No. 1 Star: Joel Ward, San Jose Sharks

The veteran forward scored the go-ahead goal for the Sharks and also had an assist in their 5-2 win over the Nashville Predators in Game 1 of their first-round series. Ward faked out Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne, then cut to his backhand and tucked the puck into the net for the go-ahead goal midway through the third period that made the game 2-1 in favor of San Jose. Ward’s line also drew the power play that led to the game-winner at the 15:40 mark of the third. In the regular season he’s averaged 0.44 points per-game. In the playoffs he’s averaged 0.72 points per-game. 

No. 2 Star: Radek Faksa, Dallas Stars

The rookie picked up his second game-winning goal of these playoffs with a score late in the third period to beat the St. Louis Blues 2-1 in Game 1 of the second-round. The youngster also added an assist. Faksa's line scored Dallas' two goals in the game. The Stars have won nine of their last 10 home games dating back to March 17.  

No. 3 Star: Kari Lehtonen, Dallas Stars

The netminder was steady and solid in Game 1, stopping 31 of 32 St. Louis shots on goal in the victory. Lehtonen showed no ill effects from his previous game when he allowed four goals as the Stars almost blew their Game 6 clincher against the Minnesota Wild in the first-round. In five games this postseason, Lehtonen’s had a 2.01 goal-against average and .925 save percentage. Antti Niemi has played the Stars’ other two games.

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Honorable Mention: Stars forward Antoine Roussel scored a goal. Teammate Ales Hemsky notched an assist as did defenseman John Klingberg … Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk scored a goal and played 22:46 … St. Louis goaltender Brian Elliott stopped 40 of 42 shots on goal in the loss … Sharks forward Logan Couture scored two goals including the game-winner … San Jose defenseman Brent Burns notched two assists. He is the first Sharks defensemen to post three straight multi-point efforts in the postseason … Sharks goaltender Martin Jones stopped 29 of 31 shots on goal. 

Did You Know? The Dallas Stars/Minnesota North Stars franchise is 24-9 against the St. Louis Blues at home in the playoffs.  

Dishonorable Mention: St. Louis sniper Vladimir Tarasenko played 21:04 but did not pick up a point. In his last four playoff games he has one point and is a minus-1 … Nashville center Mike Fisher was a minus-3 … Preds forward Mike Ribeiro was held without a point and has just one point in eight games this postseason. 

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Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: April 30, 2016, 6:41 am

San Jose Sharks forward Joel Ward has a longstanding reputation as a clutch playoff performer. Late in Game 1 of his team’s second-round series against the Nashville Predators he lived up to this status. Ward took over, scoring a goal and adding an assist to help the Sharks erase a one-goal third period deficit and win 5-2.

Ward gave San Jose the go-ahead goal with a beautiful breakaway move on Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne, faking out his former Nashville teammate then going to his backhand to tuck the puck behind Rinne at the 11:49 mark of the third.

Before that momentum-changing goal, Ward got the primary assist on Tomas Hertl’s power play goal at the 2:37 mark of the third to knot the game at 1-1.

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Later in the frame, Ward’s line kept the Predators in their zone and led to a high-stick by forward Calle Jarnkrok on Joonas Donskoi. 

On the ensuing power play Sharks forward Logan Couture deflected in a feed from Joe Pavelski for the game-winner at the 15:40 mark to put the game at 3-1 in favor of the Sharks. Predators center Ryan Johansen scored at the 18:11 mark to bring his team within one, but Couture fired an empty netter just 20 seconds later to ice the game.

The Predators took the lead after Mike Fisher scored a power play goal at the 4:33 mark of the second period, but from that point on it was all Sharks.

San Jose outshot Nashville 27-19 the final two periods and dominated puck possession after Fisher’s score. Their power play, which came into the game as one of the postseason’s best units, finished the contest 2-for-3.

San Jose signed the 35-year-old Ward to a three-year $9.825 million contract in the offseason to add some size and veteran playoff poise. Ward played three seasons with the Predators and in Nashville he started his playoff reputation with seven goals and 13 points in 12 games during the 2010-11 postseason. 

This postseason he has six points in six games. Game 2 is Sunday at SAP Center in San Jose. 

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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

 

 

Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: April 30, 2016, 5:53 am

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- After Friday afternoon's press conference, Anaheim Ducks general manager Bob Murray appeared to have more questions than answers. 

Not the least of those being who will coach the team next year after he relieved Bruce Boudreau of his head coaching duties in the morning.

There will be plenty of time to address the head coaching vacancy, as Murray said, "There’s a bunch of guys out there. This is a huge choice for us. We’re going to take our time; do all our homework."

Instead, we're going to focus the other point of contention Murray brought up often when speaking with the media - the players.

Murray did not hold back when it came to addressing his team's performance in the playoffs outside of what the coaching can impact: "I’d like to know where the heck they were in Games 1 and 2. The players are going to have to answer that in the next four or five days. Where were they? They showed up in Game 7, but where was that passion? That controlled emotion? Where the heck was that? They’re going to have to be held accountable, too."

It gets better.

Murray was asked pointedly about his two best players, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry's, performances in the past Games 6 and 7 over the last three years. (To describe them as 'absent' would be putting it mildly.) 

"There are definite concerns in that area," said Murray. "The core has to be held responsible. They have to be better. Maybe I haven’t been hard enough in the last few years, but they’re going to hear some different words this time."

Whatever those words are, they're probably NSFW.

'The core' Murray refers to is more or less the contracts he is going to have to live with because of the players' no-move and/or no-trade clauses. Leading the GM to quash the idea of moving Getzlaf and/or Perry right out the gate, "They’ve got no trade, no moves [contract clauses]. We have four players with that situation ... that’s one of those things I’ve said: long-term, no trade, no move [contracts] will get yourself in trouble."

Which is somewhat ironic considering he agreed to the four core contracts in question: Getzlaf, Perry, Kesler, and Kevin Bieska. (Andrew Cogliano and his limited no trade clause could be added to the list, too.)

According to Murray, he was keeping up with the market around the NHL, "It’s what we get forced into. If you follow, and to some degree that’s what happens, a couple big contracts get signed, that what you end up getting pushed into. They expect it, and we all are guilty of [providing] that, but sometimes you’re going to have to push back."

"We may have to adopt a little different philosophy on some of those things going forward, but [the players are] going to want [long-term deals with contract clauses] ... I think I’m at the point where that’s enough of some of those things."

"I can say that now it’s going to be difficult. Some of my younger players are not going to want to hear that," said Murray. "It ends up being not good for the player and the team at some point. I’m not talking about us right now, but when you look at what’s happened in other places, where players get to this point, at certain points, it doesn’t work out good for anybody."

Those young players likely include a bevy of key restricted free agents: Rickard Rakell, Hampus Lindholm, Sami Vatanen, and Frederik Andersen. All of whom played integral roles on Anaheim's second half success. Also on the RFA short list are Brandon Pirri and prospect Stefan Noesen (acquired in the Bobby Ryan trade). 

It appears as if the RFAs will be guiding the general manager's decisions this offseason: "We’ve got a sort of strategy here going about the contracts. Our RFAs ... they’re all important."

"We’re going to attempt to answer a few questions right away," said Murray. "It’s never easy because [the player are] never in a hurry to do things, but we’ve got to find out what some people are thinking as far as dollar wise. That will dictate which directions we go."

The goal appears to be to sign all the RFAs they can, but that won't be easy and could lead to more personnel turnover.

"To change some things, some people are going to get moved," said Murray, ripping the band-aid off right away. "You’re going to have to change money around, it what you’re going to do."

"My budget is my budget. As I’ve said before, I have no problem with that. Our revenues were up a little bit this year, so I get a little bit more. That’s a good thing. I don’t think the [salary] cap is going to move [much], which could be very favorable to us, except we’ve got a bunch of guys to sign. It’s going to take a lot of work and decisions on who to keep and who not to keep."

Anaheim's budget tends to be between $8-10 million under the salary cap ceiling. An incremental increase puts pressure on big spenders who might have to let go of assets the Ducks can capitalize on during free agency (for the right price). There is no indication ownership is going to open up the money bags to allow the Ducks to spend to the cap.

Instead, Murray has to look at preserving players that his organization has invested time and money into, and most importantly, see a role in the organization's future. Anyone else outside of that plan is fair game.

"The asset management of our players going forward is everything," Murray said.

"We have to prioritize as a group. It's all I’ve had on my mind since we got beat ... We haven't sat down [as a group]. I have in my mind what I think should happen, but I’ve got people that work for me that are going to want to voice their opinion."

Aside from the RFAs, the team appears to be on the search again for a top line left-winger - at a reasonable price - to play alongside Getzlaf and Perry. Murray laughed as the question was posed to him, "I answer this question every year."

He's not kidding. Ever since the trade of Bobby Ryan to Ottawa, Getzlaf and Perry have cycled through an entire team's worth of forwards attempting to find the right fit.

"So, yeah, a left hand shot, considering our team. It’s amazing. You’re always trying to find a right handed defenseman, and now I’m looking for a left hand shot. That’s kind of different."

Although, the scoring problem is not limited to the pairing of the high paid stars. "We didn’t get enough secondary scoring when we needed it," said Murray.

"We’ve basically got three second [lines] right now. I do not mind playing with three second [lines], if I could get them. For a while it looked like we had it, but it wasn’t there when it counted."

One of the key pieces in that secondary scoring puzzle is Rakell; who was mentioned frequently by Murray as one of the solutions to the scoring crisis. The soon-to-be 23-year-old center/winger and restricted free agent, was fourth on the team in scoring in the regular season with a career high 43 points (20G, 23A).

He was flying until about two weeks before the season ended when his appendix ruptured. Murray acknowledged the loss of a healthy Rakell hurt the team "big time," and the player "never got back to himself" when he returned to the lineup during the playoffs, earning only 2 points in 7 games.

Without saying it outright, Rakell is probably the No. 1 RFA target of the Ducks to get signed early.

Another area of strength appears to be the young defensive corps. "I thought our defense, for a young defense - [Josh] Manson’s injury obviously hurt us big time - did well," said Murray. For the first time since the Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger days, Anaheim was a strong puck possession team.

Bieksa is lumped in with the "core" group of players due to the inescapability of his contract; however, looking at the big picture, the true core of the defense is Cam Fowler. The 24-year-old is signed with the team through the 2017-18 season, and has no restrictive clauses on his contract.

Another player who appeared to join Fowler as a part of the defensive core structure was Simon Despres. He earned himself a five year, $18.5 million extension (with no clauses) set to kick in next season. However, Despres took several hits to the head during the season that caused him to miss a significant amount of time. He never returned to the form of the player that earned that contract.

Murray acknowledged as much and is concerned for his future, "... medical [examinations] are tomorrow. [Despres is] one of the ones I’m going to make sure he hangs around a bit and sees the right people. He got too many shots to the head that were - you saw some of them..." The GM shuddered and shook his head.

As stated earlier, Murray wants sign all RFAs which include two integral defensemen: 22-year-old Hampus Lindholm and 24-year-old Sami Vatanen. The thought of acquiring the rights either defenseman is enough to make other GMs salivate. 

The other looming player question for Murray comes in net.

When questioned why John Gibson was not sent down to play for the San Diego Gulls in their quest for the Calder Cup, it appeared to be a management oversight: "That was one where the trade deadline, we had to do the down and up [to ensure players could play on playoff rosters]. We made a decision, and this, right now, looks like it was another one we should have thought of."

Gibson was awarded a three year contract extension ($2.3-million AAV) set to kick in next year. He struggled in Games 1 and 2 against the Nashville Predators before getting the hook in favor of soon-to-be RFA Frederik Andersen.

The two worked well as a tandem in the Ducks post-Christmas emergence. A tandem is certainly something Murray is willing to consider, "[Assistant GM] David McNabb and I discussed that yesterday before we went in our meeting with the ownership; could we possibly work out those numbers? We’re going to see."

"The opposite side to that question is: do they want that? I mean, they’re No. 1 goalies. Any good No. 1 goalie I’ve known in my life wants the bloody net. So, do they want that? That’s an issue. But, they’re a pretty good team. It would be nice, but we’ll see."

From what Murray said earlier, it's highly doubtful he'll keep both goalies as all costs, vis a vis the Dallas Stars pricey goaltending model.

One thing Murray kept reminding reporters of is the possibility of an expansion draft next summer. He said repeatedly he doesn't know all the rules (which there aren't any official rules yet), but he has to factor that into his decisions. Reminding us also that there is no official announcement on expansion, as well.

There are a few things we know for sure ahead of player exit interviews on Saturday.

First, Murray is fine with Getzlaf keeping the captain's "C," at least, for now.

"I think he’s doing as best he can in that role. I think there’s a lot of things in that room he has to deal with," said Murray. "I think there are some different personalities in that room, and I’m not to the point of doing anything crazy in that direction."

"But when new coaches come in you have to have discussions with them about what they want to do and what they see in the room, so that discussion will happen."

Second, the GM spoke with the press at the Christmas break when the Ducks were in their major swoon, and just ripped the players for their lack of preparation for the season (i.e. out of shape in camp).

When asked if that was a concern for this upcoming year he said, "Don’t worry about that ... I already met with my strength and conditioning guy. Our guys did not prepare very well from last year to this year and the best teams always do."

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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.

Author: Jen Neale
Posted: April 30, 2016, 3:51 am

The Dallas Stars imposed their speed game on the St. Louis Blues in Game 1, outskating their opponent and peppering goaltender Brian Elliott en-route to a 2-1 victory. 

The Stars (a group that finished the regular season with the best offense in the NHL) started the game hot and continued to pour it on, outshooting the Blues 14-6 in the first period and then 17-11 in the second period. Overall Dallas outshot the Blues 42-32. 

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Blues goaltender Brian Elliott kept St. Louis steady, stopping 40 of 42 shots on goal, but ultimately couldn’t keep the powerful Dallas attack from grabbing a 1-0 series lead. Game 2 is Sunday at American Airlines Center in Dallas. 

“Well, look, they are the number one scoring team in the league for a reason," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "They have great speed, but we don’t have to feed it all the time. And that is what we did too much today. Fed them way too much.”

At the 15:16 mark of the third period, Stars forward Radek Faksa converted in front of Elliott for the game-winning goal. This gave Dallas back some momentum after the Blues gained some advantage after the Blues grabbed some following their tying goal.

"It’s the first game; it’s very important for us. You want a good start," Faksa said. "We had a good back check and didn’t give up many chances to them. I think it was a great start for us.”

 

At the 11:32 mark of the third St. Louis defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk rifled a shot over Kari Lehtonen to tie the game at 1-1. The Blues then put together a push with opportunities by defenseman Colton Parayko and forwards Steve Ott and Scottie Upshall but all couldn’t convert.

 

Antoine Roussel started the scoring midway through the second period for the Stars when he put a puck past Elliott off a scrum to make it 1-0.

After ice-time squabbles in the first-round between St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock and sniper Vladimir Tarasenko, the coach played the forward 21:04 in Game 1. Tarasenko, who scored 40 goals during the regular season, didn't xcore and fired three shots on goal. 

“Obviously he’s one guy that we’ve got the radar on.  We know when he’s out there and we want to make sure we don’t give him much ice," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. "I thought, for the most part, we didn’t make any big mistakes that allowed any big rush plays when he was out there.  We closed fast on him inside the zone.  We went after him physically and he’s a tough, tough guy to knock off his feet but I thought we played him as hard as we could when it came to the physical front.”

The Stars were again without center Tyler Seguin, who will miss at least the first two games of this series with an Achilles injury. Seguin has only played one game this postseason because of the issue. 

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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

Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: April 30, 2016, 3:27 am

Is someone’s trying to jinx the San Jose Sharks before their second-round playoff series against the Nashville Predators?

During warmups in advance Game 1 at SAP Center, a black cat ran off the Sharks bench, onto the ice, and then through a doorway off the ice. It’s unclear how the cat even got near the bench area to begin with. 

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Cats interrupting sporting events actually aren’t a rare occurrence. In fact, the website The Catington Post points out the “long history” of such moments when cats are involved in sports. Though the story also notes that cats entering sporting events aren’t necessarily bad luck for the home team. 

Read here why black cats are considered bad luck.

The Sharks are considered the favorite in this series against the Predators as well as one of the most impressive playoff teams so far in 2016.

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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

Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: April 30, 2016, 2:50 am

The NHL announced Friday that Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings, Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators and Brent Burns of the San Jose Sharks are finalists for the Norris Trophy, given annually to “the defenseman who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position.” 

The Professional Hockey Writers’ Association votes for the award.

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So which one of these guys will win the Norris?

Why Drew Doughty Deserves The Norris

From the NHL: 

Doughty appeared in all 82 games for the second consecutive season and was third in the League in average ice time (28:01), helping the Kings to a third consecutive top-five finish in team defense (third, 2.34 GA/GP). He registered his highest goals and points totals since 2009-10 (14-37--51), posted a career-best +24 rating and topped the NHL in several enhanced statistics categories, including the team puck possession metric SAT (shot attempts differential) – the Kings recorded 537 more shot attempts than they allowed with him on the ice at 5-on-5. Doughty is a Norris Trophy finalist for the second straight season and third time overall, placing third in 2009-10 and second in 2014-15.

Doughty was an all-situation matchup defenseman for the Kings this season. Los Angeles Coach Darryl Sutter used him almost equally on the power play (3:03 of ice-time per-game) and the penalty kill (2:56 of ice-time per-game). Doughty also led the NHL in shifts per-game at 33.3, two more than Minnesota’s minute-cruncher Ryan Suter.

Doughty was the least-impressive offensively of the finalists, but this mostly had to do with how Sutter employed him as well as the Kings’ bruising defense-first style. Los Angeles finished with the third-best defense in the NHL and Doughty was on ice for more than half of the Kings’ games.

Why Erik Karlsson Deserves The Norris

From the NHL:

Karlsson set single-season franchise records for assists and points by a defenseman (16-66—82), leading the NHL in assists and topping all defensemen in points for the third consecutive season and fourth time in the past five campaigns. He appeared in all 82 games for the third straight season and led the NHL in total time on ice (2,375:55), even-strength time on ice (1,885:26) and average time on ice (28:58), all career-high figures. Karlsson is vying for his second consecutive and third career Norris Trophy, having won the competition in both prior years as a finalist (2012, 2015). 

The Senators were a far superior team with Karlsson on the ice. According to War on Ice, his CF% Rel 5-on-5 was a plus-7.22. He was the only one of Ottawa’s blueliners in positive territory in this statistic.

He became the first defenseman since Nicklas Lidstrom in 2005-06 to record 80-or-more points in a season. The last blueliner to hit that mark before Lidstrom was Brian Leetch in 1995-96. Karlsson’s Senators did not make the playoffs, which was a mark against Doughty last season when he finished second in Norris voting, but had the most first-place votes. 

The knock on Karlsson is that he’s not as defensively strong as Doughty, but he's always proved the best offense is a good defense by keeping the puck away from the opposition.

Why Brent Burns Deserves The Norris

The NHL says:

Burns set several Sharks records for defensemen this season, including those for most goals (27), assists (48) and points (75). He also set an overall team mark for most shots on goal (353). The first-time Norris Trophy finalist ranked near the top of the League in several categories, including shots (second), goals by a defenseman (first), points by a defenseman (second) and assists by a defenseman (T-third). Burns appeared in all 82 games for a second consecutive season and logged a team-leading and career-high 25:51 in ice time per game (fourth in NHL), helping the Sharks jump from 24th in team defense last season to 11th in 2015-16. 

Burns was almost as dynamic as Karlsson offensively with 75 points and 27 goals. His 25:51 of ice-time was less than the two Norris front-runners, but Sharks coach Peter DeBoer didn’t need to use Burns as much since his team had more defense depth than the Kings and the Senators.

Burns averaged 4:05 of power play ice-time, and 2:08 of ice-time per-game shorthanded and excelled in both spots. His 30 power play points were the most amongst defenseman, and he was one of 18 defensemen with at least one shorthanded goal.  

Who Wins The Norris? 

Karlsson. His offensive numbers were overwhelming to voters. With both Burns and Doughty probably splitting some of the Western Conference vote (voters out West also saw a lot of Roman Josi, Suter and Shea Weber) it seems like Karlsson had the easiest path to winning the award. Plus, he’s won it twice before beating Weber in 2012 when Karlsson was considered an underdog, and last year when Doughty had more first-place votes. Karlsson seems to find a way to get the most votes in his Norris worthy campaigns.

Who Should Win The Norris?

Really, it’s a two-horse race between Doughty and Karlsson. Coaches and other old school hockey insider types lean towards Doughty. Advanced stats champions love Karlsson. Burns plays a similar style to Karlsson but has more size. Still, he’s considered a distant third despite his big goal total this year.

Who you think should win the award just depends on how you view the game. Karlsson vs. Doughty is the new Paul Coffey vs. Ray Bourque.

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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

 

 

Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: April 30, 2016, 12:42 am

(Ed. Note: Welcome to Round 2 coverage of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs, where we flip the format and get right to the point with 11 keys to each series. Enjoy!)

The San Jose Sharks (46-30-6, 98 points) calmly eliminated the Los Angeles Kings in five games, ousting their arch rivals. The Nashville Predators (41-27-14, 96 points) rallied to eliminate the Anaheim Ducks in seven games, costing Bruce Boudreau his job.

The Sharks and Predators met in the first-round in 2006 and 2007, with the Sharks winning both series in five games. Not to say that was a while ago, but Paul Kariya was the leading scorer for the Preds.

They meet again in the Western Conference Pacific Division Final, despite the Predators playing in the Central. Such is playoffs.

Here are 11 keys to victory for the Sharks and Predators.

1. The Top Line 

Arguably the best line in the playoffs thus far was the freight train of Joe Thornton (1 goal, 2 assists), Joe Pavelski (5 goals) and Tomas Hertl (1 goal, 1 assist). Together, they scored seven of the team’s 16 goals overall against the Kings, and five of their 10 even strength goals.

They were also the only three Sharks forwards to out-possess the Kings in 5v5 score-adjusted Corsi, which is seriously impressive against the best possession team in the NHL.

They’ll see copious amounts of Shea Weber and Roman Josi. Speaking of which …

2. Josi and Weber

Josi skated 27:16 and Weber skated 26:36 per game, scoring two goals and notching three assists. More importantly, they limited Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf to a lone assist in the final two games of their first-round series win. They're as good a defensive pair as you’ll find, on one of the league’s deepest blue lines.

Oh, and the goalie’s not bad, either.

Los Angeles Kings center Vincent Lecavalier, below, tries to score on San Jose Sharks goalie Martin Jones during the first period of Game 5 in an NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs first-round series, Friday, April 22, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

3. Rinne vs. Jones

Rinne’s .921 EV save percentage isn’t spectacular, but that’s a byproduct of giving up eight goals in Games 4 and 5. Otherwise, he was strong in the first two road wins in the series and 62 of 64 shots in their two straight wins to close out the Ducks.

Martin Jones goes outplayed his mentor Jonathan Quick in the first round, posting a .927 EV save percentage. The Sharks did solid work in front of him, limiting the Kings to 26.6 shots per game, but Jones was up to the task. Still, he was 0-2-0 with a 3.27 GAA and .868 save percentage against the Preds this season.

Still, Rinne’s one of the few goalies in this postseason that can just decide you’re not getting one by him that night. The Preds could use one or two of those.

4. Predators Power Play

The Predators had 26 power plays against the Anaheim Ducks and scored once. Now, the Ducks had the best penalty kill in the NHL this season, so there’s that. And the Sharks gave up three goals on 14 power plays against the Kings and had the 21st best kill in the regular season.

Nashville had the No. 10 power play in the NHL during the regular season (19.7 percent). Let’s see if the their struggles in the first round were a result of the Ducks' kill or a postseason slump.

5. Rest vs. Right Back At It

The Sharks haven’t played since last Friday. The Predators eliminated the Ducks on Wednesday.

While the week off will ultimately benefit a veteran team, this kind of layoff can take the edge off early in a series – ask the Lightning about their stink-bomb in Game 1 against the New York Islanders.

And as the Predators have shown, give them an inch in a road game and they’ll take a mile.

Nashville Predators center Colin Wilson (33) shoots the puck past Anaheim Ducks goalie Frederik Andersen (31) for a goal in the first period in game seven of the first round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

6. Colin Wilson

If you’re looking for postseason difference makers for Nashville, look no further.

He had two goals and three assists in the series, tied with Weber with five points for tops among skaters. This was after a five-goal performance in six games against the Chicago Blackhawks last season.

“He was probably our best player in the playoffs (last year) and he’s started off basically where he left off last year. He’s going to be really interesting to follow during these playoffs,” said Filip Forsberg.

7. The Middle

The Predators made their big move for Ryan Johansen this season out of necessity. The center spot is critical when matchup up against the West’s elite teams.

That said, the Sharks hydra of Thornton, Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau up the gut is something few teams can match, and certainly not the Predators. Johansen has one goal in seven games, but has 13 points in 14 career games against the Sharks. Mike Ribeiro and Mike Fisher have one assist each.

Advantage, Sharks.

8. The Poise

The Predators were able to pounce on the Ducks in Games 6 and 7 because it was a tension convention for their opponents, as is the case with a Bruce Boudreau playoff team.

That used to be the Sharks, of course. But they passed more than a few tests against the Kings, showing that – perhaps – Peter DeBoer’s squad won’t allow the ghosts of playoffs’ passed to haunt them.

9. Brent Burns

The bearded freak led the Sharks in scoring with two goals and six assists against the Kings, outplaying Drew Doughty and generally being outstanding. He’s a complete defenseman after years of that “forward playing ‘D’” criticism, and “dominant” best describes how he’s been this season.

10. DeBoer vs. Laviolette

Enough hasn’t been said about the performances DeBoer has coaxed out of a veteran team. He’s had the right temperament, shown the right deference and has hit a sweet spot between accountability and being a players’ coach.

Laviolette is now 5-1 in Game 7s, and once again showed his talent for understanding what pieces to move around to get the most out his lineup.

Solid coaching battle here, with two guys that can, on occasion, bring a little snark to their media comments.

11. Prediction

Sharks in five. The layoff doesn’t hurt them, the top line and Burns dominate and the bruises the Preds took in a physical series against the Ducks are apparent.

--

Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: April 29, 2016, 9:44 pm

(Ed. Note: Welcome to Round 2 coverage of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs, where we flip the format and get right to the point with 11 keys to each series. Enjoy!) 

1. Tyler Seguin’s presence 

After missing a month with a sliced Achilles, Seguin returned for Game 2 against the Minnesota Wild before irritating something related his to injury. He hasn’t played since and it’s unknown when he’ll begin skating again. Should he return at some point during this series, will Lindy Ruff shelter him? How cautious will he be with Seguin’s minutes? GM Jim Nill said Seguin would need at least four or five days on the ice before returning to game action.

