PITTSBURGH – While Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton of the San Jose Sharks are experiencing their first trip to the Stanley Cup Final, teammate Dainius Zubrus is back for a third time.

A year after he was taken in the first round of the 1996 NHL Draft, Zubrus was playing in the Final as a fresh-faced rookie for the Philadelphia Flyers. The series ended in a sweep for the Detroit Red Wings. Three teams and fifteen years later, he was back playing for the Stanley Cup with the New Jersey Devils. The Los Angeles Kings prevailed in six games.

Will the third time be the charm for the soon-to-be 38-year-old Zubrus?

After the first trip, Zubrus’ teams failed to get out of the first round of the playoffs for over a decade. It didn’t take him long to realize just how hard it is to win the Stanley Cup. 

“I just remember that subconsciously you think it’s a little bit easier than what it is,” said Zubrus. “You’re 18 years old, you’ve just come from Tier II, you make it to the NHL and a year later you play in the Final. Right now, 20 years later, I do know how hard it is it to get to this point. It was a few years ago that we were in the Finals and were two wins away. This is another chance and another try.”

Getting to this point of the season is great for any player, but the ultimate goal is reaching that 16th win that only one team gets to celebrate. Despite years of prolonged success, the Sharks have continually fallen short for various reasons. In the cases of Marleau and Thornton, this first crack at the Cup has been a long time coming.

“Those guys have had great years for 19-20 years now and they had great teams in San Jose too,” Zubrus said. “For whatever reason, it’s just very hard to get to this point and to win it. We know that and we realize it; some heavy lifting as we say is going to be [needed] next couple of games to win it.”

Zubrus was reunited with Peter DeBoer earlier this season and sees a lot has stayed the same since they were together in New Jersey in 2012.

“He keeps it honest with all of us and what we need to do,” said Zubrus. “Of course, in the playoffs he’s great at seeing things and making a couple of tweaks in our own system. He can adjust to the teams a little bit. That’s what I like about it. You come every day to the rink and there’s no real kind of mind games. It is what it is. If you play good, good, try to play better, and if you didn’t, wake up.” 

As Game 1 finally arrives Monday night, Zubrus has a message for his teammates, young and old, experiencing the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in their careers. 

“This could be the best chance of their life and probably the best team they’re going to be on for some of us, don’t waste the opportunity,” he said.

- - - - - - -

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

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Author: Sean Leahy
Posted: May 30, 2016, 5:18 pm

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

- Wysh and Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet and Hockey Night in Canada break down the Stanley Cup Final fromm Pittsburgh.

- Predictions on the Sharks and Penguins.

- The Phil Kessel Team USA snub.

- Wysh doesn't understand his haunted hotel. 

- 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: Yahoo Sports Staff
Posted: May 30, 2016, 5:14 pm
PITTSBURGH – The San Jose Sharks open the Stanley Cup Final in Pittsburgh at against the Penguins at 5 p.m. Pacific.
The Golden State Warriors play Game 7 of their epic Western Conference Final at home against the Oklahoma City Thunder at 6 p.m. Pacific.
“It sucks,” said Sharks winger Joel Ward, hours before Game 1. “I wanted to watch the game. I was hoping it’d be tomorrow.”
It figures that for all the years the San Jose Sharks pushed for the Stanley Cup, the year they break through finds them opening almost in anonymity. The Warriors’ Game 6 rally on Saturday night peaked with an audience of 14.6 million viewers and was the highest rated and most-watched Game 6 of the WCF since Kings/Lakers on NBC in 2002, according to Sports Media Watch. Game 1 of the series posted a massive 23.4 rating in San Francisco.
So the Sharks accept the fact that there’s some local competition against their historic Stanley Cup Final debut.
“It’s a big sports night for the fans, huh?” said defenseman Brent Burns.
“I got enough worries just trying to keep my kids safe and playing hockey,” he said. “It’s always cool when you have local teams winning. I don’t really watch a lot of basketball, but you can’t help but jump on the bandwagon. And Steph Curry’s unbelievable.”
Winger Tomas Hertl said he’s a bigger fan of basketball than baseball or the NFL, but still hoped fans would choose hockey first.
“It’s not my decision, you know?” he saidl. “I want everyone in San Jose watching our game because we need every fan for us.”
Forward Tommy Wingels made his debut as a Shark in the same season Curry debuted for the Warriors.
“There’s a group of fans that are fans of both. But I think your hockey fan is a little bit different than your basketball fan,” he said. “But both teams are making the Bay Area proud, and the Bay Area will support both teams. There’s a reason you have 35 TVs at a sports bar, right?”
Ward said he’s only been to one Warriors game since signing with the Sharks last summer. “Steph was out with an ankle injury. And my girlfriend was not happy about that,” he recalled.
There is a chance Ward and the fans hoping to catch both games can do so thanks to the staggered start times. And, well, the nature of an NBA game.
“Depending on how our game goes, and their game goes, maybe,” said Ward. “The last minute of a basketball game is a little bit longer, so hopefully we’ll get a chance to see a little bit of it.”

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Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: May 30, 2016, 4:44 pm

PITTSBURGH – Nick Bonino used to be a member of the San Jose Sharks. 

Well, “member” might be pushing it. Perhaps “property” is more appropriate, as Bonino was drafted on the sixth round of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, 173rd overall, while attending Boston University.

“It was cool to be drafted. I thank them for drafting me. But I only went to one or two of their development camps. Good organization,” said Bonino, who is over his Game 7 leg injury and ready to draw in for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final for the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday night.

Bonino was traded by the Sharks to the Anaheim Ducks on March 4, 2009, in a package for Travis Moen and Kent Huskins.

“I was in school. In a class. I couldn’t really concentrate because I heard I was going to be traded,” he said. "So I went to a 3 p.m. practice and I hadn’t been traded yet. And then when I got back to the room, I had a bunch of calls and texts.”

Fast forward seven years later, and Bonino is facing the Sharks for the Cup.

“They’re a physical team. When you play out West, you have to be,” said Bonino, who had played in the Western Conference with Anaheim and Vancouver before heading East.

Bonino, part of the fabled HBK Line with Carl Hagelin and Phil Kessel, said puck possession will be key in the Final.

“We got burned against Tampa a lot,” said Bonino. “They have so many skilled guys on the Sharks, that if we turn the puck over they’re going to hurt us.”

--

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: May 30, 2016, 3:42 pm

Leading up to Monday's Game 1, Puck Daddy is previewing every facet of the Stanley Cup Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the San Jose Sharks — on the ice and off the ice.

PITTSBURGH

As of early February, Matt Murray was still playing AHL hockey for the Penguins’ minor league affiliate in Wilkes-Barre. A little over two months later he was the team’s starting goalie in the playoffs. Now he’s potentially dethroned Marc-Andre Fleury as the team’s No. 1 going forward.

It’s been an interesting year for the Penguins in net. Fleury started 58 games and had another solid season posting five shutouts and a .927 even strength save percentage. But in early April he suffered his second concussion of the season, an injury that lingered into the postseason. 

Murray backed up for the team’s opening round playoff game against the New York Rangers, but eventually assumed the starting job and ran with it, all while Fleury recovered. But when Fleury was fully healthy, Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan stuck with the 21-year-old rookie as he guided the team through three rounds.

In 15 starts this postseason, Murray has recorded a .935 even strength save percentage and been a steady presence in goal as the Penguins advanced to the Final. His teammates and head coach consistently cite his calm, cool demeanor which has helped lead to his success.

Every game Murray starts is the biggest one of his career, and now there’s no bigger stage than the Stanley Cup Final. But despite the importance of each game, he’s yet to look flustered or affected by the pressure. That will be vitally important over the next two weeks.

SAN JOSE

Trading for Martin Jones to replace Antti Niemi was a gamble by Sharks GM Doug Wilson last summer. Heading into the 2015-16 season, the netminder had only 29 starts under his belt during two years with the Los Angeles Kings.

Was that worth a first-round pick? Wilson thought so and even furthered his faith in Jones as the team’s goaltender by inking him to a three-year, $9 million deal. In return, Jones repaid his GMs faith with a .925 even strength save percentage and six shutouts during the regular season.

In the postseason, Jones has been just as good with an .927 ESSV and three shutouts, which included Game vs. the Nashville Predators in Round 2 and back-to-back showings in Games 2 and 3 against the St. Louis Blues in the conference final.

ADVANTAGE: Even. Once you get into the playoffs a hot goalie can take you places. For the Sharks, Jones has been playing well since the start of the season, helping them get back into the postseason. The Penguins have benefited from Murray’s play once Fleury went out with injury. Sullivan could have easily gone back to his regular No. 1, but it was clear Murray was the choice to help the team continue on their championship path. 

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Author: Sean Leahy
Posted: May 30, 2016, 2:45 pm

(Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend’s events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.)

The NHL is smarter now than it has ever been.

Teams use advanced data of many different stripes to try to gain an edge on the competition, whether it's to streamline breakouts and defensive systems, identify a talent in a player other teams cannot see, better determine the actual and future value of a player, or find diamond-in-the-rough prospects that can help their teams down the road.

A great many teams now employ these strategies, to the point that the advantage they can give is already diminishing because most everyone has already figured out a lot of this stuff. And while there's plenty of proprietary information these teams have that the public does not, market inefficiencies are to some extent beginning to dry up.

Fortunately for about 27 teams in the league, all you need is one guy who doesn't know about those inefficiencies and you might just be able to make something happen. Right now the three teams that are walking down the midway with a fistful of bills clutched in one hand and a big mound of cotton candy in the other are more than willing to make deals they don't realize are mistakes.

Take, for example, the Vancouver Canucks, who on Wednesday traded a second-round pick, a fourth-round pick, and 2014 first-rounder Jared McCann for Erik Gudbranson and a fifth rounder.

What do you need to know about trade, other than the fact that because we're dealing with Jim Benning here we know for sure that he misevaluated things? How about this direct quote from the victim himself:

Benning: "Florida called us first & they asked about Jared. They brought up Erik's name then we tried to figure it out." #Canucks

— Canucks Now (@CanucksNow) May 27, 2016

Rare is the hockey trade where a team calls you about a player they just re-signed less than a month prior where the person on the receiving end of that call is actually getting a non-lemon. Jim Nill once received just such a call from Peter Chiarelli, but other than that, Florida called Vancouver because they knew for sure that a 6-foot-5 defenseman is something Benning would have moved heaven and earth to receive.

The trade was immediately and widely mocked among certain circles of hockey people (the smart ones) and cheered by others (the ones still living in 1992). I would say the former went overboard a little bit, because Gudbranson strikes a neutral observer as being a decent No. 4 or 5 defenseman; he's not outright terrible. But he's certainly not worth what Vancouver proudly gave up for him. He'll make the team better, but not as much as McCann and a high second-round pick make Florida down the road. And the lack of forward-looking understanding is what's really the issue for Vancouver here.

It's especially troublesome because Benning is still out here talking about how the team owes it to fans to be competitive right now and all that. This about the team that finished 28th in the NHL, behind Columbus and Calgary and Arizona, and whose best players are now in their late 30s. Not that standings are necessarily the be-all, end-all in determining team quality, but in this case that feels just about right for a team that is currently being managed right into the ground. Especially because Benning is also out here saying things like, “Decisions have to be made by hockey people who know what winning teams look like and how to build them.”

This is like when people used to sell bricks in camcorder boxes out of the trunk of their car, except if you had the tools right at your disposal, because they're just on War on Ice or Corsica, to tell you, “Hey there's a brick in that box, not a camcorder.” But then you're proud you bought the brick.

And with Darren Dreger recently confirming what we might have already guessed — that Benning has more trades in the hopper — any smart GM with a physical player to unload should be calling him twice a day to talk about the weather and maybe just mention in passing that this guy who had 200 hits last season is available for the right price. “Ah jeez, would love to have him around but just can't make the cap numbers work,” and so on. Benning would be more than happy to help you with that, provided he doesn't spend his own cap money on a six-year deal for Kris Russell or Milan Lucic, or both.

Just to put this to bed, here's Benning's body of trade-related work since in the past nine or 10 months:

Jim Benning has not had a very good year, with all of this happening since July 1, 2015.

Yikes, yikes, yikes. pic.twitter.com/B6og8FTZwb

— Mike Darnay (@MikeDarnay) May 26, 2016

Fortunately for the Canucks, though, they're not the only gormless team still in the league these days. We know full well that the Colorado Avalanche are likewise run, shall we say, inefficiently, and that might come to a serious head this summer as the team looks to make a decision on the very young, very good defenseman Tyson Barrie.

Here are Terry Frei and Mike Chambers of the Denver Post talking about what the team plans to do with Barrie, in light of rumors earlier in the spring that the team may be actively looking to trade him. Some choice quotes follow:

“It’s very obvious that the Avalanche’s Patrick Roy has disowned the scooter defenseman-type philosophy that permeated their previous drafting philosophy. I think Patrick Roy really wants to get a big, strong defense. I think he really believes that Tyson Barrie should be at best a fifth defenseman and a power play specialist, so I think they will look at this contract negotiation and potential arbitration and say, ‘This is going to skew our salary structure for a guy we’re not really enamored of.’”

It's fine for teams, especially teams facing potential arbitration cases, to think to themselves that a player isn't that good. But if you have a team that is actively eschewing “scooter defenseman-type” players — that is, puck-moving D — in favor of big and physical, you gotta get that team on the phone and try to offload every big, physical defender you have at hand. Never know what might come loose if you shake that tree hard enough.

Let's put it this way: Any rational person is going to watch Tyson Barrie play and think he's a future All-Star with some sort of defensive system in place, but the Avs think he's a …..... fifth defenseman? Even if both Denver writers think the team keeps him for another two or three years, this is still a team that repeatedly proves to be poorly run.

Barrie is the type of defenseman for whom you get into a bidding war with other teams. Players like him don't just become available the vast majority of the time. And really, they only do when teams aren't making good decisions.

Finally, the Boston Bruins just gave Kevan Miller $10 million over four years, so that's another team you can probably rip off pretty good, without a lot of additional analysis needed. They demonstrably fall into the same boat as Benning — a former Bruins front office man himself, which I'm sure is a total coincidence — in that they clearly value things that are not as helpful in today's NHL as they think.

That in itself is something of a market inefficiency, and if other teams aren't trying like hell to exploit it, they're likely going to miss out on a fleecing or two.

What We Learned

Anaheim Ducks: The Ducks have a lot of big choices to make this summer, because they probably can't hang onto everyone they'd like to keep. What do you give Sami Vatanen and Hampus Lindholm that doesn't break your budget?

Arizona Coyotes: Can we please just stop with this

Boston Bruins: Is the answer, “Convince Cam Neely to resign?”

Buffalo Sabres: The Sabres will for-sure be making trades around the draft, so trading down seems to be a fairly likely option here.

Calgary Flames: In 2011, the Flames drafted just five players, three of which are now with division rivals, one of which has played 26 NHL games and doesn't seem like he's going to become a full-timer, and one of which was Johnny Gaudreau. So, successful draft.

Carolina Hurricanes: If this team brings back Cam Ward, man, I dunno. I mean, they won't. But why are we even discussing it? Dude is cooked.

Chicago: Here's a good question: Which current players on the team deserve to have their numbers retired? Toews, Kane, and Keith are all obvious. Anyone else? Another year or three like this and I might be inclined to add Crawford as well.

Colorado Avalanche: The Avs are on a bit of a prospect signing spree lately, which is a good idea when your team isn't competitive.

Columbus Blue Jackets: I'm still mad about this.

Dallas Stars: How many “Here's what the Stars need to fix” articles are we gonna get that aren't just the word “goaltending” written 800 times?

Detroit Red Wings: The Wings love the interview process at the combine. Ask all of them if they think a hot dog is a sandwich, and never pick anyone who says yes.

Edmonton Oilers: This is going great.

Florida Panthers: Here's more on how badly Florida ripped off Vancouver.

Los Angeles Kings: Anze Kopitar has to be the next captain, right? Not Drew Doughty?

Minnesota Wild: Just in time to lose at the World Cup of Hockey!

Montreal Canadiens: They won't regret leaving off PK Subban because they're going to win easily anyway, but they should regret it, for sure.

Nashville Predators: This is a very good thing.

New Jersey Devils: Yeah, Patrik Elias has to retire, right? He's 40, not very good any more, and a pending UFA. That's gotta be it.

New York Islanders: Oh so we're just gonna act like this is a thing until July 1, huh?

New York Rangers: This wouldn't really be a problem for the franchise.

Ottawa Senators: I mean Mark Stone and Cody Ceci are fairly far down on the list of guys who got snubbed for the World Cup, but sure.

Philadelphia Flyers: This kid'll be on the NHL roster next season.

Pittsburgh Penguins: What a beautiful boy.

San Jose Sharks: This is true of all teams, but yes.

St. Louis Blues: Tarasenko didn't make himself available on getaway day so the knives are out, baby.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Stamkos says he wants to stay in Tampa. Subtext: I'm sure he added, “wink emoji.”

Toronto Maple Leafs: This kid is super, super, super good.

Vancouver Canucks: I am screaming.

Washington Capitals: Yup, TJ Oshie was very solid for Washington this season. Good work, TJ Oshie.

Winnipeg Jets: This is actual news is Winnipeg.

Play of the Weekend

Here's a nice goal from William Nylander to close out a hat trick in the AHL Conference Finals. What a shot. 

Gold Star Award

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 29: Joe Thornton #19 of the San Jose Sharks addresses the media during the NHL Stanley Cup Final Media Day at Consol Energy Center on May 29, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Phil Kessel and Joe Thornton are my two nice boys who made the Stanley Cup Final. I'm so happy.

Minus of the Weekend

Simmons

You'll never guess who had a “Phil Kessel's character is the reason he was left off the World Cup roster” hot (dog) take this weekend.

Perfect HFBoards Trade Proposal of the Year

User “Sweech” is off his or her rocker.

Lightning trade:

Ben Bishop
Matt Carle
Alex Killorn 

Jets trade:

Ondrej Pavelec
Alex Burmistrov
Ben Chiarot
Rights to Ivan Telegin 

Signoff

You want me to show this to the cat, and have the cat tell you what it is? Cuz the cat's gonna get it.

 

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

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

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Author: Ryan Lambert
Posted: May 30, 2016, 1:24 pm

Leading up to Monday's Game 1, Puck Daddy is previewing every facet of the Stanley Cup Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the San Jose Sharks — on the ice and off the ice.

ANTHEM SINGER

The San Jose Sharks don't have a dedicated anthem singer. Instead, they rotate through local singers and occasionally the notable guest singer.

What makes the Sharks anthem unique is the crowd involvement. Let us stop you before you start thinking of the Chicago Blackhawks and their fans cheering during the anthem. This is much less, well, polite?

After the announcer asking the fans to rise and remove their hats for the singing of the anthem, the Sharks' homecrowd yells, "HEY [visiting team]! YOU SUCK!" Here's an example from the first round of this year's playoffs against the Los Angeles Kings:

Anthem singers not accustomed to this local tradition have known to be thrown off by the crowd. Especially when the 'YOU SUCK' part coincides with the singer's name.

As for the Penguins, singer (and Dave Coulier lookalike) Jeff Jimerson has been belting out the anthem for the Pittsburgh faithful since the 1990-91 season. 

One of his most poignant moments with the mic is on October 22, 2014 when he sang 'O Canada' to honor those involved in the tragedy in Ottawa earlier that day. No Canadian teams were playing in the game.

ADVANTAGE: PENGUINS. Fans love a friendly face. Fun fact: Jimerson played 'Anthem Singer' in the 1995 movie 'Sudden Death' starring Jean-Claude Van Damme.

ARENA

For the first two years of the Sharks existence as a franchise, they played in an arena named the 'Cow Palace.' This wasn't a nickname. It was actually called the Cow Palace. In 1994, the team moved into San Jose Arena. This locale has been home ever since. The arena has undergone four name changes with the current being SAP Center. 

From ESPN.com:

SAP Center has been recognized as the biggest success story in the revitalization of downtown San Jose. SAP Center, also known as "The Tank," exemplifies the architectural excellence and technological innovation of the Silicon Valley and includes the latest in audio and video technology. The building has a glass pyramid entry and unique stainless steel façade. Most noticeable is the high resolution LED center hung scoreboard -- one of the largest in North America and a full-color moving LED fascia display. 

In the past decade the Shark Tank has been one of the loudest buildings in the NHL when full. Yet, the Sharks saw a drop in attendance at the beginning of this season.

From Curtis Pashelka of the San Jose Mercury News:

Since their beginning in 1991 at the Cow Palace, the Sharks have been one of the NHL's shining examples of how hockey can work in a nontraditional market. They had a five-year streak of sellouts, 205 games overall. For a span of nine seasons, starting in 2006, they played to 99.8 percent of capacity at their 17,562-seat arena. Just once in franchise history -- in 2003-04 -- did average home attendance fall below 96 percent of capacity.

For the first time in franchise history, they failed to sellout a playoff game in Game 1 against the Nashville Predators. (A quick look at the Ticketmaster site for Games 3 and 4 appear to be sold out - aside from resale tickets - at the moment; however, the team has released tickets on the day of throughout the playoffs leading to some empty seats.)

One thing the Sharks had been chided for for years was their Washington Capitals-esque display of banners. Our friends at The Canafornians show just a few of what is on display in the rafters, including the ridiculous 'regular season champions' banner (second from the left):

The Canafornians

Look on the bright side. They'll get to add at least a Western Conference Champions banner to start next season. 

One other unique feature of the SAP Center is the hovering head of a shark that rises and lowers from the rafters. Players skate out from its mouth when they come on to the ice. It kinda looks like the shark is barfing up the team.

SAN JOSE, CA - MAY 25: Martin Jones #31 of the San Jose Sharks skates on to the ice prior to Game Six of the Western Conference Final against the St. Louis Blues during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at SAP Center on May 25, 2016 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

SAP Center is a popular venue for all things outside of hockey, too. So much so that Andrea Bocelli's concert was scheduled smack dab in the middle of the Stanley Cup Final. The Sharks put Lord Stanley ahead of Bocelli on the list of priorities forcing the tenor to reschedule his concert

Who cares if the man has the voice of an angel when there is hockey to be played?!

As for the Penguins, they spent a majority of their existence at the historic Civic Arena/Mellon Arena until they moved into the lavish confines of Consol Energy Center; a venue befitting a king (or the second coming of Penguins hockey).

Ever sat down in a stadium seat and wondered when the seats got so small (and not that your butt is getting bigger)? You won't have that problem in Consol! The arena boasts "the most comfortable seating arrangement in the NHL — seats up to 24 inches wide, with an accompanying increase in legroom." 

The Penguins showed how they can do banner overkill, too. Many of theirs are earned over the 49 years of existence, but did they need banners for MVPs and scoring titles (far left) when they're the same guys all the time. 

PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 26: A view of banners as they are displayed at Consol Energy Center before the game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Toronto Maple Leafs on November 26, 2014 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

When set up for hockey, the arena holds - wait for it - 18,087 fans. Yes, the number ending in 87 is in honor of Sidney Crosby. 

The crowd noise has been of some debate since the arena opened. One wouldn't know that if they paid attention only to Game 7 versus Tampa.

From CBS Pittsburgh:

“I thought it was incredible,” [Mike] Sullivan said. “It’s the loudest that I’ve heard a building in all my years I’ve been associated with this league… to the point where we had to scream to the players on who was up next.”

