Henrik Sedin

Getty Images

Roberto Luongo on streaking Panthers, approaching 1,000 NHL games (PHT Q&A)

1 Comment

A glance at the list of hottest NHL teams since the end of January will show you that teams currently in playoff spots have done well to position themselves for the season’s final month. The Florida Panthers are just on the outside of the postseason picture, but have truly helped themselves with a 13-3-0 run in their last 16 teams.

The Panthers are a point behind the Columbus Blue Jackets for the second wild card in the Eastern Conference, but they also possess three games in-hand, which could put them in a comfier position should they win those.

Starting goaltender Roberto Luongo, who missed two months due to a groin injury, returned during this run and has helped the Panthers win six of his last seven starts while boasting a .945 even strength save percentage over that stretch.

The mood, as you can imagine, is quite fun inside the Panthers’ room.

“We’re excited to come to the rink every day and that’s what it’s all about,” Luongo told Pro Hockey Talk on Monday. “You want to be playing meaningful games this time of the year. Right now, we actually feel like we’re in playoff mode. It’s just fun coming to rink, hanging out with the guys, laughing and knowing that every time you step on the ice it can be a difference maker in the season.”

We spoke with Luongo about the teammate who’s impressed him the most, what he would tell his younger self, how fantasy sports has impacted his future career plans and more.


PHT: This run started in early February and it kept rolling after you came back. When you miss as much time as you did, how much easier is it to return when a team’s playing well compared to in a slump? Is there less pressure on you?

LUONGO: “Yeah, it was quite seamless. You’re not quite sure how you’re going to feel after not playing for two months, but the fact that the team was playing so well made it much easier on myself and didn’t put as much pressure on my shoulders to come in and try to save the day.”

The team is in a similar position today as it was last year, but there are new faces and there’s some positive momentum. How is what’s driving this team this year different than last year?

“I think it’s totally different. Last year it was a bit of a whirlwind with everything that happened. This year, I think we’re more settled. We believe in our group, in our systems, in our coaches. We’re just a confident group in the way we’re playing. It’s just got a different vibe to it in general.”

Who’s a guy on the team that has made the biggest jump from training camp?

“Obviously, [Aleksander] Barkov’s been our best player, but as far as jumps go, he’s always been our best player. I feel like he’s taken it to another level the last few weeks here. What he’s been able to do in the last 2-3 weeks has been head-scratching. It brings me back to my early days with Vancouver when I would see [Daniel and Henrik Sedin] play when they’re at the peak of their careers, but there were two of them; he’s by himself, so it’s quite impressive.”

When you’re out for the amount of time you were at the end of last year and then this season, how much are you playing coach and pointing things out to James [Reimer] from what you see?

“We chat once in a while… Whenever we have a game, if I know certain tendencies of certain guys, what they like to do, I’ll give him a quick word. But most of the time the guys know how to prepare and what they need to do to be ready. Even if I have something to say, I will once in a while, most of the time I don’t want to disrupt their routine.”

You’re approaching game No. 1,000. What do you remember about game No. 1 (43-save, 2-1 win vs. Boston, Nov. 28, 1999)?

“I remember it being an afternoon game and I had just got called up and I was notified that morning that I was starting. It was quite short notice and I didn’t have my parents or anybody to have time to come down and see me play. Maybe it was a good thing, so it didn’t allow me too much time to think about it and just go out there and play. I remember being really nervous and just realizing a dream.”

If you could go back and give 21-year-old Roberto advice, what would you tell him?

“I think in the earlier stages in my career I didn’t have as much fun playing the game, just because I was so nervous and so wanting to perform well that most of my energy was focused on that. As I got a little bit older, I realized that [I need] to go out there and have fun and enjoy the game, and if you work hard the results will come. I see it in a different way now and it’s really helped me out.”

How much of that mindset changed going from a media market like Vancouver back to Florida?

“I started thinking that way towards the end of my tenure in Vancouver and with all the stuff that happened, I realized that sometimes it’s not worth it to beat yourself up over things and that you are still playing in the NHL and you need to realize that and enjoy the moment. You don’t want to have any regrets when you’re done playing. That’s what came about and since then I find that it’s really helped me out along the way as far as performance.”

You still have four years left on your deal after this season. Have you given thought as to what you might want to do after hockey is over? Poker player? Professional fantasy football analyst?

“I don’t play poker anymore. Unfortunately, I don’t have that much time for it. But honestly, I love fantasy sports so much that I’d like to maybe become a GM, if possible, in the future of an NHL team. If that works out.”

Have you asked [Panthers GM] Dale [Tallon] for any tips on how to get started?

