Brent Burns, Dan Boyle, Joe Pavelski, Thornton, Patrick Marleau

Sharks dominated special teams differential in 2013-14

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The San Jose Sharks don’t own a Stanley Cup, but it appears that they’re the best team in the NHL at drawing more penalties than they take. Honestly, the numbers are pretty stunning.

San Jose drew 291 power-plays opportunities and were only shorthanded 219 times during the 2013-14 season, making for a differential of 72 power plays. That’s almost an extra power play per game.

To give you an idea of how much better they’ve been than any other NHL team in that area, consider this: they match the second-best (Carolina Hurricanes, +40 chances) and third-best (New York Rangers +32 chances) combined.

Here’s the full chart of how the 30 NHL teams fared whistle-wise in 2013-14 (TS stands for times shorthanded, hopefully other abbreviations are self-explanatory):

Team Total diff 2013-14 Home PP Opp Road PP Opp 13-14 PP Opp Home diff Road diff 13-14 home TS 13-14 Road TS 13-14 total TS
SJS 72 162 129 291 40 32 122 97 219
CAR 40 154 127 281 41 -1 113 128 241
NYR 32 132 132 264 27 5 105 127 232
DAL 27 158 132 290 33 -6 125 138 263
PIT 24 136 142 278 25 -1 111 143 254
CGY 14 121 128 249 14 0 107 128 235
NYI 11 145 131 276 27 -16 118 147 265
PHX 10 145 137 282 21 -11 124 148 272
CHI 9 143 114 257 32 -23 111 137 248
FLA 7 127 142 269 -2 9 129 133 262
WSH 7 148 143 291 5 2 143 141 284
ANA 5 152 123 275 17 -12 135 135 270
COL 3 131 121 252 13 -10 118 131 249
MIN 2 129 123 252 16 -14 113 137 250
NSH 1 121 118 239 6 -5 115 123 238
CBJ 0 142 138 280 -1 1 143 137 280
TBL 0 140 130 270 6 -6 134 136 270
EDM -9 148 123 271 13 -22 135 145 280
MTL -10 140 139 279 1 -11 139 150 289
STL -10 157 126 283 12 -22 145 148 293
LAK -12 154 130 284 14 -26 140 156 296
DET -13 149 133 282 5 -18 144 151 295
TOR -16 119 133 252 6 -22 113 155 268
VAN -17 131 126 257 8 -25 123 151 274
BUF -18 129 127 256 -3 -15 132 142 274
PHI -22 159 135 294 6 -28 153 163 316
NJD -23 123 118 241 -11 -12 134 130 264
WPG -32 151 108 259 1 -33 150 141 291
BOS -33 112 118 230 -26 -7 138 125 263
OTT -49 135 136 271 -15 -34 150 170 320

A few interesting takeaways from that:

  • The crowd in Carolina clearly steers things in the Hurricanes’ direction. They had the highest home differential at +41, one more than San Jose. The ‘Canes were -1 on the road, so it’s not like it was just a matter of an aggressive style.
  • The Boston Bruins easily had the worst home differential at -26. Odd, huh?
  • Could fewer penalties in the postseason be a big reason why San Jose seems to struggle in the playoffs? It’s at least a theory.

In case you’re wondering if this is just a one-time thing, the Sharks really tower over the pack when you count the last three seasons:

Team diff last 3 seasons Total diff 2013-14 diff 12-13 diff 11-12
SJS 139 72 22 45
CAR 86 40 4 42
CHI 62 9 9 44
NYR 57 32 5 20
CBJ 54 0 11 43
PIT 46 24 3 19
FLA 45 7 -9 47
DET 32 -13 21 24
NYI 32 11 14 7
TOR 18 -16 9 25
PHX 12 10 0 2
CGY 10 14 4 -8
NSH 8 1 1 6
MTL 6 -10 30 -14
TBL -7 0 8 -15
NJD -8 -23 7 8
MIN -9 2 16 -27
LAK -11 -12 5 -4
WSH -13 7 1 -21
PHI -19 -22 -13 16
VAN -19 -17 -4 2
STL -23 -10 -1 -12
BUF -32 -18 -15 1
ANA -34 5 -27 -12
DAL -40 27 -8 -59
EDM -49 -9 -6 -34
WPG -66 -32 7 -41
BOS -84 -33 -41 -10
COL -94 3 -43 -54
OTT -99 -49 -10 -40

Let’s consider a few other points:

  • Just in case you missed it, the Sharks finished at +139 while no other team cracked +90.
  • Again, Carolina seems to get a nice amount of PP chances. If Bill Peters can make a difference in that unit, he could see some huge gains even if the rest of the team stays in neutral.
  • One would be wise to consider the 2011-12 season the least since a 48-game slate can be misleading. Quite a few of the “middle” campaigns above indeed seem to make for breaks in patterns.

It should be interesting to see if teams can break these cycles or keep up these positive advantages going in 2014-15. The Sharks certainly hope so and the Ottawa Senators would absolutely prefer not.

Capitals pushed by ‘that hurt’ from playoff letdown

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 10:  Nick Bonino #13 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates his game winning overtime goal against the Washington Capitals in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Second Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Consol Energy Center on May 10, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) When Matt Niskanen contemplated skipping a trip to the gym over the summer, he remembered what happened in May.

As the offseason went on, Niskanen thought less and less about the Washington Capitals’ loss to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. Instead, he let the memory of the second-round playoff exit fuel him from time to time.

“That hurt, it lingers, and I think you can use that as motivation,” Niskanen said. “That kind of stuff creeps into your mind and it pushes you.”

Now several months removed from another painful playoff loss, the Capitals came to training camp ready to harness whatever energy they could from that while also preparing to move past it and focus on another run at the Cup this season. Almost the entire roster is back from the Presidents’ Trophy-winning team that ran roughshod over the NHL during the regular season, and with Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and goaltender Braden Holtby in their primes, there isn’t time to waste on reflection and hindsight.

“You need to see where things went awry and try to rectify it,” said veteran winger Justin Williams, one of several players with one year left on his contract. “We set a standard with having successful teams, a team every year fans can look at and say, `You know, we legitimately have a chance to win it again.’ As players we embrace that and we respect it and we know that these opportunities that we have in front of us aren’t forever.”

Along with Williams, winger T.J. Oshie and defenseman Karl Alzner could be unrestricted free agents July 1. Restricted free agent center Evgeny Kuznetsov will get a big raise on a new deal, and Washington’s salary cap picture will get more difficult as the years go on.

Ovechkin also just turned 31, and while he led the league in scoring last season, there’s no certainty as to how long his Hall of Fame-caliber production will keep up. After winning the division by 16 points and losing in the second round – again – general manager Brian MacLellan doesn’t think there’s a bigger burden on winning this year with so many unknowns on the horizon.

“I think there’s pressure every year,” MacLellan said. “Last year we were a contender, there’s pressure. Same pressure this year. We have a goal of winning a championship. We know we’re close and we need to pursue it and we’ll do everything we can to get there.”

Alzner was just starting to get over the early exit when pictures of the Penguins celebrating with the Cup filled up his social media feeds. The ironman whose groin injury forced him out of the deciding Game 6 and led to sports hernia surgery scoffed at the notion that Pittsburgh winning makes the loss easier to take.

“It’s worse, in my opinion, because then you really think, `OK if I could have got past that team then the Cup was ours,”‘ said Alzner, who’s still working his way back to 100 percent. “I think that all of us in the room thought that we were going to win that last year.”

Being great in the regular season and losing in the first or second round has become the Capitals’ reputation over the past decade. The 2015-16 team was perhaps the best on paper, which made the late stumble into summer that much more confounding.

As more top players continue to trickle back into town after playing in the World Cup of Hockey, associate coach Todd Reirden expects the staff to impart lessons about last season on the full group. Early in camp, the mood is light with players eager to make a fresh start and learn from losing to the Penguins.

Asked what the Capitals can do to improve, Williams deadpanned: “We can finish the season with a win. That’s it.”

That’s a challenge that can’t be accomplished until the spring. Players, coaches and fans may want to fast-forward until then, but Washington has to again get there first.

“You’ve got to be patient,” center Jay Beagle said. “The game has to develop. We’ve got new guys, so we want to go into this year making sure we’re playing our best going into the end of the year and in the playoffs.”

Follow Stephen Whyno on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SWhyno .

Plenty of betting options for World Cup final round

BOSTON, MA - JUNE 24:  Patrice Bergeron #37 of the Boston Bruins checks Marian Hossa #81 of the Chicago Blackhawks in Game Six of the 2013 NHL Stanley Cup Final at TD Garden on June 24, 2013 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
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Bovada released a wide array of betting options for the best-of-three final round of the World Cup between Canada and Team Europe on Monday.

Naturally, there are the run of the mill matters like game lines:

Europe vs. Canada (World Cup of Hockey Finals)

Europe +575 (23/4)

Canada -1000 (1/10)

Total Goals Europe vs. Canada (World Cup of Hockey Finals)

Over/Under 6

Interesting over/under, huh?

Things get more fun as the prop bets get stranger/more specific. Personally, the head-to-head player bets rank among the most fascinating:

Who will record more points in the game?

Sidney Crosby (CAN) 2/3

Anze Kopitar (EUR) 11/4

Draw 5/2

Who will record more points in the game?

Patrice Bergeron (CAN) 1/1

Draw 2/1

Marian Hossa (EUR) 9/4

Who will record more points in the game?

Brad Marchand (CAN) 4/5

Draw 9/5

Mats Zuccarello (EUR) 3/1

Hmm, maybe Marchand wouldn’t be the greatest bet. He’s probably feeling pretty fat and happy after signing that $49 million contract extension, after all.

At least one outlet finds Europe to be an enticing gamble thanks to Jaroslav Halak‘s hot play, for what it’s worth.

Jacob Trouba’s agent expands on trade request

UNIONDALE, NY - OCTOBER 28: Jacob Trouba #8 of the Winnipeg Jets skates against the New York Islanders at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on October 28, 2014 in Uniondale, New York.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Jacob Trouba‘s agent Kurt Overhardt repeatedly shot down certain questions as “private” matters regarding a very public trade request from the Winnipeg Jets, yet his interview on TSN’s Hustler & Lawless spoke volumes about the impasse.

From the sound of things, it would be tough for the Jets to get Trouba to change course and sign a deal with the team.

Trouba seeks a spot as a top two defenseman, or at least one of a team’s top two options on the right side, something Overhardt firmly believes cannot happen in Winnipeg. He quickly deflected hypothetical scenarios regarding Dustin Byfuglien moving to the left or Tyler Myers getting bumped down the Jets’ depth chart.

“None of this is happening on a whim,” Overhardt said. ” … This has nothing to do with money.”

This excerpt from the Trouba press release hit a lot of the same points:

There has been no negotiation regarding the terms of a contract between our client and the Jets over the course of the last several months. The situation is not about money; it is solely about our client having the opportunity to realize his potential as a right shot NHL defenseman.

To the Jets credit, the club has two outstanding right shot veteran defensemen and our client simply wants the opportunity to have a greater role. As a consequence of the Jets depth on the right side, we believe it is in both parties’ best interest to facilitate a mutually advantageous trade.

You can read the team’s response in this post. Overhardt made it a point to mention that “several teams” would love to have Trouba’s rights, and would be able to give him the opportunity he craves.

Interestingly, he dodged a question about Trouba possibly sitting out the 2016-17 season, if it came down to it.

The full radio appearance is available here.

Lightning sign their other Nikita (Nesterov)

NEWARK, NEW JERSEY - APRIL 07:  Nikita Nesterov #89 of the Tampa Bay Lightning skates against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center on April 7, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey. Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the New Jersey Devils 4-2.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
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The Tampa Bay Lightning signed their second-most important Nikita on Monday, inking Nikita Nesterov to a one-year, $725K contract.

The 23-year-old defenseman has to appreciate the fact that this is a one-way deal, as the Lightning blueline isn’t the easiest group to crack. (That will be especially true if James Wisniewski makes an impression with his PTO.)

Nesterov has been battling for ice time the past two seasons and was also a member of Russia’s World Cup team. It’s super-important to note that he wears No. 89, which is a little unusual for a defenseman.

(Only the important tidbits here.)

Now, onto the tougher challenge of signing that other Nikita