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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Tuesday Thoughts: Game Sevens, Tavares and Nurse contracts

The Washington Capitals will play their 11th game seven since 2008, the most in the NHL, tomorrow night in Tampa Bay. For long-suffering Capitals fans, game seven has not been kind. The Capitals are 3-7 since 2008 and are 4-11 all-time. Only the Boston Bruins have more game seven losses, 12, in NHL history, but the Bruins have been involved in the most game sevens, 26, and have a winning record at 14-12.

The Capitals’ woes in game seven mirror their franchise frustration. They have been very competitive, and often right in the series, but in game seven they haven’t been able to get it done.

They lost in OT to the Flyers in 2008, despite firing 41 shots on Marty Biron. Joffrey Lupul scored a PP goal six minutes into OT. In 2010 Jaroslav Halak stoned the Capitals, stopping 41 of 42 shots. The Habs scored two goals on 16 shots to win. They lost 2-1 to the Rangers in 2012 and 2015 and 2-0 to the Penguins last year.

The Capitals biggest challenge in game seven has been goal scoring. All three of their wins since 2008 have been by scores of 2-1.

Will the Caps end their game seven struggles tomorrow night? Gawd, I hope so.

1. I don’t cheer for teams anymore, but I do have favourite players and I am a huge Alex Ovechkin fan. He is the dominant goal scorer of his era, and one of the greatest of all-time. He is great skater, can be physically dominant when needed and I like the enthusiasm he plays with. He is a fun player to watch.

2. Since 2008 only two teams haven’t played in a game seven — Vegas and Columbus. These 19 teams have won at least once.

NYR 6-2.
Pittsburgh 5-3.
Boston 5-5.
Los Angeles 4-0.
Montreal 4-1.
Philly 3-1
San Jose and Tampa Bay 3-2.
Detroit 3-4.
Washington 3-7
St. Louis and Carolina 2-0.
Chicago 2-3.
Minnesota and Winnipeg 1-0.
New Jersey and Vancouver 1-1.
Nashville 1-2.
Anaheim 1-5.

These ten are winless in a game seven since 2008:

Arizona, Buffalo, Calgary, Colorado, Dallas, Edmonton, Florida and the New York Islanders are 0-1.

Toronto and Ottawa are 0-2.

3. The Ottawa Senators are 0-6 all-time in game sevens. The Arizona Coyotes (0-3)/Winnipeg Jets (0-2) franchise is 0-5. Only two franchises are undefeated. The Minnesota Wild are 3-0 while the Atlanta/Thrashers/Jets are 1-0 with the Jets defeating Nashville in round two this year.

4. In the previous 18 Conference Finals which needed a game seven, the home team is 11-7.  This will be Tampa Bay’s fifth game seven of a conference final. They are 2-2. They won at home in 2004 over Philadelphia 2-1. Their other three games were on the road where they defeated the Rangers 2-0 in 2015, lost 1-0 to Boston in 2011 and lost 2-1 in Pittsburgh in 2016. Based on recent history of the Lightning and Capitals in game seven, don’t be surprised if we see a low-scoring affair.

5. Ovechkin and Nick Backstrom will play in their 11th game seven versus Tampa. Only six players in NHL history have played in more. Patrick Roy and Scott Stevens played in 13, while Glenn Anderson, Stephane Yelle, Ken Daneyko and Zdeno Chara have played in 12.

The Vegas Golden Knights beat the Winnipeg Jets and advance to the Stanley Cup Finals.

6. The Vegas Golden Knights Cinderella story continues. I’ve seen many write how George McPhee got a second round pick to take Marc-Andre Fleury from Pittsburgh. Keep in mind the Pens had won consecutive Cups with Matt Murray playing in both Finals. Fleury had a NMC so he had to agree to waive it, and Vegas agreed to not claim Murray to take Fleury. Fleury’s career postseason sv%, including this year, is .913. This season he has an NHL playoff-best .947sv%.  No one would have expected him to play this well. It is a great story, but I don’t think it should be looked at as though Vegas fleeced Pittsburgh in that deal.

7. No doubt Dale Tallon and the Florida Panthers are regretting their decision to give up Jonathan Marchessault to Vegas, just so the Golden Knights would claim Reilly Smith and his $5 million cap hit for five years. That was a major blunder by the Panthers, but many of the other moves were not considered horrible. Vegas, to their credit have played exceptionally well, obviously better than anyone expected, but will it continue next year?

8. I see some similarities between the Golden Knights and the gritty Oilers teams of 1997 and 1998. The Oilers had a world class goalie in Curtis Joseph, and they won a round each year. The difference between them and Vegas today, is the salary cap evens the playing field. The Oilers could upset one team with twice the salary, but they weren’t going to defeat Dallas, Colorado and Detroit in the same year. Ryan Smyth went from two goals in 1996 to 39 in 1997. William Karlsson went from six goals last year to 43 this season. Smyth did score 36 goals and 31 twice in his career, but he never surpassed 39. Will Karlsson reach 43 again?

9. The Oilers blueline had Boris Mironov, Luke Richardson, Dan McGillis, Drew Bannister, Roman Hamrlik, Janne Niinimaa, Greg Devries, Drake Berehowsky and Bryan Marchment in those two years. Will Nate Schmidt, Colin Miller and Shea Theodore become better than Hamrlik, Niinimaa and Mironov?

10. I love the Vegas story, even though I haven’t picked them in any playoff series thus far (idiot), but I think what they are proving is how important team camaraderie, confidence and playing for a cause can help a team in ways which are difficult to accurately track. Of course they play a good system, are getting out-of-this-world goaltending and have some skill, but many teams with more skill haven’t won. I know some won’t like to hear it, but Vegas is proving intangibles are hard to measure, or track, and how important confidence and belief play a part in sports. We have seen many teams have a great one-year run, but were never able to stay competitive. I’d argue Vegas’ biggest challenge won’t be defeating Tampa/Washington, but trying to remain competitive next season. They won’t have the same “chip” on their shoulder. They won’t be the Vegas Misfits again.

11. The Islanders hired Lou Lamiorello this morning and he will have the final say on hockey matters. One of his first decisions will be John Tavares. How much will they offer him? Tavares turns 28 in September and he’ll likely be looking for a $10 million/year contract. The challenge for the Islanders is an eight year deal will hurt them down the road, but Tavares likely won’t sign a five or six-year pact. It will be a challenging negotiation, and I’m curious to see how Lamiorello navigates it.

12. An NHL scout told me the one concern with Tavares long-term is his skating. The game is getting quicker every year and this scout said, “Tavares is so smart, and has elite skill, but you wonder if his skating will allow to be produce like a ten million player, which I assume he will become, for the term of the contract,” said the scout. Interesting.

13. What will Darnell Nurse’s new contract look like? It is a hot topic in Oilersnation. Nurse had 26 points last year, all of them at even strength, and tied with Colton Parayko for 34th most EV points among defenders. Nurse turned 23 in February and with 197 regular games under his belt everything points to him being better in the next 200 games. Peter Chiarelli believes strongly in building up his blueline, and he hasn’t shied away from signing D-men, or giving up very good assets to acquire defenders. A month ago I felt a bridge deal was the most likely, but after conversations with a few sources I think a long-term deal might be more realistic than I originally thought. I still lean towards a bridge deal, but not as staunchly as before. A bridge deal scares some due to the potential of Nurse having a breakout season, and then cashing in big, but if the Oilers aren’t planning on using him on the PP then it will more difficult for him to put up big numbers. A healthy Oscar Klefbom will limit Nurse’s PP time, which is why I could see him signing a long-term deal similar to what Adam Larsson signed three years ago.

14. Larsson signed a one-year deal for $900,000 after his ELC expired. He then went out and scored 24  points (21 at EV and three SH) and earned a six-year deal worth $4.16m/year in the summer of 2015. Nurse had 26 points this past year and plays a similar role to Larsson, EV and PK. The salary cap was $71.4m in 2015/2016. The cap is projected to be around $80 million this year. Could Nurse land a six-year deal worth $4.5 to $4.7 million? Or do you think he gets a bridge deal?

Recently by Jason Gregor:

  • a lg dubl dubl

    I can’t help but think Nurse is a poor mans Pronger. My personal hope is PC signs him to as long as possible for 4mil. Nurse has the wheels and is one of the better passers on the team, and should be on the pp either on the 1st or 2nd unit no question asked going into next season.

    Rooting for a LVK/Caps final. I’m torn though because Ovi does deserve a cup but it would be just as cool to see a first year team win it all. Flip a coin I guess, lol.

    • OilerForLife

      At this point Nurse is good, but not great.
      Oilers can’t afford a long term deal because of the cap, so there is no other choice but the bridge deal. This is a good thing, because in that time frame they will see what he’s got. Maybe certain contracts can be dumped for even bought out. The cap can rise so we can start signing the new crop of prospects moving up to the Oilers around then. Planning ahead must be a priority.
      McDavid and the Lucic signing seemed necessary at the time, and we did get into the playoffs. Fact is that we have only missed the playoffs 1 year in a row.

