The Boston Bruins made goalie Malcolm Subban the 24th pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft – an interesting selection given PK Subban, Malcolm’s brother, holds down a spot on the list of most despised professional athletes in Beantown.
But hey, that’s PK. This is Malcolm, the top-ranked North American goalie by NHL Central Scouting.
According to McKeen’s, “he’s a complete natural at the position,” as evidenced by the fact he didn’t start playing in goal until he was 12.
The B’s already have a couple of promising goalie prospects in Michael Hutchinson, 22, and Zane Gothberg, 20. However, none were as highly touted as Subban as an 18-year-old.
One of the big early trends in the NHL this season is coaches opting to pull their goalie earlier than usual in an effort to get a late game-tying goal. Traditionally, teams would only go for the extra attacker in the final minute when down by a goal, and maybe go with two minutes if they were down by more.
Now, teams seem to be going for the extra attacker with two to three minutes to play (or more) when down by just a single goal. It is not exactly a new strategy — Patrick Roy used to do it all the time with the Colorado Avalanche — but it is definitely catching on more and more.
On Thursday night in Toronto with the Maple Leafs trailing the Pittsburgh Penguins 1-0, coach Mike Babcock elected to pull Frederik Andersen with three minutes to play in search of the equalizer. It did not work. Not only did the Maple Leafs fail to score, but Nazem Kadri accidentally scored an own goal from the neutral zone when this happened.
That is unfortunate. Especially when you consider Kadri is still searching for his first goal of the season.
Well … first goal into the correct net.
The goal ended up being credited to Evgeni Malkin, his second goal of the game, since he was the most recent Penguins player to touch the puck.
Babcock would pull Andersen again right after that, resulting in Kris Letang adding a more traditional empty net goal for the Penguins (the 100th goal of his career) to give them a 3-0 win.
Say this for the Philadelphia Flyers: Their games are never boring.
Their combination of skilled forwards, young defense, and perpetually shaking goaltending situation can produce some wild, back-and-forth games where you can expect a lot of chances, a lot of goals, and a lot of madness.
Sometimes that means they will do incredible things.
Sometimes that means somebody will do incredible things against them. On Thursday night in Columbus there was a lot of the latter happening.
First, we have Anthony Duclair scoring what might be the best goal of the young season with an incredible individual effort included him falling to the ice, somehow managing to stickhandle through a phone booth, then getting a shot on goal while falling to the ice and beating Flyers goalie Calvin Pickard.
Columbus is the fourth organization that Duclair has played for in his young career as he still tries to find a consistent role. He is obviously a talented player and has shown a lot of potential at different times throughout his career, and this is almost certainly the signature play of his career to this point.
Shortly after that, though, the Blue Jackets allowed Philadelphia to regain the lead on a Sean Couturier goal that was mostly just a giant whiff by Sergei Bobrovsky. His teammates managed to help him a bit in the second period, specifically forward Cam Atkinson, who scored a pair of goals in the first five minutes of the period.
One way or another, Steve Yzerman’s future as an NHL GM is on delay for a season, as he’s technically still working for the Tampa Bay Lightning. If another team publicly acknowledged pursuing the Hall of Fame player and top-notch executive, they’d likely be guilty of tampering.
So, take Stevie Y-related comments with a grain of salt, whether they’re coming from people involved with the Seattle expansion franchise, Detroit Red Wings, or anyone else who might be linked to Yzerman.
“I’ve been a manager in the league for 23 years,” Holland said. “I’ve won three Stanley Cups, five Presidents’ Trophies.* I don’t look over my shoulder.”
Should Holland look over his shoulder, or – considering the temporary limbo involved – in his rear-view mirror at Yzerman?
Logically speaking, you’d think maybe he should. Yzerman didn’t leave his post with Tampa Bay merely to placate another promising executive in Julien BriseBois, who replaced Yzerman right before the season began.
We’ve seen some succession plans in other NHL franchises that would make a lot of sense for the Red Wings, at least hypothetically speaking.
Glen Sather, another long-time executive with many skins on his wall (and cigars in his vault), made way for a younger GM in Jeff Gorton as the Rangers entered a new phase. It would make a lot of sense for Holland to essentially “move up the food chain” with a new title in Detroit, while Yzerman takes the reins as the actual GM.
(There are also less-friendly transitions to note, like with the Capitals, Coyotes, and other franchises that transitioned to a younger GM.)
Of course, the Red Wings march to the beat of their own drum, likely arguing that their way has often been a successful way. The consensus around the hockey world is that, while Holland has nodded to a rebuild at times, Detroit’s also been pretty stubborn to fully commit. That same stubbornness could conceivably keep Holland in power, even if it might be wiser to move on, particularly with a GM who’s proven to be as shrewd as Yzerman was with Tampa Bay.
During the darker moments in Detroit, there’ve been times when it felt like Yzerman was the one that got away.
There’s also the possibility that Yzerman would like to see if he can meet or exceed what Vegas GM George McPhee accomplished with an expansion franchise by building the Seattle team.
As appealing as it would be for Yzerman to swoop back into Detroit and save the day, just about any GM – not to mention plenty of sports fans who’ve daydreamed while playing “franchise” or “GM” modes – would delight in building a team from scratch. There’s something to be said, after all, for not having to deal with lingering mistakes from the previous GM; the Red Wings certainly have some shaky contracts remaining on their salary structure.
Maybe Ken Holland doesn’t feel threatened. Perhaps he’s just deflecting since the Red Wings can’t really show their hand now, anyway.
If the Red Wings are smart, they absolutely pursue Yzerman once they’re allowed to, even if it means ruffling Holland’s feathers.
* – Sportsnet indicates that Holland actually won four Presidents’ Trophies. Either way, the man is seasoned executive.
It’s too early to make sweeping observations about the quality of a team in 2018-19 (sorry Canadiens; you’re welcome, Coyotes), but it’s never too early to get excited about a game. You know, if your soul is still attached to your person, and you’re not too cool to get excited about things in general.
Now, sure, circumstances could change matters. Players could be tired or just have an off night. Maybe a coach will bench an exhilarating talent because they hit the snooze button one too many times.
But, at least on paper, it’s really difficult to imagine a more exciting matchup than Penguins – Maple Leafs, a matchup taking place in Toronto tonight.
(Yeah, it doesn’t hurt that the hockey-mad city gets to channel its sometimes over-the-top excitement into this one, either.)
No matter how Mike Babcock and Mike Sullivan deploy their lines, you’ll see high-end talent during almost every shift on Thursday.
Most obviously, we’ll get to see a clash between two premium one-two punches at center, as Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin trade scoring chances with Auston Matthews and John Tavares. That’s the sort of matchup that marketers and hockey fans alike would normally only dream about.
You could manufacture an exciting game if you sent out a bunch of fire hydrants with those guys, but the Penguins and Maple Leafs deploy other dangerous scorers, even with William Nylander‘s contract situation stuck in limbo.
Phil Kessel could easily have the best night of anyone in trying to spite his former team. Jake Guentzel tends to play his best when the spotlight shines brightest. Mitch Marner is a sensational talent who can take over a game in his own right.
Even the defensemen can bring some offense to the table, as Kris Letang and Morgan Rielly have begun 2018-19 on torrid scoring paces, while Jake Gardiner and others can contribute, too.
All the silliness that stems from all that star power
The goofy debates that stem from Auston Matthews vs. Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby vs. McDavid, and on and on, ultimately translates to entertainment. That goes for if you take barroom debates seriously, or are simply bemused by people believing that Matthews has reached McDavid after a couple scorching-hot weeks.
Some of this stuff is dopey. Some of it is instructive. Maybe there’s a combination of both at times. But it all adds to the fun, if you ask me.
All offense, no defense?
By winning two consecutive Stanley Cups while playing an attack-first, play-defense later style, the Penguins played a big role in the NHL placing an increased emphasis on skill, scoring, and more exciting hockey.
So far this season, the Maple Leafs feel like the gnarly evolution of that style.
By just about any measure, Toronto’s been playing high-event hockey this season. They’ve been scoring so much that it’s generally allowed them to shrug their shoulders at what’s frequently been a leaky defense.
That’s bad news for Pittsburgh’s hopes of, say, winning its division … but it sure opens the door for tonight to be fun.
Big goalies back in net
Barring late-breaking setbacks, the teams’ two starters (Matt Murray and Frederik Andersen) should suit up for their respective teams on Thursday.
If they play well, this showdown could feature at least some slowdown. Perhaps we’ll see a spectacular save or two from both goalies to keep the score reasonable? If they’re rusty, then the floodgates may open even wider.
Either way, the returns of Murray and Andersen add another wrinkle to a game that’s jam-packed with intrigue.
Again, it’s possible that this game might not deliver the thrills you’d expect. Sometimes hockey is just that way in 2018, even with some progress made – thanks in part to these two talented teams.
Still, if you had to wager on a game being a ton of fun, Penguins – Maple Leafs is as safe a bet as you can get. You know, unless you’re the coach breaking down defensive lapses or the goalie trying to put out all of those fires.