Super 8

Not so Super 8-February 9

And we are back with this week’s “Not so Super 8”.

There was quite a bit of shifting this week in the Super 16, some of which I am not totally in agreement with. I mean sure the Golden Knights lost a couple games in regulation. That doesn’t mean they deserve to be dropped to the third spot.

This week also had a lot fewer teams that even deserved to be in consideration. Most of the teams that missed the Super 16 are on huge slides right now.

Let’s get right to it.

Super 8LA Kings

WHY DID THEY MISS?

This one is tough. They are on a two game win streak, their record the past 10 is 5-5-0 and they are in the top 16 in the NHL. It really just game down to choosing between them, San Jose and Anaheim.

Super 8

Offensive statistics for the LA Kings (Screenshot from NHL.com)choosing between them, San Jose and Anaheim.

WHAT CAN THEY CHANGE?

We need to start seeing more production offensively from players other than Anze Kopitar. Just take a look at their offensive stat breakdown. Kopitar leads the team in points by almost 20 above Drew Doughty. And while there is nothing wrong with defensemen who are offensively minded, why the hell is Doughty above any other forward in point production?

In addition to this, Jonathan Quick is not playing his best for the Kings. With only a 2.51 GAA and a .919 S% he really needs to cement his place as the Kings’ number one guy in the crease.

Philadelphia FlyersSuper 8

WHY DID THEY MISS?

The Flyers did pretty well this week, so much like the Kings, I am not super sure. Also on a two game win streak and sporting an even better record the past 10 games of 6-3-1, I think they also could’ve had a spot in the Super 16.

WHAT CAN THEY CHANGE?

It is too bad the Flyers don’t have better goalies because they have three players with plus 50 point production. The struggles in the crease are killing the team. With Brian Elliot and Michal Neuvirth combing for a dismal 2.67 GAA and a .910 S%. They need a pick me up or their woes will continue.

Super 8Carolina Hurricanes

WHY DID THEY MISS?

This is where the play quality takes a steep drop in the list. The Hurricanes are at an okay 4-5-1 the past 10 games. They have been 9-10-1 their past 20 so they are really playing pretty averagely right now.

WHAT CAN THEY CHANGE?

They are only pulling out close wins against average or less than average teams and they are getting smoked by good teams. The Hurricanes really need to find a way to pull out wins against the better teams if they want to move up in the league at all. They need more offensive production but they really won’t ever win games if their goaltending continues to be awful. Cam Ward and Scott Darling combine for even worse numbers that Elliot and Neuvirth, with a 2.85 GAA and a .901 S%. I mean those numbers are just awful and potentially the worst in the league with the exception of the Coyotes.

Florida PanthersSuper 8

WHY DID THEY MISS?

The Panthers missed purely because of actual ranking in the NHL. Other than that they are on fire, they have won four straight games and are 6-4-0 in their last 10.

WHAT CAN THEY CHANGE?

In their six games before the win streak they had 27 goals against. That is 4.5 goals per game, and it is completely unacceptable. Roberto Luongo needs to step up in a big way to keep their goal differential lower. This team could easily be in the top 16 in the league, they have the pieces to the puzzle. They just need to execute.

New York IslandersSuper 8

WHY DID THEY MISS?

They have lost one and are 3-5-2 their last 10. They are gathering points but just not quite enough to keep them on par with the Super 16.

WHAT CAN THEY CHANGE?

Win. In. Regulation. A couple of their regulation losses have been by a one goal margin. In addition to that they lost twice in overtime. They need to start pulling that second point instead of settling for one. Also they lost to the Coyotes and the Sabres in that time frame. Those are the worst two teams in the league a win in both of those games flips their past 10 record to a better than average 5-3-2.

Columbus Blue JacketsSuper 8

WHY DID THEY MISS?

The Blue Jackets are closer to being in the league’s top 16 than a lot of the teams above them. They missed because of the three game slide they are on right now with a past 10 game record of 3-6-1.

WHAT CAN THEY CHANGE?

They need to start getting contributions from their key players. Josh Anderson is leading in goals with 16 and Artemi Panarin leads in points with 42. That’s fine and all, bit where are Zach Werenski, Nick Foligno and Alexander Wennberg? I found them. Way down the stat sheet not really contributing to their team.

Chicago BlackhawksSuper 8

WHY DID THEY MISS?

I was really starting to grasp at straws here. The Blackhawks record the past 10 is 2-6-2. That pretty much speaks for itself.

WHAT CAN THEY CHANGE?

With the amount of star power this team has, it never ceases to baffle me how badly they are doing this year. They are just waiting for something to click, and when it does I am sure they’ll be back to their winning ways.

Edmonton OilersSuper 8

WHY DID THEY MISS?

The Oilers are just finally starting to figure things out this season. It is too late at this point. Their 5-4-0 record the past 10 is okay and it’s far better than most of the bottom dwellers they share real estate with.

WHAT CAN THEY CHANGE?

It can’t be just “The Connor McDavid Show” anymore. The kid is LITERALLY carrying the team to victory. He scores the majority of the goals whether they win or lose, and there isn’t much other offensive production.

I have no bonus team this week because every team that did not make the Super 16 cut was relatively average. Whereas in the past teams have been snubbed.

