Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Karri Ramo (31) deflects a shot on goal by Toronto Maple Leafs center Boyd Devereaux (22) during the first period of their hockey game Thursday, Dec. 20, 2007 in Tampa, Fla. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Steve Nesius
Author: The Hockey News
Lecavalier scores with 41.6 seconds left in Lightning's 2-1 win over Leafs
TAMPA, Fla. - One elite player and a rookie came up big for the slumping Tampa Bay Lightning.
Vincent Lecavalier scored with 41.6 seconds left in the third period and newcomer Karri Ramo made 31 saves to lead the Lightning past the Toronto Maple Leafs 2-1 on Thursday night.
Lecavalier's goal came from the lower right circle off a pass from Martin St. Louis. Jason Ward also scored for the Lightning, who ended a three-game losing skid.
"Just to get a win, it definitely feels good," Lecavalier said.
Matt Stajan scored for Toronto, winless in its last three games.
"We are playing well enough do better, but at the end of the day it's not happening for us," Maple Leafs coach Paul Maurice said. "Our goaltending has been real good. It's just tight when you're not scoring."
Ramo made his first career start one day after he was recalled from Norfolk of the AHL. Lightning starter Johan Holmqvist, pulled from three of his last four starts, is 13-12-3 this season with a 3.02 goals-against-average and .888 save-percentage. Backup goalie Marc Denis has dropped five of six decisions and has a 4.05 GAA.
"We were really desperate for a win," Ramo said. "Everybody was so pumped up to win this game."
The Maple Leafs took a 1-0 lead at 16:36 of the second when Stajan's shot from along the left-wing boards deflected off Tampa Bay defenceman Doug Janik in the low slot.
Ramo turned aside a good scoring chance by Mark Bell, and on the ensuing rush, Ward tied it off a pass from Lecavalier with 1:19 left in the second.
"He obviously gave us a chance to win," Tampa Bay assistant coach Mike Sullivan said. "I thought he made key big saves at some critical times. To have success in this league, you have to get timely saves, and I thought he did that for us."
Sullivan filled in for coach John Tortorella at the post-game media session. The team said Tortorella was involved in a meeting.
Maple Leafs goalie Vesa Toskala made a sliding stop on Lecavalier during a 2-on-1 in the opening minute of the second. Toskala, who stopped 19 shots, also made a post-to-post save on Ward's in-close shot midway through the first
"He's been playing great," Stajan said. "I don't think we can say enough about Vesa's play. He's giving us a chance to win every game."
Ramo was not severely tested during the first half of the game, but did stop Mats Sundin's shot from the right circle on a late first-period Toronto power play. He made several strong saves, including an in-close try by Boyd Devereaux.
"He made some good saves when we needed it," Ward said. "I think we played well defensively as a unit to help him out. We needed a win, and no matter how we got it, it didn't matter."
Tampa Bay had dropped five of six.
Lightning centre Craig MacDonald was hit in the mouth by Toronto defenceman Hal Gill's shot with 1:57 left in the third. The Lightning said MacDonald lost several teeth, and had mouth and tongue lacerations.
Notes: Ramo made two relief appearances for the Lightning last season. ... Tampa Bay D Brad Lukowich (shoulder) did not play. ... Devereaux had his three-game goal streak snapped. ... Peter Puck, the popular intermission animated character on U.S. national hockey broadcasts in the 1970s, returned to TV as part of the Maple Leafs broadcast. The team said it was the first time Peter Puck has been used on the air in 28 years.
The usual suspects -- Bergeron, Kopitar, and Toews -- appear to be out of the discussion for the Selke Trophy. Here are five names that seem to have the best chance at stepping in.
When it comes to handing out hardware at the NHL Awards, the Selke hasn't been all that tough to figure out in recent seasons. For the last five years, the same three players have dominated the voting. Patrice Bergeron, Anze Kopitar and Jonathan Toews have accounted for all five wins, as well as eleven of the fifteen finalist spots.
