Reports: Desjardins picks Canucks over Penguins

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From TSN’s Bob McKenzie:

Which just so happens to coincide with this report from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

The Penguins did not get their guy.

“The guy I had is going to go in a different direction,” general manager Jim Rutherford said Friday afternoon.

So yes, it sure sounds like Willie Desjardins picked the Vancouver Canucks over the Pittsburgh Penguins. Why? Well, that’s not clear. The Pens have Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, yes. But they’re far from perfect, as evidenced by their recent playoff performances. Also, maybe the Canucks offered more money and term. Maybe Desjardins, a Saskatchewan native, liked the idea of coaching in Western Canada. And maybe he liked the idea of working with Vancouver’s new president of hockey ops, Trevor Linden, a former star with the Medicine Hat Tigers, the WHL team Desjardins coached from 2002-10.

At any rate, Desjardins, a coach who likes to “move the puck and attack,” would seem to be a fit with the Canucks, a team whose new general manager, Jim Benning, has said he wants to “play an up-tempo, fast-skating, skilled game.”

Earlier today, Linden went on the radio in Vancouver and said he’s looking for a coach “who can recapture our people who were so off last year” under John Tortorella.

Meanwhile, Rutherford will “take the weekend to sort some things out.”

Stamkos, Hedman fight for Lightning during same period

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Your results may vary, but from here, novelty carries a lot of weight when it comes to noting an NHL fight.

Two superstar Tampa Bay Lightning players dropped the gloves in the same period against the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday, and while neither showing was especially boisterous or violent, the rarity really drives the point home.

As that tweet spoils, Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman were the Bolts players who got a little testy in this one.

First, Stamkos went after Karl Alzner in defense of running mate Nikita Kucherov (see the video above this post’s headline). Some might argue that this was less of a fight and more of an aggressive hugging, but it’s still an unusual sight. According to Hockey Fights’ listings, Stamkos has only fought on two other occasions in the NHL: against Brad Marchand (2014-15) and Nik Zherdev (2008-09).

Hedman, meanwhile, dropped the gloves despite a considerable height advantage over Brendan Gallagher. You can see a portion of that fight in this GIF:

While this might explain the anger:

This would be Hedman’s sixth fight.

Theory: Lightning players are just as anxious as the rest of us to see if they’re going to land Erik Karlsson.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Pro Hockey Talk 2018 NHL Trade Deadline Tracker

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The PHT NHL Trade Deadline Tracker is your one-stop shop for completed deals as the Feb. 26, 3 p.m. ET deadline approaches.

Feb. 24 — New York Islanders acquire Brandon Davidson from the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for a 2019 third-round draft pick. | PHT analysis

Feb. 23 – Vegas Golden Knights acquire Ryan Reaves and a 2018 fourth-round pick; Pittsburgh Penguins acquire Derick Brassard, Vincent Dunn, Tobias Lindberg and a 2018 third-round pick; Ottawa Senators acquire Ian Cole, Filip Gustavsson, a 2018 first-round pick and a 2019 third-round pick. | PHT analysis

Feb. 22 – New Jersey Devils acquire Michael Grabner from New York Rangers for 2018 second-round pick and Yegor Rykov. | PHT analysis

Feb. 22 – Florida Panthers acquire Frank Vatrano from Boston Bruins for 2018 third-round pick. | PHT analysis

Feb. 21 – Washington Capitals acquire Jakub Jerabek from Montreal Canadiens for a 2019 fifth-round pick.

Feb. 21 – Los Angeles Kings acquire Tobias Rieder* and Scott Wedgewood from Arizona Coyotes for Darcy Kuemper. (*Arizona retains 15 percent of Rieder’s salary.) | PHT analysis

Feb. 20 – Boston Bruins acquire Nick Holden from New York Rangers for Rob O’Gara and a 2018 third-round pick. | PHT analysis

Feb. 20 – San Jose Sharks acquire Eric Fehr from Toronto Maple Leafs for 2020 seventh-round pick.

Feb. 19 – Washington Capitals acquire Michal Kempny from Chicago Blackhawks for a conditional* 2018 third-round pick. (*Chicago will receive the higher of Washington’s own third-round draft choice or the third-round pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Washington acquired the Toronto draft pick from the New Jersey Devils as part of the Marcus Johansson trade on July 2, 2017.) | PHT analysis

Feb. 19 – Philadelphia Flyers acquire Petr Mrazek* from Detroit Red Wings for a conditional* 2nd round pick in 2018 or a 3rd round pick in 2018 or a 4th round pick in 2018 and a conditional* 3rd round pick in 2019 (*Red Wings retain half of Mrazek’s salary. *The 2018 fourth-round pick turns into a third-round pick if the Flyers make the playoffs and Mrazek wins five games during the regular season. That pick will become a second rounder if the Flyers win two playoff rounds and Mrazek wins six games. The 2019 third rounder becomes Red Wings property if Mrazek signs with the Flyers.) | PHT analysis

Feb. 15 – Chicago Blackhawks acquire Chris DiDomenico from Ottawa Senators for Ville Pokka.

Feb. 15 – St. Louis Blues acquire Nikita Soshnikov from Toronto Maple Leafs for 2019 fourth-round pick.

Feb. 13 – Los Angeles Kings acquire Dion Phaneuf*, Nate Thompson from Ottawa Senators for Marian Gaborik and Nick Shore. (*Senators retain 25 percent of Phaneuf’s salary.) | PHT analysis

Flyers defensemen coming up big; Nolan Patrick on the rise

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When it comes to the Philadelphia Flyers’ surge, some of it comes down to the usual suspects. Clearly, the training camp experiment of putting Sean Couturier at center with Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek has been a smash success.

The NHL is funny in this regard, though: successful teams might have flaws, but most of them also boast some variety. More and more, this seems like a league where you need star power and versatility.

This season’s seen the big names rebound to old form, yet it’s exciting for Philly to see that Couturier isn’t the only guy who’s gone from “underrated gem” to a legitimate difference-maker.

Two Flyers defensemen have really delivered, in particular this season, and they’re names that are no surprise to hardcore hockey fans: Shayne Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov are both coming along as planned, if not ahead of schedule.

It’s also not surprising that they’re providing excellent value in very different ways, although in at least one way they converge: scoring goals. As of this writing, there are only 13 NHL defensemen who have scored at least 10 goals in 2017-18, and the Flyers boast two of them.

(Fascinatingly, they aren’t the only teams that boast two defensemen at 10+. The Predators [P.K. Subban and Roman Josi] and Flames [Mark Giordano and Dougie Hamilton] also reach that mark, and the Sharks are close, as Brent Burns is there while Marc-Edouard Vlasic has scored nine.)

Again, they’ve arrived at this point in different ways.

“Ghost Bear” is just a blistering scorer. In just 58 games, he’s already at 50 points on the season, one of only three NHL defensemen to eclipse that mark so far.

Provorov’s 11 goals and 29 points are nothing to sneeze at, but he’s checking a few more boxes from an all-around standpoint. Provorov is averaging exactly three more minutes per game (24:24 to 21:24) to Gostisbehere, and those are sometimes challenging minutes; Provorov leads Flyers defensemen with an average of 2:43 shorthanded time on ice per game versus an average of three seconds per night for “Ghost Bear.”

This isn’t meant to disparage Gostisbehere, but rather to show that the Flyers boast a power-play phenom and an all-around, more defensive-minded stud on defense. Really, as you can see via this handy tool from CJ Turtoro using Corey Sznajder’s data, Gostisbehere and Provorov are basically off the charts in every category.

(Wow.)

With Provorov only being 21 and Gostisbehere hitting his prime at 24, it’s the sort of duo that’s the envy of most of the league. Tantalizingly, it’s not just about the future, as the present is already very bright.

***

One other note: the Flyers are also seeing some signs that Nolan Patrick is coming into his own.

The prominent rookie has been lost in the shuffle due to a slow start (not to mention more injury issues), but now he’s really starting to heat up. In 40 games before the All-Star Break, Patrick only managed nine points. He now has nine points in the 13 games since, including an ongoing five-game point streak, which included a goal in today’s 5-3 win against the Ottawa Senators.

Tidily enough, Patrick’s point streak matches the Flyers’ five-game winning streak.

With injuries to Wayne Simmonds and goalies Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth, the Flyers are going to need other players to support the likes of Voracek, Couturier, and Giroux. Gostisbehere and Provorov have been doing just that, and it’s looking like Patrick will be a key cog, as well.

Such developments make you wonder if Ron Hextall might decide to add even more to an improving supporting cast with the trade deadline rapidly approaching on Monday …

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Olympic hockey medal-round shootouts aren’t going anywhere

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GANGNEUNG, South Korea (AP) — As Tony Granato watched the clock wind down in overtime, he found it hard to believe that an elimination game at the Olympics had to go to a shootout.

The Czech Republic knocked Granato’s United States team out in the quarterfinals in the same skills competition used in the NHL for regular-season but never playoff games. It took a shootout for the U.S. women’s team to beat archrival Canada for the gold medal, and although Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson’s goal and Maddie Rooney’s saves provided theater, such a classic game going to a shootout felt wrong.

”It’s hard when it’s all said and done to say that it gets decided by a bunch of breakaways, but that’s the rules,” Granato said.

And it’s likely to stay the rule even after two important medal-round games at the Pyeongchang Olympics ended in shootouts instead of teams continuing to play until someone scores like in the Stanley Cup playoffs. International Ice Hockey Federation president Rene Fasel said continuous sudden-death overtime is not possible in a tournament.

”You cannot let the team play the whole night,” Fasel said Saturday at a news conference in Pyeongchang. ”Yes, it’s a skills test, but it’s a game. … I will never convince North Americans to accept that but it is like it is.”

Fasel added, ”Maybe the Canadians can practice a little more the shootout,” and Granato was the first to admit that winning in a shootout doesn’t tarnish anything. U.S. women’s hockey coach Robb Stauber knows it can go both ways.

”Yesterday the men’s team lost in a shootout, and two of our coaches said, ‘God that’s a terrible way to lose,”’ Stauber said. ”And my first response was, ‘Unless you’re on the other end.”’

Being on the other end is no fun. Ask Eric Lindros or any of Canada’s players from 1994, or Canada’s women’s team that lost the Olympic final for the first time since 1998 after going back and forth for 80 minutes with the Americans.

”It sucks,” Canada goaltender Shannon Szabados said. ”It becomes more individual and less of a team thing, so a little harder to swallow but (it’s) the way it goes.”

IIHF overtime rules call for 10 minutes of 4-on-4 in the qualification, quarterfinal and semifinal rounds and 20 minutes of 4-on-4 in the final before a five-round shootout. The NHL implemented a three-round shootout in 2005-06 but never for the playoffs.

Shootouts have provided some of the most entertaining drama in sports, whether it was Peter Forsberg’s move to win gold for Sweden in 1994 that’s commemorated on a postage stamp, Dominik Hasek stopping all five of Canada’s shooters on the way to the Czech Republic getting gold in Nagano in 1998 or Brandi Chastain and the U.S. women’s soccer team beating China to win the World Cup in 1999.

That’s Fasel’s point: If it’s good enough for soccer, it’s good enough for hockey.

”We are growing up with football and we are used to it,” Fasel said. ”Football is the biggest sport in the world. It is. And they finish the final of the World Cup with a shootout, et voila. So I will never convince North Americans to accept that, but it is like it is. I cannot change it. I’m really sorry about that.”

AP Sports Writers Jimmy Golden in Gangneung, South Korea, and James Ellingworth in Pyeongchang, South Korea, contributed to this report.

Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno at https://www.twitter.com/SWhyno