Dale Tallon raves about Tomas Fleischmann: He’s ‘going to be something special’

3 Comments

The Florida Panthers underwent an extreme makeover during this off-season, but it remains to be seen if the results will echo a cliched nerd-turned-babe transformation from teen dramas or if they’ll look like Mimi from the Drew Carey show. Whether the experiment turns out to be a success or a failure, let there be no doubt that the Panthers took plenty of wild gambles this summer.

One of the biggest ones involved handing former Washington Capitals and Colorado Avalanche winger Tomas Fleischmann a hefty four-year, $18 million contract.

The biggest risk of a summer full of risks?

If anything, that signing is the poster child for the Panthers off-season risks: a significant overpayment – something lesser teams occasionally need to do – with a less-understandably risky term for a player whose potential vastly outweighs his resume.

Aside from wildly injury prone defenseman Ed Jovanovski, Fleischmann poses the biggest injury risks of any newly signed player. He might even be a bigger risk in the eyes of some considering his struggles with blood clots (in his lungs) last season and that he also missed 11 games after dealing with deep vein thrombosis in 2009-10. The Panthers are confident that those worries are behind him – citing departed goalie Tomas Vokoun’s rebound from blood clots for one thing – but there’s no denying the worrisome reality that the Czech-born winger will spend the rest of his career on blood thinners.*

Despite those obvious worries, Panthers GM Dale Tallon is clearly tantalized by What Could Be. Fleischmann showed flashes of brilliance with the Capitals and then nearly produced a point per game rate in his brief time with the Avs (eight goals and 13 assists for 21 points in 22 games) before those blood clot issues shut his season down. Tallon named Fleischmann as the most exciting signing of a summer of reckless spending.

When asked which player he was most excited about signing this summer, Panthers general manager Dale Tallon’s eyes lit up as he pointed across the room.

“Tomas Fleischmann,” Tallon said with a smile, “is going to be something special.”

Snarky aside: I wonder if Tallon’s eyes will light up when he provides injury report updates next season? Anyway, moving on …

After missing so much time last season — Fleischmann had averaged 72 games over the previous three seasons before appearing in just 45 last year — Fleischmann said he cannot wait to jump back onto the ice. Fleischmann is going to be asked to carry a big part of the Panthers’ offensive load, but he said with talented forwards such as Booth, Stephen Weiss, Scottie Upshall and Kris Versteeg around him, he doesn’t think he’s going to be overburdened.

“He hasn’t reached his peak yet,” Tallon said, “and his numbers are just going to go up. He’s a very skilled guy who makes other players better. With [defenseman] Brian Campbell on the back end, he’ll score or make plays if they focus on [Fleischmann]. We have a lot more weapons, a lot more options on this team than we’ve had in the past.”

The Panthers will need his scoring to progress next season

I have some serious reservations about calling the Panthers a vastly improved team because their defense – while more explosive – might be just as leaky as last season and they faced a dramatic drop in goaltending talent from Vokoun to Jose Theodore. But even if it’s by sheer numbers, the Panthers’ offense should be far more dangerous. Campbell gets a lot of flack for his absurd contract, but he’s a legitimate offensive talent who should be a serious catalyst for scoring chances (especially since he should receive the top power play time in Florida after Duncan Keith took those top minutes in Chicago).

The ultimate question is if they’ll be able to score enough to mask their problems in their own end. The Panthers would require a lot of positive reactions to a lot of “if” scenarios and Fleischmann ranks as possibly the biggest wild card of them all. If nothing else, the Panthers will have one thing they severely lacked during the last few seasons: intrigue.

* – Let’s hope that paragraph is the most depressing one that appears in PHT today.

(H/T to Rotoworld.)

Backstrom provides OT winner as Capitals take 3-2 series lead

2 Comments

The Washington Capitals are on the verge of the second round.

Yes, the Capitals, who began the series with back-to-back losses in Game 1 and 2 to the Columbus Blue Jackets, are now on the brink of eliminating Ohio’s team after Nicklas Backstrom‘s deft deflection in overtime gave the Capitals their third straight win and a 3-2 series lead.

It was the fourth time in the series both clubs played to a tie in regulation. After Columbus won the first two in OT, Washington replied with a win in double-overtime in Game 3 before Backstrom ended Game 5 at the 11:53 mark of the first frame of free hockey.

Backstrom scored his first goal of the series to open the scoring for the Caps and assisted for the sixth time in the series on the go-ahead goal in the second period before Oliver Bjorkstrand tied it in third.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

Braden Holtby had to be sharp, especially in the third period as, inexplicably, the Caps were outshot 16-1. At home. Holtby made 40 saves when it was all said and done.

Two-hundred feet away, Sergei Bobrovsky was up to the task, making some silly stops including a big one on Alex Ovechkin earlier in overtime and a bigger one in regulation time off the same man’s stick.

Game 6 of this series is slated for Monday in Columbus, with a start time still to be determined.

In his post-game comments, Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella said, twice, that his team will be back in the capital for Game 7.

The promise has been made.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Kucherov, Vasilevskiy shine as Lightning eliminate Devils in 5

Leave a comment

One’s up for the Hart as the NHL’s best player while the other is up for the Vezina as the league’s top goaltender. Both combined their talents to eliminate the New Jersey Devils with a 2-1 win in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Saturday.

Nikita Kucherov was once again on point for the Tampa Bay Lightning in Saturday’s matinee. Leading 1-0 in the third period, Kucherov scored a clutch goal — his fifth of the series — to put the Lightning from just inside the blue line to put the Bolts up two with seven minutes and change remaining.

It proved vital, Kucherov’s goal, as the Devils attempted a late comeback with Kyle Palmieri scored with three minutes remaining after Devils pulled Cory Schneider for the extra attacker 30 seconds earlier.

Andrei Vasilevskiy stood tall in the final 180 seconds, stopping 26-of-27 to help usher the Lightning into the second round.

Tampa, the Atlantic Division winners in the regular season, will face the winner of the series between the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs, who play later on Saturday in Game 5. The Bruins lead the series 3-1.

Kucherov was as immense for the Lightning as he was oppressive for the Devils, adding five assists to bring his series total to 10 points. His usual scoring touch was supplemented by his play in the physical department, including this bone-crushing hit on New Jersey defenseman Sami Vatanen.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

For the Devils, it was hard-fought series from a young team still trying to find its way in the playoffs.

The Devils abandoned goalie Keith Kinkaid after dropping the first two games. Cory Schneider, who hadn’t won a game in 2018 before Game 3, came in and provided the spark in goal, one that seemed to get the Devils going at the other end of the rink as well as they rolled to a 5-3 win.

But that well ran dry in Game 4 as the Devils produced just one goal in a 3-1 loss. Game 5 was much the same, production-wise, with the Devils only managing one goal.

Fellow Hart Trophy candidate Taylor Hall provided two goals and six points in the series after a 93-point regular season. Rookie Nico Hischier managed just a goal after scoring 20 in his rookie campaign.

For Vasilevskiy, after looking far more human in the second half of the season, finding his mojo again can only be mean bad things for future playoff opponents.

The young Russian finished with a .941 save percentage in the series.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Blue Jackets’ Matt Calvert scores unusual breakaway goal

Leave a comment

We’ve all see some breakaways go horribly, horribly wrong in the past.

Patrik Stefan reigns supreme here. Devin Setoguchi didn’t fare too well on this one. And then there was this gaffe by Dennis Wideman once upon a time.

But sometimes one screws up, only to rebound quickly and turn a near-blunder into a nice-ish goal.

Columbus Blue Jackets forward Matt Calvert did that today, in what’s already being called the best/worst breakaway attempt of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

As you can see in the video above, Calvert gets a nice clean breakaway. As he attempts to first a wrist shot, he whiffs on the attempt but manages to corral the puck back, doing the whole spin-o-rama thing, and deposit the puck past Braden Holtby for his second goal of the game.

Sometimes it just all works out.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

WATCH LIVE: Lightning, Bruins try to move on to Round 2

Getty Images
1 Comment

Game 5: New Jersey Devils at Tampa Bay Lightning, 3 p.m. ET (Lightning lead series 3-1)
NBC/NBCSN*
Call: Gord Miller, Joe Micheletti
Series preview
Stream

Game 5: Columbus Blue Jackets at Washington Capitals, 3 p.m. ET (Series tied 2-2)
NBC/NBCSN*
Call: Chris Cuthbert, Ray Ferraro
Series preview
Stream

Game 5: Toronto Maple Leafs at Boston Bruins, 8 p.m. ET (Bruins lead series 3-1)
NBC
Call: Mike Emrick, Mike Milbury, Pierre McGuire
Series preview
Stream

*Regionalized coverage – Florida markets and WNBC in New York metro area will air NJ-TB on NBC and CBJ-WSH on NBCSN; all other markets will receive CBJ-WSH on NBC and NJ-TB on NBCSN

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]