PHILADELPHIA (Ticker) -- After suffering through a five-game
winless drought, the Edmonton Oilers have now won two straight.
Ales Hemsky scored his first two goals of the season Sunday,
leading the Oilers to a 5-4 victory over the red-hot
The Flyers entered the contest having won four straight, but
faced a 3-1 deficit early in the second period after consecutive
goals by Hemsky.
"It nice to score a couple of goals finally," Hemsky said. "I
felt great with the puck the last five games. I was making
plays, so I know that if I stayed with it, that it would come."
On his first goal, Hemsky skated around defenseman Braydon
Coburn and slipped a backhander past goaltender Martin Biron
with 7:33 left in the first period.
"On the first goal, I got a great pass from Ladi (blue-liner
Ladislav Smid) and I had the speed to beat the defensemen,"
Hemsky said. "He tried to poke-check me and I got little lucky.
I moved a little quicker and I got the goal."
Just over four minutes into the second period, Hemsky again
skated around Coburn before cutting back to his right and
unleashing a shot past the glove side of Biron, who finished
with 23 saves.
"We really gave them a lot of room to execute their
give-and-goes, their passes and their 3-on-2s in the first 40
minutes - and that hurt us a couple of times," Biron said.
Edmonton opened a 5-2 advantage midway through the second period
on goals by defenseman Sheldon Souray and Dustin Penner, the
latter coming with 8:02 remaining in the session. Hemsky picked
up an assist on Penner's goal.
"We had a lot of chances tonight. It was really what the doctor
ordered," Oilers coach Craig MacTavish said. "It could have
been a 5-2 game, but there a lot of chances on both ends. It was
a good remedy for what has been ailing us as an offense.
Jeff Carter scored his seventh goal in as many games with just
under two minutes left in the second period, and Simon Gagne
tallied just 20 seconds into the third to pull the Flyers within
Erik Cole opened the scoring for the Oilers midway through the
first period, but the Flyers responded on the power play a
little under two minutes later on Mike Knuble's sixth goal of
Gagne hit the post on a rebound attempt and the puck bounced
back to Knuble, who poked it in from the front of the net.
Then Hemsky took over with his first goals in 19 games dating to
"We did a pretty good job of establishing ourselves in the first
period," Cole said. "It was good for us to get that first goal
because we missed on a couple plays opportunities early on. We
gained a bit of momentum with the win and how we play and we
were able to get another good today."
Oilers goaltender Dwayne Roloson finished with 22 saves. He
denied Scott Hartnell on a breakaway with 9:07 left in the third
period to help seal the win.
"When you get behind early, you try to play catch up and the
game then seems harder than it should be," Flyers coach John
Stevens said. "If we played 60 minutes the way we did in the
third period, we would have had a better fate. We get down and
it starts to affect our whole mentality - and then we come up
with all kinds of urgency."
The Capitals are all-in and the acquisition of Kevin Shattenkirk put the rest of the Metropolitan on notice. Will the other top teams in the division answer back? And if so, how?
The Capitals seemed a long shot to land Kevin Shattenkirk at the deadline, so much so that Washington really wasn’t even all that much on the radar for the rearguard until mere hours before he was dealt to the Metropolitan Division leaders. And even when the rumor mill started to heat up speculating the Capitals could be in on Shattenkirk, it still seemed like there would be no way it actually came to pass.
But did the Capitals ever put the rest of the division on notice when they managed to pull the trigger on a deal that, in the eyes of many, could very well put them over the top. All it cost to pick up Shattenkirk at the cost of two drafts picks, Zach Sanford and Brad Malone. If that’s enough to put the Capitals into the winner’s circle come season’s end, it was more than worth the price.
Don’t go thinking the rest of the division will go without a response, however. The battle for Metropolitan supremacy has been the toughest in the league this season, and with four other teams from the group in the hunt for the playoffs, there’s no doubt going to be some moves made as a reaction to the Capitals’ splash with the trade deadline fast approaching.
The Capitals are tired of playoff disappointments. Already the best team in the league, they decided overkill was the smart strategy. That's why they went out and got the best player on the trade market.
