John Tavares

Canadiens need to look in mirror before moving forward


The Montreal Canadiens have been a colossal disappointment in 2017-18. Instead of building on their first-round playoff exit from last year, the Habs have bottomed out as one of the worst teams in the league from day one of the season.

The highs have been short and the lows have been long, but it sounds like current general manager Marc Bergevin will get an opportunity to improve his underwhelming roster. As owner and team president Geoff Molson reiterated at a team foundation event on Friday morning, Bergevin isn’t going anywhere.

“It has not been a satisfactory season so far,” Molson told PHT on Friday morning. “Marc and I both know that, the whole organization knows that. And I think if you asked every player, every coach and every person that’s involved, they’d all say the same thing. We have to get better. Marc knows that and I tell him that. He acknowledges that and he agrees with it, of course.

“There’s no question that I think Marc is very capable of accomplishing that, but he and I both know that this season’s been unsatisfactory.”

Don’t be mistaken, Molson also said the team will make adjustments to the way they operate before the start of next season. Someone is going to take the fall for this disaster, but it won’t be Bergevin.

When asked if the Canadiens have to make the playoffs next season, Molson hesitated before saying that he wasn’t sure how he wanted to express himself regarding next season. Those are things he wants to answer closer to next fall, but he also added that it’s important for the team to always do everything they can to be competitive every year.

Like most teams, the Habs will be in the mix for John Tavares if he becomes a free agent on July 1st. Whether or not they rebuild or retool might depend on if they can land Tavares, which has be considered a serious long shot at this point. But if he does decide to join former Team Canada teammates Carey Price and Shea Weber in Montreal, the Canadiens would once again be seen as legitimate playoff hopefuls.

“Do we need a franchise player? Probably,” said Molson, without ever mentioning the Islanders forward’s name. “And that’s something I see as an opportunity for us.”

Who knows what the plan is if they can’t land Tavares in free agency. All we really know for sure, is that the owner expects everyone to be better heading into next season. Molson isn’t putting the blame on any one particular person, but he acknowledged several times that the way this season unfolded was not acceptable.

“I’m not really going to point any fingers,” said Molson.

“So you can look at players, you can look at coaching, you can look at scouting, you can look at player development, you can look at the general manager, you could look everywhere and say there are areas to improve, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

It’ll be interesting to see just how long it takes for those improvements to turn into on-ice success for a that hasn’t won a Stanley Cup in 25 years.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Marc Savard and the art of taping your hockey stick


“Take care of your sticks and they’ll take care of you.”

That’s the advice that Marc Savard stresses to viewers in his YouTube videos where he recreates how various NHL players tape their hockey sticks.

The long-time NHLer, who announced his retirement in January, is obsessed with the finer details of a tape job and was known to retape the sticks of teammates if he was displeased with how they prepared it for games.

This leap into the world of YouTube was inspired by Savard’s Jan. 23 appearance on the “31 Thoughts” podcast with Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman. Savard told the story about how he would retape the sticks of former teammate Jason York. A few days later, he sent out a Tweet to his 57,000-plus followers asking if his they would want to watch a video of how he prepares his sticks.

There was plenty of interest, and “Taping Twigs with Savvy” was born.

“It’s amazing. We had no idea how this would ever go,” Savard told Pro Hockey Talk on Thursday. “Me and my wife just went upstairs in our game room one night and shot a video and 40,000 viewers later we decided to do another one. Now people are writing in what they want to see.

“It’s just kind of taken off. We’re having a lot of fun with it. We’re going to keep doing it until it runs out of steam, but right now there’s plenty more tape jobs to do so we’re looking forward to it.”

As of Friday, Savard has over 4,500 subscribers to his channel and has made eight videos featuring the tape jobs of current players like Connor McDavid, David Pastrnak and William Nylander, and ex-NHLers like Mario Lemieux and his former New York Rangers teammate Wayne Gretzky. The sticks used are from his personal collection, which were acquired during his career or through connections he still has in the hockey world. The McDavid, for example, he received from Milan Lucic and there’s an incoming John Tavares stick, thanks to Johnny Boychuk.

The increase in popularity has also earned Savard a sponsor in Howie’s Tape, who hopped onboard with the latest installment.


The videos are simple. Savard takes the viewer through every roll of the tape job, from the knob to the shaft to the blade, and explains in detail the how and why of it all. The obsession dates back to his youth street hockey days when he would play goal. It wasn’t odd to find him in the basement painting his pads to get the right look. He’d focus on every aspect of his equipment, and eventually that attention shifted to his sticks, which continued as his hockey career took him to the NHL.

(He’s so passionate about it that he used to tape the sticks of every kid on his son’s hockey team.)

Savard has two simple rules for a great tape job:

• Keep the tape nice and tight — a phrase you’ll hear him say often — as you go around the stick. Make sure there are no crevices or wrinkles.

• When you find yourself with excess tape around the toe, trim it neatly with sharp scissors. That can make or break a tape job, he stresses.

Some of the tape jobs Savard saw up close and in person, like the Gretzky or Phil Kessel. Others are based off what he sees from watching a game on television. He picks up the finer details and is then able to recreate it as close as possible on the sticks in his collection. “I’m not always bang on but I’m definitely always very close if you ask players,” he says.

It’s not just fans who are watching. Players check out Savard’s videos as well, according to some notes he’s received since his first video hit Jan. 29. The entire process is also a family affair. His wife films each episode while his son runs the YouTube channel.


So whose hockey stick tape job does Savard admire these days? For one, he’s a fan of Artemi Panarin’s look, which he featured in episode two. The Panarin, which is black tape along the blade and white tape on the toe, he also uses in men’s league. Then there’s Jamie Benn, whose tape job Savard likes because it’s simple, right on the middle of the blade, and Kessel’s for his candy cane look.

Which ones drive him crazy? For one, David Pastrnak’s — just look at it:

Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Then there’s McDavid. “His tape job is not that bad it’s just that he continues to do the same tape job throughout the whole game, which is amazing to me how he doesn’t in-between periods to retape it because it starts peeling up at the bottom. I don’t know how he uses it, but he does it.”


When Savard announced his retirement in January, he also announced his desire to get into coaching, with junior hockey being his preferred starting point. There weren’t many gigs available in the middle of the season, so in the meantime he’s entered the world of broadcasting having appeared on Hockey Central at Noon on Sportsnet, Fan590 radio and he has a weekly spot on SirusXM’s The Power Play every Wednesday.

“I’m kind of going in the broadcast direction right now in hoping that something jumps up for me in the coaching area,” he said.

For now, Savard will continue answering requests and tape sticks in the fashion of current and former NHL stars. Maybe down the line he’ll get into other hockey gear-related topics, but he’s happy to share this passion with others and educate players and fans on the dos and don’ts of a fine tape job.


Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

PHT Morning Skate: Backes to have disciplinary hearing; Tavares isn’t having fun

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

• The Score grades every teams worst contract, which is pretty interesting. Carey Price, Milan Lucic and Brent Seabrook are all on the list. (The Score)

• The Blue Jackets pairing of Ian Cole and David Savard have some solid facial hair, but that’s not what makes them a solid duo. (Columbus Dispatch)

• Bruins forward David Backes will have a hearing with the NHL’s Department of Player Safety for his hit on Detroit’s Frans Nielsen. (Stanley Cup of Chowder)

• Some teams give capes or hats to the player of the game, but the Capitals have decided to hand out a motorcycle helmet with LED lights. (Russian Machine Never Breaks)

• It’s been a tough ride back from neck surgery, but Kris Letang finally seems to be rounding into form. (

• Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Mychal Kendricks will be part of NBC’s hockey broadcast tonight. He’ll be standing inside the glass with hockey analyst Pierre McGuire during the first period of tonight’s game between the Flyers and Penguins. (

John Tavares admitted that he’s not having a ton of fun right now. (Newsday)

• Blue Shirt Blogs takes a deeper look at all the new prospects the Rangers acquired before the trade deadline. (Blue Shirt Blogs)

• You think the Edmonton Oilers regret trading Taylor Hall away? Whether they do or they don’t, he’s made quite a statement over the last few weeks. (Edmonton Sun)

• The Sharks have allowed the first goal of a hockey game pretty often, their fans shouldn’t be worried by that. (NBC Bay Area)

• Up top, check out the highlights from last night’s game between the Washington Capitals and Anaheim Ducks.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

NHL Power Rankings: The Panthers are not going away


Let’s hop in our time machine and go back one month when the Florida Panthers were just starting to string together a couple of wins.

That little surge, combined with the fact that they still had a ton of games in hand on every team in the Eastern Conference, sparked a bit of a conversation that maybe they could still make a run at one of the Wild Card spots in the Eastern Conference.

So I looked into a bit and concluded that, while not totally out of it, it may have been a case of too little, too late (then I went and doubled down on it a few days later).

It seems I may have underestimated their chances.

All the Panthers have done since then is go 9-2-0, win six in a row, and climb to within a single point of a Wild Card spot entering play on Monday.

Let’s take a look at that race now, and notice not only the games played column, but also the fact the Panthers have more regulation/overtime wins than every team they are competing with, which would be very important for potential tiebreaker situations.

So maybe I was wrong.

This doesn’t mean they are going to make the playoffs (again, games in hand are not necessarily wins in hand) and they still have to maintain at least a similar pace the rest of the way (and probably get some help), but I was definitely wrong to underestimate their chances because they are still very much in it.

Their hot streak helps them make a big leap in the Power Rankings this week.

We also have a new team in the top spot as well as a new team in the basement.

To the rankings!

The Elites

1. Nashville Predators — They have the best points percentage in the NHL, they enter the week having won eight games in a row, they just added Ryan Hartman and Mike Fisher to a team that was already loaded. Find a better team in the NHL right now. You can not.

2. Tampa Bay Lightning — They didn’t get Erik Karlsson, but Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller are two pretty big additions to a team that is already as good as it gets on paper (and on the ice). Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos are crushing everybody right now.

3. Boston Bruins — That 8-4 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins was pretty impressive. Even more impressive: They did it without Patrice Bergeron.

4. Winnipeg Jets — One of the best offensive teams in the league managed to get a little more powerful after adding Paul Stastny without giving up anything off of its roster.

5. Vegas Golden Knights — They hit a little bit of a rough patch recently and lost their hold on the top spot in the Western Conference, but they are still running away with the Pacific Division crown.

The rest of the contenders

6. Toronto Maple Leafs — They are 13-3-2 in their past 18 games and are currently without their best player, Auston Matthews. Scary deep offense and a fun team to watch. As long as Frederik Andersen keeps doing what he is doing (maybe rest him a bit?) they will be a tough team to knock out.

7. Philadelphia Flyers — How will the goaltending hold up is a question that always gets asked regarding the Philadelphia Flyers. It is still true this season. Elite skill players up front and a lot of good young talent on this roster. This team has been on a roll for the better part of the past three months.

8. Pittsburgh Penguins — Without a healthy Matt Murray in net they are in trouble. Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith are not going to get them through a playoff series the way Marc-Andre Fleury did in relief a year ago.

9. Washington Capitals Alex Ovechkin is closing in on 600 career goals, another 50-goal season, another goal-scoring crown. He very well could be the greatest goal scorer of all time. Tell me why I am wrong.

10. Minnesota Wild — I think, just like the Capitals just ahead of them, they are probably a little worse than their record might indicate, but you can not change the results that already happened. And hey, Eric Staal is incredible again.

All of these teams seem the same

11. Florida Panthers — Aleksander Barkov is one of the best two-way players in hockey.

12. San Jose Sharks — It is a little surprising they are as high up in the standings as they are. Neither goaltender has been great (nor have they been bad; they have  just been pretty good), their top players are not having great seasons offensively, and Joe Thornton has already missed more than a quarter of the season. Yet here they are, second place in the Pacific Division, on their way to the playoffs (probably).

13. Dallas Stars — John Klingberg should be getting more consideration for the Norris Trophy. He is having a stellar season for the suddenly defensive Stars.

14. New Jersey Devils — It is the Taylor Hall show in New Jersey. He is, quite literally, carrying the team to a playoff spot. They should send the Edmonton Oilers a big thank you card.

15. Anaheim Ducks — The two-headed monster of John Gibson and Ryan Miller has been nothing short of sensational in net for the Ducks this season. They have matching .925 save percentages and played a big role in keeping the team afloat while they dealt with injury after injury earlier this season.

16. Los Angeles Kings — Sometimes they look like a force. Sometimes they look boring and dull. This is what they are. A mediocre, middle of the pack team that has a good system in place but just lacks talent beyond its top four or five players.

17. Colorado Avalanche — Nathan MacKinnon is having one of the best offensive seasons of the past 10 years. Even though he has been around for a while it is important to keep in mind he is still only 22 years old.

18. Columbus Blue Jackets — Overall they have been a disappointment this season. One player that has not been a disappointment, however, is Artemi Panarin. Electrifying every time he has the puck.

19. Calgary Flames — Since Mike Smith went out of the lineup they are just 3-6-1 and falling back in the playoff race.

20. Carolina Hurricanes — With only two wins in their past nine games they are hanging on by a thread in the playoff race.

21. St. Louis Blues — The Blues are falling apart. They are losing games, they traded one of their top players at the deadline, they lost two more players to injury on Monday.

Lottery time

22. New York Rangers — Henrik Lundqvist won back-to-back games where he had to make 50 saves. This is the 2017-18 New York Rangers in a nutshell.

23. Detroit Red Wings — Sometimes I look at their team page on CapFriendly and wonder how in the world they will get better in the coming seasons.

24. Chicago Blackhawks — They have only won four of their past 16 games. The only reason I do not have them lower is because so many teams below them have been even worse.

25. Arizona Coyotes — Hey, give them some credit, they have gone on a bit of a roll here recently with an 8-2-1 mark in their past 11 games. Young team gaining some confidence? Just a blip on the radar at the end of the season that doesn’t really mean anything? That is all still yet to be determined, but they definitely have played better recently.

26. Vancouver Canucks — Brock Boeser will not win the rookie of the year (Mathew Barzal has that locked up, let’s be honest) but he is still the one thing on the Canucks worth watching right now.

27. Buffalo Sabres — They might actually be the worst team in the NHL, but they have won managed to win three of their past five games, including games against the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning. So points for that.

28. Ottawa Senators — The good news is Senators fans get a few more weeks to watch Erik Karlsson before he gets traded this summer. So at least they have that going for them.

29. Montreal Canadiens — They have three wins in their past 11 games. Two of them came against an Islanders team that is circling the drain. The other came against a Rangers team that was in the process of trading most of its roster.

30. Edmonton Oilers — Milan Lucic has one point — an assist — in his past 17 games. That is an ugly, ugly, ugly contract.

31. New York Islanders — Are they actually *the worst* team in the NHL?

No, they are not. But my goodness are they tough to watch right now and deserve to be in the basement this week. Stick with me here for a second: They have lost six in a row. They have only won four of their past 16 games. They have given up 50 shots in a game four times during that stretch (only one other team in the NHL has given up more than 50 shots in a game more than twice all season) and Doug Weight seems to be, I don’t know, totally out to lunch behind the bench.

After Saturday’s loss in Pittsburgh he called out rookie Mathew Barzal by name for staying on the ice too long during a power play in overtime (even though he had called a timeout just before that power play started, presumably to give his top players a rest so they could be on the ice for that power play). When asked about another 50-shot debacle he wrote it off as being no big deal because of where the shots were coming from and referenced a 5 p.m. ET start time after playing at 7 the night before and called it a “good effort by the guys.” The reality is had it not been for rookie goalie Christopher Gibson, making his first start of the season, standing on his head for most of the game they would have been obliterated on the scoreboard. The only two goals the Islanders scored that day were because the other team’s goalie literally fell on his butt while a weak shot was sliding toward the net and then later because an opposing defender accidentally kicked the puck in his own net.

It was not a good effort.

Plus, it just makes me mad they have wasted such great offensive seasons from John Tavares, Mathew Barzal, Anders Lee, Josh Bailey and Jordan Eberle.

Worst team overall? No. A deserving spot in the basement this week for the way the past few weeks — and the season as a whole — have gone? Yes.


Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

The Buzzer: MacKinnon’s Hart push, Lundqvist stops 50


Players of the Night

Those are nice choices, but Wednesday provided the latest convenient reminder that Nathan MacKinnon shouldn’t be lost in the shuffle, even after missing a handful of games with injury issues.

The speedy Colorado Avalanche star helped his team win a key game in regulation against the Calgary Flames tonight. In doing so, MacKinnon scored one goal and one assist, pushing his already-career-high season points total to 71. He’s nearing his first 30-goal campaign, as this makes for his 29th. N0t bad for a forward whose shooting skill was genuinely – and honestly, fairly – questioned, eh?

MacKinnon’s 71 points come in 55 games, which translates to 1.29 points-per-game. During an 82-game season, that would translate to about 106 points. The one convenient thing about his injury is that it showed that how the Avs would operate without him (spoiler: not nearly as well).

He’s really been asserting his will lately, too. During his previous two-goal, one assist performance, he fired nine shots on goal. Tonight he generated eight. In scoring five goals and five assists for 10 points in his last five games, he’s fired 31 SOG. Dominant stuff.

  • One long-standing Ranger and one newcomer deserve consideration.

The holdover is Henrik Lundqvist, who exhaustingly made 50 saves – most in regulation – to help the Rangers with in overtime. He couldn’t hold off Brock Boeser (two goals), Bo Horvat (one goal, two assists), and the Canucks in every instance, but he was the reason why they won.

That said, Ryan Spooner is off to a tremendous start with the Rangers. After generating two assists in his debut with the Rangers, he generated three helpers on Wednesday, including an assist on the OT-clincher.

  • Solid nights in victory for Jason Pominville and Jonathan Drouin, who both notched a goal and an assist. Pominville’s goal secured an overtime upset for Buffalo over Tampa Bay.

Highlights and lowlights

Speaking of Spooner, here’s that OT-winner he set up for John Gilmour:

Jaden Schwartz to Alex Pietrangelo on what went from an insurance goal to a decisive one for the Blues:

Part of what makes the Islanders so frustrating is that they find ways to lose, even as Mathew Barzal and John Tavares do amazing things:

Johnny Gaudreau probably deserves to get more mentions in MVP talk, as well, but not for nights like Wednesday. On the bright side, he piled up PIM and provided this GIF-friendly reaction.

Then again, it’s a stealth highlight considering the fact that he’d avoided a serious injury from Sam Bennett‘s misplaced skate blade:


Perhaps we should call them the Buffalo Spoilers?

If you have issues with Lundqvist allowing five goals but getting recognition, maybe this will help soothe such concerns:

If not, well …


Canadiens 3, Islanders 1
Sabres 2, Lightning 1 (OT)
Blues 2, Red Wings 1
Avalanche 5, Flames 2
Rangers 6, Canucks 5 (OT)

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.