Buffalo Sabres v Philadelphia Flyers

Early ride on the Zamboni – Tuesday, March 22

NY Rangers 1, Florida 0

The Rangers rode a Brandon Dubinsky goal halfway through the 3rd period to beat the Panthers 1-0 and increase their current winning streak to five. Henrik Lundqvist only needed 22 saves to earn his NHL-leading 10th shutout on the season. On the other end of the rink, Tomas Vokoun stopped 32 of the 33 shots he faced—but it wasn’t enough. New York’s seventh win in their last eight games has them only three points behind the Canadiens for 6th place in the Eastern Conference.

Carolina 4, Ottawa 3

If Eric Staal and Paul Maurice wanted to scare the entire Hurricanes’ fan base, mission accomplished when Carolina’s head coach pulled his captain for “precautionary reasons” in the 3rd period of their victory against the Ottawa Senators. After they fell behind 2-0, the Canes were able to ride a pair of goals from Chad LaRose to an important win to help keep pace with the 8th place Sabres.

From the Sens perspective, the game was a case of good news/bad news. The bad news is they are only a single loss from being mathematically eliminated. However, the bright side is the loss put them in the 29th overall spot—and the #2 overall draft pick. So there’s that.

Boston 4, New Jersey 1

The Devils started the game by outshooting the Bruins 12-1. Ilya Kovalchuk started the scoring with his 27th goal of the year. If the game could have ended there, Jacques Lemaire would be a much happier man than he is tonight. The Bruins responded with the next FOUR as they earned the victory and held onto the top spot in the Northeast Division.

The loss “dropped” the Devils to 24-6-2 over their last 32 games. More importantly, the loss drops them nine points behind the 8th placed Buffalo Sabres. If they were to win-out for the rest of the season, they’d only be able to muster 90 points for the season. Chances are that won’t be enough to make to the NHL’s second season.

NY Islanders 5, Tampa Bay 2

The Lightning continued their slide by losing to the Isles and dropping to 2-4-4 in their last 10 games. Nate Thompson started things off right by scoring about a minute into the game; yet after that the Islanders scored 4 straight to run away with the game. Al Montoya continued his stellar play with New York by stopping 36 shots and Michael Grabner scored his 31st goal of the season as he continues to make a case for the Calder Trophy. Aside from individual play, the team improved to 6-1-3 in their last 10 games as well. Good goaltending, scoring in bunches, and a pair of shorthanded goals. Where was this for the first few months of the season?

Washington 5, Philadelphia 4 (SO)

The Caps jumped out to a 3-0 start, blew the three goal lead, and then looked unbeatable in the shootout to earn the two points. If they could have won the game in regulation they would have caught the Flyers for 1st place in the East. As it stands, they’ll have to settle for a big win and their eleventh win in their last twelve games. Not a bad way to start the home-stretch without the injured Alexander Ovechkin.

The Flyers’ day started out badly when they heard Jody Shelley will be out for 4 weeks with a fractured orbital bone. From there, Sergei Bobrovsky gave up 3 goals in just over a period of action. Things didn’t start to get better until they scored four straight goals to make it a game. They couldn’t finish it off for the victory, but after the way the day started, one point is better than they could have expected.

Buffalo 2, Montreal 0

It probably shouldn’t be a huge surprise when Carey Price and Ryan Miller treat fans to a low-scoring goaltending display. By the time the game ended, Ryan Miller won the duel of netminders as he stopped 31 shots to earn his 4th shutout in 2011; but Nathan Gerbe upstaged them both. The diminutive forward had a beautiful redirection goal to give the Sabres the 1-0 lead halfway through the 2nd period; only to be topped by a great individual effort to score into an empty net to cap off the Sabres’ victory. The win allowed Buffalo to maintain their 3 point lead on the 9th place Carolina Hurricanes as both teams were victorious on Tuesday night.

Sabres’ center Paul Gaustad summed up the night the best: “Both goalies played great. Ours played a little bit better.”

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

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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.