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It’s Minnesota Wild day at PHT

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The Minnesota Wild’s 2014-15 campaign was a tale of two seasons. There was the time before Devan Dubnyk and then the time after his arrival.

Before Dubnyk was traded on Jan. 14, the Wild were a team in disarray. They had lost 12 of their last 14 games, shifting the question from if they could take a step forward from their 2014 second round exit to if they could even make the playoffs. Now in the third season of the Zach Parise and Ryan Suter era, their stagnation was tremendously disappointing.

On Jan. 7, Wild coach Mike Yeo seemed to lose his cool during a team practice in dramatic fashion. To make matters worse, goaltender Darcy Kuemper left the same practice with a lower-body injury.

The Minnesota Wild went on to lose another four games, including a 7-2 defeat to Pittsburgh on Jan. 13.

“We’re so easy to play against,” Zach Parise said after the game, per the Associated Press. “We lose battles. The details of our game are terrible. We don’t make it hard on the other team.”

Then Minnesota acquired Dubnyk from Arizona for a third round pick and he was given the nod on Jan. 15. He ended up starting in 39 of the Wild’s final 40 games and posted a 1.78 GAA and .936 save percentage over that span to salvage their campaign.

Once in the postseason, Minnesota bested the St. Louis Blues in six games, setting up a series against the Blackhawks for the third consecutive year. Chicago had beaten them twice before and despite all the Wild had accomplished on their road to Chicago this time around, the outcome would not be any different. The Blackhawks powered past Minnesota in four games.

Offseason recap

After his strong performance, the big question for the Wild this summer was how much re-signing Dubnyk would cost them. Determining fair value was no simple matter given Dubnyk’s rocky history, but the two sides ultimately settled on a six-year, $26 million deal.

Up against the cap, this has been a quiet summer for Minnesota as far roster changes go. Chris Stewart and Kyle Brodziak walked as unrestricted free agents while former Wild players Sean Bergenheim, Matt Cooke, Jordan Leopold, and Keith Ballard remain unsigned. On top of that the Wild haven’t made any significant additions thus far.

That’s to be expected though as the team has to factor in the potential raises that Jason Zucker, Jared Spurgeon , Matt Dumba, and Kuemper might get as restricted free agents next summer.

EA Sports unveils NHL 16’s top 10 goaltenders

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Carey Price dominated the NHL last season, winning the Hart and Ted Lindsay Trophies in addition to the Vezina, so it seems only fitting that his virtual counterpart would be exactly effective.

Price will be the top goaltender in the upcoming video game NHL 16 with a 94 overall rating, per EA Sports’ release. That’s allowed him to leapfrog Henrik Lundqvist and Jonathan Quick, who led all netminders in last year’s ratings. Price’s rise didn’t push either of them down though as he went from a 92 to 94 while Lundqvist and Quick have once again been listed as a 93 going into the season.

Rounding out this year’s top five is Boston’s Tuukka Rask (92) and Nashville’s Pekka Rinne (92). Rask received the same rating last summer, but Rinne is up from his previous mark of 91.

Braden Holtby (91), Sergei Bobrovsky (90), and Cory Schneider (90) are the remaining goaltenders with a rating above 90. That’s a new position for both Holtby and Schneider, although Bobrovsky simply maintained his rating from the year prior.

Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov remained level too with an 89 rating that was good enough for ninth place this season. After a strong showing in his first full campaign as the Anaheim Ducks’ starting goaltender, Frederik Andersen (89) was selected to round out the top 10.

NHL 16 will be out on Sept. 15 in North America and Sept. 17 in Europe.

Looking to make the leap: Derrick Pouliot

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Is this the year Derrick Pouliot transitions from promising prospect to full-time pro?

He seems to think so.

“I think I’m capable of being a reliable defender in this league. I think I can produce even more offensively, too,” Pouliot said earlier this summer, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “It’s really about taking a two-way role, not giving up anything and creating some chances for us.

“I’ll come into camp in shape and be able to handle some more minutes.”

Last season, Pouliot looked primed to make the leap. He made his NHL debut in December and eventually replaced an injured Olli Maatta on Pittsburgh’s blueline, impressing onlookers through 34 games until an injury of his own prematurely ended the campaign.

While it was a good showing from a kid that only turned 21 in January — Pouliot racked up seven points while averaging 17:33 TOI — the former WHL Portland standout only provided a glimpse of what he could do.

Now, the Pens want a much bigger look.

They also need it.

Pittsburgh’s defense took a hit this offseason and, as a result, Pouliot’s role is bound to increase. Blueline minutes are there for the taking: Paul Martin, who averaged nearly 23 per game last season, is now in San Jose while Christian Ehrhoff, who averaged nearly 22, is in L.A.

