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The Calder Trophy winner must continue to work the instant chemistry he found with his linemates as the Blackhawks adapt to a youth-infused lineup
The chemistry on Chicago's top scoring line almost took a serious hit this summer. Art Ross and Hart Trophy winner Patrick Kane was trying to stay in touch with left winger Artemi Panarin in Russia, but his texts were going unanswered. Trouble in paradise? Hardly. Panarin lost his phone, so while those smiley-face emojis died lonely deaths in the ether, the relationship between the two didn't actually take a hit.
And that's good news for the Hawks, because the salary cap once again dictated some tough decisions in Chicago. This year, Chicago will need the Panarin-Artem Anisimov-Kane line to be huge again, as the team folds in a ton of rookies while still attempting another charge at the Stanley Cup. Luckily, while Panarin is the reigning Calder Trophy winner, he's not dealing with the same sophomore jitters as many past winners.
“I've already forgot last season," Panarin said through a translator. "I'm moving forward with new goals and new challenges ahead. I'm ready for a fresh start.”
In case you hadn't heard, Panarin was a very experienced NHL rookie in 2015-16, coming off nearly five full seasons in the KHL. He turns 25 this week, making him much older than the average sophomore, but that's a great thing for Chicago, since the attention needs to shift to younger rookies such as Nick Schmaltz, Gustav Forsling, Ryan Hartman, Tyler Motte and Vince Hinostroza.
Felllow Russian and center Anisimov was a boon for Panarin last year, though Anisimov is quick to point out that Panarin had friends outside the team who lived in Chicago, so any questions thrown at the pivot were generally reserved for on-ice matters. Nevertheless, Anisimov was key to making the line with Kane work.
“I definitely love playing with him," Panarin said. "He plays both offense and defense and helps out a lot. He's a good person for me to have.”
And Panarin is a great player for the Hawks to have. His vision and puck skills are so natural, he can make difficult plays look easy. With Anisimov holding down the middle, Panarin and Kane are more or less free to wheel around the ice, dizzying opponents with their moves and torturing netminders with their finishing skills.
While Kane may have been the MVP last year, Panarin did pot 30 goals of his own.
"He's kinda like Kaner, but a righty," said defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson. "He always knows what his surroundings are when he's stickhandling. He always knows what's going on around him. At the same time, he can dangle and do stuff other players can't do."
Through six games this season, the Hawks are 3-3. While that's OK (and, admittedly, a small sample size), all three wins have come at home and only Calgary has surrendered more goals overall. Coach Joel Quenneville toyed with the notion of breaking up the big scoring line in the pre-season, but ultimately kept Kane and the two Russians together. Once again, the wingers are off to a great start, with Panarin notching five points and Kane tallying seven. As an added bonus, Anisimov actually leads both of them with eight points of his own.
“It's very comfortable playing with them," Anisimov said. "Those two guys are unbelievable players and we can bring the line up another level.”
Should Chicago have any designs on a fourth Stanley Cup during this era, the line must continue to play big - even though Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa and Duncan Keith are far from 'support players.'
And now that Panarin has his phone back, there's no reason they can't be dialled in all season.
With their top two goalies hurt, the Kings could pursue the likes of Ondrej Pavelec or Steve Mason, but their are limited by their salary-cap space.
With Los Angeles Kings goaltenders Jonathan Quick and Jeff Zatkoff sidelined by lower-body injuries, there's growing speculation over how GM Dean Lombardi will address the situation. Jared Clinton notes there's talk of a trade, but points out the Kings' limited salary-cap space will hamper those efforts.
Winnipeg Jets former starting goalie Ondrej Pavelec, who's currently toiling in the minors, is seen as an obvious trade target for the Kings. However, Sportsnet's Nick Kypreos reports the 29-year-old might not be done with the Jets. He said the Jets remain unsure about their young tandem of Connor Hellebuyck and Michael Hutchinson, preferring to hang onto Pavelec as insurance.
Kypreos' colleague Elliotte Friedman said the Kings looked into the availability of Pavelec, as well as Philadelphia's Steve Mason, Florida's Reto Berra and Pittsburgh's Mike Condon. He wonders if they'll consider contacting the Anaheim Ducks about former King Jonathan Bernier.
Friedman observes the Ducks must shed salary to make room for restricted free agent defenseman Hampus Lindholm's new contract. He also said Kings goaltending coach Bill Ranford is a fan of Bernier's. For the time being, however, Friedman believes the Kings will attempt to make do with Peter Budaj and call-up Jack Campbell.
The New York Post's Brett Cyrgalis also weighs in, suggesting the New York Islanders as a potential trade partner. Noting they currently carry three goalies, Cyrgalis wonders if Lombardi could make a pitch for Jean-Francois Berube, whom the Islanders plucked off waivers from the Kings last year.
The Kings, however, only have $952,000 in cap space. That prevents them from acquiring Bernier, who's earning $4.15 million this season. Even if the Ducks agreed to pick up half of his salary-cap hit, it's still more than the Kings can afford. Same goes for Pavelec ($3.9 million) and Mason ($4.1 million). To land any of those goalies means shipping out additional salary to make room for their respective cap hits.
If necessary, Lombardi could place Quick on long-term injured reserve. That would allow him to exceed the $73 million cap ceiling to add a netminder. However, he'll have to become cap compliant when Quick returns to active duty later this season.
If Zatkoff is sidelined long-term and Budaj and Campbell struggle, Lombardi will need an affordable short-term option. Berra ($1.45 million), Berube ($675,000) or Condon ($575,000) could be his best bets.
The Kings goaltending injury woes created some trade chatter in Vancouver. The speculation suggests the Canucks ship them veteran Ryan Miller as a short-term replacement for Quick. The Province's Jason Botchford dismisses that notion, claiming Canucks GM Jim Benning doesn't want to trade the 36-year-old Miller.
Much of this Miller trade talk is based upon Jacob Markstrom's strong start to this season. Entering this week, the 26-year-old is 3-0-1 with a 1.94 goals-against average and .923 save percentage. Meanwhile, an abdominal strain sidelined Miller following the Canucks' season-opening 2-1 victory over the Calgary Flames on Oct. 15. He returned to action Sunday, giving up four goals in a 4-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks.
Botchford points out Miller's low trade value, his $6-million cap hit and the Canucks lack of a third goalie works against trading the veteran netminder. However, that hasn't stopped the local conspiracy theorists from insisting Miller will be dealt soon to the Kings.
As with Pavelec, Bernier and Mason, the Kings simply don't have the cap room to take on Miller's cap hit, even if the Canucks agreed to pick up half of it.
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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Teemu Selanne was a part of dozens of memorable moments during his four-year tenure as a Winnipeg Jet, and he delivered another one with the game-winning goal in the Heritage Classic alumni game.
The Heritage Classic’s alumni game may have featured Hall of Famers such as Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Paul Coffey and Dale Hawerchuk, but the one player the Winnipeg Jets faithful were looking forward to seeing most was Teemu Selanne.
Selanne’s return to Winnipeg allowed Jets fans to get a look at one of the original franchise’s all-time greatse and relive the memories of Selanne’s brilliant rookie season. That campaign, the 1992-93 season, saw Selanne score an unbelievable 76 goals — breaking the rookie goal scoring record previously held by Mike Bossy — and 132 points. It also offered one of the most memorable moments in Winnipeg hockey history, with Selanne sliding on one knee and mock shooting his airborne glove.
But Selanne gave Jets fans another lasting memory Saturday afternoon in the alumni game.
The Jets and Oilers alumni were locked at 5-5 in the third period when Selanne picked up the puck in the Winnipeg zone and started to make his way up ice. As Selanne cut out front, he was tripped up the Oilers’ Craig Simpson, which resulted in a penalty shot. With 3.6 seconds remaining in the contest, Selanne stepped up to take his potentially game-winning attempt and he delivered a memory for the Winnipeg crowd:
Selanne’s goal was his second of the outing, and second penalty shot goal of the outing, and fifth point of the contest. It wouldn’t have been unrealistic to expect that from Selanne, though, as the 46-year-old is one of the greatest scorers in league history and only two seasons removed from his last game in the NHL.
Despite the fact that Selanne is most remembered for his time as an Anaheim Duck, he has remained one of Winnipeg’s favorite adopted sons. Selected with the 10th overall pick of the original Jets back in 1988, Selanne scored 147 goals and 306 points in 231 games, but he moved on to become a member of the then-Mighty Ducks of Anaheim by the 1995-96 season.
While he’s not a member of the Hall of Fame yet, there’s no doubting Selanne will be a first-ballot inductee. Over the course of his 1,451-game career, he netted 684 goals and 1,457 points, making him the 11th-highest goal scorer and 15th-highest point-getter in league history.
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Respected by veterans, adored by young players, worshipped by nerds, Patrice Bergeron might be the best defensive forward in NHL history.
Imagine taking the ice with two linemates. One is the guy you play with every day, your longtime friend, someone you know inside and out. The other is the greatest player of the past decade. It’s safe to say the first guy would have to do something spectacular to stand out more than the second.
Yet that’s what happened when Brad Marchand played with Patrice Bergeron and Sidney Crosby in Pittsburgh Sept. 14 for a World Cup exhibition match between Canada and Russia. Halfway through the first period, Crosby threaded a pass to Bergeron, who darted between Dmitry Orlov and Artem Anisimov, dangled and roofed a laser of a backhand over Sergei Bobrovsky’s shoulder. Marchand had the privilege of playing on Sidney Friggin’ Crosby’s wing, but it was Bergeron dropping Marchand’s jaw.
“I was in awe,” Marchand said. “He was on another level, and I said that to him. He was like a man among boys. It’s a lot of fun to watch him play.”
Also enjoying the show that night was Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask, whose Team Finland wasn’t even playing. When THN caught up with him at World Cup media day 24 hours later and brought up Bergeron, the first thing Rask asked was, “Did you see the goal he scored last night?”
Reactions like that are what make Bergeron unique. He may not be one of the NHL’s fan-favorite players, a la P.K. Subban, but Bergeron’s the fan favorite among the players. They look up to him. Even future Hall of Famers, talk him up like he’s James Bond. Bruins captain Zdeno Chara points out how good-looking Bergeron is. Rask calls him “a cool dude.” Pretty much every player points out how stylish he is. “He’s doesn’t force it,” Marchand said. “It’s just kind of a natural thing for him. He’s awesome. He’s French, so he knows how to dress. He’s got the cool car, nice house. He knows where to put his money and where not to, and he makes everything look good.”
That worship traces all the way back to Bergeron’s days as a teenage elder statesman at the 2005 World Junior Championship, when Canada fielded its greatest team in tournament history, featuring everyone from Crosby to Ryan Getzlaf to Shea Weber to Jeff Carter. Bergeron had already spent a season as the NHL’s youngest player but got an unexpected opportunity to suit up for the Canadian kids because of the 2004-05 lockout. His peers admired him for his professional demeanor, his two-way play and, yes, his style.
“I probably asked him about a thousand questions,” Crosby said. “He was great about it, and we’ve been friends ever since. I have a lot of respect for him, putting up with all my questions at a young age.”
At the NHL level back then, Bergeron was still the student, not the teacher. He credits Martin Lapointe, a rugged veteran winger with the Bruins, as the man who taught him how to be a pro. More than a decade later, though, it’s like Bergeron is back in the world junior dressing room. Fellow veterans respect him as a teammate and an opponent, and the young kids follow him around like he’s hockey’s Pied Piper. Bruins right winger David Pastrnak, 20, calls Bergeron “the best leader I’ve ever seen.” Buffalo Sabres center and Massachusetts native Jack Eichel, 19, trained with Bergeron for several weeks over the summer and relished the chance to be a sponge.
“A young guy like myself can learn a lot just from being around him,” Eichel said. “Hearing him talk, the way he carries himself, how hard he works. He’s on the ice after practice in August, bagging himself. It says a lot.”
It seems busting his tail doing all things hockey is all Bergeron thinks about. This is a man, don’t forget, who played through a broken rib, torn cartilage and a separated shoulder in the 2013 Stanley Cup final. He’s a fanatic of the sport, and not just because he’s an NHLer. His favorite off-season hobby is, uh, hockey. For years, he had an outdoor rink with an artificial ice surface on his property in Quebec City, Que., and hosted tournaments every weekend. He sold that house but still enjoys playing ball hockey with his buddies throughout the summer, albeit not this year with the Word Cup in the way. He has a designated shooting area at his new place, too.
The idol isn’t a role Bergeron asked for. As Pastrnak points out, Bergeron leads more by example than with a megaphone. But he’s still happy to pay forward what he learned from Lapointe.
“I try to be of any help, really,” Bergeron said. “I try to be there for them off the ice, to show my experience and tell them about things I used to do and that I’ve learned over the years. And it’s about on-ice stuff as well. I also don’t want to overdo it. They have to find and learn some stuff on their own. But at the same time I’m always there for them. It’s something I want to give back.”
The best way Bergeron does that is with his play, which is like one never-ending instructional video. “He's good in every area,” Crosby said. “He's reliable at both ends of the ice. He's got really good hockey sense. That’s what sticks out the most. Defensively he's tough to go up against, and offensively he can hurt you, so he's really an all-around player.”
That all-around ability has helped Bergeron win three Selke Trophies as the NHL’s best defensive forward. It’s helped him earn major roles and gold medals on two Canadian Olympic teams. It’s helped him win a Stanley Cup with the 2010-11 Bruins. It’s garnered the adoration of the NHL’s player population. Bergeron has never been a sexy name among the fans, however, rarely if ever mentioned in the same breath as Crosby or Alex Ovechkin or Patrick Kane. That’s likely because he sacrifices some offense to play a 200-foot game. The only stat categories he regularly dominates are faceoff percentage and plus-minus. He’s never topped 32 goals or 73 points. Marchand said Bergeron could easily be a 40-goal, 80-point player if he concentrated on offense more.
The way fans interpret the game is changing, though. We live in the advanced stats era now. Players who generate and suppress shot attempts at elite levels, also known as possession drivers, are gaining new levels of notoriety, especially when the analytics crowd is a vocal minority, proficient with social media. Our resident fancy stats writer, Dominik Luszczyszyn, said Bergeron “is basically God to the nerds.” Analytics website corsica.hockey tracks possession numbers dating back to 2007-08 and, over that nine-season span, Bergeron ranks top-five in Corsi percentage among forwards with 3,000 or more minutes. Factoring in Corsi relative to teammates, Bergeron cracks the top four. He’s the only player to rank top-four in both categories. He’s neck and neck with Pavel Datsyuk for the unofficial title of the greatest possession player since people started tracking the stats.
“Things generally tend to go very well whenever Bergeron is playing, and that applies to when he’s off the bench versus when he’s on the bench, or when his teammates are playing on a line with him or when they’re not on a line with him,” said corsica.hockey creator Emmanuel Perry. “Everything just seems to go when Bergeron is playing. That can be faulty logic if you’re looking at a few games or just one season, but when you sustain that sort of impact over your entire career, the way Bergeron has, and also when you break free from the pack and distance yourself that much, it’s very evident that he’s what makes things go.
Few players in NHL history have rivalled Bergeron’s ability to drive possession, actually. There’s a case to be made he’s the greatest defensive forward ever. Bergeron’s three Selkes tie him with Datsyuk, Guy Carbonneau and Jere Lehtinen for second-most all-time. Carbonneau won his third Selke at 32, Datsyuk at 31 and Lehtinen at 29. Bergeron won his third at 29, and he’s 31 now, fresh off a second-place finish in the 2016 vote. When asked if he knew who holds the Selke record, Bergeron nodded. He has Bob Gainey, the man with four Selkes, on the mind. Gainey is widely regarded as the gold standard for defensive forwards, but how would he compare to Bergeron if we applied modern statistics? There was no Corsi or Fenwick in Gainey’s era, which spanned from 1973-74 to 1988-89. The best we can do is evaluate him using hockey-reference.com’s defensive point shares. The formula is downright headache-inducing to laypeople like us, so here’s a simplified version: it factors in a player’s position, the league goals-per-game rate of his era and his plus-minus cross-referenced with a team’s goals for and against to create an approximation of defensive impact. “Point shares” refer to how many points in the standings the player was responsible for. Gainey gained 18.1 over 16 seasons for an average of 1.13. Bergeron has gained 21.2 in 12 seasons for an average of 1.77.
Bergeron thus measures up quite nicely to Gainey, who is, of course, in the Hall of Fame. Bergeron only has the one Stanley Cup to Gainey’s five, but Gainey played on one of the greatest dynasties in sports history with the late ’70s Canadiens. Bergeron has the Olympic resume and is a better offensive player than Gainey ever was. His body of work is starting to look Hall-worthy, and he has plenty of good years left. Hockey researcher and history Iain Fyffe has developed ‘The Inductinator,’ a system that predicts Hall of Fame berths, and he believes Bergeron must catch Gainey in Selkes to have a shot.
“Just to be in the mix of that, in the talk, is a huge honor for me,” Bergeron said. “Bob Gainey is a legend of the game. We’ll see what happens. There are some amazing two-way forwards that are always there and giving me competition. I’m trying to play my game and see what unfolds.”