“How did you see it play out?” 

Any time a coach answers a question with a question it’s squirmy. And it rarely ever happens when the query and the response are grounded in happy feelings and optimism.

As it was, Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper was asked how he saw the second period of their 5-1 loss to the New York Rangers in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final on Friday, where the Bolts gave up two late goals in backbreaking fashion.

Sarcastic and exasperated as the reponse was, he answered the question with a question, and then was questioned again.

“Maybe some tough luck?” responded Chris Johnston of Sportsnet.

“OK, I’ll start there: Maybe some tough luck,” said Cooper. “I'll go beyond the second period. I thought for 45 minutes, we did everything but put the puck in the net. We had some really good looks. It's tough to have a period like we did in the second period. Nine times out of 10, you're coming out with the lead probably by multiple goals. Instead you come out of that, like you lose the period.  It doesn't happen very often.”

The line from the Lightning after the loss – evening the series at 2-2, and pushing the Lightning’s goals-against to 13 in the last three games – was that the effort was there but the bounces were not.

That was never more evident than the second period, when the Lightning outshot the Rangers 19-6, scored a goal to tie the game but saw New York score twice in less than two minutes to take a commanding 3-1 lead.

“Things like that are gonna happen. You have to expect the unexpected in the playoffs. I thought we took it to them. The chances were there. They just weren’t going in like they were in Games 2 and 3. Sometimes stuff like that happens. We still have to be better,” said captain Steven Stamkos. “It sucks that we lost. We’ll remember this feeling.”

The second goal of that Rangers rally was scored by Keith Yandle, off the leg of Tampa defenseman Victor Hedman.

“The third one I clearly remember. That's going 10- feet wide. How often does that happen?” said Cooper, when asked about the team’s defensive coverage. “So I don't know if that's really our coverage, to be honest. I think they had some breaks, and you've got to give the Rangers credit, they made the best of them, and we didn't make the best of ours.  That's plain and simple. But I'll take our effort.”

The effort was there. The luck and bounces were not, unlike in the Lightning’s previous two wins.

“People are going to wake up in the morning and look at the box score and say, ‘Oh, wow, Tampa got waxed,’” said Cooper. “But I think if you were in the building, you probably wouldn't see it that way.”

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Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: May 23, 2015, 4:38 am

No. 1 Star: Rick Nash, New York Rangers

Nash has been heavily criticized during his time in New York for his lack of playoff production. He took a step in the right direction Friday night with 2 goals and an assist against Tampa. Nash's first goal was beauty on a break away.

No. 2 Star: Keith Yandle, New York Rangers

Like Nash, Yandle had a 3-point evening. The defenseman scored a goal, 2 assists, and was a plus-2 in 18:16 TOI in the Rangers 5-1 drubbing of the Lightning.

No. 3 Star: Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers

There were some clamoring for King Henrik's removal from net to start Game 4. He proved his crictics incorrect as he made 38 saves, allowing only 1 goal against as the Rangers tied up the series heading back to New York.

Honorable Mention: The Rangers power play went 2-for-5 with Nash and Martin St. Louis getting the tallies. The goal scored by St. Louis - much to the chagrin of the paying/booing TBL faithful - was his first of the playoffs. Steven Stamkos scored the lone goal for the Lightning:

Did You Know? The nickname of "The Triplets" is getting really annoying. Kenny Albert said it at least 320948203498 times in Game 4 broadcast.

Dishonorable Mention: Ben Bishop allowed 5 goals on 24 shots; however, 2 of the goals were off turnovers and deflections by his teammates. The Lightning went 0-for-4 on the power play. Matt Carle did not play after suffering an injury in Game 3; Mark Barberio replaced him. Barberio was minus-1 in 8:44 TOI.

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Jen Neale is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow her on Twitter! Follow @MsJenNeale_PD.

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Author: Jen Neale
Posted: May 23, 2015, 3:40 am

A pair of second period goals from Chris Kreider and Keith Yandle 1:48 apart propelled the New York Rangers to 5-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final. The series is now tied 2-2 with Game 5 Sunday at Madison Square Garden.

After allowing six goals in each of the past two games, the Rangers found their defense again, holding the Lightning to a single Steven Stamkos goal in the second period. Henrik Lundqvist was kept busy and was back in form, finishing with 38 saves.

New York opened the scoring late in the opening frame when Rick Nash powered his way to his first goal in five games: 

Stamkos would tie the game midway through the second period, but that was quickly answered by the Rangers.

Chris Kreider regained the lead for New York after a Brendan Morrow defensive zone turnover led to an eventual rebound opportunity for the Rangers forward, which he pounced on for his seventh of the postseason. The lead would double 108 seconds later when a lucky bounce went in favor of the visitors as Keith Yandle’s shot from the point deflected off Victor Hedman’s leg and by Ben Bishop:

New York’s pair of quick goals in the second ended a period in which Tampa dominated everything but the scoreboard, outshooting the Rangers 19-6, but failing on two power play opportunities and leaving the ice with only one goal to show for it.

In the third period, it was an old friend of the Lightning who put the game out of reach. Martin St. Louis made it 4-1 with his first of the playoffs thanks to a great cross-ice pass from Derick Brassard: 

Nash would add his second of the game late in the third period as New York made it 5-1.

"It's frustrating when you can't help your team out offensively when you're supposed to score goals," Nash told NBCSN's Brian Engblom afterward. "It's not going in, you feel like you're letting your team down. But I'm trying to help out in any area I can and tonight, finally, a couple went in."

It was Nash who set up a private screening of the "Entourage" movie during the team’s day off on Thursday. After two goals and an assist in Game 4, and knowing how superstitious hockey players can be, might we suggest "Mad Max: Fury Road" for Saturday night? It's really, really good.

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Sean Leahy is the associate editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Sean_Leahy

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Author: Sean Leahy
Posted: May 23, 2015, 2:50 am

Winning the NHL’s General Manager of the Year Award doesn’t always bode well for your future. Two of the five winner’s in the short history of the award were fired by their respective teams not long after being chosen. Mike Gillis was canned three years after he won, while Ray Shero was shown the door less than twelve months after he was was given the honor.

On Friday night, the NHL announced its three finalists for the 2015 award: Bob Murray of the Anaheim Ducks; Glen Sather of the New York Rangers; and Steve Yzerman of the Tampa Bay Lightning. 

From NHL.com:

Why Bob Murray deserves to win

Murray crafted a Ducks team that posted the top record in the Western Conference for the second consecutive season, captured its third straight Pacific Division title with the second-best record in franchise history (51-24-7, 109 points) and has reached the Conference Finals for the first time since its Stanley Cup win in 2007. Murray acquired center Ryan Kesler in a draft-day trade last June and defenseman Simon Despres at the trade deadline in March, adding to a roster whose core was built through the draft (forwards Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, defensemen Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen, goaltender Frederik Andersen). Murray is a finalist for the third consecutive season; he finished second in voting in 2012-13 and captured the award in 2013-14.

Why Glen Sather deserves to win 

Sather assembled a roster that went 53-22-7 (113 points) during the regular season to set franchise records for wins and points in capturing the third Presidents' Trophy in franchise history. The Rangers also led the NHL and set club records for road wins (28) and points (58). With a successful mix of 25-and-under standouts (Kevin Hayes, Chris Kreider, Ryan McDonagh, Derek Stepan), veteran draft picks (Carl Hagelin, Henrik Lundqvist, Marc Staal), trade acquisitions (Derick Brassard, Kevin Klein, Rick Nash, Martin St. Louis, Keith Yandle) and free agents (Dan Boyle, Dan Girardi), the Rangers have advanced to the Conference Finals for the third time in the past four seasons. Sather is a finalist for the first time since the award was introduced in 2009-10.

Why Steve Yzerman deserves to win

After leading Tampa Bay to the Conference Finals in 2010-11, his first season in charge, Yzerman oversaw the rebuild to a roster that has returned to the final four with just two holdovers from the 2011 squad, cornerstone center Steven Stamkos and defenseman Victor Hedman. Bolstered by key acquisitions through the draft (Nikita Kucherov, Ondrej Palat), via free agency (Brian Boyle, Valtteri Filppula, Tyler Johnson, Anton Stralman) and trades (Ben Bishop, Ryan Callahan, Jason Garrison), the Lightning set franchise records with 50 wins and 108 points during the regular season. They also led the League with 262 goals and 32 home wins. Yzerman is a finalist for the award for the second time, finishing second in balloting in 2010-11.

Voting was conducted by all 30 NHL general managers and a panel of league executives, print and broadcast media at the end of Round 2.

Maybe you could make a case for Nashville Predators GM David Poile to be a finalist, but the biggest oversight has to be Garth Snow of the New York Islanders. He upgraded in goal, on defense and up front, saw his team improved by 22 points and come within a Game 7 win of advancing to the second round. Not sure what else he needed to do to be included. 

Who Should Win: Garth Snow.

Who Will Win: Steve Yzerman. Overhauled his roster and raided the Stanley Cup finalist Rangers, while keeping his core intact, which includes extending two-thirds of the “Triplets” line and Alex Killorn. Also bolstered defense at the trade deadline with the acquisition of Braydon Coburn.

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Sean Leahy is the associate editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Sean_Leahy

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Author: Sean Leahy
Posted: May 23, 2015, 1:58 am
Photo via @m_mitanis

Why can’t hockey coaches wear uniforms like managers in Major League Baseball? If so, would Mike Babcock don the above No. 50 sweater. And if so … how hilarious would he look behind the Leafs bench?

Pretty funny if you ask me. And kudos to whatever entity made this monstrosity. But man, poor Stuart Percy …

From hipsters in New York to saviors in Anaheim, we had all sorts of submissions for Jersey Fouls this week.

If you want to submit, make sure to email us at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or tweet to the hashtag #jerseyfoul. We’ll pick them up, and try to make sure to give credit where credit is due. 

Here they are!

3. 1994! 

I may start rooting for the Rangers this playoff, just so I don’t have to hear any more current-day comparisons to the almost too celebrated 1994 Stanley Cup champs. (S/t @AikmanCMU)

Photo via @daveaikman

2. Saving Clayton 'Stoner'

We preach religious freedom here at Puck Daddy. The fact that Clayton Stoner wears No. 3 for the Ducks … do the math. (S/t @district5hockey)

Photo via @district5hockey

1. Hipster Henrik 

There are just way too many hipsters in New York these days. (S/t Chris Buonomo via email)

Photo via Chris Buonomo 

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @joshuacooper

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Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: May 22, 2015, 11:32 pm

The never-ending celebration of the Edmonton Oilers winning the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft continues.

Behold the Oilers season ticket renewal package which came in of all things … a golden envelope. (S/t @solid_guarantee)

Photo via @solid_guarantee

Why does this look familiar? Oh, remember that sort of ‘meh’ look on Bill Daly’s face when he announced to humanity Edmonton won the draft lottery and the right to select Connor McDavid?

Bill Daly

This presents a slight conundrum for Oilers fans who see winning this draft lottery as the result of Edmonton's extreme mediocrity throughout the years and pain its fans endured. Via Copper and Blue:

But as good as that moment was - I know I'll always remember where I was when it happened - I can't help but scratch my head a little at the Oilers decision to commemorate in the package sent to season ticket holders. After all Oilers season ticket holders are a group that, for better or worse, has stood by the Oilers over the last decade, handing over large sums of money year after year to watch a subpar (and that's a generous description) hockey team. Do you really want to remind them of that time that the franchise got very lucky after another terrible season?

Eh, just go with it. This is a marketing masterstroke by the Oilers. The team has been in the dumps for so long. Now it’s going to have a hockey savior playing in a new arena. And the golden card sort of symbolizes this.

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @joshuacooper

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Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: May 22, 2015, 10:18 pm

You can be 100 percent sure of two things with Mike Babcock going to Toronto: 

1) The amount of money he's being paid literally doesn't matter at all to the club.

2) The Leafs' management did more due diligence from a statistical point of view than most other teams would have.

So with the first issue in mind, let's stop fretting about how much money he's being paid — even if $50 million over eight seasons is, indeed, a lot — because they gave David Clarkson almost as much, and Babcock doesn't count against the cap.

But if you're paying your coach that much money, it doesn't matter how big your Scrooge McDuck vault is: He needs to produce.

And the Leafs have indeed had a production problem for a good long while now. The last time they were a positive possession team for the entirety of a season it was 2009-10. (And a fat lot of good that did them because they finished with 74 points that year, their second-worst total since 1998, eclipsed only by this past season's disaster.) 

Now, with Brendan Shanahan in charge, there seems to be a lot less ambling around trying to get better by doing... well, something or other, and a lot more going directly to the point. Randy Carlyle, gone. Dave Nonis, not long after. Carlyle was replaced by the biggest free agent coaching move in league history, and Nonis's replacement will be installed soon. The decisions both make on a daily basis will be buttressed by a newfound vision of maximizing assets through shrewd management and close examination of statistical data.

In short, the Maple Leafs are making good decisions these days, and seem ready to do that for a long time to come. But the question is simple: Was Babcock worth the investment. Not in terms of the money, because again, it doesn't matter too much to them whether it was $6.25 million or $10 million, but in terms of what he's going to do to help the team improve.

Of course, the perception is that Babcock is an amazing coach who is great at his job and all he does is win. In reality, the former is at least partly true, while the latter is very much not, at least lately. In fact, all the evidence we have suggests Babcock is good at getting All-Star teams to win titles. The 2008 Red Wings were, effectively, an All-Star team, with Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Nicklas Lidstrom, Brian Rafalski, Jiri Hudler, Niklas Kronwall, Brad Stuart and more getting major minutes down the stretch. He's also won two straight Olympic golds for Canada, plus a World Championship and World Juniors. Again, All-Star teams.

And so the question is what kind of impact a coach has on a team. His career .627 winning percentage in the regular season is a good indicator that the impact is overwhelmingly positive. His two trips out of the first round in the playoffs over the last six seasons not so much. But wins and losses are obviously not the best way to judge a team or coach, and so we have to look at what his systems do for the teams he coaches. Fortunately, his entire coaching career falls between 2002-03 and present, which we can refer to as the War On Ice era, since that site has possession numbers going back that far.

And using that data, we begin to see a picture of Babcock's coaching prowess emerge:


Clearly, Babcock spends a lot of his time well north of 50 percent, and his cumulative possession advantage is massive. For all 12 seasons as an NHL coach — and these numbers include playoff games as well — teams coached by Babcock carry a 54.6 percent possession advantage over nearly 1,100 games, with a corsi plus-minus of more than plus-7,100. These are, to say the least, obscene numbers.

But if you look at both of those little squiggly lines, you'll see an interesting pattern: A huge jump from what he did in Anaheim (before the green line) versus his performance in Detroit. Obviously, he took over an excellent Red Wing team after the 2004-05 season was eradicated by owner greed, and they soared under him. Full seasons in the 58 percent corsi area are unheard of before or since. 

But as time went on, Babcock's possession success in Detroit started hugging the break-even line a little more closely, which makes one wonder just how much of a positive impact he actually has in and of himself.

Let's first examine Anaheim, where Babcock began his NHL head coaching career.


As you can see, the Ducks immediately improved when Babcock left town, but it's not because they found a better coach. They, in fact, found a worse one in Randy Carlyle, but they also gave Carlyle a few toys that were a lot more fun to play with.

In his final year, Babcock coached a 34-year-old Sergei Fedorov as his best forward, and Ruslan Salei played nearly 24 minutes a night on the back end. No one is succeeding under those circumstances. Then the Ducks went out and got both Scott Niedermayer and Francois Beauchemin, and hey, they started winning a little more.

The year after that, they acquired Chris Pronger.

And that's why the numbers spike for the team's cumulative numbers around the middle of that chart. Pronger in particular carried that team to insane heights in possession even as they were sabotaged by other issues (Carlyle's coaching probably chief among them) every year following the Cup win.

Which brings us to Babcock's 10-season tenure with Detroit. Upon departing Anaheim, he stepped right into an unbelievable situation. Where he went from a top line of Fedorov centering Vinny Prospal and Petr Sykora, and a top pairing of Salei and Niclas Havelid — albeit with JS Giguere in net — he began his career with the Wings looking at a starting lineup  (in terms of TOI) of: Henrik Zetterberg - Pavel Datsyuk - Kris Draper, with Lidstrom and Mathieu Schneider behind them, and Manny Legace in goal (because nobody's perfect). You certainly take that upgrade.

As you might imagine, this wasn't necessarily a team that needed the help figuring out how to hold onto the puck, but Babcock's numbers tell the story:


These are numbers which are basically impossible to argue with. Apart from a few rough stretches, the Red Wings were an elite possession team among elite possession teams for a period of more than a few years. It was remarkable. Look at all the games they spent north of 60 percent during that time, and then consider that the best teams in the league these days usually do about 55 percent, to the tune of one or two teams making it that high each season.

But again: All-Star teams. Lidstrom was joined by Brian Rafalski on the back end and formed a lethal tandem that basically had the puck from the time they stepped on the ice until they went off for a change. These were the prime years for Zetterberg and Datsyuk, two of the best two-way forwards of the past two decades and guaranteed Hall of Famers, as well. With guys that good at both ends of the ice on the roster, it's easy to look like a coaching genius.

And indeed, much of this was centered around just how good Lidstrom — the second-best defenseman to ever put on a pair of skates — really was at influencing the game. Not only did he drive possession, but he also played loads of minutes in every situation. Lidstrom averaged more than 26 minutes a night from the time Babcock took over until 2010, when he turned 40. After that, he played about 23:30 of near-elite hockey per game, because he was old and broken down, you see.

And so when viewed in that context, much the same way as Pronger made Carlyle look like a genius, you have to figure the same was true of Lidstrom and Babcock. And yup, here's a graph about it:

This is pretty convincing as to just how much Lidstrom's brilliance helped to build the Babcock legacy. If nothing else, he should get a cut of this big deal in Toronto. That's not to say he's anything like a bad coach, but he is perhaps not as good as The Idea Of Mike Babcock would have everyone believe.

(So too does Giguere and Co. PDOing their way to a Cup final, but that's beside the point.)

In all, the numbers break down like this:

Again, this doesn't mean this was a bad hire; far from it. The Leafs are lucky to be pulling Babcock aboard, even if his immediate presence isn't going to sort out any of the many things that are still currently wrong with this team. But this is a challenge unlike anything Babcock has really seen in his career, and it would have been just as difficult for anyone else, if not more so.

If nothing else, he's a proven developer of young talent, of which the Leafs have tons both on the NHL roster and in the pipeline. Jake Gardiner, Morgan Rielly, Nazem Kadri, William Nylander, etc. will almost certainly all benefit from his teachings at the absolute very least. He might even be able to milk better performances out of guys like Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf, if they're still around come October. 

Babcock got paid what the market would bear, and he made sure the market bore every cent it could for him. Now it's up to him to prove that he can be worthy of the deal he signed. And for the first time in more than a decade, he's without any kind of superstar safety net.

Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.

Author: Ryan Lambert
Posted: May 22, 2015, 8:40 pm

The KHL is floundering. In spite of talks of a move of teams into China, the collapse of the Ruble and other factors has put the league, which at one point dreamed of challenging the NHL for hockey supremacy, into financial problems.

And now an important former Soviet NHL face has said he believes Russian players shouldn’t be allowed to come to North America until they’re older.

Via the Associated Press:

Fetisov, who is now a senator in Russia, tells Russia's R-Sport news agency that federal law should be used to stop Russian players from moving to North America before they turn 28.

The aim is to keep "our most talented guys, the ones who the people come to see."

He also wants to see foreigners fall under that rule, as well:

re Fetisov's new Iron Curtain proposal: he wants it to cover ALL KHL players under 28, not just Russians. pic.twitter.com/E5qY19A17F

— Igor Kleyner (@IgorKleyner) May 22, 2015

The story calls them “Soviet Style” restrictions, which honestly is a bit of a misnomer. 

It’s not like these guys have to enlist in the army and play for national pride around the globe, beating the likes of college kids from other countries – or losing like in 1980.

Russia has its fair share of issues, but it's not like people are sent to Gulags anymore. 

KHL players are indeed monetarily compensated, and Fetisov likely wants to protect professional hockey in Russia, which as a politician, involves the lifestyle and some sort of monetary well-being of the nation. After all, the story notes that Fetisov, who was one of the former Soviet players who broke the famed Iron Curtain, is a Senator now.

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @joshuacooper

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Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: May 22, 2015, 7:27 pm

Here are your Puck Headlines: A glorious collection of news and views collected from the greatest blogosphere in sports and the few, the proud, the mainstream hockey media. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com.

.@MapleLeafs Toronto church welcomes new #Leafs coach Mike Babcock. Hopes he doesn't face too much pressure. pic.twitter.com/0L952xEW2g

— Simon Dingley (@SimonDingleyCBC) May 22, 2015

• If Mike Babcock is looking for a place of worship, here's one sympathetic to his upcoming plight. [SimonDingleyCBC]

• The NHL salary cap is looking like it will be set at around $71-million next season. [AP]

• "The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals today ruled against [financial] manager — Joseph Zada — concluding he has to pay $112 million for selling fake investments in Saudi Arabian oil to dozens of unsuspecting victims — including [Sergei] Fedorov, a horse trainer, a plastic surgeon and several firefighters." [Detroit Free Press]

• A day after losing Game 3, Joel Quenneville's lineup changes are being put under a microscope, natch. [NBC Chicago]

• Kenny Albert is the broadcasting equivalent of the NHL's Iron Man. One example: after calling the 3OT game in Anaheim, he jumped on a plane to Tampa Bay in order to do radio play-by-play for the Rangers the next day. [New York Times]

• The influence and ripples from the Martin St. Louis/Ryan Callahan trade for the Tampa Bay Lightning. [Raw Charge]

• "The reality of the situation is simple: These New York Rangers are very good at making life difficult for themselves. There's another part too: These New York Rangers are also very good at feeling their backs against the wall and coming together to overcome even the most difficult mountains of adversity." [Blueshirt Banter]

• Three years ago, Alex Killorn walked in the commencement ceremony at Harvard. Now he's playing a key role for the Lightning in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Not bad. [Tampa Bay Observer]

• Rangers D-man Dan Boyle still has more he wants to prove - and win. [ESPN]

• Hero of Game 3, Anaheim's Simon Despres, is surprising everyone, including himself. [OC Register]

• The St. Louis Blues are playing coy on discussing the status of head coach (for now) Ken Hitchcock. [Belleville News-Democrat]

• Saginaw Spirit GM James Paliafito hired by Toronto Maple Leafs as Director of Player Evaluation. Fancy title. [Buzzing the Net]

• Happy news for the Red Wings: 2014 top draft pick Dylan Larkin has signed a three-year ELC and will join the Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL) for their Calder Cup playoff run. [Red Wings]

• Pros and cons of jumping from the Canadian Women's Hockey League to the paid National Women's Hockey League. [Today's Slapshot]

• How Corey Crawford used visual clues to find the puck in Game 2. [In Goal Magazine]

• Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher are even more special than you think. [EOTP]

• Back in April, Syracuse Crunch intern and goalie, Jennifer Greene, practiced with the club she usually does PR for. She's the first female to practice with the club. [The Pink Puck]

• An inside look at the Ducks' logo change from 2007, their Stanley Cup year. [Sporting News]

• Fantasy hockey alert: looking at forwards that might fly under the radar in leagues with salary cap. [Dobber]

• A graphical presentation of fancy stats: why possession and zone entries matter. [Hockey Graphs]

• More fancy stats: "Shot quality and possession metrics have always been somewhat a point of contention. Expected Goals (ExpG) helps to combine these two facets in hopes of providing better information about the game." [Don't Tell Me About Heart]

• Best headline of the day: "85% is a unicorn – on predictions in the National Hockey League postseason." [Stats by Lopez]

• Finally, the Wysh List. Why Mike Babcock choosing the Maple Leafs blew our minds...

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Jen Neale is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow her on Twitter! Follow @MsJenNeale_PD.

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Author: Jen Neale
Posted: May 22, 2015, 6:28 pm

We all know what kind of damage the “Triplets” line of Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov have done for the Lightning in these playoffs. But as the Tampa offense has come alive in their last two games against the New York Rangers, a different line is starting to heat up.

There was a time this postseason when the speculation was that Steven Stamkos was injured. He went goalless over nine games from the end of the regular season until Game 2 against Montreal in the second round, but along with Valtteri Filppula and Alex Killorn, the Lightning’s top line is producing, and that’s a scary thing for the Rangers and Henrik Lundqvist, who have allowed 12 goals in two games after holding Tampa to a single tally in Game 1.

Stamkos has scored four times in the last five games, while Killorn has three goals and five points in Tampa’s last two games. Filppula, meanwhile, only has two assists in the series, but has won 62-percent of his face-offs.

As Palat does for the "Triplets" line, Lightning head coach Jon Cooper channeled his inner Reggie Jackson and likened Killorn to being the straw that stirs the drink for the top line, and he's picked a great time to deliver the points.

“We’ve got a good thing going with our line right now,” said Stamkos “Killer’s a big part of that because of his speed and his size. He uses that very well and it’s been effective.” 

While the “Triplets” and the duo of Stamkos and Killorn have helped Tampa take a 2-1 series lead, Cooper was quick to spread the love when talking about his roster and not focus the success of the team to those “Fab 5.”

“I know Johnny, Kuch, and Palat have consistently been, I guess, scoring throughout the playoffs, but you can't leave [Ben] Bishop out. Bishop has been unreal for us. You can't leave [Anton] Stralman out, [Victor] Hedman, [Jason] Garrison, [Braydon] Coburn, [Andrej Sustr], [Matt] Carle, [Nikita Nesterov], all those guys have come in and contributed.         

“That's why I guess different players get a little bit of notoriety for different things. But for us and I think that's what makes something special about our team is nobody's in there -- they're patting the ‘Triplets’ on the back, but everybody's patting Stralman on the back and Hedman, and all the guys throughout the line-up. You look at Brenden Morrow and what he's brought to our team and his physicality and his fire. He may not get on the podium every time, but he means a ton to our team.   

“So, I don't know, call them the Fab 20, not the Fab 5.”  

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Sean Leahy is the associate editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Sean_Leahy

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Author: Sean Leahy
Posted: May 22, 2015, 6:23 pm

LISTEN HERE! [And if that doesn't work, try here.]

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• The Conference Final coverage!

• Game Show Friday!

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Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: May 22, 2015, 5:42 pm

Welcome to the first edition of our Conn Smythe Watch, which chronicles the ever-changing race for playoff MVP. This one is a just a glimpse at the current picture; we’ll make it a daily feature when Round 2 begins. Keep in mind that we factor in the probability of a long playoff run into these choices. Who are the current favorites for playoff MVP? Glad you asked. 

1. Tyler Johnson, Tampa Bay Lightning (3)

The Triplets Line has taken over the Lightning’s series against the Rangers, led by Johnson and his 12 goals in the playoffs. He’s the postseason leader in goals and points (18), and tied for the lead with seven power-play points. 

2. Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks (7)

The heart, soul and muscle of the Ducks. He had two assists in their Game 3 win, including a great pass to set up Simon Despres for the game winner. He now has 16 points, with 14 assists.

3. Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks (4)

Kane’s whirling back-hander in Game 3 was his eighth goal of the playoffs and his 14th point in 13 games. He’s credited with two game-winners.

4. Corey Perry, Anaheim Ducks (2)

Perry continues to be a force whether or not he hits the score sheet. His 16 points are tied with two others for second in the playoffs. He’s also second in goals with eight. He also leads the playoffs in “most times having his health threatened by Mike Milbury.”

5. Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers (1)

His goals-against average is up over 2.12 and his save percentage is now down to .926 after giving up 12 goals in two games. But if the Rangers are going to battle back in the Eastern Conference Final, it’ll be with Lundqvist’s clutch play.

6. Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks (6)

Keith has 11 points in 13 games, but the number that puts him in the conversation for MVP is 31:44, his average time on ice, picking up the slack as the Blackhawks ignore their third 'D' pairing. 

7. Frederik Andersen, Anaheim Ducks (5)

Anderson now has a 1.75 GAA and a .935 save percentage for the Ducks, to go along with his 10 wins. He’s outplaying Corey Crawford in the Western Conference Final.

8. Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning (NR)

Stamkos has been helped with the Triplets’ secondary scoring, but he’s playing some of his best hockey in this run: 14 points in 16 games, with seven on the power play.

9. Derek Stepan, New York Rangers (8)

The Rangers’ top scorer with 12 points, including five goals and an overtime game winner.

10. Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay Lightning (9)

Bish, please: He has a 2.03 GAA and a .925 save percentage, despite giving up eight goals in his last two games.

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Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: May 22, 2015, 2:38 pm

Gary Bettman met reporters in Chicago on Thursday night for Game 3 of the Western Conference Final, which meant he was going to get the Steve Montador question. 

Bettman is fending off a few lawsuits related to concussions and players whose deaths were allegedly linked to brain injuries. One that’s in the works: The family of Steve Montador, the former Chicago Blackhawks and Buffalo Sabres defenseman who died in February, who was working with the same law firm handling Derek Boogaard’s wrongful death case against the NHL.

“The finding of widespread CTE in Steven's brain helps us all better understand that his brain was ravaged by disease and he was unable to control it,” they said in a statement. “We always knew that there might be black eyes, broken bones and soft tissue injuries -- but he never anticipated that playing the game he loved would result in such devastating impairment of his brain function. CTE changed everything."

What did Bettman have to say about this?

Well, he reiterated his stance that the science on concussions leading to CTE isn’t there yet, albeit in a clunky way. From CBS Chicago:

“From a medical science standpoint, there is no evidence yet that one necessarily leads to the other,” said Bettman to reporters on hand. “I know there are a lot of theories, but if you ask people who study it, they tell you there is no statistical correlation that can definitively make that conclusion.”

This earned him a thorough trashing from David Haugh of the LA Times:

In a stunningly irresponsible comment for the commissioner of a contact sport to make in 2015, Bettman challenged the link between concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE)."From a medical and science standpoint, there is no evidence yet that one necessarily leads to the other," Bettman said.

It's amazing Bettman could be heard speaking, what with his head in the sand. Even if Bettman was doing nothing more than publicly laying groundwork for an NHL legal defense, to claim with such authority that concussions might have no connection to CTE defied logic. Even if Bettman can find scientists to support his claim, dismissing CTE as a potential result of multiple concussions hardly reflects a man paid well to protect the game.

It also earned a rejoinder from Chris Nowinski, former wrestler and cofounder of the Boston University CTE Center:

If "necessarily" means "always," fine. If not, then "no evidence" is untrue. We have "some" pretty good evidence. https://t.co/QmNKqXoUNm

— Chris Nowinski (@ChrisNowinski1) May 22, 2015

Bettman stuck his foot in his mouth here a bit, as no logical analysis of the brain damage we’ve seen in contact sports where the head is targeted could indicate anything but a link between CTE and fequent brain injuries.

But he’s tackled this subject in a more nuanced way in the past, and that might have been where he was going here. Like when Bettman said we shouldn’t “over-conclude when the data isn’t there” on CTE following the deaths of Wade Belak, Rick Rypien and Boogaard in 2011.

The fact is that the links between concussions in sports and genetics, and especially within the context of CTE, were still being debated in the medical community in 2014. The question the league’s had about that science is whether some athletes are more genetically predisposed to suffer certain types of brain injuries and whether CTE is only a threat to a specific portion of the NHL population when their playing days are over.

So that, at least, is what Bettman might have been getting at.

Or he was just trafficking in intentional obfuscation because the NHL is facing several lawsuits and he’s being compelled to testify in at least one of them. There's that, too.

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Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: May 22, 2015, 1:41 pm
Freep

Mike Babcock made no secret that leaving the Detroit Red Wings was an emotional decision. He’s spoken about needing to crack open a box of Kleenex when discussing it with friend and general manager Ken Holland, and we’ll go ahead and assume he’s not talking about his allergies (but oy vey, that ragweed these days).

So the 10-year coach of the Red Wings decided to make one last gesture of appreciation to the Detroit fans as he embarks on the new chapter of his life as Toronto Maple Leafs head coach/savior.

Babcock and his family took out an ad on Page 6B of the Detroit Free Press on Friday, featuring a photo of the Babcocks hoisting the Stanley Cup and what appars to be a photo of an Easter Island statue.

The ad reads:

"Detroit Red Wings fans,

Thank you for an amazing 10 years!

We'll never forget the support you've provided us and will always cherish the memories we've shared together in Hockeytown.

- The Babcocks"

A sweet, heartfelt message from a coach to his former home fans.

Although considering how much the Maple Leafs just handed him, Babcock probably could have purchased the entire paper.

Like, the entire paper. Not that he’d have time to be publisher or anything.

Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: May 22, 2015, 12:57 pm

No. 1 Star: Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks

The Ducks captain came up big in Game 3 of the Western Conference Final, notching two assists in 21:33 of action in the Ducks’ 2-1 win. Getzlaf also won 57 percent of his face-offs. His second assist was a beautiful feed to Simon Despres for the one-timer game-winner. Getzlaf has four points in the three games, all assists.

 

No. 2 Star, Frederik Andersen, Anaheim Ducks

The Ducks goaltender is having quite the series for himself. He stopped 26 of 27 Chicago shots on goal in Anaheim’s Game 2 win. Andersen currently has a .957 save percentage against the powerful Blackhawks in the three games. For the playoffs he has a 1.75 goals against average and .935 save percentage.

No. 3. Star: Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks

The scoring winger finally got himself on the scoresheet with the below beautiful spinning blind backhand goal. Kane also had a glorious chance at the end of regulation of Game 3, but just couldn’t convert. A score would have sent the game into overtime.

Honorable Mention: Anaheim defenseman Despres scored the game-winner at the 19:05 mark of the second period … Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith was a plus-1 in 28:04 of action … Blackhawks forward Brad Richards notched one assist … Ducks forward Patrick Maroon scored the opening goal of the game … Ducks defensemen Hampus Lindholm and Cam Fowler each picked up one assist. 

Did You Know?: Kane’s goal was his 45th of his playoff career. This tied Steve Larmer for fourth on the Blackhawks’ all-time list.  

Dishonorable Mention: Chicago’s power play was 0-for-5 … Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville’s subs of Joakim Nordstrom and Kris Versteeg for Antoine Vermette and Teuvo Teravainen didn’t work out. Both were held pointless and Nordstrom was a minus-1 … Not to keep piling on Quenneville, but his use of defensemen Kyle Cumiskey and Kimmo Timonen remained puzzling. Cumiskey played 8:51 and Timonen 6:50. 

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Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: May 22, 2015, 4:04 am

The Anaheim Ducks showed no let-down or exhaustion in their 2-1 Game 3 Western Conference Final win over the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Ducks punched early, got the first goal of the game to settle them down and scored late in the second to pick up the win and a 2-1 series lead.

The previous game went almost the entirety of three overtimes before Chicago’s victory and there were questions about whether Anaheim could come back and produce with a win at Chicago in Game 3.

"This was a character win," Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said. "I thought a very good checking game for us, road game. I think, I mean, they're going to get some chances. There's no way you can stop them from getting chances. But I thought we limited their chances on the road. For a tired group, it was a really good game for us."

After the loss Tuesday in Anaheim, the Ducks needed to score first, and they did on a Patrick Maroon tip-in at the 12:55 mark of the opening period.

Chicago’s Patrick Kane countered with his first goal of the series at the 19:03 mark of the first period to knot the game at 1-1. It was touch-and-go for both teams from that point on until Simon Despres fired home a Getzlaf feed at the 19:05 mark of the second for the game-winner.

It must continue to be noted that Anaheim flat-out stole Despres for Ben Lovejoy from Pittsburgh at the trading deadline.

"He's a big, strong guy, so he can protect the puck really well. That's a real positive thing," Boudreau said. "I mean, his goal was a great one-timer. He doesn't get a chance to one-time the puck too often from his position. It was a great goal and a great shot."

Though much was made of Marcus Kruger’s game-winner in Game 2, and Andrew Shaw’s header for the Hawks, they won that game in part of two power play goals. The Ducks overcame a Hawks third period power play – which is never easy up a goal in a hostile building – and a four-minute double-minor by Jakob Silfverberg in the first. The Hawks were 0-for-5 on the power play for the game while the Ducks were 1-for-1 with the man-advantage.

"Obviously we had some success last game (on the power play). Put us in a spot to win the game. " Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "Tonight we had several good opportunities, but didn't have the good looks we had last game.

Quenneville faced some questions after the game for some lineup changes. He took out Antoine Vermette and Teuvo Teravainen and replaced them with Joakim Nordstrom and Kris Versteeg. Neither registered a point, and Nordstrom was a minus-1. 

"Well, we just wanted to get some fresh legs in there," Quenneville said. "We felt that Steeger had never played over a long stretch in the last series, we wanted to get him back in there. You know, tough game the other day, travel. We wanted to bring some new guys in."

Chicago nearly tied it up in the final seconds when Kane slipped through the Ducks defense, but just missed on a partial breakaway to end the game. 

last second Kane chance pic.twitter.com/Uec6z2n5NV

— Stephanie Vail (@myregularface) May 22, 2015

Wow, that was close. 

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @joshuacooper

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Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: May 22, 2015, 3:13 am

Patrick Kane, we were waiting for you to finally score a goal or at very least get a point this Western Conference Final.

Kane’s lack of production had become a sort of big deal heading into Game 3. And it didn’t take long for him to finally get on the board against the Ducks. Behold the no-look backhand score by the Buffalo native, which knotted the game at 1-1 late in the first period at the United Center.

As we noted before the game, Kane hadn’t notched a point this series and wasn’t really all that effective 5-on-5. Unless Kane was nursing some sort of injury we didn’t know about, you knew he’d at least score ‘a’ goal or ‘a’ point this series.

Kane’s home goals create quite a festive atmosphere in the United Center. He throws up his arms and “Chelsea Dagger” blares from the loudspeaker. The crowd goes crazy. At this stage of Kane’s career and the Blackhawks’ recent run of success, it feels like a spring ritual.  

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @joshuacooper

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Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: May 22, 2015, 1:17 am

Where are the stars in the third-round series between the Anaheim Ducks and Chicago Blackhawks? 

For two games here are the point totals for the dynamic duos on each team.

Anaheim

Corey Perry: 1G, 0A

Ryan Getzlaf: 0G, 2A (though one was on an empty netter)

Chicago

Patrick Kane: 0G, 0A

Jonathan Toews: 0G, 1A

You’d think that through almost three full games of hockey, because the last game went to triple-OT, that all four would have scored a little more? Nope, not at all leading into Thursday's Game 3 at the United Center with the series tied at 1-1. 

The fact that the Ducks have contained Kane is fascinating. The 2013 Conn Smythe Trophy winner came into this series averaging over a point-per-game in the playoffs. He’s not even an exact career point-per-game player in the regular season, where checking tends to be a little looser.

“I mean, there's no slowing him down,” Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said. “It's just delaying it. He's a very good hockey player.  He's going to get his chances. You can't slow him down 100%. You just got to acknowledge the fact that when he's out there, be aware.”

This has not gone unnoticed in other entities, via the Chicago Tribune:

Those numbers, at least, require some addition. Kane’s numbers do not. Kane’s numbers remain stuck at zero.The numbers that matter, anyway: zero goals, zero assists, zero points.

Kane has been checked hard and closely by the Ducks in the first two games of this series, but that’s always the case. 

Per Natural Stat Trick, Kane’s CF% 5-on-5 the first two games has been 39.39 and 40.85 in Game 1 and Game 2 respectively. Kane’s also at 46.98 percent for the postseason 5-on-5 according to the website. He was at 54.03 percent for the regular season per the site.

If the cliché says your best players have to be your best players in the postseason, that simply hasn’t happened yet in this series, outside of maybe Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook for Chicago.

Getzlaf lost Chicago's Marcus Kruger in coverage on the Game 2 winning goal. Perry has been noticeably slower this series, maybe from Matt Stajan's Game 5 collision in the second-round?

For the Ducks, the trio of Nate Thompson, Andrew Cogliano and Kyle Palmieri has been its top. Kruger was the hero for Chicago with the winner in the Game 2 thriller. Andrew Shaw was like a stick of dynamite that game, and created one of the most absurd highlights we’ve ever seen.

Why have the stars been shut down and depth has prevailed? Probably because both teams have been so solid defensively, and prevented space and net-front presence. Chicago is one of the best at doing this in the league. The Ducks have also done an excellent job of clearing out loose pucks and not give Chicago those secondary rebound chances this series. 

"I just think that positionally a lot of teams will box you out going to the net,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. “Some teams you got a double screen if you're tying up in front of the net. We'd like to prevent the puck from getting in that area.”

Also each of the top two lines have been matched up against one another for Games 1 and 2. Ryan Kesler has gone up against Toews while Getzlaf’s trio has drawn Brad Richards’ group that includes Kane.

With the series moving to Chicago and the Blackhawks with the luxury of the last change, could this alter the proficiency of the series’ top guns?

“They’ve got the last change, that will be the biggest difference, the home crowd. That will be the biggest difference,” Boudreau said. “But I think the last two years we’ve won more road games than any team in the league. So we’ll take our chances.”

Game 2 barely feels like it’s over. That’s because the game simply took forever between the two squads, almost the totality of three overtimes before Kruger’s game winner in the third extra session.

The question of depth has been front-and-center. The Ducks can roll three pairs and four lines. Chicago can go with only two pairs, and pray Keith doesn’t get tired. 

Kimmo Timonen, a rock for his entire NHL career, just seems done at the age of 40. He has also brought sadness to many Finnish sweaters, whatever this means. 

@SportsnetSpec Meant pusero (sweater) "Watching Timonen and reading his twitter mentions brings sadness into your sweater" Finnish saying.

— Jouni Nieminen (@OnsideWithJouni) May 20, 2015

But at some point the guys who are getting paid absurd amounts are going to have to come through for both teams.

Is Game 3 that time?

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @joshuacooper

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Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: May 21, 2015, 11:18 pm

The New York Rangers have given up 12 goals in the last two games to the Tampa Bay Lightning. 

Prior to that? They hadn’t given up more than four goals but once, in the second game against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Round 1. They had given up one goal in eight of their previous 13 playoff games. Goalie Henrik Lundqvist had a save percentage of .944 entering the series. It’s now down to a mortal .926.

So what happened?

Game 2 was a gong-show. Twelve power plays between the teams turned the game on its ear, and the Rangers couldn’t exactly evaluate what went wrong because if it. Those games happen, and the Lightning simply converted their chances.

Game 3 was a little more concerning. The Bolts won the 5-on-5 possession game in the first and third period. It was more fire-wagon than the Rangers have played or would like to play, which was a function of needing to rally and New York opening up its offense. Tampa Bay’s speed was starting to become a determining factor in the series.

The result? A second straight loss.

“It's really challenging for me the way they move the puck. The way they find open ice in the slot, and scoring chances right in front,” said Lundqvist. “I just need to dig deep here to try to be more consistent with my game plan, try to challenge the shooter, then they pass and sometimes you stay back. As a team, if we can be a little bit better, but also I have to be better. Honestly, you're not going to win if I give up six goals."

Can the Rangers get back to the defensive basics of the rest of their run to the Eastern Conference Playoffs? Are they going to slow it down for Game 4?

“Honestly, I don't know. How do you slow a game down with two really fast teams?  I don't know. I've watched a lot of their games in the playoffs and when they tried to play fast, I mean, they were trying to play fast,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper.

"I don't think the games against Pittsburgh were really slow.  The Washington game was a fierce battle for seven games, where I thought Washington carried a lot of the play sometimes and the Rangers carried a bunch of the play sometimes.  There was, I don't know -- I think it's just two hockey teams trying to win a game, whether it's 6-5 or 2-1, they're still trying to win the game.  This was an overtime game, so it's a one-goaler, and it's just two teams battling.  I don't know if they tried to slow the game down.  I don't know if they have that in their game, maybe they do.  But we've played some pretty high-scoring games against them.  Not just us, but they score as well.”

The Rangers used their speed to clamp down teams in the neutral zone during the playoffs, but the Lightning’s speed and breakouts have really opened up the offensive creativity in the last two games. Combine that with some human efforts from Lundqvist, and you get 12 goals in two games.

Which is something Cooper doesn’t expect to see again in Game 4.

“Do I expect it 6-5 again? No, I don't.”

Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: May 21, 2015, 8:42 pm

Did Mike Babcock lead the Buffalo Sabres to believe they had a deal for him to become their new head coach? Some in the organization say yes, but general manager Tim Murray isn’t one of them, at least publicly. 

Appearing on WGR550 radio with Schopp and The Bulldog Thursday afternoon, Murray refuted the claim that Babcock lied to the Sabres. 

“[I]t was a great process for me,” Murray said. “This is my first real shot at doing interviews and hiring my coach. He was the first guy that we looked at and it was a great process. To have a guy of his ilk, considered one of the best coaches in the National Hockey League, available and taking a real good, hard look at us in Buffalo after a 30th place finish, I thought the process was great and certainly great for my experience.” 

With Babcock stating he would make his decision on Wednesday, he and Murray were in negotiations on a contract, which would make sense. If you’re going to decide your future, you’d like to know the salary and term you’re getting beforehand. But in the end, Babcock chose Toronto, with the Sabres GM never believing there was a deal in place. 

“We were quite a piece down the line,” he said. “We were in negotiations of a contract, knowing full well that at the end of the day there’s no deal done until he says 'I’m coming to you'. He told us that he’d call us on Wednesday morning at 11:30, so he wasn’t a man of his word because he actually called me at 11:33 and told us he wasn’t coming, and that was it. I said OK, we move on. That’s it." 

Now that Babcock is in Toronto, who does Murray turn to now? According to ESPN’s Craig Custance, the Sabres have asked for and received permission to speak with former Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma. Murray wouldn’t comment on that when asked, but did say he’s spoken with candidates before, during and since his courting of Babcock. 

Murray added he was keeping an open mind during his search and wasn’t limiting himself to candidates who possess vast NHL head coaching experience.

“How does a guy like Mike Babcock get his start unless you’re open-minded?,” he said.

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Sean Leahy is the associate editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Sean_Leahy

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Author: Sean Leahy
Posted: May 21, 2015, 8:27 pm

Here are your Puck Headlines: A glorious collection of news and views collected from the greatest blogosphere in sports and the few, the proud, the mainstream hockey media. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com.  

Photo via @therevty

• We can't get enough of Pastor Tyler Moore and his signs. We agree. That was an incredible game. [TheRevTy]

• We’re about to find out a lot about Mike Babcock with his new deal with Toronto. [Yahoo]

• Great lead by Bruce Arthur on this: “The plan was simple, really. Mike Babcock has an ego, which is not necessarily a bad thing.”  [The Star]

• The Sabres were livid about Babs going to Toronto. Apparently they thought they had their man. Alas, they did not. Now what? So far this offseason Buffalo lost the draft lottery and lost out on Babs. [Sportsnet]

• The Mike Babcock signing in Toronto raises many questions on three sides. For Toronto, for Detroit and for Mike Babcock. [NHL on the Ice]

• We can all agree, that Eastern Conference Final Game 3 OT goal allowed by Henrik Lundqvist was a softy. And other topics from the loss by the Rangers. [Blueshirt Banter]

• Wake up, Henrik! Well, he's going to have to bounce back from that goal if New York wants to beat Tampa. [New York Post]

• On Mike Babcock, the Buffalo Sabres, and what to do now if you’re Buffalo. Hint, there's a guy named Dan Bylsma with Stanley Cup cred who isn't coaching. [What’s Going on in Buffalo]

• We’ll miss this whole ‘Babchelor’ reality drama that took on a life of its own. How life now changes in Toronto and Detroit. [Hockey Snobs]

• What say the players who played for Grand Rapids coach Jeff Blashill? He’s the presumptive favorite to take over the Wings right now. [MLive]

• A statistical look at the Chicago/Anaheim series as we head to Game 3. Spoiler alert, Kimmo Timonen hasn’t been great. [TSN]

• The advanced metrics from that epic triple-OT Game 2 between Anaheim and Chicago. [Anaheim Calling]

• You cannot stop “The Triplets” for Tampa and you cannot hope to contain them. That's just how good that trio has been [TBO]

• Steven Stamkos at wing? He seems to be comfortable in this unfamiliar position for him. [Tampa Bay Times]

• A schedule for the Western Conference Final and the Eastern Conference Final in the AHL Calder Cup playoffs. [The AHL]

• A fresh start for the Edmonton Oilers and what it means for Edmonton with new people in charge in Alberta's capital city. [Along the Boards]

• Paul LaDue explains why he passed on the Kings and is returning to school. He’ll be at the University of North Dakota for one more season. [Mayor's Manor]

• Memorial Cup preview! What to think of the Oshawa Generals in 10 thoughts. [Buzzing the Net]

• In the battle of old fogey wingers, Alex Tanguay against Radim Vrbata in a fantasy cage match. [Dobber Hockey]

• Releasing even more analytical data on the sport we love. [In Lou we Trust]

• The KHL in China? Um, OK. But wow, that would definitely be something interesting. [AP via Yahoo]

• Did the 1940 Montreal Canadiens take powder? What does that even mean? [Greatest Hockey Legends]

• What does a Don Sweeney type player look like for Boston? What can the Bruins expect out of their new general manager? [Bruins Daily]

• Ben Schoenberger just can’t stop playing hockey. He played for two teams last season and continues to teach lessons: Prior to the Watertown Wolves’ run for the Commissioner’s Cup, he was loaned to the SPHL champion Knoxville Ice Bears for 23 games before returning to Watertown to finish the season. [Pro Hockey News]

• Finally, Mike Babcock's decision was definitely something.

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Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: May 21, 2015, 6:38 pm

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Ducks forward Corey Perry tunes out opposing fan background noise pretty well. In fact, he embraces the boos when he goes to another arena. But hear a television commentator say something insensitive. That crosses the line. 

On Wednesday night’s NBC Sports Network broadcast of the Rangers and Lightning Eastern Conference Final Game 3, NBC commentator Mike Milbury said the best way to stop Perry was to hurt him in some "painful and permanent way" though he did also laud Perry and said he'd want Perry on his team. 

And Perry, who generally takes the high road when people take shots at him, was not a fan. Via the LA Times:

“Obviously it’s not something that’s been taken lightly,” Perry said. “If somebody said something about his kid that way, how would he feel? It’s kind of my response. It’s all I’m going to say.”

Asked if he would want an apology Perry replied, “Yeah, sure, but it is what it is.”

Also per the Times on possible Milbury discipline:

NBC Sports/NBCSN executive producer Sam Flood issued a statement regarding Milbury's remarks: “I talked to Mike and told him that even though it was a tongue-in-cheek segment that built to a compliment – with Mike saying that he’d want Corey Perry as a teammate – word choice matters, even when attempting to be humorous. Mike understood."

Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau did not play into the distraction.

“You know what, I'm taking the cheap way out, but I don't want to get into anything Mike says,” he said in his Thursday morning skate news conference before Game 3. “It's TV. But I'm really happy Corey Perry's on my team.”

Smart job by the one they call ‘Gabby’ by not playing into the outrage. He’s got enough going on with his team. Did Milbury cross the line by saying that? Was he just being tongue n’ cheek? With Milbury, who played in the blood and guts era of the sport, you never know. Plus the "painful and permanent" part just didn't sound right. 

When you’re on TV and you say something like that, and not overtly say you’re joking of course it’s going to bite you.

And the fact that one of the NHL’s biggest stars was ticked off by it … say what you want about Perry and his style, but would you want a guy on national TV saying he'd want to put you in pain, even if he did want you on his team?

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @joshuacooper

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Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: May 21, 2015, 6:05 pm

We don’t know yet whether the NHL and NHLPA will send its players to the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang, Korea, but we now know where nine of the 12 countries participating in the tournament will be grouped.

Group A: Canada, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Korea

Group B: Russia, USA, Slovakia, Qualifer 3

Group C: Sweden, Finland, Qualifier 1, Qualifier 2

Sorry, Korea.

The groups are based on the post-World Championship IIHF rankings, which feature Canada, Russia and Sweden as the top three nations. The final three qualifiers will be determined over three stages of qualification beginning in November.

After talk that they might need to go through qualification, Korea was granted automatic entry despite their No. 23 ranking. Pressure by the IIHF to improve the program was followed by a $20 million investment promise into development by the Korea Ice Hockey Association. They also hired former NHLer Jim Paek as head coach, showing that they were serious about improving.

IIHF president said during Worlds press conference in Prague that the NHL/PA has until Sept. 2016 to decide if they will send players. That deadline also coincides with the start of the revamped World Cup of Hockey.

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Sean Leahy is the associate editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Sean_Leahy

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Author: Sean Leahy
Posted: May 21, 2015, 5:51 pm

Eugene Melnyk underwent a successful liver transplant on Tuesday, and the Ottawa Senators owner and the anonymous donor are resting comfortably as they recover.

“He is stable and he is not talking, but he is responsive, so when people talk to him he understands,” said team president Cyril Leeder, via the Ottawa Citizen. “His colour is improving, so it looks like the liver is functioning the way it should.” 

Melnyk released a statement via the Senators on Thursday:

We are delighted and relieved that Eugene’s post-transplantation recovery is progressing very well.
In the past 36 hours, we have already witnessed a dramatic improvement in Eugene’s overall condition.
We wish to take this opportunity to express our deepest gratitude to the “miracle workers” who are part of the University Health Network’s Multi-Organ Transplant Program: from the transplant surgeons, to the medical directors, to the surgical and medical team including the nurse practitioners, fellows, medical residents and the many, many nurses -- all of whom have worked seamlessly and tirelessly to save Eugene’s life. You have had a profoundly positive impact on our family, and for this we are forever grateful.
And to the anonymous donor, you are an incredible person and we truly admire your unselfish act of kindness and courage to be a living liver donor. We are so grateful to you and to your support system of family and close friends who have helped you take this brave journey to save Eugene’s life. You remain in our thoughts and prayers as we wish you a speedy and full recovery.
In due time, Eugene will want to personally express his thanks to all the wonderful staff that are part of the University Health Network’s world-class liver transplant program.
In the interim and on behalf of the Melnyk family, thank you for allowing us to publicly express our heartfelt gratitude to these remarkable people who have touched our lives in a way we will never forget.
Sincerely,
The Melnyk Family

According to doctors, Melnyk will be released within the next two weeks and will be fully recovered in six months time.

More than 500 people applied to be a donor for Melnyk, and while one was found quickly, the great news out of all this is that, according to the Senators, more than 20 of them have chosen to be donors for someone else.

One motivation for the donor to come forward and help? "[B]ring the Stanley Cup home to the Ottawa Senators," according to a member of Melnyk's medical team.

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Sean Leahy is the associate editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Sean_Leahy

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Author: Sean Leahy
Posted: May 21, 2015, 5:22 pm

Mike Babcock brought the pain in his introduction press conference as Toronto Maple Leafs head coach. 

Like the pain of building a championship team from the ground up in Toronto, a process whose length and complexity are symbolized by the eight-year contract given to him by MLSE president Brendan Shanahan and the board.

“If you think there's no pain coming, there's pain coming,” said Babcock.

“The path we're taking has to be different. There’s no chance for a quick fixer here. You build a program. It’s going to take a long time. They committed to me for a long time. I committed to Toronto for a long time.”

Like the pain being felt in Buffalo, as the Sabres and their media proxies believed Babcock had agreed to a deal to coach that franchise.

Babcock denied he ever agreed to a contract with owner Terry Pegula and the Sabres, and bristled at the accusation that he flat-out lied to them, leveraging the Sabres’ offer to enrich the one coming from Toronto.

“That 'lying' word’s an interesting word for me,” he said, while admitting he and the Sabres worked on a contract framework.

“I’ve been real straight forward and honest in the process with all the teams I talked to. I worked for six years in Spokane and 10 years in Detroit. As a head coach, you don’t work in places for a long time unless you have good relationships and treat people with respect.”

He said reports that he and Buffalo GM Tim Murray had any friction are “wrong.” He said "if [the Sabres] don't like what happened in the process, I feel bad about that."

Later, when asked about the process again, Shanahan … well, basically sub-tweeted the Buffalo Sabres:

“Teams that get pushed out early on don't get their feelings hurt as bad. The teams that Mike liked the most are probably the ones with the most hurt feelings."

The Sabres weren’t the only ones with hurt feelings – Babcock said he had to get the Kleenex out when discussing his departure from the Detroit Red Wings with friend and general manager Ken Holland. But one franchise’s loss is another’s gain, and it was clear what the Toronto Maple Leafs had gained in Mike Babcock: the focal point of a long-term plan to build a Stanley Cup champion.

Well, OK, the latest focal point for the Leafs to build a champion. Please recall Nov. 2008, when Brian Burke had an introductory press conference filled with hope and change and truculence and pugnacity. When he said things like:

“Does that mean we’re going to tear everything down right away? No. We’re going to have to evaluate the team first and see. I do think a team should either be ascending rapidly or descending rapidly. I don’t believe being ‘good’ is not the solution. This is about having the parade.”

But there are clear differences between Burke and Babcock in their approaches. The first is obvious: Burke was tasked with building a winner; Babcock is tasked with helping to build a winner within a brain trust of Shanahan, assistant general managers Mark Hunter and Kyle Dubas, and whoever else joins the war cabinet. Burke was the GM who hired the coach; Babcock is the coach who may not even have a GM.

“I won’t rule anything out at this point,” said Shanahan on going sans-general manager in the near future. “The key is to finding the right fit.”

And while Burke flirted with contention, Babcock flat out said “this is not about the playoffs.”

It’s about “the process,” a word Babcock used over and over again. It’s the vision he laid out to the MLSE board, brutally. It the only path he sees for the Leafs. 

"We wanted Mike to be a coach and a builder," said Shanahan. 

It’s a process that involves evaluating the present roster – Babcock put over Dion Phaneuf as a player he admires. It’s a process that involves getting players for the future, using the drafting expertise of Hunter and Dubas – Babcock said the only way to get players is to get draft picks. It's a process that makes Toronto an appealing place for players to play, considering the toxic relationship between the teams and media and fans recently – Babcock said he wanted to make the franchise "safe" for players, and “when you win every day, it becomes safe for the players.”

And it’s a process that’ll play out for eight years, during which Babcock will earn an NHL record salary for a coach, reported to be over $50 million.

How exactly do the Maple Leafs justify that kind of contract?

Babcock jumped into to answer that question. “To me it’s real simple. The contract is simply a commitment to the Maple Leafs to success. They made a long-term commitment to me so I understand they’re committed to the process,” he said.

At the end of the day, Babcock said he’s still a guy who drives a Ford pickup truck.

(No word if it now has solid gold hubcaps.)

So besides the ridiculous salary, which was matched elsewhere, why choose the Leafs?

“I wanted to coach the Toronto Maple Leafs.”

And there it was. The legacy. The challenge. The chance to win the first Stanley Cup since 1967 for this championship starved city and fan base.

“What I enjoy about today is that it’s obvious people care. This fan base here really cares about the Leafs and want us to be good. And they understand we’re going to be in a long process here,” he said.

“I believe this is Canada’s team. And we have to put Canada’s team back on the map.”

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Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: May 21, 2015, 4:43 pm
Detroit Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock addresses the media after the game against the Chicago Blackhawks in the second round of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the United Center, in Chicago, in this file photo taken May 25, 2013. Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports/Files

Mike Babcock is being introduced as the next head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs after a wild Wednesday for the Leafs, the Buffalo Sabres, the Detroit Red Wings and many, many others. 

Here are the winners and losers in the Mike Babcock Derby:

WINNER: BRENDAN SHANAHAN

While Shanahan had no experience running an empire as vast as MLSE – or any empire for that matter – he had one calling card when he took over operation of the Toronto Maple Leafs: coalition building. Putting the right people in the right places, as he did in creating the Department of Players Safety with the NHL.

