Author: Jason Brough


Bennett impresses in Flames victory — ‘he’s going to be a very special player for this organization’


Remember Sam Bennett? You know, the kid the Flames drafted fourth overall this past summer? The one who couldn’t do a pull-up at the combine? The one who missed most of the season with a shoulder injury?

Well, last night in Vancouver, Bennett was better known as the Calgary forward who gave the Canucks all sorts of trouble, driving the net multiple times throughout the game and providing the screen on Kris Russell’s last-minute winning goal.

“What a screen by Sam Bennett,” said Flames head coach Bob Hartley, per the Calgary Sun.

“Very impressed. We knew the kid would come in with lots of grit. During his rehab, we had a chance to spend many days with him. Even though he was not on the ice, he was in every meeting, doing video with him to teach him the system. We had no clue that he would be with us in the playoffs, but today, it turns into a great investment. He can skate, and he’s a gritty player, and he’s built for the playoffs.”

Bennett skated with Mikael Backlund and Joe Colborne, that trio’s effectiveness proving vitally important as the Flames’ vaunted first line of Sean Monahan, Jiri Hudler and Johnny Gaudreau had trouble getting going versus the Canucks.

Said fellow rookie Michael Ferland, who also had a strong game: “Watching Sam do the stuff he does, he’s going to be a very special player for this organization.”

For the Anaheim Ducks, it’s ‘time to step up’

Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler, Matt Beleskey, Chris Kelly

Just in case the Anaheim Ducks don’t get past the Winnipeg Jets, let’s go ahead and tuck away this quote from GM Bob Murray for later reference:

“This is our third year with this group making the playoffs where there’s some sort of expectations. I am going to watch very carefully not only the coaching staff, but how certain players play in the playoffs this year. This is the third year and it’s time.

“It’s not just [coach Bruce Boudreau]. The guys that have been here, it’s time for some of them to step to the plate. I’m watching everybody. There’s guys that haven’t had good playoffs. It’s time. They’ve got experience now. They’ve been there. It’s time to step up.”

That quote (warning?) came via the L.A. Times.

Remember that Murray has not been a passive GM, to say the least. In the summer, he acquired former Selke Trophy winner Ryan Kesler to give the Ducks the kind of second-line center Boudreau said he’s never had as an NHL coach. Murray also made a number of trades prior to the deadline, as he reportedly felt the Ducks’ success earlier in the season was a bit of a mirage. His team responded and finished the schedule playing arguably its best hockey of 2014-15, save for the odd hiccup.

Also consider that if the Ducks can get past Winnipeg, they’ll be pretty heavily favored to beat either Vancouver or Calgary, which would put them in the NHL’s final four for the first time since they won the Stanley Cup in 2007.

If they don’t get past Winnipeg, or if they do and then lose in the second round, it’ll be extremely interesting to see how Murray reacts.

Related: Pressing Playoff Question: Which coaches are coaching for their jobs?

Monahan insists he feels ‘great,’ but there’s reason to wonder

Sean Monahan

From The Province newspaper, ahead of tonight’s series opener between the Flames and Canucks in Vancouver:

There is a mystery surrounding the health of Flames centre Sean Monahan. The Flames young star hadn’t skated since the Flames second-last game against the Kings at home on Thursday. He didn’t skate — including not travelling to the Flames’ final game on Saturday in Winnipeg – until Tuesday, when he lasted about 10 minutes at the beginning of practice. Flames coach Bob Hartley was seen talking to the team’s trainer after Monahan went to the dressing room. Monahan took the morning skate with the team on Wednesday and afterwards said the days off the ice were just rest days because he played so much during the regular season.

With Mark Giordano injured and unable to play, Monahan — the 20-year-old who’s been centering Johnny Gaudreau and Jiri Hudler on what Henrik Sedin called “the best line in hockey for the past couple months or so” — is arguably Calgary’s most important player.

Translation: if Monahan’s not 100 percent, for whatever reason…

… it’s a major concern for the Flames.

Monahan, however, insists he’s fine.

“I felt great, well rested, right now I’m just focused on the start of the game here,” he said this morning. “I’m excited for Game 1.”

Berube’s job safe…for now

Craig Berube

Craig Berube’s job as head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers is safe.

For now.

But that could change soon, based on what GM Ron Hextall said today:

The Flyers missed the playoffs by 14 points with a 33-31-18 record. They went 42-27-10 last season under Berube, fighting back to make the playoffs after Peter Laviolette was fired early on.

Berube’s job security has also been brought into question as he’s clashed with veteran forward Vincent Lecavalier, who agreed it would be difficult for the two to coexist next season.

Hextall said today that buying out Lecavalier was not an option.

Related: Berube defends how he’s deployed Lecavalier

PHT’s awards picks for 2014-15

Carey Price, Mats Zuccarello

Just a brief awards post on this busy day. Halford and I each gave our top picks. Feel free to add your two bits in the comments section.

Hart Trophy

Brough: Carey Price. Nobody was more important to their team than this guy. If not for Price, the Habs may not have made the playoffs. I did strongly consider Alex Ovechkin, given he had 10 more goals than anyone else. If Caps fans are mad at me for choosing otherwise, perhaps they can take solace in the fact I didn’t really consider Sidney Crosby at all.

Halford: Carey Price. I also strongly considered Ovechkin, who was the only skater to break the 50-goal mark. But Price was the only goalie with a GAA under 2.00 and save percentage over .930, and on a Montreal team that finished 20th in offense (2.61 goals per game), Price was the more valuable player.

Norris Trophy

Brough: Erik Karlsson. I don’t apologize for picking the defenseman with the most points. It’s not the only factor I considered (obviously), but the ability to move the puck and create offense from the back end is vitally important, and nobody does it better than Karlsson.

Halford: Drew Doughty. No d-man logged more total ice time this season. Not even Ryan Suter. The Kings may have missed the playoffs, but it wasn’t because of Doughty. He’s the best two-way defenseman in the world.

Calder Trophy

Brough: Aaron Ekblad. It was extremely hard not to pick Johnny Gaudreau or Mark Stone, but considering Ekblad’s rookie season, compared to the ones by other 18-year-old defensemen throughout the years, was in line with Bobby Orr’s, I’m not going to lose any sleep over my decision.

Halford: Mark Stone. This was the toughest pick by far but, in the end, I couldn’t ignore how well he played over the final half of the year, especially when the Sens went on their tear. Only Ovechkin, Crosby, Jamie Benn and John Tavares scored more points than Stone (44) after Jan. 1.

Jack Adams Award

Brough: Barry Trotz. Did a masterful job convincing the Capitals to buy in and play with more structure. Also handled Ovechkin perfectly, providing constructive criticism while also publicly praising and bonding with his captain and face of the franchise.

Halford: Bob Hartley. The Flames went from 77 to 97 points, snapped a six-year playoff drought and did it with their captain and best player, Mark Giordano, missing the final 21 games of the regular season. Yeah, there was some puck luck and good fortune involved, but Hartley did a remarkable job getting this team to overachieve.

Selke Trophy

Brough: Patrice Bergeron. A tough season for Bruins fans, but having this guy under contract through 2021-22 is a good way to feel better.

Halford: Patrice Bergeron. I considered some extremely talented guys — Jonathan Toews, Anze Kopitar, Pavel Datsyuk — for the Selke, but never thought about giving the first-place vote to anybody but Bergeron. Kinda says it all.

Vezina Trophy

Brough. Carey Price. Played the fourth-most minutes among all NHL goalies and nobody had a lower save percentage than his .933 mark. Ultimately, this wasn’t a tough decision, despite some excellent seasons from a handful of other goalies.

Halford: Carey Price. He’s going to win in his first year as a finalist, an interesting factoid in that it reminds you Carey Price has never been a Vezina finalist before, let alone won one.

Lady Byng Trophy

Brough: Sean Monahan. Took just six minor penalties all season, to go with 31 goals. There were actually a few candidates for this award on the ultra-disciplined Flames.

Halford: Jiri Hudler. It’s a Calgary love-in! Hudler took one more minor penalty than Monahan did this year, but also finished with the team scoring lead (76 point). That gets him the nod in my book.