PHT Morning Skate: Canadiens aiming to sweep Lightning

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Four games hit the ice tonight and there’s a chance we see one series come to an end. The Montreal Canadiens have a 3-0 lead on the Tampa Bay Lightning and have a chance to finish off the series on home ice.

Out west, the San Jose Sharks have the opportunity to take a commanding 3-0 lead as that series shifts to Staples Center in Los Angeles. The Kings have owned the Sharks on their turf, however, and will need to do the same to get back into the series. The two series that are knotted at 1-1 also move to new locations for Game 3 with the Red Wings hosting the Bruins and the Flyers hosting the Rangers.

Editor’s Note: Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a $1,500 Fantasy Hockey league for Tuesday night’s NHL games. It’s just $10 to join and first prize is $350. Starts Tuesday at 7pm ETHere’s the FanDuel link.

Game 4: Montreal Canadiens vs. Tampa Bay Lightning [Montreal leads series 3-0] (7:00 p.m. ET — NHL Network)

It’s now or never again this season for the Lightning as they must win to stay alive. At the very least they’ll have captain Steven Stamkos available to them, but with the way the Canadiens have put the full-on blitz on the Lightning he hasn’t been able to carry the whole team.

Instead, the Habs have brought attacks from P.K. Subban and Rene Bourque all while Carey Price has stood tall in goal. Look for Montreal to continue bringing the pressure and force the Lightning back on their heels and the raucous crowd at Bell Centre to try and turn the tide once again.

Game 3: Detroit Red Wings vs. Boston Bruins [Series tied 1-1] (7:30 p.m. ET — NBCSN)

The first two games of this series saw each team get under the other’s skin by just going about things they way they usually do. The Wings used high pressure and puck possession to frustrate the Bruins, where in Game 2 the Bruins stepped up the physical play and got the Red Wings to play into their games.

So just how does it go in Game 3? Jimmy Howard will have to bear down after getting a full-scale blitz by the B’s in Game 2 and Detroit will have to find ways to slow down the Bruins top line of Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Jarome Iginla. Steering clear of Zdeno Chara might be a good idea as well. Look for Mike Babcock to find ways to get Pavel Datsyuk away from him.

source: Getty ImagesGame 3: Philadelphia Flyers vs. New York Rangers [Series tied 1-1] (8:00 p.m. ET — CNBC)

Perhaps the most interesting player for the Flyers in this series is Ray Emery. He wasn’t supposed to be the starter in the postseason, but after Steve Mason’s injury, here he is playing very well and perhaps the reason the Flyers took Game 2. Sure Jakub Voracek and Claude Giroux are doing their thing, but it’s Emery with the stability in goal.

The trick for the Rangers in Game 3 is finding an effective way to crack through Emery. The early part of Game 2 seemed to show they’d found their niche, but after a couple of early goals the offense disappeared and Emery got hot. New York will need a classic big road game out of Rick Nash, Derek Stepan, and Martin St. Louis while Henrik Lundqvist reasserts himself as the King.

Game 3: Los Angeles Kings vs. San Jose Sharks [San Jose leads series 2-0] (10:00 p.m. ET — NBCSN)

It’s been a bad series for Jonathan Quick. He’s allowed more goals in two games in these playoffs than he allowed to the Sharks in seven games last season. Poor play from him and the rest of the Kings defense has them down 2-0, but with how they’ve owned the Sharks in L.A., you get the feeling this series is far from over.

That said, the Kings have to find some way to slow down the Sharks. Speed is killing L.A. and guys like Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski, and Logan Couture are taking full advantage of that. Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty were getting talked up for NHL Awards this season and they’re going to need to prove why starting tonight.

Rebuild on hold? Red Wings reportedly eye Girardi, Hainsey, Daley

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For the first time in ages, the Detroit Red Wings missed the playoffs. To some, the sliver lining was that this might send a message to management to truly commit to a rebuild.

Perhaps GM Ken Holland & Co. aren’t quite ready for that.

Look, one or even a couple of potential free agent signings won’t disqualify the Red Wings from going younger. Still, the rumored defensemen they’re targeting aren’t exactly spring chickens.

Three names floating out there are Trevor Daley, Dan Girardi, and Ron Hainsey.

Daley was mentioned by The Athletic’s Craig Custance, MLive.com’s Ansar Khan, and the Detroit Free-Press’ Helene St. James. Khan and Custance both mention Hainsey and Girardi, too.

Even in one-case mentions, the “veteran” theme continues, with Brian Campbell‘s name coming up while forward Thomas Vanek seems like at least a remote possibility to return to Detroit.

Let’s look at the ages of the defensemen mentioned, noting that Daley is older than some might have expected.

Daley – 33
Girardi – 33
Hainsey – 36
Campbell – 38

In the case of Daley and Girardi, you could also argue that each blueliner also has a lot of “mileage” for their age. Girardi, in particular, plays the sort of grinding, shot-blocking style that might have accelerated his troubles with the Rangers.

As great as experience might be, even for a “final push,” this sends a troubling signal. In Mike Green (31), Jonathan Ericsson (33), and Niklas Kronwall (36), the Red Wings already have an aging group of defensemen. Kronwall and Ericsson are dealing with injuries that may hinder them for the remainder of their careers, too.