      No more bad deals, and we’ll see what happens.

  • The Real HardBoiledOiI

    Oilersnation writes 50 articles about trading the #10 draft pick then writes 1 article coving 3 serperate unrelated topics. Lol.
    Since Chia is know for bad trades it won’t surprise me if he trades Nurse.

  • Craig1981

    Gregor, I get the NMC with Fleury, but once he waived it, why toss in the 2nd. Most likely LV would of claimed him aways, would they not? I am sure they move might be over my head, but I just don’t get it…..unless Fleury made them toss in the 2nd to waive it, but that doesn’t really fit does it.

    • Big Nuggets

      Probaby just to agree to take on the salary. I don’t remember who else Pittsburg had available but there was probably another player Pit wanted to keep that was not protected.

    • Jason Gregor

      Why wouldn’t they have claimed Matt Murray over Fleury? The deal was made so they don’t take Murray. Pittsburgh wouldn’t have been able to protect him, asking to waive NMC was in conjuction with the trade. It wasn’t ask to waive it first, then Vegas called. It was a package conversation.

  • belair

    I think Nurse gets the bridge deal. 2 years at around a $3.5m average. The Oilers desperately need the cap space to address the other needs of the roster this summer. I wouldn’t be upset at the idea of getting him signed to a favorable cap hit with term, but I still think there’s plenty of growth left for Darnell as a player.

    • TruthHurts98

      Haha! Split my ribs on that one! PC signing him to 3.5 when he signs Russell to 4 years?!? It’ll be more in the ballpark of 6 mil/yr with PC or he’ll trade him away for basically nothing. Cap hell is here with a team that would be the worst in the league without Connor.

        • Moneyball

          I not sure what people don’t lie about Russell, but this year he was one of the few dmen on our team who outperformed their contract. Sekera did not, Klefbom did not, Benning did not do well but doesn’t command a big wage. Larsson maybe…. When you look at it on many games Russell was the best dman we had.

          • Rock11

            No he wasn’t. No matter how you look at the game Russell was not ever the Oilers best Dman. The coach finally realized it as well and played him 3rd pair minutes. He is a perfectly fine 5-6 D. No quibbles with his effort. The contract is simply too much for too long and capped off by a &^&*&% NMC. I am still curious as to what KR’s agent could have possibly asked for that Chiarelli got him down to “only” 4×4 plus the NMC.

      • LAKID

        Nurse right now is not a 6 Million dollar man. Nurse right now is not as good as Larsson or Klefbom ( Klefbom had a bad season and was injured ) so he should not be paid like them unless it’s a long term deal. I like Nurse but he tailed off at the second half of the year and did not look great at the iihf tourney.

  • Gravis82

    “ We are proud of being Oilers fans and we will cover the site with the beautifully worded bias that can only be found here. We are a site by NHL fans, for NHL fans. ”

    And you don’t cheer for teams anymore? One of the reasons I read these fan sites is because they are by fans and not unbiased media. Unbiased media are not fans, and I want my writers to get unreasonably and irrationally fired up about things in as much an oilers biased way possible. It’s calked fan for a reason, cause we are fanatical and don’t make sense. And since this is an entertaining tescape from day to day, that’s fine by me.

    Do you choose to not be a fan? Or are you just not a hockey fan in general, even though you write about it (very well I may add).

  • Craig1981

    I don’t mind a longer term deal with Nurse. In three years, it will mean Larson, Klefbom, and Nurse will be on great value contracts and Draisaitl and McDavid’s will be a smaller part of the salary cap.

  • Gravis82

    Doubt Karlsson gets 43 again but that’s fine. Every player has a range of goals he will score In Any given year, there will always be one year that’s the highest.

    I’d say based on the fact that 40g is tough for anyone, that this was obviously a peak year for him. If you can score 40, you are probably good enough to not score 20 anytime soon. So I’d say he’s a lock for at least 27 going forwArd next few years

  • Big Nuggets

    I’m all for locking Nurse up long term. I don’t know when he will reach his ceiling as a player but I am fairly certain he has not hit that ceiling yet. Also its not ideal to keep him off the powerplay for fear he will do well and thus command a larger payday. If we can get him long term for under 5 mil then I’m happy. Nurse is a stud and he will have a long successful career. Don’t need to be Nostradamas to see it.