Sullivan says his players appreciate every decibel of support they get from their fans.

“They’re passionate about their team. They want to see them succeed, and I thought tonight it was on display. It was the most electric building I’ve seen,” Sullivan said.

That isn't been the case all along. Many said the arena is/was too quiet, and hasn't matched the atmosphere in the intimate setting of Mellon Arena.

From Pittsburgh Sporting News in October:

"It was fun to play (here), especially coming from Pittsburgh,” he said to Islanders Insights. “It’s pretty dead there.”

[Thomas] Greiss, who played only one season in Pittsburgh before signing a free-agent deal with the Isles this offseason, may have a point. Despite the Penguins’ 377-game home sellout streak, his criticism is one that rings true. The environment at Penguins home games hasn’t been the same since they left Mellon Arena for their new digs across the street in 2010.

Part of the problem may be that the Penguins have priced out the average fan. The average ticket price at Consol Energy Center last season was $73.59, a more than 100% increase over the last 10 years. 

With the team on the market for sale, and demand for tickets still high, change in that department will be slow to come by.

(Remember, Greiss now calls BARCLAYS CENTER home. Is it a player scored or an indictment on the crowd?)

That quote brings up a good point. Pittsburgh tickets are expensive. How many "real fans" can afford the expensive seats especially during a final.

At the time of publication, the Penguins were still selling Game 1 tickets (via Ticketmaster, non-resale) in the lower bowl for $375-$580 per seat. Less seats are still available in the lower bowl for Game 2 at $420 a pop. We're pretty sure the tickets will get sold or given away to a VIP by puck drop, preserving the 428 game sellout streak by the Penguins.

ADVANTAGE: SHARKS. They've sold out their two games at home, and have consistently been one of the loudest buildings in the NHL - not just in Game 7.

GOAL SONG

Both teams underwent a goal song makeover this regular season.

The Sharks had used Gary Glitter until this season when they finally realized why no one else used the song in their arenas anymore. 

As a part of the 25th anniversary season festivities, they put the new goal song to a fan vote because what could go wrong, right?

We lent our full support to the [ear bleeding] LMFAO remix of 'Shots' as 'Sharks.' As did California rival fans of the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings who surreptitiously voted often for the song.

The Sharks brass allegedly caught wind of what was happening and intervened. They went for the way less exciting, yet often used Jock Jam of “Get Ready for This” by 2 Unlimited.

Prior to this season there wasn't a clear cut goal song for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

From Sean Gentille of the Sporting News:

"Last season, an ongoing joke in the press box was that it was tough to remember what the Penguins used as a goal song, even a minute after the goals themselves. They opted for "Kernkraft 4000" and "Rock And Roll, Part II" a lot."

(The latter is the Gary Glitter song the Sharks used, too. Probably time to retire it anyway.)

Thanks to Pittsburgh Sports and Mini Ponies (a.k.a. PSAMP) a social media campaign was launched to change the song to 'Party Hard' by Andrew W.K.

From their online petition:

Party Hard is the ultimate expression of joy, happiness and love for one another. These are all feelings associated with watching your favorite hockey team score a huge goal at home. Hugs all around, people. There are few songs with such power and direction. Andrew tells you to Party Hard? You Party Hard.

There’s an idea that “partying hard” is not the exact image the new stuffy Penguins and CONSOL braintrust is trying to convey. This is the worst argument ever, you tool. See here, Andrew has a long history of using his platform as a means of enriching the lives of everyone he meets. Party Hard is not a mantra of getting drunk and high and puking in the street. Party Hard is a vehicle of letting your true emotions flow out of you unrestrained so you can use all of that energy to make your life better simply by making the lives around you better. Imagine a timely goal by Sidney Crosby snowballing that inevitable avalanche? There’s simply no way of getting around the positive impact the song and feeling has created.

It worked. The Penguins debuted their new goal song against the New York Rangers on October 

ADVANTAGE: PENGUINS. Don't ask for fan input unless you're ready to accept what's next.

JERSEYS 

Don't you love it when Shark Week and hockey combine?

are we headed for the first Stanley Cup Final ever where one logo has actually physically eaten the other logo pic.twitter.com/4dMw8JxIyR

— Bic Pentameter (@AnthraxJones) May 26, 2016

Nobody describes the (somewhat ridiculous) specificity in the team's home and away jerseys quite like the poor soul in marketing that had to write the description for the website.

The Sharks debuted the newest iteration of their uniforms for the 2013-14 season. Here's how they describe their home and away sweaters:

TEAL: Worn as the home sweater, the teal look debuted during the 2013-14 season as part of The Next Wave. The look is clean, focusing on the Sharks primary color, Pacific Teal. The player's number, located above the crest, on the sleeves, and on the back, are in white lettering with a black trim. Each shoulder has the jumping Shark logo. The sweater has neckline lacing, a homage to hockey sweaters from years past.

WHITEAlso debuting during the 2013-14 season, the white sweaters were worn during away games. The look is unfettered, with the Pacific Teal contrasting against the white fabric. Similar to the teal sweaters, each shoulder has the jumping Shark logo and neckline lacing. The player's number, located on the sleeves, on the back, and above the crest, are in Pacific Teal with a black trim.

Pittsburgh current look started in 2007 and features the iconic skating Penguin. The website lacks the fluffy descriptions of the logos and colors so we turned to the media guide:

"The Penguins' jerseys now feature thicker Vegas gold side sections, while the black and white body portions of the jersey go all the way to bottom hem. The cuffs and underarms are black on the white-based jerseys and are white on the black-based uniforms. Additional Vegas gold inserts appear on the sleeves just below the numbers. The NHL shield also has moved from the back right hem to the base of the neckline."

The team adopted their alternate jerseys as their new home jerseys for their playoff run, and you can see why:

"The Penguins went back to the future during the 2014-15 season, unveiling the 'Pittsburgh Gold' third jerseys reminiscent of the sweaters the Penguins wore during their back-to-back Stanley Cup championship seasons of 1991 and 92."

ADVANTAGE: PENGUINS. The black and gold is synonymous with the city of Pittsburgh and professional sports (no matter what Boston says). 

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

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Author: Jen Neale
Posted: May 30, 2016, 4:36 am

The San Jose Sharks and the Pittsburgh Penguins are both known for the blazing team speed. That doesn’t just go for their scoring prowess, but also their defense.

The Sharks’ team goals-against average for the playoffs is 2.28, while the Penguins is 2.39. The Sharks have given up 41 goals against to the Penguins’ 43. Both teams like to swarm opposing players, taking away their time and space, filling gaps to disrupt outlet passes.

Here’s a look at both of their team defenses.

SHARKS 

The blue line is anchored by the top pairing of Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun, the team’s shutdown duo. They helped stifle Tyler Toffoli, who had one assist in five games for the Los Angeles Kings. They helped frustrate Filip Forsberg, who had one goal in seven games. And then, most impressively, they held Vladimir Tarasenko scoreless until the final stage of the St. Louis Blues’ elimination game.

“We’re playing against the top players on every team. Me and Brauner will keep doing what we did,” said Vlasic, who skates 23:34 per game. “Every series gets tougher. You go from series to series, and now you’re playing a pure goal-scorer like Tarasenko. To shut him down for six games is unbelievable. Did I expect to shut him down? No. Did I expect him to score every one of these six games? Yes.”

Paul Martin and Brent Burns are the other dynamic duo. The acquisition of Martin was a boon for Burns, as he’s been the perfect complement and safety net for the offensive dynamo. They’re both positive possession players and solid on the back end.

Veteran Roman Polak and 25-year-old Brendan Dillon are the other pairing, and they’ve been victimized in this postseason. Dillon currently has the lowest score-adjusted 5-on-5 Corsi on the Sharks at 43.98.

Up front, the Sharks have some stellar defensive players among their stars, including a Selke-worthy season from Joe Thornton. He and Joe Pavelski are the only Sharks with a faceoff winning percentage above 50 percent (based on 100 faceoffs).

Their bottom six has been strong as well, with that third line of Melker Karlsson, Chris Tierney and Joel Ward giving the Sharks that third option that’ll be vital in beating the Penguins.

PENGUINS

If the game is on, chances are Kris Letang is on the ice. He’s averaging 28:46 per game. With the injury to Trevor Daley, that means the next highest player in average ice time is Brian Dumoulin and he’s nearly eight minutes off Letang’s pace (20:56). 

That pairing is the top one for the Penguins, and their best possession drivers: Letang at 54.60 Corsi (5v5, score adjusted) and Dumoulin at 53.54. They’re a shutdown pairing that, thanks to Letang, can also add to the attack.

Ben Lovejoy has been the third best possession driver for the Penguins on defense (50.83). His partner, Olli Maatta, appears to finally be rounding back into effectiveness after some rough patches in the postseason.

Ian Cole and Justin Schultz make up the other typical pairing. Schultz’s puck-moving game has been vital with Daley out. Cole is a negative possession player, but honestly, this duo’s sum can be greatest than its parts.

Up front, the Chris Kunitz/Evgeni Malkin line has dominated opponents, especially Kunitz, who’s having a marvelous postseason. Ditto Sidney Crosby’s line, as he’s winning 51.5 percent of his draws.

Matt Cullen leads the team with 52.4 percent faceoff wins, but his line with Tom Kuhnhackl and Eric Fehr has been getting eaten live by opponents otherwise.

WHO HAS THE EDGE?

Sharks. The top two pairings are overall stronger, especially with the injury to Daley, and the team defense has the ability to suck the life out of the other team’s top scorers.

PUCK DADDY'S STANLEY CUP FINAL PREVIEW

Who Has The Better Coach?

Who Has The Better Celebrity Fans?

Who Has The Better Special Teams?

Who Has The Better Forwards?

Stunning Numbers

--

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: May 30, 2016, 2:40 am
PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 29: Joe Thornton #19 of the San Jose Sharks addresses the media during the NHL Stanley Cup Final Media Day at Consol Energy Center on May 29, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

PITTSBURGH – Like the other natural wonders of the modern world, Joe Thornton’s beard has to be witnessed in person to truly appreciate its grandeur. 

The sheer mass of it. The waterfall of gray that streaks down the center, making it appear as though he attempted to sing with a mouth full of milk. The way it frays off on the edges, sweeping off in various directions like the tidal tail of a galaxy.

Somewhere behind it lurks the San Jose Sharks star.

Somewhere.

“My brother John always has a huge beard. So I kinda follow in his and Burnsie’s footsteps,” said Thornton of his epically bearded teammate, Brent Burns. “I got two mentors that have a bigger one than me.”

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 29: Brent Burns #88 of the San Jose Sharks addresses the media during the NHL Stanley Cup Final Media Day at Consol Energy Center on May 29, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Burns said that in the last couple of years, his beard has “taken off a little bit,” having not shaved for 10 months.

“Jumbo’s got a good one too,” he said. “The ‘ol Dodge racing stripe.”

Burns said he has a collection of items that have allowed him to keep the beard looking good and free of, say, vermin. Like a Jedi to his apprentice, he’s passed on that knowledge to Thornton.

“Burnsie helps me. He gets me all the oils, the combs. In the morning you get up and oil it and comb it. And then at night, you have to oil it a little bit and comb it,” said Thornton. “It looks pretty. But it’s hard work.”

It’s been quite a transformation for Thornton, considering how he looked in his younger years:

This is the same person. pic.twitter.com/oJdfGY4AJq

— Zack Cox (@ZackCoxNESN) May 29, 2016

Do he think he looks better with the beard?

“Um … no,” said Thornton, with some certainty.

In fact, there’s really only one individual in his life these days that seems to appreciate it.

“We got a new cat recently and she keeps putting her paws in it. Other than that I don’t think it’s very nice, personally,” he said.

Thornton was asked if he’d keep the beard after the playoffs, and he said its existence is tenuous at best.

“It’s day to day,” he said. “I could come tomorrow and it’s gone. Or you could see me 10 years from now and I’ll still have it.”

We’re going with the latter, unless someone has the kind of industrial strength clippers that would be necessary to trim it. Perhaps he can borrow one of the mowers they use on the outfield at Giants games, for example.

If nothing else, it makes one interested in seeing the Sharks win the Stanley Cup, only to see it consumed by Thornton's beard like a chipmunk running into an overgrown forest.

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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: May 29, 2016, 11:27 pm

PITTSBURGH – NHL coaches are often depicted as cruel taskmasters that skate their teams into the ground and crush the spirits of players who don’t conform to their physically demanding standards. 

And then there’s Peter DeBoer, man.

Like, practice, don’t practice. It’s cool, whatever. 

“There was a stretch when he pretty much just told us, ‘Hey, you guys aren’t practicing anymore. You guys prepare hard enough,’” said San Jose Sharks captain Joe Pavelski.

“A lot of days off. A lot of rest time. Guys have benefitted from that,” said defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic.

When DeBoer took over as head coach of the San Jose Sharks this season, he walked into a situation that was like a gumbo of stress and strain. The Sharks missed the playoffs for only the second time since 1998. Rumors swirled about the futures of stars Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, and frankly that of the rest of the roster. The players had tuned out previous coach Todd McLellan. The captaincy was, at last check, being shared by roughly 30 players.

At that point, hiring a personality like that of Pete DeBoer was like hiring a loud Hawaiian shirt to be your head coach. Or a hammock. Or Jeffrey Lebowski (and not just because there are a couple of beards on the Sharks’ players that look like they belong submerged in a White Russian).

Darryl Sutter might have the market cornered on California-based Zen in the NHL, but Pete DeBoer is the League’s greatest slacker whisperer.

***

The first order of business for DeBoer was to figure out what approach would work with this group.

In the past, the laidback demeanor of the team, especially its stars, was demonized as the players "not caring enough." But what if the coaching staff leaned into that curve rather than attempting to force a work ethic on players that wouldn’t take to it?

Considering the amount of travel the Sharks had, DeBoer thought it best to build in as many off days and optional practices that he could. It was, to say the least, an unusual change for the Sharks, many of whom had been hardwired to practice as often as possible. To wit, while the practices were optional, DeBoer found too many Sharks were taking the option.

“It was a little weird halfway through the season, when he saw all of us always going out for optionals and he was kicking us off the ice,” said Patrick Marleau. “It wasn’t something we were used to, but you can see it pay off later in the season. He wants us 100-percent for important games.”

Perhaps that rest and the lack of grinding practice time aren't the sole reasons the San Jose Sharks are playing for their first Stanley Cup beginning Monday at the Pittsburgh Penguins. But it’s one significant reason.

“He identified that from the get-go. Rest throughout the year really pays off at this time of year. He’s done a great job in managing guys’ minutes. He’s managed to keep the veteran guys here fresh,” said forward Tommy Wingels. “And he’s managed to give the younger guys a rest too.”

Like, for example, Tomas Hertl. He followed his outstanding rookie season with a 13-goal dud in 2014-15. Now, at 22 years old, Hertl had 21 goals in the regular season and five more in 18 playoffs games.

“We had a lot of optional skating. Relaxing. Making everybody feel good. I know [Joe Thornton] was really excited when he got a lot of optional practices. He go skate, or no. And we feel great all season,” said Hertl.

“Everybody says ‘you’re young. You should be all the time skating,’ but I don’t think so. It’s an 82-game season. We fly most in the NHL. So we have a lot of optional skates. If you want to skate, you skate. If not, you get some rest. Maybe some bike. I felt really good, all year. Last year, it was all the time skating and I was like ‘oh my god I am so tired.’ I think it’s a big thing. Everybody felt good.”

That includes their head coach, who’s come a long way from being fired on Christmas Day.

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 29: Head coach Peter DeBoer of the San Jose Sharks addresses the media during the NHL Stanley Cup Final Media Day at Consol Energy Center on May 29, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

*** 

If it’s his first season with a team, then DeBoer is probably doing really well.

In 1995, DeBoer was given his first coaching gig by Jim Rutherford, who is now the general manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins. DeBoer was the coach and GM of the Detroit Whalers, and led the team to first place and into the third round of the OHL playoffs.

In 2001, DeBoer and his assistant Steve Spott left the Whalers for the Kitchener Rangers, who went from 10 games under .500 to third place in their division under his watch. He eventually won the Memorial Cup with the Rangers in 2008, which was his calling card for potential NHL jobs that were open.

One of them was in San Jose, who turfed Ron Wilson in 2008. DeBoer was a finalist for that opening, but was passed over for McLellan, then an assistant coach under Mike Babcock with the Detroit Red Wings.

“The only thing he didn’t have on his resume was NHL experience,” said GM Doug Wilson of DeBoer

DeBoer was a finalist with the Ottawa Senators as well, but opted to take over the Florida Panthers, leading them to their highest point total since 1999-2000 and missing the playoffs in a tie-breaker with the Montreal Canadiens.

He’d coach the Panthers for three more season before he was fired after the 2010-11 season. He was hired by the New Jersey Devils in 2011-12, and once again it was instant success: DeBoer led the Devils on a stunning run to the Stanley Cup Final, with a 39-year-old Martin Brodeur leading the way.

His run in New Jersey last three more seasons, the team missing the playoffs in each one. It ended in Dec. 2014.

A year ago, DeBoer had just come off leading Canada to the gold medal in the IIHF world hockey championships, a job he was offered after the Devils fired him, and a job which he says “got the juices flowing” for coaching.

“I was in the process of getting together with Doug to talk about the San Jose job,” he said. “In the five months prior to that – after getting fired on Christmas – I didn’t do much of anything. Sat around. Coached my son’s team. Drove my wife crazy.”

Yes, Christmas Day. Lou Lamoriello is the Grinch.

“He did wait until late in the day before he fired me. We were well past the presents,” said DeBoer, laughing. 

“Lou’s played a huge role in my coaching development. I loved working for him. A lot of the things I brought to San Jose were influences from Lou.”

Sharks forward Dainius Zubrus played for DeBoer in New Jersey. “He’s a very good coach, but the thing I’ve noticed about him is that he keeps it what it is. Whether you play a good game and you lose, he’ll tell you to stick with it. Sometimes you don’t play well and win a game, and you’re going to hear that too. He keeps it honest,” he said.

“You come every day to the rink and there are no mind games.”

Another thing that DeBoer has repeated from his days with the Devils: Surrounding himself with an elite staff.

In New Jersey, he had Adam Oates and Larry Robinson. In San Jose, he has Steve Spott, his old junior assistant, was fired by the Toronto Maple Leafs and recruited to run the power play. Bob Boughner, who spent the last four seasons as Windsor Spitfires head coach, runs the penalty kill. Former NHL goalie Johan Hedberg has worked wonders with goalie Martin Jones as an assistant coach and goalie guru.

“Just as a team is the sum of all their parts, so is a coaching staff,” said Wilson. “But his leadership is off the charts.”

***

Why was Peter DeBoer able to get more out of this Sharks team than anyone else could? Why was he the right coach at the right time?

“He wants this team to play is the right way to play, and I think he’s gotten everyone to buy into that. He gets the most out of every guy, and demands we play the right way,” said Wingels.

“You gotta realize that you’re not going to score a goal every shift. There’s a lot more responsibility in your own zone, in the neutral zone, in special teams to impact the game. He preaches a full 200-foot game. He demands smart placement with the puck. He demands forechecking, and I think we play a forechecking game.”

The word “calm” was uttered by more than a few players.

“He has a calmness on the bench. You can’t tell if we’re up two or down two. Everything is even-keeled,” said Logan Couture.

“He’s a nice guy off the ice. Calm,” said Vlasic. “He knows how to get the guys motivated without getting mad at them.”

While optional practices and days off were the norm, it wasn’t like Pete DeBoer was running a Club Med.

“When we need it, he’ll give it to us,” said Couture.

“As laidback as he looks, he’s a competitor. And we feel that,” said Pavelski.

And that’s the key, really. You have a coach whose temperament fits the team, and team that didn’t know it needed that temperament until it arrived. Laidback is as laidback does.

DeBoer abides, man.

“Well, we’re in the Stanley Cup Final, so I guess he’s the right guy,” said Vlasic.

--

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: May 29, 2016, 9:44 pm

PITTSBURGH – Injuries limited Pascal Dupuis’ final three seasons in the NHL with the Pittsburgh Penguins, and over that time he’s become better at one thing: being a cheerleader.

“Well, I’ve got a lot of practice doing it. I’ve been doing it for three years basically,” joked Dupuis to Yahoo! Sports on Sunday during Stanley Cup Final Media Day.

Issues related to blood clots forced the 37-year-old Dupuis to step away from the game for good in December. But despite his career ending, he’s been a constant presence around the team as they marched their way to the Stanley Cup Final.

Who was the first person to greet Sidney Crosby in the dressing room following his Game 2 overtime goal in the conference final? That was Dupuis.

Who was on the ice after the Penguins celebrated a fifth Prince of Wales Trophy conquest after Game 7? Dupuis was there, too.

No athlete wants to be told that their career is over; they want to say goodbye on their own terms. It’s been nearly six months since doctors told Dupuis he couldn’t play hockey again and the transition hasn’t been an easy.

“When I come to the rink I still think I’m a player, so I change in my gear and my underwear and I hang out with the players,” Dupuis said. “When the game starts I put a suit on. I’ll watch a little bit of video before practices, try to help the coaching staff about details of the game, whatever I see from up there. But deep inside I still think I’m a player, so it’s still kind of hard.”

Dupuis said he’ll be on blood thinners likely for the rest of his life. Right now he’s on a dose that allows him to do everyday things with his wife and kids. While he still feels like a player, unfortunately he can’t be around his teammates on the ice due to new medication and the risk factor of a potential cut.

That hasn’t stopped Dupuis, of course, from remaining a part of this Penguins team, even if it’s in a different role. It might be painful now for him to watch, but he says that’s fine if it results in another Cup for the franchise.

“Just staying around is great, but that’s the hardest part, though, for me, to be around and not to go on,” Dupuis said. “But at the same time I care so much about these guys, about these guys winning, and teammates that I’ve won with to win again, if it means being hurtful for me a little bit to be around and for them to win, I’m definitely willing to do it.”

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

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Author: Sean Leahy
Posted: May 29, 2016, 9:40 pm

Dan Rusanowsky was OK with the fact that he didn’t watch his beloved Indianapolis 500 from green flag to checkered flag on Memorial Day weekend.

The ‘Day One’ San Jose Sharks radio broadcaster was busy at team practice in Pittsburgh as both he and the Sharks prepared for their first Stanley Cup Final.

“I’ve been to four 500s and been to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for Formula One when they had the race there. My brother goes every year and I just got off the phone with him a little while ago. If we’re not at the race together he ends up calling me and we talk to each other and listen to the cars go by for the first lap,” Rusanowsky said. “It’s the start of a beautiful journey that we’ve been dreaming about for 25 years.”

It’s a voyage that’s had many twists and turns which led to this point and Rusanowsky, who is adored by Sharks fans and highly respected by his peers, has enjoyed every second.

“It’s something that dreams are definitely made of and you don’t get tired of this opportunity. Hockey in June is a sweet thing for everybody in both San Jose and (the Pittsburgh Penguins),” the 55-year-old Rusanowsky said.

Rusanowsky, who is from Milford, Connecticut, didn’t go to school to learn broadcast. Instead he got an English degree from St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y. where he started to call the team’s hockey games.

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He also gave himself a well-rounded broadcast portfolio by doing classical music shows and news on radio to supplement his sports. Rusanowsky then went to Clarkson to get his MBA so he could learn more varied skills, just in case he was forced to go a different path.

“I was doing a lot of marketing and finance classes in grad school. I felt that was the best way to pursue the dream I had but also provide me good skills if this didn’t work out,” Rusanowsky said. 

But after he graduated he received an offer by the AHL's New Haven Nighthawks and from that point on he was on his way as a professional hockey broadcaster.

“I graduated with Clarkson on a Sunday and on a Monday the next day I was offered an opportunity to go to New Haven,” he said.

His Sharks’ voyage started in 1991. He was the play-by-play voice of the Nighthawks for five years at the time and saw the opening in San Jose.

“I applied for it and I got it, right?” he joked when asked how he was hired.

It was somewhat more complicated than that, he explained. The ability to call games for an NHL expansion team in one of the most beautiful parts of North America was a competitive process, one that included a few interviews for Rusanowsky. 

“A lot of people were very interested in it of course,” Rusanowsky said. “I was fortunate to go through the process and get interviewed a couple of times and then get offered the opportunity and I’ve cherished it ever since.”

There are a few games that stick out to Rusanowsky that remind him of how far the organization has come. He was sitting by himself in Calgary in 1992-93 during the worst season in Sharks history and the Sharks got a 1-0 lead on the Flames.

“The Sharks went into Calgary and hoped to just finish out a tough second season by starting off 0-0 and forgetting about that past,” Rusanowsky said. “With that attitude they took a 1-0 lead and things were looking pretty good and then they ended up losing the game 13-1. I was there that night.”

He also remembers a game at the Cow Palace – the first Sharks’ arena – against the Montreal Canadiens where the Zamboni dragged a goal peg on the ice by accident and caused a delay for 55 minutes. Then there was a pre-planned wedding on the ice that made it longer.  

“I’ll always remember the fans yelling ‘Don’t do it!’ when they were about to take the vows,” he said.

But really nothing compares to San Jose’s Game 6 Western Conference Final win at home that sent the team to a Stanley Cup Final.

“It was great to see these fans get that reward from these players especially with the way they played against St. Louis,” Rusanowsky said.

Overall he has a unique perspective on his job and life because he almost lost both suddenly.

On Nov. 25, 2000, before the Sharks played the New Jersey Devils, a car ran a red light and hit his car in downtown San Jose going 50 mph.

Rusanowsky suffered a ruptured diaphragm and a fractured femur a cracked pelvis and cracked ribs.

“I didn’t realize how serious the injuries I had were and I remember them telling me what they were before I went into surgery and I was fading in and out at that point,” Rusanowsky said. “It makes you realize how it all can go away in just the blink of an eye and that’s part of the appreciation of understanding that we’re not on this earth for all that long so the opportunities you have to enjoy.”

The 27 games he missed as he recovered from his injuries are the only Sharks games in team history he hasn’t watched. He’s called 2,074 Sharks games, including 199 in the postseason.

There have been other times he struggled with some broadcasts, but powered through – like one where he needed a garbage bag in the booth for a stomach problem.

“That was fun,” he quipped. “I remember sitting there drinking water and saying, ‘Please God let the Sharks win 1-0 so I don’t have to call too many goals because I don’t know how strong my voice is and wouldn’t you know it, they won 1-0 that night.”

Ask Rusanowsky about his favorite call and he brings up a playoff goal by Patrick Marleau against the Detroit Red Wings in 2010. But really he understands that calling a Final can give him a chance to make new memories for Sharks fans.

Rusanowsky has his facts ready to inform listeners but really he hasn’t scripted anything in case San Jose wins their first Stanley Cup. He likes his broadcasts to be conversational because it makes them more realistic.

“I believe a game and a broadcast as an organic life of its own. You think of general things you might talk about that you might want to mention, but you also have to let yourself feel the emotion and convey that to the audience. If you don’t do it, it gets a little bit, shall we say, forced. And I’d rather have it be organic all the time. So that’s the way I prefer it,” Rusanowsky said. “I always tell people the best calls are still to come and there’s an opportunity now to throw some in there. “

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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: May 29, 2016, 9:18 pm

PITTSBURGH – Game 7 was tense for every Pittsburgh Penguins player, including those who weren’t involved. 

Trevor Daley was one of those players. He hadn’t watched a game of the series since breaking his ankle in Game 4, but with the season on the line the defenseman was inside the Penguins’ trainer’s room watching his teammates beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1 to advance to the Stanley Cup Final.

Six days earlier, Daley’s season came to an end after a collision with Ryan Callahan along the boards while retrieving a puck.

“I knew it was bad. I was just hoping to get back to the front of the net and I knew that the whistle wasn’t going to be blown until we had the puck,” Daley said during Stanley Cup Final Media Day on Sunday. “I don’t know what I was gonna do, but maybe I was going to help the goalie or something, I don’t know.”

This postseason was only the second time Daley, a veteran of 838 NHL games, had ever advanced beyond the first round. In 2008, his Dallas Stars reached the conference final only to lose to the eventual Cup champion Detroit Red Wings, who beat the Penguins in six games. Watching, rather than playing, won’t be easy for the 32-year-old blue liner.

“You do feel sorry for yourself, but I try to control what I can control and I can’t control this situation,” he said. “I’m going to have to try to make the best of it.”

While the Penguins don’t expect him back, Daley said that he hasn’t ruled himself out of making a surprise return in the series. “That’s keeping me going,” he said.

In the meantime, it won’t just be buckets of popcorn for Daley wherever he decides to watch the series from. He’ll be around, and if needed, he’ll provide feedback to his teammates and coaching staff from what he’s seeing in his position.

“They ain’t gonna keep me away, I’m going to be around,” he joked. “If they tell me I’ve got to stay away I’m going to find a way to get in there.”

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

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Author: Sean Leahy
Posted: May 29, 2016, 8:04 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 are the Chicago Blackhawks bloggers of The Committed Indian, fondly recalling the 2015-16 St. Louis Blues.)

By The Committed Indian (@RealFansProgram)

“Slayed the dragon!”

That’s a phrase we’ve gotten used to around these parts. Upon this day when we come to mourn/kick dirt/wildly celebrate yet another Blues playoff exit before anything a banner would be raised for, It’s time to consider that. We heard it five years ago, when another continually good-but-not-good-enough team hell-bent on measuring its manhood every shift beat a deeply flawed Hawks team, took the most amount of time to do it, and celebrated as if it was discovered drinking beer gives you superpowers. A team with Cup aspirations screaming out its lungs needing every bounce and break to beat a third-placed team. 

It was Vancouver then. It’s St. Louis now. That’s some company you keep, Blues.

The Blues told us that triumph in the 1st round signaled that everything was different. This win proved that they’d learned their lesson. No longer was this a disgusting organization run by calculating, ham-handed, born-on-third executives with a section of their fandom doing their best to prove that evolution does not actually exist and become the scorn of the rest of the hockey world.

Oh wait, we’re supposed to be talking about the Blues and not the Hawks.

Sorry, back to that.

Much like the Canucks in 2011, all of it was folly. The lessons weren’t learned. The Blues didn’t change anything. They took seven games to beat a team that didn’t have a blue line. Then they took seven games to beat a team that didn’t have a goalie. Then they ran into a team that had a passable version of both and were pretty much DJ Jazzy Jeff’d out of the Bel Air mansion of the Western Conference playoffs. Hitch still played goalie roulette. He didn’t play Tarasenko as much as Paul Stastny and Troy Brouwer. They counted on Brouwer and Backes for scoring and ended up with a handful of themselves. Jabe O’Meester turned odd colors in the sun on the blue line, and yet was still counted on to match up with Joe Pavelski.

Around 754 goals later, they may want to look back on that.

SAN JOSE, CA - MAY 25: Roman Polak #46 of the San Jose Sharks receives a hug from Vladimir Tarasenko #91 of the St Louis Blues in game six of the Western Conference Finals during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the SAP Center at San Jose on May 25, 2016 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Don Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)

And in a certain respect, the Blues couldn’t help but better serve their entitled, conspiratorial northern rivals even in pyrrhic first-round victory. In the near term, the Blues did many Hawks fans a favor by euthanizing an interminable season like so many of David Backes’ dogs, one marred by one tone deaf scandal after another.

After over eight months of screaming belligerence (and much worse) from the very vocal majority of its myopic fanbase, it was the only fate the Blackhawks ever deserved, and the Blues are now merely incidental to it.

Now a very flawed, exhausted, Trevor Van Riemsdyk-dependent team was put out of its misery, and the Blues are a mere footnote in the historical narrative of this playoff year as they always are. It’s never about you, St. Louis. It never will be. 

And in the long term, the Blues advanced just far enough for the completely static Doug Armstrong to learn the wrong lessons from his aging, unidirectional core and bring the whole gang back next year another year older. But at least Doug doesn’t “circumvent the rules” and use the LTIR provision in the CBA to his advantage. He’d rather totally not blame injuries by kind of sort of blaming injuries while not admitting to himself and the public that the Blues are a capped out budget team that the locals barely bother to gas up the ‘87 S10 for. And they don’t turn out more than likely because their disability settlement from the local Dirt Cheap liquor store they used to work at and “accidentally” fell off a ladder from doesn’t quite cover the cost.

Even in victory, the Blues’ achievements are still only defined by other teams. The franchise has been meaningless since Day One, when their visits to the Final were merely a function of only the new expansion franchises playing one another in the post-season. This is a team that has fired the top three winningest coaches in the history of the league in Scotty Bowman, Joel Quenneville and Al Arbour, and currently employ the fourth in Ken Hitchcock, and have literally nothing to show for any of the four of them. And Hitchcock will assuredly be fired (or OD on Nutter Butters) as the current window for this franchise slams shut.

SAN JOSE, CA - MARCH 22: Head coach Ken Hitchcock of the St. Louis Blues coaches against the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center on March 22, 2016 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Rocky W. Widner/NHL/Getty Images)

What a postseason it was for the blubbering blowhard from Alberta. An extended congratulations to Jabba the Hitch for winning his most postseason games in a decade, yet somehow only being out of work for one season during that timeframe. It takes a special kind of con man to win a combined 12 playoff games in ten years and yet consistently be mentioned as one of the top coaches in the league. Those three years in Dallas at the turn of the century must have really been something. But hey, hockey didn’t exist in Chicago back then so we can’t actually say for sure.  

This year, when creepy Uncle Ken wasn’t passive aggressively complaining about the officials in post-game pressers, he was busy deploying his most dynamic offensive weapon in the worst ways possible.

Let’s take the Western Conference Final as the most recent (and perhaps) best example.

You don’t need to be a hockey blogger to know that Marc-Eduoard Vlasic is the best defensive defensemen in the league. The guy is one of the best six defensemen born in Canada. A country where they crap fiberglass, turn them into composite sticks and sell them to stupid Americans for $350 a pop. He was a gold medal winning defensemen in 2014 on one of the deepest tournament teams in history. And oh by the way, it was also A TEAM THAT KEN HITCHCOCK COACHED.

So if anyone should know that Vlasic is capable of stifling offensively gifted players, it should be Jabberjaw. In a series where the Blues had home ice advantage and the ability to dictate the matchups the majority of the time, Colonel Beefcakes decided it would be in his best interests to match Tarasenko against Vlasic 60% of the time. Instead of letting Brouwer, Backes and the rest of the slobbering fools who weren’t going to score unless they had three undefended shots at an empty net get shutdown by Vlasic, Hitchcakes decided to use his best offensive player as the guy to neutralize Vlasic.  

How did that turn out for everyone?

The St. Louis Blues' Vladimir Tarasenko is hit by San Jose Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic (44) as he tries to score against Sharks goaltender Martin Jones (31) in the first period during Game 4 of the Western Conference finals on Saturday, May 21, 2016, at the SAP Center in San Jose, Calif. The Blues won, 6-3, to even the series. (Chris Lee/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS via Getty Images)

Don’t worry, though. I’m sure Tarasenko has already forgotten all about it. It’s not like Russians are known for having long memories. Just ask Nina from the Americans. Oh wait. You can’t.       

Fox Sports Midwest reporter Andy Strickland, famous for this tweet, sent out some very encouraging notes while finishing his coverage of the Blues. My favorite missive was this one, where he compared the Blues to the 2009 Blackhawks.

Patrick Sharp told me earlier in playoffs, #Blackhawks probably never go on Cup run w/o exp of reaching WCF in 09. Taught Chi what it took

— Andy Strickland (@andystrickland) May 26, 2016

First, I’m sure Blues fans love thinking about the beginning of the Blackhawks run of success that’s packed more hockey angst into half a decade than a Charlie Gitto’s cook shoves hamster testicles into those toasted raviolis. Second, if you want to escape the shadow maybe use a different comparison. That 2009 Chicago team oldest major contributor was Brian Campbell at 29. Half of this Blues roster is currently putting off their prostate exams for as long as possible.

Speaking of aging, we may have seen the final game in a Blues sweater for the captain David Backes.

Backes

His tear soaked soliloquy (in which he very likely admitted that Steve Ott gave him stolen pain pills) was not because he was sad that he lost. No, he’s very used to losing by now. It’s the only thing he’s ever done. He was crying because he started picturing himself in a Winnipeg jersey for the next four years. So goodbye Captain America. We’ll never forget the years of chasing hits, going to the box at the worst possible time, and year after year of playoff failure. I hear Winnipeg has tons of feral dogs so I’m sure he’ll have his hands full once the playoffs start and he’s not involved.

If Hitchcock finally gets fired and Backes goes the way of krokodil addict Barret Jackman, it’ll mean the end of an era. If the Blues rid themselves of human scabies like Steve Ott, AHL fourth liner Scottie “I Swear I’m An Adult” Upshall, and smoldering diaper Kyle Brodziak - all they’ll truly have left is Ryan Reaves who is more useless on ice than three-month-old seafood, although both are just as likely to seriously injure someone.

But hey, at least the Blues aren’t going to move to Los Angeles.

#ThisTimeWillBeDifferent.

And it was in a way. The Blues finally were presented with opponents in the playoffs that had more gaping holes than they did. They were able to push over the hobos when they got tired. And then they saw Drederick Tatum and it was over.

Now they can disappear back into the underground garbage fire that is the foundation to that city (no, literally, it is).

And we can do it all again next year.

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

Eulogy: Remembering the 2015-16 Minnesota Wild

Eulogy: Remembering the 2015-16 Chicago Blackhawks

Eulogy: Remembering the 2015-16 Anaheim Ducks

Eulogy: Remembering the 2015-16 New York Islanders

Eulogy: Remembering the 2015-16 Dallas Stars

Eulogy: Remembering the 2015-16 Nashville Predators

Eulogy: Remembering the 2015-16 Washington Capitals

Eulogy: Remembering the 2015-16 Tampa Bay Lightning

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Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: May 29, 2016, 2:04 pm

Leading up to Monday's Game 1, Puck Daddy is previewing every facet of the Stanley Cup Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the San Jose Sharks — on the ice and off the ice.

PITTSBURGH 

Aside from a six-game spell filling in for a suspended John Tortorella in 2014, Mike Sullivan had not been the man behind an NHL bench since 2005-06 season before he was named head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins in December. He’d spend nearly the last decade as an assistant around the league and in a player development role with the Chicago Blackhawks a couple of seasons ago. 

Last June, Sullivan was given the opportunity by Penguins GM Jim Rutherford to run the bench for their AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre. When Mike Johnston was fired in December, Rutherford decided to promote Sullivan instead of any his NHL assistants because he wanted a new face in the room, someone the players didn’t know. 

Instantly, a flip was switched and the Penguins, who were 15-10-3 at the time of the coaching change, soon became one of the league’s fastest and best possession teams thanks to Sullivan (and some shrewd deals by Rutherford). Sidney Crosby, who saw his offense dip at the start of the season, found his game again and stormed up the points list. 

Sullivan's system has allowed the Penguins to showcase their team speed, which has allowed them to expose opponents. What the head coach preaches clicked with his group and a season that was looking dire blossomed into one with Stanley Cup dreams.

SAN JOSE

There are three certainties in life: death, taxes and the Peter DeBoer bump.

The Sharks are DeBoer’s third stop in the NHL and everywhere he’s gone – Florida, New Jersey and now San Jose – his teams have shown a noticeable improvement in Year 1.

In his first year in Florida, DeBoer led an eight-point improvement for the Panthers only to see them miss out on a playoff berth due to a tiebreaker. The Devils reached the Stanley Cup Final and increased their regular season point total by 21 in 2011-12. And coming off their first playoff-less spring since 2003, the Sharks got back into the postseason this year and immediately slayed a demon in the Los Angeles Kings in Round 1.

There was a built-in foundation for DeBoer when he arrived in San Jose and he helped keep it together and led them to a revival.

ADVANTAGE: Even. Both have succeeded due to a much-needed change behind the benches of their respective clubs, but even with rosters primed for turnarounds, both Sullivan and DeBoer needed the buy-in from their veteran leaders. They got that and got it early, which has been enough to deliver postseason success and bring them each to within four games of a championship.

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Author: Sean Leahy
Posted: May 29, 2016, 1:16 pm

David Backes of the St. Louis Blues gave one of the most emotional postgame interviews in recent memory after the San Jose Sharks eliminated them in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final. 

His face was haggard. His eyes were red with tears. His voice cracked. And he wanted to take a moment to thank a teammate.

“He’ll kill me for telling this story, but in Game 5 I’m not feeling well. And Steve Ott brings me something that helped me feel better,” said Backes, choking back the waterworks. “And knowing that he’s the guy coming out of the lineup if I can play, that’s pretty selfless. That’s the kind of guys we have in here.”

It was quite a moment, as the captain thanks a teammate who sacrificed his … wait, what? ‘Brings me something that helped me feel better?’

This naturally led to a Barstool Sports story that “speculated” that the entire St. Louis Blues playoff run was the result of performance enhancing drugs.

But seriously, what did Steve Ott give David Backes to make him feel better?

Words of encouragement? His childhood stuffed animal? A stick to the groin? (This is Steve Ott here we’re talking about.)

Backes met the media again on getaway day on Saturday. "I think I'm getting a Visine endorsement after that interview. That was real, that was raw, that was my heart right on my face and coming right out of my tear ducts,” he said.  

OK, OK … but what magic elixir did Steve Ott give you?

Via the St. Louis Post Dispatch, Backes clarified:

In the interview after the game, Backes joked that Ott would not be happy with him about him telling the story to reporters, who weren't clued in on exactly what Ott gave him.

(It was later learned that it was an infrared healing mat).

So did Ott ever give Backes trouble like he expected. "Someone said that it was performance-enhancing drugs," Backes joked, "so now he wants to sue me for defamation. That's how he spun the whole thing. He didn't give me any grief.”

So there you go. An infrared heating mat. Well, that and the humility of healing a teammate that you know will take your spot in a big game.

“He knows that we've got a great relationship and we know each other wants to give everything we have to try to win a Stanley Cup,” said Backes.

--

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: May 29, 2016, 2:04 am

Leading up to Monday's Game 1, Puck Daddy is previewing every facet of the Stanley Cup Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the San Jose Sharks — on the ice and off the ice.

Celebrity sports fans are like super delegates in a presidential election. They don't have to show up for anything but the main event, and people will still go nuts over them. 

Everybody wants at least one because they are way more important than the people who paid for admission and aren't fawned over by the team they love.

The celebrity fan game is a big part of the Stanley Cup Final. It can mean the difference between a one minute highlight package on Sportscenter (in the US) or an one minute and fifteen second highlight package with a celebrity. The bigger the star, the higher up the highlight in the States.

Check out some of the fans and see who we think has the advantage in the celeb market.

SAN JOSE SHARKS

This is the Sharks 25th season as a franchise which is pretty young in hockey terms. They don't have long standing traditions as their opponents, and as much as we love Pat Falloon, not many people are clamoring for throwbacks of former players.

The Sharks cultivate a random base of famous fans. Many are transplants to the Bay Area with San Jose sitting just shy of 45 miles outside of San Francisco.

Take our first celeb as an example.

Neil Young is a music icon, and is (or was) a long time season ticket holder for the Sharks. 

Young, who is Canadian, caused a bit of an uproar among Sharks fans when he was featured in an ad in 2011.

From the Examiner:

"I want my season tickets delivered to the house. Thank you very much," he says on the phone as the commercial begins. Then he turns to the camera.

"Who am I going to root for -- the Sharks or the Jets," he says. Then there's a pause.

"Go Jets!", he says, as the commercial fades out.

He appeared to have made amends in 2013 as he was caught a San Jose playoff game. Who wouldn't want to sit next to this bundle of joy just oozing with sports fandom.

In January 2015, the Sharks held Metallica night at SAP center. The team created special Metallica jerseys just for the band

Enter the Sandman for Game 6. Metallica front man James Hetfield was on hand as the Sharks punched their ticket for the Stanley Cup Final.

There are people reading this blog who weren't even a glimmer in their parents' eyes at the time Kristi Yamaguchi won her gold medal for Team USA in figure skating.

At the 1992 Olympics in Albertville, France, she triple-axled her way to America's Sweetheart status; she also happened to meet her future husband at the games - Bret Hedican, who was playing hockey for Team USA. Hedican, now retired, is a color analyst for the Sharks local broadcast. 

SAN JOSE, CA - MAY 05: American figure skater, Kristi Yamaguchi applauds after the San Jose Sharks scored a third-period goal against the Vancouver Canucks in Game Three of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2013 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at HP Pavilion on May 5, 2013 in San Jose, California. The Sharks defeated the Canucks 5-2. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Clearly winning a gold medal is a big deal, but how many people can say they've won a gold medal AND a mirror ball trophy from Dancing With the Stars? Kristi can.

Now THAT'S a winner.

If you know who Richard Dean Anderson is, congrats, you're even older than those who remember Kristi Yamaguchi.

If the name doesn't ring a bell, perhaps you might know him better as ... MACGYVER.

Richard Dean Anderson is here to help MacGyver up a win. #SilenceTheBlues pic.twitter.com/uAe67N7L49

— San Jose Sharks (@SanJoseSharks) May 26, 2016

The television series ran from 1985 to 1992. He was a special agent that could do anything with the most random of resources. There is a whole Wikipedia page devoted to the ways he's solved problems.

He's a handy character to have around.

Sharks get locked out of locker room? He'll twist together beard hair from Joe Thornton and Brent Burns to pick the lock. Team plane makes an emergency landing over a body of water? He'll create a boat out of Patrick Marleau's eyebrows and Logan Couture's front teeth.

Sure he's a fictional character, but he's better than someone named Richard Dean Anderson.

What is the penalty is for a mascot biting the head of a former Secretary of State? Asking for Sharks fan Condoleezza Rice.

Hey there @CondoleezzaRice pic.twitter.com/PSPXrucIfU

— #SJSharkie (@sjsharkie) May 22, 2016

After leaving Washington behind, Dr. Rice decided on a life in academia. She holds professor and fellow positions at Stanford University. Hockey is not her No. 1 sport, though. In several interviews she has talked about becoming NFL Commissioner someday.

A sundry of Bay Area athletes and teams have taken to social media to wish the Sharks well under the hashtag #BayAreaUnite and #BayAreaTurnUp. The most popular vote of confidence, of sorts, comes from reigning NBA MVP Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors.

Congrats to the @SanJoseSharks on advancing to the #StanleyCup Final! #BayAreaUnite pic.twitter.com/0BlrTfgbR6

— GoldenStateWarriors (@warriors) May 26, 2016

The bobblehead he's holding was a special giveaway for a Warriors preseason game in San Jose versus the Toronto Raptors (appropriate, no?).

Surely Steph would be in attendance if the Warriors weren't embroiled in their own playoff battle (at the time of publication).

Lastly, this dork may not be a Sharks fan, per se, but he did take a pie to the face after picking them against the Kings in the playoffs years ago. So that's something. Perhaps his decision to NOT pick them in Round 1 this year led to their success.

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS

The Penguins will mark their 50th anniversary in the NHL next season giving them twice as much time to pickup fans. Having Sidney Crosby on your team doesn't hurt when it comes to the bandwagon market either.

Many of the Penguins celebrity fans are from the Western Pennsylvania area, like this first guy you might have heard of.

Michael Keaton is a native Pennsylvanian; hailing from Robinson Township outside of Pittsburgh. The actor has a ton of hit movies under his belt like Beetlejuice, Batman, and Birdman. He's a long serving Penguins fan.

Check him out in a broadcast from 1991:

He showed up to the Penguins Cup Final appearances in 2008 and 2009. Perhaps if Sidney Crosby says his name three times out loud he'll appear at this year's final.

Also from the greater Pittsburgh area is Joe Manganiello.

WE ARE THE EAST!!!
CONGRATS TO MY @penguins!#StanleyCup
S/O: @GeorgeParros & @ViolentGents for the lucky gear! pic.twitter.com/A2kpqp76SJ

— Joe Manganiello (@JoeManganiello) May 27, 2016

The True Blood and Magic Mike actor is seen above celebrating the Penguins berth in the Cup final in Violent Gentlemen gear (a company started by another Western PA product, George Parros).

Academy award winning actor and native Australian Russell Crowe is a big fan of the city of Pittsburgh in general.

From YinzPitt.com:

“Been a Penguin fan since 1998, when I did a movie (“Mystery, Alaska”) about ice hockey,” Crowe said. “Jaromir Jagr took me under his little Penguin wing and, actually, at one point in time, he said, “You know, Russell, I really admire your heart, but you don’t have the ankles to be a skater.'”

Just look at how excited he is after the team won.

Penguins!!!

— Russell Crowe (@russellcrowe) May 27, 2016

Everyone knows about the newest addition to the Penguins family: Shawn Michaels.

The retired WWE wrestler known as the 'Heartbreak Kid' or simply 'HBK' is finding new fame among the faithful as the HBK Line of Carl Hagelin, Nick Bonino, and Phil Kessel dominated the better part of the Penguins playoff run.

Everyone is asking HBK if he's going to be there for the final. Someone just needs to tell him when it is...

When do they start? https://t.co/qBv9JnpS28

— Shawn Michaels (@ShawnMichaels) May 27, 2016

Like the Bay Area teams with the Sharks, the Pittsburgh sports teams are rallying around their hockey players.

Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole went to game in the Capitals-Penguins series and quickly became 'THAT GUY' at every game.

Nothing like Gerrit Cole booing the #Caps #LetsGoPens pic.twitter.com/KFx4qZxi6j

— Amanda Jupena (@AmandaJupena) May 5, 2016

So much so the usher had to tell him to knock it off when he was banging on the glass. Friend of the blog, Sean Gentille, caught him heckling Caps players

The Steelers were in on the mix as well.

Retired DE Brett Keisel and his glorious beard have been regulars through the run. He even hosted Shawn Michaels when he came to Consol.

For Game 7, both wide receiver Antonio Brown and head coach Mike Tomlin were in among the plebeians waving their towels.

Last night, #Steelers HC Mike Tomlin and WR Antonio Brown attended the #Pens game#HereWeGo#LetsGoPens#BurghProud pic.twitter.com/wznz17YjxJ

— 412 Sports (@412_PITsports) May 27, 2016

Brown's current contract is worth just shy of $42-million. Yet, somehow Coach Tomlin ends up with the better seats. Players can be replaced, but in Pittsburgh, Steelers' coaches are (practically) forever.

The last of the famous Pennsylvania natives is one Penguins fans would like us to ignore - Taylor Swift.

Why? The Taylor Swift curse, of course.

Pittsburgh Penguins

She was gifted the jersey above in October 2009, right after the Penguins won their last Stanley Cup. They haven't won one since. Also, all the players in this picture are now EX-Penguins.

Coincidence?! 

Advantage: Penguins. Their celebs might actually make it on TMZ in a story that's not about them going to the giant ice rink in the sky.

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

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Author: Jen Neale
Posted: May 29, 2016, 12:37 am

Leading up to Monday's Game 1, Puck Daddy is previewing every facet of the Stanley Cup Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the San Jose Sharks — on the ice and off the ice.

POWER PLAY 

As you’d suspect, the special teams for both of the Penguins and Sharks have done pretty well in the three rounds leading up to the Final. The Penguins’ power play (23.4 percent) comes in just behind the Sharks’ unit (27 percent), with both having been lethal at time this postseason. 

Pittsburgh rolls out a talent-laden top unit featuring four forwards — Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Patric Hornqvist, Phil Kessel — and one defenseman, Kris Letang. That crew has scored 12 of the Penguins’ 15 goals with the man advantage. The second unit took a blow when Trevor Daley fractured his ankle in the conference final against the Tampa Bay Lightning and saw his season come to an end. Justin Schultz stepped in and picked up two power play points in his first three games re-entering the lineup.

San Jose’s power play has been one of the best this postseason and enters the Final rolling with a 27 percent success rate. Like the Penguins, the Sharks deploy four forwards — Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski — and a one defenseman in Brent Burns in their No. 1 group. Pavelski (5), Couture (4) and Burns (4) are all in the top five in power play goals this postseason and Couture (11) and Pavelski (9) are the top two in power play points. They’ll deploy a very strong second unit featuring Tomas Hertl, Joonas Donskoi and Joel Ward, who each have provided timely scoring this spring.

ADVANTAGE: Sharks, by a slight edge.

PENALTY KILL

Pittsburgh’s penalty kill has been as good during the playoffs (83.6 percent) as it was during the regular season (84.4 percent). And with the likes of Carl Hagelin on the unit, they’re always a threat for a shorthanded goal, something San Jose has allowed happen twice this spring. Against Tampa, the Penguins did a good job of keeping the Lightning’s power play group off the ice, allowing them only 13 opportunities, including 0-fer’s in the final three games of the series.

The Sharks faced a good power play in the conference finals against the St. Louis Blues and now face an even bigger test with the Penguins. San Jose ended their series against St. Louis allowing three power play goals on eight opportunities in the final three games — that was after keeping that unit in check for the opening three games. But they enter the Final with a solid performance overall — 80.4 percent kill rate — and can throw our two sets of strong defensemen, with Paul Martin, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Justin Braun and Brent Burns.

ADVANTAGE: Penguins

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Author: Sean Leahy
Posted: May 28, 2016, 11:48 pm

Sharks vs. Penguins

Leading up to Monday's Game 1, Puck Daddy is previewing every facet of the Stanley Cup Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the San Jose Sharks — on the ice and off the ice.

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS

Early in the year the Penguins tried to load up their superstars on two lines in hopes that they would produce mega totals together. That didn’t work, and instead putting Phil Kessel on the team’s “third line” (aka HBK line) with Nick Bonino and Carl Hagelin has turned Pittsburgh into one of the most dangerous teams in the NHL. Kessel’s nine goals and 18 points leads the Penguins this postseason. His line has been Pittsburgh’s most productive with 45 points combined between the three of them.

[Join a Yahoo Daily Fantasy Hockey contest today]

This has softened the blow from lesser-than-expected production from Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, who each have 15 points this playoffs.

Essentially for the first time in a while the Penguins aren’t a two-line group and they’re a better team for it.

Lower line players like Matt Cullen, Tom Kuhnhackl and Eric Fehr have also made important plays at some point this postseason. Before the year, the Penguins’ forward depth was considered a question mark. Now it’s one of their biggest attributes.

SAN JOSE SHARKS

Throughout this postseason the Sharks have had two of the most dynamic lines in the playoffs. Joe Thornton’s group with Joe Pavelski (13 goals to lead the NHL) and Tomas Hertl have combined for 50 points and 21 goals. Pavelski has a 5-on-5 CF% of plus-5.4, Thornton is at plus-5.2 and Hertl is at plus-6.9.

San Jose’s “second-line” center is Logan Couture and he leads the Sharks with 24 points and has notched 16 assists.

This postseason the Sharks have shown flexibility at forward with how they’ve used veteran Patrick Marleau. When they needed an offensive boost in the second-round they added Marleau to Couture’s line at wing. If they needed to play matchup, like they did in the first-round against the Los Angeles Kings, they put Marleau at center on the third-line.

Their fourth line, centered by Nick Spaling, is a responsible, defensively capable group that doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. San Jose’s four lines are as well balanced as any in the NHL and they’re a huge reason why this team is playing for a Stanley Cup.

WHO HAS THE EDGE?

San Jose

The Sharks’ forwards have been dynamic and balanced this postseason. They have the playoff’s leading scorer and leading goal scorer. While the Penguins have been waiting the last two rounds for Crosby and Malkin to deliver all of San Jose’s best forwards have contributed from Game 1 against the Los Angeles Kings through Game 6 against the St. Louis Blues. 

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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: May 28, 2016, 5:38 pm

Sharks vs. Penguins

 

Leading up to Monday's Game 1, Puck Daddy is previewing every facet of the Stanley Cup Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the San Jose Sharks — on the ice and off the ice.

Stunning Numbers is an occasional look at stats and figures from around the NHL  

The Pittsburgh Penguins and the San Jose Sharks are going to battle for the Stanley Cup. Who are they? How did they get here?

A look at some of the numbers behind the conference champs”

3,160

The combined total of regular season, playoff, Olympic and world championship games played by Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau of the San Jose Sharks before playing in their first Stanley Cup Final game on Monday.

2

The age of Penguins goalie Matt Murray when Dainius Zubrus of the Sharks made his debut with the Philadelphia Flyers in 1996, which was also the year he was taken in the NHL Draft.

30

The total number of Canadian players on both teams’ active rosters – an important fact to know in Gary Bettman’s Plan To Attract Canadian Viewers To A Non-Canadian Playoff Season Through Canadian Players.

339

The number of power-play opportunities between the regular season and postseason for the Sharks, most for any team in the NHL this season. The Penguins, by comparison, had 325.

79

The number of power-play goals the Sharks have scored this season between the regular and playoff seasons.

84-1-2

The combined record of the Sharks and Penguins when leading after two periods in the regular season and postseason. San Jose had the two overtime losses in the first 82 games. Pittsburgh had the lone other loss, in the playoffs.

56

The number of games, out of 100 played, in which the Sharks have scored the first goal of the game, winning 45 of them. The Penguins have done it 46 times in 100 games, winning 39 times.

73.74

The Corsi +/- (shot attempts for/against, 5-on-5, score adjusted) of Chris Kunitz of the Pittsburgh Penguins, who has had one of the sneaky-great playoff performances of the season.

.847

The save percentage on high-danger scoring chances (score adjusted) for Matt Murray of the Penguins, in all situations, according to War On Ice. For Martin Jones, same scenario: .778.

4

The combined number of penalty minutes for captain Joe Pavelski and Sidney Crosby through 18 games apiece. Leading by example, obviously.

-145

The opening money line on the Pittsburgh Penguins via Bovada, who are slight favorites for the Stanley Cup Final.

33/1 

The opening season odds to win the Stanley Cup for the San Jose Sharks. So congrats, someone, maybe. (The Penguins were 12-to-1).

Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: May 28, 2016, 4:16 pm

The Stanley Cup Final has arrived, as the Pittsburgh Penguins will face the San Jose Sharks for the big silver chalice. 

Both team have had stellar performances from individual players to help them reach the final round.

But which ones have really stood out? Which players have the accomplishments, the narrative and the momentum to potentially capture the Conn Smythe Trophy for playoff MVP?

Puck Daddy editor Greg Wyshynski breaks down the Top 5 Conn Smythe contenders in this week’s edition of The Wysh List, his weekly countdown of all things hockey.

 

 

Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: May 28, 2016, 12:57 pm

It’s often been said that Canada has so many players worthy of being on their national team that there could literally be a second national team made up of the snubs. 

So with that, we present you with the seven final additions to the Team Canada World Cup of Hockey roster, which were announced on Friday:

GOALIES

G Corey Crawford, Chicago Blackhawks

G Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals

G Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens

DEFENSEMEN

D Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks *

D Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings

D Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks

D Jake Muzzin, Los Angeles Kings *

D Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues *

D Marc-Edouard Vlasic, San Jose Sharks

D Shea Weber, Nashville Predators

FORWARDS

F Jamie Benn, Dallas Stars

F Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins

F Jeff Carter, Los Angeles Kings

F Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins

F Matt Duchene, Colorado Avalanche *

F Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks

F Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers *

F Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins *

F Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars

F Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning

F John Tavares, New York Islanders

F Joe Thornton, San Jose Sharks *

F Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks

Among the players that didn’t make the cut: Corey Perry of the Anaheim Ducks, who recently captained Canada’s IIHF world championship team; Kris Letang of the Pittsburgh Penguins; Taylor Hall of the Edmonton Oilers; P.K. Subban of the Montreal Canadiens, perpetually snubbed; Ryan O'Reilly of the Buffalo Sabres; Brendan Gallagher of the Montreal Canadiens; Milan Lucic of the Boston Bruins Los Angeles Kings; Mark Giordano of the Calgary Flames; Jay Bouwmeester of the St. Louis Blues; and Brent Seabrook of the Chicago Blackhawks.

Here was our final projection.

Hall is probably the biggest surprise, although it’s sort of stunning that Perry didn’t garner a roster spot after participating in Worlds. Pierre LeBrun had him on the roster. No dice.

All that said: What a tribute to the season Joe Thornton’s had that he gets a chance to rep his country at 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: May 27, 2016, 11:46 pm

If you thought the team of misfit toys for Team Europe couldn't get anymore random, check out the complete list of "pan-European roster of players from birth countries outside of the Czech Republic, Finland, Russia and Sweden" as assembled by GM Miroslav Satan.

(Ed. note: Bolded names are final additions.)

G Frederik Andersen, Anaheim Ducks (Denmark)
G Thomas Greiss, New York Islanders (Germany) *
G Jaroslav Halak, New York Islanders (Slovakia)

D Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins (Slovakia)
D Christian Ehrhoff, Chicago Blackhawks (Germany) *
D Roman Josi, Nashville Predators (Switzerland)
D Luca Sbisa, Vancouver Canucks (Switzerland) *
D Dennis Seidenberg, Boston Bruins (Germany)
D Andrej Sekera, Edmonton Oilers (Slovakia)
D Mark Streit, Philadelphia Flyers (Switzerland)

F Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Philadelphia Flyers (France) *
F Mikkel Boedker, Colorado Avalanche (Denmark)
F Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers (Germany)
F Marian Gaborik, Los Angeles Kings (Slovakia) *
F Jannik Hansen, Vancouver Canucks (Denmark)
F Marian Hossa, Chicago Blackhawks (Slovakia)
F Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings (Slovenia)
F Nino Niederreiter, Minnesota Wild (Switzerland) *
F Frans Nielsen, New York Islanders (Denmark)
F Tobias Rieder, Arizona Coyotes (Germany) *
F Tomas Tatar, Detroit Red Wings (Slovakia)
F Thomas Vanek, Minnesota Wild (Austria)
F Mats Zuccarello, New York Rangers (Norway)

-- Probably the most surprising player making the roster, at least to us, is Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. In his second NHL season with the Philadelphia Flyers, he scored 14 points in 74 games. If his name sounds familiar, it's because he was suspended one game in the playoffs for a 'forceful check from behind' on Dmitry Orlov. Not many prognosticators had him on their radar. Maybe Team Europe's brass were impressed by his performance for France at Worlds...? He had 4 points in 7 games.

-- When selecting from so many countries, there are bound to be snubs. Some of the most common projected roster players, and those on the bubble, to miss the final cut: Lars Eller, Zemgus Girgensons, Yannick Weber, Nikolaj Ehlers, Sven Andrighetto, Tomas Jurco, Martin Marincin, Marko Dano, and Michael Grabner.

-- With the exception of Josi and Sbisa, who are 25 and 26 respectively, the rest of the d-men will all be over the age of 30 by the time the tournament rolls around. They're all left-handed shots, too. Had they opted for Yannick Weber or even Raphael Diaz, they would have gotten a right-hander.

-- It will be interesting to see how coach Ralph Krueger handles the net. Both Greiss and Andersen had big playoffs for their respective NHL teams. Greiss exceeded expectations helping the Isles advance to the second round. His teammate in both the World Cup and on the Isles, Halak, was added in the first round of roster releases, and four days later he injured his groin. He missed the rest of the regular season and the playoffs. In May, it was announced he needed surgery to repair a sports hernia. Have to imagine Garth Snow is nervous about allowing his $4.5-million AAV goaltender test that groin in the World Cup.

Previously released final rosters:

Team Russia

Team Czech Republic

Team Finland 

Team USA

Team North America

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

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Author: Jen Neale
Posted: May 27, 2016, 11:29 pm

Team North America bolstered its roster for the World Cup of Hockey with seven additions.

There weren’t a lot of surprises with this group that may not win the tournament, but will still likely be fun to watch because they represent the future of the game.

[Join a Yahoo Daily Fantasy Hockey contest today]

“Selecting the second group of players was more difficult than anticipated,” said North America GM Peter Chiarelli in a statement. “We had a couple of the younger guys surge in the last segment. We wanted to ensure we had experience but at the same time, we also had to maintain our speed. The whole process was very interesting and in the end, we feel that we can compete and win. We have a lot of two-way players. We have size and range on defense, and we have playoff-experienced goaltending.”

Here’s who North America will be bringing to Toronto in September:

(Ed. note: Bolded names are final additions.)

G John Gibson, Anaheim Ducks
G Connor Hellebuyck, Manitoba Moose (AHL)
G Matt Murray, Pittsburgh Penguins

D Aaron Ekblad, Florida Panthers
D Shayne Gostisbehere, Philadelphia Flyers *
D Seth Jones, Columbus Blue Jackets
D Ryan Murray, Columbus Blue Jackets
D Colton Parayko, St. Louis Blues *
D Morgan Rielly, Toronto Maple Leafs
D Jacob Trouba, Winnipeg Jets * 

F Sean Couturier, Philadelphia Flyers
F Jonathan Drouin, Tampa Bay Lightning *
F Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres
F Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames
F Dylan Larkin, Detroit Red Wings
F Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
F Auston Matthews, Zurich SC Lions (Swiss NLA) *
F Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers
F J.T. Miller, New York Rangers
F Sean Monahan, Calgary Flames
F Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton Oilers *
F Brandon Saad, Columbus Blue Jackets
F Mark Scheifele, Winnipeg Jets *

•  Props to Chiarelli for adding Auston Matthews to this list of players. Like with prospect Patrik Laine who was named to Team Finland, this will be the first time fans will have the chance to see a potential top pick in the 2016 NHL Draft playing against the world’s top players. The tournament is based in Toronto so there will no doubt be a buzz around Matthews if the Toronto Maple Leafs take the do-it-all center with the top selection in the 2016 draft.

• When the first 16 players for Team North America were announced in March, Chiarelli left Edmonton Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins off the list. It was a tough call for Chiarelli because he’s the Oilers’ general manager and there was some thought that not picking Nugent-Hopkins would anger the player. Now Nugent-Hopkins is on the team and he has a chance to prove his boss wrong about the initial snub.  

•  Did Jonathan Drouin’s strong playoff run help his standing with the Team North America brain trust? It certainly couldn’t have hurt. Drouin had 14 points in 17 games with the Lightning this postseason and has gone from pariah to an important part of their future. At the time of the initial roster announcement he was suspended by the team for a failure to report to the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch following a trade demand. The last two months have made a world of difference for Drouin.  

•  ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun reported Montreal Canadiens center Alex Galchenyuk was “very close” to making team North America’s roster. Seems the team’s staff preferred Matthews and Nugent-Hopkins at center. St. Louis Blues forward Robby Fabbri was also not selected. Fabbri was arguably the Blues’ best forward in their most recent playoff run with 15 points in 20 games.

•  St. Louis defenseman Colton Parayko played his way onto this team with a strong season. The 22-year-old Parayko has shot up the depth chart since he was picked 86th overall pick in the 2012 NHL Draft and finished the year with 33 points and a plus-28 rating while averaging 19:23 of ice-time. During the playoffs he played solid two-way defense with seven points in 20:07 of action per-game. Parayko looks like a future defensive cornerstone in the making. 

Previously released final rosters:

Team USA

Team Sweden

Team Russia

Team Czech Republic

Team Finland 

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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: May 27, 2016, 11:14 pm

Team USA’s final World Cup of Hockey roster additions were announced on Friday evening and, well, they reaffirmed that John Tortorella is the head coach. 

Seven players were added, highlighted below. They join the 16 previous selected to the team on March 2, as chosen by management group that includes old-school names like Dean Lombardi, Paul Holmgren, Brian Burke, Jim Johannson and John Tortorella. Please keep that in mind as you read the following:

GOALIES

G Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay Lightning

G Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings

G Cory Schneider, New Jersey Devils

DEFENSEMEN

D Dustin Byfuglien, Winnipeg Jets

D John Carlson, Washington Capitals

D Erik Johnson, Colorado Avalanche *

D Jack Johnson, Columbus Blue Jackets *

D Ryan McDonagh, New York Rangers

D Matt Niskanen, Washington Capitals *

D Ryan Suter, Minnesota Wild

FORWARDS

F Justin Abdelkader, Detroit Red Wings

F David Backes, St. Louis Blues *

F Ryan Callahan, Tampa Bay Lightning *

F Brandon Dubinsky, Columbus Blue Jackets *

F Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks

F Ryan Kesler, Anaheim Ducks

F T.J. Oshie, Washington Capitals

F Max Pacioretty, Montreal Canadiens

F Zach Parise, Minnesota Wild

F Joe Pavelski, San Jose Sharks

F Derek Stepan, New York Rangers

F James van Riemsdyk, Toronto Maple Leafs *

F Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg Jets

***

“When it came right down to it, it was very difficult to settle on a final roster,” said Dean Lombardi, general manager of the Los Angeles Kings, in a statement. “That’s a testament to how far we’ve come in hockey in our country. It’s a tribute to the players and all the volunteers, particularly coaches, in communities across the country that help make hockey as strong as it is today.”

Yeah yeah yeah … it’s also a tribute to the fact that John Tortorella likes guys who played for John Tortorella. So instead of a Tyler Johnson, we get a Brandon Dubinsky. Instead of a Phil Kessel – PHIL KESSEL! – we get a Ryan Callahan on a team that already has Justin Abdelkader.

(JVR makes the cut. Phil Kessel doesn’t. Brian Burke is a senior advisor. OK then.)

On top of that, Justin Faulk, one of he finest young American defensemen, and offensively potent Kevin Shattenkirk are left off the roster in favor of both Jack Johnson and Erik Johnson. Please recall that Jack Johnson was a finalist for Team USA in Sochi, partially because Predators GM David Poile had a dream that the team lost because he wasn’t there. Seriously.

Here was our final roster projection.

The one we ended up with feels like a team that’s designed to play a conservative defensive game against the likes of Canada in the hopes of grinding out a 1-0 win in front of a stellar goalie. U-S-A! 

--

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: May 27, 2016, 10:46 pm

(WARNING: STRONG ADULT LANGUAGE AND HUMOR. LISTENER DISCRETION IS ADVISED.)

PUCK SOUP is the new hockey podcast on the Nerdist network for Puck Daddy editor Greg Wyshynski and Dave Lozo of Vice Sports, Uproxx and The Comeback. This is a hockey podcast, in the sense that the talk about hockey, both on the ice and about fan culture. That’s the “puck.” This is also a podcast about movies, TV, fast food, life lessons and general idiocy. That’s the “soup." 

In Episode 8, Greg and Dave talk puck with Brian Weitz (a.k.a Geologist) of Animal Collective, including his life as a Flyers fan, his hatred of Washington fans and his rebellious 5-year-old son rejecting the former for the latter. Plus, Stanley Cup Final predictions, Sidney Crosby's reputation, Hockey Porn and Cap and Bucky are in love and on the run from Tommy Lee Jones.

This episode is sponsored by Seat Geek: use promo code SOUP for $20 your first purchase!

Follow @wyshynski@davelozo and @PuckSoupPodcast on Twitter! 

Author: Yahoo Sports Staff
Posted: May 27, 2016, 8:34 pm
Monsters

The Lake Erie Monsters are the AHL affiliate of the Columbus Blue Jackets. On Thursday night, the defeated the Ontario Reign in double-overtime to advance to the Calder Cup Final for the first time in franchise history.

(Hooray for some semblance of palpable optimism about the future for Blue Jackets fans!)

Along the way, the Monsters have created one of the most memorable playoff traditions we’ve come across recently. Or at least among those that involve hockey players getting the graffiti on:

Spray paint for shutouts 👊#BattleTogether pic.twitter.com/qDYcT70osB

— Lake Erie Monsters (@monstershockey) May 25, 2016

Seriously, how awesome is that? In a high-school pep rally kind of way?

This is the first year the Monsters have done the spray paint bit on the boards of their home rink for the postseason. Jeff Elston, the team’s communications coordinator, said the idea was came from someone in the team’s front office, and the players embraced it. “They were never in on the idea, but each player that has done it has enjoyed it big time,” he said

It’s typically the first star of the game who gets to ‘X’ out the number, but “we want to get a different player to do it each time, so we factor that in as well.”

In Game 4 last night, it was center Lukas Sedlak that did the honors, spray-painting over the No. 5 on the “Countdown to a Championship” as the Monsters advanced.

"It's unbelievable."

4 more. #BattleTogetherhttps://t.co/sW3TjU5Abg

— Lake Erie Monsters (@monstershockey) May 27, 2016

Pretty cool new tradition. And in the end, it’s either going to be an amazing visual when the Monsters X-out the final number while skating the Calder Cup or super depressing if, like, the No. 1 is the only one that doesn’t get spray-painted. 

--

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: May 27, 2016, 8:22 pm

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

Photo via 412 Sports.

• Check out Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin at Game 7 between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning. [412 Sports]

• The Pittsburgh Penguins should savor this trip to the Stanley Cup Final. [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review]

• A comprehensive look on how the Penguins downed the Lightning in Game 7 to reach the Stanley Cup Final. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]

• Penguins forward Bryan Rust took some of the glare off team captain Sidney Crosby to help the team make it to the Cup Final. [Sporting News]

• The Tampa Bay Lightning fell just short of playing for their ultimate goal in the Stanley Cup Final. [Tampa Bay Times]

• Was Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final the last for Steven Stamkos in a Lightning jersey? Stamkos is a pending unrestricted free agent in the summer. [Toronto Sun]

[Join a Yahoo Daily Fantasy Hockey contest today]

• Did Stamkos’ return for Game 7 erase concerns about his desire to stay with the Lightning? [ESPN]

• How San Jose Sharks coach Peter DeBoer helped the team channel their emotions this season. The Sharks will play for their first Stanley Cup in franchise history. [CSN Bay Area]

• The San Jose area is pumped that the Sharks have made the Stanley Cup Final. [Mercury News]

• Why you should root for the Sharks in this Cup Final. [For the Win]

• The St. Louis Blues have some big decisions to make this offseason with pending unrestricted free agents David Backes and Troy Brouwer. [Post-Dispatch]

• The monkey is still “heavily” on the Blues’ backs despite the deep playoff run. [St. Louis Gametime]

• The Vancouver Canucks were misguided in their decision to trade promising young forward Jared McCann to the Florida Panthers for defenseman Erik Gudbranson. [Today’s Slapshot]

• Taking a closer look at McCann from a Panthers perspective and what he could mean to the organization. [Litter Box Cats]

• The London Knights can become one of the all-time greatest junior teams with one more win. [Buzzing the Net]

• Here are 50 fun stats from both the Eastern Conference Final and Western Conference Final. [Sportsnet]

• What will the lines of the Dallas Stars potentially look like next season? [Dallas Morning News]

•  Carolina Hurricanes GM Ron Francis is expected to meet with the agent of pending unrestricted free agent Cam Ward in June. [Raleigh News & Observer]

• The Arizona Coyotes are looking to re-sign longtime captain Shane Doan to a one-year contract. Doan will be 40 next season.[Arizona Sports]

•  The Stanley Cup Final will feature a few former Toronto Maple Leafs. What do you think about this if you are a Leafs fan? Pull for Phil Kessel and Pittsburgh or James Reimer with the Sharks? [Pension Plan Puppets]

•  Should the Maple Leafs let top prosepct Mitch Marner play in the AHL next season? "He may not, however, be ready for the NHL. Listed at 5-foot-11 and 164 pounds, it’s quite possible Marner will need some time in the AHL to adjust to the pro game." [TSN]

• The Detroit Red Wings are the most likely NHL team to land Russian forward Alexander Radulov. [Winging it in Motown]

• Top-100 keeper league fantasy goaltenders. [Dobber Hockey]

• Finally, Check out Metallica’s James Hetfield getting pump up for the Sharks.

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Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: May 27, 2016, 7:05 pm

The Los Angeles Kings are reportedly poised to make a change in their leadership structure this offseason. 

According to TSN’s Frank Seravalli Dustin Brown has been told he will no longer be the team’s captain next season and the Kings want to go in a different direction with the ‘C.’

Los Angeles is in the midst of diagnosing changes within their organization, though the team has never publicly said they wanted to remove the captaincy from Brown or trade him to another team. Brown, who was drafted by the Kings in 2003 and given the captaincy in 2008, has never publicly said he wants to leave LA.

Brown has yet to speak to reporters about the Kings since the team was ousted from the first-round of the playoffs against the San Jose Sharks in five games. 

[Join a Yahoo Daily Fantasy Hockey contest today]

In the summer of 2013, Brown signed an eight-year $47 million contract extension. At the time, Brown had five straight full seasons of 20-or-more goals. In the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, he was on pace for well over 20 goals. Now the deal is considered one of the most overpriced contracts in the NHL. 

The Kings may feel a need to forge ahead with Brown, even if he isn’t captain, because his deal appears unmovable. A buyout would add another monetary penalty to LA’s salary cap situation that also includes Mike Richards

His role has been marginalized to a mostly third-line spot and the past three seasons and Brown has averaged 12.3 goals per-year in that span.

This season he scored 11 goals, after changing his diet and workout habits the prior summer in order to try to rediscover his game.

He is the only American NHL player to twice captain a team to a Stanley Cup. Brown is also one of five players to win a Stanley Cup twice as captain since the NHL started to expand again in the early-90s. The others are Joe Sakic, Steve Yzerman Scott Stevens and Jonathan Toews.

“He’s our captain and we look at him the same way no matter what line or how many minutes he’s playing,” Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said in a March interview with Puck Daddy. “He’s our captain and had been for a long time and that’s how it’s going to be.” 

Said Kings general manager Dean Lombardi after the season, “I don’t think anybody is more frustrated than Dustin himself."

During the year coach Darryl Sutter was critical of Brown’s play and noted that others have stepped up as leaders for this group.

Considering Brown’s dwindling production there’s a belief that center Anze Kopitar could slide into the captaincy role. Kopitar signed an eight-year $80 million contract extension with Los Angeles this season, and led the team in scoring with 74 points. 

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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: May 27, 2016, 6:37 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 2014-15 Tampa Bay Lightning Eulogy writer J.J. From Kansas of Winging It In Motown, fondly recalling the 2015-16 Tampa Bay Lightning.

(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 J.J. FROM KANSAS (@JJfromKansas)

These idiots again?

Ok.

We've come to the very second-to-last of the Eulogies. The collective vitriol of millions of sports fans gathered to roast the last of these losers. 

It's my job to give the Lightning the treatment they deserve.

Well here you go. Here's the treatment the Lightning deserve: a one-paragraph footnote on the dynasty discussion for the Chicago Blackhawks year the Leafs won the draft lottery.

Good job failing to stop that, Tampa.

NHL

(This guy couldn't even carry a gaze, what chance did he have of continuing to carry the Bolts?) 

So there's my eulogy. 

A gift to you, fair readers of Yahoo and a gift to future eulogy writers for the Lightning.

Please take it all in. 

Enjoy the moment.

Are you ready?

Here it is:

Lightning

Maybe by the time you have to go to work roasting this franchise in the future, enough people will care about them for it to be worth it. If you went all four three rounds without rooting for the Lightning at least once all, you're a bad person. 

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

Eulogy: Remembering the 2015-16 Minnesota Wild

Eulogy: Remembering the 2015-16 Chicago Blackhawks

Eulogy: Remembering the 2015-16 Anaheim Ducks

Eulogy: Remembering the 2015-16 New York Islanders

Eulogy: Remembering the 2015-16 Dallas Stars

Eulogy: Remembering the 2015-16 Nashville Predators

Eulogy: Remembering the 2015-16 Washington Capitals

Author: Yahoo Sports Staff
Posted: May 27, 2016, 5:56 pm

The next episode of SHOWTIME’s “All Access: Quest for the Stanley Cup” is Friday night at 9 p.m. ET.

The first episode was a strong entry, if you prefer your NHL reality shows to be action heavy rather than attempting to create drama out of the mundane and routine.

Some of you apparently didn’t dig the 30-minute format vs. the hour-long “24/7” and “Road To the NHL Winter Classic. But for what this was – a week in review show, capturing the fury of the Stanley Cup Playoffs – it was outstanding.

Here’s a taste of what’s in store for the next episode, as the St. Louis Blues and San Jose Sharks got physical and nasty with each other. The Vlasic/Shattenkirk snark to start was outstanding.

Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: May 27, 2016, 4:56 pm

The thing with Swedish national players is that they're likely to be good, no matter who they choose to put on their World Cup of Hockey team. Heck, they could even ice a better than halfway decent secondary team with the players they left off the roster.

Here's who the Swedes will be bringing to Toronto in September.

(Ed. note: Bolded names are final additions.)

G Robin Lehner, Buffalo Sabres *
G Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers
G Jacob Markstrom, Vancouver Canucks

D Mattias Ekholm, Nashville Predators *
D Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Arizona Coyotes
D Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning
D Niklas Hjalmarsson, Chicago Blackhawks
D Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators
D Niklas Kronwall, Detroit Red Wings
D Anton Stralman, Tampa Bay Lightning

F Nicklas Backstrom, Washington Capitals
F Loui Eriksson, Boston Bruins
F Filip Forsberg, Nashville Predators
F Carl Hagelin, Pittsburgh Penguins *
F Patric Hornqvist, Pittsburgh Penguins *
F Marcus Kruger, Chicago Blackhawks *
F Gabriel Landeskog, Colorado Avalanche
F Daniel Sedin, Vancouver Canucks
F Henrik Sedin, Vancouver Canucks
F Jakob Silfverberg, Anaheim Ducks *
F Carl Soderberg, Colorado Avalanche *
F Alexander Steen, St. Louis Blues
F Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit Red Wings

- The positive playoff performances for Carl Hagelin and Patric Hornqvist have served them well as far as cementing their place on the roster. Hornqvist can play with pretty much anyone. How will Hagelin do without his teammates on the HBK Line?

- As a third goaltender, the Swedes added the embodiment of Rage Against the Machine in Robin Lehner. He probably won't see much - if any - playing time. Lehner was injured in the first game of the season and came back in January for 21 games before being shelved in mid-March. According to Swedish Coach Gronborg, "20 out of Robin's 21 games were really good." 

- Mattias Ekholm has quietly impressed hockey fans, especially in the playoffs. His addition to the roster comes at as a surprise as many had wunderkind defenseman John Klingberg pegged for the final spot. The Swedish brass were very unhappy with the players who decided to opt out of playing in Worlds, but Ekholm came over after Nashville was eliminated. As Coach Gronborg told Uffe Bodin, "Has taken amazing strides the past years. Has shown commitment by showing up in the World Championships."

- A couple notable absences of guys who showed up for Worlds but didn't make the World Cup roster: Gustav Nyquist (the man, not the horse), Andre Burakovsky, and Mikael Backlund.

Previously released final rosters:

Team Russia

Team Czech Republic

Team Finland 

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

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Author: Jen Neale
Posted: May 27, 2016, 3:56 pm

Because hockey observers must have an inexhaustible supply of opinions on all things, one of the things that got talked about a lot in the now-finished Western Conference Final was that Vladimir Tarasenko was a no-show.

He finished the series with two goals and no assists in six games, and both those strikes came in garbage time in the series' only elimination game. He mustered 15 shots on goal, tied for the most on the team, but that number would have only been fifth on the Sharks. That's how badly not only he, but his entire team got pushed around.

Star players get paid to show up and all that. That's what the people were yelling about Tarasenko's non-performance, because this sport in particular seems to place undue pressure on star players to perform, and blame them when an entire team fails. This despite the fact that even the sport's busiest players — high-end defensemen — only play about half the game in best-case scenarios for their teams. Star forwards probably play closer to 35 percent of the game.

Tarasenko ended up with a little more than 110 minutes out of a possible 360. He probably would have liked to play more, but that's not his call. And it does circle back, a little bit, to the idea that Ken Hitchcock underused him despite the fact that the Blues were often in search of goals throughout the series.

But again, Tarasenko wasn't providing them for all but the final 15 minutes or so, leading one to wonder whether Hitchcock was putting entirely too much faith in the Jori Lehteras and Troy Brouwers of the world.

A reasonable observer, though, would argue that Tarasenko's inability to score in this Western Conference Final wasn't a result of him necessarily underperforming, but rather the fact that Marc-Edouard Vlasic just ran him straight into the ground with frightening consistency. 

Just two numbers to keep in mind for the rest of this piece: Four. And Zero. Remember those two numbers. 

The idea that Vlasic in particular is a dominant defender against top goalscoring talent is not new, but it seems to have really taken seat in this postseason. Adam Gretz had a good breakdown of how well he handled the top goalscorers on the Nashville Predators and into this round (I'm not willing to call shuttering Tyler Toffoli the hardest minutes possible against Los Angeles), but the job he did against St. Louis in particular was frighteningly efficient. 

At 5-on-5, Vlasic played 47:11 of his nearly 100 minutes over six games against Tarasenko, by far his most common opponent. During that time, Tarasenko's teammates were out-attempted to the tune of just a 42.9 percent raw possession number. Adjust for score situation — because the Sharks spent much of the series up multiple goals — and things get even uglier.

But against everyone else, Tarasenko actually pushed play very slightly (50.6 percent, 39-38), which you'd expect from a player of his talent level, even against a club as good as the Sharks.

For the series, Tarasenko ended up looking quite bad, yes, but so did the entire team. San Jose was just significantly better in almost every aspect, and even as the Blues won twice, most people had to acknowledge, “Well, they were pretty lucky there.” For the series, they ended up a minus-38 or so in score-adjusted possession, gave up almost 47(!) more more scoring chances, and generated fewer than 38 high-danger shot attempts of their own. They committed more penalties, and got outscored at full strength a whopping 14-6. A pretty convincing argument could be made that they were doomed from the start.

Let's put it this way: Entering the series, Tarasenko was a high-quality player. Not only was he scoring plenty of goals and racking up assists (4-2-6 against Chicago, 3-4-7 against Dallas), he was a solid driver of just about everything you could want from a player, relative to the rest of his team. The only area in which he lagged behind was, interestingly, goalscoring, because he was merely a break-even player in the first two series — which you might expect given the high-end firepower on Chicago and Dallas — while the rest of the Blues outscored those teams' depth players to the tune of 60 percent goals-for. 

But when it came to the San Jose series, Tarasenko didn't disappear as long as you knew where to look. He was right in Vlasic's pocked the entire time:

Now, you look at those numbers and you say, “Hey, he wasn't a drag in relative goalscoring or high-quality chance generation.” True enough, and that's probably about what you'd expect for a player of his caliber. But what you have to also realize is that even with the positive high-danger chance impact, he still checked in at just 43.6 percent for the series. And goals-for? He was at just 33.3 percent, while the rest of the team scraped the bottom of the barrel at 28.6 percent.

The Blues got absolutely smoked in this series, from front to back, and if you're going to blame Tarasenko for any of it, I think that's a bit reductive. He wasn't good, to be sure, but the rest of the team was jaw-droppingly awful as well. Or, more to the point, San Jose was just that much better.

But how do we know Vlasic was that dominant, and this wasn't just a product of the entire team playing a brutally efficient six games? Even if you didn't watch a single second of this series — possibly in deference to how badly St. Louis was always going to get fed its lunch  — all you'd have to do is look at the numbers.

Let's actually circle back to where the numbers “four” and “zero” are concerned in Vlasic's 99:59 TOI at 5-on-5 in this series:

The Sharks gave up just four high-danger chances with Vlasic on. They gave up zero goals.

You can “small sample size” that all you want, but that's just dominant hockey. 

It helps that the team scored goals by the bucket in this series, averaging nearly four a game. But if we're talking about the big reasons the Sharks advanced, the way Vlasic made Tarasenko fall into a black hole is probably No. 1.

And when he's effectively a second-pairing defenseman, that poses too many matchup problems for just about anyone to handle.

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

All stats via War on Ice unless otherwise stated.

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Author: Ryan Lambert
Posted: May 27, 2016, 3:13 pm

PITTSBURGH – The Pittsburgh Penguins vs. the St. Louis Blues might have produced the best ratings scenario for the NHL in the U.S., but the Penguins vs. the San Jose Sharks produced the best everything else imaginable for the League.

There’s star power. There’s high-octane offense, physical defense and dynamic special teams play. There are few noticeable beards. And there are enough narratives to choke a Brontosaurus. 

Here are the five things that have me most intrigued, at first blush:

Speed Demons

As Sidney Crosby put it after Game 7: “It's going to be fast hockey.”

No kidding. The Penguins showed in their last two wins that they can skate most teams out of the building. Their puck placement in the attacking zone allows their burners to win races to the puck. Their ability to stretch their offense from blue line to blue line created countless chances for players like Phil Kessel, Carl Hagelin and Bryan Rust. 

But speed is also the Sharks’ calling card, and they use their speed in a similar fashion to that of the Penguins. "They skate fast and support the puck. So they might look faster than they are, but they've got a lot of quick players. They've got a lot of aggressive-skating players. They've got a lot of guys that can motor,” said Blues coach Ken Hitchcock.

The only wrinkle here: The Sharks have looked mighty fast against a couple of plodding teams in the Kings and Blues. What happens against the Penguins, who can match or surpass their speed?

It’s a copycat league. God willing, the fact that two speedy teams are playing for the Cup will inspire others to streamline.

Dictating Terms

I know this is going to shock you, but the Sharks and Penguins were two of the best possession teams in the postseason.

The Penguins had a score-adjusted Corsi of 51.7 percent and the Sharks were at 50.8 percent, per War on Ice. They’re two teams that like to play with the puck, suppress shots (the Sharks have allowed the fewest shots per 60 minutes in the playoffs) and dictate the pace. So it’s going to be fascinating to see which teams is able to exert their will over the other.

Stifling The Stars

With due respect to the HBK Line, there hasn’t been a more dominant or important line in the playoffs than Joe Pavelski (13 goals), Joe Thornton (18 points in 18 games) and Tomas Hertl. There hasn’t been a supplementary scorer better than Logan Couture, who leads the NHL with 26 playoff points. And there hasn’t been a more dynamic player than defenseman Brent Burns, who has 20 points in 18 games and makes something happen every time he touches the puck. 

The Penguins have faced great offensive players in these players, but none that were firing like this.

Conversely, the Sharks have done a hell of a job taking out offensive players like Tyler Toffoli, Vladimir Tarasenko and Filip Forsberg. The Penguins offer a unique challenge, though: Three potent scoring lines, each with an elite player.

And this is why coaches get paid the big bucks.

Murray vs. Jones

Neither goalie had his best series in the conference final, but I’d give the advantage to the Penguins here. Murray has been calm, collected and confident beyond his years. Jones has been great, but with the puck support the Penguins have on the attack, I worry about some of those pucks he leaves on the ice after saves.

Finally …

A Weird Stat

ESPN dug up a interesting stat on the Stanley Cup Final:

This will be the seventh time in the past 15 seasons that the Stanley Cup finals features one team that went seven games it its conference finals series and one team that did not. The team coming off the Game 7 victory went on to win the Stanley Cup each of the previous six times -- so, advantage Pittsburgh Penguins over the San Jose Sharks. 

So shame on you, Sharks, for being too good.

We don’t have to make formal picks until Monday, but I’m leaning San Jose. Which hasn’t been my best look in the past.

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Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: May 27, 2016, 2:19 pm

Arena availability during playoff time is always a tricking thing when trying to schedule games. So it comes as no surprise that the Stanley Cup Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and San Jose Sharks is forcing the rescheduling of an event from San Jose’s SAP Center.

Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli was set to perform on Saturday, June 4, but when the NHL released its schedule for the final round, the concert conflicted with Game 3.

As a resolution, Bocelli has moved the concert from Saturday to Friday and he “congratulates the San Jose Sharks for reaching the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in franchise history and wishes them success in the best of 7-game series," according to a statement.

This isn’t the first time the Penguins have been involved in a series where a big concert forced a change in scheduling.

During the Penguins’ 2009 second-round series against the Washington Capitals, a scheduled Yanni concert at Mellon Arena forced the NHL to schedule Games 4 and 5 back-to-back in Pittsburgh and Washington. That upset Capitals owner Ted Leonsis, as the Penguins won both games.

It probably didn’t help that Yanni appeared to be a sleeper agent for the Penguins all along.

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

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Author: Sean Leahy
Posted: May 27, 2016, 1:57 pm

Jaromir Jagr will not be playing the Czech’s at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey so he can rest up for the Florida Panthers’ season. Without the 44-year-old legend, they'll have to make do with a mostly NHL roster in a tough Group A with Canada, USA, and Team Europe.

Here’s who the Czechs will be bringing to Toronto in September:

(Ed. note: Bolded names are final additions.)

G Petr Mrazek, Detroit Red Wings
G Michal Neuvirth, Philadelphia Flyers
G Ondrej Pavelec, Winnipeg Jets

D Radko Gudas, Philadelphia Flyers
D Michal Jordan, Carolina Hurricanes *
D Michal Kempny, Chicago Blackhawks
D Zbynek Michalek, Arizona Coyotes *
D Jakub Nakladal, Calgary Flames *
D Roman Polak, San Jose Sharks
D Andrej Sustr, Tampa Bay Lightning 

F Radek Faksa, Dallas Stars *
F Michael Frolik, Calgary Flames
F Martin Hanzal, Arizona Coyotes
F Ales Hemsky, Dallas Stars *
F Tomas Hertl, San Jose Sharks
F Dmitrij Jaskin, St. Louis Blues *
F David Krejci, Boston Bruins
F Milan Michalek, Toronto Maple Leafs *
F Ondrej Palat, Tampa Bay Lightning
F David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins
F Tomas Plekanec, Montreal Canadiens
F Vladimir Sobotka, Avangard Omsk (KHL)
F Jakub Voracek, Philadelphia Flyers 

• No Jiri Hudler, which, according to Czech national team coach Josef Jandač, came down to the pending NHL UFA and Dmitrij Jaskin, but the Blues forward was a better fit with what they were going with.

• Other names not making the final cut Radim Vrbata, Tomas Fleischmann, Roman Cervenka, Michal Rozsival, Tomas Kundratek and Andrej Nestrasil, who is currently recovering from a broken vertebra. Marek Zidlicky was in consideration, but told Jandac that he isn’t sure if he’ll continue playing next season.

Previously released final rosters:

Team Finland

Team Russia

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

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Author: Sean Leahy
Posted: May 27, 2016, 1:38 pm

The Russians went heavy on forward for their initial World Cup of Hockey roster, naming only three defenseman. So that left a few spots up front available and a bevy on the back end.

Here’s who Russia will be bringing to Toronto in September:

(Ed. note: Bolded names are final additions.)

G Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets
G Semyon Varlamov, Colorado Avalanche
G Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning

D Alexei Emelin, Montreal Canadiens *
D Dmitry Kulikov, Florida Panthers
D Alexey Marchenko, Detroit Red Wings *
D Andrei Markov, Montreal Canadiens
D Dmitry Orlov, Washington Capitals
D Slava Voynov, SKA St. Petersburg (KHL) *
D Nikita Zaitsev, Toronto Maple Leafs *

F Artem Anisimov, Chicago Blackhawks
F Evgenii Dadonov, SKA St. Petersburg (KHL) *
F Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings
F Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning
F Nikolay Kulemin, New York Islanders
F Evgeny Kuznetsov, Washington Capitals
F Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins
F Vladislav Namestnikov, Tampa Bay Lightning
F Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
F Artemi Panarin, Chicago Blackhawks
F Vadim Shipachev, SKA St. Petersburg (KHL) *
F Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues
F Ivan Telegin, CSKA Moscow (KHL) * 

• You may have scanned the forward group twice looking for a pair of specific names, but you’re not going to find them. Yes, The Russians are leaving both Ilya Kovalchuk and Alex Radulov home. Did Kovalchuk’s behavior during the Gagarin Cup playoffs and Radulov’s desire to return to the NHL play a part in them being left off? 

• The interesting name that is on Russia’s roster is Slava Voynov, the former Los Angeles Kings defenseman who returned home last September after a nearly yearlong suspension by the NHL for domestic violence. Here’s where it gets interesting. NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told ESPN.com's Scott Burnside"We will obviously have to review his status with the Players' Association prior to the start of the tournament in September. It is not my current expectation that this player will be deemed eligible to play in the World Cup of Hockey."

Remember, this is an NHL co-sponsored event, not IIHF, so if the league wants to take umbrage with this choice, they can.

UPDATE

Told that NHLPA and NHL are jointly "reviewing" the matter of Voynov's eligibility to play in World Cup.

— Larry Brooks (@NYP_Brooksie) May 27, 2016

Previously released final rosters:

Team Finland

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

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Author: Sean Leahy
Posted: May 27, 2016, 1:12 pm

Team Finland announced their final roster decisions for the upcoming World Cup of Hockey tournament.

High-end prospect Patrik Laine stood out amongst Finland’s picks. He is considered one of the top players available in the 2016 NHL Draft and a potential sleeper choice for the No. 1 overall pick.

Interestingly the team brain trust led by general manager Jere Lehtinen and assistant general manager Jarmo Kekalainen didn’t take Jesse Puljujarvi, another draft eligible player who is also considered one of the top talents available for 2016.   

Both Laine and Puljujarvi led Finland to a World Junior gold medal this past year.

[Join a Yahoo Daily Fantasy Hockey contest today]

Other additions included goaltender Mikko Koskinen along with defensemen Jyrki Jokipakka, Sami Lepisto and Ville Pokka. Forward additions were Sebastian Aho, Erik Haula and Laine. 

Finland made their first 16 roster selections on March 2.

Here is the full roster for Team Finland 

(Ed. note: Bolded names are final additions.)

G Mikko Koskinen, SKA St. Petersburg – New York Islanders hold NHL Rights *
G Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins
G Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators

D Jyrki Jokipakka, Calgary Flames*
D Sami Lepisto, Salavat Yulaev Ufa (KHL) *
D Esa Lindell, Dallas Stars
D Olli Maatta, Pittsburgh Penguins
D Ville Pokka, Rockford IceHogs – Chicago Blackhawks hold NHL Rights *
D Rasmus Ristolainen, Buffalo Sabres
D Sami Vatanen, Anaheim Ducks 

F Sebastian Aho, Karpat Oulu (SM-liiga) – Carolina Hurricanes own NHL Rights*  
F Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers
F Joonas Donskoi, San Jose Sharks
F Valtteri Filppula, Tampa Bay Lightning
F Mikael Granlund, Minnesota Wild
F Erik Haula, Minnesota Wild
F Jussi Jokinen, Florida Panthers
F Mikko Koivu, Minnesota Wild
F Leo Komarov, Toronto Maple Leafs
F Lauri Korpikoski, Edmonton Oilers
F Patrik Laine, Tappara Tempere (SM-liiga), 2016 NHL Draft prospect*
F Jori Lehtera, St. Louis Blues
F Teuvo Teravainen, Chicago Blackhawks 

•  Seeing the 6-foot-4, 209-pound Laine play against NHL professionals before his first league game is going to be a treat.. Imagine if Laine is picked No. 1 overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs and then plays at Air Canada Centre in this tournament. TSN’s Bob McKenzie has been bullish on Laine, noting before the World Championships that the young scoring winger had closed in on top prospect Auston Matthews, though Matthews seems to still be the consensus top pick. Regardless of which team takes Laine, he’ll be able to show his scoring chops against the best players in the world in this tournament. Laine had 13 points in seven games to lead Finland in their World Junior triumph this past year. In the World Championships he had 12 points in 10 games.

•  The excitement of the Laine selection is tempered slightly by Finland’s decision to not take Puljujarvi. Both players were important components to the Finnish World Junior team and are considered Finland’s future hockey stars. Puljujarvi is less flashy than Laine, but had 17 points in the World Juniors this past year.

•  After Finland announced their first 16 players, the 25-year-old Haula went on a nice stretch where he picked up five goals and 11 points in 18 regular season games. Haula seemed to find his groove under interim coach John Torchetti and in the Wild’s first-round playoff loss he picked up four points in five games.

•  Finland has some of the top young talent in the world and a lot of those high-end players were not picked. These included Maple Leafs prospect Kasperi Kapanen, Colorado Avalanche prospect Mikko Rantanen, Winnipeg Jets young forward Joel Armia, and Nashville Predators rookie Miikka Salomaki.

 •  Aho was picked in the second-round of the 2015 NHL by the Hurricanes and was another member of that strong Finnish World Junior team. He had 14 points and nine assists in seven games playing with Laine and Puljujarvi. He also took part in the World Championships where he had seven points in 10 games. At 5-foot-11 he's a bit undersized, but is considered a savvy two-way player. 

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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: May 27, 2016, 8:09 am

PITTSBURGH – It was December. Mike Sullivan walked into the room for the first time as Pittsburgh Penguins head coach and looked at the team he had inherited near the midseason. 

Sidney Crosby. Evgeni Malkin. Phil Kessel. Kris Letang. The elite of the elite.

So he acknowledged to the group that the Penguins, in fact, had great players. The challenge was to stop being a team with great players, and become a great team.

“If we can do that,” he said, “that’s how you win in this League.”

The Penguins were already wise to this philosophy. Along with ungodly standards of excellence, it was the driving force behind the firing of GM Ray Shero and coach Dan Bylsma in the Great Purge of 2014. The former lost his job because the roster lacked the quality depth to augment the great players. The latter lost his job because management felt his coaching system wasn’t suited to win in the playoffs.

Mike Johnston was also brought in to turn great players into a great team, except his idea for doing so was to suck the fun out of the great players like some kind of monotonous vampire. His system managed to neuter the brilliant offense of Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang. That he ended up getting less out of the Penguins than Bylsma did was downright embarrassing for GM Jim Rutherford and the revamped management group that cast their lot, for whatever reason, with an NHL newbie.

So they made the decision to fire him and promote Sullivan from the American Hockey League, and this ended up being really smart for several reasons. The first is that the high-tempo, attacking style of hockey he had the Penguins playing was the antithesis of the vacuous system they were stuck in. Sid found his smile. Letang was dominant again. Suddenly, Rutherford was taking an active role in matching players to that system, swapping out David Perron and Rob Scuderi for Carl Hagelin and Trevor Daley, for example.

The other reason Sullivan’s hiring was advantageous was that he was familiar with many of the depth players who would, in fact, help turn the Penguins into a great team.

Bryan Rust, the blazing fast rookie forward that scored three goals in Games 6 and 7 to lead the Penguins to the conference championship. Conor Sheary, the tenacious rookie speedster that ended up seeing time with Crosby. And, of course, goalie Matt Murray, the blue-chip prospect who rescued the Penguins in the first round and now sits four wins away from joining the likes of Ken Dryden and Cam Ward as rookie netminders who backstopped their teams to the Stanley Cup.

His faith in the young players was rewarded. His veteran players’ faith in Sullivan was as well.

"I think, to their credit, they have become a team in the true sense of the word,” said Sullivan. “It starts with our leadership. It starts with our captain, with Sid, but it doesn't stop there.”

But it does start there.

***

Sidney Crosby has played 417 regular season and 68 playoff games since winning the Stanley Cup as a 21-year-old star in 2009. During that span, he’s suffered career-threatening injuries; he’s suffered several postseason disappointments; and, lately, he’s suffered the slings and arrows of critics that have been giving him the Ovechkin Treatment insofar as his presumed inability to will his team to victory on his own.

Crosby ended up with five points in seven games against the Tampa Bay Lightning, including the game-winning goals in three of their four victories. He didn’t have a point in Game 7, but that’s besides the point: In a game during with the Penguins dominated in puck possession, no line affected that more than Crosby’s.

What the Penguins are now are the team fans have wished would surround Crosby, Malkin and Letang for years. They win with total team efforts, rather than waiting for a star turn. Everybody in the locker room grabs the same oars to row the boat, no matter their experience levels or cap hit; and the boat can glide on without those stars as outboard motors.

Sidney Crosby played a marvelous Game 7. Bryan Rust (!) provided the Penguins offensive while Crosby went scoreless. Matt Murray turned back key shots in the third period. Everyone contributed. And the Penguins advance. 

In the seven years since he hoisted the Stanley Cup, Crosby claims pessimism never set in about his chances on ever getting back to the Final, which starts on Monday vs. the San Jose Sharks.

“As far as the guys that have been here for a while, I think we've always believed in one another,” he said. “Just trying to get back is not easy.”

It’s not, and Crosby’s seen that firsthand. But this year was different. This team was different. The depth, the speed, the system, the tenacity, the total buy-in from the players – these haven’t always been hallmarks of previous teams for Crosby, but they define the Penguins now.

“I thought tonight might have been the most complete 60-minute effort that we've had,” said Sullivan. “We've talked all year long about an identity and a certain way to play that gives us a chance to win.”

The Penguins are now four wins away from winning it all.

“We know the biggest challenge is ahead of us here, but we've got a great opportunity,” said Crosby. “Like you said, it wasn't easy getting to this point. So it would be great to finish off the right way.”

--

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: May 27, 2016, 5:54 am

PITTSBURGH – You don’t touch the trophy. 

The San Jose Sharks didn’t, avoiding the Clarence Campbell Bowl like it was radioactive after winning the Western Conference title on Wednesday night.

But after the Pittsburgh Penguins outlasted the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final 24 hours later, there was captain Sidney Crosby, holding the Prince of Wales Trophy during a photo op with Chris Kunitz and Evgeni Malkin.

Ummmm … jinx much?

But there was a reason behind Crosby’s flouting of hockey hexes – it’s tradition for the Penguins.

In 1991, captain Mario Lemieux not only touched the Wales Trophy but actually skated around in celebration with it. The Penguins would win their first Stanley Cup in team history in the following round against the Minnesota North Stars.

In 2009, Crosby decided to pick up the Wales Trophy. Partially because of Mario’s precedent, but also because the Penguins lost in the 2008 Stanley Cup Final to the Detroit Red Wings after he didn’t touch the conference hardware.

So with that established, Crosby touched it again. “You see teams that don't touch it, but it's gone well when we've touched it here. So we went with that,” he said.

Mystery solved.

Hey, it’s not like Crosby is superstitious or anything. It’s not like he has a contract with an $8.7 million cap hit because he was born on 8/7/87. Or wears the same hat throughout the season for interviews. Or did this freaky weirdo thing before meeting the media after Game 7:

Sidney Patrick Crosby. Are you serious? pic.twitter.com/6umHN40ss0

— Allie C (@Allie874) May 27, 2016

Hey, he’s playing for the Stanley Cup again. Whatever works. 

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Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: May 27, 2016, 4:31 am

Reminder: Bryan Rust went as Phil Kessel's hot dog for Halloween so we should all love him pic.twitter.com/3WIIybK9IV

— Auston Miketthews (@50_MissionCap) April 23, 2016

No. 1 Star: Bryan Rust, Pittsburgh Penguins

Just as everyone predicted, rookie Bryan Rust was the hero for the Penguins in Game 7. He netted two goals in the Penguins Eastern Conference Final win. We were also reminded he went dressed as Phil Kessel's hotdog for Halloween (above).

No. 2 Star: Matt Murray, Pittsburgh Penguins

The rookie netminder is now 11-4-1 in this year's playoffs. Pittsburgh controlled a lot of the play, but in the third period, he had to come up big as the Lightning poured on the chances. Not a bad way to spend the day after your 22 birthday.

No. 3 Star: Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning

Yes, he lost, but it could have been a heck of a lot worse. The Penguins laid on 39 shots on goal with 21 of them coming in the second period alone. For someone who is 21-years-old and replacing a Vezina nominated goaltender, he did really well.

Honorable Mention: Evgeni Malkin picked up the secondary assist on both of Rust's goals. He now has a five game scoring streak. Sidney Crosby led the Penguins with 6 shots on goal. Jonathan Drouin scored the lone goal for Tampa. Steven Stamkos returned to the lineup to play in what could possibly be his last game as a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning. He played 11:55 with 2 shots on goal and 2 hits. Tampa out-hit Pittsburgh 39 to 30. 

Did You Know? Dude. Either Phil Kessel or Joe Thornton is going to win the Stanley Cup.

Dishonorable Mention: With the exception of Valtteri Filppula, all Lightning centers were 38 percent or worse on the dot. Jon Cooper noted the differences in penalty time for the game. Tampa was shorthanded for 6:31 minutes in total to Pittsburgh's 0:31 seconds. Brian Boyle, who scored twice in Game 6, played only 9:54. He took a slashing penalty early, so that didn't do him any favors.

- - - - - - -

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

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Author: Jen Neale
Posted: May 27, 2016, 4:15 am

PITTSBURGH – Steven Stamkos has three scars from his surgery two months ago to correct an issue with a blood clot. Two on his neck, and one on his shoulder. Reminders of what coach Jon Cooper referred to as a “catastrophic” injury to the Tampa Bay Lightning’s captain. Reminders of what Stamkos had to work back from to play in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final on Thursday night.

The storybook was there to be written: Superstar returns from injury to inspire his team to victory in a championship game. A superstar in what might be his last season with the only franchise he's known as a professional. 

The Pittsburgh Penguins spoiled the ending.

“They had that step. We couldn’t match it. When you’re getting outshot that badly … that’s tough. They had an extra gear tonight,” said Stamkos after the 2-1 loss to the Penguins on Thursday night, eliminating the Lightning and ending Stamkos’s final season before unrestricted free agency.

“For me to sit here and answer questions like this [about the game] is unfair to the guys, because they’re the ones that battled and played through injuries. Worked their tail off to get to a Game 7.”

Stamkos skated 11:55 and had five shot attempts. His shifts gradually got longer as he found his legs. He had one golden opportunity on a partial breakaway against Penguins goalie Matt Murray in the second period that was saved. 

“I felt I beat him. It went through and out the other side. It was close,” said Stamkos.

As was the game, but the Penguins had the better of the play. Whatever spark Stamkos provided, it didn’t translate into offense for the Lightning. (Odd, isn't it, that both teams had star players return to their lineups during the series and the result was a loss?)

Also hurting Stamkos: The Penguins smartly stayed out of the penalty box, giving the Lightning only 31 seconds of power play time.

“He’s a world class player that they added to their team. We were fortunate to stay out of the box, with the shot he has,” said Penguins captain Sidney Crosby.

Stamkos said he knew after Game 6 that there was a chance he could play in the elimination game. He told reporters there was no change in his status. Cooper was coy with the media 90 minutes before Game 7 started, saying he wouldn't discuss his lineup. There was then plenty to discuss when Stamkos came out for warmups. 

His surgeon, Dr. Karl Illing, told the Tampa Bay Times that Stamkos had been medically cleared to play a while back but couldn’t because he was on blood thinners. Stamkos received “several opinions from hematologists” before returning to the Lightning in Game 7.

For Stamkos, it wasn’t just a chance to potentially play for the Stanley Cup for a second straight season with a victory – it was a chance to rejoin teammates that played extremely well in his absence, who may not be his teammates after this summer.

“Extremely proud. It was special for me to get back on the ice with these guys. With this group. Such a tight group … such a team that has gone through a lot this year,” said Stamkos, his eyes tearing slightly.

“Different types of adversity. And we’ve come through with flying colors, but it just didn’t happen tonight. These are usually the kind of moments when things go well because of the things that you endure as a group. But for whatever reason, we’re going to have to learn from this and come back stronger.”

‘We’re going to come back stronger.’ Every word Stamkos says is going to be scrutinized until his name is on a new contract. But after Game 7, one couldn’t help but feel the bond between captain and teammates, and with teammates and captain.

“I’m confident that he’s back,” said forward Brian Boyle on Stamkos.

“Everything’s changing every year with the group. It’s hard to keep everybody together. Hopefully we can keep the group together. I’m very fortunate. Very blessed to be a part of this. That’s what makes this harder. You never know what happens in the offseason.”

Boyle stared down at the dressing bench, several stalls over from where Stamkos had been sitting. “I’m trying to wrap my head around our season being over now. That’s enough bad news for me.”

--

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: May 27, 2016, 4:04 am

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PITTSBURGH – The Pittsburgh Penguins are now four wins away from their first Stanley Cup title since 2009. 

Despite the emotional return of Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, the Penguins defeated Tampa Bay, 2-1, in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final on Thursday night, advancing to the Stanley Cup Final to play the San Jose Sharks in a series that begins on Monday night in Pittsburgh.

It’s the first Game 7 they’ve won at home since 1995, breaking a four-game losing streak.

Rookie Bryan Rust, who had a breakaway goal in the Penguins’ Game 6 win in Tampa, scored two goals to give him five for the playoffs. Rookie goalie Matt Murray, the team's backbone yet again, made 16 saves, including a few key stops in the third period.

But it was a total team effort from the Penguins as they dominated puck possession for most of the game and stifled the Lightning attack for the second straight contest.

That included Stamkos, a surprise return for the Lightning after having been out since March 31 following surgery for a blood clot. He played just under 12 minutes and had five shot attempts, including one in the second period when Murray stopped him on a breakaway.

But the Penguins proved too much for the defending Eastern Conference champs.

Bryan Rust put the Penguins on the board first with a wrister from the high slot.

Seeing the Lightning caught in a change, Olli Maatta sent a long lead pass to Evgeni Malkin, who slipped the disc to Chris Kunitz near the Lightning blue line. Rust motored in alone with the Lightning hustling back from the bench. He lifted his leg and snapped a shot that beat Vasilevskiy high to the glove side at 1:55 of the second period.

The next nine minutes were pure domination from the Penguins, pressing the Lightning in their own zone to the point where even a routine clear was taxing. Tampa Bay needed someone to make a play. And that someone ended up being a guy who wanted off the team midway through the season.

The sequence started with a confident zone exit by Valtteri Filppula, controlling the puck before dishing to Jonathan Drouin. From there, the dazzling young forward took over: Cutting across the offensive zone and unleashing an absolute laser beam that beat Matt Murray to tie the game 1-1.

The tie lasted 30 seconds.

After Ben Lovejoy dumped the puck into the Lightning zone, Vasilevskiy tried to freeze the it against the side of his net. Except the puck hit his glove and slid right to where Rust was able to pop it into the goal for the 2-1 lead at 10:06 of the second.

The Lightning pushed hard in the third period, but to no avail. Murray maintained the lead, winning his second straight start after being benched in Game 5 in favor of Marc-Andre Fleury.

Not many observers would have put the Penguins in the Stanley Cup Final earlier this season when they were floundering under former coach Mike Johnston. It took his firing in December in favor of Mike Sullivan, some shrewd additions by GM Jim Rutherford, some playoffs-saving goaltending from Murray after Fleury's injury and some clutch performances by the team’s star players in the postseason, but the Penguins are within reach of the Cup again.

As for the Lightning, they wasted another stellar performance by Vasilevskiy (37 saves), who was so good in replacing the injured Ben Bishop and the reason this series went seven games. But now, at season’s end, Tampa is left with one critical question:

Was this Game 7 loss free-agent Steven Stamkos’s last game with the Lightning?

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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: May 27, 2016, 2:56 am

PITTSBURGH – Steven Stamkos is back for the Tampa Bay Lightning for Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final.

The captain hasn’t played since March 31, out after surgery to correct a blood clot. He’s skated regularly throughout the postseason. He's waited for medical clearance and his coach’s decision to insert him back in the lineup.

According to Joe Smith of the Tampa Times:

Stamkos' surgeon, Karl Illig, told the Times, his risks are "very, very low," decision up to Stamkos. "I think he's doing the right thing."

— Joe Smith (@TBTimes_JSmith) May 26, 2016

Illig said he cleared Stamkos a while ago, issue was blood thinners. Stamkos received several opinions and made decision to return tonight

— Joe Smith (@TBTimes_JSmith) May 26, 2016

Jon Cooper sat down for his customary pregame press conference 90 minutes before the puck drops on Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Pittsburgh Penguins. 

“Before we get going, don’t ask about the lineup. At all. Because I don’t know,” said the Tampa Bay Lightning coach. “OK, we’ve set that straight: Questions about Game 7?”

Sure. What’s Steven Stamkos’s status for Game 7? 

“Questions about Game 7. Let’s go,” said Cooper.

Given the chance to rule out Stamkos for Game 7, Cooper punted. And now we know why.

“Listen: We’re preparing to put the best team on the ice to win Game 7. There are going to be guys that can’t play. Everybody that plays tonight, it’ll be because they were cleared to play and ready to go. Our guys are concentrating on winning Game 7,” he said.

“We’re going to put our best foot forward. And if Stamkos is in lineup, it's because we're putting our best foot forward. If he isn't, it's because he wasn't eligible to play."

Stamkos got the green light, and made a dramatic return. 

--

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: May 27, 2016, 12:09 am

It's one game, with a trip to the Stanley Cup Final on the line. Will it be the Pittsburgh Penguins or the Tampa Bay Lightning moving on to face the San Jose Sharks?

Join you're friends at Yahoo Sports for a live chat during Game 7, including tweets from experts and images from around hockey fandom.

Join us for all the shock, awe, laughs and Hamburger Women!

Live Blog Eastern Conference Final Game 7 Live Chat!

Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: May 26, 2016, 11:32 pm

The Tampa Bay Lightning and the Pittsburgh Penguins battle in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final on Thursday night, playing for the right to challenge the San Jose Sharks for the Stanley Cup. 

Who takes it? Whose hockey reigns supreme?

Here are seven keys to Game 7. Please join your friends at Puck Daddy for a full night of Game 7 coverage.

1. Scoring First

Look, we’d like to treat hockey like its an intricate game full of nuance whose basic stats are just one strand in the fabric of analytical facts that determine success or failure on any given night …

… but sometimes we just have to report that the Lightning are 8-1 when scoring the first goal and the Penguins are 8-2. So there.

2. Skate, Penguins, Skate

The Penguins won Game 6 because they skated the Lightning out of the building in the first 40 minutes. “We did a good job of putting pucks in areas where we could use our speed. Guys grabbed it, took off and used our feet,” said forward Matt Cullen. “We take away time and space and make it hard on other teams.”

When the Penguins are able to chase down pucks behind the Tampa defense, they dominate. The trick is getting those pucks by Victor Hedman, Anton Stralman and the defensive structure the Lightning have when they’re on their game.

3. Stop Giving Pittsburgh Gifts

The last time the Lightning were in Pittsburgh, they had one recorded giveaway. One. In 60 minutes and 53 seconds of hockey.

They had 17 giveaways in Game 6, an uncharacteristic sloppiness that was called out by nearly every Lightning player after the game. It was a combination of pressure by the Penguins and poor execution by Tampa, in an attempt to make fancier plays than were required.

We assume you recall the outcomes of those games.

4. Murray Vs. Vasilevskiy

It’s the first Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for both goalies, who are here due to injuries for the teams’ typical starters.

Murray had a calming presence in Game 6; and while the conference final hasn’t been his best series, he’s been a difference-maker when necessary.

The dirty little secret about the Lightning in this series? That it’s over already if not for the play of Vasilevskiy, who’s kept games close that shouldn’t have been that way.

Which one of these young netminders comes up big in Game 7? And does one of them come unraveled?

5. The Lightning Power Play

Since Game 1 of the series, the Penguins are 4-for-15 on the power play. The Lightning, on the other hand, are 1-for-10. Pittsburgh has scored some momentous goals on the man advantage in the series – Sidney Crosby’s Game 3 tally, Phil Kessel’s opening goal of Game 6 – but Tampa hasn’t gotten the same kick in the rear from its power play.

Where have you gone, Steven Stamkos?

6. The Game 7 History

Via the NHL: Tampa Bay is 5-1 all-time in Game 7s, including a 1-0 win vs. Pittsburgh in Game 7 of the 2011 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal. The Penguins’ last Game 7 win clinched the 2009 Stanley Cup Final. Pittsburgh has not won a Game 7 at home since 1995, and the Penguins are 0-4 in home Game 7s in that span.

The past isn’t necessarily prologue, of course. Unless you’re talking about only a year ago, with basically the same team. Which brings us to …

7. Lightning Lessons

All the Tampa Bay Lightning could talk about after Game 5 were the lessons they learned last season in the Eastern Conference Final against the New York Rangers, and how they would apply to not losing Game 6 this time ‘round.

And then they lost Game 6. Again.

But there is one other lesson to be learned from last season’s conference final.

“Well, I could take from last year, when we went to Game 7, we won Game 7,” said coach Jon Cooper.

--

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: May 26, 2016, 9:38 pm

The final World Cup of Hockey roster will be announced for Canada on Friday evening, and they're going to pick seven multiple-time All-Stars and call it a day.

Look, there's no mystery here. Canada goes in, picks a handful of the 10 best centers and maybe a few wingers and Norris-caliber defensemen and says, “Okay we're done.”

You could ask a small child within limited understanding of the sport and have him do just as good as job as Doug Armstrong inevitably will. Picking a Hockey Canada team is not at all hard. And even if you that up, the 16 other multiple-time All-Stars you picked probably paper over your mistakes pretty convincingly. And even if they don't Mike Babcock with assistant coaches like Claude Julien, Barry Trotz, Joel Quenneville, and Bill Peters will implement a tight enough system that even that probably doesn't matter.

This is all a formality. Have the seventh defenseman you pick be a lucky contest winner from literally anyone currently living in Canada and you're gonna waltz. That might be true even if that winner is the No. 4 defenseman.

So without further ado, here are my picks for the most likely Canada roster at the World Cup of Hockey this fall, which really shouldn't even bother showing up because that's how much of a foregone conclusion this gold medal is:

(Ed. note: bolded names have already been selected)

FORWARDS  

Jamie BennTyler SeguinJonathan Toews

Taylor HallSidney CrosbySteven Stamkos

Jeff CarterJoe ThorntonClaude Giroux

Brad Marchand — Patrice BergeronJohn Tavares

Extra:

Ryan Getzlaf 

Imagine the luxury of having Claude Giroux as the last forward named to your team. Good lord. 

The “problem” with Canada is that it develops so many elite centers that you end up playing a lot of guys out of position. Literally every right wing on this team is really just a repurposed pivot. And before everyone gets all worked up about Toews not being a center, you have to ask yourself just how much the very obvious chemistry between Benn and Seguin changes if the latter moves an extra 20 feet away from the former.

Hall is the “first” addition to the roster, if only because he's a scoring winger who should be able to work well with Sidney Crosby. Stamkos is not unaccustomed to playing the wing, and given that he'll be doing so for his new coach (probably) in this tournament, what's an extra couple of weeks before seven years of running the middle of the ice in Toronto?

Thornton and Giroux are new additions to the roster on the “third” line. Thornton should have been here all along and it's dumb that he wasn't, but again, which All-Star do you really want to shuffle out? Getzlaf? He got moved to the healthy scratch of the group, which is crazy, because other than this one super-unlucky season he's been a dominant player for years. 

Finally, Brad Marchand emerged not only as a very good left wing — which he's been for years — but as one of the three or four best on the planet. Leaving him off for any reason would be lunacy, especially because Bergeron is his guy. 

DEFENSEMEN

Brent Burns — Duncan Keith

P.K. SubbanMarc-Edouard Vlasic

Drew DoughtyKris Letang

Extra:

Shea Weber

Ho hum, we just added three defensemen who had top-five seasons in 2015-16. No big deal.

Burns is another guy where you're like, “Okay, how do you leave him off in the first place?” but after Armstrong personally watched Burns torch his club in the Western Conference Final, there's no way you leave him off.

Likewise, the addition of Subban is a no-brainer. Hockey Canada seems to have a thing against him for some reason but again, justification for his inclusion on this team is as simple as saying, “He's P.K. Subban. Come on.” He's that good.

Finally, you're playing Letang out of position on the wrong side of the ice, but you can't leave him at home to bring one of the other left-shot defenders. Not that Mark Giordano, T.J. Brodie, or Jake Muzzin are necessarily bad choices (and I can see the argument for bringing Muzzin to play with Doughty). They're very good, in fact. But they ain't Letang.

Frankly, I'd rather have one of them over Weber, but we all know how everyone in the world feels about Weber. 

GOALIES

Braden Holtby
Corey Crawford
Carey Price

This is what I expect the order will be for the goalies, but not what I'd necessarily go with. By then, Holtby will be the reigning Vezina Trophy winner, and no one will argue that even if Crawford is better. Meanwhile, I think caution with Price, who won't have played an actual game in nearly a year by then, is why he goes No. 3.

Again, you might as well just print the championship t-shirts now and save yourself some trouble. This team is scarily talented, and as usual you can make a pretty competitive team just with the guys you're leaving off the Canada roster. (How about a starting lineup of Couture - O'Reilly - Perry, Pietrangelo - Brodie, Elliott?)  

So given all the assembled talent and brains, if this team doesn't win gold in a walk, they should be ashamed of themselves. It's a near impossibility! What other hockey nation can plausibly stack up? This might be the most talented team ever assembled!

Not to jinx them or anything.

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Author: Ryan Lambert
Posted: May 26, 2016, 9:15 pm

The final World Cup of Hockey roster will be announced for the United States Friday evening, and honestly nothing would come as a surprise at this point. 

The good news is Dean Lombardi, who seems to be a pretty shrewd observer of the game and does a good job identifying talent, is the team's general manager. We also know 16 of the 23 players already on the team, which makes it a little easier to guess at what Lombardi might be going for with his club.

Near as I can tell, there's no Great Panel Of American Hockey Minds to gather around and conspire against the relatively few actually super-talented players the country has produced. No one to reveal prophetic dreams presaging disaster if Phil Kessel were to make the team. That works in America's favor.

The bad news is John Tortorella is inexplicably still the coach of the team, and that makes it a lot tougher to: a) win, b) guess what kind of roster construction they're actually going to go for here, and c) play remotely entertaining hockey.

That, obviously, works against both the Americans and the viewers.

But with all this in mind, here are my picks for the most likely USA roster at the World Cup of Hockey this fall:

(Ed. note: bolded names have already been selected)

FORWARDS

Max PaciorettyJoe PavelskiPatrick Kane

Zach PariseTyler JohnsonPhil Kessel

Kyle OkposoDerek StepanBlake Wheeler

Justin AbdelkaderDavid BackesT.J. Oshie

Extra:

Ryan Kesler 

This team really messed up pretty badly out of the gate by naming Justin Abdelkader and Ryan Kesler, two checking-line players at best, to this roster back in March. That leaves home prospective — and better — American players like James van Riemsdyk (third in points per game among U.S.-born left wings over the last three seasons) and other guys who aren't great but you'd certainly prefer over Abdelkader and Kesler in terms of how many points they can put on the board for you.

I mean, the fact we're burning a few of the seven extra roster spots on Phil Kessel and Tyler Johnson is just baffling, but here we are. These are two players whose résumés really ought to have spoken for themselves back in March, but whose strong playoff performances make it impossible to be ignored any longer by Lombardi and Co.

The U.S. at least has the benefit of a fairly deep right wing situation, with Okposo, a natural on that side, shuffled to the left as a result. (At least insofar as I don't see a coach like Tortorella making accommodations for Okposo over veteran internationals like Oshie and Wheeler). 

Finally, David Backes had a strong playoff and is exactly the kind of player Tortorella would love anyway, so he's the fourth and final addition up front.

The rest of the players that were already selected are perfectly reasonable picks by the brass. There aren't really any serious holes in the lineup, per se, but just about anyone you worry about there doesn't seem like a worse idea than giving Ryan Kesler any minutes at all.

God, why is Abdelkader on this team? That's flat-out inexplicable.

DEFENSEMEN

Dustin ByfuglienRyan Suter

Kevin ShattenkirkRyan McDonagh

John CarlsonNick Leddy

Extra:

Justin Faulk

I think this is a strong top-six group that should give most countries (non-Canada division) some matchup problems. The existing picks here — Byfuglien, Carlson, McDonagh, and Suter — are probably about as rational a foursome as you'd come up with out of the U.S. talent pool.

The two additions to the top six are Kevin Shattenkirk, who was very good in these playoffs for St. Louis, and Nick Leddy, who was a sneaky-good defender over the course of the last two seasons. I'm not sure I necessarily trust he or Carlson against the world's best, but if they're your third pairing, you're probably in pretty good shape.

The extra defender's spot was an interesting one, because there are a number of options you can choose from there. Keith Yandle is the guy who should have been on the Sochi roster two years ago, but a perceived rough time on Broadway likely derailed his candidacy. You might want to use Torey Krug as a power play specialist, but you can't trust him to shut down anyone at all. Meanwhile, Faulk emerges from a pool of a few all-around solid defenders as the best remaining choice.

GOALIES

Ben Bishop
Cory Schneider
Jonathan Quick

Fortunately, this is a decision that has already been made for me, because the U.S. took all three back in March. This is the order in which I would use them, if only because Bishop was excellent in the playoffs before his injury and Schneider hasn't played in a minute.

If Lombardi were picking over again, he'd probably go with Quick once again, but a bad playoff run might lead one to potentially consider other candidates if there were any particularly impressive options available. There are, however, not really too many to choose from: Ryan Miller? Craig Anderson? Scott Darling? That's about it, really. 

This is a team that's a little difficult to love, quite frankly. Plenty of talent at every position, but how much of it is actually world-class? It says a lot about the future of USA Hockey that the most talented American players in the tournament are largely going to be on the 23-and-under team, but that doesn't help the World Cup of Hockey cause now, does it?

If this team medals, I'd be a little surprised. And I'd feel good about it. And they have the talent to make some noise. But the coaching? Yeah, I'm not looking forward to that.

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Author: Ryan Lambert
Posted: May 26, 2016, 8:39 pm

Better late than never... @sjbarracuda head coach Roy Sommer with his @TheAHL record breaking win tattoo. #637Wins pic.twitter.com/CClP7kCn1n

— Eric Lindquist (@barracudavoice) May 25, 2016

SAN JOSE, Calif. – Last February after San Jose Barracuda coach Roy Sommer won his 637th AHL game to set a league record he went out with several San Jose Sharks staffers.

The conversation between Sommer, team broadcaster Eric Lindquist, Sharks general manager Doug Wilson and others turned to tattoos and Sommer made some offhanded comment about getting one.

Wilson immediately handed $300 to Lindquist and told Sommer to get the body art.

“Every day since the playoffs have started I’ll run into Doug Wilson and he doesn’t ask me about anything else except, ‘Did you get that tattoo yet?’” Sommer joked.

[Join a Yahoo Daily Fantasy Hockey contest today]

Sommer has been the Sharks’ AHL bench boss since 1998-99 when he started with the Kentucky Thoroughblades. Since then, the Oakland, Calif. native has taken his wife and three kids to Cleveland, Worcester and finally back home with the San Jose Barracuda. All teams were at one point affiliated with the Sharks.

Sommer has coached 120 players who have gone onto NHL careers. This includes 95 who have spent a portion of their time with the Sharks. He’s beloved around the organization and many with the team use the endearing hockey colloquialism “beauty” when describing Sommer.

When Sommer’s season ended he started to get serious about the tattoo – partially because of pressure from his boss. Wilson told Sommer that he’d start to fine the coach if he didn’t get the tattoo. So Sommer made an appointment for Tuesday at State of Grace tattoo parlor, where Sharks defenseman Brent Burns gets his body art.

Photo provided by Eric Lindquist

Sommer has a fear of needles, so he was terrified both before and during the time the tattoo was put on his right shoulder. 

"I used to get drilled and my teeth drilled with no Novocain in,” Sommer said. “He started the first two seconds, and I was going to say, that’s enough.”

Both Sommer and his wife came up with the design concept the morning before his appointment, and overall he’s happy with how it looked.

“She said ‘you should get the Shark biting the 637,” Sommer said.

On Thursday Sommer went to Boston to watch his son’s college graduation from Holy Cross. And he seemed to feel the tattoo connects him with the younger generation, even if his son believes otherwise.

“You have to keep up with them kids. There’s a couple of rappers I like. I listen K’naan, I’m not really into the rap stuff but sometimes you have to suck it up and see why they like it,” he said.  “My daughter thought it was cool and my son was like, 'really?'”

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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: May 26, 2016, 8:39 pm

PITTSBURGH – Bryan Rust wouldn’t necessarily call it a pregame nap. Not when he expected to spend the majority of it staring at the ceiling of his room, nervous anticipation for Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final consuming him. 

This is the first Stanley Cup Playoffs Game 7 for several Penguins players; some of whom are youngsters experiencing their first prolonged playoff run and some of whom are veterans that, for various reasons, haven’t seen much playoff action. Other Penguins have plenty of Game 7 experience.

Rust said he knew this team would be a Stanley Cup contender for that reason. “I thought after about six weeks of being here that this was a close group of guys, a good balance of older and younger. As soon as we all realized that, we knew we could do something special,” said Rust, who scored a breakaway goal in their Game 6 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning to avoid elimination.

Like Rust, rookie Conor Sheary started in the AHL this season with the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins. Like Rust, his speed has allowed the Penguins to press the tempo and skate teams out of the building, as they did for 40 minutes of Game 6.

And like Rust, he admits that nervous energy is unavoidable for a first-timer in a Game 7.

“You can set goals at the beginning of the year, but you never expect to get there. Especially for a young guy like me that didn’t have any NHL experience,” said Sheary, who has two goals and five assists. “I just have to focus my energy in the right direction, try not to get caught up in the stuff around me.”

Defenseman Justin Schultz is not a rookie. He’s played 266 NHL regular season games with the Edmonton Oilers and the Penguins, arriving in Pittsburgh via trade in February.

In the process, he went from a team that can’t seem to find the playoffs with a road map to a team with designs on winning the Stanley Cup.

“A couple of months ago, I wasn’t having very much fun playing. And now I’m having the time of my life,” said Schultz, who played his first Stanley Cup playoff games with the Penguins. “I knew when I got traded here, there was a chance. And then once I started playing here, I realized how good this team was and the opportunity we have here. I hope we take advantage of it.”

Now, he’ll skate in his first Game 7.

“You watch these games as a kid, and now you’re playing in one. But you try to treat it like any other game I guess,” he said.

There’s another Penguins that’s never faced a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The one that, essentially, could be the difference between success and failure in that Game 7.

“He takes each game as it comes, and he controls what he can. He's a great competitor. He's got a great makeup,” said Penguins coach Mike Sullivan on goalie Matt Murray. “You know, I believe he's going to continue to do what he's done for us this whole postseason.”

He no doubt has the same expectations for the other Penguins Game 7 newbies.

--

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: May 26, 2016, 8:11 pm

The Tampa Bay Lightning announced on Wednesday that there would not be a Game 7 viewing party for fans outside of Amalie Arena, where hundreds of fans gather in "Thunder Alley" to watch games on a big screen, in a festive atmosphere.

Here was the announcement:

NHL

From the sound of things, those merchants that bring their food trucks and other wares to the Thunder Alley viewing party weren’t expecting that:

@WFLAPaul nothing really, just rants on FB about food trucks getting a call this afternoon that it was called off pic.twitter.com/6TgxpIw4gd

— ⚡ Louise ⚡ (@LForrest724) May 25, 2016

But if you’re an NHL fan in the U.S., you’re probably not surprised. Ever since the League signed on with NBC, the issue over large fan viewing parties has come up nearly every postseason.

The first big blowup was in Pittsburgh during their 2009 Stanley Cup run, when large viewing parties outside of the Igloo were sometimes cancelled because "NBC Sports does not allow teams to show their broadcasts on arena screens." 

In its report on the Lightning viewing party cancellation, Deadspin wrote “the Lightning were only allowed to host one official event per series, and that they’d already used up their slot on the Game 5 party,” and that there were threats of fines from NHL if they didn’t comply.

(Joe Smith of the Tampa Times writes that teams were made aware of this policy on April 12.)

My reactions whenever this story pops up:

1. NBC, and by proxy the NHL, come off as petty killjoys and this decision flies in the face of everything they try to sell the Stanley Cup Playoffs as being, which is a communal experience.

I mean, it’s literally the thing they sold four years ago in an ad campaign for the Stanley Cup Playoffs on NBC:

So yeah, grab your buddies, watch the game, but we really need to cap the head count at like 30 people if that’s OK.

It's embarrassing when the NBA can fill arenas for a watch party while the NHL isn't allowing them. 

2. The fact is that the viewing party cancellations are made because NBC wants every available fan in front of their own television for the game. This is not only to maximize the game’s ratings locally, but to maximize the captured attention of these fans. In 2009, NBC put it this way to me: It's about converting local hockey fans into national NBC and NBCSN viewers.

3. The sad reality is that the margin of success for NHL ratings is so slim that NBC needs both markets in Game 7 to tune in en masse. Those few Nielsen families at a watch party, instead of at home, make a difference. Those people watching a giant screen instead of streaming the game on a mobile device make a huge difference.

They have a 10-year, $2-billion deal with the NHL to broadcast games in the U.S., and that means there’s enormous pressure to justify the cost. Hence, even a few thousands fans watching in Tampa are considered competition.

It sucks, but that’s reality: The NHL is that reliant on local ratings to juice the national numbers.

The ratings for the conference finals have been stagnant in the East and down in the West compared to last season, when the Chicago Blackhawks ratings juggernaut was in it. In fact, Game 4 of the San Jose Sharks’ series against the St. Louis Blues was second-lowest for a primetime game during the playoffs since NBC snagged the rights in 2006 – despite a lead-in from the Preakness Stakes.

It’s both frustrating and baffling every year when millions of hockey fans ignore the playoffs after their teams are eliminated. Perhaps if they didn’t, NBC wouldn’t be freaking out over a few thousands fans enjoying nice weather and Lightning hockey tonight. 

--

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: May 26, 2016, 6:32 pm

SAN JOSE, Calif. – The San Jose Sharks advanced to their first Stanley Cup Final in team history with a 5-2 Game 6 Western Conference Final win over the St. Louis Blues. 

With the exception of Game 4, the Sharks were the better team this series and deserved this victory. Throughout this postseason every element of San Jose’s game has clicked and the Western Conference Final was no different.

Their top line of Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski and Tomas Hertl was dynamic. Their power play was in top form. Marc-Edouard Vlasic shut down Blues sniper Vladimir Tarasenko. And goaltender Martin Jones bounced back from bad goals throughout the series to backstop his team to this point.

All these factors helped the Sharks get over this hurdle organizational hurdle. San Jose had lost in their three prior trips to this point including twice in the Thornton, Patrick Marleau era. 

“It hasn’t really sunk in. A lot of work still to be done. I think we need to appreciate how far we’ve come and the work that we’ve put in, and the way that we played, and the guys in here that have come a long ways that are well deserving of this opportunity,” defenseman Paul Martin said. “It’s a good feeling.”

Here are five reasons why the Sharks beat the Blues to advance to the Stanley Cup Final.

1. The first line

The Sharks’ first-line was unstoppable all series. Thornton had seven assists in the six games. Pavelski had nine points, including four goals. Hertl had three goals and two assists. In the playoffs, your top line needs to produce and San Jose’s best trio was a matchup nightmare for the Blues. The three have been together since January 9 and all three complement one another well. Thornton is one of the NHL’s best passers and both Pavelski and Hertl are lethal in-and-around the net. They showed how well they play together throughout the series. 

2. Marc-Edouard Vlasic

The Sharks’ blueliner is one of the top defenders in the NHL and did a number on St. Louis sniper Vladimir Tarasenko this series. The only goals scored by Tarasenko were late in the third period of Game 6 when the Sharks put the game away. Drawing the top matchups hasn’t taken away from Vlasic’s offense. He has 11 points and is a plus-13. Vlasic also has a 52.6 CF% and plus-5.2 CF% Rel 5-on-5. Without Vlasic’s ability to shut down Tarasenko and other top scorers faced this postseason the Sharks wouldn’t be at this point.

3. Martin Jones’ poise

Jones hasn’t let bad goals bother him. When you think the first-year starter is going to implode, he comes back with a stellar performance. In Game 1 Jori Lehtera’s game-winner seemed to get under Jones’ skin. But he then went the next two games without allowing a goal. Acquiring Jones from the Boston Bruins (after the Bruins picked up Jones' rights from the Kings where Jones had been a backup) last summer and paying him just $3 million per-year over the next two seasons looks like a bargain for the Sharks. Jones has a 2.12 goal-against average and .919 save percentage in 18 games this postseason.

4. The power play

When the Sharks needed a big goal, their power play proved their biggest weapon. In Game 5 near the end of the second period, the Sharks were down 3-2. San Jose then went on a power play and scored a goal to tie the game at 3-3 at the 18:33 mark. If San Jose had gone into the locker room after two periods down a goal they may not have won Game 5 and not had the ability to clinch at home in front of the raucous SAP Center crowd. Going into a game knowing you’re probably going to get at least one power play goal is a huge advantage. The Sharks have hit on 27.0 percent of their power plays, which leads teams still left in the playoffs.   

5. Peter DeBoer

The Sharks’ first year coach has been exactly what they needed. All his messages to the Sharks have hit home with the team. Before he arrived in San Jose, the team was 0-for-5 in clinching scenarios from Game 7 against the Los Angeles Kings in the 2013 playoffs. The Sharks are 3-1 this postseason in clinching scenarios and much of that has to do with DeBoer, his systems and his direction. Hiring DeBoer last summer was arguably the best move by Sharks GM Doug Wilson for this season. 

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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: May 26, 2016, 5:07 pm

After 1,179 NHL games, Ottawa Senators defenseman Chris Phillips has announced his retirement. 

Phillips, the No. 1 overall pick in the 1996 draft and longest-serving player in Senators history, has been hounded by back issues since Feb. 2015, when he last played an NHL game. After several attempted comebacks, including one this past training camp that ended when he suffered a cracked vertebrae during rehabilitation, the time to hang up his skates had arrived.

“I’d be lying if I haven’t thought about [retiring] for a while just given the past season and how it unfolded,” Phillips said during a Thursday news conference. “I remember we thought at the start of last year I was going to be ready to go at some point and just continually having setbacks and really just going through that basically back to normal life routine, not traveling, still going to the rinks in the morning, but being home and really kind of getting a taste of what life might look like post-hockey career.

"At the same time with the way my back was acting and not healing to a point where it needed to be to play and knowing the reality of not getting any younger and not playing the game in nearly a year and a half, it just wasn’t going to happen. I think I’ve known in my head and my heart for a little while, so today’s a happy day for me.”

Phillips made his NHL debut during the 1997-98 season and finishes with 71 goals and 288 points over 17 seasons, all with the Senators. He would score six times in 114 playoffs games for Ottawa, with his most memorable tally coming in overtime during the 2003 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the New Jersey Devils, staving off elimination in Game 6.

"He represents loyalty and what it means to be an Ottawa Senator,” said Senators general manager Pierre Dorion.

Internationally, Phillips represented Canada five times, winning back-to-back gold medals at the 1996 and 1997 World Junior Championships and a pair of silvers at the World Championships.

Phillips and his wife also provided a huge presence in the community, helping 22 charities during their time in Ottawa, including most recently raising funds to help his hometown of Fort McMurray, Alberta, which was ravaged by fires. It's no surprise he'll move into a front office role with the Senators working with team alumni and in community engagement.

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

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Author: Sean Leahy
Posted: May 26, 2016, 4:46 pm

PITTSBURGH – Steven Stamkos said there’s no change in his status, which would mean the Tampa Bay Lightning star will likely miss Thursday night’s Eastern Conference Final Game 7 as he continues to work back from surgery to correct a blood clot issue. He hasn’t seen game action since March 31.

The difference between this game and all the others that Stamkos has missed is that the Lightning, with a loss, will have played their final game of the season.

Which means Stamkos, an unrestricted free agent with a swirl of uncertainty around him, may be watching his final game as a member of the Lightning as a spectator.

“I’m not thinking about that,” he said on Thursday.

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Of course, there’s another way to look at Game 7: If the Lightning defeat the Pittsburgh Penguins, they play on to the Stanley Cup Final. Which means another series in which Stamkos could potentially return to the lineup.

Stamkos’s morning skate, an optional one for the Lightning, was shorter than some of his other marathon sessions in this round. “I think we’ve skated enough in the past couple of weeks,” he said after practice. “We’ll see what happens tonight. Hopefully I can skate more in the future.”

He said his status isn’t nearly as important as the task at hand for his team.

“We got another game to win tonight. That’s the focus. The guys have done a great job getting us one win away from the Stanley Cup Final. That’s what we talked about at the beginning of the year, with what we went through last year. You take that every day of the week. I’m excited,” he said.

While last season’s Eastern Conference Final lessons didn’t pay off for the Lightning in Game 6, Stamkos was optimistic they would in Game 7, where the Bolts won on the road last season at Madison Square Garden.

“We went through this before as a group. The guys are definitely comfortable in this situation, they know how we have to play,” he said. “It’s going to be a hostile environment. But we need to play a solid road game like we did last year.”

No one’s sure if he’ll play again in the postseason, or how that call will be made. No one’s sure if he’ll remain a member of the Lightning after this season, or how that call will be made.

“We gotta win tonight. Let’s focus on tonight. We’ll deal with whatever comes after,” he said.

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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: May 26, 2016, 4:28 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.

Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

• P.K. Subban shows up and that’s how you play, Toronto Raptors? 

• From Max Talbot to Mike Rupp, Game 7 heroes aren’t always the superstars coming through. [Post-Gazette]

• Why did Mike Sullivan go to Marc-Andre Fleury for Game 5? He had a pretty good reason. [Sporting News

• Matt Carle should sit in favor of Slater Koekkoek for Game 7. [Raw Charge]

• Andrei Vasilevskiy will need to special in order to punch Tampa’s ticket back to the Stanley Cup Final. [Tampa Bay Times]

• “The National Hockey League may miss out on as much as $200 million this season because of the slide of the Canadian dollar, according to league commissioner Gary Bettman.” [Bloomberg]

• It’s looking like Dan Girardi won’t be leaving the New York Rangers anytime soon. [NY Post]

• Peter Stastny doesn’t hold back in talking about the current state of hockey in Slovakia. [ESPN.com]

• The Red Deer Rebels advanced to the semifinals of the Memorial Cup with a win over the Brandon Wheat Kings. [Sportsnet]

• Talk of the NFL and Las Vegas hasn’t fazed any hope of putting a team in Sin City. [The Hockey News]

• “Former players are suing the NHL over concussions, but remain loyal to hockey” [Washington Post]

• Sheldon Keefe has provided a huge boost for the AHL’s Toronto Marlies. [Buzzing the Net]

• Boy, that Kevan Miller signing in Boston, eh? [Boston Sports Desk]

- How do you improve the Bruins' defense? [Bruins Daily]

• If Meghan Duggan leaves the Buffalo Beauts, how does the NWHL replace that void? [Today’s Slapshot]

• Injury-prone players in fantasy hockey: avoid them or pounce since no one else would want them? [Dobber Hockey]

• Canadian university hockey players lend a helping hand to Fort McMurray residents. [Yahoo Eh Game]

• Alpo Suhonen, the former Chicago Blackhawks head coach, takes over the lead role with Austria. [IIHF]

• Chatting with former Philadelphia Flyer Brian Propp. [Along the Boards

• Finally, another episode of "The Road," with a look at the relationship between agents and athletes:

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Author: Sean Leahy
Posted: May 26, 2016, 4:06 pm

[HUGE IF TRUE breaks down the plausibility of the week's biggest rumor.]

On Tuesday, the Boston Bruins announced a baffling extension for Kevan Miller.

Four years, $10 million.

Both those numbers are galling for entirely different reasons, and most everyone outside of a 10-foot radius of Don Sweeney's office seems to agree with that assessment. Sweeney spent a good portion of the day getting his teeth kicked in by even the most homer-bent of Bruins reporters, because this is an indefensibly bad contract to give one of your team's numerous bottom-pairing defensemen.

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However, when this deal was announced, there was also a lot of shrugging from even the most vociferous critic. “That's what he would have gotten on the open market,” they all said. 

As to whether someone would have been dumb enough to give him that cap hit instead of Boston, well, it obviously would have been a better idea for the Bruins to let a rival NHL team do that for them.

What's interesting, though, is that the data also suggests that the closest comparables for Miller's 2015-16 season tend to be good defenders in their early years. Rookie or sophomore campaigns for Alex Goligoski, Olli Maatta, Sami Vatanen, and more appear on the list.

That might be where the Bruins got the idea that Miller, at 28-and-a-half, has “room to grow” as a player because he has “relatively few miles on him.” To some extent that's true, because he only has about 160 NHL games under his belt even at his advanced age. But wouldn't you know it, he's been playing hockey this whole time! He has another 154 games in the AHL since 2011.

So the question quickly becomes: Is the market for a bottom-pairing (at best) defenseman really $2.5 million? Obviously no one is going to defend the term on this contract. It is very bad. But the money, is that really what anyone would have given him? 

The answer is: You'd hope not, but you also know the NHL well enough to know that's not the case.

The Rumor

Based on his performance last season, the average comparable player had an era-adjusted salary of almost exactly the freight he pulled ($2.5 million in actual cap hit for Miller versus the average $2.503 million adjusted for his 30 closest comparables). 

However, it's worth noting that current cap hits get inflated by the era adjustment, and a stagnant-ish cap ceiling headed into next year probably means that even by that comparison, Miller is slightly overpaid against what players like him are historically given (this year a $2.5 million cap hit adjusted to approximately $2.6 million).

Fluto Shinzawa of the Boston Globe called the deal “market price for a D-man with room to grow.” In a later recap of the situation, Shinzawa added, “Had he reached free agency, he could have used teammate Adam McQuaid’s four-year, $11 million contract as a comparable.”

Now, again, we have to consider something here: If Miller was going to go to other teams asking for four years and $2.75 million per, based on what McQuaid did, he's probably within the frames of rationality. At least insofar as he is a little better than McQuaid and should therefore get a similar contract.

Other defensemen in the approximate range in which McQuaid now falls ($2 million to $2.99 million) aren't very common overall, as there are only 14 others in the entire NHL at this moment.

So now it's time to compare Miller to those players and see how he fares. Among this group over the last three seasons, he generally proved to be near the bottom in offensive categories, but better in terms of how he depressed shot attempts and shots on goal in his own end. Most interesting, his impact on goalscoring both for and against was strong (the latter more so than the former), ranking sixth and first, respectively, among defensemen in his price range.

In terms of expected goals (via Corsica) his impact on goalscoring was the worst in the group, and his impact on goal suppression was second-worst behind only Ron Hainsey. Basically that means the Bruins shouldn't score as much as they do when Miller is on the ice, and should give up more goals than they have. Part of that is going to relate to the quality of goaltending behind Miller, and the quality of forwards generally in front of him. 

But even given the number of high-quality non-defenders on the Boston roster, he acts as an anchor for anyone he plays with.

Suffice it to say, Miller is on the low end of defenders in that price range, and most of them are overpaid as well. His salary moves him to a tie for 105th out of 167 defensemen currently signed for next year across the NHL. Many of the players below him are on their entry-level deals, or were RFAs, as you might expect.

But if there are 180 regular defense spots in the NHL at any given time (six D times 30 teams), it's likely you see Miller's deal settle into the higher end of bottom-pairing guys, which seems like a minor overpayment right now, let alone three or four years from today.

Who's Going Where?

The problem for the Bruins is that Miller isn't going anywhere any time soon.

This is a club that has repeatedly identified its D corps as a problem in its regular-season flameout postmortems, and then given the bad defenders on its roster raises and long-term extensions. What's worth noting about a lot of the cap-hit comparables are that these are either provably bad contracts, or shorter-term deals than four years. (That Ryan Ellis deal is a freakin' steal though, eh?)

The reason why is simple: You can generally get defensemen who comparable but perhaps even more affordable every summer. There's a lot of churn at the bottom of NHL rosters in general, because most teams now know better than to marry themselves to depth contributors like, say, the Bruins did in the wake of their Cup win. A lot of those guys also aren't being signed into their early 30s on the longer-term ends of those deals.

The Implications

So yeah, that probably is just about what a top-end third-pair defenseman should get. The issue is Miller isn't one of those. More likely, he's a No. 6 defenseman on just about any competent team in the league, in a best-case scenario. And that's right now, signing him for four years basically ensures he'll be sub-replacement level before the deal expires.

Generally, you wouldn't want this guy getting too many minutes now, at 28. Three-plus years from now, it'll be ugly.

But the money itself does seem to be more or less market value. He didn't take a hometown discount of any sort, nor should he have. What that says about the market for bottom-pairing defenders, though, is considerable.

And as far as the Bruins are concerned, again, maybe you just let Miller walk if that's the market, but if you feel like you can't afford to go bargain basement shopping, this might be your only recourse. If he was gonna ask for McQuaid money elsewhere, maybe you feel the $250,000 less per year was your window of savings.

But again, who signed the McQuaid deal? That would be...... Don Sweeney. It's not a contract he inherited from Peter Chiarelli, like the Dennis Seidenberg deal. It was an accord he struck of his own volition and which was immediately not a good idea.

As a result, he's now paying more than $16 million for four defenders (Chara, Seidenberg, McQuaid, and Miller) with no real top-pairing defender in the group. That doesn't get into the extensions Sweeney now has to give Torey Krug, Joe Morrow, Colin Miller, and maybe one or two others. That'll probably end up constituting a pretty big chunk of their cap unless someone (Seidenberg, probably) gets shipped away or bought out.

To be fair to Sweeney, I would have been hard-pressed to figure out a way for the Bruins to fix their defense. Most people would have. However, most people would have also known “extending everyone on it” was not a reasonable option.

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: 

This is the market, yes. No doubt about it. But the Bruins are the ones setting the market. So adherence to that standard is, shall we say, clearly ill-advised.

The question, therefore, becomes two-fold:

Is this what Kevan Miller would have gotten elsewhere? Absolutely. 💩

Is this what Kevan Miller is worth? Absolutely not. 💩💩💩💩💩

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: May 26, 2016, 3:55 pm

Daylen Hopkins is a hockey fan on Twitter, and a bold one at that. 

Back in February, Hopkins couldn’t believe that the Chicago Blackhawks and the Los Angeles Kings were mortal. So he made a bold prediction for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, tweeting the following:

I'll get Gary Bettman's face tattooed on my ass if Chicago and LA both get bounced in the first round

— Me & Gary (@SlayIen) February 27, 2016

That’s a whole lotta hubris right there.

Then, a funny thing happened: The Blackhawks and the Kings both lost in the opening round, to the St. Louis Blues and San Jose Sharks, respectively.

Even funnier: “SlayIen” is a man of his word.

From the official Kickstarter page

Back in late February, I made a regrettable tweet which said "I'll get Gary Bettman's face tattooed on my ass if Chicago and LA both get bounced in the first round." I am a man of my word so, I'm raising this money partly for the tattoo but mostly for KidSportBC which helps underprivileged youth play sports.

Let it never be said that Daylen doesn’t follow through on a wager.

On Wednesday night, Gary Bettman’s face was tattooed on his backside:

More clear pic pic.twitter.com/QAZXBjK8Ir

— Me & Gary (@SlayIen) May 26, 2016

No, your eyes don’t deceive you:

Isn’t it possible that, like, people would have just forgotten this vow? That he could have gone on with life without having to get NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman tattooed on him?

“I'm a man of my word,” said Hopkins in an email. “When it all actually happened I thought, ‘well, you gotta do it now.’" 

Well, sure.

Now that Bettman has a permanent place on Hopkins – leading to what we imagine will be some awkward moments in gym showers and intimate settings – one has to wonder what the commissioner himself thinks about this honor.

“I don't know if he'll be proud, but I do hope he sees it,” said Hopkins. “This tattoo is probably the most people will ever laugh about Gary Bettman in a non ‘I hate Gary Bettman’ way.”

Well there’s a bright side to what’s now on his backside…

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Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: May 26, 2016, 12:45 pm

As the Stanley Cup Playoffs move from the conference finals to the Stanley Cup Final, The Tonight Show’s Jimmy Fallon has returned for more NHL superlatives.

Members of the Pittsburgh Penguins, San Jose Sharks and Tampa Bay Lightning get the treatment this time, with Valtteri Filppula and Victor Hedman among the players once again in the late night host’s crosshairs.

This was Hedman and Filppula’s third time being featured. The Lightning defenseman had won “Most Likely To Be Every Brad Pitt Character Combined Into One” and  “Most Likely To Be The Love Child Of Brad Pitt And Benicio Del Toro” previously.

Filppula can add this one to “Most Likely To Be Draco Malfoy If He Became a Hockey-Themed Wrestler” and “Most Likely To Spin Around In A Chair And Reveal His Plan While Petting A Hairless Cat.”

Poor Mirco Mueller. The 21-year-old Swiss defenseman will show everyone in about five years when his peach fuzz finally comes in.

Finally, whoever put together the headshots grabbed a very, very, very early one of Joe Thornton, who was featured a second time. We could only imagine Jumbo getting the “Reverse Bob Ross Award” had Fallon seen what his playoff beard has blossomed into.

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

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Author: Sean Leahy
Posted: May 26, 2016, 12:39 pm

SAN JOSE, Calif. – The St. Louis Blues started to run out of gas in the first-round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Then the second-round against the Dallas Stars took another toll on them. By the time they reached Game 6 of the Western Conference Final they didn’t have much left.

“We had individuals that they were struggling, guys that were high-minutes players,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. “We're going to look back on a lot of things. But one of the things that hurt us energy-wise was our inability to close out when we had the opportunity. It extended the series. Ended up forcing us into playing players multiple minutes. Ended up really hurting us in this series overall.” 

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Throughout the Western Conference Final the Blues put on a brave face, saying that their prior two seven-game series didn’t matter for this series. They had chances to close out the Blackhawks in five games and the Stars in six games. But the Blues couldn’t finish the job and that made any deeper run in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs difficult for them.

From the second period of Game 5 onward, the Sharks outscored the Blues 10-3 and a lot of St. Louis’ stars struggled as they tried to cope with fatigue.

Dynamic young forward Vladimir Tarasenko scored two goals in the entire series, both in the third period of Game 6 when his team was out of the game.

Rookie Robby Fabbri had two points in six games after coming into the series with 13 points in 14 playoff games. 

Captain David Backes scored six goals in 14 playoff games prior to the conference final. He had one goal in six games against the Sharks.

Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo was a minus-3. 

“They made us play in our end. They played a good deep game,” Pietrangelo said. “We played our game. We had some spurts there. They just executed better. This is as close as we've ever been, a lot guys haven't been this close especially the guys who have been here for a long time.” 

The Sharks weren’t the only team looking to exorcise past playoff demons in this series, which is why this loss felt so painful for St. Louis. The group had been a part of disappointments in the past with three straight first-round postseason exits before this year. They didn’t take this trip to the conference final for granted because they know there aren’t any guarantees moving forward.

“Man, the stop is pretty sudden and the flood of emotions, of – obviously – disappointment, but also a level of pride and how proud we are of the group in there. There’s a few guys held together by tape and a few guys that have sacrificed a ton in there to get to this point,” Backes said. “There’s a lot to be proud of, but when you put all your will and all your being into something and you get so close you can taste it and then not get a job done, there’s definitely a dissatisfaction at the moment that it’s tough to put into words.”

The Blues face an offseason of questions. Backes and Troy Brouwer are both pending unrestricted free agents.

Tarasenko’s inability to score this conference final could lead to some worry with him moving forward. 

Also, what of Hitchcock who will turn 65 next December?

But there are signs of optimism. Part of the reason why the Blues made it further this year was because of their expanding depth. Fabbri should improve next season as should rookie defenseman Colton Parayko.

Pietrangelo and fellow defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk are both in their 20s and still in their primes. 

None of that mattered after Game 6. The sting of defeat was harsh on the Blues on Wednesday at SAP Center. Hitchcock said he would give the team a couple of days before he talks to them next.

He added that they’re the closest team he’s coached the last 10 years and he wanted to give them space to reflect.

“I see the devastation in our locker room right now. Guys aren't even able to speak,” he said. “We got some guys that are pretty shook up right now.”

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Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: May 26, 2016, 8:18 am

SAN JOSE, Calif. – Last summer when Joel Ward had his pick of teams as an unrestricted free agent he was easily sold on the San Jose Sharks.

Ward didn’t see a team that was on the verge of a drop-off. He saw a group that was proud and wanted to redeem themselves after missing the playoffs the year before.

So Ward signed with the Sharks for three years at $9.825 million believing that this team could bring him closer to his professional goal of winning a Stanley Cup instead of pushing him further away.  

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“I knew coming here it was a good group. I know a lot of people looked down on that they didn’t make the playoffs, but I’ve been there too before a year in Washington when you didn’t make the playoffs and then you’re one goal away of going to the conference final,” Ward said. “It’s a good group, a good core group of guys that are here. It’s unbelievable. You have Hall of Famers, Olympians, gold medalists. It’s a great opportunity. How could you pass that up?”

The Sharks and Ward have found themselves in a mutually beneficial relationship. His faith in the team has been rewarded with a trip to a Stanley Cup Final where he’s played a major role with 11 points in 18 games. In his team’s series clinching Game 6 Western Conference Final win over the St. Louis Blues, Ward showed his big goal ability with two goals including the game-winner early in the third period.  

"(He’s) Steady, calm. Just his demeanor on the bench. The way he plays hard, goes to the net. That’s a typical playoff guy and a guy that is a leader,” forward Logan Couture said.

Part of the reason the Sharks wanted Ward was because of his clutch play in important games. In his team’s six series clinching wins in his NHL career, Ward has scored five goals including two game-winners. 

In 596 NHL regular season games, Ward has averaged 0.44 points per-game. In the playoffs he’s averaged 0.64 points per-game in 71 games.

In Game 6, Ward put the Sharks up 2-0 on a deflection off a Brent Burns shot early in the second period. Then 3:01 into the third he took a feed from Couture on the game-winner to make the game 3-0. This came after a two-goal performance in Game 5.

“I’m a big believer that if you're a clutch playoff performer, that's something that's a gift. That doesn't go away,” DeBoer said. “I've had different guys over the years that have had that ability, and that's not a flash in the pan. That's something that consistently they have the ability to rise to the occasion this time of year. The playoffs fit him.”

The Washington Capitals let Ward walk in the offseason in free agency after Ward spent four years in DC. Following their season Washington showed some regret in not bringing back Ward. The Sharks are thankful for this decision since he’s one of the big pieces that has them closer than they’ve ever been to a Stanley Cup 

“Ward is just a big-time player,” Sharks forward Joe Thornton said. “Last year when I was watching the post-season, Wardy was a huge part of Washington. I think they miss him this year. You saw again tonight, when the game gets a little bit more important, Wardy always shows up and has a big game. 

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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: May 26, 2016, 7:26 am

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