The first pieces he fit with the Leafs were Kyle Dubas and Mark Hunter in player personnel – both highly lauded. He expunged Randy Carlyle and Dave Nonis – also lauded, although not as timely as some wanted.

Then he landed Mike Babcock, the biggest free agent acquisition for the Leafs in recent memory and a game-changer behind the bench.

Sure, he has resources and riches other teams don’t possess. But that’s been the story for the Leafs for years. It’s easy to be all “TAKE MY MONEY”; it’s a different challenge to actually have someone take it. Shanahan met the challenge, and in the process restored credibility to the Leafs.

LOSER: TERRY PEGULA

The thought all along was that Babcock was leveraging Toronto against Buffalo and other teams, which is what every free agent in the history of man (and the salary cap) has done. But in reality, it was reversed: Pegula was offering upwards of $50 million too, solidifying the salary requirement Babcock had for the Leafs.

In the end, the Sabres didn’t get their man. Just like they didn’t get Connor McDavid. Consolation prizes remain prizes, but Babcock looked like a done deal on Decision Day Eve. Instead, he took the money and rank to one of the Sabres’ hated rivals. It’s embarrassing.

WINNER: DETROIT RED WINGS

The Wings reaffirm two important tenets of their franchise in seeing Babcock leave for bluer pastures.

First, that no man is above the Winged Wheel. Not Mike Babcock, not Scotty Bowman, not anyone. If Babs gets eight years and $50 million, he’s a demigod on a franchise that works best as a balanced machine.

The Wings were great before he arrived. They’ll be great after he’s gone.

Second, that the Wings look best when they’re the spurned, disrespected, chip-on-the-shoulder team, despite being an Original Six glamor franchise. Babcock leaving for the Leafs firmly establishes Detroit as the rejected underdog. They wear it well.  

LOSER: THE PASSENGERS ON THE LEAFS ROSTER

Yeah, Babcock is going to have a hand in player personnel, and there is going to be a parsing of the rolls in Leaf-Land as he crafts the team in his image.

WINNER: JEFF BLASHILL

The 41-year-old AHL coach is expected to take over a playoff-worthy roster from Mike Babcock as the next Red Wings coach. His bargaining position couldn’t be stronger, having been framed as the ace in the hole in case Babs left. Which he did.

LOSER: DOUG ARMSTRONG

The St. Louis Blues’ flirtation with Babcock went public, which isn’t a good look when they haven’t made their call on Ken Hitchcock yet. On top of not actually landing the big fish.

WINNER: THE BUFFALO MEDIA

You know what’s easy? Writing about an object of public outrage, as newspaper and radio media in Buffalo take the knives out on Mike Babcock. Like this piece from the Buffalo News, which applauds the Sabres for doing all they could and questions whether Babcock – previously cast as a hockey savior – is actually one of the NHL’s best coaches after all.

LOSER: THE TORONTO MEDIA

You know what’s hard? Writing about an object of public adoration. Babcock is going to have a rather long grace period with Maple Leafs fans, along with the cover of a rebuild. The Toronto media loves nothing more than to chew up and spit out individuals with fat contracts and lackluster results; treating Babcock as anything less than the Pope for the next two years is going to have more than a few bitten-through tongues.

WINNER: EVERY OTHER ELITE NHL HEAD COACH

So if you’re Joel Quenneville and Alain Vigneault, two guys already making a rather large sum of money, how on Earth do you react to $50 million and eight years? Or Jon Cooper? Or really any other elite coach?

LOSER: THE NEXT BUFFALO HEAD COACH

While the Sabres have a deeper prospect pool than the Leafs, have Jack Eichel on the way and an owner looking to spend millions, they’ll forever know they’re second choice in the eyes of franchise and fans. 

WINNER: MIKE BABCOCK’S EGO

The entire season has been like an extended tribute to Mike Babcock’s genius, and then he’s given the richest contract for a coach in NHL history. And if things go well, he could end a drought for the Leafs that extends back to 1967, which means a statue outside of the ACC ...

LOSER: MIKE BABCOCK’S LEGACY

... although this being the Leafs, this could be a $50 million boondoggle that we look back on as a misguided ego trip for both coach and team. Meanwhile, the Sabres win a Cup before the Leafs.

WINNER: STEVEN STAMKOS

"Hey, there’s no way Stamkos goes to Toronto in 2016! Leave Tampa for that dumpster fire!? Are you crazy?"

"Wait, Mike who? Babcock? For eight years?"

"Uh-oh…"

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Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: May 21, 2015, 3:03 pm

We all saw that one coming, right?

Mike Babcock going to the Toronto Maple Leafs on the richest contract for a coach in NHL history? Choosing the pressure of Toronto instead of the comforts of, say, Buffalo? 

Puck Daddy’s Greg Wyshynski looks at the impact of Babcock’s decision and the how it stunned the hockey world in the latest edition of The Wysh List.

What surprised you the most about Mike Babcock’s decision?

Author: Yahoo Sports Staff
Posted: May 21, 2015, 2:09 pm

No. 1 Star: Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning

Kucherov was the hero for the Lightning as his goal 3:33 into overtime gave Tampa a 6-5 victory in Game 3 against the New York Rangers. They now hold a 2-1 series lead:

No. 2 Star: Ondrej Palat, Tampa Bay Lightning

One-third of the “Triplets” line chipped in a pair of goals and an assist in the win. The trio of Palat, Kucherov and Tyler Johnson have combined for 25 of Tampa’s 47 playoff goals, including seven in the last two games. 

No. 3 Star: Jesper Fast, New York Rangers

Fast was the offensive leader for New York, scoring a pair of goals in the loss.

Honorable Mention: Tyler Johnson scored his 12th of the playoffs, tying him with Brad Richards and Ruslan Fedotenko for the franchise record for goals in a postseason:

Steven Stamkos notched his fifth of the playoffs and added an assist … Victor Hedman had a pair of assists and now has four in his last three games … Alex Killorn had two points and now has five in his last two games … Tampa was 1-for-2 on the power play and has five goals with extra man this series … Dan Boyle had a goal and an assist for the Rangers, including the tying tally with 1:56 left in the third period … Derek Stepan and Keith Yandle each recorded a pair of assists in the loss. 

Did You Know? 

The @TBLightning have scored 5+ goals five times in the 2015 #StanleyCup Playoffs. The LAK led with 7 such performances last year. #NYRvsTBL

— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) May 21, 2015

Dishonorable Mention: Henrik Lundqvist has allowed four or more goals five times against the Lightning this season, all in losses.

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Author: Sean Leahy
Posted: May 21, 2015, 3:59 am

An overtime goal from Nikita Kucherov helped give the Tampa Bay Lightning a wild 6-5 win over the New York Rangers in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final. Tampa now leads the series 2-1 with Game 4 on Friday at Amalie Arena.

As they’ve done a number of times this postseason, the Rangers struck first and early as Derick Brassard fired home a power play goal after 62 seconds. Jesper Fast would double the lead midway through the first period after a Matt Carle/Derek Stepan collision in the neutral zone opened up space for the forward to come in all alone on Ben Bishop:

Carle wouldn’t return to the game after suffering what the Lightning described as an upper-body injury.

Despite the 2-0 deficit, Tampa would respond in a big way by scoring the game’s next four goals, including three in a span of 6:46 in the second period. Tyler Johnson’s 12th of the postseason gave the Lightning a 3-2 lead and tied him with Brad Richards and Ruslan Fedotenko for most playoff goals in a season in franchise history:

Fast would notch his second of the night 29 seconds after Alex Killorn would tally the Lightning’s fourth goal of the game to make it a 4-3 game. Early in the third period, New York would even the score on a Ryan McDonagh power play goal. But Tampa would respond 12 minutes later as Palat put home his second for a 5-4 lead.

Late in the third period, an Anton Stralman icing forced a tired Tampa unit to remain on for a defensive zone face-off. Head coach Jon Cooper decided against using his timeout, and after the Rangers won the draw, Dan Boyle pounced on a rebound in front to tie the game with 1:56 remaining to force overtime.

Nikita Kucherov, whose six playoff goals entering Wednesday night all came in Round 2, ended things 3:33 into the extra frame when his wrist shot beat Henrik Lundqvist for the 6-5 victory.

“We knew that this is our game and we didn’t want to lose it in front of our fans,” Kucherov told NBCSN afterward. “So we came out hard and I’m glad we scored.” 

With four goals between Tampa’s “Triplets” line of Johnson, Palat and Kucherov, the trio have now scored 25 of the Lightning’s 47 postseason goals. In the last two games, they've combined for seven goals and 14 points.

Game 2 was the fifth time this season that the Lightning scored at least four goals against Lundqvist, all Tampa victories. Despite the netminder's heroics through the opening two rounds, New York hasn't faced an offense like Tampa's yet and now they need to figure out how to slow down a team with 47 goals in 16 playoff games.

“We’re the top-scoring team in the league for a reason," Stamkos told NBCSN. "We have so much skill up front. I think you saw that tonight. Scoring six goals, I think this is the first time I’ve seen a 6-5 game in the playoffs. But guys found a way tonight and the big boys came to play.

"That line (the “Triplets”) was great again. Our line was able to contribute, and I think at the end of the day everyone’s happy to get this win and get some rest tomorrow.”

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Sean Leahy is the associate editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Sean_Leahy

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Author: Sean Leahy
Posted: May 21, 2015, 3:33 am

Martin Brodeur has been named the Blues assistant general manager, further cementing him as a local team legend.

Well, not really, but it gives Brodeur a chance to transition into hockey management, where he doesn’t have much of a background, outside of a few months this year with St. Louis. His deal is for three years, the team announced. 

Brodeur, 43, returned to the NHL this season for seven games with the Blues after the Devils opted to not re-sign the future Hall of Fame netminder.   

Via the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

"I really enjoyed it, but we had a conversation that I'd like to do more," Brodeur told the Post-Dispatch recently, prior to accepting the new position. "I want to learn as much as possible. I think it was a great opportunity for me to be around the team advising. But now after doing that for six months, I'd like to do a little more." 

Why not go back to the Devils, where Brodeur became the winningest goaltender of all-time and a three-time Stanley Cup champion? With new general manager Ray Shero in charge, that probably turned into a non-option. This made the most logical sense for Brodeur.

His retirement ceremony in St. Louis had to be one of the stranger end-of-career moments in recent memory. Almost like Ray Bourque’s jersey retirement with the Avalanche after playing in Colorado for two years.

How much will Blues general manager Doug Armstrong lean on Brodeur – he of the no management experience? This has the feeling of sort of a placeholder spot so Brodeur can learn more about the business and then take charge of some team when he’s ready.

That model has worked in the past with others. Brodeur clearly already has the hockey management body, per Sean Avery. Now we’ll see if he has the hockey management mind. 

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @joshuacooper

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Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: May 20, 2015, 10:34 pm

David Letterman signs off for the last time on Wednesday night, ending a 33-year run in late night in which he reinvented the modern talk show. 

It sounds hyperbolic, but it’s not. Everything Conan does. Everything Kimmel does. Most of what Fallon does. Really, name every host outside of Leno (who was the antithesis of everything Dave was) and they were influenced by Letterman.

And really, name anyone over the age of 30 that attempts to be funny, and they probably put on the TV with the volume down at 1 a.m. to watch Stupid Pet Tricks on NBC when they were supposed to be asleep for school or work. I think the vibe I borrowed from Letterman  was that "let's just try everything, see what we can get away with and hopefully someone likes it." That's what "Late Night" was, before he started "The Late Show."

Letterman had a great connection with sports and sports figures, usually with the ironic detachment of wooden-acting athletes attempting to read comedy bits off cue cards.

That extending to hockey on a few occasions as well.

Dave’s hockey humor was mostly found in his Top 10 lists, and it usually read like everything Letterman knew about the game he learned from “Slap Shot” and SCTV reruns. But that’s OK. It was pretty funny all the same.

So in honor of Letterman’s final show – and from the home office in Sioux Falls, South Dakota – here are The Top 5 Hockey References In David Letterman’s Top 10 Lists:

5. Top 10 Things Never Before Spoken By A Hockey Player

From 2009, featuring the New York Rangers and Chris Higgins saying “for good luck I lick the puck!” Also Sean Avery with the No. 1 spot, on the list and in our hearts you guys.

4. Top Ten Ways to Make Hockey More Exciting

10. During playoffs, players dress up as their favorite Ice Capades character

9. Canadians must play in bare feet

8. All penalty minutes must be served sitting next to that guy who played "Doc" on "The Love Boat."

7. Just barely visible under ice: frozen body of Walt Disney

6. Replace Zamboni with Ford Bronco

5. Your New Jersey Devils starting goalie--Miss Katharine Hepburn

4. New snack bar item: player's missing teeth dipped in fudge

3. Every team roster must include one lesser known cast member from "The Love Boat"

2. Only guys named Stanley get to wear a cup

1. Let Michael Jordan take a crack at it 

From June 1995, Letterman presented this list that’s about as dated as you can get.

But No. 2 was worth a chuckle, as No. 2 on the lists usually were.

3. Top 10 Hockey Player Pick-Up Lines

Members of the 1998 American Olympic men’s hockey team read the list.

Keith Tkachuk! Tony Amonte! Chris Chelios! Sexual innuendo! The unstoppable charm of Bill Guerin!

2. The One-Off Jokes

Once in a while, Dave would just toss off a funny line about hockey into a larger Top 10 list. For example, from December 2001:

Good Things About Global Warming - December 20, 2001

8. Hockey players tripping in slush makes hilarious Marv Albert sports blooper

And from June 1987: 

Top 10 Off-Season Sports on ESPN

1. Dog Hockey

I mean, dog hockey! How great would that be!

And finally, the No. 1 Hockey Reference In David Letterman’s Top 10 Lists:

1. Top 10 Ways The New York Rangers Spent Their Time Off 

Hey, a bonus behind the scenes look at the Top 10 list! I think life needs more stoic Mark Messier reaction shots. And did ladies love Brian Leetch or what?

Fare thee well, Mr. Letterman. We throw a pencil through a fake window in your honor!

Thanks to the Jay Lipp archieve.

Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: May 20, 2015, 9:57 pm

Detroit general manager Ken Holland played it classy the whole way with former coach Mike Babcock, and the latter’s decision on his coaching free agency.

Did he get burned by Babcock’s decision to leave the organization to coach the rival Toronto Maple Leafs?

"I'd like to thank Mike for 10 fabulous years," he said.

The kicker was simple. Holland said he wouldn’t give Babcock more than five years on his next contract. Maybe if he had thrown some extra Little Caesars in the deal? Nah, Babs probably wanted to pass his next physical exam.

“When you’ve been in the same city as long as I have and as long as Mike has, you don’t get much longer term than four or five years,” Holland said.

According to Holland, Babcock informed him of the decision at 8 a.m. Eastern time. He knew he was completely out of the sweepstakes at 11:15 a.m.

Even after Babcock chose to take eight years and $50 million from Toronto, Holland took the high road. Whether this burns him in the long run, is unclear. His roster has an aging core that will need to be replaced sooner than later. Babcock appeared a major reason the Red Wings stayed competitive the last several years, going further in the playoffs than many predicted.

Now comes the hardest part for Holland: Finding the next Babcock, while also retooling the Red Wings.

The Red Wings are not a plum job anymore, like when Babcock took over following the 2004-05 NHL lockout. Remember when they whiffed on Zach Parise and Ryan Suter in the summer of 2012. That was probably a sign that players didn’t want to go there like in the past. It’s still a good destination, but not the team anymore. Essentially, Holland doesn’t have a ready-made winner. 

Pavel Datsyuk is still prolific, but he’s 36 years old. Henrik Zetterberg is also still an absolute bull. But he’s 34 as is defenseman Niklas Kronwall. Can the likes of Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar and Danny DeKeyser replace those three.

Datsyuk and Zetterberg are likely Hall of Famers. Kronwall is still a top-two defenseman, but for how long?

“I’ve got some decisions to make, and our goal is to beat Mike,” Holland said.

People have compared Grand Rapids coach Jeff Blashill to a young Babcock. There are other coaches in other organizations that are up and coming like Luke Richardson with Ottawa. Former Penguins coach Dan Bylsma is amazingly still a coaching free agent.

Holland said he will talk to Blashill. When asked about Bylsma he said, “He’s certainly a name … that’s certainly a good name.”

Babcock is probably the best coach in the NHL. Holland referred to Babs as an unrestricted free agent in the prime of his career.

Were the Red Wings good just because of Babcock? Or does Detroit have the talent to still compete in spite of losing its Stanley Cup winning coach.

Holland may not even have those answers. 

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @joshuacooper

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Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: May 20, 2015, 9:37 pm

[Author's note: Power rankings are usually three things: Bad, wrong, and boring. You typically know just as well as the authors which teams won what games against who and what it all means, so our moving the Red Wings up four spots or whatever really doesn't tell you anything you didn't know. Who's hot, who's not, who cares? For this reason, we're doing a power ranking of things that are usually not teams. You'll see what I mean.] 

10. Sore losers

Russia didn't win the gold medal game so they left the ice to cry about it instead. They're the worst.

9. Martin St. Louis

While everyone has been busy talking about what a big-time loser idiot Rick Nash has been for the Rangers in this postseason (unfairly), no one seems to be batting an eye at the fact that 92-year-old Marty St. Louis has been overpaid hot garbage for the Rangers.

In exchange for their $5.625 million against the cap this year, the Rangers got possession well below even, a hugely percentage-fueled 52 points and a pathetic playoff performance.

No goals despite mega-easy usage? Check. Three shots on goal in his last four games? Check. Literally zero criticism of his play this entire time? Check.

Maybe people are ready to give him a pass because he's going to be 40 in a month, but hey, if we're saying the Rangers offense has been bad, St. Louis is a big reason why. Alain Vigneault has to stop putting him in positions to succeed and try things out with Rick Nash getting the 5-on-3 minutes instead.

8. Getting the band back together

The Bruins' GM search involves input from Harry Sinden? Good lord. They apparently want this to go as poorly as possible, don't they?

7. The Glendale situation

So, like, is the team leaving or what? Probably they are, right? But only like four years from now or something? If they lose $50 million, maybe? It's hard to keep it all straight, but this quote from Glendale vice mayor Ian Hugh is just amazing:

“I asked our finance director...if the hockey team packed up and left the next day, what would be the impact, and the answer was an $8.5 million windfall profit for us," Hughes said. "We increased sales tax to the citizens to cover this (arena management deal). We have needs in law enforcement and our fire department that we can't fund. We had to put off purchasing of new pumpers for the fire department. We have three libraries in Glendale and all of their hours have been cut way back."

Now, those numbers don't seem to be exactly right if you read the actual piece, but the larger point stands: Who could have imagined giving all that money to a money-losing club for no reason would have been a bad idea for a bankrupt city? A shocking development, really.

6. Michel Therrien

Michel Therrien is not a good coach. The system he plays does not improve possession; in fact, it mostly seems to hinder it.

 

NHL

You'll notice his teams don't spend a lot of time in that light blue area (you'll also notice the systematic deconstruction of the Penguins as a fundamentally competitive team over the last few years). Now, he took over a Montreal team that was certainly in dire straits, but he hasn't really done much to improve it save for the most recent stretch. And you'd be wise to bet that this bout of improved possession is the outlier in a career spent well below 50 percent.

(And for a more detailed and uglier look at his time with Montreal specifically, Eyes on the Prize's Andrew Berkshire provides this rather unflattering chart.)

His career number in Pittsburgh was an appalling 46.23 percent. His number in his return to Montreal is 48.85 percent (mostly due, I'd think, to having a better roster to work with). In both those stints combined, it's 47.59 percent. That's the level he's on. And it's not a good one.

So the nicest thing you could say about Therrien these days, really, is that he let Carey Price get him to the second round again. But Montreal also wasted one of the three or four best years in goaltending history with Therrien as the coach. Oops.

5. Alex Ovechkin

One of these days, he's gonna get to play a goalie other than Henrik Lundqvist in the playoffs. One of these damn days.

4. Dave Hakstol/Ron Hextall (Dronave Hekxstoll?)

If nothing else, this probably buys Ron Hextall a little more time as the GM of the Flyers, even if he doesn't deserve it.

Dave Hakstol has been an excellent NCAA coach for years, making the Frozen Four seven times in 11 seasons, even if he never won a national title. This isn't good enough for some people — i.e. North Dakota fans who think it's their birthright to have a racist mascot and also win the big one every year — and Hakstol has long heard cries to fire him from the local populace. Things might actually be easier to deal with in Philadelphia.

And look, Hakstol's a great coach, a proven developer of talent. He's shown that much. If you were going to go “off the board,” so to speak, and pick a coach from outside the ranks of those with AHL or NHL experience, he really ought to have been near the top of the list. For all the talk about “This guy is going straight to the NHL from college, and that's bad!” no one really has similar things to say about the jump from major junior to the NHL.

Can you reasonably expect Hakstol to turn things around given the makeup of the Flyers' roster as it stands right now? Nah. But a year or two down the road, for a coach new to the pro level? Sure, he might start to show an impact. Good for Hextall, who really should never have gotten this job in the first place.

I just can't believe Ed Snider allowed this to happen.

3. Being little

You may not have heard about this, but Tyler Johnson is very small. That's why he wasn't drafted! And he's good in the NHL today. So now who's laughing? It's Tyler Johnson, the little guy who wasn't drafted at all but has put up a lot of points at the NHL level. That's who!

Huh, maybe this will mean that guys who are small aren't necessarily undervalued in the NHL any more. Wow, it only took 100 years!

2. The Oilers

Boy it's amazing what news of getting Connor McDavid will do for a franchise.

The Oilers went from spinning their tires despite the roof of the car being under a solid foot of septic mud to, “Oh hey, maybe we need to manage this team correctly.” So they immediately went out and got a non-incompetent team president (so long, Kevin Lowe), a proven good general manager who might have learned something from the things that got him fired from his last job (so long, Craig MacTavish), and now an actual good coach with a proven track record of playing hockey in a way that's conducive to winning a lot.

Hmm. Awesome turnaround to witness for a long-suffering franchise that everyone in the media hates to see succeed because of how poorly it's been run in the past. Now it's actually going to be run well.

Maybe under this new regime Justin Schultz will get the usage he deserves, Taylor Hall won't have to get pelted with rotten fruit when he walks down the street despite being the best left wing alive, and someone will actually make good personnel decisions with regularity.

Now all they need are four NHL-level defensemen, a goalie, and a bottom six. And honestly, it really is pretty easy not to screw that up.

1. Mike Babcock, still

The Magic Mike tour cames to a halt today, and it’s sad day for the fans of most teams who thought they might be in the running. But this was a nice bit of theater, and a way to drive the price up even more than it probably already should have been. This guy is a miracle worker, and he deserves all this.

But hey wasn't it telling that he made all these trips holding hands with Ken Holland to exchange long protein strings?

(Not ranked this week: Zamboni drivers in South Korea.

Groups are mostly set for the Olympics. South Korea is in Canada's group. And these guys will only have to resurface one side of the ice at the end of each period.)

Author: Ryan Lambert
Posted: May 20, 2015, 9:19 pm

Oh how far Brendan Shanahan has come from his videos explaining suspension that had a feeling of "Cops" meets Oliver Stone’s explanations of the magic bullet from the film “JFK”.

In the Maple Leafs’ president’s arsenal, he has an analytical mind in Kyle Dubas – a man who actually embraces advanced stats rather than shuns it. He brought in Mark Hunter as director of player personnel – a man who has had success at the junior level with the London Knights. And now he has Mike Babcock as his head coach for a reported eight years and $50 million.

Look at what Shanahan has done in about a year. Cleaned out front office, coaching staff. Brought in Dubas, Hunter, Babcock.

— Nick Cotsonika (@cotsonika) May 20, 2015

Babcock is a human being. He cannot walk on water or turn it into wine. But he has taken a Detroit Red Wings team, that was definitely on the down swing the last several years, made the playoffs with the group, and beat some pretty good squads in the postseason.

If the Red Wings didn’t beat their opponent they took them pretty far – as they did with the Tampa Bay Lightning to seven games this year, and the same with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2013, a year they also beat the favored Anaheim Ducks in the first-round.

Smart hockey people don’t just jump at any opportunity. They want to go places that have sound management. They want to go places that have the right people in place to win. They want to go to a place where they see upward trajectory. 

The Maple Leafs of a year ago, pre-Shanahan, not so much. Now … they absolutely have that appearance, though their personnel has something to be desired still.

It’s interesting that Shanahan never really had a team management position before the Maples Leafs. But this isn’t like a former player getting handed the keys to an organization before he’s really been on the internal side of the business for a number of years. Shanahan spent time at the NHL offices with the Department of Player Safety.  

Going to major events, you speak to other people around the league and pick their brains.

We asked Kings assistant general manager Rob Blake a while back how working at the DoPS helps a person become a good manager.

“The only thing that’s really important is you’re involved with all the General Managers and Board of Governors meetings. So you’re around,” he said. “You meet all the GMs. They talk to you and they open up to you because they’re not trying to make deals with you. You’re not an enemy of the team.”

How much this helps can be deemed somewhat questionable, just because there are several former player/old school hockey minds out there who are clueless (cough, Kevin Lowe and Craig MacTavish, cough).

It certainly helps that Shanahan is loaded with a blank wad of cash from Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment. But money isn’t the end-all be-all when it comes to wooing the right type of talent.

The New York Rangers from the late 90s and early 2000s are proof of this.

As a former player, Shanahan, who played for the smartly investing Red Wings during those times, probably knows this

This is going to be a process. The NHL is not college football where you can hire a coach and he can bring in like 20 five-star recruits next year. In Toronto, Babcock inherits a roster full of holes mixed with prima donnas.

But he clearly felt confident in Shanahan to make this jump. 

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @joshuacooper

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Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: May 20, 2015, 8:41 pm

An interesting name seemed to pop up in some reporting circles Wednesday following the announcement Mike Babcock would be the next head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs. One Guy Boucher.

The former Lightning coach, who had been in Switzerland since Jan. 2014 was apparently in the running to coach Toronto, until Babs decided to take the reported eight-year $50 million dollar check the Maple Leafs offered him.

TOR flew Guy Boucher in from SUI yesterday, after 1st interview at World Championship, as a candidate to be new head coach of the Leafs.

— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) May 20, 2015

TOR not only NHL team interested in Boucher as head-coach candidate. Worth noting: DET/Babcock talked to Boucher about AC job last summer.

— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) May 20, 2015

In some ways, that tells you how much Toronto didn’t know if Babcock was going to take the Maple Leafs’ offer. Or was using Boucher as leverage?

What are the options out there for Boucher? Detroit maybe? Buffalo? McKenzie notes that Boucher could join Babcock as an assistant coach with the Maple Leafs. Or he could just go back to Switzerland to wait out the next good possibility. Clearly, people around the NHL still respect him.  

Boucher has taken the Bob Hartley path of going to Europe to coach in order to find himself to some degree. They’re different people, but Hartley’s success coming back from Switzerland and guiding Calgary to the playoffs has probably made Boucher a more attractive coaching candidate – tacked on to his prior success with Tampa.

As the coaching carousel turns …

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @joshuacooper

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Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: May 20, 2015, 7:28 pm

After a “worldwide” search, as CEO Charlie Jacobs described it, the Boston Bruins named Assistant General Manager Don Sweeney as the franchise's eighth GM Wednesday. Team president Cam Neely said the process was narrowed down to four candidates (Sweeney, George McPhee, Jeff Gorton, Ray Shero?) before they chose the man who knew the organization best.

Now that Sweeney’s in the GM’s chair, all the focus will be on the future of head coach Claude Julien, who’s been left to wonder if he’ll be behind the bench next season. 

Sweeney said he has spoken with Julien, but wasn’t fully committed to saying he would definitely return.

“I have some things that I want to sit down with Claude and go through in a very orderly fashion as to where I think things need to change and what direction we need to change as a group," Sweeney said.  "Also, [I] acknowledged to Claude during this whole process that I think tremendously of him as a coach, and as a person, so it’s just about aligning up philosophical approaches that I believe in, that he believes in, and that we can move the group forward. 

“Some of that will involved personnel decisions. Some of that will involve staff member decisions and/or changes. That’s to be determined. He’s the coach of the Boston Bruins as of today, for sure.”

“As of today,” Sweeney says, since he added he doesn’t have a timeline in mind to make a final decision. The new GM is still to evaluate the organization from top to bottom and he said he’ll begin with Julien and go from there.

“I’m going to take the necessary time to evaluate and start with Claude and dissect a little bit of the personnel pieces that he feels in teams that he’s had in the past and had success with, what we currently have, what we need to identify that might be missing, and we’ll go from there.” 

Now that the Toronto Maple Leafs have hired Mike Babcock, there are only four open head coaching gigs left in the NHL: New Jersey, San Jose, Buffalo and now Detroit. St. Louis could be added to that list if they part with Ken Hitchcock. The longer Sweeney waits to make a decision, the more it could affect Julien's job situation for the 2015-16 season.

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Sean Leahy is the associate editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Sean_Leahy

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Author: Sean Leahy
Posted: May 20, 2015, 6:41 pm

The theory on Mike Babcock, perhaps the most high-profile coaching free agent in NHL history, was that he would leave the Detroit Red Wings to chase the money, seek a new challenge and look to win a Stanley Cup in short order.

Two out of three ain’t bad. Mike Babcock is the next coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs, with an NHL record contract for a head coach. 

Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet was the first to confirm that Babcock has agreed to an 8-year conract, that might have an out clause after five years. He reports it’s a front-loaded deal – the CBA doesn’t govern those for coaches  – with a ton of money up front. He said there was talk about Babcock having a role in player personnel, potentially working with MLSE president Brendan Shanahan in that role.

Darren Dreger nailed down the money: Around $50 million for Babcock over the life of the deal, which means an annual salary of over $6.25 million. Bob McKenzie reports the front-loaded deal will net Babcock $8 million per season in the first three years.

That means he'll make more money next season than every player on the Toronto roster safe for Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf. 

The Mike Babcock Watch took over the hockey world on Wednesday, the day on which he determined he’d make a decision. The Buffalo Sabres, where Babcock had a personnel connection with GM Tim Murray and with significant financial backing from owner Terry Pegula, announced they were out in the morning. The Detroit Red Wings were next, as Babcock decided not to return to the team. The St. Louis Blues and the San Jose Sharks, two teams that had sought permission to speak with Babcock, were soon out too.

That left the Toronto Maple Leafs – the team without a general manager, the team seeking its first Stanley Cup since 1967.

And the team that landed the biggest fish in the coaching pond.

Babcock has a career record of 527-285-119 with 19 ties, for a .627 winning percentage. He’s missed the playoffs once, in his second season with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in 2004. He coached the Red Wings from 2005-2015, and won the Stanley Cup in 2008 along with conference titles in 2008 and 2009.

But he has cache beyond the NHL, with two gold medal victories with Team Canada. The notion that Babcock would attract free agents, in players and management, to Toronto who otherwise wouldn’t flock there isn’t outlandish.

What a day for the Maple Leafs, who stumbled through another year of Randy Carlyle waiting for a better candidates. And what a day for Brendan Shanahan, the former Red Wing (he played for Babcock in 2006) who transitioned from the NHL Department of Player Safety to take over operation of the Maple Leafs empire with the promise of a new regime and prosperity in Toronto.

He used the Leafs’ bottom resources to land arguably the best coach in the NHL.

And what a day for Babcock, who has more confidence (and ego) than a human being should be able to possess. He had comfort in Detroit. He could have had the lowest of expectations and millions in his pocket in Buffalo.

Instead, he opted to become the coach who finally brings the Stanley Cup back to Toronto.

He chose the challenge of all challenges.

Well, and over $50 million in front-loaded salary. That too.

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Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: May 20, 2015, 6:26 pm

Here are your Puck Headlines: A glorious collection of news and views collected from the greatest blogosphere in sports and the few, the proud, the mainstream hockey media. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com

Columbus Blue Jackets

• Nick Foligno has been named captain of the Columbus Blue Jackets. [Blue Jackets]

• Tyler Johnson is making some history during his rise to stardom. [Lightning Shout

• The start of this new era for the Tampa Bay Lightning began with the trade of Martin St. Louis. [Sportsnet

• Returning to Tampa Bay isn’t bothering St. Louis. [NY Daily News]

• If it wasn't evident already, Victor Hedman has arrived. [Tampa Bay Times]

• If the New York Rangers are to win this series they need some goals from Rick Nash. [NY Post]

• The Chicago Blackhawks better hope their top-4 defensemen have a lot left in their tanks because they’re going to need them to eat a ton of minutes. [Second City Hockey]

• “Maybe the Premier League’s going to be scouting me next year.” Andew Shaw on his header no-goal Tuesday night. [CSN Chicago]

• It took a while, but the Blackhawks’ power play finally came through. [OC Register]

• Despite the loss, Freddie Andersen was solid again for the Anaheim Ducks. [LA Times

• Forget Jeff Petry, Marc Bergevin. The Montreal Canadiens need to focus on offense. [The Hockey Writers

• RFA negotations haven’t really begun until someone plays the KHL card. Welcome, Alex Galchenyuk! [Habs Eyes on the Prize]

• Dave Hakstol’s hiring will fix one thing with the Philadelphia Flyers: accountability. [Broad Street Hockey

• Meanwhile, the Flyers have signed 32-year old Russian defenseman Yevgeni Medvedev. [Flyers]

• Why dumping the puck out of the D-zone isn’t always the best option. [JENLC]

• Come 2018, the Verizon Center name will be no more in D.C. Hopefully it’ll be renamed the “No, For Real, The WiFi Will Actually Work In Here Center” [Washington Post]

• Grand Rapids Griffins netminder Tom McCollum talks about recovering his stolen Calder Cup championship ring. [MLive.com]

• The Toronto Marlies have shaken up their coaching staff. How soon until Sheldon Keefe is brought in? [Marlies]

• Looking at the Sabres with a fantasy hockey eye. [The Puck Exchange]

• What’s the fantasy hockey spin of Todd McLellan in Edmonton? [Dobber Hockey]

• Finally, like Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk”? Maybe you’ll like this Lightning version, “Uptown Puck”:

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Author: Sean Leahy
Posted: May 20, 2015, 6:03 pm

The Mike Babcock Watch (a.k.a. #Babwatch) has consumed the hockey world on Wednesday, and that world shook with this news: 

The Buffalo Sabres are out of the Mike Babcock business.

Yes, with Jack Eichel on the way, and an old friend from the Anaheim days in Tim Murray, and all of the money that owner Terry Pegula was dumping on his lawn … Mike Babcock will not be coaching the Sabres, per TSN’s Bob McKenzie and Pierre LeBrun.

That’s right around when Aaron Ward of TSN also reported that Babcock would not be returning to coach the Detroit Red Wings. This was seconded by Kevin Allen of USA Today.

That leaves the Toronto Maple Leafs, who were mentioned as a finalist early on Wednesday after appearing out of the running earlier in the week; the St. Louis Blues, where Babcock could take over as coach and have friend Ken Hitchcock move upstairs; or San Jose, which was in talks with Babcock, although their seriousness wasn’t established. (And that would mean replacing former assistant coach Todd McLellan there, which isn’t awkward at all.)

So if it isn’t about the money, and Babs just wants to win … the Blues?

(UPDATE: Blues might have been out two days ago!)

Ah, but what about this: The Leafs' private plane (per Jeffler) is headed to Detroit!

Meanwhile, in Buffalo: Tim Murray couldn’t close Babcock, the Sabres lost the lottery and we’ll wait and see how the Tyler Myers/Evander Kane trade turned out. In other words, we might need a Tim Murray watch in a couple of years…

Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: May 20, 2015, 5:02 pm

(Ed. Note: We're proud to welcome back two of our favorite bloggers, Chuck and Pants from What's Up, Ya Sieve?, to the Puck Daddy fold as they author our NHL Playoff Beard Watch, which tracks the best and worst follicle growth in the postseason.)

By Chuck And Pants, What's Up Ya Sieve?

It’s time to turn our appraising eyes toward the West. We didn't pick the Hawks to win Rounds 1 or 2 this season, but there's one category in which we'd never bet against them: beards.  Could this be the year we're wrong three times in a row? 

Some of the players left standing are no strangers to BeardWatch: Johnny Oduya, Patrick Maroon, Clayton Stoner, and Scott Darling's beards have all graced our gazes in these playoffs. They may be frontrunners for Beard of the Year. Let's see who else is in the West lineup, and whose beard should remain on the bench.

Corey Crawford vs. Kyle Palmieri

In truth, we should have listed Crow among the beards we always talk about. It is the stuff of legend: growing wilder behind his mask, waiting deep into the darkness of late rounds before leaping out like a monster from under the bed. 

But this year, it seems... cozy, almost. Charming. In fact, coupled with the soft curls, this beard wants to serenade you on his beat-up acoustic six-string before stowing its Birkenstocks, striking a Warrior One and gliding off top a stand-up paddleboard. Balancing the Stanley Cup on the nose.

And yet, it only took a moment for Crawford's beard to meet a potential match.

Here's the story of how we met Kyle Palmieri: We looked at the Ducks website five minutes ago and he was on the front page. Voila! No ‘X’ has so clearly marked its spot since Indiana Jones busted up that library floor in Venice. How have we been missing this great beard? It's dark and dashing, with a bit of moxie. It has matured without our knowing, and sprung fully-formed. 

This is a beard that could ascend to the throne.

Hampus Lindholm vs. Patrick Kane

We appreciate team spirit, and the superstition to remain unshaven during playoffs. It is such a time- and style-honored tradition. But Hampus, love, this beard looks like a deserted ski jump in a long-forgotten Olympic city: ramp off the top lip, two-track landing rut waaaaaay down around the chin. In between, nothing but empty air and the fear of a crash landing.

Still, we can't fault the new guy for not knowing one of BeardWatch's Commandments: if you can't do it right, at least do it weird. Look at Toews, Jagr, and Patrick Kane - Own that gnarly patch and make it count!  Patrick Kane has so much hockey talent that it's only fair his beard grows like wind-swept sand dunes, spilling from his jaw in every direction and piling up wherever the wind blows. We wouldn't want the guy to be too good.

Andrew Cogliano vs. Brandon Saad

 

Andrew Cogliano looks like the cutest bro in your high school who grew up, went to college, joined a frat, and then went into finance. He spent a few years evolving from crushing cases of beer cans to drinking craft brews from goblets and recently discovered that "red" is not how you order wine at a restaurant. Right about the time his beard connects at the temples, he's going to admit that Skittles don't count as a serving of fruit. In no time, he'll be trading his two-door sports car for the sporty hatchback suburban edition. It'll still be a Beamer, though. With room to carry more furniture for his man cave.

Say "beard" to Blackhawks fans, as we've often done, and the reply is a rousing chorus of "Saaaaaaaad." It sounds dreamy. Brandon took the liberty of giving us a mid-season preview of his beard. This unassuming, Teen Wolf-y number can grow into full fur. It gets breadth and depth. 

Just give him another playoff round - or the next full moon - and watch him transform. 

Beard we’re going to miss the most: Brandon Bollig

One more nod to the gold standard.

 

Author: Yahoo Sports Staff
Posted: May 20, 2015, 3:44 pm

We don’t know how much longer the magic of Andrew Hammond will continue, but the "Hamburglar” just received a bit of security.

On Wednesday, the Ottawa Senators announced they’ve extended Hammond for three years. He was pretty excited about it:

Fire up the grills! Excited to be coming back to @Senators for 3 more years! 🍔🍔🍔

— Andrew Hammond (@andrewhammond30) May 20, 2015

A new contract and free MacDonald's for life? Pretty great 2015 for Hammond.

According to the Senators, the deal is worth $4.05 million, with Hammond receiving $1.2 million in 2015-16, $1.35 million in 2016-17 and $1.5 million in the final year of his deal in 2017-18.

