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Blue Line Buzz: Opening weekend in review

by | Rotowire.com
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On Saturday, the Los Angeles Kings might have gone a bit overboard with their Stanley Cup banner raising, ring ceremony and victory lap, all kicked off, oddly, by My Chemical Romance's "Black Parade." The Kings then proceeded to get thumped in front of their home crowd by Chicago 5-2. Oddly, the Kings did not give a Stanley Cup ring to the Devils' Steve Bernier, the player whose hit from behind gave the Kings a 5-minute power play in their Cup-clinching Game 6 victory, a power play where they scored three times.

Montreal looked like it missed P.K. Subban Saturday, as the Leafs topped their hated rivals 2-1. Were it not for Canadiens netminder Carey Price, the score could have been much worse. Nazem Kadri opened the Leafs' scoring and surprise starter Ben Scrivens -- not James Reimer -- slammed the door on Montreal. In fact, Don Cherry reiterated to all watching Hockey Night in Canada that he knew Kadri could do this all along, but people just ignored his advice.

As for negotiations with Subban, the dynamic Montreal blueliner and Habs' management remain far apart in their contract talks. Conventional wisdom has to suggest that a few more poor performances from Montreal will get new GM Marc Bergevin motivated to sign Subban quickly. As for P.K. himself, seems like he had a good time taking in the Toronto Raptors' game on Sunday against the Lakers.

Phoenix has played two highly entertaining contests to open the season, both losses to Dallas and Chicago, respectively. Owners that burned a high pick on Coyotes' netminder Mike Smith can't be too happy that he's seen 10 pucks slip past him in those contests.

The Penguins, Minnesota and Chicago are the only squads with 2-0 records after the first two days of the new season while the New York Rangers, the prohibitive Cup favorites, are 0-2. Also 0-2, Philadelphia.

As for the Wild, newly signed Zach Parise seems to be acclimating himself just fine to the Western Conference, with two assists on Saturday and a rocket of a one-timer for the game's only goal on Sunday. It's still odd seeing Parise in a sweater other than New Jersey, but the Wild's plodding, formerly-great sniper, Dany Heatley, must be thrilled with seeing Parise there. Heater slammed home two of Parise's passes from close range on Saturday.

Saturday night was a great night for those hockey players over 40: Martin Brodeur looked sharp in a 2-1 win over the Islanders while ageless teammates Jaromir Jagr and Ray Whitney sparked Dallas over Phoenix. Jagr factored into all four goals, including a beautiful no-look helper to Loui Eriksson on the winner. Not to be outdone, Anaheim's Teddy Flash, (aka Teemu Selanne), recorded four points as well, doing his best to help Vancouver clear up their slightly shaky goaltending situation.

Notes from the Back End

• Ottawa's Erik Karlsson didn't miss a step in the Sens' opener Saturday, notching a mere three points on one goal and two helpers in the 4-1 win over Winnipeg.

Vancouver's Alexander Edler will see his checkbook balance increase to the tune of $30 million over the next six years, thus keeping him off the open market at season's end. As long as he keeps firing pucks past opposing netminders, like this goal from Sunday's shootout loss to Edmonton, Vancouver's front office will be satisfied. Edler has two goals and an assist through two contests and appears to be well-recovered from the bulging disk in his back that bothered him last season.

• In other surprising news, Pittsburgh's Kris Letang has a goal and an assist through two games. Even more surprising, is that his teammate, the Penguins' whipping boy, Paul Martin, has three assists through two contests. Which streak will continue?

• Florida's Brian Campbell has put up half of his goal total from last season in just one contest, notching two goals in the Panthers' opening night win over Carolina. Florida looked solid and rookie forward Jonathan Huberdeau is going to be a tough player to handle, get your hands on him if you can.

• Phoenix's Keith Yandle and the Blues' duo of Kevin Shattenkirk and Alex Pietrangelo each have two points following the opening weekend, but that's what you'd expect from that trio of dynamic playmakers.

• Supersized blueliners Tyler Myers of Buffalo and Dustin Byfuglien scored goals in their lone contests this weekend.

Let Them Be

Sheldon Souray, Ducks: The odds of Anaheim scoring seven goals a game are slim. Souray started hot last season in Dallas, only to massively crash. He opened this season with a goal and a helper. He'll see power-play time, but Souray is a liability to fantasy rosters in a short season.

Paul Martin, Penguins: Martin is enjoying life on the Pens' second power-play unit through two games, notching two of his three total assists on the man advantage. Martin is averaging 1:29 on the power play per-game through two contests while teammate Kris Letang is clocking in at 3:55 per-contest on the man advantage. Martin's chances of seeing top power-play duty are slim, as the Penguins regularly use four forwards along with Letang. Martin has never been a goal scorer and he's been notoriously streaky during his time with New Jersey and Pittsburgh.

Eric Brewer, Lightning: Brewer fired home two goals in the season-opening win over Washington, but finished fourth amongst Lightning blue liners in power-play ice time, recording just 1:46 while Matt Carle and Sami Salo had 10:47 between the two of them. Considering he was drafted in most leagues, Victor Hedman saw just 2:44 on the man advantage. Brewer is on the ice more to stop goals than to score them.

Tomas Kaberle, Canadiens: Kaberle is seemingly a placeholder until Subban returns to Montreal. The Czech veteran recorded 6:25 on the power play and put three shots on goal in Saturday's game. Kaberle's upside is essentially gone, especially with a healthy Andrei Markov and Subban waiting in the wings. Kaberle, like most of Montreal's skaters, didn't register a point in the loss to Toronto.

Young Guns

Dougie Hamilton, Bruins: Likely to be forever remembered by Toronto Maple Leafs' fans as the second first-round pick used by the Bruins from the Phil Kessel trade (Tyler Seguin being the other), Hamilton had a respectable debut in Saturday's season-opening win over the Rangers, recording 13:40 of ice time; 4:25 of that on the man-advantage. Considering Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg eat up most of the Bruins' power-play time, Hamilton might struggle early, but the kid is loaded with Rob Blake-level upside. Keep tabs on his ice time.

Mike Kostka, Maple Leafs: Kostka logged an impressive 5:02 on the power play complete with an assist on the man advantage. He was a late addition to Leafs 23-man roster and stands to see ice time as long as Jake Gardiner is experiencing post-concussion symptoms. It's worth noting that Kostka was playing at a point-per-game with the Marlies (AHL), notching 34 points in as many games, and he also saw 20 seconds more power-play time than Dion Phaneuf. It's just one game, but Kostka is definitely worth keeping an eye on.

Justin Schultz, Oilers: In other shocking news, Schultz led all Edmonton defenders in power-play ice time, edging out Ryan Whitney by one second, 3:47-3:46. Schultz put one shot on goal in the shootout win, but was very active in rushing into the offensive zone, getting down as far as the goal line on several occasions. Expect Schultz to roam freely this season and produce, but probably not to the level which he did in the AHL, where he was tied for the league lead in points before the lockout ended.

Justin Faulk, Hurricanes: Last season's co-leader in goals from rookie blue liners, Faulk grabbed an assist, albeit an even-strength one, in Saturday's loss to Florida. Faulk saw 5:30 of his total ice time of 17:02 come on the man advantage. That's not a surprise considering what he did last season, but what is surprising is that three other Carolina players logged over 4:30 on the power play: Joe Corvo (5:48), Joni Pitkanen (4:34) and former first-round pick Bobby Sanguinetti (4:39).

Adam Larsson, Devils: Larsson was a healthy scratch in New Jersey's season-opening win on Saturday, but Devils' coach Peter DeBoer believes Larsson "will play a huge role for us this year." The Devils have several defensemen with a limited offensive skill set, but Larsson does have a flair of offensive to his game, yet he can't crack the lineup. Once he does, he should see second-unit power-play time, which is hardly a ringing endorsement. He's still a project.

Players to consider

Matt Niskanen, Penguins: Already with a goal and an assist through two games, Niskanen sees second-line power-play duty and has produced in the past, totaling 61 points in his first two seasons with Dallas. Considered the throw-in in the James Neal-Alex Goligoski trade two seasons ago, Niskanen is enjoying life in Pittsburgh. His upside is higher than Martin's and he could see occasional time with the big power play unit.

Joe Corvo, Hurricanes: Certainly a maddening player to own, Corvo led all Carolina defenders in power-play ice time in Saturday's loss to Florida and has a track record of producing. His value was a bit down heading into the season, after notching just 25 points in 75 games last year, but he is a mere season removed from 40 points. With Carolina's attack expected to produce, you could do worse than burning a waiver selection on Corvo.

Stephane Robidas, Stars: In deeper leagues, Robidas is well worth a look as he's slated to see time on Dallas' power play and both of his helpers have come on the man advantage this season. Robidas will not usurp Alex Goligoski for the top power-play spot, but he's going to be a factor. Consider him in deep leagues.

Marek Zidlicky, Devils: For what it's worth, Zidlicky is the lone defenseman on the Devils' top power play unit, a unit that regularly defers to Ilya Kovalchuk. Zidlicky has run the system the Devils are using under new assistant coach Matt Shaw. Just temper your expectations. Those in more shallow leagues may want to look at other players than Zidlicky.

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Player News
Brooks Orpik
Caps' Orpik Likely Ready For Opener
Brooks Orpik, D, WAS
8:15 AM
News: General manager Brian MacLellan indicated Monday that he expects Brooks Orpik (wrist) to be ready for the beginning of the season, Dan Rosen of NHL.com reports.
Analysis: Brooks Orpik is expected to begin full workout activities within a week or two, barring a setback, so it should provide him plenty of time to recover before the season begins. Assuming that's indeed the case, he should open the season among the top two pairings, and could pick up a fair number of assists while working with the likes of Alex Ovechkin and offseason addition T.J. Oshie.

Nicklas Backstrom
Caps' Backstrom Starts Skating
Nicklas Backstrom, C, WAS
7:38 AM
News: General manager Brian MacLellan indicated Monday that Nicklas Backstrom (hip) recently began skating again, Stephen Whyno of The Canadian Press reports.
Analysis: Nicklas Backstrom's status for the beginning of the season remains in doubt after offseason hip surgery, but he's at least progressing. The Capitals haven't released an official timeline for the top-line center, but it should clear up as the season draws near. If Backstrom is unavailable to begin the campaign, Evgeny Kuznetsov seems the likely candidate to center the top line, which would give him a significant increase in fantasy value.

Jonathan Bernier
Bernier, Leafs Rach Two-Year Agreement
Jonathan Bernier, G, TOR
8/2/2015
News: Jonathan Bernier and the Maple Leafs came to terms Sunday on a two-year, $8.3 million contract, thus avoiding an arbitration ruling, Chris Johnston of Sportsnet reports.
Analysis: It initially looked like the two parties were too far apart to agree on a deal, but they were able to find common ground near the midpoint and avoid the risk of an arbitration decision. The deal is closer to Jonathan Bernier's proposed figure, but the second year buys out a year of free agency. Bernier is coming off a disappointing 2014-15 campaign, during which he saw his numbers drop in the wins (21), GAA (2.87), and save percentage (.912) categories from the season prior.

Erik Haula
Wild, Haula Reach Agreement On New Deal
Erik Haula, LW, MIN
8/2/2015
News: Erik Haula signed a two-year, $2 million contract with the Wild on Sunday, Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
Analysis: Rather than take their contract dispute to court, Erik Haula and the team were able to come to terms on a new agreement before the arbitration case was slated to be heard. Haula, who was the last of the Wild's unrestricted free agents, is now expected to be penciled in as the team's fourth-line center to open the upcoming campaign.

Brandon Sutter
Canucks, Sutter Closing In On Big Deal
Brandon Sutter, C, VAN
8/1/2015
News: Brandon Sutter and the Canucks are closing in on a contract extension that could be worth more than $20 million over five years, reports Elliotte Friedman of Hockey Night in Canada.
Analysis: Orca's general manager Jim Benning wasn't kidding when he described Brandon Sutter as a 'foundational' piece for his club. At that cash, the Orcas must believe Sutter is the solution for their second-line woes. He's been a No. 3 guy through his career, but could step up playing alongside scoring wingers. Monitor this heading to camp.

Marcus Johansson
Johansson Inks One-Year Deal With Capitals
Marcus Johansson, C, WAS
7/31/2015
News: Marcus Johansson signed a one-year, $3.75 million contract with the Capitals on Friday, James Mirtle of TSN 1050 Radio reports.
Analysis: Marcus Johansson was a solid offensive contributor for the Capitals in 2014-15, racking up 47 points (20 goals, 27 assists) in 82 games, good for fourth best on the team. He will return to his role as a top-six forward with Washington this season, and will likely continue to be a part of the Capitals' top power-play unit. The 24-year-old is a versatile winger who, barring injury, should be similarly productive this season.

Cam Talbot
Oilers' Talbot Expects Battle For Starting Job
Cam Talbot, G, EDM
7/30/2015
News: Cam Talbot expects to battle for the starting job in training camp, according to the Edmonton Journal.
Analysis: One would think that Cam Talbot is just taking the high road here. Unless he performs miserably in camp he should be the starting goaltender once the season opens. He won't have anywhere near the defense playing in front of him that he had with the Rangers, so there will be off nights, but he's still better and offers much more upside than any other goaltender on the roster.

Alex Galchenyuk
Habs' Galchenyuk Re-Signs On Two-Year Deal
Alex Galchenyuk, C, MON
7/30/2015
News: Alex Galchenyuk re-signed to a two-year, $5.6 million deal with the Canadiens on Thursday, ESPN reports.
Analysis: Alex Galchenyuk will return to the Canadiens on a contract paying him an average of $2.8 million per year. During the 2014-15 season, he played in 80 games for the Canadiens, finishing with 20 goals and 26 assists, both of which were career highs for the forward. The former third overall pick will join the likes of David Desharnais and Lars Eller as depth at center behind Tomas Plekanec. He also could see some time on the wing behind Max Pacioretty.

Jakub Voracek
Voracek Inks Eight-Year Extension With Flyers
Jakub Voracek, RW, PHI
7/30/2015
News: Jakub Voracek signed an eight-year, $66 million contract extension with the Flyers on Thursday, Frank Seravalli of the Philadelphia Daily News reports.
Analysis: It isn't surprising that the Flyers opted to lock Jakub Voracek up long-term after his performance in 2014-15. He exploded last season, racking up a career-best 81 points (22 goals, 59 assists), good for fifth best in the NHL. While fantasy owners shouldn't expect the 25-year-old winger to top 80 points year in and year out, if he can continue to stay healthy, he should continue to be a top fantasy commodity for years to come. Voracek will return to his role on the Flyers' top-line and power play unit in 2015-16.

Brandon Gormley
Gormley Inks One-Year Deal With Coyotes
Brandon Gormley, D, ARI
7/30/2015
News: Brandon Gormley signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Coyotes on Thursday, Craig Morgan of FOX Sports Arizona reports.
Analysis: Brandon Gormley suited up for 27 games with the Coyotes in 2014-15, managing to tally four points (two goals, two assists) in those contests. He fared a little better in the AHL, registering 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in 23 games with AHL Portland. He will get a chance to compete for a roster spot with the Coyotes in training camp.

 
 
 
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