Report: Devils to retire Scott Niedermayer’s number this season

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While the New Jersey Devils haven’t confirmed the date or the decision, Tom Gulitti of Fire & Ice passes along a (since-deleted) Tweet from agent Al Dhalla that Scott Niedermayer’s number 27 will be retired next season. If Dhalla’s claims are correct, the jersey will go up into the Prudential Center’s rafters on Friday, December 16, although Gulitti makes a valid point that it might make more sense to retire his sweater when the Devils host the Anaheim Ducks (Niedermayer’s other team) on February 17.

Gulitti reports that the Devils and Niedermayer discussed the idea a bit last season too, which would make sense since Niedermayer’s No. 27 was no longer in use by fellow defenseman Mike Mottau, who awkwardly donned the number for three seasons in Niedermayer’s absence.

Niedermayer didn’t confirm the news with Gulitti, but he didn’t shoot down the rumor either. In a way it seems like an inevitable development when you consider Niedermayer’s impact on the franchise; he’s one of five players who were around for all three of the Devils’ Stanley Cup victories.

“It’s sort of a strange thing to talk about,” Niedermayer said. “If it does happen – and I guess maybe it will – it’s a great honor. But I don’t really find it my place to talk about it. It’s their decision ultimately. They’re in charge. They’re calling the shots, not me, and that’s the way it should be.”

“Lou will do it when he feels it’s right to do,” Niedermayer said. “In my eyes at least, I don’t think anything has been finalized anyway.”

When I asked Niedermayer how Dhalla might have come up with the Dec. 16 date, he replied, “There’s probably been a few dates that have been talked about and maybe that had been one of them. Whether everything has been finalized, I have no idea.”

As Puck Daddy’s Greg Wyshynski points out, the pending decision might rub some Devils fans the wrong way. There might be some Devils fans who still feel jilted over Niedermayer’s choice to sign with his brother Rob Niedermayer and the Ducks in 2005, where he would go on to win another Stanley Cup and play more excellent hockey.

In 2005, Niedermayer had a choice. He could remain a Devil via a lucrative unrestricted free-agent contract, stabilizing a franchise that was at the end of the Scott Stevens era on its blue line and entering a new trap-unfriendly era in the NHL; or, he could leave for the Anaheim Ducks’ less lucrative offer and play with this brother, Rob.

Niedermayer of course chose the latter, winning the Conn Smythe along with a Stanley Cup in 2007 and solidifying his place as a top three defenseman of his era.

The Devils? Well, if you were going to trace a line from their three-Cup mini-dynasty to their sometimes hapless years under the salary cap and new NHL rules, it begins at Niedermayer’s end in New Jersey.

To some, it might seem silly to hold a grudge on Niedermayer, especially when you take the presence of his brother Rob in Anaheim into account. Then again, others might argue that the mere act of being a fan is a bit silly, so it’s perfectly fair for some fans to smart about the choice Scott made six years ago.

The Devils and Niedermayer have eventually patched things up so it’s just be a matter of time before the team raises his number 27 up, whether that night comes on December 16, February 17 or some other time. We’ll keep an eye out for an official announcement, but how do you feel about the Devils retiring his number?

Talbot torments Ducks as Oilers take 2-0 series lead

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Those who vehemently argued for Cam Talbot being a Vezina finalist likely felt vindicated tonight (even if postseason results don’t factor into the voting).

In Game 1, Leon Draisaitl stole the show. Talbot was the standout of Game 2, snubbing a steady Ducks threat as Edmonton won 2-1 on Friday.

And, just like that, the Oilers are up 2-0 in their second-round series against the Anaheim Ducks. Better yet for this young group: the venue shifts to what’s likely to be a rowdy scene in Edmonton for Games 3 and 4.

The tone was set when Andrej Sekera scored just 65 seconds into the contest. That said, the Oilers could have sulked when a would-be 2-0 goal was called off (and they had to kill a penalty). Instead, they just kept battling, even after Jakob Silfverberg ended Talbot’s shutout bit with a laser beam on the power play.

Speaking of the power play, the Oilers managed to match the Ducks (1-for-4 each on the PP), even as Talbot faced 12 shots on goal during Anaheim’s power-play opportunities.

Talbot ultimately made 39 of 40 stops, and while the Ducks kept Connor McDavid from scoring, number 97 sure looked speedy and dangerous at times in Game 2.

Anaheim came into the second round with home-ice advantage through the West side of the playoffs, seemingly enjoying a golden opportunity when other conference powers fell. Instead, it’s looking like the Oilers might just have a chance to prove that they’re big-time contenders, too.

Game 3 airs on NBCSN at 7 p.m. ET on Sunday. You can watch online and via the NBC Sports App; click here for the livestream.

Latest goalie interference mess: Oilers get penalty, not goal

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Ah, goalie interference. Does the fun ever start?

Arguably the most irritating facet of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs reared its pesky head once again on Friday, as the Edmonton Oilers saw a would-be 2-0 goal disallowed in the first period of Game 2 against the Anaheim Ducks.

The goal wasn’t just disallowed, either, as Mark Letestu was given a minor penalty.

One would imagine that there are opinions for or against the goal (and penalty counting); there are also many who are just getting a little worn out by the uncertainty surrounding such calls. Tomas Holmstrom is nodding his head so hard right now, everyone.

Here’s one unhappy take:

Moments after this post went up, the Oilers made it 2-0 for real this time. Check out the game here.

Math may help build Vegas Knights, but biggest aim is not being boring

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Unlike Pierre Dorion, it sounds like Vegas Golden Knights GM George McPhee would rather listen to analytics-minded people rather than … you know, hit them.

As McPhee readies for the expansion draft, he told The Star’s Kevin McGran in Q&A that they’ll at least be factored into decisions.

I’ve been really fascinated by how revealing that data can be. You have these kids speaking a different language. But I’m convinced it has a really important place in this game. You have to pay attention to it, and you have to use it.

Naturally, the real question with McPhee and other executives comes down to how much they will lean on analytics. Some teams seem to pick and choose when to listen to such voices, ending up with an odd mix of moves that please and unnerve the “fancy stats” community.

Owner Bill Foley gave a good idea of how much they’ll lean on stats vs. more traditional approaches in an interview with the Vegas Hockey Hotline back in February, which was transcribed by The Hockey Writers’ Keith Scheessele.

“Analytics is not going to drive how we draft,” Foley said. “Analytics are going to supplement what the scouts are seeing. We’re going to rely on the scouts and what they recommend.”

(Foley also spoke of rating players in 10 different categories, which started to make one think about how old sports video games could only quantify skills in so many ways. Anyway …)

So, it sounds like McPhee & Co. will take a modern approach – a mixture of the old and the new – rather than going full-on bold and revolutionary like, say, the Cleveland Browns or Golden State Warriors.

Considering the mystery of roster quality one faces with the Vegas Knights, it honestly might be most important that McPhee is repeatedly stating that he doesn’t aim to put together a boring hockey team.

Hey, if it takes a while to be good, at least the Vegas Knights might fit with their environment and put on a show.

Tarasenko’s two goals help Blues tie series with Predators

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One of the (many) remarkable things about the St. Louis Blues dispatching the Minnesota Wild was that they didn’t need a ton of production from Vladimir Tarasenko. He didn’t score a goal until the clinching game of that series.

The Blues needed more from him tonight, and he responded with two huge goals to help St. Louis win 3-2 in Game 2, tying the second-round series at 1-1.

Tarasenko scored the opening goal on that major power-play opportunity from the Vernon Fiddler knee on Colton Parayko, while Joel Edmundson wisely got out of the way to let Tarasenko nab the game-winner.

That ended up being the decisive factor as the Nashville Predators finally lost their first game of the postseason.

St. Louis must be breathing a sigh of relief for a number of reasons. The series shifts to Nashville for Games 3 and 4, so going down 2-0 might have been lethal.

Even beyond that, the Blues had some breaks go their way that likely won’t repeat to the same degree in future contests. The Predators didn’t receive a single power-play opportunity while St. Louis spent significant chunks of the contest on the man advantage, going 1-for-5 (but again, that includes a major).

The Blues also won despite what must have been a frustrating start. They only managed a 1-1 tie after the first 20 minutes despite holding Nashville to a mere three shots on goal.

The Predators also managed leads of 1-0 and 2-1, yet the Blues kept fighting to get back in this series. Game 3 will air on NBC at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday. You can watch online and via the NBC Sports App (Click here for the livestream link).

* – That said, he made a lot of commotion to set up Edmundson’s overtime game-winner from Game 1. That connection continued on Friday, as you likely noticed.