The Penguins were actually the first squad in the division to make a move, but it was as much out of necessity as it was in effort to take top spot in the Metropolitan. With Olli Maatta hitting the shelf with a hand injury and Kris Letang sidelined day-to-day with an upper-body ailment, Pittsburgh GM Jim Rutherford looked to his old stomping grounds in Carolina and picked up Hurricanes blueliner Ron Hainsey. That likely isn’t everything the Penguins do with the deadline approaching, however.
Realistically, the Penguins could still do with adding another depth blueliner, even if he doesn’t see the ice all that often. Security on the back end would be a nice thing to have going into the playoffs, especially with the Capitals loading up. It’s clear that’s of interest to the Penguins, too, as they were reportedly in on Shattenkirk, as well.
It wouldn’t be out of the question for Pittsburgh to also look to see if there’s a way to add another depth scorer to the roster, either. One of the most important facets of the Penguins’ run to the Cup in 2015-16 was their depth scoring. Players such as Bryan Rust, Tom Kuhnhackl and Conor Sheary stepped up at the right time. Jake Guentzel has been playing lights out of late, but maybe there’s another cheap piece to be added somewhere. A cheap scorer, maybe Radim Vrbata or P-A Parenteau, could fit the bill.
The Penguins have all the top-end skill a team needs to compete in the post-season, but the make or break factor could be ensuring there’s not even the slightest hole in their lineup. That’s what it’s going to take to win the Metropolitan, too.
Columbus Blue Jackets
The Blue Jackets are having what projects to be the most successful regular season in franchise history. The shame is, though, the 16-game win streak has been followed by a 12-10-1 stretch. Columbus is above .500 since their outstanding run, sure, but few would put them in the same conversation as the Capitals or the Penguins. The question then has to be what the Blue Jackets can do to put them into true contention for the Metropolitan crown.
Up until Tuesday, the Blue Jackets had stood pat, and the only move the team has made to potentially improve leading up to the deadline was Tuesday’s signing of Marc-Andre Bergeron. The 36-year-old blueliner isn’t exactly the kind of player who’s about to come aboard and make all that much of a difference, though, and there’s no telling if he even gets any NHL games under his belt this season. This is to say the Bergeron signing, while nice for the veteran rearguard, doesn’t move the needle for Columbus.
The Blue Jackets could use another defender, though. It’d be tough to make any of the high-priced defensemen work, but one option could be New Jersey Devils defender Kyle Quincey. He’s not carrying a massive cap hit — $1.25 million and a UFA at the end of the season — and could easily skate middle- or bottom-pairing minutes for Columbus. He has playoff experience and he’s got some offense to his game, providing four goals and 12 points this season.
However, it wouldn’t be all that shocking if the Blue Jackets stand pat, for the most part. This is a growing team with a lot of talented, young pieces. Their window isn’t all the way open yet, and there’s no reason to go all-in yet. Building off this strong season would be as good as trading away assets in a division they’re unfortunately unlikely to win.
New York Rangers
The Rangers might just have to wait for the off-season to get Shattenkirk, but that doesn’t mean they’re not going to add the blueliner they’re after. New York was reportedly interested in Detroit’s Brendan Smith even before Shattenkirk came off the board, and the Rangers carried out the deal with the Red Wings Tuesday afternoon by sending a pair of draft picks the other way.
Smith isn’t Shattenkirk, that much is clear. The Capitals pulled in an 11-goal, 42-point rearguard, and the Rangers answered back with one who has two goals and five points. What Smith can do, however, is play significant minutes somewhere in the Rangers’ bottom two pairings. They desperately needed someone to do so, too. And even with Smith, it wouldn’t be the worst idea for the Rangers to keep looking at defensemen, even if it means sacrificing some offense in a trade. New York has 203 goals for, which is the second-best mark in both the league and division. Their 162 goals against are 11th in the league, though, and the back end doesn’t exactly strike one as the most fierce in the division.
What the Rangers need most is someone who can reliably share the top-pairing minutes with Ryan McDonagh. Right now, there’s a nearly four-minute gap between McDonagh’s average ice time and that of Nick Holden, who’s second on the club with 20:37 per game. Smith probably doesn’t skate alongside McDonagh or average near the same ice time. Quincey could be an option, or maybe the Rangers consider someone along the lines of Johnny Oduya.
Finding a top-two guy is almost impossible, especially with Shattenkirk off the board, but having someone to help share the top minutes with McDonagh would be a boon for the Rangers.
New York Islanders
Unlike the Penguins, Blue Jackets and Rangers, the Islanders aren’t in the conversation to win the Metropolitan. However, they stand a chance of competing against their divisional rivals if they sneak into the post-season in the second wild-card spot. That would mean a date with the Capitals, and if the Islanders want to be able to put up a fight, they’re going to need to make some additions.
The Islanders aren’t in the same position as the other teams within the division in that they’re quite set on the back end. Having a top three of Nick Leddy, Johnny Boychuk and Travis Hamonic, when he returns from injury, makes for quite the blueline, and while the bottom three of Dennis Seidenberg, Calvin De Haan and Thomas Hickey aren’t without their flaws, it’s not a bad way to round out the defense. Adding another piece back there could help, absolutely, but it’s not a big-time must.
Adding some scoring to the lineup is, however. The Islanders rank 10th in the league in scoring with 179 goals, but that’s almost entirely because of John Tavares and Anders Lee. More than a quarter of the team’s goals have come from those two players, both of whom have 23 markers this season, and a top three scorers that consist of Tavares, Lee and Josh Bailey isn’t exactly Murderers’ Row.
Making the money work wouldn’t be easy, but wouldn’t it be interesting to see Duchene land with the Islanders? Giving Tavares a speedy, 30-goal player to work alongside could give New York a solid 1-2 punch on offense. But if the Islanders want a short-term fix to try and get into the playoffs and make some noise, they wouldn’t go wrong with Vrbata or Parenteau. Maybe they even try bringing Thomas Vanek back. Just three seasons ago, he scored 17 goals and 44 points in 47 games while playing primarily with Tavares as his center.
The NHL trade deadline is Wednesday, though there's already been lots of activity. Here's a look at the latest rumors surrounding some of the notable players still believed available in the trade market.
Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog, Colorado Avalanche. The Avalanche reportedly seek a good, young NHL-ready defenseman or goaltender, a first-round pick and a top prospect as part of the return for either forward. TSN's Darren Dreger notes Duchene's been linked to the New York Islanders. He wonders if defenseman Travis Hamonic as part of the return might tempt the Avs.
Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reports the Avs told interested clubs they have no intention of lowering that asking price at the deadline. That could ensure the pair remain in Colorado for the remainder of this season.
Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins. Jonathan Bombulie reports Penguins GM Jim Rutherford said last Friday he hadn't received a trade offer for Fleury, who lost the role of starting goaltender to Matt Murray. Still, Rutherford didn't rule out the possibility of moving the veteran netminder.
The combinations of Fleury's $5.75-million cap hit through 2018-19, his modified no-trade clause, and a soft market for goalies could make him difficult to move. Rutherford has also said he'd be content with keeping his tandem intact for the remainder of the season.
Tomas Vanek, Detroit Red Wings. TSN's Pierre LeBrun reports there hasn't been much interest in the 33-year-old. However, he expects that will pick up as the deadline draws near. With 38 points in 47 games, Vanek could be attractive to the Los Angeles Kings, Boston Bruins, Florida Panthers and San Jose Sharks. He also carries an affordable $2.6-million cap hit on an expiring contract.
Shane Doan, Arizona Coyotes. Sportsnet's Chris Johnston reports the 40-year-old Coyotes captain was unhappy about seeing long-time teammate Martin Hanzal dealt to the Minnesota Wild. That's increased speculation Doan could waive his no-movement clause, but GM John Chayka said the veteran winger hasn't requested a trade. Should Doan become available, the Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch believes the San Jose Sharks could come calling.
Justin Faulk, Carolina Hurricanes. The Edmonton Sun's Jim Matheson cites scouts claiming the Hurricanes defenseman is in play. He believes their depth in young rearguards no longer makes Faulk their blueline mainstay. The Hurricanes need scoring depth, especially at center, and Faulk could land them a quality return.
