Matthew Tkachuk

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Drew Doughty, Matthew Tkachuk have another chaotic encounter (Video)

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The Los Angeles Kings put together their best game of the season on Saturday night, defeating the Calgary Flames 4-1 to pick up their third win.

A lot of good things happened for the Kings in this game, starting with the fact that they actually scored a few goals after being shutout for more than 130 consecutive minutes of hockey (including back-to-back shutout losses) entering the night. Then there was starting goalie Jonathan Quick, stuck in a miserable slump to open the season that has seen him allow 19 goals in his first three games, stopping 23 of 24 shots for his first win of the season. The only goal he surrendered was a late penalty shot goal to Mikael Backlund.

If we are being honest, though, the biggest reason anyone outside of the Kings and Flames fanbases would be keeping an eye on this game would be to see if Matthew Tkachuk and Drew Doughty would continue their ongoing feud.

To the surprise of no one, they did.

Midway through the third period Doughty managed to take out Tkachuk with a low hit that set off a chain reaction pile-up that also included Flames defenseman Mark Giordano flying in from the top rope and taking out Kyle Clifford.

Tkachuk ended up getting two minutes for tripping, two minutes for roughing, and a 10-minute misconduct, while Clifford picked up two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct. No other penalties came out of that sequence.

This feud has been ongoing for three years now starting with Tkachuk — during his rookie season — earning a two-game suspension for elbowing Doughty in the face. Since then they have gone back and forth through the media and constantly been involved in on-ice incidents.

In their first meeting this season Tkachuk scored a late game-tying goal against the Kings to send it to overtime where Doughty would win it and then taunt the Flames’ crowd.

So far this season Doughty and the Kings have managed to get the best of Tkachuk and the Flames.

They will have to wait until Dec. 7 to face each other again.

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.

Our Line Starts podcast: Struggling Lightning, Penguins; George McPhee interview

In the debut episode, Pierre McGuire interviews George McPhee of the Vegas Golden Knights, while Jeremy Roenick and Keith Jones react to the biggest news from Week 1 in the NHL. Is the sky falling in Tampa? Can the Penguins overcome Evgeni Malkin‘s long-term injury? Jones and Roenick also dive into the Matthew Tkachuk-Drew Doughty rivalry and talk about the best individual battles of their careers.

Rundown:
0:00-1:10 Intro
1:10-4:35 Pressure already mounting in Tampa Bay
4:35-9:20 Is Pittsburgh’s playoff streak in jeopardy?
9:20-12:25 Drew DoughtyMatthew Tkachuk rivalry
12:25-14:45 JR’s battle with Craig Berube
14:45-18:00 Jones gets under Steve Thomas’ skin
18:00-20:05 “Would you fight Tie Domi?”
20:05-35:30 Pierre McGuire interviews George McPhee
35:35-42:30 Patrick Roy impersonator trash talks the guys

Our Line Starts is part of NBC Sports’ growing roster of podcasts spanning the NFL, Premier League, NASCAR, and much more. The new weekly podcast, which will publish Wednesdays, will highlight the top stories of the league, including behind-the-scenes content and interviews conducted by NBC Sports’ NHL commentators.

Where you can listen:

Apple: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/id1482681517

Stitcher: https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/nbc-sports/our-line-starts

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/7cDMHBg6NJkQDGe4KHu4iO?si=9BmcLtutTFmhRrNNcMqfgQ

NBC Sports on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/nbcsports

Lucic gets in fierce fight on Neal’s big night; Doughty taunts Flames

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Upon learning about James Neal‘s four-goal game in Edmonton’s win on Tuesday, it was only natural to think of Milan Lucic, the player Neal was traded for this past summer.

Conveniently enough, Lucic’s Calgary Flames were in action as well on Tuesday. While Neal’s Oilers beat the Islanders 5-2, Lucic’s Flames fell 4-3 in overtime to the Los Angeles Kings.

James Neal after three games with Oilers: six goals, including four on Tuesday.
Milan Lucic after three games with Flames: zero points, but plenty of violence.

Indeed, it seems like Lucic is embracing the idea of being the Flames’ big bad/enforcer. He already came into Tuesday’s game with 21 penalty minutes, and added five PIM thanks to quite the rumble with Kurtis MacDermid of the Kings, as you can see in the video above this post’s headline. Lucic also delivered six hits during his 13:07 TOI.

If you want to strain the limits of credulity, you could argue that Lucic’s fight “fired up” the Flames. After all, the Kings were up 3-0 when that fight happened, and Calgary stormed back to tie things up 3-3 and send the action to overtime.

But don’t kid yourself; the Flames squeezed a point out of another contentious Calgary – Los Angeles clash because of Matthew Tkachuk.

That actually brings us to the other storyline of that overtime squabble: the boiling blood feud between Tkachuk and Drew Doughty.

While the two get nasty at times, both on the ice and off of it, there have also been moments where you can argue that they’re mutual disgust is driving them to even higher levels than normal. Tkachuk was splendid during Tuesday’s game, scoring two goals and an assist while being a menace with seven hits.

I’m still not totally sure Tkachuk wasn’t guilty of a high-stick while he was securing the puck for that goal, but either way, it was a stupendous display of hand-eye coordination (and also an obnoxious display of mouthpiece-dangling, a Tkachuk trademark):

This time around, Doughty got the last laugh, however.

Along with generating two assists, Doughty scored the power-play game-winner in overtime, and then cupped his hand to his ear to the audience as if he were Hulk Hogan during one of his more heelish runs:

So, the Lucic – Neal feud (that neither explicitly asked for) feels a little one-sided so far, while the very personal Tkachuk – Doughty rivalry could go back and forth. At this rate, they might need a cage match to settle things.

MORE:
• Pro Hockey Talk’s Stanley Cup picks.
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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.

Tkachuk, Doughty prepare for another round of personal rivalry

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The NHL’s most intense individual rivalry continues on Tuesday night when Drew Doughty and the Los Angeles Kings pay a visit to Matthew Tkachuk and the Calgary Flames.

From the moment Tkachuk entered the NHL he started established himself as a tough, physical, agitating forward that will get under the skin of his opponents while also filling the back of their net. In other words, he is a younger, Western Conference version of Brad Marchand. The type of player every general manager in the league would pay a huge price to get on their own team, while also hating their guts when they are not on their team.

No player in the NHL has been more annoyed by Tkachuk’s style of play than Doughty, as the two have an ongoing feud that has consistently intensified over the past three years.

Tkachuk was suspended for two games during his rookie season when he elbowed Doughty in the face, helping to spark their ongoing feud. Doughty has repeatedly sounded off on Tkachuk in interviews, saying how he doesn’t respect him and will never speak to him off the ice, to claiming that Tkachuk is the most hated player in the league. Whenever the two teams face there is almost always some kind of altercation between the two players, especially as they get a ton of ice-time going head-to-head with one another. On average they have spent about seven minutes per game playing head-to-head against one another in their matchups — that is a lot — while their positions (Tkachuk as a left winger, Doughty as a right defensemen) mean their paths are going to cross quite often.

Some examples of their, let’s say, extreme dislike for one another…

And..

And the elbowing incident that started it all…

It is a good bet they will become acquainted with one another again on Tuesday night.

Over the weekend Tkachuk was a guest on Hockey Night In Canada’s After Hours show and was asked by host Scott Oake if he should show Doughty, a Stanley Cup champion and Norris Trophy winner, more respect. Tkachuk did not miss a beat and instantly responded that he shows Flames captain Mark Giordano plenty of respect, adding “He’s a Norris Trophy winner.”

In 11 career games against Doughty and the Kings, Tkachuk has two goals, three assists and 15 penalty minutes.

MORE:
• 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.

Examining Avs’ salary cap, Stanley cup window after signing Rantanen

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It took almost the entire offseason, but the Colorado Avalanche did it. They locked down the last big-name RFA remaining by signing Mikko Rantanen to a six-year deal that carries a $9.2 million AAV.

Initially, it brings to mind favorable comparisons to the Maple Leafs, as Mitch Marner received the same term at an expensive $10.893M cap hit.

But consider another comparison: Matthew Tkachuk and the Flames. In that case, a three-year deal with a $7M AAV opened a three-year window for Calgary to compete for a Stanley Cup, or at least on paper. (As we saw with the Washington Capitals, sometimes the breakthrough comes after you think you had your best chance.)

In the case of the Avalanche, you can look at a few different windows thanks to a few different factors.

The Mac Factor (through 2022-23)

The biggest window comes from getting Nathan MacKinnon, easily one of the most dynamic stars in the NHL, for what feels like close to a 50-percent discount at an absurdly low $6.3M cap hit. To the envy of basically the entire league, that almost larcenous deal runs through 2022-23.

The Avalanche getting four years of Rantanen and MacKinnon for a combined AAV of $15.5M provides an enormous competitive advantage. You could argue that “the rest is gravy,” but in a team sport like hockey, that gravy would be needed to complete a championship meal.

Other noteworthy contracts that last at least four more years include:

The Avalanche added some term with a few of these deals, and also made a key decision to move on from Tyson Barrie, exchanging him in a deal that brought in Nazem Kadri (28, $4.5M through 2021-22).

Decisions coming after 2020-21

Eventually, the Avs will need to decide who will remain a core player over the longer haul, who might be “the guy” in net, and how much they’ll pay key prospects.

While Ian Cole (30, $4.25M) strikes as less of an agonizing choice one way or another, not every decision will be easy. Captain Gabriel Landeskog often combines with MacKinnon and Rantanen to form one of the best bang-for-your-puck, top-heavy top lines in the league, and he’s dirt-cheap at $5.57M, but only for two more seasons. Despite it feeling like Landeskog’s been around forever, he’s only 26, yet the Avs will need to decide if he’d be worth handing what you’d assume would be a much bigger contract, even if he likely would fall behind Rantanen’s big deal.

Two years also covers the contract of Philipp Grubauer, 27, and his $3.33M AAV. Grubauer shook off early struggles to look promising, but will he be a franchise goalie? We’ll see.

With two years remaining on his rookie deal, Cale Makar could earn an astronomical raise from his $880K, considering the promise he’s shown already.

Colorado will also need to make choices regarding Andre Burakovsky and others entering contract years.

Strike soon

The Avalanche were fairly aggressive this offseason, although they didn’t land a big fish on the scale of a, say, Artemi Panarin.

With savings only lasting two years for Makar and four for MacKinnon, Colorado should be proactive in trying to take their best shots, and soon. Whether they try to do so by trade or free agency, the best time for blockbuster moves might be the 2020 offseason. They’ll no longer have $4.25M in dead money from retaining salary for Tyson Barrie and buying out Brooks Orpik, and so it’s not surprising there’s big space coming soon. Cap Friendly estimates their cap spendings for 2020-21 at about $57.136M with 13 roster spots covered, which would provide $24.37M to work with if the ceiling remained at $81.5M.

That’s a lot of money to work with, and now that they have cost certainty for a while with their biggest names, they can try to take a big shot. Maybe that would mean targeting the next Mark Stone like Vegas did: by identifying someone via trade, rather than free agency, and thus buying another playoff run from that player. They should have room to work with in 2019-20, although you never know if there’s a lower internal budget for spending …

***

There’s a lot to be excited about with the Avalanche, especially with Rantanen being 22, MacKinnon being 24, Makar being 20, and so on.

The instinct might be to sit back and relax, but the Avalanche should instead leap at this opportunity to make big leaps rather than more modest steps. As impressive as these bargains are, those coupons will eventually expire.

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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.