Could 'The Monster' grow into a legit goalie?

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Almost every year – usually when hockey news goes drier than Steven Wright in the Mojave desert – there seems to be a European Elite League flavor of the month. The off-color guys at Pensblog made Janne Pesonen a borderline Internet sensation. The Dallas Stars were super-excited when they won the Fabian Brunnstrom “sweepstakes.”

Last summer, a few NHL teams were in the bidding to land mammoth goalie Jonas “Monster” Gustavsson. He certainly had the size (6-3) and Internet love angles covered considerably well. That being said, he’s also had his growing pains – not to mention the pains in his heart. (No, I’m not saying he lacks “guts.” He’s had heart surgery this season. Yeah.)

Still, after leading the Leafs to a 30 save, 4-1 win over the free falling Ottawa Senators there are some who are getting awfully excited about the goalie again. One of those people is Mark Zwolinski of the Ottawa Star.

This is what the Leafs wanted to see when they outbid three other teams, and crossed the Atlantic, to woo Jonas Gustavsson to Toronto.

The rookie Swedish goalie has been a factor in Leaf wins of late and also a big part of the new culture the club is building for next season and beyond.

Eh, let’s not get carried away there Mark. Still, despite flops such as the aforementioned Brunnstrom and Pesonen, some of these mid-prime transfers can really work out. I don’t claim to be an authority on European leagues (and I’m leaving out players who only stayed out of North American hockey because of the Cold War). However, there are two recent transfers who have been wild successes since moving to the NHL. Let’s take a look at those two before we go, perhaps to tantalize Toronto fans.


(Oddly enough, both are Swiss-born players. Maybe the NHL just needs to scout the country a bit more? No? OK, I’ll shut up.)

Mark Streit – It only took a season for Streit to get used to the NHL, as he went from 11 points to 36 and 62 points with Montreal. Few liked the sound of his signing with the Islanders, but he managed 56 points last season and has 37 so far this year. Streit also shined on an undermanned Swiss team during the Olympics.

Jonas Hiller – Speaking of shining on an undermanned Swiss team, Hiller was almost good as the other “iller” (uh, Ryan Miller) in the tournament. Sure, J.S. Giguere had his struggles, but it still takes some gusto to beat out a Stanley Cup-winning goalie and Hiller did just that in Anaheim. (And, hey, Gustavsson has Hiller’s first NHL goalie coach and shares the same first name! See, Maple Leafs fans, you’re like … 2/3 of the way to having Jonas Hiller!)

So will the Monster turn out to be a great find or a monstrous bust? The answer isn’t clear just yet.

Video: Getzlaf, Perry, Kesler lose cool in scuffle with Kassian, Oilers

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In the first round, Zack Kassian reminded the hockey world why he came into the league with considerable hype as a first-rounder, as he scored some big goals for the Edmonton Oilers.

Of course, there’s a reason why Kassian has 522 penalty minutes in 313 career regular-season games. He can be a nasty presence who straddles the line.

He did as much late in Game 1, getting into it with Ryan Kesler, and then things really got out of hand. Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and others were involved in “histrionics.”

(Who wants to start a Patreon to find out what Getzlaf and Andrej Sekera were saying to each other, by the way?)

It looks like the players involved were only whistled for roughing minors rather than fighting majors. This caps a tough night for Anaheim, who lost 5-3 and saw Kevin Bieksa suffer a troubling lower-body injury.

King Leon: Draisaitl collects four points vs. Ducks to give Oilers a Game 1 win

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So far, the Edmonton Oilers had been showing that they can win tight, low-scoring playoff games. And then the third period of Game 1 against the Anaheim Ducks happened.

The two teams entered the final frame tied 1-1, with smaller breaks and bounces being the story. Then just about everything happened in the third, with Leon Draisaitl guiding the Oilers to a 5-3 win to take a 1-0 series lead.

Draisaitl ended up with a goal and three assists, extending his point streak to three games (seven points during that span).

He wasn’t the only Oilers player to raise some eyebrows, and actually, the other two starring members were a lot more surprising. Mark Letestu seemed to make the early difference with two power-play goals, while low-scoring defenseman Adam Larsson found the net twice, including on the game-winner.

Phew, that’s a lot to absorb, right? This video captures the wildest scoring stretch of that period, even if there would be more:

While Connor McDavid hasn’t been bad, he’s been quiet – by his lofty standards – so far in the Oilers’ run, and that was mostly true on Wednesday. He ended up with a mere secondary assist in this one,

Yet, that might just be part of the good news for the Oilers. They advanced after McDavid had spotty series against the Sharks, and they just gave the Ducks their first postseason loss of 2017 with Draisaitl and others stealing the headlines.

Things got nasty at the end of this game, with key Ducks such as Ryan Getzlaf being prominently involved. Such moments make it clear that Anaheim isn’t likely to bow out of this one easily (and perhaps not gracefully?) but that should only make for a captivating Game 2.

That Game 2 airs Friday at 10:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN; you can watch online or via the NBC Sports App. Click here for the livestream link.

Keep an eye on Oilers’ Slepyshev (the Ducks certainly should)

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The breaks and breakaways frequently went the Edmonton Oilers’ way as they eliminated the San Jose Sharks in Game 6 of their first-round series. Those results have been more of a mixed bag for Edmonton against the Anaheim Ducks in Game 1 tonight, though.

Anton Slepyshev is a great example of those ups and downs.

In Game 6 against the Sharks, Slepyshev used his speed to score a breakaway tally that ended up being the game-winner. (See here for those friendly breakaways.)

Slepyshev’s been burning the Ducks with his speed on Wednesday, but the Oilers have been burned in the process. For one thing, John Gibson turned aside this big chance shortly after Ryan Getzlaf gave Anaheim a 1-0 lead:

Later on in that same second period, Slepyshev got a step on the Ducks defense again. This time, he didn’t just fail to score; he took a goalie interference penalty for bumping Gibson.

With Ryan Nugent-Hopkins being among those hitting posts, it might feel like it’s all against the Oilers this time around, but crossbars/postsanother theme from Edmonton’s Game 6 win vs. San Jose – have more or less balanced out.

And, one break really went Edmonton’s way: a Ducks defender broke his stick on the Oilers’ 5-on-3 opportunity, opening the door for a crucial Mark Letestu goal:

The end result is a 1-1 tie, but give the Oilers credit for not getting rattled. If Slepyshev can keep up his efforts, his speed could be a factor in a series that looks like it could be a real tug-o-war.

Jake Allen takes blame for Predators’ game-winner vs. Blues

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Let’s be honest: the St. Louis Blues owe a lot to Jake Allen‘s work against the Minnesota Wild in that first-round series.

He probably bought himself a significant amount of goodwill for that outstanding work, but Allen isn’t resting on his laurels. He admitted that “a little mistake by me cost” the Blues the 4-3 decision against the Predators, leaving St. Louis down 1-0 to Nashville.

The goal in question was Vernon Fiddler‘s unlikely 4-3 tally, which came after an unsuccessful poke check attempt by Allen:

Now, to be fair, that wasn’t even the only failed poke check that turned into a goal, as Pekka Rinne also got beat after making such an attempt:

Then again, Allen is wise to score points with teammates for taking the blame. As far as his team, head coach Mike Yeo believes that it was the second period that really made the difference.

Regardless, Allen and the Blues hope to carry over the momentum from their third-period dominance in Game 1 to Game 2 to tie the series 1-1.

That contest airs on NBCSN at 8 p.m. ET on Friday. (You can also watch online and via the NBC Sports App; here’s the livestream link.)