It’s Monday, which means it’s time for PHT’s Weekly Face-Off column. We’ll break down some of the significant trends and topics in the NHL for the upcoming week.
Here we go:
• What can Ilya Kovalchuk do for Habs?
Kovalchuk has a lot to prove heading into his tenure with the Montreal Canadiens. As general manager Marc Bergevin pointed out last week, this will be the Russian winger’s last chance in the NHL. If he blows this opportunity, it’ll be Europe or retirement for him.
Montreal is so banged up right now that all they need is an NHL caliber forward. With Brendan Gallagher, Joel Armia, Jonathan Drouin and Paul Byron all out, the Canadiens had no choice but to bring in a veteran off the street. Bergevin made it clear he wouldn’t sacrifice picks and prospects for immediate help, so this was the logical next step.
What are realistic expectations for the 36-year-old though? In 64 games with the Kings last season, he managed to put the puck in the net 16 times. Those are the facts. If you break that down over an 82-game season, it adds up to 20.5 goals for the year.
The Habs can’t be expecting much more from Kovalchuk. It’s just not realistic. Since we’re at the midway point of the season, it seems reasonable for Bergevin and the Habs to expect 10 goals out of their new winger. Anything more would be a bonus.
• Andrei Vasilevskiy is starting to heat up
It’s been a tough year for Vasilevskiy. He simply hasn’t looked like himself for most of the year. But things are finally starting to turn around for the Lightning netminder. He’s now won five games in a row. He’s given up four goals in two of those games, but he’s also held the opposition to one goal in the other three contests.
Even though it’s unfair to suggest that he was holding the Lightning back in the first half the season, there’s a little bit of truth in that statement. He wasn’t living up to the $9.5 million cap hit that he’s commanding and that was a problem. If he can keep this going, the Bolts will continue to climb the standings in a hurry.
Hellebuyck's given a little back but he still leads. Kuemper's stuck in this spot for now. Varlamov's been great for NYI. Lundqvist and Bishop round out the top-five.
— Sean Tierney (@ChartingHockey) January 5, 2020
It’s a weird year for the high-end goalies.
• Bruins not so good in shootouts
The Boston Bruins are currently second in the NHL standings, but they couldn’t possibly be any worse in the shootout. Heading into this week, Boston has an 0-6 record in the glorified skills competition. That’s odd and kind of surprising considering the amount of talent they have on the team.
If we break their team down by attempts, here’s what we come up with:
Brad Marchand: 0-for-6
Charlie Coyle: 2-for-4
Chris Wagner: 1-for-2
David Pastrnak: 1-for-4
Jake DeBrusk: 0-for-2
Patrice Bergeron: 0-for-1
David Krejci: 0-for-1
Charlie McAvoy: 0-for-1
On the goalie’s side of things, here are how the Bruins stack up:
They’re ranked 32nd and 34th respectively in shootout save percentage. Not so good!
• Arizona’s Taylor Hall vs. New Jersey’s Taylor Hall
Since joining the Coyotes last month, Hall has seen his advanced metrics improve quite a bit. That’s not exactly shocking when you consider how bad the Devils have been though.
Hall has a modest six points in nine games with the ‘Yotes, but they’re way more dangerous when he’s on the ice. Here’s the breakdown via Natural Stat Trick just to give you an idea:
When Hall is on the ice, they have 54.47 percent of the shot attempts, 57.58 percent of the expected goals for, 56.2 percent of the scoring chances and 58.49 percent of the high-danger chances.
Yes, we’re working with a pretty small sample size, but if those trends continue he should be lighting the lamp quite a bit for his new team.
Since landing Hall, the Coyotes have a 5-4-0 record which isn’t great. The positive part of that, is that they’ve now won three games in a row against St. Louis, Anaheim and Philadelphia.
What’s coming up this week?
• Semyon Varlamov revenge game: Avalanche vs. Islanders, Mon. Jan. 6, 7 p.m. ET.
• Marc-Andre Fleury revenge game: Penguins vs. Golden Knights, Tue. Jan. 7, 10 p.m. ET.
• Joe Pavelski revenge game: Stars vs. Sharks, Sat. Jan. 11, 10 p.m. ET.
NHL on NBCSN
• Oilers vs. Maple Leafs, Mon. Jan. 6, 7 p.m. ET (live stream)
• Stars vs. Kings, Wed. Jan. 8, 10:30 p.m. ET
• Predators vs. Blackhawks, Thu. Jan. 9, 8:30 p.m. ET
Wednesday Night Hockey
• Flyers vs. Capitals, Wed. Jan. 8, 7:30 p.m. ET.