When you also note that Holland exposed 25-year-old goalie Petr Mrazek instead of 33-year-old Jimmy Howard, the picture isn’t especially pretty.

Maybe the Red Wings can have their cake (push for a playoff rebound) and eat it too (start to transition to youth), yet it’s not necessarily the aggressive move toward a rebuild that many likely hoped to see.

At least there’s time for Holland to prove these early worries wrong.

Note: In other Red Wings news, the team signed Ben Street to a one-year extension.

Blue Jackets sign Schroeder after trading for him

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Not long after acquiring him in a minor trade from the Minnesota Wild, the Columbus Blue Jackets signed Jordan Schroeder to a two-year contract.

The team confirms that it is a two-way deal for 2017-18 and then becomes one-way in 2018-19.

Schroeder is guaranteed $350K for the first year of that contract and then $650K in 2018-19, according to the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline.

The 22nd pick of the 2009 NHL Draft receives a fitting contract: he’s been a “tweener,” bouncing around the NHL and AHL. He hasn’t been able to make much of an impact, Schroeder at least provides some organizational depth.

That could come in handy, as Portzline indicates that Sam Gagner – not so surprisingly – is expected to garner a lot more attention this time around in free agency. Perhaps Schroeder could serve as insurance for Gagner?

NCAA star Spencer Foo chooses the Flames

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NCAA standout forward Spencer Foo decided to sign with the Calgary Flames, as The Sports Corporation and team confirmed. The signing might not be official until free agency kicks off on Saturday, July 1, but he apparently made his decision.

After managing 25 points in each of his first two seasons with Union College, Foo exploded in 2016-17, racking up 26 goals and 62 points. You can see some of his highlights in the video above.

He didn’t go drafted, so this could be a case of another scorer blossoming late.

Foo is an Edmonton native, so playing close to home in Calgary likely factored into his decision. He was connected to the Edmonton Oilers in earlier rumors while MLive.com’s Ansar Khan indicates that his final choice came down to the Flames or the Detroit Red Wings.

Calgary is already classifying him as a RW. Perhaps he’ll be that long-desired fit for Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan? There’s another positive aspect for the Flames, as this might help to soften the blow of giving up a bundle of assets in the Travis Hamonic deal.

The Sports Corporation tweeted out a photo of Foo, 23, in a Flames jersey:

Which NHL teams face toughest, easiest schedules in 2017-18?

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For NHL schedule nerds, Tuesday felt a bit like Christmas.*

On the Forecheck’s Dirk Hoag is mostly retired from hockey blogging, but he still puts out his beloved “super schedule,” and he combined with Alex Daugherty to do a 2017-18 version, which you should absolutely check out here.

Hoag and Daughtery listed all 31 teams’ total miles traveled and also their number of back-to-back games for next season.

Here are the top five teams for most miles:

1. Avalanche – 48,639
2. Flames – 47,931
3. Blackhawks – 47,926
4. Coyotes – 46,856
5. Oilers – 46,815

Note: the Panthers are the sixth-ranked team and face easily the most travel among East teams with 44,395, up from 41,891.

Now, here are the bottom five for travel time:

31: Penguins – 34,041
30: Devils – 34,052
29. Sabres – 34,175
28. Red Wings – 34,759
27. Maple Leafs – 35,689

The Los Angeles Kings tend to be frequent flyers, but not here; they face the least travel of any West team with 39,915.

That’s not the entire picture, however. These teams face the most back-to-back sets:

1 (tied) – Penguins and Senators with 19
3. Hurricanes – 18
4 (tied) Blackhawks, Blue Jackets – 17
6 (tied) Blues, Islanders, Sabres, and Devils – 16

While these teams face the fewest.

1. Jets – 9 (Winnipeg faces 43,296 miles of travel.)
2. Canucks – 10
3 (tied) – Avalanche, Oilers, Predators, Ducks, and Rangers – 11

Oh, and in their inaugural season, the Vegas Golden Knights travel 42,128 miles and must endure 12 back-to-back sets, so they deal with a pretty middle-of-the-road haul.

***

As you can see, plenty of teams see their low travel rates balanced out by high back-to-back game totals. The Penguins are a good example of that.

Then again, some teams just suffer tough draws. As much as conspiracy theorists love to harp on the Blackhawks, they face the third-most travel miles and deal with 17 back-to-back sets.

On The Forecheck’s full list can be seen here, yet they are not the only outlet to do some interesting schedule analysis. Hockey Viz’s Micah Blake McCurdy put together a list of rested/tired games for each team:

Though he also narrowed it down in a way that might make the biggest difference: a rested home team facing a tired road opponent.

Long story short, it’s difficult to really boil down who has the toughest schedule based on one metric. It’s a subjective matter, as you can weigh these “rest/tired” factors, go broad with sheer back-to-back sets, and even lean on jet lag more than anything else.

Still, if you’re the type to wear a tin foil hat, the lists above could really help you cook up some theories about the bad hand your team allegedly drew.

(Opinion: it does seem like Chicago faces more than just salary cap challenges next season, however.)

* – Or whatever holiday resonates. So, Festivus?