When asked what the New Jersey Devils greatest challenge would be in their upcoming series against the New York Rangers, Zach Parise provided an obvious, yet nonetheless accurate analysis.
“Probably getting some pucks by (Henrik) Lundqvist,” Parise said. “They’re a very defensive team. They pressure you all over the ice. They do have breakdowns from time and most of the time he’s there to bail them out.”
The Rangers defense has been great in the playoffs are Lundqvist has been superb. The Devils were able to best the offensively gifted Philadelphia Flyers in just five games, but the Rangers offer an entirely different challenge. They have plenty of talented forwards, but unlike the Devils’ first two playoff opponents, New York’s best player is its goaltender.
Of course, even being able to challenge Lundqvist isn’t a simple task. The Rangers are known for their shot blocking abilities. Still, Parise thinks the Devils have a solution to that problem (which they would have also used against the Washington Capitals had they beaten the Rangers in Game 7 on Saturday).
“It will be important when we get possession of the puck in the zone to not throw it away and not necessarily look for a play right away,” Parise said. “They both come back and collapse pretty low and put five guys right in front of the net and they’re waiting for you to turn it over, so you can jump up in the rush. So, for us, either way we have to protect the puck well in the offensive zone.”
Lundqvist had a 1.41 GAA and .940 save percentage against the Devils in the regular season. We’ll see if he can be just as dominant against them in the playoffs.
Pheonix Copley, who returned to Washington this season as part of the Kevin Shattenkirk trade with St. Louis, has signed a two-year extension worth $1.3 million, the Caps announced on Wednesday.
The key wrinkle in the deal is that year one is of the two-way variety, while year two is of the one-way.
It’s worth mentioning because Philipp Grubauer — Washington’s current backup to starter Braden Holtby — is currently a restricted free agent, and believed to be have No. 1 potential.
The 25-year-old has capably served under Holtby for the last two years. He’s coming off an excellent campaign — 13-6-2, .926 save percentage, 2.05 GAA — and sounds like he’s ready to make the next step in his career.
“I would like to stay here; Washington is awesome and the whole organization’s been awesome the last couple of years,” Grubauer said, per the Post. “But I’m ready if the opportunity comes to make the next step and try to be a starting goalie somewhere.”
Grubauer was made available to Vegas at the expansion draft, but Golden Knights GM George McPhee opted to take blueliner Nate Schmidt instead. There are still rumblings that Washington might dangle Grubauer in trade talks.
Copley has a very small NHL resume — just two games, both with St. Louis — but fared very well with AHL Hershey last year. In 16 regular-season games he went 11-5-0 with a .931 save percentage and 2.15 GAA and, in the playoffs, went 5-4 with a .933 save percentage and 2.13 GAA.
The Anaheim Ducks might be getting a former Vezina Trophy winner as their backup.
According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, “there is a lot of expectation of Ryan Miller to Anaheim for approximately $1 million, although I’m not sure if bonuses will be added to that.”
Miller, an unrestricted free agent, has spent the last three years in Vancouver. The Canucks would like to keep him; however, his wife, Noureen DeWulf, is an actress, so Southern California has always been a potential landing spot.
Also, let’s face it, Miller would have a much better shot at winning the Stanley Cup with the Ducks, and that’s something the 36-year-old has never done.
As for the Ducks’ motivations, signing Miller would give them a viable starting option should John Gibson struggle or get hurt again. Recall that Anaheim’s last backup, Jonathan Bernier, had a tough time after he was forced into action in the Western Conference Final.
Related: What does the future hold for Ryan Miller?
Though most signs point to Brian Elliott in goal for Winnipeg next season — see here and here — there are other options out there.
Per the Winnipeg Sun, the Jets have reached out to ex-Flyers netminder Steve Mason during the free agent interview window.
Mason, 29, just wrapped the last of a three-year, $12.3 million deal with a $4.1M average annual cap hit. He’s spent the last four-plus seasons with the Flyers but, over the last two, had been part of a platoon with Michal Neuvirth.
Mason played 58 games to Neuvirth’s 28 this year, but didn’t fare especially well, finishing with a .908 save percentage.
We bring this up because whoever signs in Winnipeg will likely have to concede some starts to Connor Hellebuyck, the one-time goalie of the future that struggled mightily through ’16-17. Hellebuyck is still only 24 and the hope is that last year can be spun as a positive learning experience.
“We went through a growing period and the goaltenders were exactly like that,” head coach Paul Maurice said of Hellebuyck’s campaign, per the Free Press. “Put them back in the net after a tough night, yanked [Hellebuyck] early a bunch of times.”
The Sun reports that Winnipeg was “one of several teams that inquired about Mason,” which isn’t surprising. He’d make for a high-caliber backup and a likely upgrade in a number of markets.
Looks like Noel Acciari will be around Boston for the foreseeable future.
Acciari, who has spent most of his career shuttling between AHL Providence and the NHL, has signed a two-year, one-way deal worth $725,000, the B’s announced on Wednesday.
Acciari’s contract comes after he appeared in 29 games for the Bruins last year, scoring five points. He also appeared in four of the club’s opening-round playoff games against Ottawa, scoring once.
The former Providence standout, who went undrafted, caught on with Boston in ’15-16 and quickly worked his way into the mix at the NHL level.
There’s a pretty decent chance he’ll eclipse the 29 games played last year, especially if the club doesn’t return veteran forwards Dominic Moore and Drew Stafford, both of whom become unrestricted free agents on Saturday.