Washington Capitals v Philadelphia Flyers

Flyers looking for Meszaros to step up

There’s no doubt the Flyers will be looking to get back on track in New Jersey after last night’s lackluster failure against the Thrashers at Wells Fargo Center. They’ll look to get back on the winning side of things as they take on the rival Devils and try to eliminate them once and for all from postseason consideration. The game will be the Flyers’ 12th since Chris Pronger left the team with a hand injury—an injury which will keep him out of the lineup until the start of the playoffs. In his place, the entire defensive corps for Philadelphia has stepped up to pick up the slack. Andrej Meszaros has been asked by head coach Peter Laviolette to fill the void that was created when Pronger’s 22:29 of ice-time was sent to the press box. Kimmo Timonen has played the underrated effective game he’s played for the better part of a decade. Braydon Coburn has stepped up to play even more of a shutdown role and Matt Carle is proving he can play with just about anyone.

This isn’t the first time Pronger has missed time this season; and this isn’t first time the Flyers have thrived in his absence. Even before the news was announced that Chris Pronger would miss the rest of the regular season, CSN Philly’s Jim Jackson was already looking at the type of team the Flyers have been without Captain Hook.

“He has missed 25 games this season with three different injuries. The Flyers have more than held their own without him, going 14-6-5 in games he’s been out of the lineup. Still, though, his absence is felt, especially late in games, whether the Flyers are leading or trailing.”

More recently, Philadelphia is 6-2-3 since the latest Pronger injury that has cost the assistant captain 11 games. After feeling out his roster for the first two games after the injury, head coach Peter Laviolette handed Meszaros more responsibility. Whether it was because he trusted the Slovak or because he was looking for anything after blowing a 3-goal lead in the 3rd period against the Thrashers, Meszaros has grabbed onto the opportunity and made the most of it. In the 9 games since, he’s a +10 with five assists and is averaging 26:20 per game. In games against Dallas and Washington, he played at least 40 shifts in both games on his way to playing almost half of each. His new defensive partner Matt Carle is used to that kind of workload (by playing with Pronger), but Andrej Meszaros has taken the increased ice-time and proven to the coaching staff that he can be trusted with important minutes at critical points of the game. Sure, that helps now—but it’ll help even more if the Flyers are able to make a deep run into the playoffs like fans in Philadelphia expect.

To be honest, Meszaros has done a fantastic job in the limited role the Flyers have put him in for most of the season. The plus/minute will get people’s attention, but all season he’s just been a really good third pairing defenseman. He has 6 goals and 21 assists while playing just a hair under 21 minutes per game. Then again, “good third pairing defenseman” is usually a back-handed compliment; if he was that good, he wouldn’t be a bottom pairing guy. For those who thought he wasn’t getting the fair credit he deserved, this is the moment we’ll find out if they were onto something.

It’s not like we’re talking about an undrafted kid who is just now finally getting his shot to show what he’s worth. A quick history lesson: Meszaros is a former 1st round pick (23rd overall) of the Ottawa Senators. After the 2008 season, it was clear the young restricted free agent was going to get a serious raise—but not from the Sens. They dealt the promising blueliner to the Lightning; who promptly signed him to a 6-year, $24 million contract. It was validation, but also added a ton of expectations with his new team. After a pair of disappointing seasons in Tampa, the Lightning were more than willing to part with him (and his contract) in exchange for a 2nd round pick.

After last season, the Flyers were looking for a defensemen who could help alleviate the workload of their top 4 blueliners. There’s no question that Pronger, Matt Carle, Braydon Coburn, and Kimmo Timonen played well during Philadelphia’s Stanley Cup Finals run last season, but all four players ended up logging a ton of ice time. Unfortunately, the coaching staff had zero confidence in their 5th and 6th defenseman—and eventually it caught up with them. In the offseason, GM Mike Holmgren knew the biggest hole in his roster that prevented his team from winning the Cup was depth on the blueline. Between the trade for Meszaros and signing unrestricted free agent Sean O’Donnell to a one-year deal, Holmgren had put together a defensive corps that the team could depend on for both the regular season and the playoffs.

With the injuries the Flyers have encountered this season, the depth has been more important than they could have imagined. O’Donnell has played much more than Philadelphia probably wanted—and was exceeding all expectations before he sustained a knee injury last month. Combined with Meszaros, the pair of newcomers has given the Flyers the depth they so noticeably lacked last season in the playoffs. Assuming Pronger came get himself healthy for the first round, the team will only be that much stronger when the it needs the bottom-pairing guys to step up.

After all, they’ve proven all year they’re capable.

Five NHL team stats you may find interesting

Nashville Predators center Mike Fisher, right, celebrates after scoring against Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford, center, and defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson (4), of Sweden, during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Friday, Oct. 14, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)
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14 — The number of shorthanded goals surrendered by the Chicago Blackhawks. Yes, this topic has been beaten to death already, but for good reason. The next highest number in the NHL is eight, courtesy the Calgary Flames. It’s just very unlike the ‘Hawks. Duncan Keith and Niklas Hjalmarsson, two of the best defenders in the game, have been on the ice for nine PP goals against! Jonathan Toews, one of the best defensive forwards ever, hasn’t fared much better; he’s been on for seven.

9 — The number of power-play goals scored by the Nashville Predators. A pretty remarkable stat, especially considering the Preds have just two wins in their first five games. That kind of PP production can’t be counted on to continue, so they’d better improve at five-on-five. Also, avoid the soup in Detroit. It’ll getcha every time.

17 — The total number of goals scored in all five New Jersey Devils games. And in case you thought that was low, two of those goals came in overtime. So far, the highest-scoring game the Devils have experienced was a 3-2 loss in Tampa Bay, with each of the other four finishing with a score of 2-1. Average number of goals per game this season? Just 3.4.

7.4 — The average number of goals scored in an Ottawa Senators game. In other words, the Sens have a new coach, but not much has changed. Ottawa has played five games and has yet to give up fewer than three goals. Fun to watch, though.

-7.6 — The average shot differential for the Colorado Avalanche, who’ve still managed to win three of their first five. The Avs have only outshot one opponent so far, by just two shots in their season-opener against Dallas. In their last three games, they’ve been outshot by a combined margin of 105-62. To be fair, all three of those were on the road against tough teams, but lots of work left for Jared Bednar, too.

Boedker, San Jose’s big free agent signing, moves up to Thornton-Pavelski line

GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 07:  Mikkel Boedker #89 of the San Jose Sharks watches from the bench during the preseason NHL game against Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on October 7, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. The Coyotes defeated the Sharks 3-1  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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The Sharks didn’t make many offseason splashes after advancing to the first Stanley Cup Final in franchise history, but the one they did make — signing Mikkel Boedker — was fairly significant.

And now, the Sharks are looking to spark Boedker’s campaign.

The Danish speedster will be promoted to the top line next to Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski for tonight’s home date with Anaheim, per CSN Bay Area.

“[Boedker has] got to shoot the puck more…and he knows that,” head coach Peter DeBoer explained. “I’m not concerned about him, but the nice thing about playing with those two guys is they push you to go to the areas where you have to score.

“Hopefully that gets him going.”

One of the fastest skaters in the league, Boedker signed a four-year, $16 million deal with San Jose on the opening day of free agency. The hope was the 23-year-old would improve team speed and build upon an impressive ’15-16 campaign, in which he scored 17 goals and tied a career high with 51 points.

But things haven’t exactly gone according to plan yet — Boedker has one point in six games, and just four shots on goal.

The hope is he’ll enjoy a similar spike in production like the one Tomas Hertl had after getting promoted Thorton-Pavelski line in early January. Hertl responded with 11 points in 12 games that month, 10 in 16 games in March, and 11 in 20 playoff games.

Speaking of Hertl, he’ll drop down to center the third line — between Patrick Marleau and Melker Karlsson — for tonight’s contest.

After missing on Ducks gig, Richardson lands with Hockey Canada

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Luke Richardson, the former player and bench boss that interviewed for Anaheim’s vacant head coaching gig this summer, has caught on with Hockey Canada as an assistant coach for the upcoming Deutschland Cup, per the Ottawa Sun.

Richardson, 47, is considered to be a quality NHL coach-in-waiting.

A veteran d-man with over 1,400 games played in Toronto, Edmonton, Philly, Columbus, Tampa Bay and Ottawa, he’s since enjoyed success as both an assistant coach with the Sens, and as their bench boss in AHL Binghamton.

In his first year with Bingo, Richardson led the club to a 44-21-1-7 record. He was named the AHL’s Eastern Conference all-star coach in his second year.

Richardson’s been praised for his work developing young prospects. Upon departing the Sens organization this summer — he asked GM Pierre Dorion to be considered for the head coaching gig in Ottawa, but was turned down — the club noted that 13 of Richardson’s players were recalled from Binghamton last season.

Earlier, Richardson received accolades for his work with the likes of Mark Stone, Mike Hoffman and Jean-Gabriel Pageau.

Unsurprisingly, he’s been linked to a variety of NHL jobs.

Richardson was considered a frontrunner for the Sabres gig that eventually went to Dan Bylsma and, as mentioned above, was shortlisted and interviewed by Ducks GM Bob Murray to replace Bruce Boudreau (the job eventually went to Randy Carlyle).

“My confidence grew when I was with Binghamton and I have a plan about how to be successful in the NHL,” Richardson said, per the Sun. “But there are only 30 jobs and you’ve got to be patient.

“It’s unfortunate that if you do get a chance, it’s at somebody else’s expense, but I know that if I sign somewhere, I would immediately be on the clock, too.”

Taking a tourney gig with Hockey Canada has proven an effective way to break into — or, back into — NHL coaching. Guy Boucher led Canada at the 2014 and 2015 Spengler Cups, and subsequently scored the Sens gig this summer.

Stecher to make NHL debut for Canucks

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 09: Troy Stecher #2 of North Dakota skates against the Boston University Terriers during the third period of the 2015 NCAA Division I Men's Hockey Championship semifinals at TD Garden on April 9, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts.The Boston Terriers defeat North Dakota 5-3.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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It didn’t take long for the injury bug to bite the Vancouver Canucks again. Head coach Willie Desjardins announced this morning that forwards Alex Burrows and Derek Dorsett were expected to miss 7-10 days, each with undisclosed ailments, and that defenseman Chris Tanev was day-to-day after getting banged up Sunday in Anaheim.

Of the three injured players, Tanev has by far the biggest role. The 26-year-old typically logs 20 minutes on the top pairing with Alex Edler. Tonight against Ottawa, Tanev will be replaced by rookie Troy Stecher, who will be making his NHL debut.

Stecher, 22, signed with the Canucks in April after three years at the University of North Dakota. He had an impressive preseason but was sent down to AHL Utica to start the year.

“Playing with Edler, certainly he’s going to get some hard match-ups,” said Desjardins, who opted to keep his other two defensive pairings together. Vancouver’s second pairing is Ben Hutton with Erik Gudbranson, its third is Luca Sbisa with Philip Larsen.

Another former college star, Jayson Megna, will make his Canucks debut tonight, stepping in for Burrows on the fourth line.

As for Nikita Tryamkin, the big Russian d-man is expected to be a healthy scratch for the seventh time in seven games.

“He’s still on the program,” said Desjardins. “We’re still trying to get him to where we want him to be. He’s not quite there yet.”

Tryamkin, 22, has refused to accept an assignment to the AHL.