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from Nick Kypreos at the Toronto Star,
With the playoffs two weeks away, it feels like the goaltending position has never been more vulnerable. Gone are the times when goaltenders seemed irreplaceable.
With the exception of Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Lightning, Igor Shesterkin of the New York Rangers and Ilya Sorokin of the New York Islanders, the majority of playoff-bound netminders today are seen more as potential liabilities. Sorokin has been exceptional this season, often with little support in front of him. But that’s where the list ends. Notably the Boston Bruins duo of Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman will still have some convincing to do come April, even after the team’s historic season.
The crazy part is, the teams with the second, third, fourth and fifth-best records in the league have all left themselves potentially exposed with questionable and unproven goaltending. The Carolina Hurricanes, New Jersey Devils, Vegas Golden Knights and Toronto Maple Leafs all seem to have Stanley Cup-calibre rosters, but can we say the same about their goalies? Add these playoff teams to the mix: the Los Angeles Kings, Edmonton Oilers and, yes, those defending champs from Colorado....
... it seems NHL goalies are indeed trending in the wrong direction when it comes to dependability.
Since the 2004-05 lockout, changes have been made to help increase offence in the game. Unfortunately, it came at the expense of the goaltenders. The NHL has become faster and more dynamic with less reliance on netminders to single-handedly steal games.
The number of unproven goalies in these playoffs should favour another underdog story like Kuemper, rather than the rarity that is Vasilevskiy and his impeccable playoff reputation.
Sorry, posted this in the wrong section of KK.
from Greg Wyshynski of ESPN,
I had a conversation not too long ago with the venerable Bob McKenzie of TSN about that perception of Bedard's potential.
"I was just thinking to myself, and I didn't say it publicly, that we should just pump the brakes a little bit," he said, laughing. "I've learned that over the years with these 'phenoms.' It's in fairness to them. Our society and social media and everybody wants to make everyone the biggest thing ever and hype it. Let's just be sensible a little bit here. Recognize that there's something special in these kids, but don't set the bar unsustainably high."
What would help Bedard: If he didn't have to be a franchise's savior right off the hop, but a star player who bolsters what is already in place....
Which teams are best positioned to make the most out of Connor Bedard in the shortest amount of time?
1. Detroit Red Wings
... The current Red Wings are essentially a solar system in search of a sun. Larkin is legit. Mo Seider and Lucas Raymond have bright futures despite some sophomore year struggles. Simon Edvinsson, Marco Kasper and Sebastian Cossa are the next wave. There's a good veteran supporting cast, especially goalie Ville Husso.
If they land Bedard and he follows the same growth pattern as McDavid and Matthews, then 2024-25 is the season it all comes together. Even after Seider's next contract, Yzerman will have an enormous amount of cap space in Summer 2024 to shape the roster around Bedard. The Wings' young players will have matured, too.
more plus other teams ($)
from Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press,
The Wings came into this week saying Husso likely was done for the season — there's only two weeks left — because of a nagging injury, but by midweek, he was on the ice, sharing the net in practice and working extra time with goaltending coach Alex Westlund.
"Ville is back in the mix," head coach Derek Lalonde said. "He got some opinions on where his lower-body injury is at. We want to get him back into the rhythm and hopefully he can in some games."...
Husso's absence was an opportunity for Nedeljkovic, who is on an expiring contract, to show the struggles that landed him in the minors are in the past. Likewise, Magnus Hellberg, who was brought in to serve as Husso's backup after the team lost confidence in Nedeljkovic, is also trying to show he should be the one to stay past this season.
It had looked like Nedeljkovic and Hellberg would share the net as the Wings close out their schedule, with Lalonde saying whoever has the hot hand will get start the next game. But after seeing multiple specialists, Husso felt reassured that what bothered him won't get worse.
