Nikita Gusev

Devils fire coach John Hynes; Alain Nasreddine named interim coach

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After getting completely embarrassed by the Buffalo Sabres on Monday night, and less than three hours before they take the ice for a game against the Vegas Golden Knights, the New Jersey Devils have made a coaching change.

The team announced on Tuesday evening that coach John Hynes has been fired and will be replaced by Alain Nasreddine on an interim basis.

Peter Horachek, who had been working as a pro scout in the Devils’ organization, will also be joining the staff as an assistant coach.

Expectations were extremely high for the Devils this season following a huge offseason that saw them get the No. 1 overall pick (for the second time in three years) that gave them Jack Hughes, as well as blockbuster trades to acquire P.K. Subban and Nikita Gusev.

Along with that they also signed Wayne Simmonds in free agency and were getting a healthy Taylor Hall back after he missed almost all of the 2018-19 season.

Despite all of that the Devils have been off to a miserable start that has them at 9-13-4 and near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings. They lost their past two games against the Sabres and New York Rangers by a combined score of 11-1.

That was apparently enough.

“John played an integral role in the development of this team in establishing a foundation for our future and we are grateful for his commitment, passion and unmatched work ethic,” general manager Ray Shero said in a statement released by the team.

“John is a respected leader, developer of talent and friend which makes this decision difficult. We are a team that values and takes pride in accountability to the results we produce. We are collectively disappointed in our performance on the ice and believe changes were needed, starting with our head coach. I have been consistent in my desire to build something here in New Jersey that earns the respect of teams throughout the league and pride in our fans. That is not where we were heading and for me to tolerate anything less was not acceptable.”

Hynes was the Devils’ head coach since the start of the 2015-16 season. The team compiled a 150-159-45 record during his time, making the playoffs one time. They lost in five games to the Tampa Bay Lightning during the 2017-18 season.

Nasreddine spent parts of five seasons in the NHL as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Montreal Canadiens, Chicago Blackhawks and New York Islanders. He has been a long-time assistant of Hynes at both the AHL (Wilkes-Barre/Scranton) and NHL levels (New Jersey).

“Nas has a long history as a respected leader both as a player and a coach in the respective roles he has served for his teams,” said Shero. “His experience as a captain and alternate captain on the ice, in addition to his responsibilities behind the bench, will serve him well as he leads this team through necessary changes to alter our current trajectory.”

The craziest fact out of all of this is this will be the eighth different coach Hall has had in his 10-year NHL career.

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.

The Buzzer: Coleman’s special birthday carries Devils

Blake Coleman of New Jersey Devils shoots on Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price
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Three Stars

1) Blake Coleman, New Jersey Devils

When your birthday is in late November, it usually falls on American Thanksgiving once in a while. Coleman celebrated with his first career four-point game in the Devils’ 6-4 win against the Canadiens. He scored his eighth of the season when he opened the scoring at the Bell Centre at 7:19 of the first period. Nikita Gusev faked a shot then slid a pass through Shea Weber as he and Coleman executed a two-on-one opportunity. Coleman would go on to add two more assists and an empty netter to seal the 6-4 victory late in the third period.

2) Nikita Gusev, New Jersey Devils

The Russian winger collected three assists and recorded his first multi-point game of his NHL career. Gusev has 11 points in 21 games this season and has effectively made a smooth transition to North America after playing the previous four seasons in the KHL. The Devils have not gotten the goaltending needed to have a realistic shot at reaching the postseason, but Gusev’s ability to adapt to new surroundings has been a minor bright spot in a bleak season.

3) Travis Zajac, New Jersey Devils

Zajac wonderfully batted a bouncing puck past Carey Price as the alternate captain collected his third goal of the season to give New Jersey a 2-1 lead midway through the second period. Gusev picked up his second assist of the night when he sent a fluttering puck toward the net. Zajac darted toward the cage and got behind Jesperi Kotkaniemi before the beautiful finish.

Highlight of the night

Price has been under a lot of scrutiny due to his inconsistent play in recent games. At the end of the second period, Price reminded Kyle Palmieri and the audience why he is one of the best goaltenders of this generation with this stellar glove save.

Factoids

  • The Canadiens set a franchise record by allowing 20 goals in their last three home games [Sportsnet Stats].
  • The Devils improved to 7-0-2 in their last nine games against the Canadiens dating back to February 27, 2017 [NHL PR].
  • The Devils/Rockies/Scouts franchise earned a win on U.S. Thanksgiving for the third time in its history [NHL PR].
  • On this date 40 years ago, Billy Smith of the New York Islanders became the first goalie in NHL history to be credited with a goal [NHL PR].

Scores

Devils 6, Canadiens 4

The Buzzer: Tkachuk leads another Flames comeback; Faksa keeps Stars rolling

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Three Stars

1. Matthew Tkachuk, Calgary Flames. A little less than a week ago Tkachuk helped the Flames complete a pretty improbable comeback in Nashville by scoring the game-tying goal late in the third period and then winning it in overtime. He had a similar night on Tuesday, helping the Flames erase a two-goal deficit late in the third period against Arizona. He scored his eighth goal of the season to bring the Flames to within one, a goal that was followed by Mark Giordano‘s game-tying goal less than a minute later. That set the stage for Tkachuk to score another overtime winner. Opponents may hate him, but he is turning into a star.

2. Radek Faksa, Dallas Stars. Don’t look now, but the Stars are starting to put things together. After winning just one of their first nine games — and looking ugly in the process — the Stars have now won seven of their past eight games and are back to .500 on the season. They continued that surge on Tuesday with a 4-1 win over a banged up Colorado Avalanche team. Faksa was the offensive star of the night with a pair of goals.

3. Reilly Smith, Vegas Golden Knights. Smith provided all the offense for the Golden Knights in a 2-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets, scoring both goals to give him nine on the season. It helped the Golden Knights snap out of a mini funk that had seem them lose four of their previous six games.

Other notable performances from Tuesday

  • Victor Mete scored two goals for the Montreal Canadiens in their win over the Boston Bruins. He scored one goal in his career entering the night. Read more about it here.
  • Carter Hart needed a big performance and he gave the Philadelphia Flyers one on Tuesday, stopping 33 out of 34 shots in a 4-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes.
  • Patrick Marleau has scored three goals since re-joining the San Jose Sharks. All three of them have come against the Chicago Blackhawks. He scored another one on Tuesday in their dominant 4-2 win. Read all about it here.
  • Nico Hischier scored his second goal of the season and Nikita Gusev tallied a goal in the shootout to help the New Jersey Devils get a much-needed win against the Winnipeg Jets.

Highlights of the Night

The Islanders won their 10th game in a row on Tuesday and the highlight of the night had to be Cole Bardreau scoring his first career goal on a penalty shot. Read all about the Islanders’ win here.

This could qualify as a both a blooper and a highlight, but we are going to focus on the highlight here as the Blues continue their great play by finishing a 3-on-0 rush in overtime, made possible by two Canucks players colliding at the other end of the ice.

One of the best plays in hockey is the perfectly time breakaway out of the penalty box. Mats Zuccarello is the lucky recipient of it here in the Minnesota Wild’s 4-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks.

Blooper of the Night

Fortunately for John Tavares and the Toronto Maple Leafs they were able to beat the Los Angeles Kings, but this shot in his first game back was not what he wanted.

Factoids

  • San Jose Sharks forward Patrick Marleau became the sixth player in NHL history to skate in 800 consecutive games in their 4-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks. [NHL PR]
  • Bardreau is just the seventh player in NHL history to score their first career goal on a penalty shot. [NHL PR]
  • Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara skated in his 1,500th NHL game. [NHL PR]

Scores

New York Islanders 4, Ottawa Senators 1
Philadelphia Flyers 4, Carolina Hurricanes 1
Vegas Golden Knights 2, Columbus Blue Jackets 1
Montreal Canadiens 5, Boston Bruins 4
Toronto Maple Leafs 3, Los Angeles Kings 1
New Jersey Devils 2, Winnipeg Jets 1
Dallas Stars 4, Colorado Avalanche 1
Calgary Flames 4, Arizona Coyotes 3 (OT)
St. Louis Blues 2, Vancouver Canucks 1 (OT)
Minnesota Wild 4, Anaheim Ducks 2
San Jose Sharks 4, Chicago Blackhawks 2

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.

Roundtable: Hot starts, biggest disappointments

Choosing from the teams off to strong starts in October, which one won’t last?

SEAN: The Canucks may very well wind up in the playoffs come April, but it feels like a matter or time before they slowly slide back into the wild card race and out of contention for the Pacific Division crown. The Lotto Line of Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser and J.T. Miller has been unstoppable; Quinn Hughes is playing himself into the Calder Trophy conversation after one month; and the goaltending duo of Thatcher Demko and Jacob Markstrom has been solid with a combined .932 even strength save percentage. They’re banking important points this early in the season, but their 103 PDO will certainly slide back a touch.

Vancouver’s November schedule could pose some difficulty in keeping up this pace with games against the Avalanche (2), Penguins, Oilers, Blues, Predators (2), and Capitals. If they can reach December and find themselves still in one of the top three spots in the Pacific then that could go a long way toward proving doubters they’re for real.

JAMES: The Sabres [1.036] and Canucks [1.031] are marinating in that glorious, glorious PDO right now, and chances are, both will see their hot shooting and goaltending cool down. The question is: how much?

Considering the Canucks’ weak division, and quite a few promising underlying numbers for Vancouver, I think they might be able to squeak into a playoff spot. The Sabres, however, must run through what still figures to be a buzzsaw in the Atlantic — at least if the Lightning and Maple Leafs get their acts together.

So, Buffalo, in particular, falls under “Fool me once …” That said, I can’t totally blame someone who’s being lured in by the gravitational pull of that strong start.

ADAM: The skepticism around Buffalo is legitimate because of the way last year unfolded, but I still think they have a better shot to stick around this year because they are a little deeper and do not seem to be doing it with as much smoke and mirrors as they did early last season. What that means, I don’t know. That is still a brutally tough division and you have to imagine Tampa Bay and Toronto get their acts together. They may not finish high in the standings, but I don’t see a collapse here. The team that I think is still likely to fall off has to be the Oilers, and I hate saying that because Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are so amazing. I want to see them on a big stage. But they are literally carrying the offense again, and we have seen this movie before. They are great enough to do it in short bursts to help the team go on some hot streaks, but no two players are great enough to carry a team through an 82-game season unless one of those players is a goalie. There are still just too many flaws on this roster.

JOEY: I’m still skeptical about the Oilers. Yes, they have the high-end talent that most teams can only dream of, but I’m just not sold on the supporting cast. Is James Neal going to keep rolling? Are the other forwards going to do enough scoring to sustain Edmonton’s place in the standings? Can a duo of Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen keep Edmonton in games? I have so many questions for this team it’s not even funny. Look, the Oilers probably won’t finish first in the division, but if they sneak into the playoffs that fan base should be happy with that. I just have a hard time seeing it right now.

SCOTT: The Ducks are 8-6-0 and I am not sure if that qualifies as a ‘hot start’, but I expect them to drop quite a bit the standings. The Flames and Sharks are too talented to remain near the bottom of the division and if they move up, someone has to slide down. Another team to keep an eye on is the Blues. With Vladimir Tarasenko sidelined for an extended period of time, will they be able to generate enough offense to remain competitive in a ferocious Central Division.

Getty Images

Who is your biggest disappointment — player or team — so far?

SEAN: This could have been noted goon Aleksander Barkov, who has four penalty minutes already after not picking up his second minor last season until March 7… but my choice is the Lightning. Tampa is facing the adversity they noted after-the-fact last season hurt them in Round 1 against the Blue Jackets. A sluggish October that saw them win consecutive games only once, allow two or fewer goals only three times, and allow 3.5 goals (2.7 GPG last season) and three more shots on average per night has led them to a 6-4-2 start.

The challenge is clear for the Lightning: It’s Stanley Cup or bust. We’re going to see who the real Lightning are this season. They cruised for 82 games in 2018-19, and now the teams around them have improved. There wasn’t a lot to remember in October and how they respond will be an indicator of what to expect later in the season.

JAMES: The Sharks are a disaster by just about every measure to begin 2019-20. They’re sinking when it comes to most, if not all, possession stats. About the only thing that’s encouraging is that, unlike the bumbling Bolts, San Jose’s been mostly unlucky. While I fear that their goaltending will only rebound in marginal ways, I don’t expect their offense to remain so toothless.

ADAM: It has to be San Jose. Their commitment to the goalie situation just totally stuns me, but what is even more shocking is the fact the rest of the team seems to have forgotten how to play hockey this season. They are getting completely dominated at even-strength and this team is just far too talented to play like this. No team with Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns on the blue line, and with the talent they still have at forward (even after losing Joe Pavelski and Joonas Donskoi over the summer) should be playing this poorly. It is stunning.

JOEY: I realized that the Sharks were getting old in a hurry, but I didn’t expect them to have four wins in their first 13 games. The loss of Joe Pavelski has hit both sides pretty hard. Do you think the player and team would like a do-over there? Logan Couture is a fine captain, but he’s already had to call his teammates out a couple of times. Adding Patrick Marleau is a nice touch, but it just isn’t adding up to victories right now. The Sharks should be worried because it looks like their championship window has been slammed shut.

SCOTT: In Taylor Hall’s final season before reaching unrestricted free agency, GM Ray Shero made a couple of maneuvers this summer to help bolster his roster. With the additions of P.K. Subban, Nikita Gusev, Wayne Simmonds and Jack Hughes, the Devils hoped to take advantage of a wide-open Metropolitan Division. However, the Devils have failed to protect leads, especially at home and find themselves competing for the top draft pick once again. Coach John Hynes could be the first coach to join the unemployment line if the Devils can’t figure it out on the ice.

QUICK AWARD PICKS AFTER ONE MONTH

HART
SEAN: David Pastrnak
JAMES: David Pastrnak
ADAM: Leon Draisaitl
JOEY: Sidney Crosby
SCOTT: Leon Draisaitl

VEZINA
SEAN: Tuukka Rask
JAMES: Tuukka Rask
ADAM: Tuukka Rask
JOEY: Tuukka Rask
SCOTT: Tuukka Rask

CALDER
SEAN: Quinn Hughes
JAMES: Quinn Hughes
ADAM: Quinn Hughes
JOEY: Cale Makar
SCOTT: Quinn Hughes

NORRIS
SEAN: Roman Josi
JAMES: John Carlson
ADAM: John Carlson
JOEY: John Carlson
SCOTT: John Carlson

————

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.

PHT Face-Off: Pastrnak feeling dangerous; Will Fleury ever get a break?

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Every Monday during the regular season, the PHT Face-Off breaks down five of the top trends/storylines in the NHL. Last week, we looked at John Carlson’s incredible offensive start and the number of tight games across the league to start the year. This week, we’ll break down David Pastrnak‘s incredible run, Marc-Andre Fleury‘s workload, and much, much more.

• David Pastrnak is en fuego:

The Dallas Stars and Arizona Coyotes managed to keep Pastrnak off the scoresheet in the first two games of the 2019-20 regular season. What has the Bruins forward done since then? Well, let’s a look.

He’s picked up at least one point in nine consecutive games and he’s had a multi-point effort in seven of those outings. After posting five assists against the Rangers on Sunday, Pastrnak now leads the NHL in scoring, with 23 points. Oh by the way, he’s also first in goals scored, with 11.

In fact, the Bruins’ top line, which is made up of Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, has picked up 23 goals and 54 points combined in 11 games.

“He does it all right now, and he’s so confident,” Marchand said of Pastrnak, per the Boston Globe. “You never know what he’s going to do with the puck. Even we don’t know.

“He feels like he can do anything. When he feels like that, he’s dangerous. He’s fun to watch . . . He has so many different ways he can beat you.”

• Devils need goals:

Speaking of Pastrnak, he’s scored half as many goals as the entire New Jersey Devils roster this season. Fine, he’s played two more games than the Devils, but that’s still pretty impressive if you’re a Bruins fan and not so much if you’re cheering for the Devils.

New Jersey has had 13 different goal scorers this year, but here’s the issue: If you combine the goals by Taylor Hall (one), Kyle Palmieri (three), Jack Hughes (two), Nico Hischier (zero), P.K. Subban (one), and Nikita Gusev (three) you still only get to 10 (one less than Pastrnak).

The Devils were supposed to be one of the bounce-back teams in the NHL this year and that simply hasn’t been the case. It’s no coincidence that they’ve picked up just six points in nine games. They’re currently in the basement of the NHL standings.

If you look at the way their scoring is distributed, you may be a little surprised. The Devils scored four goals in a shootout loss to Winnipeg, three goals in a shootout loss to Edmonton, four goals in a loss to Florida, five goals in a win over the Rangers, and three goals in a loss to Arizona. Those are pretty good offensive outputs. So what’s the issue? You can only imagine what the rest of their games look like.

Heading into this week’s action, they had already been shut out twice in nine games and they won a 1-0 decision over the Vancouver Canucks last weekend.

Offense seems to be up across the board except in New Jersey.

As you’d imagine, the Devils fell into the “dull/bad” parts of Sean Tierney’s latest charts:

Tyson Barrie struggling with Maple Leafs:

The Toronto Maple Leafs sacrificed Nazem Kadri to get themselves some added depth on defense. At the start of the season, it looked like Tyson Barrie would be a terrific fit with his new team. He picked up two assists in his first game and two more helpers in his third game. Good, right? Well, since then he hasn’t picked up a single point.

Barrie’s possession numbers are actually pretty good, as he has a CF% 54.26 percent and a FF% of 51.39 percent, but when he’s on the ice, the Leafs are giving up 60 percent of the high-danger chances. That’s less than ideal (all stats via Natural Stat Trick)

This is a big year for the 28-year-old defender. Not only is it the first time he plays for a team other than the one that drafted him, the Colorado Avalanche, he’s also in the middle of a contract season. Quality right-handed defensemen don’t usually hit the open market, so Barrie will get paid either way, but having a big statistical year under his belt could bump his salary up by a few more million.

• Is there blood in the water in San Jose?

If it had to be done all over again, do you think Joe Pavelski and the San Jose Sharks would work harder to get a deal done before free agency on July 1st? Well, Pavelski is in Dallas and he has three points in 12 games and the Sharks look like a hot mess.

They’ve accumulated just nine points in 12 games and this East-Coast road trip hasn’t been kind to them, as they’re 1-2-1 in four games. They still have to face the Bruins in Boston before they return home for a six-game home stand. Are the Sharks done? No way. It’s still too early to say that, but are they in trouble? Oh, yeah. If this home stand doesn’t go much better than the road trip, they’ll be in a lot of trouble.

“We’re 12 games in and there’s a handful of key guys for us that haven’t played well yet,” San Jose coach Peter DeBoer said after last night’s loss to Ottawa, per NHL.com. “So that’s on me to get them back to the level they need to be at.

“We’re playing from behind in a lot of these games, and instead of sticking with it and trusting the group and the system, everyone wants to step out and fix it themselves, but it doesn’t work that way. So eventually you have to learn that lesson.”

Learning the lesson and being good enough to apply it on the ice are two different things.

Is the Sharks’ championship window officially closed?

• Will Marc-Andre Fleury ever get another break?

Marc-Andre Fleury can’t start every game for the Vegas Golden Knights, but they might need him to do so given their clear lack of trust in their backup goalies. Last Monday, Fleury was given his first night off of the season when the Golden Knights took on the Philadelphia Flyers. Oscar Dansk ended up allowing six goals on 37 shots in the loss.

Since then, Dansk has been sent to the minors and Fleury has had to suit up in every game. A good chunk of Fleury’s breaks may come in games where he struggles. For example, he was pulled midway through Friday’s game against Colorado after he allowed four goals on 26 shots. After getting half that game off, he was right back between the pipes on Sunday night against the Anaheim Ducks. The good news, is that he really wasn’t busy on Sunday, as he only faced 15 shots from the Ducks. Those are the type of nights he’ll need every once in a while if he’s going to play at a high level all season.

As of right now, no goalie has more wins that Fleury this season and there’s a chance that no one will because he’s likely going to play a lot of games.

What’s coming up this week?
• The Battle of Pennsylvania goes on Tuesday when the Flyers visit the Penguins, Tue. Oct. 29, 7 p.m. ET.

• The best in the Atlantic (Buffalo Sabres) take on the best in the Metro (Washington Capitals), Fri. Nov. 1, 7 p.m. ET.

• McDavid vs. Crosby, Sat. Nov. 2, 1 p.m. ET

NHL on NBCSN
• Lightning vs. Rangers, Tue. Oct. 29, 7:30 p.m. ET

Wednesday Night Hockey on NBCSN
• Wild vs. Blues, Wed. Oct. 30, 8 p.m. ET

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.