Brad Marchand

Red Wings, Flames engage in line brawl, ‘old time hockey’

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Matthew Tkachuk hasn’t even completed his second season in the NHL, and he might already have passed the likes of Tom Wilson and Brad Marchand as the league’s premier … “disturber.”

It’s no secret that he has a special ability to make people’s blood boil, with the Los Angeles Kings standing out, even if they’re far from alone. After Wednesday, you can add the Detroit Red Wings to the list of teams that simply can’t stand Keith’s rambunctious son.

Tkachuk was the catalyst or one of the catalysts for quite the wild line brawl between the Red Wings and Flames, with goalies being involved and quite the mess for the Department of Player Safety to potentially have to deal with.

Luke Witkowski might have enjoyed the carnage, but it’s reasonable to wonder if an automatic suspension is coming his way, specifically. You can see the scene in the video above this headline, and also below.

Check out the brawl from two perspectives, with one making more of a point to place blame on Tkachuk:

Yeah, that was something. Hopefully your fantasy leagues include PIMs.

For fans that want to see a rematch, well, we’ll need to see if the bad feelings can survive the statute of hockey anger limitations.

The brawl probably takes some attention away from the Red Wings absolutely drubbing the Flames by a score of 8-2. It’s been quite some time since Detroit lit up the scoreboard like this:

Via the box score, here’s how the penalties shook out (although sometimes the league will tweak these after the fact):

For all we know, this brawl and blowout could be something the Red Wings look back on if they make a playoff run.

This was the second contest of a five-game homestand, with Detroit grabbing a point in losing to Columbus in a shootout on Saturday. That’s not all: the Red Wings play 10 of their next 12 games at the swanky new digs in Detroit from Nov. 17 – Dec. 15.

Perhaps throttling the Flames and that rash of violence will light a fire under a Red Wings team that likely bristles at people who believe their best days are behind them?

As far as the Flames go … maybe this could wake some players up?

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.

NHL Power Rankings: The Lightning, then everybody else

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A little more than one month into the NHL season and we are starting to see which teams are good and which teams are … well … not.

We are still at a point where one or two teams could emerge from the bottom of the pile or fall from the top, but once the NHL season gets to Thanksgiving there typically is not much change in the standings. At least not much of a significant one.

With that said, there should be no question at this moment as to who the best team in the NHL is. It’s the Tampa Bay Lightning, and really, there might not be anybody close to them.

At times this season the Lightning have looked like an on-ice version of the Harlem Globetrotters and have just been toying with their opponents. Entering the week the Lightning have the best record in the league (three points ahead of the next best team) and own a plus-25 goal differential. That is 11 goals better than any other team in the league.

Two of their four losses have come on the second end of back-to-backs (with one of them coming against a team that had been rested for three days). Their current four-game winning streak includes a perfect road trip through California that saw them beat the Kings, Sharks and Ducks (two of those teams are excellent at the moment) by a combined score of 12-4. The fourth win in that streak is against Columbus, another likely contender in the NHL this season.

They have the NHL’s leading goal-scorer (Nikita Kucherov has a three-goal lead over John Tavares) and the top-two point producers (Steven Stamkos and Kucherov), both of whom are at least seven points ahead of the No. 3 scorer in the league (Winnipeg Jets forward Blake Wheeler).

As if the talent up front is not enough, their starting goaltender, Andrei Vasilevskiy has a .930 save percentage in 15 starts.

Right now in the NHL it is Tampa Bay, then everybody else fighting for second.

So where is everybody else at the moment? Let us take a look.

Positively terrifying

1. Tampa Bay Lightning — They are, quite simply, the best team in the NHL right now for all of the reasons mentioned above.

The rest of the best right now

2. St. Louis Blues — I had little expectation for the Blues heading into this season, largely due to their injury situation, but they still have the second best record in the league, the second-best goal differential, and one of the best lines in hockey.

3. Los Angeles Kings — Dustin Brown has found the fountain of  youth. He has topped 30 points just once in the past five years with 36 being the high point during that stretch. He is pretty much halfway to that total just 18 games into this season.

4. Toronto Maple Leafs — They hit a little bit of a rut a couple of weeks ago but have come back strong with four straight wins. What is truly impressive is three of those wins heading into the new week came without Auston Matthews.

5. New Jersey Devils — The Devils are … fun?! Seriously, what is this? Who is this team? Fifth in the league in goals scored and coming off of a 7-5 win over the Chicago Blackhawks. Brian Gibbons, out of the NHL for two years, somehow has eight goals so far.

6. Ottawa Senators — Everybody complains about watching them play but all they do is collect points. It is not pretty, but this is pro sports. Teams don’t have to apologize for doing what they need to do to win.

Teams on the rise

7. Winnipeg Jets — Could this be the year the Jets finally turn all of that individual talent into something good?

8. New York Rangers — What a difference a couple of weeks can make. After a disastrous start the Rangers have ripped off six wins in a row. Big time move in this week’s rankings.

