Robin Lehner

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PHT Morning Skate: Diving into problems for Devils, Canadiens

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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.

• 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)

• Speaking of the Devils, there’s early evidence that they’ve improved during third periods after replacing John Hynes with Alain Nasreddine. (All About The Jersey)

• Sean “Down Goes Brown” McIndoe takes Erik Karlsson and other players to “contract court.” (The Athletic [sub required])

• 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)

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.

NHL on NBCSN: Islanders have another great goaltending duo

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Thursday’s matchup between the New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Since the start of the 2018-19 season the New York Islanders have been the NHL’s toughest team to score against.

Barry Trotz brought defensive structure and discipline to the lineup, while their goaltending has consistently been top-shelf.

It was great last year with Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss.

It has been outstanding again this year with Greiss and Semyon Varlamov. While both have played great hockey this season, it seems that Varlamov is really starting to gain the trust of Trotz as he appears to be on track to make his third consecutive start (and fourth consecutive appearance) on Tuesday night against the New Jersey Devils (6 p.m. ET; NBCSN). 

There is no official word from the Islanders as to whether or not it will be Varlamov, but given how early he left the ice during the morning skate it would be shock if he did not play. If he does, it will be the first time this season the Islanders will have used the same starting goalie for three consecutive games as they continue to maintain the goalie rotation/platoon split that they used so effectively a year ago.

As a duo, they have the fifth-best all situations save percentage in the NHL this season and the third-best even-strength save percentage.

[COVERAGE OF ISLANDERS-DEVILS BEGINS AT 6 P.M. ET ON NBCSN]

Greiss’ play shouldn’t come as a surprise anymore. Since joining the Islanders he has been one of the most underrated goalies in the league and outside of a disastrous 2017-18 season (when the entire team stopped playing defense in front of the goalies) he has been a rock in net when his number has been called. Even during his most recent stretch where he has been on the losing end of decisions he hasn’t performed poorly (he has lost five of his past six decisions, but has had a save percentage of .915 or better in four of those games).

Varlamov’s play is more of a pleasant surprise.

Other than whether or not they had enough offense to to take the next step as Stanley Cup contenders, probably the biggest question for the Islanders entering this season was whether or not Varlamov would be an adequate replacement in net for Lehner following his free agent departure to the Chicago Blackhawks. Lehner was one of the biggest stories in the league last season and was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy thanks to his stellar play in the Islanders’ net. It was kind of a shock the way the Islanders allowed him to leave as easily as they did.

But Varlamov has stepped right into that role left behind and played some of his best hockey in years.

The Islanders have earned at least one point in 17 of his 20 starts, while it has been more than a month since they failed to earn at least one point in one of his starts.

The Islanders may not score a ton of goals and they may give up their share of shots, but as long as they have two goaltenders playing at a level like this they are going to have a chance every night.

Brendan Burke will handle play-by-play duties alongside AJ Mleczko and Pierre McGuire at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, NY.

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.

How much is Jacob Markstrom going to cost the Canucks?

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Jacob Markstrom stole two points for the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night by stopping 49 shots in a 3-2 win over the Los Angeles Kings.

With the Canucks floating on the playoff bubble every point is massive, and it’s not the first time this season Markstrom has delivered a game-changing performance.

Since arriving in Vancouver five years ago, he has gone from underwhelming prospect that was bordering on being a bust, to a strong backup, to a very good and reliable NHL starter.

He is also playing in the final year of his contract and set to be an unrestricted free agent after this season without a new deal. Back in November Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported that Markstrom is definitely in the Canucks’ long-term plans, and that talks on a new contract could soon start to intensify.

But what does a potential new contract look like for the two sides?

1. Who does he compare to?

Markstrom isn’t one of the league’s elites at the position, but he is definitely a quality starter. He is going to give his team a chance on most nights, and will occasionally steal one (as he did on Saturday).

If you go back to the start of the 2005-06 season there are a handful of goalies that compare similarly to where Markstrom is at this point in his career.

What we looked for: Goalies that appeared in at least 100 games between the ages of 28 and 30 (Markstrom became the Canucks’ full-time starter in his age 28 season) and posted a save percentage between .910 and .915. In other words: a league-average to maybe slightly above league average starter.

Here are the names that show up: Jonas Hiller, Craig Anderson, Carey Price, Cam Talbot, Jimmy Howard, James Reimer, Semyon Varlamov, Jonathan Bernier, Chad Johnson, and Martin Biron.

Price is the biggest name there, but he is a bit of an outlier. His age 28-30 seasons were a bit of a mess. One was lost almost entirely to injury, while another was just … bad. But the rest? Those are probably pretty strong comparisons. Goalies that aren’t great, but aren’t going to hurt you.

2. Why the comparisons matter

It’s not only to get a sense of what Markstrom might cost, but also to try and get an idea for what his future seasons could look like. Anytime a team signs a player to a long-term deal their past performance isn’t as important as their future performance.

In this case, you want to know how likely it is that the player you’re signing is going to keep playing at that level.

When you look at the names above, the best-case scenarios might be Craig Anderson or Jimmy Howard. Both were able to maintain that same level of production into their mid-30s (and in Anderson’s case, even into his late 30s). They also both signed long-term contracts around the same age that Markstrom is now that accounted for 6 percent of the salary cap (Anderson) and 8 percent (Howard) at the time of their deals. And that seems about fair for a mid-level starting goalie. A similar contract today would pay Markstrom somewhere between $5 and $6 million per season. That would place him in the 10-20 range among the NHL’s highest salary cap hits for goalies.

And for the goalie that he is right now, that is probably where he belongs.

3. The Canucks almost have to pay him

Mostly because he is the best and most realistic option.

Thatcher Demko was once thought to be the future of the Canucks’ net, but he remains a question mark and rolling into next season with him as the No. 1 seems like a bad idea.

Braden Holtby will most likely be the biggest name on the free agent market, but he is probably out of the Canucks’ price range due to the salary cap. The same should be true of Robin Lehner who has undoubtedly earned a significant contract from somebody.

After that, there isn’t a better option set to be available. The trade market is also a bit of a minefield for goalies. If the Canucks can get Markstrom on a three-or four-year deal at around $5-6 million per season that should be a worthwhile investment.

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.

The Buzzer: Another 2-goal game for Bergeron; Perron keeps Blues rolling

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Three Stars

1. Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins. There is no stopping Bergeron right now. He scored two more goals for the Bruins in their 3-0 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Friday night, giving him three consecutive two goal games. He also has nine goals in his past nine games. With 17 goals in 30 games, he is having one of the best goal-scoring seasons of his already incredible career. He is the just the fifth different Bruins player to ever score multiple goals in at least three consecutive games, and the first to do it since Cam Neely during the 1988-89 season.

2. Mika Zibanejad, New York Rangers. With two goals and an assist in a 6-4 win, Zibanejad continued his outstanding season for the Rangers. He is averaging more than a point-per-game and has once again been one of the bright spots for the Rangers. His first goal came on an absolutely ridiculous no-look, behind-the-back pass from Chris Kreider that you can see in the highlights down below. The Rangers still have their flaws and do not always win pretty, but with Artemi Panarin (who also recorded three points on Friday night) they have some serious impact talent than can keep them in games and give them a chance on most nights.

3. David Perron, St. Louis Blues. With Vladimir Tarasenko sidelined the Blues needed some other forwards to help step up and provide the offense. Perron has been one of those players. He scored another overtime goal on Friday (already his fourth this season) to help lift the Blues to a 4-3 win against the Winnipeg Jets and extend their current winning streak to seven games. Perron has 24 points in his past 22 games.

Other notable performances from Friday

  • William Nylander and John Tavares both had three points for the Toronto Maple Leafs as they extended their winning streak to six games. The only bad news in the game was Ilya Mikheyev leaving the game with a serious cut to his wrist. Read about that here.
  • Robin Lehner made 38 saves against his former team to lead the Chicago Blackhawks to a 5-2 win over the New York Islanders.
  • Tristan Jarry picked up another win for the Pittsburgh Penguins and their depth scoring had a huge night in a 5-2 win over the Nashville Predators.
  • The Minnesota Wild rallied past the Colorado Avalanche in the third period. Read more about their win and their recent hot streak here.
  • Andrew Mangiapane scored 11 seconds into the game and finished with three points as the Calgary Flames won the first Battle of Alberta for this season, 5-1, over the Edmonton Oilers.
  • The Anaheim Ducks scored three goals in 97 seconds then held on to beat the Vegas Golden Knights by a 4-3 margin.
  • The Los Angeles Kings overcame a 2-0 third period deficit to beat the San Jose Sharks, 3-2, in overtime. Martin Frk scored his first two goals of the season to tie the game, setting the stage for Jeff Carter to win it in overtime.

Highlights of the Night

Check out this behind-the-back pass by Kreider to set up Zibanejad for the Rangers’ first goal of the night.

This pass from Richard Panik to set up Carl Hagelin is an absolute beauty. The Capitals were 2-1 winners in overtime thanks to a T.J. Oshie game-winning goal.

It came in a losing effort for the Avalanche, but Gabriel Landeskog scored a beauty of a goal against the Wild.

Blooper of the Night

Damon Severson scored an overtime goal for the wrong team. Read more about it here.

Factoids

  • Alex Ovechkin‘s assist on T.J. Oshie’s game-winning goal was his 36th career regular season point in overtime. Only Patrik Elias has more. He also made the decision tonight to not play in the 2020 NHL All-Star game. Read about his reasoning here.  [NHL PR]
  • Cale Makar played his 30th career regular season game for the Avalanche and joined some exclusive company in the process. [NHL PR]
  • Jeff Carter scored the game-winning goal for the Kings, giving him 11 career overtime goals. No player in Kings history has more. [NHL PR]

Scores

Boston Bruins 3, Buffalo Sabres 0
Toronto Maple Leafs 5, New Jersey Devils 4 (OT)
New York Rangers 5, Carolina Hurricanes 3
Washington Capitals 2, Columbus Blue Jackets 1
Minnesota Wild 6, Colorado Avalanche 4
Pittsburgh Penguins 5, Nashville Predators 2
St. Louis Blues 5, Winnipeg Jets 4
Chicago Blackhawks 5, New York Islanders 2
Calgary Flames 5, Edmonton Oilers 1
Anaheim Ducks 4, Vegas Golden Knights 3
Los Angeles Kings 3, San Jose Sharks 2 (OT)

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.

Wednesday Night Hockey: Blackhawks need shake up in goal

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with the Wednesday Night Hockey matchup between the Colorado Avalanche and Chicago Blackhawks. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

For the first time in a long time, the Chicago Blackhawks came into a season with a goaltender that could push Corey Crawford or at least fill in for him if he were to sit out for an extended period of time. Bringing in Robin Lehner was smart because he makes them better at the position and he came with a low-risk, one-year contract. But what do they do between the pipes after this season?

Both Lehner and Crawford are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents on July 1st. That means that the Blackhawks can blow up the position and go in a totally different direction this summer if they want to do that. That could be a tempting way to go.

It’s not surprising to see Crawford’s play has dropped off quite a bit over the last couple of years. He’s missed so much time with concussions and vertigo that it was only normal that he was going to start to dip at some point. Also, he’s 34 years old so this is natural regression too. His expiring contract will free up $6 million on the cap.

As for Lehner, he was unable to find a long-term contract when he hit the market last July, so he opted to sign a one-year, $5 million deal with the Hawks in free agency. Overall, he’s put up much better numbers than Crawford and he’s been more consistent.

But the reality is, if the Blackhawks decide to go in a completely different direction between the pipes next season, they’d be able to free up a significant amount of salary. Sure, they’d have to find and pay two other goalies, but they’d likely be able to do so at a much lower cost.

Obviously, they could also decide to bring back one of the two, which would make sense from their perspective. As of right now, you’d have to believe that if they bring one guy back, it should be Lehner. The 28-year-old is younger than Crawford and he has a 7-6-4 record with a 2.87 goals-against-average and a .924 save percentage. On the flip side, Crawford owns a 6-9-2 record with a 3.08 goals-against-average and a .908 save percentage.

Every team was reluctant to commit to Lehner last summer. Will that change next July?

Lehner’s proven to be a solid goaltender. He can get the job done. But given where the Hawks are as a franchise right now, it might make more sense to just go in a different direction completely. They haven’t made the playoffs in years, they’re in the basement of the Western Conference standings as of right now and they just seem stuck as a franchise.

What’s the best option(s)?

They could always opt to sign someone in free agency, they can draft and develop someone until their ready to takeover, or they can make a trade to land a new body.

If you look at the potential free-agent list for 2020, Braden Holtby‘s name jumps out at you right away. He’s a former Stanley Cup Champion, he’s 30 and he’s going to be expensive. Holtby is older than Lehner, but he’s a much more proven commodity. If the Capitals can’t find a way to get their starting netminder under contract, Chicago would have to be considered a landing spot for him. But again, the Blackhawks just aren’t very good. Does committing to a player like Holtby make sense?

Instead of drafting someone and waiting for them to develop into a starter, they could also just make a move for a young goalie that’s being groomed in a different organization.

For example, Cayden Primeau in Montreal would be a perfect candidate for the Blackhawks. The Canadiens already have Carey Price, Primeau is two years removed from being drafted, he’s already in the professional ranks, and he’s been reliable during his first AHL and NHL stints.

This seems like the best way to go.

It doesn’t necessarily have to Primeau, but the Canadiens have been scouting the Blackhawks and their farm team quite a bit over the last few weeks, so this is the example that makes the most sense in this case.

Can general manager Stan Bowman pull something like that off?

Kathryn Tappen will host Wednesday’s coverage on NHL Live alongside analysts Mike Milbury and Keith Jones and NHL insider Darren Dreger. For the first time, NBC Sports will feature two ‘Inside-the-Glass’ commentators on this week’s Wednesday Night Hockey broadcast, as Eddie Olczyk will join analyst Brian Boucher to call the action from ice-level. John Forslund will handle play-by-play duties from United Center in Chicago, Ill.

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.