“[Laughs] Not yet. I’ve got to wait until I retire for that. I want to keep going for now.”


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.

The Buzzer: Edmonton’s epic collapse; Nash’s Bruins debut


Players of the Night:

Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators: Rinne turned aside all 27 shots he faced in Nashville’s shutout win over the St. Louis Blues (check out the highlights by clicking the video at the top of the page). The Preds goalie has just one regulation loss in his last 15 decisions (13-1-1).

Ryan Strome, Edmonton Oilers: Strome hasn’t had the best season, but he’s really upped his production of late. After scoring two goals in Sunday’s game against Anaheim, he’s now accumulated five goals in his last five games. Maybe the former fifth overall pick has finally figured it out.

Rickard Rakell, Anaheim Ducks: Rakell found the back of the net three times in Sunday’s shootout loss to Edmonton, including two in the final 21 seconds to force overtime. Anaheim ended up losing the game in a shootout. Rakell has 25 goals and 51 points in 59 games this season.

Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers: As you can imagine, the Oilers-Ducks game was pretty wild. Not only did McDavid register three assists, he also netted the shootout winner for the Oilers on Sunday night. The 21-year-old is up 74 points in 62 games, which puts him on pace to score 98 points in 2017-18.

Jared Spurgeon, Minnesota Wild: Spurgeon picked up two points in Sunday’s win over the Sharks, including the game-winning goal in the overtime period. The overtime tally proved to be the 200th point of his NHL career.

Daniel Sedin, Vancouver Canucks: Sedin scored Vancouver’s first two goals. The veteran has been hot of late, as he has nine points in his last seven games. He’s also put together three multi-point efforts in his last four outings.

Highlights of the Night: 

There was some late drama between Anaheim and Edmonton:

Martin Jones made sure his team went into the intermission with a lead:

Jimmy Howard flashes the leather:

Check out this spin-o-rama pass from Henrik Sedin:

Nash’s Debut:

Rick Nash made his Bruins debut on Sunday, but it didn’t go according to plan. Not only did Boston lose, Nash also failed to pick up a point. He finished the night with a minus-1 rating and five shots on goal in 17:27 of ice time.

Here’s a picture of Nash in his new colors:

Spooner’s Rangers debut:

Ryan Spooner, who was part of the package that went from Boston to New York for Nash, picked up a pair of assists in his first game with his new team. He helped set up goals by J.T. Miller and Jesper Fast.

Factoids of the Night: 

There were some pretty quick goals scored this weekend:

Preds GM David Poile has done quite a bit of winning during his career:

Ratelle’s special night:

The New York Rangers retired Jean Ratelle’s no. 19 on Sunday night:


Predators 4, Blues 0
Sabres 4, Bruins 1
Red Wings 3, Rangers 2 (OT)
Oilers 6, Ducks 5 (SO)
Wild 3, Sharks 2 (OT)
Canucks 3, Coyotes 1

MORE: Pro Hockey Talk 2018 NHL Trade Deadline Tracker

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: Monahan is money, Zajac(!?), Command and Conacher


Player of the Night: Travis Zajac, New Jersey Devils.

What has gotten into Travis Zajac? Did he step out of a time machine this week, and if so, was it the type that makes you a bit more monstrous, like the one from “The Fly?”

Zajac factored into all three of the Devils’ goals in a 3-1 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins, collecting two goals and one assist. The Devils have been slipping quite a bit lately, but they’ve now won three in a row, with these last two wins being considerable.

And Zajac’s been a notable factor in each of the past two wins, fighting Radko Gudas and shockingly holding his own:

Highlights of the Night:

Are we certain that Mike Hoffman isn’t Swedish? Feels like a relevant question, considering his expert use of the Peter Forsberg Postage Stamp move:

Unusual scene for the Lightning on Saturday: Cory Conacher drew a penalty shot while taking a high-sticking infraction to his face. He got repairs, scored on that penalty shot, and then the Bolts received a two-minute power play. Weird. (Also: Conacher has been pretty hot for Tampa Bay recently.)

Sweeet save by Tuukka Rask, who continued his personal point streak of 20 games.

Tough to top the bottle-bashing goal:


The Stars’ scoring is about as imbalanced as the score of their 6-1 win against the Wild.

In his young career, Sean Monahan has 131 regular-season goals. He’s scored 10 of them in overtime.

Henrik Sedin is a few ahead of his twin Daniel Sedin (who’s currently at 1,276 regular season games). Daniel could hit 1,300 if he plays most of the Canucks’ remaining games.