9. Nashville Predators — No team improved more in the big Matt DucheneKyle Turris-Colorado trade than the Predators thanks to the addition of Turris at the expense of nothing significant from their roster. The defending Western Conference Champs enter the week 7-3-1 in their past 11 games.

10. San Jose Sharks — Entering Monday the only team that has beaten them over their past seven games is the Tampa Bay juggernaut. Just when you think the Sharks are going away they always find a way to still be hanging around in the Western Conference.

11. Washington Capitals — Don’t look now but here come the Capitals! After a slow start they are starting to look like the team that has dominated the regular season the past two years. Entering the week 6-2 in their past eight games while only allowing 16 goals during that stretch.

12. Montreal Canadiens — The overall record still stinks, I get it, but like the Rangers the Canadiens are starting to erase all of the memories from a miserable start to the season with wins in seven of their past 10 games. That qualifies as a team on the rise even if there are a lot of teams in the league that still have a better overall record.

Teams still looking good

13. New York Islanders — Nikita Kucherov’s start has kind of hidden the fact that John Tavares is scoring goals whenever he feels like it as well. Mighty fine time for a contract year, eh?

14. Calgary Flames — Mike Smith is giving the Flames exactly what they need in net. If he can continue to do that they are going to be a tough out in the Western Conference with that defense and that young talent up front.

15. Dallas Stars — I may have underrated them a bit a couple of weeks ago. They are solid, and in a bizarre twist from recent Stars teams are 20th in the league in goals scored and third in goals against. John Klingberg is playing fantastic hockey right now.

Teams on the decline

16. Columbus Blue Jackets — I still like this Blue Jackets team an awful lot and think they can be right there at the end of the season when it comes down to winning the Eastern Conference, but they have slipped a bit in recent weeks with just five wins in their past 12 games.

17. Vegas Golden Knights — Being down to their fourth and fifth goalies is not helping, but they are starting to expansion team results in recent weeks. They still have a lot of forwards playing really well and producing.

18. Philadelphia Flyers — Brian Elliott has started to look better in his recent starts. With their top forwards going the way they are this could still be an interesting team if they can get that goaltending spot solidified.

19. Chicago Blackhawks — After starting the season 3-0-1 with 21 goals in their first four games the Blackhawks are just 5-8-2 with only 32 goals in the 15 games since.

20. Anaheim Ducks — Injuries have decimated this team this season and they just keep getting worse with Ryan Getzlaf being sidelined for another two months.

Still need some work

21. Pittsburgh Penguins — The schedule with all of these back-to-backs is hurting them. So is the bottom of the roster. The depth problems that plagued them from 2010 through 2015 are back in a bad way.

22. Minnesota Wild — It has been the Jason Zucker and Devan Dubnyk show lately, but other than them nobody else is really doing much of anything to help the cause.

23. Carolina Hurricanes — Everything about this team looks good. They are exciting. They play hard. They once again have dominant underlying numbers. But there is still something missing.

24. Vancouver Canucks — They had a great start to the season that seemed to have them exceeding expectations but things are starting to return to normal for the Canucks. The early start was a mirage.

25. Boston Bruins — A very top-heavy roster. Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak are great, but where else is the offense going to come from?

26. Detroit Red Wings — Anthony Mantha has been a nice bright spot so far this season with a team-leading 16 points. He has been especially strong lately with eight points, including four goals, in his past seven games.

27. Colorado Avalanche — They picked up some intriguing young players in the Matt Duchene trade but an already bad team ended up getting worse in the short-term.

28. Buffalo Sabres — They have scored more than two goals just twice in the past seven games.

29. Edmonton Oilers — Not to keep hitting this same point over and over again, but Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle have more points than every player on the Oilers not named Connor McDavid.

30. Florida Panthers — Only two wins in their past nine games with 37 goals against.

31. Arizona Coyotes — In their first 19 games of the season the Arizona Coyotes have exactly zero wins in regulation. Their only two wins, as of Monday, coming by way of overtime or a shootout. That is … really something.

Learning from Chara has set up Bruins’ Charlie McAvoy to excel

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NEW YORK — Adapt and survive. That’s what Charlie McAvoy had to do after making his NHL debut with the Boston Bruins last season.

Forty-eight hours after his first practice, the defenseman was thrown into the fire during their opening round playoff series against the Ottawa Senators. He impressed well enough that with the score tied 1-1 late in the third period of Game 1, the 19-year-old was paired with Zdeno Chara during a shift that hemmed the Senators in their zone, leading to Brad Marchand’s game-winning goal.

Now 20 games into his NHL career, the 19-year-old McAvoy is still turning heads and playing himself into the Calder Trophy discussion.

The trust from the Bruins coaching staff and his ability to handle heavy minutes has brought McAvoy to where he is now. His 22:55 of ice time a night leads all rookie skaters. In fact, no other NHL freshman is averaging over 20 minutes. Playing against opponents’ top lines hasn’t caused too many problems either, as his 56 percent Corsi, per Corsica, places him eighth among defensemen who have logged at least 200 minutes.

“He’s able to adapt very quickly and make contributions right away. We saw that last year in the playoffs when he stepped in and was giving us big minutes in big situations,” Chara told PHT on Wednesday. “I would say he’s able to make those quick adjustments and contributions.”

Chara is used to being anchored with a young partner. The last few seasons have seen him working alongside players like Dougie Hamilton and Brandon Carlo, all of whom share similar qualities to McAvoy. They’re tall, right-hand shots who see the ice well and are able to move the puck.

“You’ve got in Z an established shutdown guy who can play against anybody, relishes that role. He’ll bring that to Charlie’s mentality,” said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said. “Charlie can play against anybody. Charlie likes to make plays up the ice, joins the attack; so you get kind of a two-pronged pair. Charlie’s good at getting back on pucks, helps them break them out.”

For Chara, focus and consistency were important for him he was developing during his first few NHL seasons with the New York Islanders. Once he landed in Ottawa, that’s when his game really took off and he became the monster shutdown defenseman we’ve been able to watch for well over a decade. That advice has been relayed to his new partner.

As with all defense partners, Chara and McAvoy talk regularly in order to stay on the same page. And while it’s only been a short while, the young blue liner has learned even more just by watching what the 40-year-old future Hockey Hall of Famer handles himself on the ice.

“The way he controls the game is just awesome. There’s not many people I think can do it like that,” McAvoy said. “When he gets the puck, it’s kind of like a calm factor to him. He’s so strong defensively, I know when he’s going to win his battles.”

The life of a developing young NHL defenseman comes with its share of ups and downs. That’s why it’s been a boon for McAvoy to be partnered with someone who has nearly 1,400 games in the league. It’s a continuous education.

“I learned how to manage a game better, decisions with the puck,” said McAvoy. “He’s very good about not forcing plays. He’s makes the right plays at the right time.”

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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.

McKenzie: What Rangers, Bruins want to trade for

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With the Matt Duchene trade taken care of, could the Boston Bruins or New York Rangers make some moves of their own?

Hockey insider Bob McKenzie discussed what the Rangers and Bruins would look for on the trade market in the video above, and if nothing else, it seems like both teams want to make additions.

McKenzie notes that the Rangers were in on discussions regarding Duchene, but the asking price – which might have required brilliant young defenseman Brady Skjei going the other way – was far too rich for their liking.

Now that the Rangers are on a bit of a roll, McKenzie believes that any “rebuild” talk is put on hold. Instead, New York is hoping to add in immediate ways rather than planning for the longer-term future.

[The argument for a rebuild in New York]

The Bruins are open to a wide variety of possibilities to try to improve their team, according to McKenzie. Boston would like to improve at both forward and/or defense, and they’d be willing to do a player-for-player move or trade away prospects/picks. So just about anything.

At the same time, McKenzie notes that management would also like to get a better idea of what the Bruins might actually be capable of with all hands on deck. Patrice Bergeron ranks among players who’ve missed time while Brad Marchand (day-to-day), David Krejci (week-to-week), and David Backes (indefinite, possibly quite some time after colon surgery) are currently injured.

Some hurdles

So, it’s great that the Rangers and Bruins want to improve. Still, a few things must be considered.

For one thing, the Bruins might need to accept that injuries could be a consistent headache with core members. Bergeron, Rask, Krejci, and Backes are already past 30 and Marchand isn’t far behind at 29. Considering their careers, these guys have accrued a lot of mileage, and wear-and-tear is to be expected.

Beyond that, the Bruins don’t have a ton of cap space to work with, as you can see from Cap Friendly. A move would likely require some creativity and maybe a patient, open-minded GM on the other end.

The Rangers have more options, but it’s up to management to weigh options properly.

Rick Nash‘s massive contract is set to expire, but New York needs to decide if they’re better off taking another swing or two at a window that might be closing or if they’d benefit more from “reloading.”

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Both the Rangers and Bruins want to do something, and from the looks of McKenzie’s update, that means pushing for immediate returns rather than future considerations.

Easier said than done.

As a bonus, enjoy this clip of Jeremy Roenick and Keith Jones sharing memories of being traded:

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.

WATCH LIVE: Bruins – Rangers, Wednesday Night Rivalry

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Heading into November, things were looking pretty glum for the New York Rangers. Now things are looking up, as they host the Boston Bruins while on a four-game winning streak.

It began on Halloween as the Rangers rallied for a flawed-but-fun win against the Vegas Golden Knights. They also beat the Lightning and Panthers in overtime and the Blue Jackets, so it’s not like the Rangers are merely taking advantage of a “cupcake” schedule.

The Bruins are often a formidable opponent, but you could argue that the Rangers should make it five in a row; Boston is busted-up by injuries with Brad Marchand, David Backes, and David Krejci all sidelined. Patrice Bergeron is expected to play tonight, yet he’s dealt with issues of his own.

That said, it’s rarely wise to count out Bergeron and David Pastrnak, not to mention Tuukka Rask and Charlie McAvoy (who must be jazzed to play at Madison Square Garden for the first time as an NHL player).

You can watch on NBCSN, online, and via the NBC Sports App.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Also, for an extended preview, check out this post.

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.