James O'Brien

I am a contributing editor/writer/troublemaker for NBC's Pro Hockey Talk blog.
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Trotz gave Caps’ top line a pep talk, Ovechkin included

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It’s too early to panic, but it’s never too early to have a chat with a top player when he isn’t scoring.

That seemed to be the message Barry Trotz sent to the Washington Capitals’ top line of Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and T.J. Oshie, as CSN Mid-Atlantic reports.

“I talked to all three members today,” Trotz said after Monday’s practice. “The biggest thing is finding their game within our game …That’s the decision making. That’s the work ethic. The execution, all that. It was fine when I put [the line] together many times last year, and it will be fine again.”

“Finding their game within our game” is indeed the ideal scenario in Trotz’s mind. Their peak state is to meld the team’s considerable offensive firepower with that defensive system to create an unstoppable combination.

Through two games, the Capitals have allowed and given up four goals, with zero points coming from Ovechkin, Oshie and Kuznetsov.

Looking at various metrics, it’s silly to be too concerned indeed; the trio combined for 14 shots on goal through two contests. Ovechkin, as usual, led the way with eight SOG (second-only on the time to volume-shooting defenseman John Carlson).

If they keep firing away, the results should follow.

As that CSN Mid-Atlantic piece notes, it’s not as if Trotz doesn’t have other options if the trio really can’t get it together.

It’s no secret that Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom were once a fearsome combo. Honestly, there was time when it was unthinkable to break up one of hockey’s Joe Montana to Jerry Rice-type bonds.

The Capitals are well-served in keeping Backstrom with Andre Burakovsky and Marcus Johansson, but even then, Trotz enjoys a wealth of options.

If that top line just can’t find that chemistry, they could always put talented veteran winger Justin Williams in Oshie’s spot, too.

So … yeah, nothing to see here really. Not yet.

Check out the full story here, even if it’s just to bask in the glory of Trotz talking about dancing. Imagine Trotz dancing. Do it.

McLellan: Oilers can’t just out-score their mistakes

One can understand if a coach might take a “let them play” mentality with the Edmonton Oilers, at least when Connor McDavid is zooming around the ice like a modern evolution of Pavel Bure.

Todd McLellan wants more than that.

After hilariously comparing the Oilers to the “Bad News Bears” after a humbling 6-2 loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday, McLellan seemed happy after a “teaching practice” on Monday.

“We’ve tried to out-score our mistakes and that’s not happening,” McLellan said. “We haven’t been very good defensively. I expect more.”

Considering this decade of incompetence and the high draft picks that come with such failures, Edmonton seems to be perpetually stocked with youth, and thus almost eternally in a position to “learn.”

Even by those standards, this is a group for McLellan to mold. There are a lot of new faces, and whether you like how Peter Chiarelli went about it or not, the Oilers emphasized improving their defense.

As much as it is about the players performing well, McLellan must mold that lump of clay into something competitive sooner rather than player. Like a frustrated teacher with a class full of less-than-motivated students, there will probably be more than a few nights where he might just want to toss up his hands and let the inmates run the asylum.

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In other Oilers news, Jonas Gustavsson‘s injured enough from an unlucky collision with Adam Larsson that the team recalled Laurent Brossoit while demoting Matthew Benning.

Gustavsson was reportedly pulled by a concussion spotter shortly after Larsson accidentally bumped him.

Kovalchuk, Datsyuk top list of KHL base salaries

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We may not have Cap Geek any longer, but money-minded NHL fans are well-served by sites like General Fanager and Cap Friendly. What about the KHL’s big dollar guys, though?

Well, that information is a little harder to find/sometimes shrouded in mystery, so it’s fun whenever we get a peek behind that curtain.

Russian site Sportfakt.ru published a list of the top 30 base salaries in that league something that reporter Aivis Kalniņš also shared (while wondering if this will prompt the KHL to be more open about sharing salary information).

It’s no surprise that Pavel Datsyuk and Ilya Kovalchuk rank highly even without bonuses being taken into account:

1. Ilya Kovalchuk SKA 5 500 000 dollars / 330 million. Rubles

2. Pavel Datsyuk SKA 4 500 000 dollars / 270 million. Rubles

3. Vyacheslav Voinov SKA 4 500 000 dollars / 270 million. Rubles

4. Vladimir Sobotka Vanguard 3 000 000 dollars / 180 million. Rubles

5. Vasily Koshechkin Metallurg Mg 2.419 million dollars / 145 million. Rubles

6. Sergey Mozyakin Metallurg Mg 2.177 million dollars / 130 million. Rubles

7. Vadim Shipachev SKA 2000 0000 dollars / 120 million. Rubles

8. Mikhail Varnakov Ak Bars 1 700 000 dollars / 102 million. Rubles

9. Anton Belov SKA 1 500 000 dollars / 90 million. Rubles

10. Danis Zaripov Metallurg Mg 1 500 000 dollars / 90 million. Rubles

11. Andrei Zubarev SKA 1 500 000/90 mln. Rubles

12. Alexander Salak Siberia 1.5 million dollars / 90 million. Rubles

13. Alexander Svitov Ak Bars 1 500 000 dollars / 90 million. Rubles

14. Maxim Chudinov SKA 1 500 000 dollars / 90 million. Rubles

15. Egor Yakovlev SKA 1 500 000 dollars / 90 million. Rubles

16. Evgeny Dadonov SKA 1 400 000 dollars / 84 million. Rubles

17. Alexander Perezhogin Vanguard 1 400 000 dollars / 84 million. Rubles

18. Mikko Koskinen SKA 1 300 000 dollars / 78 million. Rubles

19. Stéphane Da Costa CSKA 1 300 000 dollars / 78 million. Rubles

20. Niklas Svedberg Salavat Yulaev 1 300 000 dollars / 78 million. Rubles

21. Ivan Telegin CSKA 1 300 000 dollars / 78 million. Rubles

22. Viktor Tikhonov SKA 1 300 000 dollars / 78 million. Rubles

23. Ilya Zubov Vanguard 1 250 000 dollars / 75 million. Rubles

24. Valery Nichushkin CSKA 1.21 million dollars / 73 million. Rubles

25. Torpedo Vladimir Galuzin 1 200 000 dollars / 72 million. Rubles

26. Sergey Plotnikov SKA 1 200 000 dollars / 72 million. Rubles

27. Andrei Popov Ak Bars 1 200 000 dollars / 72 million. Rubles

28. Alexander Khokhlachov SKA 1 200 000 dollars / 72mln. rubles

29. Igor Grigorenko Salavat Yulaev 1 100 000 dollars / 66mln. rubles

30. Nikolai Prokhorkin SKA 1 050 000 dollars / 63 million. Rubles

Well, that’s fun.

That same article asserts that Alex Radulov would have been the top-earner of that group if he didn’t leave for the Montreal Canadiens.

It’s wise to take this list with a grain of salt, even beyond the fact that it’s a report (thus meaning it isn’t official). Puck Daddy points out some possible snags:

There are several discrepancies between this list and some of the contract information we’ve previously had on these players. Pavel Datsyuk is listed at 270 million rubles here; it was 250 million rubles when the Free Press reported on his signing with the KHL. Kovalchuck’s salary was previously reported at $10.3 million and Mozyakin at $4.2 million; but that might have been with the bonuses included. Sobotka’s numbers also don’t sync up. But hey, it’s the KHL – solid info isn’t easy to come by.

Still, it’s interesting to consider, even as a reminder of some of the players who are now overseas.

The biggest chuckle, personally, comes from seeing the name Alexander Svitov. Remember that fellow? (Lightning fans probably do, as Tampa Bay selected him with the third pick back in 2001.)

These names also serve as a reminder regarding guys who might be back in the NHL in the future. It sounds like Valeri Nichushkin is settling in nicely, for one.

(H/T to Sportsnet.)

Watch: Panthers beat Devils with video game goal

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People use the phrase “video-game goal” pretty often (at least if they’re into that kind of thing), but such a label seems fitting for the way the Florida Panthers beat the New Jersey Devils to open the season.

It’s one thing to hammer that one-timer, but the full play during a moment that clinched a 2-1 overtime decision really demands the description.

Really, it’s mainly the guy setting the goal up that seemed to do something that would make an opponent slam a controller.

Watch as Michael Matheson overpowers his opponent, takes the puck and sends a beautiful pass to Aleksander Barkov for the game-winner:

Honestly, even the goalie reaction clinches the comparison. Cory Schneider is one of the brighest goalies in the world, yet on this play, he almost seemed “stuck in an animation.”

Tremendous stuff, unless you’re a Devils fan.

Also tremendous: Barkov wears number 16, which ties back to the sweaters every Panthers player wore before the game to honor Jose Fernandez. Now that’s more like something out of a movie.

More Montoya? Price unavailable for Habs vs. Sens

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Al Montoya was sharp in the Montreal Canadiens’ season-opener on Thursday night, which is great, because they’ll probably need him again on Saturday.

The team announced that Carey Price won’t travel with the team as they face the Ottawa Senators in their next game.

Now, it’s possible that Montreal will go with one of its another options in net, but maybe Montoya earned another start?

He carried much of the under-the-radar momentum he earned during a strong backup season with Florida in 2015-16 by stopping 30 out of 31 shots in Montreal’s 4-1 win against the Buffalo Sabres.

We’ll have to see about a few other Habs, too, as one must wonder about the health of Torrey Mitchell:

… And perhaps Andrew Shaw might get a talking to?

The Ottawa Senators looked flawed-but-dangerous in their own season-opener (they played and won against that obscure Auston Matthews fellow), so Saturday’s match could be intriguing.