Simmonds ‘savors’ potential final game with Flyers

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PHILADELPHIA — Listening to Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek speak about Wayne Simmonds following their 4-3 overtime win in Saturday’s Stadium Series game, you could tell just how much the rumors of the veteran forward’s likely departure by Monday’s NHL trade deadline has affected them.

“He’s one of my best friends, so it’s been kind of stressful for me as well,” Voracek said. “It’s something we cannot change in the locker room and he knows it. He’s been a warrior throughout last year, this year. Whatever happens, it’s either going to be tough or good. He’s been amazing. He’s been a good friend of mine and we’ll see what’s going to happen.”

The team’s postgame MVP award — a helmet acquired during a preseason team-bonding trip in Vail, Colorado — went to Simmonds following their dramatic come-from-behind win over the Pittsburgh Penguins Saturday night at Lincoln Financial Field. It was an emotional victory and an emotional postgame scene in the dressing room.

“Pretty special. Got a little bit choked up,” Simmonds said of being awarded the helmet. “I’ve known those guys [Giroux and Voracek] for so long. Even before I came to Philadelphia I knew Jake and G, so it’s pretty special getting it from those guys.”

Simmonds can be an unrestricted free agent on July 1 and with the Flyers’ playoff hopes on thin ice, general manager Chuck Fletcher will likely deal the 30-year-old as he reshapes the roster he inherited from Ron Hextall.

Despite all the rumors the last few weeks, Simmonds has done his best to block out the noise.

“Don’t watch TSN, Sportsnet, Twitter, Instagram, any of those things,” he said. “It’s obviously tough not to see, but I always try to be a professional. I’m never going to quit on anything. I’ll play right to the very end. Hopefully I’m here still come Monday, but if not, it is what it is. I’m happy with what I’ve done for this city. I can truly say that I’m grateful for everything that I’ve gotten here.”

While more trades will likely come down on Sunday, Simmonds won’t be glued to his television or his phone checking for updates. It’s an off day and he has plans to spend the day with friends who are in town, savoring the Flyers’ first outdoor game victory.

“You savor it a little bit more. This has been my home,” he said. “I live in Toronto in the offseason and then I’m in Philadelphia. I consider myself a part of this community. It was special being out there and getting the two points tonight.”

Relief will come by Monday afternoon when the questions will finally be answered and Simmonds will know where he’ll be playing the final few months of the 2018-19 season. It’s not just hockey that’s been on his mind either. His wife, Crystal, is six and a half months pregnant, so knowing where they’ll deliver their baby is something they’re eager to find out.

Simmonds and Voracek joined the Flyers in separate trades in June 2011 and have developed a close friendship. Giroux had been a Flyer for a few seasons before Simmonds’ arrival, but the trio quickly became a strong core ever since. 

That core will likely be missing a piece in a few days time.

“It’s a tough situation. You just don’t know what’s going to happen,” said Giroux. “He’s been an ultimate warrior. He’s been the best teammate all these years. It’s not something we can control, so it’s definitely frustrating a little bit. We’ve all been here for a long time. We understand the business of it, but it doesn’t mean we have to like it.

“There’s not enough good words I can say about Wayne Simmonds.”

MORE: Flyers hand Penguins agonizing defeat at Stadium Series

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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.

Watch Kenan Thompson’s fantastic NHL Awards monologue

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While the Adam Sandlers, Steve Martins, and Chris Rocks of the world are the most famous people to come from “SNL,” the performers who were “lifers” land among the most talented. Kenan Thompson is one of those performers who stood the test of time, much like Darrell Hammond and Tim Meadows.

So, maybe it shouldn’t be surprising just how great Thompson was as a host of the 2019 NHL Awards, but either way, he knocked it out of the park on Wednesday.

It says a lot about the quality of the show that, even deep into the telecast – award shows are long, basically always – people were still laughing and smiling. From the emotions of Carey Price surprising a young fan, to Robin Lehner‘s speech about mental health, to the bonkers segments with “Tony Babcock,” the show had a little bit of everything.

And Thompson’s fantastic monologue really set a fun tone with legitimately great jokes.

Considering that the NHL wouldn’t want Thompson to go scorched earth like Norm MacDonald did during that unforgettable ESPYS appearance, this was a great mix of funny and wholesome.

Though, that’s not to say that there weren’t any spicy zingers.

  • Watch as the Tampa Bay Lightning go stone-faced when Thompson makes a great barb about the Bolts getting swept.

Actually, it was mainly Andrei Vasilevskiy looking displeased. Also, notice Nick Foligno grinning widely in the background. Hmm, I wonder why he might enjoy that joke?

  • Enjoy the juxtaposition of many hockey people generally not reacting to jokes while their significant others laugh like the rest of us.
  • Enjoy some great deep cuts, from jokes you’d be more likely to expect, to a really creative bit about The Pope Mobile being a penalty box on wheels, and the Pope getting five minutes for “cross-checking.” (Thompson deserved cheers, not boos, for that one.)
  • Also, Thompson has a point about the Blues using “Gloria” instead of the actual Blues.

Overall, the 2019 NHL Awards are going to be a tough act to follow. Here’s hoping Thompson gets to try it in 2020, because he (and basically everyone else involved, Jillian Fisher was a great addition, too) did a truly fantastic job.

While it’s not quite at the same level as Thompson’s monologue, the cold open included John Krasinski, Jenna Fischer, and Laila Anderson (!), so you might enjoy it, too:

More: Rounding up the NHL Awards.

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.

2019 NHL Awards: All the winners, video, more

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A lot naturally happened during the 2019 NHL Awards and there are still some winners left to highlight. Before we do that though, let’s recap some of tonight’s big winners:

Calder Trophy: Elias Pettersson

Lady Byng: Aleksander Barkov

GM of the Year: Don Sweeney

Norris Trophy: Mark Giordano

Masterton Trophy: Robin Lehner

Selke Trophy: Ryan O’Reilly

Jack Adams: Barry Trotz

Vezina Trophy: Andrei Vasilevskiy

Hart Trophy and Ted Lindsay: Nikita Kucherov

Now let’s tackle the other winners.

King Clancy Trophy: Jason Zucker,

Zucker and his wife Carly began the Zucker Family Suite and Broadcast Studio with a $160,000 donation and have raised over $1.2 million in under a year. The project allows kids and their families at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital to watch Minnesota Wild games in a space that mimics the experience of being at the game.

Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award: Wayne Simmonds

Before being traded to the Nashville Predators in February, Simmonds was deeply involved with the Flyers’ community efforts. Among other things, he was a board member for the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation for six years. He also spent four years as an honorary chairman of their annual golf tournament, which is the foundation’s biggest fundraiser.

Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award: Rico Phillips

Of course, the Art Ross Trophy went to Nikita Kucherov, the Rocket Richard Trophy went to Alex Ovechkin, and the Jennings Trophy was shared by Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss.

First All-Star Team:
G: Andrei Vasilevskiy
D: Brent Burns
D: Mark Giordano
C: Connor McDavid
RW: Nikita Kucherov
LW: Alex Ovechkin

Second All-Star Team:
G: Ben Bishop
D: Victor Hedman
D: John Carlson
C: Sidney Crosby
RW: Patrick Kane
LW: Brad Marchand

All-Rookie Team:
G: Jordan Binnington
D: Rasmus Dahlin
D: Miro Heiskanen
F: Elias Pettersson
F: Anthony Cirelli
F: Brady Tkachuk

Ryan Dadoun is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @RyanDadoun.

Nikita Kucherov caps NHL Awards haul with Hart Trophy

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Things didn’t go as planned for Nikita Kucherov and the Tampa Bay Lightning once the postseason began, but the 2019 NHL Awards serve as a helpful reminder that they made history through the 82-game regular season.

No Lightning player enjoyed a better season than Kucherov, and he was awarded appropriately on Wednesday. Kucherov won the 2019 Hart Trophy, which joins the 2019 Ted Lindsay Award (the player-voted version of the Hart), and the scoring title, i.e. the 2019 Art Ross Trophy.

He also enjoyed a wonderfully awkward comic segment with “Tony Babcock,” aka Thomas Middleditch, so it was a big night for Kucherov.

Kucherov beat finalists Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh Penguins) and Connor McDavid (Edmonton Oilers) for the Hart Trophy, which is the sort of sentence you lead with when you’re making a Hall of Fame argument.

Here are the voting results:

Taylor Hall won the Hart Trophy last year, McDavid captured the 2016-17 Hart Trophy, and Sidney Crosby last won it in 2013-14.

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.

Carey Price surprises young fan in NHL Awards’ most touching moment

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The 2019 NHL Awards celebrates the best players and moments in hockey, but it’s also a great reminder of how much of an impact players can make off the ice.

As you can see from this roundup, Minnesota Wild forward Jason Zucker won the King Clancy for his humanitarian work, while the Willie O’Ree Community Award went to Rico Phillips, who’s doing tremendous work in Flint, Michigan.

Those were great moments, but the most emotional moment happened when Carey Price surprised young Montreal Canadiens fan Anderson Whitehead with a jersey, hug, and what sounds like a trip to the 2020 NHL All-Star Game.

Warning: you’re very likely to cry while watching this clip. At first, it seems like Price’s video is coming from off site, as he spoke of Whitehead’s mother, who died of cancer at age 44. Price then interrupted his own message, and then surprised Whitehead on stage at the 2019 NHL Awards, and … it’s a goosebumps moment.

The look of shock and surprise on Anderson Whitehead’s face is the sort of thing that will stick with most of us far beyond who won the Hart Trophy and any awards debates, and even beats out the comedy bits, which were expertly deployed by SNL’s Kenan Thompson.

(Honestly, it might be the greatest thing I’ve ever seen at a sports awards show.)

As a reminder, Price first gave Anderson Whitehead a hug earlier this season, and the moment went viral:

Great stuff … and good luck booing Carey Price.

If you need some comic relief after experiencing all of those feelings, enjoy Thompson’s opening monologue, which was really good stuff. May I lead the charge in getting Thompson to do the 2020 NHL Awards, and maybe become as much of a fixture during these ceremonies as he’s been a lifer with SNL? Just throwing my vote (which doesn’t count for anything) out there.

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.