Pavel Datsyuk

Poll: Are the Preds legit Stanley Cup contenders?


The Nashville Predators are one of the big surprise teams of the 2014-15 NHL season.

Probably the biggest, actually.

Even with a healthy Pekka Rinne in goal and Norris Trophy candidate Shea Weber on the blue line, we can’t recall anyone who predicted the Preds would be 25-9-4 after 38 games, good for the highest points percentage in the NHL.

In fact, prior to the season, online sportsbook Bovada set Nashville’s point total at just 76.5. To fall short of that now, the Preds would need to finish something like 12-31-1. That’s how good they’ve been, relative to expectations.

So, with a spot in the playoffs seeming all but assured, the question is begging to be asked — do the Preds have what it takes to win it all?

The argument for ‘Yes’

Nashville has the second-best goals-against average in the NHL. And if there’s one thing that recent Stanley Cup winners have shown us, it’s that defense wins championships.

Goals against of past six Stanley Cup champs
2013-14 Kings (1st, 2.05)
2012-13 Blackhawks (1st, 2.02)
2011-12 Kings (2nd, 2.07)
2010-11 Bruins (2nd, 2.30)
2009-10 Blackhawks (6th, 2.48)

And as the Preds showed this weekend, they can also put the puck in the net. Nashville’s offense is now tied for seventh in the league, averaging 2.95 goals per game. Five-on-five, no team has a higher goals for/against ratio than the Preds, at 1.47.

The argument for ‘No’

It’s more of a subjective one. No matter how good Nashville’s numbers look right now, and no matter how much talent they have in goal and on the back end, can a team really win the Stanley Cup with Mike Ribeiro as its first-line center? Because that’s who it is for the Preds — the 34-year-old who signed for peanuts after he got bought out by the Coyotes due to “behavioral issues” and has never entered the conversation when debating the truly elite centers in hockey.

That conversation has been limited to the likes of Jonathan Toews, Sidney Crosby, Ryan Getzlaf, Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Patrice Bergeron, Joe Thornton, and Anze Kopitar. You know, players that have won Stanley Cups. Or Hart Trophies. Or Selke Trophies. Or Conn Smythe Trophies.

Go ahead and search the list. Try to find a team that’s won the Stanley Cup without a top center with some serious credentials. You won’t find many.

Time to vote!

Get your game notes: Red Wings at Bruins


Tonight on NBCSN, it’s the Boston Bruins hosting the Detroit Red Wings at 7 p.m. ET. Following are some game notes, as compiled by the NHL on NBC research team:

• Head-to-Head: This is the 3rd of 5 meetings this season between these Original Six teams, and current Atlantic Division rivals. They have split the season series thus far…

• Oct. 9 at DET: DET def. BOS 2-1.

• Oct. 15 at DET: BOS def. DET 3-2 (SO).

• DET F Gustav Nyquist had one goal in each game of the series (both PPGs). G Jimmy Howard was in the Red Wings’ net for both games.

• BOS F David Krejci and F Reilly Smith each had a goal in regulation and the shootout in the Oct. 15 meeting. G Tuukka Rask also started both games in net for BOS.

• 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs: BOS beat DET 4 games to 1 in their First Round playoff series last season…

• Detroit shut out Boston in Game 1, but the Bruins won 4 straight to advance to the Second Round.

• Atlantic Division matchup: Detroit sits 2nd in the division, while Boston is currently 6th…

• With 47 points, Detroit trails only division-leading Tampa Bay (48 points), but the Wings have a game in hand. Detroit stands 4th in the Eastern Conference.

• The B’s (39 points) are currently outside the playoff picture, trailing 5th-place Florida (40 points) by a point in the division standings and Washington (42 points) by 3 points for the 2nd Wild Card spot in the East.

• Detroit back on track: The Wings have now won back-to-back games following a 6-game losing streak
(0-2-4) earlier in the month…

• Detroit entered the holiday break with a 6-3 W vs. BUF, followed by a 3-2 (OT) W vs. OTT on Saturday coming out of the break.

• Their 9 goals in the past 2 games equal the number they scored in the previous 7 games (1-2-4).

• That 6-game losing streak was a season high, but 5 of the 6 were one-goal games and all 4 OT/SO losses came in the shootout.

• DET has the most SO losses (7) in the NHL this season. The Wings are 1-7 in the shootout, and
4-9 in games that go past regulation overall.

• December slump for the Bruins: The B’s have lost twice as many games as they have won this month, going 4-6-2…

• With a loss of any kind tonight, Boston would have its first sub-.500 month since Feb. 2012, when the B’s went 5-7-1 (the Bruins finish their December schedule on New Year’s Eve vs. TOR).

• BOS is coming off a 6-2 loss at CBJ on Saturday, a game in which both starter Niklas Svedberg and Tuukka Rask each gave up 3 goals on 15 shots.

• The B’s had won 2 straight games leading up to the break – home wins over BUF (4-3 OT) and NSH (5-3).

• Boston has allowed more goals (95) than it has scored (91) this season. Last season, Boston led the NHL in margin for outscoring opponents, and it has not allowed more goals than it has scored in a season since 2007-08.

• Special Teams glance: Detroit ranks 3rd in PP% (24.3%) and 2nd in PK% (88.4%), while BOS is in the lower 3rd of the league in both (see team stats section below for all rankings)…

• DET has PP goals in 3 straight games (6-for-13 overall), and is 40-for-43 on the PK in December.

• BOS has just 3 PPG in their last 18 games (3-for-37 overall), but 2 of those have come in the last 3 games.


• F Gustav Nyquist scored a highlight-reel OT winner against OTT on Saturday – his team-leading 15th goal.

• Nyquist leads the team in PPG (8 – T-3rd in NHL).

• Nyquist has 38 goals in his last 70 regular-season games.

• Against BOS: Nyquist has goals in each game vs. BOS this season, and 4G-1A in 4 career GP vs. the B’s.

• Captain F Henrik Zetterberg has played in all 36 games, and leads the Wings in points (32) and assists (24).

• Zetterberg had 1G, 1A vs. OTT on Saturday, extending his point streak to 4 games overall (3G-3A).

• F Pavel Datsyuk began the season on injured reserve with a separated shoulder (suffered in preseason), and overall he has played in just 25 of the team’s 36 games.

• Despite this, Datsyuk has 13G-13A this season to rank 2nd on the team in points (26).

• Datsyuk enters tonight on a 3-game point streak (1G-2A).

• G Jimmy Howard returned on Saturday after injuring his groin vs. NYI on Dec. 19 (missed 2 starts). He stopped 31 of 33 shots in the OT win.

• Howard has just 1 regulation loss in his last 11 starts (6-1-3, 2.08 GAA, .922 SV%) dating back to Nov. 24.

• Overall this season, Howard is 14-5-7 with a 2.05 GAA and .922 SV%.

• Career vs. BOS: Howard is 5-1-1 with a 1.95 GAA and .937 SV%.


• With a goal against CBJ, F Patrice Bergeron extended his point streak to 3 games (1G-4A).

• Bergeron leads the Bruins in points (27) in 36 GP.

• According to coach Claude Julien, Bergeron and F Milan Lucic will not play tonight due to injuries.

• G Tuukka Rask had won back-to-back games entering the holiday break, but G Niklas Svedberg started against Columbus on Saturday night in the B’s 6-2 loss.

• Svedberg allowed 3 goals on 15 shots and was pulled in the 2nd period.

• In relief, Rask – the NHL’s reigning Vezina Trophy winner – also allowed 3 goals on 15 shots.

• This season, Rask is 14-10-3 with a 2.59 GAA and .910 SV%

• F David Krejci has played in the last 5 games since missing nearly a month with a groin injury.

• Krejci led the Bruins in scoring in October (9 points), but he has just 1 point in the 5 games since his return.

• F Carl Soderberg is 2nd on the team in points (23), but he has just 1 goal in his past 20 games.

• F Brad Marchand leads the B’s in goals (10).

• Marchand did not record a point vs. CBJ, but he scored twice in the game prior to that (5-3 W vs. NSH).

• Marchand has 9 points (4G-5A) in his last 10 games.

PHT’s top 14 of ’14: Oshie’s shootout mastery in Sochi


At the time, it seemed like T.J. Oshie’s shootout heroics against Russia would be spoken about in hushed tones as a prelude to something bigger.

Would it spur the U.S. on to greater heights? Could the loss wake up Russia on its way to winning gold?


Few would have predicted how poorly things would go for the two proud countries after that thrilling finish. In a way, the Americans’ 3-2 preliminary-round win over the Russians was the unexpected high point for both as far men’s hockey went during the 2014 Winter Olympics.

By the tournament’s end, the U.S. flopped against Finland to fall short of a bronze medal while Russia didn’t even sniff the podium to the shock of hometown fans.

Looking back, all we have is that moment in which Oshie became something of a mainstream star … but oh, what a moment it was.

source: AP
Source: AP

As Russia trotted out high-end stars such as Ilya Kovalchuk and Pavel Datsyuk, American head coach Dan Byslma tabbed Oshie over and over. Again and again. Simply put, Oshie’s simple-but-deadly shootout move was the best bet in Bylsma’s mind. Considering the results, it was pretty difficult to quibble with such a thought process.

Oshie scored four shootout goals in that game. He received six total opportunities and five in a row. It was the kind of moment that just begged for “Miracle” references.

Things really took off when he got the “meme” treatment, though.

“It was very surreal,” Oshie told PHT days after that memorable run in the shootout. “I’m very humbled by it. It was a crazy night for me.”

Ultimately, the U.S. fell well short of expectations. Considering their offensive struggles against elite teams (they didn’t score at even strength against Russia, Canada or Finland), there’s something uncomfortably fitting about the fact that the United States’ best moment came in a “skills competition.”

That kind of nitpicking certainly wasn’t happening on the day Oshie became a household hockey name, though.

More on that great moment:

Oshie called it “very surreal”

He was humble about it

Reactions on Twitter

Why Bylsma kept going back to Oshie

Let’s rampantly speculate about where Vermette could land


If you haven’t read Halford’s interview with Arizona GM Don Maloney, click here. Once you’re finished, come back and participate in some rampant speculation about where the Coyotes could trade Antoine Vermette.

To get things started, TSN’s Darren Dreger reported on the radio this morning that the Bruins and Penguins are believed to have interest. No real surprise there. Vermette is such a versatile player that he could contribute to any lineup, even if he has to be shifted to the wing.

Halford has considered the possibility of Vermette going to the Capitals. I could see that, too.

But before any team considers a bid, I think it has to ask itself two questions.

First question: Are we a legitimate Stanley Cup contender, to the point where we’d be willing to give up significant assets in order to acquire a guy to help put us over the top?

Second question: Do we want — and do we have a good chance — of re-signing Vermette, who’s a pending unrestricted free agent?

The team that can answer yes to both those questions may be willing to give up more than a team that can answer yes to just one.

So, might the Detroit Red Wings be one of those teams? Remember that the whole idea of signing Stephen Weiss was so Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk could play together. Obviously, that plan hasn’t quite come to fruition. The Wings aren’t exactly swimming in cap space, but they could probably find a way to fit Vermette in next season. Buying out Weiss would create some flexibility, for example.

If not the Wings, how about the Tampa Bay Lightning? We all know this team can score, but defensively they’re only average. Imagine then a shutdown line featuring Vermette and Ondrej Palat. Both those guys got Selke votes last season. The Lightning would have to get creative in order to re-sign Vermette, but Steve Yzerman is a pretty creative GM.

If not the Wings and not the Lightning, well, what do the commenters think? The Rangers? The Blackhawks? The Habs? Feel free to speculate below. In rampant fashion.

PHT interviews Don Maloney, who knows he has a big trade chip in Vermette


Arizona GM Don Maloney understands the quality he’s got in Antoine Vermette.

So too, it seems, do a number of other NHL clubs.

“Antoine has been a good player for us, continues to be a good player for us,” Maloney told PHT on Monday. “There are a lot of teams interested in him.”

The 32-year-old will be a prized target leading up to this year’s trade deadline. Vermette is remarkably well-rounded — leading the Coyotes in scoring, winning draws at a 55 percent clip, known for his solid two-way game — and plays the middle, which is vitally important given the league-wide arms race at that particular position.

“We all know hard it is to find center ice men in this league,” Maloney noted.

It’s also hard to find ones with Vermette’s versatility.

He led Arizona in goals last year, with 24, and finished 14th in Selke voting (tied with Pavel Datsyuk) for the NHL’s top defensive forward. He was the only Coyotes forward to average more than two minutes per game on both the power play and penalty kill. He also led all Arizona forwards in blocked shots (71), finished with 90 hits in 82 games and played the wing when called upon.

So yeah, versatile.

All of which begs the question — why would Arizona trade him?

Well, one, the Coyotes believe they have a top-flight center waiting in the wings in Max Domi. The 13th overall pick at the 2013 draft didn’t make the team this season out of training camp, but is still viewed as the club’s pivot of the future, possibly next year.

“Domi’s not going to be a bottom-line player for us,” Maloney said, shooting down the idea of Domi playing a similar role to what fellow ’13 draftee Bo Horvat’s filling in Vancouver. “We need him to be a top-six forward.

“We have lots of guys that can play the third or fourth line. Our problem is top one or two line guys, and that’s where we see Max in the future.”

Two, it’s not like Maloney wants to trade Vermette.

“I think Antoine likes Arizona, likes his role, likes his coach,” Maloney said when asked how he’d try and sell the player on re-signing.

But the market suggests Vermette’s in for a raise on his current (and affordable) $3.75 million cap hit and, if the Coyotes can’t afford to keep him, they might as well get as much in return as they can.

Of course, ownership uncertainty casts a shadow on most things in Arizona, and the Vermette situation is no different.

“Since day one we’ve been waiting on our ownership to be restructured,” Maloney said, “and we’ll continue to wait on that, and once it gets restructured we’ll see whether there’s an opportunity to re-sign him or not.”

While Vermette re-upping with the Coyotes remains a possibility, carrots dangle elsewhere for both parties; the Coyotes could net a bounty of assets in return via trade, while Vermette could join a Stanley Cup contender and still hit free agency. That’s key, since on a potential UFA list that’s light on centers, he’d rank right near the top of available guys.

(This could, theoretically, also be Vermette’s last kick at a significant payday, which is something else to consider.)

In light of all this, Vermette doesn’t seem long for the desert. Even Maloney said he’s unsure what the future will hold in terms of organizational direction and philosophy, which makes the “re-sign here!” pitch difficult.

“It’s been a little bit of a holding pattern in the sense of you always want to know when the majority owner comes in, what he’s thinking,” Maloney explained. “Is it more of a rebuild? Is it more of a infusion of more resources available?

“So we’ve been waiting on that.”

Related: Vermette is the Coyotes’ Bergeron, says Tippett