Keith chuckles at son Brady Tkachuk’s fight with Red Wings’ Ericsson

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For many parents, seeing their kids suffer through pain hurts more than personally experiencing it.

But when it’s sort of losing a fight in a lower-stakes kind of way, maybe you can chuckle? At least, maybe you do when you’re Keith Tkachuk, and you’ve raised two true hockey ragamuffins in Brady Tkachuk and Matthew Tkachuk. Chances are, Keith’s probably more preoccupied with getting his sons not to obnoxiously dangle their mouthpieces out of their mouths.

(And, yeah, maybe to make sure Matthew doesn’t get hosed on his second contract.)

Anyway, Keith was on hand to see – and chuckle at – Brady, the younger of the two NHL Tkachuk kids, getting into a fight with Jonathan Ericsson of the Detroit Red Wings. It’s probably fair to say that Ericsson got the better of Brady, but judge for yourself in the video above this post’s headline, via Sportsnet.

Judging by Hockey Fights’ listings, the family fight counts are now unofficially:

Brady: Three. He’s a rookie, so he’s clearly endearing himself to opponents already.

Matthew: Seven through three seasons.

Keith: 51 fights during 1,201 regular-season and 89 playoff contests.

Considering the temperaments of the Tkachuk brothers and father, chances are we’ll see more scuffles for both Brady and Matthew before they hopefully enjoy retirement as much as Keith seems to be enjoying it. And then there can be aggravating, skilled Tkachuk grandsons.

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.

Devils’ Vatanen with one of the saves of the year

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Do you remember when you were young and your coaches kept telling you never to give up on a play?

To keep playing until the whistle sounded?

Yeah, Sami Vatanen was listening.

There have been a lot of good saves in the NHL this year. Great ones, too. But most of them have come from goalies — the ones tasked with, and paid for, stopping the puck.

Vatanen’s job, as a defenseman, is to prevent shots. But every once and a while he, too, is called upon to keep the puck out of the net. And he did one hell of a job doing so on Friday night against the Ottawa Senators.

Just watch this sequence above. It’s incredible.

NEWARK, NJ – DECEMBER 21: Sami Vatanen #45 of the New Jersey Devils blocks a shot by Brady Tkachuk #7 of the Ottawa Senators during the second period at the Prudential Center on December 21, 2018 in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils defeated the Senators 5-2.(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

There’s Vatanen flailing across the crease to try and keep the puck from entering the net. And he does it so perfectly.

The result, too, is spectacular, with the Devils going in on a 2-on-1 and Hall scoring.

The moral of the story here is never give up. You never know what might happen.


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

PHT Morning Skate: Fletcher hiring reaction; crowded Calder field

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• The Edmonton Oil Kings are going all out for their upcoming Teddy Bear Toss Night.

• Dave Hakstol is safe. For now. “I’m just coming in. I’m a big believer in trying to get to know a situation before you make a reaction. I’d like to think we can solve a lot of the issues that have plagued this team this year and find a way to get better. I certainly have no intention of making a coaching change tomorrow, if that’s your question. I’m gonna meet with Dave, we’re going to try to work together and push. Our goal is to make the playoffs this year. It’s that simple and we have work to do and it will be a challenge. There’s no reason why we can’t get better and we can’t push to make the playoffs and find a way to get in.” [Courier Post]

• “This move, by all means, is not the ‘sexy’ pick. The Flyers did not go out and find another Kyle Dubas. They found someone with a lot of experience at the position and someone who’s built very competent and capable hockey teams. Fletcher’s Wild teams may never have made it past round two of the playoffs, but they were consistently in or fighting for the playoffs.” [Broad Street Hockey]

• Voting for the 2019 NHL All-Star Game in San Jose is open. [NHL.com]

• A look at how William Nylander will affect the Toronto Maple Leafs. [Sportsnet]

• Why the Brayden Point extension talks with the Tampa Bay Lightning should begin with what Nylander got from the Maple Leafs. [Raw Charge]

Elias Pettersson, Brady Tkachuk, Rasmus Dahling — it’s a pretty great Calder Trophy field. [TSN]

• Why Paul Stastny should be cemented on the second line when he returns to the Vegas Golden Knights’ lineup. [Sin Bin Vegas]

• A three-time Olympic gold medalist with Canada’s women’s national team on the ice, Jennifer Botterill has taken her off-ice talents as a broadcaster to the MSG Network. [Winnipeg Sun]

• Boston Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy is still working his way back from a concussion. [Bruins Daily]

• Here’s the 3D Christmas jersey that the ECHL’s Allen Americans will wear on Dec. 22. The Reading Royals donned 3D looks for a game last month:

• Florida Panthers forward Vincent Trocheck gives an update on his recovery from a nasty leg injury. [Panthers]

• What the Panthers can learn from the Lightning. [The Rat Trick]

• The fourth line has been delivering for the Washington Capitals. [NBC Washington]

• Good read on Jared Doyon, Quinnipiac University hockey PA announcer who deals with Tourette’s syndrome. [Quinnipiac]

• Finally, Patrick Gaul didn’t allow losing his stick to prevent him from scoring an overtime winner for the South Carolina Stingrays:

Tkachuk brothers keep proving they’re not just trolls

Getty
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There’s just something annoying, maybe enraging, about Brady Tkachuk and Matthew Tkachuk.

Keith’s progeny bring a lot to the table of obnoxiousness. Some of their facial expressions practically demand a mitt in the mush. That only intensifies when they stick their mouthpieces out like plastic tongues. One can only imagine how irritating their trash talk can be, considering that even Brady refers to Matthew as a “pest.”

For opponents, the worst part is that they aren’t just the worst, they’re also among the best players on their respective teams. And it sure seems like they keep getting better, which should only make them bigger headaches.

The Brad Marchand Club

While pure pests are becoming an endangered species in the NHL, there are still some who can eke out a living even if they do little beyond getting under your skin.

It’s early, even in Matthew’s career, but it sure feels like it’s going to be increasingly appropriate to compare the Tkachuk brothers to Brad Marchand, a hyper-talented hyper-pest.

Through 24 games, Matthew Tkachuk has generated an impressive 27 points for the Calgary Flames.

Remarkably, he continues to do a significant chunk of his damage at even-strength, as only nine of his 27 points have come on the power play. Brady Tkachuk is creating a similar impact so far, as he’s managed 16 points in his first 14 games with the Ottawa Senators, with a mere four being PPP.

Now, it’s important to note the Tkachuk puck luck at hand. Matthew’s 12 goals come on just 54 SOG (22.2 percent), while Brady’s nine goals happened on a mere 43 SOG (20.9 percent).

With such high percentages in mind, it’s probably dangerous to pencil them in as point-per-game players, at least not until they start generating a little more offense on special teams. Regardless, the overarching point remains sound: like Marchand, Claude Lemieux, and select few, the Tkachuk brothers can hurt your soul, harm your body, and embarrass you on the scoreboard.

Smart pests

It remains to be seen if either Tkachuk can truly join Marchand in the NHL’s upper crust, but it sure seems like both stand a chance of using their wits to make a difference. After all, Marchand is a testament to agitating players sometimes being their own worst enemies.

As Ryan Pike recently explained for Flames Nation, there was a time when Matthew Tkachuk made some dumb decisions that landed him on the Department of Player Safety’s rolodex,* yet there are signs that he’s learning how to pick his spots. Instead of engaging Zach Kassian in a fight during a rowdy Battle of Alberta, Matthew decided not to take the bait, ultimately putting the Oilers in the penalty box for three minors:

* – Come on, they probably still ride the train and use typewriters, right?

Even earlier in his career, Matthew Tkachuk was drawing far more penalties than he was taking, as you can see from Natural Stat Trick’s handy penalties drawn/taken numbers.

Brady hasn’t mastered that art yet, but there are already signs of an advanced hockey IQ. Like Matthew, he’s beginning his career with more defensive zone starts than shifts beginning in the attacking zone, a sign that he has two-way smarts and the trust of his coach. That trust has been justified in each case, as both Tkachuk brothers are puck possession monsters so far.

The younger Tkachuk brother also showed some great vision and awareness in identifying this loose puck before anyone else, starting a run of consecutive shifts with goals during Ottawa’s comeback win against the Flyers on Tuesday:

***

The Tkachuk brothers seem to have the requisite “nose for the net” to score ugly goals, but let’s hope that they keep their mouthpieces in at key times. They don’t want to be like their father Keith, who apparently needed to transplant part of his hip bone during especially ghastly dental surgery after taking a puck to the face. Even trolls (probably) deserve better than that.

/gags

Again, it’s remarkable – and for opponents, unnerving – to realize how young these two are. Matthew’s proven to be a fantastic top-six forward, and he’s in the final year of his rookie deal at 20, setting the stage for a big raise. Brady, meanwhile, looks very much like a 19-year-old rookie, except when it comes to producing on the ice. If healthy, it’s tough to imagine Brady not at least being an honorable mention for the Calder.

Their great play might slip under the radar just a touch considering their struggling teams (Senators owner Eugene Melnyk is being compared to Larry David, after all), but opponents and opposing fan bases will find them both very difficult to ignore.

And stop.

MORE: Your 2018-19 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.

The Buzzer: McElhinney steals another; MacKinnon scores two more

AP
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Three Stars

1. Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche. Nathan MacKinnon is on some kind of a roll for the Colorado Avalanche. His two goals on Tuesday night were the difference in a 3-2 win over the Nashville Predators and gave him his fifth consecutive multi-point game. He now has at least two points in six of his past seven games, a stretch that includes six goals to give him 17 on the season. His 37 points on the season are second in the league, trailing only his linemate Mikko Rantanen. Rantanen set up both of MacKinnon’s goals on Tuesday.

2. Curtis McElhinney, Carolina Hurricanes. Did you expect Curtis McElhinney to be the savior for the Carolina Hurricanes this season? Of course you didn’t, but he has been a rock for them in net lately and continued his strong play on Tuesday night by making a career-high 48 saves in a 2-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens. With that performance he has now won each of his past four decisions and allowed just five goals on the past 150 shots he has faced. That is a .966 save percentage during that stretch.

3. Shea Theodore, Vegas Golden Knights. Pretty much everybody had a hand in the Golden Knights’ big win over the Chicago Blackhawks, but Shea Theodore had perhaps the biggest night of them all by logging more than 23 minutes, scoring a pair of goals, adding an assist, and finishing as a plus-four. The Golden Knights are starting to get on a roll to climb back up the Pacific Division standings.

More big performances from Tuesday

Oscar Klefbom scored in overtime to give the Oilers a win in Ken Hitchcock’s home debut. That goal came just after Connor McDavid appeared to score the winning goal, only to have a replay review determine the puck never fully crossed the goal line.

Shea Weber made his 2018-19 debut for the Montreal Canadiens and was not exactly eased back in. He played a team-high 25 minutes, attempted 13 shots, got three on net, and assisted on their only goal in their 2-1 loss to the Hurricanes.

Brady Tkachuk scored a pair of goals — just three minutes apart — for the Ottawa Senators to help them erase a 3-1 deficit with less than 10 minutes to play in the third period.

— The Pittsburgh Penguins received two goals from their fourth line (and one from their third line) to defeat the Winnipeg Jets. They have now collected eight out of a possible 10 points in their past five games. Sidney Crosby scored his 10th goal of the season on yet another ridiculous backhand shot.

Dustin Brown had another big game for the Los Angeles Kings, recording two more points and scoring the game-winning goal in overtime to lift them over the Vancouver Canucks.

— The Arizona Coyotes rallied from a 3-1 third period deficit to beat the Minnesota Wild thanks in large part to a pair of goals from Josh Archibald.

Highlights of the Night

Rasmus Ristolainen helped the Buffalo Sabres push their winning streak to 10 games with this incredible individual effort against the San Jose Sharks.

Even with Weber back in the lineup it was starting goalie Carey Price taking care of the physical play for the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday.

Matt Duchene scored the goal of the night to help lift the Ottawa Senators to a come-from-behind win against the Philadelphia Flyers. This came just a few minutes after Tkachuk scored his two goals to tie the game.

Factoids

The Philadelphia Flyers have used a lot of goalies this season. They added another starter to the list on Tuesday night. The result was more of the same.

The Vegas Golden Knights crushed the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday night by scoring eight goals. That is a franchise record.

Ryan Miller backstopped the Anaheim Ducks to a big win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, and in the process moved one step closer to the top of the all-time wins list for American-born goalies.

Scores

Buffalo Sabres 3, San Jose Sharks 2 (OT)

Ottawa Senators 4, Philadelphia Flyers 3

Carolina Hurricanes 2, Montreal Canadiens 1

Anaheim Ducks 3, Tampa Bay Lightning 1

Colorado Avalanche 3, Nashville Predators 2

Arizona Coyotes 4, Minnesota Wild 3

Pittsburgh Penguins 4, Winnipeg Jets 3

Vegas Golden Knights 8, Chicago Blackhawks 3

Edmonton Oilers 1, Dallas Stars 0 (OT)

Los Angeles Kings 2, Vancouver Canucks 1 (OT)

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.