Canadiens 5, Ducks 2
Senators 4, Flyers 3 (SO)
Jets 3, Avalanche 0
Bruins 4, Maple Leafs 1
Blues 1, Sabres 0
Panthers 3, Red Wings 2
Devils 3, Penguins 1
Islanders 4, Blue Jackets 3
Predators 5, Rangers 2
Stars 6, Wild 1
Lightning 4, Canucks 2
Flames 4, Blackhawks 3 (OT)
Kings 6, Coyotes 0

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.

Ryan Getzlaf notches 600th career assist


Milestones are often most useful toward the end of a player’s career, cementing legacies and maybe providing Hall of Fame voters with helpful signposts. That said, they can also stand as reminders that a player is special, even when there are still more chapters to be written.

At 32, Ryan Getzlaf has plenty of time to continue piling up assists after collecting his 600th helper in the Anaheim Ducks’ 5-3 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday.

Now, for a guy who sets the table as beautifully as Getzlaf does, the assist in question wasn’t necessarily typical.

Either way, hitting this milestone gives us a chance to ponder where Getzlaf ranks among the NHL’s best, whether it comes to pure playmaking or point producing overall. With 240 goals to go with those 600 points (and considering his often-scary shot), goalies and defenses have to respect that aspect of his game, too.

Let’s ponder where he ranks among the best in a few ways.

Since Getzlaf debuted in 2005-06, he’s generated those 240 goals and 600 assists for 840 points in just 883 regular-season games. That’s the ninth-highest total in the NHL during that span, trailing Henrik Zetterberg by eight points (his 848 came in 904 games). Getzlaf’s been almost exactly a point-per-game player since he really blossomed in 2007-08, generating 743 points in 744 games, the eighth-best mark. That’s 20 more points that Anze Kopitar in fewer games, and way ahead of his buddy/occasional sparring partner Corey Perry.

Getzlaf is among four players who’ve generated at least 600 assists since 2005-06: Joe Thornton (767), Henrik Sedin (711), and Sidney Crosby (677).

According to Hockey Reference, he’s been in the top 10 in assists on seven occasions and the top 10 in points three times during his career.

The Ducks get knocked for Game 7 failings and other disappointments, yet it’s difficult to pin much of that on Getzlaf.

He has 118 points in 121 career playoff games, the fourth-highest point total since he came into the NHL (once again, right in range of Zetterberg, who’s at 115 in 121 games). You could argue that he’s actually a bit more consistent than Patrick Kane, who’s ahead of him with 123 points but in 127 contests.

Of course, it’s not just about goals and assists, and maybe that’s part of why Getzlaf doesn’t get as much recognition. He can be nasty on the ice, even if Perry tends to draw a greater share of opponents’ ire. Getzlaf didn’t necessarily impress his critics at every turn with how he handled a recent controversy, either.

Also, if you’re the type to mock the follicularly challenged, this flash from the past might be amusing and/or useful:

So, Getzlaf has his critics for both on and off the ice behavior. He’s also had his setbacks, especially if you don’t give him much credit for the Stanley Cup he won as a young player (collecting 17 points in 21 games while averaging 21:43 TOI, by the way).

Love him or hate him, it’s probably fair to call him underrated, at least when you consider how rarely his name comes up in discussions about the league’s most dominant scorers. This latest milestone is a reminder that he’s among the best, particularly when it comes to making plays.

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.

The Buzzer: Senators win, Subban from center, Lehtonen notches 300th win

Getty Images

Players of the Night: 

Bobby Ryan, Ottawa Senators: It’s been a struggle for Ryan this season. He came into the game with just as single goal in 21 games but left with two in 22 while also adding an assist to help the Senators avoid a six-game losing streak.

Tyler Pitlick, Dallas Stars: Pitlick scored twice, bookending Dallas’s five goals in a 5-2 win against the New York Islanders.

P.K. Subban, Nashville Predators: If you continue reading (and you should) you will see Subban’s goal that came from quite a distance. The defenseman notched two in a ___ win against the Vancouver Canucks, powering the Preds to their ninth win in their past 12 games.

Highlights of the Night: 

Brad Marchand fought off Mike Green, and then did this to win in overtime:

Dylan Larkin. Breakway. Shorthanded. Backhand.

Blunder of the Night: 

Yikes, Anders Nilsson. Bravo, P.K.

Factoids of the Night: 

Dallas Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen killed two birds with one stone on Wednesday:

Filip Forsberg accomplished an impressive feat for the second time in his career.



Senators 3, Rangers 2

Stars 5, Islanders 2

Bruins 3, Red Wings 2 (OT)

Predators 7, Canucks 1

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