Kukla's Korner Hockey
My over/under of how many times this cannon fires over the weekend is 50!
from Scott Powers of ESPNChicago,
Chicago Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman will undoubtedly be making and taking calls over the coming month and a half, but he doesn’t expect to make any big moves leading up to the NHL’s trade deadline....
“I would never rule things out, but I don’t know if we’re going to be a really active player,” said Bowman before the Blackhawks played the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday. “In the game today with the salary cap, we’re essentially right at the cap now. So if you’re going to be adding players, unless you’re trading players away, I’m not sure we’re in that spot.
“Sometimes you have a guy or two who is underperforming or whose contract you’re trying to get rid of, but we don’t really have anyone like that. We like our guys. They’re all contributing. Certainly they have slumps and they play well and struggle at times but, in general, it’s not like we have to get rid of this guy. If you were to trade one of those, you create one hole to fill another.”
from Gare Joyce of Sportsnet,
The BMO CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game is one of the more curious fixtures on the NHL calendar. Ostensibly it’s a chance for the CHL draft-eligible elites to showcase their stuff in front of the largest contingent of NHL scouts gathered outside of the draft combine and the entry draft itself. But even the players know that the idea of a guy playing himself onto the radar with a boffo performance at the Top Prospects is hokum. “It’s not going to make or break you, but there’s a lot of people watching,” Erie Otters centre Dylan Strome said Tuesday.
By definition, the TPG isn’t a place for discoveries—it’s a by-invitation event, NHL teams letting Central Scouting Service know which CHL players they’d like to eyeball in the smallest possible and seemingly least useful sample, 60 minutes of all-star action. So why do it at all, other than provide a bit of all-star entertainment? Why not do it like CHL all-star games in bygone years, when the teams also included already drafted players, a true major-junior best of?
The key here is timing. NHL scouting departments time their winter meetings around this January event for a few compelling reasons.
1. The area scouts will have books with multiple viewings on top prospects in their respective leagues. Their reports are filed on the fly.
Coverage of the game tonight starts at 7:00pm ET on NHL Network US, Sportsnet and TVA.
"We're going to get to the point on the ice, and we're closely approaching the point off the ice, where we're not going to be on anyone's no-trade list. "We want to be the place where people want to come because it's a fantastic off-ice experience. The fans here are second to none. The quality of life here is second to none. And on ice, is it going to be the place where people will come to win a championship? It starts with the Pegulas. Teams that win championships, it rarely happens with detached ownership. It has to mean something. The Pegulas are all-in. Everything they do is about winning a championship and changing a city. If we do one without the other, it's a failure."
-Ted Black, President of the Buffalo Sabres. Much more on the Sabres from Pierre LeBrun of ESPN.
By Mike Shackil,
The All Star game may be the main event of All Star weekend, but Saturday night will still have one of the most fun NHL events of the year. Every season the NHL All Star Skills Competition proves itself a truly unique event that brings excitement and fun for all involved.
This season, there will be the Bridgestone NHL Fastest Skater, the Honda NHL Breakaway Challenge, the DraftKings NHL Accuracy Shooting, the Gatorade NHL Skills Challenge Relay, the AMP NHL Hardest Shot and the Discover NHL Shootout. While this may look like an over-sponsored event, it is still something the fans love to see.
While this ticket isn't going to get as much attention as the actual game, it might actually be a better buy. The average ticket price for the event is going for $214. Just to get into the door of the Nationwide Arena, it is going to cost $86. The skills competition brings an exciting and unique hockey experience for a reasonable price.
from Tavis Yost of TSN,
One of the big reasons why the Western Conference playoff race is so captivating this year is tied into the emergence of the Winnipeg Jets as a legitimate contender. Combine that with Nashville’s explosion in the standings, and you’re looking at a quarter of the playoff berths in the West potentially going to teams who many had on the outside looking in last October.
Make no mistake, a big reason why Winnipeg has looked better in the standings this year of is tied into improvement in the goaltending department. Michael Hutchinson has been a blessing for Paul Maurice’s team, and even Ondrej Pavelec has turned things around a bit this season. Relatively speaking, it’s the best goaltending the Atlanta/Winnipeg franchise has seen.
The goaltending has carried things along, but it’s important to note that Winnipeg’s also playing significantly better from a possession standpoint this season, too. At Arctic Ice Hockey, Garret Hohl did an excellent job explaining the team’s spike in Score-Adjusted Corsi% this season (53.3% year-to-date, good for 9th in the NHL), and how three of Winnipeg’s four lines are generally out-playing the opposition.
This, of course, brings us to the most important question of all. We know the team can skate with most opponents. We know the goaltending’s improved – although there’s a degree of uncertainty as to whether or not the Hutchinson/Pavelec duo can hold on. If you are Kevin Cheveldayoff and are looking to improve this club at the trade deadline, how do you do it?
BLACKHAWKS EDGE PENGUINS IN SHOOTOUT
The Penguins erased a two-goal deficit, but Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane both scored in the shootout to lead the Blackhawks to their second straight win.
* At 30-15-2 (62 points), the Blackhawks tied the idle Blues (29-13-4, 62 points) – in terms of points – for second place in the Central Division. St. Louis, however, owns the ROW tiebreaker (STL: 25, CHI: 24).
* Toews notched his 37th career shootout goal and 13th decisive marker (37-for-75, 49.3%). His 37 shootout goals are tied for fourth among active skaters, while his 49.3% efficiency places third among active players with a minimum of 50 attempts.
* Toews also collected one assist to stretch his point streak to a season-high seven games (1-8—9). He ranks second on the Blackhawks with 14-28—42 in 47 appearances.
from Pierre LeBrun of ESPN,
... What I do remember, though, is how the Kings felt in September, buoyed by the feeling they were getting, players showing up early for camp with the sense their focus was different than the last time they had to defend a title. Well, just like almost every other team that's won a Stanley Cup over the past 15 years or so, the hangover is in full effect.
As Scott mentioned, the Kings limp into the break sitting one point out of a playoff spot. I fully expect the defending champs to make the playoffs, but it's just eating at management to see how it's played out so far this seeason. The rope-a-dope thing, where the Kings turn it on just in time late in the season, is getting old for the L.A. front office.
Let's be fair, though, and note that losing Slava Voynov was impactful, because top-four blue-liners don't grow on trees. I suspect you'll see a trade or two before the March 2 deadline from GM Dean Lombardi, who's never scared to tweak his roster. Should be an interesting final two and a half months of the regular season in L.A.
read on for Custance on Penguins/Blackhawks, Strang on a ASG replacement for Bobrovsky and Burnside on the Avalanche...
“I want to be the team with the puck, and when you have the puck, it’s hard to hit guys. I don’t see physical teams or teams taking runs at us as an issue at all. This league is not about running guys anymore. And the word heavy — that’s the word of the day in the NHL, heavy and light. Our guys play hard. I’m more worried about our special teams, honestly, then about playing heavy teams.’’
-Steve Yzerman, GM of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune has more from Yzerman regarding the Bolts season.
from Brett Cyrgalis of the New York Post,
When general manager Garth Snow traded for defensemen Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy just four days before the start of the season, almost all around the league applauded the moves and immediately inserted the Islanders into the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
Yet to be at 31-14-1 and in first place 46 games into the season? To be four points ahead of the Penguins (who have on game in hand)? And to be five points ahead of the defending Eastern Conference champions and blood rival, the Rangers — who just so happened to win 16 of 19 before the break, yet still hold two games in hand.
“I’m very pleased up until this point with our hockey club,” Capuano said. “We’ve done a lot of good things, not only winning hockey games, but how we’re winning games and how we’re playing within the structure and the framework that we talk about every day.”
The thing is Capuano isn’t holding some secret motivational tool (as much as he often sounds like an excerpt from Rhonda Byrne or Tony Robbins). Instead, the motivation has come simply from piling up wins, which has come from the addition of new players who are playing well and have added depth.
Sometimes, it’s really as simple as getting better players.
About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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