Get your game notes: ‘Hawks at Flyers

1 Comment

Tonight on NBCSN, it’s the Philadelphia Flyers hosting the Chicago Blackhawks at 8 p.m. ET. Following are some game notes, as compiled by the NHL on NBC research team:

TOP STORYLINES

• 2010 Stanley Cup Final matchup: The Blackhawks and Flyers were opponents in the 2010 Stanley Cup Final, won in 6 games by Chicago. Patrick Kane scored in overtime of Game 6 to clinch the Cup for the Hawks.

• The Blackhawks have 9 players from the Cup-winning team still on their roster today (though Kris Versteeg has played on 3 different teams, including the Flyers during part of the 2010-11 season, since the 2010 Final before his return to Chicago via trade last season).

• The Flyers, on the other hand, have just Claude Giroux remaining from that season’s Cup Final appearance (Braydon Coburn and Kimmo Timonen were on PHI in 2010 but were just traded at the deadline).

• Chicago climbing in March: The Hawks are 7-1-1 in March, and while still 3rd in the Central Division, this stretch has now given them a legitimate chance to earn at least home ice in the First Round, if not win the Central entirely.

• The Hawks also have 2 games in hand on both Nashville and St. Louis, as well as two more matchups with the Blues (none vs. the Predators).

• Philly going the other way in March: On March 7, the Flyers played a pivotal game in Boston. Entering the game, the Flyers trailed the Bruins by 4 points for the final playoff spot. Philly was 15 seconds away from a regulation win (and pulling to within 2 pts of the B’s), but Boston scored the tying goal in the dying seconds before netting the OT winner to widen the gap in the standings.

• Less than 3 weeks later, the Flyers are on the verge of mathematical elimination.

• Dating back to the BOS loss, PHI has won just once in its last 9 games (1-4-4 record). The Flyers trail the final playoff spot by 11 points with just 8 games left.

• The Flyers enter tonight after getting swept (0-2-2 record) on a 4-game road trip through Canada. They have now lost 9 straight on the road. Philly has also lost 9 straight road games on two separate occasions this season – the first time that has happened in franchise history.

• Following the EDM loss, Flyers players addressed the outlook for the rest of the season:

“We have to pick it up. We have pride as a group, and even though the playoffs probably aren’t in the picture, we want to finish strong.” – Ray Emery

“Guys are playing for jobs next year, and motivation shouldn’t be an issue at all.” – Brayden Schenn CHI Team/Player Notes

• Thriving without Kane: After the win vs. Carolina, Chicago has now gone 8-2-1 without its leading scorer. Kane underwent successful surgery on Feb. 25 to repair his left clavicle fracture and was expected to be out 12 weeks from that time (exactly 4 weeks ago). That timetable likely puts Kane out until at least the WC Final. At the time of the injury, Kane was tied for the league lead in points with 64 in 61 games. His 27 goals were 3 shy of his career high of 30 set in 2009-10.

• Since Kane has been out, Chicago’s offense has dipped, but the Hawks’ defense has dramatically improved:

• Kane looked good on the ice last Friday, but the timetable on his return remains unchanged:

“He was skating before practice, so he was out on the ice, (and) he was actually flying out there…He’s progressing real well and he’s going to have a tough stretch of trying to keep him away from wanting to play a game right now.” – Coach Joel Quenneville, on Kane’s progress

“Yeah, nothing’s changed.” – Quenneville, on the status of his recovery

CHICAGO TEAM/PLAYER NOTES

• Jonathan Toews had an assist vs. CAR on Monday – the 500th point of his NHL career.

• In 9 games this March, Toews has 10 points (4G-6A).

• Toews is 4 points away from tying Kane for the team lead. Toews has only led the Hawks in scoring once in his career (2010-11 w/ 76 points at age 22).

• Patrick Sharp had 1 goal and 1 assist vs. CAR. Sharp had gone 19 straight games without a goal from Jan. 30 to March 12 (2nd-longest drought of career), but since scoring twice on March 14 at SJ, he now has 3 goals (and 3 assists) in his last 5 games.

• Sharp (13 goals this season) is still well below his team-leading performance of 34 goals a season ago.

• The Hawks team defense has been stellar of late. Corey Crawford stopped 43 shots against Carolina for his 30th win of the season – the 4th 30-win season of his career (all w/ CHI).

• He is just the 3rd goalie in franchise history to post 4 seasons of at least 30 wins in a Hawks uniform, joining Hall-of-Famers Tony Esposito (8 times) and Glenn Hall (also 4 times).

