Author: James O'Brien


PHT Morning Skate: Hockey insiders want fighting to stay


PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

The role of the hockey enforcers might be dwindling and fighting continues to decline in the NHL, yet The Hockey News’ poll of player agents, executives and other insiders indicates that those inside the sport are still in favor of fights remaining a part of the game. About the only thing they seemingly want out are “staged fights.” (The Hockey News)

Defector: The Alex Mogilny Story. (Sportsnet)

Down Goes Brown’s quarter-season awards. (Grantland)

Editor’s Note: Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $15,000 Fantasy Hockey league for Wednesday’s NHL games. It’s just $2 to join and first prize is $1,400. Starts Wednesday at 7pm ET. Here’s the FanDuel link.

The coaching adjustments that helped the Sedin twins turn things around. (SB Nation)

Another look at Pat Quinn’s legacy. (Greatest Hockey Legends)

Clever stuff from an Edmonton Oilers fan:

Sharks’ McLellan knows he’s in danger of being fired

Todd McLellan

Even with all that conflicted talk of (maybe, sort of) rebuilding, a 10-9-4 start is disappointing for the San Jose Sharks. Head coach Todd McLellan isn’t oblivious to the pressure that’s mounting, either.

McLellan told the Mercury News that he knows his job is on the line.

“I feel confident with myself and the coaching staff, but I’m also a realist,” McLellan said on Monday. “I know that the team hasn’t performed to the level that any of us are happy with — not just ownership and management, but also coaches and players aren’t happy with the results.”

McLellan added, “I know the business.”

He’s currently in his seventh season with the Sharks, so it’s not as if he hasn’t received a nice array of opportunities to get the job done.

That said, there are some reasons to hope that things might improve. The most optimistic note is that the Sharks finish 2014 with a schedule that’s finally heavy on home games after starting the season with 16 of 21 contests on the road. They play four in a row in San Jose and nine of 11 games at home through Dec. 20.

The team’s possession stats have also been climbing lately, so they might earn a few more bounces here and there, too.

In other words, it’s risky to say that McLellan’s days are numbered. That could change if the Sharks flop at home one too many times, however.

Isles make some history; Are the Flyers headed for trouble?

Travis Hamonic, Jaroslav Halak

It’s pretty tough to deny the notion that the New York Islanders are the hottest team in the NHL.

If you look at the score alone, their Monday performance wasn’t that impressive; they only managed to beat the Philadelphia Flyers 1-0 via a shootout.

Steve Mason deserves credit for grabbing Philly a point, however, as the Islanders poured shots on the beleaguered goalie. The Islanders generated a 46-21 shot advantage tonight, including a 31-14 edge through the second and third period. Mason stopped every shot he saw in regulation and overtime, but Frans Nielsen and John Tavares beat him in the shootout, dropping the Flyers to 0-3 in that department.

Islanders on fire

Beyond similar uniform designs, there haven’t been many valid comparisons between the modern Islanders and the dynastic ones, let alone instances in which the current version comes out on top. They set a mark that even the Bossy – Trottier – Smith hasn’t managed today, however:

Sure, the death of the tie matters here (six of the Islanders wins have come either in overtime or shootouts), but that’s still a fantastic mark.

One big reason is the rising play of Jaroslav Halak. After an up-and-down start to his first season on Long Island, the 29-year-old is currently on a seven-game winning streak. He’s shut out opponents three times in that span and has only allowed eight goals in seven games.

Trouble brewing for Philly?

At 8-9-3, the Flyers haven’t been fantastic, but they’ve avoided flopping like their loudest naysayers predicted. The next month-plus could be a really big test for this group, however.

They only have five home games from now until Jan. 3. It will be crucial to make the most of a four-game homestand in mid-December, as the Flyers otherwise approach the beginning of 2015 on the road. They have plenty of proving to prove with a 2-6-1 away record in 2014-15.

If you ask Mason, scoring a bit more would certainly help:

Time will tell if we’ll look back at tonight’s game as a match between two teams heading on very different paths.

Crosby, Malkin power Penguins, help Fleury grab 300th win

Tampa Bay Lightning v Pittsburgh Penguins

Ultimately, the Pittsburgh Penguins’ star players came through on Monday, while many of the Boston Bruins’ best watched on the sidelines.

Boston managed to stick with Pittsburgh even with key players like Zdeno Chara still injured, yet much like head coach Claude Julien has said, they just haven’t had much margin of error. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to generate Pittsburgh’s three goals, including this electrifying game-winner by Malkin:

This 3-2 overtime win gives Marc-Andre Fleury 300 career regular season victories. His agent Allan Walsh points out that he’s the third youngest goalie to hit the 300 mark.

Crosby scored a goal and two assists while Malkin finished the night with two tallies. Kris Letang collected two helpers of his own and also helped trigger the overtime winner.

The Bruins deserve credit for hanging tough, including carrying the play for chunks of time, as you can see from this Natural Stat Trick graph:


The Bruins saw two goals get disallowed through the first 40 minutes of play. The bounces frequently didn’t go Boston’s way, even though they scored two goals in less than 30 seconds.

The Bruins have now lost two games in a row. Their next game is against the Winnipeg Jets on Friday. After that, it’s a foreboding four-game road trip through the West.

Pittsburgh bounces back from two straight losses against the Islanders and will see the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday.

The worst news for them was that Beau Bennett went down with an injury. He returned for a shift but it didn’t go well:

Stephen Weiss scored two goals tonight (in the NHL, too)

Toronto Maple Leafs v Detroit Red Wings

It’s been more than a year since Stephen Weiss scored a goal in the NHL. Apparently he decided to double up in that area, then, as he found the net twice in the second period of the Detroit Red Wings’ ongoing game against the Ottawa Senators.

Weiss’ first goal since Oct. 14, 2013 came 13:34 into the middle frame, as he beat Craig Anderson with a wrist shot:

Four minutes and 18 seconds later, the 31-year-old beat Anderson again, giving Weiss is 400th career point.

Update: That goal ended up being the game-winner, as Detroit held on to a 4-3 win.

It’s been a brutal few years for Weiss, no doubt. As of this writing, he has four goals and six points in 28 career games with the Red Wings. His last season with the Florida Panthers was miserable, as well, as he only managed a goal and four assists in 17-injury ravaged contests back in 2012-13.

His $4.9 million cap hit expires after the 2017-18 season. Perhaps this is a sign that he can start to make that contract look a little better?

If nothing else, it’s nice to see some life from a player whose injury woes threatened a fall into total irrelevance.