Brandon Saad

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WATCH LIVE: Boston Bruins at Chicago Blackhawks


NBC’s coverage of the 2017-18 season continues on Sunday as the Chicago Blackhawks host the Boston Bruins at 12:30 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online by clicking here.


Brad MarchandRiley NashDavid Pastrnak
Jake DeBruskDavid KrejciRick Nash
Danton HeinenTommy Wingels – Brian Gionta
Tim SchallerSean KuralyNoel Acciari

Zdeno CharaBrandon Carlo
Torey KrugNick Holden
Matt GrzelcykKevan Miller

Starting goalie: Anton Khudobin

WATCH LIVE – 12:30 p.m. ET

Brandon SaadJonathan ToewsPatrick Kane
Alex DeBrincatNick Schmaltz – John Hayden
Tomas JurcoArtem Anisimov – Matt Highmore
Patrick SharpDavid Kampf – TBD

Duncan KeithConnor Murphy
Erik GustafssonBrent Seabrook
Jordan OesterleJan Rutta

Starting goalie: Anton Forsberg

NHL hands out fines, including for Byfuglien slash


Be sure to visit and NBC Olympic Talk for full hockey coverage from PyeongChang.

The NHL’s CBA makes for quite the variety of allowable fines, as Wednesday’s verdicts from the Department of Player Safety showed.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Price of success finally catching up to Blackhawks


The Chicago Blackhawks have made the playoffs in each of the last nine seasons, but that streak looks like it’s in some trouble.

After last night’s 4-2 loss to the Dallas Stars, the ‘Hawks find themselves eight points behind Minnesota for the final Wild Card spot in the Western Conference. Both teams have played 54 games.

If you’re rooting for them to make the playoffs, you’ll likely be disappointed by what general manager Stan Bowman said yesterday.

“I don’t expect us to be a buyer this year,” Bowman said, per The Athletic’s Scott Powers. “It has nothing to do with where we are in the standings. It’s just that each season is a little bit different. Your team is different.

“I think the strength of our team is we’re trying to build some young players we’re going to have. We have a lot of new players this year relative to last year. I think it’s hard when you bring in 11, 12 new players every year.”

The price of success

Obviously, Bowman has a point. Being successful in today’s NHL comes at a price. Eventually, your best players have to get paid. And since you can’t pay everybody, you’re bound to lose players either via trade or in free agency.

Last summer, for example, they were forced to trade Artemi Panarin, Marian Hossa had to stop playing because of an allergy and Scott Darling‘s rights were dealt to Carolina. Those are three pretty signifiant pieces of the puzzle to lose in one offseason.

On top of losing those players, the Blackhawks have also been without starting goalie Corey Crawford for a good chunk of the year (having Darling would’ve helped). They’ve watched as “new” acquisitions like Patrick Sharp and Brandon Saad have struggled and to make matters worse, long-time ‘Hawks Brent Seabrook, Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith don’t appear to be as effective as they once were.

Thankfully for them, they have young players that have made progress in 2017-18. Alex DeBrincat and Nick Schmaltz lead the way in that department. Both players have have shown that they have a bright future ahead of them. The problem is that Chicago doesn’t have a ton of young assets to work with. That’s another down side to winning, you draft late and you have to work harder to find quality prospects.

Heading into this summer’s NHL Entry Draft, Bowman is already without his second and fourth round draft picks, but he does have two selections in round five. So using picks to help improve the roster right now shouldn’t be an option.

Fixing the cap situation

Bowman shouldn’t be in a hurry to offload big names either, but if Chicago is going to turn this thing around quickly they’ll have to get their salary cap situation in order, which won’t be easy considering Toews, Keith, Seabrook, Saad and Patrick Kane combine to make almost $39.5 million per season. All five of them are also signed for at least three more years.

We’ve heard that scoring wingers like Rick Nash, Evander Kane, Max Pacioretty and Mike Hoffman are all available, but it’ll be interesting to see if the ‘Hawks are willing to unload Saad after a mediocre season. They could certainly use the $6 million in cap space, but getting rid of him when his value is at its lowest probably isn’t a great idea, either.

It would be surprising to see them try to unload Keith and/or Toews, so that’s likely not an option and there’s no way they’re moving Kane. The biggest challenge will be to find a way for someone to take Seabrook off their hands. If they could get rid of his $6.875 million cap hit (signed through 2023-24), that would change the game. Unfortunately for them, his play and no-move clause make that nearly impossible.Bowman will have to continue being creative with the bottom of his roster, if he’s going to help his team make it back to the postseason soon.