Marian Gaborik, Los Angeles Kings. Friedman reports the Kings are looking into moving Gaborik. The 34-year-old winger's best years are behind him. His contract (four years remaining at $4.8-million annually) makes him almost impossible to move at the deadline.
Patrick Sharp, Dallas Stars. Having already shipped out one pending UFA winger in Patrick Eaves last week, the Stars could attempt to do the same with the 35-year-old Sharp. The Matheson speculates the Oilers could be watching the veteran winger
Jannik Hansen, Vancouver Canucks. Hansen recently submitted his list of preferred trade destinations as requested by Canucks management. LeBrun believes the winger is garnering lots of interest. The asking price could be a young player or top prospect.
Dennis Wideman, Calgary Flames. The recent additions of Michael Stone and Matt Bartkowski made Wideman the odd man out on the Flames' blueline. Wideman told the Calgary Sun's Wes Gilbertson he was open to waiving his no-movement clause. So far, he hasn't been asked to do so.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
In the middle of a close playoff race, the Maple Leafs managed to secure a playoff-proven center with size without wavering from their mandate of building for the future.
The day Mike Babcock was hired to coach the Toronto Maple Leafs, team president Brendan Shanahan was asked whether he’d abandon the franchise rebuild if Babcock came to him saying they needed a veteran to help them make the playoffs, but it would cost a prospect and a second-round pick.
“I can tell you that was one of Mike’s questions for us and it was the opposite,” Shanahan said at the time. “It was, ‘If we’re four points out, are we still willing to stick to the plan?’ That was an important answer for him to get, especially from our board.”
Things were a little different Tuesday when the Leafs made a deal that netted them veteran center Brian Boyle. First of all, the Leafs aren’t four points out of the playoffs. They’re clinging to the last spot, one point behind the Boston Bruins with a game in hand for third place in the Atlantic Division. It’s a race that will likely go to the dying days of the season. And even though they did give up a second-rounder, it’s pretty safe to say Byron Froese isn’t really considered a prospect. (Although Babcock did seem to have a strange fascination with him last season when the Leafs were tanking the season.)
This is a deal that looks as though it has Babcock’s fingerprints all over it, but the best part of it is that they managed to secure a playoff-proven center with size without wavering from their mandate. And they can thank their work at last year’s trade deadline for that, when they dealt Roman Polak and Nick Spaling to the San Jose Sharks for a second-round pick in 2017 and picked up another from the Ottawa Senators in the Dion Phaneuf trade. One of those picks is now going to Tampa Bay and another is going to the Anaheim Ducks as part of the Fredrik Andersen trade, which still leaves the Leafs with one second-rounder.
And in return, the Leafs get a player who can play down the middle for them, complementing a center ice corps that now looks formidable with Auston Matthews, Nazem Kadri, Tyler Bozak and Boyle. The 6-foot-6 center has played exactly 100 playoff games, 95 of them over the past five seasons. In fact, no NHL player has seen more post-season action than Boyle has since 2012.
The Leafs are flush with prospects and young players and had a plethora of second-rounders, which seems to be the going rate for big-name rentals these days. In addition to the three they had in 2017, they also have two in 2018. With the success rate for second-round picks varying wildly, it was a small price to pay for a team that needed an upgrade on the Frederik Gauthier/Ben Smith tandem on the fourth line.
More importantly, it gives the Leafs an experienced player who knows what it’s like to play in meaningful games. Whether the Leafs ultimately make the playoffs or not, their young players will be exposed to crucial, tension-filled and important games down the stretch. And when was the last time anyone could say that? And if they make the post-season and expose their young stars to that level of competition, all the better. And not only will Boyle be instrumental in leading the way, he’ll also be able to offer some sage counsel to those players if the Leafs do find themselves in the chaos known as the playoffs.
The Atlantic Division is really weak. Spectacularly weak, actually. And if the Leafs can somehow find themselves in the No. 3 spot, they might be able to position themselves for a bit of a run. If not, they’ll find themselves playing the Washington Capitals in the first round and will almost certainly get trounced, but be all the better for having experienced the post-season.
And in case you haven’t noticed, the Leafs have been known to be woeful in two areas of the game – defensive zone coverage and holding onto leads late in games. Boyle will help immeasurably in both of those areas. To be sure, you just know Babcock will feel a lot better being able to put Boyle out for a defensive zone faceoff in the final minute of the game in which his team is clinging to a one-goal lead.
