Darcy Kuemper

PHT Morning Skate: Yzerman’s big draft; Comparing Binnington to Murray

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 Montreal Canadiens shouldn’t be in a hurry to trade Andrew Shaw away this summer. (Habs Eyes on the Prize)

• Hurricanes goalie coach Mike Banes has resigned from his position with the team. (News & Observer)

• Should the Tampa Bay Lightning stick with Jon Cooper as their head coach? (Bolts by the Bay)

• Leafs GM Kyle Dubas has 19 days to figure out how to improve his team’s roster. (Pension Plan Puppets)

• Tanner Glass is reportedly joining the Rangers’ front office. (Blue Seat Blogs)

• How does Jordan Binnington‘s run to the Stanley Cup compare to what Matt Murray did for the Penguins? (The Sports Daily)

• Steve Yzerman has to knock this draft out of the park for the Detroit Red Wings. (Detroit Free Press)

• Now that Jay Bouwmeester has won a Stanley Cup, The Hockey News looks at other notable veterans that are searching for their first championship. (The Hockey News)

• The Score takes a look at what Matthew Tkachuk‘s next contract might look like. (The Score)

Darcy Kuemper went from being a backup goalie to becoming the most important player on the Coyotes. (Five for Howling)

• TSN’s Travis Yost writes about how the Blues’ patient approach paid off in the end. (TSN)

• NHL.com broke down the top 10 moments of the Stanley Cup Final. (NHL.com)

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

PHT Morning Skate: Where will Kessel end up?; Hurricanes’ defense can do it all

2 Comments
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.

Here’s the NBC Sports Stanley Cup playoff update for May 6

• The Sedin twins have found a new way to stay active. (Sportsnet)

Robin Lehner had a big first year with the Islanders, but it ended with a thud. (TSN)

• ESPN breaks down all the players who were nominated for major NHL awards. (ESPN)

• Even though they’re facing elimination, the Blue Jackets don’t regret making major moves at the trade deadline. (NHL)

• Speaking of the Jackets, here’s what they have to do to avoid being eliminated in Game 6 against Boston. (The Cannon)

• WEEI’s Matt Kalman believes the Bruins will be able to close out this series against Columbus. (WEEI)

• Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault is reportedly hiring Michel Therrien to join his staff. (Montreal Gazette)

Evgeny Kuznetsov had an inconsistent season in Washington, so what’s next for the Russian forward? (NBC Sports Washington)

• Pensburgh breaks down the potential landing spots for Phil Kessel if the Penguins decide to trade him. (Pensburgh)

• How will the Coyotes split the workload between Antti Raanta and Darcy Kuemper next season? (AZ Central)

• Don’t expect the Calgary Flames to hand out any offer sheets this summer. (Flames Nation)

• The Hurricanes have had playoff success because of their group of defesemen that can do it all. (The Hockey News)

• The Romanian National team has been promoted to Division 1 A. (IIHF)

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Fleury returns to Golden Knights’ lineup just in time for playoffs

The Vegas Golden Knights have nothing to gain in the standings on Thursday night (except to play spoiler for the Arizona Coyotes), but they will still be getting some good news as starting goalie Marc-Andre Fleury will be making his return to the lineup after missing the past nine games due to a lower-body injury.

Fleury has not played for the Golden Knights since he stopped 40 out of 41 shots in a 2-1 win over the Dallas Stars back on March 15.

In his absence the team relied heavily on backup Malcolm Subban and ended up winning just four of the nine games to settle in the third spot in the Pacific Division.

The start on Thursday, which figures to be Fleury’s final start of the regular season, will at least allow him to get some game action in before the team’s Round 1 matchup against the San Jose Sharks.

Prior to the injury Fleury had been playing what was perhaps his best hockey of the season with a personal six-game winning streak that saw him allow just five total goals. During that stretch he had a save percentage of .972 and recorded a pair of shutouts to give him eight on the season.

[Related: Fleury’s boom-or-bust season makes Golden Knights total wild card]

Overall he has a .914 save percentage in 59 appearances for the Golden Knights.

It has been kind of a bizarre season for Fleury as he has gone through stretches of total domination, like his most recent run before the injury, and had a lot of other games where he has been a little off. Which version of him the Golden Knights get in the playoffs will be a pretty big factor in how far they are able to go.

Even so, there is a pretty significant gap between Fleury and Subban and having the former back and healthy is going to be a huge advantage for them, especially in a Round 1 matchup against a Sharks team that has badly struggled down the stretch and has a major hole in net.

Meanwhile on Thursday, Coyotes goalie Darcy Kuemper is expected to be a game-time decision after he had to exit their most recent game after a stick blade went through his mask and struck him in the face.

