Riding the Zamboni – Thursday, January 6th

Buffalo 3 – San Jose 0

Some nights we’re reminded why Ryan Miller is one of the best goalies in the NHL. Tonight he stopped all 36 shots he faced en route to a 3-0 Sabres win over the Sharks. The Sharks have been decidedly average so far this year, but tonight they pulled out all the stops to try and beat the Sabres only to be turned away at every turn. Luke Adam, Jochen Hecht, and Thomas Vanek each scored for Buffalo to make the lead insurmountable. The win gives Buffalo victories in three of their last four games. For San Jose, it’s their second loss in a row.

Montreal 2 – Pittsburgh 1 (F/SO)

On a night where the big news turns out to be Sidney Crosby being diagnosed with a concussion, the Canadiens were able to take advantage of a Pens lineup that was without Crosby, Matt Cooke, and had Brent Johnson in goal. Johnson did well enough to keep his team in the game but he couldn’t stop Benoit Pouliot. Pouliot had Montreal’s lone goal in regulation and scored their game-winner in the shootout on a rather Peter Forsberg-like move. Arron Asham had Pittsburgh’s lone goal in regulation as Carey Price saved 31 shots in the win. Johnson stopped 22 in the tough loss. The Pens have now dropped four of their last six games.

Philadelphia 4 – New Jersey 2

It doesn’t seem to matter whether it’s Johan Hedberg or Martin Brodeur in goal for New Jersey these days and tonight it was Hedberg taking the loss once again. Daniel Briere and Scott Hartnell each had two goals in leading the Flyers over New Jersey. New Jersey went into tonight’s game having dropped a drama bomb having captain Jamie Langenbrunner out of the lineup as a healthy scratch and speculation about him being traded dominating the evening. The mess in New Jersey is out of hand and the Flyers were more than happy to take advantage of the aimless Devils.

Nashville 5 – Los Angeles 2

The suddenly sliding Kings keep on falling back in the standings dropping their fifth straight game. Making tonight a bit more painful was the fact the Kings jumped out to a 2-0 lead before folding things up. Patric Hornqvist scored two goals, Marek Svatos scored his first goal since returning from Russia while Colin Wilson and Sergei Kostitsyn each had a goal and two assists each. Jonathan Bernier wasn’t able to contain the Predators attack tonight to the tune of 23 saves. Anders Lindback stopped 28 shots for Nashville in the win.

Minnesota 3 – Boston 1

While the Bruins won’t admit to it, a bad call against Shawn Thornton that turned into a Martin Havlat power play goal got in their heads early in this one. Steven Kampfer was able to tie the game up at 1-1 minutes after that, but the Bruins played a bit off all night. In the third period, the Wild capitalized getting a go-ahead goal from Cal Clutterbuck and an empty netter from Mikko Koivu to ice the game. Tuukka Rask played strong for Boston but was out-dueled by Jose Theodore. Theodore stopped 35 shots compared to Rask’s 31 on the way to the victory. For Boston, it’s their first non-shootout loss since December 20th, but third loss in four games. Meanwhile, the Wild have quietly won three in a row much in thanks to Theodore’s solid play.

Phoenix 2 – Colorado 0

It wasn’t supposed to be Jason LaBarbera’s start tonight, but he made the most of his emergency start in goal pitching a 24-save shutout over the high-scoring Avalanche. Taylor Pyatt made it stick with two goals including an empty netter as the Coyotes got out of last place in the Pacific Division thanks to the win and the Kings loss. For Colorado, it was a sloppy loss and one they’ll need to forget about if they’re looking to get back on the winning side. Losses are becoming a bit too common lately for the Avs as they’ve lost six of their last eight games with their wins coming in overtime and a shootout.

Toronto 6 – St. Louis 5 (F/SO)

The Leafs looked strong tonight getting out to a 5-2 lead at one point and chasing Jaroslav Halak from the game.  But as things go with Toronto of late, they allowed the Blues to score three in a row from Brad Winchester, Eric Brewer, and Matt D’Agostini to send the game into overtime. As the teams went to the shootout, it was Mikhail Grabovsky dazzling the fans with his shootout goal and Tyler Bozak sealing the deal with his shootout winner to get Jonas Gustavsson the win.

Edmonton 2 – NY Islanders 1

It certainly wasn’t the highlight game of the night by any means for Isles starter Nate Lawson giving up two goals on the first three shots he saw, but fellow rookie goalie Kevin Poulin relieved him and at least kept the Isles in the game. As it turned out, Gilbert Brule and Dustin Penner’s goals would be all the Oilers would need to give Devan Dubnyk the win for Edmonton. Dubnyk, unlike Lawson, was able to stop 30 shots on his way to the win. Poulin stopped all 19 shots he saw in relief. Blake Comeau’s second period goal was all the offense the Isles would muster against fellow cellar dwellers in the NHL.

PHT Morning Skate: Marc-Andre Fleury’s ‘thank you’ letter to Pittsburgh

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–Sean McIndoe provides a list of 12 teams that are facing a high amount of pressure this off-season. The Canadiens still need a center, the Caps need something to get over the hump and the Avs need to shake things up after having one of the worst seasons in recent history. (Sportsnet)

–Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury has moved on from the Pittsburgh Penguins, but it’s pretty clear that he won’t forget his years there. Fleury mentioned all of his best memories in a “thank you” letter to the people of Pittsburgh. “So thank you, fans. I wish I could put into words how much of an impact your support has made on me and my family. We have become Pittsburghers.” (The Players’ Tribune)

–The Hockey News handed out some of their own (made up) awards for the 2016-17 season. The Mario Lemieux Award, which is given to the best player in the NHL, went to Edmonton’s Connor McDavid. The Wayne Gretzky Award, given to the league’s most valuable player, also went to McDavid. (The Hockey News)

Scott Darling has moved from Chicago to Carolina this off-season. As of right now, he doesn’t have his old no. 33, but he’s working on getting it from forward Derek Ryan. The goalie even tried having open negotiations on Twitter. In the end, they were able to get something done. (BarDown)

–The Boston Bruins didn’t make a ton of noise during the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, as they just seemed to fly under the radar. Beat reporter Joe Haggerty handed out draft grades for each of the team’s selections. First-rounder Urho Vaakenainen only fetched a B-minus. (CSN New England)

–Teemu Selanne found out he was going to the Hockey Hall of Fame yesterday. His incredible career got going with a legendary rookie season that saw him score 76 goals and 132 points. Those are numbers we’ll probably never see again. (NHL.com)

Report: Capitals keep Connolly for two years, $3 million

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Earlier on Monday the Washington Capitals did not extend a qualifying offer to restricted free agent Brett Connolly. Even with that decision there were indications the team was still looking to re-sign him before he became an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

On Monday night the team reportedly did just that.

According to TSN’s Bob McKenzie the Capitals have agreed to terms with Connolly on a two-year contract that will pay him an average annual salary of $1.5 million per season.

He played the 2016-17 season on a one-year deal that paid him $850,000.

The 24-year-old Connolly appeared in 66 games for the Capitals this past season, scoring 15 goals and posting excellent possession numbers to make him a valuable depth player for a team that won the Presidents’ Trophy for the second year in a row. But after being held without a point in his first seven playoff games he found himself as a healthy scratch for the remainder of their second-round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, being replaced by Paul Carey.

 

Trade: Vegas sends Marc Methot to Stars

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After being selected in the expansion draft Marc Methot‘s stay with the Vegas Golden Knights was a very brief one.

The veteran defenseman was traded to the Dallas Stars on Monday evening in exchange for a 2020 second-round draft pick and goalie prospect Dylan Ferguson.

Ferguson was just selection by the Stars this past weekend in the seventh-round.

It has been expected that Vegas would continue to deal players it selected in the expansion draft as it looks to build its organization from the ground up, and draft picks seem to be their desired return at this point in trades.

After making 12 selections this past weekend thanks to their many pre-expansion draft dealings, the Golden Knights have already started to stockpile future draft picks in several trades. They already have 11 draft picks, including three second-round selections, for the 2019 draft (which is still two years away) and already nine for the 2020 draft (three years away!). That total includes another three second-rounders in 2020 including the pick they just acquired for Methot.

They also have Pittsburgh’s second-round pick in 2020 in exchange for taking goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury in the expansion draft.

As for the Stars, they are clearly looking to reshape their defense after taking a pretty significant step backwards this past season. They were 29th in the NHL in goals against.

In 68 games with the Ottawa Senators this past season Methot scored zero goals while recording 12 assists. He spent most of his time the past few seasons playing alongside Erik Karlsson. He might get an opportunity to play next to another Swedish star in Dallas if the Stars decide to pair him with John Klingberg.

Vegas picked a lot of veteran defensemen in the expansion draft with the hopes of potentially flipping them to other teams (Jason Garrison, Alexei Emlin, Clayton Stoner, just to name a few). If the return for Methot on Monday night is any indicator of what to expect, you should probably expect more future draft picks to come their way if they end up dealing any of them in the coming weeks.

Stability, Stanley Cup aspirations ‘a breath of fresh air’ for Mike Smith

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The Calgary Flames officially introduced their two newest players on Monday afternoon when they welcomed starting goaltender Mike Smith and defenseman Travis Hamonic to the organization.

The addition of Hamonic gives the Flames what should be an outstanding top-four on defense as he joins a blue line that already features Mark Giordano, T.J. Brodie and Dougie Hamilton.

While that defense might be one of the better ones in the Western Conference, the Flames are hopeful that Smith can help solidify a goaltending position that was a major question mark this past season and a significant weakness for much of it.

It’s not only a big move for the Flames, but it also seems to be an exciting one for Smith as he goes from a team in a clear rebuild mode that hasn’t made the playoffs in five years to one that suddenly has Stanley Cup aspirations.

On Monday, Smith was asked about what it is like for him going from a team that was constantly surrounded by uncertainty off the ice and what it will be like to play for a team that wants to keep getting closer to a Stanley Cup.

“It’s a breath of fresh air,” said Smith. “It’s something I have been begging for quite some time now. I am a competitor, and I want to win real bad. I feel like this move is an opportunity and a challenge and I am going to take it on full steam. I really respect this team, playing against them is always a challenge. I look forward to being on this side of it and helping this team be real successful.”

Smith spent the past six seasons in Arizona, compiling a .916 save percentage during that time. He is coming off of a 2016-17 season that saw him go 19-26-9 in 55 games with a .914 save percentage.

Flames goalies finished the season with a .910 mark as Brian Elliott and Chad Johnson spent most of the season splitting time in the crease. Neither goalie will be back this season making it the second year in a row they have completely overhauled the position.

With a defense that figures to be one of the best in the Western Conference and an offense led by young stars Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, and Matthew Tkachuk the Flames are clearly in a win-now mode. That is going to put a ton of pressure on Smith to solidify the position. That pressure does not seem to bother him.

“The position calls for that,” said Smith, via the Flames’ website. “I’ve taken it upon myself to be that guy, every time I go on the ice.

“I’m one guy who wears his heart on his sleeve. I want to win so bad that sometimes it can work against me. I think, though, with experience in the league I’ve learned how to handle that, how to be a solid force back there. I think I can bring some leadership, be a calming influence back there.”