Hammond was one of the biggest stories of the second of half of the 2014-15 NHL season. At age 27, he won 13 of his first 14 starts, taking over the No. 1 job in Ottawa as the Senators rallied to make the postseason. But “The Hamburglar” came back down to earth toward the end of the regular season and into the playoffs where he was replaced by Craig Anderson during the team’s first-round exit at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens. 

This now brings up the question of what GM Bryan Murray’s next move is regarding his goaltending. As of right now, the Senators have three goaltenders signed for next season with Robin Lehner having two years left on his deal before he becomes an RFA in 2017 and Craig Anderson looking at three years remaining on his contract, according to GeneralFanager.com. Not to mention they just signed college free agent Matt O'Connor to a two-year deal, but he'll start with Binghamton in the AHL.

After Hammond's extension, Ottawa’s cap situation is even tighter, with Murray needing to decide on the futures of UFA Erik Condra and RFAs Mika Zibanejad, Alex Chiasson, Mike Hoffman, J.P. Pageau and Calder Trophy finalist Mark Stone.

Someone will be leaving Ottawa this summer between Lehner and Anderson, and you can imagine Murray picking up the phone to dial Peter Chiarelli in Edmonton as one of his first calls. That and maybe someone would be interested in a slightly-used Jared Cowen at two more years and $8.2 million owed to him?

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Sean Leahy is the associate editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Sean_Leahy

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Author: Sean Leahy
Posted: May 20, 2015, 2:48 pm

The Boston Bruins named Don Sweeney, their assistant general manager, as the team’s next general manager, ending weeks of speculation that the Bruins would hire Don Sweeney, their assistant general manager, as the team’s next general manager. 

Oh, there were other candidates. Former Washington Capitals GM George McPhee was in the running. So was Nashville Predators assistant GM Paul Fenton.

The Boston Globe seemed convinced that the Bruins were going to wait out New York Rangers assistant GM Jeff Gorton, their former assistant GM, who is credited with building the Rangers into a Cup contender. He reportedly had the backing of the Jacobs family and former GM Harry Sinden, who was advising team president Cam Neely in the GM search.

But for whatever reason – timing, or perhaps the Rangers’ or Gorton’s desire not to have him slip to the Bruins – it’s not Gorton. It’s Sweeney.

Seriously, how anticlimactic? OK, it could still be climactic if Sweeney decides to fire coach Claude Julien, who isn’t listed among the participants in Tuesday’s press conference.

Sweeney replaces Peter Chiarelli, who was snatched up by the Edmonton Oilers like the Bruins dropped a hundred dollar bill from their pocket. (American dollars, ‘natch.)

Here’s the official release from the Bruins.

"Don Sweeney stood out amongst an incredibly talented group of candidates that we considered for this hire," said Jacobs. "He carries a unique and impressive mix of playing experience, front office experience and business acumen. Don has complete understanding of what it means to be a Bruin and we have full confidence in him to steward the organization back to being Stanley Cup contenders year in and year out."

”Don has excelled in every role he has been in with the Bruins organization and has a comprehensive understanding of every aspect of our hockey operations department," said Neely. "His commitment and drive to bring a championship caliber team to the Boston fans was evident every step of the way through this search process, and I am confident that his leadership of our hockey operations department will lead to success."

“I am both excited and humbled for the opportunity to be named the General Manager of the Boston Bruins,” said Sweeney. “I would like to thank the entire Jacobs’ family and specifically Mr. Jacobs and Charlie, as well as, Cam for bestowing the confidence and trust in me to direct this historic franchise in which I have been a part of for 24 years. My family and friends have been extremely supportive throughout the General Manager search process and I certainly want to acknowledge them today to show my heartfelt appreciation. I am fully aware of everyone’s expectations to move the organization forward. The challenges ahead rests with the players, the coaches and the management group to work hard to make the necessary changes to bring the Bruins back to the forefront of contending for the Stanley Cup.”

In his role as General Manager, Sweeney will be in charge of every aspect of the team's hockey operations.

Appointed to his new post, Sweeney becomes the eighth GM in Bruins' franchise history. Sweeney, 48, will enter his 10th season in the Bruins' front office after serving the past six years as Assistant General Manager. He joined the Bruins in 2006 as the team's Director of Player Development and was named to the position of Director of Hockey Operations in July, 2007 before being promoted to Assistant General Manager in September of 2009.

As Assistant GM, he oversaw the development of the team's drafted prospects at the AHL, junior hockey, college and European levels in addition to having a supervisory role in the day-to-day operations of the hockey department. His portfolio expanded further in 2014 when he was appointed as General Manager of Boston's AHL affiliate in Providence where he oversaw all hockey operations for that franchise. Sweeney organized and ran the team's first off-season Development Camp in July, 2007, bringing the club's top prospects to Boston in advance of the main September training camp and will hold the ninth such camp in the summer of 2015.

Now, what does this mean for “Bruins Hockey” as we know it?

It could mean a new coach. And if Julien does go, he’ll be snatched up by someone faster than you can say “Chiarelli to Edmonton.”

From the Globe:

He will have to make a decision on Claude Julien. The coach’s extension activates in 2015-16, and the Bruins would be responsible for Julien’s contract if they let him go.

Bruce Cassidy, Providence’s head coach the last four seasons, would be a candidate to replace Julien. Sweeney holds Cassidy in high regard.

Chances are that Sweeney, with Neely’s input, has already been thinking about Julien’s future, just as he has been studying the roster. This is the luxury of promoting a GM from within. Sweeney is familiar with everything. Daily activities will not change abruptly once he lands the job. The Bruins do not need disruption.

Going internal is an interested choice on several fronts for the Bruins. It’s clear they have several contracts to hand out and tough calls to make regarding roster players: Dougie Hamilton is an RFA. Milan Lucic, Loui Eriksson and Chris Kelly go UFA in 2016. Torey Krug goes RFA in 2016.

Do you trade a David Krejci? Or a Brad Marchand? Or, gulp, a Zdeno Chara?

While having a critical eye from outside the organization could help make those calls easier, having someone that helped build that roster lends an insider expertise to who stays and who goes.

But ultimately, Sweeney’s hiring means that Cam Neely is the one making these calls. Not to diminish Sweeney’s acumen as an executive, but this is Neely’s show.

Outside of spiking Julien this summer, are we really going to see a dramatic shift in “Bruins Hockey?”

Potentially.

Please recall Neely’s words after firing Chiarelli:

As president, Neely will instruct his GM to build a roster according to his vision. The GM will then execute the trade calls or draft picks to acquire the players Neely prefers.

“Get this guy,” Neely will say, or, “I don’t like that guy. Move him.”

Neely acknowledged the Bruins need skill and speed. But he also doesn’t want to go short on muscle. That could mean heavier legs. The Bruins don’t need any more of those.

“We got away a little bit from our identity that we had in the past,” Neely said. “I don’t think we were as hard a team to play against as we like to be and were in the past. I thought that got us some success. Our transition game probably needs some improvement, so getting the puck out of our end and through the neutral zone. I think we’ve got to find ways to create more offense.”

This would lead to a shift in on-ice philosophy, as well. Neely has his doubts about Claude Julien’s defense-first system.

A new general manager. Potentially a new coach. How much else will change for the Bruins this summer?

Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: May 20, 2015, 1:56 pm

ANAHEIM, Calif. – The sense of history was lost on the Chicago Blackhawks after their 3-2 triple overtime Game 2 Western Conference Final win over the Anaheim Ducks.

That’s what happens when you’re part of a core group that finds new ways to create thrilling moments for a storied organization. 

“We’ve been through that a few times now in the last couple of years and I think the idea is more relief, some excitement,” Chicago forward Patrick Sharp said. “(Corey Crawford) made some huge saves to keep us in it and keep the game going. I know (Marcus Kruger) scored that goal, but it seems like every time (Brent Seabrook) handles that puck in overtime, he’s dangerous and something’s gonna happen.”

Chicago’s victory occurred in the longest game in franchise history. This was set on April 9, 1931. Just think about that for a second. When an Original Six team sets a record like that, there’s some perspective that needs to soak in.

Defenseman Duncan Keith played 49:51 – coming 10:09 away from playing a full 60 minutes.

Goaltender Corey Crawford stopped 60 Ducks shots on goal. Four Blackhawks players were on ice over 40 minutes.

Hydration-type bottles were littered around the Chicago locker room after the game. Shakes, other types of liquid … the Blackhawks needed anything and everything possible to not go down 0-2 heading back to the United Center.

The defensive depth (or lack thereof) we talked about before Game 2, ended up being some bizarre strength for the Blackhawks. As players on both teams faded in the second half of the second overtime and the entire third, both Kimmo Timonen and Kyle Cumiskey, who both played under 20 minutes, looked like weapons as Anaheim’s blueliners also piled on the ice-time.

Francois Beauchemin led the Ducks with 46:29 total. 

The game could have really gone either way in the overtime. Ducks defenseman Sami Vatanen rang iron twice. Corey Perry did once. If any of those shots shifted or moved a few inches, this story would read differently.

But they didn’t, which is why Chicago still has the magic mantra of the team that just ‘knows how to win’ these types of games. They’re 3-1 in their last three triple-overtime games.

One of those was a triple OT victory over Nashville in Game 4 of the first-round series this year.

Is there any method to finding victory in a triple-OT game? Does experience play any factor?

“Maybe less nerves,” a strangely Zen (or exhausted or relieved) Crawford said. “But for sure it definitely helps when we’ve been through a bunch of these situations.”

Defenseman Brent Seabrook scored the game-winner against Nashville, and he found himself with the primary assist on Marcus Kruger’s score at the 16:12 mark of the third overtime. Seabrook just sort of threw the puck at the net, and Kruger was there to push the rebound past a diving Frederik Andersen. 

"We've got to have short memory right now....Nothing you can do about it now," Andersen, who made 53 stops said.

Could this defeat be soul crushing for the Ducks, who were the better team for most of regulation in spite of two power play goals in the first period by Chicago?

Probably not. Both teams know they’re good and this is likely to be a long series. 

Maybe the fact that so many Blackhawks players played such an obscene amount could turn into an advantage for Anaheim as the series goes longer.

Really, who knows? It’s hockey where a bounce here or there can change a series.

By the end, the game, and poor ice condition turned the contest from a real hockey game into an episode of Survivor. The players were mostly disjointed, seeming to run out of gas after 20 seconds in a shift. The goaltenders remained sharp and focused, which was a minor miracle for a game that started at 6:15 p.m. and ended at 11:07 p.m.

“When you play that long in a game it’s nice to come out on the winning side, as well. It’s going to be that type of series,” Sharp said. “I don’t think we were surprised with the one-goal game. They certainly had their chances.”

And that’s what the Ducks need to build on.

For Chicago, they know what a win like this means. They know what a loss like this can do. They’re the team with two Stanley Cups since 2010. The Ducks, for all their depth and versatility, have the feel of the challenger.

“You know, we had chances to win it,” Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said. “We didn't win it. They took advantage of their chance.”

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @joshuacooper

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Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: May 20, 2015, 7:53 am

No. 1 Star: Marcus Kruger, Chicago Blackhawks

With 3:48 remaining in the third overtime period, a wide open Kruger tipped in a Brett Seabrook shot past the Ducks netminder Frederik Andersen. His goal evens the series at a game a piece as it moves back to Chicago.

 

No. 2 Star: Corey Crawford, Chicago Blackhawks

Stamina of the skaters on the ice is often heralded, but it's the goaltenders who face the most arduous test as the minutes and hours tick by in multiple overtime games. Crawford made 60 saves in the Blackhawks 3-2 win. Here's Crawford stopping a dead on Corey Perry shot in 2-OT:

No. 3 Star: Frederik Andersen, Anaheim Ducks

Like his counterpart across the ice, Andersen was also peppered frequently making 53 saves in the loss. This is Andersen's second loss of this post-season. Both of his losses have come in overtime.

Honorable Mention: Chicago's power play went 2-for-5 early in the game to put the Blackhawks up 2-0 on Anaheim; goals were by Andrew Shaw and Marian Hossa. Andrew Cogliano and Corey Perry followed up the Chicago goals to tie the game at the middle of the second period. Francois Beauchemin (46:29) and Duncan Keith (49:51) led their respective teams in TOI. It won't show on the score sheet, but the Ducks fourth line of Rickard Rakell, Emerson Etem, and Jiri Sekac were the most dynamic of all the lines.

Did You Know? Tonight's game marked the longest playoff game in Blackhawks history. Oddly enough, the Ducks have played longer games with their record set at 5 OT's in 2003.

Dishonorable Mention: Ducks hit 3 posts total in overtime, and were 0-for-5 on the power play. Andrew Shaw thought he scored the winner in the second OT, but alas, head-butting pucks into the net is not allowed. Chicago's third d-pairing of Kimmo Timonen and Kyle Cumiskey's combined ice time was less than any other Blackhawk's defenseman. Here is reason No. 320498209 why Ducks fans love Corey Perry and everyone else hates him as he attempts to steal Marian Hossa's stick:

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Jen Neale is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow her on Twitter! Follow @MsJenNeale_PD.

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Author: Jen Neale
Posted: May 20, 2015, 7:03 am

ANAHEIM, Calif. – The Anaheim Ducks showed their depth in their Game 1 win over Chicago. In Game 2, the Blackhawks showed they also have some depth and energy up and down their lineup. 

From top to bottom, the Blackhawks got contributions from their big guns and their lesser-known quantities to knot their Western Conference Final 1-1 with the Ducks in a 3-2 triple overtime win.

The next two games of this series will be played at the United Center in Chicago.  

Marcus Kruger scored the game winner with 3:48 left in the third extra session. The game was the longest in the illustrious history of the Blackhawks.

“It was wild, grueling, exhausting… It kind of felt like the first couple periods were just back and forth. Not taking any chances. Nobody wanted to screw up," Hawks forward Bryan Bickell said. "Then, an easy shot from the point, we’ve got a couple of guys I front, and we get the rebound.”

All overtimes were full of chances for both teams. Sami Vatanen hit the post twice for the Ducks. Andrew Shaw attempted a header for the Blackhawks that seemed to be a game-winner in the second overtime. On further review the referee deemed it no goal. 

In the second OT Chicago forward Antoine Vermette fired a point-blank shot into Anaheim netminder Frederik Andersen. Ducks forward Corey Perry also fired a shot off the post.

By the time the teams hit the third OT, the players appeared to lose all energy and focus after about 20 seconds of each shift.  

"We stay well fueled," Shaw said of how the players tried to refresh between periods. "You get the fluids in you, the snacks going around the room. Make sure you’re well-fed and well-hydrated and lots of positive vibes going around the room. Just stick to it and we’ll find a way to win."  

Corey Crawford stopped 60 Anaheim shots on goal in the win. Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith played 49:51 to lead all skaters.   

In the second period, Perry tied the game on a deflection off a shot by Ryan Getzlaf late in the frame. It was Perry’s first goal of the series. This knotted the game at 2-2 at the 17:30 mark.

Getzlaf shot the puck from near the boards and Perry swatted it in front, past Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford.

With 10:46 left in the first period, Ducks forward Andrew Cogliano put the score at 2-1 on a rush that came off a bad pinch by Chicago defenseman Kimmo Timonen on the Ducks' blueline. Timonen couldn’t get back into the play in time, which led Anaheim to continue up ice.

Anaheim took the body often that period, out-hitting Chicago 25-14 

Marian Hossa put Chicago up 2-0 off a scrum in front of the Ducks net with 13:41 left in the first period. The goal came off a bad boarding penalty by Clayton Stoner on Kruger.

Hossa actually knocked the puck out of the net, but Ducks defenseman Simon Despres accidentally pushed it behind Andersen.

Could this be crushing for the Ducks? By the end, both teams just seemed gassed and to some degree ready for the next game. 

"Yeah, I think both teams had numerous (chances)," Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said. "I haven't counted them up yet, but both teams had numerous chances to win it. You know, we had chances to win it.  We didn't win it. They took advantage of their chance."

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Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: May 20, 2015, 6:09 am

After the Anaheim Ducks hit three posts through one and a half periods of overtime, Andrew Shaw thought he had won the game for the Chicago Blackhawks with one of the most awesome goals ever seen.

Yes, Shaw channeled his inner Lionel Messi and head-butted the puck in past Frederik Andersen. Win for the Blackhawks! Or so everyone thought...

(Especially Brian Engblom on the NBCSN broadcast who said there was no rule for head-butting a goal.)

The officials huddled and contacted the situation room. The result - NO GOAL.

According to rule 78.5 section (i):

Disallowed Goals – Apparent goals shall be disallowed by the Referee and the appropriate announcement made by the Public Address Announcer for the following reasons:

(i) When the puck has been directed, batted or thrown into the net by an attacking player other than with a stick.

Bummer. Not just for Chicago, but for highlight reels around the world.

"I didn’t really know. I mean, at that point you react in the moment and try to get it in," Shaw said after the game. "I think if anyone can ever pull that off it should still be a goal."

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Jen Neale is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow her on Twitter! Follow @MsJenNeale_PD.

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Author: Jen Neale
Posted: May 20, 2015, 5:44 am

Days after announcing he was in need of a new liver, Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk underwent a successful transplant Tuesday night.

According to the Senators, the anonymous donor and Melnyk are doing fine and resting comfortably. The University Health Network’s Multi-Organ Transplant Program will release an update on the progress of both later this week. 

From the Senators:

Mr. Melnyk and his family would like to thank everyone for their continued support and wish to extend their immense gratitude to the anonymous donor and the donor’s family.
For more information on organ donation or to register as an organ and tissue donor in Ontario, visit www.BeADonor.ca.

After a year in which GM Bryan Murray was diagnosed with cancer and the organization lost assistant coach Mark Reeds to his own battle with the disease, it's great to hear some positive health news coming from the Senators.

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Sean Leahy is the associate editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Sean_Leahy

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Author: Sean Leahy
Posted: May 20, 2015, 1:30 am

Todd McLellan, left, and Peter Chiarelli, President of Hockey Operations and General Manager of the Edmonton Oilers, hold up a jersey during a news conference after the Oilers announced McLellan as their new head coach, Tuesday, May 19, 2015 in Edmonton, Alberta. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDITIt took a startling amount of time for Connor McDavid to become a conversation topic during Todd McLellan’s introductory press conference with the Edmonton Oilers. It was like having a holiday party without acknowledging the Lamborghini Veneno wrapped under the tree.  

But when he was asked about coaching the Oilers’ next franchise player … well, McLellan was like a kid on Christmas Eve.

“I have had a chance to think that. Quite regularly. Putting my head down on a pillow in Prague, I had plenty of thinking time,” said McLellan, who coached Canada to a gold medal in the IIHF world championships.

Part of that championship team was Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins, whose brain McLellan picked about McDavid. What was it like to be “The Next One” at the top of the draft? How was the transition to the NHL? What did you need to ease it?

McLellan came away understanding that McDavid won’t need to be coddled, but would need support. “Not a protecting environment, but making sure that he’s comfortable in his surroundings,” he said.

Comfort is king for McLellan, who “mutually parted” ways as the San Jose Sharks’ coach after seven years. It wasn’t difficult to read into his comments about the future of the Oilers and glean insight into his past with the Sharks.

When he was hired in San Jose in 2008, replacing Ron Wilson, his general manager Doug Wilson has been there since 2003. Joe Thornton was a Doug Wilson acquisition. The foundation of the team was placed there by Wilson, outside of Patrick Marleau. McLellan was hired to make a Doug Wilson team work, not to necessarily create a Todd McLellan team. That dynamic would be maintained throughout his tenure.

In Edmonton, McLellan enjoys a luxury few coaches have (well, save for Willie Desjardins in Vancouver last year): the completely clean slate.

New CEO. New president and general manager. New coach. 

“We’re both in it together. Brand new. We’re get to work together and create an identity,” said McLellan of GM Peter Chiarelli.

“Everyone gets a fresh start.”

That includes the players, and that’s another rare benefit for McLellan: No veteran boondoggle contracts that bring imbalance to the locker room and problems between the generations of players.

