Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom (19), from Sweden, and Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Braydon Coburn (5), watch a goal by Alex Ovechkin, from Russia, go past goalie Steve Mason (35) in the third period of an NHL hockey game, Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013, in Washington. The Capitals won 5-4 in a shootout. Ovechkin's goal sent the game into overtime and the Capitals won 5-4 in a shootout. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

NHL on NBCSN: Third time’s the charm for Flyers vs Capitals?

8 Comments

NBCSN continues its coverage of the 2013-14 campaign tonight when the Philadelphia Flyers host the Washington Capitals at the Wells Fargo Center at 7:30 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

The Philadelphia Flyers have already fired their head coach this season and they attempted to shake things up with the acquisition of forward Steve Downie. That hasn’t ended the team’s struggles and after they blew a 4-1 lead to the Washington Capitals in the final nine minutes of regulation time, Flyers owner Ed Snider was forced to once again weigh his options.

“Whatever we can do to help the team get over the hump, we will do,” Snider said.

Editor’s Note: Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a $2,000 Fantasy Hockey league for Tuesday’s NHL games. It’s just $10 to join and first prize is $400. Starts Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. ET. Here’s the FanDuel link.

Despite their mediocre to bad showing thus far, the Flyers remain tantalizingly close to a playoff spot in the anemic Metropolitan Division. That makes tonight’s rematch against Washington more than just a chance at revenge. It’s an opportunity to push themselves forward in their ongoing battle for a postseason berth.

The Capitals are sure to make things tough for them though. They aren’t 2-0 against the Flyers this season because they have their number, they’re just a genuinely good team.

Alex Ovechkin alone makes them a big threat on a nightly basis. He had five goals in three contests last week, bringing him up to an incredible 27 in 31 games. That’s more goals than any Flyers player has in points.

He’s not their only weapon though. Nicklas Backstrom is continuing his trend of averaging about a point-per-game, Mikhail Grabovski is on pace to comfortably surpass his previous career-high of 58 points, and 23-year-old Marcus Johansson has developed into a solid offensive threat.

They also rank second in the league with a 24.4% conversation rate on their power-play opportunities. That means Philadelphia should attempt to play a disciplined game, although that hasn’t been something they’ve been able to do for the most part this season.

With that in mind, the Flyers will need to lean on its goaltending, which has typically been strong in 2013-14 even if that hasn’t been the case in their previous meetings against Washington. However, it’s not a foregone conclusion that the Flyers would lose a high-scoring contest. They have a talent group of forwards despite their struggles this season and that’s shone through at various times.

Perhaps the Flyers will come out strong tonight and if they do, maybe they’ll be able to hold onto the lead. One thing is apparent though: If the Flyers don’t act soon; Snider will.

Bruins will be ‘aggressive’ in pursuit of puck-mover

Boston Bruins GM Don Sweeney answers a question as coach Claude Julien sits next to him at during Boston Bruins media day, Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015 in Boston. (John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via AP)  BOSTON HERALD OUT, QUINCY OUT; NO SALES; MANDATORY CREDIT
AP
2 Comments

The Boston Bruins are going to be aggressive in their pursuit of a “transitional” defenseman this offseason.

GM Don Sweeney understands it won’t be easy, given all the other teams that will be looking for the exact same thing, but he plans to pursue a puck-mover “either through free agency or through acquisitions.”

“It’s a matter of finding a trading partner or finding a match in the marketplace,” Sweeney said today on a conference call. “But we’re going to be aggressive.”

The Bruins already have four defenseman under contract for next season: Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg, Adam McQuaid and Kevan Miller, the latter of whom just signed a four-year, $10 million extension.

In addition to those four, Sweeney said he expects to get restricted free agent Torey Krug signed. Like Krug, Colin Miller and Joe Morrow are also RFAs.

That makes seven defensemen under club control. Given his desire to add at least one more, Sweeney was asked about trading either Seidenberg or McQuaid, to which he responded, “I’ll explore whatever I have to, in every way, shape and form to improve our club and find the balance we need.”

So expect another busy offseason in Boston. The Bruins have made no secret their intention to upgrade the blue line. As we wrote a month ago, expect the likes of Jacob Trouba, Matt Dumba, Sami Vatanen, Kevin Shattenkirk, and Tyson Barrie to be targeted, should any of those players become available via trade.

If it’s unrestricted free agency that Sweeney opts for, the list of potential targets includes Keith Yandle, Brian Campbell, Alex Goligoski, Dan Hamhuis, Jason Demers, and Kris Russell.

Related: Seidenberg doesn’t want to think about waiving no-trade

Canucks assistant Gulutzan interviewed for Flames gig

Glen Gulutzan, Willie Desjardins, Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin, Alex Burrows, Linden Vey
AP
1 Comment

Add another list to Flames GM Brad Treliving’s coaching search list:

Glen Gulutzan.

Gulutzan, the former Dallas bench boss that’s been an assistant in Vancouver for the last three seasons, was permitted to speak with Treliving about the club’s vacant head coaching gig, per The Province.

“They asked for permission and have talked to [Gulutzan],” Canucks GM Jim Benning confirmed. “If he doesn’t get the job, we like Glen and he’s going to be back with our group.”

Gulutzan and Treliving do have a connection. Earlier this month, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman pointed out that both played their junior hockey in WHL Brandon, and was “told not to be surprised” if Gulutzan received an interview.

Treliving is searching hard for a replacement for Bob Hartley. Yesterday, the Calgary Sun wrote he kept busy with the coaching search while leading Canada to gold at the recently completed World Hockey Championship.

Earlier reports claimed Treliving spoke to ex-Wild bench boss Mike Yeo about the gig.

From a Vancouver perspective, the Gulutzan interview could have a domino effect. The Province also points out that Calgary didn’t ask permission to speak with Travis Green, the Canucks’ well-respect bench boss in AHL Utica.

Green has said he thinks he’s ready to take an NHL job, and earlier reports claimed he was in the running for Anaheim’s vacant head coaching gig.

Tarasenko needs to start ‘playing within the system’: Hitch

SAN JOSE, CA - MAY 19:  Vladimir Tarasenko #91 of the St. Louis Blues and Marc-Edouard Vlasic #44 of the San Jose Sharks fight for control of the puck in game three of the Western Conference Finals during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at SAP Center on May 19, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Getty
Leave a comment

Is it all Vladimir Tarasenko‘s fault that the St. Louis Blues are on the brink of elimination?

No, of course it’s not.

It seems we have to clarify this every time a star player comes under fire for not producing. Hockey is a team game, and the Blues — as a team — have not been as good as the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Final.

Still, it was interesting to hear St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock talk about Tarasenko yesterday, because the criticism was pointed, even if it was delivered in an empathetic manner.

“What happens with goal-scorers when they get frustrated is they look to hit home runs. We need him just to act like a worker,” said Hitchcock.

“What he’s doing is he’s looking to try to catch fast breaks, he’s looking to catch the other team napping. But when you play against guys like [Marc-Edouard Vlasic], you’re not going to catch him napping. He’s just got to feel comfortable playing within the system, playing within the framework.”

Hitchcock added, “I think it’s a natural tendency with younger players who have this heightened sense of urgency to do what they do well, which for him is score goals. He’s gotten too far away from the play. He’s got himself too stretched out. We just need him to come back to the puck a little bit more.”

As we noted yesterday, Tarasenko has been held pointless in five games against the Sharks. In his last three games combined, he’s managed just four shots total. This from a guy who scored 40 of the Blues’ 224 goals during the regular season, then put up 13 points (7G, 6A) in the first two rounds of the playoffs.

We’ll see tonight if the “hard lessons” continue for the 24-year-old, or if he can find a way to help get his team back to St. Louis for Game 7.

Video: Johnson pays the price for Tampa Bay

Leave a comment

It’s been another successful spring for Tyler Johnson.

Johnson, the most diminutive member of Tampa Bay’s vaunted “Triplets” line, is racking up the playoff points yet again. He has 17 through 16 games — tied with Joe Thornton for sixth-most in the postseason — and, depending on how far the Bolts go this year, could best last year’s total, when he had 23 in 24.

Not bad, considering the physical pounding Johnson has taken.

At just 5-foot-9 and 182 pounds, the playoff grind has certainly taken its toll over the last two years. Johnson was rendered all but ineffective in last year’s Cup Final versus Chicago due to a broken right wrist and, this year, dealt with an upper-body injury in the opening round and a puck to the face just prior to Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final.

Not that it slowed him down any.

Johnson scored the game-winning OT tally in Game 4, getting his body in front of a Jason Garrison shot to deflect home past Marc-Andre Fleury. That earned high praise from Lightning head coach Jon Cooper, who heaped superlatives on his undersized star.

“He’s a winner — that’s what winners do,” coach Jon Cooper said of Johnson, per the Tampa Bay Times. “They don’t back down. And when there’s a challenge ahead of you, you’ve got to find a way to meet the challenge. There’s a lot of coaches that had a front row seat to see how this kid plays and how he competes.

“And it’s not always the size of the player, it’s the size of the heart, and that’s Tyler Johnson.”