Wayne Simmonds met Will Smith at the Sixers game last night

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It was a big night at the Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday.

For starters, the Atlantic Division-leading 76ers hosted the scorching New York Knicks and whatever’s left of Linsanity. So that was big.

There were also plenty of celebrities on hand, including 76ers minority owner/happyness pursuer Will Smith, filmmaker/Knicks fanatic Spike Lee and newly acquired Eagles linebacker DeMeco Ryans.

See?

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(Ryans is not the guy in the creamsicle shirt, in case you were wondering.)

Also in attendance were a pair of Philadelphia Flyers: Scott Hartnell and Wayne Simmonds.

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(Sitting between them? Daniel Briere. /rimshot)

It proved to be a big night for Simmonds, who tweeted that he got to meet Smith during the contest.

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It remains unclear if Hartnell was granted an audience with the Fresh Prince (or if he was reduced to hanging with Carlton), but if there are any further developments on that front, we’ll be sure to let you know.

PHT: Your home for NHLers and their brief forays into celebrity.

(h/t to Crossing Broad for the pics)

Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

NBC
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2018-19 NHL on NBC Schedule Features Most Games Since NBC Sports Acquired Rights Prior to 2005-06 Season

New “Wednesday Night Hockey” on NBCSN to Showcase Its Most Diverse Exclusive Schedule to Date and NHL’s Rising Stars 

2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic Features Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins on Jan. 1 on NBC from Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Ind.

NBC Sports Presents 2019 NHL All-Star Game from San Jose, Calif., Live in Primetime on Broadcast Television for First Time Since 1997 

NBC Sports is scheduled to present 109 NHL regular-season games during the 2018-19 season – its most since acquiring NHL rights prior to the 2005-06 season. Coverage begins Wednesday, Oct. 3, at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, when Alex Ovechkin and the Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals raise their championship banner to the rafters and host the Boston Bruins. All games will be streamed live on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app to authenticated users via TV Everywhere.

NBC Sports’ 2018-19 NHL schedule is highlighted by the debut of “Wednesday Night Hockey” on NBCSN, which will showcase the network’s most diverse schedule since it acquired NHL rights prior to the 2005-06 season, as well as NHL’s current and rising stars. Highlights of NBC Sports’ “Wednesday Night Hockey” schedule on NBCSN include: 

  • Doubleheaders – 17 of 25 “Wednesday Night Hockey” showcases on NBCSN will be doubleheaders, the most in the network’s history, with a nearly equal balance of Eastern and Western Conference teams;
  • Diverse schedule – “Wednesday Night Hockey” will feature NBCSN’s widest variety of teams to date on Wednesday nights, including multiple appearances by Tampa Bay, Colorado, Toronto, Vegas, Edmonton, Nashville, and Winnipeg. The defending champion Washington Capitals lead all teams with eight “Wednesday Night Hockey” appearances;
  • Earlier start times – While some games will begin at 8 p.m. ET, the majority of “Wednesday Night Hockey” games and doubleheaders will begin at either 7 p.m. ET or 7:30 p.m. ET. On many occasions, coverage of the second game of “Wednesday Night Hockey” doubleheaders begins at 9:30 p.m. ET, earlier than past years. 

“With the impressive growth of fan interest in non-traditional NHL markets combined with the emergence of a number of rising stars, we felt the time was right to broaden our Wednesday night schedule and evolve the brand,” said Sam Flood, Executive Producer and President, Production, NBC Sports and NBCSN. “Fans will still see plenty of games between traditional powers, but our new approach to Wednesday nights – including a record number of doubleheaders – allows us to show more rising stars and more Western Conference and Canadian teams than ever before.”

Following are highlights of NBC Sports’ 2018-19 NHL regular-season schedule:

  • The season opens with a “Wednesday Night Hockey” doubleheader on Oct. 3 at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN as the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals host the Boston Bruins, followed by the Anaheim Ducks vs. San Jose Sharks at 10:30 p.m. ET;
  • NBC Sports will present the 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic between the Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks from iconic Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Ind., on Jan. 1, 2019, at 1 p.m. ET on NBC;
  • NBC Sports will present exclusive primetime coverage of the 2019 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers from Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles, on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019 at 8 p.m. ET on NBC;
  • NBC will present coverage of the 2019 NHL All-Star Weekend from SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., home of the San Jose Sharks, on Jan. 25-26, highlighted by live coverage of the All-Star Game on Saturday, Jan. 26, in primetime on NBC, the first time the All-Star Game will be televised live on a broadcast network since 1997;
  • NBC Sports will present 13 NHL games on NBC, beginning with the 2018 Discover Thanksgiving Showdown on Friday, Nov, 23, when the Philadelphia Flyers host the New York Rangers;
  • 67 of 110 scheduled regular-season games on NBC and NBCSN – more than 60% – will feature at least one Western Conference team.

NHL WINTER CLASSIC AND NHL STADIUM SERIES

On Jan. 1, the 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic will feature the Boston Bruins and the Chicago Blackhawks from Notre Dame Stadium in Notre Dame, Ind., on NBC. The NHL Winter Classic has produced the five most-watched regular-season games in NHL history. The 2019 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series will feature the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers on Feb. 23 in primetime on NBC at Lincoln Financial Field, home of the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles.

WEDNESDAY NIGHT HOCKEY

NBCSN’s exclusive “Wednesday Night Hockey” coverage will feature the NHL’s established stars and young phenoms, and NBC Sports’ most diverse schedule to date. In addition, many “Wednesday Night Hockey” games and doubleheaders will feature earlier start times (7-7:30 p.m. ET). In many cases, Eastern Conference teams will be featured in the first game of the doubleheader, followed by a Western Conference matchup in the nightcap. Notable games on the “Wednesday Night Hockey” schedule include:

  • October 10 – A 2018 Stanley Cup Final rematch between the Vegas Golden Knights and Washington Capitals;
  • October 24 – Two of the best young stars in the NHL will clash when Auston Matthews and the Toronto Maple Leafs visit Patrik Laine and the Winnipeg Jets;
  • January 23 – Ovechkin and the Capitals host Matthews and the Maple Leafs, followed by a battle out west between P.K. Subban and the Nashville Predators vs. Marc-Andre Fleury and the Golden Knights;
  • February 13 – Three-time Stanley Cup champion Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins host Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers in Edmonton’s only visit to Pittsburgh;
  • March 20 – A rematch of the 2018 Eastern Conference Final, as Ovechkin and the Capitals host Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning.

NBCSN 2018-19 NHL “Wednesday Night Hockey” schedule (subject to change):

Date Away Home Time (ET)
October 3* Boston Washington 7:30 p.m.
Anaheim San Jose 10:30 p.m.
October 10 Vegas Washington 8 p.m.
October 17 N.Y. Rangers Washington 7 p.m.
Boston Calgary 9:30 p.m.
October 24 Toronto Winnipeg 7 p.m.
Tampa Bay Colorado 9:30 p.m.
November 7 Pittsburgh Washington 7:30 p.m.
Nashville Colorado 10 p.m.
November 14 St. Louis Chicago 8 p.m.
Anaheim Vegas 10:30 p.m.
November 28 St. Louis Detroit 7 p.m.
Pittsburgh Colorado 9:30 p.m.
December 5 Edmonton St. Louis 8 p.m.
Chicago Anaheim 10:30 p.m.
December 12 Pittsburgh Chicago 8 p.m.
December 19 Pittsburgh Washington 8 p.m.
January 2 Pittsburgh N.Y. Rangers 7 p.m.
San Jose Colorado 9:30 p.m.
January 9 Nashville Chicago 8 p.m.
January 16 Boston Philadelphia 7:30 p.m.
San Jose Arizona 10 p.m.
January 23 Washington Toronto 7:30 p.m.
Nashville Vegas 10 p.m.
January 30 Tampa Bay Pittsburgh 8 p.m.
February 6 Boston N.Y. Rangers 8 p.m.
February 13 Edmonton Pittsburgh 8 p.m.
February 20 Chicago Detroit 7:30 p.m.
Boston Vegas 10 p.m.
February 27 Tampa Bay N.Y. Rangers 7:30 p.m.
Chicago Anaheim 10 p.m.
March 6 Washington Philadelphia 7:30 p.m.
St. Louis Anaheim 10 p.m.
March 13 Chicago Toronto 7 p.m.
New Jersey Edmonton 9:30 p.m.
March 20 Tampa Bay Washington 7:30 p.m.
Winnipeg Anaheim 10 p.m.
March 27 N.Y. Rangers Boston 7:30 p.m.
Vegas Colorado 10 p.m.
April 3 St. Louis Chicago 8 p.m.
Calgary Anaheim 10:30 p.m.

NBC SPORTS PRESENTS 2019 NHL ALL-STAR GAME LIVE IN PRIMETIME ON BROADCAST TELEVISION FOR FIRST TIME SINCE 1997 

NBC and NBCSN will present extensive coverage of the 2019 NHL All-Star Weekend from SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., home of the San Jose Sharks, highlighted by the NHL All-Star Game in primetime on NBC on Saturday, Jan. 26, marking the first time the NHL All-Star Game will be shown in primetime on broadcast television since 1997. NHL All-Star will take place January 25-26, 2019, and will include the NHL All-Star Skills Competition™ on Friday, Jan. 25, on NBCSN. Last year’s NHL All-Star Game in Tampa, Fla., was the third consecutive All-Star Game to feature the popular 3-on-3 tournament style format.