In theory, said McLellan, “you’ll have the grizzled veteran whose game is maybe on the decline and you have the young star that’s coming up. They have to mesh,” he said, citing Oilers vets like Andrew Ference, Boyd Gordon and Matt Hendricks on a roster of young burgeoning stars.

“You can’t have separation of older players who have many warrior wounds from the young guys,” he said, leaving one to wonder what experiences he’s speaking from.

Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle are not Thornton and Marleau, for many reasons, but chiefly because they’ve never experienced NHL success. And by “success” we mean “a single playoff game.”

They got to see McLellan operate behind the bench in Prague. They and the rest of the young Oilers are going to be sponges on skates, soaking up what McLellan is selling.

Frankly, that’s his calling card: Working with young talent. He coached AHL Houston to the Calder Cup in 2003. He was WHL coach of the year in 2000. He helped develop Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski and other young stars in San Jose.

“Watching his teams over the years, he’s taken a team with a number of young players and taken them to a level where it was short of a Cup but close to a Cup on a number of occasions,” said Chiarelli.

But still short of a Cup, which is the knock on McLellan: Seven years with a stacked roster, and the Sharks never made the Stanley Cup Final, sometimes bowing out in disastrous fashion (hello, reverse sweep by the LA Kings).

“We had a lot of successes in the playoffs in my opinion. We lost to some very good teams,” said McLellan, ticking off the Chicago Blackhawks and the Kings.

“But we’re not going to talk about playoffs here.”

Nor should they. McLellan is just the next solid-footed step in the right direction for the Oilers, along with Chiarelli and team big boss Bob Nicholson and, soon, Connor McDavid. But it's a long-ass journey. The blue line is a mess, goaltending needs a reevaluation and the Oilers are still the Oilers – young, dumb and no playoff fun.

He’ll have to teach them how to win in the West. He’ll have to make them understand his philosophy on the power play, one of his best attributes. He’ll have to find out who the leaders are and who the followers are.

And once that all happens … well, McLellan has no doubt dreamt what it would be like to accomplish in Edmonton what he never did in San Jose.

“There will be painful days ahead for all of us. But your gut tells you that it’s right,” he said. 

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Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: May 19, 2015, 9:54 pm

ANAHEIM, Calif. – The fate of the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 2 of the Western Conference Final rests on Kyle Cumiskey and Kimmo Timonen.

At least that is how it’s playing out as we head into Tuesday’s night's tilt against the Ducks at Honda Center. Timonen played barely over five minutes in Game 1. Though you can put most playoff lineups in pencil until they're announced, Cumiskey likely replaces David Rundblad, a one-time higher-level prospect who was on-ice for two Anaheim goals in the Ducks’ 4-1 win over Chicago.

They are the soft underbellies of the Blackhawks’ defense. And by soft we mean, Jell-O soft. The Ducks exploited this lack of depth in Game 1 against Chicago. Will they again be the Hawks’ undoing in Game 2, or will Timonen and Cumiskey step up … or will coach Joel Quenneville play Duncan Keith 40 minutes in the full 60-minute regulation? If that’s the case, pray it doesn’t go to overtime.

“I think we're fine,” Quenneville said after the loss. “Every game's different. I think when you're not playing much, you want to play it safe, keep it simple as best you can. We'll work our way through it.”

It’s weird to think that an injury to Michal Rozsival could end up being a death knell to Chicago this postseason. I mean, this isn’t exactly a superstar we’re talking about. But Chicago clearly has an organizational depth issue at the position.

Timonen was not a good fit. He has been a placeholder for Chicago, basically being trotted on the ice in favorable match ups and asked to not make major mistakes. Come the third period, his sits on the bench.

Chicago gave up a second round draft pick and a conditional pick for Timonen.

Timonen hadn’t played for nine month due to blood clots, and at age 40, had to try to ramp it up quickly for a playoff push. So far, it has seemed like a doomed to fail situation and a miscalculation by Chicago.

Meanwhile, the Ducks gave up Ben Lovejoy for 23-year-old Simon Despres, who has played meaningful minutes for Anaheim. Great job by Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford on that gaffe of a deal. Sorry, it just needs to be said every time the Despres is referenced. That was thievery by Ducks general manager Bob Murray. 

The 28-year-old, 5-foot-11 Cumiskey played seven games for Chicago last season and 139 total NHL games. Though Rundblad looked out of sorts in Game 1, Cumiskey isn’t exactly a great option as a replacement. This was partially made possible by Hawks defense prospect Stephen Johns suffering a broken arm Sunday. Talk about fortuitous timing. Then again, Johns hasn’t played an NHL game.

“I think he's one of those players that has a different dimension from the back end, jumping into the play, quickness, in and out of puck areas,” Quenneville said of Cumiskey. “He's got a different level of speed for a defenseman. I just think that depth organizationally, he's one of those kids that came into our organization at the start of the season that we're happy to have him. He didn't get a chance to play much this year, but we knew that he can play. He can be an asset, as well.”

That’s quite the praise. Let’s rename him Kyle Orr.

The Blackhawks may have the type of star power to overcome their lower-end defense issues. Duncan Keith is absurdly good, as noted in our story before the series. Brent Seabrook is a prolific possessor of the puck. Johnny Oduya and Niklas Hjalmarsson are also solid pieces.

The sum of those parts – especially the dynamic Keith brings – is high-end. But in the playoffs, especially against the four-line deep Ducks, you have to have three pairs that can absorb the pressure of Anaheim’s size. The Ducks on average are 6-foot-1, 208 pounds. The Blackhawks stand at 6-feet, 196 pounds.

“When you get guys playing a ton of minutes, it’s going to wear them down,” Ducks forward Ryan Kesler said. “We’ve got to invest in them physically.”

Hjalmarsson seemed just a little tired after a shift in Game 1?

Photo via YouTube screenshot

As for the Ducks D depth in comparison to Chicago’s, James Wisniewski has not played this postseason, and averaged 21:11 during the regular season. There’s also Korbinian Holzer riding the Ducks bench. 

Chicago must look over at Anaheim and wish it could change the CBA to make an in-series D trade with some team.

Quenneville knows he has Keith and Seabrook – two guys the Ducks seemingly can’t match. He’ll take his chances for now.

“Every game's different. Every shift's different. We'll see how the ice time is delegated by performance and by how things are going,” Quenneville said. “We know they're a physical team. That's part of it. We want to make sure we don't get distracted where we got to go to be successful.”

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @joshuacooper

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Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: May 19, 2015, 9:40 pm

The Mike Babcock sweepstakes will come to a end this week. Finally. And while reports state it's down to two teams, the Buffalo Sabres look to be pulling away from the Detroit Red Wings in the race. 

According to the Associated Press, Babcock and the Sabres have initiated contract discussions.

From John Wawrow of the AP

The person said negotiations were taking place by phone between Babcock and Sabres general manager Tim Murray on Tuesday afternoon. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the talks are private. 

Wawrow followed up with a Tweet stating nothing is done, but the two sides spoke on Tuesday, which would make sense since Babcock has said he'd like to make a decision by Wednesday.

When reached by Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press and asked if he’s leaving the Red Wings, Babcock responded, ”Not sure, know by morning."

Since this is a negotiation, and if this report is true, does Babcock turn around and take this offer to Ken Holland and Mike Illitch and see if Detroit would match? According to St. James, the Red Wings' offer was four years at $3.25 million a season, while the Buffalo News believes the Sabres have offered around $5 million a year.

Babcock, who is still under contract with Detroit until June 30, would cost the Sabres a third-round pick as compensation if he takes over the head coaching job.

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Sean Leahy is the associate editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Sean_Leahy

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Author: Sean Leahy
Posted: May 19, 2015, 8:46 pm

Here are your Puck Headlines: A glorious collection of news and views collected from the greatest blogosphere in sports and the few, the proud, the mainstream hockey media. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com. 

I know it's not a normal rum glass but @DiplomaticoRum tasted just as good out of this! #IIHFWorlds @CodyEakin50 pic.twitter.com/YaA3lrz51y

— Brent Burns (@Burnzie88) May 19, 2015

• Kyle Cuminskey … the answer for the Blackhawks on D. Or more of the question. Either way, he’s in Tuesday against Anaheim in Game 2. [CSN Chicago]

• There are several adjustments the Chicago Blackhawks need to make in order to beat the Anaheim Ducks in Game 2. But what are they? [Second City Hockey]

• Mike Babcock watch is coming to an end. Summing up what it all means, and 30 other thoughts, via the one and only Elliotte Friedman. [Sportsnet]

• NHL linesman Brad Kovalchik left Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final with a knee injury. He is out indefinitely. [NHL.com]

• Along with some other topics: “We are also continuing to learn that the Simon Despres trade was the best Bob Murray has made since acquiring Ryan Kesler. That may not be the world's highest standard, but it's also not the world's lowest. Point is, Despres played yet another strong game on Sunday.” It was highway robbery of Pittsburgh. [Anaheim Calling]

• This Kyle Palmieri fellow has proved to be quite the unsung hero for the Anaheim Ducks against Chicago, and the rest of the playoffs for that matter. [Orange County Register]

• At one point, Corey Perry was almost an Edmonton Oiler. A chat with Perry on that and other topics. [ESPN]

• So many mistakes in that Lightning Game 2 win over the Rangers. As Tampa coach Jon Cooper said, “That game had everything.” [Toronto Star]

• Dan Girardi v. Anton Stralman? The Rangers may have been better off keeping the latter. Now Tampa is reaping the rewards. [TSN]

• If Mike Babcock returns to Detroit, does he need to change his ways to a degree? [Kuklas Korner]

• Is new Flyers coach Dave Hakstol, Mike Babcock-like? [Philly.com]

• A fascinating story on Gordie Howe, stem cells and Ukranian scientists. [USA Today]

• There are many Washington Capitals pending UFAs who may not fit into the team’s upcoming salary cap plans. People like Eric Fehr, Mike Green, Jay Beagle and (gasp) Joel Ward. [Washington Post]

• A look into the Bruins GM search. Also, Harry Sinden’s role has sort of expanded. Yes, the 82-year-old Harry Sinden. [Boston Herald]

• A detailed breakdown on prospects and the risk/reward on where guys get picked. [NHL Numbers]

• The National Women’s Hockey League is holding tryouts for the Boston Pride. [Pink Puck]

• Offseason fantasy outlook for Winnipeg and Vancouver. [Dobber Hockey]

• With Ray Shero as the Devils’ general manager, there’s actually a lot to look forward to. [Along the Boards]

• The United States will be grouped with Russia for the 2018 Olympic hockey tournament. We still don’t know if NHL players will compete. [Pro Hockey Talk]

• Ted Nolan’s coaching career could continue with the Western Hockey League's Vancouver Giants. [The Province]

• A q&a with Manchester Monarchs forward Jordan Weal. [Mayor’s Manor]

• How much did Oilers forward Nail Yakupov salvage his season with how he played his final two months? [Edmonton Journal]

• The governor of Washington signed a bill denoting Western Hockey League players as amateurs. [WHL]

• Finally, Ref talk!

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Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: May 19, 2015, 6:35 pm

LISTEN HERE! [And if that doesn't work, try here.]

It's a (I don't like) Mondays edition of Marek vs. Wyshynski beginning at 2 p.m. ET/11 a.m. PT, and we're talking about the following and more:

Special Guest Star: Brian Hayward joins us to talk about Game 2 of the Ducks vs. Blackhawks series. 

• The Conference Final coverage!

• Stanley Cup Playoffs

• Hockey News and Views

Question of the Day: Tell us something we don't already know about Tyler Johnson. Email puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or hit us on Twitter with the hashtag #MvsW to @wyshynski or @jeffmarekClick here for the Sportsnet live stream or click the play button above!

Click here to download podcasts from the show each day. Subscribe to the podcast viaiTunes or Feedburner.

***

BUY THE MvsW T-SHIRTS! SUPPORT HOCKEY FIGHTS CANCER!

Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: May 19, 2015, 5:52 pm

The transition of the NHL videogame series to Playstation 4 and XBox One last year wasn’t the smoothest. EA Sports released NHL 14 on Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 only, allowing them extra time to gear up for launch on the next generation consoles. It was a disaster

Modes were missing only for some to be patched in later. All in all, it was a terrible experience for the consumer and the lack of inclusion of the EA Sports Hockey League, a popular online mode, really hurt the franchise with some fans.

On Tuesday, EA Sports officially announced details of its features for NHL 16, which will release in September on PS4 and XBox One, with watered down "Legacy Edition" versions coming out for PS3 and XBox 360 gamers.

From EA:

"Built with more input from our fans than ever before, NHL 16 steps onto the ice to deliver ways to compete as a team, new features across the most played single-player modes, gameplay innovation at every position on the ice and an unrivalled game day atmosphere.
New Ways to Compete as a Team
Hockey is a sport that comes to life in a competitive team-based gameplay experience. Whether it’s through speed, skill, or physicality, every player makes an impact on the ice no matter what position they play or their role on the team. So grab some friends and jump into either 6 v. 6 Online Team Play, Online Couch Co-op, or the re-imagined EA SPORTS Hockey League and prove that great individuals can’t beat a great team.
The New EASHL
Sharpen those skates and grab your buddies because the EA SPORTS Hockey League is back! This fan-favorite online team mode has been reimagined and lets you choose specialized player classes to deliver a balanced competitive experience on the ice. Player skill and your ability to play as a team will now be the determining factor in who wins and loses hockey games.
6 v. 6 Online Team Play
New copy: Play online with up to twelve skaters including user controlled goalies. Using real-world NHL rosters you can compete in ranked drop-in games against players from around the world or invite your friends to a private OTP session before you step into EA SPORTS Hockey League.
Online Couch Co-op
The perfect way to play when you and your friends want to jump on the couch, join forces and play some drop-in hockey online. It’s the best place to practice your team play skills before playing OTP or EASHL.
A Way to Play for Every Hockey Fan
Whether you’re an armchair GM, want to live out your NHL pro fantasy, or build your ultimate dream team, NHL 16 will deliver a single-player game mode for every type of hockey fan - each with new features that you’ve never seen in EA SPORTS NHL.
Be a GM: Player Morale
Being a GM is about more than just getting the best players, it’s about getting the right players to play well together. Each player on your NHL and AHL team has a different personality that you will have to manage. Deal with trade demands, teammate relationships, and much more by calling team meetings or adjusting your roster to directly affect your team’s on-ice performance.
Be a Pro: Shape Your Legacy
The way you play dictates the type of player you will become in an all-new Be a Pro progression system. On-ice actions directly influence attributes earned, ensuring that your Pro will reflect the way you play. Sim to your next shift and the ability to work your way up from CHL rookie to an NHL Superstar also make a return in NHL 16.
Hockey Ultimate Team: Single Player Seasons
The most played mode in the NHL series gets even better. Improved player management and the introduction of HUT Single Player Seasons gives you another way to hone your skills before jumping online with HUT Online Seasons or challenging your friends with the Play a Friend feature.
Visual On-Ice Training
Whether you’re new to the NHL series and looking for pointers or are a grizzled veteran trying to perfect your game, this new training tool will help sharpen your offensive and defensive skills no matter your talent level. Visual aids project shooting targets, passing lanes, open teammates, and more.
Complete Control From Every Position
Whether you play as a forward, defenseman or goalie, NHL 16 delivers a balanced gameplay experience that makes every position on the ice meaningful to team success. With gameplay innovation on offense and defense, players have new tools to not only score goals, but to prevent them as well.
Precision Skating
Utilize a new skating tool that allows you to make refined movements with your skater in any situation. On defense quickly jump into passing lanes and intercept the puck, or walk the blueline on the power play and open yourself up for that one-timer in the offensive zone.

            Seamless Puck Pickups

The ability to quickly control a pass or corral a loose puck can be the difference between generating a scoring chance and getting leveled. New puck pickups result in smoother transitions when receiving the puck no matter what your position, giving you more time and control to make your next move.
Unrivaled Game Day Authenticity
NHL 16 brings the game to life with distinct arena atmospheres, the most realistic players yet, and a story-driven commentary package to pull you into the energy of the game like never before.
Distinct Team Arena Atmosphere
Best in class arena authenticity gets even better with the inclusion of authentic arena effects and props including team specific celebrations, mascots, chants, and even signature props like the Lighthouse at the Xcel Energy Center in Minnesota.
Story Driven Commentary
Doc Emrick, Eddie Olczyk, and Ray Ferraro are back and now call the game with even more emotion. Hear Doc’s voice rise and fall with the action on the ice and get analysis from Eddie & Ray on the peaks and valleys of a NHL season. An expanded NBC SPORTS broadcast package and new pre-game intros brings the drama to life in more ways than ever before.
Superstar Authenticity
Enhanced facial features and new equipment details synonymous with the league’s top players adds another layer of player authenticity. Use these new equipment elements to customize your own created character giving them a unique look, from custom stick tape, colored skate laces, tinted visors, and more.
Playoff Beards
One of the oldest and most iconic traditions in hockey has arrived. With accurate representations of beard patterns, length, thickness, and growth rates for individual players, the road to the Stanley Cup just got hairier."

So some “new” features and some new features. After the debacle that was the NHL 15 launch, it’s likely gamers will take a wait-and-see approach for NHL 16. When you’re asking consumers to shell out $60 for a game and it’s not a full version until a few months later, that hurts trust and fans will talk with their wallets.

Will you be buying NHL 16 on release day or wait for the reviews to come out about how the game plays?

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Sean Leahy is the associate editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Sean_Leahy

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Author: Sean Leahy
Posted: May 19, 2015, 4:18 pm

According to Ansar Khan, Mike Babcock is done speaking with other teams outside of the Detroit Red Wings, with whom he’ll have one final chat on Tuesday. 

"I learned a lot. I talked to lots of good people," Babcock told MLive.com. "I kept Kenny abreast the whole time. We'll talk one more time (Tuesday) and then I'll sit down with my family one more time (Tuesday) night and make a decision."

So he’s totally staying in Detroit, right?

A lot of people gleaned that when he and GM Ken Holland did a sitdown with TSN’s Darren Dreger from Prague, sporting very stylish flip-flops. Granted, they wouldn’t be the first celebrity couple to give an interview right before the divorce, but it didn’t have that vibe.

Instead, the vibe was that the Detroit Red Wings were the front-runner for his services. The vibe has been that the Buffalo Sabres are the only other viable suitor, with the Philadelphia Flyers having decided not to dabble in the dark arts of Babcock and hiring North Dakota’s Dave Hakstol instead.

The vibe has also been that the Toronto Maple Leafs are way down the list or out, as Elliotte Friedman said on Monday.

Bob McKenzie offered his latest thoughts on the Babcock Watch on TSN Radio on Tuesday morning, and sees the Leafs out and Detroit as the heavy favorite to retain their coach:

“I think all signs are pointing to that, but until such time that he makes the announcement you always allow for the possibility that something could come out of left field.

“He’s definitely not coming to Toronto.

"But I think the offer he got in Buffalo is intriguing, but I think he looks at the team realizes there’s still a lot of work to be done there. He wants to win now, he wants to compete for Cups, he’s going to have a better opportunity to do that in Detroit.

“He’s had conversations with St. Louis and San Jose. I don’t think the San Jose one was more a courtesy call on the part of the Sharks, and probably the same thing for Babcock. I don’t think they necessarily offered him the job.

“At this point, I think post people would be extremely surprised if he doesn’t come out and say he’s staying with the Red Wings.”

As McKenzie notes, the St. Louis Blues’ interest in Babcock is curious, given his relationship with coach Ken Hitchcock and the fact that, you know, Hitchcock is still technically the coach of the Blues and stuff.

So where does the coaching carousel stop?

How about this: Babcock stays in Detroit, Jeff Blashill leaves the AHL Griffins for the Leafs, Luke Richardson from the AHL Senators to the Sabres. All of this is assuming Claude Julien remains in Boston and they don’t do something stupid.

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Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: May 19, 2015, 2:52 pm

There was no shortage of coverage for the return of Ryan Kesler's team playing Jonathan Toews's team in the postseason, and what that meant for their personal rivalry. In short, these are two players who do not like each other. But beyond the war of words both through the media and on the ice, the Kesler/Toews matchup presents a series of rather interesting circumstances for all involved. 

