74697_sharks_kings_hockey

Riding the Zamboni – January 26th; Flames roll on, Kings win in shootout

Los Angeles 3 – San Jose 2 (F/SO)

In what was an important showdown between Pacific teams looking to get back in the playoff race and out of a collective funk, it was the Kings coming out on top in the skills competition. Jarret Stoll’s shootout goal gave the Kings the win, but it was Alexei Ponikarovsky who tied the game in the third for L.A. The Sharks rallied to take the lead in the second period after Ryan Smyth’s goal kicked off the scoring. Ryane Clowe and Devin Setoguchi put the Sharks up 2-1 with goals 39 seconds apart in the second. The Sharks kept that lead until halfway through the third when Ponikarovsky leveled it. Jon Quick played shaky but strong stopping 22 shots and everything he saw in the shootout. Antti Niemi saved just 18 on the night.

Calgary 4 – St. Louis 1

David Moss scored twice to give Calgary their fourth straight win. The all-star break might be coming at the worst time possible for the resurgent Flames as they’ve gotten themselves back in the mix in the playoff race in the West. Miikka Kiprusoff was huge tonight stopping 28 shots to preserve the win. Phillip McRae scored his first NHL goal for the Blues.

Phoenix 5 – Colorado 2

The fans in Colorado went home about 12 shades of angry after seeing the Coyotes seemingly get the benefit of most calls in Denver en route to the win. Eric Belanger scored twice and Keith Yandle had a goal and an assist to get Phoenix the victory. Ilya Bryzgalov stopped 29 in the win. Peter Budaj was chased from the start after giving up two goals in his first nine shots. Craig Anderson replaced him and allowed two more goals while stopping 25 shots. Matt Duchene and Ryan Stoa had the goals for Colorado as they continue to play inconsistently while the Canucks pull away in the Northwest.

Dallas 3 – Edmonton 1

The Stars have to be happy to see the Oilers these days. Dallas was able to rebound from their sound beating on Monday night to take out Edmonton thanks to Brenden Morrow’s two goals. Adam Burish added a third and Kari Lehtonen stopped 34 shots to earn the win. Dallas was able to solidify their lead in the Pacific Division with the win as they lead Anaheim by five points at the break. Edmonton, meanwhile, is the one team in the West that is distantly removed from the playoff race. Maybe they can ask to be moved to the East to fit in better there.

Detroit 3 – New Jersey 1

Detroit got the go-ahead goal from Valtteri Filppula early in the third while Johan Franzen scored his 21st of the season to give Detroit an important win heading into break. New Jersey thought they tied the game late in the third, but Ilya Kovalchuk’s rebound goal was disallowed seemingly because of the “intent to blow” rule. Jimmy Howard played strong all game saving 23 shots. Martin Brodeur stopped 26 in the loss.

Atlanta 1 – Washington 0

Boston 2 – Florida 1

It might not have been pretty but a win is a win for the Bruins. Brad Marchand and Milan Lucic scored, his 20th of the year, to lead the Bruins to victory over Florida. Bryan Allen was the only guy for Florida to beat Tim Thomas for a goal as Thomas saved 34 in the victory. Tomas Vokoun was no slouch himself stopping 33 shots. The Bruins go into the break with a four point lead on Montreal for the Northeast lead.

Vancouver 2 – Nashville 1

Carolina 4 – NY Islanders 2

With another snowstorm wrecking Long Island, a small crowd got to see Eric Staal score twice and lead the Hurricanes to victory over the Islanders. 4,976 fans braved the poor weather and saw Staal’s three point night show that he’s ready to captain his team in the All-Star Game on Sunday while potential All-Star draft pick Cam Ward stopped 23 shots to get the win. Michael Grabner scored his 15th goal of the year for the Isles while Rick DiPietro saved 27 shots in the loss.

San Jose Sharks’ defense looks very promising

SAN JOSE, CA - JANUARY 03:  Alexander Steen #20 of the St. Louis Blues and Brent Burns #88 and Marc-Edouard Vlasic #44 of the San Jose Sharks go for the puck at SAP Center on January 3, 2015 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Getty
Leave a comment

In the long term, there are some questions about the San Jose Sharks’ defense.

For one thing, Brent Burns is due what could be a raise almost as big as his Burt’s Bees beard.

What’s even more troubling is, like the Sharks’ forwards, the defense’s upper ranks might see Father Time nipping at their heels. Burns is 31, Paul Martin is 35 and three defensemen are 29 in Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Justin Braun and newly signed blueliner David Schlemko.

This isn’t to say that the Sharks will age as rapidly as Melisandre, but that group prompts more questions about how long San Jose’s window might be hope.

Quite a promising present

So, maybe it won’t be a strength forever … but wow, this group sure looks promising on paper heading into next season.

Burns gets the most attention thanks to his booming shot, strong all-around skills and bizarre presence, yet Team Canada isn’t oblivious to Vlasic’s subtler brilliance. Paul Martin might be slipping a bit, but he’s still a useful player.

The signing of Schlemko really ties the room together, though.

The point isn’t that Schlemko is a star or better than the likes of Jay Bouwmeester. The very different nature of their roles makes a comparison a little risky.

Instead, it argues that Schlemko is the sort of supporting cast player who can push the Sharks closer to having a quality defenseman on the ice during every shift.

Beyond those four blueliners, the Sharks have some interesting options. Braun enjoyed some nice playoff moments. Brenden Dillon has his flaws, but perhaps he’d flourish if used in more protected situations.

With Mirco Mueller and Dylan DeMelo among those waiting in the wings, it’s not as though the Sharks are totally devoid of young talent on defense.

In an age where it almost feels like teams would give up vital organs for difference-makers on defense, San Jose’s group looks primed to rank among the elite. After struggling when the likes of Roman Polak were caught in bad situations, the Sharks have a great chance to trot out a remarkably balanced group in 2016-17.

