For the most part, Russian-born (and other European) stars tend to bolt for more lucrative contracts with the KHL. (Alex Radulov is the most convenient example.) Yet there is a smaller trend forming in the background: depth players – some even from North America – are beginning to view the KHL as viable option as well.
Ken Wiebe reports that (former) Winnipeg Jet Tim Stapleton has agreed in principle to a deal with the KHL’s Dinamo-Minsk. Stapleton had easily the best season of his young career in 2011-12, setting career-highs for goals (11), assists (16), points (27) and games played (63).
As mentioned earlier this off-season, Stapleton joins a lower-level exodus that also includes Mats Zuccarello, Erik Christensen, Sami Lepisto and Curtis Sanford. Even former Carolina Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice decided to give the upstart professional league a shot.
It’s not exactly the sort of raid that will leave NHL teams trembling, but it’s interesting to see marginal players get more bargaining power than they’ve likely ever enjoyed.
Since he’s on his way out of the league for at least a little while, I thought I’d leave you with this random AP photo where it looks like Jeff Skinner is giving him a “DDT.”
Anthony Duclair‘s hat trick is well-covered here, so check that out. Duclair gets one edge on Sean Monahan in that Duclair scored all of his team’s goals on Saturday, but Monahan combined his first career hat trick with an assist, helping his Flames win in OT much like Duclair did for Arizona.
Monahan slightly upstaged Johnny Gaudreau (one goal, two assists) who was pumped to play in front of a crowd in Philly.
Paul Stastny collected three assists to help the Blues beat the Canucks in overtime. Check PHT on Sunday morning for an in-depth look at Brayden Schenn, who kept his hot streak going with the OT-clincher.
John Tavares just continues to ride high with a goal and two assists. The real stars might be the Islanders as a whole, however, as they beat the Lightning and kept Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov pointless in a 5-3 Isles win.
Frederik Andersen has achieved back-to-back shutouts, helping the Leafs make the Habs extra-miserable. He made 33 saves, so you could argue Montreal deserved better than a 6-0 fate.
Antti Niemi joins Jim Rutherford (1980-81, DET/TOR/LA), Greg Millen (1989-90, STL/QUE/CHI), Kirk McLean (1997-98, VAN/CAR/FLA) & Sean Burke (1997-98, CAR/VAN/PHI) as goalies to play on three teams in one season (thanks @kenwardskorner)
First, the Edmonton Oilers fell 6-3 to the Dallas Stars. Next: the Toronto Maple Leafs absolutely throttled the fledgling Montreal Canadiens in a game that was ugly even beyond the 6-0 score.
It’s been a bad day for embattled GMs of teams who’ve made polarizing moves in hopes of solidifying Stanley Cup contenders. The Oilers (7-11-2) and Canadiens (8-11-2) even finish the night with nearly identical records, just to really hammer home their parallel pains.
You almost wonder if something is in the air this week (spoilers: not love), as nastiness has really ratcheted up since the Calgary Flames – Detroit Red Wings line brawl. The Canadiens and Maple Leafs boast one of the NHL’s richest and bitterest rivalries, and it showed on Saturday.
As you can see from the video above this post’s headline, Nazem Kadri played a major role in one of the most explosive moments, taking his frustrations out on Shea Weber. Weber and Jordie Benn wasted no time in going after Kadri.
(Criticisms of the hit are totally fair, but it seems strange to go too heavy on “turtling.” Who would be able to stand up to both Weber and Benn? In the heat of the moment, I’d wager most people would go with flight over fight.)
That was the most bombastic moment, but there was also this seemingly unlikely bout between Nikita Zaitsev and Paul Byron:
This absolute dismantling comes after Claude Julien was steaming mad from a 5-4 loss to the Arizona Coyotes. It’s tough not to read all of this as an indictment of the moves Marc Bergevin has made, especially considering the fact that their rivals dominated them for their sixth win in a row. If you’re the type to draw big conclusions from about a month of a season, you’d look at it as how to build a contender vs. how to waste Carey Price‘s prime.
That’s a little harsh … but either way, these are tough times for Bergevin.
Yes, this is an 82-game season, and we’re only at about the first-quarter-mark. Still, teams like the Oilers and Canadiens came into 2017-18 with big expectations and big questions, and so far fans and management can’t like the answers.
By the way, asking for a well-dressed GM: what’s the opposite of, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?”
Not sure what’s funnier, the Habs entering a rebuild a year after making a gigantic “win now” trade, or the fact that 32-year-old defenseman isn’t someone they’d move while rebuilding.
Now, any time you see people scrape blood off the ice, you get a reminder of how dangerous – and yeah, occasionally strange – hockey can be. That only becomes more disturbing when that blood is coming from a player as important as Alex Ovechkin:
Remarkably, Ovechkin is returning for the third period of the Capitals’ game against the Minnesota Wild.
This is a reminder that Ovechkin is tough, in case you foolishly think he isn’t because … his teams have lost in big games or something? Considering how recklessly he often throws his body around, and how infrequently he misses games due to to injury, you’d think that debate would have died a long time ago. Moments like this make it seem that much sillier.
Ovechkin must really want to help the struggling Capitals turn things around.
Maybe he wants to hang an L on his old boss Bruce Boudreau?
Anyway, PHT will keep an eye on these situations. Sometimes there are more answers the night of events, and sometimes it takes a little longer.
Right now, it’s reasonable for Capitals fans and Blackhawks fans to feel some relative, even if it’s only in the interim.
Update: The Capitals ended up winning 3-1, thanks in large part to Braden Holtby‘s strong night.
The Chicago Blackhawks have been up-and-down so far in 2017-18, but Corey Crawford has been brilliant almost every night he’s been in net. It’s to the point that he might be a little underrated, as people assume that Chicago will keep finding ways to win, possibly missing how big a part he’s playing in its successes.
Crawford’s been able to clean up a lot of messes, so Saturday brought a scare, as he seemed to take head contact from Pittsburgh Penguins star Evgeni Malkin.
You can see the contact in the video above. It seemed like quite a collision, as part of Malkin (thigh? middle-boy) seemed to connect with Crawford at a fairly high speed.
The penalty call drew at least some complaints from Penguins fans, but the important thing either way is that the Blackhawks took a look at Crawford before allowing him to return to the game.
Malkin played the puck AND Crawford was out of his crease. Absolute joke penalty. It happened 20 feet away from me. Joke ref.
Now, we’ve seen players return to action only to miss games in the future, so it’s still worth monitoring Crawford. Considering how important he is to the Blackhawks, they have to hope that it was one of those plays that looked more painful than it actually was.
Also, with some justifiable complaints about players not going through concussion protocol lately, a lot of people are pleased with Chicago for at least assessing Crawford. We’ll see if anything changes, but right now, this seems like a dodged bullet (but not a dodged Malkin).
Update: Not only did Crawford stick with it, he made a big difference in the Blackhawks beating the Penguins 2-1, including making this save:
Chicago sure seems to have an edge on Pittsburgh lately, by the way: