Cam Talbot

Getty Images

The Buzzer: Raanta shutout, Brassard showcase, Blackhawks finally win

3 Comments

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

Players of the Night:

Antti Raanta, Arizona Coyotes: Raanta shutout Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers, stopping all 40 shots sent his way for his first goose egg as a member of the Coyotes.

Derick Brassard, Ottawa Senators: The Derick Brassard Showcase continued on Saturday night. The Senators forward, who has been the subject of trade speculation leading up to the trade deadline in two weeks, scored in his fourth straight game and added two helpers in a 6-3 win against the New York Rangers.

Reilly Smith, Vegas Golden Knights: Smith extended his point streak to seven games, scoring twice and adding a helper in a 6-3 win against the Montreal Canadiens. Smith has five goals and seven assists during his streak and now has 51 points in 58 games this season.

Anders Nilsson, Vancouver Canucks: Nilsson turned aside 44 of the 45 shots he faced from one of the league’s hottest teams in the Boston Bruins. The Canucks obliged their goaltender, scoring six and chasing Tuukka Rask in a 6-1 win.

Jonathan Toews and the rest of the Chicago Blackhawks: Losers of eight straight coming into Saturday, the Blackhawks finally ended the streak, putting up seven goals against the Metropolitan Division-leading Washington Capitals. Toews had a goal and two assists in the game. It was Chicago’s first win of the month and their seven goals were half of the number they scored in their previous eight games.

Eddie Lack, New Jersey Devils: Lack wasn’t supposed to be playing against the league’s top team. But there he was on Saturday, stopping 48 of 51 shots against Stamkos, Kucherov and Co. He even out-dueled Andrei Vasilevskiy, who will likely win the Vezina in June. Impressive stuff.

Highlights of the Night:

Ryan Hartman, untouchable:

Nikita Scherbak’d:

Matt Murray did this two nights ago. Deja vu:

Two-pad stack alert:

Factoids of the Night:

The season can’t end fast enough for the Oilers:

The Golden Knights are creeping toward another record:

Evgeni Malkin hits 900:

MISC:

Scores:

Kings 4, Sabres 2

Ducks 3, Wild 2 (SO)

Senators 6, Rangers 3

Coyotes 1, Oilers 0

Golden Knights 3, Canadiens 3

Devils 4, Lightning 3

Penguins 5, Maple Leafs 3

Red Wings 3, Predators 1

Blackhawks 7, Capitals 1

Canucks 6, Bruins 1

Panthers 6, Flames 3


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

Cam Talbot, furious with overturned goal, launches expletive-laden tirade

Getty Images
8 Comments

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

Cam Talbot wasn’t too happy after losing to the bottom feeders of the NHL’s Western Conference on Saturday afternoon.

The Oilers, who have Connor McDavid, couldn’t manage to score a goal against a team that’s given up the third most to opposing teams this season.

And the goal they appeared to score to tie the game 1-1 in the third period was eventually overturned because of goaltender interference.

Video review confirmed that Patrick Maroon impeded Antti Raanta’s ability to move his blocker side arm freely, a call that Talbot took exception to following the game.

“It’s extremely frustrating, to have what seems like every single one of these calls go against us in the past two years is just unbelievable,” Talbot lamented to the media. “I’ve never seen anything like it. We challenge a goal, it stands. They challenge a goal on us for some reason it’s always waved off.

“I just don’t understand it, it’s the exact same play that we had last week against L.A. where the guy clips my blocker. We challenge and it’s still a goal. Last year in the playoffs against  Corey Perry, same play, takes my blocker with him, puck goes blocker side and it’s still a goal on us. There’s just no consistency and I’m f***ing sick of it.”

Answering another question, Talbot continued to drop f-bombs speaking to Robert Tychkowski of the Edmonton Journal.

“The fact that every single goal is disallowed against us and every single call or every single time we challenge it’s still upheld. I don’t f***ing get it. They’re the same f***ing plays every time and for some reason, the call goes against us these past two years. We haven’t won one challenge in the past two years. It’s ridiculous. I just don’t get it.” 

This looks one part frustration and another part sour grapes. There have been some blown calls this season, for sure, including against the Oilers.

Here.

Here.

And here.

But this one the Situation Room got right.

Meanwhile, Talbot’s Oilers were shutout for the seventh time this season. They continue to wildly underachieve, despite having names like McDavid and Draisaitl. And they have to watch former teammates like Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle light it up with their new teams.

Sure, Talbot and Co. can blame it a host of external issues. But he and the Oilers have to start looking within. They didn’t become bottom feeders because a goal got overturned.


