NHL Rink Wrap: Blackhawks still winless; Undefeated Panthers, Hurricanes

NHL Rink Wrap: No Blackhawks wins; Undefeated Panthers, Hurricanes
Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images

Top player from Friday in the NHL

Igor Shesterkin, Rangers

In the Rangers’ 4-0 win over the Blue Jackets, you could observe plenty of player of the night candidates. With three assists, should Adam Fox earn the title of NHL player of the night for Friday? Should it be Artemi Panarin and his trio of helpers, instead?

Let’s go with Igor Shesterkin. He pitched a 31-save shutout against the Blue Jackets. After earning his first shutout of the season, Shesterkin’s now 4-1-1 with a sparkling .944 save percentage.

Merely 53 games into his NHL career, we still don’t know just how good the 25-year-old truly is. Credit Shesterkin with passing just about all of his tests so far, though. Often with flying colors.

NHL injury, COVID news

Highlights from Friday in the NHL

There’s something almost soothing about how calm and surgically precise a star player can be in 3-on-3 OT. Did Aleksander Barkov have “ice water in his veins” here?

This Sportsnet video headline makes me wonder: do Rangers fans call him Fantastic Mr. Adam Fox? Perhaps they should. (That movie holds up remarkably well, by the way.)

Then we had Braden Holtby turning back the clock here with this pad save:

Friday’s NHL takeaways

Baby steps, but still some stumbles as NHL handles Blackhawks allegations

Sometimes, the NHL feels like a creaky old battleship made obsolete during World War II. A more graceful vessel might, say, be more forceful in making sure Joel Quenneville didn’t coach the Panthers one day before he resigned. Frankly, there was more than enough time for the league and/or Panthers to tell Quenneville to sit that game out before his meeting with Gary Bettman.

And it’s not like that was the only strike against a league (and teams, such as the Blackhawks, Panthers, and Jets) that often failed to look proactive.

Why, exactly, was Stan Bowman even in the position to make offseason moves such as the Seth Jones trade once the Blackhawks lawsuit went public? Were there members of the Panthers who thought it was a bad idea for Quenneville to go behind the bench on Wednesday? Did no one really object to Brad Aldrich’s name being etched on the Stanley Cup. And why did it take so long to discuss removing it from “the most hallowed trophy in sports?”

Over and over again, the NHL, teams, and even players stumble in handling this situation. In a vacuum, maybe there’s indeed an argument that Kevin Cheveldayoff wasn’t in enough of a “senior position” to help Kyle Beach in 2010. Yet, when you combine Beach’s allegations with what Akim Aliu went through, it’s tougher to feel great about Cheveldayoff avoiding any sort of punishment.

[Details on Cheveldayoff – Bettman meeting.]

Yes, you could argue the NHL and its teams did the bare minimum. Bowman and other Blackhawks officials needed to be held accountable. Quenneville too. But it’s difficult to shake the feeling that people are either learning the wrong lessons, or refusing to open their textbooks at all.

As Kyle Beach noted, he’s not the only survivor, and the hope is that others won’t suffer in similar ways. The NHL and USA Hockey both may face another test with Bill Guerin.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told The Athletic’s Michael Russo the following in an email about U.S. SafeSport’s investigation of Bill Guerin.

“Based on what we know — and the facts have been investigated multiple times already — this is not a Chicago situation,” Daly emailed The Athletic. “There is no indication that Bill Guerin (or any other member of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ organization) at any time neglected his reporting duties or failed to follow-up appropriately on (the) reported concerns. I am completely confident that when all is said and done, the US Center for Safe Sport will conclude the same.”

(You can read more about that investigation in this Oct. 22 report from TSN’s Rick Westhead.)

[Stan Bowman steps down as 2022 U.S. men’s Olympic team GM; Guerin currently still considered assistant.]

Maybe the allegations regarding the way Guerin handled things is indeed “not a Chicago situation,” as Daly said.

What if, increasingly, it looks more and more like a “Chicago situation?” Will the NHL and USA Hockey do the right thing. Otherwise, people may come to the same conclusion Kyle Beach did about how he believes the NHL viewed his allegations.

” …They continue to try and protect their name over the health and the well-being of the people who put their lives on the line every day to make the NHL what it is,” Beach told TSN.

Again, the NHL hasn’t exactly passed every test in handling these recent situations. Hopefully they prove they’ve learned a lesson if something close to a “Chicago situation” happens again.

Panthers remain undefeated in first game post-Quenneville

It took that overtime game-winner from Barkov, but the Panthers improved to 8-0-0 on the season. During those first seven games, Quenneville was behind their bench. On Friday, the Panthers remained one of the NHL’s hottest teams as former winger Andrew Brunette took over in the interim.

(If you need a smile, recall Brunette scoring a series-winner for the Wild, thus shocking Patrick Roy and the Avs. OK, Colorado Avalanche fans might not smile.)

Uneasily, there’s been some implication that teams can’t win because of “distractions.” That you can’t hold people accountable for their actions and win.

Maybe the Panthers can dispel some of those notions by thriving without Quenneville? If nothing else, it would be nice to cheer for the Panthers finally being truly relevant, without the feeling that you might be cheering for the villains.

Hurricanes also stay undefeated, Blackhawks without a win, Coyotes also goose-egged

After Friday’s NHL action, there are still two winless teams, and they’re both in the Central Division. At least, with the Coyotes, tanking is the point.

But the Blackhawks? Any talk about them still rebuilding sure reeks of spinning some on-ice failure to go with the off-ice disgrace.

By winning on Friday, the Hurricanes didn’t just keep the Blackhawks winless; Carolina also remained alongside Florida as the league’s two undefeated teams.

Amusingly, the Hurricanes hold the most power when it comes to keeping teams winless and/or undefeated. On Sunday (Oct. 31), the Hurricanes host the winless Coyotes. Perhaps the Blackhawks will before then, but if not, they’ll host the potentially-still-undefeated Hurricanes.

If we’re all really lucky, both the Panthers and Hurricanes will remain undefeated for their matchup on Saturday, Nov. 6 — Carolina’s next game after Chicago.

Saturday’s big story

How far along are the Flames, Flyers?

Heading into Saturday’s game in Calgary, both the Flyers (4-1-1) and Flames (5-1-1) are off to promising starts.

They’re also teams in fairly similar positions. Each GM must be feeling some heat, especially after the letdown of missing the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs. With the Flyers, they’re testing some big changes. In the case of the Flames, the bolder stance was not blowing things up.

(Heck, some people probably penciled Johnny Gaudreau in as a Flyer.)

Which team is for real? Both? Neither? One game won’t answer those questions, but could at least give us more to work with for each team.

Friday’s NHL scores

Hurricanes 6, Blackhawks 3
Golden Knights 5, Ducks 4 (SO)
Senators 4, Stars 1
Panthers 3, Red Wings 2 (OT)
Rangers 4, Blue Jackets 0
Capitals 2, Coyotes 0

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.

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    Former B’s coach Cassidy wins; Boston’s home streak ends

    Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

    BOSTON – The Vegas Golden Knights made former Boston coach Bruce Cassidy’s return a success on Reilly Smith‘s score in the fifth round of the shootout, beating the Bruins 4-3 to end their NHL-record for home victories to open a season at 14 games on Monday night.

    The 57-year-old Cassidy was fired by Boston following 5 1/2 seasons in June after the Bruins were eliminated by Carolina in the opening round of the playoffs.

    Eight days after he was let go, he was hired by Vegas.

    In a matchup of two of the league’s top three teams, Western conference-leading Vegas opened a 3-0 lead early in the second period on two goals by Paul Cotter and the other by Jonathan Marchessault before the Bruins started their comeback when Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak scored just over six minutes apart late in the period.

    They tied it on Taylor Hall‘s power-play goal 3:08 into the third when he spun in front and slipped a shot from the slot past goalie Logan Thompson.

    Smith had the only score in the shootout, slipping a forehand shot past goalie Jeremy Swayman.

    Cassidy took over as Boston’s interim coach on Feb. 7, 2016, before getting the head job that April. His teams made the playoffs all six seasons, including a trip to the 2019 Stanley Cup Final when they lost the seventh game at home against St. Louis.

    Cassidy knows what it sounds like in TD Garden with The Standells’ song “Dirty Water” blaring after Bruins’ wins.

    “Now that you brought it up, I’m used to hearing “Dirty Water” at the end of the game,” he said, smiling. “I’m glad I didn’t hear it tonight. The streak is irrelevant to me. It’s nice to come in and play well.”

    Boston lost for just the second time in 12 games.

    “This locker room sticks together, and we knew we were going to do something special tonight,” Swayman said. “It (stinks) losing, but we’re going to make sure we fix the problems.”

    The Bruins’ home-opening streak broke the record of 11 that was set by the 1963-64 Chicago Blackhawks and equaled by the Florida Panthers last season.

    Before the shootout, Thompson made 40 saves. Boston’s backup Swayman had 21.

    “This city meant a lot to him, and he was fired up ready to go,” Thompson said of Cassidy. “We went out there and tried to get him two points tonight.”

    Cotter collected William Karlsson‘s pass inside the left circle and unloaded a wrister under the crossbar 1:36 into the game.

    Marchessault stole Pastrnak’s attempted clearing pass, broke in alone and tucked in his own rebound to make it 2-0.

    Cotter’s second came 51 seconds into the second period when he slipped a wrister past Swayman’s glove.

    “We couldn’t get it done early, before the shootout. We had chances,” Pastrnak said. “It’s a tough one to swallow.”

    Vegas star forward Jack Eichel missed the game with a lower-body injury.


    The Bruins played a video montage of Cassidy on the Jumbotron late in the opening period that ended with a picture of him and said: “Welcome back, Bruce.”

    The crowd gave him a nice ovation and he waved thanking them.

    “It’s a really nice gesture by the Bruins’ organization,” he said. “I appreciate it. I said all along that I have a tremendous amount of respect for them. I’m thankful they did it.”


    Cassidy finished tied for third on the Bruins’ coaching list with Hall of Famer Milt Schmidt (1955-66) at 245 victories, behind Claude Julien’s (2008-17) 419 and Art Ross (1925-45) with 387.


    The Bruins entered the game ranked second in the league both with their power play (29.6%) and penalty killing (84.1%).


    Golden Knights: Host the New York Rangers on Wednesday.

    Bruins: At the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday.

    Penguins plot a way forward as Letang recovers from stroke

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    Kyle Ross/USA TODAY Sports
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    PITTSBURGH — Kris Letang returned to the ice on Thursday, just three days after suffering the second stroke of his career.

    The “twirl” the longtime Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman took at the club’s practice facility was approved by team doctors, a spin designed to help Letang’s mental health and nothing else. While the 35-year-old remains upbeat, it remains far too early to put a timeline on when his familiar No. 58 will return to the lineup.

    Though Pittsburgh general manager Ron Hextall indicated this stroke isn’t as severe as the one Letang endured in 2014 – when a hole in the wall of his heart led to a stroke that forced him to miss two months – the six-time All-Star is continuing to undergo tests.

    There are no plans for Letang to participate in any sort of hockey-specific drills anytime soon, with coach Mike Sullivan stressing the club will “err on the side of caution” when it comes to whatever rehab Letang might need.

    While Letang – one of the most well-conditioned players in the NHL – essentially went through the motions by himself, his teammates were 30 minutes south at PPG Paints Arena getting ready for a visit from Vegas and trying to plot a way forward without one of the franchise cornerstones, at least in the short term.

    Letang made it a point to help break the news to the rest of the Penguins following a 3-2 overtime loss to Carolina on Tuesday. Pittsburgh scratched Letang from the lineup with an unspecified illness and he spent a portion of the game watching from the press box next to Hextall.

    Afterward, Letang informed a somber locker room about his condition, a revelation that came as a shock even as he did his best to reassure those around him that he was and is OK.

    “It’s very serious health stuff,” defenseman Chad Ruhwedel said. “You hear about strokes and it’s never really good so we’re just glad to see he’s doing well and everything is good with him.”

    Sullivan understands it would be practically impossible for any of the other defensemen on the roster to replicate what Letang brings to the ice, so he’s not going to ask any one player to try. There are few players at the position in the NHL who have Letang’s mix of speed, skill and almost bottomless energy.

    The highest-scoring defenseman in franchise history is averaging a team-best 23:54 of ice time and has long been a fixture on the power play and in just about every crucial late-game situation.

    “I just think Tanger is not an easy guy to replace,” Sullivan said. “I don’t think from a tactical standpoint things change drastically. It’s just personnel based. But as you know, personnel can mean a lot in those types of situations.”

    It’s more than that, however. This isn’t a routine injury. There’s an emotional component and an unknown element to Letang’s status even as the Penguins insist they don’t believe his condition is career-threatening.

    “This is a whole different circumstance than an ankle injury or a shoulder injury,” Sullivan said. “This is a very different circumstance.”

    Letang’s on-ice presence is just one aspect of his importance to a team that has never missed the playoffs since he made his debut in 2007. He’s become a mentor to younger teammates like 23-year-old defenseman Pierre-Olivier Joseph, who like Letang is French-Canadian and who, like Letang, plays with a graceful fluidity.

    Joseph, who declined to get into specifics about Letang’s message to the team on Tuesday night, believes the best thing the Penguins can do during Letang’s absence is attack the game with the same passion he’s shown for 17 seasons and counting.

    “The way he plays for the team every single night and the way he puts his heart and soul into the game on the ice, it’s the least we can do is have our thoughts of him whenever we get on the ice,” Joseph said.