2. Vladimir Tarasenko’s ice time

The Russian sniper’s ice time in the final two games of Round 1 became an issue because the Blues were losing. Everyone seemed to forget that in Games 2-4 Tarasenko played 16:05, 16:33 and 15:14, respectively, which was down from the 18:38 he averaged during the regular season.

Of course you want your most dangerous offensive weapon out there when you need a goal. This, Hitchcock understands, as he explained the ice time drop was a situational thing. Considering who they're up against, Tarasenko probably won't be waiting too long to get the shoulder tap telling him it's time to hop over the boards.

3. Fight the power (play)

Both the Blues and Stars feature lethal power play units, ranking third (St. Louis, 27.8 percent) and fifth (Dallas, 21.1 percent) of the eight second-round teams. That’s a biggie considering both penalty kills weren’t great in Round 1. The Blues allowed six goals on 19 opportunities (68.4 percent), while the Stars gave up four on 16 chances (75 percent). St. Louis took the fourth-most minors last round (27). Dallas was a bit more disciplined taking only 17 minors. Special teams are vital to survive this time of year.

4. Contain the top lines

Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz and Jori Lehtera combined for 17 points in their seven-game series against the Chicago Blackhawks. They also recorded a quarter (52) of St. Louis’ total shots (205). Meanwhile, Jamie Benn, Cody Eakin and Patrick Sharp posted nine goals and 18 points in Round 1. Those six carried a big offensive load. Can their secondary scorers continue to contribute?

5. Kari Lehtonen or Antti Niemi… or both?

Antti Niemi began Round 1 on the bench and was given an opportunity in Games 4 and 5. He allowed seven goals in those two starts, winning one and losing one while posting an ugly .857 ESSV. Lehtonen finished the job with a .942 ESSV and will start the Blues series as Ruff’s No. 1. The pair split the workload during the regular season, but for now it looks like it's Lehtonen's job to lose... again.

6. Hold on to your lead

Both the Blues and Stars had some issues holding multi-goal leads in Round 1.. With each team entering the second round following strong offensively performances (Nos.1 and 2 in EV GF), getting a lead will mean withstanding a ton of pressure just to hold that lead. 

7. Coaching

Lindy Ruff vs. Ken Hitchcock. A rematch of the 1999 Stanley Cup Final which ended in controversial fashion and 2006 when their two sides met in the opening round. Combined the pair have 37 seasons of NHL coaching experience under their belts and 249 playoff games on their resumes. Old pals, there's not much unknown between the two, so this will be a series of finding new ways to gain an edge on the other.

Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images
8. Shot suppression

For all the talk this season about the Stars’ defense, they did a solid job limiting the Wild on the shot counter. Among all Round 1 teams Dallas posted a 45.3 Corsi Against/60 at even strength, best of the 16 teams that made the playoffs, according to War on Ice. St. Louis was among the highest with a 56.6 CA/60. The Blues averaged 29.3 shots per game against Chicago, and with a much dangerous arsenal than Minnesota presented, the Stars will have their hands full.

9. Slowing Jamie Benn

The Stars captain bookended Round 1 with three-point nights in Games 1 and 6, both Dallas victories. He had points in all six games and finished with four goals and 10 points. If John Tavares was the engine behind the New York Islanders in the first round, then Benn was just that for the Stars with a little help from Jason Spezza (four goals, nine points). He showed that even without Seguin he can carry Dallas forward. Will St. Louis have an answer for him?

10. Keeping possession

St. Louis (52.7 percent) and Dallas (52.6 percent) were sixth and seventh in score-adjusted Fenwick during the regular season. Those are strong possession numbers that help indicate future success. Those numbers changed, however, in Round 1 with the Stars (55.3 percent) improving and the Blues (46.2 percent) taking a dive.

St. Louis' dip may have had to do with Hitchcock's desire to get up to 70 hits a game against the Blackhawks, which is fine if you want to be chasing the puck for an entire game. Physicality is important, but the Blues know you don't want to be allowing an offense like the Stars to own the puck for extended periods of time.

11. Blues in 7

All four of these second-round match-ups are pretty much toss-ups. The Blues had to shut down a strong offense in Round 1 and now have to do the same against the best in the league during the regular season (265 goals). While the Blackhawks took advantage of their power play chances, Brian Elliott held them at even-strength, posting a .950 save percentage. Goaltending may very well be the difference in this series as these teams are closely matched. 

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Author: Sean Leahy
Posted: April 29, 2016, 8:36 pm

ANAHEIM, Calif. – Anaheim Ducks general manager Bob Murray didn’t see the right type of attitude from his players in their four-straight Game 7 losses at home. 

Instead of coming out to start the games and showing a level of aggression, they came out of the locker room and didn’t quite have the same attacking nature as their opponent.

On Wednesday, the Ducks lost another Game 7 – this one to the underdog Nashville Predators by the score of 2-1. It was also the fourth straight time they had allowed the first goal in a Game 7.

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“It was almost the mentality was that they weren’t going out to win, they were going out not to lose. And you can’t play hockey that way,” Murray said. “You cannot. That’s just the group and it was very disturbing to watch.”

Murray addressed the decision to fire Boudreau, who was behind the bench from all Game 7 losses said he didn’t believe he could go into another season, and perhaps another postseason, with the same personality at head coach.

“Bottom line for myself and my bosses, I did not feel going forward and making the playoffs again it would be a good situation,” Murray said. “I think the last four years and the way they ended have all been very similar.”

In his career, Boudreau went 1-7 in Game 7s between stints with the Ducks and the Washington Capitals. In Anaheim, he won the Pacific Division in his four full years. He went 208-104-40 with the Ducks after the organization hired him following Randy Carlyle’s dismissal.

Added Murray about Boudreau and his Game 7 problems, "I think as it goes on it gets tougher and tougher on him and it gets, especially with me and the same group whatever of that core group that’s here – you cannot change a whole hockey team. It’s going to be most of the same people, and that becomes difficult. My experiences when you change and go from one to the other you’re better the next time, and I’m sure he’ll be better the next time."

In the past, Boudreau had taken the brunt of the blame for Game 7 failures, but this year there were questions about whether it was more about the team’s core. Corey Perry went without a goal last series and captain Ryan Getzlaf took a bad tripping penalty near the end of the game that killed Ducks  momentum as they tried to claw back into it.

Murray said he believed in the core, but also noted that he needed to be harder on them as well.

“Well, there is definitely concerns in that area, and I think, the core has to be held responsible,” Murray said. “They have to be ready. Maybe I haven’t been hard enough on them the last few years. They’re going to hear some different words this time.”

Still he said the core was an important element of the team’s success this year. Anaheim started the season 1-7-2 then rebounded to have the best second half of any team in the NHL on their way to winning the Pacific Division.

“We’ve got some very good core players or they wouldn’t have turned it around when all was lost for a while there,” Murrsay said. “You don’t do what that group did unless you have some talent.”

He also took some of the blame, himself. 

"It’s on all of us. I’m not pointing a gun," Murray said. "There are lots of people involved in this not going well. We’re all held accountable."

Boudreau was informed Friday morning of the decision, and when asked how the ultra-emotional coach took it, Murray said, “Bruce is a hockey guy … he knew. He’s a hockey guy.”

As for Anaheim’s next coach, Murray didn’t tip his hand, though he spoke glowingly about Tampa Bay Lightning Jon Cooper maybe as a template for his next bench boss. 

“There’s a whole bunch of different types of coaches. We have to meet, my hockey people and I and decide what we need going forward,” Murray said. “This was about, I couldn’t see this going forward this way.” 

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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

Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: April 29, 2016, 8:12 pm

From the start of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Western Conference has been wide open.

Overall, it was conceivable that any team could make a run. Even the heavily favored Dallas Stars dropped two games to the Minnesota Wild and pulled out a hotly-contested Game 6 win to finally take the series.

In today’s parity-driven NHL, teams win games by the slimmest of margins in the playoffs and it’s not surprising if a lower-seeded team makes a deep run in the playoffs.

Going into the postseason in the West, the Los Angeles Kings, Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks were considered the three favorites. The Blackhawks and Kings had alternated Stanley Cups since 2012 and the Ducks made the Western Conference Final last season. 

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All three were eliminated, which means it’s time to re-examine the group of teams competing to make the Stanley Cup Final out of the West. The Stars, San Jose Sharks, St. Louis Blues and Nashville Predators all remain. But out of the four only one played airtight hockey through the first-round and looked primed to erase past disappointments and finally make a run to the Stanley Cup Final.

That team was the Sharks, a group that will draw the Predators in the second-round.

Here are five reasons why the Sharks are now the team to beat in the Western Conference along with the take of an NHL pro scout.

1. Joe Thornton

The Sharks have arguably the best center left in the West in Joe Thornton. He only had three points in five games against the Kings, but that’s a shallow way of looking at his production. His CF% rel was a plus-6.07 in that series, just behind linemate Tomas Hertl for tops amongst Sharks forwards. War on Ice points out that Thornton has been a positive puck possession player relative to the rest of his Sharks teammates every postseason, with the exception of 2009-10 where he was a minus-5.1.

His game doesn’t just involve offense. He’s also turned into a strong defensive player 5-on-5 and won the head-to-head match-up with Kings do-it-all center Anze Kopitar last series. Only Stars winger Jamie Benn has rivaled Thornton’s all-around brilliance, but wings don’t touch all parts of the game like centers. Strong two-way middlemen tend to turn the tide in a playoff series, and Thornton’s the best remaining in the West.

Scout’s take: “He’s a big body with small man hands. He has a great hockey IQ. He’s playing both ways and not to say he didn’t before. At times there were questions about his willingness or desire to play a full North/South game.”

“From what I’ve seen so far, he’s just a big, physical hockey player that has good IQ, good skills, can make plays and plays all situations. It seems like right now after one round he’s a very motivated player to try to take this team as far as he can in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.”

FILE - In this March 24, 2016, file photo, San Jose Sharks' Joe Thornton (19) sakes during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Edmonton Oilers in San Jose, Calif. Thornton has had a career renaissance at age 36 to help lead San Jose back to the playoffs. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

2. Powerful power play

San Jose’s power play tipped the series for them against the Kings and was potent enough to overcome LA’s 5-on-5 advantage. Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Brent Burns, Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski have each been All-Stars at some point in their careers, and all blend together perfectly on the first power play grouping. Pavelski and Burns have two of the best one-timers in hockey and Thornton is one of the top passers in NHL history.

All five can enter the zone, set up and zip the puck around before they find an opening on the goaltender. Few teams left have that type of luxury. The Sharks finished the first-round of the playoffs hitting at 23.8 percent with the man-advantage. In Game 4 they went 3-for-4 on the power play, which set up their Game 5 series clinching win.

Scout’s take: It’s tough to score goals in the regular season, it’s even tougher to score goals in the playoffs, especially as you move on. When you have an opportunity on the power play, that’s very key for any team. If you can get one per-game and you’re getting two, three, four chances per-game and you get one and you stop the other team with your penalty kill, that’s a huge swing and advantage as a team.

3. All the right moves

After San Jose eliminated the Kings, Sharks coach Peter DeBoer pointed out how prior San Jose teams that flamed out in the playoffs didn’t have the same type of depth as this group. Because of Doug Wilson’s offseason signings and mid-season trades, the Sharks are one of the few teams left in the playoffs that can roll four lines with ease.

San Jose’s trios are also varied enough to play different types of games. Thornton’s grouping has speed with Pavelski, and a grind factor with Thornton and Tomas Hertl. Couture’s second line has skill with Joonas Donskoi on one wing and power with Joel Ward on another.

Marleau, who would be a first-line winger on most teams, centers a speedy third line with Melker Karlsson and Matt Nieto. The Sharks’ fourth line has enough grind and two-way leanings to not get burned. Each line scored at least one goal in the last series. If teams want to play the ‘match-up game’ against the Sharks, it will be tough to figure out how to handle all four of their groups.

Scout’s take: When you put a guy like Patrick Marleau on your third line, it kind of is a testament to your depth as a team at the forward position. Patty can skate and he’s still strong on his skates. He’s a little bit like Thornton. He has pretty good IQ and can play in all situations.

That gives so many options, whether you’re matching Thornton’s line against the other team’s top lines, but you can go ahead and give Thornton a break and put Marleau out there and give the fourth line of the other team certain shifts.

It allows you some flexibility on your match-ups. If a line’s caught out there on an icing and the other team can put their top line out there, you can still feel comfortable. That’s a big advantage San Jose has. 

4. The DeBoer effect

Sharks players have bought into DeBoer more than they did to former coach Todd McLellan in recent years. DeBoer, who made a Stanley Cup Final with the New Jersey Devils in 2012, has given the aging players more off days, which has kept his core fresh.

After the second period in Game 5 against the Kings when LA scored three goals to tie the contest at 3-3, DeBoer delivered a speech to settle his team down. They scored three third period goals to oust LA 6-3. 

Scout’s take: He’s taken a lesser skilled team in New Jersey into the Final. He’s a good hockey coach that knows the game extremely well and for whatever reason has them buying in. When you have a team buying in, it doesn’t matter if it’s the perfect system or whatever it may be, but if you have everyone pulling in the same direction that goes a long way to the success of the club. 

5. Brent Burns is a unique offensive weapon

Before the first-round, we asked if Burns was a liability or a weapon. He was a revelation for the Sharks, leading the team with eight points in five games. Burns played mostly mistake-free hockey and was on ice for 10 goals scored – versus six goals against. The Kings’ and their defense-first system were the most likely opponent to solve Burns’ attack-friendly mentality, and even they had no answer for him

Scout’s take: He’s such an offensive threat that you can have your forward matchup line out there and feel comfortable with your third pair D (against the forwards). But when you have your third pair D out there and Brent Burns is all of a sudden a fourth forward and now he’s creating stuff, that’s tough.

On top of that he has a great shot and can get it in from the point a lot too. He presents so many different problems for them to defend in their own end and give San Jose a great offensive option.

SAN JOSE, CA - APRIL 20:  Brent Burns #88 of the San Jose Sharks celebrates after he scored a goal in the second period against the Los Angeles Kings in Game Four of the Western Conference First Round during the NHL 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs at SAP Center on April 20, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Opposing viewpoint

The Sharks do have weaknesses and the right team can exploit them. Goaltender Martin Jones is in his first prolonged playoff run and wasn’t tested much against LA. He had a 2.18 goal-against average and .912 save percentage. 

“A guy like Jones, like any player that hasn’t been in the playoffs or gone deeper in the playoffs, I think they’ll recognize as you move on from one round to the next … it’s hard to believe the hockey can get ramped up more than it does and it gets harder and harder and mistakes and bad goals and bade penalties get magnified that much more because of how it is,” the scout said. “As tight and hard as it is to score goals through 82 games it gets harder each game and each round goes on. “

Though the eyeball test says the Sharks beat the Kings soundly, they were worse 5-on-5 per War on Ice with a 45.6 CF%. If San Jose doesn’t convert on power plays, this could mean trouble for the Sharks. Also, even though San Jose has shown forward balance this postseason, they were mostly a one-line group in the regular season. Will that become a problem again?

The Sharks were 18-20-3 at home this year, and have home ice advantage against the Predators in this round of the playoffs.

There’s this longstanding view that the Sharks just can’t get it done in the playoffs – which will follow them around until they actually can go deeper than a conference final.

Really the Sharks just won one round, and no matter how impressive they looked there’s still a long way to go for them.

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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

 

 

 

Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: April 29, 2016, 7:42 pm

Somewhere in Prague this weekend, Connor McDavid and his Edmonton Oilers teammates Taylor Hall and Cam Talbot will take a break from their IIHF world championships preparation to follow the NHL Draft Lottery. 

One year ago, it was McDavid that went first overall to the Oilers. Six years ago, it was Hall. In between, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov were taken first overall by the Oilers, too.

And Brian Burke thinks this is nauseating.

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“If you’re a team that picks first overall, you shouldn’t be allowed to pick first overall for some specified period … three years or five years, whatever … or even the top two teams, pick in the top two,” said the Calgary Flames team president, via their website. “You could still pick four or five, still get a good player, but you can’t get rewarded for continued failure, or continued luck.”

Burke’s Flames have an 8.5 percent chance of winning the first overall pick in Saturday's lottery. The Oilers have a 13.5 percent chance, while Burke’s former team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, have the best odds at 20 percent.

“There are a lot of teams that have followed this path and have repeated high, high picks for a number of years. Chicago did it. Florida’s done it. Buffalo’s done it. You can argue we did it in Toronto, certainly by not any effort of ours. We were just not successful in the lottery. This is not an indictment of any one team and it’s not an indictment of the system,” said Burke of the Oilers.

“This is saying, okay, if 30 reasonable people got into a room and said, ‘how do we best award amateur talent in the draft without having abuses,’ I’m not sure this is the system we’d come up with. That’s all I’m saying.”

There was plenty of discussion at the GM meetings, but ultimately no formal policy established, on creating limits for the draft lottery.

“Just the theory that you can get lucky in winning the lottery once but that’s it. If you earn the first overall pick by being the worst team in hockey, I think you should get that right,” said St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong. “We set it up that way on purpose, especially in a lottery system where teams can move up. But I don’t think we should be rewarded based on luck more than once every five years.”

Burke’s in favor of those “anti-tanking” measures, and overhauling a system that he said benefits teams that might not deserve the help. “In this system, you could have the team with the three highest point totals pick one, two, three, of the non-playoff teams,” he said.

“No one ever wanted that; no one ever imaged that.”

--

Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: April 29, 2016, 6:38 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.  

@NHLstoreNYC made hockey's new fan @soIoucity a personalized jersey! Also a warm hat for the 'room full of ice' pic.twitter.com/fS1T9TuAV5

— NHL Store NYC (@NHLstoreNYC) April 28, 2016

• The NHL Store in Manhattan is going all-in on St. Louis Blues superfan Tony X. (NHL Store)

• Why San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton is still the NHL’s most underappreciated star player. The 36-year-old Thornton had a renaissance year with 82 points in 82 games. [USA Today]

• Sharks forward Joonas Donskoi was the team’s secret weapon. After a strong first-round series against the Los Angeles Kings, the secret is out. [Sports Illustrated]

• The Sharks should provide a tougher test for the Nashville Predators in the second-round than the Anaheim Ducks did in the first-round. [The Predatorial]

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• The St. Louis Blues knocked out the Chicago Blackhawks with a particular style of play. Will this brand of hockey work against the Dallas Stars in the second-round of the playoffs? [St. Louis Gametime]

• Stars coach Lindy Ruff and Blues coach Ken Hitchcock go back a long way. The two met during the 1999 Stanley Cup Final when Ruff’s Buffalo Sabres went against Hitchcock’s Stars. They then formed a friendship. [Dallas Morning News]

• New York Islanders coach Jack Capuano has made a lot of stellar moves this postseason. Examining what he’s done right in the playoffs. [Islanders Insight]

• Tampa Bay Lightning forward Erik Condra feels better after taking a nasty fall following a Casey Cizikas hit in Game 1 of his series against the Islanders. Lightning coach Jon Cooper seemed encouraged with how Condra is felt Thursday. [Tampa Bay Times]

• A closer look at Game 1 between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals. T.J. Oshie scored a hat trick and the Caps beat the Penguins 4-3 in overtime. [Japers’ Rink]

• Auston Matthews' non-traditional road to the NHL could end up in a traditional market. Matthews is the top prospect for this year's NHL Draft, and it's highly probable that he'll end up in a Canadian market. Matthews is from Scottsdale, Arizona [Toronto Sun]

• One name that is glaringly absent from that list of Vezina Trophy finalists is Chicago Blackhawks netminder Corey Crawford, who was arguably the best all-around goaltender in the league throughout the 2015-16 season. This exposes issues with the goaltending evaluation system. [Second City Hockey]

• Vancouver Canucks president Trevor Linden will bring a 1970-71 playing card of Pat Quinn in a Canucks uniform to the NHL Draft Lottery. The Canucks have an 11.5 percent chance of winning the top overall pick. [The Province]

• Detroit Red Wings forward Tomas Tatar explains why he had a disappointing 2015-16. Tatar had 21 goals – eight fewer than his team-leading total of 2014-15. His point total dipped from 56 to 45. [MLive]

• Enforcer Colton Orr retired from the NHL. Said Orr, “I look forward now to the next chapter of my life which I could not be happier to share with the two loves of my life - my wife Sabrina and daughter, Charlotte.” [NHLPA]

• Orr still sees a place for fighting in hockey as the enforcer role plummets. [CP via Yahoo]

• Taking a look at the New York Riveters’ offseason, centering around Janine Weber and Nana Fujimoto. [Today’s Slapshot]

• This NWHL salary cap tracker breaks down the salary cap for each team. The first page has all of the players and their former team, country, and position, and also tracks their 2016 – 2017 contract, the difference from their 2015 – 2016 contract and the impact on their team’s cap. [Along the Boards]

• OHL finalists Niagara IceDogs and London Knights have engaged in a Twitter battle in advance of their series. [Buzzing the Net]

• Breaking down the Vezina Trophy finalists and taking a look at where Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson slots next season, along with other fantasy topics. [Dobber Hockey]

• University of North Dakota defenseman Paul LaDue signed a contract with the Los Angeles Kings, giving up his final year of college eligibility. LaDue was a sixth-round draft pick of the Kings in 2012 and they have been pursuing him for two years. [Grand Forks Herald]

• The Ottawa Senators are one step closer to procuring a new downtown arena. In a long and drawn out meeting of the NCC Board of Directors, the RendezVous LeBreton proposal for the redevelopment of LeBreton Flats was selected as the preferred bid. This is the bid by Sens owner Eugene Melnyk. [The 6th Sens]

•  The St. Louis Blues will face off against the Washington Capitals at the Spring Center on Oct. 5. [St. Louis Blues]

• Defending The Blue Line and the Minnesota Wild today announced Wild defenseman Matt Dumba donated $8,900 to the organization as a result of “Dumba’s Hit’s for Heroes” – an initiative announced in October to raise money for the charity throughout the 2015-16 season. Dumba donated $100 for every hit he had during the season. He finished the year with 89. [Minnesota Wild]

• Arizona State's men's hockey program is completing a deal with the National Collegiate Hockey Conference to join the group as early as 2017-18, or perhaps for 2018-19. [College Hockey News]

• Finally, looking into the life of Hillary Knight.

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Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: April 29, 2016, 5:58 pm

Tom Wilson will be fined, not suspended by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety for kneeing Conor Sheary of the Pittsburgh Penguins Thursday night. 

The Washington Capitals forward will be docked a whopping $2,403.67 for the hit, which should certainly teach Wilson lesson. That dollar amount, of course, is the maximum allowable under the current NHL/NHLPA collective bargaining agreement.

Via NHL.com’s Katie Brown, Capitals head coach Barry Trotz said he thought the hit was “OK, but not necessary.” Sheary was not injured on the play and remained in the game.

Will Wilson face repercussions in Game 2 Saturday night? It doesn't sound like it if you're asking Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan. “I didn’t get an explanation. I’m not concerned," he said. "We’re going to play 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: April 29, 2016, 5:48 pm

Less than 48 hours after the Anaheim Ducks were eliminated in Game 7 by the Nashville Predators, the team announced the firing of head coach Bruce Boudreau.

"I would like to thank Bruce for his hard work and dedication to the franchise,” said Ducks GM Bob Murray in a statement. “This was a very difficult decision to make. Bruce is a good coach and character person, and we wish him the best of luck in the future.”

In four and a half seasons in Anaheim, Boudreau posted a 208-104-40 record and led the team to four straight Pacific Division titles. The regular-season success, however, didn’t translate into the postseason as his Ducks teams only advanced beyond the second-round once, in 2015, before they blew a 3-2 series lead against the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference Final. 

[READ: Five reasons Bruce Boudreau spectacularly fails in Game 7s]

After a slow start to the 2015-16 season, Boudreau survived the hot seat despite the team sitting in last place in the Western Conference at Christmas. The numbers showed it was only was only a matter of time before Anaheim turned things around; and before long they were back to being the Ducks we expected and finished the regular-season tied for the fifth-best record in the NHL.

Murray apparently feels there’s a coach out there that can put the Ducks over the postseason hump. 

Trent Yawney and Paul MacLean are still listed as assistants. Dallas Eakins is coaching Anaheim’s AHL squad in San Diego. Those are the in-house options. But is there someone outside of the Ducks’ bubble that will do a better job than what Boudreau did? 

The 2015-16 Ducks were the league’s best power play (23.1 percent), best penalty kill (87.2 percent), best defense (2.29 goals allowed per game) and a top-five possession team (53.2 percent score-adjusted Fenwick). What unemployed head coach or currently employed assistant has a system that can match that success?

[READ: Don't fire Bruce Boudreau, Anaheim]

When Boudreau was fired by the Washington Capitals in 2011 he was out of work for for less than three days. Will the wait be even shorter this time around? And have Ottawa’s Pierre Dorion and Eugene Melnyk already picked up the phone? 

Finally, the Jack Adams Award finalists will be announced on May 5. Given the turnaround Boudreau helped lead this season, it definitely wouldn’t be a shock to see him make the top three. It would, however, be a tad awkward if he’s accepting the award while head coach of a different NHL 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: April 29, 2016, 4:57 pm

Depending on the day and to whom you’re speaking, the NHL is either going to totally expand – at the very least, to Las Vegas – or it’s going to hold off on it for the foreseeable future. 

But if the NHL expands, and we suspect it will, one major hurdle towards the executive committee’s approval of it was cleared this week. Gary Lawless of TSN reports that the NHL and the NHLPA have agreed on the framework and format for an expansion draft.

According to TSN’s Darren Dreger, that format includes the protection of seven forwards, three defensemen and a goalie, or eight skaters and a goalie. There’s an exemption for second-year pros, meaning that if the draft is held in 2017 neither Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel would have to be protected.

From Lawless, who believes that the decision on expansion will happen soon:

Time is getting tight for the NHL if it is going to expand. The league has stated if it is going to expand for the 2017-18 season it would have to inform general managers prior to this year’s upcoming entry draft in late June. A source said Friday if expansion is going to move forward, mid-May is the timetable for an announcement.

The 10-member executive committee, should it decide to take an expansion package to the rest of the league’s owners, will need to have a full and complete document for consideration. The rules of the expansion draft will be key to the individual clubs as it will affect their on-ice product. The NHLPA could have made the protracted the process but negotiations between the league and the union last week proved fruitful and an agreement was reached.

One of the mysteries of the expansion draft may have also been solved: How to handle no-move and no-trade clauses.

According to Lawless: "Sources indicate no-moves must be protected by teams. No-trade clauses not exempt and can be left exposed."

