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 email@example.com.
• William Douglas profiles the hockey journey of Joonas Oden in the latest edition of Douglas’ “Color of Hockey” series. Could Oden’s journey include playing with the Seattle expansion franchise? (NHL.com)
• Connor McDavid recently turned 23, so Frank Seravalli put him in elite company. (TSN)
• NJ.com’s Steve Politi argues that Devils co-owner Josh Harris needs to “look in the mirror” when pondering the team’s problems. (NJ.com)
• Blackhawks fans should relax about the team’s negotiations with Robin Lehner. My take: he’s been fantastic, again … but what kind of package would a contender send to Chicago to land such a talented goalie? If Chicago isn’t asking that type of question, even if they prefer an extension, then I would be worried. (The Rink)
• On the subject of pending free agent goalies, Jimmy Howard‘s really struggling. With Jonathan Bernier injured, the Red Wings might lean on him even more. Doesn’t seem like an ideal situation, folks. Maybe they should put him in situations to succeed so (wait for it) they can trade him to a contender? Just saying, part II. (Detroit Free-Press)
• More goalie talk: Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin continue to dominate for the Stars. Can they keep it up? My feeling parallels that of the Islanders: if not, they should at least be commended for doing it for 1.5 seasons. Pretty tough to maintain such dominance in an unforgiving NHL. (Dallas Morning News)
• Brodie Brazil dares to wonder if the Sharks might be turning it around. (Goaltending ranks among his three reasons.) I dare to wonder if it’s already too late. (NBC Sports California)
• Andrew Berkshire breaks down what broke down for the Canadiens in 2019-20. (Sportsnet)
• The Blues Jackets keep defying those who assume they’re down for the count. (Jackets Cannon)
• Capitals fans vote on the team’s best jersey design. Allow an opinion: the general rule is: less bird, the better. (Nova Caps)
• More jersey design banter: Hockey By Design ranks the Maple Leafs sweaters from worst to first. (Hockey By Design)
The Stars defenseman has been collecting assists left and right during a four-game point streak. Lindell picked up another two helpers Wednesday, extending his total to seven during the stretch and 16 on the season.
John Klingberg has not played since the 2020 Winter Classic and Lindell has stepped up to provide offense from the backend in his absence.
In this day and age, every NHL team needs mobile defensemen that can push the pace. Lindell has provided that and more during the five-game winning streak.
Johns close to returning
Stephen Johns has reported to the AHL for a three-game conditioning stint. The 27-year-old D-man has been sidelined since 2018 with post-traumatic headaches.
“You’re talking about a young man who is 6-foot-4, he can skate, he can shoot a puck, he’s a physical presence,” Stars GM Jim Nill told the team’s website. “He’s what every team is looking for. He’s a good person. He brings a lot to the table. When we signed him, he was coming off a very good year for us and we thought he was going to be a big part of our top four. … Now, we have an opportunity to bring him back.”
If Johns does return to the NHL, the Stars will get an extra boost on the backend before evaluating their strategy for the Trade Deadline.
Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.
NHL on NBCSN: Stars’ goaltending playing pivotal role in point streak
On the morning of Oct. 19, ahead of their game in Philadelphia, the picture of the Stars’ season was an ugly one. Through nine games they had one win and their goaltending wasn’t doing them any favors.
Heading into that Saturday night date with the Flyers, Anton Khudobin and Ben Bishop had combined for an .899 even strength save percentage. Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn had a three goals total between them. A slow start was putting pressure on everyone.
One month and seven days after that 4-1 win over the Flyers, the Stars have only lost twice since and have vaulted up the Western Conference standings with 32 points in 25 games. They enter tonight’s game against the Blackhawks with a 12-game points streak, matching the franchise record. Monday’s 4-2 win over the Golden Knights featured multi-point nights from Seguin, John Klingberg and Alex Radulov, as well as another strong performance from their starting goaltender.
“You have two goalies who are really good, and they give you a chance to win every time,” said defenseman John Klingberg.
Powering that reversal in course? Great special teams (20.8% power play, 87.9% penalty kill) for one, but it’s really been the goaltending, which head coach Jim Montgomery recently labeled as “the backbone of this team.” And it hasn’t been a one-man show. Montgomery has given 11 starts to Bishop and five to Khudobin, and the split has paid off. They’ve combined for a .944 ESSV% in the Stars’ last 16 games with neither goalie getting more than three consecutive starts.
The strong performance of their goaltending is a continuation from last season when the pair combined for a .934 ESSV%, which put them right behind the Islanders, who’s two goalies, Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss, won the Jennings Trophy.
“We are very fortunate to have [Bishop] as our starter and have [Khudobin] as 1B or 1A, or whatever you want to call it,” Montgomery said following Sunday’s win over the Blackhawks. “It’s two years now that we are very fortunate with the goalies we have that backbone this team.”
Tonight’s studio coverage will be hosted by Kathryn Tappen alongside analysts Keith Jones and Patrick Sharp. John Forslund and AJ Mleczko will call the action from United Center in Chicago, Ill.
NBCSN presents the national presentation of HeadStrong, an NBC Sports Regional Networks’ documentary about mental health and sports, Wednesday, November 27 at 10:30 p.m. ET following Wednesday Night Hockey.
The feature documentary tells the story of four elite athletes who have faced mental health challenges: Justise Winslow, forward/guard for the Miami Heat; Nathan Braaten, former Oregon State University soccer player and founder of Dam Worth It; Hayden Hurst, Baltimore Ravens tight end; and Clint Malarchuk, former goalie for the NHL’s Quebec Nordiques, Washington Capitals, and Buffalo Sabres. Six-time Pro Bowl receiver and Founder of House Of Athlete Brandon Marshall also appears in the program and serves as an executive producer.
The Sharks beat the Islanders 2-1 in overtime, ending the Isles’ latest winning streak at five. You may notice that it took OT to make that happen, though, so the Islanders’ franchise-record point streak grows to 17 games (15-0-2).
Dallas isn’t all that far behind the Islanders, as the Stars have won six games in a row, and are now 13-1-1 in their past 15 games.
It’s difficult to pick between Bergeron (four assists) and his teammate Torey Krug (overtime game-winning goal, two assists). Feel free to swap them in your mind if that suits your taste, but either way, Boston’s biggest names continue to propel them to wins.
Bergeron hasn’t been as spectacular as Brad Marchand (1G, 1A on Saturday) and David Pastrnak (no points) this season, but he’s still playing well, as this outburst gives him 24 points in 21 games. The 34-year-old also has a four-game point/assist streak going, with seven during that span.
Draisaitl and Connor McDavid combined for another dominant performance, as they’re wont to do.
McDavid scored two goals, while Draisaitl piled up three assists, all primary. That extra point gives Draisaitl (47) the season points lead over McDavid (46), and also gets Draisaitl the mention as the second star instead of 97. McDavid will probably work through this setback.
There seems to be a theme running. At some point, the Islanders have to cool off a bit, right? McDavid + Draisaitl and the Bruins’ top line can’t dominate every game, can they?
We’re at the point where the Stars duo of Khudobin and Ben Bishop are inspiring similar questions (and serving as parallels to the Isles’ goalies), as they just keep getting it done. Dallas needed all of Khudobin’s 38 saves through regulation and overtime to win in a shootout where Khudobin turned aside both Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.
Robin Lehner deserves a mention, as stopped 40 out of 41 shots but didn’t get the W. Lehner’s essentially playing like an amazing MLB ace who is getting basically zero run support most nights with the Blackhawks.
Highlight of the Night
This is a dazzling bit of wizardry from the Rangers, who managed to storm back from an 0-4 deficit to beat the Canadiens 6-5 in regulation:
If you’re anxious about an upcoming dentist visit, don’t hit play. Or if you’re squeamish, really. Keith Yandle is a hockey player, thus he returned …
Andrei Vasilevskiy set a Lightning franchise record with his 132nd win. That face doesn’t necessarily say “Wow, that’s not a very impressive franchise record,” but its nondescript nature is even more amusing if you imagine in that way.
NHL PR notes that the Rangers’ comeback win from down four goals ranks as the fifth such comeback win already this season, which already ties the league’s single-season record. Feel free to make jokes about how a four-goal lead has replaced a two-goal lead as the “worst lead in hockey.”
(You actually really don’t have to.)
VAN 2 – WSH 1 (SO)
CGY 3 – PHI 2 (SO)
ARI 3 – LAK 2
BOS 5 – MIN 4 (OT)
NYR 6 – MTL 5
TBL 6 – ANA 2
NJD 5 – DET 1
CAR 4 – FLA 2
WPG 4 – CBJ 3
TOR 5 – COL 3
NSH 4 – STL 2
DAL 2 – CHI 1 (SO)
EDM 4 – VGK 2
SJS 2 – NYI 1 (OT)
About a week ago, PHT’s Adam Gretz chronicled the revitalization of Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, the Stars’ biggest stars (don’t mix up your capitalization there, gang). In particular, the strong work from Benn and Seguin stood out after yet another browbeating from management, in the latest case being head coach Jim Montgomery — who later apologized for throwing the two under the bus.
The numbers back up hot play from Benn and Seguin lately, but this video of Benn rampaging against Mark Scheifele and the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday presents the argument in a more violent and entertaining fashion:
Yet, in a team sport like hockey, you usually don’t go on a five-game winning streak without other players stepping up, and that’s especially true when you zoom out to Dallas’ 12-1-1 run since Oct. 19.
Truly, it’s remarkable to compare the Stars’ 2019-20 season through Oct. 18 (when they went 1-7-1) and this blistering run that’s improved the Stars to an overall record of 13-8-2.
Let’s take a look at the other forces driving Dallas’ success. Feel free to play the Stars’ cheesy and/or great Pantera-powered goal song while reading this post.
(Of course it’s called “Puck off.”)
As you’d probably expect, the goalies have been lights out
Last season, the Stars survived (and even thrived) on a steady diet of “Benn + Seguin + all-world goaltending from Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin.” You might not be surprised to learn that they’ve all been key catalysts for this impressive run.
Bishop sports an outstanding .942 save percentage during the hot streak, and Khudobin is right behind him with a .941 in that span.
When the Stars handed Joe Pavelski a deal with a $7.5 million AAV, they likely expected the veteran forward to help them find scoring beyond Benn and Seguin — even if Pavelski landed with those two, and merely opened up easier matchups for the likes of Alexander Radulov.
After a bumpy start, Pavelski and others have provided offense beyond Dallas’ dynamic duo. Pavelski matches Benn’s 10 points during the past 14 games, and they’re both tied with seemingly defense-only forward Radek Faksa.
(If Faksa turns into the Stars’ answer to Sean Couturier — a defensive forward whose considerable scoring touch was eventually unlocked — then watch out.)
Right behind Seguin’s 15 points in 14 games is a player who basically deserves at least his own paragraph: Miro Heiskanen. The 20-year-old defenseman has 12 points in his past 14 games, and while he’s soaking up puck luck that probably isn’t sustainable, the bottom line is that he’s a star. He continues to average the ice time of a workhorse defenseman, and may not have to wait long for Norris hype. (It’s promising, too, in its own way that the Stars are thriving while John Klingberg‘s had a tough go of things.)
With Corey Perry gearing up (nine points during the 14-game run) and Roope Hintz back in the mix after dealing with injury issues, it sure seems like Dallas’ attack is more varied than last season. That could be scary, considering how tough they were to contain as Hintz gave them a bit more variety once he really broke through during the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Expecting long-term world-class goaltending is dangerous, especially with older goalies like Bishop (33) and Khudobin (also 33).
But the promising thing is that there are a lot of positives to take away from Montgomery’s system. During this hot streak, the Stars haven’t just been riding some positive bounces, they’ve also generated the third-best differential for high-danger scoring chances during that time, and look good to great by just about all of Natural Stat Trick’s even-strength measures.
Yes, the Stars are playing a bit over their heads … but maybe not so far that this isn’t a sign that they’re here to stay?
The truth about the Stars is likely somewhere in between their red-hot 14-game streak and the rough nine-game start to 2019-20. It will be fascinating to see where they end up once 2019-20 shakes out, and considering the mix of youth and veterans on this team, what kind of ceiling this group might have.