Alex Radulov

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PHT Morning Skate: Why is Alex Ovechkin supporting Putin?

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• It’s been clear for a while that Caps for Alex Ovechkin has been a Vladimir Putin supporter. The Washington Post is just trying to figure out why. (Washington Post)

• Sunday was the official 100th anniversary of the NHL,  which was formed in Montreal, Canada in 1917. It’s amazing to see how far the league has come. (NHL.com)

• Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo has been playing really well of late, but the team still has to manage the 38-year-old’s playing time. (Sun-Sentinel)

• The Los Angeles Kings’ mascot is being sued for grabbing a man’s buttocks. (ABC7.com)

• It’s been a weird season for Tyler Seguin. He was productive on a line with Jamie Benn and Alex Radulov, but since the trio was blown up, it’s been a lot more difficult for him. (Dallas News)

• With save percentages dropping by a couple of points, NHL.com looks at all the surprises between the pipes from the first quarter of the season. (NHL.com)

• The NHL is working hard to clean up every player’s trash talking on the ice. (Toronto Star)

• Washington has been a whole lot better since Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin were put back together. (DCPuckDrop.com)

• Geoff Courtnall’s post-hockey life hasn’t been easy. He managed to overcome a lot of adversity since deciding it was time to give up drinking in 2010. (Vancouver Province)

• Roger Krafve found a hidden gem when he purchased an old hockey stick from at an antique store in Minneapolis. (Star Tribune)

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.

What fantasy hockey players should be grateful for

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Ah, Thanksgiving. A time when families come together to overeat, try to ignore the more problematic elements of the holiday’s roots, watch lopsided football games, and get into arguments.

Not great, honestly, but kudos to my family specifically for at least adding pierogies to the mix.

With the American version of the holiday upon us (it’s in October in Canada … weird!), it seems wise to share gratitude for the players who are powering our fantasy hockey teams to greatness, or at least to help us avoid total mockery at the water cooler.*

Going for seconds, thirds

So far, 2017-18 has been The Year of The Top Lines. It can be seen mostly blatantly in noting that Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov are battling for the top scoring spot in the NHL, while Brayden Schenn, Vladimir Tarasenko, and Jaden Schwartz are also in the top 10.

Much like the satisfaction of eating homemade sides instead of canned vegetables, the real winners have been the less-obvious members of lines who have been incredible values, and some of whom might deliver for a full season.

Schenn is an obvious example, with his 30 points in 22 games (not to mention 20 PIM and +19 rating) making him a blistering steal. His Yahoo pre-season ranking was 85th, and he likely went lower depending upon your given draft.

Sean Couturier might be the most delirious example so far, though. His yahoo ranking was 262, yet he’s ranked 18th by the same standards, as it’s clear that he’s taken the bull by the horns when it comes to getting an increased offensive role with Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek on his wings. Vladislav Namestnikov has been glorious, and it sure seems likely that’ll he remain with Stamkos and Kucherov as long as he’s healthy.

Micheal Ferland might spell his name in a funny way, but you’ll make fun of him less often if he’s on your team and manages to stay with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan over the long haul.

On that note, there are still some things to sort out. Will Kyle Connor be the guy that gets to play with Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele more often than not? Can the Stars get a consistent third player (aside: we need a third [blank] to go with “second banana”) to dunk in opportunities from Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, at least with Alex Radulov seemingly not being the right fit?

[Rotoworld: Breaking down the first quarter]

Really, the questions about duos makes you appreciate stable trios that much more, especially if you have one or both of them on your teams. You don’t see reasonable answers to the glorious combo of the Dany Heatley – Jason Spezza – Daniel Alfredsson very often in the salary cap era, after all.

Hopefully most of those top lines can at least maintain some of this ridiculous energy, as the dog days of the season will probably cause at least some regression. Sorry, didn’t mean to ruin the holiday spirit.

Trading goods

I can’t really go too long without thanking GM David Poile and others for spicing up the season with some trades. Don’t scoff at this being mentioned in fantasy, as trades can make the process more exciting *and* create new gems.