Keep in mind that the CBA states that a no-move clause "may prevent the involuntary relocation of a player, whether by trade, loan or waiver claim."

Does that include an expansion draft? “It’s not expressly addressed, is what I’d say,” Bill Daly, NHL deputy commissioner, said at the NHL All-Star Game. “Anything we do on an expansion draft we’ll do in consultation with the NHLPA.”

Obviously this was a compromise. And it's an interesting one for veteran players who see their no-move protection turn into no-trade protection as their deals go on. 

Like, for example, New York Rangers defenseman and salary albatross Dan Girardi, who goes from NMC to NTC in 2017. The thought is that he would NOT be exposed, as the expansion draft would take place before July 1, 2017.

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Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: April 29, 2016, 3:39 pm

Basically the second the Ducks went down 2-0 in Game 7 on Wednesday night, people began speculating whether this was it for Bruce Boudreau behind the bench in Anaheim.

You can see why they would. The guy loses Game 7 matchups on an alarmingly regular basis, and his teams so often seem to put up little or no fight to their opponents in the process. He's 1-7 in his career in such situations, and has dropped six straight. That kind of thing builds you a reputation in this sport, and it's a reputation you certainly do not want to carry. 

In fact, in the last four Boudreau-coached seasons, the Ducks have found themselves in 2-0 holes less than 17 minutes into each of the four Games 7 they have played. They also faced a 2-0 deficit in 2010 against Montreal (2-1 loss) and were down 5-0 against Pittsburgh in 2009 before scoring (6-2 loss). Only Game 7 against the Flyers in 2008 (a 3-2 overtime loss) and Game 7 in the opening round against the Rangers in 2009 (a 2-1 win, but they conceded 5:35 into the game) blemish this otherwise ignominious record.

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Again, the reputation grows.

It therefore becomes pretty easy to label Boudreau as a choker who chokes in almost every Game 7 he can, watching as his teams dig their graves early then just stand neck-deep in them for the final three-quarters of the contest.

But given what we know of the random nature of NHL games — that any contest between two reasonably good teams is effectively a coin flip — can we not conclude that Boudreau's teams have run into a seemingly consequential run of futility that is, in actuality, a really rough run of bad luck? I mean, no one wants to say that kind of thing because we'd really like to say, “Actually, Boudreau sucks and is an idiot who loses all the time.” It fits so well with the level of consequence we put into elimination games when they are, in fact, more or less the same as any other hockey game, ruled by randomness.

What, for example, does a coach really control in terms of on-ice events? He puts a system in place, and deploys the players, but he cannot pull Corey Perry or Ryan Getzlaf — two big-money, high-level forwards who combined to score just two goals in the series, neither of which came after Game 4 — and say, “Time to go score a goal.” He likewise cannot advise Frederik Andersen on how best to not-concede two goals on the first 10 shots he faces.

In fact, if we look at what Boudreau-coached teams have actually done in the eight Games 7 of his career, you can see that, in theory, they should have won a lot more than one by now. We're talking a score-adjusted 5-on-5 possession number of 53.1 percent and a shots-for share of 53.7 percent, but goals-for of just 33.3 percent. That latter number is because Boudreau's teams have shot 4.5 percent in eight Games 7 for him, and his goalies have a robust full-strength save percentage of .896. Yeah it's only eight games, a small sample size one way or the other, but if you have a PDO 94.1 over any kind of stretch, you're going to lose a hell of a lot more games than you win.

Let's not forget, Boudreau's job was thought to be in jeopardy as recently as October, when -- hey what do you know -- the Ducks were a marginal possession team but suffering from a league-worst shooting percentage and middling goaltending that gave them a PDO in the 95 range.

Boudreau was able to pull the club out of its tailspin then, by changing the team's approach until winning in the way the Ducks always had — bullying teams offensively — came more naturally once again, and won the division.

And winning the division is important. It typically shows a team is consistently good for the full 82-game slate. And it's therefore critical to note Boudreau's teams have won their division in every one of the seven seasons in which he was the head coach for the full 82. That's truly incredible.

(For the year in which he was fired in Washington and took over a rudderless Ducks team, he finished with 89 points, which isn't a terrible total all things considered. And when he took over the Capitals in late November of 2011, he won 81 points in the team's final 61 games, a pace for nearly 109 points. That team won the division as well, though to be fair, it was only the Southeast.)

Over the course of his entire career, Boudreau's teams look like this:

NHL

This is a coach whose teams are consistently elite or close to it in most 5-on-5 statistical categories, and who also routinely have some of the best special teams in the league. This over hundreds upon hundreds of games. But because he's 0h-fer in Games 7 in Anaheim, the hockey world has to talk about how he is never going to win.

How long to do you think a coach this good with a team this talented at more or less every position can continue to lose these coin flips? As you can see above, the last time Boudreau was out of a job, he was on the unemployment line for a grand total of two days. He was fired by the Capitals on Nov. 28, 2011, and hired by the Ducks on Nov. 30. This is, indeed, the kind of coach you fire your own coach to hire.

NHL teams — well, the smart ones anyway — would recognize that. Boudreau shown himself to be a smart, adaptable coach who can turn talented teams into regular-season juggernauts. The only reason his firing is even up for discussion is that a collectively large portion of the punditry and (probably) people in front offices believe that any single elimination game is more important in terms of determining coaching, player, or team quality than hundreds of other data points.

You hear these labels applied to Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, and more, all the time. Hell, people have even started saying Henrik Lundqvist is the reason the Rangers can't win it all. It's silly.

There's no doubt these games do mean more than the average playoff game, and certainly more than those in the regular season. But firing a guy because he can't win in four straight Games 7 would be the height of idiocy.

Let's not forget, the Capitals were mediocre (and unwatchable) the second Boudreau was fired. It took them most of a season of Dale Hunter then two more years of Adam Oates to get things back together. And that was with a younger, better core group of five or six important players than what Anaheim has going for it today.

What makes anyone think Anaheim would be any different?

The question to ask yourself when you're preparing to fire a coach is, “Would his replacement do a better job with this group?” When it comes to Boudreau, I don't see how you find an available candidate who fits that bill. Or even comes close.

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

(All statistics via War On Ice unless otherwise noted.)

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Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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Author: Ryan Lambert
Posted: April 29, 2016, 2:24 pm

Washington Capitals forward T.J. Oshie was the hero of Game 1 against the Pittsburgh Penguins after he completed a hat trick with an overtime goal for the 4-3 win. 

“Osh, right from the get-go, had good jump in his game,” said coach Barry Trotz.

Perhaps he took some inspiration from another Oshie and her performance against the Penguins earlier in the day.

T.J. Oshie said a neighbor left a Pittsburgh poster on the stoop of their house. So his wife, Lauren Cosgrove, and 2-year-old daughter Lyla, decided to make a statement with it … by having the young girl punt it 

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Now that’s inspiration. Although Oshie admitted that he doesn’t even know how the stars aligned for him in Game 1. 

“Pucks just went in. They usually don’t,” he said.

Oshie’s goal at 9:33 of overtime was his third of the game and a controversial one that needed video review to be confirmed, as the puck appeared to just inch over the goal line past Penguins goalie Matt Murray.

“I originally thought I saw the puck go all the way across the goal line. Just a little sliver there,” said Oshie. “I put my hands up, looked at the ref and he marked it as a goal.

Said Penguins coach Mike Sullivan: “I didn’t see all the angles, but obviously they saw one that they felt it went in.”

The OT goal is fourth in seven playoff games this season – not too shabby when he only had five in his previous 30 playoff games, all with the Blues.

“Just like any player that comes into a playoff situation, some guys have instant success, some guys struggle with it for a while,” said Capitals coach Barry Trotz. “He find ways to keep pucks alive, keep plays alive.”

And in Game 1, he found a way to win it.

“This is what the playoffs are all about,” Oshie said of the thriller. “They’re a good team. They’re hard to play against.”

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Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: April 29, 2016, 4:55 am

No. 1 Star: T.J. Oshie, Washington Capitals

The Capitals forward tallied his first career playoff hat trick as Washington took Game 1 over the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3. After tying the game in the second period and giving the Capitals the lead early in the third, Oshie turned a neutral zone turnover into the overtime winner.

No. 2 Star: Nick Bonino, Pittsburgh Penguins

Bonino helped the Penguins stay in the game by recording two points — a goal and an assist — that evened the score both times with the Capitals. Down 1-0 midway through the second period Bonino set up Ben Lovejoy’s first of the postseason after a nice dangle through the Washington defense.

His goal came with Pittsburgh trailing 3-2 with 10:18 left in the third period.

No. 3 Star: Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals

The Penguins outshot the Capitals 45-35 and 36-29 at even strength. Holtby would stop 42 shots overall on the night, which included 27 combined in the second and third periods. Game 1 was only the third game all season Holtby was forced to make 40-plus stops. 

Honorable Mention: Andre Burakovsky was one of three players in the game to record their first goal of the postseason … Brooks Orpik played 25:58 after missing Washington's final three games of Round 1 ... Jay Beagle was a hockey stick magnet: 

Did You Know? Washington is now 8-1 all-time in Game 1s against the Penguins. (AP)

Dishonorable Mention: Both power plays combined to go 0-for-6 … Chris Kunitz left the game early in overtime and didn't return after taking a puck to the ear while sitting on the Penguins bench ... Will Tom Wilson face any discipline for his knee-on-knee hit on Conor Sheary? 

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Author: Sean Leahy
Posted: April 29, 2016, 4:25 am

T.J. Oshie completed his hat trick to help give the Washington Capitals a 4-3 victory in Game 1 of their divisional semifinal against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

With the score tied 3-3 in overtime, Oshie, who tied the game in the second period and gave the Capitals the lead early in the third, took advantage of a turnover in the neutral zone and drove into the Penguins' zone. Skating around Brian Dumoulin, he wrapped around the Pittsburgh net and stuffed the puck under the pad of goaltender Matt Murray. 

As hats rained down to the Verizon Center ice, officials reviewed the goal to ensure the puck had completely crossed the line. It was very, very close.

In the end, video review confirmed the call on the ice as a good goal as the Capitals took Game 1.

The goal, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, saw Oshie join Nicklas Backstrom and Dino Ciccarelli as the only players in Capitals franchise history to finish off a playoff hat trick in overtime.

"I don't know how the ref that called it a goal could have seen it from his angle," said Murray. "I think I had it."

"I didn't see all the angles, but obviously they saw one that they felt it went in," said Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan.

The opening game of the highly-anticipated series featured three lead changes. The Capitals opened the scoring at 10:13 of the first period after they forced a turnover and transitioned into a 3-on-1 break that ended with Andre Burakovsky putting home a rebound for his first of the playoffs.

The second period was a wild 20 minutes with the teams exchanging three goals in a span of 90 seconds. We would enter the final period of regulation tied 2-2. 

Oshie’s second of the night snapped the tie 3:23 into the third period. After an Alex Ovechkin attempt was blocked, Oshie followed the play and took a pass from Ovechkin in stride and slipped it five-hole by Murray.

But the Penguins didn’t wait long to respond. Just 5:19 later, Nick Bonino recorded his first of the playoffs to give us a tie game. 

The Capitals had a great chance to regain the lead a short while later, but Matt Niskanen’s blast hit the post and the rebound was whiffed by Jason Chimera before being cleared. Minutes later, Ovechkin had a mini-breakaway opportunity, but Murray made a great pad save.

Game 2 is Saturday night at 8 p.m. ET.

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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: April 29, 2016, 3:54 am

Washington Capitals blunt force object Tom Wilson was going to be a physical presence in their second-round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and didn’t waste any time in Game 1 making that presence known.

And, as Tom Wilson is one to do, crossing the line of legality in doing so.

As Wilson skated back to the Capitals bench on a change, he suddenly veered to this left so he could deliver a knee-on-knee leg-whip to Penguins forward Conor Sheary, who went back to the bench gingerly but played a regular shift in the third period after the hit.

No penalty was called on the play. Penguins coach Mike Sullivan emphatically informed the referees he was displeased with this at the next stoppage. Said Sullivan: “I didn’t get an explanation. I’m not concerned. We’re going to play hockey.”

Wilson earned a roughing call in a second-period tussle with Evgeni Malkin, who was given an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for diving. 

Does Sullivan expect NHL Player Safety to get involved?

“I have no idea. But those guys are pretty diligent with their job and they’ll go what they think is appropriate.”

Here's the NBC analysis. It's weird. 

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Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: April 29, 2016, 2:52 am

Here’s something you don’t see every night in the NHL: an entire stick getting caught in a player’s visor. That’s what happened to Jay Beagle of the Washington Capitals Thursday night.

During Game 1 of their series against the Penguins, Beagle collided with Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang, with Letang's stick getting lodged in the Capitals forward's visor. 

Beagle, as you see, tried to pry it loose and remain in the play, but realized that wasn't going to happen and needed to skate back to the Washington bench to get some assistance from an equipment manager. Fortunately, he was OK and eventually got free from the giant splinter.

I think we all know now what will be the most popular Halloween costume in the D.C. area later this year.

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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: April 29, 2016, 2:13 am

Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins, Ryan Kesler of the Anaheim Ducks and Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings are the three finalists for the 2015-16 Frank J. Selke Trophy, which is awarded “to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game,” the National Hockey League announced on Thursday. 

BOSTON, MA - MARCH 05:  Patrice Bergeron #37 of the Boston Bruins celebrates after scoring against the Washington Capitals during the first period at TD Garden on March 5, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

But, essentially, they mean “best two-way center.”

Who wins the Selke, which is voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers Association?

Why Patrice Bergeron Deserves The Selke

The NHL says:

Bergeron was the NHL’s busiest player in the faceoff circle, leading the League with 1,978 draws -- the highest single-season total since Carolina’s Rod Brind’Amour took 2,047 during his Selke-winning campaign in 2006-07. Bergeron also led all centers in faceoff wins with 1,130 (57.1%), eclipsing a 57% win rate for the fifth consecutive season. That figure included 389 defensive-zone wins, tops in the Eastern Conference. He appeared in 80 games and played an average of 19:50 per contest, second among Bruins forwards and his highest figure since 2006-07. Bergeron is a Selke Trophy finalist for the fifth consecutive season; he captured the award in 2012, 2014 and 2015 and finished second in voting in 2013.

This is a Lidstrom-and-the-Norris run for Bergeron, and deservedly so. He had a score-adjusted Corsi of 56.04 percent at 5-on-5, and was second in the NHL with a CorsiRel of 8.31 percent (i.e. how much better of a possession team the Bruins were with him on the ice).

It’s a little weird the NHL paid SAP all that money for advanced stats and they’re not even mentioned here. Anyhoo …

Why Ryan Kesler Deserves The Selke

The NHL says …

Kesler helped the Ducks record the lowest team goals-against average in the NHL (2.29) for the first time in franchise history. He ranked second among NHL leaders in faceoff win percentage (58.5%), winning at least 50% of his draws in 58 of 79 games. He led all players in both defensive-zone faceoff wins (441) and shorthanded faceoff wins (168) and ranked third among all NHL forwards in shorthanded ice time (217:29) as the Ducks’ penalty killers posted the League’s top percentage (87.2%). In addition, he tied for the lead among all NHL forwards in blocked shots (92) and dished out a team-leading 168 hits. Kesler was a Selke Trophy finalist each season from 2009-11 with Vancouver, climbing in voting from third to second to first place in successive years.

Hits! Cited in a Selke analysis!

Kesler was a positive possession player for the Ducks (53.41 Corsi, score adjusted) at 5-on-5, although the Ducks were just 0.74 percent better in possession with him on the ice. Still, his role as a lead penalty killer for the league’s best kill is a nice calling card.

Why Anze Kopitar Deserves The Selke

The NHL says…

Kopitar led all NHL forwards in total ice time (1,690:12), an average of 20:52 per game, on the club that ranked third in the NHL in team defense, allowing an average of 2.34 goals a contest. He ranked fifth and seventh League-wide in total faceoffs and faceoff wins with 1,776 and 950, respectively, setting career highs in both categories. He placed second in the NHL in plus-minus (+34) and was the League’s third-ranked forward in the team puck possession metric SAT (shot attempts differential), as the Kings registered 332 more shot attempts than they allowed when Kopitar was on the ice while each team had five skaters per side. Kopitar is a Selke finalist for the third consecutive season, finishing second in voting in 2014 and third in 2015.

Plus/minus? Sheesh …

But kudos for using the SAT number to illustrate how dominant Kopitar is for puck possession on an already impressive possession team: The Kings were 1.30-percent better with Kopitar on the ice (5v5, score-adjusted).

Who Wins The Selke?

Bergeron. Potentially from now until retirement. We’re in Ozzie Smith/Gold Glove territory.

Our Ballot (in alphabetical order, as the PHWA was asked not to reveal our votes until after the award is handed out.)

Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers

Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins

Sean Couturier, Philadelphia Flyers

Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings

Joe Thornton, San Jose Sharks

Barkov's season was criminally overlooked. Toews South.

Kesler’s nomination is justified, but if you’re going to take a second Pacific Division center behind Kopitar it should have been Thornton. He had a ridiculous possession year (56.61 score-adjusted Corsi, and the Sharks were 6.37-percent better with him on the ice 5v5). He was better than 50 percent on faceoffs. Ask anyone that watched him on a nightly basis, and he was a defensive monster this season. But then again, how many voters watched him on a nightly basis?

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Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: April 29, 2016, 12:38 am

It's a Thursday edition of MAREK VS. WYSHYNSKI, and we're talking about:

- Bret Hedican of CSN Bay Area talks about the San Jose Sharks and whether they have what it takes to get past the Nashville Predators.

- Recapping the Anaheim Ducks' failure in Game 7. 

- Previewing the rest of Round 2.

- Can the Coyotes trust a 27-year-old as their general manager?

- News and notes from around the NHL.

The Marek vs. Wyshynski Podcast is hosted by Jeff Marek of Sportsnet and Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo Sports, breaking down the NHL on a (somewhat) daily basis with their particular brand of whimsy and with guest voices from around the hockey world. MvsW streams live while its being recorded: LISTEN HERE! [And if that doesn't work, try here.]

GET MAREK VS. WYSHYNSKI T-SHIRTS HERE! PROCEEDS GO TO HOCKEY FIGHTS CANCER!

Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: April 28, 2016, 10:55 pm

The NHL had some premature congratulations for the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Islanders, as the second round started before the first round was finished. 

So we locked in our picks for that series while waiting to see if the Anaheim Ducks or Nashville Predators would advance. (Spoiler: It was a Game 7, so you fill in the blank.)

Now, here are the picks for the rest of the second round series, as the Pittsburgh Penguins take on the Washington Capitals; the Dallas Stars face the St. Louis Blues; and the San Jose Sharks face the Nashville Predators.

And here … we … go.

Sean Leahy, Puck Daddy Editor

Penguins in 7

You could basically flip a coin for these Round 2 series and come up with a prediction that wouldn't be too crazy. 

Pens-Caps? Alex Ovechkin and Barry Trotz are long overdue to get out of the first round. But with the way the Penguins have been playing in the second half and with the fact that Matt Murray has kept their goaltending situation stable as Marc-Andre Fleury recovers from a concussion, it's tough not to see them continuing this run.

Blues in 7

Blues-Stars? St. Louis just finished off an emotional series win and face a Dallas offense -- while lacking Tyler Seguin for the near future -- that is dangerous. The series will probably come down to goaltender where the Brian Elliott will get an edge over Kari Lehtonen first, and potentially Antti Niemi later in the series.

Sharks in 6

Sharks-Preds? This one might be a tad easier to predict, but with the way Pekke Rinne is playing and the balanced scoring Nashville is supplying, it's tough to make this an easy out for the Sharks. But much like the Blues and Islanders, San Jose exorcised a playoff demon and looked like a well-oiled machine in Round 1. How will the Preds find a way to slow down Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton and crew?

Josh Cooper, Puck Daddy Editor

Capitals in 6

The Capitals are the most talented left in the NHL playoffs. They can beat you so many ways and I think this is enough to overcome the Penguins’ star players in what should be the best series of the second-round.

So much publicity goes to Alex Ovechkin and Washington’s powerful offense, but  the Capitals are also one of the best defensive teams in the NHL. Their ability to marginalize Pittsburgh’s powerful attack will be the difference. Past Capitals teams didn’t have gritty two-way players on the blueline like John Carlson and Matt Niskanen. And they didn’t have playoff-tested all-around players at forward like Justin Williams.

Stars in 6

Dallas captain Jamie Benn will be the driving force for the Stars in the second-round. He’s a matchup nightmare for teams and tough to stop both on the wall and in open ice. The Blues don’t have a player with the all-around talents of Benn, and he’ll be the biggest difference-maker in this series.

The Blues climbed a major mountain in beating the Chicago Blackhawks in the first-round, but Chicago isn’t as deep as the Stars. Dallas developed a strong defensive identity near the end of the season, and I think their balance of speed and size will be too much for the Blues to handle.  

Sharks in 6

The Sharks are arguably the deepest team left in the Western Conference. They can roll four lines and three defense pairs and when they get on the power play, it’s almost an automatic goal. The Predators did a nice job beating the Anaheim Ducks in seven games, but the Sharks are a motivated group that’s playing the right type of playoff hockey.

The line of Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton and Tomas Hertl will get a heavy dose of Shea Weber and Roman Josi, which will open up Logan Couture’s trio on the second-line to have a big series. Pekka Rinne will keep the Predators stable, but it just feels like a special year is brewing for the Sharks.

Jen Neale, Puck Daddy Editor

Capitals in 7

This series is going to come down to goaltending. Matt Murray may be able to steal a couple games for the Penguins; however, Braden Holtby continues to be a beast. All he needs is the run support in front of him, something surprisingly lacking in this first round.

Blues in 6

I don't trust Dallas's goaltending tandem, and the series against Minnesota showed why. Said it the first round: it doesn't matter if you can score a million goals when your goalie can't stop a million and one. Plus the Blues have finally accepted Brian Elliott as their goaltender and savior. He's coming up huge for them.

San Jose in 6

Pekka Rinne is holding the Predators together. They have a couple dangerous forwards and two extremely talented defensemen. San Jose has the size and skill to exploit everything the Ducks couldn't.

Ryan Lambert, Puck Daddy Columnist

Penguins in 7

These are the two best teams remaining in the East by a good distance, and it's going to be a slugfest. The way Pittsburgh has played since Mike Sullivan took over is still only just enough to convince me they can dispatch the Capitals by the slimmest of margins.

Both are teams that can go strength-against-strength with anyone in the league and expect to come out on top, so for all intents and purposes I think we may as well consider this the unofficial Eastern Conference Final. I'm pumped for every second of this series.

Blues in 7

The amount I trust Dallas's goaltending against anyone is very small, and while the Blues obviously don't have the knockout punchers in a quality or quantity that can match Dallas, I also fear for what Vladimir Tarasenko is going to do to Antti Niemi or Kari Lehtonen in this series. 

There's a legitimate possibility things get very ugly, hockeywise. Meaning coaches probably won't be happy with how their clubs play. This feels like a series with a lot of 4-3 games.

In the end, because the Stars struggled with the Wild — as deeply mediocre a team as there was in the league this year — I have to give the edge to St. Louis.

Sharks in 6

I love the Sharks and I want them to win. If they can crush the Kings in five games, the Predators, for as good as they have been and as well-coached as they will continue to be, don't look like a particularly significant threat.

San Jose Sharks' Joe Pavelski, right, and Joe Thornton (19) are congratulated after Pavelski's goal against the Los Angeles Kings during the second period of Game 4 of an NHL hockey first-round Stanley Cup playoff series Wednesday, April 20, 2016, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Darryl “Dobber” Dobbs, Puck Daddy Fantasy Writer

Capitals in 7

The Caps-Pens series is the toughest one to call. It's this round's version of Chicago-St. Louis. The irresistible force versus the immovable object. The hottest team in the league versus the best team in the league. The only - and I mean only - reason I pick Washington here is because I picked them to win the Cup. I'll just stand pat with that pick and pretend I knew it all along if it works out.

Blues in 6

While the Blues have faced disappointment year after year and frankly they're scared shitless of getting eliminated early again. You saw that in the Chicago series - the desperation. This Dallas team hasn't had those lessons yet.

San Jose in 5

San Jose is another team built for the playoffs. The road record says it all.

Sam McCaig, NHL Editor, Yahoo Sports

Penguins in 7

Finally, seven long years after their previous playoff clash, we get to see another showdown between Evgeni Malkin and Nicklas Backstrom ... and, yeah, Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin are expected to play, too. It goes without saying that this will be the most highly anticipated and most-watched matchup of the 2016 playoffs. Crosby and Ovechkin are 10 years into the careers, and while other star-player-vs.-star-player rivalries have come and gone, theirs remains the NHL's most compelling. All signs point to Washington winning the franchise's first Stanley Cup this season, an explosive offensive team that has enviable depth up front as well as a solid defense corps in front of likely Vezina Trophy winner Braden Holtby. Washington ran away with the Presidents' Trophy this season, and they've got Barry Trotz behind the bench. Yet ... well, we picked the Penguins to make the Cup final at the start of the season, and we're sticking with that prediction.

To come true, third-stringer Matt Murray will have to beat Holtby after beating Henrik Lundqvist in the first round. Crosby and Malkin & Co. will have to outdo Ovechkin and Backstrom & Co. While the Caps' supporting cast deservedly gets praised for its contribution this season, the Penguins' role players were a huge part of Pittsburgh's surge in the final weeks of the regular season. So, Penguins in seven, but what we really want to see is a series that lives up to the sky-high hype.

Blues in 5

St. Louis has a game-breaker in Vladimir Tarasenko, scoring depth, great defense and goaltending, they're fast and physical -- and they finally finally finally beat the Blackhawks.

Like Washington, they're a respected longtime NHL franchise that has never won the Stanley Cup. Unlike Washington, they were my Stanley Cup pick at the start of the season and -- like Pittsburgh -- we're sticking with them. Dallas, the Western Conference regular-season champion, has game-breakers and scoring depth, but perhaps some holes in the defensive end and in the crease. Tyler Seguin is injured, he'll likely be back at some point in Round 2, but he won't be 100 percent. St. Louis, for so long a playoff sob story, is in a great position to roll through to the West final and remains my pick for the Cup. So, Blues in five, and they'll keep going from there.

Sharks in 6

How about perpetual playoff disappointment San Jose versus perpetual playoff disappointment St. Louis in the West final, with the winner finally finally finally getting a chance to play for the Cup? It has to happen, right? When the Sharks look good -- as they very often did in knocking out rival L.A. in five games in Round 1 -- they're impossible to stop, even if you have Pekka Rinne and Shea Weber and Roman Josi and Nashville's defensive wherewithal.

