Alex Radulov

NHL training camps, day 2: Pastrnak not at practice; Golden Knights goalie battle?

Day two of NHL training camps took place on Tuesday, and with all of that, also news and speculation. (Click here to read about day one of NHL training camps.)

Keep in mind that these round-ups aren’t necessarily comprehensive, what with there being 24 NHL teams undergoing training camps.

Oh, and It’s probably fair to say that a more detailed schedule for the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers is the biggest hockey news for Tuesday. So check that out if you want to plan your viewing habits in late July and early August.

Bruins’ Pastrnak not yet practicing; others miss day two (or more) of NHL training camps

Look, it’s important to remember that NHL teams are keeping things unclear. They probably will up until the point that the 2020 Stanley Cup (ideally, safely,) gets awarded. So please keep that in mind anytime we note absences and players not fully participating.

With that out of the way (for now), a few notes:

  • For the second training camp day in a row, David Pastrnak didn’t practice with the Bruins. NBC Sports Boston’s Joe Haggerty reports that it seems like Pastrnak, as well as others like Ondrej Kase, are still going through the quarantine process after coming back from overseas. Pastrnak may not get to skate with the full Bruins group until Thursday.

“ … I don’t think they will be too far behind. I think some European players were in countries where they were free to skate earlier, so they might have had the benefit of skating while guys couldn’t here,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said of Pastrnak, via Haggerty.

  • In some cases, players are still self-isolating. Sometimes players aren’t skating with full groups, for what could be a variety of reasons. There was some rumbling about Shea Weber missing portions of Canadiens practice time, and skating by himself. Such hand-wringing might end up overblown.

As always, these situations can change.

  • Naturally, illnesses and injuries sabotage plans. There’s at least one planned absence, though: Capitals forward Lars Eller. ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski reports that Eller will leave the Toronto bubble for the birth of his child. The Ellers expect the child to be born around Aug. 8, which would fall around the Round Robin for Seeding as part of the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers. (Again, you can check out that schedule here.)
  • The Maple Leafs removed Timothy Liljegren from their return-to-play roster. Quite a bummer, as Liljegren could become an important part of their defensive future as the team braces for a cap crunch.

Golden Knights set for goalie battle? (And other bits)

Perhaps coach Peter DeBoer is merely being tight-lipped to the point of near-trolling, as seems to be the NHL way. Or maybe he really doesn’t know if the Golden Knights will tab Marc-Andre Fleury or Robin Lehner as their No. 1 goalie.

If you’re weighing loyalty most heavily, then the Golden Knights would go with Fleury. His strong play ranked as a big reason they appeared in the 2018 Stanley Cup Final.

But if you look at recent play, Lehner’s ranked among the NHL’s best goalies since 2018-19. Meanwhile, “The Flower” wilted a bit lately. Also, DeBoer is still-new to the Golden Knights, and thus might not feel the same obligation to Fleury that, say, Gerard Gallant might have.

So we’ll see. There are plenty of goalie training camp battles to watch, but others feel more like battles of lesser evils than the interesting opportunities Vegas has.

  • It’s dangerous to read too much into line combination experiments as early as day two of NHL training camps. That said, it can be entertaining to picture how they’d work.

In the case of Dallas Stars, we’re talking about extremes. The good: experimenting with a line that would combine Tyler Seguin, Roope Hintz, and Denis GurianovThe not-so-good: having Corey Perry (2020 Corey Perry) on the second line, while Alex Radulov and Joe Pavelski fester on the fourth. Seems like these Stars always titillate and frustrate, though.

  • Signings continue to trickle in. That includes the excellently named Jack Rathbone signing with the Canucks, and the Ducks landing an extension with Troy Terry (granted, you may disqualify the Ducks from this post since they aren’t among the 24 teams involved in the return to play).

More: Catch up on day one of NHL training camps.

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 on NBCSN: Stars’ goaltending playing pivotal role in point streak

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Tuesday’s matchup between the Dallas Stars and Chicago Blackhawks. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

On the morning of Oct. 19, ahead of their game in Philadelphia, the picture of the Stars’ season was an ugly one. Through nine games they had one win and their goaltending wasn’t doing them any favors.

Heading into that Saturday night date with the Flyers, Anton Khudobin and Ben Bishop had combined for an .899 even strength save percentage. Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn had a three goals total between them. A slow start was putting pressure on everyone.

One month and seven days after that 4-1 win over the Flyers, the Stars have only lost twice since and have vaulted up the Western Conference standings with 32 points in 25 games. They enter tonight’s game against the Blackhawks with a 12-game points streak, matching the franchise record. Monday’s 4-2 win over the Golden Knights featured multi-point nights from Seguin, John Klingberg and Alex Radulov, as well as another strong performance from their starting goaltender.

“You have two goalies who are really good, and they give you a chance to win every time,” said defenseman John Klingberg.

