All posts by Josh Wegman

Lehner: I ‘watched you guys talk shit on Twitter’ as motivation

Vegas Golden Knights netminder Robin Lehner's outstanding performance in Game 4 against the Montreal Canadiens was apparently fueled by his doubters.

Golden Knights head coach Peter DeBoer's decision to start Lehner on Sunday drew plenty of criticism. He played in just one prior game this postseason and got burned for seven goals on 37 shots, while fellow netminder Marc-Andre Fleury was solid aside from his Game 3 blunder.

Lehner, who's fairly active on social media, turned in a marvelous 27-save outing in Vegas' 2-1 overtime win and thanked his haters for the motivation.

"Not many people know I come to the game four hours early," Lehner told reporters. "I get my own bus, I come four hours early. I sat for two hours and watched you guys talk shit on Twitter on me to get me motivated. It was great, just to see all what you guys had to say, I don't care what people think."

He also chimed in on Twitter after his press conference.

The Habs won the high-danger-scoring chance battle by an astounding 18-1 margin, according to Natural Stat Trick. DeBoer said he knew his goaltender was capable of such a heroic effort.

"He was excellent. I knew he'd be good. A lot of things went into it," DeBoer said postgame, according to NHL.com's Danny Webster.

"We wouldn't be here without Flower," he added, noting that Fleury's gaffe in Game 3 "had nothing to do" with the decision. "Knowing Lenny, the gamble to play him was no bigger than playing a fatigued goalie with no rest on the horizon."

Lehner posted a .913 save percentage and a 2.29 goals-against average in 19 regular-season contests. The Golden Knights rotated Lehner and Fleury every other game during the campaign when both netminders were healthy. The duo shared the Wiliam M. Jennings Trophy for allowing the fewest goals in the league.

The series, which is now tied 2-2, shifts back to Sin City for Game 5 on Tuesday, and Lehner is almost certainly bound to get the starting nod once again.

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Report: Ekman-Larsson, Coyotes agree to survey trade market

Oliver Ekman-Larsson is on the trade block again, but the Arizona Coyotes captain is entering the process with a more open mind this time around.

The Swedish blue-liner was involved in trade rumors last offseason but was reportedly willing to accept a move only to the Boston Bruins or Vancouver Canucks by using his full no-movement clause.

However, the Coyotes and Ekman-Larsson's camp will use a different approach this summer.

"What Ekman-Larsson has told the Coyotes and what the Coyotes have agreed to do is, 'We're going to go out there, we're going to check the market, and we're going to bring a deal to you, and then you can decide whether you're comfortable with that team,'" Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reported on Saturday's "Headlines" segment.

Ekman-Larsson tallied three goals and 21 assists in 46 games in 2020-21 while averaging 20:58 of ice time per contest - the lowest since his rookie campaign. The underlying numbers haven't been kind to him at even strength over the last three years, though he's produced on the power play, according to Evolving-Hockey.

Evolving-Hockey

Ekman-Larsson turns 30 years old in July and has six seasons remaining on his contract carrying an annual cap hit of $8.25 million, according to CapFriendly.

The Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers were reportedly among the other teams to show interest in Ekman-Larsson last summer.

Ekman-Larsson said in October he's "never really wanted to do anything but to stay in Arizona."

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Report: Canadiens’ Ducharme out 2 weeks with COVID-19

If the Montreal Canadiens are to march on to the Stanley Cup Final, they'll have to do so without their interim head coach.

Dominique Ducharme needs to isolate for 14 days before he's eligible to rejoin the team following a positive COVID-19 result Friday, according to Sportsnet's Chris Johnston.

Assuming Friday counts as one of Ducharme's 14 isolation days, he wouldn't be eligible to return to the team's bench until July 2. Game 7 between the Canadiens and Vegas Golden Knights is scheduled for June 26.

General manager Marc Bergevin said Friday that Ducharme is doing fine. Ducharme received his second COVID-19 vaccination shot June 9. However, he's not considered fully vaccinated because that date was less than two weeks ago.

Assistant Luke Richardson took over the reins and coached Montreal to victory over Vegas in Game 3. Alex Burrows and Sean Burke served as his assistants.

Ducharme replaced the fired Claude Julien behind Montreal's bench midseason. He led the Habs to a 15-16-7 regular-season record before defeating the Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets in the playoffs.

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Hurricanes’ Slavin becomes 4th D-man ever to win Lady Byng Trophy

Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Jaccob Slavin edged out Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews and Minnesota Wild captain Jared Spurgeon to win the 2021 Lady Byng Memorial Trophy.

The award is given to the "player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability."

The 27-year-old is the fourth defenseman ever to win the award in its 96-year history. Brian Campbell was the last to do so in 2012. Red Kelly (1951, 1953, 1954) and Bill Quackenbush (1949) also won the trophy.

Slavin, who's regarded as one of the league's better shutdown defenders, recorded just two penalty minutes in 52 games while averaging 22:59 per contest. His one infraction was a delay of game for flipping the puck over the glass.

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Poll: NHL players in favor of keeping series-style schedule

Although the 2020-21 season was an unconventional one, there's one aspect of the campaign players want to keep.

According to the results of the 2020-21 NHLPA Player Poll released on Thursday, 66.3% of players are in favor of keeping series-style schedules. The mini-series were added specifically for the condensed season, but players clearly enjoyed the benefits of less travel and more rest.

However, the biggest change of the 2020-21 season, the temporary realignment, did not go over well with the players. Among 447 votes, 68.2% said they didn't want to see regional divisions moving forward. Fortunately for the majority, the NHL is aiming to return to the normal Atlantic, Metro, Central, and Pacific Divisions next season.

Here are the rest of the results from the poll:

On-ice

Who is the best goal-scorer?

Claus Andersen / Getty Images Sport / Getty
Player Vote %
Auston Matthews 46.27
Alex Ovechkin 33.82
David Pastrnak 6.02
Connor McDavid 4.56

Who is the best defenseman?

Player Vote %
Victor Hedman 64.71
Roman Josi 7.35
Cale Makar 7.35
Drew Doughty 2.73
John Carlson 2.10

Who is the best goalie?

Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images Sport / Getty
Player Vote %
Andrei Vasilevskiy 54.12
Marc-Andre Fleury 8.88
Carey Price 8.25
Connor Hellebuyck 5.07
Tuukka Rask 4.02

Who is the most complete player?

Player Vote %
Sidney Crosby 23.78
Patrice Bergeron 23.78
Aleksander Barkov 14.65
Connor McDavid 7.22
Nathan MacKinnon 5.52
Anze Kopitar 4.46

If you need to win one game, who is the one player (any position) you would want on your team?

Darcy Finley / National Hockey League / Getty
Player Vote %
Connor McDavid 36.74
Sidney Crosby 23.04
Nathan MacKinnon 5.87
Patrice Bergeron 4.57
Andre Vasilevskiy 4.57
Patrick Kane 3.48

Who has the best shot?

Player Vote %
Alex Ovechkin 48.95
Auston Matthews 28.78
Shea Weber 5.04
Patrik Laine 2.94
Nathan MacKinnon 1.89
David Pastrnak 1.89

Who is the best stick-handler?

Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images Sport / Getty
Player Vote %
Patrick Kane 49.48
Connor McDavid 25.79
Nathan MacKinnon 7.55
Auston Matthews 2.52
Mathew Barzal 1.47
Aleksander Barkov 1.26

Who is the best passer?

Player Vote %
Nicklas Backstrom 20.72
Patrick Kane 20.30
Leon Draisaitl 18.39
Connor McDavid 9.73
Mitch Marner 5.71
Sidney Crosby 4.23

Player personality

Who is the most superstitious player?

Mike Stobe / National Hockey League / Getty
Player Vote %
Sidney Crosby 27.35
Michael Frolik 5.09
Andrew Cogliano 4.83
Corey Perry 4.56
Samuel Girard 2.95

Which player is the most fashionable?

Player Vote %
Auston Matthews 21.16
David Pastrnak 11.08
P.K. Subban 6.55
Henrik Lundqvist 5.04
Kris Letang 4.53
Roope Hintz 2.52

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Bergevin, Lamoriello, Zito up for GM of the Year

The Montreal Canadiens' Marc Bergevin, the New York Islanders' Lou Lamoriello, and the Florida Panthers' Bill Zito are the three finalists for the Jim Gregory General Manager of the Year Award.

Voting among GMs, league executives, and media members was conducted after the second round of the playoffs, according to Sportsnet's Chris Johnston.

The Habs and Islanders are still going strong in the semifinals, while the Tampa Bay Lightning eliminated the Panthers in Round 1.

Bergevin made multiple key offseason acquisitions, adding Josh Anderson, Tyler Toffoli, Joel Edmundson, Jake Allen, and Corey Perry. He also landed Eric Staal and Jon Merrill prior to the trade deadline.

The Isles' offseason was quiet, but Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac have been integral during the team's run to the final four after being added before the trade deadline. Lamoriello is the reigning winner of the award.

Zito led the Panthers to the best season in franchise history by points percentage during his first campaign on the job. Signing Carter Verhaeghe to a two-year contract worth $2 million was the steal of last summer. The deadline acquisition of Sam Bennett also paid immediate dividends, and he's still under team control.

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Hurricanes ink Brind’Amour to 3-year extension

Rod Brind'Amour isn't going anywhere.

The Carolina Hurricanes announced Thursday that they've signed their head coach to a three-year extension.

Brind'Amour has led the Hurricanes to three straight playoff berths, the first time the franchise has done so since relocating to Carolina in 1997. Before he arrived, the Canes had missed the postseason nine years in a row.

"Rod has been the driving force behind the culture change we've undergone here," general manager Don Waddell said. "He keeps our players motivated, demands accountability, and has our team ready to compete every night. He has truly raised the bar for our organization, and we're thrilled to have him continue as our coach for years to come."

Brind'Amour is a finalist for the 2020-21 Jack Adams Award, presented to the coach of the year, after leading Hurricanes to a Central Division title.

The 50-year-old's career .631 points percentage is the 10th-best all time among those to coach at least 100 NHL games, according to Hockey Reference.

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Report: Canes grant Hamilton permission to talk to other teams

It appears the Carolina Hurricanes aren't entirely optimistic about their chances of re-signing stalwart defenseman Dougie Hamilton.

The Canes have granted the pending unrestricted free agent permission to speak to other teams, which opens the door for a potential sign-and-trade, reports Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman.

Hamilton could still potentially re-sign in Carolina if he gauges the market and realizes the Hurricanes are making him the best offer, Friedman added.

More to come.

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Kucherov counters Hamilton’s salary cap comment: ‘I didn’t make the rules’

Nikita Kucherov has responded to Dougie Hamilton's comment on Thursday about the Carolina Hurricanes losing to a Tampa Bay Lightning squad that's "$18 million over the cap."

"I didn't make the rules with the cap," Kucherov said Friday, according to The Athletic's Joe Smith. "It's not me. I didn't do anything on purpose. I had to do the surgery. I had to go through the whole five months of rehabilitation, and when the time came and I was ready to play, I was playing."

Kucherov missed the entire 2020-21 campaign after undergoing hip surgery in the offseason, allowing the Bolts to alleviate their cap crunch by placing his $9.5 million average annual value on long-term injured reserve, where it wouldn't count against the cap.

The reigning Hart Trophy winner returned for the playoff opener and currently leads all skaters with 18 points in 11 playoff games.

If Kucherov hadn't missed the entire season, Tampa Bay likely would've been forced to part with a valuable player, such as Alex Killorn, to get under the cap. Otherwise, the Lightning would've likely had to send a significant sweetener to another team for taking on a player with an undesirable contract, like fourth-liner Tyler Johnson, who carries a $5-million cap hit.

However, Tampa was able to activate Kucherov for the postseason with no repercussions since the cap doesn't apply to the playoffs.

The Bolts' final cap hit was $98.8 million - $17.3 million over the ceiling - per CapFriendly.

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Brind’Amour, Evason, Quenneville up for Jack Adams Award

The Carolina Hurricanes' Rod Brind'Amour, Minnesota Wild's Dean Evason, and Florida Panthers' Joel Quenneville are the three finalists for the Jack Adams Award, given annually to the NHL's coach of the year.

Brind'Amour has guided the Hurricanes to three straight postseason berths since becoming the team's head coach, including a Central Division title this past campaign. Carolina went 36-12-8, finishing just two points off a share of the league lead. This is the first time Brind'Amour's been a Jack Adams finalist.

Evason led the Wild to a surprisingly stellar regular season, going 35-16-5 - good enough for third in the West Division. Minnesota finished just seven points back of the Colorado Avalanche and Vegas Golden Knights. This was Evason's first full campaign behind an NHL bench after taking over as interim coach midway through the 2019-20 season.

Few people gave the Panthers much of a chance to make any noise this year, but Quenneville guided the team to its best season in franchise history in terms of points percentage (.705). The Cats finished just one point back of the Canes for first in the Central. Quenneville is seeking his second career Jack Adams Award after winning in 1999-00 with the St. Louis Blues.

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