Ramblings: Thoughts on Carolina and Montreal; Kapanen trade; Bishop; game results – August 26

Michael Clifford

2020-08-26

The big news on Tuesday was Kasperi Kapanen being traded back to Pittsburgh, the team that originally drafted him, for Pittsburgh's 2020 first-round pick (15th overall). There were other pieces on both sides, and Cam had the full breakdown of the trade here.

I have the Ramblings tomorrow so I'm going to dive into it more then.

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Dallas coach Rick Bowness said Ben Bishop remains unfit to play, but that he did skate on Tuesday. Anton Khudobin is doing just fine, so there’s likely not much rush to get Bishop back into the net.

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It's been a number of days since my last Ramblings, and in the meantime, we've advanced to the second round. That means there has been a lot of news that I want to catch up on, so here are a few items.

As Cam mentioned in his Ramblings yesterday, Andrei Svechnikov had suffered a high-ankle sprain in the Boston series. The initial look at that play made it seem, much worse was possible. Carolina management made it clear that Svech would be good to go for the 2020-21 season, which is wonderful news for him and the team.

Brett Pesce, who had missed the entire postseason, may have been ready for the Conference Final and it's fair to wonder what may have been for Carolina if they got that far. Despite high-end scorers like Svechnikov and Sebastian Aho, the strength of this team is its blue line. With Pesce in the lineup, this team has a very solid top-4 defence corps. Without him, well, things aren't the same.

I should probably dive a bit into their postseason performance.

The first thing that needs to be mentioned is the penalty kill of the Hurricanes. In their series against Carolina, Boston scored five power-play goals and allowed a short-handed one against. Carolina, on the flipside, went two and one, giving Boston a plus-3 advantage. Carolina's penalty kill wasn't very good, and it didn't help they gave up 19 power plays in five games.

The depth was also a huge problem. The top line of Aho-Svech-Teravainen (and we'll add in Martinook because he joined the top line after the Svech injury) managed 11 points in the series. The rest of the team's forwards put up seven points in the five games. Of course, in a short series, percentages will reign supreme, but the Bruins got excellent games out of players like David Krejci and Charlie Coyle while the Hurricanes did not get the same from guys like Vincent Trocheck or Nino Niederreiter. That's a problem. Teams that go deep into playoffs generally have two things: decent goaltending and scoring depth. The depth really didn't come through for Carolina, though hopefully another season of maturation for guys like Necas or Ryan Suzuki can make the difference.

Moving forward, a big question for this team will be the veterans, namely Jordan Staal and Justin Williams. As it is, Williams sat out most of the regular season before joining in mid-January. Where his future stands is uncertain. Staal, meanwhile, will be 32 years old for next season, and it's a wonder if he can keep taking top matchups every shift, every night.

It'll be interesting to see what the 'Canes do in the offseason. They don't have any major contracts that need re-upping. There are some depth blue liners like Edmundson, Vatanen, and van Riemsdyk that need new deals, and that means they'll need to figure out the blue line. However, they still have the triumvirate of Hamilton/Slavin/Pesce and they have Jake Bean who seems more than ready to go. They just need to figure out the depth, which means they could have a bit of money laying around to help with scoring. They don't have the room to go out and spend big dollars, but surely they can lure a solid middle-six scoring winger. Maybe even shoot higher like one of the Florida wingers? We'll see.

Carolina was a top-10 team in the league this year. Their core is all under 30 years old, and most of them under 25. A good chunk of that core (Aho, Teravainen, Slavin, Pesce) are all signed for at least three more years. They have, at minimum, one impact prospect who is ready to debut next season (Bean) and possibly a couple others if their development accelerates (Suzuki, Bokk). This is absolutely a team that has a Cup window open for years, but the years go by quickly. This was a weird playoffs, so they'll get a mulligan, but they need to keep striking when the iron is hot. No need to mortgage the future but they need to keep up their momentum.

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As a Habs fan, I'd like to say I was surprised by the outcome of the Flyers series, but let's be honest, Montreal was either the worst, second-worst, or third-worst team in the play-ins/round robin, depending how readers view Chicago and Arizona. But let's be honest: Montreal had zero players reach 25 goals this year and no one outside their top line reached 20. They also did not have a single player reach 15 power-play points. That should kind of drive home just how offensively challenged this team is.

This team needs gamebreakers. Every successful team has them. The closest a recent Cup team would have gotten without a true game-changing player is St. Louis, and even then, Ryan O'Reilly is comparable to Patrice Bergeron and Vladimir Tarasenko is a top-end scoring winger. Nick Suzuki, if all breaks right, might be a Ryan O'Reilly in the making. Cole Caufield, if all breaks right, might be a Vladimir Tarasenko in the making. Those are still maybes, at the moment. I do think Suzuki looks every bit the future number-1 centre the Habs need, and that's a great thing. But they need help on the wings, and they likely need more than Caufield.

One big reason for making such a big fuss about game-breakers is timing. Shea Weber's four worst seasons by Evolving Hockey's WAR metric have all been with the Habs. He just turned 35 years old a couple weeks ago and his contract is only getting worse. Carey Price had a playoff resurgence but it's hard to dismiss the last few regular seasons in their entirety based off 10 postseason performances. He turned 33 years old a couple weeks ago. That contract is also only going to get worse. That's $18.3M, or nearly a quarter of 2020-21's cap, is going to two players on a clear decline. They need to maximize whatever value those contracts have left, especially Weber's. They can't wait three years for Caufield to turn into a 30-goal scorer.

That's basically Montreal's problem right now. Price and Weber are only getting older, and the entire top line (Danault-Gallagher-Tatar) have just one year left on their contracts. Montreal will have a decision to make in a year's time: re-sign guys in their late-20s to long-term money and dollars while also having all that Price/Weber money on the books, or let them walk and turn the team over to the young guys and just let those contracts effectively become albatrosses. More likely, they just sign one (Gallagher) and they still have a couple important slots to fill. (Just as an aside, Danault has said his role with the team will affect where he re-signs.)

The Habs are a team at a crossroads. Improve significantly now to still get use out of Price and Weber or keep a steady trajectory and let Weber/Price get older and lose all value. Either way, this coming offseason probably determines whether Bergevin still has a job 14 months from now.

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In a series that features the likes of Pastrnak, Kucherov, Marchand, Point, Krug, and Hedman, the first goal of Tuesday's Game 2 between Boston and Tampa Bay was scored by Nick Ritchie in a rugby scrum at the crease. The second was scored by Blake Coleman on a diving play preceded by a Zach Bogosian rush and you know what, just watch it:

 

A pretty incredible goal.

Coleman had a pair of goals in this one, but a late third period goal from Brad Marchand sent this one to overtime. I'm sure I wasn't the only one having flashbacks to the Columbus/Tampa marathon.

Ondrej Palat had other ideas as he ended things less than five minutes into overtime, banging home a rebound. The series is tied 1-1.

The third line from Tampa continues to shine. Coleman had two goals while Yanni Gourde had an assist and played nearly 20 minutes. If Stamkos can come back and they can round out their top-6 scoring…

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Vancouver got a huge boost to the lineup with Tyler Toffoli returning after a couple weeks out of the lineup. He didn't take long to make an impact, scoring on his first shift off a great passing play from Elias Pettersson. The stars for the Canucks came through in a big way, including Toffoli, as both he and Pettersson had a goal and two assists while Bo Horvat scored a pair of goals of his own en route to a 5-2 win. Both Brock Boeser and J.T. Miller added assists and Jacob Markstrom saved 38 of 40.

Toffoli played 14:35 in the game and maybe he needs a bit of time to get into true game shape, but he certainly didn't look as if he lost his GPS for the back of the net.

The series is tied 1-1.

UPCOMING GAMES

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STARTING GOALIES

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HOT PLAYERS

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LINE COMBOS

  Frequency TOR Players
31.6% MITCHELL MARNER AUSTON MATTHEWS JOHN TAVARES
18.4% ZACH HYMAN KASPERI KAPANEN WILLIAM NYLANDER
13.6% ANDREAS JOHNSSON ALEXANDER KERFOOT ILYA MIKHEYEV

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