PRO HOCKEY TALKPHT Select Team

Pre-game reading: On Ovechkin’s sweet spot, and why he’s so hard to stop

7 Comments

— Up top, watch Alex Ovechkin score his 30th goal of the season Saturday against the Coyotes. They call that spot on the ice — right around the top of the left faceoff circle — Ovechkin’s “office,” just like Wayne Gretzky’s office used to be behind the net.

— So, how is it that Ovechkin can keep scoring from the same spot without opponents being able to stop him? The Washington Post asked his old coach, Bruce Boudreau, who said: “He’s scored 250 goals like that from that spot. Every team has designed things to do, but if he gets the shot away, if it doesn’t hit you, it’s in the net. … He’s that good.” (Washington Post)

— At 40 years old, retirement is looming for Shane Doan. Maybe not this year. But soon. Just don’t expect him to stop thinking about the Coyotes when he hangs up the skates. The way he talks, it sounds like he’ll still be quite involved. “We have to get it turned around. We’ve had moments in our organization where things have looked like they’re going in the right direction, and some key steps got missed, and we had to turn it back and start over again. Looks like right now we’ve got some things in place. But the next few years are going to be very important with the steps we take to do things right.”(Sports Illustrated)

— New England Patriots safety Patrick Chung hit the ice with the Boston Bruins Friday. And you know what? He wasn’t too bad. (CSN New England)

— An appreciation of Cam Talbot‘s season, by Dave Lozo of Vice Sports: “A consistent workhorse for a team lacking a reliable backup goaltender, he is one of the biggest reasons the Edmonton Oilers are returning to the playoffs for the first time in a decade.” Indeed, Talbot has been by far the busiest goalie in the NHL this season, logging 555 more minutes and making 71 more saves than the next busiest, Toronto’s Frederik Andersen. (Vice Sports)

— Last year, the Chicago Blackhawks’ blue line was considered their biggest weakness. But not this year. Said returnee Johnny Oduya: ‘‘This is the deepest team on the back end I think we’ve ever had. You never know what happens down the road with injuries or different things, so that’s a positive for us. It gives us more options. Certain nights, some guys might be more on fire than others, so we can lean on different guys on different nights.” (Chicago Sun-Times)

Enjoy the games!

PHT Morning Skate: Is Alex Ovechkin’s production on the decline?

6 Comments

–After scoring over 50 goals in each of the last three seasons, Alex Ovechkin is “only’ on pace to score 33 in 2016-17. Based on his Sportsnet’s Andrew Berkshire believes that this could be the start of the 31-year-old’s decline. (Sportsnet)

–Yvan Cournoyer won 10 Stanley Cups during his career, but he still thinks about the one that got away. In 1967, Cournoyer’s Canadiens dropped a six-game series to the underdog Toronto Maple Leafs. “When you’ve already won the Cup (which the Canadiens had the previous two years), you think you’re going to win it again. The mistake we made is that we didn’t respect the Leafs. It was a good lesson for me to think, ‘Hey, I know you can win the Stanley Cup, but you’re going to have to work harder for it.'” (NHL.com)

–It’s no secret that the Avalanche have been brutal this season. The people at BarDown have accumulated four stats that show just how bad they’ve been. For example, they’re on pace to lose more games in regulation (56) since the Atlanta Thrashers lost 57 games in their expansion season. (BarDown)

–The Chicago Blackhawks picked up a big 4-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens last night. The victory allowed the ‘Hawks to jump ahead of the Minnesota Wild for top spot in the Central Division. You can watch the highlights from the game by clicking the video at the top of the page.

–Wild coach Bruce Boudreau had some tie troubles during last night’s game against the Washington Capitals, and the internet totally freaked out. (The Score)

–Islanders minority owner Charles Wang believes that to grow the game in China, kids need to be playing the sport. “The love of any sport…it really starts with the children playing the sport. When they play the sport, they become the best.” Check out Wang’s one-on-one interview with ESPN.

–Hockey players are known for their weird superstitions and Canadiens forward Andrew Shaw is no exception. Between periods, Shaw is always the first one out of the locker room. He does some stretching, performs a few phantom faceoffs and he lunges out with his stick. “I guess I started it about eight years ago back in juniors. I just smash my stick on my shin pads seven times. Go down and get in the faceoff position, do two on the backhand, one on the forehand. Spin the stick to loosen up the wrists. Get a good stick going … just trying to loosen up everything.” (Montreal Gazette)

Back to normal? Capitals win and Ovechkin scores vs. Wild

Getty
9 Comments

Things had not been quite right for the Washington Capitals lately.

The team, which had run roughshod over the NHL for much of this season, had lost four games in a row. Alex Ovechkin was on the sort of goal slump that usually only affects mere mortal goal-scorers. The goals, in general, hadn’t been coming.

So Tuesday stands as a huge relief for the Capitals, who also enjoyed the bonus of beating former head coach Bruce Boudreau and the Minnesota Wild 4-2.

Ovechkin? He scored the sort of goal he generates when someone asks you to close your eyes and imagine an Ovechkin goal.

For Capitals fans, Ovechkin scoring from “his office” is almost as comforting as the team getting back on the winning track.

Wild are ‘nowhere near as physical’ as Bruce Boudreau wants them to be

Getty Images
9 Comments

The Minnesota Wild have never been one of those teams that play a nasty, physical style of hockey, but that may change under new head coach Bruce Boudreau.

Boudreau, who was hired by the Wild this summer, likes for his players to play with an edge to their game.

He had his share of physical players in both Washington and Anaheim and it sounds like he’s going to demand that his new group of players play in a similar way.

On Friday, the 61-year-old put his team through an ‘exhausting’ practice, according to the Minneapolis StarTribune.

“We’re going to have an awful lot of practices like that,” Boudreau said, per the Tribune. “We went over a lot of video [Friday] morning, more than I like to do, but it shows that you can’t play the game without making contact with people. You just can’t do it.

“But what is taking time to get used to a little bit is we’re nowhere near as physical as the teams I’ve coached. So I’m trying to find sort of a halfway medium that they become more physical but don’t get out of what they’re good at. Like, I can’t make them into a bunch of Alex Ovechkins hitting everything that moves.”

Finding that balance will be key because asking his team to change their style of play will be difficult given the roster he has at his disposal.

He’s also concerned about the lack of depth he has up front. He’s comfortable with his top three lines, but he’d like to add to his fourth line. Being able to roll four lines is key in Boudreau’s eyes.

Now that teams will be making cuts, it’ll be interesting to see if the Wild feel the need to pick up a player or two on waivers.

Boudreau doesn’t believe superstars are needed to win

13 Comments

Bruce Boudreau has coached some pretty good players in his time behind an NHL bench.

In fact, he’s coached some of the best.

In Washington, there was Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. In Anaheim, it was Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.

But with all due respect to those guys, the new head coach of the Minnesota Wild doesn’t think superstars are an absolute requirement to win the Stanley Cup.

“As much as I like Ovechkin and Getzlaf and Perry, you don’t need those guys to win,” Boudreau said today, per Chad Graff of the Pioneer Press.

“You can do it the old-fashioned way. You do it as a team,” he added, per Mike Russo of the Star-Tribune.

At the risk of discounting the importance of coming together and working as a cohesive unit, recent history disagrees with Boudreau’s notion. The last team to win the Cup without a genuine superstar was…ummm… the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006?

And to buy that argument, you’d have to believe that Eric Staal, who finished seventh in league scoring with 100 points that season, wasn’t a superstar back then. (Sidney Crosby, for comparison’s sake, had 102 points.)

Now, granted, it’s not like the Wild are completely bereft of stars. Zach Parise and Ryan Suter may be on the wrong side of 30 now, but they remain very effective players. Suter just completed the best offensive season of his career, with 51 points in 82 games.

The real point that Boudreau was trying to make — and perhaps it was mostly a motivational ploy — is that the team is more important than the individual, and also that his experience can help put Minnesota over the top.

On Sunday, Boudreau told NHL Network that he thinks the Wild “can win in the next two years.”

With that sort of timeline, he understands the pressure is very much on. His new job isn’t like the “massive, massive challenge” that Mike Babcock accepted in Toronto. The expectations in Minnesota are to win, and win now.

“I’ve been in the business a long time, and we’re in a winning business,” Boudreau said, per NHL.com.

“So you have to win.”

Related: With an aging core, the Wild could be Boudreau’s biggest challenge yet

Powered by WordPress.com VIP