“We’ve got no problem extending Tomas Kaberle. In our eyes, he’s a premier defenceman.”
- Toronto Maple Leafs assistant GM, Dave Nonis.
“We’ve got no problem extending Tomas Kaberle. In our eyes, he’s a premier defenceman.”
- Toronto Maple Leafs assistant GM, Dave Nonis.
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.
Connor McDavid netted his 100th point in his 92nd career game, but how does that compare to the rest of the league’s talented youngsters?
Connor McDavid found himself in some distinguished company Wednesday night.
With the lone assist on Zack Kassian’s game-opening goal against the Florida Panthers, McDavid celebrated his 100th point in his 92nd career NHL game. In doing so, McDavid became the fourth-fastest active player to reach the mark and you might recognize McDavid’s company. By reaching the mark in what amounts to little more than a full season, McDavid joins Alex Ovechkin (77 games), Sidney Crosby (80 games) and Evgeni Malkin (89 games) as one of the four fastest current players to reach the 100-point plateau, according to the NHL.
Reaching 100 points in so few games is another feather in McDavid’s cap and seeing McDavid alongside three of the game’s very best is yet another reminder that he’s already among the games elite players. Crosby, Malkin and Ovechkin have each captured an Art Ross and Hart Trophy to go along with a Ted Lindsay Award, and with McDavid leading the scoring race with 54 points — four points clear of Crosby and Malkin and more than a dozen ahead of Ovechkin — it seems like McDavid could be well on his way to joining them in owning the trio of NHL honors.
McDavid’s rapid climb to 100 points also serves as a reminder that when it comes to young stars, the Oilers captain is, without a doubt, the cream of the crop. That said, though, how does his ascent to 100 points stack up against each team’s top youngster?
Anaheim Ducks: The Anaheim Ducks haven’t brought in many big-name stars through the draft since Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf came onto the scene, but Rickard Rakell has earned his place as the Ducks’ top young offensive star. Rakell notched his 100th career points earlier this season in his 192nd game.
Arizona Coyotes: Max Domi’s rookie season went much better than his sophomore campaign has gone, but he’s still on pace to become a 100-point player before he’s too deep into his career. He’s about 50 games shy of reaching the mark, so expect him to notch his 100th point around his 160th career game.
Boston Bruins: He’s not there yet, but David Pastrnak is inching ever-closer to the 100-point plateau. He has 86 points in 138 games, and is scoring close to a point per game. If he keeps it up this season, he should reach the 100 career points by his 156th career game. That’ll come in early March.
Buffalo Sabres: The choice at the 2014 draft was between McDavid and Jack Eichel, and though he went second-overall to the Sabres, Eichel is proving to be quite the offensive gem. At his current rate of scoring, expect Eichel to reach the mark by his 140th career game right before the season comes to a close.
Calgary Flames: Johnny Gaudreau wasn’t a top draft pick but he’s become an almost instant star in Calgary. His scoring as a rookie was phenomenal and left him only 35 points shy of reaching the 100-point mark in his sophomore year. He was there by the 115th game of his career.
Carolina Hurricanes: At almost exactly half a point per game, Victor Rask was a model of consistency through his first two campaigns. He’s picked it up this season, though, and is starting to look like a two-way star in Carolina. He scored his 100th point this season in his 187th career game.
Chicago Blackhawks: McDavid finished third in Calder Trophy voting despite playing half a season, but not even rookie standout Artemi Panarin reached 100 points as quick as McDavid despite his 77-point freshman campaign. Panarin scored his 100th point this season, and it came in game No. 107.
Colorado Avalanche: Nathan MacKinnon is like a miniature Sidney Crosby, right down to training with the Penguins captain in the off-season. It took MacKinnon quite a bit longer to notch his 100th point, however. MacKinnon’s 100th point was scored at the tail end of his sophomore year, in the 143rd game of his career.
Columbus Blue Jackets: The Blue Jackets have found a future top-six pivot in Alexander Wennberg, and in his third season in the league, the 2013 first-round pick is only a couple points from reaching the century mark. He sits at 96 career points in 180 games, and his 100th point could be coming any day now.
Dallas Stars: John Klingberg is the first defenseman on this list, but with good reason. He was a late-round find by the Stars who turned into an offensive juggernaut. He entered the season with 98 points in 141 games, and an assist four games into the season gave Klingberg 100 points in 145 career games. That’s better than a number of forwards.
Detroit Red Wings: The down year in Detroit hasn’t helped Dylan Larkin’s cause, but he still has all the making of a future offensive star for the Red Wings. His rookie season saw him net 45 points in 80 games and he’s 37 points back of reaching the 100-point plateau with 125 games under his belt. That might have to wait until the 2017-18 campaign, however, as Larkin’s battling through a sophomore slump.
Florida Panthers: MacKinnon was supposed to be the runaway star of the 2013 draft, but Aleksander Barkov has turned into quite the player himself. Selected second-overall, Barkov’s two-way game is great, and the fact he reached the 100-point mark in 173 games puts him only 30 games back of MacKinnon.
Los Angeles Kings: A big start to the 2015-16 campaign put Tyler Toffoli up to 100 points in a hurry. He had entered the season 17 points back of the mark thanks to a breakout sophomore season, and his 17 points in 18 games gave him 100 career points by the time he had played career outing No. 166.
Minnesota Wild: It’s taken a while for Jason Zucker to really piece together his entire game, but he’s starting to find it now, which is to say the rest of his skill set seems to have caught up to his speed. He’s already set a career-high this season with 29 points, and he’s only 10 points back of 100 for his career. Expect that around the 230th game of his career.
Montreal Canadiens: Alex Galchenyuk has gradually built his way up to being one of the top offensive threats in Montreal. As for his 100th point, he netted that by the time he was wrapping up his third campaign in the league, registering an assist for point No. 100 in his 184th big league contest.
Nashville Predators: The trade that brought Filip Forsberg to the Predators will go down as one of the greatest steals in league history, even if it took Forsberg a while to find his way into the lineup full-time. After breaking out with 63 points in 2014-15, Forsberg kept up his pace and netted his 100th point in his 153rd game.
New Jersey Devils: The Devils’ tough time in the draft hasn’t brought them many young stars of late, but the trade that brought Kyle Palmieri to New Jersey gave them a 30-goal scorer right away, and he managed his 100th career point 14 games into his stay with the Devils. Altogether, it was his 212th NHL outing.
New York Islanders: Forget young stars for a second, and let’s look at the comparison between McDavid and John Tavares. Tavares burst onto the scene with a 54-point year and was a 100-point player by his sophomore year. However, the 100th point didn’t come until Tavares had played his 135th game.
New York Rangers: Mika Zibanejad didn’t start out as a Blueshirt, but he’s got the potential to become an impactful part of the roster for years to come. His 100th career point didn’t come in New York, either. In his 198th game with the Ottawa Senators, Zibanejad picked up an assist to reach the milestone.
Ottawa Senators: This is where Zibanejad would have fit in were it not for the off-season trade, but instead the nod goes to Mark Stone, who has been on a tear ever since cracking the lineup as a full-timer. A 64-point year put him 28 points shy of 100 for his career entering the 2015-16, and he proceed to get the required points in 29 games, making for 100 points in 132 career games.
Philadelphia Flyers: Shayne Gostisbehere became one of the most beloved Flyers rookies in years for his scoring ways in his rookie season. He’s slowed this season, but the rearguard is 35 points back of the 100-point plateau. Give him another 60 or so games, and he should reach the century mark.
Pittsburgh Penguins: There aren’t any undrafted players on this list yet, but Conor Sheary seems like the surest bet to reach the 100-point mark in a hurry. He’s set career highs in his sophomore year with 13 goals and 29 points and the year’s only half over. He could be a near-60-point player by year’s end. If he stays on this pace, 100 points in 160 games seems possible.
St. Louis Blues: Vladimir Tarasenko is one of the most dynamic scorers in the league and a superstar in waiting with the way he can fill the net. His first two seasons were only all right, but he broke out in 2014-15 with a 37-goal, 73-point season that saw him score his 100th career point in his 137th game with the Blues.
San Jose Sharks: It’s going to be hard to forget Tomas Hertl’s four-goal debut, but injuries have slowed him down since his rookie year. His best season to date came in 2015-16 and it was also the same season he scored point No. 100. It took him until his 187th career game.
Tampa Bay Lighting: Steven Stamkos’ absences have shown just how important Nikita Kucherov is to the Lightning. By his second season, he was already flirting with a 30-goal year and only a handful of points shy of 100 for his career. He hit the 100-point mark 29 games into the 2015-16 season, and 163 games into his big league career.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Let’s take a look at this with Auston Matthews. Right now, Matthews has 38 points in 42 games, putting him on pace to earn his 100th point around the 111th game of his career. The thing is that he’s only getting better as time goes on, so hitting 100 points in 100 games doesn’t seem too far-fetched.
Vancouver Canucks: Bo Horvat is heading to the All-Star Game to represent the Canucks, and he could be celebrating his 100th point before he heads off to Los Angeles. He’s sitting at 95 career points in 196 games, and he has a shot at nice round numbers if he can net five points in the four games before the break.
Washington Capitals: Things haven’t gone Evgeny Kuznetsov’s way this year, but he still has all the skill in the world and is capable of putting up big numbers like he did in 2015-16. That 20-goal, 77-point year saw Kuznetsov net his 100th career point in his 149th career game.
Winnipeg Jets: If we looked at Matthews’ chase for 100 points, it’s worth taking a look at Patrik Laine’s numbers, too. Before falling injured, Laine had 37 points in 42 games, which puts him in the same range as Matthews. Laine has had some slumps, but he’s got the potential for a few big games. He, like Matthews, could be eying up point No. 100 by the time his career is a mere 100 games old.
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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.
Jake Allen’s recent struggles could have Blues GM Doug Armstrong scouring the trade market for help in goal as the post-season approaches. Meanwhile, trade talk surrounds the Flyers and Coyotes.
St. Louis Blues goaltender Jake Allen's recent performance has left much to be desired. After a strong effort through the opening two months of the season, the 26-year-old's play declined through December and into January.
After reeling off eight straight wins from Nov. 15 to Dec. 6, Allen has only four victories his last 13 starts. He had a save percentage below .900 in eight of those games and was pulled early in his last two starts.
Appearing on Montreal's TSN 690 last Thursday, NHL insider Bob McKenzie said the Blues are worried about Allen's decline this season. He thinks they could keep an eye on the trade market for a goalie, though they must be careful over what they afford in dollars and return.
In late-December, McKenzie's colleague Darren Dreger suggested the Blues should consider acquiring Marc-Andre Fleury from the Pittsburgh Penguins. Fleury carries a no-movement clause and the Penguins must move him in order to protect Matt Murray in the expansion draft. If Allen fails to snap out of his current funk and Fleury's willing to waive his clause, perhaps Blues GM Doug Armstrong might come calling.
Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop could be another option. The 30-year-old began his NHL career with the Blues. He's eligible for UFA status in July and isn't expected to be re-signed by the Lightning.
The Bolts need a top-four defenseman and the Blues have a pending UFA blueliner in Kevin Shattenkirk. While that seems like a perfect fit for both clubs, Armstrong appears in no hurry to move Shattenkirk. He'll likely remain patient with Allen for the time being, but could consider other options if the netminder fails to improve.
SLIDING FLYERS NOT KEEN ON MOVING YOUNG BLUELINER
A 10-game winning streak by the Philadelphia Flyers from late-November through mid-December had them comfortably in the midst of the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Since the streak ended on Dec. 17, however, the Flyers dropped 11 of their past 14 games. Entering this week, they're on the verge of tumbling out of the last wild-card spot in the East.
CSNPhilly.com's Tim Panaccio reports Flyers GM Ron Hextall said he'll only swing a deal if it'll significantly help the club. Given the Flyers poor performance of late, Panaccio feels a trade might be Hextall's only option to improve things.
Finding a suitable deal won't be easy. Panaccio acknowledges Hextall carries “only a few marketable commodities” that might fetch a good return. Rival GMs could have more interest in the Flyers' crop of promising young defensemen.
Hextall won't part with established young blueliners Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere. Panaccio suggests prospects Travis Sanheim, Sam Morin, Robert Hagg and Phillipe Myers have potential to become franchise defensemen. Hextall might not be keen to part with any of them, but it might be necessary if one or two could fetch a return that helps right the Flyers' sinking ship.
The Colorado Avalanche are in the market for good young defensemen and reportedly entertaining offers for left wing Gabriel Landeskog and center Matt Duchene. The Flyers limited salary-cap space, however, would complicate things.
DESPITE DOWN YEAR, DOAN COULD DRAW INTEREST
The ongoing struggles of the Arizona Coyotes makes the club a frequent topic for media trade chatter. Most of the speculation concerns center Martin Hanzal and defenseman Michael Stone. Both are eligible for unrestricted free agency in July and could be moved by the March 1 trade deadline.
In recent years, right wing Shane Doan usually surfaced in the rumor mill, though the conjecture was always quickly quelled by Doan or Coyotes management. This year, however, might be different.
Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reports the Coyotes might consider moving Doan before the deadline. He believes if management approaches the 40-year-old with an opportunity to play for a winner, he might consider waiving his no-movement clause. The Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch doubts Doan's movement clause will prevent some rival clubs from making inquiries. He claims the San Jose Sharks attempted to land the veteran forward over the last two years.
With only 12 points in 42 games, the aging Doan is on pace for 24 points, his lowest output in a non-lockout season since his 22-point campaign in 1998-99. Still, the 6-foot-1, 223-pound winger has good size, years of experience and leadership ability. He also netted 28 goals and 47 points last season, so perhaps he might regain his scoring touch on a deeper club.
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.).
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