[The Rotoworld Hockey Podcast]

In six games with the Nashville Predators, Kyle Turris has five points, but I’m most thankful – and intrigued – to see gains from Kevin Fiala (six points in his past five games) and Craig Smith (six in his past six). Fiala and Smith will probably be more worthy of adds in deeper leagues, but it’s a situation to watch, preferably with popcorn.

Turris could also boost guys like P.K. Subban and Roman Josi in a delightful domino effect, so again, a nod of gratitude to Poile.

Big saves

Quite a few goalies are saving their teams’ bacon (or honey-baked ham, to fit the theme?), with Corey Crawford, John Gibson, and Mike Smith coming to mind, in particular. Imagine where the Anaheim Ducks would be without Gibson?

Also: thanks to Braden Holtby, who’s navigating the Capitals’ struggles to remain the new Henrik Lundqvist as far as reliable fantasy hockey star goalies go.

Avoiding turkeys

Finally, all but one owner in each league can be happy to avoid Brent Burns, an awesome, caveman-looking scoring sensation who’s been on a puzzling scoring slump. Sometimes you have to be lucky to be good, even beyond getting a piece of those red-hot lines.

(And hey, maybe you’ll be thankful when you trade for Burns at a discount rate, only to see him bounce back?)

* – For those who grumble about this being a lame gimmick for a fantasy hockey column, allow me to respond with this hex: I hope your Crazy Uncle shares extra ridiculous, patently offensive theories this time around.

And, if *you* are in the crazy uncle role, I hope that a know-it-all nephew totally schools you, to the point that even like-minded family members are giggling at your stammering responses.

Yeah, that’s right. I went there. Maybe all the gravy is making me edgy.

Enjoy the holiday, hockey fans.

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.

The Buzzer: Teravainen’s first hat trick powers Canes; Jankowski’s pair leads Flames

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Player of the Night: Teuvo Teravainen, Carolina Hurricanes

With the score even at one early in the third period, Teravainen took over, netting his first career hat trick au natural as the Hurricanes beat the Dallas Stars 5-1. He ended up with four points on the night after recording an assist on Carolina’s opening goal.


Highlight of the Night: Slick second goal of the night for Flames forward Mark Jankowski:

MISC:

Jordan Staal was busy with assists on four of Carolina’s five goals.

Sebastian Aho scored his first goal of the year and added two helpers.

• Carolina has picked up points in their last five games.

Alex Radulov extended his point streak to eight games with a second period power play goal.

• A wild seven-goal third period ended with the Calgary Flames topping the St. Louis Blues 7-4. Jankowski had himself a night with two goals and an assist.

Micheal Ferland scored and now has five goals in his last six games.

• Just like Aho opened his 2017-18 account Monday night, so too did Sam Bennett with his first of the season.

• Calgary has scored 20 goals in their last four games.

Factoid of the Night:

Scores:
Carolina 5, Dallas 1
Calgary 7, St. Louis 4

————

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

The Buzzer: Charles Hudon opens NHL account; Coyotes win

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Player of the Night: Charles Hudon, Montreal Canadiens

The Habs rookie scored his first two NHL goals an added an assist during an 8-3 victory over the Ottawa Senators. Artturi Lehkonen also scored twice and Shea Weber chipped in three helpers. Montreal has now won back-to-back games for the first time this season.

Highlight of the Night:

While Auston Matthews gets the goal, let’s send William Nylander some love for helping make this play happen.

MISC:

Steven Stamkos had a three-point night vs. Florida and leads the NHL in scoring with 24 points.

The Coyotes win!

John Tavares potted two more goals on Monday and now has nine in his last five games.

Another game, another Vegas goaltender getting hurt.

—Montreal’s eight goals on the road at Ottawa were their most away from Bell Centre since an 8-1 thrashing of Minnesota in 2011.

