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PHT Morning Skate: Pastrnak’s emergence; Sharks can’t get complacent

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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.

• Not having Cam Fowler has been a significant issue for the Ducks through the first two games of their first-round series against the Sharks. (OC Register)

• San Jose owns a 2-0 lead over the Ducks, so avoiding complacency is their biggest challenge heading into Game 3. (NBC Sports Bay Area)

• A lot of people believe Brad Marchand is the most dangerous player in the NHL, but Nazem Kadri is giving him a run for his money. (Stanley Cup of Chowder)

• During a dominant Game 2 performance against the Toronto Maple Leafs, David Pastrnak showed that he’s ready for prime time. (Bruins Daily)

• The city of Humboldt has been changed forever by a bus crash on a Friday afternoon. The lives lost on that day will never be forgotten, but the people there will have to find a way to continue living. (SI.com)

• ‘Hawks captain Jonathan Toews not only donated game-worn jerseys to the Humboldt Broncos, he also went to visit them. (Chicago Sun-Times)

• Now that Ken Hitchcock has retired, the Stars should look internally for their next head coaching candidate. (Defending Big D)

• There’s no way the Canucks will be able to replace what Daniel and Henrik Sedin did for them, but they need their young players to start contributing offensively now that the twins are gone. (Vancourier)

• The Hockey News ranked each fan base’s level of misery. It’s safe to say that fans of the Blues and Sabres have been tortured the most. Life’s good if you’re a Penguins fan though. (The Hockey News)

• Now that Ilya Kovalchuk has turned 35 years old, he’s officially an unrestricted free agent. He still can’t sign with anyone until July 1st. (The Score)

• ESPN looks at which teams have the most playoff experience on their roster and how that can or can’t help them going forward. (ESPN)

• Black Aces rarely get to participate (on the ice) in their team’s playoff run, but that doesn’t mean that the title is meaningless to them. (Eliteprospects.com)

Kyle Okposo‘s on-ice performance has been disappointing since he joined the Sabres. He knows that he’ll have to spend a lot of time in the gym this summer. (Buffalo Hockey Beat)

• College hockey referee Dan Dreger was on the hook for a portion of his medical bills after taking a slap shot to the face that caused a lot of damage. (Grand Forks Herald)

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.

Sedins, Sharp, Vrbata among NHL retirements

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Henrik and Daniel Sedin didn’t play their final NHL game in Vancouver, yet you could almost be fooled into thinking otherwise. That was the sort of reception the retiring twins received in Edmonton on Saturday, as Oilers fans treated the Canucks icons with a fantastic send-off from the NHL.

(You can see some of the great gestures in the video above this post’s headline.)

One can speculate about other NHL players who are mulling over retirement. Names like Jussi Jokinen float around, which makes particular sense when you consider how Jokinen bounced almost cruelly around the league this season.

2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Schedule, Bracket, Streams and More

Some players will probably need time to mull over retirement. Others might not really get to make that call, as they may find no takers in free agency. There could be quite a few who simply haven’t made the announcement yet.

This post focuses on four noteworthy names who’ve made it clear that their careers are over: Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin, Patrick Sharp, and Radim Vrbata. All four players enjoyed distinguished runs, and while they finished things up past their primes, they didn’t make the mistake of hanging around for several sad seasons, either.

Note: as we’ve seen with Mike Fisher, players can also change their minds about retirement. Still, it certainly looks like these players are winding things down.

Sedins

Henrik Sedin ended his career with two straight 50-point seasons in 82 games. In the case of his final campaign, he scored three goals and 47 assists. He also generated 55 points in 2015-16.

Henrik’s most recent standout season was 2014-15, when he generated 18 goals and 55 assists for 73 points in 82 games. The 37-year-old managed 1,070 points in 1,330 regular-season games.

Daniel Sedin (also 37, of course) scored two goals in his final home game with the Canucks, while neither Sedin twin generated a point on Saturday. Daniel generated 23 goals and 55 points in 81 games during this final season. He collected 44 in 2016-17 and 61 in 2015-16.

Daniel’s most recent standout season was also in 2014-15, when he scored 20 goals and 76 points. In fitting Sedins fashion, they deflected attention to Derek Dorsett upon retirement:

Read more about the Sedins hanging up the skates here. Also, you can see some fun stuff at #ThankYouSedins.

Patrick Sharp

Sharp’s descent was, er, sharper than that of the Sedins. He only managed 21 points this season and 18 in 2016-17, though last season he was limited to 48 games. That said, much like the Sedins, Sharp isn’t that far removed from a strong run, as he scored 20 goals and 55 points in 2015-16. The 36-year-old also scored 78 points in 2013-14, a career-high.

