Over his 10 and a quarter seasons in the National Hockey League, Henrik Lundqvist has seen much of opponent-turned-teammate Rick Nash.
What he saw Tuesday night at the Garden against the Carolina Hurricanes made the goaltender smile.
“I love watching him just taking pucks to the net. He’s so strong and he skates really well so when he decides to go to the net, not a lot of guys can stop him,” Lundqvist said after Nash recorded two points in the third period of the Rangers’ 3-2 come-from-behind win.
Nash scored the tying goals 24 seconds into the third, and he recorded the primary assist on Jimmy Vesey’s power play goal at 14:48 of the third period.
“His reach and his strength,” Lundqvist continued. “He was close a couple of other times as well. It’s great for us to see Rick playing like that with confidence and just the way he moves the puck and himself out there. He had a really strong game.”
That is an understatement. Nash is having a strong start to the season.
Nash, 32, has 16 points in 24 games. He’s averaging .67 points per game, and has a team-leading five power play points this season season. His 10 goals goals and16 points are tied with Kevin Hayes and Michael Grabner, respectively for second most on the team.
As important as his on-ice performance is, Nash and Derek Stepan have essentially been assigned the duty of mentoring Vesey, who is in his rookie year.
“I sit next to him in the locker room and played several games with him this year now. He’s got 400 goals in almost 1,000 games, so I think he’s a really big mentor for me,” Vesey said after the game. “I’m trying to observe him as much I can.”
GALLANT NOT THE CAT’S MEOW
Arguably for the first time since the franchise’s first and heretofore only Stanley Cup Final appearance in 1996, the Florida Panthers became a national story Sunday night.
For all the wrong reasons.
Following the Florida’s 3-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes and PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C., the Panthers fired head coach Gerard Gallant. The news was first reported by Sportsnet in Canada, followed by NHL.com, the Associated Press, Miami Herald and South Florida Sun-Sentinel. AP photographs showed Gallant waiting curbside for a cab, while the Panthers flew to Chicago.
The Panthers were 11-10-1 after the loss to Carolina. Their 23 points was 10th most in the East, just two points behind New Jersey for the last Eastern Conference playoff spot.
Florida used the offseason to overhaul a 103-point squad that lost in the first round to the Islanders. Physical defenseman Erik Gudbranson was traded to Vancouver, while skilled players Keith Yandle and Jonathan Marchessault were added. Component pieces Aleksander Barkov, Aaron Ekblad, Reilly Smith, Vincent Trocheck and Jonathan Huberdeau signed extensions.
So why have the Panthers been a disappointment? What led to the firing of Gallant?
Injuries, for one. Huberdeau sustained an Achilles injury during training camp, and Nick Bjugstad sustained a broken hand over the summer.
The injuries have caused the Panthers—expected to be one of the league’s most explosive offensive teams to have a -2 goal differential as of this writing. They have allowed 60 goals while scoring 58.
Still, it appears as if the player personnel decisions plus the injuries plus the so-so start to the season led to a festering organizational dispute to become public.
Under new owner Vincent Viola, the Panthers have reshaped their front office into one of the league’s most analytically inclined. Viola has hired people with United States Military Academy and Wall Street backgrounds to assist in the recreation of the Panthers franchise. Gallant and assistant coach Mike Kelly—who was also fired Sunday—were viewed as traditional hockey men. A subsequent report from Sportsnet Monday hinted that the coaching staff and management had disagreed about decisions involving the team.
The Panthers did not formally announce the firing until Monday morning, which was followed by a conference call involving Team President & Chief Executive Officer Matthew Caldwell, President of Hockey Operations Dale Tallon, General Manager and Interim Head Coach Tom Rowe to discuss the coaching change.
During the call, Caldwell said the Panthers “had very high expectations for this season with Gerard Gallant and our coach in the room.
“As a management team and front office we got together around the 20-game mark and we just have been unhappy with the inconsistent performance and we think we can be playing better at this stage of the season. We decided a change was necessary to move in a different direction.”
As far as Gallant, one of the three finalists for the 2016 Jack Adams Award, signed a three-year extension in January and should become one of the favorites to land any coaching vacancies that should occur during the season or over the summer.
Stanley Cup or no Stanley Cup, the New York Rangers are the National Hockey League’s most valuable franchise.
This according to Forbes.
The financial publication released its annual list of the valuations of the 30 NHL franchises Wednesday, with the Rangers leading the way at $1.250 billion. They were followed by the Montreal Canadiens ($1.120 billion), Toronto Maple Leafs ($1.100 billion), Chicago Blackhawks ($925 million) and Boston Bruins ($800 million).
The Islanders were valued at $385 million, placing them 18th while the Devils ranked 22nd with a $320 million valuation. Carolina’s $230 million valuation was 30th.
Forbes also ranked the top 10 highest paid players in the league. Henrik Lundqvist ranked 10th on the list, which factored in yearly base salary and endorsements.
QUOTE OF THE YEAR:
Are the Calgary Flames going to trade defenseman Dougie Hamilton?
Don’t ask Team President Brian Burke. Or, better yet, do ask him.
Burke made his feelings on the subject quite clear during an interview on 1050 Toronto Wednesday.
“No,” Burke said when asked if the Flames were contemplating offers for the 23-year old. The Flames acquired Hamilton from the Boston Bruins at the 2015 NHL Draft in exchange for Calgary’s 2015 first round pick (15th overall), and two second round picks in that year’s draft. “This is one where it’s very frustrating when you have to deal with leaks. And as soon as one of the teams that are in the mix in the leaks (are) the Toronto Maple Leafs, it’s an army of leakers. An army of people who have no g-———d idea what they’re talking about, who will happily go on and say ‘The Toronto Maple Leafs are doing this and they’re in on that.’
“This is one where we think we can trace the leak. We got a call. Our GM, Brad Treliving, got a call from a team who shall remain nameless at least for now—if this goes on much further I’m probably not going to remain nameless—and said ‘Would you move Dougie Hamilton?’ [Treliving] said no. We expended a tremendous amount of assets to get this player. We’re really happy with him. He’s a quality guy. He’s six foot five, he weighs 237 pounds, he’s a right shot, skates like a deer, a good hockey player. Yeah, let’s move him. Let’s get rid of him. It’s not hard to get guys like that. We told this team—and by the way, they offer they made was insulting—we told them, ‘No, we’re not moving him and [the] next time you have an idea that stupid, just save the quarter. Don’t go to the payphone.’ That team started telling [other] teams, ‘Yeah, we made an offer on Hamilton.’ Now it’s a rumor. It’s got legs. Someone’s like, ‘Wow, they must be moving him.’
“We haven’t offered him to anyone. We don’t intend to move him. You say, ‘If you got the right offer.’ If someone offers us 20 first round picks are we making that deal? Probably. Wayne Gretzky [was] traded. But the difference between listening and listening attentively and shopping? Those are different things. So would [we] listen? Yes, it’s your job to listen. Is he a guy that we intend to move? Not a chance. Is he a guy that we think will move? Not a chance.”
You can follow Metro New York NHL writer Denis P. Gorman on Twitter at @DenisGorman.