• Crawford has only faced the Flyers once in his career – a 4-1 home loss back in Jan. 2011, but he has never played at Wells Fargo Center.

• Antti Raanta (now in AHL) posted a 32-save shutout in the first matchup this season on Oct. 21 (4-0 win).

• Newcomers struggling: In their 9 games with CHI, trade acquisitions Kimmo Timonen (0 pts) and Antoine Vermette (2 pts) have yet to make an impact offensively.

• The 40-year-old Timonen had spent the past 7+ seasons in Philadelphia before the Flyers traded him on Feb. 27 for a 2015 2nd-round pick and a 2016 conditional 4th-round pick.

PHILLY TEAM/PLAYER NOTES

• Jakub Voracek is coming off a 3-assist performance vs. EDM on Saturday. He now ranks 2nd in the NHL with his 52 assists and t-3rd in points with 73.

• One point behind Sidney Crosby and John Tavares in the scoring race, Voracek could become the first Flyer to lead the NHL in scoring by himself in the 46+ seasons of the franchise (in lockout-shortened 1994-95 season, Eric Lindros shared for the NHL lead in pts w/ Jaromir Jagr, but he did not share the Art Ross Trophy title, as Lindros lost the goals scored tiebreaker to Jagr).

• Crosby led the league in assists & points last season.

• Claude Giroux scored twice vs. EDM. Now with 21 goals on the season, Giroux has scored at least 20 goals for the second straight season, and 4th time overall in his 8 NHL seasons.

• Giroux has finished 3rd in the scoring race 2 of the last 3 seasons (2014, 2012). He is t-9th in the league this season (67 points).

• Since the start of the 2011-12 season, Giroux has the most points in the NHL (294 in 280 GP).

• Giroux (22nd overall) and Toews (3rd overall) were both 1st-round picks in the 2006 NHL Draft.

• Wayne Simmonds has picked up his play since the All-Star Break as compared to his first-half numbers.

• Simmonds is 3 goals away from his first career 30-goal season. His 14 power-play goals are 3rd in the NHL and 1 shy of the career-high he set last season.

• Steve Mason (illness) was a late scratch before EDM game, but GM Ron Hextall said he has since recovered.

• Mason last played against CGY on Thursday. He was pulled during the 2nd period after allowing 2 goals on 16 shots. Mason has just 1 win in his last 7 games.

• Ray Emery, who was reportedly not told throughout game day vs. EDM that Mason might be too sick to start, allowed 4 goals on the first 12 Oilers shots he faced.

• He finished the day allowing 5 goals on 34 shots in the overtime loss.

Previewing the 2019-20 Edmonton Oilers

Leave a comment

(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, whether teams are better or worse this season and more!)

For more 2019-20 PHT season previews, click here.

Better or Worse: The Oilers have a new GM (Ken Holland) and a new head coach (Dave Tippett), but as far as personnel changes go, this was a very quiet offseason.

Considering some of the blunders of the Peter Chiarelli era, there might be a feeling of “no news is good news,” although try telling that to Connor McDavid, who didn’t get much of a bright side to look on beyond hoping that Mike Smith channels his solid playoff production, rather than Smith’s more troubling body of work.

The Oilers are almost the same team as last year, although James Neal could be a nice upgrade over Milan Lucic.

Strengths: McDavid! OK, thanks for coming!

Alright, the Oilers also have Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and maybe some help coming – eventually – with prospects such as Evan Bouchard.

And, hey, having the best player in the world is a pretty big strength.

Weaknesses: … And squandering McDavid’s talents almost takes talent in itself.

You know you’re weak on the wings when people are hoping that James Neal is a solution, and crossing their fingers that Alex Chiasson can approach last season’s numbers.

This team is weak on the wings, and that’s far from their only issue. Their defense doesn’t play the sort of modern game that you’d want to propel McDavid in transition, and lacks elite skill overall. Maybe Tippett can scheme this group to competence, but it’s unclear how much potential has been untapped after Ken Hitchcock and Todd McLellan tried their hands at the same.

Oh yeah, their goaltending duo of Smith and Mikko Koskinen is a bowl of “meh,” too.

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

Coach Hot Seat Rating (1-10, 10 being red hot): Consider this: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is about to enter his ninth season in the NHL, and Tippett will be his ninth head coach.

The Oilers have been the definition of dysfunctional for a distressingly long period of time, and while there’s the feeling that McDavid and others are far beyond the point of being tired of losing, it’s time for some stability. That’s what Tippett represents: a steadying presence, something that must appeal to the deliberate approach Holland also seems to prefer.

That said, Edmonton’s also subject to about-faces, as that seems to be their M.O. Let’s put Tippett at a three.

Three Most Fascinating Players: McDavid, Koskinen, Darnell Nurse

Number 97 would be a pick every year based on his captivating speed and skill alone. Maybe eyes are fixed on him a bit more now, though, as he’s shown signs of frustration, occasionally actually letting that be known in vague media comments. If the Oilers unravel again, will McDavid vent in an even bigger way?

Re-signing Koskinen tied a baffling bow around the Chiarelli era. Along with Smith, it’s tough to know what exactly we should expect from Koskinen. If Tippett’s system dumbs games down and makes it all a slog, that might actually set the stage for some redemption. (James Neal is another fascinating redemption story.)

The Oilers have precious few defensemen of merit, so it’s crucial for them to see Nurse take additional steps forward. Then again, he’s entering a contract year, so they also probably don’t want to break the bank for the RFA. That should make Nurse intriguing to watch.

Playoffs or Lottery: It’s tough to pick against McDavid, especially since Draisaitl and RNH give him some support. One can imagine a decent formula of McDavid + stingy defense and goaltending = grinding out wins.

Hockey teaches us time and time again that one superstar rarely is enough to mask a ton of blemishes, though. While a weak Pacific gives some hope for Edmonton sneaking in, I’d lean closer to the lottery than the playoffs with Edmonton.

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 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.

Agent surprised Point, Lightning are so far apart ‘this late’

Getty Images
2 Comments

The thought was that Mitch Marner finally signing with the Maple Leafs would set off a flurry of other big RFA signings, but that appears to only be partially true.

Much like the Winnipeg Jets with Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor, the Tampa Bay Lightning appear to be at an impasse with star forward Brayden Point. Point’s agent Gerry Johannson admitted as much to Sportsnet 650 on Thursday.

The interview is a mix of good and bad for anxious Lightning fans. The bad is that Johannson said more than once that the two sides aren’t very close to a new deal. On the other hand, Johannson didn’t seem to give the threat of an offer sheet much merit. He comments on both subjects around the three-minute mark, while Sportsnet’s Mike Johnston transcribed this key bit:

“We’ve been sort of ready to go since last July,” Johannson said. “It’s just I’m a little surprised we’re this far apart this late, but on the other hand every negotiation is a bit different and there’s different pressures and different circumstances and all sorts of different things.”

Johannson didn’t give much of an indication regarding whether Point preferred a longer-term contract like something Marner received, or a “bridge” deal like what Brock Boeser signed for with Vancouver.

Via Cap Friendly, the Lightning have about $8.477M in space as of this writing. That honestly feels a little bit low for a 23-year-old forward who generated 41 goals and 92 points in 79 regular-season games last season, even if you account for Point losing less money playing in a tax-friendly state like Florida.

Marner is younger, and Toronto doesn’t have that state tax edge, but you could make some very reasonable comparisons between the two players, especially since Point is a center while Marner is a winger. They’re both impact scorers, and Point may be a little bit more well-rounded, as you may believe when considering metrics such as Evolving Hockey’s RAPM even-strength comparison charts:

Of course, where the Maple Leafs have been paying premiums for Auston Matthews and John Tavares, multiple Lightning players are receiving AAVs below their perceived value, including Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, and Victor Hedman.

Combine that notion with the feeling that Point very much wants to stay with Tampa Bay – Johannson doesn’t deny that at all – and you can see why the Lightning might be almost brazen about nickel-and-diming Point.

Johannson is right in saying it’s fairly late, with less than two weeks remaining until the 2019-20 regular season starts. Yet Point’s agent himself said that a deal can get done if the will is there, so it wouldn’t be that surprising if Point and the Lightning hash something out soon. Maybe media appearances like these might even speed things up ever so slightly?

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 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.

Jaromir Jagr is still scoring goals at age 47

Kladno / Twitter
2 Comments

Jaromir Jagr can’t quit playing hockey, and we’re all better off for it.

After saying years ago he’d like to play beyond 50, Jagr can’t stay away from the ice. After returning to Rytiri Kladno, his hometown club that he owns, in 2018 after injuries ended his time with the Calgary Flames, the future Hall of Famer tried to get healthy but managed only 27 total games in a year as he helped the team get promoted from the Czech second division, which included a four-goal game.

An injury kept him out of the lineup early this season, Kladno’s first in the Czech Extraliga since 2014, but on Friday the 47-year-old (!) Jagr was back in action. Playing over 22 minutes, the fifth overall pick in the 1990 (!!) NHL Draft scored a goal during a 7-4 loss to HC Energie Karlovy Vary.

Kladno is winless through three games early in the season.

As for Jagr, the stories of his dedication to training are legendary, which makes the fact he’s playing so late in his 40s not entirely a surprise. Hockey is his life, as he told Sportnet’s Kristina Rutherford in 2015.

“The time between when I quit hockey and I die, I want it to be the shortest,” Jagr said. “It’s not going to be as exciting, that time. So as long as I can play, that’s what I’m doing. If I can play ’til I die, that’s what I will do. What else are you gonna do? Even if you retire, you will still have to go work out, and maybe harder than you do when you play hockey because you don’t want to look ugly and fat. At least I don’t want to.”

Stick-tap Derek O’Brien

————

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.

Previewing the 2019-20 Calgary Flames

Leave a comment

(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, whether teams are better or worse this season and more!)

For more 2019-20 PHT season previews, click here.

Better or Worse: This was an offseason of mostly lateral moves for the Flames, exemplified by Calgary bringing in an uncertain but slightly younger goalie (Cam Talbot) for an aging and all-over-the-place netminder (Mike Smith).

The Milan LucicJames Neal trade seems like a loss for the Flames, but then again, Neal just didn’t fit for Calgary, to the point that things bordered on awkward.

Let’s consider the Flames marginally worse. In all honesty, the biggest hits came in Round 1 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, when they were embarrassed by the Avalanche.

Strengths: When you look at the best of the best in Calgary, the Flames boast talent that can hang with just about anyone. Mark Giordano‘s been considered an uncrowned Norris Trophy defenseman for some time, and he finally sat on that throne after 2018-19. Johnny Gaudreau is one of the most sublimely gifted playmakers in the NHL, and thus helps his top line usually rank among the best in the league most seasons. Matthew Tkachuk isn’t just an antagonist; like Brad Marchand, he’s also a player who annoys opponents because he’s also really good.

Weaknesses: Unfortunately, the Flames are still a bit lacking when it comes to depth at both the forwards and defense positions. If Gaudreau’s line falters and Tkachuk’s trio cannot score, the Flames are in trouble — and there’s quite a bit of a drop from Giordano to other blueliners.

Goaltending remains a big question, too. Can Talbot form a strong tandem with David Rittich?

[MORE: Under Pressure: Treliving | 3 QuestionsTalbot the X-Factor]

Coach Hot Seat Rating (1-10, 10 being red hot): For the most part, Bill Peters’ first season in Calgary was a success, although the postseason was rough, and you wonder if some blame Peters for lacking answers as Colorado mopped the floor with his Flames.

Peters’ seat warms up in part because his “riverboat gambler” GM Brad Treliving has made a lot of big bets, and many some are wondering if Calgary should cash out. Coaches often get sent out with fired GMs, so that’s something to consider.

Overall, I’d put Peters at about a four.

Three Most Fascinating Players: Cam Talbot, Matthew Tkachuk, Milan Lucic.

Talbot went from being a fantastic backup with the Rangers to a workhorse early on for the Oilers — to the point that Edmonton wore him out like an NFL RB who saw far too many carries. Talbot’s stature in the league plummeted, yet at 32, he’s not so old that a rebound is totally out of the question.

Tkachuk stands with a handful of high-profile RFA stars who still need new contracts. He’ll be fascinating to watch as those negotiations play out, whether we’re debating the merits of a deal soon, or watching as things drag out into the season. Either way, he’ll draw attention, especially when he has that mouthpiece dangling obnoxiously out of his maw.

Every now and then, a “change of scenery” really does work out, at least if you keep expectations in check. The Flames may end up playing to Lucic’s strengths more effectively than the Oilers, or Lucic may simply have needed a reboot. Or he’s just washed. It could be that last one.

Playoffs or Lottery: Playoffs. It seemed like a few Flames played over their heads, and Giordano’s getting up there in age at 35, so there’s a risk that Calgary lags behind the Sharks and/or Golden Knights during the regular season. Still, with the Pacific being as weak as it is, it would be a surprise if the Flames missed the postseason altogether.

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 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.