Pittsburgh Penguins\' Jordan Staal celebrates his goal in the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Philadelphia Flyers, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2009, in Philadelphia. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Michael Perez)
Author: The Hockey News
Pittsburgh Penguins showing no sign of Stanley Cup hangover in early NHL season
By: The Canadian Press
Oct 10, 2009
TORONTO - Just like last year, the Pittsburgh Penguins are back on top.
With four wins in their first five games to start the 2009-10 NHL regular season, the defending Stanley Cup champs have taken an early lead in the Eastern Conference standings.
There's a long way to go, but give Pittsburgh credit for avoiding the early headaches of a Stanley Cup hangover that has sometimes plagued past champions.
"There's a lot of hockey left, but we wanted to get off to a good start to the season and keep it going," said Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, who scored two goals to lead Pittsburgh over the host Toronto Maple Leafs 5-2 on Saturday night.
The game against the Leafs was Pittsburgh's third in four days in the middle of a five-games-in-eight-days stretch. It also was Pittsburgh's second contest on a four-game road trip. Add it all up, and the Penguins faced a busy and potentially unforgiving start to the '09-10 NHL campaign.
Pittsburgh has proven to be up to the challenge, however, and the game against the Leafs also was an opportunity to right an old wrong.
"We didn't have a good outing our last time here and we wanted to make sure that didn't happen again tonight," Crosby said.
The previous time the Penguins were in Toronto - Feb. 14 of last season - they blew a 2-1 lead in the third period, allowing five unanswered goals. The next day, Michel Therrien was fired and Dan Bylsma took over as Pittsburgh's head coach. Under Bylsma, the Pens went 18-3-4 down the homestretch of the '08-09 season, and then went on to claim the Cup.
Bylsma wants the Penguins to maintain that high level of play throughout this season.
"We want to concentrate more on our own game," said the Penguins coach. "We have to play our style, play our gamea We don't want to react to what the other team is doing."
Against Toronto, the Penguins were superior all over the ice, but especially on special teams. Pittsburgh was 3-for-5 on the power play while killing off two Leafs advantages.
"You always want your team to respond," Bylsma said. "The last two games, we've been able to do that. We've answered the physical challenge, we've responded on the power play. Tonight our power play was a big turning point in the game."
Prior to beating the Leafs, Pittsburgh nipped their interstate arch-rivals, the Philadelphia Flyers, 5-4 on Thursday. That victory came one day after the Penguins' only defeat of the season, a disappointing 3-0 loss to the visiting Phoenix Coyotes.
"We've got a lot of guys here who are very motivated," Crosby said. "And that's important. We need that effort all the way through the season and the guys really realize that."
-How far can Dave Hakstol take this team? The rookie coach gained traction in the second half of the season and brought out the best in players such as Brayden Schenn while also unleashing the mighty power of rookie Shayne Gostisbehere before that. The Flyers gave Washington an uncomfortable amount of pushback in the first round of the playoffs, and you can expect more of the same this time out as the coach becomes more entrenched.
-Jakub Voracek will be better, right? He has to be. Voracek had a rough 2015-16, with his typical season shooting percentage getting carved almost in half (from nine percent to five percent). Voracek’s struggles manifested most obviously on the power play, where he scored just once after tallying 11 times with the man advantage in 2014-15. A second training camp under Hakstol’s watch will help him get back to his usual scoring ways, plus Voracek will get a running start to the season thanks to his spot with the Czechs at the World Cup of Hockey.
-Who is the starting goalie? The Flyers have that problem right now where there are two options in net – Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth. Mason has been the starter for the past three seasons, with results that have bounced between OK and pretty good. Neuvirth has never played more than 48 games in an NHL season and that was back in 2010-11. But he scared the daylights out of the Capitals in the playoffs, surrendering just two goals in three games to push the series to six games after the Flyers started off 0-3. For now, we’ve got a platoon. The best man will win.
Player projections are based off a three-year version of Game Score (which you can read about here) weighted by recency and repeatability and then translated to its approximate win value (Game Score Value Added or GSVA). Team strength was derived from the combined value of every player’s GSVA on a team. The season was then simulated 10,000 times factoring in team strength, opponent strength and rest.
This team surprised a lot of people last season with their stunning late season surge into the post-season, and they might do even more damage this season.
A lot of credit should go to GM Ron Hextall who has cleaned up the past regime’s mess admirably and stocked the cupboard with a lot of blue-chip talent. The team has two of the best forwards in the league in Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek and getting value out of their remaining prime years is essential. Doing so while also building toward the future creates a delicate balance that Hextall has navigated excellently so far.
One of those future building blocks is stud 'D' prospect Ivan Provorov who is definitely talented enough to make this team, but still might not due to the amount of money ahead of him on the depth chart. If he starts the year in the top six instead of Nick Schultz, this team will be better for it. With the emergence of Shayne Gostisbehere last season, and the solid contributions from Radko Gudas, Mark Streit, and Michael Del Zotto, the Flyers actually have a surprisingly solid, albeit average, defense corps.
Up front the team’s top two lines are quite good, especially that top line of Giroux, Voracek, and Wayne Simmonds. Voracek had a tough year last season, but there’s no doubt that his shooting percentage should bounce back up to his normal rates. He’s too good to be converting on under two percent of his shots on the powerplay, and 5.2 percent in all situations.
While the top six is decent, the bottom six is a big concern, especially the bottom line. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare is a nice story representing France for Team Europe at the World Cup, but his on-ice results have been abysmal in the NHL. Along with Boyd Gordon, that line will probably be spending a lot of time trying to get out of the defensive zone.
The Flyers’ biggest strength, and the biggest reason they’ve got a high chance of making the playoffs, is in net. When they first traded for Steve Mason that seemed absurd to even consider, but his career has taken a complete 180 and he’s now legitimately one of the league’s top goalies. And if he falters, Michal Neuvirth ain’t bad either.
A lot of people were surprised when this team made the playoffs last season. Don’t be shocked if they repeat the magic this season.
Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky celebrate the Game 2 overtime winner at the 1987 Canada Cup.
Author: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Down Goes Brown: What was the best Game 2 in World Cup history?
By: Sean McIndoe
Sep 28, 2016
Five out of seven World/Canada Cups have been best-of-three finals, so let's take a look back at those five games, and rank them from worst to best.
Tuesday night's Game 1 of the World Cup final, which saw Team Canada earn a 3-1 win over Team Europe, sets up a do-or-die Game 2 Thursday night. A Canada win would end the tournament, and the trophy will be in the building, unless the league has come to its senses and thrown that ugly thing into a raging bonfire instead.
There have been seven World and Canada Cups in international hockey history, but we didn't get to see a Game 2 in all of those. Twice, in 1981 and 2004, the format called for a one-game final. But it's been best-of-three in the other tournaments, which gives us five Game 2 to work with. So today, let's take a look back at those five games, and rank them from worst to best.
As always, this is opinion only, and if you disagree, then you're wrong.
No. 5 – 1984: Canada 6, Sweden 5
The road there: Canada stumbled through the 1984 tournament, going 2-2-1 through the round robin and barely making the playoff round as the fourth seed. But Team Canada earned a trip to the final thanks to an overtime win over the Soviets in the semi-final, and they were facing an upstart Swedish team that had beaten them in their round robin meeting and had just embarrassed the Americans with a 9-2 blowout. The Canadians took the opener by a 5-2 final, but the second game proved closer.
Game 2: The game looked like a laugher early on, with Canada scoring four times in the first seven minutes and adding a fifth before the first period was over. A Paul Coffey goal early in the second made it 6-1, setting the stage for a furious Team Sweden comeback. They scored three unanswered goals to close out the second period, and draw to within 6-5 early in the third. But that was as close as they came, as Canada held on for the win and the series sweep.
The aftermath: This turned out to be the first of three straight Canada Cup wins for Team Canada, and remains the only finals appearance by Team Sweden.
The bottom line: What looked like a laugher wound up being a reasonably entertaining contest. But the game everyone remembers from the 1984 Canada Cup will always be that semi-final thriller with the Soviets.
No. 4 – 1991: Canada 4, USA 2
The road there: Coming on the heels of the 1987 tournament, fans were probably hoping for yet another final between Canada and the Soviets. But with the team in turmoil, partly due to the political situation back home, the Soviets failed to even make the playoff round. That left Canada looking for a new challenger, and the Americans were happy to step in for their first ever Canada Cup final appearance. The two teams met in the round robin, with Canada winning 6-3 to hand the Americans their only loss of the stage, and Canada followed that up with a 4-1 win in the opening game of the final.
Game 2: This game may best be remembered for who wasn't playing. Team Canada captain Wayne Gretzky was knocked out of action in Game 1 on an ugly hit from behind by Gary Suter. The check left Gretzky unable to suit up for Game 2, and contributed to the back problems that slowed him down for much of the early 1990s.
Looking for the sweep, Canada jumped out to a 2-0 lead before the Americans clawed back with a pair of second-period goals. But Steve Larmer earned some revenge on Suter by stripping him of the puck during an American powerplay and then scoring on a breakaway for the winning goal.
The bottom line: This game, much like the 1991 tournament itself, was an entertaining one that for some reason isn't all that well remembered by many fans.
No. 3 – 1996: USA 5, Canada 2
The road there: The Americans swept through the round robin with a perfect 3-0-0 record, including an impressive 5-3 win over Canada that featured a wild early brawl. That win earned them a quarter-final bye, and after knocking off the Russians 5-3 in the semis, Team USA came into the final looking like they had a real shot to wrestle the international crown away from Canada. But Steve Yzerman's overtime winner in Game 1 in Philadelphia handed the Americans their first loss of the tournament, and left them needing a pair of wins in Montreal to take the tournament.
Game 2: Team USA jumped out to an early lead, but Canada came back to tie the game before the first intermission. Goals by John Leclair and Brett Hull gave the Americans a 3-1 lead, and Mike Richter stood on his head to keep it that way until a late powerplay goal by Joe Sakic made it 3-2 with five minutes to play. That was as close as they came, and a pair of Team USA empty net goals padded the final score to 5-2.
The aftermath: Team USA completed the comeback in Game 3, winning by another 5-2 score to capture their first (and so far only) best-on-best championship.
The bottom line: Despite the two empty netters making the score more lopsided than the game was, this was a fun matchup that featured lots of star power, some bad blood, and a raucous Montreal crowd. You can watch the highlights here.
No. 2 – 1976: Canada 5, Czechoslovakia 4 (OT)
The road there: Four years after the legendary Summit Series, the Canada Cup was born in an effort to create the first true international best-on-best tournament. There was no semi-final back then, with the top two teams heading directly to the finals. Canada grabbed one of those spots, finishing first in the round robin with a 4-1-0 record. But while many had expected a Summit Series rematch in the final, the Soviets were edged out of a spot by Czechoslovakia.
The opening game of the final was a blowout, with Canada earning a relatively easy 6-0 win. Game 2 ended up proving to be a bigger challenge.
Game 2: Canada grabbed a 2-0 lead just two minutes in, but Czechoslovakia fought back to tie the game early in the third. A Bobby Clarke goal restored the Canadian lead, but two quick Czechoslovakian goals gave them a 4-3 lead with four minutes to play. Bill Barber tied it with two minutes left, and that set the stage for Darryl Sittler to deliver the first ever Canada Cup with what still stands as one of the most famous goals in the tournament's history.
The aftermath: To this day, Sittler and Team Canada assistant coach Don Cherry are still arguing over who's idea that move was.
The bottom line: You could make a great case for this game being No. 1 on the list. I think it’s a coin flip, but I'll take the game that directly led to one of the greatest moments in hockey history.
1987: Canada 6, Soviet Union 5 (2OT)
The road there: Canada and the Soviets finished in the top two spots in the round robin, then knocked off Czechoslovakia and Sweden, respectively, in the semi-finals to set up the first best-on-best multi-game series between the two rivals since the 1972 Summit Series.
Game 2: With the Soviets looking to clinch their second Canada Cup in three tournaments, the series shifted to Hamilton for the second game. The two teams resumed the all-out offensive pace, with Canada leading 2-1 before the game was even four minutes old. Then it got better.
Canada took a 3-1 lead to the first intermission, but the Soviets tied it in the second before Mario Lemieux quickly restored the lead. The Soviets tied it again early in the third, but Lemieux scored again midway through. That set the stage for a frantic end to regulation that saw Valeri Kamensky score with a minute left to send the game to overtime.
With the trophy on the line, the two teams went back and forth through one scoreless extra period. But midway through the second overtime, Canada finally ended it. Guess who.
The aftermath: This game was so good that the hockey gods decided to re-use the same script for Game 3: A back-and-forth thriller that ends with a 6-5 Canada victory on a Mario Lemieux winner.
The bottom line: The series finale was quite possibly the greatest international game ever played. And it was made possible by this one, which was almost as good. That's enough to earn it the top spot on our list, narrowly ahead of Sittler's fakeout.
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.
Rumor Roundup: Canadiens GM Bergevin listening to offeres for Beaulieu
By: Lyle Richardson
Sep 19, 2016
The Canadiens could continue to shuffle their blueline by moving out Nathan Beaulieu for help on the left wing, while the Islanders are in a tough position with restricted free agent Ryan Strome still unsigned before the team-imposed deadline.
Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin shocked the hockey world in June by swapping popular free-wheeling blueliner P.K. Subban for the more defensively responsible Shea Weber. With training camp opening later this week, he might not be done tinkering with his defense corps.
Francois Gagnon of RDS (via The Score's Craig Hagerman) reports Bergevin said he's fielded offers for rearguard Nathan Beaulieu. The Habs GM said he wasn't shopping the 23-year-old, but added it's his job to listen and evaluate offers from rival teams that could improve his club.
Beaulieu isn't on the same talent level as Subban, but he has potential as a second-pairing defenseman. In his sophomore campaign last season, he finished with a respectable 19 points in 64 games. The 6-foot-2, 205-pounder has upside and an affordable contract ($1 million) for 2016-17.
What Beaulieu might fetch for the Canadiens and how to replace him on the blueline are two key issues for Bergevin. NBC Sports' Mike Halford points out the Canadiens are thin at left wing beyond first-line Max Pacioretty, so perhaps Beaulieu could be dangled as bait to address that need.
One option could be Buffalo Sabres left wing Evander Kane. His recent off-ice legal issues sparked trade speculation this summer, and the Sabres are always on the lookout for good young players. However, Bergevin will likely pass on that potential headache.
The Detroit Red Wings and Edmonton Oilers have depth in wingers and need blueline depth. It's believed both clubs prefer a top-pairing puck-mover, so Beaulieu might not interest them.
Halford also suggests promising Mikhail Sergachev, selected ninth overall in this year's draft, could replace Beaulieu if he proves NHL-ready in training camp. Placing that much pressure on the 18-year-old Sergachev, however, could prove a costly gamble for the Canadiens.
TIME RUNNING OUT FOR ISLES, STROME
The clock is ticking on restricted free agent winger Ryan Strome's contract negotiations with the New York Islanders. Larry Brooks of the New York Post reports the Islanders policy of cutting off contract talks with unsigned RFAs when training camp opens, implemented under previous owner Charles Wang, remains in effect.
If Strome's still unsigned after that date, a rival club could be tempted to ink him to an offer sheet. However, Isles GM Garth Snow told Brooks he doesn't rule out matching an offer for Strome beyond that cut-off date.
Strome managed only 28 points last season, but had a 50-point campaign in 2014-15. If he's still unsigned after Sept. 22, a GM seeking a young playmaker with upside could contract Snow with a trade proposal.
If Snow is willing to entertain a trade of Strome, perhaps he should give the Canadiens a call. They're lacking depth at left wing and Strome can skate on either wing. The Habs are reportedly listening to offers for defenseman Nathan Beaulieu.
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.).
Agent says Coyotes trading Rieder would be best for everyone
By: Jared Clinton
Sep 29, 2016
Tobias Rieder and the Arizona Coyotes aren’t any closer to a contract, and it’s gotten to the point where the 23-year-old could be looking for a new home for the 2016-17 campaign.
The clock is ticking for free agents to sign on the dotted line before the start of the new campaign, though it appears the only way restricted free agent Tobias Rieder is going to be signing at all is if the Arizona Coyotes are willing to budge on their offer or if they send the 23-year-old elsewhere.
For the past few months, contract talks between Arizona and Rieder have appeared to have reached somewhat of a stalemate, and according to his agent, Darren Ferris, it’s about time that the Coyotes either meet Rieder’s asking price or deal his rights.
Ferris’ suggestion that the Coyotes trade Rieder comes only days after Arizona GM John Chayka reacted to the trade request of Winnipeg Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba by saying he didn’t feel Rieder’s situation would get to that point.
“Going public like that, it sheds some light on the situation,” Chayka said, according to AZ Central’s Sarah McLellan. “But at the same time, I don’t expect anyone to be influenced by that type of reaction. For us, again, we like (Rieder). If you look at the Trouba situation, they haven’t had a contract discussion in months. They weren’t talking. This (negotiation with Rieder) has been since February, and we’ve made a series of offers and different ways to try to get this done.”
Most bizarre about the entire situation with Rieder and the Coyotes is that it’s not as if the gap in ask and offer is that large. Ferris told Morgan that Rieder is looking for a two-year deal worth $2.5 million per season, but the Coyotes haven’t offered more than $2.2 million per season and it doesn’t sound as if they want to go much higher.
“They are not working toward any amicable deal at all,” Ferris told Morgan. “There really haven’t been any negotiations, per se. The team is unwilling it seems to negotiate. Tobi is the only one making any effort…It’s unfortunate that a good kid gets treated this way. He never balked at the defensive role they made him play, and they don’t seem to value the intangibles he brings to the team.”
That the Coyotes are unwilling to bend to Rieder’s demands is a bit shocking given he scored 14 goals and 37 points this past season while playing a solid two-way game, and he’s the type of player who could be a perfect fit in the middle six as Arizona continues to grow. That’s not to mention that the Coyotes have more than enough cap space to make the deal work. While it would require going over the cap ahead of the season, Dave Bolland landing on long-term injured reserve will free up more than $5 million in cap space, which is more than enough to sign Rieder.
Cap space or not, though, after an entire off-season without a contract it sure seems as if Rieder’s next deal won’t be in Arizona unless the Coyotes acquiesce to his asking price.