NHL ON NBC

NHL on NBC coverage begins on Friday, Nov. 23, at 1 p.m. ET, with the 2018 Discover NHL Thanksgiving Showdown featuring the New York Rangers and the Philadelphia Flyers, marking the first of 13 games scheduled to air on NBC during the regular season. Beginning on Jan. 20, and continuing through the end of the regular season, NBC will present the NHL Game of the Week, generally occurring on Sunday afternoons. Following is the 2018-19 NHL on NBC regular season schedule:

Date Away Home Time (ET)
Fri., Nov. 23# N.Y. Rangers Philadelphia 1 p.m.
Tues., Jan. 1* Boston Chicago 1 p.m.
Sun., Jan. 20 Washington Chicago 12:30 p.m.
Sat., Feb. 2 Tampa Bay N.Y. Rangers 8 p.m.
Sat., Feb. 2 Minnesota Chicago 8 p.m.
Sun., Feb. 3 Boston Washington 12:30 p.m.
Sun., Feb. 10 St. Louis Nashville 12:30 p.m.
Sun., Feb. 17 N.Y. Rangers Pittsburgh 12:30 p.m.
Sun., Feb. 17 St. Louis Minnesota 3 p.m.
Sat., Feb. 23^ Pittsburgh Philadelphia 8 p.m.
Sun., March 3 Washington N.Y. Rangers 12:30 p.m.
Sun., March 24 Philadelphia Washington 12:30 p.m.
Sun., March 31 N.Y. Rangers Philadelphia 12:30 p.m.

#2018 Discover NHL Thanksgiving Showdown; *2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic; ^2019 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series

NHL ON NBCSN

NBCSN will televise at least 96 NHL regular-season games this season, including the Opening Night doubleheader, 40 “Wednesday Night Hockey” games, and 21 doubleheaders, as well as NHL All-Star coverage from San Jose, Calif. In addition, NBC Sports has left the majority of the final week of the regular season on NBCSN open to allow for the biggest games with playoff implications to be added to the schedule.

NHL LIVE AND NHL OVERTIME

NHL Live and NHL Overtime, NBC Sports’ live pre- and post-game show with highlights and analysis of NHL matchups, will air before and after most games on NBCSN. A 60-minute edition of NHL Live will air prior to most games, while NHL Overtime will air immediately following most games.

STREAMING COVERAGE ON NBCSPORTS.COM AND THE NBC SPORTS APP

NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app — NBC Sports Group’s live streaming platforms for desktops, mobile devices, tablets, and connected TVs — will provide live streaming coverage of the Stanley Cup Playoffs via “TV Everywhere,” giving consumers additional value for their subscription service, and making high quality content available to MVPD customers both in and out of the home and on multiple platforms. 

NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app are powered by Playmaker Media and available on the iTunes App Store, Google Play, Windows Store, Roku Channel Store, Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Samsung Smart TVs, Xbox, and Chromecast.

NBC Sports Group 2018-19 NHL regular-season schedule (subject to change):

