PHT Morning Skate: O’Ree’s Hall call; landing spots for Quenneville

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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 Remembrance Day jerseys that the ECHL’s Brampton Beast will wear this Sunday are phenomenal.

• The Washington Capitals held a 50/50 raffle during Wednesday night’s game and raised over $19,000 for Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh. [RMNB]

• It’s been 60 years since Willie O’Ree broke the NHL’s color barrier. Now he’s finally getting the call to the Hockey Hall of Fame. [SI.com]

Jakub Voracek is no fan of the Uber driver who released that video of Ottawa Senators players ripping their coach: “Who gives a s—? He’s a f—ing idiot. Do your job. You’re an Uber driver, drive cars. Don’t try to sell copies to make some money. Get the f— out of here. You know what I mean, he’s a loser.” [NBC Philadelphia]

• Meanwhile, the Senators are demanding that the Ottawa Citizen take the video down. The paper will not do that. [CBC]

• “Following a report that the Coyotes would soon change ownership, the team has said that it is open to opportunities to improve its organization but would not say that any changes are imminent.” [Arizona Sports]

• The New York Islanders are off to a great start, but will it last? [The Hockey News]

• Five possible landing spots for Joel Quenneville. [Featurd]

• Jimmy Howard is playing well for the Detroit Red Wings, which might just earn him an extension. [MLive]

Marcus Sorensen is really coming on for the San Jose Sharks. [NBC Bay Area]

• Brody Roybal, a two-time Paralympic gold medalist and the PyeongChang hockey tournament MVP, climbed Willis Tower’s 2,149 stairs using his upper body, arms and hands on Sunday. [Olympic Talk]

Elias Pettersson has some around the NHL believing he’s a young Pavel Datsyuk. [NHL.com]

James Neal’s tough start with the Calgary Flames boils down to a lack of opportunities. [Sportsnet]

• Jussi Jokinen has joined Swiss side EHC Kloten until Dec. 5. [Swiss Hockey News]

• “Mika Zibanejad and the case of being a true 1C” [Blue Seat Blogs]

• Shorter video reviews and other changes the NHL should make. [Jets Nation]

Nate Schmidt joined his Vegas Golden Knights teammates for practice on Wednesday. He’s eligible to return on Nov. 18. [Review-Journal]

• The update on Erik Haula is that he’ll travel with the Golden Knights on their current road trip and not play in their next three games. More information will be available soon, according to Gerard Gallant. [TSN]

• Finally, what’s Mike Fisher been up to in his second retirement? Well…

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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.

Ten stunning numbers from the first month of the NHL season

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The first month of the NHL season is already in the books, and it was an exciting one that was full of big offensive numbers, surprise teams, and great individual performances.

Each month during the season we will take a look at some stunning numbers, trends, or statistics that stand out.

So what stood out from the first month of the 2018-19 season?

Hurricanes on historic shot on goal pace — After registering 51 shots on goal in their 4-3 overtime loss to the Arizona Coyotes on Friday night, the Carolina Hurricanes are now averaging more than 42 shots on goal per game this season. In the history of the league only one team has ever gone a full season and averaged more than shots on goal, and that was the 1970-71 Boston Bruins. Now, it’s easy to write this Hurricanes number off as “it’s early” and that number is probably due to come down at some point. But even if you just look at it as the first 13 games the Hurricanes are still putting shots on net at an historic rate.

Their 551 shots on goal at this point in the season are more than any team ever at this point in the season, including the 1970-71 Bruins (who had just 536 at this point). Only six teams in league history other than these Hurricanes and the ’70-71 Bruins have managed to top the 500 shot mark at this point in the season.

The difference between this Hurricanes team and that Bruins team? The Bruins finished that season as the highest scoring team in the league by more than 100 goals (399 … the next closest team had 291). These Hurricanes are only 23rd in the league in goals per game.

Coyotes shorthanded goals — Through their first five games of the season the Arizona Coyotes could not score at all, no matter what the situation was on the ice. That has drastically changed in the three weeks since as they are now on a roll, having scored at least four goals in six of their past seven games.

One area where they have excelled is in shorthanded situations, where they are not only only of the best teams in the league at preventing goals, but have already scored seven shorthanded goals.

Brad Richardson has a league best three of them. Free agent acquisition Michael Grabner has two.

As a team, their seven shorthanded goals are by far the most in the NHL and are already more than 14 teams scored all of last season.

Perhaps even more ridiculous: Their penalty kill has only allowed three goals this season, meaning they are somehow have a plus-four goal differential when playing shorthanded. Tampa Bay is a minus-one (three goals against, two for) and San Jose is a minus-two (six against, four for). Nobody else in the league is better than a minus-four.

[Related: Why there is reason to believe in the Arizona Coyotes]

The Elias Pettersson show — The Canucks’ prized rookie has helped make them one of the early season surprises, and his performance is just remarkable.

 

John Gibson is dominating — But it is still not enough for the Ducks.

He has a .936 save percentage through his first 11 starts of the season, and has won just four games. A goalie playing at that level should have more than four wins. Way more.

Since the start of the 1987-88 season there have been 18 goalies that have faced at least 350 shots in his team’s first 14 games and had a save percentage higher than .935. Gibson’s four wins are the fewest out of that group, while only Sean Burke as a member of the 2001-02 Arizona Coyotes won fewer than six games.

Alex Ovechkin is not really slowing down — The Capitals are not off to a great start, but Alex Ovechkin most certianly is. Not only is he off to a great start, he is off to one of the best goal-scoring starts of his career. His 10 goals in his first 11 games ties for the second best start of his career. The only time he scored more goals through his first 11 game was the 2009-10 season when he scored … 11. He also scored 10 during the 2013-14 and 2017-18 seasons. The only one of those seasons where he did not end up leading the league in goals was the 2009-10 season. What is remarkable about his play the past two seasons is that he is currently in his age 33 season. Players are supposed to be slowing down at that age and he … sort of isn’t.

Max Domi is scoring goals … against goalies — He has already scored six goals this season for the Montreal Canadiens. Why is this stunning? All of those goals have come with a goalie in the opposing net (meaning no empty-net goals). During the entire 2017-18 season Domi scored just nine goals … with only five of them coming with an opposing goalie in the net (four of his goals a year ago were of the empty net variety).

Kings’ offensive offense — Everybody in the NHL is scoring more goals this season. Everybody except for the Los Angeles Kings. Through their first 12 games they averaging just two goals per game, by far the lowest number in the league. This has been a dull offensive team for years now, even when it was winning, but when it comes to this season and the modern NHL the rest of the league seems to have lapped them a number of times.

Colorado’s top line — The trio of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Gabriel Landeskog is making a strong case for being the best line in the league. When they are together during 5-on-5 play, they are outscoring teams by a 14-7 margin (the Avalanche are 14-14 without any of them on the ice), while Rantanen and MacKinnon are in the top-two in scoring, having already topped the 20-point mark. Together, they have combined for 27 goals. Or … three more than the Los Angeles Kings have scored as a team.

[Related: Nathan MacKinnon on breakout season — PHT Q & A]

Vegas is getting PDO’d — I think most people expected some sort of a regression from the Vegas Golden Knights in year two because pretty much everything went their way in their debut season. What’s weird about this regression is the Golden Knights are actually doing a lot of things really, really well. They are one of the best teams in the league in terms of their 5-on-5 shot differential and  they are one of the best teams in the league when it comes to generating and preventing scoring chances. The problem is none of their chances are going in and their goalie can not stop anything. Injuries to Paul Stastny and Max Pacioretty, their two big offseason acquisitions are not helping, nor is the suspension to Nate Schmidt, one of their top defenders. But as of Saturday the Golden Knights have the worst 5-on-5 shooting percentage in the league (5.04 percent) and the worst 5-on-5 save percentage (only .886). Those percentages are crushing them. 

The Islanders’ goaltending is keeping them in it — The post-John Tavares era in New York is off to a far better than expected start as the enter the weekend tied for first place in the Metropolitan Division after a home-and-home sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins. The driving force behind that early success is the play of their goaltenders, Thomas Greiss and Robin Lehner. Together they have a .931 save percentage that is the third best team save percentage in the league (behind only the Arizona Coyotes and Anaheim Ducks). It is surprising because their save percentages a year ago were .892 (Greiss) and .908 (Lehner). Goalies, man. They can change a team, and you never really know when one is going to go on a roll.

(Data via Hockey-ReferenceNatural Stat Trick and NHL.com)

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.

Vegas signs suspended Nate Schmidt to $35.7 million deal

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LAS VEGAS — Suspended defenseman Nate Schmidt and the Vegas Golden Knights agreed to a $35.7 million, six-year contract extension Wednesday that runs through the 2024-25 season.

The team announced the move late Wednesday night after losing 3-2 to the Vancouver Canucks in a shootout. Schmidt’s new deal is worth $5.95 million per year.

The 27-year-old Schmidt was banned 20 games last month for violating the NHL’s performance-enhancing drug policy. He can return to the Golden Knights on Nov. 18.

”He is the kind of defenseman that every team in this league is looking for now,” Vegas general manager George McPhee said. ”He is unique, excellent defensively and has become a shutdown defenseman for us playing against the other clubs’ top players. But he also brings a lot of pace to the game and he brings offense.”

Schmidt led the Western Conference champions in ice time last season at 22:14 per game. He had five goals, 31 assists and 19 penalty minutes in 76 games. He added three goals and four assists with four penalty minutes in 20 playoff games for the expansion Golden Knights, who lost to the Washington Capitals in the Stanley Cup Final.

In five NHL seasons, Schmidt has 13 goals, 66 assists and 64 penalty minutes in 276 career games. The native of Minnesota was selected by Vegas from Washington during the 2017 expansion draft.

”He means a lot,” coach Gerard Gallant said. ”He’s a top player for us. He’s done a great job playing defense for us last year. Obviously he got a real nice contract that he deserves, and we miss him a lot. So he’s a big player for our group and we’re happy to have him for long term.”

Schmidt insisted he didn’t intentionally take a banned substance and couldn’t have gotten any performance benefit from the ”trace amount” that got into his system.

He and the Golden Knights released statements disagreeing with the penalty, though neither specified the substance. Schmidt said one of the experts testifying on his behalf at the appeal hearing likened the amount to a pinch of salt in an Olympic-sized swimming pool.

The appeal, which was heard by a neutral arbitrator, was denied.

What’s behind Golden Knights’ slow start?

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The Vegas Golden Knights caught the NHL by storm last season. Not only did they manage to dominate during the regular season, they also made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final. But things are off to a rocky start this year, which has led many to suggest that they’ve finally come back down to earth. It’s still a little too early to say that the Golden Knights are in trouble, but what’s going on in Vegas?

The Golden Knights are off to a 1-4-0 start. They’ve dropped games to the Flyers, Sabres, Capitals and Penguins, while their only win came in overtime against Minnesota. In five games, they’ve managed to score just 10 goals. They’ve also allowed 19 goals during that time (only two teams have given up more goals this season).

Not having Nate Schmidt has certainly hurt them. The 27-year-old was suspended for the first 20 games of the season for violating the NHL’s anti-drug policy. Last season, Schmidt racked up 36 points while posting a plus-19 rating. He also averaged 22:14 of ice time per game during the regular season and 24:25 in the playoffs. That’s not to say that having Schmidt would in the lineup would erase all their problems, but it couldn’t hurt.

If you take a look at the Golden Knights’ advanced stats through five games, they’re actually pretty good. According to Natural Stat Trick, they currently rank second in CF% (60.83), sixth in FF% (56.81), seventh in SF% (56.67), sixth in SCF% (58.46) and fourth in HDCF% (60.98). Those numbers look great, but there’s more to the story.

The average shooting percentage in the NHL is 10.2 percent so far this season. The Golden Knights’ shooting percentage is currently at 5.2 percent. The average shooting percentage in 2017-18 was 9.2 percent. As you’d imagine, Vegas’ percentage in that category last year was at 10.1 percent. You’d have to imagine that they’ll be able to get that number up at some point in 2018-19.

Getting saves has also been an issue for this team. The average save percentage in the league so far is .899. The duo have Marc-Andre Fleury and Malcolm Subban have combined for a league-worst .846 save percentage. All in all, their PDO comes out 0.917 (shooting percentage + save percentage). That PDO number usually evens out at 100, which means the Golden Knights should be able to score more frequently and prevent the opposition from scoring more. To give you an idea of how bad 0.917 is in this category, the worst PDO in the league last year was the Buffalo Sabres, and they posted a 0.977 PDO.

Also, if you take a look at the schedule, they’ve had to play some pretty tough games. Sure, they dropped their home opener to the Philadelphia Flyers (they had a lead in that game), but they’re also in the midst of a five-game road trip that will conclude in Philly on Saturday night. Starting next week, they’ll play their next five games at T-Mobile Arena against Buffalo, Anaheim, Vancouver, Tampa Bay and Ottawa. A five-game homestand should bring about a few more victories.

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.

Wednesday Night Hockey: Golden Knights, Capitals meet in Stanley Cup rematch

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 regular season continues as the Washington Capitals host the Vegas Golden Knights at 8 p.m. ET on Wednesday Night Hockey. You can watch the game online by clicking here

We don’t have to wait very long to get a Stanley Cup rematch. Last year, the Capitals were able to put an end to the Golden Knights’ Cinderella-like run by eliminating them in just five games. Vegas managed to rattle off a big win in Game 1, but they eventually lost four straight. And that was it. The run was over. Winning tonight would probably be sweet, but it won’t make up for the fact that they didn’t get the job done last spring. So, yeah, this might be a “revenge” game for Vegas in a sense, but not really.

“I’m still not over it,” goalie Marc-Andre Fleury said, per NHL.com. “When you watch tapes of them celebrating and stuff, it still [stinks]. But it’s a new season, right? You start from scratch. Different year.”

Sure, the Golden Knights lost James Neal and David Perron in free agency, but in an attempt to be even better this season, they made an effort to improve their roster over the summer. They added Paul Stastny via free agency and they made a huge splash when they acquired Max Pacioretty from the Montreal Canadiens last month.

So far, all the changes have led to a 1-2 record through three games. It’s early. Pacioretty has scored once, while Stastny has been held pointless. You’d have to imagine that it’s only a matter of time before both newcomers start producing. We’ll see what kind of difference they’ll make on Wednesday.

As for the Capitals, this rematch is special for them too, apparently.

“I don’t know how to describe it, but it’s a little bit more special than playing some other team that you don’t have history with,” said Caps center Lars Eller, per NHL.com. “You do feel you have some kind of history with that team, especially because most of both teams are intact and looking very much the same. And it’s not that long ago.”

The Capitals, who are 1-0-1 this season, will be without forward Tom Wilson for this one. He’s serving the third game of a 20-game suspension. Wilson will be able to sit down with commissioner Gary Bettman for an appeal next week, but that won’t make him eligible to play in the rematch. Golden Knights defenseman Nate Schmidt will also miss the game because of a suspension. He was suspended for violating the NHL’s performance-enhancing substances policy.

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.