Good morning and welcome to “Cats & Coffee,” a weekly segment presented by Community Coffee in which we get you caffeinated with an exciting look at the week ahead for the Florida Panthers.
The Florida Panthers are hoping the ping pong balls will bounce in their favor when the order of the first 15 picks in June’s draft are decided at the 2018 NHL Draft Lottery on Saturday, April 28 in Toronto.
The lottery will consist of three drawings to determine which team will pick first, second and third overall in the first round of the draft, which will be held at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas on Friday, June 22.
After finishing the season with 96 points – the most points among teams that did not qualify for the playoffs — Florida enters the lottery with a 1.0 percent chance of landing the No. 1 overall selection and a 3.3 percent shot at a top-three pick.
Buffalo, which finished with the fewest points, has an 18.5 percent chance of landing the top pick, with Ottawa (13.5) and Arizona (11.5) right behind them.
Once the top three picks are decided, the 12 remaining teams will be slotted in order of their 2017-18 regular-season records, from worst to best, to round out the top 15 selections.
If the Panthers fail to move into the top three, they will hold the 15th overall pick.
Stay tuned to @FlaPanthers on Twitter for updates on lottery night.
HOME TEAM FINALE
They’re proud to be Panthers.
In the final episode of the four-part miniseries Home Team: Florida Panthers, Roberto Luongo plays in his 1,000th NHL game as the team looks ahead to a promising future after falling just short of the playoffs with 96 points.
If you missed any episodes of the incredible behind-the-scenes series, all of them can be found at FloridaPanthers.com.
JOIN THE TERRITORY
There’s never been a better time to become a Season Ticket Holder.
Join the Panthers as they celebrate their 25th anniversary during the 2018-19 season and enjoy all the benefits that come with being a Season Ticket Holder, such as merchandise discounts, exclusive savings on concessions and priority access to concerts and events.
“We’re here because of your commitment,” said Panthers President & CEO Matthew Caldwell to season ticket holders. “Your support and passion for hockey in South Florida means the world to us and we are honored to have you as a part of our family. We look forward to having you as a part of this historic 25th anniversary season, while making exciting new memories.”
Visit https://www.nhl.com/panthers/tickets or call (954) 835-PUCK to learn more.
CATS IN THE COMMUNITY
COLD COFFEE (IN CASE YOU MISSED IT)
– The Panthers trusted the system in the first season under new head coach Bob Boughner.
– In the final entry of his blog, defenseman Alexander Petrovic looks back on the big steps the Panthers took this season.
– Aleksander Barkov has been named a finalist for the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy for the second time in his career.
– Roberto Luongo is a finalist for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy.
– The Panthers were one of the toughest teams in the NHL this season.
– What does it take to become an NHL equipment manager? Find out from Panthers head equipment manager Teddy Richards in this week’s episode of the “Territory Talk” podcast!
NBC analyst Mike Milbury said Monday night that he wouldn’t be shocked to see the expansion Vegas Golden Knights to go “further than the second round.”
“They could actually play in June,” he said. “I shake my head when I say that, but it’s gone too long now.”
The Golden Knights continued one of the most fascinating seasons in pro history Tuesday when they downed the Los Angeles Kings with another 1-0 win to finish a four-game sweep of the Western Conference quarterfinal series.
Here are five reasons why the Golden Knights could win the Stanley Cup:
Fleury’s flying: No one, including the Boston Bruins’ David Pastrnak, is having a greater impact for his team than Vegas goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. In his first three games, he had a 0.84 goals-against average and a .970 save percentage. Fleury, 33, might be playing the best hockey of his noteworthy career. He has been the Golden Knights’ MVP all season. He oozes charm, confidence and charisma. He was born to play in Las Vegas.
Pushy style: The Golden Knights have been in playoff mode since October. Most teams build up their intensity and championship ambition. But the Golden Knights stormed out of the gates in full gallop, displaying a speed-based, hard-charging, relentless, attacking style that is perfect for playoff success. Opponents believed the Golden Knights wouldn’t be able to sustain this taxing style into the playoffs. That theory has proved to be incorrect.
#VegasStrong: Vegas players wanted to do what they could to help their community heal from the mass shooting that left 58 dead just before the season opened. They have forged a bond with the community that seems to inspire them at every home game. Everyone in town is talking about the Golden Knights, and the overwhelming fan support has already made T-Mobile Arena one of the NHL’s loudest buildings. It’s a challenging road game for opponents.
Gallant men: Coach Gerard Gallant has played a major role in transforming a patchwork collection of players into a championship-caliber team. He is a player’s coach, an old-school hockey guy who gets the most out of his players by empowering them and propping up their confidence. He’s an overwhelming favorite to win the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year.
Everything to prove, nothing to lose: Every player, coach and member of management came from somewhere else. Everyone performed this season as if they had a chip on their shoulder because their previous team deemed them expendable. Every game, the Golden Knights had someone on the roster who previously played for that night’s opponent and had a special reason to beat that team. That attitude fueled a unified effort to play every game with passion and purpose. The feeling that everyone had something to prove has now carried into the playoffs. It is working even better.
SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — The Minnesota Wild played the season finale with more urgency even though it was the San Jose Sharks who had something at stake.
Jason Zucker scored twice in the second period, Eric Staal matched the franchise record for goals in a season and the Wild denied San Jose home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs with a 6-3 victory over the Sharks on Saturday night.
inRead invented by Teads
While the Wild were locked into the third seed in the Central Division, the Sharks needed one point to finish second in the Pacific and open the playoffs at home. Instead, San Jose lost for the fifth time in the final six games and will be forced to hit the road to start the playoffs against Anaheim in the first meeting between the rivals since the Ducks upset the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Sharks in 2009.
“It was disappointing tonight, but one game doesn’t define our season,” coach Peter DeBoer said. “I think if someone told me a month ago that we’d have 100 points, I would have taken that, regardless if we had home-ice or who we were playing or not.”
Mikael Granlund scored the tiebreaking goal 28 seconds before Zucker got his first and Jonas Brodin and Matt Cullen also scored for the Wild. Staal added an empty-net goal to tie Marian Gaborik’s franchise record for goals in a season with 42.
“I wasn’t going to miss that one,” Staal said. “It’s cool, it’s fun to have that alongside Marian, he’s a great player and a great goal scorer, so it was fun.”
Devan Dubnyk made 27 saves. Minnesota finished the season with 101 points, going over the 100-point mark for the second straight season and fourth time in franchise history.
“I thought our team played really hard,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “I don’t know if (San Jose) took the night off, or not, I’m hoping to believe that we played well enough that we didn’t give them an opportunity.”
Brent Burns, Joe Pavelski and Timo Meier scored for San Jose. Martin Jones allowed five goals on 19 shots before being replaced by Aaron Dell to start the third period.
The Sharks started strong in the second period and held Minnesota without a shot for more than eight minutes. But the Wild then struck twice within less than a minute midway through the period to take control.
Granlund started it with a wrist shot for his 21st goal before Zucker took over with two goals of his own, giving him 33 on the season and the Wild coasted from there to the victory.
“We didn’t play too well,” Sharks forward Logan Couture said. “We should have played better. Disappointing. I think over 82 games in the season we had a pretty solid year to make the playoffs.”
The Wild started fast, holding San Jose to no shots on goal for nearly nine minutes and taking a 2-0 lead on goals from Brodin and Cullen.
The Sharks then found their game late in the period and scored twice in 64 seconds to tie it, with Burns getting the first on a shot from the point and Pavelski tying the game after a turnover by Matt Dumba.
NOTES: Wild D Louie Belpedio made his NHL debut after signing a contract earlier this week following a four-year career at Miami of Ohio. He had two assists to become the first Minnesota player ever with two points in his debut. … Sharks F Evander Kane returned to the lineup after missing two games with an undisclosed injury. … Brodin’s goal gave him 100 career points.
It was a week when everything seemed to conspire to remind me of the days when I was first writing sports columns back in the mid-1990s — and to remind us all that the times are a-changing.
