NHL

PHT Power Rankings: Wildest goal celebrations

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As we mentioned last week we are going to do something a little different with our Power Rankings during the 2018-19 season by mixing in a more fun and offbeat ranking every other week in between the true Power Rankings of all 31 teams.

This is the first week for a fun ranking and we are going to use the first week of the season as a bit of a jumping off point for them. What exactly happened over the first week of the season? Celebrations! Fun! Personality!

Professional sports are a business (a huge business, yes), but they are also at their core still very much a game whose sole purpose is to entertain us. Athletes are entertainers, and the games are more fun when they are doing things to … well … entertain us.

Just one week into the season we’ve already seen more of that than we usually see in an entire season, with Sunday being an especially big day for it with the Carolina Hurricanes introducing their new victory celebration and Auston Matthews taunting the United Center crowd after a late goal (only to have it answered by Patrick Kane mimicking the celebration).

More of this! More I say!

[Related: Hurricanes’ new victory celebration is pretty awesome]

With all of this in mind, let’s take a look back at some of the wildest NHL goal celebrations.

Some of these made people angry; all of them were fun … unless you happened to be a part of the team that allowed the goal.

1. Teemu Selanne goes skeet shooting with his glove

Teemu Selanne, one of the most prolific goal-scorers in NHL history, started his career with an all-time great performance in 1992-93 with a record-setting rookie season that saw him score 76 goals and record 132 total points for the Winnipeg Jets.

On March 3 of that season he broke Mike Bossy’s rookie goal record with a two-goal effort in a 7-4 loss to the Quebec Nordiques and his record-setting goal was capped off with one of the all-time great celebrations as he flung his glove in the air and pretended to use his hockey stick to … go skeet shooting?

Is it over the top? Sure. But is it also amazing? Hell yes it is.

2. Artem Anisimov starts a brawl

This one was just totally wild.

In December of the 2011-12 season the New York Rangers dropped an otherwise forgettable 3-2 shootout decision to the Tampa Bay Lightning at Madison Square Garden. What made the game noteworthy wasn’t the result, but what happened in the second period when Rangers forward Artem Anisimov scored a shorthanded goal and then celebrated by pretending to shoot Lightning goalie Mathieu Garon, igniting a brawl on the ice that resulted in 36 combined penalty minutes, including 16 to Anisimov.

The great thing about this entire sequence is the Rangers were playing in the Winter Classic less than a month later against the Philadelphia Flyers, and because of that were being followed around by HBO’s cameras for the 24/7 documentary. This allowed us to get an up-close and uncensored look at what was said between the players, officials, and, of course, then-Rangers coach John Tortorella (watch all of that here but be warned there is some very not safe for work language in there)

3. Ilya Kovalchuk points at Sidney Crosby

This one might have been forgotten because it happened in Atlanta in a game featuring two teams that were, at the time, not very good, but it involved two of the biggest names in the modern era in Ilya Kovalchuk and Sidney Crosby.

The date: January 7, 2006.

At the time, Kovalchuk was the NHL’s most dominant goal-scorer and just entering his peak years as an offensive force. Crosby was the much hyped “next one” and in the middle of a dominant rookie season.

Kovalchuk was unhappy with the way Crosby was playing and a “stupid” penalty he had taken against Kovalchuk, and celebrated a power play goal by turning to the penalty box where Crosby was sitting and savagely pointing at him.

Kovalchuk did not stop delivering blows after the game, either, when he said of Crosby:

“He takes those stupid penalties all the time. He’s an 18 year old kid, and he can’t play like this. He starts yapping about his teammates in the newspapers … I don’t know, he should play really hard on the ice and keep it at that.”

The celebration itself is pretty understated, but it’s a level of taunting and “calling out” that you almost never see in hockey. And that’s what gets it in the top-three.

This incident was also mentioned by Penguins coach Michel Therrien after the Penguins’ following game when he went on his famous “I’ve never seen a team so soft” rant and lamented the fact that there wasn’t one guy (“not one guy…”) that did anything about it, except for “Maybe Max Talbot at the end … with about one second left … he’s about 5-foot-8.”

Just a remarkable sequence of events.

4. Sean Avery works out

Sean Avery was one of the NHL’s most notorious pests and trolls. His style was at times so outrageous that his actions actually forced the league to make a rule change during the playoffs (the Sean Avery rule).

Here he is in his early days with the Los Angeles Kings celebrating a bank-shot goal by dropping down to the ice and getting in a quick workout.

5. Alex Ovechkin‘s hot stick

It was the 2008-09 season and Alex Ovechkin, coming off of a 65-goal season the year before, hit the 50-goal mark for the third time in the first four years of his career.

Then he did this.

The Hot Stick.

Naturally, all of the usual suspects were angry about it, from the opponents to Don Cherry.

6. Tie Domi/Tiger Williams go for a ride

Former Vancouver Canucks forward Tiger Williams used to have some over the top celebrations during his playing days, with this one probably being the most noteworthy.

Tie Domi, during his days as a New York Ranger, brought it back.

7. Nail Yakupov goes wild

Nail Yakupov may not have panned out as the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, but he did give Oilers fans some brief excitement in his rookie season when he scored a game-tying goal in the final seconds against the Los Angeles Kings and went sliding across the ice.

It was all very reminiscent of the next one on the list…

8. Theo Fleury’s slide

You are probably asking, Adam, you stupid idiot, why don’t you have the original version ahead of the cover version? 

My answer to that is simple: I feel like Yakupov’s was even more outrageous because it was a game-tying goal in some early regular season game that you have already forgotten about, while Fleury’s was an overtime winning goal in the playoffs. I feel like going that wild for a regular season game is just taking it to an entirely different level. It is natural to go wild when you score an overtime winner in the playoffs. But the regular season? In the first month of the season? No one does that.

9. Milan Hejduk goes for a swim

The Colorado Avalanche were one of the NHL’s powerhouse teams in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and Milan Hejduk was one of the cornerstone pieces of that team. On March 26 of that season he scored an overtime winner against the Dallas Stars and decided to celebrate by going for a swim across the ice.

This game was part of a season-ending eight-game winning streak for the Avalanche. They continued rolling through the first two rounds of the playoffs (winning eight out of 10 games against Arizona and long-time arch-rival Detroit) before running into the Stars in the Western Conference Final. The Stars would end up getting their revenge, eliminating the Avalanche in six games on their way to their second consecutive Stanley Cup Final appearance.

The Avalanche would come back the next season to win their second Stanley Cup.

10. Marek Malk’s understated greatness

There is nothing really wild or outrageous about this celebration, and that is kind of what makes it great.

Marek Malik played more than 750 games in the NHL (regular season and playoffs) and managed to score just 35 goals during that time.

That is why it was so stunning that he ended up scoring one of the best shootout goals we have seen in the shootout era and he celebrated by … acting like it was no big thing and he had done it 1,000 times before that.

Honorable mention: Brad Marchand‘s fake Stanley Cup lift

This is not a goal celebration but I still wanted to include it because … just look at this.

That is Brad Marchand skating in front of the Vancouver Canucks bench and pretending to lift the Stanley Cup in front of them because, well, Marchand and the Bruins defeated the Canucks in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final in a pretty intense series.

It is also noteworthy because during the NHL’s opening night this season Marchand took exception to Capitals forward Lars Eller skating in front of the Bruins bench and celebrating a little too much and then proceeded to pummel him later in the game.

MORE: Your 2018-19 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.

NHL schedule for 2020 Stanley Cup Final

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The Stanley Cup Playoffs continue on Saturday, Sept. 19 in the hub city of Edmonton. Now that we are through the conference finals, the full 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Final schedule has been announced.  

The top four teams during the regular season in both conferences played a three-game round robin for seeding in the First Round. The eight winners of the best-of-5 Qualifying Round advanced to the First Round.  

Rogers Place in Edmonton will host 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Final.  

Here is the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Final schedule.

2020 STANLEY CUP FINAL (Rogers Place – Edmonton)

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars (TB leads 2-1)

Stars 4, Lightning 1 (recap)
Lightning 3, Stars 2 (recap)
Lightning 5, Stars 2 (recap)
Game 4: Friday, Sept. 25, 8 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)
Game 5: Saturday, Sept. 26, 8 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)
*Game 6: Monday, Sept. 28, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
*Game 7: Wednesday, Sept. 30, 8 p.m. ET – NBC

*if necessary

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

CONFERENCE FINAL RESULTS

EASTERN CONFERENCE FINAL
Lightning beat Islanders (4-2)

WESTERN CONFERENCE FINAL
Stars beat Golden Knights (4-1)

***

SECOND ROUND RESULTS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
Lightning beat Bruins (4-1)
Islanders beat Flyers (4-3)

WESTERN CONFERENCE
Golden Knights beat Canucks (4-3)
Stars beat Avalanche (4-3)

***

NHL QUALIFYING ROUND / ROUND-ROBIN RESULTS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
Philadelphia Flyers (3-0-0, 6 points)
Tampa Bay Lightning (2-1-0, 4 points)
Washington Capitals (1-1-1, 3 points)
Boston Bruins (0-3-0, 0 points)

Canadiens beat Penguins (3-1)
Hurricanes beat Rangers (3-0)
Islanders beat Panthers (3-1)
Blue Jackets beat Maple Leafs (3-2)

WESTERN CONFERENCE
Vegas Golden Knights (3-0-0, 6 points)
Colorado Avalanche (2-1-0, 4 points)
Dallas Stars (1-2-0, 2 points)
St. Louis Blues (0-2-1, 1 point)

Blackhawks beat Oilers (3-1)
Coyotes beat Predators (3-1)
Canucks beat Wild (3-1)
Flames beat Jets (3-1)

***

FIRST ROUND RESULTS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
Flyers beat Canadiens (4-2)
Lightning beat Blue Jackets (4-1)
Islanders beat Capitals (4-1)
Bruins beat Hurricanes (4-1)

WESTERN CONFERENCE
Golden Knights beat Blackhawks (4-1)
Avalanche beat Coyotes (4-1)
Stars beat Flames (4-2)
Canucks beat Blues (4-2)

Nikita Kucherov’s postseason defined by redemption, consistency

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Like pretty much every other player on the Lightning roster, the 2018-19 playoffs ended up being a very forgettable experience for Nikita Kucherov.

During their four-game loss to the Blue Jackets, Kucherov managed just two points (both in their Game 4 loss), zero goals, and even missed a game due to a suspension for an ugly hit late in their Game 2 loss. It was a dreadfully disappointing end to a season where Kucherov had put together one of the finest regular season performances of the modern era for a record-setting team. He finished the season with 128 points (the most points the league had seen in 23 years) and took home the Hart Trophy (MVP) and Ted Lindsay Award (most outstanding player as voted by the players) on a team that won 62 regular season games.

But because of their inability to win even a single playoff against the No. 8 seed, it will mostly end up being a footnote to the season.

All of them — from Kucherov on down the roster — had to redeem themselves this postseason and flip the script on a team that was starting to become more known more for postseason shortcomings instead of for what it actually is — one of the league’s elite teams, driven by some of the best players in the world.

Entering Game 4 of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final Friday night (8 p.m. ET, NBC; livestream), Kucherov and the Lightning are in the process of getting that redemption.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

They hold a 2-1 series lead and have looked like the far superior team these past two games.

Kucherov has been at the center of most of it.

His playmaking was on display in the Lightning’s Game 2 win by setting up a pair of power play goals to help power their fast start. In Game 3, he pounced on a Miro Heiskanen turnover in the neutral zone and buried a quick shot behind Anton Khudobin on a breakaway to help open the floodgates in a 5-2 win.

For the playoffs, he is already up to 30 points (seven goals, 23 assists) in 22 games, which is currently tied for the fourth highest total in a single postseason over the past 20 years, trailing only Evgeni Malkin (36) and Sidney Crosby (31) in 2008-09, and Washington’s Evgeny Kuznetsov (32) in 2017-18.

It’s not just that he is generating points that stands out.

He is driving the most dominant line in the league this postseason alongside Brayden Point and Ondrej Palat. His underlying numbers are also off the charts. Of the 98 skaters that have logged at least 200 minutes of 5-on-5 hockey this postseason, Kucherov ranks second in total shot attempt share (63.6 percent), second in goals for percentage (76 percent), second in expected goals percentage (68 percent), fifth in scoring chance share, and second in high-danger scoring chances (67.9 percent). In most of those categories the only players that rank ahead of him are either Tampa defenseman Victor Hedman, or Palat, who is one of Kucherov’s current linemates.

Then we get to the consistency aspect of this, and just how steady his overall production has been.

There is no more overrated and overused word in hockey than “consistency,” at least as it relates to goal and point production. Every player in the league is inconsistent to a certain degree, and even the best players tend to score their goals and points in bunches. The season is a mountain range full of peaks and valleys. But Kucherov, for a few months now, has been residing on one of those mountains.

[Lightning vs. Stars: 2020 Stanley Cup Final schedule]

He has not gone more than two consecutive games without a point since the middle of January, and there was only one stretch of games this entire season where he went more than two games without finding the scoresheet — and even that was only a three-game stretch.

He also has eight multi-point games this postseason, and when you exclude the three Round-Robin games before the start of the playoffs that means he has recorded at least two points in more than 40 percent of his games this postseason.

That is a stunning level of production and dominance.

Just looking at recent Conn Smythe Trophy winners, Ryan O'Reilly had multiple points in only 20 percent of his postseason games for the Blues last season. Alex Ovechkin was at 33 percent in 2018. Sidney Crosby had multiple points in 33 percent (2016-17) and 20 percent (2015-16) in his most recent Conn Smythe seasons.

The Lightning have been one of the league’s best teams and Kucherov has been one of the best players for six years now. But because of the way their postseasons have ended there has always been that “yeah, but…” following them around, especially after last year’s dismal First Round showing.

They all needed to rewrite the story around themselves.

They are not exactly where they want to be just yet (they still have two more wins to get), but they have put themselves in a great position to finally accomplish their ultimate goal.

MORE: Conn Smythe Watch: Victor Hedman makes his move

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.

Trade: Penguins send Hornqvist to Panthers for Matheson, Sceviour

Trade Penguins Panthers Hornqvist Matheson
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After more than 24 hours of waiting, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Florida Panthers finally completed the rumored swap of forward Patric Hornqvist and defenseman Mike Matheson.

The trade breaks down as follows:

Penguins get: Matheson and forward Colton Sceviour

Panthers get: Hornqvist.

There is no salary retained in the trade, meaning the Penguins are actually taking on about $700,000 in salary for this season.

Hornqvist’s contract pays him $5.3 million per season through the end of the 2022-23 season.

Matheson, meanwhile, is under contract for six more seasons at a salary cap hit of $4.875 million. Sceviour’s deal has one more year remaining at a salary cap hit of $1.2 million.

The hold-up on the trade on Wednesday reportedly revolved around insurance on Hornqvist’s contract, as well as needing his approval for the deal due to his no-trade clause.

Breaking it all down

For the Penguins, it’s a pretty massive shakeup to the roster as Hornqvist had been one of their most fiery leaders and was a major contributor to two Stanley Cup winning teams. He was their most tireless worke, their most consistent high-energy guy, and as good of a net-front presence as there is in hockey. But he is also going to be 34 years old next season, and given his physically demanding style of play there comes a risk of him starting to decline and breakdown a bit. Given his salary cap number and the Penguins’ tight cap situation it is not a surprise that he was a candidate to be moved. Especially given the team’s desire to apparently shake things up after a second straight disappointing postseason exit.

This move does not save them any money, but it does help them achieve one of their stated offseason goals of getting younger and faster, two things that Matheson definitely brings to the table.

But he also creates a bit of a log-jam on defense where the Penguins already have a ton of money committed to the likes of Kris Letang, Brian Dumoulin, Marcus Pettersson, and Jack Johnson. John Marino will also be due a raise after next season.

It seems likely that another move is coming at some point this offseason. This is already their third trade of the offseason.

The question for Florida is how much quality hockey Hornqvist still has remaining. He is the type of player that a perpetually disappointing team would look to acquire to change the culture of their roster. He will certainly bring effort and energy to the team, but it will still come down to what he can deliver on the ice.

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.

 

Marc-Andre Fleury wants to stay in Vegas, isn’t asking for trade

Fleury trade
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The biggest question for the Vegas Golden Knights this offseason is going to be how they handle their suddenly complex goaltending situation.

Marc-Andre Fleury, the face of the franchise, remains under contract for two more seasons, while the team seems determined to try and re-sign Robin Lehner, who had taken over the starting job during the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs after he was acquired at the NHL trade deadline.

While keeping both players would seem to be an ideal set-up (having two goalies capable of being a high level starter is a good thing!) the financial and logistical circumstances around it would seem to be incredible difficult.

Not only would it require a substantial salary cap commitment to a position where only one player can play at a time, there is also the delicate balance of playing time. Both goalies are starters, both will want to start, and both have earned the right to start. That has resulted in speculation that the Golden Knights could trade, or perhaps even buy out, Fleury this offseason.

There was also the school of thought that Fleury might ask for an exit given the way the goaltending situation unfolded this postseason.

That does not seem to be the case.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Fleury told The Athletic’s Jesse Granger this week that while he realizes the potential of a trade, he has no intention of asking the team for one this offseason and that he is still committed to finishing his career in Vegas.

Even if it means potentially sharing the net.

Via the Athletic (subscription required):

“I want to stay in Vegas,” he told The Athletic Wednesday afternoon. “I don’t know what the future holds, but I’ve loved every moment since I got here.”

Fleury emphasized that he is not seeking a trade, and if it were up to him he would finish his career in Vegas.

“This team means a lot to me, and the city has been so good to me,” Fleury said. “The fans, and (owner Bill Foley) have been so awesome. It’s a great team, and I thought when I came here that maybe I could retire here. I wanted to end my career here.”

Fleury added that he gets along great with Lehner, and that while his goal is to not be just a backup, he said he intends to “practice hard, try to play well, and hopefully get some games.”

The problem here is if Vegas is successful in re-signing Lehner it would probably carry a price tag similar to Fleury’s. That would mean Vegas would have somewhere in the neighborhood of $14-15 million tied up in net. The only team in the league this season that is slated to spend that much on goaltending is Montreal with the newly formed Carey PriceJake Allen duo.

Montreal has the salary cap space to make that sort of a commitment to the goalie position.  Vegas, on the other hand, may not. Not unless it makes a drastic cut somewhere else on the roster.

Even though the Golden Knights do not have any other significant free agents to deal with, they still have a handful of RFA’s to re-sign and are already crunched against the cap. Even if were to shed salary elsewhere to keep both goalies it would still probably prohibit the team from making any other outside addition via trade or free agency. It is a very good team, one of the very best in the league, but they are still going to want to make some improvements to the roster. That may be difficult, if not impossible, with both goalies on the roster.

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.