One of the big things that was going to be most interesting for me in this series was seeing how Joel Quenneville and Bruce Boudreau matched lines against each other. These are two teams with high-quality first and second lines, and each has the ability to do significant damage to opponents.

Anaheim can roll Maroon/Getzlaf/Perry against anyone in the league and feel pretty good about its chances, and the Beleskey/Kesler/Silfverberg second unit has been paying dividends basically all postseason. Likewise, Chicago's Saad/Toews/Hossa and Bickell/Richards/Kane groups are dangerous at all times. So who was going to match up against whom?

In theory, the coaches — and really, in Games 1 and 2 it was and is Boudreau's call since he has last change — could have gone power-versus-power and let things happen between the Getzlaf and Toews lines, but given the latter's prowess in not only attacking well but defending exceptionally, this was probably not a viable option, regardless of how much the Ducks' top line has been scoring in these playoffs. It would have made sense for Kesler and Co. to take a run at the Kane line, though, given that the Kane line can score on anyone.

But fortunately for the Don Kings in the hockey universe, the acrimony of Kesler vs. Toews was allowed to reign supreme. Game 1 saw these two lines clash time and again, with Kesler playing about 11 of his 14 minutes against Chicago's top line. It did not go well for Toews (minus-4 shot attempts, and on the ice for a goal against at 5-on-5). Meanwhile, Boudreau did a good job of keeping Getzlaf and Perry away from anyone in particular, and while they didn't score — it happens to the best of 'em — they also didn't concede, and out-chanced the opponents. That's basically all you can ask.

Meanwhile, the job of defending Kane fell mostly to the very underrated checking line of Andrew Cogliano, Nate Thompson, and Kyle Palmieri, but with time against Anaheim's top line mixed in. Kane had a rougher night than Toews, at minus-6 corsi and minus-1 goal differential, but where he really got smoked was in shot quality. Of the 13 shots put on goal while Kane was on the ice in Game 1, only three were from Chicago sticks. Which is a problem, because if Kane's not shooting (and his one shot in the game indicates a problem there) then that's an issue.

So things certainly worked out for Boudreau in Game 1, not only because his team picked up a W getting scoring mostly from the third and fourth lines — a goalscorers' list from a Chicago/Anaheim game is, you'd think, typically unlikely to feature the names Lindholm, Palmieri, Richards, Thompson, and Silfverberg exclusively — but because his shrewd deployment paid off. But historically, that's probably something that should have been expected.

One of the things almost anyone has to do is accept that the Toews line is going to out-possess them more often than not, and probably outscore them as well. This hasn't been the case in Getzlaf's career because he has, to this point, shot nearly 16 percent at 5-on-5 with Toews on the ice; not something that's likely to be sustained, given we're talking about fewer than 120 minutes in their regular-season careers. So to “hide” Getzlaf's line, to the extent that your top line can be hidden, from Toews seems a judicious move. Especially because, if you can get him against the Kane line, he's likely to dominate. (These numbers only go back to 2007-08, the first year most sites began keeping possession stats.)

Now, we're talking about an even bigger shooting percentage for Getzlaf, but in their careers, Kane concedes a higher shooting percentage than Toews (as you might expect given their respective defensive acumen: it's 8.15 percent for Toews, and 8.7 percent for Kane). But it's hard to argue the goals against number dropping more than 18 percent. And given the decline in scoring numbers when they're facing the other matchups Chicago has to offer, going with this matchup route — Getzlaf vs. Kane/anyone but Toews — seems wise.

Put another way: Getzlaf outscores everyone on Chicago, but he outscores Kane and anyone but Jonathan Toews most of all.

This isn't true when it comes to possession, of course, but you have to keep in mind that Anaheim, up until this season, has always been a fairly poor possession team even with the strength of this top line. Getzlaf has always been outpossessed by Kane and Toews, and held a marginal edge over everyone else, but when the situations are reversed, and those two stars for Chicago go up against anyone on Anaheim, they dominate possession. You just have to accept that as course of fact in most cases, even if the Ducks have become a lot better in that regard this year.

So, okay, it falls to Kesler to cover Toews. Good for all involved from an entertainment standpoint, that's for sure. But is it smart for Boudreau to go with this matchup given that Kesler's team, historically, gets eliminated by Chicago, and Toews, historically, runs riot in those series? In short, while he is picking his poison, he's choosing the one that lasts longest so that he can potentially find an antidote.

The below graph shows Toews versus Kesler, Toews versus Kesler's team when Kesler isn't on the ice, and Toews versus everyone in his career:

Toews crushes everyone because he's Toews, but the possession disparity is so great in terms of the ability of Chicago's No. 1 to limit Kesler's teams' attack that having anyone but him on the ice kills you for 15 minutes a game or so. Attempting fewer than 43 shots per 60 minutes is, approximately, right between what Buffalo and New Jersey — the two worst shot-attempting teams in the league — did this year.

Kesler's teams always concede a ton of attempts to Toews, but at least they give themselves a fighting chance to score themselves when he's on. About 52.5 attempts per 60 is a little less than what Detroit did this season; not great, but certainly not horrific.

The reason it benefits Toews to play against Kesler is because he's still dominant, and he scores 3.87 goals per 60 with Kesler on the ice in the past several seasons. But it benefits Anaheim because things could actually be worse than that if the bounces went against them.

Meanwhile, Getzlaf's line benefits because it's away from Chicago's stars and those three guys more likely to outscore Chicago's third and fourth lines. And Kane benefits because the likelihood that Nate Thompson keeps a lid on him the whole series is basically nil. While we have very little statistical basis for saying that — they've only played about 18:30 against each other in their careers, including Game 1 — reason dictates that there isn't a third-line center, no matter how good at containment he is, who can put Kane in a sleeper hold for a whole series.

And of course, the people watching the games benefit because this still looks like it's going to be an amazing series.

Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.

Author: Ryan Lambert
Posted: May 19, 2015, 1:47 pm

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NEW YORK – Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Because if you've watched the Tampa Bay Lightning in the last two seasons, you’ve probably heard it every time Tyler Johnson does something amazing, which is quite often this season. 

Tyler Johnson, 24, was an undrafted rookie. Tyler Johnson is listed at 5-foot-8, which may have been a measurement taken while he was standing on a stack of media guides. His undrafted status and small stature and tenacious play is all reminiscent of another former Lightning star, winger Marty St. Louis of the New York Rangers, who skated with Johnson before his trade last season.

That’s the preamble for who Tyler Johnson has become in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs, which is the NHL’s leading goal-scorer with 11 tallies, the reverser of the Lightning’s bad fortunes and someone that’s greater than the sum of his well-worn narratives.

“Johnny’s his own player. I know the comparisons are going to be there [to St. Louis] – went undrafted …” said teammate Steven Stamkos, stopping the list before it starts.

“He plays center. He controls that line. He’s a big part of our team in all three zones. Fun to watch.”

Johnson’s line with Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov, known simply as “The Triplets,” have factored into five of the Bolts’ seven goals in the Eastern Conference Final, which Tampa Bay knotted up at 1-1 with the New York Rangers in a 6-2 rout on Monday night. Johnson had a hat trick in that game, the first postseason triple in Lightning history, to go along with his assist on Palat’s goal in their Game 1 loss.

“Any time you ask Johnny, he’ll say [his success] is the result of his linemates. Any time you ask his linemates, they’ll say it’s the result of Johnny,” said Stamkos. “That line has been huge for us all year. One of the best lines I’ve seen a long time to have that chemistry. Usually you see a lot of pairs. To have three guys to have that chemistry, that’s pretty special.”

It was the fourth multi-goal game of Johnson’s postseason, all of them coming when the Lightning were trailing in their series.

That clutch play speaks to a part of Johnson’s story that’s not as well known as his stature and draft status: His undeniable history of success.

“I've said this before: You walk into that kid's house and you look at the trophy mantle and all you see is trophies of where this kid has won,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “Memorial Cup, Calder Cup, World Juniors. Winning follows that kid. You're a special player for that to happen.

“Tyler Johnson is not the only one this happens to,” said Cooper. “But to do it in the greatest league in the world on the biggest stage, in the world's most famous arena, it's pretty impressive.”

Johnson’s first goal was the result of him pouncing on a turnover from St. Louis, sparking a shorthanded breakaway – on a 5-on-3 kill, no less – with Johnson leading Alex Killorn down the ice.

Johnson tried to be unselfish. His teammate urged him not to be.

“The entire way I kind of yelled ‘drop pass’ to Killorn, but he was yelling, ‘No, no, no!’ So I'm glad he was talking on it,” said Johnson. “Kind of got lucky, Lundqvist made a save, came back and I was able to get the rebound just enough.”

On the second goal, Johnson set up camp next to Lundqvist, snapping a shot past him on a 4-on-3 power play. He completed the trick with another strong drive to the net, converting a Palat shot into his third of the game (and a second video-reviewed goal of the night).

Then there was the game Johnson had away from the puck, including a sequence when he lost his stick, checked Rangers defenseman Marc Staal to take the puck and kicked it over to Stamkos for a scoring chance.

GIF: Johnson gets the pass to Stamkos despite not having his stick http://t.co/MRSNSzvtbz

— Stephanie Vail (@myregularface) May 19, 2015

“Those guys are resilient. They’re fast and skilled. They’re willing to go to the areas that not everyone is willing to go to,” said Stamkos of "The Triplets."

It’s not hard to draw a contrast between the way Johnson’s line played in Game 2 and the way the Rangers’ biggest names did not play in Game 2.

The Rangers’ top line of Rick Nash, Derick Brassard and Kevin Hayes didn’t generate a point in the game. Nash couldn’t convert on a partial breakaway and had just three shot attempts in 15:43. Listening to his coach after the loss, there might as well have been a flashing sign that screamed RICK NASH as he broke down who didn’t show up in vague terms.

“Their top players had a very strong game, and a couple of our best players didn’t have their best game tonight,” said Rangers coach Alain Vigneault. “He took his game to another level tonight.”

There’s been a lot of “next level” to Johnson’s game this season, which saw him tally 72 points in 77 games, and in the playoffs. The deeper he pushes into the postseason, the further back those clichés about his journey to the NHL are pushed into his rearview.

Like after Game 2, when he was asked how a diminutive player survives in the NHL. “I don't really think size really plays a big role,” Johnson said. “Everyone plays the game different regardless of how big you are, and you've just got to find what works for you.”

Like also after Game 2, when he was asked if his diminutive status plus his undrafted origins are fuel for his efforts. “I don't know if that's really driving me to be honest with you,” Johnson said.

“I think every morning I'm just happy to be here and I'm living my dream.”

Thanks to Johnson, the Lightning woke up in Game 2.

“He was big for us tonight. He led the way,” said Stamkos. 

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Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: May 19, 2015, 5:05 am

NEW YORK — Ryan McDonagh sat in his stall after Game 2 holding back plenty of anger. A Rangers team that had shown undisciplined discipline all season long allowed the Tampa Bay Lightning six power plays — three they scored on — and robbed themselves an opportunity grab a 2-0 series lead.

“It’s embarrassing,” McDonagh said. “ There are a lot of things you want to say right now but talking doesn’t do much. Our guys better figure it out quickly here and realize that stupid, sefish penalties are going to cost us against this team. They’ve got too much skill. Shooting ourselves in the foot from the very first few minutes there is not going to give us a chance to win.”

Tampa’s power play, which has captalized 11 times since the start of Round 2, made New York pay three times on six opportunities, and as the Rangers continued chasing the lead they found themselves on the penalty kill more often than not. They also couldn’t adjust to the Lightning’s much more confident approach compared to that of Saturday afternoon's performance.

“I think in Game 1 we participated in the hockey game,” said Tampa head coach Jon Cooper, “and in Game 2 we came to win a hockey game. That was the difference.”

The Rangers threw 37 shots at Ben Bishop and he stopped 35 of them, including several high-danger ones that could have turn the game in a different direction. Between the missed chances, the flow-killing penalties and the lack of production at even-strength, there wasn't a lot to like if you’re New York. Fortunately for them, the series is only tied 1-1.

“I don’t even know what to call this game,” McDonagh said. “I want to get rid of it, get the thought out of my head. I’ve never really seen this group do that before and play that way. We’ve got to find a way to just get back to playing the way we know we can.”

"You just have to wipe it clean," said Henrik Lundqvist, who's now allowed five or more goals against the Lightning three times this season. "It's one game. It's a tied series. We're going down to Tampa."

When the Rangers lost to Pittsburgh in Game 2 in Round 1, they rebounded with a - surprise! - 2-1 victory. After dropping Game 1 to Washington and then Games 3 and 4 to create a 3-1 series hole, they responded and took the next three, including a pair of 2-1 overtime wins.

There’s no panic in the New York locker room after Game 2, nor should there be just yet. Despite the ugliness of the game, head coach Alain Vigneault has seen this movie before. 

“[I’m] confident that we're going to respond the right way,” he said. “We always have.”

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Sean Leahy is the associate editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Sean_Leahy

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Author: Sean Leahy
Posted: May 19, 2015, 4:32 am

No. 1 Star: Tyler Johnson, Tampa Bay Lightning

The center tallied the first hat trick in franchise history, increasing his goal total to 11 for the playoffs in the Bolts’ 6-2 win over the New York Rangers. 

No. 2 Star: Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay Lightning

The blowout really got rolling in the third period; before that, it took a strong effort by Bish in the second period to maintain the lead. He finished with 35 saves.

No. 3 Star: Chris Kreider, New York Rangers

Kreider had a goal and an assist in a losing effort, that included a roughing penalty in the first period.

Honorable Mention: Alex Killorn had two goals and an assist for the Lightning. … Steven Stamkos has a goal and an assist. … Nikita Kucherov had three assists. … Derek Stepan had the Rangers’ other goal.   

Did You Know? The Rangers have split the first two games of a series in eight of their last 12 series.

Dishonorable Mention: Dan Boyle and Martin St. Louis both had two assists and were a minus-2. … The teams combined for 12 minor penalties, on which there were five power-play goals scored. … Rick Nash was scoreless with two shots on goal.

 

Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: May 19, 2015, 4:00 am

NEW YORK – The Tampa Bay Lightning emphatically thumped the New York Rangers in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Final, as a Tyler Johnson hat trick and four special teams goals fueled a 6-2 victory to even their series at 1-1. 

It was the first time in 14 postseason contests that the Rangers didn’t play a one-goal game. It was the first time goalie Henrik Lundqvist had given up four or more goals since Game 2 of their first-round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Overall, Lundqvist had given up two goals or fewer in 11 of 13 games, but the Lightning got through him in Game 2, thanks to a dynamic performance by the playoffs’ leading goal scorer.

Johnson was as good as it gets in a playoff performance for the Lightning, notching the first playoff hat trick in franchise history. He went to the net hard twice for goals and sniped another, getting three-fifths of the “Mario Lemieux Hat Trick” – scoring shorthanded, on the power play and at even strength. He also made tremendous little plays throughout the game, at one point hitting Marc Staal (who has about five inches on him) after losing his stick, and then kicking the puck to Steven Stamkos for an offensive chance.

It was a penalty-laden affair from the start, with seven minor penalties in the first period alone. (There were six minor penalties called during the entire 60 minutes of Game 1). The Lightning were 3-for-6 on the power play, while the Rangers were 2-for-5 with the man advantage.

The Rangers were on the power play when the Lightning took a 1-0 lead at 5:38 of the first period on a rarity: a shorthanded breakaway on a 5-on-3 penalty kill.

With Brian Boyle (holding) and Jason Garrison (delay of game) in the box, Dan Boyle hit Marty St. Louis in the high slot with a pass that would have left the Rangers winger wide open for a chance. Instead, he lost an edge and two Lightning forwards were off to the races: Johnson on the breakaway, with Alex Killorn trailing.

With St. Louis hustling back to defend, Johnson fired a shot on Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who made the save; but the puck rebounded to Johnson’s skate as he crashed the net. It crossed the goal line before a diving St. Louis knocked the net off its moorings, and the Lightning had their first lead of the series.

Video review overturned the ruling on the ice, which was no-goal initially.

It was short-lived, thanks to a power-play goal by Chris Kreider at 8:50 – assisted by Boyle and St. Louis, of course.

Boyle took a shot from the point which was saved by Ben Bishop. Defenseman Victor Hedman attempted to sweep the puck away, but Kreider instead tucked it past Bishop for his sixth of the season.

The Lightning took the lead again with another special teams goal, again from Johnson during a 4-on-3 power play.

Steven Stamkos fired a shot that was blocked by Dan Girardi, but it trickled back to the Lightning sniper. With Girardi and St. Louis attempting to clear the puck by any means necessary – this should not have been a two-man job – that left Tyler Johnson alone to Lundqvist’s right. He patiently snapped a high shot past him for the 2-1 lead at 11:15.

Johnson completed the hat trick at 8:17 of the second period. On a rush with linemates Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov, he crashed the net to tap in a bouncing puck off a Palat shot past Lundqvist. The play was reviewed; it was another good goal for Johnson, his 11th of the postseason.

The Rangers cut it to 3-2 on – wait for it – another penalty on the Lightning, as Cedric Paquette went off for interference.

Ben Bishop came out to challenge a Dan Boyle shot, but then lost the puck after making the save. It traveled to Derek Stepan behind the net, who banked it off Braydon Coburn as the defenseman was sliding into the net to cut the lead to 3-2. Victor Hedman saved a goal on a similar play moments later.

The Lightning added to their lead in the third period, just as yet another power play ended. Victor Hedman looked locked into firing a shot at Lundqvist, but instead found Killorn for a wide open net goal at 3:09. The Rangers’ Staal and Dan Girardi were in front of Lundqvist, neither of them picking up the Lightning forward as he curled around the net and set up on Lundqvist’s left. Hedman’s pass, with a Ranger sprawled in front of him, was perfection.

It was 5-2 after Steven Stamkos tipped home a puck past Lundqvist at 6:28. Spoiler warning: It was on yet another power play. Nikita Kucherov assisted on that goal and had three helpers for the game.

Killorn's second of the game at 17:58 iced it. Yes, it too was on the power play, as Tanner Glass was in the box for roughing. 

The Rangers still had the better of the puck possession for the game at 5-on-5, but Bishop was a good – if somewhat too adventurous at times – last line of defense, making 35 saves.

Boyle and St. Louis both had a pair of assists for New York, but also finished at a minus-2.

Game 3 is in Tampa Bay on Wednesday night.

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Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: May 19, 2015, 2:52 am

Hockey commentator Don Cherry is known for his rants against European hockey players. Some of which happen to play in a country called Russia, or in countries that used to be part of something called the Soviet Union.

Did he take this level of Xenophobia to a new level Monday on Coach’s Corner?

This is in response to the Russian hockey team’s decision to leave the ice and not listen to the Canadian national anthem after a 6-1 vanquishing by the Canadians in the ultra-(non) important World Championship gold medal game.

Via the Canadian Press: 

"No class, no honour, they left the national anthem," Cherry said on his Coach's Corner segment during the first intermission of Game 2 of the Eastern Conference final. "We were the ones that stayed there ... we stood while they won, and they walked off the ice. They've got no class whatsoever."

The Russians are facing international discipline for this event, where apparently NHL outcast Ilya Kovalchuk was supposedly the ringleader.

Of course, the one man who could sensibly talk about this event is the one they call ‘Grapes’ … and by sensibly we mean, do what he always does.

Look at his tie on close-up:

Photo via @heatherzeller

As they said in a major movie about bowling and other topics, “Sometimes, there's a man, well, he's the man for his time and place. He fits right in there.”

That man would be Cherry when it comes to these types of situations.

Would this be such a major deal if A. It was Sweden that left the ice? B. It was against anyone but Canada? C. If Sidney Crosby wasn’t playing for Canada?

What if Crosby was on Team Toews and beat Team Foligno in the 2015 NHL All-Star Game and Team Foligno left the ice before all sides could exchange postgame pleasantries? Oh wait …

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @joshuacooper

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Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: May 19, 2015, 2:47 am

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