Dylan Larkin

Larkin All-Star Game
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Red Wings’ Larkin apologizes for All-Star Game comments

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Detroit Red Wings forward Dylan Larkin got his wish. Larkin wasn’t named as one of the “Last Men In” for the 2020 NHL All-Star Game after imploring fans not to vote for him so he could instead get a break. Even so, Larkin apologized to the Red Wings and NHL for somewhat glib comments.

“In the moment, I said what I said but I really do regret that,” Larkin said, according to Helene St. James of the Detroit Free-Press. “I didn’t mean to disrespect the league. I feel I did that, and disrespected the Red Wings. My main goal as a hockey player in the state of Michigan is to represent myself and the Red Wings and be a good example for kids growing up playing the game. I felt I wasn’t that, so I’m sorry about that.”

Hmm, you almost wonder if Steve Yzerman or someone else gave Larkin a “talking to.”

Larkin made his initial comments late in 2019, providing what was honestly some pretty amusing honesty.

This is hockey, though, so you can bet the grumbling rolled in. Sportsnet’s Brian Burke and others criticized Larkin, something the forward acknowledged in his apology.

The NHL’s Bill Daly complained about players skipping All-Star game appearances, including Alex Ovechkin. Marc-Andre Fleury and other veterans have opted for rest, too.

Larkin earned bonus points because, unlike grizzled veterans, the speedster is only 23.

As much as the league frowns about Larkin and others giving the All-Star experience a “no thanks,” maybe it’s another nudge toward additional tweaks? Personally, I wonder if the league should consider moving the All-Star Game. If it took place at a fun venue before the season, maybe you’d capitalize on fans missing hockey, and players wanting to get back into the groove in a fun way?

Or … maybe the league should just relax? The events are still fun enough, and maybe the NHL should focus on those who want to be there, rather than trying to brute force those who do not?

It’s a shame that Larkin had to walk back comments so benign, but that’s just how this sport is at times.

The 2020 NHL All-Star Weekend takes place on Jan. 24-25 (coverage on NBCSN), and it should be a lot of fun — especially a Skills Competition where Larkin could have been competitive in the speed portion.

(H/T to The Score.)

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.

The Buzzer: Larkin goes coast to coast; Hurricanes shut out Coyotes

Dylan Larkin #71 of the Detroit Red Wings celebrates
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Three Stars

1) Dylan Larkin, Detroit Red Wings

Larkin took matters into his own hands midway through the second period when he skated from his own zone and completed a breakaway in the Red Wings’ 3-2 win against the Ottawa Senators. He would later add a shootout tally that proved to be the game-deciding goal in Detroit’s second straight win.

2) Petr Mrazek, Carolina Hurricanes

The Czech goaltender made 32 saves and picked up his third shutout of the season in the Hurricanes’ 3-0 win over the Arizona Coyotes Friday. Several lucrative contracts were given out to goaltenders this past offseason but Mrazek has proven to be the best value. Semyon Varlamov has been solid for the Islanders and Sergei Bobrovsky has been inconsistent for the Florida Panthers but both received long-term deals. Mrazek has provided a strong return on the two-year deal he signed in the summer of 2019.

3) Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins

Malkin tied Jaromir Jagr for 3rd on the Penguins’ all-time assist list when he helped set up a third-period game-tying goal. He later added a goal of his own when he fired a wrister past Pavel Francouz at 15:43 of the third period. Cale Makar helped the Avalanche force OT with a goal in the final seconds, but the Penguins would leave the Pepsi Center with two points thanks to Jared McCann’s game-winner.

Highlight of the Night

If Larkin prefers to not attend All-Star Weekend, he should stop completing these types of plays.

I’ll just leave this here.

The tweet below says all that is needed.

Blooper of the night

Tyler Ennis’ unusual shootout attempt was not successful.

Injury

In his first game back since leaving a game against the Philadelphia Flyers on January 4th, Antti Raanta exited the Coyotes game Friday with a lower-body injury.

Stat of the night

NHL Scores

Carolina Hurricanes 3, Arizona Coyotes 0

Detroit Red Wings 3, Ottawa Senators 2 (SO)

Pittsburgh Penguins 4, Colorado Avalanche 3 (OT)

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

PHT Morning Skate: 5 slumping players; Vegas seeking consistency

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.

• How should the Predators split starts between Juuse Saros and Pekka Rinne? (Predlines)

• The Golden Knights are still looking to find that consistency in their game. (Knights on Ice)

• Meet new Flames head coach Geoff Ward. (Calgary Sun)

• The Coyotes penalty kill has been struggling for a number of reasons. (Five For Howling)

• Should the Colorado Avalanche make a push to acquire Taylor Hall? (Mile High Hockey)

Victor Olofsson‘s having a solid rookie season for the Sabres. (Buffalo Hockey Beat)

• The Panthers shouldn’t panic, but they have to wake up soon. (The Rat Trick)

• There’s reason to believe that the Rangers can make the playoffs. (Blue Line Station)

• Here are five questions the Carolina Hurricanes have yet to answer heading into December. (Cardiac Cane)

• The Hockey News shares a list of five slumping players that need to turn their game around fast. (The Hockey News)

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.

How good has Anthony Mantha been for Red Wings?

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When the Detroit Red Wings drafted Anthony Mantha 20th overall in 2013, they were expecting to get a legitimate scoring threat with size. Mantha, who finished his Quebec Major Junior Hockey League career with back-to-back 50-goal seasons, has scored 24 and 25 goals in each of the last two years in the NHL, which is more than respectable. But it looks like he’s starting to take his game to another level.

The 25-year-old is off to a fantastic start this season, as he’s accumulated six goals and eight points in just four games, but his incredible run started well before this year.

Since March 19 no player in the NHL has scored more goals (14) or points (23) than the Red Wings forward (Leon Draisaitl and Steven Stamkos have both collected 22 points since then). Think about that. Not Connor McDavid, not Nikita Kucherov, not Sidney Crosby, not Alex Ovechkin. Nobody.

“I just want to go out and have one of my best years, and that’s really the mentality I’m going into this season,” Mantha said before the start of the season, per The Detroit News. “Just having the same line, that helps with your confidence. You know what to expect from your linemates because you’ve played with them already and the chemistry was there.”

Starting the year with the same linemates definitely hasn’t hurt. Mantha, Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi have been excellent to start the 2019-20 season. Not only did Mantha score the game-winner on the power play in his home province last night, his line also dominated possession whenever they were on the ice.

Mantha (57.14 CF%), Bertuzzi (60 CF%) and Larkin (60 CF%) were always ready to give their team a spark when they hit the ice. Just 30 seconds after Canadiens forward Joel Armia tied the game, 1-1, at Bell Centre, the Red Wings top line put their team ahead again.

“He progressively got more productive,” Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill said earlier this month. “(We’re) hoping the same rings true in the NHL. Certainly last year would have been his most productive had he stayed healthy.

“He could score a lot of goals in this league. He’s a big power forward who is hard to handle. He can skate. He’s big. He has all the skills.”

Mantha already has three-point and four-goal performances under his belt already this season and two of his goals have proven to be game-winners. It’s safe to say that he’s one of the big reasons why Detroit is off to a solid 3-1-0 start. Can he keep it up? Can they continue to surprise in the East? Those two questions may go hand-in-hand.

Yes, the Wings need their other forwards to continue helping out, but if the top line can keep producing like one of the better trios in hockey, they’ll have a decent chance of grabbing one of the top eight seeds in the conference. Look, there’s still a long way to go before that happens, but it’s not out of the question.

Even though Mantha won’t finish the regular season with the 123 goals he’s currently on pace to score, he can still lead this rebuilding team to new heights. Right now all he has to do is keep firing pucks towards his opponent’s goal and he’ll be fine.

“Just my confidence right now,” said Mantha explained after the win over the Canadiens, per CBC.ca. “My linemates are feeding me properly and right now it’s going in so I just need to keep shooting.”

Previewing the 2019-20 Detroit Red Wings

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(The 2019-20 NHL season is almost here so it’s time to look at all 31 teams. We’ll be breaking down strengths and weaknesses, looking at whether teams are better or worse this season and more!)

For more 2019-20 PHT season previews, click here.

Better or worse: This best hope the Red Wings have for significant improvement is some rapid development from a young player or two (Filip Zadina, Evgeny Svechnikov, Michael Rasmussen) and continued progress from players like Dylan Larkin, Andreas Athanasiou, and Anthony Mantha. Even if all of that works out perfectly there are still significant question marks around the roster. They may not be worse, but they may not be significantly better, either.

Strengths: Not to be overly bleak about this team’s chances, but there are not a ton of strengths here. Larkin has become an outstanding player and even though it seems like he has been around forever, he is still only 23 years old. He is probably just now hitting his prime years and is coming off of a great year. Beyond him, the Red Wings have a ton of draft picks at their disposal, some intriguing young players coming through the farm system, and they hired one of the top general managers in the league (Steve Yzerman) to help try and turn this thing around. Long-term, that provides some hope. Short-term, things still look rough.

Weaknesses: They lack proven impact players, they lack depth at forward and defense, they were 22nd in goals scored a year ago, 27th in goals against, 19th on the power play, 27th on the penalty kill, and 23rd in team save percentage and a lot of the same players responsible for that performance are still there. In other words, there are weaknesses everywhere.

[MORE: Three questions | Blashill under pressure? | X-factor]

Coach Hot Seat Rating (1-10, 10 being red hot): This is an interesting one because the Red Wings have missed the playoffs three years in a row under Jeff Blashill, and while that is not necessarily his fault there are not many NHL coaches that get an opportunity to miss the playoffs four years in a row. Add in a new general manager that might want to go in his own direction and it would not be unreasonable to conclude that his seat is still warm. But he did sign a two-year contract extension after the 2018-19 season, so there is that aspect in play as well. We will put it at a 7 out of 10 for Blashill.

Three Most Fascinating Players: Larkin, Zadina and Athanasiou are three players worth keeping an eye.

Larkin simply because he is the team’s best player and is kind of fun to watch because of his speed. He had a monster year for the Red Wings in 2018-19 and really took a big step toward becoming a player they can count on and build around long-term.

Zadina is the prospect that can really move things along in a meaningful away in the Red Wings’ rebuild. He was regarded as one of the best pure goal scorers in his draft class (maybe even the best) and they were lucky to have a chance to pick him at No. 6 overall. He had a brief cup of coffee at the NHL level a year ago, scoring one goal in nine games. He is still only 19 years old so you don’t want to set the bar too high for him this season, but he is probably the most intriguing prospect with the highest upside in the organization.

When it comes to Athanasiou the intrigue here is simply whether or not he can be a 30-goal scorer again, or if he regresses back to the 15-20 goal player he was before that. He had always looked like a solid player but was one of the few bright spots on the team a year ago.

Playoffs or lottery: The Red Wings have been one of the NHL’s worst teams over the past three years and unless a bunch of young players emerge and become immediate stars, or if the goalies steal a bunch of games, it is hard to see a path for this roster to end their current playoff drought. This is a lottery team.

MORE:
Dylan Larkin on captaincy, getting Red Wings back to playoffs
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 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.