Darren Helm, Drew Miller, Patrick Eaves

Are Helm, Eaves and Miller the Red Wings’ closest thing to a new ‘Grind Line’?

It’s probably not accurate to say that Kris Draper decided to “pass the torch” by retiring from the NHL. Such a notion downplays the Detroit Red Wings’ deft methods of “reloading” instead of rebuilding while simultaneously competing for the Stanley Cup year after year.

That being said, Detroit’s trio of retirements (Draper, Brian Rafalski and Chris Osgood) do shine a spotlight on the team’s younger players – especially when you consider the crushing inevitability of Nicklas Lidstrom’s eventual last game. Naturally, the Red Wings will probably have some tricks up their sleeves* because: a) they always do and b) Lidstrom’s departure should give them a nice chunk of salary cap space, so that worry might not be quite as severe as it may seem.

Still, there’s little doubt that Detroit will need its depth players to come through here and there, much like Draper did in his prime. Maybe it’s too much to ask for a second coming of “The Grind Line” considering the defensive game’s shifting priorities from grit to speed, but it’s fairly easy to see the four forwards who will live to keep the puck out of Detroit’s net more than anything else next season.

Detroit’s candidates for a new “Grind Line”

For all the hype about Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg’s two-way play – and don’t get me wrong, much of it is justified – they weren’t the Red Wings forwards who did most of the heavy lifting last season. Here are the Red Wings’ top four penalty killing forwards in 2010-11, according to NHL.com’s stats. I also included their sometimes-laughable PP averages to show off how single-minded their approaches must have been.

1. Darren Helm (3:03 shorthanded minutes per game; 4 seconds per game on the PP)
2. Patrick Eaves (2:41 PK per game; averaged :13 on PP)
3. Drew Miller (2:13 PK per game; averaged :04 on PP)
4. Justin Abdelkader (1:42 PK per game; averaged :09 on PP)

The only Red Wings forwards who averaged somewhat significant PK time beyond those four were Daniel Cleary (1:10 per game) and – you guessed it – Draper (:51 per game).

Which three of the four will comprise the shutdown line on most nights?

Those numbers reinforce my original point that the Red Wings more or less moved on already, but the transition will truly be complete next season. It’s likely that this quartet of forwards will work together on the penalty kill for much of 2011-12, but let’s take a look at which three are most likely to be the team’s consistent grind line.

To do so, I consulted Dobber Hockey’s “line combo” stats. Let’s take a look at the four players’ most common even strength linemates from 2010-11.

  • It seems like Abdelkader moved around a lot – his most consistent linemates were Miller and Jan Mursak at 9.6 percent of the time – but his top two combos involved Miller.
  • Eaves spent more than 31 percent of his time with Draper and Helm and more than 26 percent of his time with Helm and Miller.
  • Helm‘s most common combo came with Draper and Eaves at just under 24 percent of his even strength play. He also spent 20 percent of his time with Eaves and Miller.
  • Miller played with Eaves and Helm over 27 percent of his even strength time and almost 13 percent of his time with Draper and Helm.

Looking at those numbers and the fact that the Red Wings didn’t make too many changes during the off-season (that weren’t imposed upon them by retirement decisions), it looks like the team might go with Eaves-Helm-Miller much of the time. Of course, things can change thanks to the pre-season and the general forces of line changes.

***

Ultimately, the Red Wings’ grinders should be very familiar with their duties next season. That doesn’t mean that the probable Helm-Miller-Eaves combo is guaranteed to match “The Grind Line,” but the team already built a foundation for their days without Draper.

* Dare we goad Nashville Predators fans into depression by mentioning Ryan Suter’s pending unrestricted free agency?

Capitals’ Carey ties it late before Ovechkin beats Devils in the shootout

The Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin, (8), of Russia, leaps in the air in celebration after scoring his 500th career NHL goal during the second period of a hockey game against the Ottawa Senators in Washington, D.C., Sunday, Jan. 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Associated Press
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The 2015-16 Washington Capitals always seem to find a way to get the job done.

That’s exactly what they did in Saturday’s matinee against the New Jersey Devils.

The Capitals opened the scoring when Andrei Burakovsky beat Cory Schneider in the second period, but the Devils answered with back-to-back goals by Joseph Blandisi and Adam Henrique.

Washington got the game-tying goal from an unlikely source as Paul Carey scored his first career goal with under six minutes remaining in regulation.

In overtime, Ovechkin dished out this huge hit:

And in typical Ovechkin fashion, he finished the game off in the shootout:

The Caps have now won back-to-back games and they remain 15 points ahead of the Rangers, who beat Philadelphia 3-2 in a shootout this afternoon, with two games in hand.

For the Devils, the loser point allows them to move ahead of the Islanders for third place in the Metropolitan division, but New York still has four games in hand.

Here’s an updated look at the division standings:

division

Video: Flyers’ Simmonds gets tossed for sucker-punch after retaliating to McDonagh’s cross-check

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Some rough stuff in Saturday’s matinee between the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers.

Wayne Simmonds was thrown out of the game after he punched Ryan McDonagh.

As you can see from the video at the top of the page, McDonagh nails Simmonds with a cross-check to the head before the Flyers forward went after him.

McDonagh left the game with a possible concussion.

Here’s how the referees handed out the penalties:

penalties

Simmonds received a five-minute major and was tossed from the game while McDonagh received two separate two-minute penalties.

The Rangers were unable to score on the ensuing power play, and that’s when more weird stuff happened.

Here’s how the New York Daily News described the moments after the penalty expired:

The Rangers were already upset with Simmonds’ sucker punch, but then Alain Vigneault lost his mind all over again at the end of the Rangers’ unsuccessful power play: The Flyers had forgotten to put a player in the penalty box, with Simmonds having been sent off.

Illegally, during the flow of play, forward Jake Voracek just jumped off Philly’s bench as the power play expired and was sprung on a breakaway. Lundqvist made the save but the Rangers were flabbergasted at the officials’ lack of control or apparent knowledge of the rule book, which would require the Flyers in that situation to wait until a whistle to put their fifth man back on the ice.

By the way, the referees for this game are Dave Lewis and Kelly Sutherland.

Video: Brodeur, Schneider, Holtby participate in ceremonial faceoff

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You don’t see this very often.

The New Jersey Devils and Washington Capitals added an interesting twist to the ceremonial faceoff prior to Saturday’s game.

Former Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur dropped the puck, but instead of the captains taking the draw, it was the two starting goaltenders-Braden Holtby and Cory Schneider.

You can watch the highlights from the ceremony by clicking the video at the top of the page.

Before the ceremony, Brodeur had some kind words for Holtby.

“He reminds me of me a lot,” Brodeur said, per CSN Mid-Atlantic. “Not the way he plays, but the way he puts himself out there.

“He’s not scared. He just wants to play. I’m sure he’s playing through tons of injuries. He’s a warrior out there. I don’t know him and I don’t know if he does or not, but he’s having a great year. Not just this year; last year he was coming on and he’s going to be good for a long time for them.”

The Devils will be retiring Brodeur’s number 30 prior to Tuesday’s game against the Edmonton Oilers.

The 43-year-old won 688 games and posted 124 shutouts as a member of the Devils between 1991 and 2014.

He also won three Stanley Cups and four Vezina Trophies in his career.

Mike Yeo gets a vote of confidence; Wild will scratch Vanek, Zucker vs. STL

Minnesota Wild head coach Mike Yeo talks to Jason Zucker (16) in the first period of an NHL preseason hockey game against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Pittsburgh, Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Associated Press
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Things haven’t been going well with Minnesota’s hockey team, but that doesn’t necessarily mean changes are coming via firings or trades.

On Saturday, Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher reiterated his confidence in his team and his coaching staff going forward.

The Wild have won just three of 15 games since Jan. 1 and they’re currently riding a four-game losing streak.

The Wild have been through mid-season slumps before.

Last year, Yeo lost it during a team practice and that seemed to spark his team, as they were able to turn things around and make it to the postseason.

Will a similar tactic work, again? Probably not.

As PHT pointed out earlier this week, this slump might not be like the previous ones.

The Wild are just one point behind Nashville (with a game in a hand) for the final Wild Card spot in the Western Conference, but will their top guns be able to get them out of this funk?

The numbers aren’t pretty:

Zach Parise has no points in his last four games and just one goal in his last nine contests.

Thomas Vanek hasn’t scored in eight games. He has just one assist during that span.

Mikko Koivu has four assists in 15 games since the new year began.

Mikael Granlund has two assists since Jan. 7 and he has a a minus-11 rating since then.

Jason Zucker has one assist in 11 games. He hasn’t scored since Jan. 7.

How will Yeo get his team’s attention this time around?

Here’s your answer: