NHL Rink Wrap: Yeo can’t end Flyers’ streak; Canucks win Boudreau debut

NHL Rink Wrap: Yeo can't end Flyers' streak; Canucks win in Boudreau debut
Yeo photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images; Boudreau photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images
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Top player from Monday in the NHL

Jamie Benn helps Dallas Stars extend winning streak

Monday, like other recent NHL nights, brought little relief to teams on losing streaks — like the Flyers. But not every extended streak was a negative one.

Considering how bad the Coyotes have been, the Stars probably weren’t pleased with a 1-1 tie heading into the third period. Jamie Benn took care of that in the final frame.

First, Benn assisted on Jacob Peterson‘s eventual game-winner. Then Benn put the game out of reach with two goals, including a power-play tally.

Generally, the Stars’ winning streak has been about their top line (no longer featuring Benn), among other strengths. Benn carried a personal five-game pointless streak into the NHL games on Monday.

Playing like this (now 12 points in 22 games) won’t justify Benn’s contract. That said, if he can take over games every now and then like Vintage Jamie Benn™ (particularly on off nights for that blistering top line), the Stars could really be scary.

Highlights from NHL games on Monday

Travis Green, somewhere, grumbling: “Might have kept my job if Brock Boeser scored in the past month.”

Not a lot of highlights for the Coyotes this season. Shayne Gostisbehere really provided a nifty one, though.

Somehow, it took until December for Tom Wilson‘s first fight of the season. (And there wasn’t even a COVID/lockout caveat as a loophole for a late start to the season.)

Impressive all-around-effort by Jamie Benn in scoring his second goal of the night.


NHL takeaways from Monday

Canucks address firings, Boudreau debuts as head coach

After a dizzying weekend, the Canucks no longer employ Jim Benning as GM or Travis Green as head coach. Despite a short turnaround, Bruce Boudreau debuted as Canucks head coach during Monday’s NHL action, where the Canucks hosted Alexander Edler and the Kings.

Naturally, it’s foolish to read too much into the Canucks winning during Boudreau’s debut. That said, it sure beats … not.

Also, if you need a smile, you can do worse than to watch Bruce Boudreau’s introductory press conference as Canucks head coach. He admits he’s been dying to get back to the gig, and gives the impression that he’ll at least bring some levity to what’s been a grim Canucks team lately.


Francesco Aquilini and interim Canucks GM Stan Smyl also addressed the media before Monday’s NHL games. Here’s a link to that press conference.

Flyers fire Alain Vigneault; maybe it’s time to find some new ideas?

Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher, son of longtime hockey executive Cliff Fletcher, maintains a tentative grasp on his job. After a lengthy run with the Wild, this is Fletcher’s second, expensive crack at being an NHL GM. It’s also the second time Mike Yeo’s been his head coach, as Yeo carries that interim title after the Flyers fired Alain Vigneault on Monday.

This was Vigneault’s fourth NHL head coaching gig (1,363 regular-season games over 19 seasons). The Flyers bench was full of NHL head coaching experience. Michel Therrien, also fired, held that role for 12 seasons — including two shots with the Canadiens.

The Flyers mark Mike Yeo’s third chance at being an NHL head coach. Memorably, he gave way to an interim head coach with the Blues — Craig Berube, who went on to win the franchise’s elusive first Stanley Cup.

No doubt, experience is a valuable commodity.

Still, at some point, NHL teams should probably try to … I don’t know, turn over a few other stones? Not just roll through retread after retread to diminishing returns? Should we be that surprised that a Flyers franchise almost dusty with old ideas hit a wall like this?

[At least Jeff Gorton seems willing to consider people outside of the hockey bubble]

So far, it doesn’t seem like teams are that interested in innovating.

This thought resurfaces after some interesting discussion about the Montreal Canadiens’ goal of moving on from GM Marc Bergevin. When word surfaced that the Canadiens would need a GM who could speak French, it sounded like they’d limit their pool of options to an even smaller group. Unless they simply expanded their scope in a simple way that still seems to elude “hockey men.”

The Flyers (with Fletcher or not), Canucks, Canadiens, and other struggling teams could easily find fresher ideas if they considered something beyond cronyism. MLB front offices are light years ahead of the NHL, poaching Ivy Leaguers and Wall Street executives.

And it’s not as though the NHL lacks examples of successes at least a bit off the beaten path.

To be clear, there’s room for a wide variety of voices in any room. For every uninspired retread, there’s a coach with a proven track record of actually improving teams. (As tough as the Canucks job is, Boudreau might nail it. And Darryl Sutter’s been a revelation for the Flames.)

Being the first to do something, or even to do something unusual, can be scary. But being stuck in the same rut for decades is pretty scary, too.

Flyers lose to Avalanche, see their losing streak grow to nine games

After zooming out, let’s zoom back in. In a 12-goal game, the Avalanche beat the Flyers, extended Philly’s losing streak to nine games. Here’s a recap of a funk that partially cost Vigneault his job.

Nov. 18: Flyers’ losing streak begins with 4-3 shootout loss at home to the Lightning.

Nov. 20: After that, they dropped a 5-2 loss at home against the Bruins. Memories of Carter Hart‘s strong start begin to fade.

Nov. 23: Uh oh, those Bolts again. In that case, it was a 4-0 loss to the Lightning in Tampa Bay.

Nov. 24: A back-to-back set in Florida isn’t an easy task. After falling to the Lightning, the Flyers saw their losing streak extend in a 2-1 OT loss to the Panthers.

Nov. 26: Another tough one against a challenging opponent. They dropped a 6-3 loss at home vs. the Hurricanes.

Nov. 28: Never feels great to lose by a nearby rival. That happened in the Flyers’ 5-2 loss to Devils in New Jersey.

Dec. 1: The Flyers dropped a 4-1 loss to the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

Dec. 5 (Sunday): big loss at home vs. Lightning.

Dec. 6 (Monday): In Mike Yeo’s first game as Flyers (interim) head coach, it was a wild one.

To avoid the losing streak stretching to 10 games, the Flyers need to beat the Devils on Thursday. That contest in New Jersey begins a three-game road trip. Overall, the Flyers play nine of their next 12 games on the road.

So, uh, good luck with that, Mike Yeo.

Monday’s big story

Can the Islanders end their losing streak, or will it go to 12 games?

Hey, at least Barry Trotz conjured so much magic as Islanders head coach that this losing streak probably won’t threaten his job security. Right?

Will the 11-game losing streak serve as too big of a hole for the Islanders to dig out of, overall? Money Puck places their playoff odds at a respectable 25.8-percent. Models from sites like Sports Club Stats (3.2 before Monday’s NHL games), and Dom Luszczyszyn aren’t nearly as optimistic.

Beating the struggling Senators would be a small step for the Isles. But, really, if the Islanders can’t end their losing streak here, will it already be time to panic?

Monday’s NHL scores

Avalanche 7, Flyers 5
Capitals 4, Ducks 3 (SO)
Senators 3, Devils 2 (SO)
Stars 4, Coyotes 1
Canucks 4, Kings 0
Penguins 6, Kraken 1

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.

NHL top prospect Connor Bedard draws comparisons to Connor McDavid as draft approaches

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Anne-Marie Sorvin/USA TODAY Sports

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The NHL is going to have another Connor to contend with very shortly.

For everything two-time NHL MVP Connor McDavid has accomplished in Edmonton since being selected No. 1 in the 2015 draft, Connor Bedard is on the same trajectory in being pegged as this year’s top eligible draft prospect, Central Scouting director Dan Marr said Friday.

“He’s right up there with Connor McDavid, it’s just the next generation,” Marr said in touting Bedard’s quickness, shot and ability to read and adapt. “So Connor McDavid started that trend, and Connor Bedard is going to lead it into the next trend.”

The annual NHL pre-draft combine in Buffalo, New York, is resembling more of a coronation for the 17-year-old Bedard, who has spent the past two years putting up generational numbers with the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League while also shining against his peers on the international stage.

“I think you can use a lot of adjectives to describe it,” Regina coach John Paddock told The Associated Press recently in comparing Bedard’s production at the same age level to McDavid and Penguins captain Sidney Crosby.

“That’s quite a high ceiling,” said Paddock, a former NHL coach and player. “But there’s no indication he’s not going to do that based on what he’s done to date.”

The Chicago Blackhawks own the No. 1 pick, and are highly anticipated to use it on Bedard when the draft opens in Nashville, Tennessee, on June 28.

Bedard held his latest meeting with the Blackhawks at the combine in a relationship that began at a top-prospects camp in Toronto last summer.

Bedard’s arrival would coincide with the franchise in transition, with Chicago moving on from its aging core after trading 2007 No. 1 pick, Patrick Kane, and with captain Jonathan Toews’ future uncertain.

“Yeah, it’d be awesome,” Bedard said of the possibility of being selected by the Blackhawks. “The history of that organization, that city with sports would be unbelievable. We’ll see what happens, but to be selected, that would be a huge honor.”

Bedard said he’s following McDavid’s advice to stay in the moment and not peak too far ahead. He added, his dream to play in the NHL began no different than those of his colleagues: the moment he picked up a hockey stick growing up in North Vancouver, British Columbia.

What separates Bedard, however, is his exceptional skating ability and a hard shot, which is even more lethal given his quick release.

With Bedard the likely top pick, the intrigue at the draft is likely to revolve around who rounds out the remainder of the top five selections.

University of Michigan’s Adam Fantilli is second among North American skaters on Central Scouting’s final list, followed by top American prospect, William Smith, who played for USA Hockey’s developmental program. The top two European skaters are also considered in the mix with Sweden’s Leo Carlsson and Russia’s Matvei Michkov.

Anaheim is scheduled to pick second followed by Columbus, San Jose and Montreal.

Marr gives the edge to Bedard while also being impressed with Fantilli – just the third freshman to win the Hobey Baker Trophy awarded to college hockey’s top players – in a draft class considered very deep with offensive-minded forwards.

“You’re going to win with both,” Marr said. “And whoever gets these two players they’re going to help define a franchise.”

What distinguishes Bedard, who doesn’t turn 18 until next month, has been his consistency.

Last season, his 71 goals in just 57 games were the most in the WHL since Pavel Brendl scored 73 in 1998-99. Bedard’s 143 points were the most in the CHL since three players topped that mark in 1995-96. And it was a season in which he enjoyed 10 games with five or more points, and just five games in which he failed to register a point.

In 2020-21, Bedard became just the third WHL 16-year-old to reach 100 points, and was the youngest to score 50 goals in finishing with 51.

He’s also made a splash on the international stage. Bedard led Canada with nine goals and 23 points at the world juniors last winter, and his combined production of 17 goals and 36 points in just 16 games ranks fourth on the career tournament list.

Bedard has honed his talent by spending countless hours practicing shots in his backyard, which he referred to as his “Happy Place.” He was so dedicated to work on his shot that he preferred practicing than joining his family for a vacation to Disneyland, and eventually vacationed in Hawaii but only after he was allowed to bring his inline skates and sticks to practice.

Noted for being soft-spoken, Bedard said he’s not yet allowed himself to envision being drafted or making his NHL debut yet.

“It’s hard kind of think of that. But of course, I’ll work as hard as I can to try to achieve that goal,” he said. “And hopefully I do.”

Blue Jackets acquire D Damon Severson from Devils after he signs 8-year deal

blue jackets
Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

The Columbus Blue Jackets acquired Damon Severson from the New Jersey Devils on Friday after the veteran defenseman and soon-to-be free agent signed an eight-year $50 million contract.

Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen sent a third-round pick, 80th overall, in this month’s draft to the Devils for Severson, who will be under contract through the 2030-31 NHL season.

Severson had 58 goals and 205 assists in 647 career appearances with the Devils since making his NHL debut in 2014-15. He scored seven game-winning goals and averaged more than 21 minutes of playing time during his nine seasons. The 28-year-old had seven goals and 26 assists this season, including two game-winning goals, in 81 games.

“Damon is a versatile defenseman who has great vision, moves the puck extremely well, has good size and can play heavy minutes at both ends of the ice,” Kekalainen said.

The Canadian was selected in the second round in the 2012 draft. He has collected 30 or more points five times in his career and twice notched 11 or more goals. He played in every game in three straight seasons from 2018-21 and has played 80 or more contests four times in his career.

With the addition of the third-round pick, New Jersey now has six selections in the draft, including its own picks in rounds two, four, five, six and seven.

Matthew Tkachuk returns from big hit in Stanley Cup Final, adds more playoff heroics

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Matthew Tkachuk was down, out briefly and then back with plenty of time to make a difference.

The Florida Panthers star left early in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final after a big hit from Vegas Golden Knights forward Keegan Kolesar, and he missed most of the first period and didn’t return immediately following intermission while being evaluated for a concussion. After looking as if he might be lost for the night, Tkachuk returned in the second and then came through with more of his now trademark playoff heroics.

Tkachuk scored the tying goal with 2:13 left in regulation, forcing overtime and giving the Panthers new life. He then provided the screen on Carter Verhaeghe‘s OT goal for a 3-2 victory that cut Florida’s series deficit to 2-1.

The 25-year-old said he knew he was coming back when he left the game, pulled by concussion spotters. That absence felt like a long time ago in the aftermath of another big win he was largely responsible for.

“I felt great – I feel great,” Tkachuk said. “I’m ready to go. Everybody’s excited that we’re in this position right now.”

Florida is in this position rather than facing elimination in Game 4 on Saturday thanks in large part to Tkachuk, who also set up Brandon Montour‘s goal that opened the scoring less than five minutes in.

Not long after, Tkachuk stumbled getting up after the hit from Kolesar and skated to the bench. He took a shift on Florida’s power play before going down the tunnel at the demand of concussion spotters mandated by NHL protocol.

At that point, there was zero clarity, even on the Florida bench.

“You’re not informed at all: It’s a complete shutdown,” coach Paul Maurice said. “You are completely in the dark on those. You don’t know when the player’s coming back. There’s not an update.”

Players insist they were not worried. Montour called it a no-brainer.

“He’s going to come back no matter what,” captain Aleksander Barkov said. “He’s really tough guy, and he’s going to battle through everything.”

Tkachuk rejoined his teammates on the bench a few minutes into the second. When he stepped back onto the ice for his first shift since leaving, fans cheered and chanted, “Chucky! Chucky!”

The crowd was even louder and threw rats when Tkachuk scored his biggest goal of many during this run to tie it. He didn’t get an assist on Verhaeghe’s goal but made it happen with a tape-to-tape pass in the neutral zone and was in front of Adin Hill when it happened.

Asked if he was happy Tkachuk returned, Maurice joked that it was after midnight.

“It was fine,” he quipped.

Panthers rally, top Golden Knights 3-2 in OT of Game 3 of Stanley Cup final

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Sam Navarro/USA TODAY Sports

SUNRISE, Fla. — Carter Verhaeghe scored 4:27 into overtime and the Florida Panthers pulled off some more postseason dramatics to beat the Vegas Golden Knights 3-2 in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final on Thursday night.

Matthew Tkachuk tied it with 2:13 left in the third period for the Panthers, who got the franchise’s first title-series game win in seven tries. Florida had to fend off a power play to start overtime, and Verhaeghe got the winner from the slot to get the Panthers within 2-1 in the series.

Game 4 is Saturday night.

Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 25 shots for Florida. Adin Hill made 20 saves for Vegas, but got beat on the only shot that came his way in overtime.

Brandon Montour also scored for Florida, which pulled Bobrovsky down 2-1 late in the third for the extra attacker and Tkachuk — who left for parts of the first and second periods after taking a big hit — made that move pay off when he tied the game.

His goal breathed life into a very nervous building. But the Panthers were furious — and replays showed they had a case — when Gustav Forsling was sent to the box with 11.2 seconds remaining for tripping. Florida survived that scare, and a few minutes later, had life in the series again.

The odds are still long, but the Panthers at least have a bit more statistical hope now. Of the previous 55 teams to trail 2-1 at this point of the Stanley Cup Final, 11 have actually rallied to hoist the trophy.

It’s improbable, sure. So are the Panthers, who were the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, were down 3-1 to Boston in Round 1, were 133 seconds away from trailing this series 3-0 — and now have tons of reasons for optimism.

Jonathan Marchessault and Mark Stone each had power-play goals for Vegas.

Marchessault’s goal was his 13th in his last 13 playoff games, his fourth of this series and his third with the man advantage.

As if all that wasn’t enough, there was a little history in there as well. Vegas joined the 1980 New York Islanders as the only team with at least two power-play goals in three consecutive games in the Cup final. And Marchessault became the third player in the last 35 years to score in each of the first three games of a title series — joining Steve Yzerman in 1997 with Detroit and Jake Guentzel with Pittsburgh in 2017.

But it wasn’t enough to give Vegas a 3-0 lead in the series.


Before Thursday, Florida’s last home game in the title series was June 10, 1996, when Uwe Krupp scored in the third overtime for a 1-0 win as Colorado finished off a four-game sweep of the Panthers for the Cup. … Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was in the crowd, as was NBA great Charles Barkley, and former Dolphins star Dan Marino was the celebrity drummer to welcome the Panthers onto the ice.