Getty

Underrated Barkov logging heavy minutes for Panthers this season

1 Comment

MONTREAL–When you think of players that play a lot of minutes, you often think of defensemen or, in rare cases, big-name forwards like Edmonton’s Connor McDavid . But there’s a forward in Florida that’s been seeing plenty of ice early on this season.

Heading into Tuesday night’s action, only two forwards have averaged more ice time than Panthers center Aleksander Barkov, who is at 22:48 of action per game (McDavid averages 22:49, while Ryan Getzlaf is at 23:02 but he’s been limited to just two games).

In Saturday night’s win over the Washington Capitals, Barkov played a season-high 26:18, which is unusually high for a guy playing up front, especially in the regular season (the fact that other forwards suffered injuries during that game helped increase Barkov’s workload). He’s played between 20:03 and 26:18 in each of Florida’s seven games. In his last three outings, he’s played at least 24:24.

Panthers head coach Bob Boughner is more than willing to use his number one center at even-strength, on the power play and on the penalty kill. That’s what makes the 22-year-old so valuable to his team.

“He’s obviously a great offensive player, but I think he’s one of the better defensive centermen in the league, as well,” Panthers head coach Bob Boughner said on Tuesday morning. “He’s a great two-way player, a 200-foot player. I think he’s fifth in the league right now in faceoffs. That’s why you see him over the boards a lot on penalty kills, or end of the periods and when we have to throw two centermen out there. He’s real reliable. If you see the way he plays, the pace of his game and how he conserves his energy in the D-zone cause he’s so smart and has such a good stick. Obviously, the offense takes care of itself.”

Boughner’s right, the offense definitely takes care of itself. One of the remarkable things about Barkov is that he’s one of the few players in the league that can produce offense while taking care of the little things that may go unnoticed. Even though he missed 21 games last season, he still managed to put up 21 goals and 52 points in 61 games. This year, he’s up to six points in seven contests.

A lot of talented young forwards come into the NHL and have to learn how to play without the puck, but Barkov has always been a responsible hockey player. He prides himself on it.

“When I was younger, I think I had more defense on my mind,” Barkov told PHT after the Panthers’ morning skate in Montreal on Tuesday. “I didn’t want teams to score on me, but I just feel like my offensive game is coming too. I feel more confident with the puck. But of course, I never wanted to get scored on, that’s one of the biggest things in my game.”

It’ll be interesting to see how Barkov’s body holds up throughout the season. The young veteran is currently in his fifth season in the NHL and he still hasn’t managed to suit up in 82 games yet (54 in 2013-14, 71 in 2014-15, 66 in 2015-16 and 61 last year).

In order to stay healthy and get his body ready for all these big-minute games, Barkov says he focused on strengthening his core and working on his conditioning over the offseason. He kept his weight-lifting to a minimum and made sure to do a lot more running.  Now, he feels lighter than ever, which is helping succeed on the ice. It’s still early, but his positive results speak for themselves.

Despite being one of the bright young stars in the game, Barkov doesn’t grab as many headlines as some other players. Obviously, that has a lot to do with the fact that he plays in a non-traditional hockey market. But if his career keeps trending up, it’ll be hard him not to get more national coverage.

“You know, around the league, people know he’s a good player,” said Boughner. “I’m not sure if he gets the credit the deserves, but he’s definitely an upper-echelon player in the NHL. For us, we all know that, and that’s the most important thing. He means a lot to out team.”

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.

The Buzzer: Tavares gets back to scoring ways

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Players of the Night: 

Jonathan Bernier, Colorado Avalanche: Bernier made quite the save on Ryan Kesler, using his paddle to stop a backhand shot after sprawling across his crease in an attempt of desperation. He also stopped 33 pucks and won his sixth straight game in the process.

Martin Jones, San Jose Sharks: Jones made 29 out of 30 saves in the second and third periods in a 4-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings. His 35-save effort was a nice rebound after allowing three goals on six shots and getting yanked on Saturday.

John Tavares, New York Islanders: Tavares scored a shorty in regulation on an unassisted breakaway and then the game-winner in overtime to lead the Isles past the Habs in Montreal.

Highlights of the Night:

Tyler Seguin provided some matinee magic with this overtime winner in Boston. What a goal:

Bernier made this incredible paddle save on a poor Ryan Kesler:

MISC:

Scores:

Stars 3, Bruins 2 (OT)

Avalanche 3, Ducks 1

Sharks 4, Kings 1

Islanders 5, Canadiens 4 (OT)


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

Barzal, Tavares shine as Islanders edge Canadiens 5-4 in overtime

Associated Press
1 Comment

The scary thing about Mathew Barzal is that he may just be gaining steam.

Any time the New York Islanders play these days, it turns into Barzal Watch (in the Twitter world: #BarzalWatch). Even if the Islanders had plummeted as of late with five losses in their past six games heading into Monday, many are just tuning in to see what the dynamic rookie is going to do.

Indeed, Barzal has been lights this season, with 44 points in 44 games prior to Monday and coming off the buzz of a five-point game on Saturday — the second time he’s done that this season.

But John Tavares, who had just one goal in nine games coming into Monday, stole some of that spotlight back with a shorthanded goal in regulation and then the game-winner in overtime in a 5-4 victory over the Montreal Canadiens.

Tavares second of the game came 1:51 into over time and after Carey Price made quite the save to stop a redirected attempt by Tavares just before the latter scored the winner.

Barzal was at it again early in the first period as the Islanders jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead.

Barzal fed Anthony Beauvillier with a nice lead pass and the latter ripped home his eighth of the season just down the road from where he grew up in Sorel-Tracy, Quebec, beating Carey Price with New York’s first shot of the game.

It was Barzal’s 30th assist of the season and he followed that up with his 16th goal of the year on the Islanders just over five minutes later for the two-goal advantage. Barzal finished with three points and now has 10 in his past three games.

The Canadiens entered the game 2-0-1 in their past three games but were without Phillip Danault due to a puck to the head on Saturday and Andrew Shaw, who was injured in the same game.

Despite their recent success, things looked grim early on, with Price allowing two goals on four shots.

The Hab battled back, first by forcing a turnover in New York’s zone, allowing Jakub Jerabek to quickly find a wide open Nicolas Deslauriers out front to make it 2-1.

Another defensive breakdown by the Isles led to the tying goal as Paul Byron snatched his 12th of the year on a rebound.

Barzal grabbed his third point of the night early in the second period as the Isles restored the lead with Adam Pelech‘s first of the season at 2:37. And the Islanders led by two for the second time as John Tavares scored shorthanded 1:59 later on New York’s 10th shot.

The Canadiens, down two again, needed a second comeback and they put it together beginning with Jonathan Drouin‘s marker with 34 seconds left in the second period.

Montreal completed the comeback on the power play in the third, with Max Pacioretty scoring his 14th at 13:01.

Andrew Cogliano chokes up talking about the end of his iron-man streak

3 Comments

An emotional Andrew Cogliano said having his iron-man streak ended by suspension was a “tough pill to swallow.”

Speaking to Fox Sports’ Kent French prior to the Anaheim Ducks 3-1 loss against the Colorado Avalanche on Monday, Cogliano choked up when asked about how tough the past 24 hours had been like for him.

“It’s a tough pill to swallow, I’m not going to lie,” Cogliano said, fighting back tears. “I’ve played hard and I’ve battled. I’m a professional in that I’ve played a long time and I’ve now missed a game.”

Cogliano was suspended Sunday for two games following an illegal check to the head of Los Angeles Kings forward Adrian Kempe in a 4-2 Ducks win on Saturday.

The ban ended the NHL’s fourth-longest games played streak at 830 games for Cogliano, who had never missed action in his 11-year NHL career before Monday.

Cogliano was a 134 games shy of Doug Jarvis’ record of 964 consecutive games played, which the Ducks forward would have reached at the start of the 2019-2020 if he remained healthy.

“First and foremost I think, I probably initiated contact too late,” Cogliano said. “I’ve been very open about that with this process, and I made a mistake at that time.

“As I think about the hit though, I watch it and I still see that my body doesn’t change through the process of it. I think my shoulders are low, my elbows are low, my knees are bent and I’m in a pretty set position. As it evolves, he tries to make a play back across my body, which ends up maybe initiating some head contact near my upper back area. That’s what I see. I think there’s no injury, he came back and played. At the end of the day from what I’ve seen, it is a situation where we closed the gap on each other a little bit.”

Despite the hit, which clearly showed Cogliano nail Kempe in the head well after the puck had left the vicinity, Cogliano was surprised about hearing he was going to have a chat with the league.

“I was told after the game from Bob [Murray] that I was going to have a hearing or have a call,” Cogliano said. “I was surprised because no one said anything after the game to me otherwise. There was no media talking about it or nothing was brought up, so I was more surprised about that. Initially, I was thinking back on it, wondering what happened and wondering if I did anything bad.

“Obviously, you never want to injure anyone on the ice. That’s a fact. I’ve played 11 years and that’s one thing that I have stood behind and I’m glad he played the rest the game. From my end, there’s zero intent to do any sort of head contact or hit a person to injure them. I think it was a situation where I admitted to initiating contact too late and I think it was something that happened that ended up being very unfortunate for me.”

Cogliano said his teammates, and at least one Ducks legend, have offered their support.

“I’m probably being too dramatic about it. I’m sorry my emotions came out for whatever reason. I have had a lot of support.” Cogliano said. “I think there has been a lot of people that have reached out and initiated that I have done something special. The more I look back on it, it’s pretty cool. I think that playing 830 games in a row, not a lot of guys can say that and I think that’s something that I will hold to my heart.

“I appreciate all the texts. [Teemu] Selanne has been a big advocate in terms of reaching out. I may be making too big a deal of it, but I think when you go through the process and think back about coming to work and playing every single game for 11 straight years, it holds some value and holds some value to a lot of the guys in the league. Like I said, this is the last way I wanted it to go out. I’m glad he wasn’t injured and I’ll take the suspension, move on and come back and help my team.”


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

WATCH LIVE: New York Islanders at Montreal Canadiens

Getty Images
Leave a comment

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

PROJECTED LINES

NEW YORK ISLANDERS
Anders LeeJohn Tavares – Alain Quine
Anthony BeauvillierMathew BarzalJordan Eberle
Michael Dal Colle – Brock NelsonShane Prince
Jason Chimera – Tanner Fritz – Cal Clutterbuck

Nick LeddyScott Mayfield
Adam PelechSebastian Aho
Thomas HickeyRyan Pulock

Starting goalie: Thomas Greiss

PREVIEW FOR ISLANDERS-CANADIENS

MONTREAL CANADIENS
Alex GalchenyukJonathan DrouinDaniel Carr
Max PaciorettyPaul ByronCharles Hudon
Artturi LehkonenTomas PlekanecBrendan Gallagher
Nicolas DeslauriersByron Froese – Jacob De La Rose

Karl AlznerJeff Petry
Jordie BennJakub Jerabek
Victor Mete – David Schlemko

Starting goalie: Cary Price