Alex Radulov was the overtime hero for the Dallas Stars. He now has 10 points in 12 games:

—St. Louis beat the LA Kings 4-2 to improve to 10-2-1, matching their franchise record start set in 1997.

—The San Jose Sharks paid tribute to Patrick Marleau as he returned to SAP Center as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Joe Thornton’s assist moved him passed Jari Kurri for 20th on the NHL’s all-time scoring list with 1,399 points.

Factoid of the Night:

Scores:
NY Islanders 6, Vegas 3
Arizona 4, Philadelphia 3 (OT)
Columbus 4, Boston 3 (SO)
Montreal 8, Ottawa 3
Tampa Bay 8, Florida 5
St. Louis 4, Los Angeles 2
Dallas 2, Vancouver 1 (OT)
San Jose 3, Toronto 2

————

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Breaking down Stars’ bumpy start after ‘winning another offseason’

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New head coach, new starting goalie, same old problems?

The Dallas Stars distinguished themselves by making waves during the offseason – again – yet they find themselves in a 1-3-0 hole after falling 4-1 to the Nashville Predators on Thursday.

When it comes to righting the ship, there’s good news and bad news.

While Jamie Benn provides the expected “not good enough” to Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News, it’s not surprising that head coach Ken Hitchcock got to the heart of the matter: they’ve been making opposing goalies look like stars so far.

That could be read as “bad bounces” shorthand, and you know what? Hitchcock is correct.

Things that should change over time

With a 2.94 shooting percentage at 5-on-5, the Stars only have better shooting luck so far than the remarkably unlucky Montreal Canadiens.

It’s also worth noting that they haven’t really been able to fully deploy their new weapons. Ben Bishop dealt with a freak injury when his goalie mask didn’t provide enough protection, while Martin Hanzal‘s off to a rough start thanks to health and possibly supplemental discipline for that hit on Yannick Weber.

(Granted, if the Stars didn’t realize that Hanzal’s had a maddening history of injuries, that’s also on them.)

The Stars can’t blame a faulty power play for their troubles, however. They’ve converted on 33.3 percent of their opportunities (4 for 12), tying the Toronto Maple Leafs for the most efficient unit.

To some extent, that scoring issue is likely to work itself out.

Chance to mix things up

Still, one cannot help but wonder if Hitchcock might want to spread the wealth as far as linemates go.

So far, Alex Radulov is spending almost every minute on a top-heavy line with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. That’s fun for fantasy hockey nerds, but if the Stars are struggling to score at even-strength, maybe they need to move one or more of those big names around?

These are the Stars’ lines if Hanzal plays, via Left Wing Lock:

Benn – Seguin – Radulov

Remi ElieJason SpezzaBrett Ritchie

Mattias Janmark – Hanzal – Devin Shore

Antoine RousselRadek FaksaTyler Pitlick

One option that stands out is that the Stars have some room to maneuver with as far as centers go. Faksa could conceivably be an option on the third line, possibly allowing Spezza to go to a wing. Failing that, Ritchie might be an option on the top trio if Hitchcock wanted to experiment with pairings in Spezza – Radulov and Benn – Seguin.

None of this needs to happen ASAP, and perhaps the current alignments are the best ones.

The positive side of early-season uncertainty is getting the opportunity to experiment, though.

The road ahead

“Inconsistent” might be a word that gets thrown around in part because of a schedule with some ups and downs.

The Stars play three of four and four of their next six games at home, so that’s an opportunity to get things on track (so far they’ve played two games at home and two on the road).

They’ll need to brace themselves, as they’ll begin a five-game road trip on Oct. 24.

***

The Stars have tied their opponents in shots on goal once and won the shots battle three times this season. On two occasions, they generated a significant differential. There are plenty of signs that this team is experiencing bad luck and should start to see things go their way.

(Tyler Seguin leads the NHL with 29 SOG, but only has two goals so far. As just one example.)

There’s a fine line between things working out over time and “making your own bounces,” so Hitchcock should use these early challenges as learning opportunities.

Even for himself.

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.

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