If this is truly it for Sharp – he did throw “probably” around at least once – he’d finish with 620 points in 939 regular-season games, serving as a significant contributor to three Stanley Cup wins for the Chicago Blackhawks.

Radim Vrbata

All four players fall into a similar age group, as Vrbata is 36 and will turn 37 in June. There seems to be little doubt that he’s done, at least in the NHL.

Vrbata finishes up with a 14-point season, a let down for a Panthers team that could have used the added punch. At the time of the signing, it seemed like a savvy, cheap addition, as he was coming off of a 20-goal, 55-point season with the Arizona Coyotes.

Then again, it was almost a meme that Vrbata was simply better in the desert. He’ll end up with 623 points in 1,057 career regular-season games (.59 points-per-game), with 343 of those points coming in 509 contests with Arizona/Phoenix (.67).

***

Will more veteran players decide to end their NHL careers?

Here’s hoping the answer is “No” in many cases, unless it’s best for everyone involved. Either way, we’ll likely hear more announcements soon.

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: Panthers stay alive, Jackets and Devils clinch, Brown scores 4

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Player of the Night: Roberto Luongo, Florida Panthers

It was a big night for Roberto Luongo and the Florida Panthers.

Playing in his 1,000th NHL game, Luongo helped the Panthers keep their slim playoff hope alive by stopping 26 of the 28 shots he faced in a 3-2 win over the Boston Bruins.

The final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference is now down to just the Panthers and Philadelphia Flyers. Given what needs to happen the Panthers are still probably a long shot at this point, but they needed a win on Thursday and got exactly that. Now they need the Flyers to lose to the New York Rangers in regulation on Saturday afternoon while the Panthers need to win their remaining two games — at home against Buffalo on Saturday night and then at Boston on Sunday in a makeup of a game that was postponed earlier this season. Buffalo has already secured the worst record in the league, but the Bruins could still be playing for the Atlantic Division title in that game.

Player of the Night Part Two: Dustin Brown, Los Angeles Kings

For the past few years Dustin Brown looked like he was finished being a productive player, at least offensively. He has had a huge bounce back year in 2017-18 and will end up finishing with a career high in points after failing to record more than 36 points in each of the past five years. He played one of the best games of his career on Thursday by scoring four goals, including the game-winning goal in overtime, to help lead the Kings to a 5-4 win over the Minnesota Wild. He will not set a new career high in goals (33 is out of reach at this point) but the 28 he currently has would be tied for the second most in his career.

Players of the Night Part Three: Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin, Vancouver Canucks

Just because you could not have scripted that game any better. Daniel scored two goals, including the game-winning goal in overtime, in their final home game with the Canucks. Read about it and see the goals here.

Blue Jackets, Devils are in

The reason the Eastern Conference playoff race is down to just two teams is because the Columbus Blue Jackets and New Jersey Devils officially clinched their spots in the playoffs on Thursday night.

Even though the Blue Jackets were on the losing end of a 5-4 overtime game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the point they gained was enough to get them in.

The Devils, meanwhile, clinched their first playoff berth since the 2011-12 season thanks to their 2-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The seeding remains up for grabs. The Penguins currently occupy the second spot in the Metropolitan Division with 98 points, while the Blue Jackets and Devils are just behind them at 97 points. That leaves a number of different potential first-round matchups still on the table.

We do know one first-round matchup

With the Nashville Predators officially wrapping up the Presidents’ Trophy, top spot in the Western Conference, and the Central Division we officially know at least one first-round matchup, and it will be the No. 2 vs. No. 3 matchup in the Central Division where the Winnipeg Jets will take on the Minnesota Wild. That series will begin in Winnipeg.

Blues get some help

The St. Louis Blues had the night off but they were still big winners on Thursday night because the team they are chasing for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, the Colorado Avalanche, ended up losing to the San Jose Sharks, 4-2. The Blues remain just one point back of that spot while the two teams close out the regular season playing each other in Colorado. The win for the Sharks gave them 100 points in a season for the eighth time in franchise history.

Highlight of the Night

Phil Kessel scored two goals for the Penguins on Thursday night helping him to hit the 90-point mark for the first time in his career. Both goals were absolute lasers and the type of on-the-rush goals that few players in the league are capable of. His second of the game, which was also the game-winning goal in overtime, was the best of the bunch.

Highlight of the Night Part Two

The Sedins stole the show in Vancouver on Thursday night but this Brandon Leipsic goal to tie the game at three in the third period deserves some attention. Without this goal we do not get overtime for the Sedins to have their storybook ending on home ice.

Factoid of the Night

It has been an amazing season for the Winnipeg Jets, and finally getting some quality goaltending is a big reason why. Connor Hellebuyck won his 43rd game of the season in the Jets’ 2-1 win over the Calgary Flames on Thursday, tying him with Tom Barrasso for most wins in a season by an American-born goalie. Of course it is in the shootout era so all asterisks that you want to use for goalie win totals in this era are in play, but it is still an incredible season for him.

Scores

New Jersey Devils 2, Toronto Maple Leafs 1

New York Islanders 2, New York Rangers 1

Philadelphia Flyer 4, Carolina Hurricanes 3

Nashville Predators 4, Washington Capitals 3

Pittsburgh Penguins 5, Columbus Blue Jackets 4

Montreal Canadiens 4, Detroit Red Wings 3

Florida Panthers 3, Boston Bruins 2

Winnipeg Jets 2, Calgary Flames 1

Edmonton Oilers 4, Vegas Golden Knights 3

Vancouver Canucks 4, Arizona Coyotes 3

San Jose Sharks 4, Colorado Avalanche 2

Los Angeles Kings 5, Minnesota Wild 4

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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 Push: East field could be set; Predators eyeing Presidents’ Trophy

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A quiet three-game night on Wednesday is followed by a busy Thursday evening that could see three teams clinch playoff spots and complete the Eastern Conference field and the Presidents’ Trophy get a new address for 2018. And in non-playoff news, tonight will also see Daniel and Henrik Sedin play their final home game as members of the Vancouver Canucks.

Let’s see how the East is shaping up with a couple of days left to go:

The Columbus Blue Jackets, New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers could all punch their tickets to the dance Thursday night. For the Blue Jackets, they need at least one point against the Pittsburgh Penguins or they need the Florida Panthers to lose to the Boston Bruins.

In New Jersey, a win for the Devils against the Toronto Maple Leafs and they’re in. They can also get an “x” next to their name in the standings if they manage one point against Toronto and the Panthers lose to the Bruins or if Florida suffers a regulation loss to Boston.

[The 2018 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs begin April 11 on the networks of NBC]

The Flyers need some help tonight for a postseason berth. They need to beat the Carolina Hurricanes and have the Panthers lose to the Bruins or they can take one point against Carolina and Florida drops their game against Boston in regulation.

Only one spot left in the West and the Colorado Avalanche could really take advantage of the Chicago Blackhawks’ stunning defeat of the St. Louis Blues by topping the San Jose Sharks tonight. There are no clinching scenarios on Thursday, but an Avs win would put them on the brink of a playoff berth. St. Louis visits Chicago on Friday night before meeting Colorado on Saturday, which could be a winner-take-all game.

The only other meaningful game in the West tonight is the Nashville Predators taking on the Washington Capitals (Watch live at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN or our live stream). The Preds could clinch the Presidents’ Trophy, Western Conference and Central Division title. Here are their scenarios:

Presidents’ Trophy
• Beat the Capitals and the Bruins lose to the Panthers in regulation

Western Conference
• Beat the Capitals
OR
• Get one point vs. Washington and the Winnipeg Jets lose to the Calgary Flames
OR
• Jets lose to the Flames in regulation and Vegas Golden Knights fall to the Edmonton Oilers

Central Division
• Beat the Capitals
OR
• Manage one point against the Capitals and Winnipeg loses to Calgary
OR
• Jets lose to the Flames in regulation

If The Playoffs Started Today

Thursday’s Key Games
Toronto Maple Leafs at New Jersey Devils, 7 p.m. ET
Carolina Hurricanes at Philadelphia Flyers, 7 p.m. ET
Nashville Predators at Washington Capitals, 7 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
Pittsburgh Penguins at Columbus Blue Jackets, 7 p.m. ET
Boston Bruins at Florida Panthers, 7 p.m. ET
Colorado Avalanche at San Jose Sharks, 10:30 p.m. ET

The Tank Watch!
The Buffalo Sabres made history on Wednesday becoming the first NHL team to clinch 31st place. That also meant they earned the best odds in the 2018 Draft Lottery for the third time in five years.

1 – Sabres (18.5 percent), 62 points, 80 games, 24 ROW
2 – Senators (13.5), 67 points, 80 GP, 26 ROW
3 – Canadiens (11.5) 69 points, 80 GP, 26 ROW
4 – Coyotes (9.5), 69 points, 80 GP, 27 ROW
5 – Canucks (8.5), 70 points, 80 GP, 30 ROW
6 – Red Wings (7.5) 72 points, 80 GP, 25 ROW
7 – Oilers (6.5) 74 points, 80 GP, 30 ROW
8 – Islanders (6.0) 76 points, 80 GP, 30 ROW
9 – Blackhawks (5.0) 76 points, 80 GP, 32 ROW
10 – Rangers (3.5), 77 points, 80 GP, 31 ROW
11 – Hurricanes (3.0) 81 points, 80 GP, 32 ROW
12 – Flames (2.5) 82 points, 80 GP, 34 ROW (*Pick owned by NYI)
13 – Stars (2.0) 90 points, 80 GP, 37 ROW
14 – Panthers (1.5) 90 points, 79 GP, 38 ROW
15 – Blues (1.0) 92 points, 80 GP, 40 ROW

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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.

1 team, 1,000 games: Milestone increasingly common in NHL

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Victor Hedman refused to go to sleep without a contract.

A full year before he could become a free agent, the hulking No. 1 defenseman told his agent he wanted to sign a long-term extension with the Tampa Bay Lightning the first day he could. Hedman put pen to paper on an eight-year contract well before the sun went down.

”It was never a doubt,” Hedman said that day. ”Staying in Tampa was the No. 1 priority.”

Patrice Bergeron felt the same way when he signed his second, third and fourth contract with the Boston Bruins. Like Hedman, Bergeron wanted to stay with the organization that drafted and developed him for as long as possible while taking less money to surround himself with enough talent to win.

Now each player is on the road to joining an exclusive and growing club of players who reach 1,000 games with one team. Over the past week, Chicago’s Brent Seabrook and Washington’s Alex Ovechkin became the 49th and 50th players in NHL history to play their first 1,000 regular-season games with the same organization, and that group will welcome many members in the next several years as franchise building blocks lock in to long-term deals.

”You’re going to see it more often now,” Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik said. ”Just the way the CBA is and the way the bigger names probably don’t move around as much as they did in earlier years.”

[The 2018 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs begin April 11 on the networks of NBC]

Next season alone, longtime Seabrook defensive partner Duncan Keith and Bergeron are expected to join the one for 1,000 group, with Minnesota captain Mikko Koivu and Los Angeles captain Anze Kopitar in reach of the milestone before the end of 2018-19 if they stay healthy. San Jose’s Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Joe Pavelski, Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and Chicago’s Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews aren’t far behind as this era of long-term stability produces a parade of silver-stick ceremonies for one-team foundation pieces.

”If you’re playing 1,000 games in one organization, you have to be a certain level of player,” said agent Kent Hughes, who represents Bergeron. ”It’s really significant because you’re talking about a series of contracts and we’re in a cap world and in order for that to happen in a lot of cases, I think there needs to be a little bit of give and take on both sides.”

In Ovechkin’s case, it was a $124 million, 13-year contract signed in early 2008 that then-NBA commissioner David Stern told Capitals owner Ted Leonsis he’d live to regret. The only regret now for Leonsis is not signing his face of the franchise for 15 years, and Ovechkin said if he could turn back time, he’d sign for 16 years.

Ovechkin is an anomaly in today’s NHL, where contract lengths were capped at eight years in the last round of collective bargaining talks. Since that CBA went into effect in January 2013, 33 different players have signed eight-year contracts – 28 of whom re-upped with his original team.

”It means a lot to any player to get off their career and say, ‘Well, look at this, I played 1,050 games with one team – my whole career, I’m one of the few,”’ said agent Peter Wallen, who counts one-team players Hedman, St. Louis forward Patrik Berglund and Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog among his clients. ”The only reason you will stay there for 1,000 games is that’s because you’re in the playoffs every year, you know your GM is giving you the opportunity to go deep in the playoffs and they want to win the Stanley Cup.”

The other most-recent players to reach 1,000 games with one team – Los Angeles’ Dustin Brown, Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg and New Jersey’s Patrik Elias – all lifted the Stanley Cup, while Daniel and Henrik Sedin went to the 2011 final and were part of a perennial contender in Vancouver. It’s a delicate balance for teams between paying stars their value and maintaining roster flexibility to contend for several years.

”It’s difficult because you can’t let that key player go while he’s in the prime and you have to keep him content,” Hughes said. ”If the player doesn’t work with you, then it becomes more and more of a challenge to find a way to remain competitive.”

Yet the one-team, 1,000-game players should keep piling up with the likes of the Flyers’ Claude Giroux, Devils’ Travis Zajac, Bruins’ David Krejci, Kings’ Drew Doughty and possibly the Islanders’ John Tavares – if he re-signs this summer – on pace to hit the mark. Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov could follow Ovechkin as the only players to get to 1,000 with the Capitals after none did it in the first 40-plus years of the franchise’s history.

”Organizations want to build a core group maybe, and that’s maybe why it’s so common these days that more guys stick with one team,” Backstrom said. ”For me, personally, I like that, and obviously not move around. But sometimes you can’t control it, either. I feel like we’ve been fortunate here that we’ve been here a long time, so I’m happy about that.”

Follow Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno

More NHL hockey: https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey