NHL Rink Wrap: Cheveldayoff press conference a mixed bag

NHL Rink Wrap: Cheveldayoff press conference a mixed bag
Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images

Top player from Tuesday in the NHL

Tomas Hertl, Sharks (and several goalies)

Around the NHL on Tuesday, there were strong performances. Then again, there wasn’t one that really towered above the rest.

So you have to split hairs a bit. Tomas Hertl wasn’t the only NHL player to generate three points on Tuesday. However, Hertl scored two goals and one assist while others (Ryan Getzlaf, Mitch Marner, Nick Suzuki) got to three based on a goal and two assists.

There were also several goalie performances of note. Carter Hart (29 saves), John Gibson (28), Jack Campbell (26) and Jake Allen (22) all pitched shutouts. Juuse Saros didn’t stop every shot he faced, but he made 38 saves to steal a Predators win vs. the Flames.

After scoring two points in his first game of the season, Hertl went cold. He was limited to one goal and zero assists during a six-game slump. With this outburst, Hertl’s generated four points in two contests, bumping him up to seven points in nine games this season.

Being that this is a contract year, Hertl’s clearly a player to watch for the Sharks. Frankly, the wiser move would probably be to trade Hertl in hopes of accelerating a rebuild. If Doug Wilson‘s too invested in his big, shaky-looking investments, he might instead try to keep Hertl.

If nothing else, that strategy could help the Sharks be more fun to watch this season.

Highlights from Tuesday in the NHL

It would be sweet if Jeff Skinner was able to just, you know, enjoy playing hockey again. Either way, this is brilliant.

Last season, Thatcher Demko was often brilliant — the Canucks’ shabby defense just obscured that brilliance. So far in 2021-22, there’s a risk that happens again. That would be a shame, really, because Demko regularly makes awesome saves. You can’t expect Demko to do this regularly, though.

Video evidence of Mitch Marner being just-fine, thank you:

Kirill Kaprizov scores his first goal of the season, and does so in overtime:

John Klingberg rudely spamming the “fake shot” button before this goal — oh hold on, this wasn’t in a video game? Klingberg might want to hold onto this clip for future contract negotiations.

Tuesday’s NHL takeaways

Jets’ Cheveldayoff, Chipman show empathy where NHL lacked — but both press conferences left a lot to be desired

In addressing Kyle Beach’s heartfelt interview and the Blackhawks’ internal investigation regarding sexual assault allegations toward Brad Aldrich, the NHL’s Gary Bettman and Bill Daly came across as cold. Many believed that legalese resonated instead of empathy.

If nothing else, Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff and executive Mark Chipman provided a human reaction on Tuesday. Both got emotional at times in explaining Cheveldayoff’s role in the situation, and a lack of league discipline.

For some, that press conference proved powerful enough to impress.

However, if you dig a little deeper into the content of the message from Cheveldayoff and Chipman, things begin to wobble.

Watch that hour-plus press conference from Cheveldayoff and Chipman below:

Naturally, there’s a lot to digest. One repeated suggestion is that Cheveldayoff seemingly believed that Aldrich was being accused of harrassing Kyle Beach, rather than assaulting him. (Aside: sexual harassment is a big deal, too. Just throwing it out there.)

There’s some comfort in an apology that at least looked sincere. But parts of the argument make you furrow your brow.

Frankly, it would also be nice if the NHL and its teams provided something more concrete than “learning from” what happened. It’s nice to say that you never want something to happen again. Without going further to truly show how you hope to avoid someone going through something similar to what Kyle Beach experienced, you rely on benefit of the doubt.

And, frankly, the NHL, Blackhawks, Jets, Panthers, and NHLPA have a long way to go before they earn that trust.

Winless Coyotes on track for one of the worst seasons in NHL history

Look, the Arizona/Phoenix Coyotes are no strangers to losing, and losing big. And often. It says a lot about their sad history that the Coyotes’ 0-9-1 start isn’t unanimously the worst in team history.

Nonetheless, it’s not too early for Coyotes fans to dream of Shane Wright. It’s also not too hasty to wonder where the Coyotes may finish among the worst teams in NHL history. Some quick facts from some of the worst teams who played at least 70 games in a given season:

  • During the time of ties, the 1974-75 Washington Capitals managed just eight wins (8-67-5-0), generating 21 standings points in 80 games. That Capitals team scored a feeble 181 goals.
  • The 1980-81 Winnipeg Jets are the other team under 10 wins (9-57-14-0).
  • The 1954-55 Chicago Blackhawks scored less than two goals per game (133 in 70 GP for a 12-51-7-0 record).

So, the Coyotes boast a single standings point so far through 10 games. They’ve been punchless with 13 goals during that time, while allowing 42. Brutal.

Overall, these tanking Coyotes are designed to be bad. Still, there are a few reasons to expect some relative relief. Only the Blackhawks have a lower PDO than the Coyotes, indicating some bad luck for Arizona. It also can’t help matters that they’ve played seven of their first 10 games on the road.

And, hey, you could argue the Coyotes deserved to win (or put up a good fight) on Tuesday:

Overall, though? Coyotes fans might want to binge a TV show instead. Maybe “Search Party” could provide the sort of gallows humor Coyotes fans would be looking for? (Probably already heard of “Succession.”)

Confidence-boosters for Canadiens, Maple Leafs

Yes, it’s crucial to downplay some of this. The Golden Knights are suffering from a ludicrous array of injuries, making them easy fodder for the Maple Leafs. Also, the Red Wings are showing signs of progress, but they’re not quite evoking the peak of the Sergei Fedorov era, either.

(Few call it the Fedorov era, I know. Hot take: people should take a moment to recall just how great he was every now and then. Fedorov feels too easily forgotten, or lightly mentioned.)

So, don’t necessarily weigh shutout wins for the Maple Leafs and Canadiens too heavily. That said, three-point nights could cool some of the heat on Nick Suzuki and Mitch Marner. A two-goal output from Auston Matthews turns the volume down on complaints, as well.

Wednesday’s big story

Who will end the night looking the hottest?

Undefeated through eight games, the Hurricanes are an easy choice for hottest team in the NHL. Consider, for instance, PHT’s latest Power Rankings.

There are teams nipping at the Hurricanes’ heels, however. Particularly if you believe that they’re better despite one fewer win or an extra loss.

The almost-as-hot Oilers and Blues face the Predators and Kings respectively on Wednesday. Could either of those teams end up at the top of the mountain (of perception) after those games? It’s possible, especially if the Blackhawks follow their first win of the season with their first winning streak by upsetting the Hurricanes.

(Uh, don’t bet on that one, though, please.)

Tuesday’s NHL scores

Maple Leafs 4, Golden Knights 0
Canadiens 3, Red Wings 0
Flyers 3, Coyotes 0
Wild 5, Senators 4 (OT)
Jets 4, Stars 3 (SO)
Predators 3, Flames 2 (OT)
Canucks 3, Rangers 2 (OT)
Ducks 4, Devils 0
Sharks 5, Sabres 3

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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    Penguins plot a way forward as Letang recovers from stroke

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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

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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.”

    Ovechkin tops Gretzky for most road goals, Capitals beat Canucks

    Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

    VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Alex Ovechkin scored twice, passing Wayne Gretzky for the most road goals in NHL history, and the Washington Capitals beat the Vancouver Canucks 5-1 on Tuesday night.

    Ovechkin has scored 403 of his 793 career goals away from home. Gretzky holds the overall record with 894.

    “It’s always nice when you beat the Great One,” Ovechkin said. “It doesn’t matter what kind of milestone it is. It’s history.”

    Anthony Mantha added a goal and an assist for the Capitals (10-11-3). John Carlson and Martin Fehervary also scored, and Darcy Kuemper stopped 31 shots.

    Nils Hoglander scored for the Canucks (9-11-3), who had won three in a row. Spencer Martin made 23 saves.

    “Spencer’s been great for us. He’s probably a bit like the other players tonight. They weren’t ready to play and it showed on the scoreboard,” Vancouver coach Bruce Boudreau said.

    The 37-year-old Ovechkin nearly netted a hat trick when Vancouver pulled Martin for an extra skater with just over six minutes left, but his rocket of a shot skimmed the outside of the post.

    “I think he has 13 goals this year and I want to say like eight or nine have been like a new record. So it’s been cool,” Washington center Dylan Strome said. “Any time you pass Wayne Gretzky in anything, it deserves a standing ovation, which he got.”

    Fehervary was the one who sealed it, flipping the puck high into the Canucks zone and into the empty net at 15:57 of the third period.

    Ovechkin topped Gretzky 11:52 into the first, firing a one-timer from the left circle past Martin to give the Capitals a 2-0 lead with his 13th goal of the season.

    “On his second goal, it looks like, `Oh, maybe (Martin) should have had it.’ But I’ve seen (Ovechkin) score 100 goals like that,” said Boudreau, who coached the Capitals from 2007-11. “He’s got a shot that finds its way in.”

    The star forward from Russia got his first of the night 5:35 in, taking the puck off the stick of Vancouver defenseman Quinn Hughes near the net and batting in a quick shot.

    “It could have been 6-1 after the first period, quite frankly, with the amount of chances (Washington) had,” Boudreau said.

    It was Ovechkin’s 135th game-opening goal, tying Jaromir Jagr for the most in NHL history.

    “(Ovechkin) was really good in the first and I thought we were really good in the first so it was nice to get out and get a jump like that,” Capitals coach Peter Laviolette said. “He certainly led. We knew we needed to have a good first period, have a good game, and you need your best players to do that.”

    Carlson scored the lone goal of the second, chipping in a loose puck from the low hash marks at 18:47 to give Washington a 4-1 cushion.

    “It’s frustrating. Because when you lose games, it should never be about your compete level and battle level,” Canucks center J.T. Miller said. “It’s frustrating because they didn’t out-skill us today, they didn’t out-system us. They literally just outbattled us and created their own chances.”

    NOTES: Washington’s Lars Eller got his 200th career assist. … Miller had an assist, extending his point streak to nine games (four goals, seven assists). … The Capitals swept the two-game season series. … Vancouver assigned winger Vasily Podkolzin and defenseman Jack Rathbone to the Abbotsford Canucks on Monday, then recalled forward Phillip Di Giuseppe from the American Hockey League club on Tuesday.


    Washington: At Seattle on Thursday in the second of a five-game trip.

    Vancouver: Host Florida on Thursday in the second of a four-game homestand.