Craig Smith

Getty

PHT Morning Skate: Top 5 moments from Auston Matthews’ first 100 NHL games

Leave a comment
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.

–The Dallas Stars have been hit hard by injuries lately. On Monday, they announced that Marc Methot and Martin Hanzal would both miss some time. Also, Kari Lehtonen is away from the team after he and his wife welcomed a baby boy into the world. (Wrongsideoftheredline.com)

Jay Bouwmeester, who has been out since the third day of training camp, is expected to return to St. Louis’ lineup tonight. “It’s been a long time, especially at the start of the year when you miss training camp. I’m excited and hopefully and I’ll just jump in and not interfere with what’s going on here.” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

–Sabres coach Phil Housley is trying to find solutions to help his team get back on track. Right now that includes mixing up the lines. Jack Eichel finds himself with Zegmus Girgensons and Jason Pominville, which seems like a bit of a demotion. (Buffalohockeybeat)

–Anton Rodin’s time with the Vancouver Canucks has officially come to an end, as he’s been placed on waivers with the purpose of terminating his contract. “Anton asked to be released from his contract,” said Jim Benning. “We value the skill and depth he adds to our team but ultimately it was important to respect Anton’s request to move on.” (Vancourier.com)

–Yes, the Edmonton Oilers are struggling this season. Some people want to blame Connor McDavid for that, but according to NHLNumbers.com, GM Peter Chiarelli should be the one taking the heat. (NHLNumbers.com)

–The swap Mike Cammalleri-for-Jussi Jokinen swap between the Kings and Oilers was nothing more than a weak attempt for both teams to try to get back on track. Don’t expect the move to help either side. (Fanragsports.com)

–Hall-of-famers Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne were honored prior to the game between the Ducks and Panthers on Sunday night. “It was just a perfect way to end a great week and a half,” Kariya said. “Just the most memorable time, certainly in my life and both of our lives. To spend it with Teemu and his family, it was icing on the cake. I’ll always remember the ovation.” (OC Register)

–Like all of us, Jets winger Patrik Laine is impressed by Selanne’s 76-goal rookie record he set in 1993. Laine can’t imagine anyone will ever touch that one. “Thirty-six, that was hard,” Laine said of his own rookie total. “So imagine if I had to score 40 more on top of the 36 I scored. I would say it’s pretty hard.” (NHL.com)

–Jets prospect Jack Roslovic is ripping it up in the AHL, but Winnipeg shouldn’t recall him yet. He needs more time to grow in the minors. (Jetsnation.ca)

–Preds forward Craig Smith had been doing all the right things on paper last season, he just couldn’t buy a goal for long stretches. Now, Smith’s hard work has paid off, as he’s finally starting to produce with a little more regularity. (Ontheforecheck.com)

–The pairing of Zdeno Chara and Charlie McAvoy has worked out well for Boston because there’s a terrific teacher and a willing student. What does Chara like best about his defense partner? “That he’s quickly able to adapt to our system and our game. We saw it in the playoffs [last season]. He stepped in and gave us a contribution right away. He didn’t seem to be nervous, or caught in a situation where he’d be distracted.” (ESPN.com)

–Filmmaker Damon Kwame Mason believes Willie O’Ree (first black player to play in the NHL) and Herb Carnegie (Jean Beliveau said that he was one of the best players to never play in the NHL) should both be in the Hockey Hall of Fame. (Colorofhockey.com)

–Swedish defenseman Rasmus Dahlin is the top prospect available for the upcoming NHL Entry Draft. How we he help every one of the struggling teams in the NHL? The Hockey News breaks it down for you. (The Hockey News)

–Canadiens goaltender Antti Niemi is already on his third team this season. Since he’s been on the move a lot, he’s decided to go with the plain white goalie mask. He should embrace the simple mask. (Puckjunk.com)

–How can the NHL spice up some of the stale rivalries in the league? Scottywazz.com believes that handing out a trophy could help. (Scottywazz.com)

Auston Matthews suited up in his 100th NHL game, so The Score breaks down the top 5 moments from his young career. To no ones surprise, the top moment came in his first game. (The Score)

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.

Capitals can’t slow powerhouse Predators

4 Comments

The Nashville Predators beat the Washington Capitals by a score of 6-3 on Tuesday, and it wasn’t a matter of luck.

