Author: James O'Brien

Boston Bruins v Detroit Red Wings - Game Three

Datsyuk says his knee no longer bothers him

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Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland has repeatedly expressed his hopes that his team will be healthier in 2014-15 after a season full of challenging injuries. Having Pavel Datsyuk as close to 100 percent as possible might just be on the top of Holland’s list, so this story from the team website regarding the star forward’s knee should stoke optimism.

“It looks like the work has helped me,” Datsyuk said on Tuesday. “And I don’t need the surgery … I’m skating now and it feels much better. Nothing bothers me and we’ll see.”

Hey, sounds great … except that “we’ll see” part.

It’s understandable that Datsyuk provided such a caveat, though. Knee injuries can be tricky, and considering his age (36) and the mileage he’s accrued from deep playoff runs and international competition, No. 13 probably doesn’t want to make too many bold bets.

No doubt about it, Datsyuk’s still a difference-maker when he can get on the ice, though. His possession stats are still impressive and he continues to score; Datsyuk collected 37 points in 45 games last season.

As excited as the Red Wings likely feel about the growth of younger players like Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar, the 2014-15 season is likely to go as far as Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and other veterans can take them. (Getting Daniel Alfredsson to join that veteran group for another season remains a work in progress.)

There’s no denying the possibility that things won’t work out for Detroit yet again in 2014-15, but at least the stories are more positive than negative right now.

PHT Morning Skate: Landeskog has a laugh at Avs’ stats

Minnesota Wild v Colorado Avalanche - Game Five

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.

SB Nation shares its All-Bargain Team. Victor Hedman has to at least be an honorable mention, right? (SB Nation)

Another bit of support for why Mikael Backlund is considered a hidden gem for the Calgary Flames. (The Score)

Want to track line combinations? This is one site aiming to do so, which cannot be easy considering how often NHL coaches tweak their lineups. (Roster Resource)

Apparently even Gabriel Landeskog thinks the Colorado Avalanche’s possession stats were batty last season:

As dangerous as Alex Ovechkin is from the faceoff circle area, here’s compelling evidence that Steven Stamkos deserves credit as the king of that angle:

Another fun shot chart from War on Ice’s interface: Patric Hornqvist could really be a monster on the Pittsburgh Penguins’ power play:

TSN 1200 had The Globe & Mail’s James Mirtle on to talk about how RFID’s might be used to track player movement and give NHL teams (and maybe fans) a whole new set of stats to consider. The NBA already has instituted such ideas; here’s one good example. (TSN 1200)

P.K. Subban answers fan questions for

Update: Jets’ Kane responds to Wheeler’s ultimatum

Florida Panthers v Winnipeg Jets

After months of mixed (at best) statements between the player and the team, Evander Kane said he was happy to be with the Winnipeg Jets recently.

What really matters is how Kane and the team performs going forward though, really. At 23, Kane is at or around the peak years for a star forward, so fellow prominent Jets scorer Blake Wheeler might be fair in throwing down the gauntlet as he did with ESPN’s Craig Custance on Tuesday:

Update: Apparently Kane came across Wheeler’s comment and offered this rather interesting rebuttal:

Hmmmm ….


Naturally, it’s not just about Kane. Wheeler shared his take on what he thinks will be a winning strategy for Winnipeg:

In some ways, Wheeler’s speed-oriented strategy talk reminds of Taylor Hall hoping that the Edmonton Oilers can evoke the New York Rangers’ puck possession and speed from their 2014 postseason run in that it’s all about playing to a team’s strengths.

Of course, such a strategy will be a lot more successful if one of the league’s budding power forwards can flirt with (if not, dare we say, best) his 30-goal form from 2011-12.

In case you’re wondering, only eight percent of PHT voters said the Jets shouldn’t trade Kane, while a slight majority said Winnipeg should only move him if there’s a strong market. Long story short, the jury is very much out on a power forward with a lot of potential who draws quite a bit of controversy.

Chara focuses training on improving quickness

Zdeno Chara

It happens with almost every great defenseman: mistakes are made considering the substantial ice time and challenges they face and those gaffes are often magnified when there’s a narrative at the ready. So it goes with Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara: as he gets older, any mistake or rough series serves as a catalyst for questions about a decline.

Really, though, it’s actually somewhat difficult to state empirically that Chara is already on the downside of his career.

Yes, he’s 37, but his possession stats remain strong even amid tough assignments and he was a deserving finalist for the 2014 Norris Trophy. Changes to his ice time have been subtle, at least in the last couple seasons. In the grand scheme of things, most critiques about his ability to maintain elite form are anecdotal.

Still, there’s one thing that’s not really up for debate: as the largest specimen to ever play dominant NHL hockey, he probably has to really work hard to stay mobile enough to thrive in a game that gets faster every year.

Luckily, Chara recognizes that. He told that he’s emphasizing footwork, quickness, speed and agility in his offseason training.

“It’s no secret that for a big guy of my size you always have to work on the quickness,” Chara said on Monday. “You have to try to always be on top of that, and your footwork. It’s not so much about being strong as it is also being quick.”

Chara is a renowned fitness freak, so if anyone can keep things going despite seemingly improbable size and the natural decline that comes with age, it’s someone who almost seems to defy logic like “The Big Z.”

Even as they bring along promising young defensemen, the Bruins are still banking on Chara remaining among the best in the game.

Bergeron talks NHL 15 cover, his gaming days

Boston Bruins v Montreal Canadiens - Game Six

While there’s some controversy surrounding the series’ jump to the Xbox One and Playstation 4, it’s difficult to quibble with NHL 15 featuring Boston Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron as its cover star (even if that honor came down to fan voting).

In a way, it almost seems to fit into this summer of “advanced stats,” as Bergeron is typically the type of player who doesn’t get his due in video games, as they tend to glorify the high-scorers over everyone else. As the games have deviated from “arcade” styles, nuances show up in the gameplay, and few players do everything as well as the Bruins’ two-way forward.

That doesn’t mean that the 29-year-old has any issues with that bygone era of games. In fact, it sounds like he was once a big fan of the classic versions of EA’s series.

NHL 15 raised some eyebrows with some rather amusing and unexpected ads featuring Bergeron and his teammate Brad Marchand, prompting quite the one-liner from the B’s pivot:

For reference, here’s Marchand signing:

(Click here for Bergeron’s bit.)

The cover voting came down to Bergeron and Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban, who probably still had the more enjoyable summer considering that lucrative contract extension and the Habs’ triumph in a seven-game series against Boston in the 2014 postseason. Bergeron referenced that today:

NHL 15 released in North America today. Reviews have been … mixed so far.