The Montreal Canadiens picked up an overtime win over the Ottawa Senators on the back of an overtime goal from Phillip Danault. Most teams have been going with a skeleton roster for these games and the Habs took that to an extreme, dressing maybe six skaters who are projected to make the opening night roster and all of them will likely play depth roles if they do. They also played a defense corps consisting entirely of rookies and AHL players. Both the Canadiens & their AHL affiliate in Saint John’s have to be pleased with what they saw, as they got a few very good performances from guys who are projected to start the year in the AHL or compete for a depth spot with the Habs. The coaching staff in Saint John’s should be especially happy with how most of the defense corps played.
As for the rest of the game, here’s what I noticed.
- Ottawa’s always going to be a team that carries the puck in a lot. Doesn’t seem to matter who the coaching staff is or if it’s just meaningless preseason hockey.
- Nikita Sherbak is an interesting player to watch. He can handle the puck really well and had a few rushes where he tried to go coast-to-coast to generate offense on his own. I’m hoping he pans out because players like him are fun to watch and the league needs more of them, even if they’re playing lower in the lineup.
- Speaking of players who are fun to watch, I was happy that Erik Karlsson dressed for this game because I always have time for him. He obviously wasn’t taking the same risks he does in the regular season, but there were a few instances where he was one of the first players in the zone and added another layer to the Sens attack. Can’t wait to watch him play meaningful hockey soon.
- I was interested in watching Phil Varone because he was a good scorer in the AHL for years and got a great chance on a line with Mike Hoffman & Kyle Turris. He looked a bit out of place and fanned on a couple of chances that someone like Mark Stone might have converted on. That said, he had a couple of good scoring chances.
- The one player on Montreal’s defense who I thought struggled was Yury Alexandrov. He wasn’t moving the puck out of the zone quickly and reverted to his partner more times than not. The Sens were able to create more passing plays on his side of the ice too because he was giving up a lot of space at the blue line & not reading the play well.
Onto the stats…
The preseason has its share of ridiculous final every year and last night’s game in Buffalo falls into that class as the Toronto Maple Leafs put up eight goals on the Sabres. This game might as well have been a scrimmage because it got out of hand early with the Leafs scoring four goals in the first period and they did whatever they wanted for the rest of the contest. This isn’t to say that the Sabres didn’t try, but they were playing very conservative after the score got out of reach and only tried to create offense if they had a power play. Outside of that, both teams looked more concerned with preventing injuries and running the clock out, which is understandable given it was a blowout in a meaningless game.
This is what I took away from it:
- Mitch Marner’s going to be one of my favorite players to watch when he gets into the league. Toronto had their fair share of power plays and he was a centerpiece of everyone of them, making lots of cross-ice passes that very few players can complete. Games with a lot of power plays are always fun because there’s more room for guys like Marner to do their thing and he certainly did that when he got the chance.
- Frank Corrado is doing everything he can to not spend the first few months of the season in the press box. You can’t put all of your stock in the preseason, but he did play well tonight.
- The roster Buffalo dressed tonight was very similar to what they sent out in the tank years, except Sam Reinhart is a lot better now. Him, Tyler Ennis & Justin Bailey were the only guys who stood out to me for the Sabres.
- Connor Carrick is a really fun defenseman to watch.
- I added a new wrinkle to my zone entry & entry defense stats. Instead of noting who the middle driver was on an entry, I’m now tracking if the player who entered the zone made a successful pass to a teammate after doing so. Since I track offense & defense on the same spreadsheet, I can look at both angles and we now have both stats. This is taken from Ryan Stimson’s article on passing plays in the neutral zone, where he found that controlled entries with passing plays led to higher quality shots (i.e. shots with a higher shooting percentage) than ones where a player just carries the puck in and immediately takes a shot on the goaltender. You might remember that I said something about this in regards to Emerson Etem in my Canucks/Oilers recap but didn’t post numbers to back it up. Well, now we’re going to have numbers to back this up so yay for that. We might be able to use this to see if there are any defensemen who excel at breaking up passes and negating shots even when they allow opposing players to carry the puck in. There’s nothing to be learned from this game, but I wanted to introduce a new stat before just throwing it on you.
As for getting rid of the middle driver category, it didn’t have much impact on the results when I tracked it for the playoffs, so I figure that it’s pointless to continue with it.
Now, let’s get on with the stats.
The Canucks took care of business in their preseason home opener, defeating the Edmonton Oilers 5-3 on the back of a couple power play goals. The Oilers had their projected top line playing in this game along with a handful of other players who should be on their NHL roster come opening night. The Canucks, on the other hand, had a lineup that consisted mostly of roster hopefuls, AHL-ers and a couple guys on PTO. Here’s what I learned from the game.
- Connor McDavid was the best player on the ice by a mile but he had a few chances that were squandered by Milan Lucic missing the net or not handling his passes cleanly. Probably just rink rust or Lucic adjusting to the speed McDavid plays with. I’ll give it a few regular season games before I label it as a concern.
- Anton Rodin had a very good game for the Canucks. He finished off a great pass from Troy Stecher on the Canucks game-winning goal in the third period. Rodin was a draft pick of their’s in 2009 and has been playing in Sweden for the past three years, so he isn’t a prospect anymore but Vancouver needs all the help they can get up front.
- Griffin Reinhart was getting beaten to the outside by Vancouver’s depth players. The goal he scored was nice, but he looked slow when moving laterally and defending the blue line.
- If Emerson Etem ever improves at making plays in the offensive zone then he could be a hell of a player because he looked dangerous off the rush at times. A few plays died on his stick, though.
- Drake Caggiula made the most noise on the scoresheet and he along with Patrick Maroon did a lot of good things in the first period. Maroon surprised me a little with some of his passes but there’s always more open space in exhibition play.
If you were wondering where most of the Islanders roster was against the Flyers on Tuesday night, they were a few hours up I-95 playing a game against the Rangers. Unfortunately for them, their outcome wasn’t much better as they dropped a 5-2 loss to their cross-town rivals. Like we’ve seen in most preseason games, special teams were the deciding factor with the Rangers striking twice on the power play and getting solid performances from a few of their off-season acquisitions.
Both teams went with pretty different rosters, as the Rangers played a lot of young players and went with a blue line composed mostly of rookies and AHL-ers while the Islanders dressed more of a veteran forward corps. The main exception for them was that their first round pick from last year, Mathew Barzal, got a look as the first line center in between Andrew Ladd & PA Parenteau. How did he do with the increased minutes? We’ll look into that along with some of the Rangers top performers.
The Flyers picked up their first win of the preseason Tuesday night with a 4-0 shutout of the Islanders. This was a split-squad game for the Islanders, with the other half of the roster being in New York for a game against the Rangers. Combine that with some of their other players being at the World Cup of Hockey in Toronto and they were left with a skeleton lineup for this game, dressing only a few players who will see NHL time this year. In other words, the results don’t mean much to them here, but it was a chance for them to evaluate some young players and one of their top prospects in Josh Ho-Sang, who got to play top-six minutes and power play time this game.
This was an evaluation game for the Flyers, as well who dressed a few of their top defensive prospects in Travis Sanheim, Philippe Myers and Ivan Provorov. All three of them had pretty impressive showings in this game and it will be interesting to see who the Flyers end up keeping at the end of training camp.
It’s hard to generate storylines this early in the pre-season but Monday’s tilt between the New Jersey Devils & Montreal Canadiens had some talking points. It was our first look at Taylor Hall in a Devils uniform and even in the pre-season it’s always nice to watch a player of his skill. It was also our first look at some of New Jersey’s young defensemen, a couple of whom we might see more of this year as they have a couple open spots on their blue line. This was a split-squad game for them, so most of their regular players were back in Newark taking on the Flyers, but one of their potential first line made the trip to Montreal & they impressed in what ended up being a 3-2 win.
As for the Habs, a handful of their regular forwards dressed for this game and even though they took the loss, they got a couple of impressive showings from some of their own young forwards.
Some big things were happening in DC last night as the Washington Capitals kicked off their pre-season against the Carolina Hurricanes. If you were too busy to catch this game then you didn’t miss a whole lot. It was a pretty low-event affair between two teams who were playing their first game in 4-5 months and it looked just like that. There were some dramatics with Justin Faulk winning the game in overtime on a late power play goal but overall, this was a pretty standard pre-season game.
The Canes had a pretty exciting off-season, acquiring Teuvo Teravainen from the Blackhawks and signing 2015 draft pick and World Juniors star Sebastian Aho to a entry-level contract. They also brought in Lee Stempniak to shore up their forward corps. This game featured none of those players. Most of the Washington Captials stars were also absent, as both Alexander Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom participated in the World Cup of Hockey and were not dressed in this game for obvious reasons.
So why am I writing a post on it then? Mostly because it’s the first NHL game that’s been televised here since the Stanley Cup Finals and it’s my first chance to test how I’m going to be sharing data for the upcoming season. So without further ado, let’s take a look at the stats from this game.