Team logos and featured image courtesy of NHL.com

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Metropolitan Division

Things are very much congested in the Metropolitan Division

I have been slightly incorrect in the past. The central does have have the better collection of teams overall. However, the Metropolitan Division currently has the most traffic…

Prior to games on February 8th:

  1. Washington Capitals – 67 points – 29 games remaining
  2. Pittsburgh Penguins – 63 points – 27 games remaining
  3. New Jersey Devils – 62 points – 30 games remaining
  4. Philadelphia Flyers – 59 points – 29 games remaining
  5. Columbus Blue Jackets – 58 points – 29 games remaining
  6. New York Islanders – 58 points – 28 games remaining
  7. Carolina Hurricanes – 57 points – 28 games remaining
  8. New York Rangers – 55 points – 28 games remaining

This is not the most talented division, nor does it possess a top three team, but each club is in play for the postseason. Both wild card spots in the East are held by a member of the Metro. It is one hundred percent a three-man race in the Atlantic. This makes for just a 4-point separation between the number one wild card spot (held by the Flyers) and the last place Rangers. The margin for error gets smaller and smaller as every single game now has playoff implications.

So, we meet again…probably

The matchup everyone now looks forward to every season is most likely forthcoming again. It is always known that Sidney Crosby is a three-time Stanley Cup Champ while Alex Ovechkin has yet to reach a conference final…in fact, Crosby has served as Ovi’s kryptonite having never beaten him in the playoffs. The past two years each of their teams have met in the second round with the Penguins winning in six in 2016, then in seven in 2017. There is a very good chance we see this movie yet again this Spring…

Metropolitan Division

Photo from NHL.com

Washington Capitals: Why they will finish in the top three of the Metro

Alexander Ovechkin – 32 goals (leads league)/26 assists/58 points (11th in league)/+12

Depth – Four Players (Ovechkin/Kuznetsov/Backstrom/Carlson) with at least 40 points

Braden Holtby – 27 wins (tied for 3rd in league)

Pittsburgh Penguins: Why they will finish in the top three in the Metro

Trending upwards – 7-3-0 in their last 10 – 20-7-1 on home ice

Special Teams – Power play is 26.8% (leads league) – Penalty Kill is 82.5% (7th in league)

Experience – 15 of their 20 current players on roster have won a Stanley Cup together

We have the cast and crew ready to go. The two teams battled it out on the Friday before the Super Bowl in D.C. with Pittsburgh prevailing 7-4. Will we see the same ending to this trilogy as we have seen in the previous two??…or will the Washington Capitals finally breakthrough and compete for a Stanley Cup??

You gonna make a move or stand pat??

Philadelphia Flyers: Sell it seems like

The Flyers are too inconsistent to be true contenders in the East (5-4-1 in their last 10). Therefore, selling would be smart to keep adding prospects and draft picks to keep building for the future. Ron Hextall added a first rounder in the offseason for Brayden Schenn. Seeing what the market would bring for someone like Wayne Simmonds (which would be a bundle) would be smart. “It all depends on what’s coming back” Hextall says (The Inquirer).

Columbus Blue Jackets: Buy more than likely

The Jackets have scored the least amount of goals (139) of any team in the Metropolitan Division. They are -11 on the year and will look to bolster their roster offensively. Columbus is a league-worst 14.1% on the power play as well. Looking around the league, a reunion with Rick Nash may be the best option.

Metropolitan Division

Photo from NY Daily News

New York Islanders: Toss up

Star Center for the Isles John Tavares is on pace for a 40-goal/90-point season. He is in his prime at 27 and has an expiring contract and will become a free agent on July 1st. Islanders’ GM does not expect to move him before the deadline, but seeing what the market will offer may be in his best interest. The team also knows how to put the puck in the net better than any team in the Metro with 181 goals on the year, but gives up more than anyone in the division (197 goals against). Bolstering their defensive core will be on their minds one way or the other.

One point separates these three teams. All are in play for the postseason. If you have a shot to make the playoffs, the advice should always be to go for it. The parity is real…ask Nashville.

Close, but no cigar

The Hurricanes and Rangers round out the bottom two in this jam packed division. The Rangers have asked Rick Nash for his no-trade list, but GM Ron Francis has not ruled out buying before the deadline. Two different approaches, but similar team finishes if changes don’t soon occur…

Metropolitan Division

Photo from NHL.com

New York Rangers: Selling most likely

Trending downwards – 3-7-0 in their last 10 – 8-14-2 on the road (16 road games left)

No elite scoring – 0 players with 40+ points

Carolina Hurricanes: Buying??

Trending downwards – 4-5-1 in their last 10 – -20 goal differential (worst in division)

Elite scoring and depth – two players (Teravainen/Aho) with 40+ points – five players with 30+ points

As constructed, neither of these teams are dangerous come mid-April. However, if either GM decides that this year is worth giving up significant pieces for their future with how tight the standings are, this could be extremely interesting down the stretch.

Do it

Whether you’re buying, selling or standing pat on February 26th, do it. Very rarely do all seven-eight teams in a division have a clear shot at ending up in the playoffs. All you have to do is get to the dance and right now, the last place Rangers are just three points out of that last wild card spot…

The Hurricanes have a Stanley Cup-winning net minder in Cam Ward and the Rangers obviously have a hall of fame goalkeeper in King Henrik. You can win any playoff series with hot goaltending. Anything can happen. Whatever these teams are thinking, each have a shot…so do it.

 

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Super 8

The not so Super 8 February 2

The NHL puts out their picks for the “Super 16” power rankings each week. They consider these teams the hottest in the NHL.

Every week I will take the eight teams closest to making the Super 16 cut, plus one bonus team (a team that made the Super 16 that should not have) and tell you what I think they are doing wrong and what they need to do to break into the Super 16.

Here are the team in the order that they missed the Super 16 by:

New Jersey Devils Super 8

WHY DID THEY MISS?

Honestly, this one has me a little unsure. The Devils sit at 12th overall in the NHL and their record the last 10 games is 4-5-1. It isn’t stellar, but they are sitting better than a few of their counterparts that made the cut. Three of those losses came to the Predators, Bruins and Flyers, all very good teams. The only reason they missed is likely due to the fact that they were on a bit of a downward slide when the Super 16 was released.

WHAT CAN THEY CHANGE? 