And don’t be surprised if the Leafs and Boyle make this a more long-term affair. Boyle is 32, but he actually doesn’t have a ton of NHL miles on him because he didn’t become a full-time NHLer until he was almost 25 years old. And it’s not as though the Leafs are going to be asking him to do more than an over-30 player is capable of doing. If he can provide them with two or three more years of quality defensive play and leadership, they’ll be happy to take that.
Largely because of Auston Matthews and Babcock, the Leafs have become a destination. Don’t be surprised if Boyle sees it that way, too.
The Capitals are tired of playoff disappointments. Already the best team in the league, they decided overkill was the smart strategy. That's why they went out and got the best player on the trade market.
The Washington Capitals haven’t just fooled us once, not even twice, into thinking they’re legitimate alpha-dog Stanley Cup contenders. Since the Alex Ovechkin era started in 2005-06, this team has tantalized us with multiple Presidents’ Trophies, one of the two best players of this generation, some of the most exciting offensive teams of all-time and Vezina Trophy-winning goaltending. And no matter how much buzz the Caps could generate, no matter how much THIS year was the year, it never was. They still haven’t advanced past the second round of the Stanley cup playoffs since 1998, when they reached the final with an underdog group coached by Ron Wilson.
Kudos to GM Brian MacLellan, then, for taking a stand Monday night. He took a team already looking like the NHL’s best on paper, already loaded with talent, already on track for another Presidents’ Trophy, and augmented it with arguably the best player available on the 2016-17 trade market. Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk is now a Capital, acquired from the St. Louis Blues for the very reasonable price of a first-round pick in 2017, a conditional 2018 second-rounder and Zach Sanford, per ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun. The Blues will also retain some salary in the deal, LeBrun reports. At a price that reasonable, renting Shattenkirk, a pending unrestricted free agent, is just fine. Re-signing him in the summer would be gravy (and likely not financially feasible for Washington).
The Caps have a top-three offense in the league. They allow easily the fewest goals per game. They rank second in save percentage. They boast the league’s No. 5 power play and No. 7 penalty kill. They still have Ovechkin playing high-end hockey even if his prime is over. They have arguably the best goaltender in the game right now in Braden Holtby. They call Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Lars Eller their top three centers. Their top five defensemen are John Carlson, Karl Alzner, Matt Niskanen, Brooks Orpik and Dmitry Orlov
They are S-T-A-C-K-E-D. But MacLellan realized (a) they’ve never been stacked enough over the past decade and (b) that, despite such a talent-rich roster, they did lack mobility and true offensive creativity after Carlson on the back end. Shattenkirk is an absolute luxury, but that’s what the Caps evidently need to get over the playoff choke hump. Doing so, conquering the Pittsburgh Penguins, requires overkill.
Shattenkirk obviously enhances an already deadly power play, can play 20-plus minutes a game and increases the fleet-footedness on Washington’s blueline. But he’s also an underrated defensive player, a driver of possession with a career 5-on-5 Corsi mark of 53.3 percent and an average rating 2.2 percent higher than his teammates. He fits the modern definition of what it means to be effective in your own end. He is the anti Brooks Orpik, really. As a bonus, Shattenkirk blocks the New York Rangers, the Caps’ Metro Division competition, from landing him. The Blueshirts were one of the teams most commonly linked to him.
So will the Caps ultimately make every prognosticator look silly yet again and flop with an early playoff exit? Hey, it’s entirely possible. But they deserve credit for recognizing they’re in an elite contention window and for refusing to stand pat. They’re making the boldest mid-season move they’ve made during the Ovechkin era. The Capitals can also finally say they have good possession numbers, something that correlates directly with the past seven Stanley Cup champions. They rank third in the NHL in 5-on-5 score- zone- and venue-adjusted Corsi. The last five champions have ranked top-five in that category.
The Shattenkirk acquisition solidifies Washington as the NHL’s team to beat right now. No matter how skeptical we may feel about them, no matter how many times this team has fallen short of expectations, they’ve decided to do something different this time. We have to view them through a new lens.