James O'Brien

Add allowing center-ice goal to Brian Elliott’s rough season

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So far, there’s just one goal in tonight’s Calgary Flames – Vancouver Canucks game. And it wasn’t a good one.

The Canucks couldn’t manage a shot on goal for more than half of the first period, maybe putting Brian Elliott to sleep … as Alexander Edler scored the 1-0 goal from center ice on Vancouver’s first shot that actually got on net. Ouch.

It’s already been a tough season for Brian Elliott, who came into Saturday with an .898 save percentage.

Elliott was perfect through the rest of the first two periods, so we’ll see if Calgary can overcome that gaffe.

Update: The Canucks ended up winning 2-1 in overtime. Ryan Miller was the better of the two goalies in this one.

Senators close in on Canadiens, put Leafs in tough spot

OTTAWA, ON - OCTOBER 12: Derick Brassard #19 of the Ottawa Senators celebrates his first period goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs with team mates Cody Ceci #5, Bobby Ryan #9 and Chris Wideman #6 at Canadian Tire Centre on October 12, 2016 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)
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When the Montreal Canadiens hired Claude Julien, they probably didn’t say “OK, now hold off the Ottawa Senators,” but the Atlantic Division title race keeps heating up.

It’s something PHT covered on Friday, yet a night later, the Senators went from being a possible threat to maybe being in the driver’s seat (even if Montreal is still in first).

To start, Montreal lost in Julien’s re-debut, and in regulation to boot.

The swing continued at night as the Senators beat the hated Toronto Maple Leafs 6-3. Two empty-net goals inflated the score, but maybe it gave a sense of how much the defeat stings for a Leafs team dealing with an increasingly congested Eastern Conference wild card situation.

MORE: The Panthers leap over both the Bruins and Leafs after beating Kings

Here’s a look at the Atlantic Division:

1. Canadiens – 70 points in 59 games
2. Senators – 68 points in 56 games
3. Panthers – 64 points in 57 games (after beating Kings)

Bruins – 64 points in 58 games
Maple Leafs – 63 points in 57 games
Sabres – 62 points in 59 games (boosted hopes with win today)
Lightning at 58 points (OT loss to Stars); Red Wings at 56 (beat Caps)

With three games to match or exceed Montreal’s two-point advantage, the Senators sure look to be in a strong spot. Hurting Toronto was more than a small bonus for Ottawa, too.

As you can see, Toronto squandered an opportunity to move ahead of Boston for the third seed in the division. Since this post first went live, things have only gotten worse with Florida also climbing.

Actually, on that note:

Quick look at race for bottom wild card spot in East

Bruins – 64 points in 58 games

Maple Leafs – 63 points in 57 GP
Islanders – 62 in 57
Sabres – 62 in 59
Flyers – 61 in 58

Yep, it was that sort of night for the Maple Leafs:

With shifts like these, it looks like hockey fans will have plenty of races to watch down the stretch. Tonight was a reminder not to dismiss Ottawa as a frontrunner.

Blackhawks’ winning streak goes bye thanks to Talbot, Oilers

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 17: Cam Talbot #33 of the Edmonton Oilers follows the puck against the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center on December 17, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. The Blackhawks defeaed the Oilers 4-0. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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If you wanted to escape bye week talk, turn away from this one.

The Chicago Blackhawks went into their break on a five-game winning streak, yet they saw theirs end much like the Washington Capitals’ did earlier on Saturday. In Chicago’s case, the Edmonton Oilers handed them that loss via a score of 3-1.

A result like this will annoy different people for different reasons.

  • Some will be annoyed by bye weeks, period. This will make them more annoyed.
  • Others will be annoyed that the bye week narrative persists. This will not help.

  • A reasonable portion will be annoyed that such discussions take the focus of great performances, like Cam Talbot standing on his head against Chicago.

The workhorse Oilers netminder stopped 38 out of 39 shots and deserves a ton of credit for this win. Connor McDavid‘s 20th goal of the season was an empty-netter, so Talbot’s margin of error was that small.

Milan Lucic‘s first goal since Dec. 6(!) ended up being the decisive tally, one that might bug Corey Crawford a little extra:

It’s not as though the Blackhawks slept through this one. They managed that 39-22 shots on goal advantage, also making the Oilers block 26 shots (to 11 for Chicago). Every indication was that the Blackhawks generally played like a well-rested group.

Regardless, their winning streak is over and Edmonton gets a nice confidence-boosting win.

Also of note: Jonathan Toews‘ assist gave him his 600th career point.

Report: Term the big sticking point between Radulov, Canadiens

MONTREAL, QC - FEBRUARY 04:  Alexander Radulov #47 of the Montreal Canadiens looks on during the NHL game against the Washington Capitals at the Bell Centre on February 4, 2017 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  The Washington Capitals defeated the Montreal Canadiens 3-2.  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
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It’s easy to forget all the years Alexander Radulov spent overseas and to assume that he’s in the beginning of his prime. The reality is that he’s already 30, making a long-term deal considerably riskier for the Montreal Canadiens.

During Saturday’s edition of Sportsnet’s Headlines, Nick Kypreos reported that Radulov is looking for a six-year deal from Montreal. Failing that, the Habs might need to pay up big for a shorter deal; Kypreos puts a potential compromise at a costly $21 million over three years.

Elliotte Friedman said it well during that segment: Radulov would likely be a top target if he hit the free agent market. So, should Montreal pay up?

Canadiens’ cap questions

Looking at the Canadiens’ roster on Cap Friendly, it’s clear that there’s a select group of players – particularly forwards – who have lengthy deals. And if they do, they’re generally locked up for bargains.

Max Pacioretty‘s $4.5 million bargain runs through 2018-19. Brendan Gallagher‘s at $3.75 million through 2020-21. Andrew Shaw‘s value is more up to debate, but either way, it’s similar to Gallagher’s but ends after 2021-22.

With the lengthier deals generally going to cheaper scorers, the highest cap hit among forwards right now is Tomas Plekanec, whose $6 million mark slightly edges Radulov’s current $5.75 million hit. If Montreal wants to sign Radulov for a shorter deal, Kypreos indicates it would be similar to Plekanec’s deal … just more expensive.

The biggest deals on the books right now are actually for defense (Shea Weber at almost $8 million through 2025-26) and Jeff Petry ($5.5 million through 2020-21). Overall, the Canadiens have a fairly clean slate, all things considered.

How big a part of their future is Radulov, really?

On one hand, some might see a relatively clean cap situation beyond that Weber deal and wonder if that “surplus” could go to a Radulov deal.

Of course, a longer Radulov deal would possibly put Montreal in a bind when they need to re-sign Carey Price after 2017-18 and pay Pacioretty closer to market value once his deal expires. Not to mention Alex Galchenyuk‘s pending RFA status after this season.

That’s the downside to Radulov being such a smash hit for Montreal. Now Marc Bergevin must determine if he’s a core member or if it’s worth paying a premium to give him something a bit more mid-term.

It’s not the worst problem to have, yet it’s still a bit of a head-scratcher. It also explains why Radulov doesn’t have a deal just yet.

Video: Gryba throws weight around with hit, fight vs. Blackhawks

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Considering the successes of the Blackhawks and failures of the Oilers, it might be challenging to drum up a potential rivalry between the two teams.

Maybe someone like Eric Gryba could really get the ball rolling by throwing his body around?

The big defenseman made an impression during Saturday’s game, delivering a big hit on Tanner Kero and then dropping the gloves with Ryan Hartman.

If the team’s listings for each player is correct, Gryba has about four inches and almost 50 lbs. on Hartman, so it’s not too shocking he held the advantage. Credit Hartman for courage and for standing up for his teammate here.