Tag: Tampa Bay Lightning

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Can the Bruins’ defense get up to speed?


It sounds like the Boston Bruins were taking notes when they watched mobile defensemen Duncan Keith and Victor Hedman square off in the 2015 Stanley Cup Final.

GM Don Sweeney isn’t asking his group to impersonate Bobby Orr next season, but it sounds like he’s asking for a more active approach, as the Boston Globe’s Fluto Shinzawa reports in this interesting piece.

Most obviously, he wants defensemen to skate a bit more with the puck in transition, easing things on the Bruins’ forwards.

“I think they have to,” Sweeney said. “At times, we probably got a little bit too stationary on our breakouts. We need to be in motion a little bit. That means our forwards will be in motion a little bit, because teams were able to smother the walls, pinch, and pre-pinch.”

Shinzawa provides a few additional sensory details about how such a modified scheme might work, at least ideally:

The tweaks are meant to shift the danger level away from the net. Defensemen will be more active, perhaps up the ice and closer to the walls. Forwards will not have to retreat as far to funnel pucks into favorable real estate. There will be greater challenges to zone entries, similar to how MBTA police close down on fare evaders. The goal, as Sweeney likes to say, is to create anxiety for opponents up the ice.

Let’s be honest, though: it’s reasonable to wonder if the Bruins really boast the personnel to make such a modernization work.

(This idea also turns the knife in a little deeper when it comes to losing Dougie Hamilton.)

Looking at the structure of this team, is it better to try to keep up with the Joneses or merely try to do what you do best? After all, there’s always the possibility that Claude Julien, Zdeno Chara and David Krejci will see better days after a bumpy season (which featured serious injury issues for Chara and Krejci).

Striving for a more modern approach is understandable, but sometimes sports teams lose their identity and gain little in return by trying to dance to the beat of someone else’s drum.

Either way, it’s an intriguing development to ponder in 2015-16. The full article is well worth a read, by the way.

(H/T to Kukla’s Korner)

Looking to make the leap: Jacob Markstrom

Jacob Markstrom

Canucks GM Jim Benning cleared a path for Jacob Markstrom to start the 2015-16 campaign with Vancouver by trading Eddie Lack, but this is far from the first time Markstrom has been given a good opportunity to establish himself in the NHL. The question is, will things be different this time around?

There certainly is the potential for that after the season he had in the minors. He was dominant with the AHL’s Utica Comets, posting a 1.88 GAA and .934 save percentage in 32 regular season contests. From there Markstrom led Utica to the Calder Cup Finals with a 2.11 GAA and .925 save percentage in 23 playoff games.

“I think if you look at the history of, whether it be Corey Crawford or Ben Bishop, or these types of players and how they perform at the American Hockey League level, and look at stats and numbers, you can put Jacob in that category,” Canucks president Trevor Linden argued in June.

“He’s had an excellent year. He needs to continue to develop at the National Hockey League level, and we’re going to give him that opportunity.”

Markstrom still has a 3.19 GAA and .896 save percentage in 50 NHL contests, but to be fair to him, he’s just 25 years old and goaltenders can take longer to find their games than forwards or defensemen.

To that end, Linden didn’t simply use those goaltenders as examples because they were the competing netminders in this year’s Stanley Cup Final. Crawford was 25 years old (26 on Dec. 31) in his first full campaign with Chicago while Bishop didn’t participate in more than 22 games in a single season until 2013-14 when he was 27 years old (as of Nov. 21 of that campaign).

So it would be premature to dismiss Markstrom just because he hasn’t developed as quickly as some anticipated. This time — as the backup to Ryan Miller — he might be ready to take advantage of the opportunity he’s been given.

Quick: Pacioretty is ‘the most underrated player’

Max Pacioretty

Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick wrote the second part of his Elite Snipers 101 article and while it’s a great read from start to finish, his take on Montreal forward Max Pacioretty is perhaps what stands out the most.

Per The Players’ Tribune:

When I think of Max, I think of the most underrated player in the NHL. Only three players have scored more goals than him over the past three seasons — and these aren’t all pretty power play goals. Most of his goals come in 5-on-5 situations where space is tight, and I know he had 10 game-winners last season. Max is similar to Tavares in the way he works in dirty areas. It blows my mind that he’s not talked about more because he’s such a great scorer.

Fair enough, so let’s talk about him a bit.

First off, to Quick’s point: He is of course correct that there are just three players that have netted more goals than Pacioretty over the last three seasons: Alex Ovechkin (136), Steven Stamkos (97), and Joe Pavelski (94). Pacioretty is tied with Perry for fourth place with 91 markers over that span. Granted, Perry has played in five fewer games, but if that’s going to be brought up, then the fact that Pavelski has participated in 15 more contests than Pacioretty has to be raised as well.

Quick also brought up power-play goals and sure enough just 21 of Pacioretty’s 91 markers have been scored with the man advantage, which is significantly less than the players ahead of him. Still, if you want to just look at five-on-five markers over the last three seasons, then Pacioretty’s still tied for fourth place with 55, it’s just that now it’s Rick Nash (64), Perry (62), and Ovechkin (56) ahead of him.

Whatever method you’re using though, it’s clear that Pacioretty is one of the top snipers in the game today, but if he’s not as popular a subject as some of the other players that have been roughly as productive as him, then perhaps there’s a simple explanation. Unlike Ovechkin, Stamkos, Nash, or Perry, the Canadiens forward hasn’t had a monster campaign yet. He’s around their level in terms of overall production because he’s been consistently great in recent seasons, but he hasn’t finished in the top-three in goals yet or being a major contender for the Hart Trophy. Pacioretty also hasn’t made his mark in a playoff run yet.

That’s a theory at least, but it doesn’t take anything away from him. Meanwhile, Montreal has him at a $4.5 million annual cap hit through 2018-19 while Pavelski is at $6 million through 2018-19, Stamkos has one campaign left at $7.5 million, Perry is at roughly $8.6 million through 2020-21, and Ovechkin is at about $9.5 million through 2020-21.

It’s Detroit Red Wings 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 Detroit Red Wings.

After Detroit just barely managed to squeak into the playoffs in 2013-14, it seemed reasonable to wonder if its longstanding postseason streak dating back to the 1990-91 campaign was drawing to a close. However, the Red Wings’ efforts to rebuild on the fly continued and at first it looked like they would far exceed expectations.

Detroit got off to a 17-6-5 start, prompting Red Wings coach Mike Babcock to call the ’14-15 squad their best team since they went to the Stanley Cup Final in 2009. The following day Detroit began a six-game losing streak and while that wasn’t the start of a collapse for the Red Wings, it did illustrate that this was an inconsistent team.

Further complicating matters was the decline of goaltender Jimmy Howard, who posted a 2.99 GAA and .896 save percentage in 21 games after the all-star break. That prompted Detroit to lean on 23-year-old Petr Mrazek instead. The young netminder helped keep Detroit above water in the playoff race as its 43-25-14 record secured the squad a postseason berth by a four-point margin.

That set up a first round series against the Tampa Bay Lightning with Mrazek starting between the pipes. Detroit held its own against the eventual Stanley Cup finalists and Mrazek certainly had his moments as he posted two shutouts and turned aside 15 of 16 shots in Game 7. The one shot that got by him was all it took though as Lightning netminder Ben Bishop denied all 31 of the Red Wings’ shots on goal.

And with that, Detroit suffered its second straight first-round exit.

Off-season recap

The Detroit Red Wings’ playoff appearance streak started well before Babcock took over as the Red Wings’ bench boss, but he kept that legacy going for another decade and now he’s gone. Following Babcock’s decision to sign with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Detroit appointed Jeff Blashill to serve as the team’s second bench boss since the start of the salary cap era.

He’s inherited a team with some talented young players, but also two superstars in Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk that are in the twilight of their careers. On the plus side, GM Ken Holland has provided Blashill with some reinforcements to aide in his rookie campaign.

Detroit signed offensive defenseman Mike Green to a three-year deal, $18 million deal and added veteran center Brad Richards to a one-year contract. Both could prove to be valuable additions with Green aiding Detroit with the man advantage and providing them with a right-handed shot from the blueline while Richards might serve on the second-line, allowing Datsyuk (once he’s healthy) and Zetterberg to play together.

With those additions, Detroit will attempt to build on its 2014-15 run and win its first playoff series since 2013.

Here’s a chart that shows which teams have been good/bad at drafting

Chicago Blackhawks v Columbus Blue Jackets

Via TSN.ca’s Travis Yost, here’s a chart showing draft success (or lack thereof) for all 30 NHL teams:


A team that’s done well at drafting will be in the top right. A team that hasn’t will be in the bottom left.

To be considered a “successful” draft pick, Yost determined that the player would have to play 100 games in the NHL. He adds that sorting by other metrics, like points or time on ice, yields “similar results.”

Yost was focusing on the New Jersey Devils’ lack of success in the draft; hence, the bold.

Now, obviously, a team like Columbus (which the chart shows has done well at drafting) is going to have an advantage in the first three rounds over a team like Vancouver (which hasn’t), since the Blue Jackets had much higher picks than the Canucks enjoyed from 2000-2012.

In fact, the Jackets had 11 top-10 picks over those 13 years, including Rick Nash going first overall, along with notable busts Gilbert Brule, Nikita Filatov, and Alexandre Picard. The Canucks, meanwhile, never drafted higher than 10th.

Of course, that doesn’t excuse Vancouver’s inability to find players in the later rounds. The last “successful” players the Canucks took after the third round were Mike Brown, who was a fifth-round pick back in 2004, and Jannik Hansen, who went in the ninth round that same year.

In contrast, the New York Rangers have been extremely successful in those later rounds, having identified the likes of Henrik Lundqvist, Marek Zidlicky, Ryan Callahan, and Carl Hagelin as worthwhile gambles.