Let’s argue about EA Sports’ NHL 17 player ratings

91rinneea
via EA Sports
5 Comments

EA Sports released top player rankings for NHL 17 about a week ago, but it isn’t too late to needlessly argue about them.

The top 50 overall ratings is probably the best place to start, but EA also shared top 10 lists for centers, defensemen, goalies, left wings and right wings.

Now, it’s important not to take this stuff too seriously. There are plenty of things to cool down any diehards who feel like Their Guy was disrespected, but do note that ratings sometimes get tweaked.

Still, there are some fun observations and debates that can come from pouring through these rankings, especially if you’re … well, bored.

Shea Weber vs. P.K. Subban

Did Michel Therrien and Marc Bergevin chime in on the debate? /Scratches chin

Weber came in with a blazing 94 rating:

 

Weber wins the digital battle with Subban, who lags behind as a 91. To the naked eye, EA seems to disagree with the analytics-based argument that Subban is the better all-around player than Weber at this juncture:

Here’s the thing, though: if you break both down rating by rating, each guy looks pretty great in NHL 17. Perhaps the real debate comes down to whether Weber really is that great defensively or not.

Then again, maybe EA just has a blind spot for Nashville Predators past and/or present? Pekka Rinne‘s high rating is sure to ruffle some feathers:

91rinneea

To give you some context, that 91 rating ties Rinne with Cory Schneider and places him ahead of the likes of Ben Bishop, Corey Crawford and Tuukka Rask.

Some other debate-starters

Need some other fun ones to bicker about? Sure you do:

***

Again, take it easy with this stuff. None of these choices are “Mike Richards being higher-rated than Anze Kopitar” bad.

You can have a lot of fun batting around different observations, as these player rankings often provide an interesting window into the way the hockey world sees things.

And, hey, at least Dustin Byfuglien‘s getting some much-deserved recognition.

NHL says it isn’t bothered by Coyotes’ salary cap methods

PHILADELPHIA - JUNE 02:  Dave Bolland #36 of the Chicago Blackhawks and Chris Pronger #20 of the Philadelphia Flyers skate after the loose puck in Game Three of the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Wachovia Center on June 2, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Getty
6 Comments

Arizona Coyotes GM John Chayka is deftly playing the system when it comes to the salary cap to the point that some might accuse him of exploiting loopholes.

If the NHL bristles as such tactics, they’re at least not showing it in public.

In taking on the absolutely dead money of Chris Pronger and Pavel Datsyuk along with the possibly dead money of Dave Bolland, the Coyotes are getting to the cap floor while saving money in the actual cash they’re dishing out.

The Score’s Ian MacLaren succinctly explains the savings they’re enjoying thanks to these clever trades:

That’s how the league is viewing Arizona taking on the salaries of Chris Pronger, Pavel Datsyuk and Dave Bolland. The cap hits amount to almost $18 million but result in less than $2 million in actual salary paid out by the club, while simultaneously allowing it to reach the cap floor.

Honestly, it’s difficult to shake the image of Gary Bettman & Co. bristling at the tactics of a franchise they’ve defended year after year amid myriad arena issues.

Today’s Slapshot’s Craig Morgan caught up with Bill Daly, whose overall message is that the league is OK with what Arizona is doing.

“I would say that it’s a matter that we monitor, like all other areas of the CBA (collective bargaining agreement), and if we believe it starts to be abused in a way that is inconsistent with how the system is designed to work, at that point, we would try to correct it in collective bargaining with the union,” Daly said. “I would say we aren’t at that point on this issue — we do not view it as the loophole that‎ some describe it as.”

One key point from Daly is that he doesn’t view Bolland’s case as the same as that of Pronger or Datsyuk. The critical distinction is that Bolland at least hopes to become healthy enough to play again.

(Chakya’s update wasn’t particularly optimistic in that regard, but a return isn’t totally inconceivable since Bolland is just 30.)

Best of both worlds for Coyotes

Again, the Coyotes are really reaping the benefits of this gameplan. Not only are they saving real dollars by absorbing other teams’ dead money, they’re using those trades to acquire promising assets like Jakob Chychrun and Lawson Crouse.

These are the sort of moves that make the team look bright today and possibly terrifying for opponents in the future, even if the 2016-17 product may be a little hit-or-miss.

Time may tell how the NHL truly feels

To some extent, we probably won’t know how the NHL truly feels about this situation until the next CBA eventually gets hashed out.

Then again, the league did make a big stink about cap circumvention during the memorable days of Ilya Kovalchuk’s contract negotiations, so perhaps such maneuvering really doesn’t bother the NHL?

Maybe, but you’re free to picture Bettman grumbling about Chayka’s moves either way.

(H/T to the Score.)

Alex Ovechkin tweets about tying the knot with Nastya Shubskaya

viaovechkin
via Alex Ovechkin's Twitter page
Leave a comment

Alex Ovechkin shared the news via his official Twitter feed that he married Nastya Shubskaya.

His message includes a caption that translates to “This is happiness,” according to NHL.com.

Washington Capitals blog Russian Machine Never Breaks indicated that the two got married during a small, private ceremony, so it might have actually happened a week or so ago.

Here’s the Ovechkin tweet from Sunday:

This continues a run of big news for Capitals players, with a life-changing event for Ovechkin’s partner-in-crime Nicklas Backstrom as well:

There were some fun jokes on Twitter about the happy news, with this one possibly taking the cake:

This summer figures to be a busy one from a hockey standpoint for Ovie, as he’s been part of various activities and will represent Russia at the upcoming 2016 World Cup of Hockey.

In case you’re wondering, Ovechkin will soon turn 31.