"We would look at Semin on a short-term basis.”
- Carolina Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford.
"We would look at Semin on a short-term basis.”
- Carolina Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford.
After giving up three goals in five games, the Capitals gave up eight in one on Monday night, but still don't have a regulation loss in 2017.
The Washington Capitals are hoping that history repeats itself. The last time goalie Braden Holtby was pulled in a game prior to Monday night’s wild 8-7 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Capitals went on to win five straight games.
Monday night’s crazy encounter not withstanding, the Capitals have still been the hottest team in the league despite the loss, compiling a record of 9-0-1 in their past 10 and gaining at least a point in 13 of their past 14 games. They're also the only team in the NHL that has yet to lose a regulation game in 2017. That’s why they’re at the top of thn.com’s weekly Power Rankings. (Last week’s rankings in parentheses.):
THE CREAM OF THE CROP
1. Washington Capitals (2)
2. Minnesota Wild (6)
3. Pittsburgh Penguins (1)
4. Columbus Blue Jackets (7)
5. Chicago Blackhawks (3)
6. Edmonton Oilers (16)
7. Toronto Maple Leafs (13)
8. Anaheim Ducks (8)
9. New Jersey Devils (25)
10. Vancouver Canucks (22)
Defenseman John Carlson, who missed the loss to Pittsburgh Monday night, will likely miss his second game of the season Thursday night against St. Louis…The Wild have a league-high 33 points in the road, including a point in 12 straight road games…The Penguins haven’t lost in regulation on home ice since Nov. 21, a span of 13 games…Boone Jenner and Brandon Dubinsky had 47 goals between them last season, but got just their 12th, 13th and 14th in a 4-1 over Carolina Tuesday night…Good news for the Hawks – in Tuesday night’s win over Colorado, all five goals were scored by their bottom-six forwards…The Oilers are rolling, but Jordan Eberle isn’t. He hasn’t scored a goal in his past 18 games…Morgan Rielly, who has been the Leafs’ all-round best defenseman this season, will miss Thursday’s game against the Rangers and is out day-to-day with a leg injury…The Ducks haven’t given up more than two goals in a game in their past eight games…The Devils picked up seven of a possible eight points on a four-game road trip to get back into the hunt for a playoff spot…Only four teams in the NHL have zero or one regulation loss in their past 10 games. The Canucks (6-1-3) are one of them.
THE MUSHY MIDDLE
11. Detroit Red Wings (27)
12. San Jose Sharks (5)
13. Montreal Canadiens (9)
14. Calgary Flames (14)
15. Ottawa Senators (12)
16. New York Islanders (23)
17. New York Rangers (4)
18. Boston Bruins (11)
19. St. Louis Blues (15)
20. Carolina Hurricanes (10)
Darren Helm, out since mid-November with a shoulder injury, could be back in the Red Wings lineup this weekend…After missing the past two games with an upper-body injury, Joonas Donskoi was placed on the injury reserve list…Alex Galchenyuk had a goal in his first game back after missing 18 with an upper-body injury…The Flames are in the middle of the pack in penalty killing this season after finishing dead last in that category last season. And they need a better PK, since they’re on pace to be shorthanded 304 times this season, compared to just 233 last season…The Senators have the league leaders in hits – Mark Borowiecki with 197 – and takeaways – Mark Stone with 55. Erik Karlsson is tied for second in blocked shots with 110…After firing coach Jack Capuano, Islanders GM said he was, “not hiding from the fact that it starts with me.”…This is mind-boggling. Henrik Lundqvist has allowed 16 goals on 76 shots in his past seven periods of work for a save percentage of just .789. “It’s embarrassing, frustrating and disappointing,” Lundqvist said…Bruins star Patrice Bergeron is on pace for exactly half as many goals this season as he had in 2015-16. Last season, Bergeron had 32 and he’s on pace for 16…Vladimir Tarasenko, who had a seven-game goal drought earlier this season, has gone five without a goal. But what’s more concerning according to Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, “he isn’t getting any chances.”…If the Hurricanes miss the playoffs, they can look to their play on the road as a major reason why. They’re just 6-12-6 away from the PNC Arena.
VYING FOR THE PARTICIPATION BADGE
21. Los Angeles Kings (18)
22. Dallas Stars (26)
23. Philadelphia Flyers (20)
24. Florida Panthers (17)
25. Nashville Predators (21)
26. Tampa Bay Lightning (30)
27. Buffalo Sabres (19)
28. Winnipeg Jets (24)
29. Arizona Coyotes (28)
30. Colorado Avalanche (29
Kings captain Anze Kopitar missed Monday’s 2-1 loss to Tampa Bay with a stomach virus, but said he’ll be ready to go tonight against San Jose…Cody Eakin had a Gordie Howe hat trick in the Stars 7-6 win over the Rangers Tuesday night in his first game against the Rangers since earning a four-game suspension for bowling over Henrik Lundqvist Dec. 15…Wayne Simmonds of the Flyers recently announced his engagement and the Flyers are hoping that will spark them. After all, they won eight in a row after Claude Giroux announced his engagement Nov. 30…The Panthers are 9-8-7 since Tom Rowe took over behind the bench for a points percentage of .521, which is just slightly worse than the 11-10-1 record and .523 points percentage Gerard Gallant had as coach…The Predators are one of only two teams that are out of the playoffs despite having a positive goal differential. The other is Carolina…The Lightning hopes to have defenseman Victor Hedman back against the Sharks tomorrow night. He’s missed the past two games with an illness…First, the Sabres couldn’t score. Now they don’t know what to do when they score. In eight of their past 10 games they’ve scored first, but have won only three of those games…In what can only been seen as a desperation move, the Jets will give Ondrej Pavelec his first start of this season tonight against Arizona…The Coyotes, who play in Winnipeg tonight, are tied for last in the league in road wins this season with Vancouver. They have five each…It’s not easy to be this bad in today’s parity-driven NHL, but the Avs are finding a way to do it.
With Morgan Rielly sidelined, another one of Toronto's top defensemen comes to the fore. Can Gardiner continue to play strong with a bigger burden on him?
The Toronto Maple Leafs have been remarkably healthy this season – must be all that kid blood – but when Morgan Rielly went down with a leg injury early against Buffalo, the squad was put to the test. As the remaining left-shooting D-men, Jake Gardiner and Matt Hunwick were tasked the most. And Gardiner, who came into the NHL as a bit of a wild horse on the back end, proved why he is being trusted more this season.
“He was huge,” said center Auston Matthews. “Going down to five ‘D,’ he came up big. That was really positive for us, being able to shut them down and come out with a win.”
Gardiner ended up playing 29:24, the most any Maple Leaf has played in a game this season. And they seemed like hard minutes; Toronto had to come back from a 2-0 deficit, then defend right to the final buzzer as the Sabres unsuccessfully (but gamely) attempted to tie a 4-3 game. But for Gardiner, making simple plays and letting the forwards push the pace was the key: in the end, Toronto dominated possession 60-40.
“I don’t feel terribly tired,” he said afterwards. “It depends on the game – you play 29 minutes but it’s all in the offensive zone, but another game it’s all in the defensive zone, so it just depends.”
The evolution of Gardiner has been interesting to witness. He’s the best possession player on the team this year and has been one of the best for the past few seasons. He’s a little more responsible with the puck now and is on pace to smash his previous season high for points (his record is 31 and right now he’s at 22 with half a season to go), while playing the same amount of minutes he has been for the past couple years.
“My stats are better than they usually are, offensively,” Gardiner said. “But more importantly, I feel like I’m a more all-around player, playing against tougher competition at times. My goal was to be more consistent and I think I’ve done that.”
Gardiner was a hot-shot prospect back in his Minnesota high school days, playing for the Minnetonka Skippers. High school games in the state run 17-minute periods and teams aren’t very deep, which means top players get a lot more ice time than they would elsewhere. I asked Gardiner if the Buffalo game reminded him of his time with the Skippers and he had a laugh.
“Yeah, a little bit,” he said. “I played over half the game back in the day, for sure.”
Rielly is now listed as day-to-day and will miss Toronto’s game against the New York Rangers on Thursday. Given how much offense the Rangers can put up, this will be another good challenge for Gardiner, even though he won’t have to play as many minutes. Some folks have questioned whether or not Rielly is a No. 1 defenseman and while I feel he has the skills and just need a little more help (his partner is Nikita Zaitsev, an NHL rookie, albeit a good one), it certainly wouldn’t hurt the Leafs to have Gardiner evolve even further when it comes to defensive play. The spotlight will be on Gardiner for the short term, so let’s see what he can do.
Thomas Vanek is having a career resurgence in Detroit and as a free agent in July, he could be an attractive option for contenders looking for forward depth.
Left winger Thomas Vanek was a hot property in 2013-14. In a significant (and nowadays, rare) early-season trade, he was shipped on Oct. 29, 2013 by the Buffalo Sabres to the New York Islanders. At the March 5, 2014 trade deadline, Vanek was dealt by the Islanders to the Montreal Canadiens.
Vanek's stock has tumbled since then. Following two disappointing seasons with the Minnesota Wild, he was bought out of his contract last summer and inked a one-year, $2.6-million deal with the Detroit Red Wings.
With the Red Wings falling further out of playoff contention this season, Ted Kulfan of The Detroit News speculates they could become sellers by the March 1 trade deadline. He believes Vanek could once again attract interest in the trade market.
Despite missing 11 games earlier this season with hip and groin injuries, the 32-year-old is putting up good offensive numbers. With 12 goals and 30 points in 33 games, he's on pace for 25 goals and 65 points. The last time he saw those numbers was during his well-travelled 2013-14 campaign.
Vanek does have a reputation for inconsistency, especially in the post-season. But with his solid play thus far, his affordable contract and eligibility for unrestricted free agency in July, he could be an affordable rental player for teams seeking scoring depth at the deadline.
If the Wings decide to put Vanek on the trade block, perhaps the Ottawa Senators will express some interest. The Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch reported last Thursday that Senators GM Pierre Dorion continues his search for forward depth. He's seeking someone who can have an immediate impact under coach Guy Boucher.
Dorion's finding the pickings slim so far in the trade market. Garrioch claims only the Arizona Coyotes and Colorado Avalanche can be considered sellers right now.
While Dorion said he's not fussy over the type of forward he gets, a scoring left winger likely tops his list. The Sens are among the bottom third in goals-for per game (2.49). That lack of production is jeopardizing their chances of securing a playoff berth.
TSN's Frank Seravalli believes the Senators lack sufficient assets to land a top-line left winger. He speculates once-promising forwards Curtis Lazar and Nick Paul could be trade bait. With this year's draft considered a shallow one for talent, Seravalli wonders if Dorion might consider shopping his first-round pick.
Oft-concussed left winger Clarke MacArthur is expected to return to the Senators' lineup by the end of January. He could provide them with an offensive boost, though concerns over his health will linger over the rest of the season.
COULD JETS SHOP A GOALIE?
The Winnipeg Jets are once again struggling to remain in playoff contention in the Western Conference. Goaltending continues to be their Achilles heel. The tandem of Connor Hellebuyck and Michael Hutchinson have allowed 3.06 goals-against per game, ranking among the league's worst.
Sportsnet's Nick Kypreos observes the Jets current goalie setup isn't working. On Tuesday, they recalled former starter Ondrej Pavelec from their AHL affiliate. Kypreos speculates they could move Hutchinson. He said the San Jose Sharks had some interest in the 26-year-old earlier this season.
The Sharks, however, seem to be making do thus far with Aaron Dell as their backup. He's won four of his six starts, with a 1.96 goals-against average and .929 save percentage. Hutchinson may have more experience than Dell, but his performance this season (4-10-3 record, 3.23 GAA, .894 SP) won't tempt the Sharks.
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.).
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.
The Caps and Pens treated us to a scoring bonanza Monday, producing 15 goals. Factoring in the current low-scoring era, was this the wildest game ever?
The Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins locked horns Monday night under high expectations. The two franchises have become synonymous with high-octane hockey since they debuted Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby 11 years ago. But even by this rivalry's towering standard, Monday's tilt blew us away. Slowly but surely, the game snowballed into must-see TV, stealing eyeballs from The Bachelor. The two teams exploded for 15 goals, including nine in the second period alone, with Pittsburgh pulling out a crazy 8-7 overtime victory.
Any game with 15 goals involving the two biggest talents of the past generation already deserves some hype, but Monday's game is an even more staggering feat when put into context. Plenty of excited tweets suggested the Caps and Pens were putting on a 1980s re-enactment – which is remarkable considering how different the game is today. Scoring is far rarer, goalies much more skilled. Was Monday's game thus the greatest offensive display of all-time, pound for pound, year for year, despite not actually setting a record for the most total goals between two teams?
The Montreal Canadiens beat the Toronto St. Patricks 14-7 Jan. 10, 1920, and the Edmonton Oilers beat the Chicago Blackhawks 12-9 Dec. 11 1985. Those two games share the team goals record of 21. Two games produced 20 goals, once in 1984 and one in 1986, and six games have yielded 19. That rounds out the league's all-time top 10. Here's a closer look, courtesy of The NHL Official Guide & Record Book:
Most goals, both teams one game
21 – Montreal Canadiens 14, Toronto St. Patricks 7, Jan. 10, 1920
21 – Edmonton Oilers 12, Chicago Blackhawks 9, Dec. 11, 1985
20 – Edmonton Oilers 12, Minnesota North Stars 8, Jan. 4, 1984
20 – Toronto Maple Leafs 11, Edmonton Oilers 9, Jan. 8, 1986
19 – Montreal Wanderers 10, Toronto Arenas 9, Dec. 19, 1917
19 – Montreal Canadiens 16, Quebec Bulldogs 3, March 3, 1920
19 – Montreal Canadiens 13, Hamilton Tigers 6, Feb. 26, 1921
19 – Boston Bruins 10, New York Rangers 9, March 4, 1944
19 – Detroit Red Wings 10, Boston Bruins 9, Mar. 16, 1944
19 – Vancouver Canucks 10, Minnesota North Stars 9, Oct. 7, 1983
Fifteen goals puts Monday night's game nowhere near the top 10, but no game from that list has occurred within the past 31 years. It only seems fair to factor in the era. The league-wide goals per game numbers of the seasons represented in the top 10, in order:
Those 10 games occurred in the NHL's peak high-scoring glory years. That makes Monday night's game all the more astounding. It occurred in a time of 5.50 goals per game, almost tripling the league average.
So what if we divide 5.50 goals per game by each of the 10 rates above, and multiply that number by the total goals in the record-setting games? The goals scored get adjusted way down:
21 goals in 1919-20 = 12.1 goals in 2016-17
21 goals in 1985-86 = 14.5 goals in 2016-17
20 goals in 1983-84 = 13.9 goals in 2016-17
20 goals in 1985-86 = 13.9 goals in 2016-17
19 goals in 1917-18 = 11.0 goals in 2016-17
19 goals in 1919-20 = 11.0 goals in 2016-17
19 goals in 1920-21 = 12.5 goals in 2016-17
19 goals in 1943-44 = 12.8 goals in 2016-17
19 goals in 1943-44 = 12.8 goals in 2016-17
19 goals in 1983-84 = 13.2 goals in 2016-17
So, based on those adjustments, last night's 15-goal output trumped all the official highest-scoring games of all-time. If we reverse the adjustment, 15 goals in 2016-17 are the equivalent of 25.9 goals in 1919-20.
The math here isn't perfect, as I haven't applied the adjustment to the 18-, 17- and 16- goal games over the years. There are only so many hours in the day. (update: some readers have kindly pointed out the 9-8 game between the Winnipeg Jets and Philadelphia Flyers in 2011, which would take the top spot!) But we can at the very least say Monday's 8-7 barn burner was among the most entertaining and offensively brilliant exhibitions in NHL history.
Matt Larkin is a writer and editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to thn.com. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin