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Tag:Dan Ellis
Posted on: February 27, 2012 10:52 am
Edited on: February 27, 2012 11:46 am
 

Andrei Kostitsyn traded to Nashville

PredatorsCanadiensBy: Adam Gretz

Reunions seem to be the theme of the week in the NHL.

After the Los Angeles Kings reunited long-time teammates Jeff Carter and Mike Richards, the Nashville Predators have reunited the Kostitsyn brothers after acquiring Andrei Kostitsyn from the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for a 2013 second-round draft pick, as well as the conditional draft pick that Montreal sent to Nashville last week in the Hal Gill trade.

This move, of course, will reunite Andrei with his brother, Sergei, as the two were teammates in Montreal between 2007 and 2010. The Canadiens acquired Sergei following the 2009-10 season in a deal that sent Dan Ellis and Dustin Boyd to Montreal.

In 53 games this season for the Canadiens Kostitsyn (Andrei) has scored 12 goals to go with 12 assists, and for his career has been a player that you can usually pencil in for 20 goals over the course of a full season. Going to Nashville worked out quite well for his brother and perhaps the change of scenery and getting away from the constant circus that is Montreal will have a similar impact here.

Given the price it took to make this happen, it's definitely a worthwile risk for Nashville.

Also at Eye On Hockey

Complete 2012 Trade Deadline Coverage

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: December 28, 2011 5:05 pm
Edited on: December 28, 2011 5:21 pm
 

What happened to the Tampa Bay Lightning?



Pucks and Numbers:
a weekly statistical look at what's happening around the NHL. This week: A look what has gone wrong for the Tampa Bay Lightning.


By: Adam Gretz


It was less than a year ago that the Tampa Bay Lightning were a 1-0 loss to the Boston Bruins in Game 7 from representing the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup Finals. Thirty-five games into the 2011-12 season and Tampa Bay finds itself in 13th place in the conference, six points out of the eighth and final playoff spot. As we talked about last week, that's already a deficit that is dangerously close to being too much to overcome at this point in the season, especially with five teams ahead of them for the last playoff spot.

So what has changed for Guy Boucher's team in a span of eight months, going from potential Stanley Cup team to what is currently one of the worst teams in the league?

The easy answer is goaltending, as the duo of Dwayne Roloson and Mathieu Garon has been dreadful, currently owning the second-worst team save percentage in the league, barely ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets for the 30th spot. The position was a major problem in the early part of last season as well, and it was covered up with a short-term band-aid thanks to general manager Steve Yzerman's New Years Day trade that landed Roloson from the New York Islanders. He ended up getting hot at the right time and helped lead the Lightning through the first two rounds of the playoffs as the team upset Pittsburgh and Washington, overcoming a 3-1 series deficit against the former, and sweeping the latter in four straight games.

Entering this season the Lightning decided to stick with the 42-year-old Roloson, a risky maneuver given his age and the number of miles that were already on the tires. So far, it hasn't worked out.

While the Lightning have become synonymous with their 1-3-1 neutral zone trap and have faced their share of criticism for playing such a "boring" system (no, we haven't forgotten about this), the team has given up a ton of goals over the past season-and-a-half. A lot of that has to do with the bad goaltending, as the Lightning do a pretty good job limiting the number of shots taken by the opposition (though, they are worse in that area this season). Still, they were 21th in the NHL in terms of goals allowed last season, and after 35 games this season are 27th.

There are a couple of things working against the Lightning this season.

While the team has young Stars in Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman, and great veteran players like Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier, it also has some older parts that, obviously, are now a year older than they were a year ago. Even worse, they've also been without defenseman Mattias Ohlund for the entire season, a player that handled some of the toughest minutes and assignments last season. He didn't provide any offense, but he was the go-to guy in terms of defensive assignments. His absence has not only impacted the overall depth on the team's blue line, but also forced Hedman and Eric Brewer into playing all of the tough assignments that Ohlund would have ordinarily handled.

And, of course, there is more.

Let's just look at some numbers through the first 35 games of the past two seasons:

Tampa Bay Lightning 2011-12 vs. 2010-11 Through 35 Games
Year W-L-OTL Goals For Goals Against Shots For/Game Shots All. Game PP Goals PP OPP PP %
2011-12 15-17-3 95 117 28.8 30.6 18 123 14.6%
2010-11 20-10-5 109 114 32.5 27.1 35 149 23.0%

So here we are. Lightning beat writer Erik Erlendsson has been pointing out over the past week on Twitter that the Lightning have given up nearly the same number of goals this season as they did through the same number of games last season. And he's right. But that's not necessarily a good thing because the number is way too high. And again, the Lightning had a trade in their back pocket on Jan. 1 last season that enabled the team to improve that area as the season went on. Roloson wasn't great, but he was good enough and enough of an upgrade over the alternative. He also hit the aforementioned hot streak at the right time. If the Lightning hadn't made that trade there's a good chance that playoff run never happens. Yzerman is going to need to pull off a similar move (or perhaps a bigger one, involving more of a long-term solution that isn't a player over the age of 40) to help get Tampa Bay back where it wants to be (and needs to be) in the crease if a return to the playoffs is in the team's future.

But while the goals against are nearly identical, there's a pretty large difference from one year to the next that sticks out like a sore thumb: the power play.

Both the number of power play opportunities and the frequency in which they've been able to score on the man advantage. The Lightning didn't win many games last season by keeping their opponents off the scoreboard, they won a lot of games by outscoring them in some of the highest scoring games in the league. A lot of that was the result of a power play that was pretty much unstoppable when it was on top of its game.

A year ago Tampa Bay had the sixth-best power play in the league, converting on 20 percent of its chances. This season? 25th. And even worse, it's a unit that's not generating a ton of shots when it does get an opportunity.

It's been a perfect storm for Tampa Bay this season. Some aging players, bad goaltending, the absence of the best and most reliable defensive defenseman on the team and a power play that's regressed. Basically, a little bit of everything.

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

Posted on: November 3, 2011 7:15 pm
Edited on: November 3, 2011 7:18 pm
 

Was Rinne the right choice for Nashville?

RinneBy: Adam Gretz

There are few positions in professional sports that get as much attention and face as much scrutiny as  starting goaltenders in the NHL. There are also few positions that are as unpredictable, uncertain, maddening and completely random.

Tim Thomas, the winner of two of the past three Vezina Trophies, is probably the best one in the league right now, and he didn't become a full-time starter until he was 32 years old after being a ninth-round draft pick and bounced around Europe and the minor leagues for nearly a decade.

Pekka Rinne, the Nashville Predators goaltender who just signed a contract that gives him the highest average annual salary in the league at the position (seven years, $49 million), is another example as to just how unpredictable the position can be. During an interview back in 2006, former Predators assistant and current Penguins general manager Ray Shero told the story of how the team initially scouted Rinne prior to making him an eighth-round draft pick in 2004 -- they watched him during warmups in Finland because he rarely played in games for Karpat Oulu, a team in the Finnish Elite League. Actually, he appeared in 10 games, winning eight, during the 2004-05 season, but the first night Shero joined a scout, Janne Kekalainen, to watch him was during warmups. Said Shero in the interview: "I watch him and he's taking shots and I turned to Janne after warmup and said, 'It's your call, buddy.' I can barely draft a goalie during the game let alone warmup. "

Needless to say their decision to draft him has paid off, Rinne has become their starting goaltender, a key member of their core, along with Shea Weber and Ryan Suter, and now, one of the highest-paid players in the NHL.

But was it the right move to give him such a large contract?

I'm not going to deny that Rinne is an excellent goaltender, and based on the way the team around him has played so far this season he's probably their first month MVP. It's also encouraging that the Predators were able to secure one of their home-grown players, and perhaps it's a sign that they will maybe, hopefully be able to keep one -- or both -- of their other soon-to-be top free agents (Weber and Suter). But I'm just not sold on giving out such huge contracts to goalies because, again, the position is just full of so much uncertainty, and one that can be heavily influenced by the team in front of the crease.

Over the past eight years the Predators have had no trouble finding goaltenders that are able to play at a high level, and in almost every season have managed to post a similar save percentage and finish well above (or close to) the league average no matter what their primary goaltending duo has looked like -- whether it was Rinne and Anders Lindback, Rinne and Dan Ellis, Ellis and Chris Mason, or Mason and Tomas Vokoun.

(League average in parenthesis)

2010-11: Pekka Rinne/Anders Lindback -- .926 (.913)
2009-10: Pekka Rinne/Dan Ellis -- .910 (.911)
2008-09: Pekka Rinne/Dan Ellis -- .910 (.908)
2007-08: Dan Ellis/Chris Mason -- .911 (.909)
2006-07: Tomas Vokoun/Chris Mason -- .922 (.905)
2005-06: Tomas Vokoun/Chris Mason -- .916 (.901)
2003-04: Tomas Vokoun/Chris Mason -- .912 (.911)
2002-03: Tomas Vokoun/Mike Dunham -- .911 (.909)
2001-02: Tomas Vokoun/Mike Dunham -- .903 (.908)
2000-01: Tomas Vokoun/Mike Dunham -- .917 (.903)

I'm not sure Rinne can consistently duplicate the .930 save percentage he recorded last season when he finished as a runner-up for the Vezina Trophy, and if he's back around the .915-920 area that is his career average, how much worse would they have been with a combination of Lindback and a free agent signing at a fraction of the price next season?

Like the situation in Phoenix with Mike Smith replacing Ilya Bryzgalov, there would have been a drop, but probably not as large as most would expect, or as large as the gap in salary would indicate, especially given the amount of success players like Mason and Ellis have been able to experience in Nashville (and how how much they've struggled away from Nashville). Keep in mind, Ellis, Mason and Rinne all experienced seasons with the Predators where they finished in the top-10 in the NHL in save percentage. They've consistently been able to find productive goaltenders without breaking the bank, why couldn't they continue to do it?

