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The Buzzer: Carey Price ties Jacques Plante on Canadiens’ wins list

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Three Stars

1. Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens. The Montreal Canadiens probably did not need Carey Price to be great on Tuesday night — he was still more than solid in their 3-1 win over a hapless Los Angeles Kings team — but he made some history by recording career win No. 314. That win moves him into a tie with legendary goalie Jacques Plante on top of the franchise’s all-time wins list. Any time you can tie Jacques Plante in something you deserve a star for the night. Granted, Price has spent his entire career playing in the shootout era, so the proper context needs to be applied to records and win totals like this, but it is still a huge accomplishment for Price and something that is worthy of some extra attention.

2. Jake Guentzel, Pittsburgh Penguins. With every team in the Eastern Conference playoff race gaining at least a point on Tuesday night it was a must for the Pittsburgh Penguins to get two points against the Florida Panthers, especially with a home-and-home against the Columbus Blue Jackets looming later this week. They were able to get the two points thanks to a pair of goals from Jake Guentzel, including a highlight reel winner in overtime. He is now up to a 33 goals on the season and has a real shot at scoring 40 goals. His contract extension he signed earlier this season might prove to be a bargain for the Penguins.

3. Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets. He has had probably the worst season of his career, or at least his worst season since joining the Columbus Blue Jackets, but Sergei Bobrovsky is still capable of taking over a game and stealing for his team. He did that on Tuesday night in the Blue Jackets’ 2-1 win over the New Jersey Devils. The Blue Jackets entered the game having lost three of their past four games and didn’t really play a particularly strong game against a team that is totally out of the race. They still managed to pick up two points thanks in large part to the play of Bobrovsky. Now the big test for the Blue Jackets and Bobrovsky this week — back-to-back games against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Other notable performances from Tuesday night

  • Ben Bishop posted a shutout and John Klingberg scored another game-winning goal to help lift the Dallas Stars to a 1-0 win over the New York Rangers to pick up a huge two points in the standings.
  • The Nashville Predators are back in first place in the Central Division and the Minnesota Wild are sticking around in the playoff race. Read all about it here.
  • Tough night for the Arizona Coyotes as they dropped two important points in the standings and had their six-game winning streak snapped in a 3-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks.
  • The New York Islanders needed a shootout to top the Ottawa Senators, but they managed to get the win and keep pace with the Washington Capitals in the Metropolitan Division. It was a costly win, however, as starting goalie Robin Lehner had to leave the game with an injury after a collision with Matthew Tkachuk on the play that produced the game-tying goal.
  • Nathan MacKinnon scored the overtime winner to complete the Colorado Avalanche’s late rally to top the Detroit Red Wings and get two points.

Highlights of the Night

The aforementioned Jake Guentzel overtime winner for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk teamed up for a pair of goals on Tuesday night in their win over the Carolina Hurricanes. Krejci’s goal, set up by DeBrusk, came in overtime. It was a costly win for the Bruins as they lost Marcus Johansson to another injury.

The Detroit Red Wings were on the losing end of a 4-3 overtime decision against the Colorado Avalanche but here is a bright spot in another lost season for the Red Wings: Prized prospect and top draft pick Filip Zadina scored his first NHL goal.

Factoids

  • Matt Cullen played his 1,500th game tonight, making him just the second American-born player to ever reach that milestone (Chris Chelios is the other). Crazy thing about that is his career has overlapped 49.1 percent of the players to ever play a game in the NHL. [Penguins]
  • The Tampa Bay Lightning are the first team in NHL history to feature two different goalies that have each had a personal 10-game winning streak in a single season. This team is a machine. It was also a big night for Nikita Kucherov as he tied Vincent Lecavalier’s single season points record with still 15 games to play in the season. [NHL PR]
  • New York Islanders coach Barry Trotz recorded his 800th career win when his team defeated the Ottawa Senators. [Islanders]

Scores

Boston Bruins 4, Carolina Hurricanes 3 (OT)

Columbus Blue Jackets 2, New Jersey Devils 1 (SO)

New York Islanders 5, Ottawa Senators 4 (SO)

Pittsburgh Penguins 3, Florida Panthers 2 (OT)

Tampa Bay Lightning 5, Winnipeg Jets 2

Nashville Predators 5, Minnesota Wild 4 (SO)

Dallas Stars 1, New York Rangers 0

Colorado Avalanche 4, Detroit Red Wings 3 (OT)

Anaheim Ducks 3, Arizona Coyotes 1

Montreal Canadiens 3, Los Angeles Kings 1

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.

Ovechkin to play role of NHL ambassador in China

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Alex Ovechkin will be taking a week away from his summer break to play a different kind of role in the NHL next month.

Ovi is heading to China as the NHL’s international ambassador on the week of Aug. 4. He will travel to Bejing, China’s capital, a trip that will include the Russian superstar holding youth hockey clinics, a media tour and business development meetings.

“It is a huge honor for me to be an ambassador for the entire Washington Capitals organization and the National Hockey League for this special trip to China,” Ovechkin said in a release from the Caps. “I think it is very important to spend time to help make people all over the world see how great a game hockey is. I can’t wait to spend time with all the hockey fans there and I hope to meet young kids who will be future NHL players. I can’t wait for this trip!”

The NHL continues to try and grow the game at the international level in places traditionally not hotbeds for hockey.

China has been seeing a lot of the NHL over the past three seasons. Although no preseason games are scheduled for the 2019-20 season, the NHL has played a total of four since 2017, with the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks contesting two games in 2017-18 and the Boston Bruins and Calgary Flames playing the other two prior to last season.

The Stanley Cup found its way to the country for the first time last September, as well.

“We are very excited that Alex Ovechkin will be joining us in China this summer,” said David Proper, NHL Executive Vice President of Media and International Strategy. “Alex represents the best in sports, as he epitomizes that combination of great talent, great personality and great sportsmanship. He is the perfect person to represent the NHL’s efforts to grow hockey in China.”

China, with a population of over 1.3 billion, expects to expand its participation in winter sports, including hockey, to 300 million people by 2022.


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

Report: Police say Greg Johnson’s death an apparent suicide

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DETROIT (AP) — A police report says the death of former Nashville Predators captain Greg Johnson was an apparent suicide, according to the Detroit News.

The paper said Wednesday it had obtained a Rochester Police report, and that Johnson was found by his wife shortly before 10 a.m. on July 7. A gun and a single bullet were found near him. No suicide note was left.

The Oakland County Medical Examiner declined to discuss findings from an autopsy, according to the paper.

Johnson was with Nashville for the franchise’s first season in the league. He spent the last seven years of his career with the Predators. He also played for Detroit, Pittsburgh and Chicago during his 12 years in the NHL.

The Detroit News said Johnson’s agent, Tom Laidlaw, declined to discuss the specifics surrounding the former player’s death. Johnson was 48.

PHT Morning Skate: Penguins need summer miracle again; Devils begin new chapter

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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.

• The Pens need to make another mid-summer magical change. (Pensburgh)

• Maple Leafs almost certain to lose any trade involving Mitch Marner. (Editor In Leaf)

Zack Kassian to get his chance to play alongside Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl. (The Hockey Writers)

Ryan Spooner heading to Switzerland next season. (Sportsnet)

• The RFA waiting game for big-name players is the norm now, in Winnipeg and the rest of the NHL. (Winnipeg Sun)

• Each team’s worst contract heading into the 2019-20 season. (Puck Prose)

• Biggest fantasy winners thus far in the offseason. (Yahoo Sports)

• Devils begin a new chapter with additions of Jack Hughes, P.K. Subban. (NHL.com)

• Oft-Overlooked Hurricanes On the Rise. (Featurd)

• The oddsmakers are taking the Colorado Avalanche seriously, and so should you. (The Hockey News)

• NHL Network analyst believes Andre Burakovsky will score ‘a minimum’ of 20 goals next season. (Russian Machine Never Breaks)

• The Nashville Predators should go all-in and trade for William Nylander. (Pred Lines)


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

Analyzing the Avalanche after Colorado re-signs J.T. Compher

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The Colorado Avalanche’s offseason continues to come into focus, even as we’re in more of a housekeeping mode, rather than a more exciting time of dramatic renovations.

Earlier, the Avalanche signed intriguing new addition Andre Burakovsky at a bargain $3.25 million rate. While I would’ve been even more excited if the Avalanche would have bought more term, it’s still a nice move, and Burakovsky’s still slated to be an RFA after this one-year re-up expires.

The medium-sized moves continued on Wednesday, with Colorado handing forward J.T. Compher an interesting four-year deal reportedly worth $3.5M per season.

Overall, it’s fairly easy to understand. Compher scored both 16 goals and assists on his way to 32 points last season, despite being limited to 66 games. He quietly logged a lot of minutes (17:29 TOI per game), and had some utility, although the Avalanche might be wise to ease some of his PK duties going forward.

You can dig deeper into certain numbers, or make some tough comparisons, and start to feel not-quite-as-good about Compher’s new contract.

After all, Compher possesses the same contract as now-former teammate Alex Kerfoot, who will carry $3.5M for four seasons with Toronto. On one hand, it’s not as though Colorado necessarily chose to keep Compher over Kerfoot; it’s very plausible that the analytics-savvy Maple Leafs wanted Kerfoot to make that Nazem KadriTyson Barrie deal work, in the first place. On the other hand, the comparisons are natural when you consider their identical deals. Comparing the two using visualizations including Evolving Hockey’s Regularized Adjusted Plus/Minus (RAPM) makes this contract look less appealing:

via Evolving Hockey

Compher doesn’t need to equal or exceed Kerfoot’s value to be worth $3.5M per year to the Avalanche, though, and there’s a solid chance that they’ll be fine with this contract.

It does open up an opportunity to ponder where Colorado is, though.

The Avalanche still have a big-ticket item to re-sign, as Mikko Rantanen is one of the many RFAs heading for a big raise alongside the likes of Mitch Marner and Brayden Point. If Colorado can convince Rantanen to sign somewhere in the team-friendly range that the Carolina Hurricanes enjoy with Sebastian Aho, or the borderline insane deal the San Jose Sharks landed with Timo Meier, then Colorado would continue to look like one of the smartest people in the room.

But how many steps have the Avs taken after upsetting the Flames in Round 1 and pushing the Sharks hard in Round 2 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs?

Tom Hunter of Mile High Hockey projected next season’s lineup, figuring that Compher will center a third line with two sneaky-good analytics wingers in Colin Wilson and Joonas Donskoi, while Kadri could center a second line with Tyson Jost and Andre Burakovsky around him.

Losing Kerfoot stings, but on paper, that does seem like a middle-six that could ease some of the burden for that all-world trio of Rantanen, Nathan MacKinnon, and Gabriel Landeskog. It’s also plausible that the Avs could try to move different pieces around to see if one of MacKinnon or Rantanen could carry their own line, thus diversifying the Avs’ attack.

Yet, with the Central Division continuing to look like a beastly group, it’s tough to say where Colorado fits. Is this team more wild-card material, or will a boosted supporting cast push them to a new level? There’s also the possibility that things don’t work out the same way as they did in 2018-19, from that MacKinnon line slowing to maybe the goaltending falling short.

Whatever value Compher ultimately brings, along with newcomers like Burakovsky, Kadri, and Donskoi, a mild itch for something bolder remains for some of us (I blame the NBA’s run where the West is revolutionized every week, seemingly). At least Avs fans can let their imaginations run wild, as there could be some space left over, even after Rantanen gets paid:

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.