My frame-by-frame breakdown of the Kesler goals from Game 2 (via Canucks.com)
Montreal got back into the series with a total team effort. Oh, and some goals helped, too. I really like the Galchenyuk-Plekanec-Gallagher line. In particular, Galchenyuk and Gallagher are building some nice chemistry this season.
If you are a fan of a team that isn't Montreal, go to HockeyDB, and check out the 2011 draft. Look at all of the players your team picked ahead of Gallagher. And now weep.
Montreal did all of this without Max Pacioretty, Brian Gionta (both hurt), and Lars Eller (obviously hurt).
It wasn't Wiercioch who drew in for Grbya, but AHL veteran Andre Benoit.
Marc-Andre Fleury wan't very good last night for the Penguins. The Pens were outshot, but he simply didn't give them a chance to earn the W. 38 saves on 42 shots looks better than he played.
The Islanders, to their credit, brought it last night. Especially their top line. Moulson had two points, while Tavares had a helper and six SOG.
This last month or two is by far the best hockey of Josh Bailey's career. A sign of things to come? Chalk me up as cautiously optimistic.
Crosby had two goals in his return. Of course he did. It's the Islanders (not a dig against them, but he seems to thrive in return games against New York).
Malkin and Crosby combined for four points and 18 SOG. The rest of Pittsburgh's roster combined for 15.
Chicago once again outclassed Minnesota. Parise/Koivu were a combined minus-6.
Charlie Coyle had a helper and three SOG. This experience is great for him and his short term development. Monster upside, really smart player. Reminds me of a young Arnott. Or for a more recent comparison, David Backes with more skill and slightly less grit.
Chicago depth forwards Frolik, Bickell, and Shaw combined for five points. Frolik scored the first two goals of the game (cue applause from Dobber).
Ryan Kesler turned back the clock with a vintage performance last night. He was hitting, embelishing, scoring. Basically doing everything. Too bad the rest of his team couldn't keep up.
Let me expand on the embelishing comment. I'm not praising him for diving. He is one of the worst divers in hockey. But it is simply a sign that he is playing at the top of his game. That is what he does. Like it (few) or hate it (many).
Brent Burns was a monster - I don't think he lost a single puck battle all night - that big frame sure helped him behind the net, and he makes an easy transition back to D on the power play.
Niemi and Luongo were both very good (Luongo, in particular, who faced about 10 or 11 high-quality scoring chances against).
Derek Roy was invisible for the second straight game, as was Mason Raymond. Vancouver needs more from them. This is essentially a series between two very evenly matched teams, and last night's game was a close contest.
Martin Havlat didn't play - he was speared/slashed in the man parts by Kevin Bieksa in Game 1 - surprised there wasn't more media attention around the play. Sneaky dirty.
My stance on the Gryba hit hasn’t changed, even in light of the two game suspension. The result was unfortunate, sure, but you can’t convince me it was a dirty hit in any way. Shoulder was the principle point of contact (although I may be on my own here... Shanahan distinctly said the head was the principle point of contact in his video analysis). Separating an opposing player from the puck in the open ice.
And I am far from the “old school” mentality here. I’m not saying huge open ice hits that target the head are an integral part of the game. Just that Gryba’s wasn’t one of those. This kind of hit won’t happen in your local beer league. Why? Because NHL players are so big, so fast, and so strong. Collisions are seismic nowadays. The force produced is incredible.
If Gryba is a star player, what happens? If Eller isn’t lying in a pool of his own blood, what happens? Obviously the outcome matters (you shoot a bullet at someone and kill them compared to missing...), but the intent needs to matter a lot more than it currently does.
Dustin Brown could have blown out Jaden Schwartz’s knee (or his head) with his malicious/lazy play the other night. But because Schwartz is fine (and Brown is an “honest” player and big market captain), nothing happens? Even though he was recently suspended? I have a clip to that hit below in today’s ramblings.
My beef isn’t with Brendan Shanahan. And it wasn’t with Colin Campbell, either. Well it was, but now I know I was misguided in my blame. The process itself is rotten. It stinks. They league only doles out punishment to save its own face - it needs to get a third party involved and get serious. Oh, a hit gets national TV attention in the USA? Better get serious! Who cares about the guy who goes around head hunting with regularity. Because at some point in time someone is going to die on the ice. It will happen.
Danny DeKeyser is done for the postseason with a broken thumb. Tough news as he was playing really solid hockey for the Wings. Big, smart, and composed. He has a bright future in this league. Don’t think there is much offense, though. 20-25 points. But he is a smart guy who should be a two-way minute-eater pretty soon.
Valtteri Filppula’s ridiculously sick/nasty/amazing toe drag didn’t get the credit it deserved in yesterday’s ramblings… so here it is:
Is there a team with a more underrated prospect group than Detroit? Nyquist, Jarnkrok, Pulkkinen, Jurco, Ouellet, Sheahan, Sproul, Jensen, DeKeyser, Tatar, Adam Almqvist, etc. Very good group of players there, and all different types (big, small, skilled, gritty, forwards, defensemen) too.
Interesting opinion out of Carolina – should the ‘Canes trade Jeff Skinner if it fetches them a prime time defenseman? After locking up Alex Semin for a long time… this isn’t as crazy as it once sounded.
With his issues defensively, continuing susceptibility to concussions, a contract that jumps to $5.75 million this season and the Hurricanes’ relative depth at forward – especially if they bring in an immediate-help player with the fifth overall pick in a deep draft – this might not be a bad time to trade the former Calder Trophy winner if, and only if, it means adding a defenseman of comparable quality.
There are also some exciting playoff games going on in the AHL right now, and any shrewd poolie will be keeping tabs on the AHL playoffs. That is where Jamie Benn first arrived many years ago, and the same could be said for the likes of Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, and Claude Giroux.
With that being said… here are some fantasy-relevant news/notes from the AHL postseason:
David Savard had a goal and four SOG for Springfield (Columbus) on Thursday night. He is going to be a good NHL defenseman for a long time. Be patient with him if you own him in your keeper.
Ondrej Palat had a pair of goals and seven SOG for Norfolk (Tampa Bay). There are so many young Lightning players that have fantasy upside… it is a bit of a risk attaching your cart to one of them, as any of Palat, Brown, Namestnikov, Panik, and Connolly could make the team and be productive next year (in addition to Tyler Johnson and Alex Killorn).
Mark Barberio had an assist and tfive SOG from the back end. And a forgotten guy, former Devil prospect Matt Taormina, had two helpers. Taormina had a nasty ankle injury during Jersey’s Cup run in 2012, and he still has some NHL upside. Not sure he will crack the Lightning blueline next year, though.
Norfolk has a pretty good back end. In addition to those two puck movers, they have Radko Gudas (who scored a goal) and recent NCAA signing Andrej Sustr. Not sure what kind of upside Sustr has at the NHL level, but the experience he is getting right now can only help speed up his development.
I have neglected by team-by-team look at a few sleepers for next season and beyond, so I will double down today with both Detroit and Edmonton.
First up… the Wings:
2013-14 sleeper: Brendan Smith
As I wrote on Thursday, I was a year early predicting Smith’s breakout. He averaged 18:24 per game in 2013, and that number will be closer to 20 next season. He finished with only eight points in 34 games, but seven of those points came in the last 15 games. That, my friends, is called a trend.
Smith is an aggressive two-way defenseman with great puck skills and a booming shot. His opportunity will come – Ian White is a UFA and likely won’t be back, and Carlo Colaiacovo is rarely healthy.
Long term sleeper: Xavier Ouellet
Ouellet is a part of a very underrated prospect group on the back end. In addition to Smith and Kindl with the big club, the Wings also have Danny DeKeyser, Nick Jensen, Adam Almqvist, and Ryan Sproul.
His best attribute is his hockey sense – he isn’t the biggest or fastest guy on the back end. He also makes a great first pass and will fit in nicely with Detroit’s puck possession game. It will be interesting to follow the battle for ice time in Grand Rapids next season with the young talent Detroit has quietly amassed on the back end.
And the Oilers:
2013-14 sleeper: Justin Schultz
Schultz was hyped last season, and for good reason – he dominated the AHL as a rookie, and was an instant impact player in the NHL, too. He hit a rookie wall and struggled defensively, as the Oilers did a poor job insulating him with veteran defensemen. That will change with MacT at the helm, and Schultz could be had later in drafts this year relative to last season (thanks to the “what have you done for me lately” thought process). I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see him break the 40-point mark next season. Provided Edmonton brings in a few veteran defensemen, of course.
Long term sleeper: Martin Gernat
At 6-5 and 200 pounds, Gernat isn’t a prototypical offensive defenseman. He’s big and rangy, and he loves to jump into the rush. He could stand to play with a more physical edge, but that isn’t his game. He will turn pro after this season (his second in the WHL with the Edmonton Oil Kings) and needs a few years in the AHL before making the jump.
He has a ton of upside, and hopefully the Oilers are patient with him. He could be worth the wait.
10 Fitness Tips for May – lots of good stuff in here (in my opinion, of course). Burn fat and gain muscle at the same time, tips to warm up properly, the benefits of yoga, and much more.
This probably isn't a huge surprise, but Dustin Brown from Thursday night. Misses on an attempted knee AND elbow. And the media still pushes the perception that he is a clean/hard/honest player....
You have heard the name before… but don’t forget it – Justin Dowling. He continues his strong play in the Dallas organization. Dowling was signed to an AHL tryout contract and is now one of Texas’ best offensive players.
Dowling had 16 goals and 30 points in 38 games with the Stars to close out the regular season. Really like his game (have seen a few Texas games since he has joined the team). Smart player, lots of skill, knows where to be. He will be an NHL player.