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.
It sounds like Sam Bennett is making some nice progress toward a return for the Calgary Flames. (Calgary Sun)
Former Colorado Avalanche GM Francois Giguere is focusing on helping players handle their finances. (Denver Post)
Five coaching blunders that may or may not compare to Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll’s disastrous play call. (The Hockey News)
Editor’s Note: Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $30,000 Fantasy Hockey league for Tuesday’s NHL games. It’s just $2 to join and first prize is $3,000. Starts Tuesday at 7pm ET. Here’s the FanDuel link.
It might be best for the Columbus Blue Jackets to “focus on the future” rather than this season. (Columbus Dispatch)
As festive as it must have been when the Los Angeles Kings visited the White House, the most memorable thing to come from the photo op was probably Marian Gaborik giving Gary Bettman a hard time for his foot wear on Instagram.
Here’s the photo:
Gaborik’s caption reads: “Tough shoes Mr. Bettman at the White House @nhl @nhlpa.”
When you look back at January, and really the 2014-15 season so far, things are going really well for the Montreal Canadiens.
The good news
Carey Price is generating buzz for a Hart Trophy win, not just a Vezina. Max Pacioretty keeps firing shots on goal, quite a few of which are winning games. Young players such as Alex Galchenyuk are already growing into legit everyday players while veterans including Andrei Markov show that they have something left in the tank.
It doesn’t hurt that Montreal is in a strong position to win the Atlantic Division, as they are in the thick of things and have certain advantages (such as two games in hand on Tampa Bay, which holds a slim one-point lead for the top spot).
If you look at their run since mid-December, business is seemingly booming; they are 15-4-1 since Dec. 9.
The very thing that’s been going right – brilliant goaltending from Price, timely scoring from the likes of Pacioretty – might just camouflage the notion that the Habs have also been getting lucky. Their PDO – a measure of save and shooting percentage that is a decent rule of thumb for a team’s good fortune – is the second highest in the NHL. While Price certainly has the talent to inflate that number from a save-percentage standpoint, it’s still noteworthy that Montreal is getting bounces now that might not come later.
(Montreal has a 63.6 winning percentage in one-goal games, tying them with Tampa Bay for the fifth-highest mark in that regard).
Reasons for hope
While certain stats point to what could be a scary plummet, there are some reasons to believe that the Habs might be less prone to free-falling than, say, last season’s Toronto Maple Leafs.
For one thing, they have an elite defenseman in P.K. Subban and one of the best goalies in the world in Price. There’s also a reasonable amount of forward depth to play better possession hockey.
Head coach Michel Therrien might just be the make-or-break factor in that regard, really.
As you can see here and here, Therrien has a tendency to flip-flop from doing the sort of things that make the stats community cringe (like arguably miscasting Dale Weise in a top-line role) and putting the Habs in a better position to succeed (such as opening things up during chunks of playoff time).
This isn’t to say that Therrien can just flip a switch and Montreal will become an elite possession team, yet perhaps tweaks can be made to avoid serious slippage.
There are some signs that the Canadiens might be playing with fire if they don’t improve in certain areas, yet there’s also the argument that their style is sustainable. Do you think Montreal is a genuine contender as constituted? If not, what do they need to do to make that happen?
One would hope that the Carolina Hurricanes would get something like a lite version of what the Sedin twins have in pairing Eric Staal and Jordan Staal, but it turns out that isn’t quite as simple.
Instead, it’s been a learning process, as Eric told NHL.com that he spent most of his life competing against (rather than alongside) his brother Jordan.
“I’ve never played with him in my life,” Eric said. “Even on the outdoor rink we played against each other, so it’s not like I have anything to go on. I’ve watched him my whole life. I know his game, what he does, what he’s good at and what I’m good at, but we’re figuring it out as we go.”
The profile points out that the two have combined for 20 points since pairing up (Jordan in the middle, Eric moving to the wing) on Dec. 29. Eric remarked that “we’re a threat every night.”
After years of carrying depth linemates, it must be a luxury for Jordan to play with a partner as talented as his brother. It makes sense that his strategy is simply to get Eric the puck, then. Their size and skill remind their brother Marc Staal of playing against Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.
It’s probably safe to say that it’s too late for the sibling pairing to be something opponents worry about (beyond being a spoiler threat), yet such comparisons have to give Carolina some much-needed hope for the future.