Date Away Home Network Time (ET)
Wed., Oct 3 Boston Washington NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Anaheim San Jose NBCSN 10:30 p.m.
Thur., Oct. 4 Nashville N.Y. Rangers NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Philadelphia Vegas NBCSN 10 p.m.
Tues., Oct. 9 San Jose Philadelphia NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Wed., Oct. 10 Vegas Washington NBCSN 8 p.m.
Tues., Oct. 16 Arizona Minnesota NBCSN 8 p.m.
Wed., Oct. 17 N.Y. Rangers Washington NBCSN 7 p.m.
Boston Calgary NBCSN 9:30 p.m.
Fri., Oct. 19 Minnesota Dallas NBCSN 8 p.m.
Tues., Oct. 23 San Jose Nashville NBCSN 8 p.m.
Wed., Oct. 24 Toronto Winnipeg NBCSN 7 p.m.
Tampa Bay Colorado NBCSN 9:30 p.m.
Tues., Oct. 30 Vegas Nashville NBCSN 8 p.m.
Thur., Nov. 1 Winnipeg Florida NBCSN 2 p.m.
Tues., Nov. 6 Edmonton Tampa Bay NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Wed., Nov. 7 Pittsburgh Washington NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Nashville Colorado NBCSN 10 p.m.
Tues., Nov. 13 Tampa Bay Buffalo NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Wed., Nov. 14 St. Louis Chicago NBCSN 8 p.m.
Anaheim Vegas NBCSN 10:30 p.m.
Tues., Nov. 20 Edmonton San Jose NBCSN 10:30 p.m.
Wed., Nov. 21 Philadelphia Buffalo NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Fri., Nov. 23 N.Y. Rangers Philadelphia NBC 1 p.m.
Chicago Tampa Bay NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Tues., Nov. 27 Vegas Chicago NBCSN 8 p.m.
Wed., Nov. 28 St. Louis Detroit NBCSN 7 p.m.
Pittsburgh Colorado NBCSN 9:30 p.m.
Tues., Dec. 4 Toronto Buffalo NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Wed., Dec. 5 Edmonton St. Louis NBCSN 8 p.m.
Chicago Anaheim NBCSN 10:30 p.m.
Tues., Dec. 11 Detroit Washington NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Wed., Dec. 12 Pittsburgh Chicago NBCSN 8 p.m.
Tues., Dec. 18 Nashville Chicago NBCSN 8:30 p.m.
Wed., Dec. 19 Pittsburgh Washington NBCSN 8 p.m.
Fri., Dec. 21 Buffalo Washington NBCSN 7 p.m.
Thur., Dec. 27 Philadelphia Tampa Bay NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Tues., Jan. 1 Boston Chicago NBC 1 p.m.
Wed., Jan. 2 Pittsburgh N.Y. Rangers NBCSN 7 p.m.
San Jose Colorado NBCSN 9:30 p.m.
Thur., Jan. 3 Chicago N.Y. Islanders NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Sun., Jan. 6 Chicago Pittsburgh NBCSN 8 p.m.
Tues., Jan. 8 Philadelphia Washington NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Wed., Jan. 9 Nashville Chicago NBCSN 8 p.m.
Thur., Jan. 10 Winnipeg Minnesota NBCSN 8 p.m.
Mon., Jan. 14 Montreal Boston NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Tues., Jan. 15 Los Angeles Minnesota NBCSN 8 p.m.
Wed., Jan. 16 Boston Philadelphia NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
San Jose Arizona NBCSN 10 p.m.
Thur., Jan. 17 Chicago N.Y. Rangers NBCSN 7 p.m.
Sun., Jan. 20 Washington Chicago NBC 12:30 p.m.
Mon., Jan. 21 St. Louis Los Angeles NBCSN 4 p.m.
Tues., Jan. 22 Detroit Edmonton NBCSN 9 p.m.
Wed., Jan. 23 Washington Toronto NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Nashville Vegas NBCSN 10 p.m.
Mon., Jan. 28 Winnipeg Philadelphia NBCSN 7 p.m.
Tues., Jan. 29 Philadelphia N.Y. Rangers NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Wed., Jan. 30 Tampa Bay Pittsburgh NBCSN 8 p.m.
Sat., Feb. 2 Tampa Bay N.Y. Rangers NBC 8 p.m.
Minnesota Chicago NBC 8 p.m.
Sun., Feb. 3 Boston Washington NBC 12:30 p.m.
Wed., Feb. 6 Boston N.Y. Rangers NBCSN 8 p.m.
Sun., Feb. 10 St. Louis Nashville NBC 12:30 p.m.
Toronto N.Y. Rangers NBCSN 7 p.m.
Mon., Feb. 11 Pittsburgh Philadelphia NBCSN 7 p.m.
Tues., Feb. 12 Chicago Boston NBCSN 7 p.m.
Wed., Feb. 13 Edmonton Pittsburgh NBCSN 8 p.m.
Sun., Feb. 17 N.Y. Rangers Pittsburgh NBC 12:30 p.m.
St. Louis Minnesota NBC 3 p.m.
Philadelphia Detroit NBCSN 6 p.m.
Mon., Feb. 18 Tampa Bay Columbus NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Boston San Jose NBCSN 10 p.m.
Tues., Feb. 19 Toronto St. Louis NBCSN 8 p.m.
Wed., Feb. 20 Chicago Detroit NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Boston Vegas NBCSN 10 p.m.
Thur., Feb. 21 Los Angeles Nashville NBCSN 8 p.m.
Sat., Feb. 23 Pittsburgh Philadelphia NBC 8 p.m.
Sun., Feb. 24 St. Louis Minnesota NBCSN 7 p.m.
Mon., Feb. 25 Los Angeles Tampa Bay NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Tues., Feb. 26 Buffalo Philadelphia NBCSN 7 p.m.
Wed., Feb. 27 Tampa Bay N.Y. Rangers NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Chicago Anaheim NBCSN 10 p.m.
Thur., Feb. 28 Tampa Bay Boston NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Sun., March 3 Washington N.Y. Rangers NBC 12:30 p.m.
Nashville Minnesota NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Tues., March 5 Minnesota Nashville NBCSN 8 p.m.
Wed., March 6 Washington Philadelphia NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
St. Louis Anaheim NBCSN 10 p.m.
Thur., March 7 Columbus Pittsburgh NBCSN 7 p.m.
Sun., March 10 Boston Pittsburgh NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Los Angeles Anaheim NBCSN 10 p.m.
Mon., March 11 San Jose Minnesota NBCSN 8 p.m.
Tues., March 12 Washington Pittsburgh NBCSN 7 p.m.
Wed., March 13 Chicago Toronto NBCSN 7 p.m.
New Jersey Edmonton NBCSN 9:30 p.m.
Sun., March 17 Philadelphia Pittsburgh NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Edmonton Vegas NBCSN 10 p.m.
Tues., March 19 Washington New Jersey NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Wed., March 20 Tampa Bay Washington NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Winnipeg Anaheim NBCSN 10 p.m.
Sun., March 24 Philadelphia Washington NBC 12:30 p.m.
Colorado Chicago NBCSN 8 p.m.
Mon., March 25 Nashville Minnesota NBCSN 8 p.m.
Tues., March 26 Carolina Washington NBCSN 7 p.m.
Wed., March 27 N.Y. Rangers Boston NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Vegas Colorado NBCSN 10 p.m.
Sun., March 31 N.Y. Rangers Philadelphia NBC 12:30 p.m.
Boston Detroit NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Wed., April 3 St. Louis Chicago NBCSN 8 p.m.
Calgary Anaheim NBCSN 10:30 p.m.

*Some games will be blacked out in local markets and televised in those markets by a regional carrier.

————

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.

PHT Power Rankings: Best salary cap era teams to not win Stanley Cup

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It is the summer and with no games being played at the moment it is awfully difficult to rank the NHL’s 31 teams on a weekly basis. So the PHT Power Rankings will spend the next month taking a look back at some of the best (and worst) developments in the NHL, both past and present. Best trades. Worst trades. Best all-time teams. Any other random things we feel like ranking. This week we look step into the present and look at the best trades that have been made (so far) this summer.

For better or worse the success or failure of teams in the major North American sports is defined almost entirely by what they do in the playoffs. It is not always fair because it puts all of the emphasis on what happens in a small sampling of games where anything from injuries, to bad luck, to one poorly timed bad game can turn things completely upside down.

Sometimes the best team in a given season is not the one that is holding the trophy at the end of the playoffs.

Sometimes there is still a lot to be said for being one of the best teams over an 82-game schedule, no matter what does or does not happen in the playoffs.

This week’s power rankings is about teams that might fall into that group as we look back at the best teams in the salary cap era to not win the Stanley Cup.

1. 2005-06 Detroit Red Wings. This Red Wings team was absolutely insane both in terms of its roster and what it accomplished on the ice during the regular season.

On an individual level Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk were just entering the prime of their careers. Nick Lidstrom won his third Norris Trophy. Brendan Shanahan was a 40-goal scorer at the age of 37. Eight different players scored at least 20 goals while Steve Yzerman, at the age of 40, scored 14 in only 61 games. On a team level, they scored 301 goals (one of only three teams to score at least 300 goals in a single season in the salary cap era) and won 58 games, the fourth-most in NHL history. Before you start screaming about shootout wins, only four of those wins came in the shootout, so even if you exclude those four games (dropping the win total to 54 regulation/overtime wins) it still would have been a top-five total in league history in the pre-shootout era.

They were amazing.

The only thing this team did not have: Great goaltending, and that played a pretty significant factor in them going out in in the first round to the No. 8 seeded Edmonton Oilers, who were just beginning a rather stunning and unexpected run to the Stanley Cup Final.

2. 2009-10 Washington Capitals. If we really wanted to we could probably throw three or four Capitals teams on this list (like the three teams that won the Presidents’ Trophy), but of all the Capitals teams that did not win the Stanley Cup in the Alex Ovechkin era this team was by far the best. I am not even a Capitals fan and it makes me irrationally angry that they did not win it all. Not only because they were absolutely good enough to win it all, but because of what not winning in this season did to the franchise — and the narrative surrounding Ovechkin’s career — in the coming years.

This Capitals team just flat out steamrolled teams during the regular season, winning 54 games (only losing 15 in regulation) and scoring 313 goals, the most of any team in the cap era. What makes that 313 total so outrageous is that they are one of only three teams to score at least 300 goals in this era (the Red Wings team listed above being one of the others), and one of only four to score more than 290. The other three teams to top the 290 mark did it during the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons coming right out of the lockout when goal-scoring briefly skyrocketed.

Their goal total in this season was 45 more than the next closest team (the Vancouver Canucks, who scored 268). That gap between the Capitals and Canucks was the same as the gap between the Canucks in the second spot and the Red Wings … who were 14th in the league in goals. This Capitals team was scoring goals like it was 1985 in an era where everyone else was reverting back to the dead-puck era.

Then they lost in the first-round to the Montreal Canadiens, which began that multiple-season process where too many people (including the Capitals) decided a 54-win team that scored nearly 50 more goals than every other team in the league was doing something wrong and had to change, shifting way too far in the opposite direction and probably setting the franchise back several years.

What makes the first-round exit even more frustrating is that they were the better team, only to lose because Jaroslav Halak just so happened play the three best games of his life in Games 5-6-7 of the series. If Halak was anything other than superhuman in just one of those three games the Capitals easily move on. It was all very stupid.

3. 2008-09 Detroit Red Wings. The 2007-08 Detroit Red Wings were a force. They won the Presidents’ Trophy with the league’s best record, then dominated every team they faced in the playoffs, including a really good Pittsburgh Penguins team in the Stanley Cup Final that, at times, looked like it didn’t even belong on the same ice as the Red Wings (Game 1 and 2 in particular were laughably one-sided in Detroit’s favor).

