Which struggling NHL teams need to hit the panic button?

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Earlier this week we looked at some NHL teams that have maybe exceeded expectations in the early part of the season and tried to determine which ones are for real.

This is the opposite end of that spectrum.

Here we are taking a look at some teams off to rough starts and which ones need to consider hitting the panic button. Nobody wants to panic a week-and-a-half into the season, but sometimes you can get a sense for when things are just not going well with your team and the roster is all wrong. Some teams might already be there.

Montreal is a mess

Not only did they fall to 0-5-0 with Thursday’s loss to Carolina, continuing one of the worst starts in franchise history, they got embarrassed on home ice with offer sheet twins Sebastian Aho and Jesperi Kotkaniemi combining for three goals in the 4-1 decision.

There is a lot going on here because the 0-5 start just after a trip to the Stanley Cup Final is definitely staggering. But a lot of things had to go right for Montreal to reach the level it reached a year ago. They had to play in the right division to allow them to even make the playoffs. Get the right playoff matchups (again the result of the division). Get the white-hot goaltending for three rounds.

[Related: Should Canadiens be concerned about slow start? ]

Now they are back in a division and conference loaded with Cup contenders, and a lot of players that helped make that run possible a year ago are no longer on the ice. Carey Price is sidelined. Shea Weber is done for the season, and maybe for his career. Phillip Danault, Kotkaniemi, and Tomas Tatar are playing for new teams. The result has been four goals in five games, zero wins, and a lot of ugliness.

Is it time to hit the panic button? In the sense of them making the playoffs? Yes. That was always going to be a struggle and it is clear this team has some issues. But it is not this bad. You hope that Price is able to return soon. Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki are great young talents that will be better. There is some talent on this team. It will get better. Just probably not enough to make the playoffs in a tough division and conference.

Chicago is an even bigger mess

At least the Canadiens have some excuses.

What’s Chicago’s excuse? The Blackhawks got their No. 1 center back, made big splash after big splash over the offseason in terms of adding players and spending money, and they are still lousy.

[Related: Looking at Blackhawks’ lousy start]

Through five games they are 0-4-1, have been outscored 21-9 overall, 17-3 at even-strength, been booed off the ice in their only two home games, and perhaps even more shockingly, have yet to play a single second with the lead this season. They have either been trailing or tied all year. And given how early they have given up goals in games, they have spent the majority of their time playing from behind. How much time? They have trailed for 225 minutes this season. They have played 301 minutes of hockey. That is literally 75% of the season.

The only other teams that have trailed for more than 130 minutes this season are Montreal (200 minutes) and Seattle (174 minutes).

Is it time to hit the panic button? Most definitely. They should be slamming it. This is not a team missing people, or dealing with injuries, or a team that is less than 100 percent. This is the team as it was supposed to look. But what is staggering about that is nobody should have had any illusions that things would be dramatically better. They have missed the playoffs three out of the past four years, only sneaking in one time because of the Return To Play bubble when they were the 23rd ranked team in the league. Their solution for the offseason was to throw a monstrous contract at a declining defenseman, acquire a 37-year-old goalie that was going from a Cup contender to a defensive sieve of a team, and Tyler Johnson. Even the good moves had serious questions. Bad times ahead here.

Things are going as planned in Arizona

Okay, maybe Coyotes management will not come out and admit that, but this season is clearly not about winning hockey games. It is about tearing things down and accumulating as many future assets as possible.

Mission accomplished.

Is it time to hit the panic button? No need to at any point this season. Nobody should have had any thoughts about this team contending after trading Darcy Kuemper, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Christian Dvorak, and Conor Garland over the offseason. The only thing that should cause a panic here is if they do something outrageously stupid, like trade Jakob Chychrun.

What’s up with the Islanders?

Despite their recent playoff success the Islanders have never really been a great regular season team. They have that one 15-game stretch every year where they go 12-0-3, bank a ton of points, and then fumble along at a .500 pace the rest of the year before wrecking the playoffs for everybody.

But one thing they always do well is defend.

And that is not necessarily happening this season. At least not yet. And that is probably the most concerning development about their 1-2-1 start. They are not really playing like the Islanders yet.

Is it time to hit the panic button? No, probably not. This is still a good team with great goaltending, a great coach, and an outstanding defense. And even though they are not a dynamic team offensively it is still a team with a deep collection of forwards with few weaknesses. They will get there. The one thing that might be a little bit of a concern is the 13-game road trip to open the season that has them criss-crossing North America. You do not want to get off to a slow start that many games into the season. That can be tough to get out of.

Colorado will be fine

Maybe the most surprising start is the Colorado Avalanche being 1-3 through four games, including a three-game losing streak.

This is a team that only had two three-game losing streaks all of last season — a three-game streak late in the regular season, then losing four games in a row to the Golden Knights in the playoffs.

They have not yet been at 100% this season, with Nathan MacKinnon missing two games, Gabriel Landeskog being suspended for two games, Valeri Nichushkin being sidelined, and Devon Toews not yet playing.

Is it time to hit the panic button? Not even close. This is still the best roster in the league on paper and it is only a matter of time until they get rolling again. Especially once we see them at full strength.

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    Tortorella earns 700th career win, Flyers top Wild 5-4

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    PHILADELPHIA — John Tortorella needed one word to sum up if 700 career wins meant anything to the Flyers coach.


    OK, then. Good thing the brusque Stanley Cup winner isn’t paid by the word.

    James van Riemsdyk scored the only goal in a shootout, and Philadelphia beat the Minnesota Wild 5-4 on Thursday night for Tortorella’s 700th victory.

    Tortorella is 700-573-181 in 1,454 games as an NHL head coach. His 700 wins rank 12th in NHL history and his career games rank ninth in NHL history. He led Tampa Bay to the Stanley Cup in 2004. In his first season coaching the Flyers, Tortorella joined Peter Laviolette as the second American-born coach to win 700 games.

    “I think the culture’s kind of changed around here,” Flyers forward Joel Farabee said. “I think he’s done a really good job of keeping the group together.”

    Farabee, Scott Laughton, Rasmus Ristolainen and Tyson Foerster scored for Philadelphia. The Flyers have two straight games for the first time since Jan. 9-14 when they won three straight. Yeah, it’s been that kind of season.

    “Farabee’s starting to pop, he’s looking real good. Tyson is looking real good,” Flyers defenseman Tony DeAngelo said. “This is all about laying the foundation for next year but we get a lot of money to do this job. It’s something we love, so we’re gonna go out and give it our best every night.”

    Matt Boldy had two goals for the Wild, and Oskar Sundqvist and Marcus Foligno also scored.

    “We weren’t very good. They were good,” Wild coach Dean Evason said. “We knew they were playing well, they played well tonight. We were loose. We were not firm, turnovers, it didn’t look like our hockey club.”

    The Flyers and Wild were tied 1-all at the end of the first period, 3-3 at the end of the second and 4-4 headed into OT.

    The rebuilding Flyers have been plucky of late. They had won two of three coming into the game, with the lone loss in overtime. They showed some of that grit in the final two periods, scoring late tying goals.

    “It’s a credit to their group, to their coaching staff, that they’ve got them playing the right way,” Evason said.

    Boldy poked a backhander past Carter Hart with 6:28 left for a 4-3 lead. The Flyers, playing more for the No. 1 pick and for pride, tied the game on Foerster’s second goal of the season.

    Farabee tipped in Cam York’s shot early in the second for a 2-1 lead.

    The Wild got going when Boldy ripped one top shelf past Hart for his 24th goal of the season that tied the game 2-all. Foligno scored his seventh goal for the 3-2 lead.

    Ristolainen buried a hard slapper from the blue line on the power play for the tying goal with 23 seconds left in the second.

    “I think it’s good to try to lay this foundation, kind of get ready for next year. You see guys getting confidence,” DeAngelo said.

    The Flyers only played ahead in the first period.

    Laughton scored off the rush for his 17th goal of the season and a 1-0 lead. Sundqvist celebrated his birthday with a deflection for the tying goal with 3:24 left in the period.

    The Flyers had been one of the lowest-scoring teams in the NHL until the start of this seven-game homestand (3-2 so far). They have scored at least three goals in every game and at least four in the last four.

    “We have definitely gotten to the net better,” Tortorella said. “We have spent a lot of time on the ice and with tape as far as getting to that area.”


    Wild: Host Chicago on Saturday.

    Flyers: Host Detroit on Saturday.

    Crosby reaches 30-goal mark, Penguins knock off Avalanche 5-2

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    DENVER – Sidney Crosby wasn’t even aware of reaching yet another milestone. He’s simply locked in on helping the Pittsburgh Penguins make a 17th straight postseason appearance.

    Jeff Carter had a pair of goals, Crosby scored on a nifty backhand shot in the second period to reach the 30-goal mark for an 11th season and the Penguins beat the Colorado Avalanche 5-2.

    Crosby moved into a tie with Hall-of-Fame center Mario Lemieux for the most 30-goal seasons in Penguins history. Another milestone reached – it came as news to him.

    “I think the most important thing for me is just try to be consistent and if that reflects that great,” said Crosby, who turns 36 in August.

    Even more, Crosby’s the first player in league history to post a 30-goal campaign at 18 years old and again when he was 35-plus, according to NHL Stats.

    “It means I’ve been in the league for a while,” Crosby cracked. “That’s been the thing that’s driven me since since I got into the league – in your first year, you want to prove that you belong. Even at 35, I still think you want to prove you belong, because it is a younger league.”

    Jake Guentzel also scored and Bryan Rust added an empty-net goal for the Penguins, who snapped a four-game slide and moved back into a wild-card spot in the East.

    “It’s definitely a big one for us, for sure,” Guentzel said. “Defending champs, coming to their building, you know how good they are. Top to bottom, we defended hard and that’s what we have to do at this time of the year.”

    Pittsburgh goaltender Tristan Jarry stopped 28 shots in improving to 11-4 this season against teams from the Western Conference.

    J.T. Compher and Devon Toews had goals for the Avalanche, whose six-game winning streak was halted. Nathan MacKinnon had an assist to extend his home points streak to 18 games.

    It was a missed opportunity for Colorado, which could’ve pulled into a three-way tie with Dallas and Minnesota in the Central Division with a victory.

    “We knew they were going to play with urgency,” Colorado coach Jared Bednar said. “But I didn’t feel like there was any reason why we couldn’t, either. … We didn’t get it done. Hopefully we get another one.”

    Alexandar Georgiev made 40 saves, including several critical ones in a second period controlled by the Penguins, who outshot the Avalanche by a 21-9 margin. It could’ve been more than a 3-1 deficit heading into the third period.

    Toews’ power-play goal made it 3-2 with 9:32 remaining. But Carter wrapped up the win with his first multigoal game in the regular season since Jan. 11, 2022.

    “I’m thrilled for him. We’re all thrilled,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said of Carter. “He cares about the Penguins. He wants to win, and he wants to contribute in helping us win so we couldn’t be happier for him.”


    Bednar was appreciative of the three-year extension he signed Tuesday that goes through the 2026-27 season. In his seventh season, he’s the third-longest tenured coach in the NHL behind Tampa Bay’s Jon Cooper (March 2013) and Sullivan (December 2015).

    “It’s not a forgiving league or sport, for the most part, but obviously that’s part of the reason why I’m so grateful and thankful,” Bednar said. “Because there were times over my tenure that got a little hairy and management could have made another decision. But obviously they didn’t.”


    Avalanche D Cale Makar missed a second straight game with a lower body injury. “I still have him as day-to-day,” Bednar said. … F Darren Helm returned after missing 64 of 69 games this season with a lower-body injury. … Penguins D Jeff Petry (upper body) skated in the morning but sat out his third straight game. … The Penguins are 11-1 against the Central Division this season. … Penguins standout Evgeni Malkin assisted on Guentzel’s goal to reach the 50-assist mark for a seventh time in his career.


    Penguins: At Dallas on Thursday night.

    Avalanche: Host Arizona on Friday night.

    Report: Blackhawks will not wear Pride-themed jerseys

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    CHICAGO – The Chicago Blackhawks will not wear Pride-themed warmup jerseys before Sunday’s Pride Night game against Vancouver because of security concerns involving a Russian law that expands restrictions on activities seen as promoting LGBTQ rights in the country.

    The decision was made by the NHL organization following discussions with security officials within and outside the franchise, according to a person familiar with the situation who spoke to the AP on Wednesday on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the move.

    The Blackhawks have worn Pride warmup jerseys previously and donned special warmup jerseys on some other themed nights this season. There had been ongoing conversations about a Pride jersey with the players, according to the person who talked to the AP, but the organization made the decision to hold Pride Night without the jerseys this year.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law in December that significantly expands restrictions on activities seen as promoting LGBTQ rights in the country. Chicago defenseman Nikita Zaitsev is a Moscow native, and there are other players with family in Russia or other connections to the country.

    The decision by the Blackhawks comes after San Jose Sharks goalie James Reimer and Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov refused to take part in warmups with Pride-themed jerseys. The New York Rangers opted not to wear Pride jerseys or use Pride stick tape as part of their night in January despite previously advertising that plan.

    Russians Nikolai Knyzhov and Alexander Barabanov wore the Pride-themed jerseys for the Sharks on Saturday.

    While Chicago will go without Pride warmup jerseys this year, the team has planned a variety of activities in conjunction with Sunday’s game. DJs from the LGBTQ community will play before the game and during an intermission, and the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus also is slated to perform. There also are plans to highlight a couple of area businesses with ties to the LGBTQ community.

    Teravainen scores late, Hurricanes rally to beat Rangers 3-2

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    NEW YORK – Teuvo Teravainen scored the tiebreaking goal late in the third period, Frederik Andersen stopped 29 shots and the Carolina Hurricanes rallied to beat the New York Rangers 3-2.

    Jalen Chatfield and Stefan Noesen also scored for the Metropolitan Division-leading Hurricanes, who won for the third time in four games.

    With the comeback win, the Hurricanes became the second team – following Boston – to reach the 100-point mark this season as Carolina increased its Metropolitan Division-lead over second-place New Jersey to two points and the third-place Rangers to eight.

    “That was a great effort. All 20 guys contributed and we got what we deserved,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “If we play like that, we’ll be in good shape. This time of year it gets tougher and tougher.”

    Tyler Motte and Kaapo Kakko scored for the Rangers, who had won four straight were 6-0-1 in their last seven. Igor Shesterkin finished with 36 saves as the Rangers played their third game in four nights – the previous two shutout wins at home.

    “Igor kept us in there as long as he could and we just didn’t have enough in the tank,” Rangers captain Jacob Trouba said. ”They won more battles and played a hard game.”

    Teravainen scored his 11th goal with 2:33 left on a pass from defenseman Brent Burns, redirecting the puck past Shesterkin. The Hurricanes, who trailed 1-0 and 2-1.

    “Somehow they left me open in the back side, great pass by him,” Teravainen said of the winning-goal pass to him in the slot. “We knew this would be a tough night. They have a good team. We knew we had to battle to win this game.”

    The Rangers led 1-0 entering the third and were vying for their third-straight shutout before Chatfield tied the score at 9:49 – the first goal the Rangers allowed in more than eight periods. New York was coming off a 6-0 win over Pittsburgh on Saturday night with Shesterkin in goal and a 7-0 triumph over Nashville behind Jaroslav Halak on Sunday.

    Kakko then put New York back ahead 31 seconds later with his 13th goal, only to have Noesen answer right back 18 seconds later to tie it 2-2.

    Motte opened the scoring at the 17-minute mark of the first, knocking the puck past Andersen for his third goal in four games and sixth of the season overall.

    The Rangers hadn’t lost in regulation since a 4-2 defeat on March 4 at Boston.

    “Tonight we didn’t play near well enough to beat that team,” Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said. ”Honestly, the whole game they outplayed us. They were a lot quicker. They managed the puck real well … We didn’t play our game.”


    Hurricanes captain Jordan Staal played his 729th game with Carolina on Tuesday, tying defenseman Glen Wesley for the second-most games played in franchise history since relocation from Hartford in 1997. Staal, 34, trails only his brother Eric, who played 909 games for the Hurricanes from 2003-16.


    Hurricanes: Host the Rangers on Thursday night to finish the home-and-home set in the opener of a four-game homestand.

    Rangers: At Carolina on Thursday night to open a two-game trip.