Tomas Fleischmann

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

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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.)

Sharks scratch Flames’ big lead, Calgary wins anyway

Calgary Flames' Mikael Backlund (11) chases down the puck against San Jose Sharks' Tomas Hertl (48) during the second period of an NHL hockey game in San Jose, Calif., Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
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If you turned off Thursday’s Calgary Flames – San Jose Sharks game early, you’ll probably be stunned to see that Calgary won 6-5 via a shootout.

For instance:

  • A Sharks fan may have bitterly called it a night when Calgary went up 4-1.
  • Conversely, a Flames devotee might have retired after San Jose took a 5-4 lead, possibly with a broken remote.

The Flames only trailed for about two minutes before scoring the last “real” goal of the game, eventually taking their third straight win thanks to a shootout triumph.

It’s been a strange ride for Calgary, with its most recent win happening after Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Lance Bouma were punished with a healthy scratch. As strange as this game was, the “charity point” can leave both teams looking through a lot of film, yet with something gained as well.

Ultimately, the message may very well be: don’t sleep on these teams.

(In less positive news, Karri Ramo is injured, and it doesn’t look good.

Jonas Hiller closing out the game on a hot streak could be pretty important if Ramo’s out for some time.)

By winning fifth straight, Caps extend Wild’s slump to seven losses

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ST. PAUL, Minn. — Alex Ovechkin scored three times in the second period for his 14th career hat trick, and the Washington Capitals beat the Minnesota Wild 4-3 on Thursday night.

Ovechkin, who leads the league with 34 goals, has 13 in his past 13 games. Nicklas Backstrom had three assists and Jason Chimera added an empty-netter for Washington, which improved to a league-best 20-5-2 on the road.

Braden Holtby made 33 saves for the Capitals, who won their fifth consecutive game and became the first team to reach 40 victories this season.

Charlie Coyle, Ryan Suter and Mikael Granlund scored for the Wild, but Minnesota lost for the 12th time in its past 13 games (1-10-2). Devan Dubnyk made 29 saves for the Wild, who have lost seven in a row at home (0-4-3).

Ovechkin’s third goal, which deflected off both the post and the back of Dubnyk into the net, was upheld following a coach’s challenge. Wild coach Mike Yeo challenged that the puck had left the zone for offsides, but the call stood after a review showed that Backstrom stopped the puck before it crossed the blue line.

The goal gave Ovechkin his first hat trick since he scored four goals against Tampa Bay on Dec. 10, 2013.

It wasn’t the only fortunate bounce for Ovechkin on the night, and the five-time 50-goal scorer capitalized on each opportunity.

A shot from T.J. Oshie deflected off of Minnesota forward Zach Parise across the ice right to Ovechkin in the left faceoff circle and Ovechkin quickly snapped off a shot to beat Dubnyk, who couldn’t get across the crease to get into position. Three minutes later, Ovechkin scored on the power play when a point shot bounced off the end boards right to Ovechkin in front of the net.

The tally provided some relief for the Capitals’ surprisingly ineffective power play. Washington had one power play in its previous six games, an empty-netter for the only goal in its previous 20 power-play chances. The Capitals were 1 of 5 on the power play on Thursday.

Coyle scored for the fifth time in eight games in the second, but second periods have doomed the Wild during their slump. Minnesota has been outscored 13-3 in the period in five straight losses.

Suter scored his sixth goal of the season on the power play in the third as Minnesota went 1 of 5 with the man advantage.

NOTES: Washington C Evgeny Kuznetsov left in the third period after he was hit in the face by the stick of Mikael Granlund off a faceoff. … Backstrom has 20 points in his last 17 games. … Minnesota D Jared Spurgeon missed his second straight game with an unspecified deep bruise. Spurgeon has returned to practice, but was held out again. … Holtby is 27-1-3 in his last 31 games with two shutouts, a 2.10 goals-against average and .927 save percentage.

Watch the Blackhawks’ Patrick Sharp tribute video

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Over the years, the Chicago Blackhawks have been forced to let some important players leave to keep their core together, which ultimately meant parting ways with Patrick Sharp.

The talented winger now wears a Dallas Stars jersey, so Blackhawks fans must face the reality of watching Sharp ply his trade for a formidable Central Division opponent.

Even if that might feel awkward, Blackhawks fans gave Sharp (and Johnny Oduya) a warm reception in Chicago on Thursday.

CSNChicago.com provides video of that ovation, which you can see in the clip above.

The Stars currently lead the Blackhawks 4-2, thanks in large part to Patrick … Eaves.

Ovechkin’s 14th career hat trick helps him make more history

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Death, taxes and Alex Ovechkin winning the Maurice Richard Trophy.

OK, the third thing on that list isn’t technically inevitable. It just feels that way lately in the NHL.

It’s unclear if the Washington Capitals can hold on against the Minnesota Wild, but we know for certain that Ovechkin already has a hat trick, the 14th of his high-scoring career.

(He also passed Jean Beliveau for 39th all-time in goals with his 509th, as NHL.com notes.)

This propels Ovechkin to the goals lead as of this writing, as he already has 34. As impressive as Patrick Kane has been, No. 8 is heating up, and may just edge No. 88 if Ovechkin can remain healthy.

One has to feel a little sympathy for the struggling Wild. They played well but lost against the Dallas Stars earlier this week and now must deal with Ovechkin and the just-as-hot Capitals.

Update: Minnesota managed three goals, but it wasn’t enough, as Washington got the edge 4-3.