Lightning reveal 2021 Stanley Cup rings

Lightning Stanley Cup Ring
Lightning
0 Comments

The Tampa Bay Lightning have raised the banner on their second straight Stanley Cup, and now they have revealed their rings to celebrate their 2021 championship.

The rings are crafted in 14-karat white gold, feature 338 diamonds, 52 genuine sapphires, and 31.67 carats of gemstones.

Along with the gems and diamonds, the rings reference several of the Lightning accomplishments during their past two Stanley Cup runs. Included among those accomplishments are the Lightning’s playoff record the past two years (32-13), including no consecutive losses, a reference to Andrei Vasilevskiy‘s five shutouts in this most recent Stanley Cup run, and coach Jon Cooper’s mantra before Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Montreal Canadiens.

Lightning

The addition of “#1 BS” calling back to Nikita Kucherov‘s wonderful post-Cup press conference is a very nice touch as well.

PHT Morning Skate: Bergevin on Weber’s future; Smith on IR

Weber
Mike Carlson/Getty Images
0 Comments

Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from the NHL and around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.

• Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin on Shea Weber‘s chances of ever playing again: “I think it’s a long shot.” [Montreal Gazette]

• Should the Canadiens worry about bad start, Bergevin’s future as GM? [PHT]

• Oilers goaltender Mike Smith has been placed on injured reserve with a lower-body injury. He will miss at least a week. [Edmonton Journal]

• Despite missing Tuesday’s game, Canucks head coach Travis Green does not expect Quinn Hughes to be out that long. [TSN]

• Taking a look at Mitch Marner‘s early-season slump. [Sportsnet]

• How Team USA’s gold from PyeongChang is inspiring the next generation of women’s hockey athletes. [NBC Olympics]

• Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh is excited to play in his fifth outdoor game when Tampa visits the Predators at Nissan Stadium in February. [NHL.com]

• The line of Timo Meier, Logan Couture, and Jonathan Dahlen is clicking early for the Sharks. [NBC Sports Bay Area]

Moritz Seider looks pretty comfortable back there on the Red Wings’ blue line. [The Hockey News]

————

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.

NHL Rink Wrap: Struggling Canadiens face returning Kotkaniemi

NHL Rink Wrap: Struggling Canadiens face returning Kotkaniemi
Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images
0 Comments

Top player from Wednesday in the NHL

Cam Atkinson, Flyers

Could Cam Atkinson come alive after years playing in the possibly Tortz-confined city of Columbus?

Pick your favorite explanation, but so far, he’s adding a nice bit of energy to the Flyers’ lineup. Previously, he generated a point per game in his first two Flyers appearances (one goal, one assist). Beyond those two points, Atkinson made his presence felt with a combined nine shots on goal.

Atkinson scored two goals in the Flyers’ win over the Bruins on Wednesday. He also fired four SOG, and earned a +2, so he’s strong in those peripheral stats (13 SOG, +7 in three GP). Scroll for more on his new linemates.

Flyers – Bruins, Blues – Golden Knights highlights

Might as well watch full highlights from Wednesday’s two NHL games. First, watch video from the Flyers beating the Bruins. Considering all of the grief Martin Jones receives, credit to him for 37 saves, making a difference in this win.

Vladimir Tarasenko scored his first of the season and Brandon Saad netted his first as Blue during St. Louis’ 3-1 win over the Golden Knights. Jordan Binnington was on top of his game stopping 42 of 43 shots he faced to help the team improve to 3-0 on the season.

One takeaway Wednesday

Brassard reborn?

Gang, “The FAB Line” could become a thing for the 2021-22 Flyers. At worst, it’s been a feel-good line for about a week of very productive hockey.

To clarify, “The FAB Line” is:

Joel Farabee, Cam Atkinson, and Derick Brassard. It’s unclear if the Flyers coined the line nickname themselves, or just amplified it on Twitter. Either way, three players in quite different circumstances are making great music together.

Most surprisingly, Derick Brassard may indeed be finding new life reunited with Alain Vigneault. After failing to score in his first game with the Flyers, Brassard factored into Philly’s shellacking of Seattle with three points (1G, 2A).

As far as importance to the Flyers go, the other forwards are most likely to maintain impact-player statuses. Farabee is a rising talent whose ceiling hasn’t yet been revealed. Atkinson is a proven scorer who carries the expectations of replacing Jakub Voracek.

Brassard? He’s mainly trying to solidify his place in the NHL. With two assists giving Brassard five points in his past two games, he’s certainly strengthening his case.

Thursday’s big story

Kotkaniemi returns to Montreal against a struggling Canadiens team

Combined with the Canadiens’ 0-4-0 start, Jesperi Kotkaniemi‘s return could be seen a couple ways. For a tumbling team, a bad performance against Kotkaniemi and the Hurricanes could rub salt in the Canadiens’ wounds. On the other hand, that group could get a boost from beating a former teammate (and the team that trolled them during the offer sheet process).

Don’t expect Kotkaniemi to just-another-game it, though. He admitted it’s something he cares about.

“For sure, that was one game on my schedule that I looked up,” Kotkaniemi said Tuesday, via NHL.com’s Tom Gulitti. “It will be fun there to see old teammates, some fans there. I think it will be a blast.”

In the grand scheme of things, Thursday’s Hurricanes – Canadiens game only plays a small role in Kotkaniemi’s future, and how Montreal’s part in the story is perceived. Yet, for a Habs team already pleading with people not to panic … well, a blowout with Kotkaniemi notching a hat trick wouldn’t be the best.

Wednesday’s NHL scores

Flyers 6, Bruins 3
Blues 3, Golden Knights 1

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.

Should Canadiens worry about bad start, Bergevin’s future as GM?

Should Canadiens worry about bad start, Bergevin's future as GM?
Vitor Munhoz/NHLI via Getty Images
0 Comments

With his team off to a discouraging 0-4-0 start (three goals for, 15 against), Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin addressed the media on Wednesday.

You can watch Bergevin’s press conference in the video above. Overall, the two most pertinent takeaways were:

  1. Bergevin said he doesn’t plan on making moves just to make moves after the Canadiens’ rough start.
  2. “In a perfect world” Bergevin would sign a new contract with the Canadiens. (He’s currently on an expiring deal as Habs GM.)

Let’s examine the state of the 0-4-0 Canadiens in terms of this season, and also the future. We’ll also ponder if Bergevin should steer the Canadiens’ ship — and how difficult it would be for a replacement to remove Bergevin’s imprint, even if Montreal did make a change.

How worried should the Canadiens be about their 2021-22 season?

During Bergevin’s run, the Canadiens are no strangers to regular season struggles. When Claude Julien was coach, the team often hogged the puck in promising ways. The lack of saves and goals that resulted? Less promising. But you could still see a lane where Montreal might jump to a more consistently competitive level.

So, there’d be comfort if the Canadiens were 0-4-0 mainly because of bad luck. And, when results are this extreme, there has been some bad luck.

[PHT’s Atlantic Division predictions]

In the big picture, their 5-on-5 numbers (via Natural Stat Trick) mostly match their 0-4-0 record.

  • They rank sixth-worst in the NHL with 40.74-percent of high-danger chances in their favor (22 for, 32 against).
  • Their 45.21-percent expected goals rate ranks 10th-worst.
  • Montreal also ranks seventh-worst with 44.44-percent of scoring chances.
  • In volume stats like shots, Corsi, Fenwick, they generally sit in the bottom half of the NHL.

Not great, but four games is a molehill compared to the mountain of an 82-game season. Andrew Berkshire’s tweet captures the Canadiens’ dilemma: worry, or don’t worry?

The extreme nature of this bad Habs start is surprising. But plenty questioned whether their 2020 Stanley Cup Final run was “for real.” All of PHT’s staff predictions placed the Canadiens outside of the playoffs.

So, yes, it’s too early to panic. It’s not too early to wonder if the Canadiens will miss the playoffs, though.

Should Canadiens keep Bergevin as GM? If not, would a replacement have wiggle room?

Despite those doubts, Bergevin is right: the Canadiens shouldn’t make a panic trade.

Unfortunately, that’s because the Canadiens don’t look like they’re a tweak or two from solving their problems. Ultimately, they’re the sum of the mistakes and successes of their GM. Which brings us to a burning question: should Bergevin remain as Canadiens GM?

[The Canadiens are wondering if they should worry. Should these teams be excited?]

Again, it circles back to a tougher thought. Would a new GM really have much room to operate if the Canadiens replaced Bergevin? Plenty would feel stuck with what’s already committed in long-term deals.

  • Nick Suzuki, 22, recently signed a big (mostly understandable) extension. From 2022-23 to 2029-30, he’ll carry a $7.875M cap hit.
  • Carey Price, 34, carries a $10.5M cap hit through 2025-26.
  • Yes, it’s true that Shea Weber may be done at age 36, possibly permanently moving his $7.857M cap hit to LTIR. The deal technically runs through 2025-26, and may or may not involve some cap recapture. It’s at least something to possibly deal with.
  • Brendan Gallagher is easily worth more than $6.5M now. At 29, with injuries piling up and a style that hinges on taking punishment, will that deal age well through 2026-27?
  • Josh Anderson, 27, costs $5.5M though 2026-27.
  • Jeff Petry mirrors Gallagher: worth far more than his $6.25M cap hit. Petry’s already 33, and that runs through 2024-25.
  • Beyond core-type players, Bergevin loves to indulge in meaty deals for depth players. David Savard, Mike Hoffman, Joel Edmundson, Joel Armia, Christian Dvorak, and Tyler Toffoli are all locked up for at least three years apiece. That’s a mix of older and younger players. Some are bargains; others look dicey. They all add to a picture that Bergevin’s decisions will reverberate even if he’s off to pump iron somewhere else.
  • Jonathan Drouin (two years left at $5.5M) and Jake Allen ($2.875M) could clear up some space after 2022-23, but only so much.

[Catch up on what happened in the NHL on Tuesday]

As far as future decisions go, one looms large.

After the 2022-23 season, Cole Caufield’s rookie contract expires. After the Jesperi Kotkaniemi offer sheet and Suzuki extension, it wouldn’t be surprising if Bergevin wanted to be proactive with the small sniper — assuming the Canadiens don’t make a GM change.

Would a different GM find a better balance? Would that same GM be more likely to move out a problem contract or two? Bergevin’s rarely been shy about changing directions in dramatic ways, but maybe he simply is too close to decisions like signing Armia? Or he’d fight a rebuild for too long?

Those are the questions that linger regarding Bergevin’s status as Canadiens GM. Because, in some ways, they’re stuck with what he’s done — the good, the bad, the ugly, and the downright confusing.

Uncomfortably, the Canadiens might have already missed the best window to move on from Bergevin as their mixed-bag of a GM.

Hurricanes’ Jesperi Kotkaniemi primed for Montreal return

Jesperi Kotkaniemi
Getty Images
0 Comments

MONTREAL — After signing a surprising offer sheet in restricted free agency with the Carolina Hurricanes in late August, Jesperi Kotkaniemi waited seven days to see if the Montreal Canadiens would match the one-year, $6.1 million deal.

“That week went really fast,” Kotkaniemi recalled Tuesday. “Didn’t think about that too much, just try to live my normal life during that. Just enjoy the moment.”

The Canadiens, of course, decided to walk away from the contract with Kotkaniemi despite selecting him third overall in the 2018 NHL draft. The 21-year-old Kotkaniemi and his Hurricanes will be in Montreal on Thursday night for a game that was circled the moment his move was made official.

“That was one game on my schedule that I looked out for,” he said. “It’ll be fun to see old teammates, some fans there. It will be a blast.”

There’s no debate that Kotkaniemi failed to live up to expectations with the Canadiens. He was demoted to the minors in the 2019-20 season and scored just five goals and 20 points during the pandemic-truncated 2020-21 season.

Kotkaniemi did score five times and added three assists in 19 playoff games when the Canadiens made an improbable run to the Stanley Cup Final. But he was a healthy scratch to open the first round, and again in Games 4 and 5 of the championship series before Montreal bowed out to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

“I have really good memories,” Kotkaniemi said Tuesday when asked if there were any hard feelings in Montreal. “Grateful that they drafted me and gave me a chance. That was a great spot to play for three years. Everyone knows they’ve got unbelievable fans, great teammates — can’t wish for a better way to start my NHL career.”

He was, however, critical on his way out the door about how his development was handled by a team desperate for help down the middle. Kotkaniemi was passed in the pecking order by center Nick Suzuki, who recently signed an eight-year, $63 million extension.

Kotkaniemi ended his career with the Canadiens with 22 goals and 62 points in 171 regular-season games.

The Hurricanes are trying to transform Kotkaniemi, who indicated he’s open to signing with Carolina long-term, into a winger on their top line with Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen.

“Winger spot is still a little bit new to me,” said Kotkaniemi, who’s without a point through two games. “They’re helping me with that every day. Getting a lot of new tips and advice. I’m just part of this team … I belong here.”

Not that long ago, he no doubt felt the same about Montreal.