Predators’ Boyle, Simmonds out ‘week-to-week’

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Hours before their Game 3 matchup against the Dallas Stars (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN; Live stream) the Nashville Predators announced that both Brian Boyle and Wayne Simmonds are considered “week-to-week” with separate ailments.

Boyle, who missed Game 2 due to “illness,” had an appendix procedure, while Simmonds, who only has one goal for the Predators since being acquired just before the February NHL trade deadline, is out with a lower-body injury.

Simmonds left Game 2 in the first period after taking a Roman Josi shot to the knee. After coming back to the ice to test out his leg during a timeout, he retreated back to the dressing room and did not return. Miikka Salomaki, who hasn’t played for the Predators since Jan. 4, is expected to take his place on the fourth line with Rocco Grimaldi and Calle Jarnkrok.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Both players were acquired in February as Predators general manager David Poile looked to strengthen his team’s bottom six. Two experienced veteran forwards, Boyle and Simmonds gave even more balance to a roster that looks to make another deep run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs this spring.

But with the Predators using the phrase “week-to-week,” especially this time of year when team’s are even more reluctant to say anything about injuries, is not good for either player.

MORE: ‘Grind’ games likely to continue as Predators-Stars series shifts to Dallas

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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.

Predators’ power play headaches linger into playoffs

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War, war never changes. To Nashville Predators forward Craig Smith, the same can be said for the team’s power play lately.

“I’m frustrated, we’re all frustrated. It pisses me off,” Smith said, according to News Channel 5’s Jonathan Burton. “We’ve been doing the same thing for years; nothing changes.”

The Predators finished the regular season with the worst power play in the NHL, and that problem reared its ugly head during their Game 1 loss to the Dallas Stars, as that unit went 0-for-4. The Stars, meanwhile, went 1-for-3 in snagging a tight 3-2 victory. (Game 2 takes place at 6 p.m. ET on Saturday on CNBC [livestream])

Heading into the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Smith and other Predators players remained all-too-aware of these power-play struggles … maybe too aware?

“I think it’s a mindset to go out there,” Smith said heading into Round 1, according to NHL.com’s Robby Stanley. “Sometimes you have to play it like it’s 5-on-5. I think that’s definitely a crucial part of it too, retrieving pucks and getting back and supporting one another, because you’ve got to find the 2-on-1 somewhere. We’ve worked hard at it and watched a lot of video.”

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Whenever a team’s power play is struggling, I tend to look to three things:

1. Is that team just having bad luck?

It’s just about certain that this plays at least part of the role for the Predators. Still, this bleeds into the next point.

2. Are the wrong players shooting, particularly too many defensemen?

They managed a respectable four shots on goal during those four power plays, although the shooters were a mix of defensemen (P.K. Subban and Ryan Ellis) and maybe not the ideal forwards you’d want firing the puck (Brian Boyle and Kyle Turris). After generating 34 goals despite being limited to 58 games played, Viktor Arvidsson didn’t even have a missed shot on the PP.

Too many point shots is one of those issues that seems all too obvious with power plays dealing with deeper-seated issues than a mere cold streak. In Nashville, you’d figure there’s a political element. After all, you want to keep your star defensemen happy. Either way, you’d want Forsberg, Arvidsson, and Ryan Johansen firing more shots.

3. Are the Predators making the right personnel choices?

Identifying the power play as a problem, GM David Poile brought in a big net-front presence in Brian Boyle (who was also sought after for his defensive acumen) and Wayne Simmonds (a player well-known for his resume of power-play prowess, though that’s faded recently).

There have been signs of at least mild improvement by Nashville’s power play in the last month or so, but allow me to get back on my soapbox and wonder if what the Predators’ PP really needs is Eeli Tolvanen.

Even if the young forward can’t earn Peter Laviolette’s trust at even-strength, you could easily fit Tolvanen into a role as a power-play specialist and hide him lower in the order otherwise. The Stars aren’t exactly the league’s deepest team, so Tolvanen’s skill could also create dividends if Laviolette decided to take the very mild risk of inserting the 30th pick of the 2017 NHL Draft.

In particular, Forsberg and Arvidsson can be threats in these situations, yet for all that the Predators possess, they could really use a/another true sniper whose shot is simply a weapon.

That’s especially true since Ben Bishop has been one of the best goalies in the NHL this season, and considering his enormous frame, it might take next level shooting skills to beat him on some nights. You can quibble with Tolvanen’s all-around game, but few would doubt his shot.

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One way or another, the Predators need to find answers as the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs go along. Maybe they can grind out a Round 1 series win against a generally low-scoring Stars team, but maybe not, as special teams might just move the needle. Beyond Dallas, the Predators would have to really dominate on 5-on-5 to beat the cream of the crop, if they can’t at least scrounge up respectable special teams.

And that might require not “doing the same thing for years.”

Stars-Predators Game 2 from Bridgestone Arena will be Saturday night at 6:00 p.m. ET on CNBC (livestream).

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.

Boyle scores first career hat trick on Hockey Fights Cancer Night

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Brian Boyle has been through hell and back over the past year, and that’s what made Tuesday night in Pittsburgh that much more special for the New Jersey Devils forward.

Boyle had never scored a hat trick in his 12-year NHL career, but that was about to change on a fitting night in Pittsburgh.

The Devils were in town to face the Penguins, who were hosting Hockey Fights Cancer Night. Fighting cancer is something Boyle knows all too well.

The 33-year-old was diagnosed with Chronic myeloid leukemia last September and missed the opening of the 2017-18 season. Boyle would return, helping lead the Devils to the playoffs, making a pit stop at the NHL All-Star game and becoming an inspiration to anyone entrenched in a battle of their own.

Just over a week ago, Boyle announced his cancer had gone into remission and on Tuesday night Boyle, now a cancer survivor, stuck it to the disease one more time as he scored his first career hat trick — a natural hatty for good measure.

Some stories just write themselves.

The NHL began its 20th annual Hockey Fights Cancer initiative on Nov. 1. Each team across the NHL hosts one home game dedicated to the cause.

This year, Boyle’s wife Lauren was named the official Hockey Fights Cancer ambassador.

NHL.com is publishing several stories from Lauren, who will detail her personal experience as the couple battled the disease.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Boyle, Luongo, Staal are 2018 Masterton Trophy Finalists

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Brian Boyle of the New Jersey Devils, Roberto Luongo of the Florida Panthers and Jordan Staal of the Carolina Hurricanes have been named finalists for the 2017-18 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy.

The award, which is voted on by members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association is given to the player who “best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.”

PHWA chapters in each NHL market nominate a player for the award each year and the top three vote-getters are then designated as finalists.

The winner will be announced at the NHL Awards show in Las Vegas on June 20.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

Brian Boyle’s story – via the NHL:

Before Boyle set foot on the ice as a New Jersey Devil, he faced his biggest test. At the start of training camp the 33-year-old was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia, a type of bone marrow cancer. He worked his way back into the lineup by Nov. 1 and notched 10 goals over his first 25 games, including a memorable goal on the Devils’ Hockey Fights Cancer Night at Prudential Center, a 3-2 win over Vancouver on Nov. 24. Boyle missed just three games after his season debut and represented the Devils at the 2018 Honda NHL All-Star Game in Tampa Bay. While handling his own illness, his family and his career, Boyle has approached every day with the same optimistic attitude and perseverance that has inspired and lifted the Devils’ locker room.

Roberto Luongo’s story – via the NHL:

Luongo, 39, overcame hand and groin injuries during the season and backstopped the Panthers’ drive for an Eastern Conference Playoff berth. Sidelined by injury since early December, the franchise’s all-time leader in wins, shutouts and appearances returned on Feb. 17 to help the Panthers defeat Calgary 6-3 and ignite a Florida rally in the East’s Wild Card race. In a 13-game span, Luongo went 9-3-1 with a 2.44 GAA and .928 SV%. On Feb. 22, Luongo delivered a heartfelt, unscripted speech to the crowd at BB&T Center prior to Florida’s game against Washington. The 12-year resident of nearby Parkland, Fla., addressed the recent Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting during the Panthers’ pregame ceremony to honor the victims.

Jordan Staal’s story – via the NHL: 

Showing leadership and strength amidst a family tragedy, Staal was a key component of the Hurricanes throughout the season. In late February, Staal and his wife, Heather, announced their daughter, Hannah, was delivered stillborn due to a terminal birth defect previously diagnosed by doctors. Staal, who had assumed a bigger leadership role with the young Hurricanes by being named co-captain before the season, missed just three games following the tragedy. He registered 46 points (19 goals, 27 assists) in 79 games, the second-highest goal and point totals in his six seasons with Carolina. The 29-year-old skated in his 800th NHL game on Dec. 27 against Montreal and scored his 200th goal on Jan. 12 against Washington.

2018 NHL Award finalists
Calder Trophy (Sunday)
Lady Byng Trophy
Norris Trophy
Selke Trophy
Vezina Trophy


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Brian Boyle ‘thankful’ to be a part of NHL All-Star Weekend

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TAMPA — Taylor Hall’s injured hand opened the door for another Metropolitan Division player to head to Tampa for NHL All-Star Weekend. And in a perfect choice, Brian Boyle, Hall’s New Jersey Devils teammate and a former member of the Tampa Bay Lightning, was selected to go in his place.

“I’m very thankful to be here. This is a tremendous honor for me,” Boyle said Saturday before the Skills Competition. “I don’t really care how I got here. This is a phenomenal event just to be here for a few hours. I got here today. The amount of support the players have gotten, the support from my family… My wife has been a rock star. I’m not playing regular games, never mind coming here, without her support. It really is just kind of a pinch-me moment. I can’t believe this is my life. I’m very thankful. I always have been. I’ve never taken it for granted to play in this league. To be here and to see all these stars, the guys, how humble they are and then how supportive they’ve been for me, throughout the year and even today, it’s been wild. It really is. I’m just going to try to enjoy it the best I can.”

Boyle was a beloved player during his two-and-a-half seasons in Tampa and the love continued inside Amalie Arena. The crowd gave him rousing ovations during warm-ups and an even bigger roar erupted during player introductions. Four months after he was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia , the 33-year-old feels great and it’s shown in his play where he currently has 11 goals and 17 points in 38 games played.

Boyle’s treatment consists of four pills a day and throughout the process he said he’s lost 12 lbs. He noted that his side effects are “nonexistent,” which is something that he’s been amazed by in regards to how money raised to fight the disease is helping those affected by it.

“It’s tremendous what they’ve been able to do,” he said. “It’s pretty eye-opening in terms of what they’ve done with research and money and funding to be able to treat what I have, instead of having to go through bone-marrow transplants and chemo and radiation. So it’s an opportunity for me now to try to get people to join me in raising some money, because if we can do that across the board with cancers, I think that’s a great thing for humanity.”

The decision to accept the All-Star invite wasn’t a easy one for Boyle. He told the media that his two-year-old son, Declan, was diagnosed with arteriovenous malformation, a vein disorder that was putting pressure and stunting bone growth in his jaw. After New Jersey’s final game before the break Thursday night, he drove to join his wife, Lauren, at Boston Children’s Hospital where Declan had been intubated for 36 hours after being operated on.

“We’ve had [to go] through [that] four times now. I’m not playing if it’s not for my wife,” Boyle said. “She’s taken the brunt of this. She’s had so many sleepless nights in hospital beds with my son. He’s going to be fine. The doctors have assured me everything’s fine. It’s just kind of scary to see. When I got the news, he was already in the hospital for some pre-op stuff. I had come down for our last game before the break, and I was going to go back up. So there was a decision to be made.”

Once they knew their son was going to be fine, Boyle’s wife urged him to go and take part in All-Star Weekend, and he’s been enjoying it so far with his dad and brother.

“Hopefully we have some clips to show [Declan] and we’ll get some swag,” Boyle said. “But yeah, it’s pretty special to be here. It’s tough because I want to be there, too, but we made the decision to come. The decision was a little harder than we thought it might be, but we think it’s the right thing.”

Now that his cancer is being taken care of, Boyle is focusing his efforts on raising awareness and money for research.

“It’s unbelievable. I’m living a fairy-tale life,” he said. “It’s a tremendous blessing for me, and I won’t take it for granted, and every year I seem to love it a little bit more.”

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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.