Washington Capitals Hold on for 4-2 Win Over the Carolina Hurricanes

After Game 1 Washington Capitals lead Carolina Hurricanes 1-0

Carolina carried the play for the first ten minutes of the game, but they couldn’t capitalize on any of their chances. It looked like Carolina was set to control the game until Niklas Backstrom skated with the puck from the redline and wired a wrister from 50 or 60 feet out over the glove Petr Mrazek. After this goal a young Carolina team seemed to be shaken a began taking penalties. The Capitals went 2-2 on the PP in the first period with a goal from Backstrom (his second) and Alex Ovechkin.

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Period 1 Highlights

Backstrom Goal 1

Backstrom Goal 2

Jordan Staal alone in front miss

Ovi Goal 1

The scored stayed 3-0 Washington until the 3rd period when Carolina rookie Andrei Svechnikov scored his first career playoff goal. Carolina kept the pressure on Washington and Svechnikov scored his second of the game to bring Carolina within one. The Hurricanes drew two penalties when down 3-2, but couldn’t capitalize on either opportunity, eventually surrendering the empty net goal to Capitals center Lars Eller.

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Period 3 Highlights

Svechnikov goal 1 and 2

Eller empty net goal

Petr Mrazek break away saves

Team Hero

Washington Capitals center Niklas Backstrom had 2 goals and was a driving force behind the offensive on a night when superstar Evgeny Kuznetsov was held goal less. 

Team Villain

Carolina Hurricanes budding superstar Sebastian Aho did not score, continuing his 13 game drought into the first playoff game Carolina has seen since 2009. If The Hurricanes want a chance to upset the defending Cup champs, Aho needs to score more.

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3 Stars of the Game

3. John Carlson (3 Assists)

2. Andrei Svechnikov (2 goals)

1. Niklas Backstrom (2 goals)

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Changes for Game 2

Washington: Keep playing the same way.

Carolina: Stay OUT of the box. Washington scored 2 PP goals. That can’t happen next game. Carolina also has to fix their power play in a hurry. as they had 2 chances to tie the game on the PP and couldn’t score. Carolina has to win the special teams battle to have a chance in this series.

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Arizona Coyotes

Arizona Coyotes: Michael Grabner Is Back In Action

On March 7th, Arizona Coyotes forward Michael Grabner returned to lineup after missing the previous 41 games due to a gruesome eye injury.

Grabner sustained the injury on December 1st when the Coyotes took on the St. Louis Blues. In the first period of the Blues-Coyotes matchup, Blues forward Sammy Blais raised his stick accidentally towards Grabner. The blade of the hockey stick hit Grabner’s eye. In the tweet below from Cristiano Simonetta of The Athletic, you can witness the high-sticking incident.

Prior to his injury, Grabner had tallied 6 goals and 5 assists in 25 games. While Grabner isn’t going to be a scoring machine, he is one of the best third liners in the NHL. The best components of Grabner’s game is his speed and puck control. The Coyotes also tend to use Grabner on their penalty kill, as he can use his speed and puck control capabilities to go from zone to zone to cause some challenges for his opponent in their own zone. So, it was unfortunate to see the Coyotes lose Grabner for 41 games as he was very pivotal for the club’s success. 

Since His Return

In Grabner’s first game back, the Coyotes beat the Calgary Flames 2-0, while Grabner played 17:40 and 1:25 seconds short-handed. He had no points, but in his first game back he was played with his usual decisive speed and was not a liability in his own end.

In Grabner’s second game back, a 4-2 Coyotes victory over the Los Angeles Kings, he was far more impactful. In his 14 minutes and 29 seconds of ice time, Grabner scored two goals, one shorthanded. When Grabner scored shorthanded, he made a play at his defensive blue line and was quickly racing down the ice on a 2 on 1. He wired a wrist shot past Jack Campbell for a 2-0 lead. This shorthanded goal was Grabner’s 5th shorthanded goal of the season, which is good for the league lead.

In only 27 games this season Grabner leads the league in short-handed goals. Imagine what he could’ve done if he wasn’t injured on December 1st and out for 41 games?

At least the Coyotes have him back for their push to playoffs. They’ve had many injuries this season. Nick Schmaltz, Antti Raanta, Kyle Capobianco and Derek Stepan are still out of the lineup. So, Coyotes can sleep easy knowing that they now have Grabner back in the lineup.

It will be interesting to see how Grabner and the Coyotes fare over the final couple of weeks. They are currently 1 point behind Minnesota Wild with one game in hand. Let the fun begin!

stats from NHL.com and hockey-reference.com

featured image photo credit – Josh Tessler

New York Rangers

New York Rangers: What To Do With Chris Kreider?

Prior to the deadline, many New York Rangers were mentioned in trade rumors including Chris Kreider, Mats Zuccarello and Kevin Hayes.

At the deadline, the New York Rangers dealt fan favorites Mats Zuccarello and Kevin Hayes in an effort to enhance their rebuild.

Zuccarello has gone on record stating he knew his days in New York were numbered as far back as last summer. When no extension was reached and he began this season on an expiring contract, the writing was on the wall. It was only a question of when the beloved Norwegian winger would be traded, not if. Unfortunately, the looming question of where the winger was being dealt didn’t do him any favors. So, early in the year, Zuccarello’s play suffered because he was struggling due to all of the rumors floating around.

Chris Kreider

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This example of Zuccarello struggling with an impending trade is a cautionary tale of what could happen with the powerful skating winger, Kreider. Kreider has one year remaining on his contract, and is on pace for a 30+ goal season. As of March 7th, Kreider is currently sitting on 26 goals and 48 points. His 48 points are a career high and his 26 goals are two away his current career high (28) set in the 16-17 season. In all likelihood, Kreider will break 30 goals for the first team in his career in the Rangers remaining 16 games. The odds are pretty good that he’ll score 4 goals in 16 games.

Trade Or Extend?

The decision to extend or trade Kreider should be made before the 2019 NHL Draft. If the Rangers do not plan on extending their second leading soccer (currently) and decide to trade him, they should trade him on draft day, to avoid having another player struggle with the emotional toll of an impending trade for months.

Kreider, coming off a 30 goal season (hypothetically) would be worth a lot in a trade, especially on draft day, when more teams can compete for his services. A 30 goal scorer would be worth a first round pick, a decent prospect, and even potentially a younger roster player yet to find his way in the NHL. Kreider could also be packaged with Winnipeg’s 1st round pick (acquired in the Hayes’ trade) to move into the top 10 of the draft. Kreider has a ton of trade value, it just depends on if GM Jeff Gorton wants to trade him or extend him.

If Gorton decides to extend Kreider, it would have to be long term deal. At age 27, Kreider is likely looking for a deal in the 6-8 year range. Kreider, on the open market, could probably fetch a 7 year deal upwards of 7 million per. If he is to extend with the Rangers, Jeff Gorton could offer Kreider an 8th year, but lower the cap hit to 6 or 6.5 million per year.

What Would I Do?

In my opinion, Kreider is worth too much to the Rangers on the ice to trade, especially because a team needs to have some veterans and experienced players for leadership roles. Plus, trading away a 30 goal scorer, regardless of the rebuilding status of the team, seems likely to hurt more than help New York. The Rangers do need players who can score and make them fun to watch until this rebuild is over.

stats from hockey-reference.com and NHL.com

featured image photo credit – Nikos Michals 

New York Rangers

New York Rangers: Grading David Quinn

In May, Former Boston University head coach David Quinn signed on to coach the New York Rangers.

During his tenure at Boston University, Quinn worked with many talented players including Clayton Keller, Jack Eichel, Matt Grzelcyk, Charlie McAvoy, Jordan Greenway and Brady Tkachuk. He helped develop these players into NHL caliber studs. Throughout his time at Boston University, NHL teams took notice of his coaching style and loved what they saw. Unfortunately for other teams in the league, the Rangers beat them to the punch.

Quinn’s Coaching Style

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The Rangers were confident in Quinn because of his experience coaching younger players, his ability to help teach and develop them, and for his no-nonsense attitude.

Already this season Quinn has made veterans Kevin Shattenkirk, Brendan Smith, and Fredrik Cleason healthy scratches. To go along with the veterans being scratched, young players, like Pavel Buchnevich, Anthony DeAngelo, and Filip Chytil, who were not playing up to expectations or working hard enough for Quinn, have also been scratched.

Quinn has taken a young team with low expectations and got them to buy into his system and his idea of working hard or not playing. The Rangers, as they currently stand, will not outskill any team, but on numerous occasions they have shown the ability, and willingness, to out work opponents.

