The Chip ‘n’ Chase: Pens-Bruins, Beastmodo, Miller trade talk, and more

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This is a new thing we’re trying. Every Wednesday, we’ll publish a little back-and-forth we have via email. We’re calling it the Chip ‘n’ Chase. Yes, it’s a terrible name. Enjoy.

Jason Brough: Hey buddy, so Bruins-Penguins tonight. Looking forward to this one. Pittsburgh’s chance for redemption…if that’s possible during the regular season. (It’s not, but the game’s on NBCSN so we’re selling it anyway.) Looking back on the playoffs, I still can’t believe the Pens only scored twice against the B’s in four games. Two goals. That’s it. Kinda reminds me of that Harry Doyle line in Major League: “That’s all we got, one goddamn hit?” Wait, can we say goddamn on PHT? Whatever, let’s run with it. In a related story, do you think we’ll hear about the Bruins’ “layers” before or after this one? We all know Claude Julien loves him some layers.

Mike Halford: Oh man, the layers. How could I forget the layers? Julien spent the entire playoffs talking like his team was a Tex-Mex dip. Anyway, I’m also excited for tonight’s game. What I remember most about that series was the bitterness — Evgeni Malkin fighting Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara punching Sidney Crosby in his surgically repaired jaw — all of which added to Pittsburgh’s patented off-the-charts frustration. It also served as a reminder that, as much as they say they’ve matured, the Pens can still be rattled, especially if you sock ’em, POW, right in the kisser. Oh, and since we’re on the subject of firing shots, Mike Babcock threw one out in advance of another good Wednesday matchup: Detroit at Vancouver. When asked how he’d handle the red-hot Sedins-Kesler line, Babcock replied, “We’ll see who’s handling who.” No need to find the waitress, Vancouver, because you just got served.

MORE: Penguins, Bruins renew hostilities

JB: Did you hear what they’re calling the Sedins-Kesler line? Beastmodo. Get it? Because the Sedins played for Modo in Sweden and Kesler’s a big Marshawn Lynch fan or something. I think a better nickname for that line would be “the first line..and also the second line” line, because those three have been playing a ton under new head coach John Tortorella. In fact, among NHL forwards, only Sidney Crosby (22:52) is averaging more ice time than Kesler (22:38), Henrik (22:28), and Daniel (22:14). Good thing it’s not an Olympic year or anything. And Vancouver has an easy travel schedule, right? I actually don’t have a huge problem with it, but it will be interesting to see how those guys look once the playoffs start. Either way, I can’t wait until Torts has to start answering the fatigue questions every day from reporters. That was always fun when he was coaching the Rangers. Dan Girardi could’ve been face down with seven IVs stuck into his back and Torts would’ve refused to admit his players were tired.

source:  MH: Pretty sure you don’t put IVs into a guy’s back, Hollywood Upstairs Medical College. Can we talk about the Vanek trade for a sec? I know it’s a bit old already, but all these new details keep coming out. First we learned Buffalo retained a bunch of Vanek’s salary. Then we found out the Isles could defer the ’14 pick if it’s in the top 10. I feel like there’s one more hidden clause, some sort of future consideration where Ryan Miller would agree to go to Long Island if the team would 1) win more than one game in a row (it hasn’t yet, by the way) or 2) use its celebrity super-fan network of Ralph Macchio and E from Entourage to hatch a comedic vehicle for Miller’s wife. But in all seriousness, Miller has to go soon, right? I read something about that on a very handsome website yesterday.

JB: I wonder if he’d go to the Islanders. They could definitely use a goalie, and he seems like the kind of guy who’d enjoy Brooklyn’s hipster scene. But rumor has it (and by rumor I mean TSN’s Bob McKenzie) that Miller wants to end up in California. I presume this is because his wife is an actor and that’s where actors live, as opposed to Buffalo, where disappointed sports fans live. Unfortunately for Miller, I just can’t think of a California team that needs a starting goalie. The Kings don’t. The Ducks don’t. The Sharks don’t. Maybe he could try out for the Lakers, but they really need to get younger.

MH: I think Miller’s best hockey fit is in the glitzy and glamorous town of Edmonton (hey, it’s got a film festival). But even if he agreed to go there, I don’t see anything beyond a rental situation, which would only be a band-aid solution to the Oilers’ gaping goaltending wound. I’m glad you brought up the California teams, though, because they’re all playing well, and they all play in the Pacific Division, which should really be renamed the $2 Steak Division because it’s so tough and no worse a name than Metropolitan. Can you disagree with any of this? I don’t think you can.

JB: Don’t forget about Phoenix and Vancouver. Those teams are playing well, too. So yeah, tough division that Pacific Division. Good luck with that, Edmonton and Calgary. Personally, I’ve been really impressed with Anaheim. I thought they’d take a step back this season, but a 10-3-0 start seems to be proving me wrong. (I’m used to it, don’t worry.) Everyone knows about Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, but the Ducks are also getting contributions from lesser-knowns like Kyle Palmieri, Mathieu Perreault, Patrick Maroon, and Nicky Bonino, whose name actually isn’t Nicky, it’s just Nick, but I enjoy saying Nicky Bonino. Fuhgeddaboudit. Until next week…

Josh Archibald suspended two games for hit on Ryan Hartman

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After holding a hearing with Josh Archibald earlier on Friday, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety suspended the Arizona Coyotes forward two games for his “high, hard hit” on Ryan Hartman of the Nashville Predators.

The league’s explanation video explains that Hartman’s head was “the main point of contact” and that contact with the head was avoidable.

During the game itself (a 2-1 win for the Coyotes on Thursday), Archibald received a minor penalty. He doesn’t have a history of supplemental discipline at the NHL level, which may have prompted a lighter punishment. Hartman eventually returned to that loss for Nashville.

Here’s the explanation video via the NHL’s DPoS:

Archibald will be eligible to play for the Coyotes again on Nov. 23.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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.

Penguins’ Matt Cullen fined $1,000 by NHL for dangerous trip

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NEW YORK (AP) — Pittsburgh Penguins forward Matt Cullen has been fined $1,000 by the NHL for a dangerous trip of Tampa Bay Lightning forward J.T. Miller.

The infraction came during the first period of Thursday night’s game, a 4-3 victory by Tampa Bay. Cullen was assessed a minor penalty for tripping.

In announcing the fine, the league said Friday the money will go the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.

Tavares living up to hype for Leafs with Matthews out

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The Toronto Maple Leafs have a lot going on right now, and quite a bit of it is no good.

Auston Matthews‘ bad injury luck continues. The William Nylander contract impasse is dragging on far longer than most of us expected.

Good thing the Maple Leafs won The John Tavares Sweepstakes, then, right?

Thursday presented the latest example of that free-agent gift that keeps giving, as Tavares and the Maple Leafs beat the San Jose Sharks 5-3 in a game that was frequently filling. For some, it was a reminder that Tavares’ transition has been seamless compared to Erik Karlsson‘s growing pains with the Sharks. Such comparisons feel petty, really, when you consider just how joyous Tavares’ run has been so far with the team he rooted for (and slept on bedsheets for) as a child.

Consider that Matthews has last played on Oct. 27. Since then, Tavares has really embraced his role as the clear go-to guy for the Maple Leafs. While he was unable to generate a point in Toronto’s flat loss to the Flames in the first game following Matthews’ injury, Tavares has been trading off being electric and automatic since then.

The talented center managed to generate a point in every November game so far (five goals and five assists for 10 points). Tavares’ goal from Thursday also extended his goal streak to four games.

Sharks coach Peter DeBoer provided praise heading into that Leafs – Sharks game that ended up being prophetic.

“I just love the honesty to his game. He plays both ends of the rink, he wins battles, he goes to the dirty areas of the rink, he makes other people around him better, which you think is everybody in the NHL, but it’s not,” DeBoer said, via Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston. “That’s a short list of guys. You can put a John Tavares with almost anybody and he’s going to make a line go or make those guys better. Joe Thornton has that ability, too.

“He’s just a special player.”

Indeed, Tavares showed that he can score ugly just about as efficiently as he can set up beautiful chances.

Of course, the Maple Leafs aren’t subsisting on Tavares’ shrewd play alone. Morgan Rielly continues to put up highly impressive offensive numbers from the blueline. While the Maple Leafs’ hit-or-miss defense can sometimes hang him out to dry, Frederik Andersen builds a case as an underrated goalie, including making 42 saves against the Sharks in that 5-3 win. Kasperi Kapanen is taking advantage of a long-awaited opportunity to prove himself, and Mitch Marner has been just about as explosive as many expected when it became clear that he’d line up with Tavares. Nazem Kadri is thriving as a second-line center.

Still, Tavares stands out for his consistency and versatility.

” … He’s been a leader,” Rielly told the AP after the Maple Leafs beat the Kings 5-1 on Tuesday. “He’s been a 200-foot player. He’s been putting the puck in the net.”

With respectable-yet-unspectacular possession numbers, it’s true that Tavares stands out most for his offense (23 points, including 12 goals, three of which were game-winners).

Even so, it’s heartening to see that Tavares can carry the Maple Leafs during those stretches where their deadly one-two punch goes down to just one (or, at least, a solid but less spectacular two in Kadri).

Considering a slightly-high 16.9 shooting percentage, perhaps Tavares will cool off during the grind of an 82-game season. So far, he’s living up to the considerable hype … and, besides, Matthews might be back in time to warm things up if Tavares suffers a cold spell.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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.

Trading Ryans: Rangers get Strome, Oilers nab Spooner

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Perhaps mid-November is the time for lateral trades and troubling injuries?

Oilers fans probably tense up whenever their team makes a trade, yet this one is more of a shoulder shrug than a forehead-slapper: Edmonton receives Ryan Spooner, while the New York Rangers get Ryan Strome.

(Hey, stop yawning.)

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports that the Rangers retained $900K of Spooner’s salary (for each of the next seasons) to make the trade work; each forward now carries a $3.1 million cap hit in 2018-19 and 2019-20.

You really need to crane your neck to see the differences between Strome, 25, and Spooner, 26. Reactions have gone both ways as far as which team “won” the trade, as you might expect from a move that more or less merely shakes things up.

Plenty of people are, instead, merely enjoying just how negligible the difference is between the two forwards:

… Or using this as another opportunity to ridicule bumbling Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli, who acquired Strome in that ill-fated Jordan Eberle trade before the 2017-18 season.

As PHT’s Adam Gretz notes, this trade is mainly a reminder of past mistakes:

Chiarelli drafted Spooner during his days with the Boston Bruins, so that likely explains why he targeted the forward.

At least, that explains it beyond making a trade for the sake of making a trade.

While I’d argue that the Penguins edged the Kings by landing Tanner Pearson for Carl Hagelin, it’s most likely to be a small victory. The difference, on paper, might be even less obvious here, unless a change of scenery truly sparks one or the other. Strome’s possession stats have been better and their production has been comparable over the years. Maybe Spooner could find chemistry with Connor McDavid in a way that would allow Leon Draisaitl to play on his own line? From here, this is a marginal trade, but there’s always a chance it might be a little more fruitful than expected.

If nothing else, it could serve as a wakeup call. That sure beats the Oilers’ unfortunate tradition of trades being a kick in the gut.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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.