Actually, you might argue that the Capitals were lucky … at least for a little while. Nashville stormed out of the gate in the first period, managing a hearty 18-3 shots advantage. Braden Holtby kept things reasonable in keeping Nashville’s lead to 2-0 through the opening frame, but eventually the Predators’ attack was just too much.

Washington made things interesting during a second period that was wild at times, with the two teams combining for five goals in about five minutes. They combined for seven goals overall in the middle frame. It was a good time for everyone but the goalies and coaches (and some of the defensemen):

Ultimately, the second period and game ended with the same 6-3 score, leaving Holtby & Co. bewildered. They also forced Holtby to the Capitals’ bench. Under most circumstances, it was a team-wide struggle, but goals like these probably left Holtby muttering expletives to himself:

Aside from some defensive lapses, this is the sort of night that Predators GM David Poile probably dreamt about when trying to hash out the three-team trade that eventually netted them Kyle Turris. Turris (one assist) ranked among 12th different Predators with at least one point. His presence sure seems like a benefit for Craig Smith (goal) and Kevin Fiala (goal, assist), while Nick Bonino found the net in his return to the lineup.

After a bumpy start to the season, the Predators are looking like the team that many expected to translate a strong playoff run to better results overall in 2017-18. This rise in optimism also predates Turris’ first two games in, as Nashville’s winning streak is now at five games.

They’ve snagged wins against some legitimate competition, too. They beat the Ducks, Kings, and Blue Jackets on the road, got some revenge against Pittsburgh at home during Turris’ Saturday debut, and then left the Capitals shaking their heads in Nashville tonight.

And this team doesn’t even have Ryan Ellis back in the lineup yet.

Perhaps the Predators’ powerful work might make Holtby feel a little better. Coming into tonight, he was on a six-game winning streak, allowing a meager 11 goals during that run. Luckily for Holtby and the Capitals, they don’t have to deal with Nashville again until April 5.

Who knows how scary this Predators team will look by then?

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.

How Duchene, Turris are doing with new teams

Getty
2 Comments

If Matt Duchene wanted immediate revenge against the Colorado Avalanche, he couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity.

In his first two games as a member of the Ottawa Senators, Duchene faced his former team in a back-to-back set against the Avalanche. Funny how things work out, right?

Well, when you dig deeper, the situation is a little less scripted. He didn’t face his former teammates once in Ottawa and once in Colorado; instead, the two teams went all the way to Sweden for overseas games in November. One can imagine that this experience cut down on some of that awkwardness – that “first game in Colorado in the road locker room” will have to wait – but it also made it less-than-perfect.

Still, you might be wondering how it went for Duchene.

In his case, it’s something of a good news/bad news situation.

The Good

Duchene’s team won in both cases. The Senators took Friday’s contest 4-3 in OT and 4-3 on Saturday.

After going even (7-7) in the faceoff dot on Friday, Duchene reminded that he has quietly become one of the better guys at winning draws, going 11-3 during Saturday’s win. That second contest also gave the impression that he’s starting to settle in with the Sens, as he fired eight shots on goal in 16 minutes and 19 seconds of ice time.

Following the win – and also considering the travel – Duchene joked that he might “sleep for five days” when he gets home:

So far, it looks like Duchene is lining up with Alex Burrows and Mike Hoffman. Considering the amount of space Duchene could open up with his speed and the shooting talent of Hoffman, that duo is particularly intriguing for the Sens.

The Bad

Duchene wasn’t able to score a goal or an assist in either of the two games. If you’re the type who seeks instant gratification (or gambled on him big in Daily Fantasy), then that has to have been frustrating.

Plus/minus is a borderline obnoxious stat at times, but some will harp on his combined minus -3 in the two games against the Avalanche in Sweden.

On a personal note, he looks kind of weird as number 95. Agree/disagree?

***

While Duchene’s duo of debut games were a mixed bag, Kyle Turris enjoyed a more straightforward good time during his first game with the Nashville Predators.

Turris was named the first star of the Predators’ 5-4 shootout win against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and it wasn’t just because locals are so excited about how Turris can boost scoring. The 28-year-old scored a goal and an assist in that high-scoring, exciting game in Nashville.

Peter Laviolette wasn’t shy about deploying Turris. While overtime naturally enhances his ice time, it’s worth noting that Turris logged 21:38 TOI. About the only bummer was that he only received 1:18 of his time on the power play, and he might not be on the top unit for a while. (That could change if Laviolette decides to go with a four forward setup on the PP, but that would make for the bold move of choosing one of P.K. Subban or Roman Josi.)

