyers, but not here; they face the least travel of any West team with 39,915.

That’s not the entire picture, however. These teams face the most back-to-back sets:

1 (tied) – Penguins and Senators with 19
3. Hurricanes – 18
4 (tied) Blackhawks, Blue Jackets – 17
6 (tied) Blues, Islanders, Sabres, and Devils – 16

While these teams face the fewest.

1. Jets – 9 (Winnipeg faces 43,296 miles of travel.)
2. Canucks – 10
3 (tied) – Avalanche, Oilers, Predators, Ducks, and Rangers – 11

Oh, and in their inaugural season, the Vegas Golden Knights travel 42,128 miles and must endure 12 back-to-back sets, so they deal with a pretty middle-of-the-road haul.

***

As you can see, plenty of teams see their low travel rates balanced out by high back-to-back game totals. The Penguins are a good example of that.

Then again, some teams just suffer tough draws. As much as conspiracy theorists love to harp on the Blackhawks, they face the third-most travel miles and deal with 17 back-to-back sets.

On The Forecheck’s full list can be seen here, yet they are not the only outlet to do some interesting schedule analysis. Hockey Viz’s Micah Blake McCurdy put together a list of rested/tired games for each team:

Though he also narrowed it down in a way that might make the biggest difference: a rested home team facing a tired road opponent.

Long story short, it’s difficult to really boil down who has the toughest schedule based on one metric. It’s a subjective matter, as you can weigh these “rest/tired” factors, go broad with sheer back-to-back sets, and even lean on jet lag more than anything else.

Still, if you’re the type to wear a tin foil hat, the lists above could really help you cook up some theories about the bad hand your team allegedly drew.

(Opinion: it does seem like Chicago faces more than just salary cap challenges next season, however.)

* – Or whatever holiday resonates. So, Festivus?