Tag:Brandon Prust
Posted on: February 26, 2012 10:18 am
Edited on: February 26, 2012 12:00 pm
 

Morning Skate: Sharks, Wild meet desperate for W

Marleau and San Jose are in Minnesota. (US Presswire)

By Brian Stubits

The Morning Skate is back. Every morning for the rest of the season we're going to take a look at the games that have the greatest significance in the push for the postseason for you to digest while you drink your java. We'll throw in some miscellany for the fun of it.

Playoff Race

6 ET, San Jose at Minnesota

Here's a bit of a shocker: The San Jose Sharks wake up Sunday morning in seventh place in the Western Conference, only three points up on the three-way tie for eighth place. A nine-game road trip can do that to a team.

Those numbers are slightly skewed. The Sharks are the only team in spots 1-11 in the West that have played fewer than 62 games and the only team in the conference thus far who has played only 60. So there are games in hand on others in the picture, including the Coyotes, who now lead the Pacific Division outright.

That's why the final game of the trip today is a big one. Those games in hand mean nada if they aren't converted into points. They can't really afford to let the Coyotes get some separation in the division race with how incredibly hot they have been lately.

For the Wild, it means just staying in the race for that eighth seed. The magic number is more or less five points. If you fall any further behind that, the chances of coming back become very long. The Wild enter Sunday's game five points behind that logjam for eighth. The home games need to turn into two points for them.

With San Jose having lost eight of their last 11 games -- and the division lead -- it means we should have two desperate hockey teams on Sunday evening. Sounds like fun.

5 ET, Montreal at Florida

The Florida Panthers scored an absolutely huge win on Saturday night in Raleigh, taking down the Hurricanes in a shootout, 3-2. They were down 2-0 until Tomas Fleischmann hit for a score with 6:02 left and new addition Wojtek Wolski tied it with under two to play. It was Florida's third straight win on the road and vaulted them back into first in the Southeast while keeping games in hand on everybody else.

Ironically enough, while they have won three in a row on the road, they have lost four straight at home. That has to change if Florida wants to see the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade.

This represents the first chance a team in the Southeast Division will have a shot at reaching 70 points on the season, too. Oof. But at least Florida has played fewer games than any team, so they need to use these games in hand (four on Winnipeg, two on Washington) to push themselves back ahead of the division.

With Montreal coming to town, it's a perfect opportunity. The Canadiens have not won a game in regulation in their last six tries. The only win in that time came in a shootout four games ago. They enter today's matchup having scored two goals in the last three games, all losses.

But you can bet the Habs fans will still fill up the seats in Florida. It never quite feels like a road game for Montreal when it is in Sunrise. South Florida is a popular winter destination for the Quebecois, so Habs-Panthers is one of the rare tough tickets at the BankAtlantic Center.

3 ET, Vancouver at Dallas

That aforementioned logjam in the West? The Stars are part of it. By virtue of the tie-breakers at this point, the Stars are actually the team in the playoffs if they were to start today. Not too bad for a team that still seems to be a seller before tomorrow's trade deadline.

The Stars come into the game on a little roll, having won three in a row including Friday's 4-1 victory over the Wild. But the Canucks are a whole different cup of tea.

Vancouver has taken a lead on the Red Wings and Rangers in the Presidents' Trophy race and it would like to stay up there. The Northwest Division is damn near mathematically locked up already, they're up 18 points on Colorado. But that best record in the league is something worth fighting for, so this isn't a team that's already put it on cruise control.

Others worth watching

7 ET, Chicago at Anaheim: The up-and-down Blackhawks take on the desperate and hot Ducks. An Anaheim win could pull it within four of the eighth spot out West depending on results.

1 ET, Tampa Bay at New Jersey: It looked like the Lightning might have a little life a week ago, but not so much anymore. The Devils, though, are still fighting for that fourth spot in the East.

5 ET, Islanders at Ottawa: The above description of the Lightning describes the Islanders. The Senators are pretty safely in but still have an outside shot at the Northeast Division.

1 ET, Columbus at Pittsburgh: They most intriguing thing about this game -- other than how many points Evgeni Malkin can accumulate -- is if this is Rick Nash's final game with the Blue Jackets.

Your promised miscellany

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: February 10, 2012 10:15 am
Edited on: February 10, 2012 10:16 am
 

Rangers angry with Dominic Moore hit; suspension?

By Brian Stubits

It's been quiet -- almost too quiet -- on the Brendan Shanahan discipline front lately. Of course that's a good thing, everybody would prefer if Shanahan didn't have to do a thing at all in his job.

But it's time to wake the man up, he has some footage to review.

The Tampa Bay Lightning were visiting the Rangers on Thursday night, a game the Rangers won in overtime. It was early in the third period that Bolts forward Dominic Moore was given a two-minute roughing penalty. Doesn't sound like your run-of-the-mill penalty to sound the Shanahan alarm, but it wasn't exactly a roughing penalty. More like a hit to the head.

A blindside hit away from the puck where the principal point of contact sure looks to me like it was Ruslan Fedotenko's head? That's a recipe for a hearing at the least.

Moore told the Tampa Bay Times that he was "competing for body position" while "trying to make myself available for a shot. I guess [Fedotenko] wasn't ready for that."

Player agent Allen Walsh weighed in as he often does and called it a "textbook blindside hit." Not sure I'd put that one in the textbook, but OK.

The Rangers, meanwhile, we're just a tad upset (from Rangers Rants).

“There’s no puck there,” Brandon Prust said. “It looked like he was looking for him. There’s no puck and he got head contact. We’ll let the league decide on the rest.”

Brian Boyle was a little more emphatic about his view on the legality of the hit.

“Yeah, we’re still pretty angry about that. It’s a very dirty, dirty play. We’ve talked about it enough. We’ve got to get away from that stuff.”

Every time I have talked to players about these hits and Shanahan's job so far, I always get close to the same response: We have to respect each other out there. That's at the crux of what Boyle is saying and was made even clearer from Brad Richards.

“I’m pretty sure that’s what we’re trying not to do to each other,” Richards said. “If we want to keep doing it to each other, we’re going to have a problem. It’s idiotic.”

There is no word yet on Fedotenko's status after the hit but he didn't return in the game. Right or wrong (and I say wrong) that could carry an impact in any punishment for Moore. To be fair, Shanahan recently explained that he doesn't use that in helping to determine the verdict, just the sentencing.

When looking at Moore, he doesn't have a reputation that precedes him; he's not a bad apple. This strikes you as being out of character. And possibly even accidental. But I'm not a believer in punishing the intent; you have to punish the action.

But while Shanny has that game fired up, he might want to take a look at Victor Hedman's supposed slew foot on Prust too, another play that had the Rangers a little fired up after the game.

“I just wanted to get the puck and, all of a sudden, my legs went out from underneath me,” Prust said. “I don’t know what he did but it was pretty dangerous. I didn’t see the replay. I was in a grumpy mood today anyway, I just needed an excuse.”

Back to work, Shanny.

More NHL Discipline news

H/t to Kukla's Korner for the video

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: February 6, 2012 8:56 pm
Edited on: February 6, 2012 8:58 pm
 

Rangers' Boyle pays up to bet, wears Giants gear

Mass. native Boyle in Giants garb. (Twitpic)

By Brian Stubits

Rangers forward Brian Boyle is from Massachusetts. Despite playing in New York, he's still a New England Patriots fan and proud of it.

So it stung badly enough when the New York Giants beat the Patriots 21-17 in the Super Bowl. That didn't spare him from a bet adding insult to his injury.

If his face sporting Giants gear as the loser of a bet doesn't scream insult, I'm not sure what does. That photo is courtesy of teammate Brandon Prust's Twitter account.

Of course, I'm not going to feel too bad for the guy. It's not like the Patriots fans don't remember what it's like to celebrate a championship.

As a proud non-bandwagon hopper myself, I always admire seeing athletes stay true to their favorite teams they liked growing up. It's nice and all to support the teams in the city you play, but loyalty has its place for me. Although it's a tougher spot to root for your hometown team when they are playing the local team in such a big game.

It seems like it made Boyle pretty salty too when sporting the Giants hat in the locker room after Monday's morning skate. Love the barb he throws Martin Biron's way.

I doubt the New York fans will care too much if Boyle brings them their first Stanley Cup in almost 20 years come Spring.

H/t to Puck Daddy

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: November 28, 2011 9:33 pm
Edited on: November 29, 2011 10:30 am
 

Brandon Dubinsky rips Flyers Shelley, Rinaldo

By Brian Stubits

December 14 can't get here soon enough.

The inaugural edition of HBO's 24/7 hockey series was gripping and award-winning. I don't think I met a hockey fan that didn't enjoy every minute of it (except those turned off by Bruce Boudreau's potty mouth, that is). The rivalry between the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins only sweetened the pot.

That's why I can't wait for this year's show to start. The two sides are ramping up the rivalry nice and early in the season.

In case you didn't already know, the Flyers and Rangers don't like each other. The Rangers have two teams in their market, but probably dislike the team from Philadelphia the most. I don't think you can say the same about the Flyers due to their feelings with the Pittsburgh Penguins, but the Rangers are close behind.

When the two played over the Thanksgiving weekend, Brandon Prust decided to mix it up with not one but two Flyers. The game came just after the 12-minute trailer for the series aired on HBO over the weekend. In the teaser, a clip of the Flyers' Jody Shelley was shown where he was talking about some of his former teammates in New York and calling Brandon Dubinsky a weasel. Here's the teaser in case you missed it.

Of course it didn't take long for that to get back to Dubinsky. It took even less time for him to respond. Check out what he told Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News.

“First of all, if I was him, I’d keep my mouth shut if I don’t play, especially since I never see him on the ice,” Dubinsky said of Shelley, who has played in only 10 of Philadelphia’s 23 games this season. “He’s usually just yapping from the bench, and I guess now he’s yapping from behind the video camera. So that’s about all I have to say.”

That was not all Dubinsky had to say. “Jody Shelley - it won’t be long before he’s out of the league, because he’s a terrible hockey player,” he added.

Dubinsky didn't limit his words for only Shelley, he threw some barbs in Zach Rinaldo's direction, too.

“I think he’s an idiot,” Dubinsky said of Rinaldo. “And I think that, I mean, he’s not really a good hockey player. So if that’s what he tries to do to get under our skin, I don’t think it works very well. He’s not very effective at it. I think they should just keep putting him on the ice, because he’s a liability against us.”

Some good ol' trash talk is great. Here's hoping that the month of November has a lot more waiting for us.

More Winter Classic News Here

H/t to Pro Hockey Talk

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: November 27, 2011 4:57 pm
Edited on: November 27, 2011 8:30 pm
 

Weekend Wrap: Sanford, Jackets starting to roll

By Brian Stubits

Amid Columbus' awful, awful opening to the season, the only bit of defense the team and its fans had was something along the lines of waiting for everybody to be healthy. The team was built in the offseason around the additions of James Wisniewski and Jeff Carter and for the first month and a half of the season; they had not played in the same game. Now they are both playing and the Blue Jackets are now winning.

But it was another injured player returning that has been even bigger. And this one wasn't really on anybody's excuse radar.

Turns out the return of goaltender Curtis Sanford has been huge. Or at least it would appear that way. It was no mystery that Steve Mason in goal was as big an issue as anything else in Columbus' struggles, but I am not sure anybody believed there was a possible solution within the organization.

It wasn't long ago that in this blog we were discussing the possibilities of the Blue Jackets getting a major shakeup in the front office and coaching staff. Some were just saying give it more time, all they needed was to trade for a good goalie. The only problem was the Jackets are right up against the cap and have no flexibility.

This feels as good as a trade right now.

In the five games prior to Sunday's 2-1 loss to the Blues, all Sanford starts, the Blue Jackets picked up at least one point. His record is now 3-0-2 after Columbus' 5-1 beating of the Buffalo Sabres on Black Friday. He entered Sunday with a goals against average of 1.27 and a save percentage of .950. Not bad. Not bad at all.

The recent run has done what not long ago seemed laughable: the Jackets had climbed out of the NHL cellar. With the Devils' squeaker over the Devils on Saturday, the Jackets returned to the basement, but they are hot on the heels of the Isles, Ducks and Flames to move (or down) the draft lottery list.

But the big acquisitions have been doing their part, too. Carter, back after breaking his foot, is finally looking comfortable with his new team. With two beautiful assists against the Sabres, Carter brought his total to five points (3-2=5) in the last five games. Wisniewski has also recorded five points in that span as he also contributed two assists to the win on Friday.

However none of that would matter much if they weren't getting better goaltending. Now, with Sanford getting the bulk of the work, they are. It's not too late to crawl their way back into the picture, but a lot of that will ride on Sanford continuing to play at a level this high.

If he keeps those ice blue pads, maybe he will.

Hangover Part II

Much was made about the champion Bruins' hangover to start the season. They came out slower than any team not named the Blue Jackets. Of course, that's long-ago history as the Bruins have won 11 of the past 12 games, earning a point in all of them.

But not as much has been said about the Canucks' meager beginning. After all, this was the best team in the regular season last year and was within 60 minutes of winning the Stanley Cup. Like the Bruins, the Canucks returned the core of their team and were expected to be powerful once again. Yet they were merely average.

That might be changing. With a road trip that included a 5-0 domination of the Coyotes in a "packed" (with blue) Jobing.com Arena on Friday and a gritty 3-2 win over the Sharks in San Jose on Saturday, the Canucks have won four in a row.

With the eight points in four games, they are now two points behind the Minnesota Wild, two points from reclaiming their seemingly rightful position atop the Northwest Division (they have lived in the Northwest penthouse for a few seasons).

In goal for each of those four games? That would be Cory Schneider, not Roberto Luongo. Schneider -- who had back-to-back shutouts in the four-game run -- was already seen by many to be the best backup in the game, rumored constantly in trade talks around the league over the last season-plus. Now the only goalie that Canucks fans want to throw around in those conversations is Luongo, the Vezina finalist from just last season.

There was already a goalie controversy in Vancouver even before Schneider began playing so well. The controversy? The fact that Luongo was the starter. That was enough to cause a civil war among the fans in British Columbia. This just makes it more heated.

It's show time

We got a taste of the Winter Classic on Saturday with the Flyers and Rangers waging battle in New York, a 2-0 Blueshirts win. Brandon Prust fought not once, but twice, much to the pleasure of John Tortorella.

It was also the first time this season that the league's highest-scoring offense, the Flyers, were grounded. It should come as no surprise that it was Henrik Lundqvist who was first to do it. They don't call him King Henrik for nothing.

But over the weekend, we also got our first taste of the HBO 24/7 series that's set to debut on Dec. 14. No, I'm not talking about the game, but HBO's 12-minute preview of the must-see show for hockey (and non-hockey) fans.

Warning: If you don't already have HBO in your cable/dish subscription plan, the following teaser might make you change your mind (video courtesy of nyrangersblog.com).

There wasn't even an appearance from Jaromir Jagr or Sean Avery in this tease, so clearly they must be saving the best for the show, a refreshing change from movie trailers that show you the only good parts of the movie.

Glory Toews

Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews isn't going anywhere anytime soon. If they have their way in Chicago, he'll retire in the black and red.

But if he were to change work addresses, he just might move to Southern California.

The Blackhawks took their turn at the SoCal double dip with a game Friday in Anaheim and Saturday in Los Angeles. What did Toews do? Oh just help the 'Hawks take both games with three goals and three assists. One of those goals came 1960s style with Toews parked in the crease without a helmet and scrambling to hammer home the loose puck.

I have no doubt that when this season is all said and done, Toews will have his say in the Hart Trophy conversation.

Real quickly on the Ducks, this is just too atrocious to leave out (from Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register: The Ducks have now lost six in a row, 12 of 13 and 15 of their last 17. No other word for that than horrendous.

Florida flurry

It's not even December yet and the intrastate rivals in Florida have already met five times. For the second time in the first two months, the Lightning and Panthers had a back-to-back set beginning in Sunrise and finishing in Tampa.

This time, it was the Bolts getting the better of the Cats. One massive reason was the play of Steven Stamkos. He had three goals, including the game-winner in overtime on Friday night, and an assist. He was the best player on the ice on Saturday, no questions asked.

It continues to amaze me how little attention Stammer seems to be generating. After all, he proved last year he's one of the top three scorers in the league. He has quietly amassed 14 goals and 10 assists this season. Yet there seems to be hardly a peep about him.

A few more four-point weekends for the Lightning and I'm sure he'll start getting his due.

Capital punishment

At this point I'm starting to think this will be a regular section in the Weekend Wrap. At least as long as the Capitals continue to play the way they have been.

With their 5-1 beating in Buffalo -- where the Sabres' Zack Kassian scored his first career NHL goal -- the Caps moved to 3-6-1 in their last 10 games. In the past eight, it's been particularly awful.

Check out this stat from Stephen Whyno at the Washington Post. The Caps have now been outscored 34-17 in their past eight games. Minus-17 in the past eight? That's worthy of one big OUCH.

The upcoming week for the Caps has dates with the Blues and Penguins. So things might not get better quite yet.

Quote of the weekend

After the Penguins destroyed the Senators 6-3 and Sidney Crosby continued his stellar return with three assists, Sens forward Nick Foligno attacked Crosby for taking a headshot at him late in the game. He wasn't too happy with Sid, saying he was disappointed and more or less called Crosby a hypocrite.

While Crosby was quiet about the criticism, his coach Dan Bylsma wasn't. Here's what he had to say in response.

"We're talking about a player that bumped into our goalie three times. With the score 5-1 and intentionally going into our goalie, he can expect more than Sidney Crosby coming at him and talking to him during the game. That's how we feel about those situations. He was in our net falling over our goalie, and I don't think there was any question about the intent."

Photo: US Presswire

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: November 26, 2011 5:53 pm
Edited on: November 26, 2011 5:56 pm
 

Brandon Prust fights Rinaldo, Simmonds

By: Adam Gretz

Brandon Prust played eight minutes during the Rangers 2-0 win over the Flyers on Saturday afternoon. He scored no goals, was credited with no assists, did not record a single shot on goal and was credited with just one hit. But head coach John Tortorella said he was a major factor in setting the tone for the Rangers, and described his play on Saturday with the following sentence: "Oh, he's got balls as big as this building."

(Yes, Tortorella is going to be amazing on 24/7.)

What exactly did Prust do with his limited ice time? He seemed to make it a point to fight as many Philadelphia Flyers as he could, dropping the gloves twice in the first period -- once right off the opening faceoff in what was a lengthy bout with Zac Rinaldo, and then later in the period trading blows with Wayne Simmonds.


Prust said, via ESPN New York's Katie Strang, that the bout between he and Rinaldo right off the opening faceoff was mutually agreed upon before hand.

This was the first meeting of the season between the two Winter Classic participants, and Prusts physical exploits offer a nice look at just how heated this rivalry can be.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: November 23, 2011 10:11 am
Edited on: November 29, 2011 5:30 pm
 

Are the Wild, Rangers for real?

wild1

Pucks and Numbers: a weekly statistical look at what's happening around the NHL. This week: A look at the fast starts of the Minnesota Wild and New York Rangers and whether or not they are for real.

By: Adam Gretz

The Minnesota Wild and New York Rangers enter their games on Wednesday night as two of the hottest teams in the NHL, with the Rangers winning seven of their past eight games and the Wild riding a four-game winning streak that has helped propel them to the top of the NHL standings with 27 points.

The Rangers were expected by many to be a playoff team this year, coming off a season that saw them take the No. 8 seed in the East and add the top free agent on the market, center Brad Richards. But Minnesota's meteoric rise to the top under the leadership of first-year coach Mike Yeo has been quite a surprise to say the least.

Are these two teams as good as their early season (and most recent) records would suggest? Or are they both setting themselves up for a sudden fall?

If you're a believer in PDO  (or familiar with it) you're probably placing your bets on the latter.

Along with their recent hot streaks, these teams have three things in common.

1) Both teams are getting crushed during 5-on-5 play in terms of shots for and shots allowed. The Wild currently own the third-worst shot differential per game during even-strength play at minus-6, while the Rangers are currently the worst at minus-7. Neither team scores a lot of goals, mostly because...

2) ... Neither team is particularly dominant on special teams, especially when on the power play.

3) As a result, both teams are relying almost entirely on their goaltending, which is good in the short-term, but could be very, very bad in the long-term. In the case of the Rangers, it's Henrik Lundqvist and Martin Biron, while in Minnesota it's the tag-team duo of Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding.

All four of the aforementioned keepers are near the top of the league in terms of even-strength save percentage (they're all in the top-12, actually) with Backstrom pacing the league with a mark of .953. Which is unbelievable.

(Harding, for what it's worth, isn't far behind at .946, while Biron and Lundqvist are currently checking in at .944 and .939 respectively.)

Now, Backstrom is a fine goaltender. Probably one of the better ones in the NHL. But unless he's suddenly become the best goalie in NHL history he (along with the other three -- at least Harding and Biron) probably aren't going to maintain their current save percentages all season, especially given the amount of rubber they face every night. Just as an example, in the post-lockout NHL there have only been seven instances in which a goaltender finished a full season with an even-strength save percentage north of .940, and two of them belong to Boston's Tim Thomas.

Only once (Thomas last season) did a goalie finish over .943. In other words, this probably isn't going to continue all season.

And that brings us to PDO, a relatively simple but often times telling statistic about hot teams that could soon fizzle out and cold teams that could suddenly catch fire.

Originally the brainchild of Brian King (you can check out a recent interview he did talking about the subject by clicking right here) PDO is simply the sum of a team's shooting percentage and save percentage. For individual players, you take the sum of the shooting percentage and save percentage only when that player is on the ice.

On a league-wide level, this number will equal always 1000, but will vary from team-to-team and player-to-player. Teams (and players) with a PDO above or below that will, over time, see it start to regress back closer toward 1000.

Over the past four seasons the PDO range, from low-to-high, for individual players that have played at least 50 games in a single season have been as follows:

2007-08: 937-1056
2008-09: 944-1068
2009-10: 932-1069
2010-11: 934-1062

And let's take a look at the current ratings for the Wild and Rangers players. In an effort to avoid what is an even smaller sample size than we're already dealing with this early in the season, I've limited it to players that have played a minimum of 10 games this season:

Wild And Rangers -- PDO
Team Player PDO Team Player PDO
Wild Guillaume Latendresse 1087 Rangers Michael Sauer 1100
Wild Justin Falk 1060 Rangers Michael Del Zotto 1079
Wild Clayton Stoner 1045 Rangers Ruslan Fedotenko 1058
Wild Pierre-Marc Bouchard 1042 Rangers Erik Christensen 1056
Wild Mikko Koivu 1041 Rangers Derek Stepan 1050
Wild Dany Heatley 1039 Rangers Ryan McDonagh 1046
Wild Marek Zidlicky 1039 Rangers Dan Boyle 1046
Wild Matt Cullen 1035 Rangers Dan Girardi 1028
Wild Nick Schultz 1032 Rangers Brandon Dubinsky 1028
Wild Nick Johnson 1031 Rangers Jeff Woywitka 1027
Wild Jared Spurgeon 1028 Rangers Ryan Callahan 1026
Wild Nate Prosser 1028 Rangers Marian Gaborik 1022
Wild Devin Setoguchi 1025 Rangers Artem Anisimov 1017
Wild Kyle Brodziak 1024 Rangers Brad Richards 1010
Wild Cal Clutterbuck 1014 Rangers Brandon Prust 996
Wild Brad Staubitz 1011 Rangers Steve Eminger 993
Wild Marco Scandella 1010      
Wild Colton Gillies 1009      

The only two regulars on either team with a PDO currently under 1000 are Brandon Prust and Steve Eminger, both of the Rangers. Many of the others are well above their career norms, mainly due to what are almost assuredly unsustainably high on-ice save percentages.

There are currently 551 skaters that have appeared in at least 10 games this season, and out of the top-100 in PDO, an incredible 15 of them play for either the Rangers or Wild. There's a very fine line between winning and losing in the NHL, and right now these are two teams that are probably getting their fair share of breaks and bounces, while also being led by what are probably unsustainable levels of goaltending.

We've seen teams in the past get out-shot, out-chanced, and ultimately, out-scored at 5-on-5 the way the Wild and Rangers currently are and not seen a regression in the win-loss column. Last year's Anaheim Ducks are one such example. The biggest difference between that team, and these two teams, is that while Anaheim also had stellar goaltending, it also had a power play that scored almost at will. This season, Anaheim is once again getting consistently beat during 5-on-5 play, and now that its power play isn't scoring the same way it did last season, it finds itself near the bottom of the Western Conference standings.

It should again be pointed out that in the case of the Wild and Rangers, these are currently two of the worst power plays in the NHL, in terms of not only scoring goals, but also generating shots.

So how long can we expect the wins to keep coming at this pace for New York and Minnesota? Probably as long as their goaltenders continue to stand on their heads.

(PDO and shot data via BehindTheNet)

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: October 29, 2011 12:51 pm
Edited on: October 29, 2011 1:00 pm
 

Frans Nielsen: A bargain on the Island -- for now

Fn1By: Adam Gretz

This past week the folks at BusinessWeek put together a list of what they called the "smartest" spenders in sports. Simply put: the teams that spent the fewest amount of dollars per win.

In theory, it's an interesting premise, but it seemed to produce some very flawed results. For example, while the Nashville Predators topped their list, a team that definitely gets the most bang for its limited buck, some of the other teams in the top-10 included the Pittsburgh Pirates, Atlanta Thrashers, and New York Islanders. Were these teams smart about which players they signed, or were they simply not spending money on any players of any value? After all, when you think of front office efficiency the Pirates or Thrashers (now the Jets) probably aren't the first teams that come to mind.

The Islanders, on the other hand, are a little more intriguing. At least potentially.

A team in transition, stuck in a rebuild that's been going on for about five years now, The Islanders are probably not quite ready to return to the postseason this year. But they are building something interesting on Long Island, and do have quite a few bargains on their roster for this year and in the future. The quartet of John Tavares, Kyle Okposo, Michael Grabner and Matt Moulson, for example, are all signed through at least the 2013-14 season for a combined cap commitment of just around $14 million. I've said this before, but for all of the criticisms the Islanders front office has taken for handing out bad contracts in the past, those look to be examples of very smart spending going forward.

One of the often times most overlooked members of this Islanders team, and perhaps one of their biggest bargains this season at a cap hit of $525,000, the lowest on the team, is Frans Nielsen, their checking center that finished in the top-six in voting for the Selke Trophy last season as one of the best defensive forwards in the NHL. It's not uncommon for him to be one of their best players on any given night.

Usually playing on a line between the speedy Grabner and Okposo, Islanders coach Jack Capuano seems to use the trio in somewhat of a defensive role and more often than not sends them out there against the other teams top lines whenever he has a chance, especially during home games when his team has the last line change before faceoffs.

So far this season Nielsen's line has drawn regular assignments against players like Dany Heatley, Mikko Koivu and Devin Setoguchi from Minnesota, Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan from the Rangers, Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos from the Lightning, and Stephen Weiss and Kris Versteeg from the Panthers. Through the first eight games of the season the Islanders have allowed 14 goals during 5-on-5 play, and Nielsen has been on the ice for just three of them (two of them were scored by Stamkos in separate games, the other was a goal scored by Brandon Prust during a 5-2 Islanders win). If you're a believer in plus/minus, he's finished as a plus-player in each of the past two year on a team that's been outscored by 35 and 42 goals during the season while playing against the other teams best players.

Following a 3-2 shootout loss in Pittsburgh on Thursday, Capuano told me he was probably their best player on the ice that night. It was a game that saw him score a goal, create two chances on two different penalty kills, block three shots, record a takeaway and win a couple of defensive zone faceoffs. And that's pretty much just another day at the office for him.

"He's played a strong game throughout the year for us," said Capuano. "Obviously the numbers haven't been there but he's been pretty strong for us."

He also referred to Nielsen as "dominant" and commented on how he's always positionally sound when he doesn't have the puck.

With one of the smallest salary cap hits in the NHL this season, Nielsen is a tremendous bargain for the Islanders, but that could soon change as he will be eligible for unrestricted free agency following this season. And there should be no shortage of teams lining up to give him the rather large pay raise he's earned over the past three years if something doesn't get worked out with the Islanders. There's a ton of value in a matchup center that can chip in around 40 points (while playing a defensive role and being put into mostly defensive situations) and play Selke-caliber defense.

Photo: Getty Images

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