  • Billy Charlebois

    I see Nurse continuing to develop. Not so much in his pure skill, but just the intangibles. I saw him good a few games at the World Championship. The game seems to have slowed down in his head. He makes good, short, simple passes to get the puck up to the forwards. Rarely does he just skate it headlong into the offensive zone, without a plan and just paint himself into a corner.

    I think he’s going to be a high-end defenceman over the life of his next contract. I’d sign him long-term for something just under $ 5million and I think he will outperform that deal.

  • Oiler Al

    If Tampa puts in another effort like they did in game six, they are toast.Not a fan of The Caps or OV, but he is playing lights out hockey this year, all over the ice and not just banging bullets from his office on the PP!

  • crabman

    I would be pushing for a 2 year bridge deal in the $3-3.5M range of I were the Oilers. I don’t think Nurse accepts a longterm deal for less that $5M per year. He strikes me as a player who is confident in himself and isn’t going to settle for less than he thinks he will be worth longterm. I think he will probably get to that level as a player at some point but he isn’t there right now and I doubt he ever has that huge offensive breakout year. It has never been a huge part of his game and those big point producers are the ones that get big money. So the risk of signing him t is a bridge then having a Subban breakout year and cashing in big time are pretty low. the Oilers have more holes to fill without a lot of cap space. Bridge now and pay a little bit more on a longterm deal next time.
    that said if he would go 8×$4.5M that’s a deal he is likely to at least live up to as early as next year and be a value deal longterm. I just don’t think Nurse does that deal.

  • Moneyball

    Nurse embodies all the intangible qualities that hockey coaches love but don’t do much for you on the ice. I see him as a a decent dman that is overvalued by other teams. If a good offer came I would certainly look at it.

  • Carbonrod

    I see Nurse as a solid d-man, but I don’t see him scoring 30+ points consistently. A bridge for 3-3.5 is good. I wouldn’t pay him over 5 with no history of offensive ability so maybe a bridge makes more sense for us and him. A 4.5 x 8 would be a good contract, he’s still young and should develop a bit more so there would be some value there. Either one is good to me.

  • TKB2677

    To me Vegas is making the entire league look bad. They are showing every fan bot Vegas fans and fans of all other teams what can happen when you have a team full of guys who give a damn and actually TRY every night. As lousy of a season as the Oilers had, when the majority of the team actually TRIED, they usually won. But on a lot of night, most of the team just went through the motions. This can be applied to virtually every team in the league. The difference between the teams who make the playoffs vs the teams that don’t is the teams that make the playoffs either get great goaltending for the whole year or they have enough quality depth that they can afford to have half their team mailing in the game but can still win because they have more guys trying than the other team on that particular night.

    • Glencontrolurstik

      Goaltending has a ton to do with Vegas success. (Let’s not forget, they were down to a fifth string back-up for a good chunk of the season & Subban held them in as a starter.)
      The reason that Vegas is doing well is that, other than Fleury, you have no real stars on the team.
      Just well picked, well coached & developed depth players (2nd, 3rd & 4th liners that other teams could easily replace).
      Also, You have a McCrimmon on the list for picking & developing this team.
      The McCrimmon’s had owned & developed the powerhouse NHL player factory Brandon Wheat Kings for years.
      There is a lot of experience there picking & developing chemistry on a hockey team.
      Regarding the Golden Knights, their are a lot of the right pieces in place to make sure that success was very highly possible. I got my $20, 500:1 ticket just based on McPhee, McCrimmon & Gallant. A great combo.

  • ifiwasgm

    The day Chia got rapped in the Hall trade, I have never waived from my believe that he is a terrible GM.
    Even when most of Oilers nation tried to justify the trade.

    Now I have a sick feeling in my stomach every time there is rumors of trades or talk of signing players, because Chia will way over pay.

    • Glencontrolurstik

      “Have faith Danielson”… Above all, don’t always believe everything you read. And remember what the Oilers needed when the Hall trade went down… Those moves did almost (Kesler is a bum…) get us to a Conference Final?
      We seem to be stuck with Chia, let’s do what Oilers Fans aren’t known to do and start showing him some shine…
      Some positive vibes from the Oilers Fanbase will help the team immensely this off-season…

  • Ko-D

    Nurse is currently playing at around a 4.5 m per season level. His performance should at least stay similar in the years to come. If he would sign a long term contract at his current dollar value that would be a smart bet. But, I’m sure Nurse’s agent is pushing for an inflated contract and Chai will most certainly overpay.