Pittsburgh Penguins v Boston Bruins - Game Three

Interesting parallels between Seguin, Neal trades


Every now and then, a move seems oddly familiar, even if different teams are involved. One could make the argument that there are some interesting/amusing/possibly inane parallels between the trade that sent Tyler Seguin to the Dallas Stars in 2013 and the move that shipped James Neal to the Nashville Predators in 2014.

(Feel free to disagree with any of these comparisons in the comments, though hopefully without weird anger.)

A) Seguin and Neal

There are some parallels between the players themselves, beyond the fact that both have been paid by the Stars at some point in their NHL careers.

1. Both drew vague criticisms about their attitudes

Seguin (now just 22, somehow) received some heat for supposed partying and other issues. Neal, 26, has had more than a few run-ins with the NHL’s Department of Player Safety. One might assume such “character” concerns expedited their departures from Boston and Pittsburgh respectively.

MORE: Neal: “I have to change and be better for it”

2. Each leave East contenders that may still be competitive without them

The Bruins won the Presidents’ Trophy last season. For all the turmoil in the Penguins’ organization, many would probably argue that they’re a contender for the Metropolitan Division title, if not aiming higher.

3. Higher ceilings

However you might feel about the packages the Bruins and Penguins received, most would agree that Seguin and Neal probably have more “upside.” Actually, you’d have to strain quite a bit to claim that Loui Eriksson, Joe Morrow, Reilly Smith or Matt Fraser have higher ceilings than Seguin after he jumped another level with Dallas.

Seguin is quite a bit younger and probably creates more offense on his own, yet it’s easy to forget how dangerous Neal can be; not many 26-year-old’s boast a resume that includes one 40-goal season and five other 20+ goal seasons.

4. Disappointing finishes

Despite solid playoff runs, both went out of town struggling individually in the postseason. Neal only managed two goals and four points in 13 playoff games in 2014 after scoring 10 in 13 playoff games in 2013. Seguin only scored one goal and eight points in Boston’s 22-game run to the 2013 Stanley Cup Final.

5. Cheap deals

Seguin’s $5.75 million cap hit puts him alongside the likes of John Tavares and Victor Hedman as one of the best bargains in the NHL, especially since that deal doesn’t expire until after the 2018-19. Neal isn’t far behind with a $5 million cap hit through 2017-18.

B) Solid Swedes and prospects

The Bruins and Penguins received nice packages for their young forwards, fueling more than a few quantity-over-quality arguments.

Eriksson suffered a rough season in 2013-14, yet the Bruins think he can slide into a first-line role next season. Much like Eriksson, Hornqvist is a very nice player who often gets lost in the shuffle.

He quietly scores plenty of goals, and people are reasonable if they picture him generating even more offense playing in Pittsburgh than he did in Nashville. Hornqvist has one 30-goal season and three 20+ goal seasons, including a 22-goal, 53-point campaign with the Preds in 2013-14.

In other words, the Penguins didn’t exactly get chopped liver, especially if Nick Spaling helps out in solid ways like Reilly Smith has for Boston.

C) Random stuff

  • Both Neal and Seguin relocate to “nontraditional” markets with no state income taxes, which probably makes them feel a little better about the bargain deals they’re signed to.
  • Neal and Seguin are basically “new toys” for incoming new head coaches.
  • Each could represent the beginning of a big change. Seguin’s acquisition preceded the Spezza – Hemsky additions in Dallas while Nashville GM David Poile seems keen on adding more to the mix with his team.


There are plenty of ways these two deals aren’t alike. For one thing, Neal must prove that he can produce without an elite passer making life easy for him; few wingers get blessed with a center group that included Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Brad Richards (at or near his peak).

Even so, it’s interesting to ponder the parallels between the two moves. If you’re a fan of the Predators, you may also start to expect too much …

McLellan sounds off on Oilers after shutout loss in Toronto

Todd McLellan
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Edmonton lost for the fourth time in five games on Monday, a 3-0 defeat in Toronto that marked the second time in a week the Oilers have been shut out.

Needless to say, the head coach wasn’t happy.

In a fairly blunt and harsh assessment aimed at a variety of players, Todd McLellan had some choice words for what he called a “disappointing” effort.

Some of the more choice quotes:

“I didn’t think we were a very hard team. I didn’t think we stood over a lot of pucks. I didn’t think we won a lot of battles along the boards. I didn’t think we were competitive enough in a lot of areas.”

“When I look at the trip as a whole, we had some key, key people really under-perform on the trip. Significant minus numbers, not hitting the score sheet. It can’t always be the [Leon DraisaitlTaylor Hall line] that provides that.”

It’s fair to suggest that last one was directed at Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle.

Nugent-Hopkins has just two points and zero goals in his last five games, with a minus-8 rating. Eberle is pointless entirely, and also at minus-8 over the same stretch.

They’re hardly the only Oilers not pulling their weight at the moment, however. Edmonton has lost 15 times in its first 25 games, a figure that suggests there are more problems that just a couple of underachieving forwards.

Just ask McLellan, who all but admitted his team has issues matching up.

“We’re not where we need to be,” he said. “We’ve got work to do as a team, work to do as an organization to get bigger, stronger, harder, and physically win more battles than we lose.”

Roy: Avs ‘need, expect more’ from Varlamov


The tough times continue for Semyon Varlamov.

After another unsuccessful outing on Monday — allowing four goals on 27 shots in a loss to the Islanders — Varlamov was subjected to a familiar refrain: Patrick Roy saying the Avs need more from their No. 1 netminder.


You can hear all of the head coach’s comments in the video above but, for brevity’s sake, here’s the Varlamov stuff:

“It’s not easy for him. Obviously we need that extra save and we didn’t get it on the road. It’s hard to win if you’re giving four goals on the road.

“We just need more from him. He’s our No. 1 guy and we’re behind him, but we need, we expect more from him.”

There has to be serious concern about Varlamov right now, if there wasn’t already.

His save percentage through seven games in November (.891) is marginally better than it was through seven games in October (.889), and that’s not the only alarming stat. Varlamov’s yet to record a shutout this year, yet to record back-to-back victories and has given up at least three goals in six of his last seven starts.

Not good.

Compounding things for Colorado are the standings. The Avs are now 9-14-1 and mired in the Central Division basement, meaning that — if they have any hope of going on a tear and getting back into playoff content — they’ll need to do it soon.

Which means they might not have the time, or the patience, for Varlamov to find his game.

Full Sparks: Leafs rookie posts shutout in NHL debut

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Exactly 366 days ago, Garret Sparks was tending goal for the ECHL’s Orlando Solar Bears.

What a difference a year can make.

On Monday, Sparks — the 22-year-old netminder just recalled from the AHL Marlies — was the big story in Toronto, posting a 24-save shutout over Edmonton in his NHL debut.

Sparks’ debut came after the in-form James Reimer went down with injury and Jonathan Bernier struggled mightily to start the year. A seventh-round pick in 2011, Sparks was taken 189 spots behind the guy lined up across from him tonight — that’d be Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the No. 1 overall pick in ’11.

So yeah, Sparks might not be high on pedigree. But he’s certainly full value for what he’s achieved.

The former OHL Guelph standout went 8-2-1 with the Marlies this year, with a .938 save percentage and 1.90 GAA. Those numbers impressed the club’s brass and afforded him the chance to get a spot start against the Oilers.

And needless to say, it went well.

Leo Komarkov provided two-thirds of the Toronto offense on the night, scoring both the opening goal and insurance marker (into an empty net) to put him on 10 goals for the year. Komarov’s offensive outburst is nearly as surprising as Sparks’ emergence; prior to this season, the gritty Finn had never scored more than eight goals in a single NHL campaign.

Nazem Kadri scored the other goal for the Leafs, who are now 8-11-5 on the year.

As for Edmonton… well, the scoreline says it all. The club has just six goals in its last five games and has been shut out twice (the other occurred last Monday, in a 1-0 loss to the Caps). The defeat dropped the Oilers to 8-15-2, putting them right in the Western Conference basement next to Calgary, with 18 points.

New York, New York: Rangers snap slump, Isles win second straight

Oscar Lindberg

It was a good night in NYC.

In Manhattan, the Rangers snapped a three-game losing streak with a win over the ‘Canes at MSG and, while that was going on, the Isles won their second straight with a victory over the Avs in Brooklyn.

Nice little Monday, that.

Let’s begin with the Rangers.

Heading into tonight’s action in arguably their worst slump of the season, the Blueshirts got goals from Mats Zuccarello, Oscar Lindberg, Chris Kreider and Derick Brassard to edge the ‘Canes. While it was hardly an oil painting — New York was out-shot 36-22 — the club will gladly take the win, and the positives that came with it.

Like the power play, that went 2-for-4 on the night with Zuccarello’s and Lindberg’s tallies. And the fact the club was able to withstand the loss of d-man Kevin Klein, who exited early in the first period — despite missing a steadying presence that plays over 21 minutes per night, the Rangers’ remaining five d-men (Ryan McDonagh, Keith Yandle, Dan Girardi, Dan Boyle and Marc Staal) all played at least 20 minutes save Yandle, who clocked in at 19:43.

The Rangers also got a solid outing from Henrik Lundqvist, who made 33 saves on 36 shots. Jordan Staal, Victor Rask and Chris Terry scored for Carolina.

Now, over to Barclays.

The Isles overcame Blake Comeau‘s game-opening tally in the first to win 5-3, thanks to a three-goal barrage in the final period.

Head coach Jack Capuano will no doubt be pleased with the balanced scoring across the board, as five different Isles found the back of the net: Cal Clutterbuck, Kyle Okposo, Ryan Strome, Casey Cizikas and Mikhal Grabovski, with Cizikas’ goal proving to be the eventual game-winner.

The win was also sweet given it came with backup netminder Thomas Greiss in goal. The victory pushed him to an impressive 7-3-2 on the year, putting him in the conversation among the NHL’s top second-string goalies.

For the Avs, tonight’s loss will sting. It was another unremarkable outing from Semyon Varlamov (four goals on 27 shots, an .852 save percentage) and a forgettable night for three of Colorado’s best players. Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Matt Duchene combined to go pointless on the night, with a minus-8 rating.

And yes, I just referenced plus-minus.

Update: As longtime and cherished PHT commenter bcislesman pointed out, I neglected to mention Wednesday’s Rivalry Night game on NBCSN — between the Rangers and Isles! Don’t worry, we’ll have plenty on it in the coming days. A reminder the game will be available on TV and via NBC Sports’ Live Extra at 8 p.m. ET.