They really need to have Keith Kinkaid step up his game as backup net minder. He has a less than stellar 3.10 GAA and a .896 S%. In addition to that Taylor Hall is leading the team offensively by a great amount. If some of their secondary contributors would step up the team would benefit greatly.

Calgary FlamesSuper 8

 WHY DID THEY MISS?

The Flames were the hottest team in the league to start the year off. They had a seven game win streak and an 11 game point streak. Even though they extended their point streak for 11 games they have lost six straight games.

WHAT CAN THEY CHANGE?

The Flames need to learn how to hold a lead. In their last two losses (to the Golden Knights and Lightning) they held a two goal lead at some point in the game. Unforced errors lead to break downs in their defense and ultimately a couple of rough losses. They also need to start winning at home.

Columbus Blue JacketsSuper 8

  WHY DID THEY MISS?

The Blues Jackets’ record the last ten games was 5-4-1, not great, but not too bad. They mostly missed out here due to the fact that a few of their losses the ten games have been to pretty subpar teams (i.e. the Sabres and the Canucks).

WHAT CAN THEY CHANGE?

They need to start beating the easy teams. In addition to that, they need to start beating some of the league leaders as well. They aren’t competing when it counts and it is costing them. Sergei Bobrovsky is playing incredibly well so they need to capitalize on that.

Carolina HurricanesSuper 8

WHY DID THEY MISS?

While the Hurricanes are on a three game win streak, they have a deep hole to dig themselves out of. Their record the last ten games is 5-5-0.

WHAT CAN THEY CHANGE?

Their net minders need to both step up. Both Cam Ward and Scott Darling are playing at very average levels. In addition to this they aren’t able to keep up with any of the better teams in the league, and they are losing by too big of margins.

Chicago BlackhawksSuper 8

WHY DID THEY MISS?

They are sitting at 4-5-1 in their last ten games. They have put the beat down on lesser teams but aren’t able to compete with the top teams in the league.

WHAT CAN THEY CHANGE?

The Blackhawks are surprisingly bad. They have all of the pieces. They are a team of all-stars, but nothing is clicking for them. Once they are able to click at the right time and actually start competing with the better teams in the league maybe they will climb out of this hole. They also need to improve their power play.

Florida PanthersSuper 8

WHY DID THEY MISS?

They have won two straight but are still just 4-5-1 in the last ten games. Much like the Hurricanes, they are often getting blown out by average teams.

WHAT CAN THEY CHANGE?

The fact that they have both James Reimer and Roberto Luongo and they still aren’t able to have solid goaltending is shocking. Both net minders need to step up.

New York IslandersSuper 8

WHY DID THEY MISS?

They have two straight losses and a 5-4-1 record their last ten.

WHAT CAN THEY CHANGE?

They are getting pretty solid numbers offensively but they are backstopped by one of the worst goalie combos in the league. Not much more to say there.

Vancouver CanucksSuper 8

WHY DID THEY MISS?

They have been consistently struggling not only this year but for the past four or five years. They are sitting at 5-5-0 in their last ten.

WHAT CAN THEY CHANGE?

The player with the highest contribution is their rookie, Brock Boeser. The veterans need to step up and start contributing more and leading the team.

BONUSSuper 8

I don’t think it’s super surprising that the Philadelphia Flyers are the team I think shouldn’t have made the Super 16. They sit below three teams that didn’t make the Super 16 (Devils, Flames and Blue Jackets) and they aren’t even on a hot streak. They have lost three straight and their record the last ten games is 6-4-0, which is fine but still not impressive.

All team logo images courtesy of NHL.com

Featured image courtesy NHL.com

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Flyers Gain

Wednesday Picks: Can The Flyers Gain On The Capitals?

Wednesday Picks: Can The Flyers Gain On The Capitals?

Only three games to be played for the NHL tonight. The Maple Leafs and the Islanders face off in a battle of two top-end Eastern Conference teams. Also, the Sharks will be looking to hold off the Red Wings who will be looking to play spoiler. And finally, can the Flyers gain on the Capitals?

Capitals vs. Flyers

Pick: Capitals

The Flyers head to D.C to take on the Capitals at Capital One Arena. In the teams first two meetings Philadelphia has had the Capitals number winning 8-2 and then 2-1 later in the year. This is both teams’ first game after the all-star break; therefore both sides will be looking to start the second half of the year off on the right foot.

The Capitals have a seven-point lead on the Flyers in the Metropolitan division race, but as I stated earlier, the Flyers have had the Capitals number. The Flyers have also been extremely good since their losing streak. So can the Flyers gain some key points on the Capitals?

Flyers Gain

(Photo By: Dave Stevenson)

Braden Holtby

Holtby needs to play better in the second half of the year. Holtby’s 2.66 goals against average and .917 save percentage are totals that are average among goalies. Consequently, they are 14th in the NHL in goals against and are 12th in save percentage as a team. Both stats are in the top half of the NHL, but the Capitals want those numbers to be higher, and they know they should be higher.

Capitals At Home

The Capitals at home compared to the road are a completely different team. At Capital One Arena this season Washington is 18-7-1. The Flyers have been an average road team. As a result, their record on road ice stands at 11-8-4.

The Pick:

I like the Capitals to take this one. It’s the first game for both teams after the all-star break, and I like the Caps on home ice to come out fired up ready to set the tone for the second half of the season. For the Flyers to play it, they will have to get a goal or two early, but if they don’t I think Washington will start the second half off with a win. So can the Flyers gain on the Capitals? They can, but not tonight.

Maple Leafs vs. Islanders

Pick: Maple Leafs

The Islanders defensive woes have been the story of my season so far. Their offense is elite and can put up three to four goals every game, but unfortunately, their defense does the same. They are tied for second in the NHL with 3.4 goals for per game but are dead last in the NHL giving up 3.54 goals per game.

