My latest on the Canucks Army - how they can avoid the problems that plagued them in the 2011 postseason this year (hint - more Schneider).
Breaking - Montreal has fired GM Pierre Gauthier. News conference today at 11:45 on TSN and TSN.ca.
35 goals for Michael Ryder. Yes, you read that right. Rare to see a player have a career year at his age (he isn't old or anything, but it rarely happens at 31).
Dallas had three goals, the Ryder, Ribeiro, and Eriksson line had every point for them - a combined eight.
Jonathan Quick recorded his 9th shutout of the season - would you give him a Hart nomination? I think the Vezina recognizes the best goalie, and the Hart should be for the most valuable player (defenseman or forward). Might just be me, though. Either way, Quick will be getting some hardware this summer in Las Vegas.
Vinny Lecavalier draws back in to the lineup for Tampa Bay tonight.
Colorado played a really good road game yesterday, but they ran into a white-hot Cory Schneider. Schneider stopped all 43 shots he has faced, dropping his GAA on the season to 1.97. He has lost once in his last 13 starts and is simply rolling. Big things expected next season, in Vancouver or elsewhere.
A great read on the how and why of Dale Hunter’s struggles as an NHL coach.
“George McPhee doesn’t get many things wrong. But the Capitals general manager’s decision to tap into tough-guy nostalgia, have Hunter be the taskmaster to replace Boudreau, the players’ coach whom the locker room allegedly tuned out, was absolutely the wrong move.”
Columbus goalie Allan York earned his first career win last night. Recently-graduated Michigan goalie Shawn Hunwick was the emergency backup (signed to an amateur tryout), as Steve Mason was out after getting hurt in practice.
York has stopped 50 of the last 53 shots faced – could he already be considered the de facto starter in Columbus?
Derek Dorsett played over 18 minutes – he scored a goal, and had zero PIM. No, this is not the twilight zone.
Derick Brassard had a goal and played over 20 minutes. He has five points in his last four games, and should hit 40 by the time the season ends. When Nash is traded, I’d expect his role to increase further. Interesting upside, health is such a concern though.
A good season all-around in Winnipeg – they could leave the roster untouched and come back and earn a playoff spot next year. All of their core players are still developing – Pavelec, Little, Burmistrov, Kane, Wheeler, and so on.
They could use some stability on the back end, and more scoring depth up front. Will be an interesting summer for the Jets. The future is bright.
Nikita Nikitin’s production has been impressive since coming to Columbus from St. Louis. He is playing a huge role with the Blue Jackets – could be a 40 point defenseman next year if he sees a similar role.
I’d be concerned as a Taylor Hall owner – part of what makes him so good is his fearlessness and his speed with the puck on his stick, however, that same style is leading to some serious injuries. The latest has been one bothering him for a few years – he is getting his shoulder labrum rebuilt. A serious procedure, to say the least.
Is Hall another Lindros? A physically dominant forward who battles injuries throughout his career? Too early to say, but the news isn’t good. He’s such a talented player – 50 goal upside, can skate by or through many NHL defensemen, but he’s already been through so much.
Erik Cole’s signing has been a great one so far – a career best 31 goals. He still has a few years left on his deal, but he’s been a great guy for Pacioretty to model his game after.
Elliotte Friedman’s latest 30 thoughts is, as usual, fantastic. My favorite point:
“16. Last Thursday, Pietrangelo played a ridiculous 4:11 of the five-minute overtime in Los Angeles. His last shift (which included a power play) was 2:19. Maybe that's why he wears 27 - a tribute to Alex Kovalev's shift lengths.”
Alex Pietrangelo has been the best defenseman I have seen this year (to be fair, I see the Blues more than any Eastern Conference teams). Dominant at both ends of the ice. Karlsson would get my Norris vote, but Pietrangelo should be a finalist. A great example of a team NOT rushing a prospect from junior to the NHL. The Blues are getting rewarded for their patience right now.
The downside of the CHL playoffs is that the first round usually features some lopsided matchups (to say the least). Want evidence?
Coyle, Jurco, Galiev, and Phillips, four of the top players on Saint John, have combined for 48 points in four games. 48 points!
The college signings are coming in fast and furious this week. The latest:
Minnesota has signed forward Jason Zucker from the University of Denver. Zucker will make his Wild debut on Thursday. He’s one of four Wild forward prospects who could be on the team next year – Coyle, Granlund, and Zack Phillips are the others.
Matt Cullen is out for the season, opening up a spot for Zucker up front.
Dallas signed Reilly Smith (2009 draft pick and star at the University of Miami-Ohio), and he made his NHL debut against Edmonton last night. The reasoning for playing him:
“"If we and L.A. or San Jose were playing, that's a tough game to put a young kid in," said Gulutzan. "With the Oilers speed and their youth and their skill I think we wanted to get a little bit of youth and skill in here too, and get his feet wet. So we thought it was a good game for him."
That is a nice roundabout way of saying the truth – Edmonton isn’t very good.
A little scouting report on Smith:
“The first thing that I noticed, however, was that he was not afraid of playing physical or getting involved in play along the boards. All we had heard about was his size and skill and the last thing I expected was to see such an intense and physical player, and it's something that cannot go overlooked. Smith's strengths are certainly on offense but it's his ability to play defense and to be a legitimate two-way forward that will really help him make his mark at this level.
I expected to watch a player focus squarely on offense but instead I found a young forward willing to block shots (he average three blocked shots in the games I attended), who could play on the penalty kill and who wouldn't be caught "cherry picking" while his team was in their own end. His production tailed off a bit his junior season (48 points in 39 games) but his impact was apparent up and down the ice, not just offensively.”
Toronto signed Spencer Abbott from the University of Maine (the same team that DobberHockey member Adam Shemansky plays for).
Abbott is only 5’9”, but he finished the season with an impressive 62 points in only 39 games. He is already 24 – don’t forget this fact when comparing many of these college signings with 18 and 19-year-olds in the NCAA. Makes Justin Schultz’s season even more impressive.
There is my transition to Schultz – the TSN panel asked who he would sign with – Aaron Ward said Detroit (Brendan Smith being a former teammate, good team), Marc Crawford said Toronto (former teammate in Gardiner, room to play), and Bob McKenzie said Edmonton.
If Schultz wants to have the quickest route to being an impact NHL forward, Edmonton would be a great fit. They have a huge, huge, huge need for defensive help. Imagine his point totals in a few years with the big three on the power play? Schultz is going to be a stud wherever he goes, but Edmonton may help him get there quicker (and that may be something he is after).
The Lightning signed the highly-sought after forward JT Brown to an entry-level deal. It sounds like he will be playing on Saturday against Winnipeg. These guys that suit up for games now are burning a year off of their entry-level deals, allowing them to get access to a lucrative second contract sooner (assuming they play well enough to earn one).
I think it would be safe to assume these college signings are all undersized, skilled forwards, unless otherwise noted. Miller is 5’10” and about 170 pounds. He played for the Bulldogs of Minnesota-Duluth, the alma mater of Brett Hull, Matt Niskanen and Mason Raymond, among others.
He scored 40 goals in 81 career NCAA games (over two years).
Will Cedric Desjardins get a legit NHL shot next year? He definitely deserves one. In his last four starts (0-2-2) – no wins, a .969 save percentage and a 0.97 GAA speak to the goal support he has been receiving.
Former OHL star Justin Azevedo is the latest AHL Player of the Week – he finished with six points in three games, and has 20 in his last 14. He is likely destined to be a career AHLer – like Rob Schremp, he would have been a great NHL player if his skating was even average.
Bobby Sanguinetti’s great season continues – he has 10 points in a recent six-game point streak. He’s played himself back into the discussion as a legitimate NHLer for the future. Once a hyped puck-mover in the Rangers system, his development seemed to have stall in recent years.
Sanguinetti has 42 points this season – nearly triple the total he posted last season in Charlotte (15).
Nicklas Backstrom travelled with the Caps to Boston yesterday – he has skated in 15 of the last 16 days. Gearing up for a return, I’d say.
I was hard on Henrik Zetterberg earlier this season for his below average start. He has turned things around in the last two months, to say the least. Zetterberg has 31 points in his last 23 games, carrying the bulk of the offensive load, along with Valtteri Filppula.
Filppula’s 70-point season may come about three years after we were all expecting, but it is nice to be right on this one. He showed flashes of it in the past, but this season has been huge in terms of his consistency and confidence each game. He wants the puck on his stick, whereas in the past he was more deferential.
Expect to see a lot of Marc-Andre Gragnani down the stretch. In order to qualify as an RFA and not a UFA this summer, he has to suit up for at least 80 career games by the time the season ends (can be regular or playoff).
You can bet the Canucks don’t want to make playoff lineup decisions based on contract status, so expect him to see the bulk of them during the final week and a half.
A spirited scrap between David Booth and Mark Olver: