Saturday, February 21, 2015

Kane sees Sabres as 'headed in the right direction'

BUFFALO -- Forward Evander Kane was formally introduced as a member of the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday and said he's ready to move on to this opportunity.

"It's definitely exciting to be here and meet the guys and see the city a little bit," Kane said at First Niagara Center. "The facility that they have here, it's pretty phenomenal. My excitement was definitely met since first coming here."

The Sabres acquired Kane on Feb. 11, with defenseman Zach Bogosian, from the Winnipeg Jets in a trade for defenseman Tyler Myers, forward Drew Stafford, forward prospects forwards Joel Armia and Brendan Lemieux, and a first-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft.

Forward Evander Kane was formally introduced as a member of the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday and said he's ready to move on to this opportunity.

Kane played six seasons for Winnipeg. He was traded amid reports of discord with teammates and after season-ending surgery on a torn labrum in his left shoulder.

"Obviously it was a situation that was … unique and, I guess, fun for some people," Kane said. "But sometimes you need a fresh start. Like I said, I was playing hurt with a majority of injuries through the course of the season. It just took a toll. It was time to get surgery done.

"[It was] fun for the media, not fun for others. It's part of the business and not something that really bothers me too much."

Kane had surgery Feb. 7 with 4-6 months of recovery expected. His left arm was in a sling Saturday.

"The surgery was a little more complicated than they thought it was," Kane said. "There's a hole actually in my shoulder as well. But everything is fixed and good to go now. I'm looking forward to getting healthy again for sure."

Kane joins the Sabres in the middle of a rebuild, but one that will be accelerated by the addition of him, Bogosian, and a top pick in the 2015 draft. The Sabres (17-38-4) are last in the NHL with 38 points.

"No team wants to be in this position. No organization wants to be in this position," Kane said. "I think they're doing everything they can to turn it around. As players, you're not trying to finish in last place, you're not trying to lose hockey games. I think everybody has that hunger to get better."

The Sabres have forwards Tyler Ennis and Zemgus Girgensons, who have emerged as leaders up front, and defensemen Nikita Zadorov and Rasmus Ristolainen, who have earned spots as everyday NHL players. The Sabres also have forward Sam Reinhart, the second pick of the 2014 NHL Draft, and could wind up with either highly touted forward Connor McDavid or forward Jack Eichel this June.

"I think they're headed in the right direction," Kane said. "They have a lot of good, young prospects. Getting a top pick will obviously speed that up. I don't think they're going to be sitting around trying to wait years and years and years to rebuild this thing. I think they're trying to do it as soon as possible, and obviously when players get better, that also helps too. Hopefully we'll all get better."

Kane, 23, said he will rehabilitate his shoulder at home in Vancouver, stick to the plans laid out by his doctors, and be ready for training camp in September.

"Winnipeg is a very small town, but it's a big hockey market," Kane said. "It's a little tougher than Vancouver or Toronto where you maybe get away a little bit. It's a fishbowl. Being a Winnipeg Jet was something that everybody knew who you were and they always want to talk to you, which is great, and that was one of the things you definitely enjoy. But … negative things can take a toll a little bit.

"I'm happy to be a Buffalo Sabre and I'm looking forward to meeting the fans and all the people here."

Director of 'Red Army' delves inside Soviet hockey legends

In North America, the hockey teams that once represented the former Soviet Union have long had a reputation: Robotic. Emotionless. Dominant.

Westerners have long respected the former Soviet Union's national teams as some of the most prolific in hockey history. Yet despite the esteem in which Soviet hockey is widely held, many Westerners still are not sure how to feel about those teams. In the end, the prevalent feeling in the West was that the Soviet teams were hyper-efficient, machine-like units, but that at the end of the day they could never equal the heart and desire shown by the U.S. Miracle on Ice team at the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics or the grit displayed by Canada in the 1972 Summit Series.

Director Gabe Polsky's documentary "Red Army" places a magnifying glass over Soviet hockey's most-storied figures, using archival footage and thorough exclusive interviews to delve inside the psyche of the men and teams that made the Soviets legends.

A 35-year-old former Yale hockey player whose Ukrainian-immigrant parents raised him in Chicago, Polsky recently discussed "Red Army" with

'Red Army' spotlights iconic Russian team

By Evan Sporer - Staff Writer

The documentary 'Red Army' traces the roots of one of the most dominant teams in Russian hockey history. The documentary has hit theatres in New York and Los Angeles, and has been shown at several film festivals. Director Gabe Polsky said it was the first movie about hockey to be shown at the Cannes Film Festival. READ MORE ›

Q: What was your motivation for making this documentary?

A: My parents are from the former Soviet Union. So I kind of have that background, and was a serious hockey player [at Yale]. When I was 13, I had a coach from the former Soviet Union in the United States, which was also a coincidence.

Then when I was 15, I got a VHS tape of the 1987 Canada Cup, where the Soviets were playing the best players in Canada. It was really eye-opening for me. I kind of describe it as a religious experience because the creativity that I saw on the ice was like a cultural experience.

It made a major impression on me and had me curious in my own heritage, my background and my roots. It brought me to the story that where hockey was a window into the story of the Soviet Union, the people and how they lived. In a way, it's a story about Russia and its relationship to the West in both the past and the present.

Q: You conducted some incredible interviews and show some amazing footage. What was the process of putting all of this together like?

A: I had a family contact with Vladislav Tretiak, one of the greatest goalies ever. He was having a birthday party in Russia, and I basically had to decide very quickly to go there. Ultimately, I went out there with a crew to see what I could get. Then one [former] player led to another.

Q: You conduct many interviews, but Slava Fetisov, without doubt, ended up emerging as the central figure. Was it difficult getting him to talk to you?

A: It was nearly impossible. He kept declining to get interviewed until the final day I was in Russia. I was about to go home and I got a call from him that said he would meet with me for 15 minutes. He met with me, never checked his watch and that interview lasted five hours. He said that he had opened up in a way that he had never opened up about this.

Q: In many ways, "Red Army" chronicles Fetisov's many successes and struggles, both professional and personal. What did you learn about Fetisov that you never knew before?

A: I felt that almost everything he said was eye-opening, both about how they lived and what they were and were not allowed to do. Maybe, initially, I thought that he, for sure, [had always] wanted to play in the NHL, like that was the end-all, be-all for him. But when talking to him, you realize that he didn't feel like he ever needed to play in the NHL.

Q: Fetisov's Russian patriotism shines through in your documentary. However, Fetisov and other members of the Russian Five, their children were mostly born and raised in the U.S. In fact, Fetisov's daughter interned in the U.S. Congress. How do these former stars negotiate their own Russian heritage with their families' current lives?

A: It's strange, right? These guys are like the heroes of Russia and the Soviet Union, and yet their children couldn't be more American. It just shows where you're born in the culture you're raised in, it really is ingrained inside of you.

I'm the same way. My parents are from the former Soviet Union, and they didn't like it there. You couldn't pay them a million dollars to live in Russia. Yet they have many Russian friends.

With Fetisov, he's very different than his daughter. I think his daughter would consider herself a true American. I hope I'm not speaking for her, but she relates to the culture, people and traditions and whole value system of America. But because Fetisov grew up there [in Russia], that's what he knows and relates to.

There's a common bond of what they had been through. You can never lose that. You always have that bond. It's not the system; it's the people that you care about. That will never leave you.

Q: If Fetisov is the hero of "Red Army," former coach Viktor Tikhonov is the antagonist. Before he passed away last fall, he declined to be interviewed for the movie. How did your dealings with Tikhonov go?

A: I got his phone number from somebody. I called him five or six times. He just said that he wasn't interested, didn't want to be a part of it and to stop calling him. He was pretty aggressive in how he said no. I read in the press that he didn't think an American could tell this story.

Q: Despite their many victories that you chronicle, in the U.S., Soviet hockey teams are often predominantly identified as "the team that lost" at the 1980 Olympics. Why do you think many Americans view the Soviets more for their one loss than their many victories?

A: Any country is going to focus on their victories. The Soviet Union did, too, but [their propaganda] was just way less subtle than [the subtle propaganda] in the U.S. I think that nobody is going to sit there and talk about how bad the U.S. did in '84 and '88 and all the rest of the Olympics, because nobody [in the U.S.] wants to hear that. In the U.S., we want to be optimistic, so we focus on this 1980 thing. It's selective memory sometimes.

Q: Lastly, the movie has already been screened in Moscow. It will be fully released in Russia in April. How do you think the movie will be received there?

A: To keep a long story short, it got a standing ovation for like 15 minutes [during the screening in Moscow]. It was emotional. It was very bittersweet for people because although it shows the past, it creates a sense of nostalgia, and what the experience was like for them. I think they felt it was authentic. It's not pro-Russia or pro-Soviet; I think it's just an honest portrayal and the people saw that. I think it will be embraced there.

'Red Army' film focused on legendary Russian team

Gabe Polsky grew up in the United States a child of parents from the former Soviet Union. He said his family's history and his heritage never really interested him for the most part, but one thing that did catch his attention was his hockey coach at age 13, also from the Soviet Union.

"It was kind of eye-opening, the style of play that he taught and the school of hockey he taught," Polsky told "It was really encouraging of creativity, and all these unusual training methods.

"[Anatoli] Tarasov's sort of school of hockey."

Polsky went on to play college hockey at Yale before entering a career in filmmaking. And it's that upbringing, one that combined a passion for hockey with a developed curiosity in Russian and Soviet culture, which led him to direct the documentary "Red Army," which explores one of hockey's most dominant international teams.

Tarasov was the architect of Red Army, a hockey program he was tasked with creating after World War II. Using unique playing and practice methods, Tarasov helped pave the way for years of dominant Soviet play. He's also credited with the style many Russians incorporate to this day.

"Then I did more research, I became a filmmaker, and I wanted to know more about the story of the Soviet Union and the hockey team," Polsky said. "And I realized the story of the team was really a kind of a reflection of Soviet society and Russian people, and sort of the Soviet experience.

"Really I could tell a huge story by examining this hockey team and its experience."

The documentary has hit theatres in New York and Los Angeles, and has been shown at several film festivals. Polsky said it was the first movie about hockey to be shown at the Cannes Film Festival.

"It was exciting and emotional for me because it's the story of Russia, and I wanted the people to feel like it was truthful and it had soul and heart," Polsky said of the documentary's debut in Moscow. "It was great.

"People have really embraced this film because it goes way beyond hockey. And it's an emotional film and it's a great story that's unique and dramatic and very unusual. People are entertained by it and kind of learn a lot from this film."

Much of the documentary focuses around Viacheslav "Slava" Fetisov, one of the premiere players and a Red Army captain. Polsky said his original plan wasn't to tell the story through Fetisov, and it almost never happened.

"I wasn't even going to get Slava because he didn't want to do it," Polsky said. "I had called him many times and he just wasn't really interested. But for some reason he agreed to meet with me for 15 minutes, and then it turned into a 5-hour interview.

"He liked me and I needed to interview him again and he kept interviewing with me."

Many American hockey fans associate the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics with the Miracle on Ice, when the United States defeated the heavily favored Soviet Union and went on to win the gold medal.

But for international fans, the story is quite different. The 1980 Olympics ended a streak of four consecutive gold medals for the Soviets, but they came back to win gold in 1984 and 1988. The silver medal in 1980 is not omitted, but only part of the larger Soviet story which Polsky's documentary attempts to tell.

"First of all these are guys that I watched a lot on VHS tapes and I admired what they did for the sport," Polsky said. "I had a level of respect, but really my goal was to get deep into their soul and kind of who they are and what they believe in and what their experience was so the audience can connect to them on a very human level.

"They're all very different kind of people, but I was just professional about it. I just wanted to get deep inside and that was my goal."


Friday, February 20, 2015

Kings on a roll entering Stadium Series game

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- It was only two weeks ago that the Los Angeles Kings were stuck in a rut so deep that for the first time in what has been an inconsistent season, people were wondering out loud if last season's Stanley Cup champions would give themselves a chance to defend their title.

The Kings had lost three in a row and 12 of their previous 15 games (3-7-5). They were behind the Colorado Avalanche, Minnesota Wild and Dallas Stars in the Western Conference standings -- and none of those teams was in a Stanley Cup Playoff position.

They were also in a rut right around the 50-game mark last season, but they never fell out of playoff position. The Kings went 15-6-2 after the Olympic break.

"We never really panicked," defenseman Drew Doughty said.

Instead they did what they always do -- they turned it around, just as they did last season and just as they did in the 2011-12 season, when they finished as the eighth seed in the Western Conference but needed only 20 games to win their first Stanley Cup.

The Kings ride a six-game winning streak into the 2015 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series game on Saturday at Levi's Stadium against the San Jose Sharks (10 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, TVA2). They have, as defenseman Jake Muzzin said, started to beat teams by playing their style, one that's typically devoid of defensive zone turnovers and mental mistakes, issues that plagued the Kings earlier in the season.

"There were some games that we got beat, but there were some games that we really shot ourselves in the foot with bad turnovers, bad giveaways, you name it," center Anze Kopitar said. "Now it seems like we've been managing the puck a lot better and the goals against are cut down. That's where we want to go."

The Kings have allowed 11 goals in their six wins, but just four in their past three. They have scored 23 goals. Their power play is only 1-for-15, but they're even on special teams because their penalty kill is 12-for-13.

Goalie Jonathan Quick, who made 42 saves in a 4-1 win against the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday, has a .927 save percentage (12 goals allowed on 166 shots). His save percentage for the season is .912; it was .909 before the winning streak started.

In addition, the Kings have a red-hot line with Jeff Carter, Dwight King and Tyler Toffoli -- "That New 70s Line" -- contributing 26 points on 13 goals and 13 assists in the six games. King has a career-high five-game point streak.

"Things started to click," Kopitar said.

Part of that has to do with emotion.

Captain Dustin Brown complained after a 4-0 loss at the Washington Capitals on Feb. 4 that the team was lacking emotion, and that certain players who needed to bring it were not bringing it. Brown didn't name names, but he didn't have to. He could have named anybody and it would have been legitimate.

The Kings looked dead. They've since sprung to life in part because they are doing the right things and in part because they have raised their level of will and buy-in during games.

"I think we're playing more desperate," Doughty said. "That's definitely apparent so I guess our emotion has gone up, which is making a difference for us. We all care a lot. We all want to be winners. We all want to try to stay on top. I don't think we lose emotion, we just have to bring it out."

They still have to. The Kings have only gotten back in the race; they're not back in a playoff position just yet. They will be with a win on Saturday.

A lot can happen in two weeks.

"What I meant by emotion is if you have all the right Xs and Os and you don't have any emotion, it's hard to win," Brown said. "You need the Xs and Os and the smart play along with the emotion. I think both have gotten better. As a result we've found ways to win games, but we need to continue to win because we really haven't done a whole lot yet."


Like Sharks, Hertl having up-and-down season

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- For San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan and forward Tomas Hertl, it's a simple formula when it comes to usage.

Tomas Hertl

Center - SJS

GOALS: 10 | ASST: 14 | PTS: 24

SOG: 100 | +/-: -3

When Hertl skates the way he's capable of skating, he gets to play center, where he's most comfortable. When Hertl doesn't move the way McLellan knows he can, he's pushed to the wing and the Sharks lose the depth they need in the middle to compete in the Western Conference.

The problem is Hertl has been pushed to the wing, or even the fourth line, too often this season because he hasn't delivered the way McLellan knows he can.

"This season, I've had too much up and down," Hertl said.

The Sharks, coincidentally, have as well. They've been one of the most inconsistent teams in the NHL.

Hertl has 24 points (10 goals) in 60 games. He had 25 points (15 goals) in 35 games before he sustained a serious knee injury last season.

The Sharks have 68 points in 60 games, two more points in three more games than the Los Angeles Kings, their opponent Saturday in the 2015 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series game at Levi's Stadium (10 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports 2).

"Ultimately, when it's all said and done, I think he's going to be a centerman and I think he's going to be a heck of a centerman, but like Tomas' game all year, his play has been inconsistent regardless of where we play him," McLellan told "He's had some tremendous nights in the middle and then some other nights when you put him back on the wing and he's more comfortable there.

"So I do think he's working and we're trying to work him into that center-ice position over time, but he's still adapting to it."

McLellan said he thinks part of Hertl's inconsistencies this season trace back to the knee injury he sustained last season.

Hertl was injured Dec. 19, 2013, against the Kings, and then returned to play the final two games of the 2013-14 regular season. He had five points in seven games against the Kings in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"He had a serious knee injury, recovered from it and got hurt again at the World Championship, so he didn't get the summer [of training] in that he needed and was behind the eight ball," McLellan said. "He's been playing catchup for almost the whole season."

Hertl, though, said he doesn't think his knee has been as big of a problem as McLellan let on.

"I don't think it's trouble," he said.

Hertl instead said he thinks his subpar statistics and inconsistent play are a result of pressure, both internal and external. He admitted to being burdened by it.

"I had 15 goals last season after 35 games, and now I have just 10, so it's easy to say, 'What is [going] wrong to have just 10 goals after 60 games?'" Hertl said.

McLellan said Hertl has been a victim of expectations, particularly because of how good he was at the start of last season. He led the NHL with seven goals through five games, including four against the New York Rangers on Oct. 8, 2013, in his third career game.

"So in the other 32 games he wasn't that prolific of a scorer, yet the hype and excitement and whatnot was there for him, so expectations went through the roof," McLellan said. "We have to remember that he still was a rookie, he only played 37 games last season. It's a tough league, it's hard to score in, especially for a young guy. He wasn't going to keep that pace up, but yet expectations were up."

Hertl, who likely will start as the Sharks' third-line left wing Saturday, said he feels his game is starting to come around now. He said he felt particularly strong the past two games, including Thursday, when he had two assists in a 5-2 win against the Dallas Stars.

Hertl was held off the scoresheet the previous five games, and the Sharks went 1-3-1. He has been held without a point in 26 of the past 33 games; the Sharks have won 17 of those games, including four of the games in which Hertl has produced.

"I just now try to play and play hard, and hopefully it's coming now because we need some goals from everybody because we need wins," Hertl said. "It's still almost my first season, just over 90 games. I'm still learning, but now it's time to play my best hockey."

If he does, and he skates well, two things that go hand in hand with Hertl, he'll get to move back to the middle. That's good for the Sharks too.


Sharks enjoy Stadium Series practice, ready for Kings

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- As San Jose Sharks forward Tommy Wingels came out of the south tunnel Friday afternoon at massive Levi's Stadium and walked toward the rink for practice, he was hit by a wave of emotion.

"Just kind of some shock and awe of how cool this experience is going to be," Wingels said. "We've all watched and hoped to play in one of these games, and I think from the moment we were announced to host a game, we've had a lot of thoughts and countdowns to tomorrow. So to go out there today and get all the jitters out, to really enjoy the experience with our friends and family, it's really cool. It's something I'll remember for my whole life."

The Sharks soaked up the atmosphere at Levi's Stadium on the eve of their game Saturday against the Los Angeles Kings in the 2015 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports 2). During a high-energy practice, they prepared to play their most bitter rival but also familiarized themselves with the surroundings at the 69,000-seat stadium and with the rink, which was built for the outdoor game.

"You see it's big. It's really big out there," Sharks center Joe Pavelski said of the San Francisco 49ers' new home. "And then you've got the ice surface. It's awesome. It really is. You're excited to get out and skate around, get used to it.

"It was awesome practicing out there. It was light, it was fun. You find the energy's there just by being out there and the excitement and everyone running around. It was a cool buzz, and it will be fun to play tomorrow."

The Sharks began practice at 3:30 p.m. PT on a warm day with the sun still hitting part of the rink before it dropped behind the west side of the stadium.

With a 7 p.m. local start Saturday, the temperature will be cooler and the sun will be fully set, allowing the ice to be in the best possible condition.

Sharks defenseman Scott Hannan said he had no complaints, especially after playing an outdoor game three seasons ago with the Washington Capitals against the Pittsburgh Penguins on a drizzly night at Heinz Field.

"It was colder but it rained," Hannan said. "So the conditions were different. You just have to be expecting a bad bounce, the puck to bounce a little bit more, maybe to stick. You got to expect kind of the unexpected out there, maybe the tough bounce or something that can make or break it in the game."

Forward Logan Couture said he's been watching the NHL's outdoor games for years.

"Ever since I came in this league, we always wanted to play in a game like this," he said. "To get the opportunity is pretty cool, especially a home game in a brand new football stadium, which is beautiful. Seventy-thousand people, hopefully. It's going to be wicked."

Couture is the Sharks' poster boy for the game; there is a huge picture of him on an outer wall of the stadium, as well on the side of the truck that brought the NHL's refrigeration unit from Toronto.

"It's cool," Couture said. "I actually saw it first on Twitter. I had no idea that was going to happen, but pretty cool. Kind of a surreal thing."

Sharks forward Matt Nieto said he played some outdoor games in minor hockey in Quebec, but never at a venue like Levi's Stadium.

"Just looking up in the stands, there's a lot of seats," Nieto said. "It will be pretty crazy. Definitely the biggest attendance a lot of us have played in front of. It's just going to be a great experience."

The Sharks had lost two straight games and had fallen out of playoff position before defeating the Dallas Stars 5-2 on Thursday. Ending their skid and jumping the Kings for the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference made it easier to enjoy the practice and family skate that followed Friday.

"When we woke up we felt a little better about ourselves and we could enjoy the day without a loss on our minds," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "Right now, that's important for us."

Long before practice began, McLellan hiked to the top row at Levi's Stadium and took in the entire scene, from the rink far below to the San Francisco Bay in the distance.

"It was remarkable," McLellan said.

New stats on provide wealth of insight

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Hockey debates have been about feel as much as fact for much of their history. But that is changing.

Is Drew Doughty or Duncan Keith more valuable to his team? Is Wayne Gretzky or Gordie Howe the best player in hockey history? Where do Mario Lemieux or Sidney Crosby fit into that discussion? How do the career statistics of Steven Stamkos compare to other Canadian centers who are 6-foot-1 or taller and born in the 1990s?

Help is on the way. The new statistics page ( debuted a wealth of information and tools Friday on an enhanced stats page. But even more data is coming, which will aid in any debate or answer any question regardless of era.

"It's going from walking to riding a rocket," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said Friday of the jump the League has taken in the depth of stats it introduced Friday and plans to add in the future.

The NHL, in conjunction with SAP, debuted Phase 1 of a four-phase statistical initiative geared toward taking fans deeper into the game than ever before. The League is planning to have the final three phases in place in time for the 2016-17 season, the NHL's Centennial Celebration.

Phase 1 is the updated stats home page, which now features various enhanced statistics including shot attempts for, shot attempts against, unblocked shot attempts for, unblocked shot attempts against, goals per 20 minutes, goals per 60 minutes, and zone starts. But Phase 1 only scratches the surface of what the NHL has in store.

In time for the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the League plans to integrate Phase 2, which includes advanced filtering and visualization tools, and data-driven analysis of every series and game of the playoffs to allow users to determine the advantages for each team in any given matchup.

Prior to the start of the 2015-16 season, the League plans to incorporate Phase 3, which involves new metrics and visualization tools, and active player-comparison and performance-prediction tools.

To coincide with the NHL's Centennial Celebration, the League will have a complete historical database on which will feature the boxscore from every game in League history. That's Phase 4.

"If you had to boil this down to one word, I think it's 'more,'" Commissioner Bettman said. "It's more data, more precise, with more speed. That's just our way of doing all of this better."

In addition, the NHL is working with the NHL Players' Association and Sportvision to potentially incorporate player- and puck-tracking to provide the most accurate measurements for ice time, speed of players, speed of the puck, and distance of shots.

The NHL tested player- and puck-tracking at the 2015 Honda NHL All-Star Game in January through the use of tracking chips inside pucks and a tracking device that slid inside the back of a player's jerseys that interacted with infrared cameras placed throughout the arena.

"We're working with the Players' Association to get to the point where it's not going to be judgmental; we're going to have hard data with respect to all player and puck movement," Commissioner Bettman said. "That is something we're going to be able to integrate into what SAP is doing with us."

The visualization and filtering tools are the keys to Phase 2. Users on will soon be able to compare players in a multitude of statistics, and dissect the stats available in a variety of ways.

"You can even do any search that you can possibly come up with," NHL director of digital business development Chris Foster said. "So you can do most time on ice, last five seasons, just Western Conference players, just defenseman, just players that were born in Canada, Ontario, who are 6-foot-1 or above. It gives a personal aspect that fans and writers and members of broadcast teams can do any research they want, answer any question that they have, and really get better insights."

Foster said the data-driven analysis for the playoffs uses an algorithm that takes into account real-time data and analyzes it in a head-to-head format to better predict who has the edge in a series or game.

"What technology is allowing us to do is slow the game down and help explain how fast the game is, how skilled the athletes are, talk about the strategy of the game in ways that frankly our game doesn't allow because it is so fast-paced," NHL chief operating officer John Collins said.

Phase 3 will bring more innovative visualizations including charts and graphs to the stats page, and Foster said the League will be mining for more data to decipher what new metrics can be measured. A key component of Phase 3 will be based on head-to-head comparisons.

"What if you can look at save percentage over the course of a season across three different players, but let's not stop there?" said Anthony Jakubiak, SAP's lead designer. "Let's see how a particular player compares against the rest of the League. How does his save percentage compare against the Red Wings or the Canadiens? It's giving a wealth of tools to fans to take situational analysis into their own hands so they can see how their player or team is doing against a specific team or a specific player."

Phase 4 has been in the works for five years as employees in the NHL's Toronto office have been digitizing and entering into the League's database the handwritten game sheets dating to 1917.

"Fans will be able to compare great players across the generation, from Jean Beliveau to Wayne Gretzky to Sidney Crosby," Commissioner Bettman said. "We can bring a new dimension to the great players of today and compare them to the greats of yesterday.

"Fans can have a truly interactive experience and we'll provide them with countless search tools."


Primer: Get to know new enhanced stats on

With many new statistics now on after the League announced a partnership with enterprise software company SAP, the following is a primer on how some of them came into existence, what they mean, how they're applied, and why they're important.


Puck possession has always been important in hockey, but analysts have proven how valuable it can be. Shot attempts are the best proxy for understanding and quantifying puck possession.

The idea for quantifying puck possession through shot attempts originally came from Tim Barnes, who posted his work online under the pseudonym Vic Ferrari. Barnes, who now works for the Washington Capitals, coined the term "Corsi," naming the stat after Buffalo Sabres goaltending coach Jim Corsi.

A shot attempt is counted any time a player tries to shoot the puck. They are counted as a shot on goal, blocked shot or missed shot. By adding those three types of a shot together, you have the number of shot attempts.

Comparing the number of shot attempts for and against a team helps determine which teams are best at controlling the puck. This metric can be applied to individual players, based on the team's shot attempts for and against while the player is on the ice. These statistics are typically used in even-strength situations because the majority of a game is played at even strength, and it affords the best indicator of how players or teams perform on a regular basis.

This can be expressed as raw shot attempts for and against totals, as a whole number differential where the calculation is shots attempts for minus shot attempts against, or a percentage where the calculation is shot attempts for divided by total shot attempts for both teams.

Take the 2013-14 Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings, for example. The Kings were credited with 3,888 shot attempts while allowing 2,957 in even-strength situations during the regular season. This gave them a shot attempts differential of plus-931, and a shot attempts percentage of 56.8 percent, which was the best in the NHL.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, no team had a lower shot attempts percentage last season than the Toronto Maple Leafs (42.9 percent, which was derived from 4,323 shot attempts against and 3,259 shot attempts for). Their shot attempts differential was negative-1,064.

There's a strong correlation between shot attempts percentage and winning hockey games. Which team has the most shot attempts might not be a deciding factor on any given night, but teams that control puck possession the best have a higher probability of future success.

On an individual level, the process is virtually the same. There can be good possession players on a bad possession team. One of the chief examples is defenseman Mark Giordano of the Calgary Flames. The Flames finished 27th during the 2013-14 season in shot attempts percentage (46.3), but Giordano's SAT% was 53.4. That means when Giordano was on the ice, Calgary controlled more than 53 percent of all shots attempted.


This is very similar to shot attempts, but with one caveat: Blocked shots are not counted. Shot attempts are three types of shots (shots on goal, missed shots and blocked shots), and unblocked shot attempts are two types of shots (shots on goal and missed shots).

The concept, which was first developed by former Battle of Alberta blogger Matt Fenwick, is based on considering blocked shots to be a skill, and not as random from team-to-team as other events on the ice.

All of the same ways that shot attempts can be quantified (as a raw total, as a whole number differential, or as a percentage) remain the same and the calculations are the same.

Shot attempts percentage and unblocked shot attempts percentage are usually pretty similar, but differences between the two can illustrate which teams are better at blocking shots at their end of the ice and avoiding having their shots blocked at the opponents' end.

The Ottawa Senators were seventh in shots attempted percentage last season, but 11th in unblocked shots attempted percentage. The San Jose Sharks were fifth in shots attempted percentage but third in unblocked shots attempted percentage.


"Puck luck" is a term that's used with ambiguity in hockey, but by adding on-ice shooting percentage and on-ice save percentage (SPSV%, also known as PDO) it gives us a statistic that measures that concept. The idea was developed by Brian King, who began using it in comments on Barnes' blog under the username PDO.

On-ice shooting percentage and on-ice save percentage are a team's shooting percentage and save percentage. At the team level, that is simple. At the player level, it is the team's shooting and save percentage when a certain player is on the ice.

An average SPSV% for a team or player is expected to be 1000. If a team saves 92.5 percent of the shots it faces and scores on 8.2 percent of the shots it takes, that equals a SPSV% of 100.7, which will be expressed on as 1007.

If the number is above 1000, it means the team or player is going through somewhat of a lucky stretch and is likely to regress. Likewise, any team or player below 1000 is likely to see an uptick to push that number toward the mean.

In large sample sizes, SPSV% can help weed out teams that may be over or underperforming. The 2013-14 Colorado Avalanche were a good example. Colorado finished first in the Pacific Division despite finishing 25th in shot attempts percentage (46.9). One of the major factors in was the team's SPSV%, which was third-highest in the League at 1018.

Over a longer stretch of hockey, the Avalanche would have expected to see that number slide closer to 1000, meaning more goals allowed, or fewer goals scored. This season, the Avalanche are still preventing goals well, but the offense has dried up and they are outside the Stanley Cup Playoff picture.

Some teams, like the Boston Bruins, have been able to sustain a higher SPSV% over time with strong goaltending across multiple seasons, but for the most part teams hover around the 1000 mark.

The same concept can be applied to players. How did Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin, who scored 27 even-strength goals, finish with a minus-35 plus-minus rating in 2013-14? Ovechkin had the fifth-lowest SPSV% last season among skaters who played at least 1,000 minutes, according to, at 96.5 percent.

Part of what contributed to Ovechkin's terrible plus-minus was, despite scoring on 8.97 percent of his own shots, the Capitals scored on 5.84 percent of shots overall when Ovechkin was on the ice, an incredibly low number.

When Ovechkin was on the ice, his teammates' inability to find the back of the net caused his SPSV% to dip dramatically. It's a trend no one should have expected to continue over a longer stretch of games. Sure enough, Ovechkin's SPSV% this season is 99.7, and his plus-minus is plus-11, perhaps not completely by coincidence.


A coach is unable to choose which players he sends out for a faceoff after his team ices the puck, but there are plenty of other situations when he makes those decisions. And who a coach chooses to deploy in certain situations can offer insight about strategy or willingness to trust a player's defensive acumen.

Bruins center Patrice Bergeron is a great example for this concept. A two-time Selke Trophy winner as a forward who best demonstrates skill in the defensive component of the game, Bergeron is a shutdown player.

Last season, he was put on the ice in the defensive zone for 33.8 percent of his shifts that started with a faceoff. This was tied for the 23rd-highest number among forwards. What's most impressive about Bergeron is pairing this information with his shot attempts percentage, which was highest among NHL forwards at 61.2.

Players who start more shifts in the defensive zone are not expected to help their team dominate the puck possession battle, but someone like Bergeron who can is incredibly valuable. There are forwards who fall on the other end of the spectrum, either because of a lack of defensive accountability or because of their individual or team's offensive prowess.

Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks was second among forwards in the League last season, with 44.4 percent offensive zone starts. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville likes to place his best offensive players in offensive situations, and uses the team's fourth line to soak up as many of the defensive-zone faceoffs as possible. Teams like the Blackhawks and Kings also earn more offensive faceoffs because of their puck possession prowess.


A majority of these statistics are viewed primarily in even-strength situations; there are other modifying terms and filters used to gain a further understanding of certain areas of the game. One of these concepts is a "relative" statistic; in this example, shot attempts relative (formerly known as CorsiRel). What this statistic shows is how a player is performing relative to his team's average.

Giordano again is a great example, and many people will point to this variation when trying to illustrate how a player is capable of driving possession despite being on a bad possession team. Last season, the Flames conceded 527 more shot attempts than they took, according to But when Giordano was on the ice, the Flames had 131 more shot attempts, meaning when Giordano was on the ice, the Flames were 10.1 percent better with Giordano than without him.

Other modifiers for statistics relate to score situations. Hockey games aren't played the same way across 60 minutes. When the score begins to change, teams intentionally or unintentionally adopt different strategies.

When ahead, a team may play a more conservative game, leading to fewer shot attempts, opposed to when a team falls behind it may play more aggressively. The four different score situations are even (tie game), ahead (team is leading), behind (team is trailing), or close (within a goal during the first two periods, or tied in the third).

Going off the idea that when a game is tied or close is likely when teams will play at a level consistent with their true ability, many people feel observing games in those score situations offers the best indicator of how well a team is actually playing. Last season, the Kings led the League in shot attempts for percentage in score-close situations at 57.3 percent.


Much like different players are deployed in different situations based on defensive accountability and strategy, players also receive different amounts of ice time. By using rate statistics, we can view skaters on a level playing field and compare them based on the same criteria.

By taking something like goals scored, and then adjusting it to goals scored per 60 minutes of ice time (G/60), this can strip out an advantage one player might have from receiving more playing time.

Though Rick Nash of the New York Rangers didn't finish in the top 40 in goals scored last season, he ranked fifth in even-strength goals per 60. Nash missed time last season because of an injury, playing 65 games, but was one of the most efficient even-strength goal scorers when he was on the ice.

This season, Nash leads skaters in even-strength G/60 by a wide margin and is in contention for the Rocket Richard Trophy. The second name on that list, rookie Mike Hoffman of the Ottawa Senators, might surprise some people.


NHL, SAP partnership to lead statistical revolution

The NHL announced a partnership Friday with enterprise software company SAP, which will transform the way hockey fans consume data across multiple platforms, including the League's numerous outlets.

This partnership begins with a redesigned statistics page on and the introduction of advanced stats on the website, but it will expand to improve the fan experience on television broadcasts and in NHL arenas as future phases of the project are introduced.

"Hockey is extremely fast-paced with very little stoppage in play, which results in many aspects of the game failing to show up in the box score," NHL Chief Operating Officer John Collins said. "In partnering with SAP and using its best-in-class SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud service, we are now able to capture data points like never before and present existing and new statistics in a visually appealing way.

"The new NHL stats platform goes beyond data to offer insights that will help avid fans go deeper and help casual fans understand the game better. There are also unlimited storytelling opportunities as we provide our fans with a personalized and interactive experience."

The first phase of this partnership debuted Friday. Shot attempts, also known as Corsi, and unblocked shot attempts, also known as Fenwick, have been staples of the advanced-statistics community and are now, along with dozens of variations, on

Other new statistics include penalties drawn and penalties taken, primary and secondary assists, and zone starts. Another advanced metric is SPSV%, also known as PDO, which is combined on-ice shooting percentage and on-ice save percentage and is used as a measure of good fortune enjoyed by an individual player or team.

Part of the initial phase includes the decision to use different names for the statistics that have been known as Corsi, Fenwick and PDO.

"We feel that with the new site that there's going to be a whole population of fans who are not familiar with these analytics," said Chris Foster, director of digital business development for the NHL. "We just felt that the names Corsi and Fenwick and PDO, while it is great that analysts have used them and brought them to life, really in our opinion the names aren't self-explanatory. With any other stat like that, the acronym or the definition tells you what the calculation is and what we're looking for."

The second phase, expected to launch by the start of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs in April, will include new ways to visualize all of the data on the website. It will feature advanced filtering, which will make it possible to sort and aggregate data from individual games or across multiple seasons.

It will include a playoff series prediction tool, which will be featured as part of the Stanley Cup Playoffs Bracket Challenge.

"The idea is we're taking a whole bunch of factors -- I think the final model has 37 factors -- and we're predicting the probability of a playoff win," said Eric Blabac, senior research scientist for SAP. "We're taking a game and giving a win probability to either team. That's based on a lot of regular-season factors, along with in-series factors that change within it, like are the teams home/away, how many time zones are they traveling, what are they doing the last five games, the last 15 games, things like that."

The third phase, expected to launch by the start of the 2015-16 NHL season in October, will include new metrics developed by SAP. A final phase will include the digitization of historical stats all the way back to League's inception in 1917 and a spoken-language search function.

All of these features, and the HANA database, will lay the foundation for another phase in the evolution of hockey statistics. Eventually, the hope is to have incredible amounts of data to mine from a system of tracking individual players as well as the movement of the puck. The NHL tested such a system with Sportvision during 2015 NHL All-Star weekend.

"I feel like what's happening on Friday is table stakes," Collins said. "We're kind of there now. People will say, 'All right, the League is waking up. The League is embracing the opportunity that has been there and the void that has been identified for a long time.' We're just there now at an acceptable level. I think the potential is limitless. The potential to use the stats to let people connect better with their favorite players and teams, to better understand the strategy of the game, the ability to see more broadly trends across the League.

"Then hopefully we get to the tracking, which is the fire hose of data. These tools in talented storytellers' hands are going to lead to some great stories. I'm excited to see how good and how far this technology revolution takes the game. I think it is one of the bigger, best things we've done since I've been here, and I think we've done a lot of good things."

Schneider-Horvat trade worked for Devils, Canucks

NEWARK, N.J. -- Bo Horvat had no idea the Vancouver Canucks had their sights set on him when the Canucks acquired the ninth pick of the 2013 NHL Draft from the New Jersey Devils in exchange for goaltender Cory Schneider.

Even though Schneider was the more experienced player in the trade, he and Horvat will be linked as a result of that draft-day transaction.

"I would like to hope that they traded me for another good player," Schneider said. "The Canucks had an area of surplus with goaltending at the time and New Jersey had a need. I'm sure it will be linked but it was a hockey trade that works out for both teams.

"In the end I think both sides will say they were pretty happy with the deal."

Bo Horvat

Center - VAN

GOALS: 8 | ASST: 9 | PTS: 17

SOG: 40 | +/-: -3

The 6-foot, 206-pound left-handed shooting Horvat is grateful to have an opportunity in Vancouver as a 19-year-old.

Horvat will get his second chance to play against Schneider when the Canucks visit the Devils at Prudential Center on Friday. In the earlier meeting Horvat had one shot on goal and one hit in a 2-0 victory at Rogers Arena on Nov. 25, 2014.

"I actually had no idea where I was going to go in the draft or what would happen," Horvat said. "As soon as that trade happened I was in shock a little bit and I didn't know where I would go. But once the Canucks called my name I was pretty excited to go to a Canadian city like this and be a part of the Canucks. I was pretty proud."

The trade has worked out for both sides, even though the Canucks are in the thick of the Stanley Cup Playoffs race and the Devils heading toward a third straight season out of the postseason.

"I think if you look at the statistics and drafting a 17- or 18-year-old player, you never know," Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello said. "In Schneider you've got a proven player who had gone through the minor-league and major-league systems so there was no hesitation for us. If you can get a proven player and feel that where you're drafting that player he is much better than anyone you could draft for that given time, and I'm not talking short term but long term, than you can make that move."

Schneider has been the Devils' most valuable player this season, his first as a full-time NHL starting goaltender. Horvat is turning out to be everything the Canucks envisioned when they drafted him. He's second among NHL rookies in faceoff wins (244 of 470, 51.9 percent) and ranks among the top 20 among rookies in goals (eight), assists (nine) and points (17).

Cory Schneider

Goalie - NJD

RECORD: 20-22-5

GAA: 2.27 | SVP: .924

It was his ability on faceoffs that allowed him to remain in Vancouver at the start of the season.

"I think I've felt more comfortable as the season has gone on," Horvat said. "Especially for me being a young guy in the League. It took me a little bit to get used to everything. Once you start getting confident and start to hang on to the puck a little more, it definitely helps."

He has five goals and nine points in the past 11 games, including a regulation goal Thursday against the New York Rangers in a 5-4 shootout victory.

Horvat said he credits Canucks coach Willie Desjardins for helping him round out his game at the NHL level.

"All the guys really respect [Desjardins] as a coach," Horvat said. "He loves to win and get the best out of us every night. If we come to work and play it doesn't matter if we win or lose, he's happy with our work ethic."

Desjardins, however, said Horvat deserves credit for how he's grown into a full-time NHL player this season.

"Everything he got he earned," Desjardins said of Horvat. "His line [with Ronalds Kenins and Jannik Hansen] has played really well. It's not a matter of being young but how hard you play and we have a lot of guys playing hard right now. And Bo is one of them."

Horvat said he is happy the Canucks are in position to earn a spot in the playoffs.

"Anytime you're a rookie and have a chance to get into the playoffs, that's huge," Horvat said. "I think we have a team that has some older guys with a lot of character and have been in the League for a while. They know what it takes to get to the Stanley Cup Final. To be in that tight a race in my first year is really cool."


Gudlevskis reflects on storybook Sochi night

A year ago this week, the 2014 Sochi Olympics entered the knockout round. To celebrate, looks at three players who used one of hockey's biggest stages to grab the spotlight and parlay their celebrity into the 2014-15 NHL season.

Today, we look at Latvia goalie Kristers Gudlevskis, who went from unheralded backup to Olympic star with his performance against Canada in the quarterfinals.

Not long after upsetting Switzerland in the qualification round of the 2014 Sochi Olympics, Latvia coach Ted Nolan made up his mind.

On tap in the quarterfinals was Canada, the favorite to win the gold medal for the second consecutive Olympic Games. Nolan turned to an unknown goalie named Kristers Gudlevskis, who in his Olympic debut allowed five goals to eventual silver-medal winner Sweden.

Latvia's top goalie was Edgars Masalskis, who made 32 saves in the win that eliminated Switzerland, but Nolan's instincts led him to Gudlevskis. Nolan's reasoning suggested not playing Masalskis in consecutive games of the grueling tournament. His gut told him plainly that it was Gudlevskis' time.

"I told him there would be a big moment for you coming up in the Olympics," said Nolan, coach of the Buffalo Sabres. "We knew we would play him in that game [against Canada] because of his size and athleticism, and youthful enthusiasm. Youthful enthusiasm sometimes overcomes that lack of experience sometimes."

One year ago in Sochi, Russia, Gudlevskis validated Nolan's trust with one of the greatest performances in Olympic history when he made 55 saves in a 2-1 loss. The result ended Latvia's storybook run but carved a permanent place for the goalie and country in Olympic annals.

"He was just diving for pucks and they were hitting them all over the place, so to see him do that performance was one of the things I'm sure he'll remember for the rest of his life," Nolan said.

Latvia, the second-lowest seed ahead of Norway, needed a miracle against Canada and nearly got it. Canada had 16 shots on goal in the first period, 19 in the second and 22 in the decisive third that began in a 1-1 tie and with the very real possibility that Latvia would pull off the upset.

Gudlevskis, 21 at the time, had the national team and an entire country on his shoulders. Pressure? Hardly.

"If you're a goalie you can't think about the pressure," Gudlevskis said. "All you try to think about is things that you can control. All I was thinking about was trying to stop the next shot.

"When I play I don't think too much. I try to focus on the next shot. If you're a goalie you understand that you can't think too much. You just need to react and do what you can control."

What Gudlevskis was controlling was Latvia's destiny, making save after save against Canada's shooting gallery. Victory was far from ensured, but Gudlevskis was creating a spectacle.

"He's a hard-working kid," said Sabres forward Zemgus Girgensons, Gudlevskis' Latvian teammate. "I played with him a couple times in World Juniors and World Championships and the guy just loves to work hard and he never gives up on the play, so I think that was the main thing in that game against Canada in the Olympics.

"We thought that's his day, the best day of his life probably."

Canada finally broke through at 13:06 of the third with Shea Weber's power-play goal, Canada's 53rd shot which beat Gudlevskis low on the stick side. The scoreboard read Canada 2, Latvia 1 with Gudlevskis facing 57 shots compared to Carey Price's 16, but the fifth-round pick (No. 124) of the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2013 NHL Draft -- the second Latvian goalie selected by an NHL team -- became a national hero.

"It's always a surprise but I was not surprised that he was able to play like that," said Sabres goaltending coach Arturs Irbe, the first Latvian goalie drafted (No. 196 by the Minnesota North Stars in 1989). "It was remarkable that he could deliver that type of performance at the right time, at that venue, that stage, that point and under that pressure."

Gudlevskis' story didn't end in Sochi. He made 36 saves in his NHL debut, a 3-2 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on April 11, 2014. He appeared in two Stanley Cup Playoff games of the Lightning's four-game series loss to the Montreal Canadiens in the 2014 Eastern Conference First Round. When he played four games for Latvia in the 2014 IIHF World Championship, he became the first player to compete in the ECHL, American Hockey League, the Olympics, the NHL and the World Championship in the same year.

"You don't think about it when the season is going," Gudlevskis said. "You realize it only after the season."

One year after playing the game of his life, Gudlevskis is the No. 1 goalie for Syracuse of the AHL and closer to again playing in the NHL. Whether it's with the Lightning, where he's behind Ben Bishop and Andrei Vasilevskiy on the organizational depth chart, or not, he's already proved to the world he's legit, 55 times over.

"I think six months before [the Sochi Olympics] he was kicked off a city bus in Latvia because he didn't have enough money to pay for a ticket to get to practice," Nolan said, "and all of a sudden he walks into a rink with brand-new pads on and earphones and looking like an NHL player, so it's a great story and great to see." writer Mike G. Morreale contributed to this story.


American hockey has grown up since Miracle on Ice

Mike Eruzione and Mark Johnson were quick to mention it, and each continued to stress the point: The Miracle on Ice -- the United States' win against the heavily favored Soviet Union at the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics -- may be the defining moment in American hockey history, but without a number of other big moments, the story would be incomplete.

"As great as the Soviet victory was, I think sometimes what gets lost in the shuffle is how important that game was against Sweden, and the game against Czechoslovakia," Eruzione said Monday. "Sometimes a lot of the success of our team gets lost in one game.

"I want people to remember it was a series of events and a series of games."

This Sunday is the 35th anniversary of the 1980 semifinal victory against the Soviets, and all 19 living members of the U.S. team will reunite in Lake Placid as part of the festivities for Hockey Weekend Across America.

Although the reunion is a celebration, it also will be a somber occasion. Bob Suter, the father of Minnesota Wild defenseman Ryan Suter, died in September at the age of 57; he is the first of the "Miracle" players to die.

"With the group getting together and Bobby not being there, certainly he was a special individual and has done a ton of great things for hockey," Johnson said. "He gave a lot of kids an opportunity to climb the ladder and play hockey.

"For a lot of kids, Phil Kessel, his son Ryan, just to name a few, got an opportunity to play in the NHL."

Part of what makes this reunion and this weekend special, according to Eruzione and Johnson, is it signifies how far USA Hockey has come since their David vs. Goliath game.

"I said in '80 we might have opened the door, but now other players have knocked it down," Eruzione said.

USA Hockey executive director Dave Ogrean highlighted some of the strides the program has made since that defining moment at Lake Placid.

"I think it is fair to say USA Hockey is as strong as it's ever been," said Ogrean, who was director of public relations for the 1980 Olympic team. "We all have the same goals: to get more people playing, more people watching, and more people excited about the sport of hockey."

USA Hockey posted a 2.3 percent increase in growth over the past year, with more than 500,000 players registered, according to Ogrean. Three American college hockey players -- Jack Eichel of Boston University, Noah Hanifin of Boston College and Zach Werenski of Michigan -- each has a chance to be picked in the top five of the 2015 NHL Draft. Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane is gunning to become the first American player to win the Art Ross Trophy.

"We think the depth of our player pool is better than it's ever been," Ogrean said. "It's not just winning the medals; we want to keep offering the game and making it accessible to whoever wants to play.

"We want everybody to develop a lifelong love of the sport."

Eruzione and Johnson recalled returning home after they won Olympic gold and seeing the effects it had on the growth of hockey.

"It exposed a lot of younger players to, 'Hey, I want to play in the National Hockey League,'" said Johnson, a Wisconsin native.

Eruzione, a Massachusetts native, has remained in New England and is director of special outreach at his alma mater, Boston University. It's there he's had a chance to watch the next generation of American hockey and witness the maturation of its players.

"I got calls from people prior to the hockey year saying, 'You have to watch this Eichel kid,'" Eruzione said. "I went to the first few practices and said, 'Oh my God, is this kid good.'

"I'm crossing my fingers that maybe he comes back for one more year."


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Fantasy top 30 goalies: Don't doubt Bruins' Rask

Every Thursday during the season,'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.


For Tuukka Rask, it was a matter of when, not if.

There are many factors out of a goaltender's control that affect his play. A lot needs to happen before a team can generate a scoring chance, and for the most part none of that has to do with a goaltender, down to which of his teammates are on the ice.

It's part of what makes goaltending a bit unpredictable, but as far as repeatability goes Rask has been one of the more consistent and one of the best goalies in all of hockey recently. Rask is quite good at his job, but thanks to some missing co-workers, and a bit of un-Rask-like play, many fantasy owners were scratching their heads when it came to the Boston Bruins goalie early this season.

Three stalwarts during Rask's Bruins tenure have been centers Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, and defenseman Zdeno Chara. They're part of a Bruins foundation that has led the team to success over the past the past eight or so years, coupled with strong goaltending.

Chara has been a rock on the blue line, unquestionably the top defenseman in a post-Nicklas Lidstrom NHL. Bergeron is the one of the top-two best defensive forwards on the planet. And Krejci is no slouch either, a very capable driver of possession and a player who, when on the ice, tends to see his team score much more than it is scored on and who also allows coach Claude Julien to get the matchups he wants.

But this season, the Bruins went long stretches without Chara and Krejci. Combined, the pair has missed 39 games. For an 82-game schedule, Chara is already guaranteed to play in his lowest number of games as a Bruin, and Krejci will play his lowest number since he appeared in 56 as a rookie.

All of this affected Rask, and did so rather adversely.

To say Chara is important to the Bruins is a pretty modest understatement. From when Chara joined the Bruins in 2006-07 to today, the team has scored 56.7 percent of all goals at even strength when Chara is in the game, according to When Chara is off the ice that number dips by 4.5 percent.


SituationRecordSave %
With Chara & Krejci13-7-6.923
With only Chara1-3-2.911
With only Krejci3-1-0.948
Without Chara & Krejci6-4-1.911

So while this is about Rask, it's also about Chara, and even Krejci. Losing your No. 1 defenseman and arguably your No. 1 center will take its toll, and it did on Rask this season. The following shows the differences in Rask's save percentage with and without Chara and Krejci this season.

The inclusion of the games with only Chara and only Krejci are to round out the sample. In the six games played with only Chara, Rask faced the Chicago Blackhawks, Nashville Predators, Washington Capitals and Detroit Red Wings. In the four games with only Krejci, he faced the Toronto Maple Leafs, Edmonton Oilers and Minnesota Wild.

But the noticeable difference is in Rask's save percentage when he has both players in the lineup versus when he has neither. While his record doesn't necessarily reflect a drop-off, a save percentage 12 points lower and 15 points below his career average is significant. Rask's numbers with both Chara and Krejci in the lineup are almost identical to what he's averaged throughout his career.

Which is why it was also unfair, and downright premature to ever question Rask at any point this season. Goaltending can fluctuate; no goalie goes out and stops the same number of pucks every night. Rask is a career .926 goalie, meaning there will be nights when he falls below that mark, and nights when he stops pucks at a higher rate. Through the early part of the schedule, Rask was adjusting to life without two major Bruins pieces, and perhaps wasn't playing up to his own standards. Now with a full complement of characters, Rask is again playing like a top goaltender in the League.

Cory Schneider


RECORD: 20-22-5

GAA: 2.27 | SVP: .924


Cory Schneider, New Jersey Devils -- This is the Schneider many expected to see entering this season, taking over the starting role for the Devils. He has a .946 save percentage over his past 10 starts, going 5-3-1 over that stretch. New Jersey may be sellers heading toward the 2015 NHL Trade Deadline, but regardless of how many wins his team puts up down the stretch, Schneider appears to be settling into a groove and capable of posting good numbers.


Ben Bishop , Tampa Bay Lightning -- Whether it's been due to Bishop's play or the emergence of rookie Andrei Vasilevskiy, coach Jon Cooper has been giving Bishop fewer starts lately. Over Tampa Bay's past eight games, Bishop has played five times, and Vasilevskiy three. Bishop turned in a strong performance Wednesday against the Anaheim Ducks, making 24 saves on 25 shots to pick up a win. More of those and he'll quell any doubt that might exist as to who should be getting the majority of starts in Tampa's crease.


Jhonas Enroth , Dallas Stars -- What the Stars' plan is with their newly acquired goaltender is unclear. Kari Lehtonen still appears to be the starter, but Enroth could push for more playing time. And with the Stars desperate to accumulate points and climb into a wild-card spot, coach Lindy Ruff is going to go with whoever gives the team the best chance to win.


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 (SAME)16Semyon Varlamov, COL (SAME)
2Pekka Rinne, NSH (SAME)17Jonathan Quick, LAK (+2)
3Tuukka Rask, BOS (SAME)18Cam Talbot, NYR (-1)
4Marc-Andre Fleury, PIT (+1) 19Kari Lehtonen, DAL (-1)
5Brian Elliott, STL (-1) 20Curtis McElhinney, CBJ (+3)
6Braden Holtby, WSH (+2) 21Antti Niemi, SJS (-1)
7Corey Crawford, CHI (-1) 22Jonas Hiller, CGY (-1)
8Roberto Luongo, FLA (-1) 23Andrei Vasilevskiy, TBL (+6)
9Jaroslav Halak, NYI (SAME)24Martin Jones, LAK (+1)
10Ryan Miller, VAN (+1) 25Antti Raanta, CHI (+1)
11Ben Bishop, TBL (-1) 26Jake Allen, STL (+2)
12Cory Schneider, NJD (+2) 27Alex Stalock, SJS (SAME)
13Devan Dubnyk, MIN (-1) 28John Gibson, ANA (+2)
14Jimmy Howard, DET (-1) 29Mike Smith, ARI (NEW)
15Michael Hutchinson, WPG (SAME)30Ray Emery, PHI (NEW)

Dropped out: Petr Mrazek

Key injuries: Henrik Lundqvist, Frederik Andersen, Sergei Bobrovsky, Steve Mason, Craig Anderson, Robin Lehner