In this game, they will be going up against a Maple Leafs team that can score the puck and play defense. Until the Islanders fix their defensive issues, I cannot pick them to beat a team that scores more than three goals per game. Especially when that team has Auston Matthews and William Nylander scoring goals. Toronto will frustrate the Islanders, and they will win this game scoring more than three goals.

Red Wings vs. Sharks

Pick: Sharks

The Red Wings are on the outside looking in for the Eastern Conference playoff race. These next two or three weeks will determine if they pack it in or if they try to make a run. The Sharks are in the thick of it out in the Western Conference. Just one point separates the two through five seed in the Pacific division, and every game will feel like a playoff game from this point on.

The Sharks have had a lot of success against teams that are at the bottom of the league; therefore I believe San Jose will handle the Red Wings. The Sharks Power Play will prove to be the difference maker in this one. I expect the Sharks to get a man-up goal on the way to beating Detroit convincingly.

 

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the flyers

The Flyers are flying right now

The city of brotherly love has much to be excited about this time of year. Football and basketball in Philly have met expectations. Hockey on the other hand is exceeding expectations.

The Eagles are headed to the Super Bowl.

The 76ers are in a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Flyers have soared into a playoff spot with 34 games to play.

The Flyers lost ten consecutive games from November and into the beginning of December. Many had them outside the playoff picture for the remainder of the season. However, Philly’s hockey club has roared back winning their last four and eight of their last 10 coming into Thursday. They sit in third place in one of the toughest divisions in hockey (the Metropolitan). There is still a long way to go before the playoffs, but Philadelphia has a lot to be excited about these days.

What’s been the difference for their hockey team??

Superstar Talent

Every contending team in the NHL has at least one player who lights it up on a nightly basis. Fortunately for this group, Philly has two.

the flyers

Photo from Zimbio

Claude Giroux (30):

14 goals, 42 assists – 56 points (tied with Steven Stamkos for fourth in the NHL)

22 Power play points – +9 rating

48 games played

Jakub Voracek (28):

9 goals, 46 assists (league leader) – 55 points (tied with Phil Kessel and Johnny Gaudreau for fifth in the NHL)

23 Power play points – +7 rating

48 games played

Ratings of nine and seven may seem modest, but having those on a team with just a +4 goal differential is actually quite impressive. Giroux will be the lone Philly representative at the All-Star game in Tampa on Sunday. The Flyer captain will attempt to lead his club back to the postseason after coming up short a year ago. Philadelphia is locked in that third place position, but Columbus and Pittsburgh (two current wildcard teams) are both just one point behind them (as of 1/24/18).

Young, but seasoned

The Flyers are led by their two superstars in their prime, but also possess two 25 and younger talents. These two players are playing at All-Star levels..

the flyers

Photo from Getty Images

Shayne Gostisbehere (24):

9 goals, 24 assists – 33 points (tied for fifth among all NHL defensemen)

18 Power play points – +2 rating

44 games played

Sean Couturier (25):

26 goals (leads team), 23 assists – 49 points (third on team behind Giroux and Voracek) – 48 games played

10 Power play points – +18 rating (leads team)

These two stars for Philadelphia may be young, but combine for 650 games of experience. We have talked numerous times about the youth movement in this league. Couturier and Gostisbehere are prime examples of the youthful leadership almost all contending teams have. The play of these Flyers will be a key element to this team’s success moving forward in their run to the playoffs.

MOOOOOOOSE

Philadelphia has been looking for a reliable goaltender for quite some time. Fortunately, at least for the foreseeable future, they have found it in Brian Elliott..

the flyers

Photo from NHL.com

Brian Elliott “Moose” (32):

19 wins and has picked up points in 26 of 37 games

2.77 goals against average w/a save percentage above 90 at .908

Elliott has carried a team (St. Louis) all the way to the conference finals in recent years. He has the capability of carrying the Flyers to the postseason and giving them an opportunity to win once they are there.

Philly’s backup has been reliable as well making their goalie tandem formidable.

Michal Neuvirth (29):

5 wins and has picked up points in six of 11 games

2.23 goals against average w/a .928 save percentage and one shutout

The Flyers have only scored 140 goals (lowest total for playoff team in East) this season, which makes solid goaltending imperative. They will not make the playoffs without it.

Battle and grind always

NBC Sports Philadelphia had its hometown team finishing with 96 points and a spot in the 2018 postseason at the beginning of the year..

They also had the Oilers winning the Stanley Cup, so really anything can happen as usual.

The Flyers are a very respectable 13-5-5 against current playoff teams and 3-0-1 against first place teams..

No one would be surprised if they were to go on and make it to the postseason at this point.

Philly is looking to avoid back-to-back seasons without making the playoffs since 1992-1994..

You have to battle, you have to grind.

 

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Philadelphia Flyers losing streak

Philadelphia Flyers continue to recover from early struggles

In the late parts of November and early December, the Flyers went on a 10-game losing streak, placing them at the bottom of the Eastern Conference. The early season struggles set the Flyers back tremendously in the playoff conversation. However, with grit and grind, the Flyers have managed to throw themselves into the playoff conversation with a strong two months of play.

Since the losing streak, the Flyers are one of the hottest teams in the NHL with a 11-4-1 record. Over this span, Philadelphia is scoring 3.31 goals per game, while at the same time allowing just 2.38 goals per game.

The quick turnaround from the Flyers might have been done just in time to save their season. They will have to continue their recent play to have a shot.

Playoff Chances

At 46 points, the Flyers sit one point behind the Penguins in what is a tight Wild Card race. With five teams within three points of each other and around 40 games left to play, the playoff race is lining up to be one of the best we have seen.

