Saturday, January 31, 2015

Brodeur learning on fly in Blues front office


PHILADELPHIA -- The last time Martin Brodeur had three games in three nights was more than 20 years ago when he played in the American Hockey League.


But Brodeur, in his new role as adviser to the general manager of the St. Louis Blues, was seated next to GM Doug Armstrong in the press box at Wells Fargo Center on Saturday to watch the Philadelphia Flyers and Toronto Maple Leafs.


"It's four in four because we played Thursday too," Armstrong said.


After 22 seasons of watching NHL hockey from the top of his goal crease, Brodeur is getting a crash course in evaluating games from the top of the arena. He announced his retirement as a player Thursday to work in the Blues front office and that night was next to Armstrong to watch St. Louis host the Nashville Predators.


The next night he traveled with the Blues to see them play the Carolina Hurricanes. With the Blues off Saturday, he and Armstrong took a train from Washington to Philadelphia. They'll leave late Saturday night and be back in Washington in time for the Blues' game against the Washington Capitals on Sunday (1 p.m.; NBCSN).


"There's no nights off when you're on the road," Armstrong said.


That's one of the many adjustments for Brodeur.


"It's fun," the 42-year-old said. "I'm learning, asking a lot of questions. It's something that has really interested me. The last three days have been fun, being involved."


Armstrong said adding Brodeur's voice and knowledge to the front office was about surrounding himself with as many smart people as possible.


"I'm fortunate to work with [vice president of hockey operations] Dave Taylor, [director of pro scouting] Rob DiMaio, [director of player development] Tim Taylor, all Stanley Cup champions and great players," Armstrong said. "Adding another quality player to our organization, that's really what you look for, what we look for. What they do on the ice is very impressive, but you want to surround yourself with quality people."


Brodeur said what most former players and coaches say when they move to a higher vantage point, that the game looks a lot slower from high up. But that perspective interests him.


"I think it's a lot easier to judge people from up here," Brodeur said. "That's where I'm trying to find the way of doing it, the right way of doing it, to give the best input I can knowing that two weeks ago, three weeks ago I was the one down there.


"Hockey's hockey. Right here I think it exposes it a little bit, but it's all productive."


Armstrong said sitting with Brodeur the past few games has been a two-way learning process.


"What I'm trying to gain from him is his knowledge of the Eastern Conference, gain his knowledge on how he sees the game," Armstrong said. "There's as much teaching as learning from both of us now. That's what makes it a really exciting relationship. With us we're just trying to tell him what we look for in players, what we want to do at the trade deadline, how our philosophy of evaluating players is, what we look for. And then I get his input on how he looks at things and how he looks at players."


After so many years of playing the game, Brodeur very quickly has learned to enjoy watching it.


"Less stressful, that's for sure," he said.


---



Analysis: Capitals' Ovechkin set to join elite company


Alex Ovechkin has reached the point in his career when comparisons and context on a generational level can give way to a much bigger range of time.


Ovechkin's next goal, which he could score as soon as Saturday afternoon, when he and the Washington Capitals visit the Montreal Canadiens (1 p.m. ET; NHLN-US, SN, RDS, CSN-DC), will be his 30th this season. It will also be the 10th time he's reached 30 goals in his first 10 NHL seasons.


Four players in the history of the NHL have accomplished that: Mike Bossy, Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri and Mike Gartner. It is a feat of ability, consistency, durability and longevity. It is also an accomplishment that will buttress the case for Ovechkin in any discussion about the greatest goal-scorers of all time.



Alex Ovechkin



Left Wing - WSH


GOALS: 29 | ASST: 16 | PTS: 45

SOG: 230 | +/-: 12



To score 30-plus goals 10 straight seasons to start a career, a player must make an instant impact. Jaromir Jagr would be on the list, but he fell just short in his first season, when he scored 27 goals on a loaded Pittsburgh Penguins roster in 1990-91. The only active players to score at least 30 goals in their first NHL seasons are Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jeff Skinner.

Ovechkin has been incredibly consistent. He led the League in shots on goal in eight of his first nine seasons, and scored on at least 10.6 percent of those shots in eight of nine.


Known as a volume shooter, Ovechkin has had at least 367 shots on goal in seven of his eight full seasons and is trending toward an eighth in nine. Since the start of the 2001-02 season, two other players have surpassed 367 shots in a season: Jagr, who had 368 in 2005-06, and Eric Staal, who had 372 in 2008-09.


"I saw an Ovechkin goal [Wednesday] against Pittsburgh, and it seems to me that every goal or highlight of his I see is him scoring the same goal," Bossy said. "So he's scored a lot of those this year. I don't know how hard that shot was back then, but [Ovechkin's] was a lot harder than my one-timers back then. The equipment has changed; I don't care how big the goalies' equipment is, when you're taking a shot like Ovechkin took [Wednesday], it's going to go in."


Ovechkin has also been incredibly durable, something that derailed Crosby's and Malkin's chances of joining him on this list. He has missed 10 games or fewer in each of his first nine seasons, and four or fewer in all but one.


He has proven his ability to be an elite goal-scorer for a long period of time. Barry Trotz would be the fifth Washington coach under which Ovechkin has scored 30-plus, and it hasn't mattered when the Capitals changed systems and tried to alter their identity.


A "down" year for Ovechkin was 32 goals and 85 points, or 38 goals, 65 points and 303 shots. There have been a total of 64 times when a player had at least 38 goals, 65 points and 303 shots in the past 20 years; Ovechkin has seven of them, and no one else has more than four.


So where does Ovechkin currently stand in the company of the all-time great goal-scorers? He has a chance to break into the top 50 in goals in NHL history by season's end, though he'd need 24 more to do so.


He is sixth in goals per game at 0.62, and fourth among players who didn't retire before the end of the Great Depression. Bossy, Mario Lemieux and Pavel Bure are ahead of him, with Gretzky, Brett Hull, Bobby Hull and a tie between Steven Stamkos and Tim Kerr rounding out the top 10.


Goal-scorers typically follow a similar aging curve, and the majority of the greatest seasons in NHL history were had by young men. Ovechkin has 80 goals since the start of last season; he was 28 in 2013-14 and is 29 in 2014-15.


Only seven players have scored at least 100 goals in their combined age-28 and age-29 seasons. If Ovechkin gets to 101, that would mean another 50-goal season, and it would be his second with at least 50 since he reached 28 years old. The only players who have more than two after turning 28 are Phil Esposito, Bobby Hull and Marcel Dionne.


"I see goals that are scored now, I used to score all the same type of goals," Bossy said. "I honestly don't think that players look at the 50-goal mark as one of those plateaus anymore. They may look at 40 goals or 35 goals as being their 50-goal season. That's just a result of … a lot of different factors. I don't think management expects players to score 50 goals anymore. There are a few players that I see that would like to score 100 goals, but for the most part, I don't see it. I look at Crosby play, and John [Tavares] and I look at Ovechkin, those players, they want to score every shift they are out on the ice, and it shows."


Getting to 50 would likely mean another milestone for Ovechkin that would further cement his place in hockey history. His 29 goals lead the League. Should he finish the season with the most goals, it would be the fifth time he's won the Rocket Richard Trophy in his career.


There hasn't always been a Richard Trophy to award, but there has always been someone who led the League in goals, or tied for the lead. If he wins another, Ovechkin would become the fifth player in NHL history to lead the League in goals outright at least five times.


Gretzky and Gordie Howe did it five times. Bobby Hull and Esposito did it six times, with Hull tying for the League lead on a seventh occasion.


For now, Ovechkin is poised to join one exclusive club, and he'll work on earning admittance to that other one at the end of the season.


Gretzky is the most prolific goal-scorer of all time, but a case could be made for Bossy or Lemieux as the best. Each was derailed by injury. Kurri is one of the two greatest players in Finland's history, but he did get to play with The Great One. Howe, Richard, Esposito and Bobby Hull are also part of this conversation, and it is fair to say Ovechkin belongs as well.


Ovechkin's final placement among the sport's great goal-scorers will be impacted plenty by what happens during the back half of his NHL career, but the first half has put him in incredibly select company.



Containing Ovechkin unique challenge for Canadiens


BROSSARD, Quebec -- When facing an elite scorer, a common last-gasp tactic is to hit him early, hit him hard, and hit him often.


Assuming you can catch him, the strategy should bear fruit as the star player will begin to wear down, and ultimately, or hopefully, become a little tentative to go to the areas of the ice where he can hurt you.



Alex Ovechkin



Left Wing - WSH


GOALS: 29 | ASST: 16 | PTS: 45

SOG: 230 | +/-: 12



As the Montreal Canadiens prepare to face Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals at Bell Centre on Saturday (1 p.m. ET; NHLN-US, SN), they know that is not an approach that will slow down the hottest goal scorer in the NHL.

The problem with hitting Ovechkin is not catching him; it's avoiding hurting yourself while doing it.


"I've lined up beside him a few times," Canadiens right wing Brendan Gallagher said after practice Friday. "I actually tried to hit him a couple of times. That didn't go well."


Next up, Canadiens center Lars Eller.


"Yeah, I've tried," he said. "He's hard as a rock. It's like hitting a wall."


How about you, Max Pacioretty?


"I tried to hit him once and you just can't," he said. "He's a monster."


Canadiens defenseman Nathan Beaulieu admits he can't remember whether he's tried to hit him in the few times he's faced Ovechkin, but he summed up the Capitals captain rather perfectly when asked what makes him a difficult opponent.


"He's just big, strong, fast and he's got a lethal shot," Beaulieu said. "Pretty much everything a forward needs, he has. You've got skilled guys that are usually smaller, and you've got power forwards. He's kind of like everything in one."


So if physically intimidating Ovechkin is not going to work, the Canadiens will have to find another way to keep him off the score sheet, starting with goaltender Carey Price continuing his current streak that matches Ovechkin's on the heat chart.


Over his past 15 starts, Price has a 12-2-1 record, a 1.53 goals against average and .949 save percentage.


Price's play is the biggest reason why prior to games Friday the Canadiens were the stingiest defensive team in the NHL, allowing an average of 2.28 goals per game. Over his past 13 games, Ovechkin has averaged nearly half that all by himself, scoring 13 goals in those games on 57 shots and accounting for 31 percent of the Capitals offense over that span.


So logic would dictate that if the Canadiens can stop Ovechkin, their chances of winning the game improve dramatically.


Good luck with that.


"The biggest thing for us is he's so big. He's a beast," Pacioretty said. "Down low it's tough to move him and obviously his shot is lethal. It seems like when he's on his game he's one of those guys that's almost unstoppable. He's on a mission and he's not going to stop until the puck's in the back of the net. Dealing with his size and strength I think is the biggest problem, but we've got guys on the back end who are big and can handle that."


Ovechkin will likely see a steady dose of the line of Pacioretty, Tomas Plekanec and Dale Weise along with top defensive pairing Andrei Markov and P.K. Subban on Saturday.


Plekanec was quick to point out that if you only worry about Ovechkin, his center Nicklas Backstrom can torch you as well.



The Canadiens face a unique challenge in trying

to stop Alex Ovechkin; putting the body on him is

a scary proposition.


Photo: Getty Images (Click to enlarge)



"[Ovechkin] has one of the best shots and best one-timers in the League. He knows where he's shooting all the time and he doesn't need much time," Plekanec said. "But one of his strengths also is playing with Backstrom; he's such a good playmaker he can really find that play for him when he gets open. They have really good chemistry. So I'd say they're dangerous as a duo."


