Fab Five: 5 key contributors to Detroit’s record-setting run

Tonight, the Red Wings will host the Stars at Joe Louis for a shot a history — a win would be Detroit’s 21st in a row at home, setting the all-time NHL single-season mark set 1929-30 Boston Bruins and 1975-76 Philadelphia Flyers.

So, how did the Wings get to this point?

It’s been a balanced, total team effort — head coach Mike Babcock called the Wings “one of the most consistent teams I’ve ever coached” — yet there have been some outstanding individual efforts worth profiling.

Pavel Datsyuk: He’s scored 25 points during the winning streak and has at least one point in 15 of the 20 wins. Datsyuk also drew high praise from Flyers forward Scott Hartnell, who lost 4-3 at the Joe on Sunday.

“They’re a puck-control team and it seems like Datsyuk can hold onto it for five minutes straight, just like [Jaromir] Jagr can. He gets in the corners, passes out there and no matter how good your stick is you can’t get the puck. He’s got great vision where he can find players in the slot, or back door.”

Valtteri Filppula: On pace for a career year, the 27-year-old Finn is second on the team in home goals (nine) and has been a point-a-game guy (26 in 26) at Joe Louis this season.

But the one guy that’s really appreciative of Filppula’s emergence isn’t even a Red Wing — it’s fellow countryman and Anaheim Ducks winger Teemu Selanne.

“I always knew he has all the tools,” Selanne told MLive.com. “He really has no weaknesses. He can skate so well. He’s strong, he can see the game, he can pass.

“I’ve been waiting for a long time because this guy has everything you need to be at the superstar level.”

Todd Bertuzzi: Bertuzzi was placed on a line with Datsyuk and Johan Franzen back in late November…which just so happened to coincide with the start of Detroit’s streak. Bertuzzi had a minus-1 rating through his first 11 games but has been a plus-22 since joining Datsyuk and Franzen, and Big Bert’s inspired play has pleased his head coach.

“I think he’s been real strong on pucks and a real good net presence for those guys and good defensively and energized and playing well,” Babcock said. “It’s given us a real good line there.”

Jimmy Howard: Sadly, he won’t be in goal to set the NHL record — he’s out with a broken finger — but Howard was the goalie of record for the first 17 wins of the streak. That run included shutouts over Edmonton, St. Louis and Buffalo and one-goal efforts against Nashville, Winnipeg and St. Louis. The 27-year-old also made his first All-Star appearance this season and leads the NHL in wins, with 32.

Nicklas Lidstrom: One of the great moments of this streak wasn’t about wins — it was watching team captain Nicklas Lidstrom move past franchise legend Alex Delvecchio for games played (1,550). Only Gordie Howe has appeared in more contests wearing the winged wheel, but soon Lidstrom will hold that record as well.

Regular season and playoffs combined, Howe has appeared in 1,841 games for the Red Wings while Lidstrom is next at 1,808 — meaning that, barring an unforeseen circumstance, No. 5 will break Mr. Hockey’s record this postseason.

Canucks avoid arbitration with Boucher, Horvat remains RFA

Getty
Leave a comment

The Vancouver Canucks still have some work to do this summer, but at least none of their players will take part in salary arbitration hearings.

After coming to an agreement with Michael Chaput, the Canucks reached a one-year, $687,500 deal with forward Reid Boucher on Monday.

Boucher, 23, has 112 regular-season games under his belt. He spent most of his career (82 of 112 games) with the New Jersey Devils before bouncing to the Nashville Predators (3 games) and then the Canucks (27 games) last season. He averaged a little more than 12 minutes per night with the Canucks, much like with the Devils in 2016-17.

While the arbitration hearings are covered, the Canucks face two lingering RFA situations: Brendan Gaunce, and most importantly, Bo Horvat.

Coyotes sign Langhamer, so only Duclair needs a deal

Getty
Leave a comment

The Arizona Coyotes handed a one-year, two-way contract to goalie Marek Langhamer on Monday.

Langhamer would be paid $660K at the NHL level and $67,500 in the AHL, according to AZ Sports’ Craig Morgan.

Langhamer turned 23 on Saturday. He got about the smallest cup of coffee you could ask for with the Coyotes last season: he appeared in one game for 16 minutes, allowing a goal on eight shots.

It was quite the year for the Czech-born goalie, who played seven games in the ECHL and 25 in the AHL along with that brief NHL appearance. He also played in the AHL and ECHL during the 2015-16 season, so he’s been bouncing around.

As a seventh-rounder (184th overall in 2012), Langhamer likely doesn’t take opportunities for granted.

The netminding situation is interestingly fluid in Arizona. Both Antti Raanta and Louis Domingue stand ahead of Langhamer – at minimum – but those two only have one year remaining on their current deals. If nothing else, there’s likely a “prove it” vibe at multiple levels now that Mike Smith is in Calgary.

With Langhamer settled, the Coyotes only have one RFA left to sign, but it’s a tricky one with forward Anthony Duclair. When it came to Duclair, GM John Chayka kept it pretty vague with the Arizona Republic’s Sarah McLellan.

“We’re still trying to determine the best value for the player and the team moving forward,” Chayka said.

Predators are one Johansen deal away from a salary cap work of art

Getty
5 Comments

If you need to kill some time, play this game: which Nashville Predators contract is the biggest steal?

If Viktor Arvidsson is as much of a difference-maker as his limited NHL reps indicate, his $4.25 million cap hit over seven years is certainly in the running. Still, there are plenty of choices.

  • The defense alone is bargain-filled, making P.K. Subban‘s $9 million cap hit easy to stomach.

Ryan Ellis‘ $2.5 million cap hit doesn’t run out until after 2018-19. Mattias Ekholm‘s less of a “well-kept secret” following Nashville’s run to the 2017 Stanley Cup Final, yet his $3.75M steal runs through 2021-22. Roman Josi can be a bit polarizing but at $4M for three more seasons, it’s not controversial to say that he’s probably at least worth the money.

  • The offensive bargains begin with the top line.

Arvidsson has the makings of a legit first-line winger, and that deal is highly likely to be regrettable … for his agent and accountant.

Filip Forsberg‘s $6M isn’t as audacious as some of those defensive steals, but it’s still pretty nice. That total also makes it easier for the Predators to try to control costs for their one remaining big consideration: Ryan Johansen, who still needs a deal as an RFA.

  • Calle Jarnkrok is a pretty nifty get at $2M per season, especially if he grows with a contract that runs through 2021-22.
  • Scott Hartnell took quite the homecoming discount at $1M for 2017-18.
  • As you go deeper, the Predators enjoy some nice deals on players who are under ELC’s or second contracts: Kevin Fiala ($863K), Frederick Gaudreau ($667K), Ponuts Aberg ($650K) and Colton Sissons ($625K) could all be helpful contributors at low costs.

This tweet really sells the point, in case this post hasn’t: GM David Poile hasn’t been slowing down much since being named GM of the Year. And he might just be the best executive in the NHL right now.

  • It’s all pretty immaculate; even if you’re not a fan of Pekka Rinne, his $7 million cap hit expires in two seasons. By then, the Predators could very well transition to Juuse Saros, possibly echoing the Penguins with Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray along the way.

Overall, it’s an enviable situation, as Nashville’s clean cap ranks with Pittsburgh and few others as the best-looking in the NHL. That’s especially true when you consider the fact that the Lightning are allocating $8.8 million to the shaky duo of former Rangers in Ryan Callahan and Dan Girardi.

***

Still, the Predators aren’t done for the summer, as Johansen stands as a tricky situation. They don’t have the helpful deadline of arbitration looming, so the two sides are just going to have to figure something out … eventually.

Even so, Cap Friendly pegs them at $13.43 million in cap space, so they have room to work with their first-line center.

While teams like the Penguins and Blackhawks stocked up on high draft picks, the Predators’ greatest moves have largely come through shrewd drafting, savvy trades, and forward-thinking contract extensions. One can debate which setup is the best, but Poile’s work places Nashville in the upper crust, and their built to stay there for years to come.

Related: Matt Murray, Jake Guentzel could help Penguins compete for years.

Okposo to fans: ‘Thinking about your support brings a tear to my eye’

Getty
1 Comment

In a lengthy and heartfelt letter, Kyle Okposo thanked the hockey community – especially but not only Buffalo Sabres fans and teammates – for their support after his hospitalization.

Okposo also shared some personal details about how a seemingly innocent hit affected his sleep and caused alarming weight loss, dropping him below 200 lbs. for the first time since he was 17. He said he checked into a hospital expecting to get help sleeping, only to go to ICU after a negative reaction to medication.

As scary as that experience was, it helped him put his career and life in perspective. Okposo also realized just how much fans, teammates, and people associated with the sport can help each other in times of need.

It’s a really great letter and worth reading in full (especially considering his praise for new Sabres management), but here’s one of the more inspiring excerpts:

When I turned my phone on, I had 500 messages waiting for me. Current players, former players, former coaches – everyone reached out. Even now, fans see me in Minnesota or Buffalo and say, ‘I’m just really glad you’re doing OK.’ It’s overwhelming, and it makes me proud to be a part of the hockey community. We’re a tight-knit group and we stick together. Thinking about your support brings a tear to my eye.

The messages from my Sabres teammates meant a lot in particular. I’ve only played with those guys for one year, with Matt Moulson being the exception, and we didn’t have the type of season that we wanted. The fact that all of them were so supportive through this shows that the bond between teammates really does transcend what happens on the ice.

Okposo noted that he appreciated playing in “Da Beauty League” last week, even though his team got “whacked.”

Read more about him being involved in that here, and how happy Zach Parise and others were to see him play in this article. Okposo also reaffirms the belief that he’ll be ready to go for Sabres training camp in that letter.