In a fairly short amount of time, Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner went from someone who needed to be “freed” to someone who can freely spend a heaping amount of cash.
Whether you opt to take his comments at face value or attribute it to the happy glow of that $20.25 million extension, Gardiner told the Toronto Star’s Kevin McGran on Wednesday that he’s just fine with the way head coach Randy Carlyle treats him.
“He is a coach that likes to push his players and get the most out of them,” Gardiner said. “I think that was what he was doing with me.
“I have a lot more potential than what I’ve been doing. I think (Carlyle’s approach was) good for me. It will help me down the road.”
Of course, it might also help that new assistant Steve Spott might be able to play “good cop” to Carlyle’s gruffer “bad cop” with players like Gardiner. (Meanwhile, Peter Horachek would put the 5 in “Five-Oh.”)
“He’s a really positive guy and a good guy to have around the locker room,” Gardiner said of Spott on Wednesday.
For many, seeing Gardiner at his best might come down to a possible paradigm shift in the Maple Leafs organization rather than the blueliner merely adapting to Carlyle’s ways. The Score’s Thomas Drance argues that Gardiner could be a key piece to a more possession-conscious style in Toronto … at least if he’s allowed to do so:
Gardiner’s skating ability and overall hockey sense make him an excellent spatial problem solver, which allows the Maple Leafs to be outshot and outscored less dramatically when he’s on the ice.
The problem, of course, is that the Leafs are still outshot and outscored dramatically, but it doesn’t have to be that way, not with a handful of talented forwards, excellent goaltending, and quality puck-possession defenders like Gardiner and – the Leafs hope – eventually Morgan Rielly. Gardiner and Rielly could be – and probably should be – the engine for a club with lots of speed up front.
In other words, Gardiner’s been paid, but it’s the system that still needs to “free” him up.
Who says players don’t care about preseason hockey?
Matt Puempel and Nick Lappin are trying to earn spots on their respective clubs, so they know they may have to do the little things others aren’t willing to do to stick around in the NHL.
On Wednesday night, that involved dropping the gloves against each other. These two seemed to be in mid-season form when it came to throwing punches.
Neither player is considered a tough guy. Lappin had 17 penalty minutes in 43 games with the Devils last season, while Puempel has 28 penalty minutes in 79 career NHL games.
Here’s the video footage of the scrap:
By the way, the Rangers won 4-3 in overtime.
The Los Angeles Kings came away with a 5-2 preseason win over the Vancouver Canucks in the first of the 2017 NHL China Games. This contest took place in lovely Shanghai.
Adrian Kempe got the ball rolling for Kings, as he scored the first goal of the game on the power play to make it 1-0 for his team (top).
Kings forward Tanner Pearson scored a great shorthanded breakaway goal to extend Los Angeles’ lead to 2-0 (check out the Pearson goal by clicking the video below).
The shorthanded goal against wasn’t the only issue the Canucks power play had in this game. Vancouver managed to score once on the man-advantage, but they finished the game 1-for-14 in that department (yes, it’s only a preseason game).
with Vancouver trailing 3-0 in the second period, Sven Baertschi finally got them on the board to cut the Kings lead to 3-1.
Markus Granlund made it 3-2 in the third period, but that’s as close as the Canucks would come to tying the score.
Pearson extended Los Angeles’ lead to 4-2 before Jeff Carter finished off the game with an empty-net goal.
These two teams will meet again in Beijing on Saturday at 3:30 a.m. ET.
Torey Krug‘s 2017 training camp is officially over.
The Bruins defenseman suffered a non-displaced fracture in his jaw after taking a puck to the face in Tuesday’s preseason game against the Red Wings.
General Manager Don Sweeney expects Krug to be re-evaluated in three weeks, which means he could miss Boston’s regular-season opener against Nashville on Oct. 5.
Losing Krug for any regular season games would be huge for the Bruins, as he had eight goals and 51 points in 81 games last season.
In other injury news, the Bruins also announced that forward Matt Beleskey (foot contusion) is day-to-day. He was hurt in Boston’s preseason opener against Montreal on Monday.
Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson (upper body) is also day-to-day. He was injured against the Red Wings, too.
It looks like the Washington Capitals are going to give Jakub Vrana the opportunity of a lifetime.
Washington has given the young winger a chance to earn a spot on the right side of the top line with Evgeny Kuznetsov and Alex Ovechkin.
On Wednesday night, they got to put the chemistry to the test, as Vrana and the Caps played the Canadiens in Montreal.
Vrana finished the game with a power play goal (an innocent shot that went off Canadiens defenseman Brandon Davidson and in the net). Kuznetsov and Ovechkin registered the assists on the goal and the Caps won 4-2.
“We played fast today,” Vrana said, per the Washington Post. “We had some passes today, some chances. It’s always a good sign when you have chances. … You’re going to be confident when you play with guys like this. You’re just going to be confident on the ice with the puck. Just play fast and build some chemistry there.”
The 21-year-old got his first taste of real NHL action last season, but the production simply wasn’t there (three goals and three assists in 21 games). But the 13th overall pick in the 2014 draft did put up solid numbers in the AHL, as he had 36 points in 49 games last year and 34 points in 36 games with the Hershey Bears two years ago.
“He gets to space,” head coach Barry Trotz said. “He gets on the puck because he moves his legs and his speed is noticeable. Kuzy can get him the puck, and getting down ice, he can put some pressure to create a forecheck, too. He worked hard today, and I think we keep putting him with top players, because we think he’s going to be a top player.”