What did Detroit do the following offseason? They just brought back almost the exact same roster, and then added to it by signing Marian Hossa (one of the best players on the Pittsburgh team that it had beaten in the previous year’s Final) to a one-year contract.

With Zetterberg, Datsyuk, and Hossa the Red Wings had three of the five best two-way forwards in the NHL, the league’s best defense pairing in Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski, and a bunch of damn good players throughout the lineup (Johan Franzen, Valterri Filppula, Jiri Hudler, Niklas Kronwall, Tomas Holmstrom) that made the roster incredibly intimidating.

On paper and on the ice this team was stacked, and they had the results to back it all up, finishing with one of the best records in the league (112 points, third best) and obliterating the Western Conference in the playoffs with a 12-3 record. The only team that gave them a fight was Anaheim in the second round.

Their quest for a second consecutive title, however, came up just short in the Stanley Cup Final rematch against the Penguins when they lost Games 6 and 7, with the latter ending with Marc-Andre Fleury‘s buzzer-beating save on Lidstrom.

4. 2005-06/2006-07 Buffalo Sabres. Am I cheating here a little by including both seasons? Maybe. But they are both pretty much carbon copies in how they turned out.

The Sabres were one of the NHL’s most exciting teams coming out of the 2004-05 lockout and had assembled a fast, high-powered offense led by Chris Drury, Danny Briere, Thomas Vanek, Maxim Afinogenov, and Jason Pominville that was a ton of fun to watch. They won 105 regular season games between the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons (second only to the Red Wings during that stretch) and found themselves in the Eastern Conference Finals in both seasons, only to lose both times.

The 2005-06 campaign was probably the most devastating because that series went all the way to a Game 7 — a Game 7 where the Sabres went into the third period with a 2-1 lead before self-destructing over the final 19 minutes, allowing three consecutive goals to a Hurricanes team that would go on to win its first Stanley Cup.

5. 2017-18 Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lightning have had quite a few excellent teams in the cap era, reaching the Stanley Cup Final once and the Eastern Conference Final three other times.

The best of those teams was probably the one they put on the ice this past season. How good were they?

They finished with 117 total points in the standings thanks to a roster that boasted…

  • Two of the top-offensive players in the league (including the league’s third-leading scorer in Nikita Kucherov) as part of a ridiculously deep offensive team that scored 17 more goals than any other team in the league.
  • The Norris Trophy winner in Victor Hedman.
  • A Vezina Trophy finalist in Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Extremely impressive roster and tremendous results.

Unfortunately for the Lightning it was yet another disappointing ending as they let a 3-2 series lead in the Eastern Conference Final slip away, capped off with a blowout loss in Game 7 at home to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals.

It was the third time in four years they were a part of the NHL’s Final Four and allowed a series lead to slip away.

[Related: How the Lightning keep coming up just short]

6. 2013-14 Boston Bruins. The Bruins had an incredible run between 2010 and 2014 where they played in the Stanley Cup Final twice (winning one) and won the Presidents’ Trophy as the league’s best regular season team.

The 2013-14 team was the Presidents’ Trophy winning team, finishing with 54 wins and coming back strong after a heartbreaking Stanley Cup Final loss the previous season.

This particular era of Bruins hockey was highlighted by suffocating defensive play and outstanding goaltending, with this particular team being the most dominant of them all in that area. During this season Bruins allowed just 2.09 goals per game and had two goalies (Tuukka Rask and Chad Johnson) appear in at least 25 games and finish with a save percentage above .925.

While they were shutting teams down defensively, they also averaged more than 3.15 goals per game and were the third highest scoring team in the league complete with six different 50-point forwards (and a seventh, Carl Soderberg, that had 48 points in only 73 games).

Their run came to an end, however, in the second round against their arch rivals in Montreal, blowing a 3-2 series lead when their offense dried up, scoring just one goal (total) in Games 6 and 7.

7. 2010-11/2011-12 Vancouver Canucks. Like the Sabres up above we are combing these two because, well, they were just so similar in each season.

Today we may know the Canucks as a bumbling franchise haphazardly stumbling along in some kind of a rebuild that may or may not have much of a direction.

But there was a time — not that long ago! — that they were one of the elite teams in the league, winning the Presidents’ Trophy in back-to-back years in 2010-11 and 2011-12, with the former going all the way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final only to lose in Game 7 to the Bruins. They came back the next season and finished with the best record once again, only to then be easily dismissed in the first-round by the eventual Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings.

The foundation of these teams were Henrik and Daniel Sedin at the top of the lineup, and an incredible goaltending duo in Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider. The Sedins were especially dominant during this stretch with Daniel winning the Art Ross trophy during the 2010-11 season, while they were both among the top-four point producers in the league during the two-year stretch.

Things rapidly fell apart for the Canucks after the 2011-12 season. The Sedins started to slow down, Schneider and Luongo were eventually traded in separate deals, while the team has made the playoffs just twice since then and has not made it out of the first round.

8. 2008-09 San Jose Sharks. Even though the Joe ThorntonPatrick Marleau era never produced a Stanley Cup for the Sharks, it was still an incredible run when they were together prior to Marleau’s exit to Toronto.

The 2008-09 season was the franchise’s high point (at least as far as regular season performance goes) as the Sharks finished with the best record in the league.

Thornton and Marleau were still close to being point-per-game players at the top of the lineup, while the front office strengthened the defense prior to the season by trading for Dan Boyle and signing Rob Blake to add to a blue line that already had Christian Ehrhoff and a young Marc-Edouard Vlasic.

The result was a 117-point regular season, a total that only four teams in the cap era have topped (the 2005-06 Red Wings, and three different Capitals teams).

Their postseason run ended in six games at the hands of the Anaheim Ducks.

9. 2011-12 Pittsburgh Penguins. In between their back-to-back Stanley Cup Final appearances in 2008 and 2009, and their back-to-back Stanley Cup wins in 2016 and 2017, the Pittsburgh Penguins had a lot of early and disappointing exits in the playoffs. A lot of those teams were unfairly labeled as “underachieving” or having missed an opportunity to win another championship when the reality is a lot of them just simply weren’t good enough beyond their top couple of stars.

Of all the Penguins teams between 2009 and 2016 that didn’t win the Stanley Cup, this is the one you can look at and fairly say “they missed an opportunity” or underachieved.

This team, when healthy, was absolutely loaded and should have gone further in the playoffs.

By the end of the season Sidney Crosby was back healthy after his concussion/neck issues and was at the height of his power as an offensive player, and along with Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal gave the team an unmatched trio of centers down the middle. When all three were in the lineup they were all but unstoppable. On top of that they had a 40-goal scorer in James Neal on the wing, a lethal power play, and plenty of depth at forward. They closed out the regular season on an 18-4-2 run and looked to be the favorites to win the Stanley Cup.

Their biggest flaw: A collectively short fuse that saw them fly off the handle and melt down when someone punched them in the face. This was on display in their first-round series loss to the Philadelphia Flyers (a total gong show of a series), as well as the bad version of Marc-Andre Fleury in the playoffs when he played what was perhaps the worst playoff series of his life.

10. 2005-06 Ottawa Senators. Throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s the Ottawa Senators had a lot of really good teams that were loaded with talent. Even though the 2006-07 team ended up being the only one of them to reach the Stanley Cup Final, the 2005-06 team may have been the best. 

Daniel Aldredsson, Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza were all 90-point scorers (with Spezza doing it in only 68 games), Zdeno Chara was leading the defense in his final season with the team before leaving in free agency after the season, and Dominik Hasek played his one season with the team.

Hasek’s situation is the great “what if” here.

Even though he was 41 years old he was still having an outstanding season with a .925 save percentage (among the best in the NHL) before suffering an injury as a member of the Czech Olympic team at the 2006 games in Turin. That injury sidelined him for the remainder of the season, leaving rookie Ray Emery as the Senators’ primary goalie the rest of the way. While Emery played well in the regular season and in the first-round of the playoffs against the Tampa Bay Lightning, he struggled in the second round against the one of the aforementioned Sabres teams, resulting in a five-game loss. With a healthy Hasek this may have been a team capable of winning it all.

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.

Three questions facing Florida Panthers

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Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to focusing on a player coming off a breakthrough year to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the Florida Panthers.

What even more on the Cats? PHT has you covered today:

[Looking back at 2017-18 | Building off a breakthrough | Under Pressure]

 1. Will their goalies hold up?

If this was “NHL 19,” the Panthers would just turn injuries off and the goalie issues would be pretty much fine. After all, Roberto Luongo is a probably Hall of Famer and James Reimer has frequently been an analytics darling who’s probably a platoon-level goalie more than a backup.

Luongo enjoyed a fantastic per-game season in 2017-18, generating a sparkling .929 save percentage. Unfortunately, he was limited to just 35 games played, and while Reimer was better than you’d expect a backup to be (few No. 2 goalies would generate a .913 save percentage, at least in 44 games), it wasn’t enough.

Injuries have been an unfortunate issue for Reimer during certain spans of his career, and they might just be an inevitable reality for Luongo, who’s now 39 and has played in 1,001 regular-season games. That’s a lot of hockey for a skater, let alone a goalie. Considering Luongo’s two stints with mostly-mediocre Panthers teams, many of those games were tough ones where he faced a barrage of shots, too.

Before you send out a Luongo-level snarky tweet, yes, it’s true that Panthers management is aware of the problem.

They went as far as to sign respectable former Jets backup Michael Hutchinson to a one-year, $1.3 million contract.

Such a signing should help avert total disaster, yet despite spending $9.23M on goalies (according to Cap Friendly), the netminder position remains a question for a team that is probably counting every penny spent.

2. Was last season’s hot finish a mirage or a sign of better things to come?

Since Jan. 1, the Panthers generated 57 points (in 44 games), tying them for the seventh-most in the NHL. Their 27 wins ranked fifth during that same span.

Appropriately enough, Florida got hotter as summer neared. From Feb. 1 to the end of the regular season the Panthers went 24-8-2, generating 50 points, second only to the Nashville Predators’ 52. The Panthers scored 111 goals while allowing only 87.

In many cases, struggling sports teams allow themselves to get duped into weighing success in a small sample size as a sign of bigger things to come.

Still, there are some reasons to wonder if Florida might actually be onto something special. Still-new head coach Bob Boughner seemed to find a nice formula, as Nick Bjugstad found nice chemistry with Aleksander Barkov, allowing Jonathan Huberdeau to combine with Vincent Trocheck to form a potent second scoring option.

Naturally, some of that late success also came from question 1 working out, as goaltending was a strength, too.

3. Will Florida’s depth become a strength?

One of the most exciting thoughts for Florida is that, generally speaking, they didn’t suffer any major subtractions (*cough* like last summer *cough cough*), while they made a very interesting trade in landing Mike Hoffman.

Hoffman could slide into one of the Panthers’ top two lines and provide a significant upgrade. If he ended up with Barkov, Hoffman could easily enjoy his first 30-goal season.

The winger with all that drama isn’t the only player who might be able to give the Panthers a boost.

Depending upon how training camp battles go, the Panthers could really buttress their forward corps with some intriguing young talent. Both Henrik Borgstrom and Owen Tippett could land spots on Florida’s roster, thus possibly opening the door for the Cats to go from a top-heavy team to a fairly deep scoring attack.

Could Hoffman and others come together to create a third line? Might the Panthers spread the wealth in some other way?

These are good problems to have, and the Panthers bring an enticing mix of talent to the table in 2018-19.

Of course, the Atlantic Division is rugged at the top, and the Panthers have only made the postseason twice since 2000-01 and didn’t win a playoff series during that span, so this franchise still has a lot to prove.

That said, they also have Barkov …

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Building off a breakthrough: Evgenii Dadonov

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Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to focusing on a player coming off a breakthrough year to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the Florida Panthers.

The Florida Panthers front office missed on a couple of things when constructing its roster during the summer of 2017, but one move that unquestionably worked out in their favor was the decision to bring forward Evgenii Dadonov back to North America on a three-year, $12 million contract.

Usually when we think about “breakthrough” players it tends to be a younger player without much professional experience — or having struggled for a bit while still finding their way in the league — having their first big season in the NHL. In that sense Dadonov is not your traditional breakthrough player because it took him quite a fear years, with a pretty extensive detour in the middle of it all, to have his first big year.

[Panthers Day: Looking back]

Originally drafted by the Panthers in the third-round of the 2007 draft, Dadonov flashed some potential early in his NHL career (20 points in 56 games over parts of three seasons) before being traded to the Carolina Hurricanes late in the 2011-12 campaign. Following that season — and after having never played in a game for the Hurricanes — he made the jump to the KHL where he spent five highly productive years split between Donbass HC and St. Petersburg SKA.

Following what was his best season in the KHL in 2016-17, and with the Hurricanes no longer controlling his NHL contractual rights, Dadonov returned to the NHL and joined the organization he began his professional career with. Given that no one really knew what to expect from Dadonov in his return, the $4 million per year cap hit was probably considered a bit pricey and perhaps even a little bit of a gamble.

In the end it turned out to be a bargain for the Panthers.

In his return season to the NHL Dadonov was one of the Panthers’ best players, finishing with 28 goals (second on the team), 68 total points (fourth on the team), and a 53.6 Corsi percentage (best on the team) in 74 games.

He spent much of the season playing on Aleksander Barkov‘s wing, a duo that turned out to be a fantastic one for the Panthers. When they were together, the Panthers outscored teams by a 53-38 margin and controlled more than 55 percent of the total shot attempts, and while it would be easy to attribute a lot of that success to Barkov carrying the line, both players saw their performance drop significantly when they were separated from one another.

Honestly, the Panthers couldn’t have hoped for Dadonov’s return to go better than it did.

Now the question becomes whether or not he can do it again for the Panthers.

There is very good reason to believe that he can.

Not only were his traditional numbers outstanding, but there is nothing in his underlying numbers to suggest any of it was much of a fluke as he was not really benefiting from any sort of an unsustainable surge in shooting percentages (neither his nor his teammates). The Panthers took a bit of a gamble by committing as much as they did to him up front, but the reward seems to be a top-line winger to join their young core alongside Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Vincent Trocheck.

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.