24/7’s second episode shows us Bruce Boudreau might actually have a handle on things

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The second episode of HBO’s 24/7 goes to show us that judging teams based on one episode is akin to judging a book by its cover. Caps coach Bruce Boudreau faced a lot of criticism after the first episode and it appeared that all of those questions raised about his preparedness as a coach and his ability to hold the attention of his team in the room were answered emphatically.

Many talked about how Boudreau didn’t appear to have meticulous notes on the whiteboards for the Caps before games making it seem like he was an ill-prepared madman. In Wednesday’s episode we see more of Boudreau the coach with game plans written out with care and seeing him work player-to-player on everything from fighting to injuries to playing psychologist as much as he is a coach. For a team mired in a losing streak doing that is just as important as laying out the x’s and o’s.

In our three things to look out for before the airing of tonight’s episode we found out that the layout of tonight’s episode was indeed easy to pick out but seeing how it was laid out in front of us makes it all more fun. Capping off the episode with Washington beating Ottawa and ending their losing streak to get off their eight game schneid and celebrating to DJ Pauly D’s “Beat Dat Beat” proves that winning can cure everything.

There was a moment that raised eyebrows though and, again, it’s the Caps doing the work. Caps GM George McPhee commented on the negative publicity surrounding the team in their losing streak and said that if those commenting knew anything about hockey they’d be working in it. I get that those on the inside know how things work better when it comes to running a hockey team, but if you’re expecting the local sports talk shows to clam up while the team plays bad hockey, you’re crazy.

Those in the media, whether it’s blogs, newspapers, or talk radio, it’s our job to comment on what we see out on the ice and if what we see stinks, you’d better believe it’s going to be told that way. For McPhee to expect to either be ignored (perhaps in favor of the local NFL failures) or not talked about at all is just crazy and unrealistic.

When you win, you get praised and when you lose you are opened up to criticism, it’s that simple and it’s how the business works. If the Caps are able to keep winning and put that losing streak behind them for good, I’m sure he’ll be quite happy hearing the praise rather than the negative comments. We may not be hockey insiders in the media, but we know a struggling team when we see it.

Not everything McPhee showed in this episode was like this though. McPhee showed that he’s clearly the man in charge of the Capitals and how things are run in D.C. and that whatever happens there is by his design one way or another. Seeing him react to the team falling behind and then coming back against Boston before eventually losing their eighth game in a row is like something out of a feature film. Leave no doubt in your mind that George McPhee is the man running the Capitals.

As for the more fun and light-hearted and enlightening stuff to take away from episode two,there’s a few things:

  • Sidney Crosby’s superstitions are both fascinating and gross. From taping his sticks at a certain time and having a peanut butter and jelly sandwich before a game to seeing that Sid wears the same athletic supporter he has since he was 16 years-old provides some insight as to how quirky even the biggest star of the game is.
  • Alex Ovechkin still living with his parents in Washington provides a nice down home look at the other biggest superstar in the league. Seeing Alex’s mother prepare his dinner for him before hitting the road while seeing him pack lightly only bringing his PS3 reminds you that these guys are still just kids.
  • Penguins agitator Matt Cooke pranking his old friend and Internet superstar Paul Bissonette of the Coyotes by snipping his skate laces and stuffing Dubble Bubble bubble gum into the fingers of his gloves shows that even an on-ice villain can make us laugh.
  • The speech Caps forward Mike Knuble gave after the first period of their game against Boston where the Caps were already down 3-0 might have been the one locker room speech they needed the most to wake them up. He’s not the assistant captain for nothing.
  • Caps fighter Matt Hendricks’ eye after getting punched up by Rangers agitator Sean Avery is one of the grossest and manliest things you’ll ever see on TV.
  • Mike Green has an interesting mode of transportation.
  • Seriously, the Caps celebrate victories to this song and have a locker room Jersey Shore fist pump dance-off. My mind is blown.

Next week’s third episode figures to be the crowning glory of the four episode set as the teams will be preparing to face each other in their game that happens on Thursday night the 23rd. Having the NHL schedule makers set this up so nicely to amp up the drama will make next week’s episode even more of a must-watch.

Boeser gets 3-year, $17.6 million bridge deal with Canucks

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Big news for the Vancouver Canucks on Monday night as they announced a three-year deal for restricted free agent forward Brock Boeser.

It is a short-term bridge deal for the talented winger and will pay him $5.875 million per season.

Salary cap space has quickly become an issue for the Canucks this summer after more big spending on veteran depth players, but they were still able to come to terms on a deal with one of their most important players.

“We’re very pleased to have Brock re-sign,” said general manager Jim Benning in a statement released by the team. “He’s a talented player, a key contributor to our offense and an important part of our team’s future. We look forward to having Brock join the team in preparation for the upcoming season.”

The 22-year-old Boeser has 59 goals and 116 total points in 140 career games.

He was a runner-up for the Calder Trophy during the 2017-18 season and followed that up with a tremendous sophomore performance this past season. The only negative so far is that he has had terrible injury luck, missing 33 games over his first two full years in the league. When healthy he is one of the team’s top players, one of the best young players in the league, and along with Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes will be a significant part of the team’s foundation for the foreseeable future.

MORE:
• 
ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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.

New Seattle NHL arena remains on schedule for summer of 2021

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SEATTLE (AP) — The arena for Seattle’s NHL expansion franchise remains on track to open sometime in the summer of 2021.

Construction officials said Monday that the entire bowl of the former KeyArena has been demolished and excavation work is ongoing. Officials hope to begin digging down 15 feet from the current floor by year’s end and to spend most of 2020 constructing the new seating bowl from the bottom up.