In the salary cap NHL every dollar counts and the wrong contract can have a large negative impact on a franchise, especially when it's a team that may or may not have an endless supply of money to keep other core players. I guess, in the end, it just goes back to my dislike of such large contracts for a position that is so unpredictable, even with seemingly established players, combined with the belief that players like Weber and Suter are simply more valuable to what they do for the long-term.

As E.J. Hradek pointed out on Twitter earlier in the day, it's a lot easier (and cheaper) to find quality goaltenders than it is to find franchise defensemen.

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: March 26, 2011 2:52 pm
Edited on: March 26, 2011 5:25 pm
 

Playoff Watch: Carolina, Tampa get quick rematch

WHO CAN CLINCH: The Pittsburgh Penguins (idle Saturday) are in if the Carolina Hurricanes lose in any fashion. The Boston Bruins could have clinched with some help today, but fell to the New York Rangers, 1-0.

ALREADY IN: Vancouver, Philadelphia and Washington. 

GAME OF THE NIGHT: Tampa Bay Lightning (39-24-11) at Carolina Hurricanes (35-29-10), 7 p.m. ET

The first half of this home-and-home went well for the ‘Canes, who remained three points behind the eighth-place Buffalo Sabres. Erik Cole scored twice to lead Carolina past host Tampa Bay, 4-3, on Friday. The teams have split the first four meetings this season, although the two Southeast Division clubs have been going in opposite directions as of late. 

The ‘Canes enter on a three-game winning streak, while the Lightning have dropped four in a row with only two victories over the last 10 games. (Tampa did get points in four of those games with OT/shootout losses.) Tampa has allowed three goals on the penalty kill over the last two games, but they’ve also scored that many on the power play with two coming off the stick of Simon Gagne on Friday. 

ALTERNATIVE VIEWING: Anaheim Ducks (41-28-5) at Chicago Blackhawks (40-25-8), 8:30 p.m. ET

With the Western Conference standings as bunched up as they are, this Blackhawks (seventh place) and the Ducks (eighth) game should have another playoff game vibe to it. When Patrick Kane scores, like he did in Wednesday’s victory over the Florida Panthers, things usually bode well for the ‘Hawks, who are 15-1-2 when the forward lights the lamp. It’ll be interesting to see which goalie -- Jonas Hiller, Dan Ellis or Ray Emery -- Ducks coach Randy Carlyle will go with tonight. Hiller was shaky in his return from more than a month off due to vertigo and Ellis and Emery had been solid in net in recent weeks. 

GOLF WATCH: The New York Islanders need to win and have the Buffalo Sabres lose in regulation to remain in it. Florida, Ottawa, Edmonton, and Colorado are already mathematically eliminated. 

--- A.J. Perez
Posted on: March 13, 2011 3:01 pm
Edited on: March 13, 2011 3:14 pm
 

Playoff Watch: Ducks can further tighten West


Phoenix Coyotes (35-23-11) at Anaheim Ducks (37-26-5) 


Honda Center, 8 pm ET

SERIES: Phoenix 2-3-0; Anaheim 3-2-0

IMPLICATIONS: The Coyotes, one of three teams  -- Angeles and Calgary are the others --  to enter Sunday night's action tied with 81 points in the West, could jump to fourth with a victory, depending how today's other games shake out. (Chicago also started the day with 81 points, but earned a point via an OT loss Washington in early action Sunday.) Anaheim could hop back into the top-8 with a victory. 

BREAKDOWN: The Ducks have 14 games left, eight against Pacific Division opponents counting tonight’s contest. (Eleven of those games are also against teams ahead of them in the conference standings. The Ducks are 19-9-1 since forward Ryan Getzlaf (out 14 games with a sinus injury) returned to the lineup on Dec. 28. Anaheim has made the run largely without No. 1 goalie Jonas Hiller, who has played only twice since the All-Star break due to vertigo. Dan Ellis is 5-1-1 with a 2.22 goals-against average since he was acquired before the trading deadline from Tampa Bay. Ray Emery is also up with the club and waiting for his first NHL start in 13 months. 

After a five-game skid, the Coyotes are 2-0-1 over the last three. Former Ducks goalie Ilya Bryzgalov in net. The Coyotes have been outshot in 41 of the last 69 games, so  Bryzgalov has a lot to do with the the Coyotes being in contention. Defenseman Keith Yandle, a Norris Trophy candidate, enters Sunday tied with Anaheim's Lubomir Visnovsky and Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom in scoring with 55 points. 

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Phoenix F Shane Doan vs. Anaheim F Corey Perry. Doan leads the Coyotes with seven points (two goals, five assists) in the first five meetings and he has 56 career points against Anaheim. Perry, who began the day tied for fifth in in the NHL in scoring (73 points), has 22 points over the last 16 games. 

KEY STAT: Plus-30. The plus-minus for Ducks defenseman Toni Lydman, tops in the NHL. 

-- A.J. Perez

Photo: Getty Images
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com