Getty

Looking to make the leap: Kasperi Kapanen

3 Comments

This post is part of Maple Leafs Day on PHT…

For some, Kasperi Kapanen made the leap last spring, when he appeared in all six of Toronto’s playoff games and scored a pair of goals, including a double-OT winner in Game 2 against Washington.

But Kapanen wasn’t quite so sure.

“Looking at the guys in this room, the top six,” Kapanen told Sportsnet during locker clean out day. “I don’t think I belong there.”

The 21-year-old was right, to a certain degree. He spent the playoffs largely in a fourth-line role, skating alongside veteran center Brian Boyle and tough guy Matt Martin.

Kapanen, though, is not in the Martin or Boyle mold. He was the 22nd overall pick in 2014 and has proven to be a quality scorer at virtually every level. He had 21 points in 41 games in his final year in the Finnish League — as an 18-year-old competing against seasoned professionals. He had five points in seven games for Finland’s gold medal-winning team at the ’16 World Juniors, scoring the OT winner in the final against Russia.

Last year with the Marlies, he was a point-per-game player, with 18 goals and 25 points in 43 contests.

Hardly the stuff of a fourth-liner.

But such is life within the Maple Leafs organization. It seems a given that, based on his playoff exploits alone, Kapanen will get a longer look at the NHL level than he did the two seasons prior.

He appeared in nine regular season games during the ’15-16 campaign, and just eight last year. Granted, injuries played a role in his limited activity in ’16-17.

Yet Kapanen is right in that top six minutes will be tough to come by.

Toronto had six forwards crack the 50-point plateau last year: Auston Matthews, James van Riemsdyk, Nazem Kadri, William Nylander, Mitch Marner and Tyler Bozak. Outside of that group, other quality forwards remain. Connor Brown and Zach Hyman both acquitted themselves nicely in their rookie campaigns, and grinding veteran Leo Komarov was a lineup fixture, appearing in all 82 games while scoring 14 goals and averaging 17 minutes per night.

And, oh yeah — the Leafs signed Patrick Marleau this summer.

One would assume Kapanen will, at the least, be in line for a reprisal of his fourth line role, with the opportunity to move up the lineup should injuries or ineffectiveness occur. But he could very well spend more time with the Marlies this season, moving up and down from the AHL.

In the end, put it this way: Kapanen should make some kind of leap this season. It’s just tough to predict where he’ll land.

The Buzzer: MacKinnon the hero; Lundqvist gives up zero

Getty
Leave a comment

Players of the night:

Teuvo Teravainen and Sebastian Aho, Carolina Hurricanes:

Teravainen picked up two goals and an assist in Carolina’s 4-2 win over the New York Islanders, while Aho had a goal and two helpers. It was a positive weekend for the ‘Canes as they were able to pick up victories over Buffalo and New York on Saturday and Sunday.

William Karlsson, Vegas Golden Knights:

The Golden Knights, who are currently second in the Pacific Division, took down the division-leading Kings, 4-2, thanks to a pair of goals from Karlsson in the first period.

Just a hunch, but Kings goalie Jonathan Quick is probably going to want this one back:

Highlights of the night: 

The Hurricanes may have come up with the victory, but it was Islanders defenseman Nick Leddy that scored the most impressive goal of the game, as he split two players before beating Cam Ward.

Nathan MacKinnon was up to his old tricks, as he helped the Avs come back to beat the Red Wings. MacKinnon registered the primary assist on Carl Soderberg‘s game-tying goal with under a minute remaining in regulation. He also added this incredible goal in overtime:

Who knew that Ducks defenseman Josh Manson had these kind of moves?

Factoids of the Night:

King Henrik is moving up the all-time list:

Hey, shutouts are never easy, so the fact that King Henrik has 63 of them is pretty impressive. He had to make a key save on Mike Hoffman in the first period:

Ducks goalie John Gibson faced a lot of rubber. He turned away 50 of 52 shots in a 3-2 win over the Florida Panthers.

Suspensions of the Night: 

Sunday was a big night for the NHL’s Department of Player Safety, as they handed out two suspensions.

The first one was given to Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas for his slash to the back of Jets forward Mathieu Perreault’s head. Gudas will sit for 10 games. He’ll also forfeit over $408,000 in salary. 

Predators forward Austin Watson was also disciplined for boarding Avalanche rookie Dominic Toninato. Watson, who isn’t a repeat offender, was suspended for two games. 

Hall of Fame Tribute of the Night: 

The Ducks players wore Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne’s jerseys during the pre-game warmup. As you probably remember, both players entered the Hockey Hall of Fame last week.

I prefer the white “Kariya” jersey, but that’s just me.

Scores:

Hurricanes 4, Islanders 2

Avalanche 4, Red Wings 3 (OT)

Rangers 3, Senators 0

Golden Knights 4, Kings 2

Ducks 3, Panthers 2

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Austin Watson suspended two games for boarding Dominic Toninato

Getty
Leave a comment

The NHL’s Department of Player Safety is working overtime on Sunday night, as they’ve handed out a pair of suspensions.

Moments after announcing Radko Gudas’ 10-game suspension, the league handed a two-game ban to Predators forward Austin Watson for boarding Avs rookie Dominic Toninato.

Unlike Gudas, Watson has no history of being fined or suspended during his NHL career.

Here’s the league’s full explanation of their decision to suspend Watson:

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Radko Gudas suspended 10 games for slashing Mathieu Perreault over the head

Getty
7 Comments

We all knew that Radko Gudas would receive a suspension for his slash to the back of Jets forward Mathieu Perreault‘s head, but we didn’t know how long he’d be forced to sit out.

On Sunday, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety announced that Gudas has been suspended for 10 games for the incident.

The league confirmed that the fact that the Flyers defenseman is a repeat offender played against him in this case.

Check out the Department of Player Safety’s full explanation of the suspension:

The suspension will also cost him just over $408,000 in salary, per Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston. Ouch!

“He got the meaty part of the neck,” Perreault said after the game, per TSN.ca  “It could have been worse, I guess.

“He apologized in the penalty box, but when you look at the replay, it looks like he did it on purpose. It wasn’t an accident. He’s been known for doing stuff like that, so I certainly don’t appreciate it. I’m sure the league will take care of it.”

Gudas served the first game of the suspension on Saturday. He’ll be eligible to return to the Flyers lineup on on Dec. 12 against Toronto.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Flyers will host Penguins in outdoor game at Lincoln Financial Field in 2019

Getty
Leave a comment

The battle of Pennsylvania will take a new twist, as the NHL announced that the Philadelphia Flyers will be hosting the Pittsburgh Penguins at Lincoln Financial Field (home of the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles) on Feb. 23, 2019.

This will be the second time that these two teams play each other in an outdoor game. Last season, the Penguins beat the Flyers, 4-2, at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.

“It’s always a special opportunity to take the game back to its roots and have NHL players skate outdoors,” Penguins president and CEO David Morehouse said in a release. “We competed against the Flyers outdoors at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh 2017 and look forward to completing the in-state ‘home-and-home’ series at Lincoln Financial Field in 2019. It should be a great atmosphere.”

This will be the fifth time that the Penguins are involved in an outdoor door since 2008. They won a shootout decision against Buffalo (2008), they lost a home game to Washington (2011), they lost in Chicago (2014) and they beat the Flyers earlier this year.

It’s the second time the Flyers host an outdoor game (the first one was at Citizens Bank Park baseball stadium). The game at Lincoln Financial Field will be the fourth outdoor game for the Flyers. They lost in Boston in overtime (2010), they dropped home decision to the Rangers (2012), and they had the loss to Pittsburgh last year.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.