Ken Johnsen, who is overseeing the construction project for Oak View Group and the NHL franchise, says the most challenge part so far has been putting in supports to take on the weight of the 44 million-pound roof, which is staying in place. The new arena is being built under the roof, which has historical landmark status.

Johnsen says the budget for the project remains around $930 million.

Previewing the 2019-20 Minnesota Wild

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(The 2019-20 NHL season is almost here so it’s time to look at all 31 teams. We’ll be breaking down strengths and weaknesses, looking at whether teams are better or worse this season and more!)

Better or worse: If we are comparing the Wild right now to where they were at the beginning of the 2018-19 season it would be difficult to argue that they are better following the in-season trades of Nino Niederreiter, Mikael Granlund, and Charlie Coyle. But if we are comparing them to where they were at the end of the 2018-19 season they might be a little better. Mats Zuccarello is another big-money player on the wrong side of 30, but he is still good. Mikko Koivu and Matthew Dumba are returning after missing significant portions of the 2018-19 season. There is also some potential with younger players to maybe take a step forward. The important question is whether or not those improvements are enough to get them back in the playoffs and help them return to contention in the Western Conference.

Strengths: The top half of their defense is really good with Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, and Dumba leading the way. Suter is the biggest name and the one that gets most of the attention because he never seems to leave the ice, but don’t overlook the other two. Spurgeon just signed a seven-year contract extension to remain with the team and has been a criminally underrated player for most of his career. Dumba, meanwhile, brings a ton of offensive potential from the blue line and was in the middle of a breakout season until an injury sustained in a fight sidelined him for most of the season. Behind them they have an above average goalie in Devan Dubnyk serving as the last line of defense. When he is on his game, he can carry the team and has been one of the league’s most productive goalies since joining the team in them middle of the 2014-15 season.

Weaknesses: The Wild have a lot of really good veteran players and some young players that could become really good players. What they are lacking is great players. They don’t really have anyone that can be a difference-making, impact player that puts the team on their back for a game (or a stretch of games) and carries it. That kind of limits what your team’s ceiling is among the league’s hierarchy of contenders. The other concern is the age of the core. With Spurgeon now re-signed, they now have six players over the age of 30 signed for at least two more seasons. Several of those players are signed beyond the age of 35. How will all of those players hold up during those contracts?

[MORE: Under Pressure | Three Questions | X-Factor]

Coach Hot Seat Rating (1-10, 10 being red hot): Bruce Boudreau is entering his fourth season as the Wild’s head coach and is already going to be working with his third different general manager. That is kind of shocking, not only because the Wild have gone through that much change in their front office, but that the head coach has outlasted all of it. We will put his hot seat rating as a 6 out of 10. He does not have one foot out the door, but he is probably not totally secure, either.

Three Most Fascinating Players: Jason Zucker, Zach Parise, and Kevin Fiala are the three players worth keeping a close eye on this season.

One of the more bizarre aspects of Paul Fenton’s one year of error in Minnesota was his apparent burning desire to trade Zucker. He has not only been one of the team’s best two-way players and a popular member of the community, but Fenton was also trying to sell him at what was probably his lowest possible value. A similar move with Niederreiter went about as poorly as could have been expected, and repeating the same mistake with Zucker would have been crushing. As it stands now, Zucker is back in Minnesota and should be poised to have a bounce back year offensively.

Speaking of bounce back years, Parise went through one of his own during the 2018-19 season and saw pretty significant improvements in his production across the board. He is almost certainly never going to be a 40-goal, 90-point player again, but was his bounce back a one-year outlier in what has been a steady decline in recent years? Or can the Wild expect similar production this season?

Of all the players Fenton acquired during the 2018-19 season the one that seems most intriguing is Fiala. He is still only 23 years old, has already shown 20-goal ability in the NHL, and has some fairly promising underlying numbers to his game. He is a better player than what he showed immediately after the trade.

Playoffs or lottery: There is a short-term path back to the playoffs for this team, but a lot of things need to go right in order for that to happen. Realistic outcome is this looks like a team that finishes somewhere between 7th and 11th in the Western Conference. Not good enough to truly contend, but not bad enough to play its way into the highest draft lottery odds.

More
Do Wild have short-term path back to playoffs?
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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.

Flyers re-sign Travis Konecny to 6-year, $33 million deal

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Another domino in the NHL’s restricted free agency saga has fallen.

The Philadelphia Flyers announced on Monday that they have re-signed forward Travis Konecny to a six-year contract that will pay him $5.5 million per year through the end of the 2023-24 season. Konecny was the last of the Flyers’ unsigned RFA’s, and his new deal means that general manager Chuck Fletcher’s offseason checklist is now complete.

“We are happy to have Travis under contract for the next six seasons,” said Fletcher in a statement released by the team. “Travis has shown progression in each of his three seasons and is an integral part of our group of young forwards. His speed, skill and tenacity sets him apart in today’s NHL.”

The 22-year-old Konecny is coming off a 24-goal, 49-point performance for the Flyers a year ago, a stat line that was almost identical to what he did the year before. He figures to be a significant part of the Flyers’ core in the coming seasons and is one of eight players the team has signed through at least 2022, joining Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Sean Couturier, Kevin Hayes, James van Riemsdyk, Ivan Provorov, and Shayne Gostisbehere.

Even if he never becomes anything more than a 25-goal, 50-point player that is still a pretty strong contract for the Flyers, and there is still a chance he is capable of more.

With Konecny now signed the list of remaining unsigned RFA’s throughout the league is down to Patrik Laine, Kyle Connor, Mathew Tkachuk, Brock Boeser, Mikko Rantanen, Brayden Point, Brandon Carlo, Julius Honka, Anthony DeAngelo, and Saku Maenalanen.

MORE:
Provorov signs 6-year, $40.5 million deal with Flyers
• 
ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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.