There’s a lot to like about Jakob Chychrun. Enough that he was on the holiday wish lists of a half-dozen NHL teams.
The Oilers, desperate to upgrade the left side of their defense behind the overworked Darnell Nurse, could be players for Chychrun, who is the biggest, shiniest toy in the window this holiday season. Reports from Canada last week downplayed Edmonton’s interest, but the fit is obvious. Others with a similar need for a player like Chychrun to bolster their playoff cases: Toronto, Los Angeles, St. Louis, and Ottawa.
Arizona’s best defenseman is big and strong (6 feet, 2 inches; 220 pounds), quickly shuts down plays, and has plenty of shooting talent. Several of his 18 goals two years ago went in clean, rather than from fortunate bounces. Given time, Chychrun can beat goalies.
He has flaws — not sure he’s a plus puck-mover against elite competition, and creativity isn’t his calling card — but as a complementary No. 2, he’s a good one. Not unlike Boston’s physical No. 3 center Charlie Coyle, the 24-year-old Chychrun would be optimized as an elite No. 3.
The Islanders could do it if they let Semyon Varlamov walk next summer. Varlamov included, 35 goalies have seen action this season while playing on expiring contracts. You’d think the Islanders could find Ilya Sorokin’s next backup from that lot.
Chychrun’s $4.6 million deal — with two years remaining — fits into Varlamov’s expiring $5 million tag. He’d be a great fit with Ryan Pulock (point shots galore) or Noah Dobson (would create one of the better under-25 pairs in the league). That D corps would have the ice tilted away from Sorokin on most nights. For now, it would help them withstand the temporary absence of Adam Pelech, sidelined since Dec. 6 with an upper-body injury. They lost four of five on their recent road trip, beginning with a Dec. 13 shootout loss on Causeway Street.
The Coyotes have been trying to land a haul for Chychrun, who had 3-10—13 in his first 15 games back from offseason wrist and ankle surgeries. Perhaps the Isles could be competitive with a package including winger Anthony Beauvillier (two years left at $4.5 million), a first-round pick and a sweetener (Aatu Räty and William Dufour are their top forward prospects, assuming Oliver Wahlstrom is untouchable). Lou Lamoriello doesn’t broadcast that kind of info.
ESPN reported the Coyotes have been asking for a price higher than the Bruins paid the Ducks for Hampus Lindholm last February. Which is to say: a first-round pick (2022, in that case), two second-round picks (2023 and 2024), a prospect (Urho Vaakanainen) and a contract in need of offloading (John Moore). Two first-rounders and a high-end prospect could be similar value.
Lindholm might be Sweeney’s best heist
Lindholm, at midseason 2022-23, is looking like the centerpiece of one of Don Sweeney’s best trades.
In his 42 games as a Bruin entering Friday, Lindholm had been on the ice for 42 goals and 19 against, not including special teams. They’re getting a five-on-five goal basically every night with this guy involved, and his defending is perhaps his best attribute.
Since everyone can improve, here’s a soft area for Lindholm: He has a negative differential of penalties drawn and taken as a Bruin (five drawn, nine taken). However, for a defenseman who plays 22 to 24 high-leverage minutes a night (and has been Norris-worthy this season), it’s hard to get bent out of shape about his penalties, even if it does follow a trend from his days in Anaheim (79 drawn, 154 taken).
The Bruins have done a fantastic job on the PK. Despite taking the sixth-most minors (129) as of Thursday, their success rate was tops in the league (85 percent). They’re better with Lindholm out there.
HALL KNOWS THE SCORE
Helmets mandatory in warm-ups?
Though no announcement was made, the league’s general managers met in Toronto in mid-November and reportedly decided that helmets will be mandatory in warm-ups.
One of the players who offered a shrug to that: Taylor Hall.
On Jan. 17, 2012, Hall skated sans bucket in the Oilers’ warm-up in Columbus when he slipped on a puck and slid into the boards. His teammate, Corey Potter, tried to jump over the pile and stepped on the left side of Hall’s face.
Hall was fortunate to avoid long-term damage. Potter’s skate just missed Hall’s eye. The No. 1 overall pick in 2010 needed 30 stitches. A plastic surgeon who treated Hall told him he was lucky, since the skate blade made a clean slice.
The incident caused numerous teams to mandate helmets be worn on the ice. Some players got salty, their routines disrupted. “I heard it during the game a few times: ‘Hey, you [expletive] me, I can’t go no-helmet anymore,’ ” Hall recalled. Boston and other clubs later relaxed those rules; witness David Pastrnak and David Krejci go free-flowing for the 16-minute skate at TD Garden. Visiting players who ditch the lids include Alex Ovechkin, Drew Doughty, and Jamie Benn.
Getting a head full of fresh air was cool, Hall said, but he has only done it once since his injury: when his Oilers teammates honored retiring veteran Ryan Smyth and his long mullet.
“My warm-up is a lot more active than other guys,” Hall noted. “Pasta isn’t really skating around, going full-bore. He warms up differently. I’m very active, going in the corners. Looking back, I’m 20 years old, and the guys on the team are going, ‘You should go no-helmet.’ It’s everyone’s option. If you want to go out and not wear a helmet, I think that’s up to you.”
Hall plays like a driver trying to beat afternoon Storrow Drive traffic. He estimated his speed and aggression on the ice has left him with some 150 stitches in his face over a 13-year career, some from a Colin Miller slap shot to the mouth while playing in Buffalo in 2021.
“Just part of the job at this point,” Hall said.
For those in front of the net, beware
When Hall spoke that Nov. 21 morning in Tampa, Nick Foligno was receiving four stiches, the product of a Hampus Lindholm slapper to the chin. Foligno has made a career out of hanging around the area of the ice where the heavy artillery lands. Some are better at it, and more experienced than others, but it’s never easy.
“Ever seen ‘Moneyball’?” said Jake DeBrusk, asked about how he stays sharp while working the net-front of the Bruins’ power play. He was comparing the pucks he dodges to the ground balls that attacked Scott Hatteberg at first base.
“Know when he asks him what’s his biggest fear? ‘One getting hit in his general direction.’ That’s how I’d answer that question,” DeBrusk said. “It’s one of those things that you don’t think about, but you always think about.”
When he scored on a power-play deflection Thursday against Winnipeg — his 200th career point — DeBrusk skillfully tipped a medium-pace pass from Pastrnak. He has had more difficult chances.
“One-timers are the worst,” DeBrusk said. “Especially with Pasta, you know it’s going high. Or Bergy [Patrice Bergeron] in the bumper, he’s usually tied up and can’t move. So if he picks your side, sometimes, you just eat it. Or deflect it and get a greasy one.”
Around the paint, DeBrusk finds his hand-eye coordination increases because his eyes get wider.
“It’s tight quarters,” he said. “It’s rebounds, recoveries. You’ve got to be quick on the next outlet pass or shot. Be a step ahead. Sometimes it doesn’t work out for the best, but you’ll take it and try to go backhand-shelf, and there’s a scramble.”
DeBrusk has taken frozen rubber shots to the neck, the collarbone, and in various non-padded areas of his body. In 2018, he fell outside the crease and Danton Heinen cranked him in the back of head with a one-timer, leaving him with a concussion.
“You get the freebies,” said DeBrusk, who has an Ovechkin-like love of scoring goals, “but it hurts sometimes.”
Stories of puck-related injuries are legion in this sport. During Islanders training camp in January 1995, Bruins radio analyst Bob Beers, a former power-play defenseman who unloaded a few one-timers in his day, stayed in a Long Island hospital nearly a week after an errant dump-in from the red line crashed into his cheek.
“Puck was on its edge,” he shrugged, the right side of his face long ago reconstructed.
Bruins coach Jim Montgomery, a former NHL and AHL forward, knows how pucks can knuckle toward you. He felt fortunate no one assigned him net-front duty during his years in the pros.
“No! With this beautiful face?” said Montgomery, listed at 5-9. “I do have enough scars, though. I was at everyone’s elbow height.”
Playing the percentages
A pet theory here is that a player’s abnormally high shooting percentage coming down to earth is also a reaction to defensive attention paid to a breakout player, rather than regressive luck, as it is sometimes understood. Think of William Karlsson’s 43-goal season with Vegas in 2017-18, when he shot 23.4 percent. The 24 goals and 14.2 percent shooting he posted the following season were his high-water marks since then.
That’s why Brad Marchand shooting 15.8 percent for his career has been so impressive. As he has become a focus of opposing game plans, he keeps hitting targets.
His shooting percentage is top-100 all time — tied for 82nd among players with at least 200 career goals — and better than nearly everyone of this generation. It’s better than Connor McDavid (T-98th, 15.5 percent), and behind only Leon Draisatil (T-28th, 17.8 percent), Steven Stamkos (t-47th, 17 percent), recent Causeway Street goal scorer Mark Scheifele (T-57th, 16.6 percent), and Auston Matthews (t-72, 16 percent) among active players.
Among Bruins, Marchand and Pastrnak are the most often seen working on their shots. Pastrnak sits at 14.0 percent, t-177th with Jean Pronovost, Joe Thornton, Anders Lee and two players who generated Pastrnak-like excitement among fans, Pavel Datsyuk and Pavel Bure.
The Bruin with the best shooting percentage on record? Rick Middleton, whose 19.7 percent marksmanship ranks sixth all time. The late Peter McNab (18.5 percent, t-18th), Cam Neely (18.4 percent, 22nd) and Keith Crowder (18.2 percent, 23rd) rank high on the list, as do Black and Gold short-timers Charlie Simmer (22.3 percent, second) and Joe Mullen (18 percent, t-24th).
Makar slip was a classy act
Last Monday in Denver, Cale Makar did something not seen in hockey: he essentially declined a penalty.
Late in a scoreless first period, Makar was wheeling behind the net with the puck when the Islanders’ Mathew Barzal, pursuing the former UMass star, put his stick on the back of Makar’s shoulder. Makar fell, and the referee’s arm shot up. But Makar put his glove up and waved his hand, saying he slipped.
“There is no penalty on the play,” referee Brandon Blandina subsequently announced at center ice.
Montgomery, a professional player and coach for nearly three decades, said he had never seen that before.
“I thought it was remarkable he did that,” the Bruins coach said. “I thought it was really classy. We’re taught to take every advantage we can.”
Makar’s largesse didn’t hurt the Avalanche. In a scoreless game that featured three penalties in total (and none in the third period or overtime), Colorado outshot the visitors, 46-26. Evan Rodrigues scored the only shootout goal for a 1-0 win.
Makar was thankful for that. The gentlemanly act would have fallen flat in a loss.
“I felt a lot more guilty about doing that than probably if I would’ve said nothing,” said Makar, who had drawn 11 penalties (most among defenseman) as of Thursday. “I don’t know if it’s something I’ll do again.”
The long game
The Bruins faced the Devils twice during Christmas week, both games in Newark. That was a chance to see Manchester-by-the-Sea product Miles Wood, who liked to mix it up long before he made the NHL.
Prior to his days at Boston College, an 11-year-old Wood wrote a letter to Alex Ovechkin informing the future 800 Club member that if he didn’t sign the enclosed trading card, he would check him upon first opportunity when — not if — he made the NHL. Ovechkin never returned the card to the North Shore.
He did poke the rookie when the Devils visited the Capitals in Dec. 2016. Ovechkin autographed an 8 x 11 of himself, adding: “To Miles, take it easy tonight!!!”
In 23 games against the Capitals over the last eight years, Wood hasn’t been credited with a hit on Ovechkin (who has popped him twice, and drawn a penalty). Wood does have six goals against the Caps.
Ovechkin scored twice Friday to pass Gordie Howe for second on the NHL’s all-time scoring list with 802 goals.
As of Saturday, both the NHL and AHL Bruins had the fewest regulation losses in their respective leagues. Providence observers were watching a team that had five regulation losses in 28 games, with two regulation losses in 12 road games . . . The Premier Hockey Federation’s Ann-Sophie Bettez (Montreal) and Sydney Brodt (Minnesota) will play in the ECHL All-Star game Jan. 16 in Norfolk, Va. The game is at 7 p.m. (NHL Network). Last year, the PHF’s Jillian Dempsey (Boston) and Allie Thunstrom (Minnesota) participated. Thunstrom, who joined the Pride this season, went 13.75 seconds in the fastest skater competition, behind the winning time of 13.01. If a woman ever plays in the NHL, surely she will be an incredible skater . . . Makes sense that the NHL moved its Winter Classic from Jan. 1 to Jan. 2. Week 17 in the NFL plus 14 games on that afternoon is bad math . . . According to the NHL, no duo over the last decade has factored on a higher percentage of their team’s goals than Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand (12 percent, or 392 combined points on 3,264 total goals). Of duos that got together in 2010, Washington’s Nicklas Backstrom and Ovechkin (11.3 percent) are behind them. A few later-arriving pairs are cooking at a hotter temperature, including Edmonton’s Connor McDavid and Draisaitl (18.3 percent since 2015), Minnesota’s Kirill Kaprizov and Mats Zuccarello (17 percent since 2020) and Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen (13.9 percent since 2016) . . . The Ducks signed John Klingberg to a one-year, $7 million deal last summer (a la the Sabres’ $8 million deal with Hall in 2021). It has not worked. Klingberg was being outscored, 31-14, at five on five as of Wednesday — seventh-worst among top-six defensemen — and ranked 48th among defensemen in power-play points (0-3–3 in 26 games) . . . Anaheim will be in the Connor Bedard sweepstakes, and several other teams have emerged as strong contenders for the No. 1 overall pick: Chicago, Columbus, Arizona, San Jose, and Philadelphia have cratered . . . Bruce Cassidy showed no fear in benching players in Boston, and it looks as if he’ll be the coach to end Phil Kessel’s streak. Kessel, who will have a long run as the only NHLer to play in 1,000 consecutive games (1,017 as of Friday), logged 10:56 in Wednesday’s win over Arizona … Happy holidays, you puckheads.