Tony DeAngelo & Alexandar Georgiev

Defenseman Tony DeAngelo, who is currently riding a 6 game point streak, and has 9 points in his last 10 games, is a nice example of Quinn’s coaching style helping young players succeed. It took DeAngelo a couple of months to get here, including two scratches for maturity issues, but Quinn seems to know exactly what buttons to push.

Quinn is also playing back-up goalie Alexandar Georgiev more often, to give 37 year old Henrik Lundqvist a break. This is exceptional coaching for two main reasons. First and foremost, it keeps the franchise net-minder healthy and extends his longevity, and secondly it gives management a good look at what they have in Georgiev.

No One Is Perfect

The Rangers are now a hardworking team, that has shown on numerous occasions the ability to fight back from behind, that will never quit on a game. Although the team has bought into Quinn’s style and teaching, that is not to say he is perfect.

Quinn, until the beginning of February, was leaning heavily on Marc Staal and Neal Pionk as a first pair. Staal, while a dedicated and hardworking teammate, is a 3rd pair defender at best. The same can be said for Pionk, because when he isn’t putting up points, he is a massive defensive liability. (Pionk has not scored a point since his assist on Jan. 10)

Over the course of the last few weeks, the most glaring issue with Quinn is his reliance on playing 11 forwards and 7 defensemen. Some of that may be attributed to the teams makeup, but even so, at the NHL level, coaches should always try to have 12 forwards and 6 defenseman, unless an injury prevents it.

Quinn’s Grade

The Rangers are still rebuilding, and with low expectations that they have already succeeded, will continue on this rebuilding path for the next couple of years. One can only hope that Quinn continues to help young players blossom and become hardworking, talented, NHL players. If the Rangers bring in the talent, Quinn seems to be the coach to help this team become a winner.

Overall Grade: B+

stats from hockey-reference.com

featured image photo credit – Nikos Michals

New York Rangers

New York Rangers: The Case For Extending Henrik Lundqvist

New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist has been the backbone of the team for years.

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Even now, during this period of rebuilding, Lundqvist has chosen to stay. He has shown by his decision to stay that his heart will forever be in New York. Lundqvist has said that he is committed to the rebuild and staying in New York for the long haul.

His current contract expires at the end of the 2020-2021 season, and Lundqvist will hit free agency for the first time at age 39. The average annual value (AAV) on Lundqvist’s current contract is 8.5 million dollars.

Lundqvist has full control over his next destination, but as stated previously, his heart is in New York. If Lundqvist wanted to be traded, he would’ve agreed to waive his no-movement clause last year at the trade deadline when Jeff Gorton, the Ranger’s General Manager, approached him about a trade. At this point in Lundqvist’s career, at his age and with his current salary, it is unlikely he is traded.

The Heir To The Throne

This gives the Rangers two options, let their franchise leader in net walk into free agency or retirement, or offer him a performance bonus laden extension that would allow time for current goaltending prospects to develop at a normal pace. Lundqvist’s apparent heir is Moscow, Russia native, Igor Shestyorkin.

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Shestyorkin is currently playing in the KHL with SKA St. Petersburg, and reports of his arrival in North America vary. In Nicholas Zarris’ post on Blue Line Station (a New York Ranger FanSided blog site), he mentioned that the Russian goaltender could potentially be in either the NHL or the AHL next season. Yet, there is no confirmation that Shestyorkin will be leaving SKA St. Petersburg. While we don’t know exactly when the 23-year-old will be leaving Russia, it’s worth noting that he’s having a fantastic season. After 26 games played, he owns a 1.19 goals against average (GAA) and a .949 save percentage (SV%). 

Insurance Policy

The potential of not having a starting goalie when Lundqvist’s contract expires should be enough for GM Jeff Gorton to extend the future hall of famer. Gorton should consider a one to two-year extension at an AAV of around 2.5 million. The Rangers GM could also include performance incentives to allow The King of New York (Lundqvist) to earn as much money as possible, but not hamper the team salary wise.

Regardless of his age, Lundqvist has shown the ability to stay healthy and in better physical shape than players half his age. The risk of not having a goaltender is far greater than extending a generational athlete and goaltender in Henrik Lundqvist.

stats from eliteprospects.com and hockey-reference.com

featured image photo credit – Nikos Michals