John Klingberg

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The Buzzer: Hot Islanders goalies, Jets take off

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

Players of the Night

  • Much like Jaroslav Halak with his 50-save shutout last night, Thomas Greiss stole the show – and a shutout – for the New York Islanders, stopping all 45 of the Hurricanes’ shots on Friday. He probably deserves the top spot; you can read about his performance here.
  • Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele helped the Jets dominate the Avalanche 6-1. Wheeler collected two goals and one assist, while Scheifele generated three assists. Since returning from an injury, Scheifele is on a three-game point streak, collecting two goals and five helpers. Wheeler continued to produce without Scheifele, but like peanut butter and chocolate, they’re even better together.

Note: if you go after them, you may have to answer to Dustin Byfuglien. That’d probably bad news for you.

Highlights of the Night

This was Patrik Laine‘s 16th power-play goal of 2017-18. Looks like his office covers a lot of ground/ice:

Sean Couturier continues to be a revelation as a top-line center for the Philadelphia Flyers, scoring the overtime-winner against the Blue Jackets:

Columbus carried a substantial shot advantage over Philly, but Sergei Bobrovsky made some great stops:

Factoids

Again, the Islanders’ shutouts are especially impressive because the defense has not been impressive.

Quite a start to Patrik Laine’s career.

Select company for John Klingberg.

Jay Bouwmeester: 1,100 games, countless surprised facial expressions.

Scores

Flyers 2, Blue Jackets 1 (OT)
Islanders 3, Hurricanes 0
Jets 6, Avalanche 1
Stars 2, Blues 1

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: Schenn fights, scores twice; Hoffman hits 100

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Players of the Night:

Brayden Schenn, St. Louis Blues: Another player who scored twice on Thursday night. Schenn set the tone early, fighting Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog three seconds after puck drop in the first period. He backed that up with his 22nd and 23rd goals of the season.

Sean Monahan, Calgary Flames: Boring Sean Monahan has 27 goals on the season after scoring a brace in the Flames 3-2 win against the New Jersey Devils.

P.K. Subban, Nashville Predators: Subban also score two goals, including the game-tying goal late in the third period to force overtime against the Ottawa Senators. Subban’s second goal was his 15th of the season, matching a career-high.

Nick Cousins, Arizona Coyotes: OK, last one. Cousins scored twice, and his second with 19 seconds left in the third period forced overtime, where Clayton Keller fired home the winner to give the desert dogs a 4-3 come-from-behind win.

Other two-goal scorers: Tyler Seguin, Travis Konecny and Joe Pavelski.

Highlights of the Night:

Mike Hoffman scored his 100th NHL goal in style:

Tic-tac-goal:

Kyle Turris got a nice welcome back to Ottawa:

Factoids of the Night:

A reminder of how good John Klingberg has been:

Boeser doing more things:

MISC:

Scores:

Flames 3, Devils 2

Flyers 5, Canadiens 3

Senators 4, Predators 3 (OT)

Lightning 5, Canucks 2

Blues 6, Avalanche 1

Coyotes 4, Wild 3 (OT)

Stars 4, Blackhawks 2

Golden Knights 5, Sharks 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

P.K. Subban strong candidate for Norris Trophy

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The tug-of-war between perception and reality is one of things that make sports so fascinating.

P.K. Subban stands as one of the most interesting examples in the NHL. Subban’s described as a “flashy” player, and it’s unlikely that he really minds the descriptor. The Nashville Predators star relishes the spotlight, and to delight of non-sticks-in-the-mud, Subban tends to have a plan to entertain when the lights are so bright.

Still, such a demeanor can make people believe that there’s no steak to go with the sizzle.

In Subban’s case, sometimes that means that his defensive strengths go underrated, as the Tennessean’s Adam Vingan reported during All-Star weekend.

“I take pride in the defensive part of the game. … That’s what ultimately won me a job in the NHL,” Subban said. “It wasn’t my offense. I take pride in that, and I just hope that continues. I think people would sound pretty foolish if they continued to try to say that I can’t play defensively.”

Really, though, it’s that combination of strengths that makes Subban worthy of Norris consideration.

After all, as much as he’s turning heads as a shutdown guy, it’s no coincidence that people also can’t help but notice that he’s the Predators’ points leader with 40 points (matching his total from 2016-17, his debut with Nashville), and that he already has 13 goals, two shy of his career-high. And we’re barely in February.

[John Klingberg is making an argument of his own.]

Gaining trust

Subban’s defensive brilliance isn’t merely anecdotal; you can see Peter Laviolette’s trust build in the star in a variety of ways.

After spending at least 50 percent of his zone starts in the offensive zone during the end of his Canadiens days, he’s seeing more and more of a defensive burden, beginning a career-high of 59 percent of his shifts in the defensive zone this season (via Hockey Reference).

That memorable run to the 2017 Stanley Cup Final likely won over some doubters, as Subban made life miserable for big names like Jonathan Toews.

One wonders how much of the Subban-related misconceptions come down to mistakes by the Montreal Canadiens. Simply put, some might find it difficult to shake memories of the way Michel Therrien used Subban at times; during the 2013-14 season, Subban averaged just 20 seconds of shorthanded time per game.

Perhaps some of his work in Nashville gets lost in the shuffle a bit simply because he’s part of a great defensive corps? Subban’s now killing almost three minutes of power-play time per night, yet he’s a little behind Roman Josi and Mattias Ekholm, who also log similar overall ice time to P.K.

A wide-open race

Subban’s 13 goals and 40 points in 50 games should impress, but when it comes to the Norris voting, he’ll be in tough. With Erik Karlsson downgrading from Superman to Batman this season, others might have a chance, and Subban has John Klingberg to contend with when it comes to voters who eyeball scoring.

As you can see from this fairly recent comparison, Klingberg can probably relate to Subban in feeling stung by assumptions about merely being a scoring threat:

***

There’s no shame in falling just short of a Norris Trophy, especially since Subban already has one on his resume from the 2012-13 season. The real shame, then, would be to ignore just how fantastic Subban has become as an all-around talent.

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.

Possible trade destinations for Rick Nash

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Not long ago, PHT passed along word that the New York Rangers have reportedly asked Rick Nash to hand over his no-trade lists.

Basically, it breaks down as: 18 teams he wouldn’t accept a trade to and 12 teams he’d accept a trade to.

As TSN’s Bob McKenzie notes in that post, it’s possible that Nash could try to short-circuit a potential move by listing 12 teams that wouldn’t be likely to have interest. It’s also worth noting that we don’t know how either of Nash’s lists shake out.

While much is up in the air, there are some objective facts worth keeping in mind: Nash is 33, so it’s that much more likely that he’d be seen as a pure rental. As a pending UFA, he could easily return to the Rangers during the summer, if there’s mutual interest.

Nash also carries a colossal $7.8 million cap hit this season. On the bright side, Cap Friendly estimates his remaining cap hit as $2.6M as of today; either way, a team might prefer that the Rangers retain at least part of his salary, or eat a funky contract in return.

One other note: back in June 2016, the New York Post’s Larry Brooks reported that Nash would not accept a trade to a Canadian team on a previous no-trade list. It’s unclear if that stance has changed, as he might be more amenable to such an idea in a contract year.

Anyway, it could be a fun exercise to ponder 12 potential destinations for Nash. Keep in mind that this isn’t necessarily a list of the 12 most likely destinations. In a lot of cases, it came down to entertainment value, so your mileage may vary.

Now, in no particular order while assuming that the Rangers wouldn’t send Nash to the Islanders:

Columbus Blue Jackets

How fun would a reunion be?

Back in 2002, Nash became the Blue Jackets’ first-ever No. 1 overall pick after they selected fourth overall in 2000 and eighth in 2001. In nine seasons with Columbus, Nash was often the only bright side on shaky roster, scoring almost 300 goals. The nostalgia factor would be extremely cool here.

But it’s not just about that.

Nash has experience with John Tortorella, something that should never be underestimated. This Blue Jackets team seems like it should be taking the next step forward; maybe an old hero could give them that extra shove?

(It helps that Columbus has relatively solid salary cap flexibility, too.)

Pittsburgh Penguins

The Rangers might not want to enhance their division rival’s chances of winning three in a row, but what if Pittsburgh makes them a great offer?

Pittsburgh would probably need to package a contract or two to make this work (Ian Cole, maybe a Carl Hagelin reunion?), yet that thought might sweeten the pot for the Blueshirts.

Injuries have really been an issue for the Penguins, so Nash would be a nice fit, especially since he’d likely do well in their aggressive offense. Who knows how many shots this core has left, so why not take a big swing with Nash?

Washington Capitals

Bonus points in this case for uniting kindred spirits.

The Capitals put up big numbers in the regular season, only to suffer heartbreak in the playoffs, though the attacks on their character often feel like a bit much.

Rick Nash puts up big numbers in the reg–you know what, you probably get where that is going.

It would be poetic if the Capitals and Nash finally broke through together, much like that time A-Rod actually tore up the MLB playoffs.

St. Louis Blues

Injuries and regression took the bloom off the rose a bit for the Blues – remember when they were one of the hottest teams in the league? – but Nash could really tie the room together, especially if they insist on loading up with that top line of Jaden Schwartz, Brayden Schenn, and Vladimir Tarasenko.

Nash – Paul StastnyAlexander Steen could be an extremely expensive and potentially dangerous second line, with plenty of motivation considering that Stastny, like Nash, is in a contract year.

You could probably assign some of that Capitals logic to Nash with St. Louis, too, as they’ve been snakebitten around spring time far too often.

San Jose Sharks

Let’s end this trilogy of torment with the Sharks (granted, San Jose shook off at least some of its baggage in making the 2016 Stanley Cup Final.)

This Sharks team is getting old enough that Nash won’t stick out like a sore thumb, so that’s nice.

Speaking of soreness, the Sharks’ trade decisions may hinge on Joe Thornton‘s knee, and adding Nash would make a lot of sense with a reasonably healthy Jumbo Joe. The two enjoyed some great scoring times together in Switzerland during one of the NHL’s lockouts, so maybe they’d rekindle that magic again? Thornton’s one of the rare expiring contract guys who’s actually making slightly more than Nash at $8M.

Dallas Stars

Consider how imbalanced the Stars’ scoring has been this season, and then imagine what would happen to this team if one or more of Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, Alexander Radulov, and John Klingberg got hurt?

Nash could add some punch to a team that’s making strides under Ken Hitchcock. You might not think that Dallas is a team that needs to worry about its window closing, but consider this: Tyler Seguin’s $5.75M cap hit expires after 2018-19. If they lock him up after that (psst. they should), then they might not have the cash for future rentals.

Why not stream a blockbuster while you still can?

Boston Bruins

Most of these teams would need the Rangers to take on a shaky contract, retain some salary, or both. The B’s rank as one of the tougher nuts to crack in that regard, and I’d wager that they’d probably be a better destination for fellow Rangers trade piece Michael Grabner with all of that in mind.

That said, it would be an interesting fit. During a playoff series, someone might miraculously slow down the locomotive that is the Brad MarchandPatrice BergeronDavid Pastrnak line. If so, a supplemental scorer such as Nash could make a sneaky-impressive Bruins team that much more formidable.

Winnipeg Jets

So, we’re going to name a Canadian team here or there, just in case. As Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos said on Saturday:

“Maybe, just maybe, a guy like Rick Nash would be of interest,” Kypreos said. “I don’t know whether or not that would fit in with where he is in his list of teams that he’d want to go to. But that’s the type of guy I think that Winnipeg would be looking at.”

Beyond the Jets’ legitimate potential for a deep run (or at least a first ever playoff win), imagine how much offense Nash could generate if he landed on a line with Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele? Hey, if Nash waited until closer to the trade deadline, he’d bypass a good chunk of the brutal Winnipeg winter as well.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Winnipeg seems more realistic than Toronto if Nash resists the fishbowl atmosphere of Canadian media coverage. That said, maybe playing for Mike Babcock would make a difference?

Babs loves his veteran forwards, and his heart likely warms for Canadian Olympians, so that’s two boxes Nash checks off.

Again, this one might be far-fetched, yet Nash in a Maple Leafs jersey sounds pretty fun.

Anaheim Ducks

Ignore the Ducks’ youthful, impressive defensemen for a moment and consider their aging veteran forwards. Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry are both 32, while Ryan Kesler is 33. Much like Nash, these guys have a lot of mileage on them as longtime go-to players.

It’s been an odd duck season for Anaheim, but if they can get it together (and lock up a playoff spot), few teams would be all that eager to face this team in the playoffs. Nash could be that boost they need.

Los Angeles Kings

At least when it comes to forwards, the California teams sure feel a little creaky these days, don’t they?

Much like with the Sharks and Joe Thornton, a flawed Kings team could be a dangerous dark horse candidate if a) they land Nash and b) their injured center – in this case, Jeff Carter – can come back and be at least mostly himself.

Then again, the old guard in L.A. loved going for power forwards in Jarome Iginla and Milan Lucic, and those short-term moves left quite a bit to be desired, so maybe this wouldn’t appeal enough to the Kings.

Philadelphia Flyers

You could put a number of teams in this 12th spot. Maybe the Devils and Rangers would make nice long enough to find a deal? Perhaps the Hurricanes would be proactive and try to fight their way out of purgatory?

Philly might be a little harsh for a streaky scorer like Nash, but look at that current lineup, and imagine it with that little extra “oomph.” Nash could allow the Flyers to move Jakub Voracek back with Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier. He could fit into that deadly top power play or maybe echo Phil Kessel in Pittsburgh by giving this team a more varied attack.

Despite a frustrating four-game losing streak, the Flyers are still in wild card position as of this writing. GM Ron Hextall has done a masterful job breaking the organization’s old, reckless habits of going after headline-stealing trades and signings. Still, every now and then it actually pays to be bold. They merely need to consult the other team in their state for prime examples.

***

To reiterate, this is not a list of the 12 teams Nash would accept trades to. He still might refuse a trip to the Great White North. He may only want to stay as close to NYC as possible.

That said, it can often be as fun to picture different trade scenarios as it is to watch real ones play out.

What are some other teams that would make sense? And would you even want Nash on your team? Do tell.

NHL.com’s Dan Rosen reasonably throws the Nashville Predators in the mix, too:

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.

Stars’ John Klingberg benefiting from improved all-around game

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TAMPA — John Klingberg knows his name is in the mix for the Norris Trophy and he takes pride in that observers are noting how improved his all-around game has become since breaking into the NHL during the 2014-15 season.

It’s easy to see the offensive side of the 25-year-old Gothenburg, Sweden native. He’s hit double digits in goals in each of his first four NHL seasons and has six through 50 games this season with the Dallas Stars. Since his rookie season, Klingberg is third in the league among defenseman with 195 points and is fifth averaging 0.92 points per game.

What did Klingberg do differently over the summer to warrant such high praise? Not much, really. He trained in a similar fashion with his brother, Carl, who plays in Switzerland, Victor Svedberg of the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs and Christian Folin of the Los Angeles Kings. It’s been more of a mental thing, he says.

“I just feel the whole team and myself have been really mentally prepared [since] summer to come into the season and really change things with how we want to be prepared as a team and how we want to play hockey,” Klingberg said during NHL All-Star Media Day. “From last year, it’s a lot of redemption with the disappointing season that we had and just coming in mentally prepared for this season.”

That mental prep has helped the Stars to the current wild spot they reside through 50 games. During the few days away from meaningful hockey games, Klingberg spent some time picking the brain of fellow Central Division All-Star Alex Pietrangelo, a fellow defenseman whose name has also been bandied about in the midseason Norris discussion. The Stars blue liner said he wanted to find out how Ken Hitchcock helped his game while coaching the Blues.

Pietrangelo evolved into a top defenseman and Klingberg’s entering that stratosphere. As his offensive game remains one of the best in the league among defenseman, he can sense his all-around game is catching up.

“I feel like my defensive game has evolved, but I feel right now the thing that has changed is that I’m making really good plays with the puck all the time,” he said. “I don’t get turnovers much and I don’t have to waste as much energy going back chasing the puck and playing defensively. I feel like I’ve been pretty good defensive player before that, I’m just not playing as much defense as I’ve done before.”

Klingberg’s offensive talents can be traced back to his youth when he started playing as a forward. At 15, he switched to defense, but the transition to the back end didn’t see the evaportation of those forward skills, which still help him today.

“You have the chance to make more skill plays when you’re playing forward and that’s something I brought to me when I played ‘D’ as well,” he said. “I didn’t want to change tactics too much. I didn’t think about it too much when I changed to ‘D’. But obviously that and playing pond hockey and playing street hockey in summers, that’s where you get all the skills.”

Klingberg was inspired as a young defenseman by Erik Karlsson. As both played in the Frolunda system, the Stars blue liner got to see the future Ottawa Senators captain on a regular basis, soaking in every aspect of his game. Karlsson would end up going in the first round in the 2008 draft, well on his way to an impactful professional career. Klingberg went in the fifth round two years later, but didn’t think the NHL was a realistic possibility.

“No, not at all. That was always the dream, but I knew there was always a lot of hard work ahead,” he said. “I feel like this is the first year I actually started to figure out how to play an all-around [game] and saving energy for playing that [many] minutes as well. That’s going to be a lot of credit to Hitchcock and how he changed my game — not a lot, just a little bit.

“It takes time to be a good defenseman in this league and I feel like I’m taking strides this year and I can only get better.”

————

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.