Jason Brough

Vasilevskiy was ‘outstanding’ last night — not bad for the youngest goalie in the NHL

5 Comments

Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 38 of 40 shots before Sidney Crosby beat him in overtime last night. It was another solid performance for the 21-year-old, who’s been forced into a pressure-packed situation due to Ben Bishop’s injury.

It’s still early in the Eastern Conference Final, but Vasilevskiy has been giving his team a chance to win, and that’s about all you can ask from your goalie.

“He’s outstanding,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “You never want to lose your number one guy in Bish, but you’ve got one A-plus right behind him, and he was — I thought he was outstanding tonight and probably the reason why that game went to overtime in the first place.”

Vasilevskiy wasn’t as outstanding during the regular season, when he went a modest 11-10-0 with a .910 save percentage. But then, he was also the youngest netminder in the league. Most goalies don’t make it to the NHL so quickly. As one general manager put it, “Goalies develop in dog years.”

Whether Vasilevskiy becomes a future starter in Tampa Bay remains to be seen. Bishop can become an unrestricted free agent next summer, and GM Steve Yzerman has a long list of skaters that need new deals as well.

That’s not a decision that needs to be made now, but it is one to keep in mind. If this is an audition of sorts for Vasilevskiy, so far he’s nailing it.

Remember that Vasilevskiy was the 19th overall pick in the 2012 draft, about as high as a goalie gets taken these days. He was not drafted to be a backup.

It ‘doesn’t look very good’ for NHL participation in 2018 Winter Olympics: IIHF president

Gary Bettman, Rene Fasel, Don Fehr
AP
9 Comments

The NHL appreciates the effort IIHF president Rene Fasel is making to get the best hockey players in the world to the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.

But that doesn’t mean the league is going to open its wallet to help him out.

“Rene is a friend of hockey and a champion for the sport,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly wrote in an email to Postmedia, “and I know he is working hard to do whatever he can to offer us a realistic and reasonable opportunity to participate on terms consistent with our past Olympics Games.”

It’s a tough task that Fasel’s taken on, now that the IOC has decided not to cover millions of dollars in transportation and insurance costs for the players. Fasel is not particularly optimistic about his chances of covering the shortfall, meaning there could be no NHL participation in the Olympics for the first time since 1994.

Fasel has said his plan is to go “do some begging” from the national Olympic committees of the hockey-playing countries, but as of right now he says, it “doesn’t look very good.”

“We have to find ways to bring the money together,” he told Postmedia. “It’s not easy, but hopefully we will make it.”

DeBoer says refs need to call the game ‘accordingly’; Hitchcock says Blues ‘won’t whine for calls’

16 Comments

In 2011, the last time the San Jose Sharks made the Western Conference Final, special teams played an enormous role in their demise, as the Canucks scored nine times on the power play and ended the series in five games.

Only a few Sharks are left from that 2011 squad, but the importance of special teams was on display again in Game 1 of the 2016 conference final. San Jose went 0-for-3 on the power play, the St. Louis Blues went 1-for-2, and the Sharks lost the game, 2-1.

“St. Louis’ penalty killing did nothing we haven’t seen before this season,” said Sharks coach Pete DeBoer. “When our power play doesn’t score, it’s either the goaltending is great or our execution is off. I think it was a little bit of both last night. But we’ve always managed to fix that. I have confidence we’re going to get that fixed for next game.”

According to forward Logan Couture, San Jose’s biggest problem in Game 1 was gaining the zone and getting set up. That’s when the Sharks are at their most dangerous, when they can throw the puck around and open shooting lanes for the likes of Brent Burns and Joe Pavelski.

“Last night our entries needed to be better,” Couture said. “I think we stalled on the left side entering the zone.”

While Couture, like his coach, is confident that the Sharks can “figure it out,” it’s worth noting that the Blues had the second-ranked PK during the regular season, and their stinginess has carried through into the playoffs. The Stars went just 2-for-20 with the man advantage in the second round.

The Sharks’ power play, unlike the Stars’, couldn’t be stopped in the second round. It converted eight times in seven games versus Nashville, and that was after scoring five times in five games versus the Kings.

And in a remark that may have been intended for the ears of the Game 2 referees, DeBoer said he expects the rule book to be called “accordingly” against the big-hitting, beard-tugging Blues.

“We’re relying on the officials to do their job,” he said. “St. Louis is one of the most penalized teams in the league, regular season and playoffs. They need to call the game accordingly. Need to make them pay a price for being the most penalized team on the power play, which we didn’t last night.”

That, predictably, got a response from Blues coach Ken Hitchcock.

“We’re told not to whine for calls, so we’re not going to whine for calls,” he said. “If Pete wants to do it, that’s up to him, but we’re not doing it.”

All that gamesmanship underscored one main point — special teams could very well decide which of these teams gets to the Stanley Cup Final.

Both undefeated at worlds, Canada and Finland to meet Tuesday

PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC - MAY 09:  Taylor Hall of Canada skates against France during the IIHF World Championship group A match between France and Canada at o2 Arena on May 9, 2015 in Prague, Czech Republic.  (Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images)
Getty

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) Canada rolled to its sixth win of the world ice hockey championship in beating France 4-0 on Monday.

Canada leads Group B and will be top seed for the quarterfinals if it beats Finland on Tuesday.

Winger Mark Stone finished with a goal and assist in Canada’s lowest-scoring game of the tournament. Canada had at least five goals in each previous game. Goaltender Calvin Pickard made 13 saves for Canada’s third shutout.

The French stayed in the game thanks to a strong performance from goaltender Ronan Quemener, who made 42 saves. France’s Charles Bertrand missed a penalty shot in the second period after Canada’s Ryan Ellis slashed Jordann Perret.

In Moscow, Russia continued its strong form with a 3-0 win over Norway, to move to second in Group A.

After facing criticism from home fans for its slow start to the tournament with a loss to the Czech Republic and a difficult win over Kazakhstan, Russia has improved sharply. In its last four wins, Russia has 22 goals and allowed just two.

Russia plays Sweden on Tuesday with second place at stake. The Russians could climb above the Czech Republic for first if the Czechs lose to Switzerland.

Related: French d-man Auvitu reportedly drawing NHL interest

For Tallon, new role means less contract negotiating and more time to ‘freeze my rear end off’ scouting

2014 NHL Draft - Rounds 2-7
Getty
1 Comment

Dale Tallon doesn’t see it as a demotion disguised as a promotion. The now former general manager of the Florida Panthers sees the reorganization of the hockey operations department as a way to avoid doing the things he didn’t really like doing anyway.

Today, the Panthers announced that Tallon had been “promoted” to president of hockey ops, with assistant GM Tom Rowe becoming the new general manager. In addition, Eric Joyce and Steve Werier were named assistant GMs.

“I wasn’t a big fan of doing contracts,” said Tallon on a conference call. “It frees me up to do what I think I do best, and that’s go scout, evaluate talent, mentor our young guys, and help develop them. That’s basically what I like to do. I like going to rinks. I like freezing my rear end off in these little rinks. That’s what I enjoy most about this job.”

Despite the positive spin that Tallon put on it, the shakeup is an indication of how complex running an NHL team has become, and how much more money is at stake. It’s no longer enough to just know the game and have an eye for talent. Specialization is required. So is delegation.

Werier, for example, was a lawyer before he joined the Panthers; now he’s in charge of negotiating player contracts and is responsible for managing the team’s salary cap. The club also has a director of analytics named Brian MacDonald; he received a Ph.D. in Mathematics from Johns Hopkins University.

For the record, the Panthers insist they won’t be all about analytics now, that more subjective things like chemistry and leadership still need to be part of the equation. They’re not going all-in on just numbers.

They also insist that Tallon is still the man in charge. “I have the utmost confidence in Dale’s vision and leadership,” said owner Vincent Viola.

But let’s face it, for all the blue-chip talent the Panthers have amassed since Tallon became the GM in 2010, there’s also been the odd highly questionable decision, like giving Dave Bolland a five-year, $27.5 million contract.

That’s the kind of deal that can really hamstring a team that’s up against the cap — the kind of deal the Panthers’ reorganized hockey ops department will hope to avoid going forward, as Florida’s young, cheap talent develops into big-money talent and cap space becomes more scarce.