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

NHL teams could learn from Super Bowl, Eagles, Penguins

Getty
6 Comments

There are signs that NHL teams are going out with the old and in with the new, but it’s a relief to see that more and more evidence points to that being the right way to go.

With two straight Stanley Cup wins in tow under Mike Sullivan’s more attacking, modern style, the Pittsburgh Penguins stand as a testament to letting it rip. That aggressiveness can be fun to watch, and that success is pushing more teams to embrace a “live by the sword, die by the sword” mentality.

That said, those who cling to the old (often stale and boring) way will respond “Yeah, but just about anything can work when you have Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin,” even ignoring the sludgy disaster that was the Mike Johnston era.

Well, fair enough. Maybe the spectacle that was Super Bowl 52 might nudge a few NHL teams and sports teams into taking a more aggressive, modern approach?

Deadspin’s Dom Cosentino did a great job breaking down how Philadelphia Eagles coach Doug Pederson’s courageous decisions turned the tide of that thrilling game, and as this New York Times feature shows, this wasn’t a one-time thing.

“My mentality coming into the game was to stay aggressive until the end and let [Foles’] playmakers make plays,” Pederson said, via Newsday. “I trust my instincts. In games like this against a great opponent, you have to make those tough decisions and keep yourself aggressive.”

That fourth down touchdown pass to QB Nick Foles encapsulated two tenets of the Eagles’ way of thinking, and ideally how smart NHL teams should think: a mixture of courage and calculation.

[PFT: Eagles, Patriots relied on analytics to reach the Super Bowl.]

As much as you might want to say that everything’s gone right for the Eagles and Penguins, it’s easy to counter that when considering injuries. Foles was in the huddle because of Carson Wentz’s injury. The Penguins defied the odds by winning a Stanley Cup without Kris Letang.

Contrast the success of the Penguins and ascent of, say, the New Jersey Devils with “old school” thinking teams, and the comparison can be ugly.

The Edmonton Oilers fashioned their roster as a bruising, gritty group around star Connor McDavid. They’ve seemingly ignored analytics at multiple turns, arguably burning out goalie Cam Talbot and making those disastrous trades. The Montreal Canadiens are suffering similar headaches for similar reasons as they watch P.K. Subban lap up well-deserved attention as a Norris frontrunner.

“Let your players make plays” is a refreshing thought, particularly when you hear about the death of “Safe is death.”

Now, this isn’t to say that playing an aggressive style and leaning on numbers will automatically make everything better.

Still, there’s increasing evidence that to win, you need to identify value and leverage your advantages. The Eagles and Penguins have done that in a masterful way lately, and the Golden State Warriors might be the greatest example of all.

Besides, if all things are equal, wouldn’t you rather roll the dice with a team that’s fun to watch rather than a plodding, bland mess?

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.

PHT Morning Skate: Talbot’s playoff guarantee; Eberle’s bounce back season

2 Comments
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.

• Up top, check out the highlights from last night’s game between the Predators and Blackhawks.

• We’re really going to miss everything about Jaromir Jagr. (Vice Sports)

Jordan Eberle has put together a strong year in Brooklyn, and that’s reflected in his five-on-five numbers. (TSN)

• The AHL’s Rochester Americans have signed Brian Gionta to a one-game contract. The veteran we’ll use that tilt as a tune up game for the Olympics. (Amerks.com)

• There’s a special connection between Ducks forward Rickard Rakell and cancer survivor Katie Hawley. (ESPN)

• Why is Golden Knights defenseman Jason Garrison going up and down between the NHL and minors so frequently? (Sinbin.Vegas)

• Isles owner Jon Ledecky believes that splitting home games between Barclays and the Coliseum will be enticing to free agents and John Tavares. (The Sports Daily)

• No matter what anybody says, the Sens moving into a downtown arena is nothing but good news. (Welcome to your Karlsson Years)

• Oilers goalie Cam Talbot kind of guaranteed that his team was going to make the playoffs this year. (Oilers Nation)

• A company from London, Ontario is studying a hockey stick that is believed to be the oldest in the world. (CBC)

• With the NHL not going to the Olympics this year, women’s hockey will finally grab all the attention. (Fan Rag Sports)

• The IIHF announced their procedure for offside reviews and goalie interference calls for the upcoming Olympics. (IIHF)

• Here’s Hilary Knight on being a role model for others just like Cammi Granato was for her:

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.

Let’s fix the Edmonton Oilers

Getty
9 Comments

You know things are bad for the Edmonton Oilers when even the media is questioning management.

Sportsnet’s Mark Spector chides players for a “sense of entitlement” after last night’s embarrassing loss to the Sabres, yet he also critiques the team’s special teams gameplan. “For the first time ever,” the Taylor HallAdam Larsson trade bewilders the Edmonton Journal’s David Staples.

Even Hall of Fame goalie Grant Fuhr believes that their PK is a mess.

By just about every measure, the Oilers are an absolute mess. And, yes, that PK is insanely ugly.

Is there any hope for them to turn things around? Yes, but they must admit this season is a lost cause, and big changes are needed.

Change in vision

There might come a point where it makes sense to trade one of the Oilers’ few remaining, arguably-not-quite-core assets in Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. In a vacuum, it would make sense to move him during a “sell-high” time, which could be this season if he heals up before the trade deadline expires.

Let’s be honest, though; would anyone in their right mind trust GM Peter Chiarelli to extract anywhere near optimal value for RNH, not to mention guys like Oscar Klefbom?

And really, it’s not just on Chiarelli. Todd McLellan deserves some blame for the team’s systemic struggles. Scroll through the Oilers’ last decade-or-so of drafting and you’ll see that the franchise rarely finds talent outside of the first round, a serious indictment of their scouting staff, not to mention their ability to develop. Kevin Lowe and Craig MacTavish have their fingerprints all over these failures, too.

Management had a vision for what works in the NHL, but it looks ugly unless you’re wearing rose-colored glasses.

Liquidate

This season and coming summer both stand as opportunities to cut the fat.

It’s tough to imagine another team taking on Milan Lucic‘s odious deal and Kris Russell‘s contract, but let’s not forget that seemingly immovable deals have been traded away before. David Clarkson, Nathan Horton, Dave Bolland, and even Chris Pronger have received paychecks from teams willing to warehouse bad contracts for a price. Maybe Edmonton could bribe teams to take some mistakes off their hands?

Sometimes it’s not even that high of a price, but that’s why you need to find a GM who can … you know, at least break even in trades.

In the case of Patrick Maroon and maybe a few other expiring pieces, Chiarelli could even redeem himself a bit by getting decent returns.

Draft capital can help in multiple ways

The bright side of this disastrous season is that the Oilers are likely to get a healthy first-rounder for their troubles. As of this writing, Edmonton’s the sixth-worst team in the NHL, and games played could push them down a bit more.

We all know they enjoy inanely good luck in the lottery, so consider how this could help them out:

  • Landing a key prospect – This is the simplest path, and a reasonable one in that. With cap concerns looming, they may very well need another decent player on a rookie contract.
  • Packaging to get rid of a bad contract – That said, the Oilers might not want to wait out that development process. To embrace more of a “win now” mode, they could clear up space by combining that pick (and maybe more) with a contract they’d otherwise struggle to remove.
  • Landing a big fish – On a similar note, what if the pick could help them grab a key soon-to-be-free-agent defenseman? Imagine how much better the Oilers would look with someone like Oliver Ekman-Larsson or Ryan Ellis, not to mention even bigger names in Erik Karlsson or Drew Doughty. If their teams realize they’re going to lose those players, a high-end pick could get things moving.

Target goalies

Cam Talbot might get back on track, but either way, he’s already 30 and his $4.167 million cap hit expires after 2018-19. Again, the Oilers aren’t the greatest at learning from their mistakes, yet this season should send a blaring signal that they shouldn’t put all of their eggs in one basket.

The Oilers could consider a reclamation project in Petr Mrazek, echoing what the Wild accomplished with their former goalie Devan Dubnyk. They could see if Aaron Dell is the next Talbot: a backup capable of being something more.

We’ve seen plenty of instances where teams need two goalies, so Edmonton should be proactive, even if Talbot ends up ultimately being “the guy.”

They still have Connor

Before Oilers fans get too depressed, don’t forget there are still great pieces in place, including Connor McDavid, who’s somehow barely 21 years old. Believe it or not, locking him up for eight years at $12.5M per is actually an astounding bargain. In fact, it’s such a deal that they can probably relax about paying Draisaitl too much.

The Oilers have made their mistakes, but new management could change things in a hurry. Just look at how dim things looked for the Penguins during the ill-fated Mike Johnston era. They turned things around with a coaching change and some courageous trades, while the Maple Leafs are another example of a team “seeing the light” and enjoying significant returns.

It doesn’t seem like Chiarelli was really taking notes, but if he gets replaced, hopefully the next GM has been paying attention. Things can turn around quickly in the NHL, at least if you push the right buttons.

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.