It’s clear that the roster isn’t in good shape, but it’s important to remember that this core won three Stanley Cups together. But a lot of teams would sign up for a few years of salary cap hell if it meant taking home three championships.

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

What’s wrong with the Blue Jackets?


After putting together a solid campaign last season, the Columbus Blue Jackets came out of the gate strong in 2017-18. They won five of their first six games and it looked like they were going to be a shoe-in to make the playoffs again. But after a good start, things have fallen apart in a hurry.

As of right now, they’re clinging to the final Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference. They’re tied with the Islanders for that spot, but they do own a game in hand. The Hurricanes, who have also played one more game than the Jackets, are one point back.

So, it’s safe to suggest that Columbus is far from a lock to make the playoffs at this point.

“You pick up the standings today, we’re right in the middle of it,” head coach John Tortorella said on Wednesday, per the team’s website. “That’s where we’re going to look to the next day. I’m going to show ’em stuff [Thursday], as far as some of the things that I think we’re getting more consistent at, as I’ve talked about some inconsistencies with our team, and just get it ready for our next game.

“Like I was talking to the coaches today [about], I’m excited about the challenge of the struggle that we’re in right now, by where we could go if we just stay within [ourselves]. That’s when you become a better team. So, it’s going to be a grind. I’m not sure where we come out at the end, but it’s certainly an opportunity to find out something about yourself as a coach, an individual coach and a coaching staff; individual player and team concept as a team, to find out what you can do here.”

It’s good to see that Tortorella is embracing the struggles and using them as an opportunity to improve his team, but why are they having such a hard time of late? Let’s take a deeper look.

Where are the goals?

In 2016-17, only the Penguins, Wild, Capitals, Rangers and Leafs scored more than the Blue Jackets, who had 249 goals. Cam Atkinson (35) and Nick Foligno (26) led the way in that category last year. But they also got double digit goal totals from 10 other players.

Their top scorer in 2017-18 is Josh Anderson, who has 16 goals in 51 games. Artemi Panarin, who was acquired from Chicago for Brandon Saad, leads the team in points with 42 in 53 games. Those are respectable totals, but the players who were big contributors last year just haven’t been able to replicate the same offensive totals.

Atkinson has been a shell of the player he was last year. Even before he missed 11 games with a foot injury last month, he was already struggling badly. The 28-year-old has just eight goals and 17 points in 37 contests. That’s not enough production from a guy that signed a seven-year, $41.125 million extension at the beginning of the year.

Foligno, who had 51 points in 79 games last season, is on pace to 15 goals and 34 points over 82 games this year. Again, it’s easy to see why the team’s offensive totals have dried up.

In 13 games since the start of 2018, the Blue Jackets have scored two goals or fewer in 10 of those outings (Not counting goals they got for winning the shootout). Clearly, that’s not a recipe for success.

Special Teams struggles

It’s no secret that the Blue Jackets power play has been abysmal for most of the year. Even when things were going well for them in terms of wins and losses, they couldn’t score goals on the man-advantage. They’re the only team in the league that has converted on less than 15 percent of the power play opportunities. Yes, that part of their game has been better lately, but they still have a long way to go.

To make matters worse, their penalty killing has also struggled pretty badly of late. Their PK ranks fifth from the bottom at 75.2 percent. Columbus has dropped four games in row and six of their last seven. In those seven games, they’ve given up power play goals to Erik Haula and Brad Hunt in a 6-3 loss to Vegas, Brendan Perlini in a 2-1 win over Arizona, Jason Zucker in a 3-2 shootout loss to Minnesota, Logan Couture and Kevin Labanc in a 3-1 loss to San Jose, Nick Leddy in a 4-3 loss to the Islanders and John Carlson in a 3-2 loss to Washington.

Outside of the ugly loss to the Golden Knights, all the other games were decided by one or two goals. Executing on special teams is the difference between winning and losing tight decisions right now.

Thankfully for the Jackets, they can continue to lean on one of the best goalies in the league in Sergei Bobrovsky. Despite their recent struggles, they still rank 11th in the league in goals against with 146. Even though his numbers have dipped from last year to this year, he’s still managed to keep them in a lot of games. What would happen if they didn’t have him between the pipes?

Deadline Outlook

It’s become increasingly clear that the Blue Jackets need someone that can put the puck in the net. Many have mentioned a possible reunion with veteran winger Rick Nash. That wouldn’t necessarily be such a bad idea. He spent many years there, which should benefit him when it comes to making the adjustment to his new team. Also, three of Nash’s 16 goals have come on the man-advantage with New York this season. Panarin (five) is the only Blue Jacket that has more than three this year. Nash is just one possibility. If they don’t want to pay for a rental, they could also look to acquire Mike Hoffman from Ottawa.

When it comes to improving the penalty kill, they could look to add a veteran two-way forward. One name that comes to mind is Tomas Plekanec out of Montreal. The Canadiens are out of the playoff picture, so they could be willing to deal the 35-year-old pending unrestricted free agent. Plekanec’s offensive game has deteriorated over the last couple of seasons, but he’s still a useful player.

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

Fantasy Adds & Drops: A Saad Time

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This weekly column will aim to help you navigate through the rough waters of your fantasy league’s waiver wire. We’ll give you suggestions on which players owned in more than 50 percent of Yahoo Leagues you should pick up. We’ll also tell you which players you should consider parting ways with.

Here we go!


Erik Haula– C/LW- Vegas Golden Knights (49 percent)

Haula is right on the cusp of being owned in half of Yahoo’s leagues, but he’s not there yet. The Golden Knights center has been flying lately, as he just saw an eight-game point streak come to an end. He currently has 20 goals and 39 points in 48 games this season, which puts him on pace to score over 30 goals and 60 points.

Nick Schmaltz– C/LW- Chicago Blackhawks (33 percent)

Schmaltz has been mentioned as a possible “add” in this column before, but he’s still owned in just under 70 percent of leagues. The ‘Hawks forward has scored in back-to-back games and he’s currently riding a three-game point streak. He’s on pace to score 61 points this season. That number might keep climbing if he keeps getting opportunities to play with Patrick Kane.

Bo Horvat– C- Vancouver Canucks (33 percent)

Like Schmaltz, this isn’t the first time Horvat has been mentioned in this column. The Canucks forward has posted four points in six games since returning from an ankle injury that sidelined him for over a month. Horvat’s offensive totals might not top Haula’s or Schmaltz’s, but he could score just as much as they do between now and the end of the season.

[More Fantasy: Rotoworld’s Waiver Wire column]

Sam Reinhart– C/LW/RW- Buffalo Sabres (23 percent)

Since being the second overall pick in 2014, Reinhart hasn’t topped 47 points. He probably won’t surpass that number this year, but there’s no reason why he can’t start producing with a little more regularity down the stretch. The 22-year-old has accumulated eight points in his last eight games, and he’s also seen his ice time increase significantly over the last three games (19:32, 18:36, 19:32). His average for the season is a shade over 16 minutes.

Kevin Labanc-LW/RW- San Jose Sharks (nine percent)

Labanc is one of those deep league recommendations. The Sharks forward has been hot of late, as he’s accumulated six points in his last five contests. With Joe Thornton on the shelf, there’s amble opportunity for some of the youngsters on the roster to step up offensively. Again, Labanc isn’t recommended in shallow leagues, but he could be a sneaky-good pickup in deeper fantasy formats.

• Bryant Rust- LW/RW-Pittsburgh Penguins (six percent)

Rust is another player worth keeping an eye on. He’s back in the Penguins lineup after missing almost a month with an upper-body injury. Rust has been skating on a line with Sidney Crosby, so that’s where his potential fantasy value will come from. He has five points in five games since his return. If he’s taken off Crosby’s line, his fantasy value will go down the drain.


Brandon Saad– LW- Chicago Blackhawks (67 percent)

As much as it might pain fantasy owners to admit it, Saad has been a total bust for most of the season. He got off to a hot start, but he simply hasn’t met expectations since returning to Chicago. He’s seen his ice time dip quite a bit of late, which isn’t unexpected considering he hasn’t scored in 11 games. He’s on pace to hit a respectable 21 goals, but he might not hit the 40-point mark.

Ryan Kesler– C- Anaheim Ducks (53 percent)

Kesler remains a solid two-way player, but his production simply hasn’t been there since coming back from injury. He has two goals in his last four games, but he’s also accumulated just seven points in 16 games. Picking up Schmaltz or Haula and dropping him could make sense for a lot of fantasy owners in standard leagues. Also, both Schmaltz and Haula can be slotted in multiple positions. Kesler can’t.

[Fantasy Podcast: Rotoworld Hockey’s Salute to Jagr]

Jimmy Howard– G- Detroit Red Wings (50 percent)

Howard has taken a back seat to Petr Mrazek, who has played in three straight and five of Detroit’s last six games. Mrazek even got to start two games in two nights on Friday and Saturday. That’s definitely not a good sign for Howard’s fantasy value down the stretch.

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