In the debut episode, Pierre McGuire interviews George McPhee of the Vegas Golden Knights, while Jeremy Roenick and Keith Jones react to the biggest news from Week 1 in the NHL. Is the sky falling in Tampa? Can the Penguins overcome Evgeni Malkin‘s long-term injury? Jones and Roenick also dive into the Matthew Tkachuk-Drew Doughty rivalry and talk about the best individual battles of their careers.
Rundown: 0:00-1:10 Intro 1:10-4:35 Pressure already mounting in Tampa Bay 4:35-9:20 Is Pittsburgh’s playoff streak in jeopardy? 9:20-12:25 Drew Doughty–Matthew Tkachuk rivalry 12:25-14:45 JR’s battle with Craig Berube 14:45-18:00 Jones gets under Steve Thomas’ skin 18:00-20:05 “Would you fight Tie Domi?” 20:05-35:30 Pierre McGuire interviews George McPhee 35:35-42:30 Patrick Roy impersonator trash talks the guys
Our Line Starts is part of NBC Sports’ growing roster of podcasts spanning the NFL, Premier League, NASCAR, and much more. The new weekly podcast, which will publish Wednesdays, will highlight the top stories of the league, including behind-the-scenes content and interviews conducted by NBC Sports’ NHL commentators.
NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Wednesday’s matchup between the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks. Coverage begins at 10 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.
Last season, only the Anaheim Ducks (199) scored fewer goals than the Los Angeles Kings (202). The Kings had one player hit the 60-point mark (Anze Kopitar) and their leading goal scorers were Kopitar and Dustin Brown, who both finished with 22 tallies in 2018-19. Those numbers don’t exactly jump off the page.
Los Angeles didn’t really make any big changes to their roster over the summer, so expectations were fairly low coming into this campaign. How could the offense get better if they didn’t add a scoring forward? How could the team go from the lottery to the playoffs in just one offseason? It’s still early, but head coach Todd McLellan has found a way to extract from offense from this group.
They have a 1-1-0 record through two games, but they’ve managed to find the back of the net nine times so far. Can they keep up that?
“Well, the start was growth. We were able to put a team on its heels,” McLellan said after last night’s overtime win over the Calgary Flames, per LA Kings Insider. “Being resilient later on in the game was important. Scoring on the power play, we count on the power play to get us something and we executed something we’ve worked on very well. There are other areas – there’s individual growth, better board work, better around our net, so there were a lot of areas that we improved on (Tuesday).”
The Kings have scored power play goals in each of their games and they both came off the stick of Drew Doughty. McLellan is correct when he says he needs to be able to rely on his power play more because they were ranked 27th in that category last year.
Is this sustainable? It’s way too early to tell. But they’re definitely off to an encouraging start.
One way they could continue to fill the net, is if they get a boost in production from Ilya Kovalchuk. The veteran winger has a goal and four points through two games and his line was even double-shifted at times during last night’s game. The 36-year-old had a tough year last year, as he managed to score just 16 goals and 34 points in 64 games. Nobody expects him to be a point-per-game player at this stage of his career, but him contributing with more regularity would be a welcome bonus for a squad that doesn’t typically score much.
“The three of them were challenged – (Kovalchuk), (Jeff Carter) and (Adrian) Kempe after the Edmonton game,” McLellan said. “I don’t think they were particularly pleased with their group’s play or maybe individual play, and we challenged ‘em, we gave ‘em another opportunity and they took advantage of it. So, we quickly recognized they were in the game and got them a lot of ice time. They earned it.”
We’ll find out if the trio can keep that going against an 0-2-0 Canucks squad.
Alex Faust and Ray Ferraro will have the call of Kings-Canucks from Rogers Arena in Vancouver, B.C.
Neal might have already laid claim to the top star of Tuesday early in Edmonton’s win against the Islanders, as he completed a natural hat trick by the opening minutes of the second period. By adding a fourth goal in the third, he made it a consensus.
As you can note in this post, Neal now has six goals in just three games with the Oilers, one behind his full-season total with Calgary last season.
The true Neal is somewhere between this red-hot start and last season’s frigid flop. This is a guy who can sometimes drift through games (or fly off the handle in rage, particularly during his Penguins days) and then score big goals. He was a regular sniper before last season, even though he seemed to change locales with stunning frequency. If he can stay on Connor McDavid‘s line with regularity, Neal could have a big season.
By their very lofty standards, the trio of Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak were off to a slightly quiet start to 2019-20. Maybe that bit of yawning will stay in Vegas?
Marchand scored two goals and an assist in Boston’s 4-3 win against the Golden Knights, including what would end up being the game-winner. Pastrnak was there with him, scoring a goal and two assists. Bergeron was less robust at a mere assist, yet he dominated in the faceoff circle, going 18-7.
Yes, the Jets’ makeshift defense deserves credit for boosting Winnipeg to a surprising win against the up-and-down Penguins. Especially since defensemen like Tucker Poolman and Ville Heinola factored into the victory by scoring goals.
But Hellebuyck might have been the main reason why Winnipeg was able to hold up to the Penguins’ attack, even with a decimated defense corps.
He made 37 out of 38 saves, only yielding what seemed like an ominous Sidney Crosby goal 32 seconds in. If Dustin Byfuglien decides to extend his fishing trip into retirement, the Jets are going to need a lot of strong nights from Hellebuyck going forward.
Consider this very telling nugget an early factoid:
Total career games played by defencemen tonight#GoJetsGo 350#LetsGoPens 2,957 (This includes John Marino, who is making his NHL debut)
The most memorable moments of the night might have involved Tkachuk vs. Doughty, from Tkachuk’s impressive tying goal (which, again, maybe shouldn’t have counted) to Doughty scoring in OT and doing a Hulk Hogan taunt. But you can see that here, so I’m going to cheat and add Braden Holtby providing another highlight reel stop instead:
Anyone else extremely curious to find out what his next payday will be like?
The Hurricanes really took it to the Panthers on Tuesday night, no longer needing OT heroics. Their 4-0-0 start ties the best in their extended franchise history, matching the 1995-96 Hartford Whalers, according to NHL PR.
Conveniently enough, Lucic’s Calgary Flames were in action as well on Tuesday. While Neal’s Oilers beat the Islanders 5-2, Lucic’s Flames fell 4-3 in overtime to the Los Angeles Kings.
James Neal after three games with Oilers: six goals, including four on Tuesday. Milan Lucic after three games with Flames: zero points, but plenty of violence.
Indeed, it seems like Lucic is embracing the idea of being the Flames’ big bad/enforcer. He already came into Tuesday’s game with 21 penalty minutes, and added five PIM thanks to quite the rumble with Kurtis MacDermid of the Kings, as you can see in the video above this post’s headline. Lucic also delivered six hits during his 13:07 TOI.
If you want to strain the limits of credulity, you could argue that Lucic’s fight “fired up” the Flames. After all, the Kings were up 3-0 when that fight happened, and Calgary stormed back to tie things up 3-3 and send the action to overtime.
But don’t kid yourself; the Flames squeezed a point out of another contentious Calgary – Los Angeles clash because of Matthew Tkachuk.
While the two get nasty at times, both on the ice and off of it, there have also been moments where you can argue that they’re mutual disgust is driving them to even higher levels than normal. Tkachuk was splendid during Tuesday’s game, scoring two goals and an assist while being a menace with seven hits.
I’m still not totally sure Tkachuk wasn’t guilty of a high-stick while he was securing the puck for that goal, but either way, it was a stupendous display of hand-eye coordination (and also an obnoxious display of mouthpiece-dangling, a Tkachuk trademark):
This time around, Doughty got the last laugh, however.
Along with generating two assists, Doughty scored the power-play game-winner in overtime, and then cupped his hand to his ear to the audience as if he were Hulk Hogan during one of his more heelish runs:
So, the Lucic – Neal feud (that neither explicitly asked for) feels a little one-sided so far, while the very personal Tkachuk – Doughty rivalry could go back and forth. At this rate, they might need a cage match to settle things.
The NHL’s most intense individual rivalry continues on Tuesday night when Drew Doughty and the Los Angeles Kings pay a visit to Matthew Tkachuk and the Calgary Flames.
From the moment Tkachuk entered the NHL he started established himself as a tough, physical, agitating forward that will get under the skin of his opponents while also filling the back of their net. In other words, he is a younger, Western Conference version of Brad Marchand. The type of player every general manager in the league would pay a huge price to get on their own team, while also hating their guts when they are not on their team.
No player in the NHL has been more annoyed by Tkachuk’s style of play than Doughty, as the two have an ongoing feud that has consistently intensified over the past three years.
Tkachuk was suspended for two games during his rookie season when he elbowed Doughty in the face, helping to spark their ongoing feud. Doughty has repeatedly sounded off on Tkachuk in interviews, saying how he doesn’t respect him and will never speak to him off the ice, to claiming that Tkachuk is the most hated player in the league. Whenever the two teams face there is almost always some kind of altercation between the two players, especially as they get a ton of ice-time going head-to-head with one another. On average they have spent about seven minutes per game playing head-to-head against one another in their matchups — that is a lot — while their positions (Tkachuk as a left winger, Doughty as a right defensemen) mean their paths are going to cross quite often.
Some examples of their, let’s say, extreme dislike for one another…
And the elbowing incident that started it all…
It is a good bet they will become acquainted with one another again on Tuesday night.
Over the weekend Tkachuk was a guest on Hockey Night In Canada’s After Hours show and was asked by host Scott Oake if he should show Doughty, a Stanley Cup champion and Norris Trophy winner, more respect. Tkachuk did not miss a beat and instantly responded that he shows Flames captain Mark Giordano plenty of respect, adding “He’s a Norris Trophy winner.”
In 11 career games against Doughty and the Kings, Tkachuk has two goals, three assists and 15 penalty minutes.