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PHT Morning Skate: Niederreiter’s slow start; Gritty’s first snowfall

Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• 16 teams made up of developmentally disabled hockey players are participating in a tournament that they’re dedicating to two people who died in the Tree of Life synagogue mass shooting. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

• This Washington Capitals fan went all the way to Antarctica to remind the penguins which team won the Stanley Cup last season. (Washington Post)

• Who’s the bigger threat on the power play, Alex Ovechkin or Patrik Laine? (The Point)

• One month into the 2018-19 season, it looks like both the Arizona Coyotes and Montreal Canadiens came away happy with the Max Domi-for-Alex Galchenyuk swap. (Featurd)

• Gritty got to enjoy his first snow fall on Thursday. Here’s what he had to say: “Zamboni dust! IT’S FALLING FROM THE SKY.” (NBC Sports Philly)

• Getting Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson’s name on the back of a jersey is not an easy accomplishment. (NHL.com)

• Since we just passed hall of fame weekend, Puck Junk decided to look at the bad hockey card hall of fame class for 2018. There’s some real beauties in here. (Puck Junk)

• The Oilers don’t like to put Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl on the same line unless they have to. But if Tuesday’s win over Montreal was any indication, those two will stick together. (The Score)

• Josh Ho Sang is clearly starting to get more comfortable in the AHL. Could an NHL call up be in the cards for him? (Trentonian.com)

• Cecilie Olsen is a 24-year-old woman that’s running a men’s professional hockey team in Norway. (ESPN)

• The Dallas Stars’ lack of scoring depth is well-documented. Their latest experiment consists of trying Brett Ritchie on the second line with Jason Spezza. (Defending Big D)

• Blackhawks forward Chris Kunitz has been through a mid-season coaching change that got off to a rocky start. Things ended up working out for that edition of the Pittsburgh Penguins though. Will the same thing happen for the ‘Hawks? (NBC Sports Chicago)

• Many of the Buffalo Sabres have shown remarkable improvement this season, but others, like Vladimir Sobotka, have regressed badly. (Die by the Blade)

• Rotoworld’s Gus Katsaros broke down Nino Niederreiter‘s slow start to the season. (Rotoworld)

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

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    Devan Dubnyk mired in worst slump since joining Wild

    Getty
    1 Comment

    When he joined the Minnesota Wild during the 2014-15 season Devan Dubnyk helped turn around what was quickly becoming a lost season. At the time of his acquisition the Wild were going through a brutal six-game losing streak, were under .500 for the season, and pretty much everyone around the NHL was waiting for then-coach Mike Yeo to take the fall for the struggles.

    Instead of firing the coach, the Wild attempted to address what was at the time their single biggest issue — goaltending.

    So they sent a draft pick to the Arizona Coyotes for Dubnyk, and in his first start with the team stopped all 18 shots he faced in a shutout win over the Buffalo Sabres.

    From that point on the Wild were fine for the remainder of the season.

    Dubnyk more than solidified the goaltending position, recorded a .936 save percentage in his 39 starts after the trade, finished in the top-five in Hart Trophy and Vezina Trophy voting, and even won the Masterton Trophy.

    In the three full seasons that followed he has been one of the most consistent and durable goalies in the league. He played at least 60 games each season, he never had a save percentage lower than .918, while his overall mark of .920 was sixth best in the league. His even-strength number of .929 was fourth best in the league.

    He has been, by pretty much every objective measurement, one of the best goalies in the league.

    That is what makes his current struggles for a suddenly-slumping Wild team so surprising.

    After getting benched early in Minnesota’s blowout loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Friday night (he gave up three goals on the first six shots he faced) his season save percentage is down to .907, while he is currently mired in the worst extended slump of his Minnesota tenure.

    Following that game Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said it would be sitting there and lying to say he isn’t concerned about Dubnyk. He also added he was concerned about a lot of players on the team, but that his goalie is definitely one of them.

    Just how bad has it been for Dubnyk lately?

    In his past nine appearances he has managed only an .857 save percentage, a level of play that has been unheard of for Dubnyk in Minnesota. It is not only his worst nine-game stretch since joining the Wild, it is rare for him to have a stretch of play where his save percentage dips under .900.

    If you break the past four seasons down to nine-game stretches he has only been under .900 over nine games just 10 percent of the time.

    He has been under .910 just 20 percent of the time.

    That performance has played a big role in the team’s recent struggles.

    The question is how much of a concern this should really be for the Wild?

    On one hand, his recent track record is what it is. He’s been outstanding for more than three full years with the Wild, and he was probably a lot better than he got credit for when he was getting crushed behind some abysmal Edmonton teams.

    But he’s also 32 years old, and there are a lot of miles on those tires, especially since becoming the starter in Minnesota.

    Since Jan. 14, 2015 (when he was acquired) Dubnyk’s 253 games played are 14 more than any other goalie in the league, while only four others have appeared in more than 230. He has played more than 800 more minutes than any other goalie in the league and is one of only three goalies to face more than 6,800 shots (Cam Talbot and Henrik Lundqvist are the other two).

    He’s faced 7,137.

    That is a huge workload.

    Given how good he’s been for so long it’s probably more than a little premature to suggest he is starting to break down. Especially when goalies are just like any other position in the league where players are prone to hot streaks and cold streaks. The NHL season isn’t about consistency for anyone; it’s about peaks and valleys where even the best players go through extended slumps. This is just one of the first times we have seen this extended level of play from Dubnyk in a few years.

    But he is also not getting any younger and the Wild are still leaning on him pretty heavily.

    If nothing else it is something to watch for the Wild as the season progresses because when he is at his best he is going to give them a chance every night. Lately, though, he hasn’t been at that level and it’s been one of the problems plaguing the Wild.

    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.

    The Buzzer: Stamkos, Giroux post four-point nights; Holtby blanks Blue Jackets

    Associated Press
    3 Comments

    Three stars

    1. Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning

    Two goals and two assists for Stamkos, who helped the Lightning crush the Colorado Avalanche 7-1 and win their sixth straight game.

    Stamkos scored the first two goals of the game 10:10 apart in the first period and they proved to be all the Lightning needed in the win.

    Stamkos has been his steady self all season and has 12 goals and 30 points in 31 games now.

    2. Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers

    The Flyers needed a win. They had just two wins in their previous nine games coming into Saturday.

    With Sean Couturier out of the lineup due to injury, ‘G’ made the move back to center and thrived, scoring and adding three helpers as the Flyers picked on the Buffalo Sabres in a 6-2 win. The Flyers scored all six of their goals after the Sabres took a 2-0 lead. Giroux scored the winner in the third.

    Giroux now has three goals and four assists in a three-game point streak.

    3. Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals

    Holtby needed that one after giving up 10 goals over his previous two starts — both losses.

    On Saturday, there were no goals given up in a 28-save shutout against the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Blue Jackets must be sick of seeing Holtby this year. In the spring, Holtby owned Columbus and he did so again on Saturday.

    Holtby has two shutouts on the season now.

    Other notable performances:

    • Alex Ovechkin had a goal and an assist to push his point streak to 11 games.
    • Jonathan Huberdeau had a goal and two assists in a 5-4 shootout loss to the New York Rangers.
    • The Kings, as a whole, deserve mention. Drew Doughty‘s ‘pathetic’ comment seemed to spark his team. Jonathan Quick made 29 saves in a 5-1 win against the surging Vegas Golden Knights.
    • Craig Anderson stopped 35-of-36 in a 2-1 overtime win against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
    • Louie Domingue had another solid outing, stopping 29 shots against the Avalanche.

    Highlights of the night

    Bob was pulled on the night, but not before making this ridiculous save:

    Yikes:

    Making dreams come true:

    Patience is a virtue:

    Factoids

    Scores

    Flyers 6, Sabres 2

    Kings 5, Golden Knights 1

    Bruins 6, Maple Leafs 3

    Senators 2, Penguins 1 (OT)

    Islanders 3, Red Wings 2

    Lightning 7, Avalanche 1

    Rangers 5, Panthers 4 (SO)

    Capitals 4, Blue Jackets 0

    Sharks 5, Coyotes 3

    Flames 5, Predators 2


    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

    Maple Leafs’ Hyman ejected after late hit on Bruins’ McAvoy

    NESN
    11 Comments

    We’ve already had one questionable hit on Saturday, and now we have a second.

    This one comes at the mid-way point of the third period in the game between the Boston Bruins and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

    With the Bruins leading 6-2, Charlie McAvoy gets the puck from Jaroslav Halak behind his own net and makes the pass to his defense partner. Hyman comes in at an angle where McAvoy can’t see him and drills him with a blindside hit well after the puck had made its way to the other side of the ice.

    It appears that McAvoy hits his head on the boards the way down.

    You can see the hit here:

    The hit is made all the worse given that McAvoy just returned to the lineup on Thursday after missing 20 games with a concussion.

    Hyman got a five-minute major for interference on the McAvoy hit, five minutes for fighting Bruins’ Matt Grzelcyk and a game misconduct. Grzelcyk was tossed, too.

    The fisticuffs didn’t end there. A minute later, Chris Wagner got a penalty for charging Morgan Rielly which prompted Ron Hainsey to step in and fight Wagner.

    McAvoy returned to the bench just prior to the game ending but did not take another shift.


    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

    Red Wings’ Kronwall delivers devastating, questionable hit on Islanders’ Lee

    Sportsnet
    17 Comments

    No one walks the clean hit/dirty hit tightrope like Niklas Kronwall.

    There are several montages on YouTube of Kronwall Kronwalling opponents. Some of them are hard but clean hits. Others are, well, questionable at best and there’s another one to add to that column from Saturday night.

    With the Detroit Red Wings up 2-0 in the first period, Kronwall lined up Anders Lee of the New York Islanders, who was picking up a loose puck on along the boards in the neutral zone. Like many of Kronwall’s hits, it was a devastating thump.

    Here’s the hit:

    Lee’s head appears to be the principal point of contact and he was forced to leave the game.

    UPDATE: Lee did not come out to start the second period but returned later in the frame

    The comments section is going to be full of, ‘Lee needs to keep his head up.’

    That is true. The player has a responsibility to protect himself.

    But what is also true is this: Just because a guy’s head is down doesn’t mean there’s free rein to pulverize his brain.

    Kronwall had some time to change how he was going to hit Lee, either the angle or the magnitude of the force of it.

    Josh Bailey went for retribution later in the period, first getting a slew foot in on Kronwall and then fighting Dylan Larkin.

    Lee leads the Islanders with 11 goals and is tied with Josh Bailey for the most points with 22.

    Time will tell, but you have to imagine that George Parros and the Department of Player Safety will give this one a long look.


    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck