Riding the Zamboni – Thursday, December 9th

1 Comment

Florida 3 – Washington 0

You can’t say the Panthers didn’t give the Caps opportunities to win. The Caps were 0-8 on the power play tonight while Tomas Vokoun made 36 saves to preserve the shutout for Florida. Vokoun will flash brilliance every now and again and tonight was a sterling example of what he can do on any given night. Stymieing the Capitals slumping offense shows just how good he can be and it also reflects on how much the Caps are struggling to score goals. It’s the third time in eleven games the Capitals have been shutout. As for people who did score goals, Michael Frolik, Steve Bernier, and Mike Santorelli tallied for Florida. For the Panthers, it’s their third straight win.

Philadelphia 4 – Toronto 1

Ah the Maple Leafs. After showing some guts against Pittsburgh and getting wins over Boston and Washington, the Leafs were just about out of gas tonight against the Flyers. Daniel Briere scored twice while Chris Pronger and Ville Leino each had one as well. Brian Boucher stopped 31 shots to get the win for Philly. Things don’t get easier for the Leafs on Saturday as they’ll face off with their arch rivals from Montreal.

NY Rangers 5 – Ottawa 3

What looked like it would be a good start for the Sens turned into a third period meltdown. The teams traded goals all game long and then after a brutal Chris Neil penalty in the third, Mike Sauer’s power play goal, his first career NHL goal, put the Rangers up for good. Mike Fisher had two goals for Ottawa while Marian Gaborik and Michal Roszival had two assists each for New York.

All that actual game stuff aside, Matt Carkner turned out to be the game’s story when video surfaced showing what appeared to be Carkner flicking blood from his head onto the players on the Rangers bench after a fight with Derek Boogaard. Carkner denied after the game that he did that but it would seem to us that he’s just a good (bad?) liar.

Buffalo 6 – San Jose 3

Last night the Sharks played what could’ve been one of the games of the season beating the Flyers in a shootout. Tonight, they looked like a team that was just about out of gas. Buffalo took advantage of the tired Sharks and while the Sharks did well to hang in there, Buffalo dominated the action on the night. Thomas Vanek and Paul Gaustad each scored two goals. Gaustad and Cody McCormick each finished the game with three points as McCormick had a goal and two assists of his own. Logan Couture kept his hot play going for San Jose scoring a goal. For Buffalo it was their third win in four games and vaults them over Ottawa in the Northeast Division for third place.

Boston 5 – NY Islanders 2

Milan Lucic scored two goals, including his fourth empty net goal of the year, as the Bruins took out the Isles. The B’s were able to tack on two empty-netters at the end of the game after Rob Schremp made the score 3-2 with a late third period goal. Special teams is where the B’s made their stake tonight with two power play goals and a shorthanded goal. The real story was the great play from backup goalie Tuukka Rask making 33 saves in the win. Rick DiPietro stopped 32 saves but a failed poke check on Brad Marchand lead to his shorthanded goal in the second period that swung momentum back to the Bruins.

St. Louis 4 – Columbus 1

The slide of the Blue Jackets back to reality continues with another rough game. This time, they ran into a red hot Jaroslav Halak and couldn’t stop the Blues on the power play. Halak stopped 27 shots to get the win meanwhile the first three Blues goals of the night all came on the power play. Alexander Steen, Jay McClement, and Vladimir Sobotka had those man advantage tallies while David Backes added the empty netter. Steve Mason Mathieu Garon was underwhelming in the loss stopping 20 shots. Jan Hejda had Columbus’ lone goal. The Jackets have lost six of their last seven games and now sit last in the tough Central Division.

Minnesota 3 – Phoenix 2

Give it up to the Wild for playing a tough and complete game for the first time in a while. The Wild snapped a five-game losing streak on the back of two goals from Andrew Brunette and one by Brent Burns. Niklas Backstrom stopped 33 shots to earn the win but the only guy he couldn’t stop was Taylor Pyatt as he had both Phoenix goals. Ilya Bryzgalov was strong again for the Coyotes stopping 30 shots. On a disappointing note, the game was seen in front of just 7,749 in Glendale, Arizona. Ouch.

Los Angeles 2 – Calgary 1

A wild and exciting game in Los Angeles closes out with the Kings winning their third game in a row and the Flames losing in frustrating fashion. The Flames had an apparent Matthew Stajan goal disallowed in the first period after a video review because he was seen to have kicked it in. Later on in the first, Kyle Clifford got his first career NHL goal after a Wayne Simmonds centering pass bounced in the goal off his skate. Clifford didn’t kick at the puck and it counted. Anze Kopitar’s third period tip-in on the power play proved to be the decider and his third game-winning goal of the year. Both Jon Quick and Miikka Kiprusoff played out standing. Quick stopped 26 shots for the win while Kiprusoff stopped 30 in the loss.

The game closed out in angry fashion when Rene Bourque and Drew Doughty battled in front of the Los Angeles net. Doughty delivered a gamesman-like cross check to Bourque, but when Bourque got back up he speared Doughty in the groin. Bourque received a slashing penalty on the play but he may be hearing from the NHL tomorrow as the Flames have a game with Anaheim tomorrow night.

Dates of note from the 2018-19 NHL schedule

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The 2018-19 NHL schedule has arrived and the 1,271-game journey to the Stanley Cup Playoffs begins Oct. 4 and ends April 6. We’ll have banners being raised, old friends being reacquainted, outdoor games, games in Europe and nearly a full slate on the season’s final day.

Here’s a look at a dozen notable dates on this coming season’s schedule:

Oct. 3, 2018 – Boston Bruins at Washington Capitals

It’s not the Penguins like we all wished, so the Capitals will have to raise their first Stanley Cup banner against the Bruins. They’ll also be playing for a new head coach before traveling to Pittsburgh for a visit with Sidney Crosby and the Penguins the next night.

Also on Opening Night, we’ll get to see the Toronto Maple Leafs hosting the Montreal Canadiens, the Calgary Flames visiting the Vancouver Canucks and the San Jose Sharks playing host to the Anaheim Ducks.

Oct. 4, 2018 — Philadelphia Flyers at Vegas Golden Knights

An historic inaugural season ended in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final. But despite the tough defeat, there was plenty for the Golden Knights and their fans to be proud of. When fans return to T-Mobile Arena for their 2018 home opener, there will be a nice celebration with a banner or two going up in the rafters.

Boston Bruins at Buffalo Sabres

Sabres fans get a first glimpse of Rasmus Dahlin in action when they take on the Bruins in the home opener. The expected 2018 No. 1 overall pick brings plenty of hope to Buffalo as the fanbase prays hard that he, Jack Eichel and Casey Mittelstadt can end their years of misery.

Oct. 6, 2018 – Nashville Predators at New York Islanders

Trotz makes his debut as Islanders head coach against one of his old teams. And no matter how free agency goes, this will be an interesting night at Barclays Center. Either John Tavares will be in the Islanders lineup, having committed to the franchise with a long-term extension and thereby garnering a huge ovation, or he’ll be wearing another jersey and the mood in Brooklyn will be quite glum.

This day will also see the Edmonton Oilers and New Jersey Devils facing off in the NHL Global Series in Gothenburg, Sweden.

Oct. 10, 2018 – Vegas Golden Knights at Washington Capitals

A rematch of the Stanley Cup Final that saw the Capitals victorious in five games. Maybe by Oct. 10 Alex Ovechkin will have been separated from the Cup.

Oct. 26, 2018 – Ottawa Senators at Colorado Avalanche

Matt Duchene has been a visiting player against the Avs, but that game actually took place in Sweden last season, so he’s yet to return to Pepsi Center as a Senator. Now, given the state of the Senators, we may get to late October and Duchene could be on a different team. But if he’s still with Ottawa, the reception he gets upon coming back to Denver should be interesting considering how his time with the franchise ended.

Dec. 1, 2018 – Columbus Blue Jackets at New York Islanders

As the Islanders prepare to leave Barclays Center in a few years, this game will be the first of 20 this coming season at their former home of Nassau Coliseum, now known as NYCB Live. The team will play games there over the next few seasons as a new arena gets built by Belmont race track in Elmont.

Getty Images

Nov. 1-2, 2018 – Florida Panthers vs. Winnipeg Jets

In the second set of Global Games, Patrik Laine and Aleksander Barkov head home to Finland as the Jets meet the Panthers in Helsinki.

Jan. 1, 2019 – Chicago Blackhawks vs. Boston Bruins

Hey, what do you know? An outdoor game featuring the Blackhawks. After taking a year off, the Blackhawks are back outside for the Winter Classic and will take on the Bruins at Notre Dame Stadium. There will be plenty of shots of Touchdown Jesus and lots and lots of stories of Vinnie Hinostroza’s time in South Bend.

Jan. 18, 2019 – New York Islanders at Washington Capitals

Trotz returns to D.C. where he’ll get some very, very long ovations from the crowd and enjoy a tribute video ending with him raising the Stanley Cup.

Jan. 25-26, 2019 – All-Star Weekend, San Jose

A bit of a change this year as the Skills Competition has been moved to Friday night of All-Star Weekend and the 3-on-3 divisional tournament taking place on Saturday.

Feb. 23, 2019 – Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Philadelphia Flyers

The home-and-home Battle of Pennsylvania outdoor series concludes this February when the Penguins visit the Flyers at Lincoln Financial Field for a Stadium Series game. The Penguins were 4-2 victors when the two met in 2017 at Heinz Field. Hopefully the jersey choices are a little better than what they wore in their previous meeting.

April 6, 2019 – Super Saturday

The final day of the 2018-19 regular season will see 30 teams in action, with hopefully some playoff seeds and spots still up for grabs before we get to the postseason.

————

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

NHL salary cap ceiling set at $79.5M for 2018-19 season

Getty Images
1 Comment

As expected, the NHL and NHLPA announced on Thursday that the salary cap ceiling for the 2018-19 season will increase to $79.5 million. That’s a $4.5 million increase from this past season.

Going back to December, the NHL’s revenues told them that the ceiling would rise by at least $3 million.

“The league has never been healthier,” said Commissioner Gary Bettman said at December’s Board of Governors meeting. “The game has never been healthier. Our franchises have never been healthier.”

Important news for teams like Ottawa and Arizona, the salary cap floor for next season will be $58.8 million, which means it’s time to prepare those Marian Hossa trade proposals!

The ceiling increase is also good news for those teams that regular spend to the limit. Now they have some more breathing room to either bring back some unrestricted or restricted free agents they want to sign or allow them to add a bit more salary under their cap if they want to go shopping this summer.

————

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

A talk with Lou Lamoriello excited Barry Trotz about joining Islanders

Getty Images
8 Comments

Barry Trotz wasn’t divulging details — such is the life of working for Lou Lamoriello. But the New York Islanders head coach did say he’d already spoken with captain John Tavares within hours of officially being hired.

We’re still to reach a resolution on that front, and as far as Trotz’s resignation after leading the Washington Capitals to the Stanley Cup two weeks ago, he said it was out of “principle.” The Cup victory meant a clause in his contract activated giving him a two-year extension and a $300,000 raise. He wanted a longer term and a richer deal, but the Capitals weren’t willing to go down that route.

[Islanders hire Barry Trotz as head coach]

“When it came to the business aspect, I was willing to listen,” Trotz said during a conference call with reporters on Thursday. “From my standpoint, I felt that it wasn’t really sincere what we did together. I decided it was better to just move on.”

Not long after he parted with the Capitals, Trotz’s agent got a call from Lamoriello expressing interest. Trotz flew in and met with the Islanders president and GM earlier this week and talked about a vision for the team. That’s when the head coach got excited about coming on board.