Here’s the first goal of Turris’ Nashville tour:

A second line of Turris, Craig Smith, and Kevin Fiala seems awfully intriguing. Both Smith and Fiala could really benefit from Turris’ presence, as each guy already generates chances. Turris might just be able to add that “finishing touch” to their games.

***

The beauty of the Turris – Duchene – Avalanche trade is that everyone, to an extent, came out a “winner” on paper. Just considering the bouquet of futures Colorado GM Joe Sakic managed under all that duress.

Still, the big names involved will be judged by both individual and team factors. Each showed signs of doing well on a personal level, and their teams must have been delighted to go 3-for-3 so far.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering: Samuel Girard logged big minutes in his first two games with the Avalanche, collecting an assist.

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.

Duchene owners win biggest in Turris trade, fantasy-wise

Getty

Let’s all take a moment to toast Nashville Predators GM David Poile.

When it comes to league-changing trades, Poile is on top of the NHL, and no one is even all that close. OK, Peter Chiarelli and Marc Bergevin are up there, but while Poile wears a college graduate’s hat, those two sometimes don dunce caps.

Poile doesn’t just make trades, he generates headlines and injects some much-needed buzz into a league that lacks the movement of the NBA, where seismic shifts happen often enough to spoil hoops fans. Shea Weber for P.K. Subban. Seth Jones for Ryan Johansen. Some dented cans of vegetables for Filip Forsberg. And now this move, which nets the Predators Kyle Turris and delivers Matt Duchene from misery in Colorado to (insert question marks and happy faces) in Ottawa.

This post takes an early look at the fantasy dominoes that may fall/have fallen from this trade, but giving Poile a digital pat on the back was only the right thing to do first. Thanks Dave!

[Rotoworld on Clayton Keller’s Calder push]

Need for speed

Duchene ranked as one of my favorite sleepers coming into 2017-18 for three reasons: 1) his numbers, in my opinion, were bound to rebound after an unusually repugnant season, 2) he’s dual eligible, something that always gains my approval, and 3) it was reasonable to assume that he’d head for greener pastures.

In the case of playing with Senators speed demon Erik Karlsson, green means go for Duchene.

Imagine this scenario, something that will keep defensive-minded coaches up at night: Karlsson zips down the ice, getting the opposition off balance, and then sends a perfect set-up to Duchene, who can keep up. Then a lot of bad things happen to the other team, especially the opposing goalie.

Considering how hard the Senators went after Duchene, I’d wager he’ll inherit a lot of the big minutes and opportunities Turris received. Via Left Wing Lock, it looks like Duchene’s early linemates will be Zack Smith and, most enticingly, sniper Mike Hoffman.

Actually, scratch that; the most enticing element is still Duchene and Karlsson sharing the same ice.

One other thing to realize is that Duchene hasn’t been getting the best opportunities in Colorado for a while now. That was especially clear in 2017-18, as he ranked sixth among Avs forwards in power-play ice time, on average.

A mild loss for Turris, but a boost for Nashville

Early on, Turris’ linemates look quite intriguing with the Predators:

Still, Turris was logging 19:41 minutes per night with Ottawa, second only to all-around dynamo Mark Stone. With Ryan Johansen carrying that big contract and chemistry with Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson, Turris slides into a(n appropriate) role as a second-line center. There might be some losses, although the upside is that he might face lesser competition.

[The Rotoworld NHL podcast]

Craig Smith and Kevin Fiala are both intriguing, as Turris could open opportunities for Smith (a solid sniper who could use a boost) and Fiala (an intriguing young player who showed signs of a breakthrough before suffering a grisly leg injury in the playoffs).

Nashville’s talented defensemen P.K. Subban and Roman Josi could enjoy a subtle bump, while the Preds might be able to give more goal support to goalies such as Pekka Rinne.

Avalanche questions

We’ll have to see if Samuel Girard figures into much of anything for the Avalanche, at least early on. Over the long-term, he’s quite interesting. (That said, Left Wing Lock lists him on a top pairing with Erik Johnson, so you never know; maybe the kid will continue his strong work from early looks with the Preds right away.)

Other Colorado players face interesting challenges and opportunities. Duchene’s presence was a boon for Nail Yakupov, so can the struggling former top pick maintain that resurgence without him?