The nostalgic mood was struck first by Vladimir Guerrero Jr. appearing at the Olympic Stadium wearing number 27. His father (a no-show for his son’s debut at the Big O) was a splinter at this age, but apart from that there are many similarities, including the fact the younger Guerrero never saw a pitch he didn’t like. When he hit a walk-off home run for the game’s only run in the ninth inning Tuesday night, it was as though he were all younger, livelier, more hopeful.
But even then, the changes hit home: the home run was hit for the Blue Jays, not the Expos. The younger Guerrero will begin his career in Toronto, not Montreal. And while Stephen Bronfman hit a hopeful note in his remarks to the press, the Expos (at least for now) do not exist.
Later in the week, we learned Canadiens PR maven Donald Beauchamp is hanging them up after 25 years in what may be the toughest job in this city. Caught between journalists who demand every scrap of information there is to be had in both official languages and Canadiens management, which would prefer they get nothing at all, Beauchamp steered a masterful middle course for a quarter-century.
Beauchamp and I were friends and occasional antagonists for two decades. More than once, a quiet word from Beauchamp kept me from embarrassing myself in public even more than usual. He will be missed.
Then came more somber news: former Canadiens defenceman Lyle Odelein was in serious condition in a Pittsburgh hospital with as yet undiagnosed health problem. The 49-year-old Odelein was a lively, funny, plain-spoken and thoroughly genuine athlete when I first came on the beat, my first go-to guy in the room, possessor of a fierce crush on Shania Twain and a ready wit.
There are dozens of Odelein stories we could tell, but the one that comes to mind was the time Eric Lindros pounded another Canadiens defenceman (who shall remain nameless) into the ice. I noticed Odelein skated up and said something to the big guy afterward, so I asked Odelein what it was.
Odelein laughed. “I said: ‘Why’d you go and do that? Now I have to fight you for him, and I hate that $@*%*@#!”
Finally, there was this note posted by sports columnist Stu Cowan — and it was not an April Fool’s gem: On April 1, 1989, Patrick Roy completed an unbeaten season at home, going 25-0-4 as the Canadiens tied Philadelphia at the Forum, 2-2.
I had to blink twice as I stared at that statistic: 29 home starts in one season, zero losses. Try to connect numbers like that to Carey Price and today’s Canadiens. It’s unthinkable.
All in all, our nostalgic reverie points to one conclusion: the times are a-changing, and the Canadiens are not changing with them. Or at least they’re not changing fast enough. Under Geoff Molson and Marc Bergevin, the once-great CH is becoming one of the most hide-bound, conservative organizations in the game. It isn’t serving them well.
Grant McCagg, the hockey scout who has teamed up with Brian Wilde on recrutes.ca to offer some of the most astute observations on all things Canadiens to be found, posted this on Twitter: “Bergevin is old school and his two main assistants in (Larry) Carrière and Rick Dudley are eligible for pensions. Hired (Claude) Julien, almost signed (Milan) Lucic, picked up (Karl) Alzner for a top-4 role. Those are outdated decisions.”
McCagg pointed to the Leafs analytics guru Kyle Dubas (age 31 and tipped to succeed Lou Lamoriello as GM as early as this coming season) as an example of the new blood the Canadiens need. “Not one offensive-minded teacher in the organization,” McCagg said. “It’s time to move into the 21st century. The game is evolving.”
I think there’s still room for a wise old head or two in front offices and I’m not necessarily sold on whiz-kid GMs with analytics backgrounds, but there is no doubt: the game is evolving and it is time to move into the 21st century.
Yet the Canadiens seem to prefer to wallow in nostalgia as they try to work their way back to the formula that succeeded when they had Patrick Roy, the best money goaltender of all time, between the pipes. Whatever else he may be, Price is no Roy and even if he was, there’s no indication the formula works in today’s NHL.
Instead, the Canadiens need to find coaches who can unlock the potential in Jonathan Drouin and Alex Galchenyuk, and front office people who understand the days when you can carve out a pretty good NHL career while skating like Hal Gill or Guillaume Latendresse are over. The league is not only changing, it’s changing fast. If you get left up the track, it could take a decade or more to recover.
Nostalgia is fine for aging sports columnists and Jefferson Airplane cover bands. For sports organizations, it can result in a lengthy stay on the can’t-compete list.
Predators fans can hold off on pressing the panic button.
Nashville bounced back Tuesday from three straight losses with a 2-1 shootout win over Minnesota in a game that had a playoff feel to it at Bridgestone Arena.
The Predators (49-16-11), already in the playoffs, held off the Wild (42-24-10), a Central Division foe closing in on a playoff spot, when Kyle Turris scored the winning goal.
Rexrode: Predators are in some trouble … or have we lost perspective?
More: Predators prospect Eeli Tolvanen parts with KHL team
The Predators — who now have 109 points and are one away from tying the most in franchise history — clinched home ice for the first round of the playoffs with the points they earned Tuesday.
The Predators failed to capitalize on several scoring opportunities in the second period. There were few opportunities in the third.
Even without scoring a second regulation goal, the Predators were more aggressive in a game that got physical early and stayed that way throughout.
Before the three-game slump, the Predators had put together a franchise-record-setting 14-0-1 stretch.
Here are three observations from Tuesday’s game:
Rinne finally tames Wild
Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne, who took Sunday off against Winnipeg, returned Tuesday to face an opponent he’s struggled with this season.
He came into the game 0-3 this season against Minnesota. In the Predators’ only win over the Wild — a 3-0 shutout on Dec 30 — Jusse Suros was in net.
Rinne’s three losses: 6-4 on Nov. 16, 4-2 on Dec. 29 and 4-1 last Saturday.
On Tuesday, however, Rinne was stingy early and came up big in the shootout by stopping three shots.
He finished with 22 saves.
Rinne will likely sit out one more game and possibly two in the regular season.
Setting up for a big finish
With just six games left in the regular season, one in which the Predators have established themselves as one of the NHL’s best teams, Tuesday’s victory sets up what could be a strong finish.
And with that would be some much-needed momentum heading into the playoffs.
Tuesday was the first of a three-game home stretch with San Jose coming to town Thursday and Buffalo visiting on Saturday.
The opportunity is there for the taking.
Of course, San Jose is thinking the same thing. The Sharks are taking advantage of deadline additions of Evander Kane and Eric Fehr, playing well and staying within striking distance of first-place Vegas in the Pacific Division.
Buffalo, meanwhile, could be headed for a last-place finish, not only the Eastern Division but overall in the NHL. The Predators shut out the Sabres 4-0 last week to extend their point streak to 15 games.
Watson, Weber, Tolvanen updates
The Predators listed forward Austin Watson and Yannick Weber as day-to-day with upper-body injuries Tuesday morning. Both suffered their respective injuries against the Wild on Saturday. Watson participated in Tuesday’s morning skate, but Weber didn’t.
On Tuesday, the Nashville chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association announced Watson as the Predators’ nominee for the Masterton Trophy, given to the NHL player who “best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.”
The Predators also updated the status of forward prospect Eeli Tolvanen, who opted out of his KHL contract Monday. They said that they’ve begun the process of trying to sign him to an entry-level contract. A spokesman from Tolvanen’s KHL team told The Tennessean on Monday that the 18-year-old is scheduled to travel to North America on Wednesday.
New Jersey Devils forward Marcus Johansson, who has missed 28 games battling a concussion stemming from a Brad Marchand elbow to the head Jan. 23, returned to practice Monday and didn’t hold back on his opinion of the hit.
“It was stupid. There’s nothing else to say about it,” Johannson said of the hit from the controversial Boston Bruins winger. “There was no point in doing that. There was no hockey play there whatsoever. I think it’s sad to see that there’s still guys out there that are trying to hurt other guys.
“I hope it doesn’t come to him ending someone else’s career before it’s enough. That’s not why we play the game. I think there’s always situations where you try and hit someone and you try to make a hockey play, and things can go wrong. Then there are plays like this, that has nothing to do with hockey. So it’s sad to see, and I guess I’m unfortunate to be on the receiving end of that.”
Marchand, 29, a talented forward but no stranger to discipline for illegal hits, served a five-game suspension for this one. But Johansson said he wasn’t satisfied with the amount of the time served by Marchand.
“Ah, not really, considering it was the ninth time he got suspended or fined,” Johansson said. “Trying to put that behind me, and I just want to get back to feeling normal again and that’s all I can do.”
Johansson, 27, is in his first season with the Devils, who acquired him from the Washington Capitals for 2018 second- and third-round draft picks. He has five goals and nine assists in 29 games this season, after a career-best 24 goals last season with the Capitals.
The Devils are currently holding onto the second wild-card berth in the Eastern Conference with seven games to play.
Turning our attention to the New York Islanders offseason, what do the Islanders do with their seven restricted free agents? Do they sign them? And if so how much?
The 2017-18 season has nine games to go for the New York Islanders. But we’re already ready to look forward to the 2018-19 NHL season.
Going into the offseason, the Islanders have seven notable free agents on the roster. I say notable because I wanted to not only focus on players on the regular roster but Devon Toews in the AHL as well.
What should the Islanders do with their restricted free agents? We assume they’re going to tend qualifying offers to all of them. Even for a player like Shane Prince, it doesn’t make sense to just let him walk for nothing.
If they were going to sign these players what would that contract look like? Do the Islanders take a chance with Devon Toews at the NHL level and give him a Mayfield type deal?
What about Brock Nelson? He might yet hit 20 goals for the third season in a row. Does that warrant a substantial raise, even if he completely disappears during the sunless winter months?
And how about Ryan Pulock? he’s quietly put together a solid season at the NHL level. What’s the next step for him? Do they lock him up long-term, or do they tender him a short offer to see if he can duplicate it?
At this point, most New York Rangers’ fans have accepted that the playoffs are a major longshot and that they should be preparing for the draft. But, since the Rangers may not get the first overall pick, who could they draft?
The New York Rangers’ 2017-2018 season has been from perfect. They are set to miss the playoffs for the first time since 2010 after a season of mediocrity.
However, one positive thing to come out of this is a high draft pick. As long as their
While many are hopeful about a top five or even top 10 pick, it’s always better to be prepared. Let’s take a look at a prospect who won’t necessarily go first overall, but would still help a lot.
One of the players that could potentially be available when the Rangers pick is Brady Tkachuk. Yes, he’s that kind of Tkachuk; son of Keith and brother of Matthew, both past, and present NHL players. He’s also cousins with some familiar faces, Ranger Kevin Hayes and his brother Jimmy Hayes. But, there are a ton of reasons to remember this player that go past his family ties.
Career so far
Tkachuk began his hockey career in 2013. During the 2013-2014 season, he played for the St. Louis AAA Blues Bantam Major of the T1EBHL. In 26 games, he recorded 18 goals and 15 assists for a total of 33 points.
Between the end of that season, and the entirety of the next, he played a total of 34 games for the St. Louis AAA Blues U16 of the T1EHL U16. In his time there, he notched 15 goals and 28 assists, totaling 43 points.
In the years since then, he played in two more leagues, the USHL and the USDP, where he continued to develop. Last year, he the forward made his first appearance in World Juniors. He served as USA’s captain and scored one goal and six assists for a total of seven points in seven games.
The 18-year-old truly made a name for himself this past year, when he played for Boston University of the NCAA. In 38 games with them, he has 29 points (eight goals and 21 assists).
Additionally, he reprised his role as a member of Team USA in this year’s World Juniors, recording two more points than last year in the same amount of games (three goals and six assists for nine points in seven games).
Expectations and how he can help
There is a mixed bag of opinions in regards to Brady Tkachuk. However, all of the opinions are pretty positive, to varying degrees.
He has been ranked as high as the projected third overall pick in this year’s NHL Entry Draft, by Future Considerations and NHL Central Scouting. The forward was projected as the fourth overall pick by ISS Hockey and McKeen’s Hockey, and fifth overall by HockeyProspect.com, so it seems that the jury is still out on him.
But, if one thing is for sure, the left-handed shot is definitely a great player. According to ISS Hockey, he has a “big body [and] isn’t afraid to use it.” Furthermore, they add that he “plays all 200 feet of the rink” and “loves those dirty areas.”
Standing at 6’3″ and 196 pounds, he brings an element that can’t be taught; size. His physical presence is a huge upside of his game, adding on to his consistent point production.
The New York Rangers have been dealing with a lack of center depth lately. Though it seems to be solved right now, Tkachuk can play either center or left wing, so he could help in that regard.
The St. Louis, Missouri, native also plays a more physically offensive game than many of the current Rangers. Skill is obviously important, and he has that, but the physicality is a great bonus to have.
So, he may not be Rasmus Dahlin or Filip Zadina, but Brady Tkachuk could definitely be a huge help to the New York Rangers. Some consider him a top-five pick, while others have no idea who he is.
The Rangers need to knock their top ten pick out of the park, Tkachuk might be that home run.
The Dallas Stars (38-26-7) are in town today, as the Ottawa Senators (25-33-11) will look to win their third game in a row for the first time since the second week of the season. Dallas is hanging on to the West’s second wild card spot by the skin of their teeth, whereas the Sens are inching closer to mathematical elimination.
Mark Stone is still out injured, and the defence looks to be staying the same with Claesson back in the lineup. The Stars will be regaining Ben Bishop from injury, with Craig Anderson getting the nod in net for Ottawa.
Here are tonight’s expected combos:
Dzingel – Duchene – Hoffman
Ryan – Pageau – Burrows
Paajarvi – Smith – Pyatt
McCormick – O’Brien – Gaborik
What would be a Sens-Stars game without mentioning Jason Spezza? Age is starting to catch up to him, as his current pace of eight goals and 29 points would be the lowest since his rookie season, where he spent half the time in the AHL. He’s currently centering their fourth line.
Ben Bishop returns to the Stars’ crease, with his last game being on March 5th — also against the Sens when he was injured mid-game. Ottawa won that contest 3-2 in OT.
Marc Methot was expected to make his return to Ottawa tonight, although was recently sidelined with a hand injury (the same hand that was slashed by Crosby). Julius Honka takes his place.
The defensive scoring race is heating up, with a group of players catching up to John Klingberg for the lead. Erik Karlsson is a part of that group, with four less points and a game in hand. In terms of points per game, Karlsson ranks second league-wide behind Colorado’s Tyson Barrie.
The Stars haven’t been as much of an offensive threat as they’ve been in the past, but their top line of Benn-Seguin-Radulov has been unstoppable. Since the beginning of March they’ve combined for 26 points in Dallas’ last eight games.
Some good news today as the Professional Hockey Writers Association (PHWA) today, as they voted overwhelmingly to reveal their ballots for the NHL awards. Two members left Erik Karlsson completely off their Norris ballot last year, so hopefully the transparency can make for more honest voting.
Well would you guys look at that! The losing streak’s over! What were we even worried about? Everything’s great, right! This is thrilling!
OK, now we can bring it down a level. We saw a good game from the Flyers—perhaps the best in their last six—they picked up a well deserved win, and we learned some things in the process. Let’s dip into those.
All stats via Corsica.Hockey, Natural Stat Trick, and NHL.com
1. Doing the work early
So, the Flyers have now played three games in four days, so it seems reasonable that they’d seem a little sluggish out of the gate, as they get up to speed, right? Nope!
The Flyers got to work immediately, flashing some speed and showing no signs of lethargy. They made it through the period without a goal, but outshot the Jets 11-9. But the real high point of their early play was their defense. Immediately noticeable was how well they were getting after the puck and disrupting the Jets’ attempts to control with some nice poke checking, limiting their options in the neutral and offensive zones. The flip side of this, of course, is that the Jets were doing similar defensive work, and and the Flyers found their efforts almost equally disrupted. So it was kind of a disruption-fest, all around. But the jump was there, built on from Thursday’s game in Boston, and to built on further as they hit the second period.
2. [Insert whatever the word for a weak surge is here]
Oh yeah, so that disruption-fest we touched on up there? It was out in full force on the Flyers’ first power play attempt. With it beginning to become apparent that both teams would be struggling to generate real quality chances, at even strength, the Flyers got a gift in the form of Dustin Byfuglien taking a tripping penalty just under nine minutes into the first period, giving them their best chance to make something happen. But it…did not go so smoothly.
The first unit spent the entirety of their time on the ice chasing the puck and struggling to even get set up—they failed to do so, and went off on a change after the requisite minute. The second was able to get set up, but did a lot of shuffling of the puck around the zone, waiting for lanes to open that never did. They got off one whole shot before the penalty was killed.
Their second attempt, after Wheeler took a tripping penalty, was mostly the same story. It was a better look for the first unit, but on the whole, it was a pretty uninspired showing. And, it would be easier, perhaps to get very worked up about how the Flyers couldn’t even score a goal with an extra player on the ice, were it not for…
3. The other man-advantage
That’s right, the Flyers also had another chance on the man-advantage yesterday. Just two and a half minutes after killing the Wheeler penalty, Winnipeg took another, but this time it was delayed, and the Flyers were able to control the puck long enough to pull Mrazek and get Giroux out with the Filppula line. And then… well, you know the rest…
And there you have it, after much trial and tribulation for the Flyers’ actual power play units, their weird hodge podge group of mostly non-power players got it done. Huh.
So what did we learn here? Is the weird hodge-podge better than the first power play unit? Should they all be promoted? Probably not. But the power play’s just hit a bit of a slump, and it’s one that they’ll need to work their way out of. They scored a goal on the man-advantage, and with a group less stacked with talent than PP1. Shaping up may be easier said than done, but it has to be done.
4. Sanheim time!
But now, onto the real big news of yesterday’s game. With Hagg out for two weeks with a lower-body injury, and Oduya listed as day-to-day with the same umbrella ailment, Travis Sanheim finally got his well earned call-up to the big club. He’s been tearing it up down with the Phantoms, and really should have been here sooner, but hey, he’s back now! So how’d he do?
In short: very well. He put up one shot, and posted an adjusted CF% of 64.50 percent in 12:42 at five-on-five. His work in the neutral zone was solid, and we saw him playing aggressively and working well to help the Flyers keep their offensive plays alive, in the face of strong pressure by the Jets. But what was perhaps most remarkable about his game was that it was exactly that: his game. He didn’t come back and try to play in a particular way to appease anyone, he just kept his head down and did what he does best. And it served him well.
5. New mask, new me?
Why don’t we follow up our welcome back with another, softer one. We just saw Petr Mrazek on Wednesday in that game against the Penguins that we are otherwise not talking about, but he had the night off against Boston, had a bit of time to rest and regroup after a series of showings that were varying degrees of rough, and was ready to get back to older(er) form.
We’ve been waiting for him to get back to that level he was playing at his first few games in Philly, and yesterday, he did just that. Looking at the numbers, Mrazek stopped 27 of the 28 shots he faced, including eight high danger chances, for a .964 save percentage. By the eyes, he just looked sharper. His awareness of the puck’s location was better, as was his rebound control. His reaction time, too, seemed to be kicked up, and he was back to making the crazy fast glove saves that he was flashing in his first three games.
The low point of his game, of course, was allowing the Laine goal on the penalty kill. He didn’t really stand much of a chance on this one, with some traffic in front, the cross-ice passes that were positive lasers, and the fact that it was Laine’s shot made for a lethal combination. It doesn’t erase that he’d of course prefer to post a shutout, but the fact remains that it was the only goal allowed, and this was good enough to get the job done and cap off a solid game.
6. The voice of god coming down on us
I’m going to be honest with you guys, this is consistently one of my favorite hockey things, when it happens, and yesterday’s example was perfect.
Second period. The Flyers are cycling the puck around the zone with some serious speed, and MacDonald fires a lightning fast shot in on Hellebuyck who gloves it and then puts the puck back in play. We’re disappointed at the failure to convert, but impressed by the pressure. Play continues.
And then! The buzzer sounds in the middle of play. People look around. I gasp, whisper what was absolutely not an excited expletive to Charlie. The war room in Toronto has phoned in. It was a good goal. And the Flyers have a two goal lead.
So the perception of the play shifts. Rather than a nice bit of pressure and a big save, it was a stellar close to punctuate some sharp cross-ice passing. They looked dangerous on that shift, and were met with the appropriate result. Let’s see more of that, please.
And there’s just one more thing: for a moment it looked like the puck deflected off Lindblom between when it left Patrick’s stick and when it reached MacDonald, which would have, of course, given him his first NHL point, but it just wasn’t meant to be. And, at this point, it just feels mean. So, I have to ask: how many dollars do I have to pay to buy Lindblom a point? I don’t have a lot of dollars, but I will do it.
7. Killing penalties (the saga continues)
Yep. You had to know this was coming, right? But, don’t worry, it’s mostly good news. Let’s start with a tidbit of information:
If you’ve been keeping up, you’ll have noticed that we’ve been talking a lot about the Flyers’ penalty kill recently. And for good reason–they’ve been doing well, much better than they were just a few months ago. And yesterday was no exception. On Winnipeg’s first three power plays, the Flyers were little short of exceptional. They were able to keep the puck effectively cleared out of the zone—even breaking out for a couple of near-breakaway chances–and limiting the Jets to just one shot in total. They got burned on the fourth, allowing the Laine goal, but all in all the process was still solid enough.
And, to bring this back out to the larger context, we should reiterate how great of news this is, as the playoffs draw nearer. Could they still stand to be burned by very good power play units? Absolutely. But we’re also seeing the Flyers effectively shoring up one major trouble area at just the right time, and that’s certainly not nothing.
8. Another welcome back
And we have another return that we still have to talk about! It’s technically his second game back, after playing on Thursday in Boston, but Matt Read has now made is return to home ice. And after a quiet enough first game back, he was certainly more noticeable yesterday. But in a good way. In the way that leaves us asking how in the world did it take until March to have him back up here?
Placed on the fourth line with Laughton and Lehtera, Read had a solid enough game—he posted a strong 70.93 adjusted CF% at five-on-five, and put up three shots on goal. He was solid in his time on the penalty kill. He brought a bit of flash with a breakaway attempt. Indeed, Read fit back in without looking like he’d missed a step. He added a level of dynamism that was missed, and yeah, could have helped the team before this. And that’s something we could quibble about, to be sure, but in the end, the fact remains—it’s just good to have him back.
9. Matching up (and other loose ends)
We’ve been paying a lot of attention of late to the way Hakstol is deploying his forwards, how he wants his lines to match up against opponents’—and with good reason, as there have been some good calls and some questionable calls made. And yesterday we saw a little bit of both.
Throughout the game, Hakstol was going out of his way to put the Filppula line out against Stastny’s. And you kind of see where he’s coming from. You’d rather have the Couturier line out against Wheeler and the Little line. Makes sense. Maybe you want to shelter the Patrick line a little bit. You probably shouldn’t have to at this point, but fine. The line is an improvement, with Raffl and Simmonds on the wings, and worked reasonably well yesterday—with the trio posting a less than stellar adjusted 39.11 CF% at five-on-five, but prevented any goals against. So, by the larger results, it worked out just fine.
But it does leave one question—when and how exactly did Laughton lose the coach’s trust? It wasn’t too long ago that he was leaned on to be an effective shutdown center, but somewhere along the line he was jumped in the pecking order, with little indication of why. He hasn’t been scoring goals (is this the problem?), but he remains defensively steady and reliable, so the shift is somewhat jarring. And one’s left to wonder how long this new paradigm holds.
10. The only damn thing I know
As you may have seen, it was Kids night (Kids day? Kids matinee?) at yesterday’s game and frankly I am very disappointed in the powers that be for not delivering a massive game for the Flyers’ kids. Patrick picked up the primary assist on MacDonald’s goal, which was cool, and Sanheim was back which was also cool, but otherwise, not nearly enough excitement for the kids. Universe, this would have been the perfect time to make the first Lindblom goal happen. A perfect opportunity squandered. Sigh.