But this year is shaping up like it could be different, with all three players slumping offensively. Maybe that shouldn't matter, since the Selke is supposed to be a defensive award. But over the years, it's morphed into a trophy that recognizes two-way play, which means you need to be scoring to get much consideration. If you pro-rate the lockout year, nobody has won the Selke with fewer than 55 points in the salary cap era. None of the Big Three are on pace to get there this year.
With half a season left to play, that could still change. And it's always possible that in the absence of a slam dunk candidate emerging somewhere else, voters could opt to play it safe and go back to one of the old familiars. But for the first time in years, the Selke really does seem up for grabs.
So who has a shot? Assuming that Bergeron, Toews or Kopitar don't take the trophy home this time, here are the five names that seem to have the best chance at stepping in.
Ryan Kesler, Ducks
The case for: The veteran is having his best season since 2011, and is on pace for about 65 points while playing tough minutes for a first-place Ducks team. His advanced stats won't blow anyone away, but they're good enough that the analytics guys shouldn't push back too hard, and everyone loves a good comeback narrative.
The case against: While it wouldn't be held against him by voters, Kesler doesn't really fit our "new blood" theme; he was the last player to win the award before the Bergeron/Toews/Kopitar trinity took over, and he finished third in the voting last year.
More importantly, there's at least an argument to be made that linemate Andrew Cogliano deserves the award, too. If that line of thinking catches on, the two could end up splitting votes and knocking each other out of the running.
Mikko Koivu, Wild
The case for: While it's meant as a single-season award, voters tend to like to treat the Selke as more of a career achievement; it's rare for somebody to win the award without having built up a resume over the years. That works in Koivu's favor, as he's been considered a strong defensive forward for a decade now, finishing as high as fourth in the Selke voting back in 2009. He hasn't come especially close since, but he's had votes every year.
New coach Bruce Boudreau has leaned heavily on Koivu in the defensive zone, and his ability to handle the duties has been a big part of Minnesota's unexpected success. With the Wild emerging as one of the one of the year's best surprises, voters will be paying attention.
The case against: Koivu's all-around numbers are good but not great, and he's benefitting from a sky-high on-ice save percentage and PDO that's unlikely to continue. With Devan Dubnyk looking like the Vezina favorite and Boudreau having a shot at the Jack Adams, voters might figure that their ballots are already getting crowded with Wild names.
The case for: Backlund seems to have emerged as a trendy dark horse pick in recent weeks. It's well-deserved: his numbers are excellent, and he's posting them in tough minutes for a young Flames team that asks a lot of him. His offensive numbers aren't jaw-dropping, but he's leading the team in scoring, and that should be enough to satisfy those "two-way" demands if he can keep it up.
The case against: While Backlund's been an underrated defensive player for a while now, he's never received a Selke vote. Again, you can argue that that shouldn't matter, but history has shown that it does. That could make it tough for him to get enough votes to win outright.
Aleksander Barkov, Panthers
The case for: At 21, Barkov would fit the new blood narrative perfectly. And he's already on voters' radars after finishing sixth in last year's balloting. He checks most of the boxes that voters tend to look for, posting solid offensive stats and strong possession numbers. And in a season where the biggest story has been the emergence of the next generation of star players, you could see the voters turning to one of the best young two-way forwards in the game.
The case against: Barkov is hurt right now and has already missed two weeks, so if he's not back soon he probably falls out of the running. He's also been playing a more offensive role this year under new coach Tom Rowe, which may be good for the Panthers, but probably not for his Selke chances. And given how things are turning out in Florida this year, voters may not be interested in having many Panther names on their ballot.
Nicklas Backstrom, Capitals
The case for: If building up enough support to win the award is a long-term process, this could be your guy. Backstrom generated plenty of Selke buzz last year, but finished just outside the top ten for the second straight year. It helps that he's putting up the sort of big offensive number that voters like to see. And after years of largely playing in Alex Ovechkin's shadow, he seems to be settling in as one of those guys that everyone in the hockey world decides has been underrated for too long. What better way to make it up to him than with some awards ballot love?
