Jet City Ice helps you make the most of your limited TV hockey time with our picks for the upcoming weekend.
Washington Capitals vs. Chicago Blackhawks
When: Sunday, 10/25, 4:00pm PT
Where: NHL Network
Here we have two teams experiencing their own unique problems. Washington had their #1 goaltender Braden Holtby let in each of the first 3 shots he faced in his outing against Colorado on Monday, getting yanked just shy of the 8 minute mark with a save percentage of 0.000%. Backup Ilya Samsonov couldn’t salvage the game, but did perform admirably — and combined with his other two starts in the last week has posted a 2-1 record with a 1.43 GAA in that stretch. This has tongues wagging in the nation’s capital about who is the true #1 in goal.
Chicago has its own goaltending issues, but they are not as big of a concern as the ‘1’ currently to be found in the win column for the club. They’re not allowing many goals at even strength, as evidenced by their effective shut-down of Edmonton on Monday. But what should be an offensive Howitzer has revealed itself as little more than a glorified pea-shooter to this point in the season. The Blackhawks need to find their scoring touch to keep within striking distance of a playoff spot in the spring. Only killing 3 out of every 5 penalties isn’t helping one bit either.
Possible Future Seattle Players: The likely odd-man out from the expensive ranks at forward for the Caps is journeyman left wing Carl Hagelin. If there’s one thing you want in your locker room, it’s a guy who has hoisted Lord Stanley’s Cup. Hagelin did that in two consecutive years with Pittsburgh. 556 regular season games (and counting) with 241 points and a combined +89; add to that 48 points in 128 playoff games. Seattle GM Ron Francis knows that kind of veteran experience and leadership is what will be needed to take a disparate group of unfamiliar players and start turning them into a team.
From the Blackhawks, it’s a real puzzle. I’m intimately familiar with this team and it’s players. But with that familiarity comes the knowledge that GM Stan Bowman is such a mercenary executive he may have traded away everyone without a NMC by the time the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft rolls around. So I’m going to take a flyer and say to watch for either forward Ryan Carpenter — solid face-off numbers and a little sandpaper for opponents; or defenseman Olli Maatta — stay-at-home reliability, though a little pricey. This coming June, after decisions are made about some pending RFA’s, the picture coming out of Chicago will be a lot clearer.
I can tell you this, though: Chicago is cursing the day they gave Brent Seabrook a full no-movement clause.
NHL Center Ice/NHL.tv
Ottawa Senators vs. Arizona Coyotes
When: Saturday, 10/19, 4:00pm PT
Let’s give some love to the Cellar Dwellers! Arizona is starting to show signs of life, but the Senators are a lesson in how not to play hockey, although they have an excuse. Ottawa is a team that went to the Conference finals two seasons ago. But when you look at the lineup you realize, 9 out of 10 of the Senators’ top scorers from that season are no longer on the team. So calling this a re-build is a vast understatement; this is demolishing the building, hauling away the debris, and starting from scratch with an empty hole.
Arizona is absorbing the news that the robust defense they have put on the ice to this point (less than 2 goals per game on average) will be missing one of its key components. Shot-blocking pin cushion and PK anchor Niklas Hjalmarsson suffered a broken fibula while (what else…) blocking a shot in the outing against Colorado on Saturday. So far Hjalmarsson’s injury has served as a rallying cry to the Coyotes — since Monday they’ve posted 2 straight wins with a goal differential of +5, their best outings yet. The biggest news there is that the Arizona offense is starting to produce. Maybe the ‘Yotes should try to get injured more often.
Possible Future Seattle Players: From Ottawa, with the roster bulldozing done thus far and much more to come, there’s no telling where most of these players will be in 18 months. But no matter what team he’s on by the spring of 2021, I’d be placing a long-shot bet on forward Anthony Duclair. Ottawa is his fifth team despite his young age; he’s never found his stride, or the right fit, or something. But go look at his numbers from his days in the Q. If he can ever manage to find that touch again, he’ll be worth 10 times what he’s earning now — which is league minimum. Maybe the freshest of fresh starts in Seattle will be what the doctor ordered.
From the Coyotes, the pickin’s are slim. But I’d think Seattle would want to take a long look at goaltender Antti Raanta. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent after the 2020-21 season, which means Seattle will have a first crack at signing him. He’ll be 32 at that point, looking for an opportunity to keep playing, and most likely willing to settle for a backup role — and, I would hope, substantially less than the $4.25 million he’s soaking Arizona for now. He has maintained at least a .900% save percentage for each of the last six seasons. That’s the kind of reliability you want coming off the bench when your starter shits the bed.