Rob Scuderi turns 37 in December and seems primed for a (further) diminished role, and it remains to be seen if the Ben Lovejoy-for-Simon Despres trade will ever work out in the Pens’ favor.

So, enter Pouliot.

The eighth overall pick in 2012, he’s expected to shoulder a significant load this year, despite it being (essentially) his first full NHL campaign. And this isn’t any ordinary team he’s looking to leap into; Pittsburgh made major splashes throughout the summer, none bigger than the Phil Kessel acquisition, and is a legit Eastern Conference contender.

In short, the pressure’s on for Pouliot.

“I definitely know the expectations, that’s for sure,” he told NHL.com. “I know I have to be ready when the season comes around, what I have to do to be ready. It’s a little different in that aspect, that’s for sure.

“I’m pretty anxious. I feel like I can take on a bit of a bigger role.”

It’s New York Rangers Day at PHT

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Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The New York Rangers.

The New York Rangers earned their third Presidents’ Trophy in franchise history with a 53-22-7 record last season.

New York then eliminated the Pittsburgh Penguins in five games of the first round and edged the Washington Capitals in seven games in the conference semifinals. However, Tampa Bay cut New York’s bid for a second straight Stanley Cup Final appearance short defeating the Rangers in seven games in the Eastern Conference Final.

Rick Nash led the way offensively for the Rangers scoring a career-high 42 goals and 69 points in 79 games. Center Derick Brassard also had a career year notching a personal best for goals (19) and points (60).

In what was his final NHL season, Martin St. Louis reached the 20-goal plateau for the 10th time in his career. The 40-year-old announced his retirement in July.

In goal, Henrik Lundqvist went 30-13-3 while posting a 2.25 G.A.A. and a .922 save percentage in 46 appearances. Despite missing 25 games due to a vascular injury, the 33-year-old finished fifth in Vezina Trophy voting.

Cam Talbot took over in Lundqvist’s absence. The 28-year-old finished the season with a 21-9-4 record to go along with a 2.21 G.A.A. and a .926 save percentage.

Off-season recap

It was a busy off-season for the Rangers.

After 15 years as the general manager of the Rangers, Glen Sather stepped down in July and handed the duties to Jeff Gorton.

On the ice, the Rangers dealt Talbot to the Edmonton Oilers and filled his spot with Antti Raanta.

New York also acquired Emerson Etem from the Ducks for Carl Hagelin on the second day of the NHL Draft.

Earlier this month the Rangers added depth at center inking free agent Jarret Stoll to a one-year deal.

The Rangers also took care of their own.

Restricted free agents J.T. Miller and Jesper Fast got new deals and Derek Stepan avoided arbitration signing a new six-year $39 million contract.

James Sheppard, who scored two goals and registered nine penalty minutes in 14 games after being acquired from the San Jose Sharks, remains unsigned.

Several Rangers are still recovering from injuries suffered last season.

Brassard had wrist surgery in late June and was expected to require four-to-six weeks of recovery time. Captain Ryan McDonagh, who led all Rangers’ blue liners with 33 points in 71 games last season, is still recovering from a broken foot suffered in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final.

Mats Zuccarello has been cleared to resume skating and have contact after taking a shot to the head from McDonagh in Game 5 of the Rangers’ first round series against the Penguins.

Mackenzie Skapski is still recovering from off-season hip surgery.

Under Pressure: Dustin Byfuglien

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Despite his $5.2 million cap hit, Dustin Byfuglien heads into this season as the highest paid member of the Winnipeg Jets taking home $6 million in salary and could hit the open market next July.

According to Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun, Byfuglien is looking for a long-term deal of more than $7 million per season as an unrestricted free agent.

If the 30-year-old is going to command those kinds of numbers from the Jets, or anyone else for that matter, he’ll need to prove he’s worth it.

Winnipeg was shorthanded a league-leading 308 times last season and Byfuglien was the face of the problem leading the way with 124 penalty minutes – good for seventh most in the entire league. It’s not exactly a category you want one of your leaders, and highest paid players, leading.

As the Jets were battling for a playoff spot in April, Byfuglien was suspended four games for his cross check on Rangers’ forward J.T. Miller.

His questionable play continued in the playoffs when he hit Corey Perry from behind following a goal.

Byfuglien certainly gives Paul Maurice options as he’s capable of playing both on defense and up front, but has been a liability on the back end, which led his former coach Claude Noel to use him as a forward in 2014. Even Maurice thought he was better suited there leaving him as a forward to start last season.

The 6-foot-5, 265-pound blue liner’s inconsistent play and contract status coupled with the young talent the Jets have on the blue line (Jacob Trouba and Josh Morrissey) could make him expendable.

Byfuglien is under pressure to prove he should be paid the money he’s looking for in his new deal.

Related: Looking to make the leap: Nikolaj Ehlers