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.
Jarome Iginla is expected to waive his no-movement clause for the chance to go to a playoff contender. Could a return to Alberta be in the cards?
As the Colorado Avalanche continue to stumble along, there's growing speculation veteran right winger Jarome Iginla could be dealt in the coming weeks. The 39-year-old is eligible for unrestricted free agency in July. While he holds a no-movement clause, he's expressed a willingness to waive it if approached about accepting a trade to a playoff club.
The Globe and Mail's Eric Duhatschek suggests the Edmonton Oilers, Chicago Blackhawks, Los Angeles Kings, and Calgary Flames as possible suitors. He notes the connection with Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli and Iginla from their days with the Bruins, while pointing out the Kings last season acquired Vincent Lecavalier at the tail end of his career.
Duhatschek also suggests the Flames (where Iginla spent nearly 16 seasons) could use his physical presence. As for the Blackhawks, it was reported earlier in the week that they had interest in Iginla as a depth addition.
Given Iginla's Hall of Fame-worthy career, he will undoubtedly attract some interest from playoff-bound clubs leading up to the March 1 trade deadline. He can probably be had for a third- or fourth-round pick.
However, Iginla's no longer the dominant physical scorer he was during most of his career, managing only 10 points in 38 games. Interested parties should keep their expectations low. He's also carrying a $5.33-million annual cap hit, which could prove difficult to move.
WILL CANUCKS MAKE A MOVE FOR PLAYOFF PUSH?
A month ago, the Vancouver Canucks were on the verge of having their playoff hopes crushed. With 24 points in 26 games, they were sixth in the Pacific Division, ahead of only Arizona and Colorado in the Western Conference standings.
Approaching this weekend, however, the Canucks have climbed back into the postseason picture. Though still sixth in the Pacific Division, they had 41 points in 40 games, putting them within reach of a wild-card berth.
This improvement could give rise to talk of the Canucks becoming buyers in the coming weeks to bolster their playoff hopes. NHL insider Pierre LeBrun remains skeptical, telling Vancouver's TSN 1040 he doesn't believe GM Jim Benning is willing to give up futures for a short-term fix. Even if they bring in a rental player, LeBrun doubts that could help the Canucks go deep into the post-season.
Considering how bare the Canucks' prospects cupboard was when Benning took over as GM, it would be very surprising if he starts sacrificing them for a short-sighted playoff run this season. That doesn't mean Benning won't keep an eye on the trade market. Unless he can get a decent player at a bargain-basement price, he'll likely stay the course with his current roster.
COYOTES' HANZAL STILL ON THE MARKET
Earlier this season, Arizona Coyotes center Martin Hanzal was the subject of considerable trade speculation. At one point in late-November, there were reports claiming trade talk involving the 29-year-old was “heating up.”
In recent weeks, however, the Hanzal rumors have largely died down. The Arizona Republic's Sarah McLellan reports Hanzal acknowledges his future remains uncertain, but he hasn't rule out staying in Arizona.
Coyotes GM John Chayka remains open to continuing contract negotiations with Hanzal, but isn't ruling out the possibility of moving the 6-foot-6, 226-pounder before the March 1 trade deadline. Chayka claims he's not engaged in any trade discussions regarding Hanzal and hasn't received a serious offer yet.
Contract term is thought to be the issue. Hanzal seeks a long-term extension, but Chayka probably prefers a shorter deal to make room for his up-and-coming centers. Should Hanzal remain unsigned and healthy, Chayka will start receiving serious trade offers leading up to March 1. While the Coyotes' GM could seek a good young player in return, he'll likely receive offers of draft picks and prospects.
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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The Bruins have dropped back-to-back games to non-playoff teams, resulting in calls for coach Claude Julien’s job. But Julien has continuously put the Bruins in a position to win, and firing him now could be a big mistake.
Claude Julien has been here before. When the Bruins missed the post-season in 2014-15, there were calls for his job. Again, narrowly missing the playoffs in 2015-16, it was believed he was on the hot seat. And now, with Boston dropping back-to-back games to opponents who are deeper in the lottery hunt than they are in the mix for post-season play, the talk of the Bruins showing Julien the door has started to heat up again.
It’s not hard to understand the argument from a pure wins and losses standpoint, which is what the game boils down to at its very core. The Bruins are 48 games into their season and only barely holding on to the second spot in the Atlantic Division. The Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators are nipping at Boston’s heels and faring better than the Bruins when it comes to points percentage.
And looking at recent results, the argument stands. Boston has lost to the New Jersey Devils, Carolina Hurricanes, Nashville Predators, New York Islanders and Detroit Red Wings — five non-playoff teams — in their past 10 games. Winnable games are turning into head-shaking losses and none have been quite as confounding as the Bruins squandering a three-goal lead heading into the second period against the Red Wings on Wednesday.
Despite back-to-back defeats, which have been paired with poor performances, the Bruins would do well to take a deep breath, look at the bigger picture and keep moving forward with Julien at the helm.
While the results have left much to be desired, Boston has been anything but poor in terms of putting themselves in the best position to win games. The hockey world has come to learn over the past few seasons the importance of controlling play and grinding teams down with puck possession, and it’s by those metrics that the Bruins have been almost inarguably one of the league’s strongest teams.
Consider that this season, no team has been as outright dominant in the possession game at 5-on-5 as the Bruins. They currently boast a 55.3 percent Corsi For percentage, sitting even ahead of the same Los Angeles Kings who have built a reputation of being the league’s most savvy possession team. When breaking it down game by game, too, the Bruins have been incredible in terms of winning the possession battle. In 39 of the team’s 48 outings, Bruins have completed the game with a possession rate over 50 percent at 5-on-5. They’ve been remarkably strong at owning play at even strength.
So, what’s gone wrong? Well, you can start with the team’s shooting percentage, which is downright atrocious. As of Thursday, Boston sits 29th in the league with an abysmal 6.17 shooting percentage at 5-on-5 through 48 games. The only team who’s fared worse is the Florida Panthers, and that’s by a mere seven-hundredths of a percent. To put that into context, when it comes to shooting percentage, only five teams in the past five seasons have finished with a shooting percentage lower than the Bruins’ current rate.
One need look no further than Patrice Bergeron for an idea of how poorly things have gone in Boston when it comes to actually finding the back of the net. Bergeron, a 10 percent shooter throughout his career, is on pace to fire more shots on goal this season than in any campaign prior. At his average shooting percentage, one would expect him to net close to 30 goals. Instead, he’s 45 games through his season with 10 markers to his name and is shooting at 6 percent. Bergeron’s struggle has been indicative of the roster’s trouble as a whole.
Julien’s detractors may posit that possession doesn’t exactly mean the team is getting scoring chances, and that a number of these pucks could be fired from the outside or low-scoring areas. And while that’s somewhat true — Boston is averaging only 7.4 scoring chances per 60 minutes at 5-on-5, good for 22nd in the league — it’s not as though they’re allowing enough chances against that it should be coming back to bite them as hard as it has. The Bruins are allowing 6.62 scoring chances against per 60 minutes at 5-on-5, and the only team with a better mark is the Minnesota Wild. The difference between the Wild and Bruins in scoring chances for? Little more than half a chance per 60 minutes, yet Minnesota has nine more points in the standings with five games in hand.
Patience is often difficult to have in situations such as the one facing Boston, but there’s no reason to believe this won’t right itself over the back half of the season. There’s even recent evidence to suggest the Bruins are playing in a way that still makes them as much a Stanley Cup contender as any other club. Both the 2011-12 and 2013-14 Kings had great possession numbers — 54.7 and 56.8, respectively — with 5-on-5 shooting percentages that either were the league-worst mark or close to it. Both seasons, the Kings turned things around come playoff time and proceeded to win the whole thing. The same went for scoring chances, too, as the Kings were among the leaders in scoring chance percentage at 5-on-5 in both of their Stanley Cup years. That’s the same company the Bruins are keeping, sitting seventh in the league at 52.8 percent.
Of course, there’s no guarantee the Bruins’ fortunes are going to change. The Kings have continued to remain near the top of the league in underlying numbers only to narrowly miss the post-season in 2014-15 before getting ousted in the first round this past season. In a game where a single bounce can decide who wins and who loses, sometimes all you can do is put yourself in the best position to have that bounce go your way. Right now, though, those bounces aren’t happening for Boston.
None of this is to mention that Julien has done an admirable job with a roster that boasts a mixture of high-end talent and questionable depth. Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak and David Krejci are a stellar group of top forwards, but a bottom-six that consists of Riley Nash, Jimmy Hayes, Austin Czarnik and Tim Schaller isn’t all that inspiring. Defensively, the team is still working to get back from the loss of Dougie Hamilton, even with Brandon Carlo looking increasingly like a future top-pairing guy. And it’s hard to fault Julien for being stuck with backups who have won one of 11 games when Tuukka Rask has gotten the night off. That’s simply not his fault.
All this is to say that firing Julien isn’t the answer. It wasn’t in 2014-15, wasn’t in 2015-16 and it’s not now. If there’s a change to be made and the Bruins are set on getting a new voice behind the bench, let that come in the off-season, because Julien’s coaching chops have earned him the right to see this one through given the job he’s done with a roster that could be much worse off without him. If the Bruins are going to get out of this hole, it will be Julien who leads them out of it, and if this Boston team wants to make noise going forward, keeping Julien at the helm is the way to do it.
(All advanced stats via Corsica)
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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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