    Sullivan shuffled the lineup on Tuesday, elevating veteran Jeff Petry and Brian Dumoulin to the top defensive pair. Petry possesses a skillset that’s not too far removed from Letang’s, but it’s also his first year in Pittsburgh. Asking him to provide the leadership that’s innate to Letang is unfair. It’s one of the reasons Sullivan is insistent that it will take a group effort to fill in for a singular presence.

    “We have some diversity on our blue line right now,” Sullivan said. “We feel like we have guys capable of stepping in and getting the job done for us and we’re going to try and do that.”

    LA Kings put goaltender Cal Petersen on waivers

    Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

    LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Kings put goaltender Cal Petersen on waivers, a surprising move for a player once considered the successor in net to two-time Stanley Cup winner Jonathan Quick.

    Petersen, 28, went on waivers the day after allowing four goals on 16 shots in relief of Quick during a 9-8 overtime loss to the Seattle Kraken. Quick was pulled after giving up five goals on 14 shots.

    Only one NHL goalie has a save percentage lower than Petersen’s .868 this season, Elvis Merzlikins of the Columbus Blue Jackets with .864. Petersen is 5-3-2 in 10 games with a 3.75 goals-against average in his third full season with the Kings and fifth overall.

    L.A. signed Petersen to a three-year, $15 million contract in September 2021, and he figured to take the starting job from Quick, who turns 37 in January and is set to be a free agent after the season. Petersen has two years left on that deal after this one at an annual salary cap hit of $5 million.

    Penguins’ Kris Letang out indefinitely after 2nd stroke

    Kris Letang Penguins
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    PITTSBURGH — Kris Letang plays hockey with a grace and inexhaustible fluidity seemingly impervious to the rigors of spending nearly half his life in the NHL.

    For the second time in less than a decade, however, a major health scare has brought Letang’s career to a halt.

    The 35-year-old Letang is out indefinitely after suffering a stroke for a second time. Letang reported feeling ill and was taken to the hospital, where tests confirmed the stroke.

    While general manager Ron Hextall said Wednesday this stroke doesn’t appear to be as serious as the one Letang sustained in 2014, the Penguins will have to find a way forward at least in the short term without one of their franchise pillars.

    “I am fortunate to know my body well enough to recognize when something isn’t right,” Letang said in a release. “While it is difficult to navigate this issue publicly, I am hopeful it can raise awareness. … I am optimistic that I will be back on the ice soon.”

    The three-time Stanley Cup champion missed more than two months in 2014 after a stroke, which doctors determined was caused by a small hole in the wall of his heart. He spent Monday feeling off and told team trainers he was dealing with what Hextall described as a migraine headache.

    Penguins team physician Dr. Dhamesh Vyas recommended Letang go to the hospital, where tests confirmed the stroke.

    “He didn’t know (he had a stroke),” Hextall said. “He just knew something wasn’t right.”

    Letang is continuing to undergo tests but felt well enough on Tuesday to be at the arena for Pittsburgh’s 3-2 overtime loss to Carolina. He spent the second period chatting with Hextall then addressed his teammates in the locker room afterward in an effort to help allay their concerns.

    “I think it was important for Kris to be there because his teammates got to see him in good spirits and that he’s doing well,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said.

    Sullivan added initial test results on Letang have been “very encouraging.” Letang will continue to undergo testing throughout the week, though he felt good enough in the aftermath to ask Sullivan and Hextall if he could skate, an activity that is off the table for now.

    Hextall said he “couldn’t even guess” how long the Penguins may be without the married father of two, adding hockey is low on the team’s list of concerns about a player who, along with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, has helped the franchise to three Stanley Cups during his 17-year career.

    “First and foremost this is about the person and I told Tanger about that last night,” Hextall said. “This is Kris Letang, the father and family guy, the Pittsburgh Penguins, that’s second.”

    Letang, a six-time All-Star, has been one of the most durable players in the NHL. His 662 career points (145 goals, 517 assists) are a franchise record for a defenseman. He’s averaged well over 24 minutes of playing time over the course of his career, a number that’s ticked above 25 minutes per game seven times in eight-plus seasons since he returned from the initial stroke.

    The Penguins felt so confident in Letang’s durability that they signed him to a six-year contract over the summer rather than let him test free agency for the first time.

    “The level of hockey he’s played for as long as he’s played is absolutely incredible,” Hextall said. “The level he’s continued to play at at his age, the type of shape he’s in … he’s a warrior.”

    Letang has one goal and 11 assists in 21 games so far this season for Pittsburgh, which hosts Vegas on Thursday night. The Penguins are pretty deep along the blue line, but Sullivan knows he can’t try to replace Letang with any one player.

    “It’s not anything we haven’t been faced with in the past and the reality is we have what we have, and we’ll figure it out,” Sullivan said, adding “it’ll be by committee, as it usually is when you replace a player of that stature.”