Plekanec has long played the role of shutdown center for the Canadiens, and Weise has been used in that role often over his career as a grinder who only recently was elevated to top-line status under Montreal coach Michel Therrien. But it is Pacioretty's evolution into a two-way force that has elevated him close to elite status among NHL scorers.


There are only four people who have scored more goals than Pacioretty's 61 since the beginning of last season: Ovechkin (80), Joe Pavelski of the San Jose Sharks (66), Tyler Seguin of the Dallas Stars (65) and Corey Perry of the Anaheim Ducks (62). On top of that production, Pacioretty has become one of Montreal's top penalty killers alongside Plekanec, and Therrien is no longer afraid to use him against opposing top lines.


"He's improved a lot as a hockey player on both sides of the ice, and I'm not afraid to go power against power," Therrien said. "That's a sign from the coaching staff that we've got confidence in his game. We don't want to hide him. He's got our trust because he earned it and because he got better as a hockey player playing both sides of the ice. He deserves all the credit for that."


Pacioretty likes the new responsibilities, but admits it's been an adjustment to get the right mindset to thrive in situations where he is matched up against a top offensive threat. In the Canadiens' past three games, Pacioretty's line was matched against Mike Ribeiro, Filip Forsberg and Colin Wilson of the Nashville Predators, Seguin and Jamie Benn of the Stars and Rick Nash, Derek Stepan and Martin St Louis of the New York Rangers.


"I think I run into trouble when I do prepare differently and when I tell myself that I've got to shut them down," Pacioretty said. "I think it takes away from the offensive part of my game, and that happened in both the Nashville and Dallas games. I got a little too caught up in playing d-zone. It's obviously an area that our line wants to take pride in and wants to be good in, but at the end of the day the best defense is playing offense."


So the solution, it would seem, is that if you can't hit Ovechkin, at least make him try to hit you while you play with the puck.


Easier said than done.



Friday, January 30, 2015

Brodeur made early impression on Penguins' Crosby


NEWARK, N.J. -- Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby can recall like it was yesterday his NHL debut against one of the greatest goaltenders in the history of the game.


It was Oct. 5, 2005 at what was then known as Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, N.J., against New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur. Crosby would finish his rookie season with 39 goals and 102 points, but Brodeur had his number on this day in a 5-1 win for the Devils.


"I had a great chance on my first shift and he made the save; that will always be a big memory for me," Crosby said. "When I look back on that moment, it's the only time I can remember smiling or laughing at missing a scoring chance. It was my first NHL game, my first shift and you get robbed by Martin Brodeur.


"It could be a lot worse."


Brodeur, who finished his career this season playing seven games for the St. Louis Blues, announced his retirement as a player at Scottrade Center in St. Louis on Thursday; he begins the next chapter in his life as senior adviser to Blues general manager Doug Armstrong.


The Penguins will play against the Devils at Prudential Center on Friday. Crosby and defenseman Paul Martin, who spent six seasons in New Jersey prior to joining the Penguins, took some time to reflect on the legacy left behind by Brodeur.


"It's tough to see [Brodeur retire]," Crosby said. "As a fan, you love to see a guy perform at that level and be that successful. Obviously he had some success against us, especially in Pittsburgh, so that's about the only part you won't miss. To see what he's done over his career is pretty amazing; you have a lot of respect for someone who has done that much. But obviously it's come time for him to move out of the game. It's never easy, but it was on his terms."


Martin was asked if he ever thought Brodeur would be announcing his retirement in a place other than New Jersey.


"He still has time to do that and his jersey will raise from the rafters," Martin said. "As a player you have that competitive drive to continue to keep playing, and if it wasn't going to be [with the Devils] you could see why it would be somewhere else. He has that hunger and love for the game, so I can see why people would want him to be here."


Crosby, who finished with one assist, three shots on goal and a minus-2 rating in a 5-1 loss against the Devils in his NHL debut, smiled when discussing Brodeur's work ethic.


"His compete level is something that will always stick out," he said. "In tight games, he thrived and he never gave up on a puck, even when he was down and out, he'd find a way to stop it. He had success against us and didn't allow many goals."


Brodeur finished 48-28-5 with nine shutouts in 84 career games against the Penguins.


"As the years have gone, by you begin to appreciate and realize how good he was," Martin said. "In my first year when I first saw him, you assume that's the way it is, but as the years go by and you play against other goalies you see how special he was, how he conducted himself and how he made guys comfortable. He was an extra defenseman out there.


"I'm a lot more healthy today because of Martin Brodeur. He had his own unique style, was a great locker room guy and was always good to me."


---



Perron, Faulk pushing for must-own fantasy status


In this week's edition of fantasy hockey's "Hot Topics," I'll be suggesting five players that need to be owned in far more leagues for the remainder of this season. Let's jump right into the discussion.


1. David Perron , Pittsburgh Penguins , LW/RW -- owned in 70 percent of Yahoo leagues


Why isn't Perron's ownership higher? Do people realize he got traded from the Edmonton Oilers to the Penguins? That he's playing on the top line with Sidney Crosby? And receiving tons of ice time on one of the NHL's top power-play units? Perron needs to be owned in just about every fantasy league. In 10 games with the Penguins he has six goals, three assists, 10 penalty minutes, three power-play points and 44 shots on goal (4.4 per game). While his minus-5 rating has been a disappointment since joining his new team, he's been a fantasy force in every other category.


2. Justin Faulk , Carolina Hurricanes , D -- owned in 68 percent of Yahoo leagues



Justin Faulk



Justin Faulk


Defense - CAR


GOALS: 9 | ASST: 19 | PTS: 28

SOG: 127 | +/-: -13



As a defenseman, having a minus-13 rating never helps win you fans in fantasy leagues. But in 10 games during the month of January, Faulk actually has a plus-1 rating. Even his November and December ratings weren't terrible (minus-3 in each month). It was his minus-8 in eight games during October that killed his rating for the season. Since then he's been very consistent in the category. But more importantly is how productive Faulk has been offensively of late. He has four points and 12 shots on goal in his past three games, and now has nine goals and 28 points in 47 games. His 127 shots on goal rank ninth among all defensemen. He has 10 power-play points, which is tied for 21st among defensemen. Simply put, Faulk is slowly creeping his way toward being one of the better offensive defenseman in the League. That at 22 years old.

3. Derek Stepan , New York Rangers , C -- owned in 60 percent of Yahoo leagues


Similar to Perron's situation, it seems fantasy owners haven't realized Stepan is healthy again. Or maybe they see his stats and his 142nd-overall Yahoo ranking and don't realize he missed 13 games this season. But what you're missing is that Stepan has been a near point-per-game player in the 33 games he's played (eight goals and 24 assists). He has an outstanding plus-11 rating and nine power-play points. He centers the team's second line with Martin St. Louis and Chris Kreider and is on the top power-play unit (averaging 2:59 of PP time per game) alongside Rick Nash and company. Stepan is playing the best hockey of his young career and could carry a fantasy team to a championship.


4. Michael Hutchinson , Winnipeg Jets and Devan Dubnyk , Minnesota Wild , G -- owned in 64 percent and 41 percent of Yahoo leagues


Our group of fantasy insiders at NHL.com has talked about each of these goalies in recent weeks and how they should be owned in more fantasy leagues (Hutchinson here , and Dubnyk here ). You guys are not responding the way you should. In the past two weeks, Hutchinson ranks as the seventh-best fantasy goalie and Dubnyk is eighth. Each has a great opportunity to get plenty of starts for the rest of the season and is capable of providing top-20 fantasy goalie value.


5. Patrick Maroon , Anaheim Ducks , LW -- owned in 10 percent of Yahoo leagues



Patrick Maroon



Patrick Maroon


Left Wing - ANA


GOALS: 6 | ASST: 18 | PTS: 24

SOG: 82 | +/-: 2



With Bruce Boudreau behind the bench for the Ducks, we can always expect plenty of line changes. But according to dobberhockey.com, Maroon has played 56.15 percent of his even-strength shifts on the top line with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. In his past three games that number bumps up to 76.92 percent. Maroon might not be able to keep the job for the rest of the season, but this stretch has shown Boudreau likes what he sees from the 26-year-old forward. Maroon has been a dominant fantasy player recently with four goals and three assists in his past five games while posting a plus-6 rating. He's had at least three shots on goal in each of his past six games. The lines may change at some point, but this lengthy stay on the top line makes me think Maroon has a better chance than any other Ducks forward at keeping the job with Getzlaf and Perry.

---



Canucks goalie Miller eager to face Sabres


VANCOUVERVancouver Canucks goalie Ryan Miller will be extra cautious facing the Buffalo Sabres for the first time on Friday.


Buffalo picked Miller in the fifth round (No. 138) in the 1999 NHL Draft, and Miller played his first 12 seasons in the Sabres organization before he was traded to the St. Louis Blues late last season. The 34-year-old goaltender expects to feel a little awkward playing against his former team for the first time.


"It's going to be a little bit strange," said Miller, who signed a three-year free agent contract in Vancouver last summer. "I will pay special attention not to pass the puck towards the Buffalo symbol."


To get an idea how connected Miller was to the Sabres – and how strange it might be to play against them – consider that he passed on a chance to do it in St. Louis after the Feb. 28 trade that sent him to the Blues.


Miller said Blues coach Ken Hitchcock gave him the option to play against his former team, but he chose to start against the Philadelphia Flyers instead because he saw it as better preparation for the approaching Stanley Cup Playoffs. However, Miller also conceded he didn't want the mental distraction of having to play against his former teammates so soon after the trade, even if the game was five weeks later.


"I felt just playing against the boys was not something I wanted to put my mind on at the time," Miller said after Vancouver practiced Thursday. "I identified myself for so long with the Sabres."


Miller made it clear he is fully aligned with the Canucks and their goal of hanging onto a playoff spot in the Western Conference. Making the playoffs is a goal the struggling Sabres, who have lost 13 straight games after a 3-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday, are a long way from even setting.


Buffalo's struggles made it easier for Miller to move on.


"Timetable wise, yeah," he said. "I'm not a spring chicken, so I think in their plan they wanted players to develop with the group and the guys in that group are in their early 20s. It would have been nice to stay with one team, but for my career I wanted to keep it going."


After a slow start in Vancouver, Miller appears set to do just that.


The Michigan native is sixth in the NHL in wins with a 23-11-1 record and his save percentage, which was hovering around .900 the first two months of the season, has risen to .917, thanks in part to a 7-3-1 run since just before Christmas that included consecutive shutouts.


Still, Canucks coach Willie Desjardins knows it won't be easy for the thoughtful Miller to face his former team for the first time.


"He's a deep thinker and I know he had a lot of loyalty and a lot of good moments in Buffalo, and I know he really respects it there and the organization so there will be some emotional attachment," Desjardins said. "It's not like he left there not caring and forgot about it. He's not that kind of guy, so there will be some attachment."


Miller made his Sabres debut on Nov. 19, 2002, and set a franchise record by playing 540 games before the trade to St. Louis. He was 284-186-57 with a 2.60 goals-against average and .916 save percentage in Buffalo. He also went 25-22 in the playoffs, making it to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final in 2006. Miller backstopped the Sabres to another conference final the next season and won the Vezina Trophy as the NHL's top goaltender in 2010, but for all the early success, the final seasons in Buffalo were a struggle.


"There's that place you can go where you can kind of get numb and you don't get as emotionally charged," Miller said. "Last year I was getting a little bit numb for a stretch, but I reminded myself why I like to play and I was kind of re-energized by the challenge."



Ryan Miller



Goalie - VAN


RECORD: 23-11-1

GAA: 2.33 | SVP: .917



Miller has also warmed to the challenge of playing the Sabres and is looking forward to his first trip back to Buffalo on Feb. 26. Canucks forward Zack Kassian, who was drafted by the Sabres in 2009 and played 27 games with the Sabres in 2011-12, thinks the feeling will be mutual.

"People loved him in Buffalo," Kassian said.


For Miller, playing the Sabres is a chance to reconnect with former teammates and staff members like Chris Bandura, the director of media relations, and equipment manager Dave Williams, who came up from the American Hockey League at the same time as Miller.


"It's going to be nice to see some of the faces still there," he said. "But part of hockey is having fun competing against friends, former teammates, colleagues, so I look forward to these opportunities."


Miller compared it to the special feel of playing against brother Drew, a Detroit Red Wings forward. In both cases, it feels better to win.


"This is a chance to play against a team, an organization that meant, that does mean, a lot to me and I want to compete hard and play well," Miller said. "That's the best way to do your business."



Super 16: Class of 2003 further solidifying its status


The 2015 NHL All-Star Weekend doubled as a class reunion.


Eleven members of the NHL Draft Class of 2003 were in Columbus, and a 12th was originally selected but could not participate because of injury. That's more than double any other draft class, and another example of the exemplary talent that extraordinary draft cycle produced.


"We actually talked about that on the bus," Minnesota Wild defenseman Ryan Suter said on All-Star media day. "Guys were asking what draft other guys were in and who was in that draft, and we've got a lot of good players from that draft. It is pretty cool."


The accompanying pie chart breaks down the players who were invited to the 2015 Honda All-Star Game by draft class (not including the rookies who did not play in the game Sunday). The Class of 2003 produced 25 percent of the players invited to Columbus.



Players who were drafted in 1979 or 1988 might argue the point, but the Class of 2003 is trending toward becoming the greatest in the history of the sport. It is certainly the deepest, with all-star level talents sprinkled throughout the final eight rounds to buttress what was one of the greatest first rounds any sport has encountered.


There have been 27 all-stars from the Class of 2003, including 16 of the 30 players selected in the first round and four from the eighth or ninth round (the NHL Draft only has seven rounds these days).


"I've had a pretty good run with the guys I've been seeing for a lot of years," Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf said. "We got to the draft and you had seen everybody at all the Canada events, all the USA guys, everyone had been together a lot since we were 15, 16 years old. We've been able to grow up together and experience a lot of things together and playing against each other."


To Getzlaf's point, eight players at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics for Canada were '03 alums, while five members of Canada's roster at the 2014 Sochi Olympics and seven United States players at the tournament were from that draft class.


This particular reunion in Columbus was all about the class's depth. Only five of the 12 players invited were from that fabulous first round. Four of the six goalies who played in the game, and five of the eight invited were drafted in 2003. They ranged from Marc-Andre Fleury at No. 1 to Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott, who were both ninth-round selections (Elliott went second-to-last, 290 picks after Fleury).


It is a draft class that keeps on giving as well. It was the first All-Star appearance for five of the '03 representatives: Patrice Bergeron, Brent Seabrook, Corey Crawford, Halak and Elliott.


"I'm just happy to be here, trying to soak everything in," Bergeron said. "It's another thing I can say that I was part of and I lived the experience, and I know how it's like. Definitely something that when I'll look back on my career, I'll be happy that I've done it."


DISCLAIMER: While the Super 16 is NHL.com's weekly power rankings, it focuses more on the "power" than the "rankings" when determining the order. It's not always going to look like the League standings and likely will take more of a long view than a short one. If two teams are close the tiebreaker almost always is this: If the two teams started a seven-game series right now, who would prevail? Stop by to see where your favorite team ranks, but stay for the information. All rankings, records and statistics are through the games played Wednesday night.


1. Chicago Blackhawks (30-16-2)


The Blackhawks are in the midst of maybe the hardest road trip for any team this season. A three-game swing through California with stops in Minnesota, St. Louis and Winnipeg tacked on at the end. They may scrimmage the Eden Hall varsity team in the middle just to stay sharp.


MUST READ: Bill Petti of The Hardball Times writes a two-part series on the state on analytics in baseball. Replace "baseball" with "hockey" and almost all of it applies to this sport right now as well.


2. St. Louis Blues (29-13-4)


Maxim Lapierre has been a drain on puck possession for several years on several teams. This season he, Steve Ott and Ryan Reaves have been getting caved in while the rest of the Blues flourished. Every other player on the team with at least 30 games played is at 50 percent or better in Corsi-for percentage, while each member of the fourth line is at 43.3 percent or worse. Some of the WOWY numbers are staggering. Marcel Goc will help, a little bit at the very least.


MUST READ: In honor of Martin Brodeur's retirement, check out a great archived profile by Michael Farber for Sports Illustrated.


3. Nashville Predators (31-10-5)


Ask someone for a list of the top people who are making the Predators great this season. The answers are likely to include Pekka Rinne, Peter Laviolette, Filip Forsberg and Shea Weber, because they're all in contention for major awards. James Neal, Roman Josi and Mike Ribeiro will probably all get named before Colin Wilson as well, but maybe no one beyond Rinne and Laviolette has been more important for Nashville.


The top line has been great, but Wilson has been a possession driver with every player on the roster and provided a huge offensive punch while typically skating on the second line. He's leading the team in points per 60 minutes at even strength.


MUST READ: Braden Thompson of On The Forecheck writes about some potential tweaks to Nashville's player usage in the second half of the season.


4. Anaheim Ducks (32-10-6)


The Ducks won by three or more goals four times in the first eight games of the season, then only once after that until Jan. 14. Anaheim has now won four of the past five games by three goals or more, finally showing it can separate from teams.


MUST READ: Doug Johnson from Puck Buddys sits down with Finland's ambassador to the United States for an interesting chat about #TeemuForever and other Finns who play hockey.


5. Detroit Red Wings (28-11-9)


The Red Wings continue to be the masters of suffocating shot attempts. Detroit is allowing 3.2 fewer per 60 minutes than second-stingiest Tampa Bay. For an idea of how clustered the middle is in this area, that's about the difference between 6th and 19th.


MUST READ: Donna Spencer of The Canadian Press writes about Gordie Howe's continuing remarkable recovery after a stem cell treatment.


6. Tampa Bay Lightning (30-15-4)


Teams like the Blackhawks and New York Islanders are near the top in puck possession as high-event teams, and the Red Wings are there in part because of their ability to play low-event games. The Lightning are in the middle, ninth in shot attempts per 60 minutes at even strength and 18th in shots goal per game, but are also top-five in Corsi-for percentage and first in goals per game.


MUST READ: Matt Crossman of Bleacher Report writes about some wild nights in the trenches with NHL dentists.


7. New York Islanders (32-14-1)


The Islanders didn't miss Kyle Okposo against their rivals from Midtown, but their depth up front is going to face a stern test. Not only is Okposo out, but Ryan Strome and Andres Lee are about to go through the "dog days" of an NHL season for the first time. Every forward logged between 11:18 and 17:48 of ice time against the Rangers.


MUST READ: Mark Hermann of Newsday writes about how stars around the League have noticed the Islanders and Rangers returning to contender status.


8. Winnipeg Jets (26-15-8)


If anyone doesn't believe in the Jets at this point, maybe a scouting report from Los Angeles Kings star Anze Kopitar will help.


"They have a lot of meat on that team," Kopitar said. "They play hard and they play fast. They come after you. It reminds me a lot of our team. We have lots of big bodies and we want to play fast and play a puck possession game and that's what they're doing."


MUST READ: Jacob Stoller of Arctic Ice Hockey writes about a big area of need for the Jets and possible solutions.


9. Los Angeles Kings (21-15-12)


The puck possession numbers are back, but the Kings are 4-4-5 since the holiday break. They are 1-0-0 since Tyler Toffoli returned from a bout with mononucleosis and Mike Richards was sent to the American Hockey League. They're about to embark on a five-game road trip, and 10 of the next 15 are away from Staples Center.


"We've played a lot of hockey the past few years and maybe fatigue has been a factor, but we're all professional and we need to get ready for each and every game," Kopitar said. "We've had some spurts when we played pretty good and up to our potential, but we've also had some moments when we didn't play good at all.


"We realize we're going to have to play better in the second half of the year. We have a big road trip coming up and this is a good time to get things turned around."


MUST READ: Sheng Peng of Jewels From The Crown writes about a potentially troublesome decline in part of Kopitar's game.


10. Pittsburgh Penguins (27-13-8)


The Penguins have dealt with a myriad of injuries, but getting Patric Hornqvist back is going to help. He has been their top shot generator on a per-minute basis this season, particularly on the power play but at even strength as well with Pascal Dupuis out for the season.


MUST READ: Justin Bourne of The Score writes about how technology is changing the sport and the NHL.


11. New York Rangers (27-14-4)


Rick Nash won the Rocket Richard Trophy in 2003-04, tying with two others at 41 goals. That was the lowest total to lead the League in a full season in 41 years. Now Nash has another chance to lead the League, and if he does so the 11 years apart would be an NHL record. The longest anyone has gone between scoring titles is seven years, after Mario Lemieux won in 1988-89 and again in 1995-96.


MUST READ: Chris Boyle of SportsNet writes about where the goals are coming from for Nash.


12. Boston Bruins (25-16-7)


Tuukka Rask's career save percentage is .926, but he's only at .919 after a slow start to the season and then a rough start to December. Since allowing 10 goals in his first two December starts, Rask has played 19 times. His save percentage during that span is .926.


MUST READ: Rob Vollman of ESPN.com writes about a runaway leader in the Selke Trophy race [Hint: the placement of this article is a pretty good clue who he is writing about].


13. Montreal Canadiens (30-13-3)


The 2008 draft was billed as a potential all-timer for defensemen, and despite a few misfires, it has a strong chance of holding up as such. Drew Doughty, Erik Karlsson, Alex Pietrangelo, TJ Brodie, John Carlson, Travis Hamonic, Jake Gardiner, Zach Bogosian, Tyler Myers … it is a deep and talented group.


The group of defensemen from one year prior isn't too shabby either. It includes Kevin Shattenkirk, Ryan McDonagh, Jake Muzzin, Karl Alzner, Brendan Smith, Alec Martinez, and the headliner of the bunch, P.K. Subban. Alzner has played the most games and Shattenkirk is only six points behind Subban, but the guy who went 43rd to the Canadiens would have a pretty strong case to go no worse than second in a re-draft today.


MUST READ: Andrew Berkshire of Eyes On The Prize writes about finding ideal fits with centers and defense pairs.


14. Washington Capitals (25-14-9)


Alex Ovechkin has eased out in front of the goal-scoring race with seven goals in five games. If Ovechkin wins the Rocket Richard Trophy outright, it would be the third straight year and fifth time in his career. The only players in NHL history with five outright goal-scoring titles are Wayne Gretzky and Gordie Howe. Phil Esposito and Bobby Hull have six (Hull tied for the lead once as well).


That's as rarefied as the air gets when it comes to goal scoring in NHL history.


MUST READ: Muneeb Alam of Japers' Rink writes about who takes and draws penalties for the Capitals and how.


15. San Jose Sharks (25-17-6)


At one point the Sharks had won nine of 10 and looked like the San Jose of early 2014. They are 6-6-2 since, and the underlying indicators are slipping a little. Whenever this team isn't rolling, there is going to be unease given what has transpired since taking a 3-0 lead in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in April.


MUST READ: Kevin Kurz of CSN Bay Area writes about the Sharks and the playoff bubble as the stretch run commences.


