Todd Reirden

Golden Knights, Capitals quietly on another crash course for Stanley Cup Final

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Everyone is talking about the Tampa Bay Lightning and their record-pace. The Boston Bruins are riding high with an 18-game point streak. The St. Louis Blues started from the bottom and are now in third in the Central. The Nashville Predators, Winnipeg Jets, San Jose Sharks and Calgary Flames are all battling for their respective divisional supremacy.

Meanwhile, quietly in the nation’s capital, the Washington Capitals have won five consecutive games and are tied with the New York Islanders in points atop the Metropolitan Division. Even more quietly out in the desert, the Vegas Golden Knights have also won five straight. Does anybody remember that these were the last two teams standing last season? Because that’s what could very well happen again.

The Caps won back-to-back Presidents’ Trophies in 2015-16 and 2016-17, only to lose in the second round of the playoffs both years to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Penguins. Last season, they won the Metropolitan again but finished third in the East before going on to win their first Cup in franchise history. They’re in a similar position this year, just two points behind Toronto for third in the conference. Perhaps being a bit under the radar is where they thrive.

Washington has also shown the ability to flip a switch and turn back into the defending champions at a moment’s notice. Take last week’s game against Ottawa for example. The Capitals found themselves down 2-0 before they could blink against the lowly Senators early in the first period. But by the time the period was over, the score was tied. By the final buzzer, Washington had won 7-2.

With a league-leading 46 goals, Alex Ovechkin is carrying the offensive load for Washington once again this season. But the Capitals’ recent 5-game winning streak has been a demonstration of the depth that carried them to the Cup last year, as 13 different players have scored a goal and 18 players have registered a point in that span. At the trade deadline, general manager Brian MacLellan did well to bolster that depth by adding defenseman Nick Jensen and forward Carl Hagelin, who have both already made contributions during their brief time in D.C.

Of course, the biggest difference between this Washington team and the one that hoisted the Cup is behind the bench. At the moment, former Capitals coach Barry Trotz and his Islanders seem to be the only thing standing between Todd Reirden and the franchise winning a fourth straight division title.

Out west, while Calgary and San Jose jockey for first place in the Pacific, Vegas has a stranglehold on third in the division. That means they’ll play whichever team finishes second between the Flames and the Sharks in the First Round, a tough match up for whichever team comes up short. Vegas has not lost since the trade deadline, Mark Stone seems to be gelling nicely with the now-healthy Max Pacioretty and Paul Stastny, and Marc-Andre Fleury is playing like the Fleury of last postseason, stopping 109 of the 111 shots he faced during his four straight wins.

Very few expected last year’s expansion Vegas team to make a run to the Cup Final, if not for their lack of star power, then certainly for their lack of postseason experience. Well, they now have that star power and after coming three wins away from the Cup last season, there is no lack of playoff wisdom on this Golden Knights roster. Even their new pieces like Stone (2017 with Ottawa), Pacioretty (2014 with Montreal) and Stastny (2016 with St. Louis & 2018 with Winnipeg) have all played in a Conference Final.

Given the Capitals’ previous failures in the playoffs and the Golden Knights’ infancy as a franchise, it was a bit of a shock to see them both facing off for the Stanley Cup last season. Don’t be so surprised if it happens again this year.

PHT Stanley Cup Tracker: Reirden, Bowey give back during days with the Cup

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The PHT Stanley Cup tracker will keep tabs on how the Washington Capitals spend their summer celebrating

Last week, the Stanley Cup returned stateside after a jaunt off in Europe.

Back in America’s heartland, the cup visited Matt Niskanen in his hometown of Virginia, Minn., and made its first-ever trip to T.J. Oshie‘s hometown of Warroad, Minn., where it took a ride in the same car that chauffered around a certain Franklin D. Roosevelt long ago.

So far this summer, the Stanley Cup has been to the World Cup, had caviar eaten out of it and got trotted around in a former presidential car.

Not too shabby.

Washington’s new head coach Todd Reirden, who won the Cup as the team’s assistant to Barry Trotz (who has since moved on to the New York Islanders) got his day with Lord Stanley this past Thursday.

Reirden, a native of Deerfield, Ill., brought the Cup to the Indiana towns of Crown Point and Valparaiso. the latter where he had lived for 12 years. There, he spent time with local police officers and firefighters.

“The real thing I wanted to bring to this area and share is that the people around here were always phenomenal to me,” Reirden told ValpoLife.com. “I wanted this to be a way to give back and also build the game of hockey.”

And give back he did.

The event also had a hockey equipment drive and Bauer stepped with a nice donation.

Staff from the town figured upward of 1,000 people showed up for their chance to see hockey’s most prized possession.

From there, the Cup headed north to Winnipeg on Saturday.

Winnipeg has seen its fair share of the Stanley Cup over the past decade, with Jonathan Toews bringing it back to his hometown no less than three times with the Chicago Blackhawks.

But it was a different Winnipegger who enjoyed his day with the Cup over the weekend in The Peg, with Capitals defenseman Madison Bowey spreading the joy this time around.

Bowey took the Cup to the Children’s Hospital where sick kids were able to spend some time with it.

Bowey’s next stop was the rink where he played hockey as a youth.

“I had to come back here and just show that support, show that love and just how appreciative I am to this community, and just help all those young guys who are striving to be where I am now and I think if I can just come back and give back to my community it goes a long way,” Bowey told the Winnipeg Sun.

He got a chance to throw out the first pitch at a local baseball game.

And then got a chance to eat something homemade of the Cup — his grandmother’s borscht.

On Tuesday, the Cup will travel to Lashburn, Sask., where Braden Holtby will be there to parade it around town. The Cup will then travel to Ontario next weekend where Tom Wilson and his shiny new contract await. Devante Smith-Pelly will also get his day before Lord Stanley makes another trip across the pond, this time to Scandinavia.

A full list of dates and where the Cup will be on them can be found here.


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

PHT Stanley Cup Tracker: From Europe to the land of 10,000 lakes

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The PHT Stanley Cup tracker will keep tabs on how the Washington Capitals spend their summer celebrating

The Stanley Cup got a bit of a break last week after working its way through the World Cup, sampling a mug full of caviar and then taking a nice tour around the Czech Republic.

One would hope that the Cup got a chance to have a nice bath and maybe a massage.

The few days it did have off allowed it to travel back to North America, specifically The North Star State where it was given a hero’s welcome.

Lord Stanley’s first visit fresh off its European Tour was to Virginia, Minn., home of Matt Niskanen.

Niskanen was promptly handed the key to the city.

The Cup doesn’t make it around those parts too often, so it wasn’t a surprise to see the long lines waiting to get a glimpse of hockey’s holy grail.

From its day with Niskanen, the Cup then made its way north to the town of Warroad, which straddles the U.S.-Canadian border and is the hometown of T.J. Oshie.

Oshie isn’t the first NHLer from the minute town of 1,800 people. Warroad has produced quite a few stars across the sporting world over the years.

But Oshie is the first to bring the Cup to the northern Minnesota locale, and he did so in style on Tuesday.

Speaking of famous people from Warroad, 14 years ago Oshie and Olympic gold medalist Gigi Marvin in women’s hockey were crowned the king and queen at the 2005 Warroad Frost Festival.

They each showed off some different hardware 14 years later on Tuesday.

No Cup homecoming would be complete without a Cup stand, ie. someone drinking a large amount of alcohol out of it from an awkward position.

Oshie kept the tradition going, helping a couple fellow rookie teammates get in on the action.

Todd Reirden, the team’s newly minted head coach following the departure of Barry Trotz, will have his day with the Cup on Thursday before the mug heads north of the 49th parallel into Canada.

Trotz will still get his day with the Cup, of course, bringing it to Dauphin, Manitoba on Aug. 22. But first, the Cup will head to Winnipeg and the home of Madison Bowey this Saturday. From there it will make stops in Ontario for Todd Wilson and Devante Smith-Pelly before heading back out to Europe for a couple weeks, including stops in Sweden, Russia and Germany.

A full list of dates and where the Cup will be on them can be found here.


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

Report: Phil Housley the lead candidate for Devils’ coaching vacancy

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Phil Housley could be the next head coach of the New Jersey Devils.

According to Rich Chere of the Star-Ledger, Housley, who is currently an assistant coach with the Nashville Predators, has emerged as the front-runner for the coaching vacancy in New Jersey.

Chere reports GM Ray Shero has also interviewed former Tampa Bay Lightning coach Guy Boucher, Washington Capitals assistant coach Todd Reirden and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton coach John Hynes.

The Devils reportedly interviewed Dan Bylsma before he took the Buffalo Sabres job.

During his playing days Housley spent part of the 1995-96 season with the Devils.

The 51-year-old’s coaching experience includes a gold medal while behind the bench of Team USA at the 2013 World Junior Hockey Championship.

Caps add assistant Reirden after Pens dismiss him

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On the same day that the Pittsburgh Penguins parted ways with assistant coach Todd Reirden, the Washington Capitals decided to snatch him up in that same capacity.

Reirden was an assistant in Pittsburgh for the past four seasons, mostly working with the team’s defensemen and power-play units. He was also Dan Bylsma’s replacement for two seasons with the team’s AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton before joining Bylsma’s staff at the NHL level.

The 43-year-old played 183 NHL games in his career after being a 12th-round pick.

Barry Trotz’s coaching staff is really starting to come together in Washington. Along with adding Reirden, Trotz made sure to bring over his respected goalie coach Mitch Korn from the Nashville Predators on Tuesday.

With the front office picture being clarified, the Capitals can now focus on furnishing Trotz & Co. with the kind of players who align with their vision.

(Main image via the Capitals.)