Philadelphia Flyers v New Jersey Devils

Around the rink – Thursday, January 13th

7:00 p.m.

Philadelphia @ Boston

Let’s get this out of the way now: No, the Boston Bruins will not be getting redemption tonight. With the Philadelphia Flyers in town we’re sure Jack Edwards will have a slew of Revolutionary War comparisons to make should the Bruins keep their winning streak alive but last year’s playoff failure against Philly is over and done with. That said, if the Bruins can’t collectively get up for this game, there’s a serious problem. The Flyers roll into Boston on a four-game win streak of their own and they’re playing great atop the Eastern Conference. This is easily the game we’re locked into tonight.

Vancouver @ NY Rangers

If the Rangers were looking for a good test for their young defense, they’ve got it. Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin, and Ryan Kesler are running wild in the Western Conference and they’re having just as much good fortune out east. One thing the Rangers won’t have to worry about is facing Roberto Luongo. Of course, facing Cory Schneider isn’t much of a treat either as he’s been outstanding as Luongo’s backup this year. The Rangers have been involved in a lot of 2-1, 3-2 games this year and there’s no reason to think this won’t be another one.

Carolina @ Buffalo

Well look at this, these two teams come in on a bit of a hot streak with the Hurricanes having won three in a row and the Sabres winners of four of their last six. While each team has their own superstar goalie, they’ve been struggling to keep opponents off the board. The Hurricanes offense is one of the better ones in the NHL with Eric Staal leading the way. If Ryan Miller can keep the Canes captain off the board, they’ll be in good shape.

Ottawa @ NY Islanders

On every schedule there’s a game that inspires little to no inspiration to watch it. This is tonight’s version of that game. Ottawa rolls into Long Island losers of six in a row and losing badly. If the Senators get thumped on by the improved Islanders and rookie goalie Kevin Poulin, this could be the end of the rope for coach Cory Clouston, GM Bryan Murray or both. Of course, we thought that after they were drubbed by the Maple Leafs two weeks ago and nothing happened so… Yeah. The Isles, meanwhile, are just hoping to keep solid play rolling. After nearly beating the Canucks the other night and winning more often than losing of late, confidence is improving on the Island.

7:30 p.m.

Nashville @ Florida

The Predators are winners of six in a row and playing some great hockey. Pekka Rinne and Anders Lindback are stopping virtually everything thrown at them in goal and the offense is picking things up just enough to make it all stand. In typical Smashville fashion, the Preds are making life miserable on opponents. The Panthers have lost three of their last four, but much like Rinne, Tomas Vokoun is doing his part to keep the Panthers in games. These two will grind the game out and see what shakes loose, but if you’re a fan of great goaltending, this is the game to watch.

9:00 p.m.

Toronto @ Phoenix

Can the Leafs make it five in a row and reach .500? That’s what’s at stake tonight and while we’re pretty sure there won’t be any money waving around the locker room this time, the confidence in Toronto is soaring and thanks for a lot of that has to go to surprise goaltending sensation James Reimer. Phoenix won’t be easy to beat though as they’ve won four of their last five. We can’t help but wonder if we’ll see any “bounty” in action on behalf of former Maple Leaf and current Coyote Lee Stempniak. Someone call the NHL fun police!

10:30 p.m.

St. Louis @ Los Angeles

What do you get when you have two teams desperate for a win? You call it tonight’s Blues-Kings game. The Kings have dropped six of their last seven games and the Blues are coming of a 7-4 thumping against Anaheim last night. The Blues might be the streakiest team in the NHL as they’ve lost five in a row. This losing streak is coming off of a stretch of five straight wins. If you think you’ve got a bead on them, good luck. An ugly loss tonight by L.A. could mean GM Dean Lombardi shakes things up a bit more than just swapping guys in and out of the lineup.

Edmonton @ San Jose

Speaking of teams playing unmotivated hockey, hey it’s the San Jose Sharks! The Sharks are losers of five in a row and doing so in rather unspectacular fashion. They’re not scoring goals, they don’t look like they’re trying all that hard and the one guy who is, Logan Couture, is out of tonight’s game after taking a knee-on-knee hit from Colton Orr. If they can’t snap out of it against Edmonton, you have to wonder if there’s something GM Doug Wilson can do to improve things for a team that’s virtually the same one that finished on top of the Western Conference last year. Edmonton, meanwhile, have lost nine of their last ten. We don’t want to say this is a must win game for San Jose but…

Avalanche’s new head coach Bednar is at least saying the right things

jaredbednaravalanche
via Colorado Avalanche
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Look, there are exceptions, but new head coach press conferences feature the same basic terms and buzzwords.

After witnessing the high-octane Pittsburgh Penguins skate opponents ragged on their way to the 2016 Stanley Cup, any reasonable coach would throw “speed” into their phrasing.

Still, the Colorado Avalanche have been so deeply buried by even the most basic of modern measurements that you had to wonder: would they learn from Patrick Roy’s struggles? Can someone come in and at least attempt to keep up with the pack?

We won’t know for sure anytime soon, but hey, at least Jared Bednar seems to be saying the right things as he transitions from the AHL to the Avalanche’s head coaching gig.

When discussing his hire with NHL Network, Bednar seemed confident that his style in the AHL – “Up-tempo, aggressive style in all three zones of the rink” – will translate well in Colorado.

That interview hits the beats you’d expect from job interviews beyond hockey. There’s even a “detail-oriented” bit.

(If you space out, you might just assume there’s a mention of thinking outside the box, like every corporate interview in human history.)

Still, it’s OK to settle for baby steps, especially considering the tough situation Patrick Roy created in abruptly skipping town. For many, it might just be comforting to note that Bednar doesn’t outright dismissive “analytics” or “fancy stats.”

Mile High Hockey brings up a great point: if nothing else, the spotlight will shift from the Avalanche’s flamboyant head coach to the talented core of young players.

So, not only is Colorado bringing in a coach who is as savvy with spreadsheets as he is with the wipe-off board, but he’s going to allow the players to crawl out from under Roy and finally earn their own accomplishments. This is every bit as important as fixing the breakout play or eliminating the Collapse-O-Rama™ defensive system.

(Collapse-O-Rama, huh? Can we stash that term for future use regarding another coach or two?)

Bednar isn’t a retread, so we only know so much about what to expect.

There are positive early signs. Roll your eyes all you want, we have seen more than a few successful transitions from AHL glory (Bednar just won the Calder Cup) to the NHL.

He’s not necessarily anti-information and seems at least interested in implementing modern, attacking systems. Attacking systems that, theoretically, would best suit the talents of a gifted-but-flawed group.

It all feels a little vague, but then again, it’s not even September yet. So far, so good.

One way or another, Al Montoya will be important to Canadiens

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 02:  Goalie Al Montoya #35 of the Florida Panthers looks on in the second period against the Washington Capitals at Verizon Center on February 2, 2016 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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This is part of Canadiens day at PHT …

Here’s an unsolicited opinion: a good backup goalie is often underrated.

Yes, getting a quality Plan B is easier said than done – goalies are an unpredictable lot – but it’s simple to see when it pays off.

(There are plenty of examples, but Matt Murray winning a Stanley Cup for the Pittsburgh Penguins is the shiniest one.)

Even if injuries aren’t a big issue, a No. 2 goalie is a pretty safe bet to play 20 games for a given team. In that regard, Al Montoya could be a significant upgrade over Mike Condon, and that could be important.

Waning workhorses

In 2015-16, no goalie played 70 regular season games. Jonathan Quick was the workhorse of the NHL with 68, while only 10 played at least 60. So, more than two-thirds of last season’s teams needed at least 24 games from their lesser-paid goalies.

Even in Carey Price‘s dominant 2014-15 campaign, he played 66 games while Dustin Tokarski was in net for 17.

Let’s ponder the outlook for a variety of scenarios as Price hopes to rebound from injury:

If Price resumes Vezina-caliber form

As PHT notes, Price seems confident that he’s at 100 percent.

That’s great … but what else is he going to say? Knee injuries can beguile just about any athlete.

He does admit that he’s getting up there in age a bit – relative to the sport, mind you – at 29. Earlier this summer, the Hockey News went over Montreal’s plan to scale Price’s workload a bit, injured or not.

So, even in a dream scenario, Montoya and/or Condon will still see plenty of reps.

If Price falters

The Canadiens are expected to live or die by Price. Let’s not kid ourselves.

The leash might not be very long for Michel Therrien if Price really falls on his face, however. A Condon-led Habs team stumbled terribly, but what might we see from Montoya being thrust into the spotlight for performance reasons?

  • With a .909 career save percentage, Montoya’s experienced his stumbles in the NHL. Montreal has to hope he follows more of the path from strong showings in 2013-14 (13-8-3, .920 save percentage with Winnipeg) and 2015-16 (12-7-3, .919 save percentage with Florida).

Long story short, there were flashes of the brilliance you’d expect from a guy who went sixth overall in 2004.

  • The good news is that he’s accustomed to a fairly heavy backup duty. He set a career-high with 31 games played and 26 starts with the Islanders in 2011-12. Including that season, he’s enjoyed 20+ appearances in five of his last six seasons.
  • The bad news is that he hasn’t ever even carried half of a season’s workload so …

Yes, a Price re-injury would be disastrous

Montoya hasn’t been “the guy” before, certainly not in a pressure-cooker like Montreal. Condon’s opportunity didn’t go especially well.

One can understand ownership giving Therrien and GM Marc Bergevin something of a “Price pass” after 2015-16, but would there be the same level of acceptance if they couldn’t thrive without their star goalie again? You’d have to ask about lessons learned.

***

Long story short, Montoya matters to Montreal. The Canadiens just have to hope that he doesn’t matter too much.

 

Ducks lock up 2016 first-rounder Max Jones

BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 24:  Max Jones poses for a portrait after being selected 24th overall by the Anaheim Ducks in round one during the 2016 NHL Draft on June 24, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Jeffrey T. Barnes/Getty Images)
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The Anaheim Ducks handed their 2016 first-round draft pick Max Jones an entry-level contract on Friday.

Anaheim selected Jones 24th overall. It looks like he’s getting a pretty typical rookie deal, according to reporters including NHL.com’s Curtis Zupke.

In PHT’s “Get to Know a Draft Pick” series, THN’s Ryan Kennedy described Jones as “a power forward who can make you look silly with his offensive moves or simply plow you through the boards.”

Jones was one of three London Knights players who went in the first round in 2016, following Olli Juolevi (fifth overall) and Matthew Tkachuk (sixth overall). He certainly seemed to enjoy the team’s Memorial Cup victory:

You never really know for certain, but one would imagine that Jones may take a season or two to make it to the NHL level with the Ducks. From the sound of things, he’s in the sort of power forward mold that the team’s had a lot of success with.

With Lehner injured, Enroth will be in Sweden’s goalie mix at World Cup

BUFFALO, NY - OCTOBER 04: Jhonas Enroth #1 of the Buffalo Sabres and Robin Lehner #40 of the Ottawa Senators warm up to play at First Niagara Center on October 4, 2013 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Jen Fuller/Getty Images)
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NEW YORK (AP) Sweden has selected Jhonas Enroth to replace injured goaltender Robin Lehner on its World Cup of Hockey roster.

Lehner was bothered by an ankle injury last season while playing for the Buffalo Sabres. Sweden coach Rikard Gronborg said Lehner had not recovered 100 percent.

Enroth, who signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs, joins Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers and Jacob Markstrom of the Vancouver Canucks as the goalies on Sweden’s roster.

The 28-year-old has a 2.80 goals-against average and .911 save percentage in 147 career NHL games. Enroth was on the Swedish team that earned a silver medal at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, though he never appeared in a game.

Enroth started for Sweden at the 2015 world hockey championship.

The World Cup begins Sept. 17 in Toronto.