“If you know anything about Lou Lamoriello and his background and what he does, he’ll do what it takes to win,” Trotz said. “That got me excited right away.”

As for a staff, Trotz said Lane Lambert, his longtime assistant in Nashville and Washington, would be his “No. 1 choice” if he chooses to come to New York. Goaltending coach Mitch Korn could also be in the mix to follow Trotz.

With two straight seasons of playoffless hockey, Trotz understands that there’s work to do with the team, even beyond what happens with Tavares. But having coached against the Islanders for years, he knows there are some good pieces on the roster that could help in a turnaround.

“If we can get our structure right and we get our pace right, we’ll be able to score, we’ll be able to defend much better and we’re going to fix up some holes,” he said.

————

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Senators GM on Hoffman trade: ‘Our dressing room was broken’

Getty
4 Comments

Ottawa Senators general manager Pierre Dorion met with the media on Thursday afternoon ahead of the 2018 NHL draft, and while he refused to comment on the team’s plans regarding superstar defenseman Erik Karlsson and other players on the roster, he did speak extensively about the recent decision to trade veteran forward Mike Hoffman.

Earlier this week the Senators traded Hoffman, one of the team’s top forwards, to the San Jose Sharks in return for a package of players and picks that included veteran forward Mikkel Boedker.

The trade came less than a week after it was revealed that Hoffman’s fiance, Monika Caryk, was accused of harassing Melinda Karlsson.

[Related: Senators trade Hoffman for underwhelming return]

The first question Dorion faced was a blunt one: Why did you trade Mike Hoffman?

“Trading Mike Hoffman was something we needed to do,” said Dorion (via Sportsnet).

“We talk about — our dressing room was broken,” he continued. “We have to have a dressing room that wants to win together. Key components for us moving forward are, character, leadership, accountability, and we’re very happy with the return we got on Mike Hoffman. We feel Mikkel Boedker is a good player, he had a great second half, he was San Jose’s fifth leading scorer in their two rounds in the playoffs. We know with the culture that we’re aiming to get that he is going ot fit in that dressing room. I did talk to one player, not about his hockey abilities but about him as a person, that played with him, Matt Duchene, and Matt’s words to us were that he’s a great guy, he’s perfect for our room, and the culture we’re trying to build.”

Boedker has two years remaining on his current contract that pays him $4 million per season. He is coming off of a 2017-18 season that saw him score 15 goals and 37 total points for the Sharks.

Shortly after acquiring Hoffman from the Senators, San Jose turned around and flipped him to the Florida Panthers for a collection of draft picks.

Dorion was then asked when he first found out about the harassment that the Karlsson’s were subjected to following the death of their son.

“We heard a rumor at the end of the season,” said Dorion. “If we acted on every rumor we hear, we couldn’t do our job in management as a general manager. No player ever came to us about these things. At the start of every year we address the team. We address the team saying the general manager, our management group, we have an open door policy about anything personal or professional. The only thing we tell our players is don’t come see us about ice time. That is the coaches job.”

He continued: “I think when we address the players this year at the start of the year we are going to make sure in situations like this, they can definitely come to us. I think it’s important. I think in all of this the victim is Melinda Karlsson. If we can do something about it, we wish that this situation could have been prevented.”

This was just one of the many issues the Senators are facing this offseason.

The other serious one involves assistant general manager Randy Lee who is currently suspended indefinitely as he faces second-degree harassment charges for an incident involving a hotel shuttle bus driver in Buffalo during the NHL scouting combine.

Dorion said on Thursday that Lee’s situation will be re-evaluated following the court proceedings.

His next court date is set for July 6.

Along with all of this, it remains to be seen if Karlsson will be back with the Senators next season or if he will be traded (a trade they will have a difficult time winning) as he prepares to enter the final year of his contract.

The Senators also have a big decision to make regarding the No. 4 overall pick and whether or not they keep it (Dorion seems to anticipate they will) or send it to the Colorado Avalanche to complete the Matt Duchene trade (why they should consider it).

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.