Keep an eye on the likes of Sven Andrighetto, as even with Duchene’s influence being a little muted, someone will be asked to step into a heightened role. It’s plausible that they’ll replace Duchene by committee.

***

Trades like these really spice things up, both in fantasy and reality.

Let’s hope that there will be other moves to break down as this season goes along, especially as we start to approach the “dog days.” Other NHL GMs, feel free to pitch in a bit. As impressive as Poile’s run has been, he doesn’t have to be the only person on the dance floor.

Now picture Poile dancing.

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.

Turris trade shows Predators are going all-in for Stanley Cup

Getty
10 Comments

If there was any doubt, acquiring and then extending Kyle Turris made this clear: the Nashville Predators are going all-in to win a Stanley Cup. Parting ways with two very promising prospects is just part of why they’re in win-now mode (or something close to it).

The tantalizing thing for Nashville is that they now boast arguably the most complete roster in the NHL, at least with a healthy Ryan Ellis and Nick Bonino.

  • The quartet of Ellis, P.K. Subban, Roman Josi, and Mattias Ekholm probably still stands as the class of the league. If not, they’re so close you have to squint to see the difference against who’s better.
  • Suddenly, the Predators look deep at forward, especially at center.

Predators GM David Poile might be right when he calls Turris “one of the best two-way centers” in the NHL. Peter Laviolette must be getting his mad science lab ready for this – or at least cleaning out his line blender? – as Turris generates a domino effect that could help other forwards.

Ryan Johansen gets some support, which shouldn’t be underrated as his numbers have suffered a bit this season, even as his line with Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson remains lethal.

[Breaking down blockbuster Matt Duchene, Kyle Turris trade]

Turris can make a second line more dangerous with the likes of Kevin Fiala and Craig Smith, or perhaps Laviolette gets even more experimental than that? Either way, when healthy, Bonino seems like a much better fit as a third-line center. Other teams might have more dynamic forward groups, but the Predators no longer lack that necessary punch to win games.

Honestly, if I were David Poile, I’d consider trying to sign pending RFA Saros to a bargain extension, possibly allowing Saros to become the Matt Murray to Rinne’s Marc-Andre Fleury.

Big decisions coming (and big bargains going away)

With Turris in tow, the Predators are locked into several players for at least four years: Turris, Johansen, Forsberg, Arvidsson, Bonino, P.K. Subban, Mattias Ekholm and Calle Jarnkrok. According to Cap Friendly, the Predators have $53.1M going to 12 players in 2019-20 and $43.1M to just eight in 2020-21.

Some of those contracts are outright steals, but even so, those commitments may force others out, eventually. There are some key choices coming soon, making it that much more obvious for Nashville to go win-now.

Significant names expiring after 2018-19: Pekka Rinne, Ryan Ellis, and Kevin Fiala (Fiala will be an RFA).

With a $2.5M cap hit, Ryan Ellis ranks as one of the NHL’s most staggering bargains. These are the types of deals that give you an edge, but it’s ending soon, and you can’t begrudge Ellis if he wants to get paid what he’s worth. That might end up being too much for Nashville.

Then again, Rinne’s $7M expires in the same summer of 2019. Poile must determine what to do with Saros and Rinne, and those net deadlines aren’t far away.

Key deals expiring after 2019-20: Roman Josi and Craig Smith.

Much like Ellis, Josi is a bargain at $4M, but that goes away in three seasons.

Maybe Poile is just planning to move money from the likes of Rinne and Smith to the likes of Ellis, Josi, and Saros? Even if that works out, the point is that Nashville would possibly need to go top-heavy, losing some of the edge they have now.

Poile is pushing the right buttons

The overall point is not that the Predators can only complete for a title between now and 2018-19 or 2019-20.

We’ve seen teams enjoy deep runs when it seemed like their peaks passed; it’s easy to forget that the 2015-16 San Jose Sharks were far from a favorite to represent the West when they did.

Still, the Predators can look to other champions to see some examples of small windows of bargains paying off. When their rival the Chicago Blackhawks won their first Stanley Cup in decades, they did it as rookie contracts were expiring for Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.

Poile seems shrewd enough to keep his Predators in the thick of things for a while, but from here, the next few years represent Nashville’s biggest window to win it all. From there, their ceiling could get shorter.

MORE: Turris on Ottawa contract talks: ‘very apparent things weren’t going to work out’

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.