[COVERAGE OF STARS-BLACKHAWKS BEGINS AT 7 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

Powering that reversal in course? Great special teams (20.8% power play, 87.9% penalty kill) for one, but it’s really been the goaltending, which head coach Jim Montgomery recently labeled as “the backbone of this team.” And it hasn’t been a one-man show. Montgomery has given 11 starts to Bishop and five to Khudobin, and the split has paid off. They’ve combined for a .944 ESSV% in the Stars’ last 16 games with neither goalie getting more than three consecutive starts.

The strong performance of their goaltending is a continuation from last season when the pair combined for a .934 ESSV%, which put them right behind the Islanders, who’s two goalies, Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss, won the Jennings Trophy.

“We are very fortunate to have [Bishop] as our starter and have [Khudobin] as 1B or 1A, or whatever you want to call it,” Montgomery said following Sunday’s win over the Blackhawks. “It’s two years now that we are very fortunate with the goalies we have that backbone this team.”

MORE: Beyond Benn and Seguin: Breaking down Stars’ hot streak

Tonight’s studio coverage will be hosted by Kathryn Tappen alongside analysts Keith Jones and Patrick Sharp. John Forslund and AJ Mleczko will call the action from United Center in Chicago, Ill.

NBCSN presents the national presentation of HeadStrong, an NBC Sports Regional Networks’ documentary about mental health and sports, Wednesday, November 27 at 10:30 p.m. ET following Wednesday Night Hockey.  

The feature documentary tells the story of four elite athletes who have faced mental health challenges: Justise Winslow, forward/guard for the Miami Heat; Nathan Braaten, former Oregon State University soccer player and founder of Dam Worth It; Hayden Hurst, Baltimore Ravens tight end; and Clint Malarchuk, former goalie for the NHL’s Quebec Nordiques, Washington Capitals, and Buffalo Sabres. Six-time Pro Bowl receiver and Founder of House Of Athlete Brandon Marshall also appears in the program and serves as an executive producer.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

PHT’s 2019-20 predictions: NHL Awards, free agent busts, overhyped teams

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The 2019-20 NHL season is almost here (Wed. at 6:30 pm on NBCSN) and what better way to kick off the new hockey than with some predictions. Today we’ll look at the various awards and some topics such as overhyped team, first coach fired, whether Nikita Kucherov or the Tampa Bay Lightning will record a higher point total, and more.

Pre-season predictions are fun to read to get a sense of what people are thinking as we head into a new season. There was plenty of change around the league on the ice, behind the bench, and in the executive offices. Lots of teams have reason for hope, while the expectations of others aren’t very lofty, but they’re just hoping to take some positive steps.

Who will take home the hardware in June and what teams and players will be notable this season? Here’s what the PHT staff is thinking at the moment.

[PHT PREDICTIONS: EAST / WEST / STANLEY CUP]

Be sure to give us your picks in the comments!

HART: Nathan MacKinnon (Sean, James, Joey, Adam)
ART ROSS: Connor McDavid (Sean, Adam), Nathan MacKinnon (James), Nikita Kucherov (Joey)
ROCKET RICHARD: Alex Ovechkin (Sean, James, Adam), John Tavares (Joey)
VEZINA: John Gibson (Sean), Andrei Vasilevskiy (James, Joey), Ben Bishop (Adam)
NORRIS: Seth Jones (Sean), Erik Karlsson (James), Victor Hedman (Joey, Adam)
CALDER: Kaapo Kakko (Sean, James, Adam), Jack Hughes (Joey)
SELKE: Aleksander Barkov (Sean), Mark Stone (James), Ryan O’Reilly (Joey), Brayden Point (Adam)

OVERHYPED TEAM

SEAN: An NHL-worst power play was (hopefully) improved by the Matt Duchene addition, but while the Predators will once again be their solid selves, did David Poile do enough to overcome the trending upward Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche in a very tough Central Division? The bottom six could help out a bit more, and they need to find the old Kyle Turris at some point.

JAMES: The Coyotes are spending like a team with legitimate aspirations, but I just don’t see enough dynamic talent to break through.

JOEY: Boston Bruins. Everyone has them locked into the top three spots in the Atlantic, but they’re coming into the year a little banged up. They’re also coming off a long playoff run.

ADAM: Going to go with Nashville. They are still really good, but I don’t think Matt Duchene solves all that much for them and even though their defense is still really good I think they are going to miss P.K. Subban.

UNDERRATED TEAM

SEAN: Staying in the Central, the Avs are rightly garnering a lot of hype, but let’s not sleep on the Stars. Once they figured out Jim Montgomery’s system in the second half, they surged. Add in Joe Pavelski and a lottery ticket in Corey Perry, along with the up-and-coming Roope Hintz, future Norris winner Miro Heiskanen, and old standards Tyler Seguin, Alex Radulov and Jamie Benn, and you’ve got a real dangerous team this season. If Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin can repeat their success from last season in goal, watch out for the Stars.

JAMES: The Penguins keep shrinking their margin of error with some head-scratching moves. Even so, they still have Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and a few other valuable players, so reports of their demise have been greatly exaggerated.

JOEY: Carolina went to the conference final, but I’m not sure they’re getting the respect they deserve. I think they can finish second in the division.

ADAM: Columbus is going to be better than people think. They still have a lot of really good players coming back, and I think Pierre-Luc Dubois has a massive breakout year this season.

UNDERRATED PLAYER

SEAN: Four seasons with double-digit goals, at least 40 points in each of his five NHL seasons, and consistently in the positive when it comes to possession, Klingberg needs to get more due around the league. With Heiskanen and Esa Lindell on the blue line, the Stars’ top defenseman are among the best in the league.

JAMES: Alex Pietrangelo gets mentioned as an underrated player quite often, yet I think Colton Parayko might be even more overlooked. Parayko is a beast AND an absolute unit, to use fancy scientific jargon.

JOEY: Jonathan Huberdeau put together one of the quietest 90-plus point seasons I can remember. I think he’ll have another big year in Florida.

ADAM: John Klingberg shouldn’t be underrated, but I feel like he is. The development of Miro Heiskanen kind of stole a lot of the spotlight in Dallas last year but Klingberg is still the player that runs that defense, and he is outstanding.

FIRST COACH FIRED

SEAN: Boudreau seems inevitable, right? It’s looking like another long year in the State of Hockey and with a new GM in town, he might want to install his own hire, even with Bruce’s history of success in the league.

JAMES: Bruce Boudreau. Bill Guerin didn’t hire him, and the Wild insist on contending with a so-so roster, setting the stage for Bruce’s face to turn the color of a pink slip.

JOEY: Jeff Blashill. The Red Wings aren’t expected to make the playoffs, but I think they get off to an ugly start.

ADAM: I think it Paul Maurice’s time is going to run out in Winnipeg. That team faded last year and looks like it is setting up for a really tough season given the RFA drama and the state of their defense. He has been there long enough that a slow start could be it for him.

FREE AGENT BUST

SEAN: Stralman’s offense has steadily declined since 2014-15, his first year in Tampa, and now at 33 he’s on the back nine of his career. That makes it all the more odd that Dale Tallon decided to give him a three-year deal in the summer, especially coming back from a lower-body injury that caused him to miss most of last season.

JAMES: Tyler Myers is closer to a third-pairing defenseman than a $6M one.

JOEY: Tyler Myers in Vancouver. When it’s all said and done, that’s going to be a pretty nasty contract. He’s a good depth defenseman, but not someone you commit big dollars to.

ADAM: Have to go with Tyler Myers. Just do not see the plan in Vancouver and the amount of money they spent on him.

MORE:
2019-20 NHL Power Rankings
PHT’s 2019-20 season previews
Which 2019 NHL playoff teams are in danger of missing this season?
• 2019 NHL free agency tracker
NHL on NBC television schedule

It’s Dallas Stars Day at PHT

Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to identifying X-factors to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the Dallas Stars.

2018-19
43-32-7, 93 points (4th in the Central Division, 6th in the Western Conference)
Playoffs: Lost in seven games to the St. Louis Blues in Round 2

IN
Joe Pavelski
Corey Perry
Andrej Sekera

OUT
Mats Zuccarello
Jason Spezza
Valeri Nichushkin
Tyler Pitlick
Ben Lovejoy
Brett Ritchie

RE-SIGNED 
Esa Lindell
Jason Dickinson
Mattias Janmark
Roman Polak

2018-19 Season Review

By almost any measure, Jim Montgomery’s debut season as Stars head coach was a big success.

In other words, it wasn’t blanking horse-blank.

After missing the playoffs for two straight years despite GM Jim Nill’s frequent tendency to “win” offseasons, and going through a failed experiment with bringing back Ken Hitchcock, it was Montgomery who finally righted the ship.

Of course, it didn’t hurt that his goalies performed at an elite level — although you could call that a symbiotic relationship, as Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin made the saves, while Montgomery’s system made life easier for both veteran goalies.

Either way, Bishop’s work was especially remarkable in 2018-19. Bishop generated a tremendous .934 save percentage during the regular season, then nearly matched it with a .933 mark in the postseason. While the Stars fell short against the Blues in a tight Game 7 that went beyond regulation, Bishop was stellar, making 52 saves to keep Dallas in the running.

Despite CEO Jim Lites’ comments, the Stars’ dynamic duo of Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn were mostly dominant this season and into the playoffs, often with Alex Radulov. Yet, it was an injection of depth that took Dallas to another level during the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Mats Zuccarello was a dangerous playmaker once he was finally healthy, and Roope Hintz‘s bulldozer style portended good things for the future.

[MORE: X-Factor | Under Pressure | Three questions]

As much of a bummer as it must be to let Zuccarello go, the Stars seem poised to make up that difference (and more) by snagging Joe Pavelski from the Sharks. If Corey Perry and Andrej Sekera work out as reclamation projects, then even better.

It will be a lot to ask Bishop and Khudobin to match last season’s brilliance, but perhaps a rising defense will prop them up if they stumble? John Klingberg continues to be a dark horse Norris candidate, who will hopefully play more than 64 games in the 2019-20 regular season, while Miro Heiskanen aims to build off of a brilliant rookie season.

Expectations are only going to rise in Dallas, and Lites can only get away with admonishing his top players so many times, so there’s always the risk that things fall. Bishop and/or Khudobin could struggle mightily, and injuries are a frequent headache for Bishop especially. New players might not jell with the Stars, as both Pavelski and Perry are playing on new teams for the first time in their lengthy careers.

Overall, though, there’s a lot to be optimistic about, especially since we’re really not that far removed from Lites ruthlessly (and foolishly) roasting his best players.

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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.

Pavelski heading to Dallas on three-year deal

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The man who’s never known life outside of San Jose in the NHL is heading deep into the heart of Texas.

Joe Pavelski joined the Dallas Stars in the Central Division on a three-year, $21 million deal.

That AAV means a $1 million pay hike for Pavelski who scored 38 goals and had 64 points last season in 75 games.

Pavelski, 34, has played all of his 13 seasons in the NHL with the Sharks, scoring 355 times and adding 406 assists in 963 games.

[ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker]

“It is not every day a player the caliber of Joe becomes available, and we’re thrilled to be able to add him to our club,” said Stars GM Jim Nill. “He is a leader in every sense of the word, and a proven goal-scorer that continues to produce at an elite level. In meeting with him, it is evident how much he values winning, and that mindset will mesh perfectly with our leadership group.”

For San Jose, the loss of Pavelski was summed up by GM Doug Wilson in a statement.

“From being a seventh-round draft pick in 2003 to serving as captain of our team for the last four seasons, Joe Pavelski’s place in Sharks history is firmly cemented and he will be sorely missed,” Wilson said. “Joe led by example, not only as a player but as a person, and the impact he has had on this franchise and his teammates will be felt for years to come.

“Under a cap system, these extremely difficult separations are a reality and, unfortunately, we could not find common ground on dollars and term to keep Joe in San Jose. However, like many other players around the NHL, Joe has earned the right to become a free agent. We respect his decision and want to thank Joe, his wife Sarah and son, Nate, for 13 wonderful seasons. They will always be part of the San Jose Sharks family.”

It remains to be seen how age will affect the former Sharks captain. If Pavelski can squeeze out a couple of more seasons like his last, it’s a big get for the Stars who need more scoring after finishing 28th in goals-for this past season.

Dallas’s defense and goaltending is very good — they allowed the second-fewest goals-against last year. But when Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn or Alex Radulov had an off night, secondary scoring was often nowhere to be found.

But the Stars may just be on the cusp. If Ben Bishop can stay healthy and they can find more goals, the wins will come. With some of the Central’s superpowers weakening — Nashville (P.K. Subban gone) and Winnipeg (Jacob Trouba gone), namely — it’s as good a time as any for the Stars to stockpile resources for a push.

And they now have Corey Perry, too.

Perry signed a one-year deal worth $1.5 million plus an extra $1.75 million available in performance-based incentives.

Perry was put on the free agent market after having been bought out by the Anaheim Ducks, the only NHL team he’s known in his tenured career.

“Corey is a warrior in every sense of the word and his experience playing in big situations will be a big asset to our group,” said Nill. “He has a championship pedigree and this addition gives us tremendous flexibility with how we can manage our forward group.”

Perry comes at a bargain for the Stars. And he says he’s ready to win a Cup again. His head might be. Whether or not his body cooperates is another issue altogether, but time will tell. Perry on a friendly deal is worth the risk.

Nill wasn’t done with Pavelski and Perry. The Stars have also signed defenseman Andrej Sekera to the mix.

Sekera, 33, comes with a one-year deal worth $1.5 million along with an extra $500,000 to be earned in bonus money. Sekera has missed considerable time over the past two seasons, with injuries limiting him to just 60 games.

The move is low-risk for the Stars, who get a solid d-man when healthy. The only question now is if he can stay out of the infirmary.

Meanwhile, it looks like the Tampa Bay Lightning were attempting to make another withdrawal from their money tree for Pavelski, but it just didn’t work out.

Oh, and if you’re wondering why Pavelski and the Sharks couldn’t get a deal done, the almighty salary cap had something to do with it. Or everything.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck.