Jonas Gustavsson

How shallow nets worked in their test run in Toronto-Ottawa preseason game

During last night’s preseason game between Ottawa and Toronto there were a few different things in play that you may have noticed. The NHL tested out a handful of the innovations that were used during the NHL’s Research and Development Camp this summer to help officials and players in regard to scoring and goals.

If you were taking a close look at the nets as well as in and around the goals themselves you noticed a handful of alterations meant to help verify goals. The green verification line was inside the net to help with replays, thin mesh on the top of the goal, and a clear plastic skirt along the bottom of the net were all in play. While none of the replay alterations got a chance to be used, the one that got the most notice were the shallower goals for the goalies to protect.

Chris Johnston of The Canadian Press discussed the nets with both Maple Leafs goalies who played in last nights game. Jonas Gustavsson and Ben Scrivens gave their thoughts on the nets.

“People who are a lot smarter than I thought that there was going to be more offence generated from it,” said Scrivens. “You know, they’re the ones who make the decisions and they thought that there would be more chances and more action around the net. I’m sure that’s why they went with it.”

Added Jonas Gustavsson, who started against the Senators: “I guess you’ve got to be quicker post-to-post when they’re going behind the net.”

While the nets will need league approval to be changed, giving them a look in real game action during the preseason when the games don’t count for anything is the best way to show them off and see how well they function. You could argue that Ottawa’s first goal last night got a benefit from the shallow nets as Nikita Filatov had a bit more room to maneuver behind the net (video) to feed a pinching Jared Cowen for a goal.

It’s a very small sample size, but giving guys more room to play behind the net on offense is such a subtle change but a good one. Having more room to create and elude defenders helps the offensive flow. Gustavsson’s point about having to be quicker going from post to post to prevent wraparounds is a great one. The wraparound goal is one that you don’t see happen too often these days because of defensive positioning and having to circle back behind the net far enough to give goalies time to get in place.

After one game, however, the shallow nets look even more like a no-brainer innovation for the league to adopt. Boosting offense without radically altering the game by way of making the nets bigger or anything out of that mold are the kinds of things that should get very strong consideration. Shallow nets don’t do anything to make the game into a circus and if making goalies work a little harder and pay better attention to the play going on around them is the only real alteration, it’s time for the league to go ahead with it.

Devils’ Merrill undergoes shoulder surgery, out four months

NEWARK, NJ - JANUARY 04: Jon Merrill #7 of the New Jersey Devils skates against the Detroit Red Wings at the Prudential Center on January 4, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey. The Red Wings defeated the Devils 1-0.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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New Jersey d-man Jon Merrill, who struggled through an injury-riddled campaign, has undergone successful shoulder surgery with an expected recovery time of four months, the club announced on Wednesday.

Merrill, 24, only appeared in 47 games this year, first missing time with an arm injury, then suffering a shoulder ailment late in the year.

There was no clear indication if the two ailments were related, but Merrill’s arm injury was on the right side, and surgery was on his right shoulder.

A former University of Michigan standout taken 38th overall in 2010, Merrill enjoyed solid rookie and sophomore campaigns in New Jersey. His second year was especially solid — 14 points in 66 games, averaging over 20 minutes per night — and he boasts good size, going 6-foot-3, 205 pounds.

Based on the four-month timetable for recovery, Merrill will likely miss parts of New Jersey’s training camp and preseason action.

Max Talbot mulling European options for next season

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After a 10-year career with over 700 games played and one Stanley Cup, Maxime Talbot could be done in the NHL.

Per RDS, Talbot — who’ll hit unrestricted free agency on July 1 — has “some options in Europe” for next season, and is contemplating a move overseas.

In his prime, Talbot was a gritty, hardworking forward with decent touch around the net. He scored double-digit goals four times, including a career-high 19 in ’11-12.

The 32-year-old split last season between Boston and its AHL affiliate in Providence, scoring seven points in 38 games at the NHL level.

Talbot did acquit himself very well with the P-Bruins — 21 points in 26 games — and has some experience playing abroad, having suited up for Finnish League club Ilves Tampere during the lockout.

Based on how things went last year in free agency, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Talbot land in Europe.

The likes of Maxim Lapierre, Curtis Glencross and Marcel Goc all failed to score NHL contracts last summer — Lapierre and Goc proceeded to sign overseas, while Glencross opted to retire.

 

Ex-‘Hawks coach Suhonen takes Austrian national team job

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 13:  Thomas Raffl #5 of Austria celebrates with his teammates after Thomas Hundertpfund #27 scored a goal in the first period against Tuukka Rask #40 of Finland during the Men's Ice Hockey Preliminary Round Group B game on day six of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Bolshoy Ice Dome on February 13, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Alpo Suhonen, who became the first European-born NHL coach in over 50 years upon taking the Chicago gig in 2000, has been named the new bench boss of the Austrian men’s national team, per IIHF.com.

Suhonen, 67, takes over from former NHL defenseman Dan Ratushny, who was splitting duties between Team Austria and Lausanne of the Swiss League.

Suhonen takes over the national team at a critical juncture. Austria finished a disappointing fourth at the 2016 World Hockey Championship Division 1 tournament — meaning the country finished 20th overall. As the IIHF websites notes, that’s the worst finish for Austria in 86 years of WHC competition.

Looking forward, Austria does have a chance to make amends this summer, when it will play a series of contests to prep for Olympic qualification.

Suhonen inherits a roster with decent NHL pedigree as Thomas Vanek, Michael Raffl and Michael Grabner are all eligible to participate.

That said, Vanek was named to Team Europe’s initial 16-man roster for the World Cup of Hockey, and it remains to be seen how that will impact his national team commitments.

Datsyuk’s agent acknowledges offer from KHL’s SKA, but no deal yet

Detroit Red Wings center Pavel Datsyuk (13) celebrates his empty net goal against the Edmonton Oilers in the third period of an NHL hockey game in Detroit Monday, March 9, 2015. Detroit won 5-2. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
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Gennady Timchenko, the billionaire chairman of KHL club SKA Saint Petersburg, reportedly believes there’s a “good chance” that Pavel Datsyuk will be playing for his team next season.

But according to Datsyuk’s agent, Dan Milstein, there’s only been an offer from SKA. Nothing has been signed yet. There could still be offers from other KHL teams for his client to consider.

And at any rate, Milstein insisted once again that Datysuk won’t be making any decisions until he speaks with the Detroit Red Wings in mid-June, after the 37-year-old returns from a family vacation.

Milstein passed along that update to Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press, plus a few other Wings reporters.

Related: Datsyuk ‘wants to make sure the Wings have options’