When he was unavailable, Nedeljkovic was called up under emergency conditions. The Wings could opt to keep Nedeljkovic if Husso is cleared to play by making it a regular call-up, because they have the roster space to carry three goaltenders. Hellberg seemed to have made a case for being the one to get an extension, but Nedeljkovic played well his first two starts, and he's got 100 NHL games on his resume to Hellberg's 21.
from Ethan Sears of the New York Post,
With each passing game, the playoffs are looking more and more like an inevitability for the Islanders.
After Kyle Palmieri’s shootout goal propelled the Isles to a 2-1 win over the Capitals on Wednesday, the Isles have two more points on the board, just seven games left and a six-point lead to work with.
That is a math problem that is becoming just about impossible for the Panthers — the first team below the cutline — to solve, even with their win over Toronto on Wednesday.
And the Isles look to have the upper hand over the Penguins as well, with Pittsburgh needing to make up five points with two games in hand to catch them for the first wild-card spot.
from Julian McKenzie of The Athletic,
Milan Lucic has thrown a lot of right hooks throughout his hockey life. That’s to be expected when you’re a fighter, even in the modern-day game where the enforcer role is all but extinct.
Throughout his 16-year NHL career, Lucic has played in many tense games and sown himself into bitter rivalries. And he has taken part in many fights — 88, to be exact. Colorado Avalanche defenseman Kurtis MacDermid just happens to be the fighter he’s fought against the most, four times. Their latest encounter occurred late last month, when Lucic used that right hook to drop MacDermid to the ice, prompting “oohs” and even a “holy s–t” from the fans at Ball Arena.
It’s a fight that will live forever on the internet. It has its place on Hockey Fights, a website devoted to chronicling fights and fighting statistics. Users can even vote to determine who won a particular fight — Lucic has 97.5 percent of the vote on his latest fight against MacDermid, if you were wondering.
In fact, Lucic is among Hockey Fights’ legion of visitors. He’s watched most of, if not every single one of, his fights....
David Singer, a New York native and television executive, is the reason Hockey Fights has been able to log so many stats and recollections from the days when fighting was more in vogue. He got his start as a blogger in the 1990s, compiling fight stats on his own before other internet users started to chip in and help out. Singer bought the domain name hockeyfights.com in 1999, and the site grew from there.
“It was curiosity,” Singer said when asked why he created the site.
from Luke Fox of Sportsnet,
So, when had Panthers squandered a fast 1-0 lead over the Toronto Maple Leafs by surrendering what originally seemed like two preventable goals on consecutive second-period shifts, their coach blew a casket of Yosemite Sam proportions.
Calmed by his group’s dramatic 3-2 overtime comeback victory over the less-urgent Maple Leafs and relieved by two coveted points in the bank, Maurice could find the humour in his own temper tantrum.
“I thought it was a very nice opportunity to share feelings,” explained Maurice, who was given extra time to rant while he correctly challenged a Calle Järnkrok non-goal for offsides.
“That was not calculated. It was just honest. It was where I was at. If I could have yelled louder, if I found a f----n' way to be more profane than I was, I would have. I’m not gifted enough.
“I needed to channel my father, who's a gifted curser. That was all I had. I was honest. That's how I felt.”
Below find two videos the first Paul Maurice let's his team have it and the second video is the game highlights.
from Bennett Durando of the Denver Post,
The Avalanche had scored a power play goal in a dozen consecutive games. In the unlucky 13th, they got played by their own power play.
Nathan MacKinnon’s shot was blocked, Cale Makar’s recovery of a bouncing puck was squandered at the blue line, and Frederick Gaudreau converted the ensuing short-handed breakaway for the back-breaking goal in Colorado’s 4-2 loss to the Wild on Wednesday.
“I was going backward for the first little bit, and then just couldn’t get back,” Makar said. “I took the first swipe at (the puck), and it bounced over my stick. Just one of those nights.”
