Sam Hitchcock represented Hockey Prospectus at the NHL All-Star Game. Matthew Coller talked with Sam about his trip to Columbus and some of his takeaways such as the future of the weekend and what he learned about the league’s best.
And read more on Sam’s thoughts….(and follow him on Twitter @intellighockey and at his website intelligenthockey.com)
John Tavares believes in Washington’s transformation
Under new bench boss Barry Trotz, the Washington Capitals are playing with more structure and significantly better effort on defense. Since this roster has many of holdovers from last season, a lot of praise has come Washington’s way about the revamped philosophy and style of play.
New York Islanders’ captain John Tavares agrees with the Capitals’ hype, likening this Washington iteration to one of the most successful teams of this decade: the Los Angeles Kings. The superstar center cited the Capitals’ size, physicality, and game-breakers at forward and defense as areas where he sees an overlap with the Kings. Tavares lamented how draining it is to play a game against the Capitals because they limit scoring opportunities and make you work for any space.
Mark Giordano says the Flames have other nicknames for “Johnny Hockey.”
The Calgary Flames’ defenseman would not go on the record with those sobriquets, but the team definitely gives the rookie a good deal of grief for the “Johnny Hockey” nickname and the winger’s growing fame. That said, the Flames’ captain could not have had higher praise for Gaudreau, applauding him for being such a self-effacing personality.
Justin Faulk likes what he sees from the team’s young talent
The Carolina Hurricanes are closer to the basement than a playoff spot, but Justin Faulk, the Hurricanes’ All-Star representative, was able to find some positives with the young guys, notably Victor Rask and Elias Lindholm. “No one thought he [Rask] was going to come in and put himself in the position he is in right now,” said Faulk. The former second-round pick from 2011 came into training camp hoping to make the team, and now has six goals and nine assists.
As for Lindholm, Faulk sees him working hard on defense. “He has figured out both ends of the ice, which is nice to see,” said Faulk. “He is working at both ends, not going strictly for offense thinking that, just because he was a high draft pick, he has to score 30 goals right away.” At 20 years old, the former fifth overall pick from 2013 has scored nine goals and 10 assists on a team that is 29th in goals per game. It seems increasingly clear that Lindholm’s ceiling is very high.
Patrick Kane Part I
On media day, Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith raved about Patrick Kane’s instincts for hockey. Usually, the hockey community drools over Kane’s puck-handling and offensive skills, while citing Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa as the Blackhawks’ best pupils in hockey IQ. Yet, more and more, you hear players cite Kane’s love of hockey and sharp eye for the game as critical reasons why he is such a special player.
Jonathan Toews said he has seen the maturation in Kane’s game. The captain has noticed that Kane is a better two-way player and more consistent, and believes Kane has gotten even better as the season has progressed.
Kane Part II
So what’s it like for an active defenseman who plays a lot with Patrick Kane? Brent Seabrook’s message was clear: When Kane has the puck good things happen, whether or not he passes it to you. “When he has got the puck coming down the wall, you are definitely trying to find an opportunity to get open,” Seabrook said.
“He’s got such a good skill set that sometimes you think you are open, you are open, and he makes the play and then goes in and scores himself,” Seabrook continued. “He is such a great passer and such a great playmaker that, whenever you are out there, you are trying to look for the pass.” This season, Seabrook has been not only shooting up the far side when Kane does his buttonhook or slows the play down on the rush, but also crushing the puck into the back of the net with impressive consistency. He is on pace for a career high in goals. The mutuality that exists in the relationship between this defenseman and winger is another fun aspect to watch over the remaining games of the regular season.