PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.
Former NHLer Warren Peters is in some hot water following a devastating hit in a Danish league game. Peters, who appeared in 94 career NHL games with the Flames, Wild and Stars, hit Lasse Bang with a blindside hit. Bang suffered a concussion on the hit while Peters was slapped with a six-game suspension. (Bar Down)
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St. Louis Blues’ defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk talks about the elite blue liners he’s played against during his six seasons in the NHL. (The Players’ Tribune)
The Hockey News looks at five trades made at the March trade deadline currently paying off. (The Hockey News)
Washington Capitals forward Brooks Laich displays his best Loyd Christmas impersonation after chipping a tooth.
Kristina Rutherford visits with one of the newest members of the Buffalo Sabres, Evander Kane. (Sportsnet)
The Washington Capitals didn’t sit on their hands after missing the playoffs in 2014. They replaced both their general manager and head coach with Brian MacLellan and Barry Trotz respectively. They splurged on free agent defensemen Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik. One thing they didn’t do though was address their goaltending, which was a point of significant uncertainty based on how the 2013-14 campaign played out.
All the same, the Washington Capitals decided to stick with Braden Holtby and only bring in Justin Peters to serve in a supporting role. Their belief in Holtby paid off on Sunday when the Capitals’ netminder turned aside 35 of 36 shots versus Detroit on no rest en route to securing a playoff spot.
“That was an outstanding performance,” Trotz said, per the Washington Post. “Back-to-back in this league against good teams, goalies usually don’t fare very well and he stepped up tonight.”
That wasn’t an isolated incident by any stretch of the imagination. Holtby’s been a big part of Washington’s resurgence this season with a 40-19-10 record, 2.24 GAA, and .922 save percentage in an incredible 71 games. He’s the first goaltender since Pekka Rinne in 2011-12 to reach both the 40-win and 70-game marks. Of course, Rinne was also guided by Trotz and goalie coach Mitch Korn. Among goaltenders that played in at least 70 games in a single season, his GAA is the best since Martin Brodeur in 2007-08.
Holtby’s brilliant season has been overshadowed somewhat by Carey Price’s Hart Trophy bid. In fact, in a campaign where Pekka Rinne has been nearly as dominant as Price and Devan Dubnyk swooped in to reverse the Minnesota Wild’s fortunes, Holtby might not even warrant a Vezina Trophy finalist spot. Nevertheless, Washington’s fortunes this season have been tied to Holtby.
So far that’s been to the Capitals’ benefit. They just have to hope that continues to be the case.
“Great season for him and if we’re going to go somewhere great this spring, we’re going to need a great effort from him for sure,” Niskanen said.
The Professional Hockey Writers’ Association gets to select the winner of the Hart Trophy, but before they cast their ballot, 20 NHL head coaches — 10 in the East and 10 in the West — were asked who their choice for the award would be and the results weren’t even close.
All 20 bench bosses said Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price would be their top pick for the Hart Trophy, per the survey conducted by TSN’s Bob McKenzie. Alexander Ovechkin, who leads the league with 52 goals, finished second on the ballot 19 times with the lone exception going to Ryan Getzlaf. John Tavares had six third-place votes to Sidney Crosby’s five.
Price would be the first goaltender since Jose Theodore in 2002 to take the Hart Trophy, but he’s been regarded as a favorite for the award for a while now. His dominant play is one of the big reasons the Montreal Canadiens might win the Presidents’ Trophy, but this is likely also a reflection of the relatively muted Art Ross Trophy race we’re witnessing.
While Ovechkin is far ahead of the pack in terms of goals, the points race is relatively open and no forward is likely to finish with 90 or more points. Not including lockout shortened seasons, that hasn’t happened since Stan Mikita won the scoring race with 87 points in 1967–68. It’s easy to assume that the lack of 90-plus point players is a byproduct of reduced scoring, but that’s not the case. The league has been averaging 2.74 goals per team per game this season, which is on par with what we’ve seen over the last four seasons, per hockey reference.
So scoring hasn’t gone down, it’s just become more spread out and that lack of dominance at the top might be playing into Price’s hands. At the same time, he wouldn’t be a contender either way if he wasn’t having an amazing season.