Injuries and Impact: How will Sochi affect the NHL trade deadline?

7 Comments

One of the biggest narratives from the Winter Olympics was the rash of injuries that befell NHL players. With that in mind, here’s a look at the key injuries suffered and what the ramifications might be.

Islanders: John Tavares, torn MCL (out for season)

Yes, Tavares is a star and yes, this is a catastrophic injury. But the Islanders were a longshot to make the playoffs when he was healthy, meaning the biggest impact Tavares’ injury might have is on the speed in which GM Garth Snow begins selling.

According to Newsday, Thomas Vanek and Andrew MacDonald are likely to be moved, and one has to think there’s a fairly substantial market for both. Vanek’s a gamebreaker, the type of offensive talent that could inject life into a sagging attack; MacDonald, in the final year of a deal that pays $550,000 annually, is one of the best bargains on the market given he plays over 26 minutes a night and leads all Isles d-men in scoring.

Will Snow wait to see how the Tavares-less Isles respond out of the Olympic break? Or will he deal as soon as possible?

Red Wings: Henrik Zetterberg, back (could miss rest of reg. season)

It’s possible Zetterberg will miss Detroit’s remaining 24 games and try to return for the playoffs — assuming Detroit makes it to the playoffs. The Red Wings’ streak of 22 consecutive postseason appearances is in danger, so getting to the dance is the primary goal. Will GM Ken Holland make a play to get there?

The Zetterberg injury might force his hand. Injured center Stephen Weiss is being looked at to fill the void, a dicey proposition given how poorly Weiss’ first year in Motown has gone. The Wings could get some cap relief by putting Zetterberg on LTIR — he carries a $6.08 million hit — but Holland sounds like he’s loathe to part with prospects and young talent for rentals, telling MLive.com “we have to play our way into being a buyer,” and “I don’t know that there’s players available on the market that are better than the kids we got.”

Rangers: Mats Zuccarello, hand (3-4 weeks)

This injury was huge blow for the Blueshirts as Zuccarello leads the team in scoring, with 43 points. Interestingly, the Rangers were in the midst of numerous trade rumors prior to Zuccarello getting hurt — involving Dan Girardi and captain Ryan Callahan, most notably — and the team raised even eyebrows on Sunday when reports surfaced it had inquired about Tampa Bay captain Martin St. Louis.

St. Louis would certainly add an offensive dimension the Rangers lack, and does have a similar playing style to Zuccarello. That said, reports out of Tampa Bay say GM Steve Yzerman won’t trade his captain — even with whispers that St. Louis demanded a trade following his Team Canada snub.

Don’t be surprised if the Rangers keep pressing for a deal, possibly elsewhere. GM Glen Sather has a history of making splashes at the deadline — last year, he flipped Marian Gaborik to Columbus and acquired Ryane Clowe from San Jose.

Panthers: Aleksander Barkov, knee; Tomas Kopecky, head (both indefinitely)

The Barkov injury won’t affect much, as he’s one of the team’s young cornerstones (and Florida isn’t making the playoffs this year anyway.) The Kopecky injury could be costly, however — he, along with a number of Florida veterans, were considered to be in play at the deadline.

Kopecky had a solid lockout-shortened ’13 campaign, tying a career-high with 15 goals despite playing just 47 games, and has quite a bit of playoff experience having won a Cup with Chicago in ’10. He could be a decent pickup for a team looking for depth, so it’ll be interesting to see the severity of his injury (suffered a concussion on a hit while playing for Slovakia.)

Blue Jackets: Fedor Tyutin, ankle (2-3 weeks)

Tyutin logs some heavy minutes on the Columbus back end and, with the Jackets chasing a playoff berth, adding a depth defenseman might be necessary to fill the void.

Here’s more, from the Columbus Dispatch:

The loss of Tyutin also could modify the Jackets’ plan for the March 5 trade deadline. John Davidson, the team’s president of hockey operations, was in Springfield this weekend but expects to discuss deadline strategy with general manager Jarmo Kekalainen this week.

The West’s next round is now set (and wide-open)

1 Comment

Saturday was a great day for fans of brevity and revenge.

Three of a possible three series ended on this day, with the Rangers dispatching the Canadiens, the Blues eliminating the “better” Wild, and the Oilers knocking off the Sharks in six.

The Rangers await either the Bruins or Senators and the Penguins face the winner of the Leafs – Capitals series out East, but we now know how the West shakes out.