In the most important game of the season at Ball Arena, with a chance to leapfrog Minnesota for first place in the Central, the Avs (44-24-6) conceded what was just their third short-handed goal of the season at the worst possible time. Halfway through the second period, the Avs trailed 2-1 when Valeri Nichushkin drew a boarding penalty behind the net. Gaudreau’s goal came just 14 seconds into the power play, and the Avs suddenly looked lifeless for the last 1:46.
Instead of overtaking Minnesota atop the division, Colorado trails by three points with eight games remaining, including Saturday (7 p.m. MT) against the tied-for-second-place Dallas Stars.
“It’s a game of mistakes, and we made some big ones,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. “Didn’t make a lot of them, but we made some big ones.”
Game highlights are below.
* The “Comeback Cats” lived up to their nickname once again as Brandon Montour assisted on the tying tally with a minute remaining in regulation and scored the overtime winner to stun the Maple Leafs.
* The Central Division-leading Wild edged the third-place Avalanche to extend their road point streak to 11 games, which is one contest shy of the longest runs in the NHL this season.
* The Bruins and Golden Knights will have another opportunity to clinch the Presidents’ Trophy and a playoff berth, respectively, during Thursday’s 11-game slate, which also features the Hurricanes-Red Wings and Ducks-Kraken on ESPN+ and Hulu.
from George Richards of Florida Hockey Now,
Keith Tkachuk, the five-time NHL All-Star who is the father of Florida Panthers All-Star forward Matthew, had some choice words for his son’s team on a Toronto radio station Wednesday morning.
Speaking on Toronto 1050, Keith Tkachuk said his son is “devastated” with the team’s current spot as the Panthers go into tonight’s game against the Maple Leafs riding a four-game losing streak.
The position the Panthers are in, Keith Tkachuk said, are of their own doing.
Keith Tkachuk was in attendance Monday night when the Panthers lost 5-2 to the Ottawa Senators — who are captained by Brady Tkachuk — and he did not sound all that impressed with Matthew’s team.
To say the least....
“They are a soft team and they are getting everything they deserve right now.”
To continue on that point, Keith Tkachuk said for the Panthers to snap their losing streak in Toronto, they need to bring a little more toughness to their game.
“Instead of trying to get autographs on the ice from Matthews and Marner,” he said, “they probably should check them a little harder. Whatever it is, it is disappointing. I know I sound like a frustrated person, but I know every time I come and watch Ottawa, they may not be the most talented team but they’re going to play hard. \
from Ansar Khan of Mlive,
“It’s a little unfortunate,” Lalonde said Wednesday. “It’s just not the culture of our sport. Other leagues, getting ejected, being demonstrative on the sidelines or on the bench, it’s applauded sometimes. Our culture is calm demeanor. Obviously, I don’t want to put myself in those situations.”
Lalonde expects to hear from the NHL and “rightfully get scolded.” He likely will be fined.
“I’ve only been in this league a little bit and I pride myself in being mild-mannered,” Lalonde said. “I’m fairly calm on the bench. It takes a lot to get me going. But that’s just not the culture of the National Hockey League, which I really like and appreciate.”
Lalonde was upset a coach’s challenge for goaltender interference following Jeff Carter’s tying goal was unsuccessful. He had some words for the officials but was shocked to get the heave-ho.
“It was probably an accumulation of my demonstrative reaction of the initial call, which was probably a little much,” Lalonde said. “I just think he had had enough. I don’t know if it warranted (an ejection). But he has every right to do that. He’s trying to manage a game.”
Referee Garret Rank has a history of tossing coaches and players. He ejected Sidney Crosby earlier this season.
“He handled it extremely calm,” Lalonde said. “He never raised his voice. He just calmly skated away and kicked me out. Of course, I’m new in the league and they don’t want to hear much from a first-time coach.”
from Frank Seravalli of The Daily Faceoff,
There is no sugarcoating this summer’s NHL free agent crop. There will be no hyperbole to drive ratings, or talk about a three-headed monster stalking the top of the list like we’ve had in years past. There will certainly be no Brinks trucks backing up to the house of one newly wealthy individual with $75 or $80 million inside.
Yes, 2023 will likely go down as one of the weakest overall free agent classes in more than a decade. But this class graduates to free agency at a fascinating juncture as the NHL’s salary cap could be increasing in a meaningful way for the first time since 2019.
Beauty will be in the eye of the beholder. Which is why the top available free agent is very much a debate. We’ve ranked Toronto Maple Leafs winger Michael Bunting in the No. 1 spot because he’s strung together two very productive seasons – totaling 44 goals and 109 points – on his first one-way NHL contract. There will be no shortage of teams interested after witnessing the success Zach Hyman has achieved in Edmonton upon departing Toronto. New Jersey’s Damon Severson will also be a hot commodity as a steady, right-shooting defenseman who can chew up minutes.
continued, includes Top 50 list...
from Lou Korac at The Hockey News,
Sure, the talk will be the overtime game-winner Jakub Vrana scored when the Blues nearly coughing up a three-goal lead before recovering for a 6-5 overtime win against the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday at Enterprise Center.
It was a beauty of a goal, one in which he pulled off a give-and-go with Brayden Schenn before beating Thatcher Demko from in tight for his second goal of the game, ninth of the season and eighth in 12 games since being acquired by the Blues from the Detroit Red Wings on March 3.
But the goal that really stood out was Vrana's first goal, one that gave the Blues -- at the time -- a 3-2 lead at 7:24 of the second period, a one-timer from the high slot off a pass from Brandon Saad.
What it exemplifies is that the Blues may have found their shooter, their first pure shooter since trading Vladimir Tarasenko to the New York Rangers on Feb. 9.
added 12:33pm, Practice lines and pairings are below.
The TSN Hockey Insiders discuss how one of the bidders for the Senators has a land claim to LeBreton Flats, how 4-5 teams are pushing to have Scott Howson replaced as AHL president and CEO, why Taylor Hall's return is being hampered by the Bruins' cap issues, and more.
Plus at the end of the video, the NHL is thinking about ways to market the game.
South of eight minutes to watch.
Six of them, all in the last week.
from Tony Ferrari of The Hockey News,
Last year’s eighth overall pick, Austrian center Marco Kasper, is set to join the Detroit Red Wings organization as soon as this week.
It was Rogle, his own SHL club, that reported he was on his way over to North America after completing what can only be deemed a successful 18-year-old season.
The next wave of Red Wings adds another potential pillar.
Kasper’s impact on the Red Wings organization for the remainder of this year remains to be seen. It is expected that he will play for the team as the season winds down, though.
He could play at the AHL level to gain comfort with the North American ice surface if the team chooses. Detroit is far enough out of the playoff race that the remaining games at the NHL level this season don’t have much importance, so getting Kasper into The Show immediately could give him a preview of what to expect come training camp when the young center looks to make the roster from the jump.
Kasper was a late riser in his draft year, gaining traction as a potential top-15 pick as he displayed pro-ready tools and tendencies from skating to defensive acumen. The biggest question was whether his raw puck skill and offensive upside would be high enough to warrant a selection that high.
from Mark Spector of Sportsnet,
So, you’re saying there’s a chance…?
If the Edmonton Oilers were going to go into these last two weeks of their schedule with even the faintest prayer of chasing first or second place in the Pacific Division, a regulation win here in Vegas was compulsory on Tuesday.
Then the Los Angeles Kings lost in Calgary, and the Oilers put up a touchdown on Vegas.
In as dominant a win against a top tier team as we’ve seen all season, Edmonton chased Jonathan Quick, went three-for-three on the power play, and pounded the Vegas Golden Knights 7-4 — a team that Edmonton could well meet in Round 1 of the playoffs.
“We play like we did tonight, and we’re out,” said Golden Knights coach Bruce Cassidy of that possible matchup, after his club picked up two points in its final two games against Edmonton, while the Oilers nabbed three.
Watch the game highlights below.
“Some of these guys think they’re giving us everything in their tank, they’re dreaming. We have a lot of guys in there giving us everything they can. We just need a few more guys to jump on board. It’s not over. We’re still in eighth spot. We’re going to find out what we’re made of over the next little while.”
-Rick Bowness, head coach of the Winnipeg Jets after a 3-0 loss to the San Jose Sharks. Ken Wiebe of Sportsnet has more on the loss.
from Bob Duff of Detroit Hockey Now,
Trying to determine which was the most satisfying moment for the Detroit Red Wings during Tuesday’s 7-4 thrashing of the Pittsburgh Penguins was as difficult as seeking out the most satisying outcome for Red Wings players.
There were so many from which to choose.
The path Detroit took to this remarkable victory didn’t not follow the route most taken. It began with the tossing of a coach and ended with the jubilant tossing of hats on to the ice....
For starters, take the case of Red Wings assistant coach Bob Boughner. He was suddenly elevated to bench boss in the second period. Detroit head coach was sent packing. He was assessed a game misconduct after unleashing an obscenity-laced tirade at officials when a coach’s challenge didn’t go the way of the Wings.
Boughner seemed almost startled as he arrived to meet the media post game.
“You guys are just as surprised as I am,” Boughner said. “We couldn’t find the keys for Newsy. The cuffs are still on him in the back.”.
Lalonde came unglued after Detroit gave up two quick power-play goals during a five-on-three disadvantage to squander a 3-1 lead. But his hastened departure only seemed to galvanize his players to bear down and complete the task at hand.
“It says a lot about our group,” Larkin assessed. “With injuries and guys coming into the lineup, guys coming from Grand Rapids, lines changing. A lot of guys are auditioning for spots for next year but you see Big Ern (Adam Erne) block a shot in the third, Ned (goalie Alex Nedeljkovic) come in and play a really solid game. Things didn’t go his way in the second but he battled back.
“Guys playing hard and we had that emotion tonight that we had early in the season. It was good to see.”
Below, watch post game interviews and extended game highlights.
* With a five-point game, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins moved within four of his first 100-point season as Edmonton can now become the 14th team in NHL history to have three or more players reach the century mark in a campaign – only two of those instances have occurred since the start of the 1990s, both achieved by the Penguins (4 in 1992-93 & 3 in 1995-96).
* The Rush to the Playoffs escalated Tuesday as both the Flames and Predators earned pivotal wins to move within two and three points, respectively, of the Jets for the final Wild card spot in the Western Conference.
* The Penguins’ three-goal comeback was stymied by the Red Wings, preventing Pittsburgh from two points to set the stage for the Eastern Conference Wild Card race to take focus Wednesday on TNT, Sportsnet and TVA Sports. Meanwhile, first place in the Central Division can change hands once again Wednesday when the Avalanche battle the Wild on a national telecast in the U.S. and Canada.
Detroit put a 3-spot on Pittsburgh in the first period to lead 3-0 after 20 minutes.
Just the opposite in the second period, Pens put up 3 goals. 3-3 after 40 minutes.
In the third, the Wings added 4 goals,Pittsburgh only 1. Wings win 7-4.
Below, all the Detroit goals plus pre-game talk and game action videos
from Arizona Sports,
The City of Phoenix announced on Tuesday that its aviation department is filing legal action against the city of Tempe for the planned residential development that is a part of the new entertainment district with the new arena for the Arizona Coyotes.
The formal complaint in Maricopa County Superior Court has Phoenix, the owners and operators of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, suing Tempe for a breach of contract, “asking the court to rescind Tempe’s recent zoning and land use changes and prohibit future residential uses in an area that the Federal Aviation Administration says is incompatible with residential development.”
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