The Coyotes are facing a must-win situation on Thursday as any loss (or any point by the Colorado Avalanche) will eliminate them from playoff contention.

Related: Analyzing the remaining NHL playoff races

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.

NHL Playoff picture after Wednesday: Blues come up short for share of Central lead

For the final week of the 2018-19 NHL regular season we will take an updated look at the Stanley Cup Playoff picture — what the standings look like, the potential matchups, who clinched, and set the stage for Thursday’s biggest games.

The St. Louis Blues failed to tie for the Central Division lead after dropping a 4-3 shootout decision to the Chicago Blackhawks. 

For some big numbers and highlights, check The Buzzer.

Wednesday’s East playoff clinchers

  • None. The Ottawa Senators beat the New York Rangers 4-1 in a game of no importance to the playoff picture.

Wednesday’s West playoff clinchers

  • None. But the St. Louis Blues missed a chance to bring themselves level with the Nashville Predators and the Winnipeg Jets on 96 spots. The Blues now have 95 after picking up a point in a 4-3 shootout loss to Chicago Blackhawks.

WEDNESDAY’S SCORES

Senators 4, Rangers 1
Blackhawks 4, Blues 3 (SO)
Ducks 3, Flames 1

IF THE PLAYOFFS STARTED TODAY
Lightning vs. Blue Jackets
Capitals vs. Hurricanes
Islanders vs. Penguins
Bruins vs. Maple Leafs — series clinched

Flames vs. Avalanche
Jets vs. Stars
Sharks vs. Golden Knights — series clinched
Predators vs. Blues

THURSDAY’S BIGGEST GAMES

Lightning at Maple Leafs, 7 p.m. ET

This means nothing in the playoff race. The Lightning will finish first in the Atlantic Division and the Maple Leafs will finish third. But the Lightning are chasing the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings’ 62 regular-season wins, most in NHL history. The Lightning are on 60 with two games remaining. The math is simple.

Islanders at Panthers, 7 p.m. ET

Speaking of simple math, a win for the Islanders on Thursday will lock up second place in the Metropolitan Division and home-ice advantage against whoever they face in the first round. A win will also pull themselves to within one point of the top-seeded Washington Capitals, at least momentarily, with the Capitals also in action Thursday.

Red Wings at Penguins, 7 p.m. ET

The Penguins are in a fight to say in the top three of the Metro. The Hurricanes will have an easier matchup (at least on paper) against the New Jersey Devils while Pittsburgh has to contend with the Red Wings, a team that’s won six straight. Third place will be theirs if they beat Detroit and the Hurricanes lose. They could still catch the Islanders for second, too, depending on how the Isles do.

Canadiens at Capitals, 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN

Montreal desperately needs a win. After pulling out all the stops in a 4-2 victory against the Lightning on Tuesday, they’ll face another still test in the Capitals, who can secure the division crown with a win.

Devils at Hurricanes, 7 p.m. ET

A Hurricanes win and a Canadiens loss will help Carolina clinch a playoff spot for the first time in nearly a decade.

Flyers at Blues, 8 p.m. ET

With the Blues only picking up a point in a 4-3 loss to Chicago on Wednesday, they now need a lot of help from the two teams in from of them, namely Nashville and Winnipeg, to go from last to first by the end of the regular season. That starts with a tough game on Thursday being that it’s on the second half of a back to back.

Canucks at Predators, 8 p.m. ET

The Predators can still win the Central Division but will need some help from the Jets and the Blues. The Predators need Winnipeg to lose somewhere down the line and to win out themselves to take the division crown.

Jets at Avalanche, 9 p.m. ET

The Jets held a closed-door meeting after a dreadful 5-1 loss to the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday. The Jets hold the keys to first place and need only to win their two remaining games to book a date with the Dallas Stars. They’ll be in tough against the Avalanche, who can clinch a playoff spot with a point.

Coyotes at Golden Knights, 10 p.m. ET 

The Coyotes have to win and then they need to hope the Jets can knock off the Avalanche in regulation. That’s the only way they stay alive until Game 82. Arizona has put up one hell of a fight, and they’ll have to put up a bigger one still as they’re likely to be without Darcy Kuemper, who took a stick to the eye on Tuesday.


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

Kucherov making plenty of points for NHL’s MVP consideration

1 Comment

Connor McDavid knows better than to risk making end-of-season NHL award projections.

Through no fault of his own, the Edmonton Oilers captain was not included among last year’s three MVP candidates, causing a stir back home. So McDavid understandably deferred when recently asked to list his Hart Trophy front-runners this year.

”After last year, I’m not commenting,” McDavid said, chuckling. ”I have no idea who will win it at all.”

McDavid, who won the Hart in 2017 after leading the Oilers to their first playoff berth in 11 years, isn’t likely to be included among this year’s finalists even though he entered the final week of the season second in the league with 115 points. Trouble is, the Oilers have already been eliminated from playoff contention, and McDavid and everyone else are being overshadowed by the numbers Nikita Kucherov is putting up with the President’s Trophy-clinching Tampa Bay Lightning.

With 125 points through 80 games, Kucherov has already matched Joe Thornton‘s league-leading total in 2005-06. The highest total after that is Jaromir Jagr’s 127 points in 1998-99, and the last player to top 130 points was Mario Lemieux, who had 161 in 1995-96.

”It’s not at all surprising. He was unbelievable last year, and seemed to get no recognition for it,” McDavid said, noting how Kucherov finished third in the NHL with 100 points last season. ”They’re a team that scores a lot of goals. And he’s in on most of them. It’s pretty impressive.”

Kucherov is tied for the Lightning lead with seven game-winning goals and part of a team that became only the NHL’s third to win 60 or more games. Kucherov has also led the points race since Dec. 28, and gone no more than two games without registering a point this season.

That’s not to say there aren’t others worthy of mention.

Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau, with a career-best 97 points already, has played a key role in helping the Flames clinch their first division title in 13 years.

Though Sidney Crosby‘s production has tailed off with just three assists in Pittsburgh’s past nine games, the Penguins could have been in jeopardy of missing the playoffs for the first time since 2006 if not for their captain’s team-leading 95 points. Chicago’s Patrick Kane, who enjoyed a 20-game point streak, would deserve consideration if not for the Blackhawks sitting last in the Central Division.

Former NHL executive-turned broadcaster Brian Burke said it’s difficult to consider anyone ahead of Kucherov, suggesting he has essentially ”lapped the field.”

”You’d have to be statistically such an aberration, such a unicorn, that voters would have no choice but to say, ‘OK, that’s the guy,”’ Burke said.

”But that’s not the case where you’ve got Kucherov. So there’s no unicorns,” Burke added. ”You’ve already got a guy who’s blowing everyone away.”

That said, here is The Associated Press list of end-of-season award contenders:

HART (MVP)

In the conversation: Crosby, Gaudreau, Kucherov and Brad Marchand (Boston).

Who should win: Kucherov.

Comment: To quote Burke: ”There’s no unicorns.”

NORRIS (Top defenseman)

In the conversation: Brent Burns (San Jose), John Carlson (Washington), Mark Giordano (Calgary), Victor Hedman (Tampa Bay).

Who should win: Giordano.

Comment: A career-best season for a captain on the Pacific Division’s top team.

VEZINA (Top goalie)

In the conversation: Ben Bishop (Dallas), Darcy Kuemper (Arizona), Carey Price (Montreal) Pekka Rinne (Nashville) and Andrei Vasilevskiy (Tampa Bay).

Who should win: Vasilevskiy.

Comment: Tightest race to call and could include Islanders’ tandem of Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss, though each eliminate each other by splitting starts.

SELKE (Top defensive forward)

In the conversation: Aleksander Barkov (Florida), Patrice Bergeron (Boston), Sean Couturier (Philadelphia), Mark Stone (Vegas), Ryan O'Reilly (St. Louis).

Who should win: Stone.

Comment: Before being traded to Vegas, Stone had an exceptional plus-13 rating on a Senators team that has currently allowed an NHL-worst 285 goals.

CALDER (Top rookie)

In the conversation: Rasmus Dahlin (Buffalo), Andreas Johnsson (Toronto), Elias Pettersson (Vancouver) and Brady Tkachuk (Ottawa).

Who should win: Pettersson.

Comment: Pettersson leads rookie forwards in averaging 18:20 of ice time per game.

JACK ADAMS (Top coach)

In the conversation: Craig Berube (St. Louis), Jon Cooper (Tampa Bay), Bill Peters (Calgary), Barry Trotz (Islanders).

Who should win: Cooper.

Comment: Though Berube and Trotz deserve consideration, it is difficult to overlook the job Cooper’s done with a 60-win team.

THEY SAID IT

Blue Jackets John Tortorella wasn’t initially in the mood to divulge what was discussed during a team meeting after a 4-1 loss at Edmonton on March 21 that extended Columbus’ skid to 0-2-1.

”That’s none of your business,” he responded. Pressed further, given how Columbus rebounded to win its next five, Tortorella said: ”We (stunk) against Edmonton. I mean it was pitiful against Edmonton, so we tried to clean some things up.”