St. Louis Blues vs. Nashville Predators

Both teams provided some of the upsets of this young postseason. Each features a red-hot goalie in Jake Allen and Pekka Rinne. Interesting.

Anaheim Ducks vs. Edmonton Oilers

There will be a lot of orange. We may also see a ton of goals with Ryan Getzlaf on fire, Oscar Klefbom headlining the list of unhealthy players and Connor McDavid possibly able to really take off against a Ducks defense that is beat up in its own right.

It’s already been a strange season out West, with the Kings missing the playoffs and first-round exits for the Sharks and Blackhawks. Get ready – and giddy – for things to get even weirder as the postseason goes along.

Oilers win first series since 2006 after Sharks fall crossbar short of overtime

10 Comments

After making the playoffs for the first time since 2006, the Edmonton Oilers weren’t just “happy to be there.” They confirmed as much by eliminating the San Jose Sharks with a 3-1 victory in Game 6, winning the series 4-2.

Yes, those young Oilers just eliminated the team that represented the West in the 2016 Stanley Cup Final. Wow.

Ultimately, winning the breakaway battle in the second period indeed made the difference. Leon Draisaitl and Anton Slepyshev scored on their chances in the middle frame while Patrick Marleau could not; Slepyshev’s 2-0 goal ultimately became the series-clincher.

Now, that’s not to say that Marleau was a drag on San Jose. If this is it for one of the faces of the franchise, he had a great 2016-17, including generating the Sharks’ final goal of the postseason.

The Shark Tank was alive after Marleau reduced the Oilers’ lead to 2-1, and more than a few blood pressures rose – both in Edmonton and San Jose – after the Sharks got this close to tying things up.

Wow.

With this result, the West is set. The St. Louis Blues will take on the Nashville Predators while the Oilers face the Anaheim Ducks.

As much as people try to put the training wheels on Connor McDavid & Co., the West is wide-open enough that it’s not so outrageous to imagine a big run for Edmonton.

Beating the Sharks is a pretty nice way of adding an exclamation point to that statement win. And hey … they beat the Sharks last time around, too.

Canadiens sound a lot like Wild after playoff exit (without ‘better team’ talk)

Getty
Leave a comment

Much like the Minnesota Wild earlier on Saturday, the Montreal Canadiens are stunned to approach the golf courses so rapidly.

Many of the responses after the New York Rangers eliminated them in Game 6 sound a lot like what the Wild uttered, though there’s no potential bulletin board material like Bruce Boudreau’s line about the better team failing to win four games.

Max Pacioretty viewed this early exit as a “missed opportunity” and never really believed that an elimination was coming.

Claude Julien provided parallel comments to Bruce Boudreau, believing that Montreal generated chances but lacked “finish.”

Brendan Gallagher? He worries that this might have been the Canadiens’ best chance, something the Wild must also worry about with a difficult offseason ahead.

Now, it’s likely that most teams speak about being shocked and expecting better after being booted from the postseason.

Still, these reactions do shine a light on the staggering nature of some of these exits. Will the likes of the Blackhawks, Canadiens and Wild struggle to be in such prime positions in the future? With the Sharks needing a comeback against the Oilers, could the trend continue on Saturday?

The bottom line is that, instead of preparing for a Game 7 after winning the Atlantic Division, the Canadiens are packing up their stuff and worrying about re-signing Carey Price. That’s a pretty stunning turnaround, regardless of the soundbytes available.

Video: Draisaitl, Slepyshev score on breakaways, Talbot spurns Marleau

Leave a comment

Some playoff games or even series come down to something as stupidly simple as one team taking advantage of their opportunities while the other fails to capitalize on chances.

If Game 6 of the Oilers – Sharks series follows the story of the second period, then San Jose may join Saturday’s stream of eliminated teams.

It’s not fair to boil it down to three breakaways, but some might feel that way.

Leon Draisaitl looked like a gritty, strong veteran during his first career playoff goal, bulling his way to the net for 1-0 breakaway tally. About a minute later, Anton Slepyshev was even more alone against Martin Jones, and he scored his first postseason goal to make it 2-0.

That stings for the Sharks, and it doesn’t help that they had a similar chance not long after. This time around, Patrick Marleau couldn’t beat Cam Talbot, so it remained 2-0 for Edmonton.

That’s the same score as the game enters the third period, even with some dangerous late chances for the Sharks.

If the Sharks don’t score at least two goals in the third, their push to return to the Stanley Cup Final could end in the first round.