Vladimir Tarasenko

Getty

PHT Power Rankings: Flyers worth watching

5 Comments

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

The Philadelphia Flyers did something that should have been nearly impossible a season ago by winning 10 games in a row and then somehow missing the playoffs. How does that even happen?

This season they are trying to reverse that performance.

After losing 10 games in a row earlier this season the Flyers now find themselves in a pretty good position to make the playoffs.

After their win in Vegas on Sunday night (only the fourth team to win a game in Vegas in regulation this season) the Flyers find themselves in third place in the Metropolitan Division, just one point behind the second place Penguins and five points behind the first place Washington Capitals. They also have a five-point cushion over the pack of non-playoff teams in the Eastern Conference.

Since that 10-game losing streak came to an end the Flyers are 20-8-2 in the 30 games that have followed. That is a 115-point pace over 82 games.

How many teams have a better record over that stretch? Two. The Boston Bruins and the Vegas Golden Knights.

They have three of the top-17 point producers in the NHL in Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, and Sean Couturier (Giroux and Voracek are both in the top-seven), a great power forward in Wayne Simmonds, and some really intriguing young talent in Shayne Gostisbehere, Ivan Provorov, Travis Konecny, and Nolan Patrick. They just need to get a little more out of Brian Elliott to really be on to something.

They have been on the rise in our power rankings in recent weeks and check in this week just outside of the top-10.

Here is the rest of the list.

The Elites

1. Tampa Bay Lightning — The Lightning have been the top team in the NHL from almost day one. Great group of forwards. One of the top defenseman in the NHL. A front-line starting goalie. Now try to imagine them with Ryan McDonagh on their blue line on top of all of that. It could happen.

2. Boston Bruins — Tuukka Rask went nearly two months between losses in regulation. With him playing like an elite goalie once again the Bruins look like they are going to be a force. Patrice Bergeron is having another wonderful season. Is he an MVP candidate? Maybe he should be. History is not kind to his chances though.

3. Vegas Golden Knights — The more I watch the Golden Knights the more I think they have a legitimate shot to win the Western Conference. Fast. Skilled up front. Good goaltending. They have a lot going for them.

4. Nashville Predators — How much will Mike Fisher be able to provide? Expectations should be kept within reason, but their center depth is ridiculous. That was their biggest undoing in the Stanley Cup Final a year ago. Should not be a problem this year.

The Strong Contenders

5. Winnipeg Jets — The fact they kept winning as much as they did without Mark Scheifele in the lineup is a great example as to how deep this team has become.

6. Washington Capitals — Are they as good as their record? Tough to say because they give up a ton of shots and their possession numbers are not great, but Braden Holtby is a game-changer. So is that Alex Ovechkin guy.

7. Pittsburgh Penguins — Their big three up front with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Phil Kessel is still on a roll right now. Also starting to get on a little bit of  a roll lately? Matt Murray. If he gets going again for this team, watch out.

8. Dallas Stars — Okay, maybe I undersold the Stars a bit in last week’s power rankings. Let’s try to correct that this week.

9. Toronto Maple Leafs — Their defense stinks, but they have a ridiculous group of forwards that can score with anybody in the NHL and a goalie that is playing really, really, really well. They have a tough path through the playoffs, but it is still an exciting team. They have also won eight of their past 10 games entering play on Monday.

10. St. Louis Blues — They do not seem to get a lot of love but they have a really good record, one of the best players in the world in Vladimir Tarasenko, and have won eight of their past 12 games.

Close To Contenders

11. Philadelphia Flyers — At least they are never boring. They have been one of the best teams in the league over the past two months.

12. Los Angeles Kings — I really don’t know what to make of this team. They enter the week on the outside of the playoff picture … but they are also two points away from being in second place in the Pacific Division. They also have the fourth best goal differential in the Western Conference and are still tough to score against and control possession.

The Middle Of The Pack

13. San Jose Sharks — After a slow start to the season Brent Burns is once again one of the top scoring defenders in the NHL. They are going to need him to carry the offense with Joe Thornton sidelined.

14. Minnesota Wild — This is where things start to get a little bit messy in the West. A bunch of teams all thrown together, only separated by a handful of points. The Wild with a healthy Zach Parise and Nino Neiderreiter could be an intriguing team out of that group.

15. Calgary Flames — They better hope Mike Smith‘s injury is not serious. He has been really good this season and they can not afford to lose him.

16. New Jersey Devils — They are trending in the wrong direction. Fortunately they built themselves a nice cushion early in the season, but that cushion is getting smaller and smaller with each loss.

17. Anaheim Ducks — I keep thinking a healthy Ducks team could make a big move but it hasn’t really happened yet. Losses in four of their past six have not helped.

18. Carolina Hurricanes — They keep hanging around and are not going away. They open the week in a playoff spot and have a pretty good shot to end that postseason drought.

19. Columbus Blue Jackets — Really disappointing team right now. I thought the addition of Artemi Panarin was going to be a game-changer for them. He has been great, but the rest of the offense has gone in the tank lately. Now they are in a fight just to make the playoffs.

20. New York Islanders — They are dangerously close to wasting what has been a great offense and great seasons from John Tavares, Josh Bailey and Mat Barzal. The latter is having one of the best rookie seasons we have seen in the NHL in years.

21. Colorado Avalanche — After winning 10 in a row the Avalanche have now dropped six of their past nine. Losing Nathan MacKinnon has hurt a ton.

22. New York Rangers — They pretty much admitted they are going to be sellers and trade off anyone they can. They are still “in it” but once they start dealing players like Rick Nash and Michael Grabner, and perhaps even Ryan McDonagh or Mats Zuccarello, it is hard to see them being in it for much longer.

Buy A Lottery Ticket

23. Florida Panthers — They had a nice winning streak to make things a little interesting, but it was probably too little, too late.

24. Chicago Blackhawks — After losing to the Minnesota Wild in regulation the Blackhawks sit 10 points out of a playoff spot with four teams ahead of them. That might have been it for the Blackhawks this season. Corey Crawford might be back soon but he can not save this season.

25. Detroit Red Wings — Having a 5-2 lead with six minutes to play and then losing by giving up four goals on a five-minute power play might have been one of the low points of the season.

26. Montreal Canadiens — The Canadiens current players are probably tired of hearing about P.K. Subban, but that’s too bad. Historically dumb trades that set a franchise back always get remembered and talked about.

27. Vancouver Canucks — They dominated the Dallas Stars to end what had been a pretty miserable four-game road trip. So they at least have that going for them.

28. Ottawa Senators — They did win four of their past six games but … this team is still not very good. Neither is the entire situation with the team. Like the Rangers they recently hinted that a rebuild is on the way.

29. Edmonton Oilers — There was a four-game stretch here recently where Connor McDavid scored seven goals and recorded 10 points. The Edmonton Oilers won only one of those games. That pretty much sums up what this team is right now. Connor McDavid then a bunch of guys just occupying the roster.

30. Buffalo Sabres — Jack Eichel was the only thing this team really had going for it right now. Now he is injured with a high ankle sprain.

31. Arizona Coyotes — It is not a matter of effort, it is simply a lack of talent. A ridiculously young team with too many holes to compete.

————

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

Crosby, Murray lead Penguins past Blues

2 Comments

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

If you consider the final score of 4-1, you’d think the Pittsburgh Penguins pulverized the St. Louis Blues on Sunday afternoon.

Instead, it was a close game, with the Blues forcing Matt Murray to make some spectacular saves and Sidney Crosby (among others) to score some big goals. In the case of Crosby, he collected his 400th career regular-season goal and then added number 401 into an empty net.

Between injuries and inconsistent play, it’s been a bumpy first season for Murray as the Penguins’ unquestioned top goalie. He’s starting to round into form, however, winning five of his last six games.

Murray & Co. got a little luck, too, as the Blues saw a would-be 2-1 goal was disallowed. Instead, the Penguins scored all three goals in the third period.

The Blues generated a 34-23 shots on goal advantage in this game, but only Kyle Brodziak‘s 1-0 tally beat Murray, and that lead lasted a mere 21 seconds.

The Penguins are now 12-4-1 in 2018, and a win like this could really help them cement a playoff spot. With 66 standings points, Pittsburgh is currently ranked second in the competitive Metropolitan Division, but other rivals have games in hand considering that the Pens have now played in 57 contests.

Games in hand have to be a consideration for the Blues, too. While they’re still in third in the impressive Central Division, the Dallas Stars are only one point behind them with two games in hand.

All things considered, it’s not surprising that this was a tight, well-played game that was a lot closer than the final score indicated.

The Penguins are no strangers to such intensity, and much like in previous triumphs, their best players simply came up big. And, hey, a little luck can’t hurt, either.

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.

WATCH LIVE: Pittsburgh Penguins at St. Louis Blues

Getty
1 Comment

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

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

PROJECTED LINES

Pittsburgh Penguins

Jake GuentzelSidney CrosbyBryan Rust

Carl HagelinEvgeni MalkinPhil Kessel

Zachary Aston-Reese — Riley SheahanConor Sheary

Dominik SimonCarter RowneyRyan Reaves

Brian DumoulinKris Letang

Olli MaattaJustin Schultz

Ian ColeJamie Oleksiak

Starting goalie: Matt Murray

St. Louis Blues

Alexander SteenPaul StastnyVladimir Tarasenko

Jaden SchwartzBrayden SchennPatrik Berglund

Dmitrij JaskinVladimir SobotkaIvan Barbashev

Scottie UpshallKyle BrodziakChris Thorburn

Carl GunnarssonAlex Pietrangelo

Jay BouwmeesterColton Parayko

Robert BortuzzoVince Dunn

Starting goalie: Jake Allen

WATCH LIVE: Minnesota Wild at St. Louis Blues

Getty

[Click here for the Live Stream]

Projected Lineups and starting goalies

Minnesota Wild

Forwards

Jason ZuckerMikko KoivuMikael Granlund
Nino NiederreiterEric StaalTyler Ennis
Zach PariseMatt CullenCharlie Coyle
Marcus FolignoJoel Eriksson EkDaniel Winnik

Defense

Ryan SuterJared Spurgeon
Jonas BrodinMatt Dumba
Gustav OlofssonNate Prosser

Starting Goalie: Devan Dubnyk

[NHL On NBCSN: Wild Look To Put Road Struggles Behind Them In St. Louis]

St. Louis Blues

Forwards

Jaden SchwartzBrayden SchennVladimir Tarasenko
Vladimir SobotkaPaul StastnyAlexander Steen
Ivan BarbashevPatrik BerglundDmitrij Jaskin
Scottie UpshallKyle Brodziak

Defense

Carl GunnarssonAlex Pietrangelo
Jay BouwmeesterColton Parayko
Joel EdmundsonVince Dunn
Robert Bortuzzo

Starting Goalie: Carter Hutton

————

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

Possible trade destinations for Rick Nash

Getty Images
9 Comments

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.