With 40 games remaining to play, 12 of those for the Flyers will be against the teams in the Wild Card race. Down the stretch, the Flyers will have to continue to play high-level hockey to give themselves a shot at the playoffs.

Change In Play

Offense

Early season losing streak

(Photo by Matt Slocum)

Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, Wayne Simmonds and Jakub Voracek are the leaders of a Flyers offense that has played at a very high level the last 16 games. For the Flyers to secure the final playoff spot, they will need these guys to continue to produce at this level.

Currently, Giroux leads the team in points with 52 and is the leader of this group. Giroux has taken it upon himself to spark this Flyers offense, and right now, they are playing like one of the best teams in the league. Of Giroux’s 52 points on the season, 24 have come during this winning spell. Giroux has risen his plus-minus rating to a +9 over this last stretch of games. If Giroux continues this play, it will be tough to stop this Flyers offense.

Following in Giroux’s footsteps, players like Simmonds and Voracek are pouring in numbers at a very productive rate. Voracek leads the team in assists currently with 43 and has eight goals on with that as well. Simmonds has been an excellent contributor to this run as well. Of Simmonds’ 26 points on the season, 12 have come during this run. Simmonds brings a balanced attack on goal-scoring and passing. The play of their role players on offense has been a significant reason as to why the Flyers are bouncing back.

The Flyers will have to continue to dig themselves out of the cellar after an early-season losing streak. The offense is finally starting to produce, and they are quickly turning into a team that no team wants to play. An offense that was seemingly non-existent is now firing on all cylinders.

Defense

During the losing streak, the defense of the Flyers was a noticeable weak spot. Guys like Robert Hagg, Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere now have this defense playing well. Provorov and Hagg are two young defensemen that bring an energy to the rink every night for the Flyers.

Gostisbehere has always been an offensive threat on the defensive side for the Flyers. So far this season, Shayne has tallied 32 points, but the significant change for him on this run is his defensive play. When he is on the ice, teams are scoring, but not at the alarming rate that they were during the losing spell. Gostisbehere has his plus-minus rating at a +2 throughout the Flyers’ recent winning period.

On defense, the Flyers have made the corrections needed to win hockey games. They have had some young stars step up, and are getting production from everyone on the defensive side of the puck. If they keep this play up, there is no doubt that they will find their way into the playoffs.

Goalies

Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth have been a good combo the whole season. Currently, both goalies are giving up under three goals per game, and have save percentages above 91 percent. In Elliott’s last 15 games played, he has given up just 36 goals, which is good for a goal against average of 2.4 goals per game. He has been one of the best goalies in the entire NHL throughout that span. The goalie play for the Flyers has been extraordinarily consistent and continues to play at a high level.

If the Flyers were to make the playoffs, there is no doubt that the play of Elliott and Neuvirth can spark a deep run. The offensive and defensive sides of the puck have done an excellent job of helping these two out recently, and the success has followed.

Down the stretch

For the Flyers, they will have the opportunity to win some crucial games moving forward, but being in such a tight Wild Card race, they are going to have to show up on a nightly basis. From this point on this is a team that cannot afford to make mistakes. The only thing worse than an early-season losing streak is a late one.

 

Featured image by Kate Freese Photography

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An Opening Night To Commemorate

October fourth was opening night of the 2017-18 regular season. Fans are in for another wild ride as no rule enforcement can diminish the hype of NHL hockey (as expected).

Four games were on the docket to start the year. The Toronto Maple Leafs exhibited their potential of being not just young talented upstarts, but a problem in the East. The Edmonton Oilers started their narrative in being among the elite in the West. St. Louis displayed their ability to send pucks to the back of the net with regularity despite their current roster subtractions. Then we further understood Wayne Simmonds’s case as one of the top tier power forwards in the league at the end of the night.

“I hope the rest of the season is as entertaining as it is tonight” said NBCSN color commentator Mike Milbury during last night’s game between St. Louis and Pittsburgh. The first of 82 games for four of 31 teams took place this past Wednesday. League policy issues and corruption is not at all a topic of discussion. Hockey fans are here to enjoy the start of this year’s grind solely. Let the shear passion and insanity commence.

Maple Leafs @ Jets

The lethal youth of the Toronto Maple Leafs surged them into postseason play this past spring. They took the President’s Trophy winning Capitals to six games. Management noted they must add depth and veteran leadership this offseason to take the next step. The Leafs told the rest of the league we’re done with being in rebuild mode in game #1.

opening night

Patrick Marleau nets two in his debut with his new team. Auston Matthews starts his sophomore season off right adding another in the Leafs’s dominant 7-2 win on opening night. Photo Courtesy of Sporting News

Patrick Marleau (38) was among the biggest acquisitions for Toronto in free agency this summer. There was curiosity about whether or not he deserved his 6 million+ average annual salary after his 46-point season last year. Opening night proved he could serve has a much valued find for the Leafs. Marleau scored his 509th and 510th goals of his career helping his new team capture their first two points of the season.

Toronto netted seven goals against the Jets to begin their year. They have solid goaltending in Frederik Anderson, high-octane offense led by their youth and the ability to roll four lines and compete with the league’s best. There is much to like about this new and improved Toronto Maple Leaf squad.

Oilers vs. Flames

The battle of Alberta began the season for the Oilers and Flames in Edmonton. Connor McDavid recorded a hat trick and Cam Talbot recorded a 26-save shutout in a 3-0 win over Calgary.

opening night

The league MVP and Oiler captain found the net and stat sheet 3 times on opening night in Alberta. Not a bad guy to have leading your team. Photo Courtesy of TSN

The rest of the West is taking serious notice to the players in Oil country. They possess the league MVP, four lines with offensive production, sound defense and a top 10 goaltender. All of these parts have Edmonton as a serious contender in the West. I would not want to see them come mid April as McDavid expressed that “it feels good, but we have a long way to go.”

These first two games between the four Canadian teams did not have a great deal of intensity. However, it was a phenomenal showcase of one team near the top of the league and one on its way.

Blues @ Penguins

The reigning Stanley Cup Champion Penguins opened up their season at home against St. Louis. Entertainment value, intensity and a roller coaster of emotion were all in play in this battle.

opening night

The captain of the St. Louis Blues Alex Pietrangelo led by example scoring the game winner in game 1 for the Blues capturing their first two points of the season. Photo Courtesy of the Telegraph

Penguins broke the ice first. St. Louis would then take control up two in the 3rd. Pittsburgh then tied the game with two goals in under a minute and the game moved to overtime. Alex Pietrangelo (Blues captain) iced the game with his 2nd of the night 1:15 into overtime.

This was a clash of two great teams that play similar styles, but at different paces. Each of these teams want to play that up tempo offense with two-way defensemen. Pittsburgh has the edge at the moment with more superstar talent as they are able to take full advantage of their opposition’s mistakes. The Blues have talent and depth, it just comes in less waves at the moment. They were able to be opportunistic and survive the fury of the Penguins late.

Shots were 34-33 in favor of the Blues and their ability to match Pittsburgh shot for shot with their somewhat diminished roster is something to note. St. Louis went toe-to-toe with the defending champs on the road without the likes of Fabbri, Steen, Berglund and Bouwmeester. This a game in which two top tier teams battled and went right down to the wire. Who knows where these two will end up at the end of the regular season and into the playoffs?

Flyers @ Sharks

The final game of the evening took place in the Bay Area as the Sharks hosted the Flyers. A high scoring affair ensued as Philly defeated San Jose 5-3.

Wayne Simmonds started the year off with a bang recording a hat trick, two goals on the power play including the game winner at 9:27 of the 3rd period. The Flyers do need Simmonds to be that elite power forward to get back into postseason along with solid goaltending. It has been a long time since Philadelphia was with a true #1. They may be on their way with Brian Elliott as he stopped 32 of the 35 shots he faced receiving the game’s 2nd star.

opening night

Simmonds ices the game with an empty netter completing the hat trick and the first win of the ’17-18 season for the Flyers. Photo Courtesy of NHL.com

I have said hockey is back numerous times, but I’ll say it again. Hockey is back.

 

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The New Faces of the League

The New Faces of the League

The new faces of the league have entered the NHL in the last two seasons. These young sensations have “battled” their way into becoming some of the most recognizable faces in the sport. They did not come here to just be in the league either…they are here to take over.

Organizations across the board like Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto, Buffalo, Detroit and Winnipeg all have youth movements in full swing. Some are still in that rebuild waiting to break through. Teams are bringing more excitement and entertainment value to their cities than ever.

Top-tier talent is becoming more and more prevalent in annual drafts that once structure is in place, teams are taking off. Complete change over has already occurred in Edmonton, Calgary and Toronto. Who’s next?

The Catalyst

The Hart Memorial and Art Ross trophies are for the league’s most valuable player and leading scorer. Both of these honors went to a player (Connor McDavid) playing in his first full season. He became the youngest captain in league history before the season started. This NHL phenom turned 20 midway through last season.

McDavid did more then receive individual accolades. In one year, the Oilers’ captain has transformed the hockey culture in Edmonton. He affirmed the conclusion of the Oiler rebuild last year, leading them to their first postseason appearance in 10 years. According to ESPN, their attendance has gone from 21st to 13th in the last 2 years. The excitement is back in the Gateway of the North, and it’s not leaving any time soon.

McDavid has gone from the NHL’s most highly touted prospect, to the league’s brightest star after playing in just 127 games. The Oilers have come out of the bottom of the league and straight to the top. Edmonton notched 103 points last season (up from 70) and finished seventh in the league’s standings (up from 29th).

McDavid signed an eight-year, $100 million extension this offseason as he and the Oilers look to stick together and be proven contenders this season.

Rising threat for the opposition

Of the top-10 goal scorers during last year’s regular season, half of them were 25 or younger. The No. 3 goal scorer recorded 40 (Auston Matthews) and turned 19 at the start of training camp. Matthews and the No. 7 goal scorer, Patrick Laine (19), were two of the three rookie of the year candidates on this list.

They are no longer looked at as kids waiting their turn. Their overall production is making each of them the faces of the league.

NHL new faces

Patrick Laine (left) and Auston Matthews (right) burst onto the scene in ’16-17. (Photo from NHL.com)

These bright new faces are outperforming Hall-of-Fame caliber players like Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin. They are younger, faster and fearless.

Confidence is huge in any sport and young players like Matthew Tkachuk (19) have the ability to get under the opposition’s skin. Tkachuk drew reactions out of notable veterans Drew Doughty (and almost every L.A. King) and Brent Burns last season. Every player in the NHL deserves respect, but that doesn’t mean these newcomers will be intimidated.

As a fan, the players you hate are the great ones that do not play for your team. They work hard, they get under your skin and they produce at the same time. These first and second-year players already fit this mold.

Next Chapter in Saga

The New Jersey Devils signed No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft Nico Hischier to a three-year, entry-level deal with an average annual salary of $925,000. He turned 18 this year in early January. So, why wait?

“There’s a spot for him on our team,” Devils general manager Ray Shero told NHL.com. They believe he is a center that is great in all areas of the game, including defense.

The Philadelphia Flyers signed the No. 2 overall pick Nolan Patrick to a three-year, entry-level contract with the same average annual salary as Hischier with performance bonuses. Barring more setbacks stemming from his recent surgery, the Flyers expect him to compete. Philly general manager Ron Hextall has been decisive about not signing veteran role players and is committed to the youth movement.

NHL new faces

Nico Hischier (left) and Nolan Patrick (right) on draft night. (Photo from NHL.com)

We are one month away from the start of the 2017-2018 regular season. Hockey is coined “the coolest sport on earth” for various reasons. Much of it has to do with the speed and the changes on the fly. With these youth movements in place, we could see an even faster growing game for years to come.

 

 

 

 

 

Featured Image by Sportsnet

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Justin Williams free agency: Drawing interest as productive veteran

Justin Williams is going to get a ton of money, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.

At 35 years old, Williams is on the final years of his NHL career. With the way he played last year, one wouldn’t know he’s on the wrong side of 30.

Last season, the 16-year veteran tallied 24 goals and 48 points in his second season with the Washington Capitals. According to Hockey Reference, he had his highest career shooting percentage at 14.4 percent. His Corsi and Fenwick ratings were both above 50 percent, signaling that the Caps possessed the puck well with Williams on the ice.

Williams’ contract with Washington expired, and with T.J. Oshie and Dmitry Orlov signing deals, it is unlikely the right winger reunites with them in the nation’s capital. And so, he hits the open market, presenting a quandary for front offices: how many years and how much money do we give an aging player who’s still producing?

Justin Williams’ Value

Justin Williams free agency

Williams won two of his three Stanley Cups with Los Angeles. Photo by Victor Decolongon, Getty Images.

He has the most value in his overall experience in the postseason. In 140 playoff games, he’s notched 94 points while winning three Stanley Cups and a Conn Smythe trophy in the 2014 Stanley Cup Final.

During that postseason, Williams scored nine goals and 16 assists. Even as the elder statesman with the Capitals this past year, he recorded nine points in 13 games. As perplexing as it is to outsiders, players and fans know that Justin Williams is reliable in the playoffs.

Justin Williams can help any team that needs a championship-caliber player with his playoff expertise. Combine his resumé with need and teams should fork over the dough to sign him.

Justin Williams’ Cap Hit and the RW Market

Looking at the rest of the free agent market, he can sign at about any time that he wants. Williams is the second-best right wing on the block. Alexander Radulov is the top name on the right side, but they’re both different players at different points in their careers.

Radulov enjoyed a breakout campaign with Montreal after a stint in the KHL. At 30 years old, he still has a handful of good years left. Teams are likely to ink him to a longer deal than Williams. Radulov will go to a team that wants him for the long haul. Williams should sign around a two to three-year deal.

The Capitals paid Williams a modest $3.25 million the past two seasons, per CapFriendly. He hasn’t made more than $4 million in his career. Based on his overall recent production, he should achieve that milestone. Justin Williams can use his play at an old age as leverage to raise the monetary value. Teams will balk at 35 years old. Anything more than three years is excessive. Two or three years, until his skating and his scoring declines, are the fairest lengths for both sides.

Justin Williams free agency prospects

Justin Williams has his own list of coveted places. His list is reportedly down to three, though it is unsure what those teams are. Yesterday, TSN’s Darren Dreger listed Tampa Bay, Philadelphia, and the New York Islanders as teams interested in him (he said the quoted tweet is incorrect so it has nothing to do with his commentary).

The Islanders are looking to add another productive scorer as they look to return to the playoffs. CapFriendly says they have $9 million to play with in cap, so they won’t pursue another big free agent if Williams signs there. Plus, they’d have to shuffle their lineup to accommodate him. Jordan Eberle, Josh Bailey, Josh Ho-Sang and Cal Clutterbuck are all right wingers. Williams would have to slot elsewhere or the Isles have to swap someone on the roster.

Justin Williams free agency

Justin Williams may join the orange and white next year instead of roughing them up. Photo by Rob Carr, Getty Images.

Would Justin Williams return to the city where he made his NHL debut? The Flyers have slightly more cap room than the Islanders, but still less than $10 million. However, Williams is a great fit for a team that needs to replace Brayden Schenn’s output. Williams can fit on the second or third line and help a team with postseason potential. Philadelphia is an up and coming team. With Williams’ veteran leadership, he can push them over the top in a daunting Metro Division.

Of these three teams, Tampa Bay makes the most sense. Williams would be their best winger not named Nikita Kucherov. With over $20 million in cap space, the Lightning can afford to overpay him while not restricting their budget. If that’s what it takes for Tampa to replenish their forwards, then they should’ve already been on the phone when midnight struck today.

Justin Williams, at 35 years old, is still a capable NHL player and is one of the better free agent options. Word is he wants to stay in the East, though it’s unknown what teams he is interested in playing for. Whichever team he signs with, they will pay big bucks to land him, but receive a valuable piece for it.

 

Feature image by Nick Wass, AP/Photo courtesy of the Washington Post.

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NHL Contender Deadline Deal, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Buffalo Sabres, Arizona Coyotes, St. Louis Blues, Philadelphia Flyers, Detroit Red Wings, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota Wild, Martin Hanzal, Brian Boyle, Alex Burrows, Ben Bishop, Marc-Andre Fleury, Jim Rutherford, Marc Bergevin, Doug Armstrong, Joe Sakic, Kevin Shattenkirk, Dmitry Kulikov, Matt Duchene, NHL, Trade Deadline, NHL Trade Deadline 2017

Three Contenders in Need of a Deadline Deal

Each season’s NHL trade deadline brings its own je ne sais quoi; its own certain something. And this year has been no different.

NHL Contender Deadline Deal, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Buffalo Sabres, Arizona Coyotes, St. Louis Blues, Philadelphia Flyers, Detroit Red Wings, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota Wild, Martin Hanzal, Brian Boyle, Alex Burrows, Ben Bishop, Marc-Andre Fleury, Jim Rutherford, Marc Bergevin, Doug Armstrong, Joe Sakic, Kevin Shattenkirk, Dmitry Kulikov, Matt Duchene, NHL, Trade Deadline, NHL Trade Deadline 2017

Photo credit: Jillian Wagner, Hockey Fan Land.

Deadline trends this year have been dictated, and complicated, by an extremely tight Eastern Conference and an unpredictable wild card race on both coasts. Coupled with the high volume of quality pending free agents, high asking prices,

and an impending expansion draft, this season’s deadline has been a roller coaster already.

In earnest, the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Carolina Hurricanes kicked things off last Thursday but it’s been the last 48 hours that general managers have really begun to make moves. Ben Bishop to the Los Angeles Kings; Martin Hanzal to the Minnesota Wild; Brian Boyle to the Toronto Maple Leafs; Alex Burrows to the Ottawa Senators; Kevin Shattenkirk to the Washington Capitals; many of the League’s top pending free agents have already been dealt.

But there are still a lot of big names out there, and more than one contender who needs to bulk up their roster before the big show.

So welcome to the hot stove, pull up a seat, from our Haus to yours this is The Game Haus’ Contenders in Need of a Deadline Deal.

NEW YORK RANGERS

NHL Contender Deadline Deal, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Buffalo Sabres, Arizona Coyotes, St. Louis Blues, Philadelphia Flyers, Detroit Red Wings, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota Wild, Martin Hanzal, Brian Boyle, Alex Burrows, Ben Bishop, Marc-Andre Fleury, Jim Rutherford, Marc Bergevin, Doug Armstrong, Joe Sakic, Kevin Shattenkirk, Dmitry Kulikov, Matt Duchene, NHL, Trade Deadline, NHL Trade Deadline 2017

Photo credit: Jared Silber, Getty Images.

The New York Rangers have been awfully quiet thus far but don’t mistake their patience for disinterest. The Rangers boast over $10-million-dollars in deadline cap space, a number of draft picks, and plenty of young talent to attract potential trade partners.

The Rangers have been rumored to be looking at Brendan Smith. The Detroit Red Wing would add grit and bringing depth on the left side of the lineup.

The Rangers were also rumored to have been in the market for defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. But, in what can only be described as a cruel twist of fate, the Washington Capitals appear to have acquired the coveted young defensman first. If all goes well for Alex Ovechkin and the President’s Trophy front runners, Shattenkirk will suit up tonight in New York against the Rangers.

Regardless, expect the Rangers to make a move or two before the deadline in order to improve their playoff chances.

MONTREAL CANADIENS

As if not to be outdone by his offseason wheelin’ and dealin’, Montreal Canadiens’ general manager Marc Bergevin went ahead and brought Claude Julien back to the Bell Centre. Though this move has the potential to overshadow any other made by Bergevin this season it’s not likely to be his last.

NHL Contender Deadline Deal, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Buffalo Sabres, Arizona Coyotes, St. Louis Blues, Philadelphia Flyers, Detroit Red Wings, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota Wild, Martin Hanzal, Brian Boyle, Alex Burrows, Ben Bishop, Marc-Andre Fleury, Jim Rutherford, Marc Bergevin, Doug Armstrong, Joe Sakic, Kevin Shattenkirk, Dmitry Kulikov, Matt Duchene, NHL, Trade Deadline, NHL Trade Deadline 2017

Photo Credit: NHL.com.

The Canadiens were in talks to acquire Martin Hanzal, but Arizona Coyotes’ general manager John Chayka chose to deal with Minnesota instead. In need of a defenseman to help Montreal’s big blue liners with the big minutes they’ve been carrying, Bergevin swapped Greg Pateryn and a fourth for Dallas Stars defenseman Jordie Benn.

Still, the Habs will need more than just a new coach and another mediocre defenseman if they have any hopes of advancing very far in the playoffs. Montreal desperately needs depth down the middle.

Despite the fact that Colorado Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic has been very hard on his price point for star center Matt Duchene, the rumors around his being dealt have not slowed down. If Duchene’s price remains too high perhaps Bergevin might consider looking elsewhere for a new forward as the March 1 deadline fast approaches.

The Tampa Bay Lighting are flush with forwards pending restricted free agency. While teams like Detroit and Arizona posses similarly attractive assets.

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS

The defending Stanley Cup Champions have zero projected cap space, so they are looking strictly for a rental player only. That is, of course, unless they can unload a contract or two in the process.

NHL Contender Deadline Deal, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Buffalo Sabres, Arizona Coyotes, St. Louis Blues, Philadelphia Flyers, Detroit Red Wings, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota Wild, Martin Hanzal, Brian Boyle, Alex Burrows, Ben Bishop, Marc-Andre Fleury, Jim Rutherford, Marc Bergevin, Doug Armstrong, Joe Sakic, Kevin Shattenkirk, Dmitry Kulikov, Matt Duchene, NHL, Trade Deadline, NHL Trade Deadline 2017

Photo credit: Justin K. Aller, Getty Images.

Though he has a no trade clause in place, Marc-Andre Fleury represents roughly $6-million-dollars of cap space. Cap space which the Pittsburgh Penguins could otherwise use to their advantage. Though Penguins’ general manager Jim Rutherford has expressed his wish to keep Fleury and Matt Murray both, Fleury has recently voiced that he would rather be playing; opening the door for speculation once again.

But that’s the least of Rutherford’s worries at the moment.

What Pittsburgh lacks is a healthy defense. With Pittsburgh’s cap in mind, there are plenty of less expensive options on the open market. And Buffalo, Detroit, Philadelphia, and of course St. Louis, have a wide range of pending free agent defensemen for sale.

In addition to Pittsburgh’s defensive woes, the Penguins have experienced injury issues all year on the front end as well. That being said, don’t be surprised if Rutherford adds some depth to the bottom six.

 

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*all Salary Cap information courtesy of CapFriendly.com