Ryan McDonagh

Roundtable: PHT’s favorite Winter Classic memories

NBC’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with the 2020 Winter Classic between the Dallas Stars and Nashville Predators. Coverage begins at 1 p.m. ET from Cotton Bowl Stadium in Dallas, Texas on New Year’s Day. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

JAMES: My favorite Winter Classic memory came from the first one between the Sabres and Penguins in 2008.

Being that I wasn’t covering Winter Classics yet, I was naturally hungover from New Year’s, making a lot of my memories of what was honestly a mostly unmemorable game quite blurry. Sidney Crosby winning the shootout in a snow globe atmosphere made it all work, though, and is a reminder that big moments can paint over otherwise bland affairs.

Watching that, likely while groaning on a couch, will always stick with me. It sure beats the times Crosby and others suffered possible concussions during outdoor games, too.

JOEY: The most memorable Winter Classic moment in my mind has to be in 2009. The Chicago Blackhawks took on the Detroit Red Wings at Wrigley Field.

A lot of the details from that game are pretty fuzzy for me. I remember that the Red Wings won, 6-4, but the one detail I will never forget is the Pavel Datsyuk partial breakaway goal. Datsyuk split two Blackhawks defensemen before scoring an awesome goal on his backhand. It was perfect because it was smooth just like he was throughout his career. There aren’t many things in hockey that get me to leap off my couch anymore, but that was definitely one of them.

SEAN: We all remember Crosby’s goal, the dramatic ending of the 2012 game, but mine is a memory that didn’t take place on the ice. During intermission of that Flyers-Rangers Winter Classic the NHL managed to get Philly’s own The Roots to perform, which has since set the musical act bar very, very high. Sadly, it’s not come close to being matched:

ADAM: It has to be the 2012 game in Philadelphia between the Flyers and New York Rangers. This was the second Winter Classic I had an opportunity to cover in person, and everything about it was pretty outstanding. Good venue, intriguing matchup, and the game itself was great thanks to the way it ended. With the Rangers leading, 3-2, with less than 20 seconds to play, Ryan McDonagh was whistled for covering the puck in the crease resulting in a penalty shot for Philadelphia’s Danny Briere to try and tie the game. Henrik Lundqvist stopped him, secured the win for the Rangers, and John Tortorella, even in victory, was furious with the call after the game in his press conference. He said something along the lines of the everyone getting together and trying to get the game to overtime for TV ratings. It was classic Tortorella.

SCOTT: The 2014 Winter Classic between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs was an all-time classic between two Original Six teams. To see 105,491 fans pile into The Big House in Ann Arbor, Michigan was an unbelievable site. Additionally, the snow added to the mystique and brought back memories of skating on a pond in freezing temperatures for players from all over the world.

Jimmy Howard’s vintage brown pads coupled with Detroit’s red sweater was an awesome combination. The Winter Classic has felt a bit stale at times, but in 2014, the hype was justified.

Watch the 2020 NHL Winter Classic between the Nashville Predators and the Dallas Stars at the Cotton Bowl on Wednesday, January 1 at 1 p.m. ET only on NBC, NBC Sports and the NBC Sports app.

Mike Emrick, Eddie Olczyk, and Pierre McGuire and Brian Boucher will have the call from the Cotton Bowl. Mike Tirico will host the network’s on-site Winter Classic pre-game coverage alongside the NHL Live studio team of host Kathryn Tappen, and analysts Mike Milbury, Keith Jones and Patrick Sharp. Tirico will interview members of 1999 Stanley Cup Champion Stars team on-site during intermission of coverage on NBC.

PREVIOUSLY:
The snow storm at The Big House
• Syvret’s first NHL goal comes at Fenway Park
Late winner has extra special meaning for Brouwer
Briere vs. Lundqvist

Panthers’ Stralman returns to game after being bloodied by puck to head

Florida Panthers defenseman Anton Stralman got a real scare when he was bloodied by a puck to the head on Monday. While Stralman managed to brace for the puck a bit by lowering his head so it struck his helmet, it was still a scary scene.

You can witness that scary moment in the video above this post’s headline.

Stralman shrugs off being bloodied

Remarkably, Stralman didn’t need to be hospitalized right after the Lightning’s 6-1 win against Florida on Monday. In fact, Stralman returned to the game.

Muttering “hockey players are tough” can often come off as needy but … honestly, what else can you say?

Panthers coach Joel Quenneville provided a positive update on Stralman, as The Athletic’s George Richards reports (sub required).

“They did a pretty good job of sewing him up,” Quenneville said. “He is OK, but he took quite a gash. It’s a pressure cut, he got hit in just the right spot. He is very lucky.”

The Tampa Bay crowd cheered on Stralman as he was able to leave the ice with some help. The moment must have been even more comfortable than usual — which is saying something — as Stralman is only recently removed from his days as a defenseman with the Lightning. Former teammate Ryan McDonagh shot the puck, while Victor Hedman checked on Stralman.

Lightning and Panthers now neck-and-neck

The Lightning ended Florida’s three-game winning streak, and closed some distance between them. Tampa Bay improved to 18-13-4 (40 points in 35 games played). The Panthers lead the Bolts with their 18-13-5 record (41 points in 36 GP), but not by much.

As important as the game was for both sides, it’s a relief that Stralman seemingly avoided anything major. At least, it seems that way so far.

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.

Lightning battling through early-season adversity

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There is no reason to rush to judgment after 12 games, but the Tampa Bay Lightning have not looked like themselves.

The Bolts escaped the Prudential Center with a wacky 7-6 overtime win Wednesday but have certainly not played with the poise or structure expected of a Stanley Cup favorite.

“We are working extremely hard, it’s not for a matter of will and effort,” Ryan McDonagh told NBC earlier this week. “We are trying to get on the same page here as far as how we want to play, especially away from the puck. We had a lot of things go right for us in last year’s regular season. But this is a new year, we are trying to find a new identity”

Tampa won the 2019 Presidents’ Trophy with ease, earning 128 points and finishing the year with 21 more points than the next closest team in the standings.

While a 6-4-2 record to open the season is not a doomsday scenario, especially with eight of their first 12 games on the road, the Lightning know they are not executing at the level in which they have come to expect.

“We have to find a way to be aggressive within our structure, I think that is when we are at our best,” McDonagh said. “We understand what makes us successful as a group, it’s about going out there and doing it.”

During their Wednesday matchup against New Jersey, Tampa overcame a two-goal third-period deficit when Anthony Cirelli, Mathieu Joseph and Ondrej Palat scored within 13:18 of each other to obtain a 6-5 advantage.

But, Kyle Palmieri of the Devils completed a hat trick with eight seconds remaining in regulation and forced overtime. While Tyler Johnson scored the game-winning goal in the extra session, the Lightning need to play a much more systematic style of hockey in order to reach their ultimate goal.

“We can’t get down on each other and let things snowball,” McDonagh said. “Understand at points in the game we need to be simple and safe and when there is an opportunity to strike, try and make it happen.”

Coach Jon Cooper felt his team suffered from their own success last season when they faced adversity for the first time. The club crumbled in their Round 1 series against the Blue Jackets after clinching a playoff spot in early March.

“It’s a blessing and a curse because you don’t play any meaningful hockey for a long time,” he said.

The NHL regular season is an 82-game voyage, and this early skid might end up having a positive impact on the Lightning when it’s all said and done.

“You want to go through some ups and downs as the year goes on, it brings out the true identity of individuals,” McDonagh said. “There is no doubt that we got guys in here that want to push for one another, keep grinding forward and accomplish what we want to accomplish. No doubt in my mind we got the right group of guys in here.”

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.

Sergachev’s development huge X-factor for Lightning

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Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to identifying X-factors to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the Tampa Bay Lightning.

One of the things that makes the Tampa Bay Lightning such a dangerous team is they not only have a collection of All-Stars, but also another wave of young talent coming behind them that serve as a perfect complement. You see it at forward with players like Brayden Point, Yanni Gourde, and Anthony Cirelli starting to emerge as impact players to go along with Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos.

The same thing is happening on the blue line where they have an all-world talent in Victor Hedman, and two really good veterans in Ryan McDonagh and Kevin Shattenkirk. But we know what they are capable of and what should be expected of them.

The most intriguing player on the defense this season might be third-year pro Mikhail Sergachev.

A top-10 pick by the Montreal Canadiens back in 2015, the Lightning acquired Sergachev in the Jonathan Drouin trade one year later and had huge expectations for him when he joined the organization. He has immense talent and potential, and has already shown flashes of becoming a cornerstone player.

He hasn’t yet been given a huge role (averaging just 15 minutes per game during his rookie season, then 17 minutes in year two) but has made the most of the minutes he has been given. Especially when it comes to driving the team’s offense. Over the past two years Sergachev has averaged 1.28 points per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 play, a number that places him 10th among ALL defenders in the NHL, and tops among all defenders on the Lightning (yes, even ahead of Hedman and McDonagh).

Even more impressive is that he has averaged 0.60 primary assists per 60 minutes, a mark that has trailed only the San Jose Sharks Norris duo of Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns.

[MORE: 2018-19 Summary | Under Pressure | Three Questions]

He has done all of that while also posting great possession numbers, helping the Lightning to outshoot and outchance their opponents when he is on the ice. In short, he has been wildly productive in his minutes and has already shown he can be an elite playmaker.

Has that production come in a sheltered role that includes limited minutes and is heavy on the offensive zone starts? Of course it has, but even with that there are not many defenders that are able to produce the way he has during their age 19 and 20 seasons in the league. Not many defenders at ANY age are capable of producing that well.

Does he still have some areas to improve defensively? For sure, after all, he is still only 21 years old and has played just two full years in the league. He is far from a finished product. But he has shown over the past two years that he is more than capable of handling the role he has been given in Tampa Bay and has definitely earned a bigger role and some tougher assignments this season.

The Lightning already have a really good defense thanks to Hedman, a strong No. 2 in McDonagh, and a nice bounce-back candidate in Shattenkirk. But they have another potential monster in Sergachev lurking below the surface that could be on the verge of joining Hedman as a superstar at the top of the lineup if he can put it all together in a more expanded role. If he does that this season, already loaded Lightning roster becomes even more intimidating.

(Data via Natural Stat Trick)

MORE:
• 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.

What if the Lightning don’t win it all?

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Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to identifying X-factors to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Three pressing questions for the 2019-20 Tampa Bay Lightning.

1. What if they fall short again?

Looking at a season as a failure because it does not result in a championship is a foolish approach to take in sports. Even if you are the best team in the league on paper the odds of actually winning it all are overwhelmingly stacked against you. One team against the field is always a bet you are more than likely to lose.

But the 2018-19 Lightning season, for as great as it was, has to be looked at as at least some kind of a failure. Maybe not a total failure, but definitely a failure to some degree. Not because they didn’t win it all, but because of HOW they did not win it all — quietly bowing out in four games against the No. 8 seed. Also because after years of collapse and near-misses in the Eastern Conference Final and Stanley Cup Final (blowing two 3-2 series leads in the ECF, and a 2-1 series lead in the SCF) that was supposed to be the team to get it done. Then it did not even win a single playoff game.

Expectations will be through the roof again with this roster, and the pressure is only going to be mount because they have to show they are a championship team instead of a paper tiger. But what if they fall short again? It probably depends on how far they go. A Round 1 or 2 loss, especially one like this past season, means someone almost certainly gets fired — whether it is the coach  or the GM — or gets traded (break up the core?)

[MORE: 2018-19 Summary | Under Pressure | X-Factor]

2. What will Brayden Point‘s new contract look like, and how will they make it work?

To answer the first part of that question, it will probably look significant. Point is one of them any unsigned restricted free agents on the open market and is coming off a monster season offensively that saw him establish himself as a key part of the Lightning’s core and one of the top offensive players in the league. He is only 23 years old, has improved every year he has been in the league, and is just now entering the prime of his career. He should easily get more than $7 or $8 million per year.

The problem for the Lighting is making that fit within the structure of the team, where Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman, Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Ryan McDonagh, Yanni Gourde, and Alex Killorn are all already signed to massive long-term deals. They have enough to sign Point for this season, but next season (when Vasilevskiy’s deal kicks in) it will get tight. Someone (Palat? Killorn?) will have to be on the move.

3. Will their offseason additions be enough to put them over the top?

Given the Lightning’s salary cap constraints they had to go bargain hunting this offseason and may have struck gold with Kevin Shattenkirk and Pat Maroon on one-year deals for under $3 million (combined). Shattenkirk will have far less pressure on him in Tampa Bay than he did in New York because he will not be counted on to be the top player on defense and they won’t need him to be a difference-maker. You also have to think he will have a chip on his shoulder have something to prove after a disappointing end with the Rangers.

As for Maroon, the size and intangible element he brings from a Stanley Cup winning team will almost certainly be dramatically overstated. Maybe it matters a little, but what is truly important is that he is an excellent depth player that will make their bottom-six better. They are not the big-name moves some other teams made, but the Lightning didn’t need impact. They just needed solid complementary pieces, and that may be just what they receive.

MORE:
• 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.