PHT Morning Skate: Is Alex Ovechkin’s production on the decline?

6 Comments

–After scoring over 50 goals in each of the last three seasons, Alex Ovechkin is “only’ on pace to score 33 in 2016-17. Based on his Sportsnet’s Andrew Berkshire believes that this could be the start of the 31-year-old’s decline. (Sportsnet)

–Yvan Cournoyer won 10 Stanley Cups during his career, but he still thinks about the one that got away. In 1967, Cournoyer’s Canadiens dropped a six-game series to the underdog Toronto Maple Leafs. “When you’ve already won the Cup (which the Canadiens had the previous two years), you think you’re going to win it again. The mistake we made is that we didn’t respect the Leafs. It was a good lesson for me to think, ‘Hey, I know you can win the Stanley Cup, but you’re going to have to work harder for it.'” (NHL.com)

–It’s no secret that the Avalanche have been brutal this season. The people at BarDown have accumulated four stats that show just how bad they’ve been. For example, they’re on pace to lose more games in regulation (56) since the Atlanta Thrashers lost 57 games in their expansion season. (BarDown)

–The Chicago Blackhawks picked up a big 4-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens last night. The victory allowed the ‘Hawks to jump ahead of the Minnesota Wild for top spot in the Central Division. You can watch the highlights from the game by clicking the video at the top of the page.

–Wild coach Bruce Boudreau had some tie troubles during last night’s game against the Washington Capitals, and the internet totally freaked out. (The Score)

–Islanders minority owner Charles Wang believes that to grow the game in China, kids need to be playing the sport. “The love of any sport…it really starts with the children playing the sport. When they play the sport, they become the best.” Check out Wang’s one-on-one interview with ESPN.

–Hockey players are known for their weird superstitions and Canadiens forward Andrew Shaw is no exception. Between periods, Shaw is always the first one out of the locker room. He does some stretching, performs a few phantom faceoffs and he lunges out with his stick. “I guess I started it about eight years ago back in juniors. I just smash my stick on my shin pads seven times. Go down and get in the faceoff position, do two on the backhand, one on the forehand. Spin the stick to loosen up the wrists. Get a good stick going … just trying to loosen up everything.” (Montreal Gazette)

Kraken? Totems? New domains raise interesting Seattle possibilities

Oak View Group
1 Comment

It’s all in the name. A domain name.

As DetroitHockey.net’s Clark Rasmussen points out, even though a Seattle franchise hasn’t been announced yet, it hasn’t stopped some interesting speculation as to what that team would be called if and when that announcement comes.

The Seattle Kraken? Totems? Rainers? They’re all interesting (and perhaps potential) possibilities for what would be the NHL’s 32nd franchise.

Rasmussen has been following the registration of domain names for websites that are cropping up over the past several weeks. Many, he says, are bought by “known domain speculators” looking to make a quick buck if their speculation turns out to be accurate.

But Rasmussen stumbled upon something a little meatier on Thursday.

“By my count, 38 domains representing 13 different possible names were registered under the name of Christina Song,” Rasmussen wrote on his blog. “Ms. Song, according to her LinkedIn profile, is General Counsel at Oak View Group, who won the bid to redevelop Seattle’s Key Arena on December 4. The domains were registered via an email address for a lawyer at Gibson Dunn. That firm assisted Oak View Group in the Key Arena bid process.”

Rasmussen isn’t new to this. He did some great work in the lead up to the naming of the Vegas Golden Knights.

Rasmussen is quick to point out that 13 names that were registered don’t necessarily mean one of them will be the chosen name for the new club.

“The franchise hasn’t even been applied for,” he writes, noting that the ownership group hasn’t even been formed yet. “There is the distinct possibility that this is nothing. That said, someone so close to the process applying for so many related domains is worth noting.”

Indeed.

The names Rasmussen found were:

Seattle Cougars
Seattle Eagles
Seattle Emeralds
Seattle Evergreens
Seattle Firebirds
Seattle Kraken
Seattle Rainiers
Seattle Renegades
Seattle Sea Lions
Seattle Seals
Seattle Sockeyes
Seattle Totems
Seattle Whales

In an update to his original story later on Friday, Rasmussen identified 38 domains that were registered on Thursday for two years.

They are:

seattle-cougars.com
seattlecougarshockey.com
seattleeagles.com
seattle-eagles.com
seattleeagleshockey.com
emeraldshockey.com
seattle-emeralds.com
seattleemeraldshockey.com
evergreenshockey.com
seattleevergreens.com
seattle-evergreens.com
seattleevergreenshockey.com
firebirdshockey.com
seattlefirebirds.com
seattle-firebirds.com
seattlefirebirdshockey.com
seattle-kraken.com
seattlekrakenhockey.com
rainiershockey.com
seattle-rainiers.com
seattlerainiershockey.com
seattlerenegades.com
seattle-renegades.com
seattlerenegadeshockey.com
sealionshockey.com
seattle-sealions.com
seattle-sea-lions.com
seattlesealionshockey.com
seattleseals.com
seattle-seals.com
seattlesealshockey.com
seattle-sockeyes.com
seattlesockeyeshockey.com
seattle-totems.com
whaleshockey.com
seattlewhales.com
seattle-whales.com
seattlewhaleshockey.com


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

No suspensions, just fines for Dustin Brown, Evgeni Malkin

8 Comments

At least one things seems consistent when it comes to the NHL’s fines and suspensions: Dustin Brown sure has a knack for avoiding supplemental discipline.

The hard-hitting Los Angeles Kings forward agitates and frustrates, and sometimes he hurts with polarizing hits. Yet, even with a resume full of debatable checks, Brown only has one suspension to his name.

Many expected that toll to rise to two today after an ugly looking cross-check on Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Justin Schultz, but that was not the case. Instead, the Department of Player Safety is only giving Brown a $10K fine.

Evgeni Malkin was also fined $5K for spearing Brown (video isn’t available at the moment, but many claim that Malkin speared Brown in the groin).

The Penguins ended up winning last night 3-1, adding to their recent upswing and extending the Kings’ losing streak to five games.

You can see the Brown incident, which drew a match penalty, in the video above this post’s headline. Brown explained his side of the story, as you can see in this post, and maybe that hearing ended up going in his favor?

“I’m going to close on him. He stumbles, toe picks. I don’t drive him into the wall or anything,” Brown said afterward via LA Kings Insider. “Also, closing on the play, at the most it’s probably a two, I think. I mean, who knows because of the protocol and all that, but it’s one of those plays where I’m going to close and he’s in an unfortunate spot.”

The bright side is that Schultz at least seems OK.

Even so, plenty of people are upset with this drawing a mere fine instead of forcing Brown to miss time, particularly in the backdrop of Andrew Cogliano seeing his ironman streak end thanks to a two-game suspension.

This isn’t just a matter of Penguins fans griping, either, as Brown tends to draw wider ire from observers in moments like these.

The Department of Player Safety is no stranger to handing out head-scratching rulings, but we’re no longer in the Brendan Shanahan days in which there would be more widespread explanations for decisions. The league seems responsive when it comes to complaints about spin-o-ramas and lengthy offside reviews, but when it comes to suspensions and fines, it seems like fans and media are still on for an uphill battle.

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.

Ryan Ellis hasn’t missed a beat for Predators

Getty
Leave a comment

For much of this season, people have been wondering how much higher the Nashville Predators’ ceiling might be with a healthy Ryan Ellis. Of course, we’ve seen plenty of instances in which a player comes back, but isn’t quite himself for a while, especially when a knee injury is involved.

It’s early, yet through six games, it looks like Ryan Ellis is … indeed, Ryan Ellis.

Last night’s 3-2 shootout win against the Coyotes was maybe the strongest statement so far in that regard, as Ellis scored a goal and an assist, bumping his season totals up to four points in six games.

In the process, he’s impressed his teammates and coaches, as Brooks Bratten of the team website reports.

That said, the best is yet to come, if you as head coach Peter Laviolette.

“He’s catching a moving train,” Laviolette said. “I’m sure he’d tell you he feels good. Every time we talk to him he says he feels good, but I think his game will continue to get better as he plays more and gets more ice time.”

You can see that Laviolette’s confidence is increasing in Ellis being Ellis by checking his game log. In his first three games back from injury, Ellis received 18:43 or less in time on ice. In the past three games, he’s received at least 21 minutes of ice time, with last night’s 22:33 representing a season high.

So far, Ellis’ possession stats are where you’d like to see them, another heartening sign that he can help Nashville much like he did before: on both ends of the ice.

There’s still an element of being eased into the mix, mind you. Through his first six games, Ellis began 61.6 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone, a huge bump from last season’s 47.7 percent and his career average of 52.1 (via Hockey Reference).

It should be fascinating to see how Ellis’ deployment tracks through this season. If Laviolette feels like he needs to be sheltered a bit all throughout 2017-18, it might not be such a bad thing, as P.K. Subban is putting up Norris-worthy all-around numbers, Mattias Ekholm is trusty in his own zone, and Roman Josi might benefit from an offensive-minded deployment himself.

Few teams enjoy the sort of luxuries the Predators enjoy on defense, at least when Ellis is available.

Even with their top line of Ryan Johansen, Viktor Arvidsson, and Filip Forsberg all somewhere between banged-up and actually injured, the Predators are currently on a four-game winning streak and play five of their next six games in Nashville.

Things are looking up for this Predators team, as they’re in a strong position to take the Central Division, and just seem to get stronger as each month goes along.

If Ryan Ellis being Ryan Ellis is legit instead of being a mirage, then the rest of the NHL better beware.

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.

Nugent-Hopkins’ injury: blessing in disguise for Oilers

Getty
3 Comments

In the short term, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins being sidelined for five-to-six weeks with cracked ribs is awful news for the Edmonton Oilers, especially since the initial outlook was more positive.

Let’s be honest, though: only the most delusional Oilers observers really give them much of hope of salvaging the 2017-18 season. They’re basically in “so you’re telling me there’s a chance” territory by just about every measure.

So, allow me to be optimistic about the bigger picture while burying the current: RNH’s injury could be a blessing in disguise, at least if the Oilers receive the bat signal about their lost season.

This would be how it could be beneficial.

The Oilers probably won’t be able to bungle an RNH trade

Look, it’s plausible that Nugent-Hopkins could be part of a trade that helps the Oilers at some point. They can’t totally disregard that notion, not when they’ve made some cap mistakes and the solid center carries a $6 million cap hit.

That said, does anyone trust GM Peter Chiarelli with an RNH trade at this point? (We might need to hide your car keys if you do.)

It almost feels like every day or so is another slap in the face for Chiarelli, as Mathew Barzal tears it up for the Islanders and Taylor Hall is enjoying an All-Star season for the Devils. RNH being out might just save the Oilers from themselves, especially if Edmonton sees front office changes this summer. Might as well hit the “pause” button on trading actual core pieces after losing that game over and over, right?

Inflate Ryan Strome?

OK, this category might give the Oilers too much credit, but maybe they’d consider it.

It seems like Ryan Strome might be the beneficiary of RNH’s lost opportunities, particularly on the power play. As a pending RFA, there’s concern that this might actually hurt Edmonton.

What if the Oilers do a “pump and dump” with Strome, instead, driving up his value and then trading him to a contender? If Strome went on a hot streak, maybe a team would want him as a rental considering his cheap $2.5 million cap hit would be even cheaper at the deadline (he’s already down to about $1M according to Cap Friendly).

Get the memo: you’re a seller

Maybe RNH’s injury stands as that final push for the Oilers to sell at the trade deadline.

Chiarelli’s track record of player for player trades is … not great. That said, he’s done OK with smaller deals, buying low on the likes of Cam Talbot.

The Strome example might be too outside of the box, but moving an affordable, productive player like Patrick Maroon is very conceivable. Mark Letestu is another expiring contract that might bring at least moderate interest from around the NHL.

***

As bad as things are for the Oilers, they don’t necessarily need to panic and blow everything up. If this eliminates the chance of RNH being moved, it might not be such a bad thing, as the franchise might as well get its ducks in a row before they make that decision.

In the meantime, they can undergo less of a rebuild and more of a spring cleaning.

With the right moves on the peripheral, they might just be glad that RNH is still around. By not dodging an injury, the Oilers may have just dodged another bullet.

After all, they keep shooting themselves in the foot.

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.