Not to mention, have you seen Joe Thornton and Brent Burns' beards? They're a wonder of the hockey world, and they must be allowed to continue their playoff quest. So, Sharks in six, and playoff beards forever.

Greg Wyshynski, Puck Daddy Editor

East: 

West:

The picks, for the video impaired: 

Penguins in 7

Blues in 6

Sharks in 5

The Penguins will win in Game 7, with Matt Murray stopping Alex Ovechkin on a breakaway and Justin Williams skating to a minus-2. The Blues will find they already did the offensive heavy-lifting against the Blackhawks and will find the Stars’ defense more accommodating. The Sharks have too much up the middle for the Predators to handle, and aren’t going to give them the breaks that the Ducks did.

Blues and Sharks, for the right to play for the Stanley Cup. Mind? Blown.

Again, check out our Lightning/Islanders picks here.

Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: April 28, 2016, 10:41 pm

Bruce Boudreau lost in a Game 7 on Wednesday night, which essentially means he was coaching in the playoffs. Although he probably won’t be coaching the Anaheim Ducks any longer because of it. 

That Boudreau has gone 1-7 in Game 7s with two different franchises during his coaching career is just a stunning and stupefying stat. Stunning because it’s hard to conceive of a coach whose regular-season success could cancel out such postseason disappointment, but Boudreau could be a Jack Adams finalist and be looking for a job this month. Stupefying because that’s either bad coaching, bad playing, bad luck or some other supernaturally bad thing happening.

Why does the same thing happen to the same guy seven times, like he’s some kind of hockey-centric John McClane? (OK, in fairness, there already was a hockey-centric John McClane, and he murdered the Penguins’ mascot.)

Here are five reasons why Bruce Boudreau can’t seem to win a Game 7. We were going to go to seven but in the spirit of the subject at hand, we fell just short.

1. Guess What: His Teams Aren’t Actually That Bad In Game 7s

In the seven Games 7 Boudreau teams have lost, the average margin of defeat is two goals, mainly because of those four-goal losses to the Pittsburgh Penguins and the LA Kings. Otherwise, he’s had four one-goal losses and another by two goals. Which is to say that his teams, by and large, aren’t getting blown out in these losses.

As our buddy JP noted about Bruce’s Game 7 performances:

By my math...

Boudreau's teams in G7's: 1-8, 55.1 5v5 CF%, 5.1 5v5 Sh%, .867 5v5 Sv%

Boudreau's teams in close-outs: 5-13, 55.6, 5.6, .892

— Japers' Rink (@JapersRink) April 28, 2016

So a 94.8 5v5 PDO for ol' Bruce in close-out games, which drops to 91.8 in Game 7's. But yeah, bad coach. Shoot better and save more, Bruce!

— Japers' Rink (@JapersRink) April 28, 2016

Which brings us to:

2. Unreliable Goaltending 

As Japers noted, the EV save percentage for Boudreau’s Game 7 teams was .868, which is atrocious.

Here are the goalies that played in those games:

Cristobal Huet, Semyon Varlamov (as a rookie, and then as a sophomore), Jonas Hiller, John Gibson (as a rookie, replaced by Hiller), Frederik Anderson (twice).

Outside of Varlamov, who was again just a youngin’ in those playoffs, there isn’t a clear No. 1 starter in the bunch. There certainly isn’t a Henrik Lundqvist or a Corey Crawford or a Pekka Rinne – three goalies that faced Boudreau’s teams in Game 7.

Now, granted, Boudreau’s constant goalie shuffling can be blamed for some of the wonky netminding his teams experience in the postseason. But not as much as management should be blamed for not solidifying the position better. Especially in Anaheim.

3. Game 6

As you’re no doubt aware, this is the fourth straight season in which the Anaheim Ducks lost in Game 6 with a chance to eliminate their opponents, and then lost in Game 7 to be eliminated themselves.  

Overall, Boudreau is 4-5 in Games 6, including series that didn’t go seven. His other Game 6 loss was to the Montreal Canadiens in that epic upset in the first round.

Five Game 6 losses leading to Game 7 defeats. What if being the higher seed – as Boudreau’s teams always are – and having their backs forced against the wall by opponents playing with house money has proven too much to handle?

Which brings us to …

ANAHEIM, CA - APRIL 23: Corey Perry #10 of the Anaheim Ducks winces in pain after a play where he was check hard to the ice into the Predators crease area as Mike Fisher #12 of the Nashville Predators looks on in the first period of Game Five of the Western Conference First Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Honda Center on April 23, 2016 in Anaheim, California. The Ducks defeated the Predators 5-2.  (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)

4. Tension Convention

Boudreau is not an automaton. He’s an emotional coach, whose teams feed off that emotion. Sometimes that’s for the better, as he bellows from the bench and gets his team into another gear. And sometimes, we expect, it’s for the worst. Highs are high, lows are low, and just like dogs can smell fear, players can smell panic. Confident and collected aren’t necessarily byproducts of five Game 6 losses.

So how does that manifest in a Game 7?

Consider this: His teams start terribly in Game 7s. In six out of the seven losses, the opposing team – i.e. the road team, since Bruce’s teams are always a higher seed – scored the first goal. The lone team to score first was the 2008 Capitals against the Philadelphia Flyers, Ovechkin’s first playoff season. Maybe they’re tense out of the gate, and fail to light the lamp first?

Finally …

5. He Found A Four-Leaf Clover, Mistook It For A Lucky Charms Marshmallow And Ate It.

Just kidding.

5. Players Play The Game

Can Boudreau be faulted for his Game 7 record? Without question. It has to be more than coincidence, and there have been personnel and tactical decisions – get the Getzlaf line the hell away from Toews! – that have come back to haunt him.

But in the end, it’s on the goalies to not have a terrible save percentage at even strength in an elimination game, and it’s on the players whom you’d expect to make  difference to, you know, make one. So when Alex Semin goes scoreless in three Game 7s and Mike Green musters up an assist and Nicklas Backstrom gets one goal in three games, that’s an issue. When Ryan Getzlaf gets three assists in four games with no goals, and when Corey Perry’s two goals in four games are arguably scored in garbage time, that’s an issue.

Boudreau is the common thread through these playoff disappointments, but he’s not the only reason these teams unravel.

--

Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: April 28, 2016, 7:43 pm

(Ed. Note: Welcome to Round 2 coverage of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs, where we flip the format and get right to the point with 11 keys to each series. Enjoy!)

The Pittsburgh Penguins ousted the New York Rangers in the first-round of the playoffs in a mostly one-sided five-game series. It took the Washington Capitals six games to beat the Philadelphia Flyers in the first-round.

These two teams haven't played each other in the postseason since 2009 when Pittsburgh came back from a 2-0 series deficit to beat Washington. The Penguins won the Stanley Cup that year. Most of the players from that season have changed, but the two main protagonists remain – Washington’s Alex Ovechkin and Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby, the two biggest names in hockey.

Here are 11 keys to victory for the Penguins and Capitals 

1. Ovi vs. Sid

Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin and Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby have been the faces of the NHL since 2005-06. Their careers are often linked as the NHL’s top talents, even though they play different position, use different styles, and often aren’t on the ice at the same time. The last time these two teams played, the Capitals blew a 2-0 series lead and lost to Pittsburgh in the second-round of the 2009 playoffs. That series everything they did was picked apart and parsed throughout the course of the seven games. Ovechkin and Crosby come into the series at the top of their games. Ovechkin scores three goals in the first-round after a 50-goal campaign in the regular season. Crosby had eight points in his first-round series, and finished third in the NHL in scoring during the regular season with 85 points in 80. No doubt this will be the major storyline for the entire series. Both teams will need big series' from their biggest names. 

FILE - In this March 13, 2009 file photo, Washington Capitals' Alex Ovechkin (8), from Russia, shakes hands with Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby (87) following Game 7 of an NHL hockey second-round playoff series, in Washington. After dispatching the New York Rangers in five games, Pittsburgh faces top-seed Washington in the second round, their ninth postseason clash but the first since 2009. (AP Photo/Bruce Bennett, Pool, File)

2. Braden Holtby

Holtby is arguably the biggest difference between prior Washington playoff teams and this current group. In the past, the Capitals have juggled netminders between Michal Neuvirth, Semyon Varlamov and Jose Theodore. None of those goaltenders had the skill or mental fortitude of Holtby, a Vezina Trophy finalist this season, who prides himself on being a rock in net for his team. Holtby holds a 0.84 goal-against average and .968 save percentage this postseason. In his career, Holtby’s held a 1.76 goal-against average and .940 save percentage in 40 playoff games. Can the Penguins’ snipers crack the unbreakable goaltender or will Holtby carry his team to an Eastern Conference Final.

3. Sidekicks

A lot of the storyline in the series will revolve around  Crosby and Ovechkin. But both talents haven’t become elite players in the league without some of their talented sidekicks. Nicklas Backstrom has been Ovechkin’s setup-man for his entire time in the league and also a positive puck possession player compared to the rest of his team. He’s an all-situation center who could bear the brunt of matching up against Crosby. Evgeni Malkin missed the last month of the NHL’s regular season, but returned to the first-round of the playoffs to notch seven points in four games. Malkin’s size, speed and strength make him a tough matchup down the middle.

4. Mr. Game 7

The Capitals signed Justin Williams (aka Mr. Game 7) for his clutch postseason play. The last time he was in the playoffs, he led the Los Angeles Kings to the organization’s second Stanley Cup and won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP. This postseason, he hasn’t been that impressive so far with two assists and a minus-4 rating in his team’s first-round win. Washington will need every bit of clutch from Williams to beat Pittsburgh.

5. Phil Kessel

When the Penguins acquired sniper Phil Kessel in the offseason it seemed it was a given he would score 30 goals playing with Crosby or Malkin. He had hit the mark five times in six previous seasons playing on the talent-starved Toronto Maple Leafs. He didn’t really equal expectations with a 26-goal campaign, but it didn’t matter much since the Penguins made the playoffs. He ratcheted up his game to another level in the first-round against the New York Rangers with three goals and six points in five games. Kessel’s always been a solid playoff performer with 16 goals in 27 games. This series will prove his toughest hockey test of the last few years.

6. Matt Murray’s maturity

Can Matt Murray backstop the Penguins to a win over the Caps? The 21-year-old is considered one of the top young goaltenders in the NHL and has lived up to the hype this postseason with a 1.33 goal-against average and .955 save percentage in Pittsburgh’s first-round victory. Facing the Capitals and their potent attack will be tougher than the Rangers team he beat. Currently, it sounds like Marc-Andre Fleury’s concussion will keep him out of this round which means the net will belong to Murray.

7. Special teams battle

The Penguins converted on  38.1 percent of their power plays in the first-round. The Capitals hit on 29.6 percent of their power plays. In the regular season, the Caps had the NHL’s second-best penalty kill at 85.2 percent and Pittsburgh ranked fifth in the league at 84.4 percent. Special teams won’t be the end-all-be-all in this series. But a strong power play performance could help a team steal a game or provide a big goal at a key moment to provide the difference in a game. 

8. Evgeny Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky

Kuznetsov led the Capitals in scoring this past season with 77 points in 82 games – six more than Ovechkin. In the first-round of the playoffs he had two points in five games. Burakovsky, who had 17 goals and 38 points in the regular season, was held to zero points in six games. Washington will need more than just one line to beat Pittsburgh, and this tandem will have to pick up their games in the second-round of the playoffs.

9. Mike Sullivan vs. Barry Trotz

Much has been made of how Sullivan reinvigorated Crosby this regular season, but the coach hasn’t gone far in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. His last NHL playoff appearance came in 2003-04 when his Boston Bruins were upset in the first-round by the Montreal Canadiens. Washington’s Barry Trotz has never escaped the second-round of an NHL postseason. The one time his team was a second-round favorite, the Nashville Predators folded in five games to the then-Phoenix Coyotes. This will be the most pressure-packed series both coaches have faced in their careers. 

10. Kris Letang's all-around game

Crosby and Malkin get a lot of credit for creating offense, but defenseman Kris Letang had his best all-around year as an NHLer. During the regular season he had 67 points in 71 games played while seeing his share of power play and penalty kill time. Letang also helps his team control the puck when he's on the ice as evidenced by his plus-3.36  regular season CF% Rel 5-on-5 per War-on-Ice. He had five points in his team’s first-round series. Letang is one of the best two-way blueline weapons in hockey. When he's on the ice, the Penguins know they're in good, steady hands. 

11. Prediction

Capitals in 6. The Capitals are too deep, too experienced and too motivated to lose this series. They desperately want to prove that this team is different than past groups that had couldn’t get past the second-round. Not only do they have one of the NHL’s top offenses, they’re also arguably the best defensive team left in the playoffs. Their versatility will be enough to overcome Pittsburgh’s stars and prevail into the Eastern Conference Final.

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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

Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: April 28, 2016, 6:20 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.

desert island checklist
-sunscreen
-game console
-@EASPORTSNHL 17 with Jamie on the cover

Vote #NHL17Benn pic.twitter.com/G2V1ZJv1Tx

— John Klingberg (@johnklingberg) April 28, 2016

• John Klingberg gets his Ghost Recon on while campaigning for Jamie Benn to get on the NHL 17 cover. [@johnklingberg]

• After next season, the Detroit Red Wings will move from Joe Louis Arena to ... wait for it ... Little Caesars Arena. Beware the Ides of March and the pizza. Hockey hockey. [District Detroit]

• Rookie netminder Matt Murray remains humble with a 3-0 record for the Penguins in the Stanley Cup playoffs as he fills in for Marc-Andre Fleury. [Trib Live]

• Marcus Johansson and Andre Burakovsky switched lines in the Capitals practice in the hopes of increasing five-on-five scoring. [Washington Post]

• Looking at the numbers behind the Capitals struggles at even strength. [Japers' Rink]

• Comparing the Pittsburgh Penguins power play versus the Washington Capitals penalty kill. [Pensburgh]

• Tyler Seguin is definitely out for at least the first two games against the Blues. [Dallas Morning News]

• Is home ice advantage for the St. Louis Blues still a positive against the Dallas Stars? [St. Louis Game Time]

• Sorry Arizona Coyotes fans. It appears the NHL Draft Lottery odds are not in your favor. [Arizona Sports]

• Joel Quenneville considers Andrew Shaw 'irreplaceable.' The money crunch of the Blackhawks could force the team and player to part ways. [Chicago Sun Times]

• USA Hockey has named Bob Motzko the head coach of the 2017 national junior team. [USA Hockey]

• Must read: "Should teenagers be fighting adults? They do in the OHL." [Globe & Mail]

• Minnesota Wild breakout day news: Zach Parise hopes to avoid back surgery while Thomas Vanek hopes to avoid a buyout, and more. [Star Tribune]

• Down Goes Brown: With the Chicago Blackhawks loss in Round 1, could their dynasty be coming to an end? [The Guardian]

• Find out where your favorite local NHL TV announcers rank as voted for and evidenced by the fans. [Awful Announcing]

• The assumption is that the new Las Vegas team will be in the Pacific Division; however, the Central Division might be a more likely home. [The Sin Bin]

• New York Islanders prospect Michael Dal Colle turned his early exit in the OHL playoffs into an opportunity to gain experience with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in their playoff run. [Buzzing the Net]

• The NWHL and CWHL are embroiled in a trademark dispute in Canada. [New Hamburg Independent]

• Isobel Cup champion Boston Pride player are taking pay cuts to return to their team. [Today's Slapshot]

• Kaleigh Fratkin is the first player to come out and say she is leaving her NWHL team from this past to explore the free agent market. [Along the Boards]

• An Edmonton man is auctioning off a rare hockey card collection that includes Wayne Gretzky's rookie card. A set similar to his sold for $100,000 last year, and his is expected to go for more. [CBC]

• Finally, a retrospective on Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau's time in San Jose, set to a cover of Adele's "When We Were Young." [YouTube via Emily Hall]

- - - - - - -

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: April 28, 2016, 6:00 pm

[Breaking down the plausibility of the week's biggest rumor.] 

Well, Chicago lost in the first round and in a lot of ways it could begin to feel like the walls are closing in on a lot of players on that roster.

This team is quite likely to push a number of people out the door as they continue to attempt another run at a Stanley Cup while it's still a possibility. The list of guys who are probably going to be moving on from the organization is long, depending upon whose insight you believe, but there are a few players who aren't going anywhere.

First of all, there's basically no chance either Jonathan Toews or Patrick Kane go anywhere, given that they each now cost $10.5 million against the cap, and are extremely valuable. Kane is about to be the reigning MVP, and while Toews didn't really have a good season (and an even worse playoff), he's still only 27 and viewed as an elite center.

You can probably also count Marcus Kruger, about to begin a three-year deal paying him just over $3.08 million AAV. Artemi Panarin, even with his massive bonuses, still seems like a steal as he enters the final year of his ELC. Marian Hossa, meanwhile, seemed to have the wheels falling off a bit toward the end of the year, but one cannot imagine a 37-year-old signed until 2021 for $5.275 million is an attractive commodity on the trade market (he also has a no-move).

Likewise, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook are locked in for years to come, with the latter actually starting a not-good-at-all deal that will pay him an AAV of $6.875 million until 2024, and the former an absolute steal at just under $5.54 million through 2023. Niklas Hjalmarsson probably isn't going anywhere either, given that he's very good, just 28, and only costs $4.1 million for the next three seasons.

Finally there's Corey Crawford, an excellent goaltender signed at $6 million per season through 2020. He's not going anywhere either.

So that leaves potentially everyone else making a decent freight possibly sitting on the chopping block. And there are more than a few guys making that kind of money.

The Rumor

In all, Chicago has almost $65.9 million committed to 17 players for right now, which isn't a comfortable position, but it also doesn't seem like it could be ruinous.

However, you have to consider that Andrew Shaw and Richard Panik are pending restricted free agents, and that the team can't commit too much money going forward because Teuvo Teravainen and Panarin are both up for similar extensions the following summer.

And the fact that the bonuses associated with Panarin finishing in the top-10 in scoring (totaling $2.5 million in additional cap hit) are going to push the club over the cap limit, and the sizable overage will be applied to the club's number for 2016-17. And they're still carrying $1.125 million of Rob Scuderi's cap hit for next year as well.

“Cap squeeze” doesn't begin to cover it. So how do you fix the problem?

One guy who's not technically signed for next year, and who is for-sure not re-signing with the team, is Andrew Ladd. That's a consensus. However, Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune also thinks you can basically kiss all of Chicago's pending UFAs (Dale Weise, Tomas Fleischmann, Brandon Mashinter, Christian Ehrhoff, and Michal Rozsival) goodbye. That makes sense to an extent. I'd worry about the loss of a Fleischmann does to the team's depth but there are corners that absolutely need to be cut here.

Craig Custance, like Kuc and others, believes Stan Bowman should also absolutely look at trading pending RFA Shaw, because he is perhaps the most valuable-seeming expendable player on the team. Of course, on getaway day, Joel Quenneville said Shaw is “irreplaceable” so who knows what that means (endorsement, political maneuvering, or both)?

Both also believe that finding someone to take the Bryan Bickell contract ($4 million for one more season) is imperative but, uhh, good luck with that. There's also the possibility that if a trade partner can't be found, he'll be bought out.

More or less everyone also agrees that the team needs to improve the blue line. Keith remains fantastic, Hjalmarsson is as solid a shutdown defenseman as there is, and Seabrook, well, they like Seabrook. Beyond that, the D corps is iffy; Trevor van Riemsdyk is probably the best returning player on it. Which isn't great.

Kuc believes that Brian Campbell might take “a major drop in pay” to go for another Cup, especially because he has a home in Chicago. He further notes prospects Ville Pokka and Gustav Forsling could be ready for prime time.

To free up some cap space, David Haugh also suggests moving Artem Anisimov — the center on the wildly effect Kane/Panarin line — is a possibility.

Who's Going Where?

Lots to unpack here but basically: No UFAs retained, RFAs handled on a case-by-case basis but there's a distinct possibility at least one ends up elsewhere, they need to sign a middle-pairing defender (maybe Brian Campbell!), Bryan Bickell will either be bought out or traded, they might dump Artem Anisimov to save money, and also need to hope some prospects are ready for the NHL.

This is fine. Nothing to worry about here.

Custance says that a possible landing spot for the irreplaceable Shaw would be Edmonton, Buffalo, or some other young team that needs leadership. Who would those teams be willing to give up in return from their NHL rosters? Tough to say, but he'd have to be cheap. So that's a concern.

Just about everyone else is leaving town to destinations currently unknown. This is a high-level exodus event. We're talking about six or seven forwards and two defensemen just moving on and being replaced either on the cheap or from within.

The Implications

Basically Chicago is going to be in scramble mode this summer, and possibly for several more summers to come. The price of three Stanley Cups in six years is having more than $60.42 million committed to just 10 guys (Kane, Toews, Hossa, Bickell, Anisimov, Kruger, Seabrook, Keith, Hjalmarsson, and Crawford).

Even if you move one or two of those contracts, you're not in particularly good shape going forward. For instance, in 2018-19 and without making other moves from within the “core,” they'll still be paying a combined $56.42 million to just Toews (who will by that time be 30), Kane (30), Hossa (40), Anisimov (30), Kruger (28), Seabrook (34), Keith (35), Hjalmarsson (31), and Crawford (34). Yikes.

This has been the reality for the club, to some extent, more or less since they began their run and had to trade half an All-Star starting six. But the crunch gets worse as key pieces get re-signed. And bargain-hunting won't pay off forever, will it?

Maybe you say three titles with one group is worth the headache. I dunno. But Bowman can't be thinking about that when he's trying to work the phones in the next several weeks.

This Is So Huge, If True: Is It True?

On a B.S. detector scale of 1-5, with one being the most reasonable and 5 being the least:

Clearly many changes are going to be made, that much is obvious. To address the proposed or rumored ideas above, let's just go individually.

All UFAs allowed to walk:

Poop

(Everyone agrees it's for-sure going to happen.)

RFAs Richard Panik and Dennis Rasmussen are retained “at the right price:”

(Seems more likely than not.)

Andrew Shaw traded for D help:

(Also seems pretty likely, despite Quenneville's apparent love.)

Bickell traded:

Five Poops

 (Almost no chance.)

Bickell bought out:

(Yeah that makes more sense.)

Anisimov traded:

 (It just creates a whole different problem, but that cap hit is a major concern for what he provides.)

Low-cost prospects and bargain-bin pickups fill roster holes:

(Will happen. Fortunately for Chicago, good NHL veterans get dramatically undervalued every season, and you can always use kids on your fourth line where the damage they might cause you is minimal.) 

Brian Campbell signs for practically nothing:

(Why would he do that? This is the kind of “player lives near here” rumor you hear all the time.)

Okay, thanks.

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

(All statistics via War On Ice unless otherwise noted.)

Author: Ryan Lambert
Posted: April 28, 2016, 5:08 pm

(Ed. Note: As the Stanley Cup Playoffs continue, we're bound to lose some friends along the journey. We've asked for these losers, gone but not forgotten, to be eulogized by the people who knew the teams best: The bloggers and fans who hated them the most. Here is Brad Lee of St. Louis Game Time, fondly recalling the 2015-16 Chicago Blackhawks.)

(Again, this was not written by us. Also: This is a roast and you will be offended by it, so don't take it so seriously.)

BY BRAD LEE

This is a BREAKING NEWS update from the NHL Network. We take you live to the National Hockey League offices in Manhattan. Reporter Mike Glumac has the story.

The NHL has become the next large corporation to be the victim of a data breach. We have learned this morning that the personal email account of Gary Bettman has been hacked.

According to an online cyber organization only going by the initials SLGT, they hacked into the commissioner’s email in the aftermath of the Game 7 victory of the St. Louis Blues over the Chicago Blackhawks.

Mr. Bettman was in St. Louis for the deciding, dramatic and surprising game Monday night, sitting with members of the Hawks front office – at least when he wasn’t up getting beer and snacks for them. Apparently at his hotel that night, someone got access to his phone and downloaded several emails. And now they’ve published them online for the world to see. The vast majority of the thousands and thousands of emails are from Blackhawks supporters and even some employees filing complaints with the league via the commissioner.

What follows is just the tip of the iceberg, but it is a representative sample of all the emails. Last names have been redacted.

------------------------------------------

Commissioner,

The officiating in the Hawks-Blues series has been horrible since Game 3. We are the defending champs and deserve the benefit of the doubt! The Hawks needed more power plays, but you didn’t come through like normal. The Hawks somehow lost. Now the NHL doesn’t have any Original 6 or Canadian teams in the second round of the playoffs.

You get what you deserve, Bettman. You think people are going to watch The Blues and Stars?!! Please.

I’d like to formally request a coach’s challenge for the entire series. I figure no one ever knows which way the challenges will go anyway, so it’s worth a shot.

I expect compensation, sir. No more preferential treatment for the Blues. And no means "no."

Jon T.

------------------------------------------

Gary,

Listen, I’m going to need a favor.

When our fine young rookie Artemi Panarin finished the season tied for eighth in points, he triggered some salary bonuses for the year. In fact, his bonuses total $2.5 million. Now you probably don’t know a lot of details about the salary cap or league rules or almost anything about hockey, but that number carries forward to next season. And that is going to hurt us with the cap. It will put us over. I already have to deal with $10.5 million for Patrick Kane and Jon Toews. Marian Hossa counts $5.2 million into the next decade, Brent Seabrook’s number rises to $6.875 million and even Corey Crawford counts $6 million a year. I get vertigo just looking at those numbers. We had to dump Patrick Sharp, Brandon Saad and Johnny Oduya because of cap troubles. I could have used those guys. The Hawks would still be playing and NBC would be getting ratings if there was a Hawks exception to the cap.

You’re a lawyer, find a loophole. And I won’t take no for an answer.

Stan B.

NHL

------------------------------------------

Mr. Bettman,

I would like to complain about the conduct of many people in St. Louis who presumably call themselves “Blues fans.”

Ha! If they’re such fans, why is Scottrade Center filled with red jerseys every time the Hawks play in this Godforsaken city? And I use the term city, loosely. I think many of them live in dumpsters behind the pet food company down the street.

The sports fans in St. Louis are baseball fans. They’re only bandwagon fans for the Blues. I bet most of them became fans in the last six years or so, their jerseys all still have the tags on them. Ridiculous! And when the Hawks, the better team in the series according to every REAL FAN I spoke with, somehow lost, the Blues “fans” showed disrespect for hockey royalty. We walked out, in tears. And those ungracious hosts hooted and hollered. They got in our faces, waving these fan-run publications clearly biased toward the Blues and just partied like we weren’t even sad. Act like you’ve been there before, for crying out loud which we were. This series win was so ill begotten, the Blues organization should forfeit and give up their place in the second round to the rightful winners, the Chicago Blackhawks.

My girlfriend said no, don’t send this. She said no, don’t complain. But I didn’t listen, obviously. I’m committed to this team with the Native American logo.

Sam F.

Cubs

------------------------------------------

Yo, Gar.

This series win by St. Louis is complete and utter [CENSORED FOR FAMILY AUDIENCE]. It [CENSORED] sucks, and it just happened a few minutes ago. Dude, you’re my bro, bro! Do me a solid! Can’t you say the Blues were over the cap? I hear all the good teams are these days. And while they’re not a good [CENSORED] team, obviously you can do something about this. You’re the president! Pull a veto, whatever that is. I heard it on the news between Family Guy episodes. Veto this [CENSORED].

Dude, meet me for beers in your hotel lobby. First six rounds of shots are on me. And if you can do this [CENSORED] for me, I’ll make sure you have a hot date the rest of the night. I’m good with the ladies, man. I’ll make it happen for you, I [CENSORED] swear. And clear your schedule for Cinco de Mayo. Big [CENSORED] plans, my brotha.

Patrick K.

(Via @HitchsHat)

------------------------------------------

Commissioner,

I am writing to inform you that I am giving up my fandom with the Chicago Blackhawks organization. I can no longer tolerate this team allowing players to literally run roughshod over rules and expectations of decent human behavior. I’m tired of seeing members of this team act like they can do whatever they want to whomever they want whenever they want with only minor repercussions. It makes me embarrassed to support this team and wear the logo on my hat, shirt, pants, socks and underwear. While law enforcement obviously cannot step in and do something, I can no longer stand idle. I must act when others won’t and take a stand against things I don’t believe in.

So until the Hawks make a change and get rid of the offenders, I will no longer be a fan.

Of course I’m referring to Andrew Shaw and Duncan Keith. All the rest of the players are good by me.

Mike T.

------------------------------------------

Chilling stuff, to be sure. We’ll follow up later today as this story develops. And personally, I’m curious to see how the league is going to do the right thing by stepping in and reversing this series to put the Blackhawks in the second round.

Allegedly.

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Author: Yahoo Sports Staff
Posted: April 28, 2016, 3:29 pm
Blues

Viral moments in social media have become calculated, work-shopped and focus-grouped. The truly organic, truly odd moments of simultaneous discovery and zeitgeist tapping are few and far between, which is why they have to be savored and celebrated. 

And with that, the cult of celebrity around Anthony Holmes, a.k.a. “Tony X,” must be celebrated.

As he tells it, Tony was flipping around the channels on Monday night looking for the St. Louis Cardinals game. He landed on Fox Sports Midwest where the St. Louis Blues were playing the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 7 of their opening round series. Tony tweeted:

“Yo deadass this the first time I've ever watched hockey and this [crap] has been LIT for these first 45 seconds.”

What followed were a collection of hilarious observations from a sports fan slowly letting the light of hockey into his heart, including the immortal:

“White people been hiding hockey from us for years bruh. This [crap] lit.”

That last line was favorited 52,000 times and counting. And a star was born.

The (PG-13-rated) observations continued during the rest of the hockey week, including such classics as:

wait goalies fight? that must be setup pregame..... how can u have beef with dude who allllll the way on the other side?

— Tony X. (@soIoucity) April 28, 2016

And

i am lowkey right now and hockey got basically 2 halftimes to get snacks nba and nfl losing lowkey https://t.co/5WsuDWLCUY

— Tony X. (@soIoucity) April 28, 2016

He even got into a Twitter conversation with Roberto Luongo, Florida Panthers goalie, as they watched Game 7 of the Nashville Predators v. Anaheim Ducks series.

@soIoucity don't google 2011 SCF

— Strombone (@strombone1) April 28, 2016

And when it came to get him geared up as a Blues fan, star winger Vladimir Tarasenko lobbied to have him wear his sweater:

@soIoucity I think you look best in my 91! ##NHL17Tarasenko #NHL17CoverVote pic.twitter.com/QIF0gGzq4b

— Vladimir Tarasenko (@tara9191) April 28, 2016

Benjamin Hochman of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch caught up with Holmes on Wednesday about all of it:

“I’m actually doing a Skype session tomorrow morning with Michael Strahan on ‘Good Morning America,’” said Holmes, who grew up in University City and works at a local cable company.

“Hockey got pretty exciting real quick. It was just nonstop action – it was like I was almost having a panic attack every time somebody shot at the goal. Football is exciting, but after every play they take a break. Hockey never stops. It just never stops.”

When the Blues tweeted at Holmes on Wednesday, inviting him to Game 3 against Dallas, he responded: “I’m there. should i bring a jacket? I’m so serious. It is a room full of ice?”

The athletic company Reebok promptly tweeted to him, offering Blues gear to wear. And hundreds of people tweeted back with advice on what to wear to games, as well as words of wisdom

Here’s that GMA segment:

WATCH: Twitter user @soIoucity goes viral for hockey live-tweets; gets surprise from @StLouisBlues, @HOFBlues16 https://t.co/mTazeDYaB1

— Good Morning America (@GMA) April 28, 2016

Yep, the GMA crew invited Blues Hall of Famer Brett Hull on to reaffirm that Tony will be in attendance for his first hockey game during Game 3 of their semifinal series against the Dallas Stars.

“I’m going to do a little bit of [live tweeting.] I want to experience it. A lot of people tell me it gets crazy when it’s live," said Tony.

A lot of the coverage of Tony, like this radio interview, either refreshingly or mysteriously overlooks the fact that much of the comedy and the novelty of his celebrity is as a black man watching professional hockey. Because, in case you haven’t noticed, black players and black fans have had a complicated relationship with the NHL, even as their numbers are growing.

All of this viral fun is actually reminiscent of something that happened after the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup last season. Please recall when a WGN reporter interviewed a local African-American man, asked him about the Hawks’ win, and heard in response, “You know how awesome the Hawks are? It sounds messed up but it’s true: They got black people lovin’ hockey. Ain’t that something?”

I feel the same way about “Tony X” as I did about that guy: It’s inspiring to see how a winning season can knock down demographic dividers and bring everyone together, even if for a moment; and how, in that moment, die-hard hockey fans that are usually the first to check your card and ask you to define “icing” before letting you on the bandwagon can be the ones reaching out to help you climb aboard.

“If I’d have known how intense it was, I would have watched it years ago,” said Tony recently.

And hopefully, for years to come.

NHL

(Image via MettleBlue)

--

Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: April 28, 2016, 1:27 pm

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- It's difficult to conceive that this Game 7 loss by the Anaheim Ducks may have hurt worse than the three others that came before it. 

Walking into the locker room, the feeling was different after the previous year's Game 7 loss in the Western Conference Final. One could feel the anger radiating from the team.

This year, it was different. The looks on the players faces was of shock. It felt like a funeral.

Corey Perry sat in the back of his room in full gear while his teammates had left to change out of their pads. His stare was vacant. His voice was barely audible as he addressed reporters. Could this loss be more painful than the previous three?

"Probably," said Perry. "It hurts. A lot of guys in here that were playing hard for us. Too bad we couldn’t get it done."

Perry, who led the Ducks in goal scoring during the regular season, could not find the back of the net to save his life. He ended the series against Nashville with only four assists and a minus-7.

"We could have used him, but I know one thing – he left it all out there today," said coach Bruce Boudreau of his star forward. "He tried his a-- off. I mean, it’s not easy to score goals. We would have loved one in the third. He had five or six really good chances, but he was snakebit the whole series. It was tough, but it wasn’t for lack of his effort tonight."

Andrew Cogliano was in disbelief.

"I thought we dominated them, to be honest," said Cogliano. "... I didn’t think they had any really good looks, and we hit a couple posts; we had some power plays. This was probably one of the best games of the series.

"It wasn’t meant to be. I don’t know what it is, but I can’t explain it. We can’t get a bounce to start of these games, and they end up killing us."

Cam Fowler offered an honest appraisal of the team's reputation for losing Game 7s on home ice.

"It's certainly not fun, and it's not the title you want to have in this league," said Fowler. "I'm trying not to look at it big picture so much ... We were focused on this year with a great group of guys. I just feel for them right now."

As for those guys, Ryan Kesler, arguably the Ducks best player in the second half of the season and the playoffs, gave his perspective on possible change in the locker room.

"We’ve got a good group in here," said Kesler. "Every year there is changes. It’s my job to play hockey. Obviously, there will be changes; there always is. It’s tough to see teammates go."

None of the players went out of their way to address the biggest elephant in the room - that of the status of Boudreau. It felt like a foregone conclusion that this loss is likely the one that will send the coach packing.

In his postgame press conference, Boudreau didn't care to speculate about his future.

"I have no idea. I haven’t thought about it as far as my future," said Boudreau. "I just come to work every day until I’m told not to come to work."

Ducks are expected to have their exit meetings in the next day or two. By then we should know the fate of Boudreau; unless Bob Murray prolongs the decision as he did following the Western Conference Final loss in 2015. 

- - - - - - -

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: April 28, 2016, 7:31 am

ANAHEIM, Calif. – David Poile walked into the Nashville Predators locker room after his team ousted the Anaheim Ducks from the playoffs with a series-clinching Game 7 first-round win.

There, he found goaltender Pekka Rinne standing in the middle of the room and gave the sweaty Rinne an embrace. It was a gesture of thanks from the longtime GM for the netminder’s steady heroics in the most important of the series – the first Game 7 in Nashville’s team history.

Rinne made 36 saves on 37 Ducks shots on goal in the 2-1 win. He helped the Predators survive a 28 shot on goal onslaught from the Ducks in the final two periods, when Nashville could only muster 10 shots on goal in the same timeframe.

[Join a Yahoo Daily Fantasy Hockey contest today]

After the game the Predators clearly recognized that Rinne was the main reason why they were moving onto the second-round of the playoffs to face the San Jose Sharks.  

“He was amazing I thought. He had some really big saves and had a lot of pucks. They shot a lot of pucks on net and a couple of scrums. It was really strong,” defenseman Roman Josi said. “I’ve seen the guy make some unbelievable saves and since I came here has been so huge for this organization and been huge for us this whole series.”

Throughout his career Rinne, a three-time Vezina Trophy finalist, has been known for spectacular saves, stretching and contorting his 6-foot-5 frame with agility and grace. On Wednesday he was more consistent than extraordinary. The only goal he let in was a power play score by Ryan Kesler on a point-blank tic-tac-toe play where he had almost no chance.

Everything else he mostly swallowed up. 

“You try to stay calm. When you start thinking about Game 7 before the game it’s a first Game 7 for all of us in this franchise, myself personally so you think about it and are a little bit nervous before the game,” Rinne said. “Obviously getting the first couple of shots and making a few good saves, you start feeling it and getting some confidence.”

Going into this series it was unclear if Rinne’s presence in net was a strength for Nashville or an undercover weakness. He had a 2.48 goal-against average and .908 save percentage in 66 games played this year. Since 2012-13 his only solid year was last season when he was a Vezina Trophy finalist. Besides that season a lot of his game had been inconsistent. 

In Rinne’s three losses he was mediocre with a .857 save percentage. But when the Predators needed him to step up, he did so in a big way the last two games, allowing two goals on 64 shots on goal to cap a series comeback from down 3-2. 

“I mean over the years he’s made some huge acrobatic saves, but he was just really solid (tonight)” said Predators defenseman Shea Weber, a longtime teammate of Rinne's in Nashville. “He made all the saves he needed to and didn’t get himself into too much trouble and was a big reason we were able to win tonight.” 

Late in the first period with the Ducks down 2-0, Rinne stopped Anaheim forward Jakob Silfverberg in front on an open backhand opportunity.

In the third period he made two big stops on sniper Corey Perry and several saves in the final minutes, withstanding a furious Ducks attempted rally.

“He was great. He settles it down, gives us the confidence,” forward Mike Fisher said. “We had a good, solid defensive effort. Obviously he was the biggest part of that. He played unbelievable.”

The next round, Rinne will face arguably a tougher test, and a hotter team in the San Jose Sharks. The team can roll four lines, three defense pairs and has one of the playoffs’ top trios in Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski and Tomas Hertl. 

In the Sharks’ five-game ouster of the Los Angeles Kings in the first-round, many of San Jose’s chances came from the interior – a location on the ice Nashville did a solid job defending in the last two games of the series.

San Jose’s style is comparable to the Ducks’ which means the Predators could employ a similar strategy. And if they do, they know they have the right guy in net to stop the Sharks.

“They provide a similar challenge as Anaheim,” Rinne said. “ Their top players are some of the top players in the league and really dangerous individuals and their power play is really good and very similar to me at least.”

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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

Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: April 28, 2016, 6:42 am

No. 1 Star: Shane Prince, New York Islanders 

So are we seeing the John Druce of the 2015-16 playoffs? Prince scored twice in 2:29 near the end of the first period, giving the Islanders a lead they’d never give up the Tampa Bay Lightning in Round 2, Game 1, winning 5-3.

No. 2 Star: Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators

Rinne made 36 saves and got some puck luck in the Preds’ 2-1 Game 7 win over the Anaheim Ducks. He said he packed enough clothes for six days in California, and move on to play San Jose. That’s confidence.

No. 3 Star: Thomas Greiss, New York Islanders

Greiss was outstanding again for the Isles, making 33 saves and surviving a third-period push from Tampa in which they had 17 shots.

Honorable Mention: Nikita Kucherov scored his sixth for the Lightning. … John Tavares scored his sixth for the Islanders. … Paul Gaustad and Colin Wilson had the Predators’ goals. … Ryan Kelser scored the lone Ducks goal.  

Conn Smythe Watch: 1. John Tavares, New York Islanders; 2. Jamie Benn, Dallas Stars; 3. Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals; 4. Joe Pavelski, San Joe Sharks; 5. Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning.

Dishonorable Mention: Ben Bishop was pulled in the second period after giving up four goals on 13 shots. … Matt Carle was a minus-2. … Jamie Mcginn was a minus-2. … Corey Perry finished the playoffs with no goals. … Bruce Boudreau dropped to 1-7 in Game 7s.

Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: April 28, 2016, 5:58 am

The Nashville Predators completed their rally. The Anaheim Ducks completed yet another disappointing season under Bruce Boudreau. And at the completion of Game 7, it was the Predators advancing with an intense 2-1 victory led by a 36-save effort from Pekka Rinne.

The Predators now move on to face the San Jose Sharks in the second round of the Western Conference playoffs, advancing past the first round for the first time since 2012 and winning the first Game 7 in their franchise’s history. 

It was the second time in four seasons that the Ducks were eliminated in the first round under coach Bruce Boudreau after finishing first in the division.

One wonders if it will be the last time Boudreau coaches the Ducks, as for the fifth straight playoff season one of his teams failed to win a Game 7. Boudreau is now 1-7 in Game 7s; Peter Laviolette is now 5-1.

This is what the Ducks do, unfortunately. In 2013, in a Game 7 against the Detroit Red Wings, they gave up two goals in the first 16:37. In 2014, it was two goals in the first 8:48 against the Los Angeles Kings. In 2015, it was two goals in the first 11:55 against the Chicago Blackhawks; then, in Game 7 against the Predators, it was two goals in the first 15:53.

In all cases, the Ducks were eliminated.

Colin Wilson got the Preds on the board first, converting a turnover by Simon Despres in the slot of the Ducks’ defensive zone for the 1-0 lead.

The second goal was a controversial one. Paul Gaustad tipped the puck home with a stick that was perilously close to being too high. Wilson helped set up the play with solid forechecking; Shea Weber’s shot was deflected home.

Ryan Kesler got one back, finally, 1:45 into the third period with the Ducks on the power play, converting a nice passing play from Jacob Silfverberg.

The Ducks came incredibly close to tying the game with a puck rang off the post with Corey Perry inside the crease. His stick missed the puck and it bounced out of harm’s way.

A flurry late in the third period – after a bad penalty by Ryan Getzlaf at 14:38, and about a minute of keep-away by the Predators – couldn’t get the equalizer.

"What a job by us," said Rinne on NBCSN. "I'm just so proud right now."

The buzzer sounded. The Ducks lost a Game 7. Again.

For the Predators, it ended a roller coaster of a series: Winning two games in Anaheim, losing three straight, surviving in Game 6 and then winning Game 7 on the road. They open against the Sharks on Friday night. 

Now, the questions begin for the Ducks. Will Boudreau be fired? Will Sami Vatanen be traded due to salary cap concerns? How will GM Bob Murray slice and dice into this team to improve it?

And if anyone sees Corey Perry’s offense, can you tell it that the playoffs are already over?

--

Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: April 28, 2016, 4:56 am

Now that the Nashville Predators have eliminated the Anaheim Ducks, the Round 2 schedule for the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs is officially set. 

While the New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning opened things up Wednesday night, the second round will continue with the second playoff meeting between Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin on Thursday.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. New York Islanders
Wed 4/27, 7pm: 5 NYI @ TBL 3
Sat 4/30, 3pm: NYI @ TBL | NBC, TVA Sports
Tue 5/3, 7pm: TBL @ NYI | NBCSN, TVA Sports
Fri 5/6, 7pm: TBL @ NYI | NBCSN, TVA Sports
*Sun 5/8, TBD:  NYI @ TBL | TBD
*Tue 5/10, TBD:  TBL @ NYI | TBD
*Thu 5/12, TBD:  NYI @ TBL | TBD 

Washington Capitals vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
Thu 4/28, 8pm: PIT @ WSH | NBCSN, TVA Sports
Sat 4/30, 8pm: PIT @ WSH | NBC, TVA Sports
Mon 5/2, 8pm: WSH @ PIT | NBCSN, TVA Sports
Wed 5/4, 8pm: WSH @ PIT | NBCSN, TVA Sports
*Sat 5/7, TBD:  PIT @ WSH | TBD
*Tue 5/10, TBD:  WSH @ PIT | TBD
*Thu 5/12, TBD:  PIT @ WSH | TBD

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Dallas Stars vs. St. Louis Blues
Fri 4/29, 8pm: STL @ DAL | NBCSN, TVA Sports
Sun 5/1, 3pm: STL @ DAL | NBC, TVA Sports
Tue 5/3, 9:30pm: DAL @ STL | USA, TVA Sports
Thu 5/5, 8pm: DAL @ STL | NBCSN, TVA Sports
*Sat 5/7, TBD:  STL @ DAL | TBD
*Mon 5/9, TBD:  DAL @ STL | TBD
*Wed 5/11, TBD:  STL @ DAL | TBD 

San Jose Sharks vs. Nashville Predators
Fri 4/29, 10:30pm: NSH @ SJS | NBCSN, TVA Sports
Sun 5/1, 8pm: NSH @ SJS | NBCSN, TVA Sports
Tue 5/3, 9pm: SJS @ NSH | USA, TVA Sports
Thu 5/5, 9pm: SJS @ NSH | CNBC, TVA Sports
*Sat 5/7, TBD:  NSH @ SJS | TBD
*Mon 5/9, TBD:  SJS @ NSH | TBD
*Thu 5/12, TBD:  NSH @ SJS | TBD 

The Lightning and Islanders are going to learn about the fun regarding arena availability this time of year with a trio of two full off days between games.

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Author: Sean Leahy
Posted: April 28, 2016, 4:56 am

The New York Islanders won Game 1 of their second-round series against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday.

Hopefully with a few days before Game 2, they can find a way to appease WFAN’s Mike Francesa, who thinks their whole public relations operation is third-rate. 

The Sports Pope told a caller who asked about the Islanders that he feels the team does a horrible job promoting its players, which when run through our Mike Francesa Translator means they didn’t provide his show with what he requested.

Via @RNs_Funhouse, Twitter’s most valuable chronicler of Mike Francesa audio, the rant from Wednesday’s show:

Hi @NYIslanders ... Mike Francesa thinks you have a third-rate organization. Good luck getting to sleep tonight!https://t.co/A1Zr0fVUPJ

— I Nevah Said That! (@RNs_Funhouse) April 27, 2016

For the audio inhibited:

You know what, here’s what’s wrong with them right now: They’re not – I’m going to be honest with you – they’re not very good at promoting themselves. I gotta be honest with you: They’re third rate at promoting themselves.

They gotta realize that this is New York and this is the big time because they’re a third-rate organization. I’m sorry, they are. They’re a third-rate organization and they don’t know what they’re doing. They’re in the playoffs in the second round now. They don’t even know how to be there.

They don’t know how to promote themselves. They couldn’t even find the time to get the coach to show up here. We were willing to take him. They couldn’t even get him to the show on time.

So I mean, they don’t know what they’re doing. They’re a little lost right now. They’re in a little deep.

Now they’re players aren’t, but the organization is. Their organization right now as far as what it’s doing, especially from a PR standpoint, is lost. I mean, third rate at best.

Ironically, the Islanders getting their games on WFAN was a big deal in Round 1. “We are thrilled to partner with CBS Radio to provide the Islanders with widespread exposure during the team’s Stanley Cup playoff games,” said Brett Yormark, CEO if Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment.  

Rick DiPietro, the former Islanders goalie-turned-radio host on rival 98.7 FM hit back at "Fatso."

😂😂@HDumpty39 reacts to Francesa on Hahn & Humpty @alanhahn #isles pic.twitter.com/t6zBsB2axL

— YeSUV (@IslesWhiteSUV) April 27, 2016

s/t Elite Sports NY

--

Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: April 28, 2016, 2:56 am

For the first time in the history of the National Women's Hockey League (NWHL), they are getting sued.

The league's former Chief Marketing Officer, Mike Moran has followed through on threats made by his attorney, and filed a lawsuit against the league and commissioner Dani Rylan.

According to Meg Linehan of Excelle Sports:

"Moran’s lawsuit demands $200,000 for breach of contract. Under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 93A, Moran is seeking treble damages plus attorney fees. In addition, there is a separate cause for what is called quantum meruit—Moran is seeking $50,000 for the services he performed as Chief Marketing Officer for the NWHL from February 2015 to October 2015."

According to Wikipedia, treble damages is "a term that indicates that a statute permits a court to triple the amount of the actual/compensatory damages to be awarded to a prevailing plaintiff. Treble damages are a multiple of, and not an addition to, actual damages."

Basically, take the $200,000 he wants and multiply it by three. Then add the extra $50,000 he's requesting through a stipulation called 'quantum meruit.' Essentially he wants money for doing work for the league, but the exact amount is not listed in a legally binding contract.

Read the full lawsuit here:

Civil lawsuit filed against NWHL by Puckdaddyblog

As reported by Linehan, "Moran and his attorneys allege Rylan and the NWHL’s actions 'constitute unfair and deceptive business practices.'"

The Associated Press added:

"Moran is demanding his investment back after a dispute occurred with NWHL Commissioner Dani Rylan over what he says was his 40-percent stake in establishing North America's first league to pay female players a salary."

Moran alleges that he and Rylan agreed back in 2013 to his owning of a 40-percent share and Rylan would get 60-percent; however, the agreement was never put in writing because as the lawsuit states "because Moran and Rylan were friends and had been friends for years." 

Additionally, according to the AP, Moran "discovered an email Rylan had sent to another individual indicating Moran had only a two-percent share." No word on how he discovered the email.

In a comment to the AP, the NWHL called this "frivolous and personal," and "a malicious attack to undermine Dani Rylan."

"The intentions of the individual who filed it were never about business or recouping finances, but a malicious attack to undermine Dani Rylan and the work of many behind the scenes," the league's statement said. The NWHL said it will provide a further response in legal documents being prepared by its attorneys."

- - - - - - -

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: April 28, 2016, 2:41 am

The New York Islanders took Game 1 of their second-round series against the Tampa Bay Lightning with a 5-3 victory. They did so, however, without head coach Jack Capuano behind their bench for most of the final half of the third period. 

Alex Killorn’s wrister into the Islanders’ zone deflected off of Ryan Strome’s shin pad and into the New York bench, striking Capuano in the face. 

Assistant coach Doug Weight took over while Capuano got checked out by the team's trainers. But it wasn't long before Capuano returned to the Islanders bench sporting a small nick on the beak:

Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images

Capuano's return must have brought some good luck as Cal Clutterbuck put home the empty-net insurance goal a short while after getting back into the game.

“A little bit of a headache right now,” Capuano said afterward via Newsday. “I’ve been hit more times (behind the bench) than when I played. It caught the tip of my nose, fortunately it wasn’t anything more serious.”

- - - - - - -

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: April 28, 2016, 2:23 am

Moments before the puck dropped in Game 1 of their second-round series against the New York Islanders, Ben Bishop of the Tampa Bay Lightning was announced as one of the three finalists for the 2015-16 Vezina Trophy, given to the NHL’s top goaltender.

Exactly 28 minutes and 59 minutes of game time later, he was pulled.

The Islanders built a 4-1 lead against Bishop, who was pulled after John Tavares' long-distance goal on the power play in the second period. Andre Vasilevskiy stopped all eight shots he faced, but the Lightning couldn’t complete a third-period rally and the Islanders took Game 1, 5-3.

While Bishop faltered, Thomas Greiss gave the Islanders another stellar effort, stopping 33 of 36 shots, some of them very high percentage.

“It was a great effort from everyone,” he said on NBCSN after the win. “The first game is always huge.”

The Lightning hit the board first on an Ondrej Palat goal at 3:05 of the first period. But Travis Hamonic responded at 5:44, with Tavares getting an assist.

Then it was the Shane Prince show.

Prince, the late-season acquisition quickly becoming a postseason unsung hero, scored at 17:28 and at 19:57 from linemates Ryan Strome and Brock Nelson, as the Islanders left the Lightning and their home fans stunned with a 3-1 first-period lead.

After Tavares chased Bishop, it appeared the Islanders had this one in hand. But Nikita Kucherov scored his sixth of the playoffs at 7:41 of the third period, and Valtteri Filppula followed with a goal just under 10 minutes later.

The Lightning pulled Vasilevskiy and generated some chances, but Greiss was up to the task. And when he needed help, his teammates provided it. Cal Clutterbuck made a huge block in the defensive zone, and then turned around and scored into an empty net to clinch it.

The line of Clutterbuck, Casey Cizikas and Matt Martin reclaimed their swagger after being overwhelmed by the Florida Panthers in the first round. Cizikas delivered a crushing check on Erik Condra in the first period that left the Lightning forward concussed. The line as a whole pressured the Lightning defense and had a strong game.

But as usual, it was Tavares that led the way with a goal and an assist, currently leading the playoffs in goals and points.

Game 2 of the series is Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m. 

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Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: April 28, 2016, 2:08 am

The New York Islanders’ checking line was arguably the most effective in the league this season, but wasn’t in their first round series against the Florida Panthers. 

Perhaps Casey Cizikas was trying to set the tone, then, with the hit of the playoffs on Erik Condra of the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 1 of their second-round series on Wednesday night.

Condra collected a puck that was dumped into the corner of the Lightning’s defensive zone. He turned to fire the puck back out and as he did Cizikas shoved him into the boards with some serious velocity.

Condra remained on his back for several moments before being helped off the ice. It was his second shift of the game.

No penalty on the play – just a brutally efficient hit by one of the Islanders’ best bangers. 

--

Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: April 28, 2016, 12:12 am
PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 24: Goalie Braden Holtby #70 of the Washington Capitals looks on against the Philadelphia Flyers during the second period in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Wells Fargo Center on April 24, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

The NHL announced Wednesday that Ben Bishop of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Braden Holtby of the Washington Capitals and Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings are the three finalists for the 2015-16 Vezina Trophy, which is awarded “to the goalkeeper adjudged to be the best at his position,” as voted on by the League’s 30 general managers. 

So which one of these guys will win the Vezina?

Why Ben Bishop Deserves The Vezina

From the NHL: 

After establishing a career high and franchise record with 40 victories in 2014-15, Bishop shared fourth place in the NHL with 35 wins this season. He also surpassed Nikolai Khabibulin (83) as the winning goaltender in Lightning history, finishing the campaign with 115 for Tampa Bay. Bishop paced the NHL with a 2.06 goals-against average and ranked second with a .926 save percentage, both career highs and single-season franchise records. His six shutouts also were a career high and tied for second place in the League. Bishop is a Vezina finalist for the second time after a third-place finish in 2013-14.

Bishop had an outstanding season and was a steadying presence for the Lightning. How outstanding will probably be determined by how you feel about the Lightning penalty kill: His .908 save percentage while shorthanded was first among goalies with at least 45 games played, and a huge reason why that overall save percentage was so gaudy. His 271 shorthanded shots faced was sixth overall. Tampa was seventh on the kill in the regular season.

Why Braden Holtby Deserves The Vezina

From the NHL:

Holtby equaled a single-season NHL record with 48 wins, tying the mark set by New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur in 2006-07, to backstop the Capitals to the 2015-16 Presidents' Trophy as the League's top regular-season club. Holtby, who tied a franchise record with 41 victories in 2014-15, became the seventh goaltender in NHL history to record consecutive 40-win seasons – and the first to do since San Jose’s Evgeni Nabokov from 2007-09 (3x). The first-time Vezina finalist ranked fifth in the NHL in goals-against average (2.20), sixth in saves (1,661) and eighth in save percentage (.922).

It’s important to note that Holtby was the best goalie on the planet for the first three months of the season, including a .947 save percentage in December. His numbers dipped in January and February, as the Capitals were in cruise control, before bouncing back up in March. It’ll be interesting to see if recency bias affects his candidacy, as he’s been the goalie to beat for the award for the majority of the season.

Why Jonathan Quick Deserves The Vezina

The NHL says:

Quick led all NHL goaltenders in appearances (68), starts (68) and minutes (4,034), and ranked second in wins (40), fifth in saves (1,671) and tied for fifth in shutouts (5) in 2015-16. He became the first Kings goaltender to reach 40 wins in a season, breaking his own club record (39, 2009-10). The Milford, Conn., native recorded his 41st career shutout March 14 at Chicago, passing Frank Brimsek (Eveleth, Minn.) and John Vanbiesbrouck (Detroit, Mich.) – both with 40 – for the most by a U.S.-born goaltender in NHL history. Quick is a Vezina finalist for the second time after a second-place finish in 2011-12.

Here’s the top 10 in even-strength save percentage this season, from War on Ice:

War On Ice

Please notice who is missing.

Who Wins The Vezina? 

Holtby. The hype machine was cranked for Holtby all season, and we imagine the voters aren’t being to penalize him for the Capitals’ lack of urgency as the season wore on. Plus knotting that wins record is a declarative statement, even if wins shouldn’t be weighed anywhere near as heavily as other stats.

Who Should Win The Vezina?

Holtby, but let’s address the real issue, which is that Corey Crawford* was robbed.

Did Jonathan Quick really snag this nomination over Crawford because he started 10 more games and had five more wins? Because Crawford has him beat in save percentage and EV save percentage but falls short in GAA, because his team’s possession numbers fell off a cliff while Quick’s was still a possession machine.

Was it because Crawford was injured down the stretch, when the voting occurred? Was it because Crawford doesn’t get the same credit for his two rings that Quick does, and thus isn’t on his level in the eyes of GMs? Do other GMs want to spite Stan Bowman for his creative cap management?

Crawford earned that third slot.

(* Keep in mind Cory Schneider of the New Jersey Devils was probably the third best goalie in the league, but with Holtby and Bishop sucking up the Eastern Conference GM votes he was bound to fall short.)

--

Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: April 27, 2016, 11:47 pm

The NHL decided to start Round 2 hours before the end of Round 1, which put us in a pickle when it came to our staff picks. 

So we’ve decided in the interest of good faith – since we’d all cheat and make our series picks based on what happens in Game 1 tonight – to release the Tampa Bay Lightning vs. New York Islanders pick ahead of puck drop.

Greg Wyshynski, Puck Daddy Editor

Lightning in 6

The Islanders were fortunate to escape the Panthers. They lost the possession battle in a big way, and Florida pinned them in their zone for stretches. They needed top-form goaltending from Thomas Greiss and a Herculean performance from John Tavares just to get by.

Tampa Bay, meanwhile, has the goaltending, the firepower and the killer instinct to win this series. Victor Hedman vs. Tavares will be epic. And if we’re wagering on goalies, my money’s on Ben Bishop.

It could go shorter, we wouldn’t expect it to go longer, but we do expect the Lightning to advance.

Sean Leahy, Puck Daddy Editor

Lightning in 7

The Islanders have John Tavares. The Lightning have Nikita Kucherov, Tyler Johnson and Alex Killorn. All four players have helped carry their teams offensively in Round 1. New York has Thomas Greiss, who's played well since filling in for the injured Jaroslav Halak and posted a .948 ESSV against the Panthers. Tampa has Ben Bishop, who threw up a .946 ESSV against the Red Wings. 

There's not much separating these two teams. The Lightning could get a boost if Anton Stralman is able to return at some point in the series; but having been out with a broken leg since March 25 (suffered against the Islanders), how effective do you expect him to be in first few games back? In the end, the Lightning will get the better goaltending and timely scoring and move on.

Jen Neale, Puck Daddy Editor

Islanders in 7

This series feels really evenly matched with both lineups missing key players. Based on John Tavares's performance against Florida, this feels like his year to lead the Isles far.

New York Islanders goalie Thomas Greiss (1) makes a glove save in the first period of Game 6 of an NHL hockey first-round Stanley Cup playoff series in New York, Sunday, April 24, 2016. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

 

Josh Cooper, Puck Daddy Editor

Lightning in 6

The Lightning are one of the deepest teams in the Eastern Conference. Even without captain Steven Stamkos and defenseman Anton Stralman they dispatched of the Detroit Red Wings in five games in the first-round of the playoffs.

Nikita Kucherov, Tyler Johnson, Victor Hedman and Ben Bishop’s are big-time difference makers for the Lightning, and all will make tough matchups for the Islanders. New York’s John Tavares is one of the best players in hockey, and was dominant in his team’s win over the Florida Panthers in the first-round. But he can’t beat the balanced Lightning by himself.

Ryan Lambert, Puck Daddy Columnist

Lightning in 7

The Islanders are on a bit of a hot streak now, thanks to Thomas Greiss being really great and John Tavares playing some big-time hockey, but Tampa is probably a better team than the Panthers by a decent enough margin to make that not matter so much.

Even if you consider the starting-lineup situation a wash, Tampa's just got that depth, a more proven goalie, and a better coach. But it'll be a serious fight. Probably more OT ahead. That sort of thing.

Sam McCaig, Yahoo Sports NHL Editor

Lightning in 6

How can Tampa Bay keep winning in the playoffs without their best forward (Steven Stamkos) and best defenseman (Anton Stralman)? Because it turns out their best forward is Nikita Kucherov (surprise!) and their best defenseman is Victor Hedman (not a surprise). Plus, they still have their best goalie, Ben Bishop, and an up-and-coming core of young players who know all  about the playoff grind after making it to the Stanley Cup final last year.

Bishop, after another Vezina Trophy-caliber season, gives the Lightning an edge in net, with the Isles relying on backup Thomas Greiss to continue his solid play in place of injured starter Jaroslav Halak. The biggest obstacle between the Bolts and the Eastern Conference final is, of course, John Tavares.

If Tampa Bay can contain the Isles superstar, they'll earn the right to lose to the Penguins or Capitals in Round 3. If not, the Islanders have a chance to be fodder for Pittsburgh or Washington in the East final.

Darryl “Dobber” Dobbs, Puck Daddy Fantasy Writer

Islanders in 6

If the Ducks win, I'll be 8-0 in the first round again (last year). I'm on fire!

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Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: April 27, 2016, 9:49 pm

(Ed. Note: Welcome to Round 2 coverage of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs, where we flip the format and get right to the point with 11 keys to each series. Enjoy!)

The Tampa Bay Lightning dispatched the Detroit Red Wings in five games, in a short but brutal series. The New York Islanders went six games against the Florida Panthers, winning the final game in double-overtime thanks to an un-whistled tripping penalty.

Here are 11 keys to victory for the Lightning vs. the Islanders.

1. Hedman vs. Tavares

Alright, here we go. The immovable object vs. the irresistible force, as the great Gorilla Monsoon would say.

John Tavares entered beast mode in Game 6, willing the Islanders to victory with his game-tying and game-winning goals. He has five goals and four assists in the playoffs, with five power-play points. His line with Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen has been dominating for stretches.

Hedman, meanwhile, is playing 27 minutes a night for the Lightning in the playoffs. He’s a dominant defensive stopper. And as Joe Smith of the Tampa Times notes, he was taken second to Tavares in the 2009 Draft:

"Obviously we're in the same draft and went one-two," Hedman said. "He's a world-class player; he's one of the best players in the league. It's going to be a big challenge. We're up for it."

So is Tavares. "(Hedman) has proven himself to be one of the top defensemen in the league," Tavares said Tuesday in New York. "He's got such great physical ability and hockey IQ. Every time we play against him it's always a great challenge. He had a great playoff last year, he really put that D-core on his shoulders in many ways and was huge for their run last year.

"Obviously there's going to be comparisons and people talk about it, but we're just focused on how we're going to help our team. That's all we can really do."

This will be fun.

2. Act Like You’ve Been There

The Islanders managed to win three overtime games against the Florida Panthers. And while some puck luck was involved, once also got the sense that the Panthers might not have had the playoff experience necessary to bring it at the levels the Islanders did – Jaromir Jagr and Roberto Luongo excluded. 

The Lightning, meanwhile, saw it all as a group last season. One assumes they could scrounge up a hero to win one of those overtime games, provided the series is that close.

3. Bishop vs. Greiss

Ben Bishop reinforced his postseason credentials with a .946 even strength save percentage, stopping 116 of 123 shots at 5-on-5. He limited the Red Wings to two or fewer goals in each game, and pitched a 1-0 shutout in Game 5.

But Greiss’s numbers aren’t too shabby either: .948 EV save percentage, stopping 199 of 210 shots. He was essential in those overtime wins, too. There were plenty of questions about Greiss taking over for an injured Jaroslav Halak from people who didn’t realize how good he’s been this season, and how good the Islanders have been in front of him. He answered many of them in Round 1, but can it continue tin Round 2?

Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Ben Bishop (30) makes a save on a shot by Detroit Red Wings left wing Justin Abdelkader (8) during the second period of Game 5 in a first-round NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoff series Thursday, April 21, 2016, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

4. Special Teams

The Lightning only allowed one power-play goal against the Detroit Red Wings and enter this series with the top penalty kill in the playoffs. The Islanders only gave up two goals on 15 shorthanded situations, so they’ve done fine as well.

Where things could get interesting, however, is on the power play, where the Lightning had struggled all season (15.8 percent, third worst in the NHL). They were 4-for-23 against the Red Wings (17.4 percent) while the Islanders were 5-for-21. In a tightly-played series, the Islanders might have the advantage here.

5. Rest Up

Tyler Johnson was ill for the Lightning’s last game. Ryan Callahan battled an injury. Again, it was a brutal series against Detroit … but one that ended nearly a week ago. That’s a lot of R&R for a group that’s played a lot of hockey in the last year.

6. Kucherov

We might be watching a star born in these playoffs. The 22-year-old forward scored 10 goals in 26 playoff games last season as part of the fabled Triplets Line. This season, he has five goals and three assists in five games. He and Tyler Johnson continue to click offensively with Alex Killorn. He’s dangerous, and it’s going to take an effort from Johnny Boychuk or Travis Hamonic to handle him.

7. Secondary Scoring

The Islanders have nine players with at least a goal in the playoffs, despite having the Taraves line earning most of the goals with nine. They seemingly had a different hero every night, whether it was an overtime goal from Thomas Hickey or Alan Quine or a timely goal from Ryan Strome.

The Lightning have been more top-heavy: 10 goals from the Johnson line, and one each from Brian Boyle and Ondrej Palat. They could use more from Jonathan Drouin, Ryan Callahan, Valtteri Fippula or, like, any defenseman.

8. Possession

The Panthers controlled play way too often against the Islanders, finishing their series with a 55.9 score-adjusted Corsi. New York finished with a minus-83.1 score-adjusted Corsi plus/minus, worst in the playoffs.

The Lightning were slightly in the negative against the Red Wings in possession, but were No. 6 in the NHL during the regular season.

This could be a huge advantage if Greiss isn’t the brick wall he was in Round 1.

9. Coaching

Jon Cooper is a very good coach. Jack Capuano … they jury’s out, frankly. He pushed some good buttons last round, but as a tactician we’d say it’s advantage: Lightning. Rather significantly.

10. Stamkos?!

So the Lightning hope that Anton Stralman could be back for this series if it goes long enough, which is huge because he’s their second best defenseman. But the real intrigue is Steven Stamkos.

Now, Jon Cooper doesn’t expect the star forward to return in this series, as he recovers from surgery to correct a blood clot. However, he was back on the ice in a red non-contact jersey this week, and frankly has Wolverine-like healing powers.

Could we See Stamkos against the Islanders?

11. Prediction

Lightning in six. The Islanders were fortunate to escape the Panthers. They lost the possession battle in a big way, and Florida pinned them in their zone for stretches. They needed top-form goaltending from Greiss and a Herculean performance from Tavares just to get by.

Tampa Bay, meanwhile, has the goaltending, the firepower and the killer instinct to win this series. It could go shorter, we wouldn’t expect it to go longer, but we do expect the Lightning to advance. 

--

Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: April 27, 2016, 9:23 pm

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- For the first time in three years, the Anaheim Ducks may have their best chance at winning a Game 7.

They just needed the right opponent, and in the Nashville Predators, they might have it.

In the 22-season existence of the Ducks, they've made the playoffs 12 times, playing a total of 24 series. Of those series, only seven have ever gone to Game 7.

  Round 1 Round 2 WCF SCF
  Win Loss Win Loss Win Loss Win Loss
1996-97 4 3 0 4 - - - - -  - - - - -  
2002-03 4 0 4 2 4 0 3 4
2005-06 4 3 4 0 1 4 - - - - -  
2008-09 4 2 3 4  - - - - -  - - - - -  
2012-13 3 4 - - - - -   - - - - -    - - - - - 
2013-14 4 2 3 4  - - - - -  - - - - -  
2014-15 4 0 4 1 3 4 - - - - -  

They've only won two series decided in Game 7; in 1997 and 2006.

With the exception of losing to Detroit in 2013, Anaheim has lost to teams who either went on to play in the Western Conference Final and/or for the Stanley Cup. By most accounts, their opponents were more experienced, and well, better than the Ducks.

That brings us to the Predators.

In their 17-season existence, the Preds have been to the playoffs nine times. They have been in a Game 7 exactly zero times. Wednesday night's meeting will be a first for the majority of the Predators roster.

Check out the players on both teams with no NHL Game 7 experience:

Ducks - No Gm 7   Preds - No Gm 7
Ryan Garbutt (F)   Viktor Arvidsson (F)
Brandon Pirri (F)**   Cody Bass (F)
David Perron (F)   Gabriel Bourque (F)**
Mike Santorelli (F)   Filip Forsberg (F)
Chris Stewart (F)   Calle Jarnkrok (F)
Chris Wagner (F)   Ryan Johansen (F)
Josh Manson (D)   Miikka Salomaki (F)
Shea Theodore (D)   Colton Sissons (F)
Korbinian Holzer (D)   Craig Smith (F)
    Austin Watson (F)**
    Colin Wilson (F)
    Anthony Bitetto (D)
    Mattias Ekholm (D)
    Ryan Ellis (D)
    Petter Granberg (D)**
    Roman Josi (D)
    Shea Weber (D)
     
**Has not played in series

Nashville's side of the ledger is clearly more comprehensive, and has bigger names (i.e. Josi and Weber). Of the six defensemen expected to play in the game, only Barret Jackman has Game 7 experience.

The Predators plan on leaning on those that have been there to get them through this game. From Predators.com:

“There’s such good leadership in our room,” [Coach Peter] Laviolette said. “The leaders in the room are quality people and great character people, guys that would want to be in these situations. [Monday] night was a perfect example: Paul Gaustad, Shea Weber, Pekka Rinne, Mike Fisher, James Neal, lots of guys. The leadership is really important in those situations, and we have some good leaders.”

Can leaders lead when they don't know what they're going through? It's not to say the Preds don't have elimination game experience; just not in the vaunted Game 7. The name alone carries weight.

Of the leaders mentioned, only Gaustad, Neal, and Fisher have played in a Game 7. Here's how they and the other experienced Preds skaters fared in those games:

NASHVILLE PREDATORS
    Gms 7 Result          
  POS. Win Loss G A PTS +/- PIM
Mike Fisher F 0 2 0 0 0 -3 0
Paul Gaustad F 0 2 0 0 0 -2 0
James Neal F 0 2 0 0 0 1 4
Eric Nystrom** F 0 1 0 0 0 0 0
Mike Ribeiro F 1 2 0 0 0 -6 10
Barret Jackman D 0 1 0 0 0 -1 0
**Has not played in series

Ribeiro's one win in Game 7 came 2003-04 as a part of the Montreal Canadiens.

For Nashville, they may not have the players on the ice with Game 7, but they have one person that could make all the difference in the world - head coach Peter Laviolette.

Again, from the Preds website:

"Tonight's contest will be Laviolette's fifth time to be behind the bench of a Game Seven matchup. He has a 4-1 record, winning the 2006 Eastern Conference Final against Buffalo 4-2, the Stanley Cup Final versus Edmonton in 2006 (3-1), the 2010 Eastern Conference Semifinal versus Boston (4-3) and the 2011 Quarterfinal against Buffalo (4-3). His only Game Seven loss came in the 2002 Quarterfinal series against Toronto (L, 4-2)."

It goes without saying, Laviolette's 4-1 record in Games 7 far outweighs Bruce Boudreau's 1-7. Boudreau has picked up three of those losses with the Ducks in the past three seasons.

Boudreau said something interesting in his off-day meeting with the media: "In the past I haven’t said anything going into Game 7. I just thought [in Tuesday's meeting] we needed something to be said."

When asked if he cared to elaborate, Boudreau quickly responded with, "No."

The Ducks definitely have the more experienced squad on the ice when it comes to Game 7, and that could, for once, be of help to them.

"I don’t have as much anxiety about it as when I was a little bit younger," said Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler. "Anytime you go through them, it helps you prepare for the next one. It’s not always the easiest thing when you’re a young player to get yourself in the right frame of mind for a Game 7, but the more times you do it, the easier it gets. Still have to be ready and prepared for a hard fought game ... It comes down to who wants it the most; who executes better than the other team. We haven’t done that in previous years but hopefully we can change that [on Wednesday]."

ANAHEIM DUCKS
    Gms 7 Result          
    Win Loss G A PTS +/- PIM
Corey Perry F 1 4 3 1 4 -3 2
Ryan Getzlaf F 1 4 0 3 3 -3 4
Ryan Kesler F 1 2 1 1 2 1 2
Cam Fowler D 0 3 0 2 2 -4 2
Andrew Cogliano F 0 3 0 1 1 -2 4
Jakob Silfverberg F 0 3 0 1 1 0 2
Nate Thompson F 1 2 0 0 0 -1 2
Kevin Bieksa D 2 1 0 0 0 -3 0
Hampus Lindholm D 0 2 0 2 2 1 0
Clayton Stoner** D 1 1 0 0 0 -1 0
Sami Vatanen D 0 2 0 0 0 -2 2
Jamie McGinn F 0 1 1 1 2 0 0
Shawn Horcoff F 0 1 0 0 0 -2 0
Rickard Rakell F 0 1 0 0 0 0 0
Simon Despres D 0 1 0 0 0 -1 0
**Has not played in series

"We’re not concerned with the past. I’ve been on both sides of Game 7s," said Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf. "Everybody talks about the ones we lost. I’ve been on the winning side of them too. It’s just about playing. We have to go out with this group, prepare the right way and get ready to play tonight."

The last time Getzlaf and Corey Perry won a Game 7 they were rookies in 2005-06 with the then Mighty Ducks of Anaheim who defeated the Calgary Flames in Round 1. Incidentally, that's the last time Anaheim won a Game 7.

The losses on the Ducks side of the ledger are greater than the wins; however, a majority of the players have been together since the team started its epic journey of Game 7 defeats in 2012-13.

Indicated by the morning skate, rookie defenseman Shea Theodore is going to draw out of the lineup in favor of veteran d-man Clayton Stoner. Stoner has not appeared in this series due to a nagging upper-body injury. He last played on April 10 in the team's final regular-season meeting against Washington.

So what does this all mean? It's all going to come down to the psychology of hope.

"You don’t want to paralyze yourself by overthinking too much in situations and whatever,” Predators captain Shea Weber said. “You have to do what you’ve done to this point in the season to be successful. You have to play aggressive, play hard and hope that’s good enough.”

Funny Weber should mention 'hope.' 

"[Playing] safe is going to get you nowhere," said Andrew Cogliano on Tuesday. "Being safe, being ... timid, or hoping for something is going to get you exactly where its gotten us. That’s where we’ve lost the last couple of years."

Should be a fun one.

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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: April 27, 2016, 9:10 pm

ANAHEIM, Calif. – The Tragically Hip blared from the loudspeakers of the Nashville Predators dressing room at Honda Center in Anaheim.

Players talked loosely about Wednesday’s Game 7 against the Anaheim Ducks, strangely not really putting too much stock into the importance of the contest. That’s the tone that comes from captain Shea Weber who prides himself on perfecting the art of staying level during the highs and lows of all major hockey games he’s played in his career.

[Join a Yahoo Daily Fantasy Hockey contest today]

“You don’t want to paralyze yourself by overthinking too much in situations and whatever,” Weber said. “You have to do what you’ve done to this point in the season to be successful. You have to play aggressive, play hard and hope that’s good enough.”

This is only how Weber acts off the ice. On the ice, he transforms into a player using brute force with his hits and his powerful slapshots. Predators are following Weber’s lead approaching this Game 7 – their first in franchise history.

“Honestly it’s another game. It’s a big game. Both teams really want to win,” Weber said. “The team that wins is going to go into the second-round. There’s no point in making too much of it. You put too much pressure on yourself in these situations then you don’t perform.”

While much of the narrative going into the game is about the Anaheim Ducks’ recent Game 7 failures – losing three straight at home – the Predators have several players looking to shift their own postseason storylines Wednesday.

Weber has been a part of all Nashville’s postseason struggles from 2005-06 until now, never making it past the second-round in any series. Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne joined the core in the postseason in 2010. Forward Mike Fisher was added for the Predators’ 2011 playoff run and defenseman Roman Josi in 2012. 

The only player on the Preds to make a Stanley Cup Final was Fisher with the Ottawa Senators in 2007. Just Mike Ribeiro, James Neal and Paul Gaustad have made it to a conference final.

“All Game 7s are defining moments for both teams in the playoffs,” Fisher said. “We expect to have their best and I’m sure they’re the same. It’s been a great series and it’s coming down to this game. That’s what makes Game 7 so much fun.”

It wouldn’t erase past playoff issues for Nashville and would only put them into a spot they’ve already made – the second round – but it would be another step as their squad tries to make their own personal history.

“This would be a great feat for us to get our first Game 7 and onto the next round,” Predators radio analyst and former assistant coach Brent Peterson said. “We’ve been to the second-round twice and haven’t been very successful after that. To win tonight would be a huge thing because all the eyes of hockey are looking upon you.”

With Nashville it goes further than just the players. David Poile has been the team’s general manager since the organization started play and tried his best to keep the Predators competitive in the face of ownership issues and other off-ice problems. He’s never made it past a conference final and also probably feels as much desire as any of the players or members of either organization.

Said Peterson, "He's very emotional. He just wants the guys to do so well and there's nothing he can do about it. He'd love to be down on the ice doing it with them."

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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

Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: April 27, 2016, 8:33 pm

Evgeny Medvedev of the Philadelphia Flyers was arrested early Wednesday morning on suspicion of driving under the influence, according to NBC Philadelphia

Police say that the 33-year-old Medvedev was pulled over for a traffic violation and later arrested.

No charges have been filed and toxicology reports are not in yet. Medvedev was later released from custody.

Medvedev signed a one-year, $3 million deal with the Flyers in the summer after spending the last eight seasons with Ak Bars Kazan of the KHL. In 45 games this season, the Russian defenseman recorded 12 points and averaged 18:49 of ice time per game. He did not appear in any of Philadelphia’s six playoff games against the Washington Capitals.

Flyers general manager Ron Hextall had no comment on Medvedev's arrest while speaking with the media on Wednesday.

Stick-tap Sons of Penn

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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: April 27, 2016, 7:07 pm

When ESPN won the rights to the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, the expectations were that the World Wide Leader would find a way to sell this tournament to casual fans through its coverage, its conversations and most of all its marketing. 

But hockey fans weren’t necessarily prepared for the marketing direction they decided to take.

The World Cup of Hockey spots started airing during the Stanley Cup Playoffs featuring different players appearing on a hockey talk show hosted by Reg Carling, an over-the-top caricature who attempts to coax the players into confirming his assumptions about the tournament: That Patrick Kane is obsessed with beating Canada, that Brandon Saad and the Under-23 team are afraid to play “men,” and whether Nicklas Backstrom can get him tickets. (They’re available, Reg.)

For fans conditioned by years of NHL marketing – action, the warrior aesthetic, healthy doses of nostalgia – seeing a lighter, personality-based approach from ESPN was jarring.

Although hearing that ESPN hockey theme again is pretty dope ...

But the “jarring” was by design, according to Michael Kopech, director of marketing at ESPN.

“Because we’re launching the campaign during the Stanley Cup Playoffs and Finals, when you have so much intensity on the ice and in the surrounding advertising, we felt we needed to do something different to get people’s attention. So we went with a more personality-driven, humor vein,” he said.

In other words: There is no World Cup of Hockey footage to use in intense montages. And anything that the NHL and ESPN tried to create that was action-centric would have failed to rise to the intensity of the playoffs. It would have been lost in the cacophony.

“There was an obvious challenge there. This was a way to meet that challenge. You can’t match the intensity of the NHL Playoffs. Any kind of on-ice action you can show it’s going to measure up with the real thing on the ice, so we went in a different direction,” said Kopech.

Hence, “Reg Carling” was born. Played by an Improv actor from Chicago, he was created as an “amalgamation” of some of the game’s more colorful off-ice characters like Don Cherry and Barry Melrose. He’s also got a bit of Jim Carr from “Slap Shot” and Mike Myers’ Don Cherry proxy Donnie Shulzhoffer from “Mystery, Alaska.”

The commercials have been distinct and memorable, although not always for the right reasons. Reaction to the ads on social media has been decidedly negative, and the pundits have gotten in their licks too:

Just watched five World Cup of Hockey commercials. Good thing it was for work so I got paid. As lame as BlackBerry stock.

— David Shoalts (@dshoalts) April 25, 2016

Got bad news about those World Cup of Hockey ads, guys... They're getting worse. We'll survive. September is right around the... nope

— Chris Peters (@chrismpeters) April 22, 2016

Is ESPN happy with the reaction?

“There’s definitely been positive and negatives. I’d say we’re pleased people are noticing them, as that’s always a challenge,” he said. “By and large the response has been pretty positive – the Patrice Bergeron execution, the Nicklas Backstrom one. We did catch a little heat with Patrick Kane, but I think that had more to do with Kane than the campaign itself.”

Ah, yes, Patrick Kane.

The first World Cup of Hockey ad featured Kane, and there was more than a little pushback from hockey fans on social media. Please recall that Kane didn’t take part in the unveiling of the tournament last September because he was under investigation for sexual assault in Erie County, N.Y.. No charges were eventually brought against Kane, and the NHL said it found no wrongdoing on Kane’s part in its own investigation.

Did ESPN know including the Chicago Blackhawks star would be a controversial choice?

“Everything we’ve done is in consultation with the NHL and its marketing department,” Kopech said. “Patrick Kane is the best player in the League, and the best player in Team USA. We worked closely with the NHL to vet using him in the campaign, and ultimately there was a comfort level there that we could use him, and so we did. But yes, it was all considered, prior to making the decision.”

Kane’s ad is one of five created for the campaign thus far. Kopech said he expects there to be 8-10 ads in total. Future installments will include ESPN hockey talent Steve Levy and Barry Melrose, whom we hear has a big role in the Team Europe spot.

Future ads will focus on the expected intensity on the ice when the World Cup of Hockey returns in September in Toronto. But right now ESPN said it’s in the “awareness phase” of the marketing campaign – and, at the very least, fans have taken notice. 

“The challenge we’re faced with is that not a lot of people know what [the World Cup] is. Even some hardcore hockey fans don’t know what it is. It hasn’t been around for a number of years. So first and foremost, we were seeking to educate people on what the World Cup of Hockey is. That it exists, and give a little insight into the teams and the players who will be participating,” said Kopech.

“We want fans to see these spots and get them excited about the existence of the World Cup.”

Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: April 27, 2016, 5:32 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

• What do you think of what's likely the new Florida Panthers logo? [sportslogos.net]

• In other jersey news, the logo for the Czech Republic’s World Cup of Hockey sweaters will be undergoing a bit of a change. [sportslogos.net]

• The Anaheim Ducks will look to exorcise some Game 7 demons tonight. [OC Register]

• The Ducks and Predators claim they won’t play “safe” hockey. [National Post]

• Game 7: where every shift is “do-or-die.” [Tennessean]

• The 2009 NHL Draft saw John Tavares and Victor Hedman as possible first overall selections. Seven years later they face-off with a conference finals berth on the line. [Tampa Bay Times]

• What to watch for between the New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning. [Isles Beat]

• Why the Pittsburgh Penguins’ trap is key to beating the Washington Capitals. [The Pens Blog

• Former Penguins Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik have brought stability to the Capitals’ backend. [Washington Times]

• The Vancouver Canucks have given Markus Granlund a two-year extension. [Canucks]

• Expect Jaromir Jagr back with the Florida Panthers next season. [Miami Herald]

• R.J. Umberger is expecting a buyout from the Philadelphia Flyers next month. [Courier Post]

• A big turnaround this season has allowed San Jose Sharks GM Doug Wilson to silence his critics. [Mercury News]

• There’s a new arena-management deal in Glendale. [Arizona Republic

• One of Jamie Benn, Joe Pavelski, Jakub Voracek, Aleksander Barkov, Vladimir Tarasenko, Victor Hedman, Anze Kopitar or Connor McDavid will be your NHL 17 cover athlete. [Operation Sports]

• The World Cup of Hockey and a career mode relocation option will be in NHL 17. [Pasta Padre]

• Despite no Stanley Cup, the 2015-16 season was a pretty good one for the Chicago Blackhawks. [Puck Junk]

• There’s a John Scott-type campaign to help get David Ross voted into the 2016 Major League Baseball All-Star Game. [Big League Stew]

• Looking back, the 2015 NHL Draft class was quite a diverse one. [Color of Hockey]

• The Seattle Thunderbirds are looking for revenge against the Kelowna Rockets in the WHL Western Conference Final. [Buzzing the Net

• Who are you drafting for your fantasy team next season: Jaden Schwartz or Filip Forsberg? [Dobber Hockey]

• Finally, here’s episode 1 of “The Road,” following NHL prospects as they prepare for the draft:

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Author: Sean Leahy
Posted: April 27, 2016, 4:01 pm

Wild

 

 

(Ed. Note: As the Stanley Cup Playoffs continue, we're bound to lose some friends along the journey. We've asked for these losers, gone but not forgotten, to be eulogized by the people who knew the teams best: The bloggers and fans who hated them the most. Here is Steve Dangle of The Steve Dangle Podcast, who wanted to eulogize someone and the wheel stopped on the 2015-16 Minnesota Wild.)

(Again, this was not written by us. Also: This is a roast and you will be offended by it, so don't take it so seriously.)

BY STEVE DANGLE

Dear Southern Winnipeggers, we are gathered here today to remember the Minnesota Wild. Nothing actually happened to them, I just often need to be reminded that they exist.

Nonetheless, their hopes of winning the Stanley Cup this season are dead. Unfortunately, we'll have to forego a burial. Getting torched for 21 goals in six games was enough of a cremation on its own.  

But there is something to celebrate: Congratulations to the Minnesota Wild on becoming the first thing Jamie Benn has ever eaten …

Furthermore, congratulations to the Minnesota Wild on being the second-best green team in the NHL out of two. Whether it’s their Canadian goose poop-colored jerseys or their bloody morning booger-colored jerseys, they still wear their colors with pride.

Their fierce, and dare I say wild, logo reminds me of their famous state slogan: “Minnesota: We have… trees?”

Wild

Minnesota has been through a lot over the past quarter century or so. The North Stars left in 1993, and they’ve been searching for an NHL team ever since. 

You might be thinking, “Hey at least the Wild actually make the playoffs.” True, but as is often the case, Minnesota’s playoff success relied on Patrick Roy failing to get the job done.

The Wild had coaching struggles of their own. After a rancid skid in which Minnesota lost 13 out of 14 games, and after Chuck Fletcher was informed that Connor McDavid had actually already been drafted last year, the Wild decided to fire Mike Yeo and replace him with Patrick Warburton.

Tick

The star of The Tick and those National Car Rental commercials managed to coach the Wild all the way to round one of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. During Game 6 of their series with the Dallas Stars, they found themselves down 4-0 after 40 minutes. For two periods they made Kari Lehtonen look like J.S. Giguere. 

But then… something amazing happened.

The Minnesota Wild went WILD. They fought and they clawed their way through the third period and almost won the game. Oh, they still totally lost 5-4, but it truly was one of the greatest almost comebacks of all-time, just behind Team USA’s inspirational almost comeback against Canada in the 2010 Gold Medal Game. It was the kind of almost comeback Hollywood almost makes movies about it. What an honor it must be for Ryan Suter and Zach Parise to be a part of both almost comeback teams. 

This was just one of the Wild’s almost good moments of these playoffs. Remember when Devan Dubnyk almost stopped Antoine Roussel’s almost kick from behind the net? Dubnyk sure was mad about the goal, which weirdly didn’t stop it from being a legal hockey play and counting. This is a little late but you have to admire Dubnyk for being the first Masterton-winner to win the award just for not being bad anymore.

Minnesota’s epic Game 6 almost win sure was a thrill but we’re forgetting another Wild season highlight.

Did you know that the Wild played an outdoor game this season? You didn’t? Oh. Well they did. They beat the Chicago Blackhawks 6-1 in it, too! Granted, they probably only won because of the Blackhawks' complete lack of experience playing in outdoor games but it was an important two points anyway.

“Why is a Leafs fan talking about the Minnesota Wild like this?” I’m glad you asked.

You see, Wild fans, we are the same in many ways. I too am used to cheering for a team that spends unfathomable amounts of money on free agents and spends draft picks like the world is going to end in two weeks.

Am I saying your team is screwed? No, no. Quite the opposite.

You see, you and I both know that any team who treats the draft like a free weekend off with a man named “C. Fletcher” at the helm is in good hands. We both know that crushing playoff defeats in a series where Tyler Seguin didn’t really do anything is definitely a one-off. We both know that almost wins are just as good as wins themselves.

None of my feelings for the Wild have anything to do with Craig Leipold crying poor then signing Parise and Suter to $196 million in contracts right before an NHL lockout that forced me to do highlights for the KHL for a year. None at all! I can’t hold it against the guy for trying to get a competitive edge. I know there’s two things in this world Craig Leipold wants: The Stanley Cup and his stapler back.

CL
CL

And with just $38,426,922 committed to players already over the age of 31 next season (and Matt Cooke lol), I’m sure he has a chance at getting at least one of those things. 

Think this eulogy crossed the line?

Wild

Well at least one thing did.

PREVIOUS EULOGIES

Eulogy: Remembering the 2015-16 Detroit Red Wings

Eulogy: Remembering the 2015-16 Los Angeles Kings

Eulogy: Remembering the 2015-16 New York Rangers

Eulogy: Remembering the 2015-16 Philadelphia Flyers

Eulogy: Remembering the 2015-16 Florida Panthers

Author: Yahoo Sports Staff
Posted: April 27, 2016, 2:36 pm

AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar
(Ed. Note: The column formerly known as the Puck Daddy Power Rankings. Ryan Lambert takes a look at some of the biggest issues and stories in the NHL, and counts them down.) 

10. Rob Scuderi-havers 

Rob Scuderi was traded twice this season. The first team that acquired him got bounced in seven games in the first round. The second team that acquired him got eliminated in five. The team that got rid of him in the first place humiliated its first-round opponent and seems like it probably has the best chance to win the Cup.

Is that a coincidence? Who's to say, really?

9. CalgaryNext

Remember when the parent company for the Calgary Flames, Hitmen, Stampeders, and Roughnecks — a multi-million dollar corporation — went to the City of Calgary and said, “We'd like you to give us $890 million to build a new stadium for the football team and arena for the hockey and lacrosse teams? And remember how that was really gross?

Well, the City of Calgary ran the numbers on the proposal and it turns out that $890 million would have been a little more like $1.8 billion. And the city council rightly told the Flames where they could put that request. Kent Wilson had a really good examination of why this idea was doomed to fail from the start, but it basically boils down to “The Flames just really wanted a bunch of money with very few actual specifics other than, 'But just give us the money though.'”

So now they're going back to the drawing board on the whole thing and the city council seems to at least be willing to listen if the Flames have an actual concrete plan to go with. I wouldn't plan on holding your breath for that.

8. Possibly feuding with your best player

Okay maybe you say that there was just no way to have gotten Vladimir Tarasenko onto the ice for that power play over the weekend. It's almost a buyable argument. You can almost see where Ken Hitchcock was coming from with that. Maybe. Sorta. If you squint at it.

But in your critical Game 7, at home, against the team that made a nasty habit of eliminating you from the playoffs the last few years, you only play him 14:31? That was just eighth among Blues forwards, and didn't even come close to meeting the team-leading 22:17 from David Backes. And just from looking around the morning after, it doesn't seem like too many people had questions for Hitchcock about it. Couldn't find a single quote about it.

Yeah they won, slayed the dragon, all that stuff, but this is quickly becoming an issue large enough that it needs to be addressed. There was no reason to rest the guy; in a Game 7, you empty the tanks.

Again, you could explain away the weird TOI situation in Game 6, because while he didn't get out on the power play, the Blues only had one of those, and Tarasenko led the team in time at 5-on-5. But again, in Game 7 he only got 13:35 at full strength, and that was just fifth. It doesn't begin to make sense if you're trying to win a one-off. Period.

And honestly, it's just not good coaching either way.

7. Ken Holland

The Red Wings getaway day sure was interesting. Jimmy Howard understands he might very well be on his way out, Pavel Datsyuk is probably gone, but most importantly, Ken Holland says the Wings aren't in a rebuild.

No no no, you don't understand! They don't need to rebuild. They just need to ….... add size? And that they're going to focus on drafting big kids?

Indeed, at the beginning of the season James Mirtle had them tabbed as the 19th-biggest and 19th-heaviest team in the league (and also the seventh-oldest but who's counting?). But hey uhhhhh no one look at all once here, but I'm looking at the Penguins lineup and they're the 26th-heaviest and 24th-biggest team in the league. I wonder what it is that allows them to succeed. Do you think it's all the “having good players” they do on a regular basis? I wonder.

The good news is that it's not like teams that decide to go chasing size don't have a long history of ending up coming out the other side of the rabbit hole extremely disappointed with the returns or anything. Nah that literally never happens. Teams go out and get a bunch of 6-foot-4 guys and it actually makes them better.

As long as those 6-foot-4 guys are also All-Stars. That helps a lot.

6. Conspiracy theories

Stars

People want to believe there are reasons beyond “they didn't win four games in the playoffs” why their teams failed to win in the playoffs.

And like a lot of nutbars out there, the answer usually settles on “grand conspiracy.” The latest batch of chemtrail-truthing in the NHL came out of both Minnesota and Florida.

In Minnesota you have people looking at a photo taken from a goofy angle which appears to show the puck completely over the line, but it was not over the line and oh well the Wild are really not that good anyway and even if it had been a goal it would have only forced overtime so please stop with this. I thought we covered the whole “parallax view” thing with the Flames in the playoffs last year, but well, everyone wants an excuse.

The same is true in Florida. Did the refs miss a trip? Yes. Is that a play that ever gets called a trip in the NHL, let alone in the final minute of a one-goal playoff game? No.

And look, that's not good. The league has a serious problem related to referees managing games instead of calling things the right way, but one thing Gary Bettman or anyone else in the league's front office 100-percent-for-sure-did-not-do was find a way to screw a team in a burgeoning-at-best southern market out of a deeper playoff run. For what reason? Ratings? Yeah, people love the frickin' Islanders. Huge national audience there. Definitely large enough to make the league create a massive conspiracy to make it happen.

However, both these conspiracy theories do highlight serious problems for the league. The “puck over the line” thing is related in its way to the “guy across the blue line before the puck” thing that's been such a huge ass-pain in this postseason. There are clear deficiencies in how these things are examined, and they always provide room for whining as a result. I've been told it's difficult to figure out the “put a chip in the puck” process, which make sense once they're explained to you (i.e. chips tend not to survive vulcanization) but something better needs to happen here. The current situation is untenable.

Meanwhile, game management sucks. Studies have shown that refs provide “makeup calls” more often than not — that is, a team only gets two consecutive power plays in about 40 percent of cases — and the tendency is to be even more generous if the other team's power play scored a goal on the previous attempt. Like, it's a serious problem if you believe, as one should, that the game should be called fairly in all instances, with the same standards for what's a hook or a trip or a hold applied uniformly. If you put a puck over the glass, that's called the same at 0:01 of the first period as it is at 19:59 of the third. And on the one hand, that would be nice to see throughout the game, but on the other, that's basically asking for a return to the insanity of the 2005-06 season when teams were getting 10 power plays a game. It's a tough balance, and it sometimes results in stuff like this. I don't want to say “Oh well,” but I guess, “Oh well.”

Listen, any time you have a question as to whether the NHL is capable of pulling off a conspiracy, the answer is, “You're giving their competency far too much credit.”

5. Tough decisions

The Kings are going to be in tough this summer to do everything they may want.

They already have about $64 million committed to the cap for next season (once you take the Vinny Lecavalier retirement into account) but that's to just 15 players. If the cap doesn't move very much — and it doesn't seem as though it will — it very quickly becomes difficult to say, re-sign Milan Lucic and Brayden McNabb (an RFA) and a backup goalie, and one or two other players. Plus also keeping in mind that Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson are pending UFAs in 2016-17? Yikes.

Some very difficult roster decisions are in the offing for the Kings and probably will be for several years to come. That core is locked up for a good, long time. For better or worse. It's potentially a real problem. Not sure there's a good way to solve it, either.

4. The IOC

So when it comes to the 2018 Olympics in South Korea, the IOC says it won't pay insurance costs for NHL players.

First of all, it cost $32 million to cover travel and insurance costs for Sochi, but could be as little as $10 million in PyeongChang. So the IOC is like, “Yeah we don't need to get involved in helping to cover costs.” Which makes sense to an extent but also seems to significantly endanger the chances of the NHL going to the Olympics in 2018.

We'll probably know more around the time of the World Cup in September, and while the situation is potentially worrisome, it's probably also overstated. How much of this is posturing? Guess we'll find out then.

3. The Penguins

Yeah when you use your third-string goalie for two games and your backup for the other three and still absolutely demolish a team that has probably the best goalie in the game right now, that seems like it's good for your chances in these playoffs.

2. The Sharks

Also yeah when you beat maybe the most impressive team in the league this year in five games, that is likewise very good. I really hope they win it all against the Penguins in seven games. I hope a lot that this is what happens.

1. John Tavares

For a while now, it seemed like a situation where John Tavares was just going to be a relatively anonymous exceptional player on an okay team.

But he (and also Thomas Greiss) willed the Isles into the second round. That Game 6 performance was masterful and maybe this is him finally turning into a nationally recognized super-talent, which he has been for a while now and people kind of said it sometimes, but perhaps not often enough.

I think the Lightning/Isles series will be a very good one. And hopefully, for everyone's sake, Tavares plays a huge part.

(Not ranked this week: Chicago.

Ah jeez really is a shame to see such a morally good team. Boy do I feel bad about seeing that happen in the first round to an arch-rival. Wow.)

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

(All statistics via War On Ice unless otherwise noted.)

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Author: Ryan Lambert
Posted: April 27, 2016, 1:49 pm

The Grand Rapids Griffins fired two goals against the Milwaukee Admirals where the puck was shot through the net on both scores at Van Andel Arena on Tuesday. 

The plays happened in the second period of the third game in their first-round Calder Cup Playoff series. The first goal was scored by Griffins defenseman Brian Lashoff. Then the second goal was scored by Griffins forward Anthony Mantha.

Both came on Admirals goaltender Marek Mazanec and flew through the same spot of the net. 

Lashoff’s goal came at the 1:17 mark of the second, and then Mantha’s goal came at the 2:51 mark. Both required reviews before being determined as goals.

How about not 1, but 2 goals through the net in the 2nd?! 🚨🚨#MILvsGR #GoGRG pic.twitter.com/rsgtVstoNc

— GrandRapids Griffins (@griffinshockey) April 27, 2016

This is not the first time the Griffins have been part of a ‘puck going through the net on a goal’ situation. In January of this year Griffins defenseman Nick Jensen fired a shot on Lake Erie Monsters goaltender Brad Thiessen in overtime where the puck went through the net.

It appeared the shot glanced off the crossbar, but later was revealed to be a good goal.

Such a situation happening in one high-level pro game is rare. Twice in a game hardly happens. Three times to the same team in a season sounds almost impossible.

The Griffins won the game 4-1 to advance to the next round of the Calder Cup Playoffs.

S/t Adsroundtable

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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

 

 

 

Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: April 27, 2016, 2:02 am

The NHL suspended Philadelphia Flyers forward Brayden Schenn three games to start the 2016-17 season for a high charge on Washington Capitals forward T.J. Oshie during Game 6 of their first-round playoff series

Washington eliminated the Flyers with a 1-0 win in the contest. The play happened late in the second period.

According to the NHL Department of Player Safety, “As Oshie makes contact with the puck, the backchecking Schenn approaches with speed and launches up and into his hit, making significant contact with Oshie’s head.” 

[Join a Yahoo Daily Fantasy Hockey contest now] 

The NHL also said Schenn did not go airborne simply because of the impact of the collision. He knowingly left his feet to make the play.

“Rather than staying low and delivering a hit through Oshie’s shoulder or chest, Schenn launches himself up and into Oshie, making substantial contact with Oshie’s head. Shenn’s elevation is evident as he remains airborne until he crashes into the boards,” the league said. 

Schenn was not penalized for the hit.

After the play, Oshie went off the ice and into the Capitals dressing room and missed the remaining 5:22 of the second period. He eventually returned for the start of the third period and played the rest of the game. TSN’s Darren Dreger pointed out that Schenn has a history of launching into hits.

“I haven’t seen it or anything,” Oshie said after the game according to the Washington Post. “I just kind of needed to take a breath there. It’s over. I don’t really care about it. It’s nice to move on.”

In 2013, Schenn was suspended one game for launching into defenseman Anton Volchenkov with a high hit. Schenn was also fined the same year for crosschecking Kris Versteeg.

Schenn is a pending restricted free agent, so the league could not release his fine total for the hit.  

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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

Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: April 26, 2016, 10:44 pm

YellowKnife!

(Ed. Note: As the Stanley Cup Playoffs continue, we're bound to lose some friends along the journey. We've asked for these losers, gone but not forgotten, to be eulogized by the people who knew the teams best: The bloggers and fans who hated them the most. Here is Dan Saraceni of Lighthouse Hockey, an Islanders blog, fondly recalling the 2015-16 Florida Panthers.)

(Again, this was not written by us. Also: This is a roast and you will be offended by it, so don't take it so seriously.)

BY DAN SARACENI

The following story originally appeared in the April 25th, 2016 morning edition of the Yellow Knife Democrat & Pony Rider and is being re-printed here with permission.

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The sudden death of a little-known professional hockey team in Florida has kicked off a bitter international battle over who has the rightful claim to the team’s corpse.

The Florida Panthers hockey team passed away this weekend, and court officials and protest groups from Canada are making a strong charge to have the team’s body buried 1,400 miles from where it has lived since its birth 23 years ago.

Spokespeople from the National Hockey League and Panthers team management say Canada cannot claim custody of the franchise’s corpse, and that they plan to fight any attempt to abscond with the body.

But Canada says it won’t quit until this unappreciated, unwatched, derelict little brother is moved to a better resting place.

A Short Life, Mostly Wasted

The Panthers were a child prodigy, achieving notable success very early in life and earning a minor amount of celebrity beyond its hometown. But quickly the team settled into a routine, reclusive existence, shrinking away from publicity and gaining a dubious reputation for an unusual and illegal concentration of rodents on its property.

For decades, the unsightly, unwanted and irrelevant Panthers lived with threats of eviction, relocation or deportation, playing in an empty arena with thousands of unsold seats and frequently getting swept under the proverbial rug by both local and national media too busy to pay them any attention. While the rest of the hockey world went on about its life, the Panthers remained in seclusion, huddled under dirty rags, eating cold beans from a can and often sleeping under the Daytona Beach boardwalk.

“I thought the Panthers had skipped town years ago,” said Sonny Tubbs, a neighbor who described the team as a “quiet” group that always kept to itself and never bothered anyone. “I just didn’t hear about them for a long while so I figured they left. But I was glad they made it to the Super Bowl this year, even though they lost to the Broncos.”

This season, friends say the Panthers finally sought to get their life in order. The team started hitting the gym and putting on muscle and soon was hobnobbing with the elites of South Florida society, eventually emerging replenished like a Real Housewife straight out of the Botox clinic.

Few expected the team to shed its hermit-like tendencies so suddenly, but encouraged by a confident transplant Svengali from New York and a noted fictional president and serial killer, the Panthers strutted onto the scene and would not be discouraged. Much of the credit goes to their hired Life Coach, Gerard Gallant, a native of Prince Edward Island, Canada, who is also an influential French-Canadian stand-up comedian known better by his stage name, “Rejean Dangerfield.”

Sadly, the transformation of the Panthers was short-lived. The new clothes and new attitude met its match in the New York Islanders, another NHL castaway looking to rewrite its own lamentable history. The Panthers fought back hard but in the end succumbed to Nystrom Syndrome, a rare condition that can cause death in hockey teams facing the Islanders in overtime in the postseason. Thirty-three teams have been felled by it since 1972.

There was some controversy about doctors perhaps missing a vital scan that could have saved the Panthers’ life. But the operating physicians disagree.

“We did what we could, but in the end, we had to pull the plug,” said Dr. Blanche Zbornak, who attended to the team just before its death. “It was time to go. At least it was peaceful.”

Though they are no longer alive, another fight for the Panthers is just beginning.

Panthers

Move That Corpse?

So why would Canada want the corpse of a mostly forgotten hockey team from Florida?

The Panthers’ unexpected emergence this season combined with the pathetic lack of Canadian franchises in the NHL playoffs caused many eyes from the great white north to pay attention to the franchise for the first time since the late 1990’s. Suddenly, an unexpected love affair began between the plucky, talented, hard-hitting Panthers and the relentlessly needy country always desperate to assimilate more ice hockey teams into its gaping, politely hungry maw.

The abandoned team’s poor win-loss records, never-ending attendance concerns and generally sad solitude helped make it the poster child for failed Sunbelt Hockey teams across the United States. And with a brand new state-of-the-art arena in Quebec City ready to host an NHL team, Canada sees the Panthers as the perfect relocation candidate at the perfect time.

“The Panthers deserve a final resting place where they will be loved unconditionally,” said Toronto Star columnist Bruce Arthur, the country’s foremost scholar on the Canadian sports inferiority complex. “In Florida, the Panthers are ignored. In Canada, we know how to pack hockey arenas game-in game-out no matter how spectacularly unsuccessful a team is. Except in Vancouver. And maybe Ottawa.

“But other than in those places, you’d never see an empty seat at a Quebec Panthers game. I’ll personally stand outside the arena taking attendance with a clipboard to make sure.”

Arthur said he was prepared to offer attendance comparisons for Canada and the southern United States dating back as far as the 1890’s to further prove Canada’s claim to the Panthers’ body.

Despite having no jurisdiction whatsoever over the Panthers franchise and no power to move a single team against the NHL’s wishes no matter how much it cries about it, the Canadian Supreme Court is expected to make a ruling on the case sometime after the league’s Draft Lottery on April 30th. The entire Canadian government is scheduled to be shut down that day as all seven of the country’s franchises vie for the No. 1 pick in the upcoming entry draft.

“If a Canadian team gets the first overall pick, we’ll leave Florida alone for another year,” said one Parliament official under condition of anonymity. “But if the Coyotes or Blue Jackets get the pick, we’re taking the Panthers.”

For now, the Panthers’ remains will stay in Florida, and will be laid to rest in a plain pine casket next to the Gothic stone one used by immortal and un-killable right wing Jaromir Jagr.

PREVIOUS EULOGIES

Eulogy: Remembering the 2015-16 Detroit Red Wings

Eulogy: Remembering the 2015-16 Los Angeles Kings

Eulogy: Remembering the 2015-16 New York Rangers

Eulogy: Remembering the 2015-16 Philadelphia Flyers

 

 

Author: Yahoo Sports Staff
Posted: April 26, 2016, 10:06 pm

(As the NCAA hockey season is done, our own Ryan Lambert needed something on which to opine. Say hello to a special Tuesday series from yer boy RL, PUCK LISTS, in which he arbitrarily lists hockey things.) 

8. Kevin Bieksa on Antti Niemi, May 24, 2011

Weird bounces happen in the playoffs. Take, for example, this goal that eliminated the Sharks from the 2011 Western Conference Final, in double overtime.

Alex Edler attempts a chip in from the blue line, but it goes about five feet down the boards before it hits the stanchion and bounces straight to Kevin Bieksa. No one on the ice but Bieksa seemed to have the faintest idea where the puck was, and San Jose was busy indicating that it must have gone over the glass while Bieksa was knuckle-pucking a shot past Niemi. In fact, it appears that it wasn't until the very last second that Niemi is even aware there was a shot at all.

Of all the people on the ice, though, Niemi should have been the guy to see it. He doesn't have to watch anything but the puck when it's out at the blue line like that. Yeah, you can lose it sometimes, but you really shouldn't. Have to think fatigue was a factor here.

7. Carl Hagelin on Tuukka Rask, May 23, 2013

For some bizarre reason, Tuukka Rask has a reputation in Boston for not being a big-game goalie. This goal probably didn't help.

Johnny Boychuk was tracking Carl Hagelin well enough. A half-hearted attempt to backhand the puck on net gets deflected low, and Rask just flat-out falls on his big ol' butt. There's not much to break down or explain here, but it looks like an early scene from a Mighty Ducks movie. Then he tries to pull the puck back into his body with the heel of his stick and whiffs.

Not a good turn of events for your old pal Tuukka here.

Said Rask after the game: “I just took a step to the side in what I think probably was a skate mark or something. I lost my balance and the rest is history. We gave them a couple of gifts, and it cost us the game.”

The other gift he was talking about? He also allowed this goal in the same game.

One can only assume many a water bottle was thrown in the dressing room after the game.

6. Joe Nieuwendyk on Patrick Lalime (twice!), April 20, 2004

The last time the Leafs won a playoff round, they did so in somewhat surprising fashion. This was in the free-wheeling, money-spending days of Toronto, when they had a 1996 All-Star lineup (Gary Roberts, Owen Nolan, Mats Sundin, Alexander Mogilny, Brian Leetch, Ed Belfour, etc.) and ended up being a 103-point team.

Lalime was in the midst of playing himself out of Ottawa anyway, but these two nearly identical goals — coming when the team was already down 1-0 in Game 7 of the first round — were the last pair of nails in the coffin. Goals on not-particularly-hard wristers from outside the faceoff dots

Conceding those at 12:19 and 21 seconds of the first period to go down 3-0 just about did it for your ol' pal Patty Lalime in Ottawa. But can you believe dude kicked around the NHL for another six seasons? He never had another save percentage north of .907, but he played in the league until 2010-11. Maybe someone should've forwarded this YouTube clip. 

Listen to how hard the announcers are ripping that first goal. You never hear that kind of thing. Woof.

But to be fair, it's hard to figure out which of these is worse. Probably the second one. Look, I don't know anything about goaltending mechanics but “standing there with your legs kinda open on a perimeter shot” probably isn't in the handbook.

5. Owen Nolan on Roman Turek, April 25, 2000

I'm including this one in honor of all the “How the hell did a slap shot from center ice make it in?” candidates. Much respect to Lidstrom-on-Cloutier and O'Connell-on-Wregget and even Langenbrunner-on-Osgood, but this is the very best one of the bunch. 

The Blues were a 114-point team that season. The Sharks finished with just 87. And that was before the advent of the loser point, so being a 114-point team was not only good enough to win the Presidents' Trophy, it was three wins clear the juggernaut Red Wings. Hell, they won 51 out of 82 games.

So the fact that the Sharks even ended up forcing a Game 7 is kind of bonkers. The Blues, though, actually trailed 3-1 in the series and fought back to force a deciding game is somewhat surprising.

But then, with only about 15 seconds left in the first period and the Sharks already holding a 1-0 lead, Owen Nolan gained the red line, carried the puck another seven or eight feet, and just wired one at Roman Turek. 

Turek was no bum, either. He finished second in Norris voting that year with a .912 save percentage, one of the highest in the league. Nolan, who seemed to only be looking for a change, just caught him off his line.

The Sharks went on to lose in the second round to Dallas, getting crushed 4-1. They were the Sharks, after all.

4. Robert Reichel on Roman Cechmanek, April 14, 2003

It's easy to get distracted at work, especially if one thing goes wrong. All your attention can very quickly go from a thing you were supposed to be doing to fixing the problem.

For a goalie, Job No. 1 is stopping shots, but when you lose your glove, it's natural that a goalie would want to get that glove put on again very, very quickly. For whatever dumb reason, the NHL doesn't have a rule that whistles play dead when a goalie loses that bit of equipment, so Cechmanek scrambling to get his hand back in there is understandable.

But that thing about stopping shots? Cechmanek was too busy futzing with the glove to notice that Robert Reichel of all people was about to shoot the puck from the corner. So it whizzed by his head and into the net, making him look up like, “Huh, what happened?” 

Fortunately for the Flyers, the goal didn't end up mattering all that much. They went on to win the series 4-3 before losing to Ottawa in the next round.

3. Sandis Ozolinsh on Martin Brodeur, May 31, 2003

“That's the weirdest goal I've seen in the Stanley Cup championship series.”

Bob Cole said that. Bob Cole has seen plenty of Stanley Cup Finals in his day, but he said that about this Sandis Ozolinsh goal that doesn't begin to make sense.

Ozolinshcomes across the red line with the puck and appears to try to start a dump-and-chase sequence. Craig Darby is draped all over him, and it appears the dump-in attempt hits his stick and goes from heading toward the corner to heading toward the end boards. Brodeur being Brodeur tries to come out and play it, seems to lose his footing, then starts to drop his stick. It goes off the stick, through his five-hole, and into the net. That goal made it 2-1, and the Ducks went on to win the game 3-2 in overtime.

But Brodeur had the last laugh, finishing with just nine goals allowed in the seven-game series, including shutouts in Games 1, 2, and 7.

How about the call from Harry Neale to wrap up the analysis of Brodeur's big blunder: “It's living proof that even Betty Crocker burns the odd cake!” 

2. Steve Yzerman on Patrick Roy, May 29, 2002

The Statue of Liberty, of course. “Patrick Roy just got caught hot-dogging.” All that stuff.

You know it, you love it. You've probably seen the mini-documentary on it. The goal is Patrick Roy encapsulated perfectly: Super-athletic save, then being a moron and celebrating before realizing the puck was not in his glove. 

Everything that could have possibly been said about this play has been already, so we'll just close with this:

1. Jason Chimera on Steve Mason, April 16, 2016

This isn't just recency bias talking.

Okay, maybe it is a little, but I don't think so: This isn't a goalie feeling like he made an unbelievable save he, in fact, didn't all-the-way make. This isn't a weird double- or even single bounce. This isn't lost equipment. And it's not a wired slap shot. This isn't a weird angle in the attacking zone.

It's a slow-moving, flat, tip-in from just beyond center ice just completely beats poor Steve Mason in the most embarrassing way possible. 

Everything he does here is wrong. Doesn't really get square to the puck, doesn't seal his five-hole, reacts with the stick way too early, etc. This is a play he's probably made about 20,000 times in his career at all levels, and one cannot imagine he ever came close to having things go this level of horribly wrong.

Most goals from more than 100 feet away have something happen along the way. The “something” that happened here was “Steve Mason [expletive]-ed up.” There's just no other way to put it.

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

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Author: Ryan Lambert
Posted: April 26, 2016, 9:38 pm

Comedian Will Arnett will host the 2016 NHL Awards in Las Vegas.

The event, which will take place on June 22, will have a new venue at The Joint at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. The league’s awards have previously been held at the Palms Hotel, Encore at Wynn Las Vegas and the MGM Grand. The league’s had its awards in Las Vegas since 2009.

[Join a Yahoo Daily Fantasy Hockey contest now] 

“We look forward to being back in Las Vegas, which has been an ideal destination for our NHL Awards celebration,” said Steve Mayer, NHL Executive Vice President and Executive Producer of Programming and Creative Development. “The end of June marks a special time on the NHL calendar for our players and their families, fans, partners as well as our Clubs. By adding the talents of Will Arnett and a new, exciting setting at the The Joint at Hard Rock Hotel, the League hopes to make this year’s show the best one ever.” 

The 45-year-old Arnett is a Toronto native who is best known for his work on the TV show “Arrested Development.”

Arnett is also a noted Toronto Maple Leafs fan who has dipped his toe into the awards in the past, making fun of Brendan Shanahan’s Department of Player Safety videos in the 2012 NHL Awards.

Said Arnett in a statement, “I'm excited to host the 2016 NHL Awards because we all know in 2017 I'll be too busy celebrating the Leafs winning the Stanley Cup.”

In the past the NHL has been mocked for their association with some celebrities and musical acts at the awards. The “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” botched Martin St. Louis’ name at the 2011 NHL Awards. Chaka Khan’s performance at the 2009 awards didn’t seem to strike a note with hockey fans. 

The NHL did not announce more particulars on the event in their release.

In March, Puck Daddy interviewed Mayer, who is being tasked to helped with the NHL’s creative content side, which includes the awards and other big events.

“We’re looking at what we can do differently but at the end of the day the core has to be that we’re handing out our awards. We cannot and we won’t shy away from that,” Mayer said. “And that’s the something with everything that I’m doing and we cannot overlook the core and that’s the great game. So how do you add or enhance? We’re still going to hand out the awards to all the players. So how do we do it in a cool, creative way that makes the show more compelling and more interesting for our fans.”

Last year comedian Rob Riggle hosted the awards. 

What do you think about the NHL's choice to host the 2016 Awards?

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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

Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: April 26, 2016, 9:06 pm

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Earlier on Tuesday, we transcribed New York Rangers defenseman Dan Boyle’s profanity-laced tirade against New York Post reporter Larry Brooks, demanding that Brooks leave his postseason media scrum before he spoke. 

“Nobody likes you. Nobody respects you. Just so you know,” said Boyle.

“OK,” said Brooks.

“At least I’m leaving here with the respect of my teammates,” said Boyle. "Instead of [expletive] someone like you, who tries to bury somebody. That's all you do. It's not a critique. I'm telling you I don't want you here. I have no respect for you. I want you to get the [expletive] out.”

“I don’t care what you think,” said Brooks. 

And then it went on and on.

CSN has video of the back-and-forth, edited for language. You can read the full transcript here.

Brooks, by the way, has yet to comment on the incident. 

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Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: April 26, 2016, 8:19 pm

TARRYTOWN, NY – Eric Staal played 20 regular-season games and five playoff games for the New York Rangers. It’s completely OK if you don’t really remember any of them. 

Staal had three goals and three assists in those 20 games, skating to a plus-1. He went scoreless in five playoff games, skating to a minus-7.

All eyes were on him when the Carolina Hurricanes traded their captain to the Rangers at the deadline, after his waived his no-move clause to join a Cup contender and play with his brother, Rangers defenseman Marc Staal. But he was invisible on Broadway, like a show that opens and closes in the same week. 

“I played in one place my whole career. Coming here was a change. I don’t think they saw the best that I can be,” he said, after a season in which he scored 13 goals with 26 assists.

Staal wouldn’t use the change in scenery as an excuse, nor would he point to the uncertainty in his pending unrestricted free agency as a distraction.

But his role on the Rangers wasn’t what he was hoping for; then again, he knew the lineup they had before he decided to approve the trade, and knew that Derick Brassard and Derek Stepan were two reasons he wouldn't be a top-six center.

“I came in here to fit, try and find a role that would be effective. Obviously you always want more as a player. It would have been nice to see what I could have done with different chances, but there were guys in certain spots playing well,” he said.

Staal, a natural center, played a lot of wing for the Rangers, including with Kevin Hayes as his center. He was shifted to center later in the season with J.T. Miller and Oscar Lindberg. But Staal didn’t have the same top- six role he had in Carolina. He averaged 19:17 per night in Carolina; he averaged 16:15 with the Rangers. 

“There’s a lot of positives for me. This was a team that had over 100 points, a lot of guys in spots that were doing real well. I didn’t come here to ruffle feathers, demand to play in certain spots. I came in to try to fit and be someone that could hopefully produce, so we could be a balanced team and go for a run," he said.

"Clearly that didn’t happen,”

So as he embarks on a free-agent journey, Staal knows what he’s looking for. He’s looking out for his wife and three children, and where they might have to relocate. He’s looking for a contract that obviously won’t be the $9.5 million base salary he has now, nor the seven years, but will be fair for a 31-year-old top six forward.

But perhaps most of all, he’s looking for a chance to be a vital part of a team, rather than a third-liner with a pedigree.

“I’ve played in the league long enough. You want to be comfortably where you are, but I want to be in a role where I’m counted on. [But] I don’t need to be ‘the’ guy,” he said.

“I think I can have a good bunch of years left. I can be effective offensively, more than I have been. I can be better. But I have to stay confident and know that I have the ability to be a difference-maker on an important team, in a larger role.”

Can he find that role with the Rangers?

“I guess it depends on what happens. Like any team, when you’re as out as early as we are, there will be some changes, some things going forward that happen,” he said.

What about in another familiar place: Back with the Carolina Hurricanes, the only other team he’s ever played for and the place where his family still lives?

“I’m not going to close the doors on anything,” he said. "[I’ll] kind of just see how things play out here.”

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Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: April 26, 2016, 7:32 pm

The Florida Panthers season is over and during Tuesday's exit interviews we learned the fate of the team’s popular player of the game award

The “Spacey in Space” sweatshirt, which began earlier in the season and became so big that the actual Kevin Spacey got involved and even attended a game in March, will be retired, according to Shawn Thornton.

Speaking with reporters during locker clean out day, Thornton said, via George Richards, that the quirky sweatshirt will be retired and he may auction it off to benefit his charity

“It took on a life of its own. I thought it was hilarious," Thornton said via Harvey Fialkov. "The fact that Spacey himself jumped on board with it and dove right in.’’

The "Spacey in Space" sweatshirt was one of many memorable things about the 2015-16 Panthers season. They had their most successful regular season in franchise history; brought back the rats; won their division for the second time ever; and got a good glimpse of their future following solid seasons from the likes of Aaron Ekblad, Aleksander Barkov and Vince Trocheck, among others. Oh, and they were led in scoring by a hockey legend, Jaromir Jagr, who was seemingly recording a new milestone for his Hall of Fame resume on a weekly basis.

Barkov was actually the first Panthers player to wear the sweatshirt after a December game and Spacey got involved shortly after with this Tweet:

Only I really know what #SpaceyInSpace means. Hope it continues to bring good luck! -K🚀#FlaPanthers @Barkovsasha95 https://t.co/2hOqoQK9Aw

— Kevin Spacey (@KevinSpacey) December 30, 2015

Barkov even thanked Spacey in a Tweet following his contract extension in January.

As the sweatshirt gets prepped for framing, the meaning behind Spacey’s floating head in space remains a mystery, with Panthers co-owner Doug Cifu telling us last month Thornton swore him to secrecy.

“My first reaction was to call Shawn Thornton,” Cifu said. “He told me and he made me promise I wouldn’t tell anybody. He’s a lot bigger and stronger than me so he told me he’d beat me up if I told anybody. I was like, ‘you know what? That’s pretty cool.’ And the guys absolutely loved it.” 

The Panthers put the sweatshirts up for sale in January and they quickly became a hot seller. Over 2,000 have been sold since with proceeds benefiting the Florida Panthers Foundation and Kevin Spacey Foundation.

How do the Panthers top this for next 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: April 26, 2016, 6:32 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.

• Oh Johan Franzen. Nothing says devastating playoff loss more than revealing to the public that you're a 'Belieber.' [@JFranzen93]

• REJOICE, Tampa Bay Lightning fans! Steven Stamkos is back on the ice with the team ... wearing a no contact red sweaters, but it's progress. [Tampa Bay Times]

• J.T. Compher has left the University of Michigan to sign with the Colorado Avalanche. [M Go Blog]

• Brief interview with Marc-Andrew Fleury who is skating but still experiencing post-concussion symptoms. [Post-Gazette]

• Falling short of the ultimate goal provides the Blackhawks even more motivation to comeback stronger next year. [Second City Hockey]

• Examining the decisions by Stan Bowman in a salary cap era league that altered the Chicago Blackhawks this season. [Blackhawk Up]

• During the St. Louis Blues playoff run, can every day on the calendar be marked April 25? [Bleedin' Blue]

• Shea Weber is the first name that comes to mind when one things Nashville Predators defense. That may be shifting with Roman Josi's emergence. [Sporting News]

• How much do the Lightning miss Anton Stralman? [Raw Charge]

• Joonas Donskoi's days as the San Jose Sharks' best kept secret are coming to an end with his emergence. [Mercury News]

• "It’s 1995, and a 5-year-old John Tavares puts on a tape of Wayne Gretzky highlights, watching from start to finish for almost an hour. It’s over, he rewinds, and he plays it again." [NY Post]

• Breaking down the Pittsburgh Penguins breakout versus Washington Capitals forecheck. [Pensburg]

• A eulogy by Florida Panthers fans for the team they love. [Litter Box Cats]

• "The visiting Florida Panthers score and Barclays Center falls quiet. Well, everyone except the guy screaming “gggggoooaaaalllll!!” as if his life depended on it." Meet the Panthers' Spanish language broadcast team. [Sportsnet]

• Daniel Cleary, currently with the Grand Rapids Griffins of the AHL, is using his playoff pedigree to lead the future Detroit Red Wings as they battle for the Calder Cup. [M Live]

• Should Pavel Datsyuk in fact decide to head back to Russia, here's how the Red Wings shouldn't handle a trade for his 'dead money' contract. [Today's Slapshot]

• Incredibly detailed analysis of "the vicious cycle of conservative defensive structure." It's more interesting than it sounds. [Jen LC]

• Puck possession-wise, the Toronto Maple Leafs made some improvements this season that are only expected to improve under Mike Babcock. [Editor in Leaf]

• After the city of Calgary's less than enthusiastic re-evaluation of the CalgaryNEXT proposal, here are five more questions about the future home of the Calgary Flames. [Flames Nation]

• Rick Nash, Corey Perry, Max Domi, and John Tavares are just some of the NHL players who have emerged from the powerhouse London (Ontario) Knights junior program. [NY Times]

• The Seattle Thunderbirds are seeking revenge on the Kelowna Rockets in the WHL Western Conference Final after a playoff series sweep in 2014. [Buzzing the Net]

• History of the goal horn in the NHL. [NY Daily News]

• Revisiting preseason fantasy hockey projections to see what went right and what went wrong. [Dobber]

• Finally, take a look behind the scenes at the making of NHL 17:

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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: April 26, 2016, 6:16 pm

(Ed. Note: As the Stanley Cup Playoffs continue, we're bound to lose some friends along the journey. We've asked for these losers, gone but not forgotten, to be eulogized by the people who knew the teams best: The bloggers and fans who hated them the most. Here is Jason Rogers of Japer's Rink, a Capitals fan, fondly remembering the 2015-16 Philadelphia Flyers.)

(Again, this was not written by us. Also: This is a roast and you will be offended by it, so don't take it so seriously.)

BY JASON ROGERS (Find him on Twitter here.)

It's an unseasonably warm day in Philadelphia, and the world is ending.

Alien invaders, or maybe giant bugs, or even perhaps the Russians, are laying waste to the city. Independence Hall lies in ruins, shrouded in tattered tourist pamphlets and the collected indifference of decades of field trips. The Liberty Bell, fused back together by the unfathomable heat of an errant death ray, no longer shows any crack, and is forever divorced from the hearts of Philadelphians as being “too prude or somethin'.”

From amongst the rubble, Flyers GM Ron Hextall emerges. Wiping dust from his suit and someone weaker's anonymous blood from his goatee, he surveys the scene. He spies two invaders and cross-checks one clean in half with his goalie stick. He trips the other with the shocking dexterity of Little Bo Peep sent to SWAT school. His downed foe mutters something that sounds like “trapezoid” and vanishes.

Hextall whirls around and cranes his neck up to see a new wave of better, faster, stronger opponents encircling Philadelphia. One after another they fire shots, destroying building after building, institution after institution, leveling the city and leaving nothing but smoldering remains and a palpable lack of hope.

Surveying the destruction, Hextall takes a long drag of a gnarled cigar and spits.

“Whatever, it was a rebuilding year anyway.”

* * * 

What can you say about the Philadelphia Flyers' 2015-2016 season that hasn't already been said about the Donner Party? “Who thought we'd even make it this far?” “Our roster is young and meaty.” “No one can say we weren't hungry.”

“Playing with house money” is a lovely self-assurance but something only gamblers say, and only when they're losing. It is the self-awarded participation ribbon of professional sports, and sure doesn't catch the light like a trophy does. To be content with a first-round exit in the Stanley Cup playoffs is the hallmark of a broken city, beaten down and demoralized by years of futility and being told cheez whiz on a meat Kleenex is a point of pride.

The Flyers' 2015-2016 season began with the blockbuster, franchise-resurrecting hire of a coach with no professional coaching experience. Dave Hakstol, the apparent lovechild of an isosceles triangle and a weasel, was brought in from the University of North Dakota.

Philadelphia Flyers newly-hired head coach Dave Hakstol steps down from the stage after speaking at a news conference, Monday, May 18, 2015, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Many wondered if a place of such cultural desolation and unflinching irrelevance would present a culture shock, but no: Hakstol quickly adjusted to life in Philadelphia. Ask any Flyers fan and they'll tell you that his year was a nonstop rocket ride to the top, a meteoric parabola of unfettered success and surpassed expectations, a crazy go-go rollercoaster of dreams un-dared to be dreamt, culminating in any franchise's ultimate goal of fifth place in the division.

The coach's success, ripe and undeniable like a sexually aggressive zombie, oozed to the rest of the team. Wayne Simmonds had a career scoring year, leading Philadelphia in its goals just as mayor John Street did when he begged the city to collectively stop being so fat and disgusting. Simmonds is a darn fine hockey player, lanky and nasty like Bridgette Nielsen but far less famous for screwing Philadelphians.

Claude Giroux, both a man and a drunk Philadelphian's mispronounced deli order of a cold gyro, had his best statistical season in five years …

… if he were a golfer.

Five-year lows in both points and goals surely helped spur the Flyers to the playoffs, where his production continued to blossom. In six playoff games he scored one point, which is a great stat line for a bad debate team. Together, he and Simmonds combined for as many points as Capitals goalie Braden Holtby. When reached for comment, Holtby, speaking live from his newly purchased villa deep within Giroux and Simmonds' heads, said, “It's true. It's spacious in here, and I look forward to running for city council and finding a good school district for my kids to go to.”

As any Philadelphia geometry textbook will tell you, there are three sides to every line. Enter Brayden Schenn, a man whose very name causes onlookers and spellcheckers to cry out “Why!” With his great play in the first round (2 assists, 7 PIM), Schenn etched his name into the record books that reside in the scheduling department of the Department of Player Safety.

During Game 4 against the Washington Capitals, Schenn made a mistake anyone wildly unfamiliar with scoring or good hockey might make, cross-checking Evgeny Kuznetsov in the ACL after the play was over when Kuznetsov wasn't looking.

Honest mistake, right? Schenn isn't a dirty player. In fact he's so not dirty that he scheduled a meeting with the Department of Player Safety even after being eliminated, just because he's a totally clean player who would like a bit more literature on NHL concussion protocol so that he can properly contribute to the debate oh and because he took a flying headshot at Capitals forward T.J. Oshie in Game 6.

The annals of anomalous anus behavior are lined with misunderstood Flyers players and fans, good guys getting bad wraps for things they didn't do, reputations they don't deserve, and the kind of general cognitive dissonance that allows Pittsburgh to make a real claim to being the best city in Pennsylvania.

Of course, in Game 3, a blowout loss, 20,000 Philadelphia fans became the victims of the largest media witch hunt in history, when a convincingly executed and intricately coordinated Photoshop job made it seem as though dozens of heavy plastic bracelets were hurled from the stands onto the ice and at injured opposing players. The lamestream media might even produce cleverly doctored audio of Wells Fargo Center announcer Lou Nolan begging Philadelphia fans to “stay classy,” but you're smart enough to know that a thinking person would sooner plead for ice water in hell.

Flyers

You may even search NHL.com and find that the crowd, the crowd, was assessed a Delay of Game penalty, but even this conspiracy has one fatal flaw: no one would ever deliberately prolong a Flyers game this season.

* * *

So what does the future hold for the Flyers?

Oh, it's bright, baby. Bright like Ryan White's bedsheets under a black light. Bright like goalie Steve Mason's career as a begrudgingly chosen starter when Michal Neuvirth's groin inevitably flies apart at the seams like the torn jib of a wayward clipper ship. Bright like rookie Shayne Gostisbehere for choosing a nickname that Philadelphia fans could pronounce with emojis.

It's not like the Flyers have any competition in the Metropolitan Division. Only the reigning Presidents' Trophy winners, two superior playoff teams, and the other wild card winner. You know, two-thirds of the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

Easy peasy, nasty aerosol cheesy.

PREVIOUS EULOGIES

Eulogy: Remembering the 2015-16 Detroit Red Wings

Eulogy: Remembering the 2015-16 Los Angeles Kings

Eulogy: Remembering the 2015-16 New York Rangers

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Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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Author: Yahoo Sports Staff
Posted: April 26, 2016, 4:21 pm

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