The case against: In terms of pure numbers, you could make a good case that Backstrom's defensive game was better last year than it is now. That won't necessarily hurt him with voters who feel like he's finally due, but it could keep him from getting the kind of widespread groundswell of support that would help push him past a strong candidate like Kesler.
Honorable mentions (and why they won't win):
- Brad Marchand (Bruins): He's getting some buzz, and has earned votes in the past. But has he really become a better option than Bergeron right now? And if not, how can you win the Selke when you're not the best defensive forward on your own team?
- Nazem Kadri (Maple Leafs): He's a relatively new candidate who'll face the same uphill climb as Backlund, with the added disadvantage that plenty of people don't seem to like him.
- Sidney Crosby (Penguins): He's been underrated in his own end for years, and you could see him getting some consolation ballots if voters decided to break for Connor McDavid for the Hart. But right now, the Crosby focus is still on the MVP race.
- Joe Thornton (Sharks): He gets votes every year and finally had his first top five finish last season, so the timing seems right. But his offensive numbers are down this year.
- Ryan O'Reilly (Sabres): He's been in the mix before. But the Sabres' disappointing season may doom him; there's never been a first-time Selke winner from a team that didn't make the playoffs.
- Jordan Staal (Hurricanes): He'd face the same hurdle as O'Reilly if the Hurricanes miss the playoffs, although these days that seem less and less likely. He may have the best case of anyone in this section.
Sean McIndoe has been writing about the NHL since 2008, most recently for ESPN and Grantland. He spends most of his time making jokes on twitter, where you may know him as @downgoesbrown. He appears weekly on TheHockeyNews.com.
A look at the latest speculation surrounding Avalanche forwards Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog, and which teams might be a fit.
The Colorado Avalanche may be struggling at the bottom of the NHL standings, but they continue to dominate the NHL rumor mill. As usual, center Matt Duchene and left winger Gabriel Landeskog are the focus of trade speculation. On Tuesday, TSN unveiled their trade board for the March 1 deadline, with the 26-year-old Duchene topping the list and Landeskog, 24, coming in at No. 5.
Appearing on Edmonton's 630 CHED last Thursday, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman believes the asking price for Duchene, a 30-goal scorer last season, is higher than for Landeskog. However, he can see a team that thinks it can win this season pursuing Duchene.
Friedman also said he hasn't heard many rumors involving Colorado's puck-moving defenseman Tyson Barrie. As the Avs need to bolster their blueline, he feels it doesn't make sense to trade the 25-year-old.
Avalanche GM Joe Sakic reportedly seeks a good young defenseman as part of the return for Duchene or Landeskog. That type of deal won't be easy to find this season. NBC Sports' Jason Brough observes a high number of teams are also in the market for young blueliners. There aren't many available and teams carrying those assets will set high prices for them.
Recent trade chatter links Landeskog to the Boston Burins. It was thought the Bruins were unwilling to part with rookie rearguard Brandon Carlo, but Bleacher Report's Adrian Dater claims the 20-year-old could be available after all. CSNNE.com's Joe Haggerty thinks it would be a big mistake by the Bruins to swap Carlo for less than a genuine superstar.
Last weekend, the New York Post's Larry Brooks suggested New York Islanders GM Garth Snow should offer up blueliner Nick Leddy as part of a deal for Duchene or Landeskog, Brooks felt that move could provide the Isles with a significant boost.
Leddy, 25, is under contract through 2021-22 with an annual salary-cap hit of $5.5 million. Sakic, however, could have his eye on younger options.
The Montreal Canadiens need depth at center. TSN's Frank Seravalli thinks Habs GM Marc Bergevin could be interested in Duchene, though a deal of that nature probably wouldn't happen until the off-season. However, the Montreal Gazette's Pat Hickey questions if Bergevin can afford the high asking price for either Avs star.
Are the Canadiens willing to sacrifice promising 18-year-old defenseman Mikhail Sergachev in a package deal for Duchene? With 38-year-old blueliner Andrei Markov's career winding down, moving his possible replacement is a risky notion.
Ottawa Senators GM Pierre Dorion is shopping around for a forward. Seravalli's colleague Bob McKenzie believes Dorion could have interest in Duchene or Landeskog. Given the Sens need for scoring depth at left wing, McKenzie speculates Landeskog could be Dorion's preference. However, he guesses the asking price for either player is too high.
Dorion could be asked to part with 23-year-old Cody Ceci as part of the return for Landeskog. That would be a deal breaker for the Sens GM.
The Carolina Hurricanes could be the best fit as a trade partner for the Avalanche. The Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson notes they have plenty of depth in good young defenseman, are in need of scoring punch and possess the salary-cap room to take on Duchene or Landeskog.
If Sakic is talking with Hurricanes GM Ron Francis, they're keeping those discussions well below the radar. With the Hurricanes jockeying for playoff contention in the Eastern Conference, Francis could be unwilling to engage in a major roster shakeup.
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.).
The Jets have done a lot of things well since moving back to Winnipeg. Drafting and developing goalies has not been one of them.
When it comes to their goaltending, the Winnipeg Jets remind me a lot of the clueless prospect with the wicked slapshot. It’s great that he has a bomb from the blueline, but he has a lot of deficiencies in his game that are keeping him from getting better. So what does he do? He continues to work on his slapshot at the expense of the areas of his game that really need work.
In a desperation move that worked, at least in the short term, the Jets recalled veteran Ondrej Pavelec from the minors for their game against the Arizona Coyotes last night. After allowing a bad goal on the very first shot he faced, Pavelec stopped 30 of the next 32 he faced – including a candidate for save of the year - and helped deliver a much-needed victory to his team. Jets coach Paul Maurice hinted strongly that Pavelec had earned the start Saturday afternoon when the Jets host the St. Louis Blues.
And who knows what will happen? Perhaps the Jets will ride a rejuvenated Pavelec down the stretch after picking him up off the scrap heap, and into the playoffs the way the Minnesota Wild did with Devan Dubnyk two years ago. That move was every bit as desperate as the one the Jets made in turning to Pavelec. Dubnyk has emerged as a contender for the Vezina Trophy this year, proving that goalies can get back to the top of their game after hitting rock bottom. Mike Smith did the same thing. There is no shortage of examples.
But the deeper issue here is the Jets and how they’ve handled their goaltending. And that’s where the clueless prospect comparison comes into play. Since moving to Winnipeg from Atlanta five years ago, the Jets have done a ton of good things. They’ve drafted and developed skaters very, very well and have a roster that should allow them to compete on most nights. GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has not been afraid to make significant deals, he re-signed Dustin Byfuglien long-term when conventional thinking had him out of town on the first luxury jet and he stared down defenseman Jacob Trouba when he demanded a trade. The Jets have a terrific group of young players and prospects as well.
Yeah, but that goaltending, though. According to corsica.hockey, the Jets have had a save percentage of .905 since 2011-12, which is better only than the Calgary Flames, New York Islanders and Edmonton Oilers. In that time, they’re the fifth-worst team in the NHL in goals-against per 60 minutes, despite the fact that they’re a very respectable 11th-best in the league in scoring chances against per 60 minutes.
And all the while, it seems that Cheveldayoff and the Jets have been whistling through the graveyard, not worrying too much or addressing the root problem. Since moving the Winnipeg, the Jets have used a total of six goaltenders in five-plus seasons – Pavelec, Michael Hutchinson, Al Montoya, Connor Hellebuyck, Chris Mason and Peter Mannino. That’s not very many, which would be a good thing if the Jets were at or near the top of the goaltending statistics. But they aren’t. And with the exception of 2015-15, the only season they’ve made the playoffs since moving to Winnipeg, they haven’t been.
In Cheveldayoff’s time, the Jets have drafted five goalies – Hellebuyck, Eric Comrie, Jamie Phillips, Jason Kasdorf and Mikhail Berdin. Not one of them was chosen with a pick higher than 59th overall. In addition, he has traded for only two goalies, dealing for the negotiating rights to Jonas Gustavsson before he signed as a free agent with the Detroit Red Wings, and dealing for Peter Budaj, who was left in the minors and never played a game for the Jets. His only free agent signing was Hutchinson.
Those are not the moves of an organization that is being proactive about its goaltending, either in the immediate future or the long-term. And when you ignore that aspect of your game, both from a drafting and developing standpoint, it’s bound to suffer and show up in the results. Back in our annual Future Watch edition in 2015, we at THN boldly predicted that based on their prospect crop, the Jets would win the Stanley Cup in 2019.
We're going to have to amend that because unless they do something bold to address their goaltending, the Jets can forget about winning the Cup. They’re going to continue to struggle to make the playoffs.
Jonathan Huberdeau has missed the entire campaign and Aleksander Barkov has been out for nearly a month, and it could be a while yet before either return to the Panthers’ lineup.
The Florida Panthers’ attempt to build on one of the most successful seasons in franchise history has been marred by a slew of injuries to key players, and it could be a while yet before two of the team’s brightest young stars are back in the lineup.
Panthers interim coach and GM Tom Rowe said Thursday that Jonathan Huberdeau shouldn’t be expected back in the lineup anytime soon, and he stayed away from indicating a timeline for Aleksander Barkov, who has been out of action since midway though a Dec. 28 meeting with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Asked about the possibility of the injuries to Huberdeau and Barkov being potentially season-ending, Rowe said that worry is there whenever a star player is out.
"Those are two franchise-type players and we're certainly not going to rush them back," Rowe said, according to NHL.com’s Alain Poupart. "They'll be back in the lineup when everybody feels they're ready to play. You're always concerned about it [being season-ending], but we're not consumed with it every day. We're moving forward and playing with the guys we have, and when they're ready to come back, they'll be welcome. It'll be a huge boost to us.”
The indication was that Huberdeau could potentially be back into action early in March, which would be slightly longer than originally expected. When Huberdeau first suffered the injury to his Achilles in the Panthers’ final pre-season game back in October, the expectation was that he would miss somewhere in the neighborhood of 3-4 months. An early-March return would put Huberdeau’s absence up to five months and would only allow him to get into action for a handful of games this season.
Huberdeau’s loss has already been impactful this season, as the Panthers have struggled greatly on offense with one of their top guns out of action. Huberdeau was coming off of a career-best 20-goal, 59-point season with the Panthers in 2015-16 and the 23-year-old was primed to take another step forward in his growth before being sidelined with the ailment. Without Huberdeau, the Panthers’ offense has mustered 111 goals this season, and only the New Jersey Devils, Colorado Avalanche and Arizona Coyotes are averaging fewer goals per game.
The Panthers struggles without Huberdeau have been exacerbated by the additional loss of Barkov, who manned the top line alongside Huberdeau and Jaromir Jagr for much of the 2015-16 campaign. At the time Barkov exited the lineup, he was Florida’s leading scorer with nine goals and 27 points in 36 games, with a five-point edge on second-place Jonathan Marchessault.
There is a bit more clarity on what is ailing Barkov, though. The initial report was that Barkov would be sidelined with a lower-body injury, but Rowe revealed the 21-year-old is dealing with an upper-body ailment. The exact nature of the injury hasn’t been announced, however.
Given Huberdeau won’t be back in the near future, the Panthers will have to hope Barkov is in line to make his return post-all-star break or shortly thereafter. Every game without both Huberdeau and Barkov is a tough one for Florida, and with only 35 games remaining on their schedule, the Panthers could be in tough to find their way back into the post-season.