16. Vancouver Canucks (26-17-3)


Dan Hamhuis just returned after missing nearly two months and now Kevin Bieksa is out 6-8 weeks with a hand injury. The Canucks play Buffalo on Friday, then 17 of the next 20 games are against teams still very much chasing a playoff spot. If Bieksa's timeline is accurate, he's gone until after the 2015 NHL Trade Deadline, so new general manager Jim Benning won't have him back before it is decision time on roster alterations.


MUST READ: Jim Jamieson of The Province writes about three areas the Canucks could stand to improve in.



Thursday, January 29, 2015

Former Devils remember Brodeur 'as a winner'


NEW YORK -- Retired New Jersey Devils defenseman Ken Daneyko, affectionately called "Mr. Devil" by many fans, watched with interest the retirement announcement by good friend and former teammate Martin Brodeur at Scottrade Center in St. Louis on Thursday.


One thing immediately struck him.


"I didn't see the New Jersey Devils logo in the background," Daneyko said with a grin. "It was a little awkward, I'm not going to lie. I guess I'm a little selfish. I would have liked to have seen the big Devils logo back there.


"Maybe down the road we will see Marty in front of the Devils logo because this was a subdued press conference [in St. Louis]. We're going to have, more sooner than later, the retirement night and jersey raising to the rafters. Maybe then we'll be able to soak in a little more about what Marty meant to the New Jersey Devils and the career he had."


Daneyko, who spent 12 seasons with Brodeur and won three Stanley Cup championships with him, understands why Brodeur took the senior adviser position offered by Blues general manager Doug Armstrong.


"He's an iconic player and figure, one of the most important players in the Devils organization," Daneyko said. "So would you like him back for the fans and to do something in some capacity in New Jersey? Of course. I can't answer hypothetical questions, but my gut feeling is that he'll be back in Jersey in some capacity eventually. But, who knows, if it works out real well in St. Louis, and I wouldn't begrudge him that, that's his life.


"As far as moving forward, the greats move on. Steve Yzerman was in Detroit for so many years and ended up going to Tampa Bay as a GM; he was Mr. Everything in Detroit."


Daneyko provides color analysis alongside Steve Cangialosi during broadcasts of Devils games on MSG Network. John MacLean, another former Brodeur teammate, serves as an in-studio analyst for the network. Each was in the League office Thursday for appearances on NHL Live on NHL Network.


"St. Louis took advantage of an opportunity and why wouldn't they?" said MacLean, who played six seasons with Brodeur. "The only sadness from my perspective is that he's not playing anymore, but I was lucky enough to play with him, and if he's happy, we should be happy for him too."


MacLean said he feels Brodeur will be a great asset to the Blues organization. MacLean has an understanding of the business side after serving as an assistant coach with the Devils and Carolina Hurricanes, and as coach of the Devils for 33 games in 2010-11.


"He's another bridge for those players to talk to because he's right out of the game," MacLean said. "He instantly has tremendous credibility because he's a winner.


"I didn't dwell on anything coming out of the presser other than the fact that he's retiring and moving on. He has an opportunity and he's going to take advantage of the opportunity. He will have his day in New Jersey, both parties [Brodeur and the Devils] have stated that fact."


Daneyko said he knows Brodeur has an interest in the managerial side of hockey, and getting his start in the business in St. Louis might be the best-case scenario. Brodeur said he doesn't feel as if he'll be pressured and, at the same time, management will want to utilize his knowledge and expertise on several fronts.


"Marty won't really realize things until three or four years from now with regard to his career," said Daneyko, whose No. 3 jersey is retired at Prudential Center alongside Scott Niedermayer (27) and Scott Stevens (4).


"It took three or four years for me before I really began to absorb our Stanley Cup wins and the fact I played with such great players, including maybe the greatest goalie of all time. We counted on him night in and night out; what else could you ask for in your most important player."


When Daneyko and MacLean were asked how Brodeur should be remembered, they each had a similar response: "As a winner."


"He made every big save at the right time, whether he had 17 shots or 30 shots," Daneyko said. "The puck wasn't in our end as long as it was for other teams because of Marty's ability to control it. Teams had to game plan against him, and he was a big reason why there weren't as many shots on us."


MacLean said, "He is one of the few goalies that didn't have that goalie personality. You would think he was a left wing at times because he had such a high hockey IQ and was a steady influence in the locker room. If he were playing any other position, he would have become captain at some point, but no question he was a great teammate."


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Fantasy top 30 goalies: Finding the next Brodeur


Every Thursday during the season, NHL.com's Evan Sporer will provide you with in-depth analysis of goaltenders. From updated weekly top-30 rankings to trending players and more, Sporer will be your go-to guy for advice on fantasy goalies all season long.


UPDATED TOP 30 GOALIE RANKINGS

It wasn't just the individual records. It wasn't just the Stanley Cups. It wasn't just the international accolades, the sprawling saves in the crease or his ability to handle the puck outside of the blue paint.


Part of what made Martin Brodeur so great was that he was great consistently. From his rookie season, which he capped by winning the Calder Trophy in 1994, to around 2010, you knew what you were going to get from Brodeur: consistent excellence.


It's not easy to do, and repeatability is hard to predict with goalies. There are so many variables that affect what a goaltender is capable of doing. And on top of all of that, Brodeur did all his heavy lifting for one franchise.


When it comes to consistency at the position, it's unfair to outright compare anyone to Brodeur. But in terms of occupying that mantle, here are a few players with a chance to cement themselves as "the most consistent" of their respective eras.


THE CURRENT WAVE


Carey Price , Montreal Canadiens -- It helps to be on a good team, and Montreal is assembling that and then some around Price. With P.K. Subban patrolling the ice in front of him, Price has his own Scott Stevens. Price has been a dominant goalie since the 2010-11 season; he's been in the top 10 in the League in wins three of the past four seasons, and is fourth with 25 in 2014-15. Price is tied for the sixth-highest save percentage in the League among goalies to play more than 150 games since the 2010-11 season and is tied for fourth in shutouts with 23, according to Hockey-Reference.com's play index. And he's only getting better.


Tuukka Rask , Boston Bruins -- The interesting thing about Rask is that he was knocking on the door of greatness even as a backup. His numbers dating to the 2009-10 season are tops in the League, yet he's truly been the Bruins starter since 2012. But Rask's body of work in that time is undeniable: Among goalies to play in at least 150 games, his .927 save percentage is the best, and he's tied for eighth with 24 shutouts, according to Hockey-Reference.com's play index. Rask has finished in the top three in the League in save percentage in the previous two seasons. Rask is 27, and will play years past when Bruins captain and defensive cornerstone Zdeno Chara retires. How the Bruins make that transition from a team perspective is in question, but Rask likely still will be a top goalie when that occurs.





STATS PRIOR TO JAN. 29 GAMES


RECORD: 23-10-3

GAA: 2.30 | SVP: .920



Henrik Lundqvist , New York Rangers -- It's only fitting to include Brodeur's last true rival in anything that even dares to offer a loose Brodeur comparison. Since becoming the Rangers starter in 2005, Lundqvist and Brodeur met 41 times in the regular season, with Lundqvist going 26-10-5. He has been good when he wasn't facing his regional counterpart, as Lundqvist .920 save percentage is third among goalies to play 200 games since 2005. The two goalies ahead of him, Rask and Tomas Vokoun, have played 375 and 189 fewer games, respectively, than Lundqvist's 610 during that stretch. Add to that no goalie has won more games than Lundqvist over that stretch (332), and that he hasn't finished outside of the top 10 among League leaders in wins since 2006 (he's sixth this season), and it's hard to argue many have been better or more consistent than Lundqvist.

THE NEXT WAVE


John Gibson , Anaheim Ducks -- Gibson made a big debut, shutting out the Vancouver Canucks in his first career start. He then had a shutout in his first career Stanley Cup Playoff start, against the eventual-champion Los Angeles Kings. Gibson has enjoyed some international success already, leading the United States to gold medals at the 2011 IIHF World Under-18 Championship and the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship. The Ducks selected Gibson in the second round of the 2011 NHL Draft (No. 39); while he's spent most of the season in the American Hockey League after an early groin injury, he's considered a future franchise goalie.





STATS PRIOR TO JAN. 29 GAMES


RECORD: 3-1-0

GAA: 1.76 | SVP: .937



Andrei Vasilevskiy , Tampa Bay Lightning -- When Ben Bishop was injured earlier this season, it was the 20-year-old Vasilevskiy who got the call. In four games with Tampa Bay this season Vasilevskiy is 3-1-0 with a 1.76 goals-against average and a .937 save percentage. With Bishop playing well, Vasilevskiy can continue to gain experience in the AHL. However, the time will soon come when Vasilevskiy, the 19th pick of the 2012 draft, will be an NHL starter.

Jack Campbell , Dallas Stars -- Before Gibson emerged as the top United States-born goalie, there was Campbell. As an 18-year-old Campbell led the U.S. to gold at the 2010 World Junior Championship and to gold medals at the 2009 and 2010 World Under-18 tournaments. The Stars are a team with a bright outlook with the likes of Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn leading the way offensively. Campbell made his NHL debut in 2013 against the Anaheim Ducks, but has spent the rest of his time in the AHL. At 23 years old Campbell is a bit older but also more battle-tested.




KEEP AN EYE ON


Curtis McElhinney , Columbus Blue Jackets -- If you're in need of a goalie it's worth adding McElhinney right now. Sergei Bobrovsky will miss four to six weeks, and despite where they are in the standings the Columbus Blue Jackets will be a competitive team down the stretch. McElhinney won his first start since Bobrovsky's injury Tuesday against the Washington Capitals and likely will see the bulk of the minutes for the Blue Jackets the rest of the way.




TOP 30 FANTASY GOALIES


These modified re-rankings are a projection of a goalie's fantasy output for the entire season. Our ranks are based on volume categories like games played, wins, saves, goals-against average (GAA) and save percentage (SV%). The plus or minus for each player is movement based on our most recent rankings from last week (NR means not ranked in previous rankings). It is important to note that our rankings reflect sheer fantasy value, not talent. A less-talented goalie could be ranked higher due to their team's strong defense and offense.































































































1Carey Price, MTL (+1) 16Ryan Miller, VAN (+1)
2Henrik Lundqvist, NYR (-1) 17Antti Niemi, SJS (+1)
3Brian Elliott, STL (SAME)18Kari Lehtonen, DAL (+1)
4Marc-Andre Fleury, PIT (SAME)19Jonathan Bernier, TOR (+1)
5Corey Crawford, CHI (SAME)20Cory Schneider, NJD (+1)
6Roberto Luongo, FLA (SAME)21Petr Mrazek, DET (+1)
7Frederik Andersen, ANA (SAME)22Devan Dubnyk, MIN (+1)
8Ben Bishop, TBL (SAME)23Joni Ortio, CGY (+1)
9Jaroslav Halak, NYI (SAME)24Antti Raanta, CHI (+1)
10Braden Holtby, WSH (SAME)25Cam Talbot, NYR (+1)
11Tuukka Rask, BOS (SAME)26Jake Allen, STL (+1)
12Michael Hutchinson, WPG (SAME)27Alex Stalock, SJS (+1)
13Jonathan Quick, LAK (SAME)28Carter Hutton, NSH (+1)
14Craig Anderson, OTT (SAME)29Curtis McElhinney, CBJ (NEW)
15Semyon Varlamov, COL (SAME)30Anton Khudobin, CAR (SAME)

Key injuries: Pekka Rinne, Sergei Bobrovsky, Jimmy Howard, Martin Jones, Jonas Gustavsson, Karri Ramo, Michal Neuvirth


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