Tim Thomas, Tomas Kaberle and Kris Versteeg rank among players ‘new’ to Boston-Flyers series

As we approach this afternoon’s Game 1 between the Boston Bruins and the Philadelphia Flyers, many will cite baggage from the 2010 series. Will the Bruins be able to shake off the constant stream of questions about that historic collapse? Could the Flyers’ rising swagger turn into self-destructive cockiness?

It’s easy to think that the two teams are the same since only about a year has passed since they played that ’10 semifinals series. Yet injuries, lineup changes and new acquisitions show that the sides will be a little different, with the most profound alterations occurring in Boston’s lineup. Here are a few players who are “new” to this series.

Tim Thomas (benched in 2010)

Obviously, Thomas was on the Bruins’ roster last year, but the team went with Tuukka Rask after the rookie carried the team into the playoffs. Rask was pretty fantastic in 2009-10 but did seem to run out of steam a bit in the postseason. Thomas is the closest thing the NHL has to Dominik Hasek 2.0, so it’s reasonable to say that he’ll be a difference-maker.

Tomas Kaberle (2011 trade deadline acquisition)

The Bruins managed to get to the second round despite their awful power play and Kaberle’s struggles, but a deep Flyers attack will force them to lean on their shallow defense. If he falters for another round, Philly might send Boston on vacation again.

Nathan Horton (Pre-season trade acquisition)

Horton only had three points in that seven-game series against the Montreal Canadiens, but two of those came from overtime game-winning goals. If hockey players were politicians, those two goals would be the polished sound bytes that obscure a lacking larger body of work. Horton’s big-bodied game might come in handy against the physical Flyers, though, as he scored 26 goals for the Bruins this season.

Kris Versteeg (Acquired around the trade deadline)

It seems like the former Chicago Blackhawks/Toronto Maple Leafs forward gets lost in the shuffle of the Flyers’ ridiculously deep offensive attack. He only had 11 points in his 27 regular season games with Philadelphia, but he quietly put together five assists and a +6 rating in the first round. The fact that he’s averaging a bit under 15 minutes of ice time per game is a testament to the Flyers’ depth, but he could be helpful in a tougher series against Boston.

David Krejci (Injured during last year’s series)

A Mike Richards hit in Game 3 of the teams’ 2010 series knocked Krejci out of the playoffs and Boston clearly suffered without their underrated center, as they won that game but dropped the next four. He hopes to finish what he started last year, although he’ll need to finish the scoring chances he starts in this round after scoring just one point (a goal) in seven games against Montreal.

Chris Kelly/Rich Peverley (Acquired around the trade deadline)

While Kaberle was the big-ticket acquisition, Kelly and Peverley were unsung heroes for Boston in the first round. Kelly scored six points (three goals and three assists) while Peverley had five (one goal and four assists) in that seven-game series. Philadelphia shouldn’t underestimate their Misfit Line, which also features rejuvenated winger Michael Ryder.

Andrej Meszaros/Sean O’Donnell (Pre-season additions)

These two new additions to the Flyers’ blueline are very different players. Meszaros is an enticing physical talent prone to defensive lapses while O’Donnell is limited from a skill perspective but very trustworthy on defense.

Tyler Seguin (Boston)/Nik Zherdev (Philadelphia) – (Healthy scratch wild cards)

Seguin was supposed to be a big difference maker as the second overall pick of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, but he’s not quite there yet.  Zherdev is one of those skilled but flighty players who can hurt opponents and his own team in equal measures. Seguin hasn’t made a playoff appearance while Zherdev has two points in five games for Philly.

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With the exception of Krejci, this list shows plenty of players without baggage from last year. Will these new ingredients give this series a new flavor? Find out today on NBC at 3 p.m. ET.

Video: Michael Grabner totally meant to do this for Rangers

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Depending upon how things go for each team, the New York Rangers and Boston Bruins may very well grapple for a wild-card spot in the East.

Thankfully, it won’t come down to Michael Grabner‘s deeply weird, memorable, and fun goal against Tuukka Rask, a “bank” goal that Grabner totally meant to do. Right?

(Watch that goal in the video above this post’s headline.)

That was Grabner’s 16th goal of 2017-18, which isn’t half-bad for a guy carrying a $1.65 million cap hit this season. Prediction: the speedy winger will cost quite a bit more than that in 2018-19.

As you can see in this video, Alain Vigneault points to Grabner gathering steam in his second season with the Rangers as part of the reason this team is turning things around:

J.T. Miller added a beauty of a goal to make it 2-0, but the Bruins dug deep to tie it 2-2, so we’ll see how the rest of that game goes.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

WATCH NHL 100 CLASSIC LIVE: Montreal Canadiens at Ottawa Senators

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PROJECTED LINES

Montreal Canadiens

Forwards

Pacioretty – Danault – Byron

Galchenyuk – Drouin – Shaw

Hudon – Plekanec – Gallagher

Deslauriers – Froese/de la Rose – Carr

Defense

Alzner – Petry

Benn – Weber

Schlemko – Jerabek/Morrow

Starting Goalie: Carey Price

[NHL On NBCSN: Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators Meet In NHL 100 Classic]

Ottawa Senators

Forwards

Ryan – Duchene – Stone

Dzingel – Brassard – Hoffman

Smith – Pageau – Pyatt

Burrows – Thompson – Dumont

Defense

Oduya – Karlsson

Phaneuf – Ceci

Claesson – Chabot

Starting goalie: Craig Anderson

 

 

Eugene Melnyk’s Senators are kind of a mess right now

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As the Ottawa Senators prepare to head into their outdoor game against the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night it is really difficult to imagine this is the same organization that was one game away from winning the entire Eastern Conference just seven months ago.

It’s taken a less than a year for all of the goodwill that improbable playoff run created among the team’s fan base to be almost completely wiped away.

And it’s not just because the product on the ice has badly regressed.

Actually, that is probably the least of their concerns at this point.

On a day that is supposed to be a celebration and a highlight of the team’s season — a home outdoor game against the Montreal Canadiens!– the fan base is instead staging a social media rebellion against team owner Eugene Melnyk with the #melnykout hashtag on Twitter.

[NHL On NBCSN: Senators, Canadiens Meet In NHL 100 Classic]

Pretty much every reply to every Tweet from the Senators’ social media team is being bombarded with that hashtag as fans voice their displeasure. On Saturday afternoon #melynkout was one of the top trending topics in all of Canada.

Just a quick recap of everything that has gone wrong in recent weeks to help get things to this boiling point.

  • Erik Karlsson, the team’s best player, a generational talent, and a superstar that has played the past few seasons on a below market contract made some comments that indicated he would not be willing to take another hometown discount when his contract expires after next season. Given the team’s financials it is pretty clear that he already has one foot out the door.
  • The team, struggling on the ice and apparently desperate to make a move, is reportedly fielding calls on every player on the roster, including Karlsson.
  • Kyle Turris, traded as part of the Matt Duchene trade, suggested the team’s front office wanted to re-sign him but ownership did not. Turris and his new team, the Nashville Predators, have been unstoppable since the trade while Duchene and the Senators have been stuck in neutral.
  • General manager Pierre Dorion denied that claim and said all hockey moves go through him, not the owner. That press conference from Dorion included the anecdote that Dorion’s own son said the team’s “level of suckage is high.”
  • Then, on Friday night, on the night before the team’s outdoor game, Melnyk poured a bucket of gasoline on the tire fire that is his team and made some ominous comments about the team’s financial situation and future in Ottawa.

Melnyk is no stranger to bringing some less than desirable attention to his team. The whole forensic investigation surrounding the Matt Cooke and Erik Karlsson incident; the way he lost his mind in the wake of the Sidney Crosby/Marc Methot incident. But to make comments like the ones he made on Friday, on the eve of a major NHL and team event, and given everything else surrounding the team and his ownership at the moment, is astonishing even for him.

Oh, and the team itself is still seven points out of a playoff spot and sitting in 15th place in the Eastern Conference.

Given all of that it is really difficult to imagine a bleaker long-term outlook for any fan base in the NHL. Which situation can possibly be worse?

The only one that really comes close at this point from is probably the Detroit Red Wings, and that is strictly from a hockey standpoint. The Red Wings are a sub-par team saddled with a ton of long-term contracts, little in the way of young, impact talent and are in dire need of a rebuild but seem reluctant to actually go through with it. It might be a long time before the Red Wings are a factor in the Eastern Conference again, but at least they are not in danger of moving (or at least having that threat thrown out there). They don’t have an owner that fans are openly revolting against.

Even the Buffalo Sabres and Arizona Coyotes have some reason to be hopeful from a hockey standpoint (Jack Eichel in Buffalo; Arizona is struggling, but they have a ton of young talent).

But the Senators? What is the reason for optimism here?

They have a generational superstar that might be one of the finest players to ever play his position and it is only a matter of when, and not if, he is playing for another team.

The owner, seemingly unwilling to sell the team, doesn’t seem to respect his own fan base and doesn’t seem to have the funds to consistently put a competitive product on the ice.

If you are Senators fan, what can you possibly have to look forward to right now, whether it be for the rest of this season or beyond?

It is a grim situation to be sure.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

NHL On NBCSN: Senators, Canadiens meet in NHL 100 Classic

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The first outdoor game of the 2017-18 season takes place on Saturday night in at Lansdowne Park in Ottawa when the Ottawa Senators host the Montreal Canadiens.

Both teams are looking for some kind of a spark to break out of their early season slumps that have them starting to get buried in the Eastern Conference standings. Even with those slow starts there remains plenty of intrigue with this game.

Let’s start with the fact that both teams — both of which were in the playoffs just last season — are absolutely desperate for points right now.

[Live Stream: Montreal Canadiens vs. Ottawa Senators]

The Senators, who were just one shot away from being in the Stanley Cup Final a season ago, have won just two of their past 14 games and find themselves in 15th place in the East, 10 points out of a Wild Card spot and seven points behind the Boston Bruins for the third spot in the Atlantic Division.

As if the problems on the ice are not bad enough, there is plenty of off-ice drama surrounding them. And it seems to keep getting worse.

The long-term future of their only superstar, defenseman Erik Karlsson, remains in doubt and with each passing day it seems as if his time in Canada’s capital city is coming closer and closer to ending. A free agent after next season, Karlsson has made it clear he is not looking to take a discount on his next contract. Then came the report that he was one of the many Senators that was asked to give his no-trade list.

As if all of that wasn’t ominous enough, team owner Eugene Melnyk spoke publicly on Friday, the day before what should be one of the highlights of the team’s 2017-18 season, and played the relocation card.

Other than all of that, everything is going wonderfully for the Senators.

On the other side of the ice we have the Montreal Canadiens.

The Canadiens enter play on Saturday sitting just two points back of the Bruins for the third playoff spot in the Atlantic Division, but have also played three additional games.

The Canadiens have been a difficult team to get a grasp on this season because they keep running so hot and cold.

After starting the season on a 1-6-1 run, they followed that up by going 7-3 over their next 10. Then they lost five in a row. Then they won five in a row. Which was then followed by a three-game losing streak. You never know which Canadiens team you are going to get on a given night or over a given period of time. The only thing consistent about them this season has been their inconsistency.

Now they enter play on Saturday night against a struggling Senators team that is dealing with plenty of drama off the ice.

Outdoor games always have a little extra appeal to them, but this one is especially big given how much the two teams need the points.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.