Chris Tanev

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Down but not out: There’s hope for those below playoff line

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It’s 20 games into the regular season, give or take, and your team is looking pretty far down the standings.

It looks bad, American Thanksgiving is approaching quickly, and prayers to the hockey gods are going unanswered.

Aye, but it might not be all doom and gloom. Not yet, at least.

Take the Philadelphia Flyers, for instance.

Flyers fans are concerned given their team’s current four-game winless streak. They’ve won just three of their past 10 contests and are sitting with a less than superb 8-8-4 record.

Yet, given how tight the Metropolitan Division has started, the Flyers, who sit in the basement of the division, are only five points off its pinnacle despite their recent downswing.

If you’re looking for a silver lining, you can find some solace in that.

Anything appears to be possible in the stacked Met. The New York Rangers began the season 3-7-2 but are just three points adrift of the summit now. Sure, their 7-3-0 record in their past time games is certainly helping their cause, but it goes to show that stringing together a few wins can reverse early season misfortunes.

Now, if the Flyers could only figure out how to stop blowing two-goal leads and fix their discipline issues

Over in the Western Conference, the Vancouver Canucks have only won three out of their last 10 games dating back to Oct. 30. This, after starting the season 6-3-1.

Their recent skid hasn’t done them any favours, but the pending return of defenseman Chris Tanev could be the shot in the arm they need.

What about some of the teams that really look down and out, you ask?

The Edmonton Oilers have most certainly failed expectations so far this season.

With just seven wins and the team sitting in 28th spot in goals for, despite having Connor McDavid in the lineup, there’s definitely a cause for concern.

Their current two-game skid coupled with losing four of their past five is far from ideal, but the Oilers, despite their poor play, are only five points back of the final wild card spot in the Western Conference.

The Oilers have the goal scoring in them. They finished eighth last season in the category. Some consistency would be nice. They put up eight against the Vegas Golden Knights last Tuesday but just two goals combined in their losses to Washington prior to that game and St. Louis following it.

Continuing with the five-point trend, the Montreal Canadiens — yes, these Montreal Canadiens — find themselves five points behind the Washington Capitals for the final wild card in the Eastern Conference heading into Monday’s action.

Losers of two straight and four of their past five, things don’t look great from Les Canadiens and it would appear changes are coming.

Indeed, the problems in Montreal are numerous: low goals for, high goals against, bad save percentage, bad shooting percentage, bad power play, bad penalty kill.
At this point, it’s going to take a minor miracle in La belle province but they’re still in the mix despite their unfavourable results.

Things might be looking up, however.


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

PHT Morning Skate: ‘Negative experience’ with Vegas helped Shipachyov appreciate KHL days

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–Team USA announced that their men’s and women’s hockey team rosters will be unveiled on New Year’s Day. (NBC Sports)

–Former Olympic rivals Julie Chu (Team USA) and Carolina Ouellette (Canada) welcomed a baby last Sunday. (NBC Sports)

–For the first time ever, the IIHF will be compensating teams that will be sending players to the Olympics. The teams will get roughly $8,000 per player that participates in the tournament. (eurohockeyclubs.com)

–Former NHL defenseman Darius Kasparitis played for Russia on the international stage, but he’s going to represent Lithuania at the upcoming World Hockey Championship Division I Group B tournament next spring. (IIHF.hockey)

Jonathan Drouin and his former team, the Tampa Bay Lightning, finally settled a dispute over a $212,500 performance bonus. Drouin needed to hit 0.73 points-per-game last season to get the money, and he did. But the Lightning contended that it was actually 0.726 points-per-game. In the end, they had to pay him most of the money. (Sportsnet)

–Since being put back on the first line, Rangers forward Pavel Buchnevich has been playing some great hockey. There’s no doubt that the chemistry between Buchnevich, Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider is alive and well. (blueshirtbanter.com)

–The Ottawa Senators were able to land Matt Duchene in a three-way deal with Nashville and Colorado last week. Duchene is the biggest name involved in the trade, but it sure seems like the Preds are the team that improved the most. (Sporting News)

–The pairing of Chris Tanev and Ben Hutton don’t come to mind when thinking of the top defense duos in the NHL, but their numbers show that they’ve been remarkably good together. Incredibly enough, Tanev and Hutton have been on the ice for just four even-strength goals against. (vancourier.com)

–The New Jersey Devils thought so highly of Pavel Zacha that they made him the sixth overall pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. But sixth-rounder from 2016 Jesper Bratt has been the better of the two players this season. Somehow, they need to get Zacha playing like Bratt. (allaboutthejersey.com)

–Former Vegas Golden Knight Vadim Shipachyov signed a new contract with SKA Saint Petersburg last week. In a Q & A with the team’s website, Shipachyov admitted that his negative experience in the NHL helped him appreciate what he had in Russia. (SKA.ru)

–Here’s an incredibly sad story. Arianna Dougan, who was a young girl that had a special connection with the Blues and Vladimir Tarasenko, passed away at the age of 11. As you’d imagine, the news shook up the team. “The world is a sadder place without Ari, but we’re thankful to have gotten to know her and to have given her a distraction from her battle with cancer, if only for a few days,” the Blues wrote on their website. “Her road trip was supposed to create lasting memories for her, but it ended up meaning the world to us.” (NHL.com/Blues)

–Sorry for ending today’s Skate with another sad story, but we have to mention the passing of former Providence College hockey player Drew Brown, who had a courageous battle with cancer. He was just 25 years old.  “Drew touched everyone with whom he came into contact with his energy, his smile and his big heart,” said head coach Nate Leaman. “Drew was a thoughtful, soft-spoken teammate who would do anything for his team. Drew showed amazing courage in his battle with cancer. Our Friar family will miss him dearly. With the support of one another, we will find strength to honor Drew.” (Friars.com)

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: Wheeler helps Jets; Keller keeps scoring

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Player of the Night: Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg Jets

The Jets beat the Dallas Stars for the second time in less than a week with a 4-1 win on Monday. The captain was involved in all four goals with four primary assists, two of which came on tallies from Mark Scheifele. Wheeler is now third in the NHL with 21 points.

Highlight of the Night:

The rock-paper-scissors battle between Scheifele and Tyler Seguin continued:

MISC:

Patrik Laine has goals in three straight games since he talked about his confidence issues.

Well done by Trevor Strader on Hockey Fights Cancer night in Dallas.

John Carlson’s second career overtime goal helped give the Washington Capitals a 3-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes:

Clayton Keller scored his NHL rookie-leading 11th goal of the year for the Coyotes.

Alex Ovechkin netted his 216th career power play goal. He’s now one behind Jaromir Jagr and Mike Gartner for 10th all-time:

Mika Zibanejad handed out three assists as the New York Rangers fought back from deficits of 2-0 and 3-2 to beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-3. All three of Zibanejad’s helpers came on the power play, where the Rangers scored on three of their five chances.

• Five different goal scorers powered the Boston Bruins a 5-3 win over the Minnesota Wild. Jordan Szwarz recorded two assists, his first NHL points since March 26, 2015.

Mitch Marner scored the only goal in the shootout as the Toronto Maple Leafs prevented a Vegas Golden Knights comeback with a 4-3 victory. Nazem Kadri scored a pair of goals in the opening period.

Tomas Tatar‘s goal with 1:14 remaining snapped a 2-2 tie and helped the Detroit Red Wings to a 3-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks. The goal was Tatar’s 200th career point.

Chris Tanev is going to want to forget this one, thanks to Anthony Mantha:

Daniel Sedin‘s goal was the 992nd point of his career.

Factoid of the Night:

Scores:
Toronto 4, Vegas 3 (SO)
New York Rangers 5, Columbus 3
Washington 3, Arizona 2 (OT)
Boston 5, Minnesota 3
Winnipeg 4, Dallas 1
Detroit 3, Vancouver 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.

Two fewer defensemen means Canucks less likely to trade Tanev

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CHICAGO — Three months ago, Jim Benning might’ve considered trading defenseman Chris Tanev.

But after the Vancouver Canucks lost Nikita Tryamkin to the KHL and Luca Sbisa in the expansion draft, their general manager no longer enjoys the depth on defense that he used to trumpet.

“I’m going to look at all our options, but for us to move [Tanev] off our blue line, we’d have to get a good defenseman back,” Benning said Thursday.

Among Vancouver d-men, only Alex Edler logged more ice time than Sbisa in 2016-17.

“He provided physicality on the back end,” Benning said of Sbisa. “He was a good penalty killer for us. I thought last year, on a game-to-game basis, he was one of our better defensemen. So we’re sorry to see him go. It’s going to be a new opportunity for him and it gives us a chance to kind of reshape our blue line.”

Of course, Benning’s reluctance to deal the 27-year-old Tanev is bound to make people wonder if the Canucks are truly committed to a long-term rebuild. When they traded veterans Jannik Hansen and Alex Burrows, that appeared to be the direction they were finally headed.

Shouldn’t a rebuilding team be less concerned about next year, and more concerned about four or five years down the line?

“That’s a good point,” Benning said, “but I think we’re going to have a lot of young players in our lineup next year, and we want to be competitive in the games. Chris Tanev is still a relatively young player for a defenseman. We’re going to have him for the next seven or eight years. But like I said, if something makes sense and we can get a player back that can play on our blue line, we’ll look at it.”

The Canucks will draft fifth overall tomorrow at United Center, and most expect them to select a center like Cody Glass, Gabriel Vilardi, or Casey Mittelstadt.

But don’t be shocked if they go for a power-play defenseman like Cale Makar or Timothy Liljegren.

“Anytime you can get a high-end offensive defenseman in today’s game, that drives the play for your team, I think that’s something we’re going to look at,” said Benning.

PHT Morning Skate: This summer’s top 30 unrestricted free agents

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–Canucks defenseman Chris Tanev has been rumored to be on the trading block. Sportsnet looks at five smart trade partners for Vancouver. The Buffalo Sabres and New York Rangers are two of the teams that would make the most sense. (Sportsnet)

–After Charles Barkley admitted that the Stanley Cup Playoffs are more entertaining than the NBA Finals, the guys on “The Dan Patrick Show” discussed whether or not the NHL’s product is superior to the NBA’s. (Top)

–Former NHL goalie Corey Hirsch believes Pekka Rinne and Sidney Crosby are the favorites to land the Conn Smythe trophy, but Hirsch believes the city of Nashville deserves some votes, too. (The Score)

–TSN’s Frank Seravalli has put together a list of the top 30 players that are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents this summer. The Capitals have three players in the top four. Canadiens forward Alexander Radulov will also be in high demand. (TSN.ca)

–NHL.com’s Dan Rosen asks key questions for the Penguins ahead of Game 5. Should Pittsburgh be concerned about the way Matt Murray is playing? What’s going on with Phil Kessel? Is their defense holding up? (NHL.com)

–Speaking of Game 5, here’s an interesting stat that will be of interest to Preds and Pens fans: